Mar 20 2016
Since the Johnson Administration, Republicon presidents have enjoyed 13 of the 17 successful nominations to the U. S. Supreme Court. Jimmy Carter never had the opportunity to make such a nomination during his four years in office. Bill Clinton and Barack Obama have had two successful nominations each, all four occurring during their first two …
Jul 03 2011
A wise elder during this writer’s childhood was fond of the saying, “Your freedom ends where my nose begins.”
Abraham Lincoln was well aware that certain freedoms for some cannot exist without taking them away from others. This concept was vividly illustrated when Lincoln said the following:
“The shepherd drives the wolf from the sheep’s throat, for which the sheep thanks the shepherd as his liberator, while the wolf denounces him for the same act as the destroyer of liberty.” — Abraham Lincoln
Apr 23 2011
To those who have supported this series during its nearly eighteen months since it began, please accept my sincere thanks. The give and take discussions with those of you who commented on these essays contributed immeasurably to the energy this writer needed to continue with this project for as long as he did. Other priorities and obligations beckon, although hope remains that it may be possible to submit a few more essays in the future, only on a less frequent and consistent basis than in the past.
So, on with the final weekly Original v. Cover essay…
Fifty years ago, this week’s selection occupied the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts for four weeks from April 24-May 22, 1961 on its way to becoming an international hit. Rolling Stone magazine ranked the song at #466 on its list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time in 2004.
Some of us may remember the song with a sense of nostalgia; yet others reading this account may have parents who weren’t even born yet in 1961. Whatever the case may be, this week’s selection has had incredible staying power, and continues to be performed frequently through the present day.
Apr 16 2011
Contrary to a number of recent essays in this series, this week’s featured group does not boast any Top 40 songs, but for more than four decades has been one of the most influential rock groups in the United States. Although the group has reinvented itself time and again, they have maintained an eclectic blend of rock ‘n’ roll, blues, country, folk, R&B, funk and jazz fusion genres. The group was co-founded by singer-songwriter, lead vocalist and guitarist Lowell George (a former member of Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention) and keyboardist Bill Payne in 1969 in Los Angeles.
About the group, Bonnie Raitt stated, “…Musically, they’re my favorite band…” and Jimmy Page of Led Zeppelin commented, “…Band-wise, Little Feat is my favorite American group…”
Apr 09 2011
This week’s selection was performed by an East Coast blue-eyed soul group that enjoyed its initial wave of popularity from 1965-1972, which peaked from 1966-1969. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on May 6, 1997, which was also the first time that the original band members had appeared together in years, during which time they performed their three #1 hits and their #4 hit. They were later inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2005 and the Hit Parade Hall of Fame in 2010.
In April, 2010, all four members of the original band reunited for the Kristen Ann Carr benefit, held at New York’s Tribeca Grill. Bruce Springsteen and Steve Van Zandt joined the band for their closing number.
Apr 02 2011
This week’s selection was released in 1977 and peaked at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts on April 22, 1978, which would be this group’s only Top Ten single. The song reached Gold Record status shortly afterward.
Written by Kerry Livgren, it was one of the band’s first acoustic tracks; its slow melody and melancholy lyrics differ from their other hits, which will be included in this writer’s opening comment. The guitar part is played by two guitarists on six-string guitars, one in standard tuning and the other in Nashville tuning, in unison to create a chimy sound similar to a twelve-string guitar.
The song’s instrumental bridge contains a distinctive and highly memorable melodic line and harmony for violin and viola played by Robby Steinhardt. The song also defined the band’s signature sound, a mix of American-style boogie-rock and complex, symphonic arrangements with changing time signatures.
Mar 26 2011
This week’s selection is one of those rare songs that came to personify its age. This complex song, recorded in 1970 and released in late 1971, would never have appeared on the charts today, given its more than eight minute length. This musical gem consists of several distinct parts, beginning with a finger picked 6 string guitar and four recorders in a Renaissance music style, ending at 2:15, followed by a slow electric middle section (2:16-5:33), then a long guitar solo (5:34-6:44), leading up to a more up-tempo hard rock finale (from 6:45 to its conclusion).
