03 August 2010

RIP Bobby Hebb

Hello folks!
It's been a long time, I know, and it will probably be longer still until I am up and running again more regularly as I am trying to finish writing my book while working a full-time job. But I felt the need to post today upon hearing of Bobby Hebb's passing.

I wrote about Hebb last summer because we share a birthday. Yesterday on 2 August 2010, Hebb died at 72, reportedly of lung cancer.

I just wanted to take a bit of time to pay a small tribute to a fellow July 26er. Farewell and Godspeed, Mr. Hebb and thank you for the sunshine you gave with your beautiful song.

Stevie Wonder's version of Bobby Hebb's "Sunny"

02 April 2010

I Hate April Fools' Day

I really do. I mean, I will freely admit that I am a goofball and a jokester and have definitely pulled some pranks on some folks but I cannot stand the fact there is a whole day devoted to just screwing someone over for one's own amusement.

And then, there's the Marvin Gaye factor.

I was in elementary school when Marvin was shot to death by his father on 1 April 1984, the day before Marvin's 45th birthday. I remember my parents were devastated and I was sad as well; by that point, I had been listening to Marvin's music for literally all of my life. Watching the story unfold on the evening news seemed like I was being subjected to the cruelest April Fools' joke ever. And yet, it was not a hoax.

Never mind the fact that Marvin was said to be struggling with cocaine addiction, money problems, depression, and the pain of two failed marriages. (The first was to Berry Gordy's sister Anna who was 17 years his senior and the second to Janis Hunter who happened to be 17 years his junior and whom he pursued and had two children with while she was still a teenager. And in another odd coincidence, according to Wikipedia, the birthdays of two women are 2 days apart.). And never mind the fact that, after years of reflection, a number of Marvin's friends now believe that he purposely provoked Marvin Sr. into shooting him as a way of committing suicide (I saw this on the PBS series American Masters). It is still probably the saddest end to a life I have ever seen or heard, especially for an individual who had contributed so much to people's lives through his artistry.

I absolutely hate April Fools' Day.

Marvin's last big hit. Soul Asylum did a cover of it in the 90s that I dug because their version confirmed for me that I was not nuts all those years I believed that Marvin was singing something about masturbation in the fade out.

"I Want You"
This song to me is like pure sex in stereo, baby!

"If I Should Die Tonight"
For me, there are no words to describe the beauty of this song.

This is from Here, My Dear, the album Marvin recorded as the settlement in his divorce from Anna Gordy. I have only listened to the album one time and it took me three sittings to listen to the whole thing because I found the bitterness and pain that permeates the album to be overwhelming.

This is one of my favorites of Marvin's and I think it's a shame that it is hardly ever played anywhere. Meanwhile, I think Chico DeBarge did a great job with this classic.

02 March 2010

I'm Back!

Well, what started out as a moratorium for the recently deceased Teddy Pendergrass and the victims of the earthquake in Haiti devolved into pure laziness but then transformed into spending my time doing other reading and writing. But now there's been an earthquake in Chile and I figured that was my signal to get back into the blog. After reading about the misappropriation of funds from some "charities" started by certain NY State Congressmen for Hurricane Katrina victims, I'm figuring that the Red Cross is the only reputable organization out there when it comes to disaster relief. If you want to help, please text the word "HAITI" or "CHILE" to 90999 and $10 will be charged to your cell phone bill. It's pretty easy to do and the Red Cross will text you updates of what they are doing with the money that you and others like you have donated.

04 January 2010

Goodbye Philo

I wrote about Philip Lynott when it was his birthday. Today is the 24th anniversary of his death and every year on this date, an Irish rock concert is put on in his memory called "Vibe For Philo."

Long live Philip Lynott!

PS Someone just posted this video of the song "Honesty Is No Excuse" from Thin Lizzy's first and eponymous album in 1971. It's an amazing song with lyrics that seem far beyond the mind of a young man, but Phil couldn't have been more than 22 years when he wrote it.

This is "Old Time" from one of Phil's solo records. The Corrs remade it a few years ago and had a hit with it.

Phil gets some help from Dire Straits' Mark Knopfler with his tribute to Elvis Presley in "King's Call." Incidentally, Elvis would have been 75 on 8 January 2010.

This video cuts off abruptly but it's special because it's his last interview from a few weeks before his death. He does not look good. (Hindsight is 20/20, I suppose. His beloved mother Philomena did not find out about his years-long addiction to heroin until he was dying in the hospital. I remember from Thin Lizzy's episode of Behind the Music on VH1, Philomena said that he'd hidden his drug use by injecting into his feet.)

This video also cuts off but it's a fun one. It was for an Irish show and Philomena is there. Phil is 30 here (he gives his age in the interview; he died at the age of 36). My favorite part is when his mother confirms that her son bought her a house and Phil tells the interviewer that he was trying to keep that quiet so the "relations" won't be after him.

