Artist Profiles, Music, Radio, Retro Rock

You Say: Lauren Daigle’s Surprise Crossover Hit

Once in a blue moon, there will be a Christian song to crossover and be a hit on secular radio in America. In 2019, that song is “You Say” from Lauren Daigle.

 

I keep fighting voices in my mind that say I’m not enough

Every single lie that tells me I will never measure up

Am I more than just the sum of every high and every low?

Remind me once again just who I am because I need to know

 

The only thing that matters now is everything You think of me

In You I find my worth, in You I find my identity, ooh

 

Taking all I have and now I’m laying it at your feet

You have every failure God, and You’ll have every victory, ooh

 

You say I am loved when I can’t feel a thing

You say I am strong when I think I am weak

You say I am held when I am falling short

When I don’t belong, oh You say I am Yours

And I believe, (I) oh I believe (I)

What You say of me (I)

I believe

 

“You Say” by Lauren Daigle is truly a surprise hit song. During the 21st century, it has been rare for a Contemporary Christian Music (CCM) song to crossover and become a secular hit on multiple secular radio formats.

However, Daigle’s song has broken the mold: “You Say” became a huge secular hit this year and seems to resonate with many folks outside the traditional Christian music genre.

So how rare is it to have a Christian song become a hit here in 2019?   The last time a CCM song crossed over and became a secular hit was “I Can Only Imagine” by MercyMe in 2003.

 

 

 

 

I can only imagine what it will be like

When I walk by Your side

I can only imagine what my eyes will see

When Your face is before me

I can only imagine, yeah

 

Surrounded by Your glory

What will my heart feel?

Will I dance for You, Jesus

Or in awe of You be still?

 

Will I stand in Your presence

Or to my knees will I fall?

Will I sing hallelujah?

Will I be able to speak at all?

 

I can only imagine

I can only imagine

Occasionally, a country artist singing about Christian topics will crossover to Top 40 radio. Just after Carrie Underwood won American Idol, she recorded the song, “Jesus Take the Wheel” in 2005. This song was a huge number 1 country hit before crossing over to Top 40 radio. It was the first of many hits by Underwood, to chart on multiple formats.

Rarely do songs like “I Can Only Imagine “ or “Jesus Take the Wheel” ever become crossover hits. But that hasn’t always been true on secular pop radio.

During the late 60’s and early 70’s, songs on various Christian topics were regularly played on Top 40 radio. Here are a few of the songs that charted on the Billboard Hot 100, in the golden age of Top 40 radio:

 

  • Oh Happy Day—Edwin Hawkins Singers
  • Jesus is a Soul Man—Lawrence Reynolds
  • Spirit in the Sky—Norman Greenbaum
  • Are You Ready—Pacific Gas and Electric
  • Superstar—Murray Head
  • Mighty Clouds of Joy—B.J. Thomas
  • I’ll Take You There–The Staple Singers

  • God, Love & Rock N’ Roll—Teegarden & Van Winkle
  • Why Me Lord—Kris Kristofferson
  • I Knew Jesus (Before He Was a Superstar)—Glen Campbell
  • Morning Has Broken—Cat Stevens
  • That’s the Way God Planned It—Billy Preston
  • Amazing Grace—Judy Collins
  • Speak To The Sky–Rick Springfield
  • I Don’t Know How To Love Him—Helen Reddy
  • Put Your Hand in the Hand—Ocean
  • Day By Day—Godspell
  • Jesus is Just Alright—Doobie Brothers
  • The Lord’s Prayer—Sister Janet Mead
  • The Wedding Song—Noel Paul Stookey
  • One Day at a Time–Marilyn Sellars

With the growth of CCM radio stations during the mid 70’s, there were not as many Christian songs played on Top 40 stations. Jesus Music was played exclusively on newly formatted 24 hour a day CCM stations, instead of secular music outlets.

There were a few songs with Christian themes that were hits in the late 70’s. One of those songs is Bob Dylan’s, “Gotta Serve Somebody” in 1979.

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody, yes indeed

You’re gonna have to serve somebody

It may be the devil or it may be the Lord

But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

The next significant artist to crossover and have two number I hits on the Billboard Hot 100 was Amy Grant. In 1986, Grant teamed up with Peter Cetera and recorded the duet, “Next Time I Fall” which peaked at number one. Five years later, her solo hit, “Baby Baby” was number 1, for three consecutive weeks during 1991.

Other Christian artists also had secular hits during the 90’s. Michael W Smith had a top 10 hit with “Place in This World” during the summer of 1991 and Jars of Clay had a multi-format crossover hit with their song, “Flood” during 1995.

That brings us to the surprising hit of “You Say” by Lauren Daigle.

“You Say” was written by Daigle, along with co-writers Paul Mabury and Jason Ingram. Last year, Daigle shared with CCM Magazine, the story behind the song.

“It was the day after my very first Dove awards (2015), and I remember being completely overwhelmed. I walked into the studio, and Paul and Jason, my producers, were in there and they’re like “All right what’s going on in your world, how’s it been?

It was the first time we had written since “How Can It Be”…I just remember feeling like so much had happened the night before, wondering How do I come back down to normal, how do I come back down to reality?

