Category Archives: soul music

Norman Whitfield


Surely, my initial appreciation for songwriter Norman Whitfield came at that juncture in the career of Motown’s Temptations in 1968 when David Ruffin, the lead vocalist on “My Girl” and most of the hits up to that point, left the group and was replaced by Dennis Edwards. At the same time, Whitfield became the exclusive producer for the group, and implemented what he freely admitted that he stole from Sly Stone: the multi-lead singer motif, best exemplified by the hit “I Can’t Get Next To You”, number 31 on this list. At the same time, he, along with Barrett Strong (who, incidentally sang the first Motown semi-hit, Money) wrote virtually all of their hits: “Cloud Nine”, “Psychedelic Shack”, “Ball of Confusion”, “Just My Imagination”, “Papa Was a Rolling Stone,” to name just a few of the “psychedelic soul” tunes.

But in fact, Norman ended up writing or co-writing tunes for the early Temps (“Ain’t Too Proud to Beg”, “Beauty Is Only Skin Deep”) and many others:

Bright Lights, Big City

I Heard It Through the Grapevine. This is the Pips version, which went to #2 in 1967. Rumor has it that it was covered later to even greater effect.

He Was Really Saying Something

(I Know) I’m Losing You

Too many fish in the sea

Needle in a Haystack

Not to mention:

Wherever I Lay My Hat (That’s My Home)

Too Busy Thinking About My Baby

Smiling Faces Sometimes

War

Really Saying Something

Car Wash

Norman Whitfield died Tuesday, September 16 at the age of 67. He suffered from complications of diabetes and had recently emerged from a coma, The Detroit Free Press reported.

Whitfield, with Barrett Strong, was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2004. Whitfield and Strong won the Grammy in 1972 for best R&B song for the Temptations’ “Papa Was a Rolling Stone.” Whitfield won another Grammy in 1976 for best original TV or motion picture score for the hit, “Car Wash.”

Motown great Smokey Robinson called Whitfield “one of the most prolific songwriters and record producers of our time. He will live forever through his great music.”
ROG

Best "Greatest Hits" Albums QUESTIONS

Yahoo had this list of “best of” albums last week. I’ll note if I have ’em. Do you? Or perhaps another album by that artist. Maybe you have suggestions not on the list at all. I’d inclined to have Aretha Franklin and Randy Newman represented.
25) Nirvana–Nirvana:
I have three or four Nirvana albums, but no GH.

24)Greatest HitsEagles:
Yes, I have it. And I’m not ashamed. The best selling album of all time in the U.S, if you believe the RIAA figures.


23) The Best Of Blondie–Blondie:
Yup.

22) Back To MonoPhil Spector & Various Artists:
This is actually a box set – 3 CDs plus the Christmas album -of music of the Ronettes, Crystals, Righteous Brothers, and much more. Got it.


21) Meaty, Beaty, Big And BouncyThe Who:
Actually have this on vinyl. While I have a more comprehensive Who GH on CD, I do like this one better.

20) The Kinks KroniklesThe Kinks:

No, I have The Ultimate Collection.


19) The Motown BoxVarious Artists:
“It’s not just any label that can release a boxed set of their best acts and establish both group identity and label identity. Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Four Tops all carved out their sound within the confines of a Detroit recording studio and the overhearing ears of Berry Gordy Jr.” Got it AND its follow-up.

18) Chronicle Vol. 1Creedence Clearwater Revival:
“Creedence Clearwater Revival had the distinction of scoring a string of #2 hit singles. Not #1. Someone else always hogged that spot for themselves. But Creedence did manage 19 hit singles that are collected here…” And I have it.


17) EchoesPink Floyd:
Actually, no. though I must have a half dozen Floyd albums.

16) Staring At The Sea–The Cure:
Have only one or two Cure albums and this isn’t one of them.


15) Louder Than BombsThe Smiths:
Have some Smiths and Morrisey solo, but not this.

14) The Chess BoxChuck Berry:
No, I have Golden Decade.


13) We Sold Our Souls For Rock N’ RollBlack Sabbath:
Actually own no Black Sabbath at all, except on compilations.

12) The Very Best OfPrince:
Not this, but I have a two-CD collection. I have quite a bit of His Purpleness, actually.


11) The Very Best Of The Doors (2CD)–The Doors:
Not this 2007 collection, but another one.

10) The Top Ten HitsElvis Presley:
I have these two CDs, but frankly I’m surprised they didn’t go for that #1s album, which I ALSO own.


9) ManiaRamones:
Recently bought a different Ramones compilation.

8) Smash Hits–Jimi Hendrix: Have it on vinyl, and a different compilation on CD.


7) Greatest Hits, Volume 2Bob Dylan:
Have it on vinyl.

6) Greatest HitsAl Green: Have it.


