It’s interesting to compare the staid, probably lip-synced and homogenized version of Bobby Hebb’s great song, Sonny (at this link) and the far funkier treatment Hebb and Ron Carter give it in the video above. The earlier version is the more familiar one, of course. In that era, great talents often had to tone it down to get television time.
An interesting passage from Wikipedia’s profile of Hebb and the fate of his older brother:
On November 23, 1963, the day after John F. Kennedy‘s assassination, Harold Hebb was killed in a knife fight outside a Nashville nightclub. Hebb was devastated by both events and sought comfort in songwriting. Though many claim that the song he wrote after both tragedies was the optimistic “Sunny“, Hebb himself stated otherwise. He immersed himself in the Gerald Wilson album, You Better Believe It!, for comfort. (Continue Reading…)
The beginning of War is one of the signature musical moments of the Vietnam War era. It’s nice to learn that Edwin Starr contributed much more than that. Here is the beginning of the profile at his website:
Edwin Starr was an integral part of the soul and dance floor scene since the mid-fifties and the formation of his first band The Future Tones in 1956. He was on the road right to the end.
Born Charles Edwin Hatcher on January 21st, 1942 in Nashville, Tennessee, Edwin was raised and educated in Cleveland, Ohio. In 1962, after completing two years of military service in the USA and Germany he moved to Detroit, the automobile city. By the middle of the decade he was a member of the artistes on the up-and-coming RicTic label under Ed Wingate. Together they released one immortal Northern Soul hymn after another. Songs like “Agent 00 Soul”, S.O.S (Stop her On Sight)” and “Headline News” laid the foundations for Edwins’ continuing world-wide fame. (Continue Reading…)
War, it turns out, was recorded by The Temptations before Starr’s version. The Motown‘s timidness turned out to be the most important moment in Starr’s career:
“War” is a soul song written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong for the Motown label in 1969. Whitfield first produced the song – a blatant anti-Vietnam War protest – with The Temptations as the original vocalists. After Motown began receiving repeated requests to release “War” as a single, Whitfield re-recorded the song with Edwin Starr as the vocalist, deciding to withhold the Temptations’ version so as not to alienate their more conservative fans. (Continue Reading…)
Above is War, which has to be the lead song in any discussion of Starr. Two observations: He is wearing the greatest shirt ever made and seems very happy for a guy singing about the horrors of war. Below is 25 Miles, which is terrific. It’s clearly a relatively recent clip. The band leader is Jools Holland and this presumably is his BBC television show. Holland was a co-founder of Squeeze. Starr passed away in 2003.
This Day in Music lists more than 20 musical personalities born on this day — including three each in 1947 and 1950 alone.
Two are here: Nate Nelson of The Flamingos, who sing I Only Have Eyes for You (above) and Bobbie Smith of The Detroit Spinners (later the Spinners), who sing Working My Way Back to You (below). Nelson was born in 1932 and Nelson four years later.
I confess that I am not entirely confident of which of the singers are Nelson and Smith in the clips, though I am pretty sure both are singing lead. It is the thought that counts, I guess… Anyone who could help me out, please do.
Love Train, above, has gotten a second life in Coors beer commercials. There are versions with far better audio quality than the original video — such as this version from Midnight Special, which has the added bonus of being introduced by Wolfman Jack. Mid-1970s videos are great, especially sweet-natured ones like this. Though The O’Jays were from Ohio, one of the trains seems to be from The Long Island Rail Road. I bet this was shot in Queens.
