Let’s Take A Moment Day 307

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Shakespeare music

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Before today’s song, I want to wish the happiest of birthdays to a most spectacular “Golden Girl”, Betty White. This legend of radio, TV & film turns 99 today & has been entertaining the world for 82 years. I was lucky enough to meet her in May 2011 when she came to Barnes & Noble in Lake Grove, NY to sign copies of her book, “If You Ask Me (And Of Course You Won’t)“.

She was an absolute delight. I was in complete awe, told her meeting her was like meeting one of the Beatles which made her laugh. But when I told her she & the other three Golden Girls were like my surrogate mothers from their very first episode she smiled and squeezed my hand. It was one of the most cherished moments of my life. Keep rocking, Betty. You are loved, worshiped & revered. And an absolute riot!!!

Betty White

Betty White in May 2011 in Lake Grove, NY. (credit: Me!!!)

Music nightclubs have been around forever, but for the music I love, some of the best saw the 1960’s & 1970’s as the peak of their success. The Troubador in West Hollywood, CA introduced artists like Elton John, Tom Waits & James Taylor. The Fillmore in San Francisco, CA hosted Cream, The Grateful Dead & blues greats Howlin’ Wolf and Muddy Waters. At NYC’s Fillmore East Jimi Hendrix, Jefferson Airplane and The Allman Brothers (who recorded their first live record there in 1971, At Fillmore East) appeared. Max’s Kansas City was a favorite hangout spot for John Lennon when he first moved to NYC, Deborah Harry was a waitress there and artists like The Velvet Underground & David Bowie performed there. Two other NYC clubs-The Bottom Line & CBGB’s hosted Eric Clapton, Bruce Springsteen, Linda Ronstadt & Van Morrison at the former and Patti Smith, Blondie, The Talking Heads and other punk/new wave artists at the latter.

Another West Hollywood club, The Whiskey-A-Go-Go, opened January 11, 1964 and quickly became one of the top music venues for up & coming artists. Two of my favorites-The Doors & Otis Redding-were featured there and it helped put them on their respective musical maps. For Redding especially this was a huge moment in his early career as it led to the recording of his live album, In Person at the Whisky a Go Go. It was recorded during his three shows in April 1966 but not released until October 1968, nearly a year after his death. A second release, Good to Me: Live at the Whisky a Go Go, Vol. 2, was released in 1993.

The shows at the club took place a year before Redding’s mainstream success thanks to his rousing performance at The Monterey Pop Festival in the summer of 1967. It included today’s song which was first recorded in 1932 but Redding’s version 34 years later took on a whole new style due in part to the producer, soul legend Isaac Hayes. Booker T & The M.G.’s played on the record & with Redding in person at the Monterey show. Redding’s complete five song set from the concert along with Jimi Hendrix’s performances were released on the 1970 album, Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival. Redding’s are included on a few of his posthumous releases plus you can also find the videos on YouTube. Today’s song was his last number of the night and it is nothing short of spectacular.

It’s not just sentimental no, no, no
She has her grief and care, yeah, yeah, yeah
But the soft words they are spoke so gentle, yeah
It makes it easier, easier to bear”.

Otis at Monterey

Otis Redding on stage at the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. Alan Jackson (back) was the drummer that night with the band Booker T & The MG’s. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Otis Redding: “Try A Little Tenderness” (Live performance at The Monterey Pop Festival in June, 1967. Originally recorded in 1966. Written by Jimmy Campbell, Reg Connelly and Henry MacGregor “Harry” Woods).

I only own the rights to the Betty White picture, nothing else. I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 219

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Thoreau quote 2

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day.  And if this helps anyone else, even better.

In 1978 SNL cast members John Belushi & Dan Aykroyd introduced us to their singing counterparts, The Blue Brothers, through the song, “Soul Man”. At one point in the tune, Belushi said “Play it, Steve”. That Steve is the innovative legendary guitarist Steve Cropper who has been gracing the world with his impeccable talent for six decades. Today marks his 79th birthday.

Born today in 1941 in Missouri, his family relocated to Memphis when he was nine. He started playing guitar at age 14 and the first band he was in went on to become a session band, The Mar-Keys. That brought Cropper to the attention of Stax Records owner Jim Stewart who hired Cropper as the label’s A&R man. Around the same time he co-founded his own group, Booker T & The MG’s with keyboard player Booker T. Jones, drummer Al Jackson Jr. and bassist Lewie Steinberg, who was eventually replaced by Donald “Duck” Dunn. That band was unique for two reasons: their trailblazing sounds which formed the foundation of southern soul music with elements of funk sounds and despite the fact that it was Memphis, Tennessee in 1962, the band was an equal balance of race with two white members and two black members.

