I will let This Day in Music trace the barest outline of the extraordinary career of drummer Earl Palmer, who died at age 64 on this day in 2008:
Worked with The Beach Boys, Little Richard (‘Tutti Frutti’), Frank Sinatra, Ike And Tina Turner (‘River Deep, Mountain High’), The Monkees, Fats Domino (‘I’m Walkin’), Neil Young, Elvis Costello, Tom Waits, The Righteous Brothers (‘You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’), and Randy Newman, Tom Waits, Bonnie Raitt, Tim Buckley, Little Feat and Elvis Costello.
Above and below are interesting, informal videos of Palmer rehearsing with guitarist Deke Dickerson. The other players are Pete Curry on bass, Carl Sonny Leyland on piano, and Ron Dziubla on sax. Above is “I Might Not Come Home at All” and below is “I Get So Lonely.” Palmer is more centrally featured in the bottom clip.
Hudson Music offers an appreciation. Palmer was inducted into The Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2000. Wikipedia says he was the first session musician to receive the honor. Here is the start of the Hall’s profile:
Earl Palmer grew up in New Orleans and later moved to Los Angeles, impacting the music scenes in both cities as a first-call session drummer. From 1950 to 1957, Palmer’s powerful backbeat and mastery of second-line shuffle rhythms made him a much in-demand percussionist in his hometown. He was hired by bandleader Dave Bartholomew in 1947 after a stint in the army and recorded extensively with Bartholomew protege Fats Domino, Lloyd Price, Smiley Lewis and other New Orleans artists at Cosimo Matassa’s famed J&M studio. He also played on the seminal rock and roll recordings of Little Richard, who wrote in his autobiography that Palmer “is probably the greatest session drummer of all time.” (Continue Reading…)
Curtis Mayfield, among many other distinctions, was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as a member of The Impressions and as a solo act.
Superfly, the song and the movie, are cultural milestones. Biography offers more about Mayfield, who suffered a horrific accident twenty years after the film was released:
In 1970, Mayfield began a solo career, recording a series of albums and working as a producer for artists like Aretha Franklin and Gladys Knight and the Pips. His most memorable solo project was the classic 1972 funk album Superfly, the soundtrack to the hit “blaxploitation” film of the same name. Superfly was the No. 1 album on the pop charts for four weeks and solidified Mayfield’s legacy as one of the late-20th century’s most innovative songwriters and performers.
Though his popularity began to fade in the late 1970s with the rise of disco, Mayfield continued to record hopeful, inspirational music and tour actively in the United States, Europe, and Japan. In 1990, during an outdoor concert in Brooklyn, New York, a lighting scaffold fell on Mayfield; the accident left him paralyzed from the neck down. The amazingly indefatigable musician continued to compose and record music, learning to sing while lying flat on his back and letting gravity create the necessary pressure on his lungs. (Continue Reading…)
Here, courtesy of Wikipedia, is a list of Mayfield’s accomplishments:
- Mayfield’s solo Super Fly is ranked No. #69 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time.
- The Impressions’ album/CD The Anthology 1961–1977 is ranked at No. 179 on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of all time.
- As a member of The Impressions, he was posthumously inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2003.
- Along with his group The Impressions, he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.
- In 1999, he was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a solo artist making him one of the few artists to become double inductees.
- In 1999, he found himself inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame just prior to his death.
- He was a winner of the prestigious Grammy Legend Award in 1994.
- He received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 1995.
- He is a 2-time Grammy Hall of Fame inductee: for the song People Get Ready with The Impressions, and for the award-winning album Super Fly as a solo artist.
- The Impressions’ 1965 hit song, “People Get Ready”, composed by Mayfield, has been chosen as one of the Top 10 Best Songs Of All Time by a panel of 20 top industry songwriters and producers, including Paul McCartney, Brian Wilson, Hal David, and others, as reported to Britain’s Mojo music magazine.
- The Impressions hits, People Get Ready and For Your Precious Love are both ranked on Rolling Stone Magazine’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, as No. 24 and No. 327 respectively.