And I started realizing these patterns of really high highs and then, okay now there’s a low. Really high, high, now there’s a low…And Involving expectation in that space can just leave you kind of questioning your identity- Where do I fit in, where is my security, where is my footing?

So when writing “You Say,” I just remember feeling for the first time pretty conflicted. It was definitely the first moment in just being an artist that I was like Okay, where is all this going exactly?”

“And I know that we’ve all faced moments in life where we can feel a crossroads happen— where we can see the past and also see the future, and realize how we are supposed to exist in the present. And it was one of those moments where I could see where things were going and I knew exactly where I came from, and I needed those worlds to still be married.

And thus brought up the issue of identity and trying to figure out how to exist when I felt like so many things were pulling me in so many different directions. I think a lot of times we build these complexes based on insecurity, based on fear, based on rejection, and lies that we have to constantly overcome.

And so this song for me was just a reminder of identity. It was a reminder that I know when I’m weak, He’s strong—so how do I change that and bring that into my every day life? When I feel inadequate how is it that there’s always these moments where I feel like God just steps in and supersedes my inadequacies.

This entire song was so every single day I would get up on stage and remind myself—no, this is the truth, this is the truth, this is the truth. Don’t get buried in confusion. Don’t get buried in waywardness. Just remember to steady the course, steady the course.”

Daigle’s song, “You Say” was the first single from the album, “Look Up Child” and was released to CCM radio stations during July 2018. It immediately shot up the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart and became the number one song in America.

For the week of November 2nd, 2019, “You Say” spent its final week on top of the Billboard Hot Christian Songs chart, logging 66 consecutive weeks at number 1. This broke the record that Hillsong United set of 61 straight weeks at number one with “Oceans (Where Feet May Fail)” during 2013-2014.

Interesting side note: Kanye West just replaced “You Say” as the top Christian song in America during the past two weeks with, “Follow God.”

Obviously, the “You Say” single was huge on Christian radio last year, as it was ranked the 2nd biggest song on 2018, according to Billboard magazine. With such a strong showing, Warner Brothers released Daigle’s song as a single to secular radio during January 2019.

Then in early February 2019, Daigle won a Grammy Award for “Best Contemporary Christian Music performance with “You Say.” After her Grammy victory, Daigle’s song was added to many secular Adult Contemporary and Top 40 radio stations.

Her song then exploded on multiple radio formats, during the spring and summer of 2019. Here are some of the impressive stats on how well “You Say” performed on secular radio, according to Billboard:

  • Peaked at #1   Adult Contemporary
  • Peaked at #5   Adult Top 40
  • Peaked at #20 Mainstream Top 40
  • Peaked at #29 Billboard Hot 100

Daigle also won two other awards for “You Say” during 2019. In May, she picked up the Billboard, “Top Christian Song” award and last month Daigle took home the Gospel Music Association, “Song of the Year” award. 2019 has been an extremely successful year for Lauren Daigle.

The song, “You Say” isn’t the only musical success for the Lafayette, Louisiana native. Daigle’s album, “Look Up Child” spent 44 weeks at the number 1 position of the Billboard “Christian Album Chart.” The album also received a 2019 Grammy Award for, “Best Contemporary Christian Music Album.”

For those individuals who listen to CCM radio, they are familiar with three other hits from the album: The title track “Look Up Child” peaked at #3, “Rescue” reached #2 and Daigle’s current single is, “Still Rolling Stones” which is still charting during the fall of 2019.

Singer-songwriter Annie Lawrence with Lauren Daigle. Photo courtesy of Annie Lawrence.

The past 16 months have been a whirlwind for Lauren Daigle, with the unexpected success of her the song “You Say.”   A fair question to ask would be: What will be Daigle’s chart success in the future? Will she achieve multiple hits or go the way of Debby Boone and become a one hit wonder?

Although I do not know the reason why, “You Say” became a crossover hit, her song has resonated with many folks outside the CCM genre of music. Maybe there is a renewal of spiritual awakening happening in America?

Where will Lauren Daigle’s career go from here?   Obviously, that remains to be seen. The lyrics to Natasha Bedingfield’s song, “Unwritten” seems to sum it up best:

“Drench yourself in words unspoken

Live your life with arms wide open

Today is where your book begins

The rest is still unwritten”

 

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AT40, Music, Music Countdowns, Radio, Retro Rock

1974 Singles: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

 

I remember listening to AM radio on my transistor radio and hearing the novelty hit, “Life is a Rock (But the Radio Rolled Me)” during the summer of 1974.

Some music historians would point to the “one hit wonder” song by Reunion and proclaim that it was indicative of how bad the music was on Top 40 during 1974.   Many musical experts completely pan the entire year of 1974 music, claiming it to be the worst year ever for Top 40 radio. Is that hypothesis correct?

I completely understand why some folks may not like a lot of the top songs from 1974, as many of those tunes are horrid. However, I refuse to throw out the baby with the bath water.

During any given year, there are plenty of good songs and also bunches of wretched, insipid tunes. I refuse to categorically describe all music released during 1974 as wretched. I prefer to place the music from 45 years ago into three silos: The Good, the Bad and the Ugly.

