Showing posts with label Aretha Franklin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Aretha Franklin. Show all posts

Monday, December 07, 2020

Christmas Mix 2020

Christmas Mix  2015 • 2016 • 2017 • 2018 • 2019 • 2020

Santa Santa, Surfin' Santa Claus
Here he comes, Here he comes
Surfin' Santa Claus
Bringin' toys for girls and boys
Surfin' Santa Claus
–Joe Lubin & Stan Stan Stenner

Sometime in the middle of the year, I usually create a YouTube Playlist called Christmas Mix for that year and just start squirreling away traditional and alternative songs that I think would make a good mix with no general theme in mind. I have one general goal with the Mix- to be a little different and always make Christmas a little more inclusive no matter one's belief system. With that said, it should be noted that a lot of great artists have made some terrible Christmas albums over the years, and a streaming playlist is one remedy to broaden the category of 'Christmas Music.'


Being from San Diego, my first idea for this year was a Surfin' Santa theme. Then I started looking for a good graphic. When I found the 'Merry Christmas 1942' graphic above it had everything I wanted, a traditional Coca-Cola® Santa surfing, and then a new thought, 1942- with all the great musicians born that year.

The class of '42 includes: Paul McCartney, Aretha Franklin, Brian Wilson, Carole King, Jimi Hendrix, Graham Nash, Leon Russell, Barbara Streisand, and Roger McGuinn. I've included at least one song from my short list of musical greats born that year, and if you're interested, here's a complete list of musicians and singers born in 1942. 

Also, I can't ignore the elephant in the room, the original 1942 release of Irving Berlin's White Christmas by Bing Crosby, the #1 selling single of all-time with more than 50 million sales alone. 

This is all a bit ironic for me as when I started the Christmas Mix in 2015, I tried to generally avoid the sappy standards with White Christmas being at the top of the list. For me it's like eating turkey every year at Thanksgiving since my birth. I can imagine my dad saying to my mom when I'm a baby, "Fern just put a slice in the blender, he'll be fine." Anyway, I just got to the point where I couldn't take turkey anymore, same for White Christmas.  I get this 1942 idea from the graphic and low and behold, White Christmas is released that year. So, I start reading about White Christmas, and then I read this about Bing Crosby.

According to Crosby's nephew, Howard Crosby, "I once asked Uncle Bing about the most difficult thing he ever had to do during his entertainment career… He said in December, 1944, he was in a USO show with Bob Hope and the Andrews Sisters. They did an outdoor show in northern France… he had to stand there and sing 'White Christmas' with 100,000 G.I.s in tears without breaking down himself. Of course, a lot of those boys were killed in the Battle of the Bulge a few days later." Wikipedia

Sweet Jesus, that made me cry too. So Irving and Bing, I yield the space here, thinking of all the babies born during war, and their dads fighting around the world wishing they were home with their families. 

It should also be noted that today is as Franklin Roosevelt told congress, "December 7, 1941- a date which will live in infamy—the United States of America was suddenly and deliberately attacked by naval and air forces of the Empire of Japan." The attack on Pearl Harbor thrust us into World War II, and changed our country overnight. White Christmas coming out the following year was a song we needed to hear as a nation and the world needed too. The lyrics, I'm dreaming of a white Christmas, Just like the ones I used to know, were in 1942, as impactful as any song that's ever been recorded. The history and power of this song endures.

 

Then, I thought about the babies born this year in the time of coronavirus. My granddaughter was born April 17, 2020. This virus is a different kind of war, but a worthy advisory nevertheless. Somehow our country has to band together as if we are in a world war against fascism, everybody on the same page working for our victory, all together. 

As a war baby himself, Paul McCartney grew up reading the British children's comic strip and books, Rupert Bear. In 1984, Paul wrote the song, We All Stand Together, arranged and produced by George Martin and made into a short film about Rupert Bear. The song has just been released again with the animated video and included here in my playlist Mix in several versions. 

These World War II children knew a thing about banding together in a crisis and maybe a reason, they're the greatest generation of rock 'n' roll. Sir Paul was no exception, and even if this song's about frogs, you'll feel the bond, like a lot of his work. His lyrics have now come back around in 2020 and a perfect theme for this season and moving forward together during this difficult time. I also have to think this generation of children are maybe special too, and will know how to stand together when the chips are down when they are the decision-makers.


