Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Great new song by Jack Johnson. Timely lyrics as well.

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One of my Top 10 favorite artists. Never gets old, man.

Well I’m goin’ down to Laurel,
It’s a dirty stinkin’ town yeah,
But me I know exactly what I’m going to find.
Little girl I’m goin’ to see,
She is a fool for lovin’ me,
But she’s in love and love’s a funny state of mind . . .

Or maybe you did. What do I know? Anyway, cover songs are nearly as old as music, and while some are highly credited, some are decidedly not. It’s almost as if some artists don’t want people to know the song had been done previously.

I started with about 30-songs but narrowed it down, cutting songs like “I Will Always Love You” by Whitney Houston that was originally a Dolly Parton song. I figured a lot of people already knew that one anyway. The 18 I chose are covers that I thought maybe people would find surprising.

But like I said, maybe not. Still, I’m willing to bet there are at least a couple of surprises on here, even for the biggest music aficionados.

Sidenote – There are a thousand white artists who took black artists songs and made them hits. Hell, Pat Boone made a career out of lifting Little Richard songs and creating bestsellers for white audiences. And man, did they suck. Listen to his version of “Tutti Frutti” by clicking here and you’ll get my drift. That’s brutal, man.

Without further ado, here are my 18 Songs You Didn’t Know Were Covers (or maybe you did):

House of the Rising Sun – The Animals

Nope. Not an original. In fact, the author of the song is unknown. It’s a traditional folk song believed to be brought from English immigrants in the 1800’s and appropriated to a more current form in New Orleans. Here’s a version from 1933 by Tom Clarence Ashley & Gwen Foster:

Bet that got your attention, huh? Let’s continue . . .

Twist and Shout – The Beatles

Eh, maybe some of you knew this was a cover. Still, I had to include it.  The Isley Brothers did a killer version as well. Here’s the original by the Top Notes in 1961:

Factoid: The song’s original title was “Shake It Up, Baby”.

Got My Mind Set On You – George Harrison

This was a big Jeff Lynne produced song for George back in 1987, but a cool cat by the name of James Ray did it first, way back in 1963:

Cum On Feel the Noize – Quiet Riot

Quiet Riot blatantly swiped this one in ’83, but my boys from Slade had rocked it 10-years prior, back in 1973. On a related note, Slade was a great band. Listen to “My Oh My” and “Run Runaway” to get the vibe. Good stuff.

Tainted Love – Soft Cell

This tune was originally performed by Gloria Jones way back in 1964. Marilyn Manson also recorded it in the ’90s, but Soft Cell had to biggest hit with it in the ’80s. But here’s the very first version:

Hound Dog – Elvis Presley

Elvis pilfered a lot of songs, just like Pat Boone. The difference was that Elvis performed them with a helluva lot more soul. “Hound Dog” was first done by the legendary Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton back in 1952. Just an awesome performance:

Damn that’s good.

Turn! Turn! Turn! – The Byrds

Before The Byrds had a monster hit with this featuring beautiful harmonies and jangly guitars, Pete Seeger sang it with just an acoustic guitar and a gravelly voice. Give a listen:

Respect – Aretha Franklin

Yep this was done by none other than Otis Redding prior to Aretha’s version. Of course, coming from a woman (especially in the 60s) the lyrics took on a whole new connotation. In addition, Aretha added the iconic R-E-S-P-E-C-T to the song, and the rest is history. However, here’s the original:

Love Hurts – Nazareth

Now here’s a good one. Did you know that the Everly Brothers recorded this song first? Sure did, w-a-y back in 1960. Here’s proof, ya skeptic:

I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow

Before the all-girl group made this a smash back in the 1980s, a band of dudes called The Strangeloves recorded it in the Swingin’ ’60s. Here it be:

Those go-go dancers were fabulous, amirite?

