Music Monday: November 28, 2022

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

Music Monday

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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

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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.

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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.

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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: 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

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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: August 29, 2022

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

Music Monday

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Happy almost 77th birthday to Sir George Ivan Morrison OBE. Born August 31, 1945 in Northern Ireland. he started performing and singing as a teenager, inspired by his father’s country, gospel & blues records. By 1964 Morrison formed the band Them who saw success with songs like “Gloria” and “Here Comes The Night”. In 1967 Van The Man went solo with his fusion of rock, blues and jazz music. That inspired and incredible sound combined with his voice & poetry gave way to songs like no others, especially on albums like Astral Weeks (1968), Moondance (1970) and Saint Dominic’s Preview (1972), just to name a few.

His fame and influence range from The Doors, Bruce Springsteen, The Band, U2, John Mellencamp, The Counting Crows, David Gray, Ray Lamontagne and so many others. After over six decades of performing, Morrison is still making new music. Earlier this year he released What’s It Gonna Take?, his 43rd studio album.

The hard part for me when listening to his music is choosing which record to start with, mainly because I will usually stay with that album for days or possibly weeks at a time. It is nearly impossible to absorb every nuance of Morrison’s voice in ten sittings, let alone one. Even all these years after first discovering this man’s music, it still surprises me with something I missed before. Today’s song, the title track from his 1973 album, falls into that category every time I hear it. It may not be as popular as some of his other songs, but for me it is one of the best vocals of his acclaimed career.

Put your money where your mouth is
Then we can get something going
In order to win you must be prepared to lose sometime
And leave one or two cards showing
“.

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Van Morrison circa 2010. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Van Morrison: “Hard Nose the Highway” (1973, written by Van Morrison).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: August 15, 2022

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

Music Monday

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It was 57 years ago today that The Beatles made history in New York for the second time in two years. On August 15, 1965 the band played their now famous concert at Shea Stadium. It was the first time a musical group held a show in that type of venue in the United States. The Fab Four performed 12 songs-eight originals, four covers-during their 30 minute set in front of a sold out crowd of nearly 56,000 fans. Most of that crowd were young girls screaming so hysterically they drowned out the music, including today’s song.

I cannot even imagine what it must have been like to witness the kind of history The Beatles made on their first trip to America in February 1964, let alone the monumental concert nearly six decades ago. But I relived it vicariously through Sally Draper when she screamed & jumped for joy after her father, Don, told her he was taking her to the concert. That episode of “Mad Men” (S4 E10) aired 45 years after “The First Play At Shea”, but what a way to let those of us who missed Beatlemania experience a piece of that magic.

Thank you John, Paul, George & Ringo for EVERYTHING.

You tell lies
Thinking I can’t see
You can’t cry
‘Cause you’re laughing at me
“.

Beatles Shea

The Fab Four on stage in Shea Stadium in 1965 (L-R): Paul McCartney, George Harrison, Ringo Starr and John Lennon. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Beatles: “I’m Down” (1965, written by John Lennon and Paul McCartney).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: August 8, 2022

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

Music Monday

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Nearly 50 years ago one of my favorite bands released their debut album. Bad Company’s self-titled first record came out in the summer of 1974. They were classified as a supergroup because all four members were once in other successful groups: drummer Simon Kirke and lead vocalist, rhythm guitarist & keyboard player Paul Rodgers were in the band Free; lead guitarist Mick Ralphs was in Mott The Hoople and bass player Boz Burrell was a part of King Crimson. All four members of Bad Co. were songwriters but Rogers & Ralphs handled the majority of that task. The band also had the distinction of being the first group signed to Led Zeppelin’s Swan Song record label.

The debut album was a #1 hit & was followed by five other records until Rodgers left the band in 1982. He returned a few times after that, staying for good in 2008. Kirke has been with the group all along. Sadly, Burrell died of a heart attack in 2006 and Ralphs left the band in 2016 due to medical reasons.

If there was an audio definition for the word “underrated”, I think any song by Bad Co. would suffice. The musicianship was top tier and Rodgers soaring powerful & distinct vocals put them in a universe all their own. Yet they have been snubbed by the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame for over 20 years and none of the members have ever received any type of British honor, either. I find both of those facts sad & disturbing.

They are part of classic rock royalty & are still one of the strongest most recognizable bands of the 1970’s. Today’s song is from their debut album & remains my top pick from that record. The music from this incredible quartet is intense, incredible and captivating while Rodgers’ voice elevates the entire experience to a stunning level. To quote the song, “Bad Company ’til the day I die”.

Company
Always on the run
Destiny
Is a rising sun
“.

