(Sunday, 3/19/2017) Song 347: Rock and Roll Music by Chuck Berry, who also wrote it. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Only 11 weeks ago, when I posted my second Chuck Berry track on this list, I did not expect to be posting another so soon, but following his death yesterday at age 90, I feel the need to commemorate the man as one of the major pioneers of Rock and Roll Music. Back when the Beatles first rocked my world in February of 1964, I knew nothing of the 1950s rockers, and I thought the Fab Four had invented RnR. It took a while before I clearly understood that 2 of my favorite Beatles recordings -- Roll Over Beethoven (Song 236) and this song -- had actually been written by an American musician I knew nothing about. Then, it wasn't until I had finished my regular School Days, a bit after the turn of the 1970s, that I came to understand Chuck Berry's pivotal role in the birth of the musical style that had captivated me. With a sort of 1950s revival happening on rock radio, I got to hear the classic golden oldies, and a Rolling Stone subscription filled in the details, to the point where it surprised me when a blues booking agent I knew told me that his girlfriend didn't know who Chuck Berry was. Having realized Berry's significance, I found it strange that someone with an interest in the music didn't know about him. I would guess that these days most RnR fans recognize the value of Berry's contributions to the form, and personally, I plan to honor his legacy by following his advice to keep on rocking that piano. Sure thing, Chuck! I'm glad to do it. It's got to be Rock and Roll Music!
(Sunday, 3/12/2017) Song 346: The Favor by Terry Kitchen, who also wrote it. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Seven weeks after my previous personal friend song post, this week's track is by my friend Terry Kitchen. On a cold March evening, I once again recall the March weekend 24 years ago when I visited Terry at his Boston area apartment, in the midst of a major blizzard, so it seemed like an appropriate week to post another of his creations. About a year and a half after our shared blizzard experience, as we traded tunes around a campfire at a folk festival, upon hearing my song Curiosity, Terry insisted that I needed to expand the story. Not long after that festival, I followed his advice and added a fourth verse. A few years ago, in exchange for a copy of Who Said What, Terry sent me one of his CDs that included this cut, and it made me feel like it was time for me to return the favor, so to speak. I think the chorus line on this piece is one of the best ever, and when I hear it, I imagine it taking off in many different directions, so I plan to urge him to consider additional lyrical possibilities, although, since he already has a good recorded version, he may not want to do so, but maybe he could be persuaded to put a little time into exploring some other ways the favor can be returned.
Sunday, 3/5/2017) Song 345: Takin' It to the Streets by The Doobie Brothers, written by Michael McDonald. You can find a YouTube video of it here. This record from 4 decades ago seems to generally fit the current political moment better than perhaps any other track, articulating an urgent call for solidarity and large public demonstrations to express the prevailing mood of discontent and the critical need for responsive leadership not twisted by the pull of the super-wealthy. Back when this single first took off, the large demonstrations against the Viet Nam war had subsided, with the war having ended, but then, only a few years later, many of us would be takin' it to the streets to oppose nuclear power plants like the one that got built in Diablo Canyon, despite all of our efforts against that nonsense. Over the decades, foolish and corrupt political leaders would, by their actions, often stir up that feeling of I ain't blind and I don't like what I think I see, with the 2003 Iraq invasion taking its place among the most prominent of follies, but the early months of 2017 have managed to top all of the previous eras as a time for Takin' It to the Streets.
(Sunday, 2/26/2017) Song 344: Love Child by Diana Ross & The Supremes, written by R. Dean Taylor, Frank Wilson, Pam Sawyer, and Deke Richards. You can find a YouTube video of it here. In the fall of 1968, not long after I started my HS senior year, this single hit the airwaves, and as much as I might have liked earlier Supremes cuts, I felt like they had just topped all of their previous efforts. In that era I often had trouble picking out the words on a track, and I had enjoyed listening to this record many times before one of my friends expressed moral disapproval at the suggestion of premarital sex wrapped in some of the lines. As the conversation progressed, he also enlightened me about the street meaning of the term love child, which I had never heard before this 45 came along. While a clearer understanding of the message did rattle my ongoing internal religious conflict over enjoyment of the devil's music, it didn't dampen my appreciation of Diana's saga, and when I heard her sing Don't think I don't want to please you, I felt quite certain that she did want to please me, which she managed to do very well by the end of the song, with her voice fading into the distance as she repeated I'll always love you.