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun – Cyndi Lauper

Now here’s a weird one. This song was originally performed and sung by a man, and his name was Robert Hazard. Weird but true. He released it in 1979, 4-years prior to Miss Lauper. Here ’tis:

Blinded by the Light – Manfred Mann’s Earth Band

Again, some of you may know this but it must be included. This one was originally written and recorded a young singer by the name of Bruce Springsteen, and it was on his “Live from Asbury Park” album in 1972, with Manfred Mann’s version coming out in 1976. This is actually a rare case where I prefer the cover. Sorry Bruce. Anyway, here’s the real deal:

Crazy – Patsy Cline

While this song is identified almost exclusively with Patsy Cline, she wasn’t the first to sing it. It was written and sung by none other than Willie Nelson. Oddly enough, Willie Nelson’s own version was released after Patsy’s. Willie was a popular singer-song writer who had written many hits for other artists, but had never released his own record. Here’s his beautiful original:

Time Is On My Side – Rolling Stones

Before The Stones had a hit with it, a singer named Irma Thomas had recorded it in 1963. And man, I have to say I like her version better. If you listen you can see The Stones pretty much copied it straightaway. By the way, if you want to get technical, the tune got its start as an instrumental for trombonist Kai Winding and his Orchestra earlier that year. Here you go:

Hey Joe – Jimi Hendrix

Here’s another tune that is almost solely associated with one artist but in reality is a cover. You see, it was performed earlier by a band named The Leaves. I know, I’d never heard of them either. Great song though. Classic garage band rock.

The First Cut is the Deepest – Rod Stewart

I’ve never been a fan of Rod’s covers, and this one is no exception. Here’s the original done by somebody named P.P. Arnold. Oh, and the song was written by Cat Stevens. Cool.

I Love Rock & Roll – Joan Jett

Yep, bet you never knew that this song was first sung by The Arrows back in 1975, did you? And they did it well, I might add. Honestly, it’s badass. Check it out:

Dazed and Confused – Led Zeppelin

Ah, let us conclude with this gem. Although Zep is widely identified with this song, it was in fact sung first by a gent named Jake Holmes in 1967. Hey, I kid you not. The song was also recorded by the Yardbirds. Led Zeppelin, who also have been accused of stealing the riff for “Stairway To Heaven” off the song “Taurus” by Spirit, somehow managed to pull off a separate copyright for their cover. What? Jimmy Page discovered the song when Holmes opened for the Yardbirds in 1967. Incredibly, Holmes later discovered his own track on Led Zeppelin’s album. He wrote Page asking for credit, but never got a response. Here’s the original:

So there ya go, 18 Songs You Didn’t Know Were Covers But Maybe You Did. Seriously though, I surprised you with a few, right?

 

Loved this ’90s alternative band. First, a slow version from a few years ago. . .

The original video . . .

With The Eels you never know what you’re going to get. Here are some examples:

Or you might get this . . .

From his “Gorilla” album in the mid-70s. I always thought it described the power of music perfectly.

I know, I know. Awkward title. Live with it.

Anyway, this was a tough one. The Fab Four have put out over 70-albums of material and recorded over 1,000 songs since parting ways in 1970. Narrowing these lists down to a mere 5 was difficult, and for that reason I’ve taken the liberty of adding honorable mentions. Hey, it’s my site. Let us begin with Mr. Lennon . . .

JOHN LENNON

Imagine (1971)

You have to start with Imagine, right? Just a hauntingly beautiful song. Love its simplicity too. An iconic and era-defining song for certain, and it is generally ranked as one of the best songs in music history. In fact, Rolling Stone magazine ranked it at #3 on its Top 500 Songs of All-Time list.

#9 Dream (1974)

Surreal and dreamlike, John said this tune came to him in a dream. He also said that the song was just “churned out” with “no inspiration.” Yep, John didn’t like it. I, however, loved it. Factoid: The phrase repeated in the chorus, “Ah, böwakawa, poussé, poussé”, also came to Lennon in a dream and has no specific meaning. Originally he pronounced it “pussy, pussy” but the record company bitched, hence the safer pronunciation. Factoid #2: The record peaked at, coincidentally, #9.

Beautiful Boy (1980)

This was written for John’s final album, Double Fantasy, and it includes one of my favorite lines ever written for a song:

“Life is what happens to you when you’re busy making other plans.”