For this edition of my musical musings, I will be investigating the Top 100 songs of 1974, which were compiled by Cashbox and Billboard music publications.

Here are the Top 20 songs from Cashbox:

 

  1. Show And Tell – Al Wilson (Rocky Road)
  2. Come And Get Your Love – Redbone (Epic)
  3. The Most Beautiful Girl – Charlie Rich (Epic)
  4. Rock Me Gently – Andy Kim (Capitol)
  5. The Way We Were – Barbra Streisand (Columbia)

 

  1. Sunshine On My Shoulders – John Denver (Rca Victor)
  2. You Make Me Feel Brand New – The Stylistics (Avco)
  3. Rock On – David Essex (Columbia)
  4. Seasons In The Sun – Terry Jacks (Bell)
  5. The Joker – The Steve Miller Band (Capitol)

  1. You Haven’t Done Nothin’ – Stevie Wonder (Tamla)
  2. Bennie And The Jets – Elton John (Mca)
  3. The Loco-Motion – Grand Funk (Capitol)
  4. Love’s Theme – The Love Unlimited Orchestra (20th Century)
  5. Spiders And Snakes – Jim Stafford (Mgm)

 

  1. Nothing From Nothing – Billy Preston (A&M)
  2. TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia) – MFSB (Philadelphia Int’l)
  3. You’re Sixteen – Ringo Starr (Apple)
  4. The Night Chicago Died – Paper Lace (Mercury)
  5. Top Of The World – Carpenters (A&M)

Here are the Top 20 songs from Billboard:

  1. “The Way We Were” – Barbra Streisand
  2. “Seasons in the Sun” – Terry Jacks
  3. “Love’s Theme” – Love Unlimited Orchestra
  4. “Come and Get Your Love” – Redbone
  5. “Dancing Machine” – The Jackson 5

 

  1. “The Loco-Motion” – Grand Funk Railroad
  2. “TSOP (The Sound of Philadelphia)” – MFSB
  3. “The Streak” – Ray Stevens
  4. “Bennie and the Jets” – Elton John
  5. “One Hell of a Woman” – Mac Davis

  1. “Until You Come Back to Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do)” – Aretha Franklin
  2. “Jungle Boogie” – Kool & the Gang
  3. “Midnight at the Oasis” – Maria Muldaur
  4. “You Make Me Feel Brand New” – The Stylistics
  5. “Show and Tell” – Al Wilson

 

  1. “Spiders and Snakes” – Jim Stafford
  2. “Rock On” – David Essex
  3. “Sunshine on My Shoulders” – John Denver
  4. “Sideshow” – Blue Magic
  5. “Hooked on a Feeling” – Blue Swede

As you can tell from comparing the two 1974 year-end surveys, there are distinct differences with these listings. I will be selecting my choices for Good, Bad and Ugly from these two lists.

The musical landscape of 1974 is dear to my heart, as my first job in radio started in April of that year. At age 18, I was hired to be a remote engineer by Top 40 radio station WROV in Roanoke, Virginia. My responsibilities at the station included setting up equipment for remote broadcasts, running the soundboard and playing records, while a WROV DJ was in charge of announcing duties.

Dave Woodson playing records for WROV Roanoke remote broadcast during 1974.

During my first remote broadcast, I worked with the legendary WROV DJ Larry Bly. The first song I played that day was “Come and Get Your Love” by Redbone, so for sentimental reasons, I am placing that song in the Good category for 1974 singles.

Two other Good 1974 songs associated with WROV are “The Joker” by the Steve Miller Band and “Blackwater” from the Doobie Brothers. The Roanoke radio station added “The Joker” during the fall of 1973, and was credited with a “gold record” by Capitol Records, as WROV was the first station in America to play the song.

Then during September 1974, WROV music director Chuck Holloway started playing “Blackwater” as a Doobie Brothers album cut on his nighttime DJ air-shift. The WROV request line lit up every time “Blackwater” was played and it immediately became a hit in Roanoke.

Soon after, Phil Beckman at WQRK Norfolk and Buzz Bennett with KDWB Minneapolis added “Blackwater” to their playlists. Finally, Warner Bros Records released the song as a single and it became the first number 1 tune for the Doobie Brothers during March 1975. Later that year, WROV proudly received another “gold record” for breaking “Blackwater” in America.

Working for WROV gave me a chance to thoroughly evaluate the music from 1974. From my perspective, there are a whole lot more Good songs than Bad or Ugly tunes from this year.

Since I will be evaluating just the top singles of 1974, according to Cashbox and Billboard, there are many Good songs that I will not be mentioning with this message. The sole parameter that I am using will be if the song made one of the year-end surveys for 1974.

Before I reveal my Top 10 good songs from 45 years ago, I am going to share some other significant songs from 1974. I consider all of these songs to be Good.

