Category Archives: Stevie Wonder

Talking withing Songs QUESTIONS

I was just listening to a Best of Sam and Dave album. In the intro to I Thank You, someone says:
I want everybody to get up off your seat
And get your arms together, and your hands together
And give me some of that o-o-old soul clapping

with the last three words practically sung.

An even better intro, though not a better song, is on their You Don’t Know What You Mean to Me, which has an almost preached “Eddie FLOYD wrote the song.”

Going back to the earliest days of rock and roll, there have been spoken lyrics within the context of a song. Some work for me, such as the corny Leader of the Pack by THE SHANGRI-LAS:
Is she really going out with him?
Well, there she is. Let’s ask her.
Betty, is that Jimmy’s ring you’re wearing?
Mm-hmm
Gee, it must be great riding with him
Is he picking you up after school today?
Uh-uh
By the way, where’d you meet him?

Others, not so much. There is a truly awful interlude in an Everly Brothers song called Ebony Eyes:
The plane was way overdue so I went inside to the airlines desk and I said “Sir, I
wonder why 1203 is so late?” He said “Aww, they probably took off late or they
may have run into some turbulent weather and had to alter their course.” I went
back outside and I waited at the gate and I watched the beacon light from the
control tower as it whipped through the dark ebony skies as if it were searching for
(my ebony eyes.) And then came the announcement over the loudspeaker-
“Would those having relatives or friends on flight number 1203 please report to the
chapel across the street at once.”

The original Supremes did it in Love Is Here And Now You’re Gone
You close the door to your heart
And you turned the key, locked your love away from me

AND
You stripped me of my dreams
You gave me faith, then took my hope
Look at me now

AND
My heart cries out for your touch
But you’re not there
And the lonely cry fades in the air

It’s OK, but not my favorite song from the group.

In fact, the LONGEST rap in the pre-rap era that I own has to be the album version of Stevie Wonder’s Livin’ For the City, all that about “New York City: just like I pictured it; skyscrapers and everything.”

So, excluding rap, or songs with rap elements, such as Blondie’s Rapture, how do you feel about songs with spoken lyrics. What songs do you like? What songs do you hate? You may also pick rap/hip hop songs as well, though I may (if we’re talking early rap) or probably won’t recognize the reference.
ROG

Covering Bobby Z

Musing about the May birthdays of musicians, particularly musicians whose work I own, I noticed that any number of them covered Bob Dylan songs. Not a surprise there; Dylan’s put out over 40 albums.

What WAS a little surprising was that I couldn’t find the May birthday songs I own on YouTube; I’ve just started to expect it.

I first looked for the pair of songs from Pete Seeger’s We Shall Overcome album, a live 1963 recording. Pete did A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall and Who Killed Davey Moore; nope. Instead, here’s Paths of Victory

Happy birthday, Bob.
ROG

Pre-inaugural Music

There was this concert last Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial. The program was on HBO, but it was to made free to anyone with basic cable. From what I’ve read, a number of cable companies didn’t get the word to unscramble HBO, though that was the intent. I know my cable was asking for a PIN number (yes, I know “PIN number” is redundant); Time Warner told me it is the “universal default” number, 0000, and it was.

In any case, the We Are One concert is on the HBO website for free. It runs just under two hours, and starts with Bishop Gene Robinson’s invocation, which was reportedly excised from the broadcast; Robinson is openly gay. From time to time, I had a buffering problem, so I decided to see if I could find at least the pop music performances on YouTube, and I did. The ones from, I think, Groban/Headley on are from one person and are pretty good quality. The earlier videos are of various folks and quality; at least one jittery video was obviously taken by someone actually at the show, not dependent on a TV feed.

Master Sergeant Caleb B. Green III The Star-Spangled Banner

Denzel Washington Homage to the leaders given Monuments or Memorials

Bruce Springsteen “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen. The choir is very effective.
LINK

Laura Linney and Martin Luther King III: F.D.R and John F. Kennedy

Mary J. Blige “Lean on Me” by Bill Withers
LINK

Jamie Foxx and Steve Carell Referencing Thomas Jefferson, Thurgood Marshall and Robert Kennedy – Foxx imitates Obama.