The song is all about the love John Lennon had for his son Sean, and he conveys that love beautifully. Just a gorgeous, heartfelt song. Factoid: That quote can be traced back to a 1957 Reader’s Digest article which attributes it to some dude named Allen Saunders. I’m still giving John credit though.

Mind Games (1973)

John had this song in his back pocket since 1969 and finally released it in ’73. It’s one of John’s most upbeat and positive songs, evidenced by lyrics like “Yes is the answer . . .” Factoid: The song’s original title was “Make Love Not War.”

Woman (1980)

Another beautiful song, this time written for John’s wife Yoko. It was also on his last album, and he said in interviews prior to the album’s release that the song was written for all women. Factoid: At the beginning of the song you can barely hear John whisper, “For the other half of the sky.” He was referencing a Chinese proverb that was about women and men.

Honorable Mention: Working Class Hero (1970), Nobody Told Me (1980).

PAUL MCCARTNEY

Jet (1973)

This one was named after Paul’s dog. It was on Band on the Run, and I’ve always loved it. The soaring chorus just blows me away every time. I’ve seen McCartney live several times (OK, it’s 9) and “Jet” always blows the roof off the joint. It’s a Power Pop gem, and legendary music critic Dave Marsh referred to it as a “grand pop confection” that represented the only time McCartney approached the “drive and density” of his tenure with the Beatles. I agree. Factoid: I have never understood the lyrics to this song.

Junior’s Farm (1974)

This might be my favorite Paul McCartney tune of all-time, and the searing guitar solo by Jimmy McCullough is incredible. Not kidding, watch the video and tell me it isn’t. Love. This. Song. Factoid: McCullough wrote and performed a song called “Medicine Jar” for a Wings album a couple years after “Junior’s Farm” was released. It was an anti-drug song. A few years later McCullough died of an overdose.

Band on the Run (1973)

Love the change of pace I this song. It’s like three songs mashed together, a multi-part song. The first verse has a folky feel to it, complete with harmonies. The second verse is almost an early grunge sound, and finally, the last part of the song features that infectious, melodious hook that made it a hit. Part of the critically acclaimed “Band on the Run” album.

Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey (1971)

Stitched together from snippets Paul had from the Abbey Road sessions. It’s loaded with sound effects, vaudeville jokes and time and style shifts that make it one of the wildest-ever Top 40 hits. The song is a rare combination of playfulness, experimentation and a gorgeous melody that I love. The “Hands across the water” chorus still touches me today.

Here Today (1982)

Paul’s touching tribute to John Lennon, written shortly after he was murdered.

And if I say I really loved you
And was glad you came along
Then you were here today
For you were in my song.

‘Nuff said.

Honorable Mention: (I Want To) Come Home (2009), At the End of the End (2004), Maybe I’m Amazed (1970), Getting Closer (1979), Magneto and Titanium Man (1975).

GEORGE HARRISON

Blow Away (1979)

This song is relatively unknown but I love it. Released during the disco and punk era, it stood on its own as a straight, simple rock recording, and I loved the catchy melody. Factoid: George said that the song arose from feelings of frustration and inadequacy resulting from a leaking roof at his home in England.

My Sweet Lord (1970)

The first #1 song by an ex-Beatle. George was later hauled into court, and lost, on charges of copyright infringement because of the song’s similarities to the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine.” The courts said he subconsciously copied the melody. Still, “My Sweet Lord” remains a masterpiece of rock spiritualism as well as an amazing song.

This Is Love (1987)

I don’t know why but I’ve loved this tune from the first moment I heard it. I also love these lyrics:

Since our problems have been our own creation
They also can be overcome
When we use the power provided free to everyone
This is love.

It’s produced by Jeff Lynne, and you can certainly tell if you’re a Lynne fan like myself. Beautiful tune.

You (1975)

George wrote this gem for Ronnie Spector, formerly of The Ronettes. The song has a series of amazing sax solos by the appropriately named Jim Horn. Not kidding. Factoid: George has said this song is a tribute to 60’s R&B. Just a pure rock classic.

