COVERING R&B MUSIC

The following thoughts appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

Black artists and white singers, Rich Paschall

At the dawn of Rock and Roll in the 1950s and even into the early 1960s, it was not uncommon for white singers to cover African-American singers. Black artists did not get radio play on white radio stations. That shut them out of a lot of markets and kept much of America from hearing their songs. This opened the door wide for white singers to record songs heard only on black R&B stations, leaving the impression in many areas that they were the original artists.

DOT, a Memphis area record label founded in 1950, became big by hiring white singers to cover black songs. In fact, they made stars out of some of these singers. Among the biggest was Pat Boone, who you might see selling walk-in bathtubs these days. The crooner recorded Fats Domino’s 1955 song “Ain’t That a Shame,” which became a big hit. It had been suggested that Boone change the lyric to “Isn’t That A Shame,” perhaps to sound more “white.”  Fortunately, they resisted that bad idea. Boone followed with a number of covers that made him a household name. His next success was the Little Richard song, “Tutti Fruitti,” which Boone did not want to record. To Boone “it didn’t make sense” but he was talked into it and it went to number 12.  A song that went all the way to the top was “I Almost Lost My Mind,” originally by Ivory Joe Hunter. Nat King Cole even covered the song, but Boone had the hit. The main reason was that Boone got a lot of radio play. The others did not.

DOT made a star of Gale Storm when she covered the Smiley Lewis R&B hit, “I Hear You Knockin’.”  She also recorded “Why Do Fools Fall In Love?” Snooky Lanson and The Fontane Sisters benefited from the practice of covering other artists as well. Eventually, DOT cashed in off admitting to the practice with an album of 30 of these songs. “Cover to Cover,” includes 7 recordings by Pat Boone alone. It also includes a mediocre version of Chuck Berry’s Rock Classic, “Maybelline,” by Jim Lowe.

The white versions were generally slower and toned down in comparison to the R&B versions. They were playing to a different audience so they produced versions they thought would be more appealing to that audience. It was a sign of racially segregated times and something that would not happen now. Of course, there are still many covers, but for various other reasons.

When Elvis Presley hit the scene, he also brought with him his cover versions of older songs. His 1956 hit “Hound Dog,” was originally by Big Mama Thornton, but Elvis may have been influenced by the 1953 novelty version by Jack Granger and his Granger County Gang, aka Homer and Jethro. The 1954 hit, “That’s All Right,” belonged to Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup and was originally called “That’s All Right, Mama.”

One of the consequences of all these cover songs was they helped pave the way toward acceptance of this genre of music and eventually of some of the black artists who originated the songs.  Little Richard is said to have claimed that while teenagers and young music lovers may have had Pat Boone on top of their dressers, but they had “me in the drawer ’cause they liked my version better.” 

By the late 1950s, with the segregation of music dying out, the Doo-Wop group Little Anthony and the Imperials came along and started to hit the big time. While many of their early songs found great success for other artists, they found wider radio and television play than earlier Black R&B stars.

For a look at the Linda Ronstadt version of this song, see this past article.

DESTROYING JUSTICE

On National Voter Registration Day it is important to think about where the country is headed. Will we march in the direction of extreme right-wing politics, or find a more democratic way of running the country? Who you elect may influence the future of human and civil rights. The following was recently posted to SERENDIPITY. Vote!

A Not So Supreme Decision, by Rich Paschall

When the news leaked that the Supreme Court was going to overturn Roe vs Wade, it was quite a shock to the nation. Wasn’t this 1973 decision a matter of settled law? The case was decided by a 7-2 vote, after all. Wasn’t the court inclined to follow the precedent set by previous decisions? The abortion ruling had been challenged before. In 1992 the Supreme Court reaffirmed the Roe decision in a challenge that was brought in Planned Parenthood vs. Casey. Three Republican appointees, Justices Anthony KennedyDavid Souter, and Sandra O’Connor, voted in favor of NOT overturning Roe. That was a time when Republican appointees were still there to follow the law. That does not seem to be the case now.

“The Supreme Court of the United States has held that Roe v. Wade, that a fetus is not a person for purposes of the 14th Amendment… That’s the law of the land, I accept the law of the land, senator. Yes,” – Neil Gorsuch to Senator Durbin, March 2017 confirmation hearings.

“As a judge, it is an important precedent of the Supreme Court. By ‘it,’ I mean Roe v. Wade and Planned Parenthood v. Casey, been affirmed many times. Casey is precedent on precedent.” – Brett Kavanaugh to Senator Feinstein, September 2018.

