Music Monday: September 27, 2021

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

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

September 29 will mark my mother’s 82nd birth anniversary. Both of my parents loved music, but since I spent more time with my mother during my early years while my dad was at work it was her influence that molded how I would listen to music for the rest of my life.

For one thing, I definitely share her high tolerance for repetition. If she liked a song, she would listen to it over and over again until she switched it out for the next 45 in her collection. There were about a dozen singles she was crazy about, and until this day I can still recall every single word of each one, no matter how much times passes in between hearing them. I still consider most of them some my favorites as well. Their hold on me is eternal.

I remember being in the car with her when one of those songs came on the radio. Even though we had arrived home & had that record there, my mother purposely drove around the block a couple of times so we could hear the entire song. Then the deejay announced he wanted to listen to the tune one more time so he played it again. My mother was thrilled & drove us around the block a few more times while we sang along with the track a second time. It is one of my most treasured memories.

Screenshot July 2011

My mother, Theresa, December 1968.

Second, she had great taste in music for the most part (we will just ignore her dark period as a fan of The Fifth Dimension. At least I discovered Burt Bacharach & Hal David through them). She loved Elvis Presley, Jackie Wilson & Motown, to name a few. If not for her buying a four album K-Tel compilation set of The Motor City’s greatest hits I cannot even imagine if I would have known who The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Miracles or Stevie Wonder were.

Every year as we got close to Halloween she would pull out her “Monster Mash” single and we would dance around while I tried on my costume to make sure it was perfect for the big day. Then we would put the decorations up to bring a more festive vibe to our home. Only Christmas had more preparation to it with tons of holiday music to match. I ache for those days.

It is always so hard for me to choose one song in her memory because there were just so many she loved. But I am able to narrow the list down with the help of Bruce Springsteen. As a fan of Elvis & Wilson himself, I have been at several of The Boss’s shows where he covered their songs as encores. Each time I could not help but think how perfect it was that my great musical love was singings songs by my mother’s great musical loves. And even though she was not there with me physically, I just knew she was loving those moments as much as I was. Music is very much a part of the circle of life.

Like a river flows
Surely to the sea
Darling so it goes
Some things are meant to be
“.

elvis-presley

Elvis Presley circa 1959. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Elvis Presley: “Can’t Help Falling In Love” (1961, written by Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George David Weiss).

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

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 449

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?

June 2021 blog

(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.

Time for another Motown break. June 6th marked the 85th birth anniversary for one of the label’s greatest voices, Levi Stubbs. Born in 1936 in Detroit, Michigan, he was endowed with a powerful emotionally charged baritone voice which often times crossed over to the tenor range. It led the way for The Four Tops to become one of the most successful & beloved groups from the Motor City. And helped Stubbs become one of my favorite singers of all time.

All alone I’m destined to be
With misery my only company
It may come today it might come tomorrow
But it’s for sure I ain’t got nothing but sorrow
“.

Four Tops

The Four Tops circa 1965. Top (L_R): Abdul “Duke” Fakir and Lawrence Payton. Bottom (L-R): Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Levi Stubbs. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Four Tops: “Standing In The Shadows Of Love” (1967, written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland).

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 415

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?

May blog 2021

(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.

Time for the first mid-week Motown break for May. Well actually, today’s song was not released on that label but rather on Casablanca Records in 1983. But it is by The Four Tops and as far as I am concerned, they will always be part of the Motor City sound. It was covered by Whitney Houston in 1996 but even she could not live up to the power of one of the greatest singers who ever graced this planet, Levi Stubbs.

It is a love song that if sung by anyone else could have crossed the line into schmaltzy. But in the hands of the esteemed & unbelievably gifted Stubbs, it comes across as a beautiful track. And when he hits the last note and the violins come in again for the last time, it is an absolutely glorious moment. But then again every second spent listening to his spectacular voice feels the same way.

