Music Monday: November 28, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I hope you all had a wonderful extended holiday weekend of eating, shopping, resting or all three. Before we get to today’s songs (yes, plural as we have another triple play) let me remind you that the Christmas Music Coundtdown begins on December 1. For each of the 25 Days of Christmas, I will feature a different holiday song. I would love to hear some of your favorite music choices for this festive season so please share them with me in the comments below.

Today we are celebrating three milestones with three songs. The first is about one of my childhood heroes. Charles M. Schulz, the absolute genius who gave us Snoopy, Charlie Brown and the rest of the Peanuts Gang, was born 100 years ago on November 26, 1922. Nothing in my life was ever the same after my first glimpse of the characters Schulz created. Meeting that brilliant, warm, quirky, kind, wise, friendly, talented, and irascible group introduced me to some of the best friends I ever had.

Their holiday specials, books and the comic strip, the merchandise & the movies remain as much a part of my life now as they ever did. And it is all thanks to the man known as “Sparky” to his friends. Part of the appeal of his gang was how relatable and human they were-they had real feelings, real hopes, real wants, real needs and real fears. They were children but not childish. And they loved to have fun which translated into lots of music and dancing to grown up songs. How do you thank one man for so much?

CB and Sparky

thumbnail_SPARKY TOON CLEANED UP WORD ADDED ETC 10 30 22 COLOR.j

Top:  Charles M. Schulz with one of his most famous friends, Charlie Brown, circa 1960 ((Image found online.  Original source unknown.)Bottom:  Pulitzer Prize-winning political cartoonist Steve Benson made this image for The Press Democrat’s special section “Celebrating Charles Schulz.” This appeared in print and online on Nov. 24, 2022. (Steve Benson)

Twenty years later one of the most iconic films of all time was introduced to the world when Casablanca  premiered on November 26, 1942. Eight decades later, Humphrey Bogart & Ingrid Bergman’s tale of love and loss during World War II remains one of the most beloved movies of all time with a theme song no one can ever forget.

Casablanca

Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman in a scene from “Casablanca:. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

That same year one of the greatest musicians to ever set an instrument on fire-both figuratively and literally-came into the world. James Marshall “Jimi” Hendrix was born  November 27, 1942 in Seattle, WA. A singer, songwriter and performer best remembered as one of the prenier guitarists in rock music made a name for himself with original songs but also with one of a kind covers of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” and our National Anthem.

According to his website, Hendrix was a member of the “Screaming Eagles” paratroop division during his serivce to the U.S. Army in the early 1960’s. By the middle of that decade, he was playing with Ike and Tina Turner, Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers, and Little Richard before forming his own band, Jimmy James and the Blue Flames. The rest is rock music history. Despite his death over 50 years ago, Hendrix is still unsurpassed in his esteem & tenure as one of the greatest of the greats.

Jimi

Jimi Hendrix circa 1967. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Vince Guaraldi Trio: “Linus And Lucy” (1964, written by Vince Guaraldi).

Frank Sinatra: “As Time Goes By” (1962, remastered in 1999, written by Herman Hupfeld).

Jimi Hendrix: “Little Wing” (1967, written by Jimi Hendrix).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: November 21, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

If you have ever wondered when exactly Al Green became the R&B legend he is, it was 1972. The Forrest City, Arkansas native released not one but two of his best albums that year: Let’s Stay Together debuted in January and I’m Still in Love with You came out in October.

Both records gave us some great original music but also introduced us to the songs Green admired with his unique and incredible covers. The first album featured an unbelievably soulful rendition of “How Do You Mend A Broken Heart” initially recorded by The Bee Gees while the October release had a Kris Kristofferson track (“For The Good Times”) and a Roy Orbison classic (“Oh, Pretty Woman”).

If you hear a touch of a Stax beat happening on these albums, that is because Green’s drummer was Al Jackson Jr., a founding member of that label’s house band, Booker T. & the M.G.’s. Green took the music around him, his gospel roots, his influences like Jackie Wilson and Sam Cooke and turned it all into a gorgeous hybrid of soul, R&B, pop and southern sass.

Today’s song is a favorite of mine thanks to a standout vocal by Green, the electric harmony of his backup singers, the incredibly sharp & powerful horns and a seductive rhythm that is impossible not to move along with. It is just one of the many blessings from the man we now call The Reverend.

Love is walkin’ together
Talkin’ together
Singin’ together
Prayin’ together
“.

Al Together

Al Still

(Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Al Green: “Love and Happiness” (1972, written by Al Green and Mabon Hodges).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: November 14, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Novenber 12 marked birthday #77 for Neil Young, Both an acoustic master & a rocker at heart, this Canadian native has been making music for over five decades as a solo artist and in classic rock bands, The Buffalo Springfield and Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young.