Wikipedia profiles the group:
The O’Jays are an American R&B group from Canton, Ohio, formed in 1958 and originally consisting of Eddie Levert (born June 16, 1942), Walter Williams (born August 25, 1943), William Powell (January 20, 1942 – May 26, 1977), Bobby Massey and Bill Isles. The O’Jays made their first chart appearance with “Lonely Drifter” in 1963, but reached their greatest level of success once Gamble & Huff, a team of producers and songwriters, signed them to their Philadelphia International label in 1972. With Gamble & Huff, the O’Jays (now a trio after the departure of Isles and Massey) emerged at the forefront of Philadelphia soul with “Back Stabbers” (1972), and topped the Billboard Hot 100 the following year with “Love Train”. Numerous other hits followed through the 1970s and into the 80s and 90s, and The O’Jays were inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2005. (Continue Reading…)
Here is the beginning of the gleefully over-the-top profile at The O’Jay’s site:
The O’Jays is one of the world’s truly legendary singing groups and an American treasure. The term legendary is often overused, but that is an apt description for The O’Jays, a musical act that holds a unique place in the history of music. After establishing a recording history that includes an international body of work that generated 24 top ten smash records and 59 total songs on the charts, incredibly energetic and dynamic live shows, mad respect for their Olympian vocals and a social and political impact that spans many generations and multiple nations, The O’Jays could have coasted to a life of sandy beaches, umbrella-decorated drinks and total relaxation. Slowing down is not in the cards for Eddie Levert, Sr., Walter Williams, Sr. and Eric Nolan Grant however. (Continue Reading…)
For the Love of Money is below.
Here is the promotional copy about Lianne La Havas from her label, which is Nonesuch:
Lianne La Havas has emerged as one of the UK’s most buzzed-about new talents, with critically acclaimed EPs, sold-out shows worldwide and nods from the likes of Bon Iver and Ryan Adams. Her debut album, Is Your Love Big Enough?, produced by Matt Hales (Aqualung), “is not just one of the year’s best debuts,” says the AP, “but one of the year’s best albums.” Says the BBC: “It’s always been clear that La Havas has a special voice, and so it proves here. It’s a voice that invites you in, and only the hardest heart will resist the offer.” The San Francisco Chronicle exclaims: “It’s hard not to want to shout, ‘Viva La Havas!”
The Los Angeles Times — or at least music critic Randall Roberts — agrees:
In another era, when musical overload and recorded abundance hadn’t so fragmented the listening public as to diminish the notion of shared tastes, a pitch-perfect performance such as Lianne La Havas’ at the Roxy on Friday night would have reverberated beyond West Hollywood.
La Havas is a British singer and electric guitarist with a range so broad as to render genre distinctions moot. She gigged the sold-out Sunset Strip club on a rainy night and offered a batch of songs that, from the first moment of her first song, “Au Cinema,” delivered on the promise of her soulful, mature debut album, “Is Your Love Big Enough?” Continue Reading…
Thanks to Emily for suggesting this post.
Here is the beginning of the band’s Wikipedia profile:
Gladys Knight & The Pips were an R&B/soul family musical act from Atlanta, Georgia, active from 1953 to 1989. The group was best known for their string of hit singles on Motown’s “Soul” record label and Buddah Records from 1967 to 1975, including “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1967) and “Midnight Train to Georgia” (1973). The longest-lived incarnation of the act featured Gladys Knight on lead vocals, with The Pips, who included her brother Merald “Bubba” Knight and their cousins Edward Patten and William Guest, as backup singers. Continue Reading…
Here is the group’s two biggest hits: Above is Midnight Train to Georgia and below is I Heard it Through the Grapevine. Here is Knight’s site.
This is what Digital Dream Door – a great site for music lovers, by the way — wrote about Lee Dorsey:
One of the most underrated and overlooked figures of his time, Lee Dorsey signaled dramatic change in rock music during a decade of hitmaking in the 1960′s and remains widely revered among other artists even while his name to the average music fan today would barely register a glimmer of recognition.
Here is the start of the bio at last.fm:
Lee Dorsey (December 24, 1924 – December 2, 1986) was an American pop/R&B singer during the 1960s. Much of his work was produced by Allen Toussaint with instrumental backing provided by The Meters. Between 1965 and 1969 Dorsey put seven songs in the US Hot 100 charts, the most successful of which was “Working in the Coal Mine” in 1966. Continue Reading…
Above is Dorsey’s signature song, Working in the Coal Mine, on which he is backed by The Meters. His first hit, Ya Ya, was inspired by a nursery rhyme. It’s below.
Before he began to sing professionally, Dorsey fought as a light heavyweight under the name Kid Chocolate. Though the bios say he was successful in the ring, the Kid Chocolate boxing fans remember was a Cuban fighter.