Bettye LaVette and Jon Bon Jovi “A Change Is Gonna Come” by Sam Cooke – LaVette blows away Bon Jovi
LINK

Tom Hanks Tribute to Abraham Lincoln

Marisa Tomei Quoting Ronald Reagan

James Taylor, John Legend and Jennifer Nettles “Shower the People” by James Taylor. I’m old, because I liked it.
LINK

Joe Biden Speech

John Mellencamp “Pink Houses” by John Mellencamp
LINK

Queen Latifah Referencing Marian Anderson

Josh Groban and Heather Headley “My Country, ‘Tis of Thee”
LINK

Kal Pen and George Lopez Quotes Dwight Eisenhower and Barbara Jordan

Herbie Hancock, will.i.am and Sheryl Crow “One Love” by Bob Marley
LINK

Tiger Woods Dedicating the Armed Forces

Renee Fleming “You’ll Never Walk Alone”
LINK

Jack Black and Rosario Dawson Tribute to Theodore Roosevelt

Garth Brooks “American Pie” by Don McLean/”Shout” (Isley Brothers)/”We Shall Be Free” (Garth Brooks). The new Commander-in-Chief knows at least some of the lyrics to American Pie.
LINK

Ashley Judd and Forest Whitaker Referencing John F. Kennedy and William Faulkner

Usher, Stevie Wonder and Shakira “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder. A number of people suggested that Shakira was the worst performer of the day. One YouTube person wondered who that guy was playing keyboards was – it was Stevie.
LINK

Samuel L. Jackson Referencing Abraham
Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.

U2 “Pride (in the Name of Love)” and “City of Blinding Lights” by U2. Pride, especially in that setting, was particularly moving. City, I read recently, is reportedly on Obama’s iPod.
LINK

Barack Obama Speech: Voices Calling for Change

Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen “This Land is your Land” by Woody Guthrie. Pete’s voice is shot (though his grandson Tao’s is strong), but it was very moving to hear those verses one doesn’t usually hear:

“In the squares of the city – By the shadow of the steeple
By the relief office – I saw my people
As they stood there hungry, I stood there wonderin
If this land’s still made for you and me.”

“There was a big high wall there – that tried to stop me;
Sign was painted – it said private property;
But on the other side – it didn’t say nothing;
That side was made for you and me.”

“Nobody living can ever stop me,
As I go walking – that freedom highway;
Nobody living can ever make me turn back
This land was made for you and me.”
LINK

Beyonce “America the Beautiful”. A suitable ending.
LINK

ROG

The King Holiday


Isn’t it convenient to always have your birthday on a Monday? (Well, it would be if ML King, Jr., like I do, took his birthday off.) For the record, his birthday was actually January 15 and he would have been 80 this year.

Who woulda thunk that Ronald Reagan would be the one to sign the holiday into law in 1983? It was first in 1986, but there was a lot of resistance, and it wasn’t observed in all 50 states, the Wikipedia notes, until 2000.

I was fascinated by the discussion before it became a holiday, as noted here:

“There were many who opposed the idea of holiday for Dr. King. America had only honored two individuals with national holidays – George Washington and Christopher Columbus. Many felt that there were other Americans that deserved a national holiday, such as Abraham Lincoln and John F. Kennedy.

“One barrier to the confirmation was the Senator from Georgia who had denounced Dr. King as a communist.

“Others feared the King holiday was meant as a way to make up to African-Americans for slavery. Other feared the cost of the holiday, with the extra overtime paid to federal workers who had to work on the holiday as well as millions to those federal employees who were paid for the day.

“Senator Bob Dole pointed out to those critics “I suggest they hurry back to their pocket calculators and estimate the cost of 300 years of slavery, followed by a century or more of economic, political and social exclusion and discrimination.”

The Holiday’s Campaign Song
OR LINK
As I pondered writing this piece, before looking up any sources, I was going to suggest that the King holiday WAS a sort of reparations for slavery and its aftermath. And then I discover it’s Bob Dole -BobDole! – who had already laid out an economic justification for the holiday.

There’s a lot out there about the significance of today in light of what’s going to happen tomorrow. Just Google king obama and you’ll know what I mean.

So I hope that today’s more than just a day off. The holiday’s become a day of community service; I believe the Obamas will be doing just that. Quiet reflection would also be OK; there are lots of books out there – here are three picture books recommended by Rebecca, e.g. Or you can go celebrate at an event. Quiet, loud – I don’t care.

One thing to check out, somewhat to my surprise, is the B.C. comic strip for January 18, 2009.