Some have opined that the song’s intro and opening guitar work closely resemble the 1968 instrumental “Taurus” by the group Spirit. The group originating this week’s selection appeared with Spirit on an early American tour, so they would undoubtedly have heard “Taurus.”
The inaugural public performance of this piece occurred at Belfast’s Ulster Hall on March 5 1971. The crowd, apparently wanting to hear songs that were more familiar, was described as appearing bored to tears. A somewhat more positive response was noted during an early performance at the L.A. Forum, which took place before the record was released. The song’s world radio premier was recorded at the Paris Cinema on April 1, 1971, in front of a live studio audience and broadcast three days later on BBC.
Mar 19 2011
What better way to communicate your commitment to a new love interest than to tattoo their name on a conspicuous part of your body? Alternatively, you could write a song in honor of the one who excites your passions, hoping for its success.
The latter was most definitely the case for this week’s selection, written by Michael Brown, the 16-year-old keyboardist with what was arguably the quintessential baroque rock group all time. He included the young lady’s first name in the title. Tony Sansone co-wrote the song with him, which was released in July of 1966. It peaked at #5, but perhaps more important for the song’s immortality, it was more recently ranked by Rolling Stone magazine at #220 on its list of the 500 Greatest Rock Songs of All Time.
Mar 12 2011
Although the Everly Brothers hold the record for the most Top 100 singles by any duo, the two-artist team this week hold the record for the most singles in the Top 40 (i.e., 29, versus 26 for the Everlys). These 29 Top 40 singles were all released between 1976 and 1990. This duo has had seven RIAA Platinum albums and six RIAA gold albums, and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2003.
This week’s feature song was written, performed, recorded and turned into a major hit in 1976 by the aforementioned dynamic duo. The song would become their very first Top Ten hit, peaking at the #4 slot on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, #23 on the Hot Soul Singles charts and #18 on the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks charts and would earned RIAA certification as a gold record.
The song was written in honor of the girlfriend of one of the performers. Although the relationship with this song’s namesake spanned more than three decades, the two went their separate ways in 2001.
Mar 05 2011
This week’s selection was recorded and released in 1966, was included on the original recording group’s debut album, and as a single, became their first Top 100 hit, peaking at #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts. The song was covered by Manhattan Transfer and reportedly admired by Leonard Bernstein, who included a brief analysis of the song in the “What is a Mode?” episode of his Young People’s Concerts series.
Feb 26 2011
This week’s selection would seem particularly timely, especially given the bare-knuckled assault on the working class playing out in many states across the country, most notably in Wisconsin. The progressive factions have, quite predictably, splintered into numerous warring factions, much to the delight of the oligarchs who now see absolute power and control of the masses within reach. Our challenge, if we wish to survive, is to reach out to those whose core values are similar, while at the same time realizing that most of those individuals will not agree with us on all counts.
Written in the early 1960s by singer-songwriter Chet Powers (aka Dino Valenti), this week’s selection represents a heartfelt plea for peace and brotherhood. The message also speaks to the frequent struggle between the mutually exclusive sentiments of love and fear, as well as the importance of the path we choose.
Feb 19 2011
Just twelve short days ago, many of us participated in the annual rituals surrounding the Superbowl. As in the very first AFL-NFL World Championship Game held at the Los Angeles Coliseum on January 15, 1967, the Green Bay Packers prevailed in the 2011 spectacle, albeit less convincingly as during their much earlier 35-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs. Some referred to the 1967 championship as the Supergame, and only later was it renamed Superbowl I. In 1967, Green Bay quarterback Bart Starr won MVP honors, an honor recently bestowed upon his present-day counterpart, Aaron Rodgers.
Although the song was composed in November of 1966, this week’s selection was released on January 9, 1967, six days prior to the inaugural Superbowl game and although it rose no higher than #7 on the Billboard Hot 100 charts, it is ranked #63 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also rated as the eighth best song of 1967 by Acclaimed Music. This song was this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame group’s only Top Forty hit, selling more than one million copies, earning Gold Record status.