Crackerbox Palace (1976)

It’s just an odd little song about a man George had met, but I love the catchy melody and quirky lyrics, beginning with the opening line . . .

I was so young when I was born,

My eyes could not yet see . . .

From his great Thirty-Three & 1/3 album.

Honorable Mention: This Song (1976), It’s What You Value (1976), What Is Life (1971), Give Me Love (1971)

RINGO STAR

It Don’t Come Easy (1971)

Don’t think Ringo had a bunch of good songs? You are incorrect, sir. Or madam. Because Ringo had arguably the greatest post-Beatle hit ever with this song. It was co-written by George, but Ringo’s voice gives it its identity. A true rock classic that grabs you at the opening notes.

Photograph (1973)

Another #1 hit for Ringo, and once again George helped out on guitar and co-wrote. Great chorus that is catchy as hell. It’s basically about a photograph being the only thing left from a broken relationship.

Every time I see your face
It reminds me of the places we used to go
But all I’ve got is a photograph
And I realize you’re not coming back anymore.

Walk With You (2009)

Ringo got a guest appearance from none other than Sir Paul McCartney on this beautiful number, which is one of his prettiest songs ever. Just a gorgeous, heartfelt song.

Liverpool 8 (2007)

This is an autobiographical song about Ringo’s days with The Beatles as well as growing up in Liverpool. It’s a touching yet upbeat song that includes crowd involvement at the end. Great song.

No No Song (1975)

This song, written by Hoyt Axton, reached #3 on the US charts. Incredibly, the song described attempts to sell marijuana, cocaine, and moonshine to a recovering addict who refuses it all. Helluva theme, right? Factoid: Hoyt Axton also wrote Three Dog Night’s classic hit “Joy to the World.”

Honorable Mention: Oh My My (1974)

So there ya go. I’m sure you have your post-Beatles faves. What say you?

Listen, I’ve seen some good drummers in my time, but never have I seen a drummer whose command of the stage simply overshadows everyone else in his immediate vicinity, or dare I say not so immediate vicinity. Hell, this dude is a Black Hole of drumming, everyone in his wake is sucked in and disappears in the beauty of his awesomeness. This bro needs to be at the front of the stage, man. I’m mesmerized. You can put my man at the back of the stage but I’ll be damned if he’ll be ignored. Drum on, drummer.

There’s a new day breakin’.

Everyone knows the story of how Quincy Jones produced this song, which was written by Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie, and how everyone got together after the American Music Awards to record it. It’s pretty incredible how this many major artists were talked into getting into one studio for a single recording. Michael Jackson, Lionel Richie, Bruce Springsteen, Bob Dylan, Ray Charles, Stevie Wonder, Billy Joel, Cyndi Lauper (who just may have stole the show), Daryl Hall, Steve Perry, Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Willie Nelson, Kenny Loggins, and many more all in one room. Crazy stuff, and I can’t imagine it happening today. Also, watching it again, it’s striking how absolutely stunning many of the vocals sound. The variation is styles, how it all somehow blended together, it was really a once in a lifetime occurrence. Anyway, here’s an encore . . .

Pretty amazing list really, and it largely speaks to the vanilla tastes of the general public. I mean, there are some good songs, but it’s telling that while songs like “Macarena”, “You Light Up My Life” and “That’s What Friends Are For” are on the list, there’s nothing from Led Zeppelin, Queen, REM, AC/DC, Michael Jackson, Eminem or Nirvana. I also found it interesting how jarring it was when Elvis hit the scene in 1956, and then The Beatles in 1964. Big changes indeed. Oh, and what song was most popular the year you were born? Mine was “Cherry Pink and Apple Blossom White” by Perez Prado. Yeah, me either.

Anyway, enjoy.

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One of their most beautiful songs.

Too sad.

There are few things I like to do more than watch a live rock concert. Something about the energy, the whole vibe, just seeing someone performing music you love up close and in person is amazing.

I’ve been to hundreds of concerts in my life, and I’ve witnessed some crazy stuff. It’s always a special treat when things go off the rails a little though, ya know?