5) Decade–Neil Young:
One of those things I bought twice, once the 3 LPs, then the 2 CDs.

4) Greatest Hits–Sly And The Family Stone:
. I’ve long had this album as a contender for my island albums. Some people seem to think that bringing a GH to the island is sacrilege, but at least three of these songs never made it to 33 1/3 until this collection.


3) Star Time–James Brown:
Not this 4-CD box, but a single disc.

2) Hot Rocks–The Rolling Stones:
Have on LP. Have all the songs in some digitized form, though.


1) 1–The Beatles:
No. I own every American LP and British CD in the canon. Why do I need this?

ROG

Q is 75


To an audience who may know Quincy Jones best as the father of actress Rashida Jones, formerly of the television show The Office, I wanted to write about the massive impact that Q has had on popular music. I went to the Wikipedia post, which was a good start, but the discography was sorely lacking. This Rolling Stone discography isn’t bad, but is missing vital elements. The CBS Sunday Morning story from this past weekend, which currently isn’t even online, just touches on his importance.

Personally, I own a wide range of Q’s output, from some of those Frank Sinatra sides he arranged such as “Fly Me to the Moon”, to those Lesley Gore hits such as “It’s My Party” that he produced, the Q-production for the Brothers Johnson album that contains “Strawberry Letter #23, composer for the “Sanford and Son” theme, cat-wrangler for the “We Are the World” session, the composer/arranger for soundtrack for the television event “Roots”, and possibly my favorite, the production of Michael Jackson’s “Off the Wall” album. Oh, yeah, and its obscure follow-up, the album known as “Thriller”.

I also own a couple albums with Quincy listed as artist, Q’s Jook Joint (2004), and Back on the Block (1989), both star-studded extravaganzas. If not totally successful, they show the range of the the man, from rap lite with Melle Mel and Ice-T intertwined with Tevin Campbell’s Zulu chant, snatching a piece of the Ironside theme, which Q wrote; to a funky tune featuring Chaka Khan and Q’s very old friend Ray Charles; to an introduction to Birdland by rappers and jazz artists; to the most successful take, an “a cappella groove” with Ella, Sarah and Bobby McFerrin, among others. Undoubtedly, there are other jazz sides and soundtracks that I’m not even aware of.

I even own some oversized photo-bio of the man. So Happy birthday, Q, and thanks for the wide range of great music.
ROG

This Is NOT Sadie Hawkins Day

Sadie Hawkins Day is in November. Somehow, the 20th century Dogpatch invention of Al Capp’s Li’l Abner has gotten blended with a much earlier tradition. It is, however, Superman’s birthday. (Which begs the question, “What do you get for someone who can change the course of mighty rivers?”
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From Len Wein’s blog: George Lucas in Love

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My favorite Amazon pitch of late:
Dear Amazon.com Customer,
We’ve noticed that customers who have purchased or rated Stanley Kubrick’s Clockwork Orange (1971 Film) have also purchased Semi-Pro. For this reason, you might like to know that Semi-Pro is now available. You can order yours for just $13.99 by following the link below.
Product Description
Will Ferrell stars in this outrageous comedy, set in 1976, as Jackie Moon, a one-hit wonder who used the profits from his chart-topping song “Love Me Sexy” to achieve his dream of owning a basketball team, which becomes the worst in the ABA league (NBA rival) and in danger of folding. If they want to survive, they have to do the seemingly impossible – win. Co-stars Woody Harrelson, Andre Benjamin (Outkast), and Will Arnett. The soundtrack features classic funk hits from the 70s from Sly & The Family Stone, Ohio Players, War, Curtis Mayfield, and more, as well as Will Ferrell performing his funkadelic version of “Love Me Sexy”.
1. Love Me Sexy – Jackie Moon (Will Ferrell)
2. Get The Funk Out Ma’ Face – (Brothers Johnson)
3. Lady Marmalade – (LaBelle)
4. The World Is A Ghetto – (War)
5. Tell Me Something Good – (Ronnie Laws)
6. Mr. Big Stuff – (Jean Knight)
7. Give Me Just A Little More Time – (Chairman Of The Board)
8. Why Can’t We Be Friends – (War)
9. Walking In Rhythm – (The Blackbyrds)
10. Dance To The Music – (Sly & the Family Stone)
11. Love Rollercoaster – (Ohio Players)
12. Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be) – (Sly & the Family Stone)
13. Move On Up – (Curtis Mayfield)
14. Shining Star – (Elijah Kelley)
So because I bought the Moog-driven soundtrack of a 1971 movie , I would also be interested in a 2008 movie set in the 1970s with a funk soundtrack?! (Truth is that would be if I didn’t already own tracks 3, 4, 6-8, 10, 11, 13 and possibly 9, plus other versions of 5, 12, and 14, I MIGHT be.)
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From Coverville: Hey Jude by the cars