- In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked Mayfield No. 98 on their list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.
Superfly is above. Below, Mayfield sings It’s All Right with The Impressions on the program Hollywood A Go Go in 1965
Fontella Bass, July 3, 1940-Dec. 26, 2012
Here is the beginning of an appreciation of the R&B singer Fontella Bass from Los Angeles Times’ Pop Critic Randall Roberts:
Any appreciation of soul singer Fontella Bass, who died Wednesday at age 72, must first acknowledge “Rescue Me,” the propellant 1965 R&B banger that became her signature. But equally vital in her — and the American — pantheon is “Theme de Yoyo,” her rousing vocal turn during the free jazz collective Art Ensemble of Chicago’s 1970 album “Les Stances a Sophie.” Continue Reading…
Here is a link to Theme de Yoyo.
The Telegraph has an interesting obit which lays out Bass’ career and makes the point that she and Bobby McClure (with which she sings Don’t Mess Up a Good Thing, below) were teamed on more than one song by Chess Records. The obit also says that her big hit – Rescue Me, above — was recorded after Don’t Mess Up A Good Thing. Here is the part of the piece that discusses Rescue Me, and the unfortunate aftermath, which unfortunately is not uncommon:
Tom Jones, Cher and Aretha Franklin, among many others, have made their own recordings of the hit. But its success did not always profit Fontella Bass. She once claimed that when her record label, Chess, presented her with a royalties cheque for Rescue Me, the sum was so insignificant that she tore it up. In 1990, living in near-poverty, she heard the song on an American Express advertisement. Forced to sue for its unauthorised use and a share of the songwriting royalties, she eventually won the day in court. Continue Reading…
Stevie Wonder needs no introduction. His bio may not be well known by all but his most ardent fans, however. Here is how the version at Encyclopedia Britannica starts:
Stevie Wonder, original name Steveland Judkins or Steveland Morris (born May 13, 1950, Saginaw, Mich., U.S.), American singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist, a child prodigy who developed into one of the most creative musical figures of the late 20th century.
Blind from birth and raised in inner-city Detroit, he was a skilled musician by age eight. Renamed Little Stevie Wonder by Berry Gordy, Jr., the president of Motown Records—to whom he was introduced by Ronnie White, a member of the Miracles—Wonder made his recording debut at age 12. The soulful quality of his high-pitched singing and the frantic harmonica playing that characterized his early recordings were evident in his first hit single, “Fingertips (Part 2),” recorded during a show at Chicago’s Regal Theatre in 1963. But Wonder was much more than a freakish prepubescent imitation of Ray Charles, as audiences discovered when he demonstrated his prowess with piano, organ, harmonica, and drums. By 1964 he was no longer described as “Little,” and two years later his fervent delivery of the pounding soul of “Uptight (Everything’s Alright),” which he also had written, suggested the emergence of both an unusually compelling performer and a composer to rival Motown’s stable of skilled songwriters. (He had already cowritten, with Smokey Robinson, “The Tears of a Clown.”) Continue Reading…
Ray Charles’ I Can’t Stop Loving You was the top song on the charts during this day in 1962. It held the spot for five weeks, from May 27 to June 30..
Other notable songs that year were The Lion Sleeps Tonight, The Twist, Peppermint Twist (Part 1), Duke Of Earl, Soldier Boy, Roses Are Red (My Love), Breaking Up Is Hard To Do, The Loco-Motion, Sherry, Monster Mash, He’s A Rebel and Big Girls Don’t Cry.
Check here for the artists and how long each song held the top spot. Two of the songs also held the top spot for five weeks. Can you name them?
That’s a lot of genius to pack into two minutes and twenty seconds. Here’s a later version of the same song. It isn’t clear if it is the same version of the Raelettes. Other videos of note – among the dozens of good ones at YouTube – are What I’d Say, Georgia on My Mind and America, the Beautiful.
His website has a lot of material, including a biography and discography. Finally, here is a link to the IMDb listing for the very good 2004 biopic Ray, which starred Jamie Foxx. They had the good sense to have Foxx lip sync the music.