My Favorite Songwriters

This one was the most fun to do. These are the songwriters that I have listened to and admired the most.

 

1… Bob Dylan – There was no one else I could remotely place as number 1.

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2… Lennon – McCartney – As a team…it was quantity and quality. Their music will live long after we are gone.

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3…Chuck Berry – He wrote the blueprint for future rockers.

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4…Jagger – Richards – For blues rock it doesn’t get much better than these two.

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5…Paul Simon – One of the best craftsman of pop songs there is…

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6…Bruce Springsteen – One of the best writers of his generation.

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7…Goffin and King – Wrote some of the best known and successful songs of the sixties.

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8…Smokey Robinson – Bob Dylan said of Robinson…”America’s greatest living poet”

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9…Pete Townshend – Took the “Rock Opera” to new levels.

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10…Hank Williams – The country poet.

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Honorable Mention

Paul McCartney, John Lennon, Ray Davis, Neil Young, Townes Van Zandt, Leiber and Stoller, Elvis Costello, Randy Newman, Woody Guthrie, Merle Haggard, Robbie Robertson, Elton John and Bernie Taupin, Tom Petty, Curtis Mayfield, John Prine, George Harrison, Steve Wonder, Warren Zevon, Brian Wilson

My Favorite Singers

There are so many singers that I cannot possibly list them all. I could make a top 30 and not get them all. This is my personal favorite top 10 plus some extra.

For the most part, I like singers with soul and meaning to their singing…not vocal gymnastics.

1…Aretha Franklin – Aretha could make any song better by singing it.

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2…Van Morrison, Them and Solo  – Probably my favorite male singer.

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3…John Lennon, Beatles – John hated his voice and always wanted an effect on it…It didn’t need it…one of his best performances was “A Day In The Life”

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4…Bob Dylan – Bob changed popular singing.  I would rather hear Bob sing than many of the great traditional singers.

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5…Elvis Presley – Hey he’s Elvis…

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6…Otis Redding – Just a fantastic singer and performer and just taking off before he was killed in a plane crash.

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7…Mick Jagger, Rolling Stones – Mick makes the most out of his voice.

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8…John Fogerty…CCR – If I could have the voice of anyone…it would be Fogerty. The power that John has is incredible…his voice is its own instrument.

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9…Janis Joplin – She put everything she had in each song. Her last producer Paul A. Rothchild was teaching Janis how to hold back and sing more traditional to save her voice for old age…which never came.

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10…Johnny Cash – Last but far from least.  Only one man can sound like Cash…and that is Cash

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Honorable Mention…any of these could have easily been on the list.

Steve Marriott, Paul McCartney, Levon Helm, Bessie Smith, Little Richard, Roger Daltrey, Pete Townshend, Elton John, Neil Young, Roy Orbison, Smokey Robinson, Sam Cooke, Joe Cocker, Billie Holiday, Freddie Mercury, Kate Bush, Ella Fitzgerald, Paul Rodgers, David Bowie.

 

 

 

 

U2 – New Year’s Day

I’d heard guitar delay before but U2 took it to a new level. New Year’s Day peaked at #53 in the Billboard 100, #10 in the UK and #41 in Canada in 1983. This song was on their third album War. This is about the time I started to notice them.

from Songfacts.

The lyrics refer to the movement for solidarity lead by Lech Walesa in Poland. After this was recorded, Poland announced they would abolish martial law, coincidentally, on New Year’s Day, 1983.

This was U2’s first UK Top 10 and their first single to chart in America.

This almost didn’t make the album because Bono was having fits writing the lyrics.

The Edge played piano on this as well as guitar. In concert, he played the song on the piano with his guitar in his lap. For his guitar solo, he would get up and go to the front of the stage as the crowd cheered wildly.

This was the first U2 video to get heavy airplay on MTV, and it was by far their most ambitious video to that point. It was directed by Meiert Avis, who worked on U2’s previous videos, including “Gloria” and “I Will Follow.” They planned to shoot the video in Sweden, but when the mountains and snow they hoped for didn’t materialize, they tried Norway. They got the majestic mountains and tight shots of the band performing the song, which was more than adequate for MTV in 1983.

We also see what is supposed to be the band riding horses, which were actually four teenaged girls covered in winter clothes. The guys in U2 weren’t experienced riders, and since they were in the middle of a tour during the shoot, it wasn’t worth the risk.

The themes of understanding in a time of global unrest were a focal point for the album War, whose title was inspired by the various worldwide conflicts of 1982.

The line “Under a blood red sky” was used as the title for a video and live album U2 released in 1983. The video was recorded at Red Rocks, Colorado, June 5, 1982. The album contains performances from that show as well as two others.