Win Or Lose, Sink Or Swim
One Thing Is Certain We'll Never Give In
Side By Side, Hand In Hand
We All Stand Together

Play The Game, Fight The Fight
But What's The Point On A Beautiful Night?
Arm In Arm, Hand In Hand
We All Stand Together

Keeping Us Warm In The Night
La La La La
Walk In The Night
You'll Get It Right

Win Or Lose, Sink Or Swim
One Thing Is Certain We'll Never Give In
Side By Side, Hand In Hand
We All Stand Together
–Paul McCartney 

This has been a rough year for many who have been laid off or lost their small business in the time of coronavirus. However, we begin this coming new year with a fresh start with great hope and energy that will carry our people and country to a better place. 

In good times or bad, music has alway been central to Christmas time as it can take us to a place, the want for peace, comfort and joy, to dream the dream. My Christmas Mix is always a kitchen sink of tunes but I tried to find some songs this year that have that spirit of people needing people to get us through anything if we stick together. 

I like to also think my Christmas Mix might even spark an interesting conversation around the Christmas dinner table, or distanced smartphone video call this year-  
  • Why does Uncle Dave (an atheist) love gospel music?
  • Is eggnog still a thing? Why can't I just have a White Russian?
  • Do you care if someone says, "Happy Holidays" instead of "Merry Christmas?" Who gives a rat's ass in 2021? And who really cares about gay people marrying? Oh yeah... those people.
  • Winter Soltice and Christmas, Spring Equinox and Easter, is that timing just a big coincidence? "Hey Uncle Dave, grandma says 'Pagan' is a bad word?"
  • Beyoncé, Queen B? Sorry their's only one Queen and that's Retha, period.
  • Why does mom always tear up when Carol of the Bells comes on? 
Here's wishing you and your family a Happy Christmas and better days this New Year as we give thanks for the good people around us, no matter our beliefs.

Stay well my friends, and mask-up. We all stand together.

Monday, August 31, 2020

50 Years of Music • August, 1970

This week's playlist is dominated by three albums.

The first is Eric Clapton's solo debut, Eric Clapton listened by me many times in 1970 and over the years thanks to pal Ron Zieman's initial purchase of the album.

This week's listen to that album reminded me of a blog I wrote last year as I've grown to appreciate Delaney & Bonnie and Friends (1967-1972) who contributed greatly to Eric Clapton.

In my July 1969, 50 Years of Music blog, I wrote- "The great musicians who passed through this band in the late 60's and early 70's is truly astonishing and a huge influence on why Eric Clapton quit Blind Faith to move towards Bonnie & Delaney's sound, not to mention co-opt much of their band when he formed Derek and the Dominoes in 1970." 

Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett, 1970
In my opinion, Bonnie and Delaney Bramlett simply have not been given the recognition they deserve for developing Clapton's sound in the early 70's. Delaney arranged and produced and Bonnie co-wrote many of the songs on Eric Clapton. You will also hear their influence that Leon Russell brought to Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen in this week's playlist, and bump that back to Russell's time spent as a band member in Delaney & Bonnie and Friends in 1969 as the genesis of Cocker's sound. It is that similar large band and vocals ensemble that Clapton would carry to Derek and the Dominoes and George Harrison leading to All Things Must Pass as Delaney Bramlett also introduced Harrison to slide guitar.

Eric Clapton was Eric's first solo album but was very much a collaborative project with the Bramlett's. As time marches on, I believe most people have never heard of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, or simply, "Bonnie and Delaney" as we used to call them back in the day. Bonnie and Delaney got me thinking about 'influence' this past week and that most influential people are in fact forgotten, but their influence lives on in others work.

The second album is Spirit in the Dark by Aretha Franklin, an album I had never listened to until last week.

In fifty years, I can look back to my youth without musical judgement in the sense of my small town cultural exposure at fifteen versus my cumulative cultural experiences now into my sixty-fifth year. Stevie Wonder's August, 1970 Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours was a monster hit on pop AM radio that opened that R&B door a little wider for me, but there was not much 'Retha on my local radio dial back then to turn my head in her direction.
(Hey Nineteen that's 'Retha Franklin, she don't remember the Queen of Soul –Steely Dan)

What I can appreciate all these years later in Aretha's Spirit in the Dark is her complete mastery as a writer, singer and kick ass piano player. This was her seventeenth studio album and she also knew a thing or two about attracting a crowd of very talented people around her. The record includes three of the top producers in recording history with Tom Dowd, Arif Mardin and Jerry Wexler. The supporting band members include, Duane Allman and the famous Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section.