His lyrics make me feel as if I speak and understand another language. Whether it is his perspective on life, love, death and everything else we see or encounter in this world, Young’s vision is all his own but makes it ours as well. His stories are raw, beautiful and heartbreaking in one aching succinct eloquent tale after another. But they are his to tell and ours to celebrate.

Happy birthday, Neil Young.

Ten silver saxes
A bass with a bow
The drummer relaxes
And waits between shows
“.

Neil Young circa 2000. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Neil Young: “Cinnamon Girl” (1969. written by Neil Young).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: November 7, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to November and another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The last surviving architect of the music we call rock & roll passed away last month. Jerry Lee Lewis died at age 87 on October 28, 2022 at his home in Nesbit, Mississippi. Incredibly big sigh.

He and his fellow innovators appeared at a time when music needed a new sound and they did not disappoint. That new genre exploded on the scene in the 1950’s and made the world take notice. And not too many of us ever looked back.

Lewis was part musician, part stage performer, part wild man and part rebel all wrapped into one volatile package. He would switch between a boogie-woogie player to a piano thumping wild man so many times during one song it was like watching two performers at once.

Rest in peace to the musician nicknamed “The Killer”, the original & true piano man, someone who lived as fiercely as he played, who helped make Sun Records the legend it became, who was one fourth of its Million Dollar Quartet and gave us all another reason to call music the answer to whatever ails us.

Come over baby whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on
Yes, I said come over baby baby you can’t go wrong
We ain’t fakin’
Whole lot of shakin’ goin’ on
“.

Jerry Lee Lewis

million dollar quartet B

Top: Jerry Lee Lewis circa 1965. Bottom: Sun Records’ Million Dollar Quartet (L-R): Johnny Cash, Elvis Presley (seated), Carl Perkins and Lewis in the studio circa 1956. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Jerry Lee Lewis: “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On” (1957, written by James Faye “Roy” Hall and Dave “Curlee” Williams).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: October 31, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Music Monday.

Happy Halloween to all!!!

(Pinterest image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I always salute this spooktacular holiday with one song, but this year I think it deserves two. That is because 2022 saw the release of “Hocus Pocus 2” and even though I have not seen it yet, I think any movie that stars Bette Midler deserves to be celebrated. She recorded the first of today’s two songs for the original film which premiered in 1993. The track has also been covered in great fashion by Annie Lennox, Nina Simone, Bryan Ferry and Creedence Clearwater Revival.

Bette Midler as Winifred Sanderson in Disney’s “Hocus Pocus”. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Our second spotlight tune is the quintessential song of the holiday and has been ever since it was released 60 years ago in 1962. Even if you do not embrace the scary side of this holiday (or wish to skip it all together) this is an amusing tale about characters that are usually seen in a very frightening way enjoying themselves with a dance that is all their own. A fabulously fun novelty song if ever there was one.

Hope you all enjoy this last day of October, however you choose to spend it.

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Bette Midler: “I Put A Spell On You” (1993, written by Jalacy J. “Screamin’ Jay” Hawkins).

Bobby “Boris” Pickett: “Monster Mash” (1962, written by Leonard Capizzi and Bobby Pickett).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: October 24, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Fifty years ago the landscape of cinematic history changed with the premiere of one of the greatest films ever made. “The Godfather”, Francis Ford Coppola’s Academy Award winning masterpiece about Don Vito Corleone, a man at the head of an organized crime operation in New York City, was released in 1972. From its debut, it was hailed as a work of art, a masterful tale of family, respect, business, honor and the Italian culture both in America & in Europe. It also produced two sequels.

As an Italian American woman, there was no way I could let a monumental anniversary like this go without paying homage to its place in history. My dad was a huge fan of the movie and the 1969 book by Mario Puzo (who also wrote the screenplay with Coppola). I remember trying to watch it with my father when I was barely a teenager but gave up after the heartbreaking death of heir apparent first born son Santino (“Sonny”, played by James Caan).

Once I watched it as an adult I, of course, saw it for the phenomenal event that it was. I was especially struck by how fair, balanced and gentle Don Corleone was (played to perfection by Marlon Brando, who won the Best Actor Oscar for the role, which he famously declined), a man of many traits who valued family and could clearly see justice in even the most offensive situations. Case in point: Don Corleone was asked by an undertaker to kill the two the men who brutally beat his daughter. The Godfather told the anguished man that was not justice as his daughter was still alive. But that did not mean the men who hurt her did not deserve to suffer as well. And when Sonny was killed, his heartbroken father called for a truce rather than an act of revenge in order to save the lives of his other two sons.