Bono considers this a love song. While it is about war, it deals with “The struggle for love.”

Bono wrote this shortly after he married his childhood sweetheart, Ali.

This song was recorded at Windmill Lane Studios in Dublin, which is where U2 recorded their first three albums. The studio had a stone stairway where Larry Mullen played his drums for this track.

This is commonly played at bars every New Year’s Day for lack of something more appropriate.

This is a popular song for other artists to sample or cover. With It Guys used the piano line as a sample in the song “Let The Music Take Control,” Manchester rappers Kiss AMC sampled the intro for their song “A Bit Of U2,” the group Dynamic Base used the sample on their “Africa” single and Bacon Popper did the same on “Free.” Hyper Logic also used a sample in “Only Me.” >>

Producer Steve Lillywhite remembers mixing this song in ten minutes while Bono cranked out “40” at the last minute while another band was waiting outside of the studio for their turn.

New Year’s Day

Yeah!

All is quiet on New Year’s Day
A world in white gets underway
I want to be with you, be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

Under a blood red sky
A crowd has gathered, black and white
Arms entwined, the chosen few
The newspapers says, says

Say it’s true, it’s true
We can break through
Though torn in two
We can be one

I, I will begin again
I, I will begin again

Oh, maybe the time is right
Oh, maybe tonight

I will be with you again
I will be with you again

And so we are told this is the Golden Age
And gold is the reason for the wars we wage
Though I want to be with you, be with you night and day
Nothing changes on New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day
On New Year’s Day

 

Cyndi Lauper – Money Changes Everything

The song peaked at #27 in the Billboard 100 and #30 in Canada in 1985. This song was the fifth single released off of the She’s So Unusual album. It was written by Tom Gray who released it with the Brains in 1980.

Most Cyndi Lauper fans owned the album by the time this song was released as a single, so it was issued with a different version, labeled “recorded live” as the A-side, and the album version on the B-side. The “live” version was recorded live but in a studio. Most radio stations played the album version.

From Songfacts.

A track from Cyndi Lauper’s debut album She’s So Unusual, “Money Changes Everything” was written by Tom Gray, who first recorded it with his Atlanta Rock band The Brains. The song got a great audience reaction when The Brains performed it at live shows in 1979, and when they earned some cash opening shows for The B-52s, they recorded the song and pressed 1,000 copies on their own label. Progressive FM stations in Boston, San Francisco and a few places in between started playing the song, which earned the band a record deal with Mercury Records.

But then money changed everything: Mercury cleaned house and the executives that were behind the band were replaced with folks who knew nothing about them. The song was released on The Brains 1980 self-titled debut album, but without record company support, it got little attention despite being produced by Steve Lillywhite, who would later have enormous success working with U2.

Soon after, Tom Gray got a publishing deal with ATV, which pitched “Money Changes Everything” to the producer Rick Chertoff, hoping he would record it with a teenage singer he worked with named Rachel Sweet. Chertoff declined, but a few months later he included the song on a demo reel for a new artist he was working with: a brash young singer named Cyndi Lauper. Cyndi loved the song and recorded it for her album, turning it into a hit and improving Gray’s financial fortunes considerably.

The song is about a girl who leaves her man for someone with a more robust bank account. Many songs have been written about how money can’t buy love, but this one takes the opposite tack, explaining that sometimes money trumps love.

Lauper didn’t change the gender of the song – the original version sung by a man places him in the lead role, but with Lauper singing, she is recounting a story.

Tom Gray wasn’t going for social commentary when he wrote this song; he got the idea after having a conversation with his landlady. In our interview with Gray, he explained:

“We were just sort of gossiping about this couple we knew, and she said, ‘She’s going to leave him as soon as she finds somebody with money.’ And I said, ‘Wait a minute, excuse me.’ The idea of the song just appeared in my head right there. The keyboard part was something I’d been banging on the piano for a week or so. But I wrote the chorus very quickly and then the verses followed. The song was finished within a day or two.”

A lot happened between this song’s conception and its appearance on the chart. Written in 1979 and first recorded by The Brains in 1980, Lauper put it on her She’s So Unusual album, which came out in October 1983. The first single was “Girls Just Want To Have Fun,” which peaked in March 1984. The album was a runaway hit, and three more singles were issued before “Money Changes Everything” finally got its turn, peaking at #27 in February 1985.

The song provided a welcome infusion of cash to its writer Tom Gray. It didn’t change everything, but he did go from hand-to-mouth, mowing lawns for extra funds, to buying a house and enjoying a higher status in the songwriter community, which led to a collaboration with Carlene Carter. He also became friends with Lauper, who met him when she came to Atlanta on her first tour. They wrote a song together for her next album called “The Faraway Nearby.” They collaborated again on Lauper’s song “A Part Hate,” which appeared on her 1993 album Hat Full of Stars.