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Assuming you have $125 to spend ($75 for students):

You are invited to Splat! A Graphic Novel Symposium
Saturday, March 15, 2008
We welcome new readers, writers, artists, publishers, agents, and long-standing comics fans alike to learn more about the fastest growing movement in publishing – and meet some of the best creators working in the medium today!
The SPLAT! Symposium will also supply prospective creators with a unique opportunity to learn what it takes to be a graphic novelist. There will be three different tracks of panels, seminars, and workshops, followed by the SPLAT! Reception with Scott McCloud.
The panels will be led by a number of key writers, editors and artists from the graphic novel world including: Jim Killen, buyer Barnes & Noble; David Saylor, Editor Scholastic; Raina Telgemeier, artist, The Baby-Sitters Club; Ted Rall, creator, Attitude: The New Subversive Political Cartoonists; CB Cebulski, writer/editor, Marvel Comics; Bob Mecoy, Founder, Bob Mecoy Literary Agency; R. Sikoryak, creator, The Seduction of Mike; Brian Wood, creator, Demo, DMZ and Local; Nick Bertozzi, creator, The Salon; and Charles Brownstein, executive director, Comic Book Legal Defense Fund.
Please visit www.nycip.org/graphicnovelsymposium to register for this unique event.

ROG

Metablogging about Someone Else's Metablogging

I read Thirteen Blog Clichés last month, and thought I’d discover how many sins I’m “guilty” of, and whether I care.

1. The Useless Calendar Widget – don’t have one. I do have a clock, mostly because I don’t trust my computer clock which tends to run faster and faster.

2. Random Images Arbitrarily Inserted In Text – never thought to do that, but hey, maybe I’ll start!

3. No Information on the Author – well, you got my name, my city, my hometown, my profession, and more. What else would you like to know?

4. Excess Flair – not likely to happen, not by my discipline, but from the fact that I’m too technologically deficient to add a lot of widgets.

5. The Giant Blogroll – Some of the author’s readers really fussed over this one. As someone else once recommended to me, my blog I do initially for me. I refer to those links. Some I read regularly, some I use as bookmarks (Major League Baseball, e.g.) Yes, I could RSS most of them, but then I’d miss that random nature of wanting to check out Lefty on Friday when he’s going to post his questions, e.g.

In fact, I added a couple new links yesterday, first-time bloggers, each of whom I’ve known for over a quarter century: Joe Fludd, an old FantaCo artist and customer, and CD, with whom I shared a boarding house, along with nine other people, in New Paltz in the mid 1970s.

Philosophically, it’s like how I sometimes would pull out my address book, leaf through it and realize I hadn’t checked in with someone for a while, and I would give him or her a call. (Some girlfriend of mine at the time complained about me doing that; she thought I should just know who I wanted to call, and call them. I thought her complaint was nonsensical.)

6. The Nebulous Tag Cloud – don’t even know HOW to do this. I’m/you’re safe.

7. Excessive Advertisements – I resisted having any ads at all. Think I’m OK. I’m utterly fascinated, BTW, what topic my ad (that I can’t mention) will read, based on the varied topics on my blog.

8. This Ain’t Your Diary – yes, it sorta is. But generally, I leave a lot out.

9. Sorry I Haven’t Written in a While – Well, since I haven’t missed a day yet, not applicable. But I agree with the general point.

10. Blogging About Blogging – the obvious irony of the author noting that one. Occasionally guilty. Like now.

And while I’m thinking about it, how does Technorati actually work? A story about a recent post that appeared in Journalista!, but not the initial referral that ADD made. Yet other ADD stories have shown up.

11. Mindless Link Propagation – never! Only MINDFUL Link Propagation. For instance, H.R. 811, expected to be voted on today, is bad legislation. There’s this link about kissing is a story from Australia quoting a UAlbany professor. How about a baseball league with only one team with a winning record? I hadn’t read about Turkey’s previous incursions into northern Iraq in the MSM. Someone asked me to pass along this Snopes story about a virus posing as a postcard.

12. Top (n) Lists – I like them. It’s one of my favorite features in Tosy’s page, e.g.

13. No Comments Allowed – I agree with this complaint, and I am open for comments. In fact, I would like to get more comments. More, MORE, MORE.
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Blogging Success Study.
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Oh, the “random picture” is of Ana Ivanovic, the tennis player who lost to Venus Williams at the U.S. Open this past weekend.
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My latest poll asked:
Do you know the source of the line, “Vote for me and I’ll set you free”?
19 of you said, “Of course!”
9 pf you said, “It sounds familiar but I can’t place it.”
4 of you said, “I have no clue.”
the answer is the song Ball of Confusion, originally made famous by the Temptations in 1970, and covered by Edwin Starr (1971), Undisputed Truth (1971), Love & Rockets (1986), and Duran Duran (1995). I’ve also heard the Neville Brothers perform it live a couple years ago.

