Music Monday: May 30, 2022

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

Memorial Day 2022

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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

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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

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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.

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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

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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

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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.

Music Monday: April 25, 2022

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

Music Monday

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Today marks the 105th birth anniversary for The First Lady Of Song. Ella Fitzgerald was born April 25, 1917 in Newport News, VA. By 1934 she appeared at The Apollo Theatre for Amateur Night. Two years later she was in the studio to record her first song. And for the rest of history, she will be regarded as one of the greatest female singers of all time. Today’s track is my absolute favorite by her, not to mention my most beloved Gershwin tune.

Although he may not be the man
Some girls think of as handsome
To my heart he carries the key
“.

Ella 1

Lady Ella Fitzgerald circa 1950. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Ella Fitzgerald: “Someone To Watch Over Me” (1959, written by George Gershwin & Ira Gershwin).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: April 18, 2022

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

Music Monday

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On April 18, 1970 today’s song hit the #1 spot in the country for the second week in a row. It is the title song from The Beatles last album which remains my favorite of theirs to this day. I was lucky enough to see the movie by the same name dozens of time one summer when it was on a loop on a movie channel. I was too young to realize The Fab Four were fighting but not to realize I was witnessing the greatest band of all time rehearsing some of their final songs in a studio together. And that rooftop scene needs no further accolades from me. The performance speaks for itself over five decades later.

I still have yet to see Peter Jackson’s “Get Back” documentary released nearly six months ago for a more in-depth take on that movie. That is not because I do not think it will be a great watch. I have no doubt it is stunning. It is about The Beatles, after all. I am procrastinating because I am worried it might take away some of the magic from my first look at that moment in time. It was such a turning point in my life to see the band that changed everything so up close & personal, sharing their process with the world. It left an indelible mark on my life & the direction of my musical choices every day since.

As the band’s final album was growing in popularity in the world, the news that The Beatles broke up the same month also altered the landscape of the universe. The phenomenal ride those four lads from Liverpool took us on had ended. That devastating news in early 1970 changed the world as much as their first appearance did on that glorious Sunday night just six years earlier on “The Ed Sullivan Show” in February 1964.

And when the brokenhearted people
Living in the world agree
There will be an answer
Let it be
“.

Beatles

 

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Beatles: “Let It Be” (1970, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: April 11, 2022

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

Music Monday

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I need to spend some extra time with the man I consider to be the greatest frontman of all time. So, a trip to the Morrison Hotel it is. Ladies & Gentlemen, The Doors.

Well I woke up this morning
And I got myself a beer
The future’s uncertain
And and the end is always near
“.

Hotel

The cover of The Doors’ 1970 album. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Doors: “Roadhouse Blues” (1970, written by The Doors: John Densmore, Robby Krieger, Ray Manzarek and Jim Morrison).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: April 4, 2022

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

Music Monday

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Saturday marked the 83rd birth anniversary for one of the great musical loves of my life. Marvin Gaye was born April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C. and became one of the most definitive soul voices in music history. Below is the tribute post I wrote for him on my blog from April 2, 2020.

Today’s marks what would have been Marvin Gaye’s birthday.  He sang some of the greatest songs to come out of the Motor City including today’s pick.  It was his first career number one record, and for a while it was the best selling hit on the Motown label, spending seven weeks in the top spot.

I can still remember the first time I heard this song.  I was sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car and from the second it came on the radio, I felt something inside of me tremble.  Like a part of me I did not even know I had suddenly woke up and made its presence known.  It was strong, and steady and felt so familiar yet so new at the same time.  It was as if I suddenly had an internal voice that was singing all on its own without any help from my real voice. Years later I would hear the phrase “soul music” and I realized that is why they call it that-because it is music that hits you in the deepest place.  And that is what I felt in the car that day.