I will never leave your side
I will never hurt your pride
When all the chips are down
I will always be around
“.

levi

four tops A

Top: Levy Stubbs circa 1965. Bottom: The Four Tops circa 1964. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

The Four Tops: “I Believe In You And Me” (1983, written by Sandy Linzer and David Wolfert).

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 387

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?

May 2021 blog

(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.

Time for another mid-week Motown break. In July 1964 The Four Tops released today’s song which became their first Top 20 hit. It featured the quartet’s signature sound & harmonies enhanced by the label’s female session singers, The Andantes-Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps. Of course the track also featured the music of The Funk Brothers with a nice assist from The Detroit Symphony Orchestra.

Twenty-one years later in July 1985, The Tops performed at Live Aid in Philadelphia, followed by Eric Clapton. In his autobiography he admitted he was nervous to perform after them because they were legends. That is some serious & well deserved respect.

“Some say it’s a sign of weakness
For a man to beg
Then weak I’d rather be
If it means having you to keep”.

Four-Tops

The Four Tops circa 1967 (L-R): Renaldo Benson, Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir and Lawrence Payton. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Four Tops: “Baby I Need Your Loving” (1964, written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland).

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 303

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.

Time for another mid-week Motown break. This one is extra special because it is the anniversary of the label’s launch. On January 12, 1959 Berry Gordy founded the Tamla Record Company which became Motown Records a year later. Gordy may have let his ego get the best of him at times, and perhaps he fought against his artists growing out of the mold of success he set up and he may have even over-supported some acts while ignoring others. But there is no denying the enormity of what he created by hiring some of the best songwriters, musicians & artists to bring his vision to the reality it became. This groundbreaking genre of soul music was introduced to the world through some of the greatest voices I ever heard & one of my favorite quartets of all time.

In and out my life
You come and you go
Leaving just your picture behind
And I kissed it a thousand times
“.

4 tops

The Four Tops circa 1964 (L-R): Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Lawrence Payton, Levi Stubbs and Renaldo Benson. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Four Tops: “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)” (1965, written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland).

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 213

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.

Today in 1958 Jackie Wilson recorded one of his signature songs. It was another tune co-written by future Motown founder Berry Gordy Jr who also co-wrote “Reet Petite”, “To Be Loved” & “We Have Love” for Wilson the year before. The proceeds earned from these songs helped Gordy start Tamla Records in 1959 which became the iconic Motown label in April 1960. The success of today’s tune also helped establish Wilson as one of the premier R&B singers not only the 1950’s & 1960’s but of all time.

He was born Jack Leroy Wilson Jr. in Detroit, Michigan in 1934. He began singing in church when he was a child which led to him joining a gospel group in his teens. He learned to box during a couple of stints in detention for bad behavior and competed in the local boxing circuit before he quit to marry at 17 because he was going to become a father. He joined several groups (including one with his cousin, future Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs) until Wilson signed a solo record deal with Decca Records subsidiary label, Brunswick, in 1957. “Reet Petite” was his first release which helped launch his career through its moderate success. Between his four octave tenor range and his dynamic dance moves on stage, Wilson earned the nickname “Mr. Excitement” and enjoyed over a decade of success throughout his career.

Unfortunately the rest of his story is not as happy. Wilson was besieged with problems in his personal life including getting shot by a girlfriend, several arrests and legal issues, financial losses & IRS liens due to an embezzling manager as well as multiple children from in & out of his two marriages. He also lost a son, Jackie Jr in 1970 when the 16 year old was shot to death. That sent Wilson into a depressive state which included drug use. In 1975 he suffered a heart attack onstage which left him in a semi-comatose state. He remained in a nursing home until his death from pneumonia in 1984. Wilson left a legacy on music, fans and the performers he influenced especially Van Morrison, Bruce Springsteen, Prince, and Michael Jackson among many others. My mother was a big fan of his & she and my dad were lucky enough to see Wilson perform around 1960 at the acclaimed Apollo Theatre in Harlem. Swoon.

