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 slept thru 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

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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.

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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.

Music Monday: June 20, 2022

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

Music Monday

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Sir James Paul McCartney celebrated his 80th birthday over the weekend. Born June 18, 1942 in Liverpool, England, the man who would become one fourth of the band that changed music forever & one-half of one of the greatest songwriting teams ever has spent six decades making music. There is not much for me to add to a legacy like that.

Today’s song has been my #1 favorite of McCartney’s since I first heard it during one of my most beloved scenes from the “Let It Be” movie. But once I discovered the “naked” version of this song, it took the top spot on that list.

The wild and windy night
That the rain washed away
Has left a pool of tears
Crying for the day
“.

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Top: McCartney in his Beatles days circa 1964. Middle Paul & his first wife, Linda, in the 1970’s. McCartney (L) on stage in NJ last week with one of that state’s favorite sons, Bruce Springsteen (R). (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

The Beatles: “The Long & Winding Road” (1970 original, 2003 reissue, written by John Lennon & Paul McCartney).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: June 6, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to the first edition of Music Monday for June.

Music Monday

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Two members of The Rolling Stones share the same birthday month. Guitarist Ron Wood celebrated birthday number 75 on June 1. Before he joined the band in 1976, he made a name for himself in The Jeff Beck Group, The Faces and with Rod Stewart. Their 1993 collaboration on Unplugged…..and Seated remains one of my favorites from that series.

Original member Charlie Watts was born June 2, 1941 in London, England. We lost the stylish dashing drummer last August & it hurt in a way I never saw coming. We all know musicians age like the rest of us but when a band is together for nearly 60 years, you start to believe they will outlive us all. Maybe that is just me. But what an ache Watts left behind in all of us who love The Stones.

Today’s song is in my permanent Top 10 list. It has been that way since the first time I heard it. It does not feature Wood but it is still one of the band’s greatest tracks of all time. It is from their 1969 Let It Bleed album and has been one of their signature tunes since then. I cannot even imagine my life without this monumental song in it. I am pretty sure Martin Scorsese feels the same way.

A storm is threatening
My very life today
If I don’t get some shelter
I’m gonna fade away
“.

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The Rolling Stones circa 2010 (L-R): Charlie Watts, Keith Richards, Mick Jagger and Ron Wood.

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Rolling Stones: “Gimme Shelter” (1969, written by Mick Jagger and Keith Richards).

Stay safe & well.

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
“.

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(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 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.

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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.

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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

(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
“.

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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.

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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

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

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
“.

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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.