  • I Shot the Sheriff—Eric Clapton
  • Beach Baby—First Class
  • Sideshow—Blue Magic
  • Nothing From Nothing—Billy Preston
  • Rock on—David Essex

  • The Air That I Breathe—The Hollies
  • Annie’s Song—John Denver
  • Goodbye Yellow Brick Road—Elton John
  • Help Me—Joni Mitchell
  • Please Come to Boston—Dave Loggins

  • Be Thankful For What You Got—William DeVaughn
  • Then Came You—The Spinners & Dionne Warwick
  • Whatever Gets You Through the Night—John Lennon & Elton John
  • You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet—Bachman Turner Overdrive
  • (I’ve Been) Searchin’ So Long—Chicago

  • Hello It’s Me—Todd Rundgren
  • The Lord’s Prayer—Sister Janet Meade
  • Midnight Train To Georgia—Gladys Knight & the Pips
  • I Got A Name—Jim Croce
  • You Make Me Feel Brand New—The Stylistics

Now I will be focusing on what I consider to be the top ten Good songs of 1974.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order.

 

Time in a Bottle—Jim Croce    

 

After Jim Croce died in a plane crash during September 1973, “Time in a Bottle” was released as a single and became a posthumous number 1 hit.   The haunting lyrics of mortality and the wish to have more time, brings sadness to this melodic tune. The song truly resonated with music listeners and is one of Croce’s greatest musical achievements.

 

Band on the Run—Paul McCartney & Wings

 

The musical structure of “Band on the Run,” is absolutely incredible. Continuous switching of tempos, with three distinct music segments, the song flows into a musical masterpiece. Paul and Wings provide excellent three part harmonies throughout the song, which utilizes rock, funk and country influences. I consider “Band on the Run” to be the best song recorded by McCartney after the break up of the Beatles.

Living For the City—Stevie Wonder

 

Prior to 1974, Stevie Wonder sang mostly love songs and stayed away from controversial issues. This changed with his hit, “Living for the City.” It became one of his first songs to deal with racism and gave Wonder a chance to express concerns facing life in America. The other thing I admire about this song is that Wonder played all the instruments on this wonderful tune.

 

You Haven’t Done Nothin’—Stevie Wonder

 

The second good Stevie Wonder song of 1974 is “You Haven’t Done Nothin’.” With backup vocals from the Jackson 5, Wonder unleashes fiery lyrics about U.S. President Richard Nixon and the Watergate scandal. Ironically, Nixon resigned his presidency in August, the same month that Wonder’s song was released as a single.

Cat’s in the Cradle—Harry Chapin

 

Listening to Harry Chapin’s “Cat’s in the Cradle” for the first time, one may think it is a mellow song. However, the subject matter is any thing but mellow. Chapin’s signature song paints a sorrowful picture with a father neglecting his son, and then when the son becomes a man, he actually neglects his father, the same way he was treated as a boy. This folk rock song gives a baleful warning with brilliant lyrics.

 

Sweet Home Alabama—Lynyrd Skynyrd

 

One of the most iconic Southern Rock songs from the 70’s, “Sweet Home Alabama” pans multiple political subjects and stoked controversial topics. The lyrics mention Neil Young and his song, “Southern Man,” the Governor of Alabama, George Wallace and the Watergate scandal. Lynyrd Skynyrd’s first hit record has become an anthem for the state of Alabama.

For the Love of Money—The O’Jays

 

First Timothy 6:10 states, “For the love of money is the root of all evil.” That message is the basis for the O’Jay’s hit song, “For the Love of Money.” This R&B groove features powerful vocals and has a killer bass line. The group from Philadelphia gives a powerful warning about the misuse of money on the toe-tapping soul song.

 

Takin’ Care of Business—Bachman Turner Overdrive

 

During the summer of 1974, Canadian rock band Bachman Turner Overdrive had one of the hottest sounding songs with, “Takin’ Care of Business.” Randy Bachman, formally of the Guess Who, teamed up with Fred Turner to give us straight-up catchy guitar rifts and tongue in cheek lyrics. The band from Canada sure knew how to rock during this year.

Keep on Smilin’—Wet Willie

 

Making lemonade out of lemons is the main message on Wet Willie’s song, “Keep on Smilin’.” The band was from Alabama, giving Southern Rock more exposure on Top 40 radio. A positive message is heard on the chorus, “Keep on smilin’ through the rain, laughin’ at the pain, just flowin’ with the changes, till the sun comes out again.”

Wet Willie’s biggest hit happened during the summertime.

 

Radar Love—Golden Earring

 

Throughout the history of Rock and Roll, there have been songs dealing with death. The Dutch band, Golden Earring, gave us a perfect “death rock” song in 1974. “Radar Love” is actually a “Rock Suite” and has two distinct musical segments. Lyrics mention Brenda Lee, driving at a high rate of speed in the middle of the night, and reconnecting with his angel “in the sky.” It is an excellent highway road song.

The next 6 songs are in the Bad category.

 

Spiders and Snakes—Jim Stafford

 

I don’t like spiders or snakes, and I sure don’t like Jim Stafford’s number 1 song about arachnids and serpents. “Spiders and Snakes’ ” lyrics of sexual innuendo are not clever and are down right trite. Stafford’s follow up hit, “My Girl Bill” was equally insipid and wretched to my ears. I don’t know why this became a hit record.