“I’m answering a lot of questions about Roe, which I think indicates that Roe doesn’t fall in that category (a “super-precedent”) And scholars across the spectrum say that doesn’t mean that Roe should be overruled. But descriptively, it does mean that it’s not a case that everyone has accepted and doesn’t call for its overruling.” – Amy Coney Barrett in confirmation hearings, October 2020.

While Justice Barrett may have been a bit vague in confirmation hearings, she did say she would not let her personal religious views affect her legal decision-making. Were all of the Trump appointees lying to Congress in their confirmation hearings? Are they placed on the Supreme Court to do the bidding of the ultra-right wing of the Republican party? Will they be rolling back protections in other areas of civil and human rights?

Justice Clarence Thomas has already indicated as much in a written “concurring opinion” to the decision to overturn Wade. “In future cases, we should reconsider all of this Court’s substantive due process precedents,” Thomas wrote “Because any substantive due process decision is ‘demonstrably erroneous,’ we have a duty to ‘correct the error’ established in those precedents.” He specifically mentioned cases regarding contraception and same-sex marriage. That could be a signal to the ultra-right to bring such challenges to the court again so they can toss out those protections as well.

Taken April 28, 2015, the day of oral arguments to the Supreme Court, CC License

Lost in all the furor over Roe were decisions made by the same conservative justices in other 6-3 rulings. In NEW YORK STATE RIFLE & PISTOL ASSOC. V. BRUEN the group struck down a long-standing New York law regarding carrying handguns in public. This will put similar laws in other states at risk. If you are thinking that a Democratic majority will be able to strengthen gun control after the mid-terms, think again. The NRA or one of its members would likely challenge any new law and you already know what the appeals court or the Supreme Court will decide.

In WEST VIRGINIA V. ENVIRONMENTAL PROTECTION AGENCY the court limited the power of the EPA to reduce carbon emissions. This is a blow to the current administration’s desire to promote clean energy and battle climate change.

Although the federal government has set workplace standards many times through OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) and other federal agencies, a 6-3 decision in NATIONAL FEDERATION OF INDEPENDENT BUSINESS V. DEPARTMENT OF LABOR struck down a requirement for COVID-19 vaccination or testing at the nation’s largest companies.

The Conservative Six got behind school prayer rather than maintaining a separation of Church and State. In KENNEDY V. BREMERTON SCHOOL DISTRICT the court upheld a coach’s right to pray at the 50-yard line of a football game. Some thought his players felt pressured to join in.

In addition to three Supreme Court appointments made by Donald Trump, he is also responsible for 53 circuit judges to the US Court of Appeals, or close to one-third of all circuit judges. He appointed 171 federal district judges or about 28 percent of the current total. A cynic might say that Senator McConnell pushed through these appointments while he was Senate majority leader as a way of protecting Republicans against criminal prosecution. If the former president is found guilty of violating The Espionage Act, for example, what are the odds that one of his appointees or the Supreme Court will let him off the hook?

How many of these Trump judges are there to actually uphold the Constitution of the United States of America?  Since the Supreme Court has already demonstrated its willingness to ignore legal precedent and reinterpret the law, what is the probability that some or all these other Trump appointees will do the same?

Sources include:What the Trump-appointed Supreme Court justices previously said about Roe’s precedent,” ByMeredith Deliso ABC News, abcnewsgo.com June 24,2022.
Justice Thomas hints gay rights and contraception at risk after conservative majority overturns Roe v. Wade,” by Chris Morris, Fortune, fortune.com June 24, 2022.
How the Supreme Court ruled in the major decisions of 2022,” By Ann E. Marimow, Aadit Tambe, and Adrian Blanco, The Washington Post, washingtonpost.com June 30, 2022.

Bad Buddy

The following review ran at the beginning of the year on SERENDIPITY after the first 11 episodes of the popular Thai series had aired. At that time, we were eagerly awaiting the finale because BBS gave us a real cliffhanger. You probably know how it ended, but if you were one of the few who don’t know, GMM TV has started running the series again. The mini-series also continues to be available on YouTube and other streaming platforms.

Thai series review, by Rich Paschall

One of the things I have done in the past year while we continue to hide out from the pandemic is to find new entertainment options online.  When you consider what is available from around the world, the options for movies and television series seem endless. I watched a number of foreign movies, full-length and short subjects. Now I have also added some foreign television series.

Recently I mentioned the Chinese series “Dive” and its Thai co-star Chanon Santinatornkul (nickname: Nonkul) when recommending Nonkul’s English language pop tune and music video, “Won’t Tell You.”  I also watched him in a previous Chinese series “Blowing in the Wind.”  He obviously had to dub in a lot of his dialogue in the 28 episodes of “Blowing in the Wind” as working in Chinese was new to him at the time. Since then the popular Thai Actor, singer, and model has been busy with a movie, television series, and photoshoots.