And check out the songs that Phil wrote about some of his great loves: his hometown Dublin, his mom Philomena, and his daughters Sarah (the fella at the end is Thin Lizzy guitarist Scott Gorham) and Cathleen (you can hear a snippet of the song here if you scroll down a bit and here are the lyrics).

"Merciful Jesus, what have I done to ya?" Philomena recalled her son spoke these words to her as he lay dying in hospital (again, Behind the Music). This Thin Lizzy song from the album Black Rose says it all, I'm afraid.

We're still in love with you, Phil.

24 December 2009

Merry Christmas!

Happy Christmas! Merry New Year! Feliz Navidad! Prospero Ano Nuevo! Happy Kwanzaa! I hope you had a wonderful Chanukah! And, for the rest of us, happy belated Festivus!

I'm about to do my Christmas break. I actually meant to do another long post this month, but since the subjects have been deceased for many years, I think it can wait until January without doing any real damage. But until then...

Let's do some Christmas tunes!

"God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen" by Smokey Robinson and the Miracles
This is my favorite traditional Christmas song and my favorite version of it. I used to listen to it on my dad's copy of A Motown Christmas (I have my own copy now that I'm grown) and I always dug how jazzy it is.

This is another lovely one from Smokey Robinson and the Miracles.

When I lived down south, I used to hear this song at Christmas a lot. It's Robert Earl Keene's "Merry Christmas From the Family." Some would say this is a "white trash version" of Christmas, but to me, it just seems like a down-to-earth version of the holiday in America. Especially with the mention of "AA." Heh.

"Santa and His Old Lady" by Cheech and Chong
I am not ashamed to say that this has been my favorite Christmas song since I was a teenager.
And now, because of this tune, I know that Santa and his reindeer get around the world in one night due to "magic dust." *holds back a snicker*

If you really like irreverence, you can't go wrong with South Park's Christmas selections. I love Cartman's version of "O Holy Night," especially when he proclaims Christmas to be "the night when I get presents." Heh. And there is this version of the same song but with a cattle prod. And then, of course, there's "The Most Offensive Song Ever," sung by Kenny and Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo; if you never heard it, there is a definite and rather accurate warning in that title. There is an uncensored version sung solely by Mr. Hankey, but if you're trying to get into heaven, I wouldn't recommend listening to it. However, if you figure you're already going straight to hell, click away right here!

Merry Christmas everybody!
I wish you peace, love, safety, and good music!

EDIT: Holy crap! I forgot to post these other classics!

It's Christmas time in Hollis, Queens; Mom's cookin' chicken and collard greens!

This song provides the sample for Run DMC's holiday rap classic. And if you think the title "Backdoor Santa" is suggestive, Clarence Carter had a hit years later with a tune called "Strokin'." Now that song is filthy. Just imagine your grandfather singing about how much he loves sex. Yikes. Then again, an older man bragging about how great his, ahem, "stroke game," ahem, is before Viagra existed may qualify as a Christmas miracle to certain segments of the population. Ahem.

Bruce Springsteen does a pretty good version of this, but Big O's rendition is the one that I grew up with. My favorite part: "Santa came down the chimney, half past three y'aaaaalll!"

I don't remember Kurtis Blow before he got his Jheri Curl but here he is rockin' his Teenie Weenie Afro and looking like Al Green performing "Christmas Rapping."

We lost James Brown on Christmas Day 2006, so I think it is appropriate that he close out this post.

Have a great holiday!

15 December 2009

"The ice age is coming, the sun's zoomin' in..."

Today is the birthday of a fellow named Paul Gustave Simonon (click on "menu" and then "about" to read about Paul Simonon and his bandmates, using the grey button on the inner right side to scroll down). The band that he used to play bass and sing for, the Clash, released their seminal album London Calling in the UK thirty years ago yesterday, the day before Paul's 24th birthday. And it is Paul who graces the album's cover, caught by the lens of Pennie Smith as he threw his bass guitar at the stage floor during a performance at NYC's Palladium, next to lettering that recalls Elvis Presley's debut album (though it was the Clash's third, after their eponymous debut in 1977 and 1978's Give 'Em Enough Rope).

These days, Paul concentrates on his painting but there's no doubt that due to his time with the Clash, his musical legacy is solidly secure.

This is the first song Paul wrote and sang on, "The Guns of Brixton," which is featured on London Calling. He grew up in Brixton, a rough section of London with a sizable Jamaican population. He studied reggae music in order to help himself learn to play the bass guitar. (Props for littlewonder80 for posting this. I love this clip!)

The official video for the title track. Note Paul's style of playing, as though he is a gunslinger!

A live video of Mick Jones singing "Train in Vain." The song is not listed in the track sequence on the original album as it was added at the last minute.

"Lovers Rock" was also on London Calling, but it is not as well known. I have heard several interpretations of this song's meaning: a reference to oral sex; the need to take sexual relationships seriously instead of just resorting to one night stands; and the notion that men need to take as much responsibility for birth control (i.e. wearing condoms) as women. Take a listen and decide for yourself. You may come up (no pun intended) with something completely different.