ROG

STAX Obsession


I got me a major league Stax Records jones lately, and it’s all based on some sort of cosmic convergence.

Fifty years ago, in 1957, Satellite Records the predecessor to Stax Records, was opened, ushering in an era of soul. The label changed its name when the founders discovered another company called Satellite Records.

I’ve been listening to Stax music heavily since at least July 29, which is the birthday of Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Jim Stewart, who co-started the label with his sister Estelle Axton; STewart-AXton. I played The Complete Stax-Volt Singles 1959-1968, the nine-disc box set that came out in 1991, and The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 2: 1968-1971, the nine-CD 1993 followup. I haven’t bought The Complete Stax-Volt Soul Singles, Vol. 3: 1972-1975, the TEN-disc completion, but after reading the Amazon reviews and listening to 100+ minutes of 30-second snippets on Amazon, I may.

Isaac Hayes, Otis Redding, the Staple Singers, Wilson Pickett, Luther Ingram, Albert King, the Bar-Kays, Booker T. & the MG’s, Johnnie Taylor, Rufus and Carla Thomas, and dozens of other artists whose influence remains vital in the music of today. On its many and varied labels, Stax Records also recorded such legends as Big Star, Rev. Jesse Jackson, Bill Cosby, Moms Mabley, and the Grammy-winning comedic genius Richard Pryor.

I’ve also been reading Soulsville U.S.A.: The Story Of Stax Records by Rob Bowman, which came out in 1997 during the 40th anniversary of the label; the book was 12 years in the making. It is stunningly detailed, with footnotes indicating, among other things, differing memories of the participants. It also makes me wonder why Estelle Axton isn’t in the Rock Hall, for it was her Satellite Record Shop where the sound of early Stax was developed.

On PBS this month, I got to watch Respect Yourself: The Stax Records Story, which, not so incidentally, will be available on DVD on October 2, 2007; I believe it’s available through PBS now. Let me put it this way: if you claim to care about American popular music, you should either read the Bowman book or watch the video. Preferably both, although the last third of each, showing the final decline, is a bit tough.

You’ll find out about a problematic deal with Atlantic Records that, along with the deaths of Otis Redding (on a plane in the Midwest) and Martin Luther King, Jr. (assassinated in Memphis), nearly killed the label by 1968, but you’ll also learn about how Stax managed to have a racially integrated house band that rivaled Motown’s The Funk Brothers in segregated Memphis, including Steve Cropper and “Duck” Dunn, names you might recognize from the Blues Brothers band.

Thanks to the hard work of Al Bell, the record producer who had become president of Stax, the label not only survived but thrived. According to the Wikipedia piece: “On August 20, 1972, the Stax label presented a major concert, Wattstax, featured performances by Stax recording artists and humor from rising young comedian Richard Pryor. Known as the “Black Woodstock,” Wattstax was hosted by Reverend Jesse Jackson and drew a crowd of over 100,000 attendees, most of them African-American. Wattstax was filmed by motion picture director Mel Stuart (Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory), and a concert film of the event was released to theaters by Columbia Pictures in February 1973.” Thus, today is the 35th anniversary of that seminal event.

Some bank dealings, plus an unfortunate arrangement with CBS Records, helped lead to the label’s unfortunate first ending in 1975, although it’s been recently revived.

The final piece is that today is the 65th birthday of “Black Moses”, Isaac Hayes. Long before he started recording as a featured performer, he was a session musician. He also wrote a number of songs, many for Sam (Moore) and Dave (Prater); his songwriting partner was often David Porter. Then he became a star, putting out an 18-minute version of Jim Webb’s “By the Time I Get To Phoenix” on “Hot Buttered Soul”; a 6:45 single was also released. Of course, he is probably best known, at least in my generation, as the writer/performer of the Oscar-winning theme for the movie Shaft. “That man Shaft is a bad mother—.” “Shut your mouth.”

Here’s a section from the Bowman book:
…by the time Hayes was eighteen months old his mother had passed away in a mental institution; because his father had disappeared sometime before her death, Isaac was raised by his [sharecropper] grandparents…After his grandfather died, when he was eleven, Isaac, his sister and grandmother, together and separately, lived all over North Memphis…When they were cut off from welfare…they used the wood from their outhouse to burn for heat…The next year, the family ran out of food and Isaac’s grandmother and sister got sick from hunger.
Yet, Hayes survived, and once he discovered music, thrived.

So read about Stax. More importantly, Respect Yourself and LISTEN to some Stax.
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Steve Gerber Knows His Stax. Gordon’s July’s Record You Should Own is a Stax album. Julie Hembeck, for your birthday, listen to some Stax.
ROG