Music Monday: May 30, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Memorial Day 2022

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Today we pause to honor those who made the greatest sacrifice for our country, our privilege & our way of life. But let us not forget their family, friends and those they fought beside who were left behind as well. They live with that loss every day, not just on Memorial Day. It makes the phrase, “we don’t know them all, but we owe them all” resonate with even more meaning. Thank you to all the heroes & those who will carry them in their hearts and minds always.

When Bruce Springsteen released his 1984 career changing album, I remember reading a review that said in one verse from the title track, The Boss probably gave us the best definition of war ever put into words. And it is not defined by location, generation or ideology. It is defined by duty, sacrifice, bravery, honor and loss. And giving everything you have in the name of freedom.

I had a brother at Khe Sanh
Fighting off the Viet Cong
They’re still there
He’s all gone
“.

Memorial Day 2022 A

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Bruce Springsteen: “Born In The U.S.A.” (1984, written by Bruce Springsteen).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: May 23, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Two of the biggest songwriters this country ever gave us were born in May. Their songs were staples on the radio in the 1960’s & 1970’s and continue to inspire “anyone who has a heart”.

Lyricist Hal David was born on May 25, 1921 in New York City. Almost eight years later, his collaborator, Burt Bacharach was born May 12, 1929 in Kansas City, Missouri. David started writing songs in the 1940’s for bandleaders like Guy Lombardo and Sammy Kaye while also contributing lyrics to the 1951 movie soundtrack of “Two Gals And A Guy”.

Bacharach was raised in Queens, NY and studied classical piano before discovering his love for jazz music. He received a degree in music in 1948, then served two years in the United States Army in the early 1950’s. After his tour of duty he worked as a pianist for Vic Damone before touring Europe in 1956 as the part time music director for actress Marlene Dietrich’s nightclub shows. In 1957 Bacharach met David at The Brill Building in NYC. That same year the duo had their first hit together, a #1 country song, “The Story Of My Life” by Marty Robbins.

After a number of successful collaborations over the next several years, Bacharach & David made their partnership official in 1963. That move & their work with today’s singer started the songwriting duo’s reign as two of America’s most treasured composers. They won every award out there including the Oscar for Best Original Song in 1970 for “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” from Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid.

Oscars

Bacharach (L) and David (R) at the 1970 Academy Awards Ceremony. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Fans of their music include Herb Alpert, Bette Midler, Patti LaBelle, Luther Vandross, Elvis Costello and a myriad of others including The Ambassador Of Cool, Isaac Hayes. He did a glorious 12 minute soulful/psychedelic/funk inspired cover of today’s song on his 1969 release, Hot Buttered Soul.

In a previous post about this song I wrote:

Years later I heard today’s song, written by this prolific duo, and I absolutely swooned.  The singer is not one of my favorites but her work with this extraordinary writing team was a powerful force in the 1960’s.  Her voice is so soft and pretty, and delivers a great vocal to a gorgeous arrangement.  It is the best of what a sad love song should be:  succinct, poignant, evocative and leaving you begging for one more note.  I love so many Bacharach & David compositions (“Anyone Who Had A Heart”, “This Guy’s In Love With You”, “One Less Bell To Answer”, “A House Is Not A Home” “The Look Of Love” to name a few) but this one I adore.

David died in 2012 at the age of 91. Bacharach turned 94 years young on May 12. Together they wrote a chapter of music history that remains unmatched. And today’s track remains my favorite from their remarkable partnership.

If you see me walking down the street
And I start to cry each time we meet
Walk on by
Walk on by
“.

Burt Hal

L to R: Hal David, Dionne Warwick & Burt Bacharach in the studio circa 1964  (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Dionne Warwick: “Walk On By” (1964, written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: May 16, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

This week is a Motown Music Monday because we have three powerhouses from that genre with birthdays this month. I discovered this polarizing style of singing as a young child thanks to my parents. They bought a K-Tel compilation of this remarkable sound and that four album set changed me in a profound way. The voices from the Motor City became my first great musical love.

Songwriter & producer Norman Whitfield was born in Harlem, NY on May 12, 1940. He co-wrote & produced my favorite Motown song of all time, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” along with other tracks recorded by Marvin Gaye including “That’s The Way Love Is” and “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”. Whitfield was also one of the writers behind Edwin Starr’s “War” and several hits by The Temptations including “I Wish It would Rain”, “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “I Know) I’m Losing You” as well as one of today’s featured songs.

After Whitfield left Motown in 1970 when the label relocated to California, he started his own eponymous recording company. His success as a songwriter continued with hits like “Smiling Faces Sometimes” for The Undisputed Truth and the theme song from the 1976 movie, “Car Wash” by Rose Royce. The mark Whitfield left on music, Motown & the industry is indelible. We lost this prolific artist in 2008.