(Sunday, 2/19/2017) Song 343: Drivin' My Life Away by Eddie Rabbitt, written by David Malloy, Eddie Rabbitt and Even Stevens. You can find a YouTube video of it here. As the 1970s unfolded, the RnR scene seemed to sink deeper and deeper into a sea of slick commerciality, losing much of its soul along the way, but among the occasional bright spots that would still shine in that era came a few courtesy of the country charts, with this one showing up shortly after the turn of the 1980s. While I didn't recognize Eddie Rabbitt as the writer of the Elvis hit Kentucky Rain, I had become aware of some of his records as he racked up a string of major successes over the previous 2 or 3 years, but this 45 immediately grabbed my attention when it hit the airwaves in the spring, exceeding my expectations, and though he had even greater success with the follow-up I Love a Rainy Night, I soon had my fill of that one, whereas I never tired of hearing this cut. If there's any truth to the rumor about me playing bass in a country-bar pickup band in the mid-1980s, then it's quite possible that Eddie's truck-driving anthem featured prominently in that bar band's set list. On a side note, this track is a fifth sly reference to the second verse of my own song As Long as Merle is Still Haggard, where the second line begins with But Dwight was only Yoakam when he said Eddie's Rabbitt died. That line is, by itself, a sly reference to an old pregnancy test, and I did not mean it in any sort of derogatory sense, or as a death wish, but sadly, Mr. Rabbitt did die of lung cancer in May of 1998 at the age of 56. On a happier note, you can find the As Long as Merle is Still Haggard video here.
(Sunday, 2/12/2017) Song 342: Righteous Love by Joan Osborne, written by Joan Osborne and Louie Perez. You can find a YouTube video of it here. As I mentioned in an earlier post about JO, I first heard her on a TV show where she performed songs from her Righteous Love CD, and this cut is the title track for that album. I liked what I heard on the TV program, so not long after, I picked up a copy of the CD, and it quickly found a place on my iPod as well as my CD player. With Valentine's Day arriving very soon, this record seems like a good way to observe the heart holiday, particularly during a time with so much hate on the rise, because personally, I've never been so sure of love, and especially sure of the power of love to change the world. For this 2/14, I sincerely wish everyone peace and righteous love, and I wish it even more so for those most in need of it.
(Sunday, 2/5/2017) Song 341: Over My Head by Fleetwood Mac, written by Christine McVie. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Sometime in the middle of 1974, I caught Fleetwood Mac on a TV broadcast doing a song about the Bermuda Triangle, and while I thought it was an OK cut, I wasn't all that excited by it, but I remember having this notion that someday FM would finally get their act together. The following September of 1975, this single hit the airwaves, showing off a finer sound that the group had achieved through a personnel shuffle that included the addition of the Buckingham-Nicks duo, and the LP it showcased made it clear to me that they had arrived at their together moment. Around the time of that record's release, I made my first and only attempt at ice skating, which went about as badly as my first and only roller skating attempt a couple of years earlier. It was early fall, but back then, Evanston had, and probably still does have, an ice rink open to the public year-round. That bad skating experience remains forever linked with this track in my mind, though it doesn't diminish my listening pleasure. It sure didn't feel nice that day to be over my head so often, and a lot more got hurt than just my pride in that room that was cold as ice, leading me to conclude that any further skating effort would be wasting all of my time, but, given how it turned out for the singer and her bass player husband, my dark side was probably not as bad as hers.
(Sunday, 1/29/2017) Song 340: I Am a Rock by Simon and Garfunkel, written by Paul Simon. You can find a YouTube video of it here. Not long before school let out in the late spring of 1966, as I was finishing my freshman year, this cut started making a lot of noise on the airwaves, and I remember hearing it one afternoon from a passing convertible as I was walking back up to the school building from down in the football field/running track area. Not long after that, my best friend got a copy of the Sounds of Silence LP, and it became a regular spinner that he would play during my visits with him, as would the other S&G albums over the next few years. I quickly got to know this song, not just from listening, but also courtesy of a music book I managed to find at our HS, so I learned how to play it both on the guitar and on the piano. In that long ago era before Musixmatch and A-Z Lyrics, I always appreciated having an official source for lyrics, which meant I wouldn't have to guess. My best friend and I both being bookish types, we had at least one conversation about how each of us identified with the singer who had his books and his poetry to protect him. I don't know that I would have ever claimed to be a rock, though, but I certainly wouldn't mind calling myself a rockstar, and I guess I now can do that, thanks to my spot on the latest Coast to Coast Rockstars Mix Tape.