Without further ado, here’s some of the weirdest stuff I’ve seen at live shows . . .

Westerberg, man.

About 10-years ago I went to see Paul Westerberg at The Newport in Columbus, and it was a helluva show. The former front man for the legendary Replacements was outstanding, man. so much so that a friend of mine said this after the show:

“That’s the first time I ever felt like I was watching a real rock star.”

Amen, brother. Anyway, Westerberg was all over the stage, even laying on his back at one point as he played guitar, and performed all the good stuff as well as some offbeat covers such as “If I Had a Hammer” and “Daydream Believer”. But on to my point. About halfway through the show Westerberg was having some sort of trouble with his guitar strap and stopped to fix it. A roadie walked onstage to try and help, and Paul became unhinged. He turned and screamed, “Get the FU@K away from me!” The poor dude then sort of shuffled backwards off the stage, the venue got deathly quiet for a few seconds, and the Westerberg went back to the song as if nothing happened. Weird moment.

Dude loves his tambourine.

A couple years ago I was at a Gin Blossoms show in Columbus, and lead singer Robin Wilson handed his tambourine to a woman in the front row. I’d seen these guys a couple times before and knew it was part of the shtick, that the audience member would play it for awhile and hand it back to Wilson. This time, however, the idiot lady took it and vamoosed. As the band watched incredulously, Wilson finished the song and then lit into the tambourine thief, screaming something along the lines of, “You f**cking b**tch! Bring back my f**cking tambourine!” Dude was livid, man. Must have been his special tambourine or something. I mean, I know the Blossoms are 20-years passed their heyday but I figured they could afford more than one tambourine.

Note: I looked it up. They can cost up to $200 and more. Yikes.

Note 2: Who can’t play a tambourine? I mean really? I’d kill on a tambourine. Hell, I may buy a tambourine and join a band.

Back in the late 90s I went to see Dan Fogelberg. Yes, I liked Fogelberg. I’ve seen him a few times. So shoot me. Soft Rock never hurt anyone. Don’t judge, people. Besides, he’s dead now so you’re just being mean. Anyhoo, the opening band had finished and Fogelberg walked out to thunderous applause. He sat down at the piano, played a few notes, then slammed his hands on the keys and scared the bejesus out of everyone. Then got up and stormed off the stage. As we sat there in stunned silence, some poor roadie walked sheepishly out on the stage, played a few notes as he tuned (or retuned) the piano, then got up and walked/crawled/slithered back from whence he came. Then ol’ Dan came back out like nothing had happened and without  word of apology sat down and proceeded to play a blistering version of “Leader of the Band”, except not really because it’s a slow ballad. Anyway, surreal moment.

E.

I’ve seen The Eels several times, and lead singer Mark Oliver Everett is always a laid back guy. He interacts with the audience but he’s always really light-hearted and funny. However, even The Man Called E can be pushed over the edge. Well, sort of. A few years ago some jackass kept yelling at the top of his lungs during an Eels show. I mean this was going on during songs, during E’s talking and during quiet intervals. Finally, E had enough. He looked up to where the guy was in the balcony, took a deep breath, and said calmly, “Hey Screamy. If you don’t shut the hell up I’ve having you thrown the f**ck out of here.” Crowd roars, Screamy shuts up, problem solved.

Back around 1979 I watched Aerosmith in the Fairgrounds Coliseum in Columbus, Ohio. This was the infamous show where I ended up backstage on a couch with Steven Tyler and Joe Perry. Oh, and photos were taken, but that’s neither here nor there. Anyway, during that show I distinctly recall Steven and Joe nearly brawling onstage. No idea what caused it, but at one point I was fairly certain Perry was going to beat Tyler over the head with his 1960 Gibson Les Paul geetar. Good times.