Booker T & The MG’s became the house band at Stax and set the sound, tone & rhythm for the label, just as The Funk Brothers were doing for the Motown label in Detroit. Cropper not only played guitar for his group but started composing songs with many of the singers on Stax. He co-wrote “Knock On Wood”, “Raise Your Hand” & “634-5789” with Eddie Floyd, “In The Midnight Hour” (Day 131) with Wilson Pickett and “Mr. Pitiful”, “The Happy Song”, “Just One More Day” & “(Sittin’ On) The Dock Of The Bay” (Day 28) with Otis Redding. He & Cropper had become good friends and it was left to him to finish & produce “Dock Of The Bay” after Redding’s tragic death in 1967. It became a #1 hit in March 1968 for four consecutive weeks.

Cropper, who appeared in both Blues Brothers films (released in 1980 & 1998, respectively), is still actively playing & touring. He is considered to be one of the greatest guitar players of all time. He has contributed his signature sound or produced records by Ringo Starr, John Lennon, Levon Helm, Albert King, Roy Orbison, Rod Stewart, Leon Russell, Etta James. Art Garfunkel, Peter Frampton, Dolly Parton and John Mellencamp. He released 11 solo records between 1969-2018 and 13 albums with Booker T & The MG’s between 1962-1994, including today’s song which hit #3 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart & #1 on the R&B chart in 1962. It is considered one of the finest instrumentals ever recorded and I concur.

Booker T The MGs

Crop

Top: Booker T & The MG’s circa 1962 (L-R): Donald “Duck” Dunn, Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper & Al Jackson Jr. Bottom: Cropper & his beautiful talented hands circa 2000. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Booker T & The MG’s: “Green Onions” (1962, written by Booker T. Jones, Steve Cropper, Lewie Steinberg & Al Jackson, Jr.).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 144

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Charlie Brown No Music No Life

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day.  And if this helps anyone else, even better.

When Stevie Nicks was recording her first solo album in 1981, she used many well established singers and musicians to help her pull the project together.  Some of the players included guitarist Davey Johnstone from Elton John’s band, pianist Roy Bittan from Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band and bassist Donald “Duck” Dunn from Booker T & The MG’s, among others.  The record also included not one but two duets.  The first one, “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around”, was recorded with Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers and is a great collaboration.  Nicks wrote the other one for country superstar Waylon Jennings & his wife, Jessi Colter, but they did not end up including it on their album.  I am glad Nicks decided to record herself with Don Henley because I have been swooning over it ever since the first time I heard it.  I was lucky enough to see them perform it together when they toured the northeast many years ago, which was a real treat.  It is one of my favorite duets ever due in large part to the oh so pretty lyrics.

You in the moonlight, with your sleepy eyes
Could you ever love a man like me
And you were right when I walked into your house
I knew I’d never want to leave“.

Leather and Lace

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Stevie Nicks featuring Don Henley:  “Leather and Lace” (1981, written by Stevie Nicks).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Valentine’s Day Music Countdown: Song #2

The next singer on the countdown had what I believe was the greatest voice EVER.  No one before or since can sing a song with such a heart wrenching achingly impassioned vocal that was Otis Redding’s signature sound.  His talent for writing songs was also phenomenal, as he either wrote or co-wrote such classics as “Respect”, (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay”,  “I Can’t Turn You Loose”, “I’ve Got Dreams To Remember”, “These Arms of Mine” and the #2 song on the countdown, “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long“.

Co-written with Jerry Butler and released in the spring of 1965, the song hit #2 on Billboard’s R&B chart & #21 on its  Hot 100 chart, giving Redding his first hit song.  The lyrics are simple, straight forward yet unbelievably powerful in Redding’s pleading vocal:

My love is growing stronger, as you become a habit to me
Oh, I’ve been loving you too long
I don’t wanna stop now

This song is ranked #110 on Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list, with Redding ranked at #8 on their list of the 500 Greatest Singers of All Time.  If you have never heard this man’s glorious voice or this song, please listen to it now.  You have been denied this gift long enough.

Or better yet, watch Redding’s entire performance from 1967’s  Monterey Pop Music Festival.  This song comes on at the 6:53 mark, but all 5 songs Redding delivers in his high energy persona are worth the watch (not to mention a glimpse of Booker T & the MG’s and the Mar-Keys providing the music to his phenomenal show) .  If you have never seen any part of this performance, it will change your life.  Nothing I write will come close to describing this legend of soul.

Redding was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1989 by Little Richard.

In the blog featuring the #10 song on the countdown, I wrote that the end to Jackie Wilson’s story was one of the saddest in music.  Well, Redding’s is the first, in my humble opinion.  His entire music career took place by the time he was 26 years old, with the exception of his only #1 record which hit that spot several weeks after his death (for “Dock of the Bay”, which also earned Redding two posthumous Grammy Awards for Best Male R&B Performance and Best R&B Song).  Add to that the fact that Redding left behind a young wife, three very small children and only gave us a glimpse of what his voice could have done for the world throughout his future career, and the story is almost too sad for words.