The third album is Stage Fright by The Band and in this listen, I have a greater appreciation in how they used three different singers that could lead a song or provide backup vocals for each other. I've always loved Rick Danko's voice as I use the The Last Waltz video clip of the title song Stage Fright to feature the band. In my blog last week, The Band was on several reader's top five bands of all-time list.

For me, Stage Fright just keeps getting better as it stands the test of time as any of their albums. In fact as I was listening to this album this week it made me think about the many artists and bands in the mid-1970's through 80's that lost their rock 'n' roll way. Radio creatures like country pop or that stupid soft jazz tenor saxophone phase finally gave way in the 90's to older and newer bands reclaiming a more authentic 'Americana sound' like well, The Band.

Thanks to Paul and Duskin Hobbs
for this book recommendation
In 2020 everybody loves The Band and if you feel the same way, I highly recommend reading, This Wheel's on Fire: Levon Helm and the Story of the Band. I'm only a quarter way in and I'm completely hooked with Levon Helm's folksy writing style and the stories he tells that are just so spellbinding. I keep saying to myself as I'm reading, "This book would be a fantastic movie!"

By the way, If you have never seen the 1980 movie, Coal Miner's Daughter it is a good one to catch. In fact, the first half of that movie where Levon Helm plays Loretta Lynn's father is outstanding! He is right there with Sissy Spacek and Tommy Lee Jones and if you read Levon's book above, you'll see from his childhood how he poured that right into his performance in that movie.

I hope you will also enjoy this eclectic mix from The Moody Blues, Canned Heat, The Beach Boys, The CarpentersLittle Richard, Roberta Flack, The Mothers of Invention, and Judy Collins.  This weeks 50 song playlist ends with a few select video clips from the now famous Isle of Wight Festival, in August of 1970.

The Isle of Wight Festival is a British music festival which takes place annually in Newport on the Isle of Wight, England. It was originally a counterculture event held from 1968 to 1970.

This event was held between 26 and 30 August 1970 at Afton Down. Attendance has been estimated by the Guinness Book of Records to have been 600,000 or even 700,000, due to an announcement by British Rail at that time concerning the amount of sold ferry tickets, although promoter Ray Foulk has said he believes it to have been only half of that. It was widely reported on, due to its line-up and extremely high attendance. Acts included Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, Jethro Tull, Ten Years After, Chicago, The Doors, Lighthouse, The Who (whose set produced a live album), Emerson, Lake & Palmer, The Moody Blues, Joan Baez, Free, Joni Mitchell, Leonard Cohen, Kris Kristofferson, Donovan, John Sebastian, Terry Reid, Taste, and Shawn Phillips
Wikipedia


Monday, January 28, 2019

50 Years of Music - January, 1969

In 2019, I will write a monthly feature of music released 50 years ago from that month in 1969.

I'm going to use 1969 in music from Wikipedia as my primary source as you can see by the January list here. If I (or Wikipedia) miss a big album, please feel free to write a comment, and I'm sure I will correct that in a re-edit from that blog.

I also plan to feature an entire album deemed 'great' (by me of course) from a month in 1969. Abbey Road and Crosby, Stills & Nash are just two albums that come to mind.

In January, 1969 I was in Mr. Richard Ziegler's 8th grade homeroom class. During that year, I became President of the Antique Bottle Club and certified nerd. Mr. Ziegler formed the club after his passion for finding and collecting old bottles in the creeks and old dump sites around the central coast of California. I did the same for a couple years and to this day still have boxes of antique bottles that I've carted to every apartment or house that I have ever lived in.

Looking back, I remember one Jr. High dance where a local cover band of high school students performed the song, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida while I watched from the sidelines as kids tried to dance to it. As a side note- the album also titled, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida released in 1968 was the biggest selling album of 1969.

If you follow Monday Monday Music, the real content is listening to the weekly YouTube playlists that I put together. And I thought it was my fantastic writing. No dummy, you just began the last sentence with, "And."

Ok, so one of the keys of life is making the time to do the things YOU want to do. If you've followed me this far, listening to music is one of those magical things of life.

So strike a match, light the incense and get back to a little 1969 in music.

Monday, August 20, 2018

The Church of Aretha Franklin

I grew up in Gospel. –Aretha Franklin

My growing up in a mostly white Baptist church in a small town farming community could have been an isolating experience. However, my town was on the California central coast between San Francisco and Los Angeles. I remember many times going over to my friend Bill's house who lived one block parallel to the the US 101 freeway. In our junior high years starting around 1967, hippies hitch-hiked both north and southbound by the freeway on-ramps at Main Street. Maybe that's where my dreams of going to bigger places started...