Just give me another chance for our romance
Come on and tell me that one day you’ll return
‘Cause, every day that you’ve been gone away
You know my heart does nothing but burn, crying
“.

Wilson and Elvis

Elvis Presley (L) with Jackie Wilson (R) circa 1959. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Jackie Wilson: “Lonely Teardrops” (As performed on “American Bandstand” in March 1959. Originally released in 1958, written by Berry Gordy Jr, Gwen Gordy & Roquel “Billy” Davis as “Tyran Carlo”).

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 143

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.

The Left Banke was one of those groups that burst onto the scene in the mid-1960’s and left an indelible mark on music despite their brief stay.  Best known for two songs, the exquisite “Pretty Ballerina” and today’s pick, the success of same came quickly for the band leading to tension amongst the group members and eventually disbandment.  While they were together, they helped coin a new phrase, baroque rock, which critics felt best described their unique sound and string arrangements.  Today’s song was also done by the Four Tops which is also wonderful.  But the Left Banke’s version, led by the vocals of Steve Martin Caro  who sadly died earlier this year at the age of 71, is in my opinion absolutely gorgeous.

Your name and mine 
inside a heart upon a wall
Still finds a way to haunt me 
though they’re so small“.

Left Bank

The LEft Bank circa 1965.  (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Left Banke:  “Walk Away Renee” (1966, written by Michael Brown, Bob Calilli, and Tony Sansone).

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 135

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 music quote

(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.

Time for another mid-week Motown break.  The Four Tops had tremendous success whether they were singing their own Motown originals or covers like “Walk Away Renee” (first recorded by The Left Banke in 1966), “If I Were A Carpenter” (written & recorded by Tim Hardin in 1967) or “River Deep Mountain High” (originally recorded by Ike & Tina Turner in 1966).  The reason they never missed was because Levi Stubbs was as close to perfection as a vocalist could be.  He had a smooth polished vocal as opposed to the impassioned raw emotion of his Temptations counterpoint, David Ruffin.  I often thought of Stubbs singing to be close in style to Sam Cooke’s while Ruffin’s was more like Otis Redding’s.  All four men had incredible iconic voices, just different styles.

Added to Stubbs’ vocals were the harmonious backing sounds by his group members- Abdul “Duke” Fakir, Renaldo “Obie” Benson and Lawrence Payton-along with the music of The Funk Brothers and the historic magical sound of The Four Tops was complete.  All four members stayed together for 44 years, a record unmatched by any other act on the label.  To this day they remain one of Motown’s most beloved and renowned groups and one of my great loves from that era.

All you left is our favorite song
The one we danced to all night long
It used to bring sweet memories
Of a tender love that used to be.” 

Four Tops

The Four Tops circa 1965 (L-to-R) Renaldo “Obie” Benson, Levi Stubbs, Abdul “Duke” Fakir, and Lawrence Payton.  (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Four Tops:  “It’s The Same Old Song” ( 1965, written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland).

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 125

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 music quote

(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.

Today’s song has been covered by a myriad of artists including Robert Plant, The Four Tops, Bob Seger, Johnny Cash (as a duet with his wife, June Carter Cash) and Leon Russell, and all of them are great versions.  But my favorite one was recorded by Walden Robert Cassotto, better known by his stage name, Bobby Darin.  It was a top ten hit for him in 1966.  If you are not too familiar with Darin, it is very easy to write him off as a novelty act because of his first hit song, “Splish Splash”.  But make no mistake, he was an excellent musician playing guitar, piano and drums.  He also wrote and recorded songs in all different types of musical genres including pop, rock & roll, jazz, swing, country & folk.