From there I discovered recommendations for other Thai series. I decided to go with Bad Buddy as I liked the series trailer and thought I would enjoy the story. It is a familiar theme.

Two rival families teach their boys to dislike one another. They are made to compete in everything. When one of the mothers discovers the two boys working together in a band at school, she has her son transferred away from there. The friendship comes to an end.

The story picks up years later when both of the boys end up at the same university. One becomes president of the Architecture students while the other becomes president of the Engineering students. The groups are rivals and often end up in fights. A problem sets in when the sister of one of the leaders makes him promise not to beat up the other. This goes back to a childhood incident. Of course, they are both supposed to fight the other. Their friends and their parents would expect as much.

Ohm (Left) and Nanon

Bad Buddy stars popular Thai actor Pawat Chittsawangdee (Ohm) as the boy trying not to fight his rival. Ohm originally did not want the part as he had already been in some series where he played a gay love interest. He changed his mind when he heard they were going to cast his close friend, fellow actor, and pop singer Korapat Kirdpan (Nanon). The two handsome actors are just 21 years old and longtime friends.  The chemistry between the hate and later love relationship is perfect. It has become one of the most-watched and most-streamed series in Thailand. A Filipino dubbed version drops a day later and an English captioned version can be found on the YouTube channel GMMTV and other platforms. You may need a VPN to catch it on some other websites where content is restricted to some countries.

You will find the YouTube channel your best option, although they like to insert a lot of commercials. Like most YouTube videos, you can skip most of the commercials after 5 seconds. You will also find the Thai-sponsored products as you go back into each of the 4 segments in the hour-long comedy-drama. It seems all college students need Canon printers, drink a particular brand of flavored tea, love peppermint inhalers (seriously) and use Nivea products. The product placement in the series is a bit overdone, but we can live with it since the boys are so likable.

As each episode airs, the show starts trending on Thai social media. A popular tag is #OhmNanon. The boys have become so popular together they can be seen everywhere: In commercials, series promotions, interviews, and fan meet-ups. You name it, they have done it. In addition, due to the rise of the coronavirus, the boys from the Bad Buddy series (not just Ohm and Nanon) were kept in a Safe House for weeks to keep from getting the virus. This was set up like Big Brother with plenty of cameras to stream the house for hours a day. As a result, we have plenty of internet hours of #OhmNanon.

The stars speak basic English, and while not so good at it, they did sit through a long streaming event in English for the Filipino channel that runs their show. Ohm and Nanon are both college students and hope to continue in the craft.

[SPOLIER ALERT: Stop reading now if you want to go watch this short series.}

For eleven episodes this has been mostly a romantic comedy. It did have its serious moments, even taking on how children are taught to hate one another based on the lies of the parents. It seemed like it was heading to an acceptable conclusion for the two based on the direction of episodes 10 and 11. Then the series dropped an ominous trailer for what is coming in the final episode.

Pat (Ohm) left, and Pran (Nanon)

If you are going to take us on a rom-com journey, we certainly would not expect a “star-crossed lovers” ending to this Romeo and Romeo affair (Pat and Pran, actually). That’s what the 30-second coming attraction gave us. Are we to see a break-up?  Will there be death for one or both of our stars? Will their parents finally succeed in crushing their sons’ love?  The voice-over promises the most shocking episode of 2022. OK, it’s only January. They have suggested the boys will be torn apart.

Yes, I know. TV series love to tease us with “scenes from our next episode” that often deceive us a bit, but this trailer was a little longer and seemed like it was meant to dash the hopes of all the #PatPran fans.  I will really be annoyed if that is the ultimate ending to this pleasant little series.

Instead of trailers, I will leave you with this song Nanon sings in the series. It is littered with clips from the show. Turn on captions for English. If you are not sure this guy is really popular, check out the number of views of this video:

Update: Ohm and Nanon confirmed in an interview Thursday that they filmed three different endings. They claim not to know what was chosen and they too will have to watch to see how it ends.

See Also: “What Are You Listening To?” SERENDIPITY, December 5, 2021.

MEMORY LIGHTS THE CORNERS OF MY PHONE

The following appeared last year on SERENDIPITY. By the way, the task chair I mentioned below is not up to the task and has to go.

Hello Moto

As early as last fall I was thinking that I should buy or replace everything I need before I retire. In other words, I should get what I need now while I am still working. Social Security is inadequate in the long run. I don’t want to have to buy “stuff” later. I purchased a car with the thought it could be my last one. It mostly sits in front of the house. I will put less than a thousand miles on it the first year.  At that pace it should last a while, right?