OR LINK

ROG

Songs That Move Me, 50-41

50. Indiscipline – King Crimson.
“I repeat myself when under stress, I repeat myself when under stress…” Tom, my boss at FantaCo, described this song as his description of the store. Last song on the first side of the Discipline LP.
Feeling: feeling: feeling: feeling:

49. Would I Lie To You – Eurythmics.
There’s the insistent beat, the horns, the vocals, the guitar line, specially on the bridge.
Feeling: truthful.
It’s HERE.

48. High School- MC5.
A decade before the Ramones, the MC5 from Detroit, a three-chord band. This live version doesn’t exude the sheer raw energy of the original.
Feeling: you better get out of the way.

47. Tell Me Something Good – Rufus.
Chaka Khan! Has that wonderful descending chromatic scale. Stevie Wonder-penned funk. Love the Bob Hope intro.
Feeling: good.

46. Logical Song – Supertramp.
I love the way the sound gets fuller on the verse before the break, the doubling of the vocal on “a vegetable” and the sax solo.
Feeling: paranoid.

A better video but lesser sound here.

45. Uptight – Stevie Wonder.
My first all-time favorite Motown song. First that bass line with drums, then the horns. I’m also fond of the background vocals, and that machine gun-like drunm fills. So good that Bill Cosby, long before Weird Al, copped it for “Little Old Man”.
Feeling- joy.

44. Tomorrow Never Knows – the Beatles.
Insistent bottom, weird tape loop sounds, odd vocal, strange bridge. Oh, I love it.
Feeling: floating.
It’s here.

43. Our Prayer – Beach Boys.
About 68 seconds of stunning vocalese.
Feeling: reflective.
A snippet here.

42. Satisfaction – Rolling Stones.
Anthemic, copped by lots of other bands.
Feeling: as though I tried and I tried.

41. (What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace Love and Understanding?-Elvis Costello.
I STILL hear this both as the driving anthem it is and as an a cappella doowop. From a greatest hits CD.
Feeling: like begging for peace.

ROG

Music covers QUESTION

There was a 90-minute discussion on the Coverville podcast, episode 450, about cover music. Brian, the host, posed several questions of the panel of fellow podcasters of cover music. I listened to it some weeks ago, so not all the particulars are fresh in my mind. Still, here are a couple questions inspired by that podcast.

1. What IS a cover version? For instance (and this was on the show), is Eric Clapton doing Layla considered a cover of the Derek and the Dominoes version? The panel thought not.

2. How about when a songwriter writes the song, gives it to another artist, THEN records it? I believe Gene Pitney’s Hello Mary Lou, recorded by Ricky Nelson before Pitney recorded it, would qualify. Which one is the cover? I don’t know.

3. Or what if Ronnie Spector took a Ronettes song such as Be My Baby and sang background vocals on a more contemporary artist? I think that WOULD be a cover?

4. What makes a good cover song? Sometimes, but not always, a different point of view – a female singing what had been a song previously performed by a male – will help. It cannot be a slavish imitation of the original; what’s the point? Often the remake features faster or slower tempos, unusual instrumentation or other qualities.

5. What is the first cover song that you really enjoyed that you recognized as a cover? Motown folks were always covering each other, but mine was We Can Work It Out, Stevie Wonder’s cover of the Beatles’ tune.
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

Ron Miller


If you Google Ron Miller, the one I was looking for doesn’t show up until record #70-something. That’s a shame.

Ron Miller was a songwriter for Motown. He wrote a number of tunes, many for Stevie Wonder, including “For Once In My Life,” “Heaven Help Us All,” and “Yester-me, Yester-you, Yesterday”. “For Once in My Life” won a Grammy this year when Wonder and Tony Bennett redid the tune. Stevie’s Christmas album from the 1960s is filled with Ron Miller tunes. He also penned that Diana Ross hit, “Touch Me In The Morning.”

As Fred Hembeck noted a ways back, Ron even wrote and produced songs for that legendary Motown artist, Soupy Sales.

Strange thing. I can’t any reference to his birthdate in 1933. He died back on July 23, 2007, when I was traveling a lot, and pretty much missed the news.

But I wanted to note that, unfortunately, he also wrote one of my all-time least favorite songs, I’ve Never Been To Me, a tune the thought of which makes my teeth rot. Go here to hear the 2004 Dance Remix by Charlene, who had the delayed hit, and by Miller himself.

(Pic from Taxi.com)

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