Category Archives: Paul Simon

T is for Three "Tender" Tunes


If you check only the Wikipedia post for the song Try a Little Tenderness, you’ll find the listing dominated by references to Otis Redding. While he did perform the benchmark version in the mid-1960s, a live version of which you can watch here, the song has a much richer history.

Here’s a version of the song, written by “Irving King” (James Campbell and Reginald Connelly) and Harry M. Woods, performed by Francis Albert Sinatra; click on the button on the upper right side of the page. Interesting that this version has an intro not generally used.

The Wikipedia notes a bunch of other folks who also recorded, including “on December 8, 1932 by the Ray Noble Orchestra (with vocals by Val Rosing) followed by both Ruth Etting and Bing Crosby in 1933.

But in my Top Pop Singles, under the Otis Redding listing for the song, it says: “#6 hit for Ted Lewis in 1933”, though the Wikipedia doesn’t note Lewis at all. Here’s the Ted Lewis version (song #8), with a lengthy instrumental before the lyrics come in.

Who IS this Ted Lewis? According to my Top Memories, 1890-1954 book, this song charted for him in February of 1933 for 10 weeks, getting up to #6. But he had 101 Top 20 hits between 1920 and 1934; Tenderness being the 92nd. Among his #1 hits:
When My Baby Smiles at Me (1920-7 weeks), All By Myself (1921-4 weeks), O! Katharina (1925-1 week), Just A Gigilo (1931-2 weeks; yes, the song later covered by David Lee Roth, formerly of Van Halen), In A Shanty in Old Shanty Town (1932-10 weeks), and Lazybones (1933-4 weeks).

Ruth Etting also charted with Tenderness on 3/18/33 for two weeks. She had 62 Top 20 Hits between 1926 and 1937, this being the 59th, with her biggest hit Life Is A Song in 1935 (2 weeks at #1).

Otis Redding’s version got to #25 in the pop charts and #4 on the rhythm and blues charts in December 1966. The song is listed in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and is #204 in a list of Rolling Stone magazine’s greatest songs. Otis’ biggest hit, unfortunately, was posthumous: (Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay in the winter of 1968, which went to #1 won a number of Grammy awards, as well as citations by Rolling Stone (#28), R&RHOF, RIAA, NPR and BMI

Before Otis, Aretha Franklin had a minor hit (#100 in 1962), and after Three Dog Night (#29 in 1969). But it has become a staple in the repertoire of many an artist.

Paul Simon’s second album after his breakup with Art Garfunkel was the eclectic There Goes Rhymin’ Simon, featuring songs such as Kodachrome and Loves Me Like A Rock. The 1973 collection also featured a lovely song called Tenderness, which Like Loves Me Like a Rock features the vocal stylings of the gospel group the Dixie Hummingbirds. (Unfortunately, all I could find is this cover version.) The album went to #2 and signaled a successful solo career to come, featuring albums such as Still Crazy After All these Years (#1 in 1975) and Graceland (#3 in 1986).

Paul Simon won the very first Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song in 2007, succeeded by Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney.

The 1956 Elvis Presley hit Love Me Tender had a peculiar songwriting history, explained here. Briefly, it was written as Aura Lee nearly a century earlier. The adaptation was credited to Presley and the songwriting adapter’s wife, neither of whom actually wrote it. It was the title song of Elvis’ film debut.

I learned http://www.metrolyrics.com/aura-lee-lyrics-traditional.htmlAura Lee in grade school so found Love Me Tender as somehow peculiar. In fact, the school kids made up a song to Aura Lee, sung with the Elvis enunciation:

When you must take medicine
Take it orally
That’s because the other way
Is more painfully.

Orally, orally
Take it orally
That’s because…the other way…
Is more painfully.

Anyway, here’s the classic Presley tune, the fourth of a dozen and a half #1 hits in the United States. (The 31-song ELV1S album contained #1s in the US and/or the UK.)