That is how he took us from “Dream Lover”, “Mack The Knife” and “Beyond The Sea” in the 1950’s to today’s song and “Simple Song of Freedom” in the 1960’s.  He began his career as a songwriter at The Brill Building in NYC, the same place where Carole King & Gerry Goffin started.  It was there that Darin met & was signed by record executive Ahmet Ertegun, who discovered people like Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Eric Clapton (when he was in the band, Cream), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Led Zeppelin.  I think Darin’s vocal has a haunting sadness in it that just resonates throughout today’s song.  And with superb lyrics by songwriter Tim Hardin and a beautiful arrangement, this tune just had everything it needed to be something both remarkable & unexpected all at once.

Save my love through loneliness
Save my love for sorrow
I’ve given you my onlyness
Come give your tomorrow.”

Bobby-Darin-The-Direction-Albums-

Bobby Darin circa 1969.  (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Bobby Darin:  “If I Were A Carpenter” (1966, written by Tim Hardin).

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 102

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?

Kerouac

(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.

If you ask most people who the greatest band of all time is. many will tell you The Beatles.  However, the question as to who comes in second would spark a debate by fans and music scholars alike since there are so many to consider.  But not for me.  Only one answer is clear.  It is The Funk Brothers.

They were a group of blues and jazz musicians who became the house band at the Motown label for 14 years, from 1959 until 1972.  Look at those dates again carefully because what they reveal is every song recorded for the label in the 1960’s had The Funk Brothers on it.  That is every song by Marvin Gaye, The Temptations, The Four Tops, The Marvelettes, The Supremes, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles, Martha & The Vandellas, Stevie Wonder, Mary Wells, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Junior Walker & The All Stars and every other act on the label during that time.  That is an absolutely staggering accomplishment.

The Funk Brothers story was told in the 2002 documentary, “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown”.  During the opening credits it is revealed they played on more number one hit records than Elvis, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and The Beach Boys combined.   Even the word genius does not seem to adequately describe that achievement.  And the only reason why their streak ended is because Berry Gordy moved the label’s base of operation from Detroit to Los Angeles without including the band in the relocation.  And prior to that they were never given the proper recognition they deserved during Motown’s heyday.

The film identified 13 men as Funk Brothers.  Remember the Apostles were 13 when they were with Jesus.  Coincidence or the second coming?  You decide.  Outside of the Motown label they played on The Contours “Do You Love Me”, Jackie Wilson’s “Higher and Higher” and on the song “Boom Boom” by one of the greatest blues singers to ever pick up a guitar, John Lee Hooker.

Of course, the songwriters and performers were needed to deliver the sound created by The Funk Brothers, but without their incredibly talented and intense consistent playing the songs would have never soared like they did.  For example, today’s track was written by the same two men who wrote Gaye’s smash “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” and I find it nothing short of hypnotic.  There is a lead guitar riff played quickly and sporadically throughout the song that just reaches inside of me and leaves me gasping for air despite it being all around me.  It is just that intense.

A couple of my musical heroes list Motown/Funk Brothers songs as ones they cannot live without.  For Eric Clapton it is “I Was Made To Love Her” by Stevie Wonder.  For Bruce Springsteen it is two (because he is just that cool):  “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye & “Baby I Need Your Lovin'” by The Four Tops.  Covers of Motor City songs were made by The Beatles (“You Really Got A Hold On Me”) Rod Stewart (“I Know I’m Losing You”), The Rolling Stones (“Going To A Go-Go”) and countless others.  Motown’s influence, lead by the music of The Funk Brothers, is so far reaching it would be nearly impossible to comprehend.  But without it, the landscape of music would be devoid of soul.  I may bow at other altars of music, but I am brought to my knees in the church of the Brothers Funk.  Can I get an amen?

Stevie Wonder in the Motown studio with some of The Funk Brothers circa 1967 and the movie poster for 2002’s “Standing In The Shadows Of Motown” (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Marvin Gaye featuring the music of The Funk Brothers:  “That’s The Way Love Is” ( 1969, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong).

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

Stay well.