Chevy Malibu

I recently bought a desk chair. Since I have worked from home since March of 2020, I wore out the cheaper one I had. I needed something more durable. After all, I will be sitting here writing wonderful essays for you long after retirement. I have not made up my mind yet if the latest addition is a good one, however. After sitting on it a few days, I think it may not be meant for an 8-hour day. It is called a “task” chair. I guess it is only for certain tasks.

An eye exam was on my list. I was hoping the result would be the same as the pre-pandemic exam. I literally picked up my current glasses the week everyone was shutting down. If I needed new glasses I thought I better do it while I have vision insurance. Medicare does not cover glasses and many supplemental plans don’t either. Now I understand why my grandmother had her glasses for such a long time. I don’t think they did her much good in her final years.

A phone was also on my list. I kept getting messages that I was running out of storage. I didn’t store much on the phone so I deleted apps, pictures, text messages, and voice mail. I went through the apps I used and cleared the cache, but my good friend Moto kept telling me I was low on storage. I bought this particular phone because it had a lot more storage than my previous phone. In fact, it has more computing power than the Apollo Guidance Computer that was used to land men on the moon. And yet, somehow it is not enough!

I bought the Moto e5 at Best Buy when they carried phones for Virgin Mobile USA. I had Virgin as a carrier for many years. It was really the Sprint network. My first phone did not do much more than make phone calls and send text messages. It did not even have emojis for that. Now my “smart” phone is not smart enough.

Virgin Mobile customers were sold off to another carrier, and I either had to buy a phone online or go to one of their many phone stores. Best Buy was no longer an option. I was too impatient to read through everything online, so I went to the store to ask a bright-looking millennial to help me find the right phone. Actually, I am just guessing he was bright-looking. He wore a mask and his appearance was more like a bandit, but I digress.

“I need a phone with more memory,” I told the phone geek. “I think a lot more memory would be best.” One can never tell when someone will need enough computing power to run the Starship Enterprise, so I wanted a good upgrade now. “I think I have just the thing,” Captain Kirk’s assistant said as he led me over to the Wall of Phones.

I was looking at phones of about the same size, but the Starfleet lieutenant was shaking his head. “This phone is probably what you need,” he said  He pointed at something much bigger than I what I had. I explained I did not want to break the bank or buy something bigger, I just needed more memory. The alien from the United Federation of Planets was sure he took me to the right phone.

“The younger generation is looking for something with a larger screen for watching movies,” he said. Well, of course! The same people who want a six-inch screen on their phones to watch movies and play video games are probably the same people who would be mortified if their parents had anything less than a 50-inch LED 4K Ultra High Definition smart television, but I digress…again.

“I am not going to watch movies on my phone. I have a television for that. I am not going to watch YouTube videos either. I can see those on my 21-inch computer monitor or my television. I just want a phone with more memory.”

My phone wizard must have been a graduate of the Starfleet Academy. He quickly explained all of the features of the new Motorola I should buy. “Your phone probably has 16 GB (gigabytes) of memory. This has 128GB,” he declared with a smile. Well, I think he was smiling. “You will have two days of battery life, four cameras, a faster processor,  a fingerprint sensor, and a stylus.”

“Stylus?” I queried. At that, he popped the little metal stick out of the phone to show me that we could write things down on the phone. Yes, we are so advanced, that I could take a metal stick and scratch out notes on a 6-inch surface. Now that’s progress!

L to R: AT&T phone, Virgin Mobile Super Slice, Moto e5, Moto g Stylus

The phone was triple the price of the previous phone. If I wanted something the same size as I had but with more memory, like a Samsung Galaxy, for example, I would have to pay at least 3 times the price of the new Motorola g Stylus. So I agreed to take the one with the little metal stick.

My new phone friend asked for my phone number before going back to the flight deck where they keep new phones. He set up the phone and copied everything over from the old phone. Before I left he assured me the phone would also receive text messages and make phone calls. Now that’s progress, I think.

IF THIS IS GOODBYE

Chicago and Brian Wilson have concluded their tour together for this summer. Chicago will be on tour again shortly with what will likely be a longer set. The following review of their 2022 stop in Chicago previously appeared on SERENDIPITY.

Brian Wilson and Chicago in concert, by Rich Paschall

Two headlining groups hit the road for a 25-city tour this summer. Since one of the headliners was Chicago, they of course came to Chicago. The other was Beach Boys’ founder Brian Wilson’s band featuring Al Jardine, another founding member, and Blondie Chaplin, a touring member of the Beach Boys in the 1970s. Matt Jardine, Al’s son, is also in the group and sang some of the songs the old timers would be hard pressed to sing. Someone has to do the high parts.