How this links up with Aretha Franklin is that for me, she is one of those singers that took me to places in my mind that I had not experienced yet in reality. For me growing up in a white bread church, standing and singing hymns seemed so stiff and rote. I hadn't heard the sound of real gospel music until I heard Aretha's voice on AM local radio. In 1967 when Respect came out, I was hearing her soaring soul transformed to a secular medium. I loved the sounds of R&B and soul even though I had no direct connection to the experience. Aretha, like so many musicians of the time provided that bridge for me with her music to a connected spirituality that was real and authentic. As I got into my later teens and early twenties, I moved away from the church, but always appreciated black gospel because it was music you could feel, it soared. If you really want to go to church, just listen to Aretha's 1972 album, Amazing Grace There's no need to sit in a hard pew listening to a pastor busting your spirit and limiting your options. Aretha's voice (and piano playing) will set you free! (Amazing Grace album on Youtube).

Here's my Aretha playlist including my favorite Aretha song (written by Stevie Wonder),
Until You Come Back To Me (That's What I'm Gonna Do)This song reminds me of being out of high school and going to Alan Hancock Jr. College in 1974, a very good year in my life. Anyway, the playlist tends to go back to that founding gospel R&B rock 'n' roll soul sound that opened up the world to a lot of people. Rest in peace our sweet queen.

Note - Catch the American Bandstand video featuring Respect in 1967. I just love all the white teens dancing to Aretha's music, as it's a geek flashback of all the white kids like me from anywhere USA.

Monday, December 18, 2017

Women of Heart and Mind

50 Amazing Signs from Women’s Marches Across the Globe
As this year of 2017 wraps up in a couple of weeks, I'm going to pick up with a blog I did in January called, Our Democracy and Takin' It To The Streets. The focus was on the March, 21st Women's March across the world. In the time since, it has been quite a year through the total black hole experience of Donald Trump, and the emergence and sustainability of the #MeToo movement. Even with the dark shadow of Trump, women have emerged from behind all shadows and came to triumph and own this year.

As a man, I've become so sick and tired of male politicians, business moguls, actors and news people evoking their daughters into the public dialog either in their own defense of sexual allegations against them, or pontificating on how they are a protector of women. So, as a father of two daughters, two step-daughters and three granddaughters, I say, BULLSHIT. Men in general need to stop being hypocritical about their simultaneous protection and sexual objectification of women, and simply behave and treat ALL women with respect as equals.

My admiration of women runs deep and started young. I remember when I was probably eleven or twelve years old, I had a paper route. At the end of each month, I would go around and collect the money subscriptions door to door. On occasion, somebody would stiff me by moving out without paying me and I would lose my take as the newspaper delivery rules stated that it was my responsibility to make the collection. On one such occasion, a couple moved and didn't pay me. My mother actually tracked this couple down, took me in her car to their new location, walked with me to the door, and demanded payment when a shocked man opened the door. I'll never forgot the man's expression but better yet, my mom's smile to me on the walk back to the car with the cash in my hand.

As a teenager in the 1970's, I started listening to music as a passion. Men dominated rock 'n' roll but I began listening and buying records by women, especially women singer-songwriters. I loved Carol King, Linda Ronstadt, Carly Simon and Joni Mitchell to name some of the greats of the day. Their perspective in song, helped shape me. If you were a guy back in the day and were into Joni Mitchell, well that didn't hurt in your conversations with girls, but more importantly, Joni made you think about things a little differently than most male songwriters.

During this month, I've watched three TV streaming shows of significance that actually inspired the writing of this post. I recommend you see all three in the weeks ahead. First on Netflix, Godless, a western that turns the "damsels in distress" thing on it's head. Second on Amazon, Good Girls Revolt, a "Mad Men" from a woman's perspective with three key female leads working at Newsweek magazine in 1969-1970. (As a side note- as you watch the opening credits, you'll see a paperboy on his bike throwing a paper somewhere towards a house. I swear to God that kid looked like/was me.) And third on Amazon, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, a housewife in the 1950s decides to become a stand-up comic. In all three shows, the women are front and center, great writing, acting and must sees for watching in the year of 2017.

In putting the playlist together for this post, I couldn't help but notice the increased level of empowerment by women singers as the decades rolled up to current times. I hope you enjoy my mix of old and newer songs performed by women of heart and mind, and if you're a guy out there, there's wisdom to be mined here toward our respect, work, and gift of women in our lives. And, a final thought, women are going to save this world, just as they have always done.