Lauper released an acoustic version of this song with Adam Lazzara of Taking Back Sunday on her 2005 album The Body Acoustic. This was a moment of serendipity for the song’s writer Tom Gray, who had formed a band called Delta Moon and was working on a similar arrangement. Gray told us: “I’d always wanted to do it with a fiddle, so I played Appalachian dulcimer on it. And then after we already had it in the can, Cyndi came out with her all-acoustic CD – and what instrument did she play on it but Appalachian dulcimer! We hadn’t talked or communicated about this at all. But she came out doing it with a fiddle and an Appalachian dulcimer and I was just like, ‘Whoa.'”

Money Changes Everything

I said I’m sorry baby I’m leaving you tonight
I found someone new, he’s waitin’ in the car outside
Ah honey how could you do it
We swore each other everlasting love
I said well yeah I know but when we did;
There was one thing we weren’t
Thinking of and that’s money

Money changes everything
I said money, money changes everything
We think we know what we’re doin’
That don’t mean a thing
It’s all in the past now
Money changes everything

They shake your hand and they smile
And they buy you a drink
They say we’ll be your friends
We’ll stick with you till the end
Ah but everybody’s only
Looking out for themselves
And you say well who can you trust
I’ll tell you it’s just
Nobody else’s money

Money changes everything
I said money, money changes everything
You think you know what you’re doin’
We don’t pull the strings
It’s all in the past now
Money changes everything

Money, money changes everything
I said money, money changes everything
We think we know what we’re doing
We don’t know a thing
It’s all in the past now

Money changes everything
Money changes everything
Money changes everything, money changes everything, money changes everything, money changes

My Favorite Drummers

This is my top ten favorite drummers…I’m sure I’m going to leave some great ones out. Like guitarists, I like drummers with feel more than technique. Anyone who has read this blog knows who my number 1 is without question…

1…Keith Moon, The Who – It’s hard if not impossible to copy this man’s drumming style. He changed the Who completely and was their engine. I’m not a drummer so I really never cared like some drummers do if he played by the rules in drumming…Was he disciplined? No, but it worked well for him and for the songs. Songs like Bargain and Goin’ Mobile are great examples of Keith.

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2…John Bonham, Led Zeppelin – Without Bonham, there is no Led Zeppelin as we know them. He was the ultimate groove drummer. He was a bricklayer and had hard hands and hit the drums incredibly hard but with a light touch also.

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3…Levon Helm, The Band – Not only was he a great drummer but also a soulful singer. He brought something many drummers didn’t… a bit of the old south.

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4…Charlie Watts, Rolling Stones – Charlie and Ringo made their respective groups swing. Charlie can play blues, rock, big band, and jazz. Charlie and his rhythm section partner Bill Wyman were overlooked being in the same band with Mick and Keith. On top of his drumming skills…Charlie grounds the band much like Ringo did for the Beatles.

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5…Ringo Starr, The Beatles – He was not Moon or Bonham in flash but he played exactly what was needed…He could have gone overboard and the songs would have suffered. He played for the song. Some have called him the human metronome. I cannot imagine any other drummer for The Beatles. His tom tom work on Sgt Pepper alone is excellent.

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6…Mitch Mitchell, Jimi Hendrix Experience – Any holes left in Jimi’s music would be quickly filled in by Mitch. He was a jazz drummer who fused it into rock.

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7…Ginger Baker, Cream – If this was a list of “likable people” Ginger would not be in the top 1000 but his drumming was some of the best of the sixties and I’m sure he would say “ever”… He was as big of part of Cream’s sound as Clapton or Bruce.

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8…Bobby Elliot, Hollies – Drummer from the Hollies that other drummers have admired. He hit the drums hard and his fills were great… He is often overlooked but he is always spot on.

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9…Dave Grohl, Foo Fighters, Nirvana – He can play anything… He fuels those Nirvana songs…and is really great at whatever instrument he plays.

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10…Clem Burke, Blondie – An exciting drummer that was heavily influenced by number 1 on this list. He has played with Pete Townshend, Bob Dylan, Iggy Pop, and David Bowie.

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Honorable Mention

Gene Krupa, Buddy Miles, Mick Fleetwood, Max Weinberg, “D.J.” Fontana, Benny Benjamin, Stewart Copeland, and Hal Blaine.

Yes, I know… No Neil Peart…yes he is a great drummer…just not my style of music.