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Marvin Gaye circa 1964. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Gaye had one of the greatest voices ever, not just in the soul genre.  He was also a talented musician playing piano, synthesizers and drums.  Despite being a solo artist he performed several duets during his career, most notably with Tammi Terrell.  He also wrote and/or co-wrote several hits for other artists including Martha & the Vandellas (“Dancing In The Street”), the Marvelettes (“Beechwood 4-5789″) and the Originals (“Baby, I’m For Real”).  He wrote many of his own songs as well, and as the turbulence of the 1960’s became too hard for him to ignore, he channeled his feelings into songs about the war (“What’s Going On”), social injustice (“Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”) and the state of the environment (“Mercy Mercy Me”), amongst others.  

Gaye took some time off in the late 1970’s for personal reasons including his exit from the Motown label.  He signed with CBS Records and came back stronger than ever in 1982 with his album “Midnight Love” which included another number one hit, “Sexual Healing”.  That song earned him his first two Grammy Awards after over 20 years as a recording artist.  Also in 1983, he sang an incredibly soulful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the NBA All Star Game.  While he was in the middle of his enormous comeback tour, I was lucky enough to see him give a magnetic performance at Radio City Music Hall.  It was one of the greatest nights of my life.

So many singers have died tragically young either by drugs, plane crashes, car accidents or suicide.  But Gaye was the third of my musical heroes to be shot to death-first Sam Cooke (one of Gaye’s idols) in 1964 and then John Lennon in 1980.  In those two tragedies both men died by a stranger’s hand.  Gaye was killed by his own father on April 1, 1984. I have never fully recovered from the senselessness of that act.  I wonder almost daily what else this unbelievably talented man would have accomplished in his career.

People say believe half of what you see, son
And none of what you hear
But I can’t help bein’ confused
If it’s true please tell me dear
“.

Marvin

Gaye circa 1971. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Marvin Gaye: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (1968, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: March 28, 2022

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

Music Monday

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We have another triple play this week to honor three of the biggest legends in music celebrating birthdays this month.

March 25 marked the 80th birth anniversary for the eternal Queen Of Soul, Aretha Franklin. Born in 1942 in Memphis, TN she remains the greatest female vocalist in the universe. It has been nearly four years since she died and just look at where we are without her.

Aretha

Aretha Franklin circa 1968. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

As if the gift of royalty was not enough to receive on March 25, that day also marked birthday #75 for Sir Elton John. Born in Pinner, UK in 1947 his voice is the one I discovered first out of the three artists featured today. I found him even before I found Springsteen. From the first moment I heard “Daniel”, I was captivated by John’s beautiful evocative voice & the music he created with the poetry of his sublime unbelievably talented collaborator, Bernie Taupin. These two men have been part of the soundtrack of my life ever since. It makes complete sense to me that while I was doing my Song Of The Day feature during 17 months of the pandemic, John appeared more than any other solo artist with 16 entries. He was second only to The Beatles who had 18 songs (Springsteen appeared 14 times, Clapton had 12 entries including two collaborations (but not counting his group entries) and Elvis had 11 songs, in case you were wondering).

Elton

Elton John circa 1970. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The first album I ever bought was John’s 1974 compilation album, “Greatest Hits”. I thought my heart would break when he announced his retirement a few years ago. Apparently the entire planet needed more time to adjust to that news as well because thanks to the pandemic, his farewell tour has been extended. But if anyone deserves to be a happily retired father & husband left to raise his beautiful family in the peace of a life without work, it is John. He deserves every happiness he has given the world. And we all know that figure is immeasurable. Today’s pick for him is one of the most elegant & beautiful tracks from his extraordinary catalog.

This week Eric Clapton will celebrate his 77th birthday. Born March 30, 1945 in Ripley, UK, my life was altered forever the second I heard the opening riff of today’s song. And I have listened to music for decades since that moment & I still have not had anything hit me quite like that. Behold the power of Slowhand.

Clapton

Eric Clapton circa 1975. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Aretha Franklin: “(Sweet Sweet Baby) Since You’ve Been Gone” (1968, written by Aretha Franklin & Ted White).

Elton John: “I Need You To Turn To” (1970, written by Elton John and Bernie Taupin).

Eric Clapton / Derek & The Dominos: “Layla” (1970, written by Eric Clapton and Jim Gordon).

Stay safe & well.