The 12-piece group included some musicians that have been touring with Wilson for quite some time. Musically they are quite tight. They provide the studio-quality sound Wilson prefers. Their set list is mostly a collection of Beach Boys hits, many written by Wilson himself.

While they have played together many times in recent years, this group did not exhibit the polish they have shown in the past. This could be due to Brian’s lack of involvement and the need to redistribute some of the singing assignments. The musicians are great, but there was certainly an inconsistency in the vocal quality of a few songs.

Brian Wilson has been to Chicago before. I saw him on the Beach Boys’ 50th Anniversary tour and a few times after that with his own band. Mike Love owns the name the Beach Boys and thus Brian and the other surviving Beach Boys can not use it.

Brian Wilson with Al Jardine and Blondie Chaplin

In the past, Brian seemed quite engaged in the performances. At 80, Brian is clearly struggling. Reviewers along the tour seem to agree that you do not know from night to night how engaged Wilson will be. Wilson comes out on stage with the help of a walker and is assisted by two crew members. We could not see from our location if Brian was actually playing the white baby grand piano you see at his shows. Long-time Wilson assistant, singer, and keyboard player Darian Sahanaja had a clear view from Wilson’s right and could jump in as needed, as could Matt Jardine on vocals. Wilson only sang on a few songs. Despite the weak sound of his voice on his most praised song, God Only Knows, the audience rose to its feet following the tune. The quality was not important to the adoring fans. The fact that Wilson was there and performed his most revered hit was enough.

If Wilson is to continue after this summer’s tour, it is clear his health and focus will need to improve. If he has to say goodbye to Live concert performances, we can be grateful that he has given us so many hits to enjoy. Rather than anything from the current tour, I have chosen the nostalgic piece written by Wilson, Joe Thomas, and Jon Bon Jovi from 10 years ago:

The forever touring Chicago came through town again. I really can not say how many times I have seen them over the decades, but I can say they never disappoint. After Brian Wilson’s group played for an hour and a half and there was a half-hour intermission, Chicago went on to play a set that lasted almost two hours. We had no idea we were in for a four-hour concert experience. Both groups are headliners and gave us lengthy set lists. Wilson was to play 18 songs, while Chicago had 25 on their list with a couple of encore songs.

In recent years Chicago has undergone a number of lineup changes. Keith Howland broke his arm prior to the tour and decide to call it a day. Lou Pardini bowed out and thanked the group for “a great and wild ride.” Pardini is 70. As long as they can surround those great horn players with excellent musicians and singers, the group is likely to go on for a while.

Chicago, the band

Founding members James Pankow and Lee Loughnane on trombone and trumpet do not seem to have lost any of their energy as they played through a warm summer night. I did notice Pankow made a shirt change at one point in the evening. It had to be warm on stage. Sax and flute player Ray Herrmann rounds out that horn trio and the sound we have loved for decades.


The above was from my vantage point. It does not seem as easy to hold the camera steady as it used to.

Chicago played all the songs we would expect from the group. They also gave us one that appears on their new album. Yes, Chicago, Born For This Moment, aka Chicago 38, is their first studio album of all new material in 8 years. Why stop now? The 14-track, double LP will be out in October, but most of the songs are already posted by the band. You don’t have a turntable anymore? That’s OK, there is a CD, or you can stream it or just listen on YouTube. They are currently promoting the single, “If This Is Goodbye.”

James Pankow told us this was NOT goodbye and they would be through again next year. If you can keep writing great songs and delivering quality on stage, why say goodbye just yet?

DO YOU KNOW WHAT I MEAN?

Last year I posted my top ten songs of 1971 on SERENDIPITY. Here they are again in case you need another walk down memory lane.

One Hit Wonders, 1971 edition, by Rich Paschall

It’s another Golden Anniversary and we are here at the SERENDIPITY dance hall and tea room to bring you another top ten list of songs you may have forgotten, or perhaps never knew at all. Come on over in your Hot Rod Lincoln and Get It On. Mr. Big Stuff will be here and claims, “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing.” So have a piece of American Pie as we wait for Layla to show up.

Some lists will show you American Pie as the greatest One Hit Wonder of all time. The song certainly gave Don McLean a long career. I don’t consider it a one-hit-wonder because McLean also scored with Vincent (Starry, Starry Nights), even though it did not crack the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100. It did make number 1 in the UK.

You can also find “Layla” by Derek and the Dominos on the list. Let’s face it, the band was Eric Clapton and friends. Clapton was performing under another name for personal reasons, “We were a make-believe band. We were all hiding inside it.”  It didn’t last long and Clapton certainly had more hits, including a slower version of Layla.

record player

Two groups actually scored with “I’d Like To Teach The World To Sing (In Perfect Harmony).” The Hillside Singers were the ones who appeared in the Coca-Cola commercial singing, “I’d like to buy the world a Coke” instead.  It’s the real thing! The tune was so popular they released a version without the reference to Coke which became their one-hit-wonder. The New Seekers also released a version of the song.  Between the commercials and the radio play, you could not escape this song in 1971.