ROG

Music by the Decade QUESTION

Groundhog’s Day is for recollecting: It’s not THAT neat and tidy, but it seems that each decade of my music collecting life was dominated by a few groups or solo artists.
1960s: The Beatles, the Supremes. Sure, I could add the Rascals, the Rolling Stones, the Temptations, Simon & Garfunkel, and undoubtedly others.
1970s: Clearly Stevie Wonder and Paul Simon. I have every album each one put out (yes, even Stevie’s Secret Life of Plants). Other contenders: Joni Mitchell, Joan Armatrading, Beach Boys, Elton John, Neil Young.
1980s: Talking Heads, the Police. I also considered Bruce Springsteen, Prince, REM, Neil Young.
1990s: Johnny Cash and Nirvana. Also Mary Chapin Carpenter, Lyle Lovett, U2, Beatles.
2000s: There hasn’t been an overriding group, but I’ll suggest that compilations by Fred Hembeck and Lefty Brown (along with Lefty’s fellow travelers) has definitely shaped my music the most this century.

So what music has dominated your life at various points? You don’t have to break it down in 10-year periods, as I did, but whatever bite-sized time frame you wish. ROG

"The fighter still remains"

Lefty had a question recently: Do you have a “special song” that is tied to an event in your life? I feel there are LOTS of songs that bring me specifically to a time and place, from Etta James’ At Last, which was played at Carol’s and my wedding after our five-year off-and-on courtship to Albinoni’s Adagio sung by my church choir three weeks before my friend Arlene died of cancer. There are probably hundreds of these.

Since Paul Simon’s birthday is today, I thought I’d note the effect of the songs of Simon & Garfunkel on me.

Album: Wednesday Morning 3 A.M.
Not so much, since I got it well after its 1964 release, maybe not until 1968.

Album: Sounds of Silence
We read the poem Richard Cory by Edwin Arlington Robinson in English class in junior high, and we were struck that, in the song, the protagonist, even after Cory’s suicide, STILL sings:
But I work in his factory
And I curse the life I’m living
And I curse my poverty
And I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be,
Oh, I wish that I could be
Richard Cory.

Was the worker suicidal as well? When you’re 13 or 14, this is heavy stuff.

Album: Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme
It was my father who bought this, not for me or my sisters, but for himself.
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy): possibly the first S&G song I owned personally, from a Columbia compilation album, Best of ’66; covers of Homeward Bound (by Chad & Jeremy) and Cloudy (by The Cyrkle, who had a hit with Simon’s Red Rubber Ball) was on it, too. So, I got to appreciate Paul as a WRITER.
The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine: I got razzed about this title.
A Simple Desultory Philippic (or How I Was Robert McNamara’d Into Submission: I was obsessed with this song, playing it over and over. (It has a Beatles reference, and it rocks.) When I got the S&G box set, the album was heavily represented, but to my disappointment, this song was not on it.
7 O’Clock News/Silent Night: My father’s favorite song. “In Chicago Richard Speck, accused murderer of nine student nurses, was brought before a grand jury today for indictment.” I remembered that case very well, and knew that there were eight nurses who died, as one was able to hide. So the codification of wrong information on the album really bugged me; a librarian, even then.

Album: Bookends
Voices of Old People: “I’d give, without regret, $100 for that picture.” Been there.
Mrs. Robinson: Since I never saw The Graduate until fairly recently, I mused on the meaning of this song for decades.
Punky’s Dilemma: “Old Roger draft-dodger, Leavin’ by the basement door, Everybody knows what he’s Tippy-toeing down there for.” Talkin’ about being razzed.
At the Zoo: Like many of these songs, I knew/know all the lyrics. My high school friend Carol HATED this song.

Album: Bridge Over Troubled Waters
My sister’s boyfriend had bought her the Bridge single. What I remember now is that the single was in a different key from the album cut; can’t remember which was higher. Or maybe it was different tape speeds, but the versions are not quite the same.
Cecilia: Among the group of the left-of-center, anti-war folks I hung out with in high school was Cecily, who I’m still friends with.
The Boxer: Another song I knew well, and eventually experienced “a comeon from the whores on 7th avenue” as described here. (I may have been lonesome, but I took no comfort there.)
Why Don’t You Write Me: A paean to everyone back home during my freshman year of college.