Whitfield

Norman Whitfield circa 1975. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.).

What is left to say about “The Eighth Wonder Of The World”, Stevie Wonder, who turned 72 last week? The child prodigy born Stevland Hardaway Morris on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, MI began his career in The Motor City at age 11 as Little Stevie Wonder. His career grew even bigger as an adult in the 1970’s with three Album Of The Year Grammy awards for Innervisions (1973), FulfillingnessFirst Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976). His career grew from there and today, with over six decades of musical brilliance under his belt, Wonder continues to show us all how talent is defined.

Stevie wonder

Stevie Wonder circa 1974. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

“The Empress Of Soul” Gladys Knight will celebrate birthday number 78 on May 28. She was born that day in 1944 in Atlanta, GA & began singing in the church by age five. Three years later, she won an amateur hour contest on a local TV show, then joined her brother (future Pip Merald “Bubba” Knight, Jr.) and a few other relatives to form a group, By the late 1950’s, they were signed to Brunswick Records and were opening shows for Jackie Wilson & Sam Cooke. In 1966 Knight & her revised group, The Pips, signed with Motown. But their real success came with their next label, Buddah Records, in the early 1970’s. Knight became a solo act in the following decade & collaborated with the likes of Elton John, Ray Charles, Patti LaBelle and others. She also became part of the James Bond movie music legacy when she recorded “License To Kill” in 1989. She remains one of the greatest female singers of all time.

Gladys 1

Gladys Knight circa 1972. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.).

NOTE: Both Wonder & Knight appear in the stunning Oscar-winning 2021 documentary, “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”. If you have not seen it yet, PLEASE stop reading now (you can come back later) and head over to Hulu NOW to watch it. You cannot go another day without the music & performances from this film in your life. You’re welcome.

The Temptations: “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” (1966, written by Norman Whitfield and Edward Holland Jr.).

Stevie Wonder: “I Was Made To Love Her” (1967, written by Stevie Wonder, Lula Mae Hardaway, Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby).

Gladys Knight & The Pips: “Midnight Train To Georgia” (1973, written by Jim Weatherly).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: May 9, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Today’s song is another one of those tracks that left an indelible mark on my soul. It is classic rock at its finest, a tune so exquisite it is as close to perfection as I have ever found. The songwriter and singer of this paragon celebrates birthday number 74 this week.

Steve Winwood was born May 12, 1948 in Birmingham, UK. His father was also a musician who schooled his son so well that the younger Winwood was in a band by age 14, The Spencer Davis Group. Next came his tenure with Traffic where he gave us gems like “Empty Pages”, “The Low Spark Of High Heeled Boys” & “Dear Mr. Fantasy”. In 1969 he joined forces with future Traffic bassist Rick Grech and musical powerhouses Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton to form Blind Faith. And it is from this supergroup that we arrive at today’s pick.

It is a captivating performance by all involved, from Grech’s masterful bass line to Baker’s elaborate percussion to Clapton’s stunning acoustic guitar work to Winwood’s soulful vocal delivery of his moving, lonely & succinct lyrics. When I featured this track on Day 74 of my daily music posts during lockdown, I called it “a prayer for all of us who are lost that we may find our way home to wherever and whatever that is”. And I stand by that sentiment. I find this song so beautiful it hurts, the way a magnificent work of art should make you feel. And this is art at its very best.

So, happy birthday, Steve Winwood. Thank you so much for all your exceptional music but for today’s track most of all.

Well I’m near the end
And I just ain’t got the time
And I’m wasted and  I
Can’t find my way home
“.

Blind Faith

Blind Faith circa 1969 L-R:  Steve Winwood, Rick Grech, Ginger Baker and Eric Clapton.  (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Blind Faith: “Can’t Find My Way Home” (1969, written by Stevie Winwood).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: May 2, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to May & this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

May 6th marks my Dad’s 83rd birth anniversary. Both of my parents loved music & filled my childhood with some of the best. But as I got older my father did not always agree or understand the singer’s I fell in love with. In fact, he was not a fan of today’s artist until he heard “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” & today’s track. Then my father was a fan for life. And he was sitting right next to me the first time I heard today’s song live. I am so grateful for that experience & cherish that memory. Music is yet another powerful tie that binds our past, present & beyond.

Army picture

Elton 1975

Top: My father, Phil, in his army photo circa 1957. Bottom: Elton John at Dodger Stadium, 1975.

(Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Elton John: “Bennie & The Jets” (1973, written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin).

Stay safe & well.