Now grab a twelve-ounce bottle of your favorite beverage and the countdown will begin.

10. One Toke Over The Line, Brewer and Shipley.  If it is 1971, we don’t have to explain this one to you. Apparently, no one explained it to the conservative Lawrence Welk when his group did it. Yes, there is a video that you can find HERE.
09. Help Me Make It Through The Night, Sammi Smith. The song was written and recorded in 1970 by Kris Kristofferson. At the end of the year, Smith released her version which climbed the charts in early 1971.
08. Do You Know What I Mean, Lee Michaels. When you see your girl stepping out with your best friend, it can hurt. Do you know what I mean? The song made it to number 6 on the Hot 100.
07. Funky Nassau, The Beginning of the End. The R&B hit has been recorded by a number of artists over the years and appeared in the 1998 Blues Brothers film.
06. Theme from Summer of 42, Peter Nero. The song was a hit, and so was the movie. The score was mostly composed by Michel Legrand, including the hit theme.

And now a word from the sponsor (not our sponsor, just a sponsor):

05. Theme from Love Story, Francis Lai. The movie was a three-hanky weeper and the theme song was a hit. Paramount felt the theme song needed lyrics and many recorded “Where Do I Begin.” Henry Mancini had a bigger hit with the instrumental theme, but we give you the original.

04. Sweet City Woman, The Stampeders. The Canadian rockers topped out at number 8 on the US Billboard Hot 100 but were number one in Canada.

03. Smiling Faces Sometimes, The Undisputed Truth. It may have sounded like a Temptations song to you.  In fact, the Temptations released another version earlier in 1971. This version made it to number 3.

Signs

02. Signs, Five Man Electric Band. Another Canadian rock group makes the list. This was a big hit in Canada, the US, and Australia. It was originally the B side of another song that did not do as well. Re-released as an A-side, it climbed the charts.

01. I’ve Found Someone Of My Own, The Free Movement.  This R&B hit could have made our Breaking Up playlist recently. We will finish with a slow dance, but you may not want to pick your “ex” for a partner.

To hear any of the one-hit wonders, click on the title. To hear the entire playlist, click HERE.

HURT SO BAD

Last summer on the SERENDIPITY website, we took the opportunity to update a short profile of a great American singer, Linda Ronstadt.

No silencing Linda Ronstadt

All through the 1970s, you could not leave your transistor radio on for long without hearing the distinctive voice of Linda Ronstadt.  She emerged from her early time with The Stone Poneys in the mid-’60s as broke, from paying for much of their third and final album, but with a solo career emerging.  Her cover of Mike Nesmith’s “Different Drum” became a hit and she was on her way.

After assembling a strong group of musicians and friends, she went ahead with both covers of songs from the 50s and ’60s as well as some new songs.  The combination brought her hit after hit and made her one of the best-selling female artists of all time.  She posted 10 top ten songs and one of her hottest was a cover of the Little Anthony and the Imperials’ song, Hurt So Bad,” which peaked in 1980.

In a career that lasted until 2011, Ronstadt sold over 100 million records and her voice can be heard on an astounding 120 albums.  She has an impressive collection of awards, including 12 Grammys.  She remained popular until her retirement in 2011 when she declared herself “100 percent retired.”  While some walk away from their careers as they get older, it is always somewhat of a surprise when a famous person retires.  You really expect them to come back at some point.  That was never going to happen for Ronstadt, at least not as a singer

The problem was she could no longer sing.  She was physically unable.  In 2012 she was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease and in August 2013 the news was stated publically.  Her induction to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame came too late in her career. In April 2014, the disease progressed to the point where she could not perform at her induction, or even attend.  Her friends took her place on stage, singing out her biggest hits in tribute.

In July 2014, President Obama handed out twelve 2013 National Medals of Arts and Humanities, including one for Linda Ronstadt.  This honor was not to be denied to her.  She was brought to Washington and wheeled into the East Room by a military aide, but she stood and walked up to the President of the United States to receive her award “for her one-of-a-kind voice and her decades of remarkable music.”  After the ceremony, President Obama admitted to the crowd,  “I told Linda Ronstadt I had a crush on her back in the day.”  It’s OK to admit that.  Millions of other boys did too.

In 2019 she received the Kennedy Center Honors and again made the trip to receive the award. Stars paid tribute.

As she has done a few times in recent years, Linda sat down at the Kennedy Center for an interview about her long and illustrious career. It was cut short by disease but she has expressed peace with all that she accomplished.