The solo Paul was even more significant. I’ll have to do that sometime.
ROG

Reasons To Be Cheerful, Part 2

Here’s the second part of that rambling roster of songs that I end up playing more than once at a time. This list is hardly exhaustive, as I probably played some singles to death in my youth. Or later (Ian Dury and the Blockheads’ Hit Me With Your Rhythm Stick comes to mind in the “later” category.) Also, I should note that there are some albums I almost never parsed, because they are of a piece: What’s Going On by Marvin Gaye immediately comes to mind. Also, I’ve been picking one per artist, though this doesn’t prevent me from picking a group and a solo artist from that group.

Drinkin’ Wine Spodee-O-Dee-Stick McGhee. Atlantic Rhythm and Blues: 1947-1974 was a seven double-LP set. This song is from 1949. (Incidentally, the box set is now eight CDs.)

White Lines (Don’t Do It)-Melle Mel and Grandmaster Flash. I still have that 12″ from 1983. Love the vocal, love the horns.

Words-the Monkees. When I got a greatest hits album from someone, I had forgotten about this tune with an insistent rhythm.

Cars-Gary Numan. One of the last 45s I ever bought. It’s that wowowowowowo synth before the drum.

For the Love of Money-the O’Jays. Long before Donald Trump co-opted it, I loved this tune. On greatest hits CD.

Love in Them There Hills-the Pointer Sisters. The last song on the eclectic That’s A-Plenty LP, it’s Philly soul. Used to listen to it in the dark.

Do What You Want To-Billy Preston. Starts off a bit slowly but builds up speed. From the That’s the Way God Planned It LP, produced by George Harrison, first song on the album. This does exist digitally, but, unfortunately, not in my collection.

Let’s Go Crazy-Prince. Sometimes, it’s the first song on the Purple Rain LP, other times it’s the seven-minute EP, but from the preaching in the beginning to the guitar solo near the end, one of my favorite songs ever.

A Salty Dog-Procol Harum. The vocal, the sparse instrumentation in the beginning, the drums. From a greatest hits LP.

Crazy Little Thing Called Love-Queen. Rockabilly Queen? From the greatest hits LP.

It’s the End of the World As We Know It-R.E.M. And I feel fine. From the Document CD.

Kicks-Paul Revere & the Raiders. The first anti-drug song. From a greatest hits LP.

I Am Waiting-the Rolling Stones. From the Aftermath LP, near the end. Beautiful chorus, rocking bridge. I like how they change up the vocal near the end.

Anyone Who Had A Heart-Linda Ronstadt. Written by Bacharach and David, and originally done by Dionne Warwick, I think it’s just quite beautiful. From the Winter Light CD.

Jerks on the Loose-the Roches. The last song on the Robert Fripp-produced Keep On Doing LP, it contains a message I repeat when a car tries to beat an ambulance through an intersection, or I witness some other foolishness: “Be on your guard; jerks on the loose.”

At the Zoo-Simon & Garfunkel. The last song on Bookends, another song that I know all the lyrics to. I have a friend in Austin, TX named Carol, who I’ve know most of my life, as we met in kindergarten. I specifically recall that in high school, she HATED this song. Also, Strawberry Fields Forever. (The things the mind recalls.)

Boy In the Bubble-Paul Simon. The first song on the Graceland album. There is also a six-minute version of this that starts with nothing but percussion that I’ve heard, but have never seen in digitized form that I covet.

Rubberband Man-Spinners. OK, a silly song, and even sillier at seven minutes, which I have on some LP, but I like it anyway.

I’ve Got a Line On You-Spirit. Rockin’, doubled guitar, first song on some LP.

East St. Louis Toodle-O-Steely Dan. From some LP, it’s Duke Ellington. As some comics guy put it, ’nuff said.

