Music Monday: May 16, 2022

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

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

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 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
“.

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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.

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: 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.

Music Monday: March 21, 2022

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

Music Monday

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We all have songs that take us back to some of the best memories of our lives. Moments when we were truly complete & happy. When for a short time a million years ago we had a real life, a whole life, a beautiful life. Those memories may sometimes feel like a dream that could not have possibly happened. But it did. And the songs we remember from those times bear witness to those memories & remain a testament to that period of time. Today’s song is one of my most beloved rides back to my Camelot.

The track is from 1972 but more than 30 years later I heard a fabulous cover of it in the 2003 movie, “Stuck On You”. That version introduced me to a musician I was thrilled to discover, Pete Yorn. But even his extraordinary take on this song cannot match the emotional comfort I get from the original, even all these years later.

Got on board a westbound 747
Didn’t think before deciding what to do
Oh, that talk of opportunities, TV breaks and movies
Rang true, sure rang true
“.

Albert Hammond 1972

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Top: Albert Hammond circa 1972. Bottom: Hammond circa 2015. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Albert Hammond: “It Never Rains In Southern California” (1972, written by Albert Hammond and Mike Hazelwood).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: January 24, 2022

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

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Saturday marked the 91st birth anniversary of an extraordinary soul pioneer. Sam Cooke was born January 22, 1931 in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Raised in Chicago, his first foray into music was in church courtesy of his father, a Baptist minister. When he was 15 Cooke began singing with a gospel group, The Soul Stirrers. In 1958 he released his first album of secular music, a mix of standards, Broadway tunes and one original track, the magnificent “You Send Me”.

Over the next six years Cooke would write & record many other songs, including “Cupid”, “Chain Gang”, “Another Saturday Night”, Wonderful World” and the civil rights inspired “A Change Is Gonna Come”. He also became an important member in the early days of that movement along side Muhammad Ali & Martin Luther King Jr. Cooke took an even bigger role in his career by starting his own record label (SAR Records) and publishing company (KAGS Music) to preserve his artistic legacy. Losing him in 1964 at age 33 was an unmitigated tragedy & one of music’s saddest moments. But more than six decades after his first hit record, Cooke remains one of the most important & enduring figures in music history. And rightfully so.

All of his songs are are wonderful beyond words but today’s song from his tenure with The Soul Stirrers is from my top five. His strong beautiful soulful and evocative vocal is stunning. I could listen to him sing the word “mile” for days and days and still not hear it enough. A suave elegant gifted performer with an unbelievable stage presence, Cooke defined the soul genre with every note he sang.

When I’ve gone the last mile of the way
I shall rest at the close of day
For I know there are joys awaiting
When I’ve gone the last mile of the way”.

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Muhammad Ali (left) in the studio with Sam Cooke (right) circa 1964. Courtesy of officialsamcooke.com. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Soul Stirrers: “The Last Mile Of The Way” (Recorded between 1950-1957. Written by Johnson Oatman, Jr.).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: September 20, 2021

Hi, everyone. Welcome back to the blog for this week’s Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Every Friday night one of my local radio stations hosts Friday Night Block Partys where they play four songs in a row by the same artist. Last weekend for the first time in a long time they featured Cheap Trick and I have to say, it was really good to hear “Dream Police” again.

I was a big fan of the group while I was growing up but I am sorry to say my interest waned over the years. It seemed as if every album contained re-worked versions of their old hits and I just lost interest. But when they released Silver in 2001 it came with a DVD and a friend of mine gave it to me to watch. It was great to see the band on stage together again and this time they included a few of their grown children on some songs. I really liked their 2006 release Rockford as well.

But then sadly they turned into The Eagles & started fighting when drummer Bun E. Carlos needed to pull back from a few tour dates for health reasons. Lawsuits ensued in 2012 and it was just sad. I have to say if a band is together 25+ years and then the fighting starts I just do not understand it. At that point life has happened to them all, they are not kids or newbie rock stars anymore so just agree to disagree and move on. I know it is easier said then done but I think after that many years together they can find a way to work things out on and off the stage.

So my interest waned again after that but I read they were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame with Carlos in 2016. Today’s song is probably my favorite one that Cheap Trick ever recorded.

You didn’t know what
You were looking for
‘Till you heard the
Voices in your ear
“.

cheap-trick-promo

Cheap Trick circa 1979 (L-R): Rick Nielsen, Robin Zander, Bun E. Carlos and Tom Peterson. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Cheap Trick: “Voices” (1979, written by Rick Nielsen).

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

Stay well.