Yet none of his boys inherited their father’s sense of balance. Each one fell victim to the predominant trait they inherited from Don Corleone. For Sonny, it was his temper. For Fredo, it was his pride. For Michael, it was his need for revenge. It cost two of them their lives and for Michael, it cost him his first wife & his daughter, as seen in the third installment of the trilogy (Don Vito also adopted a fourth son, Tom Hagen, when he was a child. He grew up to be the family lawyer and conciliary, played by Robert Duvall).

If everyone yearns to be Irish on St. Patrick’s Day, you can believe nearly everyone wanted to be Italian after seeing this film, despite the gangter underscore to the story. And it has been part of our pop culture vernacular for five decades. It has been referenced in so many other movies and TV shows I have lost count (but probably most famously in “The Sopranos” for obvious reasons). I think my favorite ones are in “You’ve Got Mail” (both Tom Hank’s & Greg Kinnear’s characters acknowledge quotes from the film) and in “Modern Family” in S4 E13, “Fulgencio”. Surprisingly in that story arc it was nice guy Phil Dunphy who took his turn as The Godfather to save his family’s honor with the help of his son, Luke. It was an exceptionally funny episode from a series full of them & definately worth the watch if you have not seen it.

But for me, like with everything else, the film was about the music-in particularly-the theme song. I remember being in another room of my house when I heard the hauntingly beautiful instrumental score coming from the living room. My dad was watching the movie again but this time it looked remarkably different than what I remembered. Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) was walking along the hills of Sicily as the gorgeous theme played. I loved it so much (and the music from Connie’s wedding scene too, especially The Tarantella) that my dad bought me the album. But surprisingly enough, the theme song was not on The Godfather’s Family Wedding Album.

My grandmother remembered hearing a version of it by Italian vocalist Jerry Vale, so we searched the stores for it and found it on his 1974 greatest hits compilation. Crooner Andy Williams had a hit with his interpretation of the song in 1972 but not many singers have covered it in the past five decades, so Vale’s is still the rendition I come back to time and time again (although Andrea Bocelli’s 2015 Sicilian version, Brucia la terra, is quite beautiful). And as gorgeous as the instrumental score by Nino Rota was, the addition of the lyrics by Larry Kusik turned the song into an event fitting for a film considered the second best ever made after “Citizen Kane”.

Viva IL Padrino.

“Wine-colored days
Warmed by the sun
Deep velvet nights
When we are one”.

The Godfather movie poster

The men of The Godfather

Godfather Wedding Album

Jerry Vale

From top to bottom: The 1972 movie poster for “The Godfather”; The Corleone men (L-R): Michael (Al Pacino), Don Vito (Marlon Brando), Santino (James Caan) and Fredo (John Cazale): The Godfather’s Wedding Album (1972) and “The Greatest Of Jerry Vale” (1974). (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Jerry Vale: “Speak Softly Love” (The Love Theme To “The Godfather“), music by Nino Rota, lyrics by Larry Kusik).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: October 17, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Earlier this month we said goodbye to The First Lady Of Country Music, Loretta Lynn. The woman who grew up in the rural hills of Kentucky went to the top of the charts and the box office in a life that spanned 90 years, with 60 of them as one of the strongest female pillars country music ever saw. Lynn wrote her own phenomenal chapter of the American dream. According to her website, she did that through 24 number one singles, 45 million singles sold and countless awards & accolades.

From her first album in 1963 she had a voice and a flair for translating the honest moments from her life into universal tales that spoke to her audience whether it was her husband’s drinking (“Don’t Come Home A-Drinkin’ (With Lovin’ on Your Mind), her first number one record in 1967), or another woman trying to come between them (“You Ain’t Woman Enough (To Take My Man), to her choice to take birth control into her own hands (“The Pill”), to her life as a southern girl (“Blue Kentucky Girl”) to her feelings about the Vietnam War (“Dear Uncle Sam”). She credited Patsy Cline as a mentor and influence and even had the chance to become friends with her before Cline died in 1963. And Lynn’s duets with Conway Twitty were some of the most popular and successful in country music in the 1970’s. She became a living legend in that genre all while still raising her six children.

In 2004 musician Jack White of The White Stripes produced Lynn’s 42nd solo studio album, Van Lear Rose. She wrote all the songs for it, with one co-credited to her late husband, Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn and another co-written with White. They promoted their duet, “Portland Oregon” on several platforms including a performance on “The Late Show With David Letterman“. White helped introduce her music to a new audience and Lynn continued her legacy as one of country music’s most revered and talented artists. She matched White note for note with a voice that still had all the strength and power of her early recordings. Their collaboration earned the pair two Grammy Awards in 2005: Best Country Collaboration with Vocals and Best Country Album.