 

Midnight At The Oasis—Maria Maldaur

 

Some may call this song a guilty pleasure. I call the fantasy desert love affair song, “Midnight at the Oasis” lascivious. Maldaur’s stereotypes of Arab “sultans and sheiks” are appalling and her suggestive sexual euphemisms are way over the top. Lyrics like, “But you won’t need no harem, honey, when I’m by your side, and you won’t need no camel, when I take you for a ride” are absolutely insidious.

 

Maria Muldaur

The Streak—Ray Stevens

 

When the streaking craze happened in 1974, someone had to record a song on the topic. That someone was Ray Stevens. His novelty song, “The Streak” may have been funny the first time heard. After the second hearing, the song became annoying. These are lyrics I never want to hear again: “Don’t Look Ethel”, “Ethel, you shameless hussy”, “Ethel, you get your clothes on” and “Say it ain’t so, Ethel.” Ray Stevens’ number 1 song is a dud.

 

You’re Sixteen—Ringo Starr

 

Ringo Starr should have never covered the song “You’re Sixteen.” The Beatles drummer was 33 years old when he recorded the song, and it was creepy listening to it on the radio in 1974. I attended Ringo’s concert with His All Starr Band last month, and he is STILL performing “You’re Sixteen” during his shows. Hearing a 79 year old man singing this song is beyond disgusting. It is atrocious.

 

 

Ringo Starr at Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo by Sammy Oakey

I Can Help—Billy Swan

 

Country crossover artist Billy Swan hit number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 with his dreadful song, “I Can Help.” The singer pleads, begs and promises to do any and every thing possible in order to be her lover. The last line of the song is unbelievable: “If your child needs a daddy, I can help, It would sure do me good to do you good, let me help.” Any woman that is gullible enough to believe that line definitely needs HELP!

 

Dark Lady—Cher

 

Normally, I can tolerate story songs but Cher’s number 1 song from 1974 is rather sordid. “Dark Lady” is a New Orleans fortune-teller, which the narrator of the song (Cher) goes to see. When money is paid for a fortune, the woman proclaims that Cher’s lover has been unfaithful and gives this advice: “Leave this place, never come back and forget you ever saw my face. “ Of course, Cher goes back to the fortune-teller with a gun, catches her lover kissing the woman, and shoots them both dead. Some may claim the song is clever, I maintain the song is just wretched.

 

Cher

Finally, here are 6 songs in the Ugly category:

 

I’m Leaving It Up To You—Donny and Marie Osmond

 

Every time that I heard Donny and Marie’s horrid song during 1974, I would sing, “I’m heaving it up on you.” Listening to this song made me want to puke! In deference to Marie Osmond, she should have never recorded any duets with her brother. Every single Donny Osmond song is completely detestable and obnoxious to my ears. Same for the Osmond Brothers. The song is ugly to the max!

 

Hooked On a Feeling—Blue Swede

 

Why would Swedish pop band sing, “Ooga-chaka, Ooga-Ooga, Ooga-Chaka” over and over, with their cover version of, “Hooked on a Feeling?” Why ruin a wonderful song, which B.J. Thomas made popular in 1968? I prefer listening to Thomas singing “Hooked on a Feeling.” Listening to Blue Swede’s “Hooked on a Feeling” is worse than torture for me.

 

Blue Swede

The Night Chicago Died—Paper Lace

 

One may think that “The Night Chicago Died” was based on a true story. However, it is about a fictional shoot-out between the Chicago Police and members of Al Capone’s crime syndicate. Instead of Capone and his men meeting their doom, the lyrics state “about 100 cops are dead” at the hands of the gangsters. Even worse than unbelievable lyrics is the “bubble gum pop music” that Paper Lace performs on this vapid tune. Chicago would have been better off without this song by Paper Lace.

 

Billy Don’t Be a Hero—Bo Donaldson & the Heywoods

 

One of the sappiest bubble gum songs of 1974, “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” is the ultimate, miserable death pop music song. With the Vietnam Conflict still going on in 1974, many folks assumed that “Billy Don’t Be a Hero” was associated with the Southeast Asian war. However, the lyrics suggest it is about the American Civil War. A young woman is distraught that her fiancé chooses to enlist with the Army. Eventually, Billy is killed in action during a battle. A dreadfully sad tune, that continues to be irritating to me 45 years later.

 

(You’re) Having My Baby—Paul Anka

 

Besides being a duet with Odia Coates, I can’t think of anything positive about this Paul Anka song. “You’re Having My Baby” is overtly sentimental, sappy and the most sexist record of 1974. With Anka declaring, “it is his baby” without acknowledgement of the mother and her part in the pregnancy, is the ultimate in male chauvinism. Furthermore, the song was voted the number 1 “Worst Song of All Time” by CNN in 2006. Needless to say, this is one horrible tune.

 

Terry Jacks

Seasons in the Sun—Terry Jacks

 

The bubble gum, death pop tune, “Seasons in the Sun,” quite possibly is one of the worst songs ever made. The tune is an English-language adaptation of the song “Le Moribond” by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel with lyrics rewritten by American singer-poet Rod McKuen. The singer laments that he is dying and says goodbye to his Papa, Michelle and a trusted friend. Terry Jacks’ singing delivery is a schmaltzy, emotional mess. Just hearing the opening chords of this song makes me shiver. Rolling Stone ranks the record as the 7th “Worst Song of the 70’s. I proclaim “Seasons in the Sun” as the ugliest of ugly songs of 1974.