That same year she contributed comments to the documentary “Linda Ronstadt: The Sound Of My Voice.” She won another Grammy for Best Music Film. It was awarded at the 63rd Grammys in 2021. The presentation had been delayed by the Coronavirus.  In 2020 she worked on another documentary. “Linda and the Mockingbirds,” a road trip to Linda’s musical roots in Mexico. This month Linda Ronstadt turned 75.

IT’S HARD TO DO

This Breaking Up Top Ten appeared last year on SERENDIPITY.

Breaking Up

Nothing lasts forever. That includes relationships. Some may start out as a dream and end up as a nightmare. It may be easy to walk away from some, while in other cases it could be difficult and expensive. Here at the SERENDIPITY clinic and spa, we feel that music therapy can help you through a troublesome period. Therefore, we have come to you with another Top Ten list for the occasion. If clouds are forming on the horizon, we are here to help.

Photo: Garry Armstrong

We begin with an honorable mention. Few people have had hits with different versions of the same song. Our favorite octogenarian did that long ago with Breaking Up Is Hard To Do. Thirteen years after his chart-topping rock and roll version, he had another top ten hit with this song in 1975. Sedaka originally prepared the slower version for Lenny Welch in 1970.

When you are “Dreaming With A Broken Heart” (John Mayer) you may be asking “What About Us?” (Pink). “Someone Like You” (Adele) may just have to admit “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Bonnie Raitt) if you don’t. It may seem like there “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Bill Withers) but you will be a “Survivor” (Destiny’s Child). Just “Let Her Go” (Passenger) and “Don’t Think Twice” (Bob Dylan). Our top ten list will be the “Best Thing” (Beyonce) to “Fix You” (Coldplay).

10. Hit The Road, Jack – Ray Charles. “I guess if you said so, I’ll have to pack my things and go.” The 1962 song picked up the Grammy for Best R&B Performance.
09. Cry Me A River – Justin Timberlake. No, it’s not the American standard many of us know, but it is the same sentiment.  “You must have me confused with some other guy, The bridges were burned, Now it’s your turn, to cry.”
08. Apologize –  One Republic. Sometimes it is “Too late to apologize” as the pop band pointed out in this 2007 hit song. “You tell me that you’re sorry, Didn’t think I’d turn around and say, That it’s too late to apologize, it’s too late.
07. Go Your Own Way – Fleetwood Mac. The soap opera that is the long-time rock band has produced a lot of hit songs about their various relationships. This one is allegedly Lindsey Buckingham’s break-up song aimed at Stevie Nicks. The Top ten hit had Nicks on backup vocals.
06. Love Yourself – Justin Beiber.  Yes, the pop star keeps turning up on our lists. If you substitute the word “love” in the title with another four-letter word, you can probably get the gist of the true meaning of this 2015 hit song. “You think you broke my heart, oh girl for goodness sake, You think I’m crying on my own, well I ain’t.”

05. F Your Love – Darin. Sometimes you just have to say it.  Things do not always end well and you may feel like adding “Wish I could go back in time, And wipe all your kisses off.” The song was originally released in 2013. The official video was released in 2016. No, he doesn’t use the word you are thinking of, the video is strictly PG-13.

04. I Will Survive – Gloria Gaynor. This 1978 disco mega-hit is not just a favorite dance tune, it is also one of the ultimate breakup songs. “I should have changed that stupid lock, I should have made you leave your key, If I’d known for just one second you’d be back to bother me.”

03. Cry Me A River – Julie London. The song was originally written with Ella Fitzgerald in mind, but London had a hit with it first in 1955. The popular tune has been recorded by a wide variety of singers, including Fitzgerald.

02. I Wanna Be Around – Tony Bennett. Sometimes what goes around, comes around. If you wait long enough karma might strike and give that certain someone what is due:
And that’s when I’ll discover that revenge is sweet
As I sit there applauding from a front-row seat
When somebody breaks your heart
Like you, like you broke mine

Neil Sedaka

01. Breaking Up Is Hard To Do – Neil Sedaka.  “Down dooby doo down down” OK, it did not have to make sense, it was early rock and roll. We could not leave you with slow or sad music, so we are bringing Neil back for an encore with the original version of the song. Sing along.  It will make you feel better.

To hear any song on YouTube, click on the title, or listen to the entire “Breaking Up” playlist here.

THE TIME IT IS TODAY

The following appeared last summer on SERENDIPITY:

For all of the 21st century so far, I have been looking for music with social relevance. Yes, there have been a few songs, but not much from my point of view. And who are the young writers contributing songs with meaning this century?  Neil Young, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, U2?  