I grew up listening to her thanks to my grandmother’s love for that genre. And she identified with Lynn because their early stories were so similar. My grandmother was a young bride, too (she got married when she was 18) and could relate to the struggles of learning about life, love & marriage at a time where most young women were completely in the dark about what to expect about any of that. Here were two women born twenty years apart in two different worlds who shared a similar background told in a song. That is the power of music. And that was the power of just one Loretta Lynn song out of the immemse catalog she blessed us with. Rest in peace to a true American artist and legend.

Well I was born a coal miner’s daughter
In a cabin on a hill in Butcher Holler
We were poor but we had love
That’s the one thing that daddy made sure of
He shoveled coal to make a poor man’s dollar
“.

Loretta Lynn

Loretta Lynn family

Loretta Lynn Sissy Spacek

Loretta Lynn Jack White

Loretta Dolly

A few snippets of Loretta Lynn’s extraordinary life (top to bottom): Lynn outside a Tennessee post office circa 1980; with her husband Oliver “Doolittle” Lynn and their twin daughters Peggy and Patsy (known as The Lynns today) at their Hurricane Mills, TN home circa 1971; with actress Sissy Spacek circa 2010, the 30th anniversary of the release of Lynn’s biopic, “Coal Miner’s Daughter”; in 2004 with musician Jack White who produced her 2004 album, “Van Lear Rose” and in the 1980’s with fellow country icon & friend, Dolly Parton. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Loretta Lynn: “Coal Miner’s Daughter” (1970, written by Loretta Lynn).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: October 10, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Yesterday marked the 82nd birth anniversary for John Winston Ono Lennon. Born October 9, 1940 in Liverpool, England his short 40 years on this earth were marked by incredibly low lows (the death of his mother when he was 15, the death of his friend & bandmate Stuart Sutcliff who died from a brain anuerysm at age 21 in 1962, the death of The Beatles manager Brian Epstein from an overdose in 1967) and the highest of highs (his remarkable gift & talent helped him change music, culture and the world, he remains one of the top songwriters of all time, he found his great love, he had two sons).

Lennon used his celebrity for causes he believed in, most notably his quest to bring love and peace to the world being ravaged by war in the late 1960’s. He challenged the standards set by society in 1975 when he decided to put his carereer on hold to be a stay at home father & husband. And he knew when it was time to bring his musical talent back to the masses five years later.

Sending “limitless undying love” across the universe today and always to John Lennon.

I was trying to catch your eyes
Thought that you was trying to hide
I was swallowing my pain
I was swallowing my pain
“.

Lennon

John Lennon circa 1974. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

John Lennon: “Jealous Guy” (1971, written by John Lennon).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: October 3, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to October and another edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Yesterday marked birthday number 77 for the man who gave us one of the greatest musical anthems of all time. Don McLean, the singer & songwriter behind the 1971 smash, “American Pie”, was born October 2, 1945 in New Rochelle, New York. He developed a love for music early in his life and by his teenage years he was learning to play guitar while finding his voice. After the enormous success of his biggest hit, McLean earned his indelible place in music history. Today he is performing on his 50th anniversary tour and paying tribute to Veterans along the way (see his website for more details).

I am a big fan of so much of his music. from songs he has written himself (“And I Love You So”, “Castles In The Air” and “Vincent”) to the incredible covers he has done (“Crying” and “Since I Fell For You”). But it is today’s song, also from the “American Pie” album released 51 years ago this month, that is my absolute favorite. It may not have the pagentry or imagery of his most recognized track, but it is yet another moving tale told through McLean’s gift for introspective poetry. I list it in the “it-is-so-beautiful-it-hurts” category because my heart just aches every time I hear it. But in such an undeniably good way.

From the gentle piano arranmgement to the pensive yet ultimately hopeful lyrics to the understated but moving vocal performance, McLean delivers a tale of finding out he ended up exactly where he was supposed to be all along, despite how many wrong turns he thought he made. And we are all so incredibly lucky that his road met ours and took us on the path that included such an immense talent as his. Happy birthday, Don McLean.

“But I’m all tied up on the inside
No one knows quite what I’ve got
And I know that on the outside
What I used to be I’m not anymore”.

You know I’ve heard about people like me
But I never made the connection
They walk one road to set them free
And find they’ve gone the wrong direction
“.

Don McLean circa 1971

Don McLean circa 1971. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Don McLean: “Crossroads” (1971, written by Don McLean).

Stay safe and well.