 

 

 

Paul McCartney – Coming Up

Merry Christmas to everyone…

I was 12 when this came out in 1979 and loved it…especially the video that went with it. The live version is the one that hit really big and the single had the live and studio version. The song (Live Version) peaked at #1 in the Billboard 100, #2 in the UK and #1 in Canada in 1980.

McCartney played all the instruments and shared vocal harmonies with wife Linda McCartney on the studio version.

Paul McCartney on recording Coming Up

I originally cut it on my farm in Scotland. I went into the studio each day and just started with a drum track. Then I built it up bit by bit without any idea of how the song was going to turn out. After laying down the drum track, I added guitars and bass, building up the backing track. I did a little version with just me as the nutty professor, doing everything and getting into my own world like a laboratory. The absent-minded professor is what I go like when I’m doing those; you get so into yourself it’s weird, crazy. But I liked it.

Then I thought, ‘Well, OK, what am I going to do for the voice?’ I was working with a vari-speed machine with which you can speed up your voice, or take it down a little bit. That’s how the voice sound came about. It’s been speeded up slightly and put through an echo machine I was playing around with. I got into all sorts of tricks, and I can’t remember how I did half of them, because I was just throwing them all in and anything that sounded good, I kept. And anything I didn’t like I just wiped.

On John Lennon

I heard a story from a guy who recorded with John in New York, and he said that John would sometimes get lazy. But then he’d hear a song of mine where he thought, ‘Oh, shit, Paul’s putting it in, Paul’s working!’ Apparently ‘Coming Up’ was the one song that got John recording again. I think John just thought, ‘Uh oh, I had better get working, too.’ I thought that was a nice story.

Coming Up

You want a love to last forever 
One that will never fade away 
I want to help you with your problem 
Stick around, I say 

Coming up, coming up, yeah 
Coming up like a flower 
Coming up, I say 

You want a friend you- can rely on 
One who will never fade away 
And if you’re searching for an answer 
Stick around. I say 

It’s coming up, it’s coming up 
It’s coming up like a flower 
It’s coming up. yeah 

You want some peace and understanding 
So everybody can be free 
I know that we can get together 
We can make it, stick with me 

It’s coming up, it’s coming up 
It’s coming up like a flower 
It’s coming up for you and me 

Coming up, coming up 
It’s coming up, it’s coming up, I say 
It’s coming up like a flower 
It’s coming up 
I feel it in my bones 

You want a better kind of future 
One that everyone can share 
You’re not alone, we all could use it 
Stick around we’re nearly there 

It’s coming up, it’s coming up everywhere 
It’s coming up like a flower 
It’s coming up for all to share 
It’s coming up, yeah 
It’s coming up, anyway 
It’s coming up like a flower 
Coming up

Lenny Kravitz – Let Love Rule

This sounded older when it was released in 1989 because it has a 60s psychedelic sound which some critics complained about…it’s the reason that I liked it. Lenny plays a lot of the instruments his self. The song peaked at #89 in the Billboard 100 and #39 in the UK in 1989.

A little trivia for you about Lenny…his mom was Roxie Roker from the tv show The Jeffersons.

From Songfacts.

Lenny Kravitz in a 1998 interview with Tracey Pepper: “When I did ‘Let Love Rule,’ everyone said what a naive piece of s–t it was. Journalists would ask, ‘Don’t you feel funny singing about that?’ and I was like, If I were sitting here singing about the devil and raping children, then it’d be okay? God forbid you sing about love. It’s a lost concept.”

This song is Kravitz’ credo. “Love has to be the final outcome of every situation,” he said.

This was the title track from Lenny Kravitz’ debut album on which he provided almost all of the instrumental and vocal material himself. However when it was released many critics condemned him for being an out of date throwback to late ’60s psychedelic rock.

Lenny Kravitz’s then-wife Lisa Bonet directed and appeared in the music video for this song.

The singer was persuaded by his style-star daughter Zoe Kravitz to develop a new line of shoes for Tom’s. Amongst his designs, which debuted in 2012 were footware printed with lyrics from this song.

 

Let Love Rule

Love is gentle as a rose 
And love can conquer any war 
It’s time to take a stand 
Brothers and sisters join hands 

We got to let love rule 
(Let love rule)
We got to let love rule 
(Let love rule)

Love transcends all space and time 
And love can make a little child smile 
Oh can’t you see 
This won’t go wrong 
But we got to be strong 
We can’t do it alone 

We got to let love rule 
(Let love rule)
We got to let love rule 
(Let love rule)

(Let love rule)
You got to got to got to 
(Let love rule)

You got to got to got to, yeah 
(Let love rule) let let let let love rule 
(Let love rule)

You got to, got to, got to 
Just say yeah 
You got to yeah 
You got to 
You got to, got to, got to yeah 
Let love rule