Those guys are still at it, but in this era of social unrest, global pandemic, and political divide you might expect more young voices to be heard. Consider the list below. Will anyone give us such a list of songs today?

simon-garfunkle-greatest-hits-album-cover

Enter The Young, When Songs Had Meaning

1967-1971 protests at Columbia University in NYC

There was a time I will describe as late Beatles up to pre-disco when many songs had a deeper meaning, that is to say, a “social commentary”.  The air was filled with thoughtful and thought-provoking lyrics.  Some will argue that these songs helped to sway a nation toward greater equality and away from a war of questionable merits.  For a while, many songwriters abandoned “Ooh baby, baby,” to write about war, race, poverty, inhumanity, and life in the ghetto rather than life on the “easy street”.  This was the era in songwriting where the words were as important as the notes being played.

Here they come, yeah
Some are walking, some are riding
Here they come, yeah
And some are flying, some just gliding
Released after years of being kept in hiding
They’re climbing up the ladder rung by rung

Bob Dylan had been speaking to us for years, but suddenly so was McCartney and Lennon, then John Lennon on his own.  Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Carol King, Paul Simon, Bruce Springsteen, Curtis Mayfield, Lou Reed, and Marvin Gaye can all be added to the list and on and on.  There were many more with just a few hits but a big social impact.

Enter the young, yeah
Yeah, they’ve learned how to think
Enter the young, yeah
More than you think they think
Not only learned to think but to care
Not only learned to think but to dare

My absolute favorite among the thoughtful lyrics were those done by a group called The Association.  They are probably best known for their hit songs “Cherish,” “Windy” and “Along Comes Mary.”  These songs are filled with clever rhymes and many unique “plays on words.”  “Cherish” taught me I could rhyme that word with “perish” and I used it for a wedding lyric years later.

Yeah, here they come
Some with questions, some decisions
Here they come
And some with facts and some with visions

Of a place to multiply without the use of divisions
To win a prize that no one’s ever won

They also commented on society in songs like “The Time It Is Today,” “Enter the Young,” and the biting and rather haunting sounds of “Requiem For The Masses.”   It was filled with the symbolism of those that died for the red, white, and blue as well as dealing with the issues of race (“Black and white were the questions that so bothered him, he never asked, he was taught not to ask, but was on his lips as they buried him.) The hard-hitting song was the B-side of the pop hit, “Never My love.”

Here they come, yeah
Some are laughing, some are crying
Here they come
And some are doing, some are trying
Some are selling, some are buying
Some are living, some are dying
But demanding recognition one by one

They did get recognition, along with many other such groups, if only for a moment in musical history.  Where are the meaningful song lyrics of today?  I wonder.

Not only learned to think but to care
Not only learned to think but to dare

I wore out this album as I found every song to be worthy of constant replay.  I was a teenager, and I thought it was great.  All these years later, I still do.  I chose the video above as I could find no performance of this song except a weak cover version and this one rendered the best sound. Enter The Young by Terry Kirkman 1966 Beachwood Music Corp.

BOB, BOB, BOBIN’ ALONG

The following appeared last summer on SERENDIPITY.

Running Around The Backyard, by Rich Paschall

We didn’t care too much about the backyard last year. Perhaps you hear about the Pandemic of 2020? We weren’t going to have yard parties and a lot of extra yard work did not seem worth it. I did make my usual attempt to kill off weeds, which included the pervasive clover. I might “be all in clover,” but that does not mean I want the backyard to be as well.

This year has become the year of the drought in this part of the Midwest.  With less than 7 inches of precipitation this year, we are around 9 inches below normal. If this keeps up much longer, we will be calling the local rainmaker.

Robin and Clover, over and over

Despite the dry conditions, some plants, birds, and small animals seem to be doing quite well. The clover is back in full force. Hostas refuse to die. Roses are blooming for the first time in several years. The barberry bushes are a thorny issue. The daffodils did well and now daisies are coming to take their place. And we have some very nice flowers that I have no idea what they are. Perhaps you can help identify them.

Unidentified flowering object
Draught resistant?

On my many trips to clean up all the seed pods and other things the hundred-year-old tree wishes to throw at me, I am often accompanied by a robin. He seems to have great luck finding just the right insects and worms for his diet. Sometimes during the day I look out the back window and see a starling attempt to run him off some tasty treat, but mostly he does quite well.

Bobin along

Usually, I do not have my camera with me when the robin is searching very close to me. I did remember to bring it a few times to catch him in his bug quest. I confess I never heard him throbbing his own sweet song.

I’m just a kid again, doing what I did again, singing a song,
When the red, red robin comes bob, bob bobbin’ along.

Songwriter: Harry Woods.