 

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the Good, Bad and Ugly singles from 1974, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music of that year.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of the 100 biggest songs from 1974. The songs that you might feel are the Good, Bad and Ugly, maybe be completely different from my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What do you consider to be the Good, Bad and Ugly songs for 1974? There are no right or wrong answers. I welcome your thoughts.

If anyone ever suggests that the music from 1974 is all bad and ugly, I hope those folks educate themselves. The majority of the top 100 songs from 1974 are on the good side of the ledger. Long live Top 40 music from 45 years ago!

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

Gotta turn it up louder, so my DJ told me

Life is a rock but the radio rolled me

At the end of my rainbow lies a golden oldie

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

 

 

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Concert Reviews, Music, Retro Rock

Ringo Starr: With a Little Help From My Friends

 

What would you think if I sang out of tune?

Would you stand up and walk out on me?

Lend me your ears and I’ll sing you a song

And I’ll try not to sing out of key

 

Oh I get by with a little help from my friends,

Yes I get by with a little help from my friends,

With a little help from my friends

 

Imagine being 79 years old, headlining a rock concert tour and playing songs that were popular last century: Would you need a little help from your friends to pull off a successful concert tour? Most folks would probably say “yes” in answering that question.

Richard Starkey, professionally known as Ringo Starr, wasn’t afraid to ask for some help on his latest concert tour. In fact, Ringo’s All Starr Band provided a great deal of help to the drummer who first rose to superstardom as a member of the Beatles.

On Tuesday August 13th, Ringo and His All Starr Band came to Roanoke, Virginia, performing at the Berglund Center. For those who attended the show, Ringo and his band put on an excellent performance.

Founded 30 years ago, Ringo’s All Starr Band is actually a rock supergroup. Its members are all renowned musicians and instrumentalists who played in other prominent bands prior to joining Ringo’s rock group. Here are the current members of the All Starr Band and the former bands and artists associated with each member:

Ringo Starr – vocals, drums, piano (Beatles)

Colin Hay – guitar, vocals (Men at Work)

Hamish Stuart – bass, guitar, vocals (Average White Band, Paul McCartney)

Gregg Bissonette – drums, backing vocals (David Lee Roth)

Steve Lukather – guitars, vocals (Toto)

Gregg Rolie – organ, vocals (Santana, Journey)

Warren Ham – saxophone, keyboards, percussion, vocals (Kansas, AD, Toto)

Ringo Starr at Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo by Sammy Oakey

The setlist for Ringo Starr and His All Starr Band consisted of 24 songs. Ringo performed 12 songs, while Gregg Rolie, Steve Lukather, Hamish Stuart and Colin Hay performed three songs each.

Ringo’s Setlist

  1. Matchbox (Beatles)
  2. It Don’t Come Easy (Solo)
  3. What Goes On (Beatles)
  4. Boys (Beatles)
  5. Don’t Pass Me By (Beatles)
  6. Yellow Submarine (Beatles)
  7. You’re Sixteen (Solo)
  8. Anthem (Solo)
  9. I Wanna be Your Man (Beatles)
  10. Photograph (Solo)
  11. Act Naturally (Beatles)
  12. With a Little Help From My Friends (Beatles)

(Give Peace a Chance: Chorus)

Gregg Rollie’s Setlist

  1. Evil Ways (Santana)
  2. Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen (Santana)
  3. Oye Como Va (Santana)

Steve Lukather’s Setlist

  1. Rosanna (Toto)
  2. Africa (Toto)
  3. Hold the Line (Toto)

Hamish Stuart’s Setlist

  1. Pick Up the Pieces (Average White Band)
  2. Cut the Cake (Average White Band)
  3. Work to Do (Isley Brothers/Average White band)

Colin Hay’s Setlist

  1. Down Under (Men at Work)
  2. Overkill (Men at Work)
  3. Who Can It Be Now (Men at Work)

Although Ringo had played at other venues in Virginia, this was the first time the Beatles’ drummer performed a show in Roanoke. It was also the first time that my wife Priscilla and I had ever attended a show with Ringo and His All Starr Band.

Just after Priscilla and I parked our car at the Berglund Center lot, we ran into my friend Dave Delaney, and then Dave introduced me to his friend Randy Lohr.

As the four of us waited in line to gain entry into the concert venue, I asked Delaney and Lohr if they could submit their comments to me after the show. Both agreed to share their thoughts with me and I am going to be sharing their comments below. I will also be sharing comments from some other friends and acquaintances that also attended the concert.

Priscilla and David Woodson before Ringo concert. Photo by Alice Webber

Before I share the comments on Ringo’s show, I am going to reveal the most common thread among every single person submitting their thoughts to me: Everyone said they were extremely disappointed and could not understand why there was no encore at the end of the concert.