"Crooked Beat" was not on London Calling; it was part of the next album Sandinista! It's another one of Paul's that he wrote and sang on, showcasing his love of reggae and dub. Check it out!

If you want to read more about the Clash, here is a blog that is updated quite frequently and is about all things Clash.

07 December 2009

The Feast of the Immaculate Conception

Those of you who are Roman Catholic know that the Feast of the Immaculate Conception is celebrated every year on the 8th of December, a date which improbably ties together two musical figures: John Lennon and Sinead O'Connor. It's the date that Lennon was murdered in New York City in 1980 and, in 1966, O'Connor chose the same date to enter the world via Dublin, Ireland.

It seems more logical to me to start with the birth.

Sinead Marie-Bernadette O'Connor is famous for a few things: her cover of "Nothing Compares 2 U", her shaved head, and ripping up that picture of Pope John Paul II during her second appearance on Saturday Night Live.

I'm actually surprised that the song is available on YouTube since its author, Prince, is notoriously against any of his work showing up on any websites other than his own. But you can click the link and watch the video. I remember Sinead's Behind the Music special on VH1 from around the year 2000 (some of those episodes used to run so much, I ended up memorizing parts of quite a few of them). I can recall her saying that when shooting the video, her tears started on the line,"All the flowers that you planted, Mama, in the backyard..." because her own mother, whom O'Connor said abused her and her siblings, died in a car accident a few years before.

That abuse that she spoke of indirectly led to the Papal photo incident, as she was trying to make a statement about the Vatican's reluctance to punish any Roman Catholic priests when they were accused of sexual assault on the underage portion of their congregations. (In recent years it has become public knowledge that the Catholic Church would just shuffle an accused priest to a different diocese in order to quiet those types of allegations.) NBC and Lorne Michael will not allow the footage of that particular SNL moment to be shown again; when the episode is replayed, the tape of O'Connor's dress rehearsal is shown instead. I actually watched it live (Tim Robbins was the host). I remember the deathly silence in the audience after O'Connor tore up that picture and then walked offstage. I also remember thinking,"Ooooooh boy. That's gonna be in the paper tomorrow!" And then at the end of the show when everyone stood on stage to say goodnight, there was a definite bubble of space around Sinead, as if standing near her would demonstrate support for what she did. And, on a more personal note, I remember my devoutly Roman Catholic mother stabbing her finger at Sinead's picture in that Monday's paper and asking me,"Did you watch this?!?!" and me replying with a simple,"Yep," and Mom shaking her head in disbelief that such a thing could happen on television. (Full disclosure: I became Catholic at age five which, in my case, was not early enough for the religion to take hold so I was not personally offended by O'Connor's gesture but I understood that a lot of folks were gonna be pissed.)

And finally, regarding the hair, I don't think she really needs it. I mean look at that face; I think she's a beautiful lady.

Here's Sinead with a little help from MC Lyte

I saw a performance of this song on television (it might have been the other song Sinead sang on that imfamous SNL episode but I'm fuzzy on that) and thought it was gorgeous. It's from her collection of torch songs that she listened to growing up called Am I Not Your Girl?

Sinead during one of her "hairy" phases singing out against child abuse

Now for the death.

Paul McCartney wrote a tribute to his old friend called "Here Today," the video of which is below. The tall, lanky gentleman with the greying hair is George Martin (now entitled Sir), the man who produced all of the Beatles' albums.

Elton John collaborated with Lennon for "Whatever Gets You Thru the Night" for Lennon's Walls and Bridges. Elton John bet Lennon that the song would reach number one. Since "Whatever" hit the top spot on the Billboard chart on 16 November 1974, Elton collected on the bet twelve nights later at his Thanksgiving performance at New York City's Madison Square Garden when he brought Lennon out to play and sing. Lennon would never make another major concert performance. (I've heard there is no live footage of this appearance, hence the picture with the audio attached.)

Elton John is reportedly the godfather of Lennon's second son, Sean. After the 1980 murder, Elton and his long-time lyricist Bernie Taupin wrote a song for the fallen friend called "Empty Garden (Hey Hey Johnny)," a reference to Madison Square Garden.

As I was about to post this, I found out that 8 December is Gregg Allman's birthday as well. So let's throw a little love Gregg's way and spread some of that Allman joy! (The Allman Joys was the name of the first band that Gregory Lenoir and his older brother Howard Duane formed. Catchy huh?) Below is the Allman Brothers performing my favorite of theirs, "Whipping Post," in two parts on 23 September 1970. Gregg, all of 22, is singing and playing the organ. You can spot long-time, and now former, Allman Bros. guitarist Dickey Betts looking like Errol Flynn in Robin Hood with his chin length hair and mustache. The shaggy blonde axeman in the tie-dye T-shirt is Duane. He would die in a motorcycle accident thirteen months later.