At some point a bit before The Who tragedy at Riverfront Coliseum (my dates are a little fuzzy) I saw Led Zeppelin there. The whole festival seating/general admission thing was obviously in place, and it was pretty ugly. We got there real early, around 2:00 PM in order to get in line. The coliseum’s policy at the time was to open just 4 doors at around 6:30 PM (again, hazy) for the 8:00 show. We were right up front, and a little after 5:00 PM things began to get ugly. Remember, 4-doors for 12,000 people. Idiocy. People in the back began pressing forward and those of us in front were getting crushed against the doors. Guys were begging the security inside to open up, but they weren’t listening. A police chopper suddenly appeared and began hovering about 30-feet up, and a guy with a bullhorn was telling people to back up. Nobody was having it, and at one point I remember a beer bottle being thrown at the chopper and shattering off its side. By this time I was seriously in fear of not making it out of there. My arms were pressed against my sides so tightly that I couldn’t raise them. Occasionally my feet would rise off the ground and I’d have to completely go wherever the crowd took me. Scary stuff for sure. The worst part was when the crowd would start to lean and you feared getting crushed. It was hard to breathe and several people passed out but obviously didn’t fall down. Surreal as hell. Finally, an ignorant security guard did a dumb but ultimately good thing – he cracked a door open, ostensibly to tell somebody when the gates would open. At that point the door was ripped open and the crowd poured in. Glass was flying everywhere, and as I was being pushed through a guard reached out and ripped a flask from my neck, nearly slashing my throat. No tickets were taken and chaos ensued. After I got away from the rushing crowd, I sought out a cop and yelled, “If these people don’t start opening more doors somebody’s going to get killed here!” A prophetic statement, unfortunately. When the news came down months later that 11-people were killed at The Who show, I wasn’t surprised. I knew exactly what had taken place. Oh, and by the way, I scored a front row spot. Hey, it was Zep.

Speaking of that Who concert, yes, I had tickets. I know, I know, probably a million people claim they had tickets, but I did. Tom, Andy and I were on our way to Cincinnati, decided at the last minute to go to a party in Columbus, and the rest is history.

I once attended the “Frampton Comes Alive” tour,  a huge outdoor show in Florida. There were several bands before Frampton, and one of them was Kansas, of “Dust in the Wind” fame. They came out and it was clear from the get-go they were tanked. Just smashed, drunk and/or high as hell. Midway through song two they just turned and walked off the stage. The crowd basically rioted until something pretty cool happened. Rick Derringer, who had played a short set earlier, returned to the stage and started playing. Slowly the crowd got into it and eventually he was actually playing requests. That’s a true pro right there, and he saved everyone from a potentially nasty situation. When Frampton finally came out he thanked Derringer profusely and even called him back out for an encore. I’ll always have fond memories of Rick Derringer because of that day.

You see, rock shows, as in life, don’t always unfold as you might expect them to. And that what makes it fun, right?

No, Michael Jackson did not invent the Moonwalk. Did he improve upon it? Oh yes he did. But invent it? Oh no he din’t. When Michael unveiled his “Moonwalk” back in the early 80’s on that Motown Special it sort of startled the living hell out of everyone, including me. Here’s a clip. Wait for the 3:40 mark, when the audience actually shrieks at this seemingly impossible move. On a related note, if you don’t see the talent of MJ in this video you are blind, ignorant, and unfit to live in a civilized society.

But as I said, although MJ may have improved upon it, he didn’t come up with it. Here’s a cool cat named Bill Bailey who moonwalked right off the stage back in ’55. Wait. Nobody walked on the moon until ’69. Perhaps it was called something else? Research required. Anywho, here he is . . .

Next up we have my man Ronnie Hawkins. The Hawk sort of got lost in the whole Elvis/Carl Perkins/Jerry Lee Lewis and others madness, but damn was he good. He did something called The Cosmic Glide or Front Glide, pretty close to a moonwalk fo sho. The Hawk was cool.

And here’s a dude from back in the day named Dick Van Dyke. He was an actor on the creatively named Dick Van Dyke Show. Trust me kids, it was pretty funny. Anyway, this isn’t technically a dance, but it has all the elements of a moonwalk nonetheless. Behold . . .

Finally, here’s a video showing Sammy Davis Jr., Bill Bailey and others busting MJ-like moves long before that Motown Special. Pretty cool.