The last song of the evening was “With a Little Help from My Friends,” along with the chorus of “Give Peace a Chance.” There was no encore and fans were not happy. Surely, Ringo and His All Starr Band could have performed songs like, “Back Off Boogaloo,” “The No No Song,” or “Goodnight Vienna” for encore songs? The lack of an encore was a major letdown for the crowd at the end of the evening.

Here now are thoughts and comments about Ringo’s show from those who attended the concert.

Dave Delaney (Roanoke, Virginia):

“The whole All-Starr Band was great as always, with Colin Hay from Men at Work as the surprise standout, such a distinctive voice! Even if he is a little bit stiff on stage. Steve Lukather on guitar is as impressive as ever. If there were any disappointments, it was that Ringo didn’t make any mention of being in “The Star City of the South” – how could you not say something about that?

“The Average White Band songs were fun to hear, but kind of fell flat in terms of featuring Hamish Stuart (which is the point of doing the “All Starr” songs). It could have been any cover band or this band covering any song. Other big surprise: apparently low attendance! I saw large sections of seats with no one in them. Based on the enthusiasm we get for “1964 The Tribute” every year, I would have thought there were a lot more Beatle/Ringo fans in Roanoke and the surrounding area.”

Randy Lohr (Richmond, Virginia):

“Ringo, in this setting, was the gracious host who was willing to give up the chance to play more of his songs so that his fellow artists could perform their big hits and entertain the crowd with them. It was like a great mix-tape of curated classic rock from the late ‘60s to the early ‘80s, ranging from the jam rock of Santana to the Brit funk of Average White Band, from the pop rock of Toto to the quirky new wave of Men At Work. Each of the “All Starrs” – Greg Rolie, Hamish Stuart, Steve Lukather, and Colin Hay – had an obvious blast playing back-up roles for each other, I think in deference to the ultimate back-up player in the house, Ringo himself!

“The concert started promptly at 7:30 (fitting for a musician whose job is to set the time!) and ended almost exactly two hours later at 9:30, with a rousing rendition of “With A Little Help From My Friends” (got a little goose-bumpy again as Ringo sang those first lines – so perfect) and then a pseudo-encore of “Give Peace A Chance,” for which Ringo ran back on stage to help finish, flashing his signature peace sign, and wishing us all well.”

Ringo Starr Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo by Sammy Oakey

Sammy Oakey (Roanoke, Virginia):

“Any 79 year old who ends their two-hour concert by doing jumping jacks on stage has my respect, not that Richard Starkey lacked that before his recent Roanoke concert on August 13th. The current collection of All Starr Band members truly complement Ringo’s style and music, and the entire concert was enjoyable for the many generations that attended.

“While I love the songs that Ringo selected to sing, they’re the same numbers that he has been performing for several decades now, and I yearn for a few of his more obscure nuggets. “Only You”, “Octopus’ Garden”, and “”Goodnight Vienna” would surely be great additions to his show.

“Ringo looked and sounded great! While it was a blast to see him front and center at the microphone, it was equally exciting to see him climb up on his drum kit and play along to the other band members’ songs. He looked SO at ease on drums, and the years melted away with each beat of his drums. Having Greg Bissonette on the other drum kit was a great idea, as his stellar percussion and superb stage presence make him a true unsung hero.

“Instrumentalist Warren Ham also added a great deal to the show, with his various instrumental skills as well as some high vocals during “Africa”. While I enjoyed Steve Luthaker, Greg Rawley, and Colin Hay, I’d say my favorite band member (after Sir Ringo, of course!) was Hamish Stuart. The former Average White Band (and Paul McCartney band) member was more than stellar on his numbers, showing that he has lost none of his funk from the 70’s. “

Anne Fox (Roanoke, Virginia):

“I’ve loved Ringo since elementary school and would have gone to see him even if he just stood on stage and smiled. I found him funny and engaging and enjoyed all of his songs, esp. “Yellow Submarine” and “A Little Help From My Friends”. But the best treats of the evening came from his All Star Band, my favorites were from Santana and Toto. “Hold the Line” was great! From where we were sitting, the dialogue was difficult to understand. All in all, I had a delightful time and LOVED seeing Ringo!”

Ringo Starr Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo By David Woodson

Alice Webber (Salem, Virginia):

“I was super excited about seeing Ringo. Probably my last chance to see a Beatle. I wish he had sung a few more Beatles songs. “Octopus’s Garden” would have been nice instead of “You’re 16” (which makes me cringe every time I hear it.) But overall it was really special to see him, he was a great showman, great with the audience, and you could tell he enjoyed the men he shared the stage with. What I didn’t expect (because I did no research) was the caliber of his All Starr band! Hearing “Africa,” “Down Under,” “Evil Ways” and the others was a wonderful surprise. The whole night was GREAT! Loved it!”

Stevie Holcomb (Roanoke, Virginia)

“Great concert, of course he has a way to let his All Stars have their moment without making you wish there were more Beatles songs. Having seen him before, I knew what to expect. It is nice to hear Santana and Average White Band song’s sprinkled through. Still, he did a few favorites and thankfully, didn’t do Liverpool 8 (even though he DID do Anthem, which may be just as bad, Ringo is not a great lyricist) which is plumb awful.”