The Ostrich-Steppenwolf. Talked about this here.

Hot Fun In the Summertime-Sly & the Family Stone. With all the uptempo songs Sly did, it’s this stroll that I kept coming back to. From the Greatest Hits LP.

The Logical Song-Supertramp-Starts with a good bottom, then has great lyrics: “radical, liberal, fanatical, criminal”. The sax puts it over the top. Second song on the LP. The song that actually inspired the posts.

Love Is Like An Itchin’ in My Heart-the Supremes. Like many Motown tunes, lives on the bottom. A greatest hits CD I own has an extra 20 glorious seconds.

Take Me To the River-Talking Heads. I can’t sing like my cousin, Al Green. But if I ever did karaoke, and I never plan to, it would likely be this version I’d try to emulate.

Shower the People-James Taylor. It was the bass vocal harmonization in the latter stages of the song I liked to sing along with. First on some Warner Brothers Loss Leaders LP.

I Can’t Get Next to You-the Temptations. Producer Barrett Strong swiped this multi-lead vocal model from Sly Stone (so did Prince, on 1999, e.g.), and it’s never better than on this.

It’s For You-Three Dog Night. This cover of a song Lennon & McCartney gave away (to Cilla Black, I think). It starts a cappella, then has an instrumental bridge, then back to vocals only. When the instruments return, one can tell that the vocals are ever so slightly flat. I kept playing it, hoping somehow that I could will the pitch up. From their first, and best, LP.

Wilbury Twist-Traveling Wilburys. I’ve almost hurt myself following the detailed instructions. The shared vocals give it a particularly goofy flavor.

When Love Comes To Town-U2. I’ve hit the replay button so often, I can tell it’s the 12th track on Rattle and Hum AND on the best of album, 1980-1990. Start with that insistent drum start, B.B. King’s guitar playing. And while Bono’s vocals are fine, it’s B.B.’s that nail this song for me.

As-Stevie Wonder. The penultimate tune on Songs In the Key of Life, I was particularly taken by the totally different vocal on the “preach” section: “We all know sometimes life’s hates and troubles…”

When You Dance, I Can Really Love-Neil Young. Unofficially, a theme song for a college romance. From the After the Gold Rush LP, second side somewhere.

ROG

The Great 28

Twenty-eight years ago today, Lynn Moss made an honest man out of Fred Hembeck, a story he’s written about here (June 23), here (June 23), here, and ESPECIALLY here. Kudos to you both. Go to Fred’s MySpace blog and send them your best wishes.
***
And speaking of Mr. Hembeck, he e-mailed to remind me that Paul, Ringo, Yoko and Olivia are set to appear on Larry King’s CNN show June 26 (9 pm Eastern, 8pm Central) to discuss the first anniversary of Cirque de Soleil’s Fab-inspired “Love” show. Incidentally, my wife went to the Cirque de Soleil show “Delirium” this week in Albany with a friend of hers, while I stayed home with Lydia. She said it was very good, but that she needed to watch some more MTV or something, because of all the frenetic movement.
***
The other music-related thing I’ll be taping this week is “Paul Simon: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song”. On my local PBS station, it airs Wednesday at 9 pm, and features a bunch of folks singing the songs of Simon. It was taped last month.
***
I’ve never golfed in my life, yet I was intrigued by last weekend’s piece in the Wall Street Journal, The Problem With ‘Par’; If players at this weekend’s U.S. Open can’t hit the target score, who can? by John Paul Newport (June 16, 2007). Specifically, this paragraph:
“The notion of par has always been somewhat mushy, and is further confused by the word’s other English-language usages. In most PGA Tour events, for instance, subpar scores are par for the course. Unless, of course, a pro is feeling physically subpar, in which case he might shoot above par. On the other hand, only amateurs with decidedly above-par skills can ever hope to post subpar scores.”
***
If I lived in the Los Angeles area, I think I would apply for this job out of sheer curiosity:

The following position is available at E! Networks:
Job Title: Researcher
Organization: Research
City: Los Angeles
State: CA
Full-time position with benefits providing research, public records and ready reference.