Ever heard of a music mashup? It’s one of those deals where somebody takes videos from two different groups and mashes them up into one. Although it seems a little sacrilegious in some ways, in others it’s sort of fascinating. It’s hard to look away, if you know what I mean. Let’s take a look at a few . . .

TAKE ALL MY LOVING: A-HA/THE BEATLES

NEVER GONNA GIVE YOUR TEEN SPIRIT UP: RICK ASTLEY/NIRVANA

THE TROOPER BELIEVER: IRON MAIDEN/THE MONKEES

A DAY IN THE WONDERWALL: THE BEATLES/OASIS


Good stuff. Reminds of some things I’ve seen personally. I feel a blog coming on.

One of the great songs of the early 90’s.

Beautiful.

Man, it was difficult to narrow this list down. There were a thousand musicians who stepped up and made statements musically during the Civil Rights Movement. These just happen to be my favorite moments. Let us proceed. Oh, and click on the title to hear a song if it applies.

PETULA CLARK AND HARRY BELAFONTE TOUCH ON NATIONAL TV

Yes, I said “touched.” Petula Clark was one of the most popular recording artists of the 1960s. She sang songs like “Downtown”, “Don’t Sleep in the Subway”, and “I know a Place”, good tunes all.

In early 1968, Clark was given the chance to host her own special on NBC. She had, as a guest star on the program, the popular singer and noted civil rights activist, Harry Belafonte.

Incredible as it may seem now, the show made waves when, during the performance of an anti-war song written by Clark, “On the Path of Glory”, Clark locked arms with Belafonte.

The program was sponsored by Chrysler, and a vice-president of the company, Doyle Lott, was present at the taping in early March of 1968. He took issue with the “interracial touching,” and asked them to use a different take of the song (they had filmed a number of different takes). Clark and her husband (co-producer of the special), Claude Wolff, objected.

To make sure that they could not be overruled, Wolff told the producer of the special, Steve Binder, to actually destroy all other takes of the song. Binder checked with NBC, who said that they’d defer to whatever he decided to do. He agreed with Wolff. Binder later recalled telling the editor to erase the other takes and the editor actually made him sign a document attesting that Binder was taking full responsibility for the erasure of the other takes.

The whole situation made major public waves, and attracted a lot of publicity for the show. Bottom line, good for everyone who fought the good fight that day.

The show aired on April 8th, 1968.

CHUCK BERRY’S DUCKWALK INTEGRATES SOUTHERN DANCE HALLS

Rock n’ Roll played an immeasurable part in getting blacks and whites together in the 1950s. Rock music itself was the result of a blending of the blues and country, sounds that had been pretty seperate the previous couple of decades. The early face of this wild new genre was Chuck Berry, and his risqué lyrics and signature moves sent teenagers of all colors into a frenzy. A few years before Elvis’s pelvic thrusts would define a generation, Berry’s “Duckwalk” guitar solo created such demand from black and white audiences that clubs would hold integrated parties with velvet ropes running down the middle of the dance floor to keep the races separated. Soon, the velvet ropes would disappear. Rock can’t see color, kids.

JAMES BROWN SAVES BOSTON FROM RIOTS

The spring of 1968 was darkened by the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr., and the subsequent rioting that took place in cities across the country. Boston, Massachusetts, wasn’t spared, and on the night the news broke, kids took to the streets in Roxbury, Dorchester and the South End to express their rage. James Brown was scheduled to perform there the next day, and the city decided to broadcast the show on local TV to keep folks in their homes and off the block. During the concert, attendees ran on stage and the police began to swarm, but Brown halted them and addressed the kids directly. “Now I ask the police to step back, because I think I can get some respect from my own people.” The crowd obliged, and the concert went on without incident. The next day, he walked through the hoods of the Bean and personally asked the people not to riot, promising, “there’s another way.”

BILLIE HOLIDAY RECORDS “STRANGE FRUIT”

“Strange Fruit” was first performed by Billie Holiday in 1939, and it paints a portrait familiar to southerners in the first half of the 21st century. The song describes “a strange and bitter crop” with “bulging eyes and the twisted mouth,” an illustration of a then all-too-common sight – a lynching. The song is weird because it sounds sort of romantic and sensual. Only when you really listen to the lyrics does the real, more sinister meaning of the song become clear. Just a chilling song, really.