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Bad Company circa 1974 (L-R): Boz Burrell (bassist), Mick Ralphs (lead guitarist), Paul Rodgers (lead vocalist) and Simon Kirke (drummer). (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Bad Company: “Bad Company” (1974, written by Simon Kirke and Paul Rodgers).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: August 1, 2022

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

Music Monday

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Unless you were asleep for most of last weekend, you know that music-actually life, for that matter-got a much needed win during this year that just will not stop disappointing us. On Sunday July 24, the legend known as Joni Mitchell made an unexpected yet glorious return to the stage at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival.

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Joni Mitchell on stage at the Newport Folk Festival on July 24, 2022. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

She sang, she played guitar & she brought the crowd to their feet proving she is still as vibrant & as moving as ever. This after fighting her way back from a serious health crisis-a brain aneurysm in 2015-that took her out of commission. I learned she has been slowly making her way back over the last few years, mostly by way of the “Joni Jams” she hosted in her living room to stay in touch with her musical friends. Earlier this year she was named Musicares Person Of The Year and last year she was celebrated as a Kennedy Centers Honor recipient.

If you need a crash course in her genius, influence & reach, there is a whole 2013 “Parenthood” episode centered around her music (S5 E4, “In Dreams Begin Responsibility”), not to mention an endless supply of YouTube videos to choose from.

The last time Mitchell played at Newport was 53 years ago in 1969. That was the same year she released today’s song. She has written some really beautiful ones in her life but this one makes me tear up every time. It took me years to appreciate the talent of this woman and for that I will always feel ashamed. But this track is her pinnacle, as was her performance last weekend on a magical stage in New England.

But now old friends are acting strange
They shake their heads they say I’ve changed
Well something’s lost but something’s gained
In living every day
“.

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Joni Mitchell circa 1969. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Joni Mitchell: “Both Sides Now” (1969, written by Joni Mitchell).

Stay safe and well.

Music Monday: July 18, 2022

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

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

July is filled with several high profile musical birthdays. In fact, there are so many I decided to break them up into two separate posts to do the artists justice. This week we will focus on three female performers and next week will be all about the men. So stay tuned for another triple play next week.

The month began with the lead singer of an iconic group turning 77 years young. Deborah Ann Harry was born on July 1, 1945 in Miami, Florida but grew up in Hawthorne, New Jersey. She & her group, Blondie, defined rock & roll cool and New York City suave in the 1970’s until the new millennium and gave the group superstar status. Harry was not just the pretty face of the group-she was also the voice and one of its primary songwriters, too. She made her way to the small & big screens, with her roles in 1988’s “Hairspray” & 2003’s “My Life Without Me” as my favorites. Her 2019 autobiography, “Face It: A Memoir”, is worth the read as well.

Debbie

Debbie Harry sometime in the 1980’s. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Christine Anne McVie was born July 12, 1943 in Bouth, UK. making her 79 years young. One of the beautiful talented women of Fleetwood Mac, it was one of today’s song that turned out to be the group’s first hit, just one of many penned by McVie. Her prowess on the keyboards has helped define the band’s sound in every decade of their existence & led to her own successful solo career.

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Christine McVie circa 2000. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

One of the premier voices of all time turned 76 this month. Linda Maria Ronstadt was born July 15, 1946 in Tucson, AZ. She helped define the Laurel Canyon sound of the late 1960’s & early 1970’s, dominated that decade & the 1980’s as a solo performer before ending the latter decade with hit duets with Aaron Neville. She branched out into several diverse musical genres such as Broadway, Big Band, Mexican and Opera, amongst others. The sheer power & beauty of her voice continues to influence every generation after her & helps insure her place as one of the best selling artists in music history.

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Linda Ronstadt in the 1970’s. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Blondie: “Dreaming” (1979, written by Deborah Harry and Chris Stein).

Fleetwood Mac (featuring Christine McVie): “Over My Head” (1975, written by Christine McVie).

Linda Ronstadt: “Heart Like A Wheel” (1974, written by Anna McGarrigle).

Stay safe & well.

“…That Our Flag Was Still There…”

Happy Independence Day!!!

Please enjoy my all-time favorite renditions of the National  Anthem.  The first one was recorded 35 years ago at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game by one of the greatest singers to ever walk this earth.  He sang it with the reverence the song deserved, but in his own unique passionate and soulful way.  It was a beautiful and masterful performance.

Twenty-one years later at the 2004 NBA All Star Game, his daughter would use his version to sing it as a duet with her father and it was absolutely stunning.

Enjoy & have a happy & safe 4th of July, friends!!!

Marvin Gaye:  The Star Spangled Banner.

Marvin Gaye & Nona Gaye:  The Star Spangled Banner.

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