Redding died in a plane crash in Wisconsin’s Lake Monona on December 10, 1967.  Five members of his touring band, the Bar-Kays, were also killed.

I have been to the R&R HOF twice since it opened, and while I loved the history of it all and the spectacular artifacts on display to help illustrate the story that is rock & roll, it was unbelievably daunting to come thisclose to the display showcasing parts of the twin-engine Beechcraft plane wreckage Redding was killed in.  The fact that we have lived without his voice for almost half a century is heartbreaking enough on its own.

At least we had him for a little while.  What a gift he was to music.

Enjoy!!!

Valentine’s Day Music Countdown: Songs at #5 (Yes, it’s another tie!!!)

What do you get when you combine a Gershwin tune with the First Lady of Song?  You get an event, a magnificent moment in music.  You get “Someone To Watch Over Me” by Ella Fitzgerald.

Her 1950 version of George & Ira Gershwin’s 1926 song is arguably the most famous version of the song despite having been covered by the likes Sinatra, Garland, Vaughn and Clooney.  Fitzgerald earned her accolades as the “Queen of Jazz” & “Lady Ella” for the beauty, sophistication and three octave range of her voice.

I love how cosmopolitan the lyrics are:

“…I like to add his initial to my monogram…I know I could be always be good
To one who’ll watch over me…

Won’t you tell him please to put on some speed,
follow my lead,
Oh, how I need
someone to watch over me.”

This is how Fitzgerald’s website describes her:  “Her voice was flexible, wide-ranging, accurate and ageless. She could sing sultry ballads, sweet jazz and imitate every instrument in an orchestra.”  She was also one of the greatest singers this world will ever see.

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When Something is Wrong With My Baby” by the duo of Sam (Moore) & Dave (Prater) is the other song we celebrate in the #5 spot.

Written by Isaac Hayes (“Shaft”) & David Porter, with music performed by Booker T & the MG’s and released by Stax Records (the label who amongst their many accomplishments, introduced the world to soul legend Otis Redding), this song had way too much going for it not to be a hit-#2 on the R&B chart in 1967.

It has the hallmarks of an unbelievably great song:  fantastic composition, sublime passionate vocal, incredible brass accompaniment, exquisite delivery (Dave Prater was a great singer, but on this song he was just phenomenal) and simply beautiful lyrics:

“When something is wrong with my baby
Something is wrong with me
And if I know she’s worried
Then I would feel that same misery

We’ve been through, so much together
We stand as one and that’s what makes it better
When something is wrong with my baby
Something is wrong with me, now listen

Just what she means to me now
Oh, you just wouldn’t, you just wouldn’t understand
People can say, she’s no good
But oh, she’s my woman and I know I’m her man

And if she’s got a problem, oh
I know, I know, I know, I gotta help her solve them
When something is wrong with my baby, 
Something is wrong with me”

Talk about being in it together…..or is it just another case of enabling behavior???  However you look at it, this song did not leave you wondering if this man loved his woman.  You knew it because his delivery made you feel it.  And that is what makes a song great.

Linda Ronstadt & Aaron Neville recorded a version of this song in 1990 that hit #5 on the Pop chart.

Enjoy!!!

Image result for valentines day clip art

Valentine’s Day Music Countdown: Song #9

Song #9, like #10 before it, is also a soulful upbeat love song, but this one has the distinction of actually being the #1 hit song on Valentine’s Day in 1972.  It is “Let’s Stay Together” by another one of my all time favorite soul singers, Al Green. 

I had the honor of seeing Green in concert almost a decade ago, and he is every bit the phenomenal performer live that he is on TV when he is blowing the roof off of the Ed Sullivan Theatre during one of his numerous yearly performances on “The Late Show With David Letterman” (just one more reason to be despondent over Letterman’s impending retirement). 

Green’s remarkable voice exudes the exquisite beauty and polish of Sam Cooke, the passion and raw emotion of Otis Redding and the power and sophistication of Jackie Wilson all rolled into one.  Add to that equation one of the most sublime falsetto voices ever heard and there you have the genius of this utterly superb performer.   

He wrote the lyrics to “Let’s Stay Together” and the music was written by Al Jackson, Jr. (drummer for Booker T & the MG’s) and producer Willie Mitchell.  The words are so simple, yet so powerful and direct.   I do not know about Green’s mindset today, but when he wrote these lyrics he clearly was a man devoid of any intimacy issues:

“Let me say that since, baby, since we’ve been together
  Loving you forever is what I need
  Oh let me be the one you come running to

   I’ll never be untrue”………Simply beautiful.

Rolling Stone ranked this song #60 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.   In 1995 Green was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame by Natalie Cole.

In 1976 he became a reverend and nearly every Sunday he can be found giving the sermon at the Full Gospel Tabernacle Church in Memphis, TN. The services are open to the public and even though I have seen Green live, seeing him at the pulpit of his own church is on my bucket list.

Enjoy!!!