RAY CHARLES REFUSES TO PLAY AUGUSTA

After Bell Auditorium announced that Ray Charles was going to do a show there in 1961, students told Charles the dance floor would be for whites only and the upper balcony would be sectioned off for blacks. Ray immediately took a stand and cancelled his appearance. The venue fined him for breach of contract, expecting him to back down. Instead, in one of civil rights history’s greatest boss moves, he paid the fine and didn’t play another show in Augusta, Georgia until it was desegregated. Ray, man.

MARVIN GAYE RELEASES “WHAT’S GOIN’ ON”

Marvin Gaye needs no introduction: his name has become synonymous with the rich legacy of Motown and the soulful R&B that came to define Black music for decades to come. It should come as no surprise that the man released his (arguably) best single eleven albums into his career. “What’s Going On” is all at once a gripping protest song, a syrupy love song and a giddy party starter. When the track dropped in 1971, Gaye was struggling through the sudden loss of his frequent collaborator and close friend Tammi Terrell, a brother that had been shipped off to war, and a country that was still mired in the dregs of violence and racism. Although inspired by an act of police brutality, “What’s Going On” led to some of Gaye’s most bright-eyed work on the landmark album of the same name, and gave the movement one of its defining anthems.

BOB DYLAN RELEASES “THE TIMES THEY ARE A CHANGIN'”

I’ve always thought of this classic song by Dylan as more anti-Vietnam than pro-Civil Rights, but the lyrics can apply to both. “This was definitely a song with a purpose,” Dylan would later say. “The civil rights movement and the folk music movement were pretty close for a while and allied together at that time.” That same year saw the arrival of the Civil Rights Act, putting an end to racial segregation in the US. Songs like this one were the soundtrack to the movement.

SAM COOKE RECORDS “A CHANGE IS GONNA COME”

After hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind,” Cooke wanted to write a song about race that had the same impact. He’d encountered racial turbulence in the year prior when he and his tourmates tried to book a “whites only” hotel and were arrested for disturbing the peace. That incident was the inspiration for “Change,” and the song became a massive success in the black community after its release in 1963.

JOHN COLTRANE RECORDS “ALABAMA”

In the early morning hours of September 15, 1963, four members of the Ku Klux Klan planted a box of dynamite under the steps of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama. The bomb was detonated a few hours later, murdering Addie Mae Collins, Cynthia Wesley, Carole Robertson and Denise McNair, all under the age of 14. The incident became a lightning rod for the Civil Rights Movement, which was exactly what the KKK didn’t want. Another unintended consequence – it inspired jazz legend John Coltrane to write and record the stunning song “Alabama”. The song, without lyrics, is a mournful tribute and was patterned after Martin Luther King’s “Eulogy for the Martyred Children,” the speech he gave at the funeral for the four girls. That same year, Coltrane performed the song live on television’s Jazz Casual in front of a stunned, spellbound national audience.

PHIL OCHS RECORDS “HERE’S TO THE STATE OF MISSISSIPPI”

Phil Ochs was never one to mince words, and this song was no exception. After visiting Mississippi and being outraged at what he saw, he wrote this blistering tune where he lays it all on the line. Here’s a sample of the lyrics:

Here’s to the State of Mississippi,
For underneath her borders, the devil draws no lines,
If you drag her muddy rivers, nameless bodies you will find.
Oh the fat trees of the forest have hid a thousand crimes,
The calender is lyin’ when it reads the present time.
Whoa here’s to the land you’ve torn out the heart of,
Mississippi find yourself another country to be part of!

Yikes.

Like I said up top, I know there are many other songs and incidents that I could have listed, but these are the ones that stand out to me. If you have any suggestions feel free to comment.*

*See what I did there? Feel free? Civil Rights Movement? Never mind. 

 

 

Love these guys.

Freddie was amazing.