Description: Provide entertainment research in support of all Comcast Entertainment Group units (E!, Style, G4, E! Online, International) including the following:
* Supply in-depth story and background research to assist writers and production staff.
* Locate court documents for legal backup.
* Access public records to locate individuals and track assets.
* Review copyright and trademark records to establish ownership and locate rights holders.
* Answer “ready reference” questions.
* Vet scripts for accuracy and perform fact checking.
* Help maintain both conventional and digital archives and databases.
Skills: College degree required; experience working in a library, archive or research setting; excellent organizational skills; extensive understanding of online databases, particularly Lexis/Nexis; excellent writing, spelling and grammatical skills; ability to work well under pressure; interest or experience working in the entertainment field a plus.
E! Networks is proud to be an equal opportunity employer.

Contact Gina Handsberry at E! Entertainment. Please direct all inquiries to her at ghandsberry@eentertainment.com. She writes, on a listserv I access:
“This is not a media research position (i.e., we do not analyze Nielsen data). Rather, it is a show research position (we provide content research for the programs on the network) and would be well suited for a librarian, information professional, or anyone who has experience doing research for journalistic endeavors. It’s not an easy position to fill, so I thought a post here couldn’t hurt!”
ROG

My Back Is Killing Me

On Memorial Day, I was carrying Lydia’s not-so-little red wagon down the back step of the house. I stepped down on what should have been the penultimate step and ended up on my back, the wagon on top of me. I discovered that step was lower on the left side by about an inch and a quarter than it was on the right.

You might think 1.25 inches isn’t much, but when you can’t actually SEE the steps, it’s like a chasm. Falling down these stairs, at least in this case, is somewhat like sliding into second base. One starts vertically, and ends up horizontal. The difference is intentionality; I didn’t plan to land on my backside carrying the wagon. (Also, no one in Major League Baseball seems to slide feet first anymore.)

Immediately after the fall, I thought, “I need to sue the landlord.” Then I had that annoying realization: I AM the landlord. When you’ve lived in housing owned by others for the vast majority of your life, home ownership, even after eight years, is still a bit of a foreign concept.

The house I grew up in was owned by my maternal grandmother, which, as I think back on it, may have contributed to the tension between her and my father. My parents didn’t buy their own place until shortly after I went to college.

So, I’ve been a renter most of my life. This means I’ve moved a number of times, some number north of 20, maybe as many as 30; I forget. Given the fact that I didn’t move from the time I was six months old until I went to college, that meant about once a year in my adulthood prior to being a homeowner. Since I stayed some places longer than a year, other places were much shorter. 1977, e.g., I was in Charlotte, NYC and New Paltz. In 1978, I was at three different addresses in Schenectady, four if you count the four days I spent at one location.

But the rate of change has slowed, I spent 4.5 years in one apartment before I got married. One year in the house Carol bought before we met, and now seven years here.

The downside of moving so often are that it’s harder to peg time. “Oh, that happened when I was living on Madison Avenue; must have been ’82 or ’83.” the other downside is that the ability for stuff to clutter up certain rooms is so much easier. But I’ll deal.

Oh, and the back is still sore, as is my left knee, which I seem to have hyperextended. I say “seem” because I haven’t gone to the doctor, yet. I will if it isn’t better soon.
***
And speaking of stuff, we have an overstuffed chair and a pull-out sofa bed that we’ve been trying to get rid of (i.e., give away if someone would just haul it off) for weeks. The chair’s going on the curb this week, the sofa next. The street entrepreneurs, I hope, will pick them up before they end up in the landfill. I’ve tired of having two stuffed chairs and two sofas in the living room.
***
Things I like about June: music on PBS. Alison Krauss live and also a tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on Wednesday. Later in the month, the Gershwin Award to Paul Simon, with a whole bunch of folks singing Simon songs.

ROG