Michelle Lionberger (Roanoke, Virginia):

“As an elder statesmen in the world of rock, Ringo still has it. Not only did he give a fantastic performance himself, he also put together a truly all star band featuring some outstanding musicians.”

Chuck Lionberger (Roanoke, Virginia):

“This was a fun concert. Ringo was awesome, of course and I equally enjoyed singing-a-long with Men At Work, Toto and Santana songs. It was like being transported back to high school. Not only was there incredible vocal talent but also amazing musical performances. These guys can play and sing along.”

Ringo Starr Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo by Sammy Oakey

Nancy Helms Childress (Vinton, Virginia):

“I thought the concert was very well organized; letting Ringo sing with the other musicians taking turns singing their big hits. That was a great format. I was truly mesmerized watching the dual drummers, perfectly in sync! Amazing! Sometimes when Ringo was on the drums, I imagined John, Paul and George being on the stage with him. What a thrill that would have been! I have seen Paul McCartney in concert and now I have seen Ringo and I feel I am truly one of the lucky ones! I would go again to either or both if the opportunity ever comes up!”

Gayle Deel (Roanoke, Virginia):

“Ringo was in great form both physically and vocally, singing several of his signature songs, along with Yellow Submarine, which enthused all the Beatle fans.

This was special for me as I took my two sons, both drummers, to see him for the first time. Although they did note Ringo’s drum was not miked, only a true musician would notice that detail. The music of Santana, Average White Band. Toto and Men at Work brought back so many memories and was spot on.

“Ringo spoke and performed to the audience like he was playing in our living rooms. At one point he mentioned his “first” band: I know we all thought he was going to say The Beatles, but he gave a shout out to his original band, Rory Storm and the Hurricanes. Starr also mentioned his Beatle mates and ended his show with John’s “Give Peace a Chance,” with Ringo’s signature line, “peace and love” with the two finger V. I left in chills.”

 

Steve Lukather Roanoke Concert 8/13/19. Photo by Sammy Oakey

Thanks to everyone who submitted their comments for this Ringo Starr concert review.

Before I end this message, I will be sharing my favorite song by each of the four singing members of the All Starr Band and on the “Starr” of the concert, Ringo!

Gregg Rolie: “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen”

Although I loved “Evil Ways,” a song that Rollie sang at Woodstock 50 years ago as lead singer of Santana, it was actually “Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen” that was musically pleasing to me. Rollie’s organ, Steve Lukather’s guitar and the rest of the All Starr Band bought out one of the best overall musical performances of the entire evening.

Steve Lukather: “Africa”

The All Starr Band played one of the greatest Yacht Rock songs of all time: Toto’s biggest hit “Africa.” Their version extended Colin Hay’s guitar and Warren Ham’s saxophone, which complimented Lukather’s guitar and vocals in an excellent way. The crowd seemed to resonate with the tune during this performance.

Hamish Stuart: “Pick Up the Pieces”

This song has always been a favorite tune for me. I had the opportunity to meet Stuart when the Average White Band played a concert in Roanoke in 1975, while I worked for radio station WROV. Every member of the All Starr Band contributed to the success of this tune, with superb musicianship on the stage. It was a true meshing of instrumental talent on this selection.

Colin Hay: “Overkill”

With terrific songs like “Down Under” and “Who Can It Be Now,” it was extremely hard for me to pick “Overkill” as my favorite song. I loved all three of the Men at Work songs, but Hay’s best vocals of the night came when he performed “Overkill.” Collectively, the All Starr Band had wonderful blending of guitars, keyboards and saxophone. I maintain it was the best overall performance that evening by the band.

Ringo Starr: “It Don’t Come Easy”

Easily my favorite Ringo song of the night was “It Don’t Come Easy,” which was co-written by George Harrison and became Ringo’s first solo hit single during the summer of 1971. I enjoyed hearing Warren Ham’s saxophone and Steve Lukather’s guitar on one of the most musically demanding Ringo tunes. I appreciated the All Starr Band’s playing on this timeless classic.

Ringo Starr Roanoke Concert 8/13/19 Photo by Sammy Oakey

It may sound like a cliché but Ringo has paid his dues. As the Roanoke Times music writer Tad Dickens stated in his review of Starr’s concert, “The Beatles drummer, who turned 79 last month, is an energetic and groove-oriented onstage presence, 30 years removed from rehab, and 30 years into leading his own All Starr Band.”

Ringo has paid his dues and he can now sing the blues. He did so with His All Starr Band in Roanoke on August 13th, 2019. Rock on, Ringo Starr!

It don’t come easy,

You know it don’t come easy.

 

Got to pay your dues if you wanna sing the blues,

And you know it don’t come easy.

 

You don’t have to shout or leap about,

You can even play them easy.

 

Forget about the past and all your sorrows,

The future won’t last,

It will soon be over tomorrow.

 

I don’t ask for much, I only want your trust,

And you know it don’t come easy.

 

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Broadcasting, Music, Radio, Retro Rock

Back in the Summer of ’69

I got my first real six string,

Bought it at the five and dime,

Played it til my fingers bled,

Was the summer of ’69.

But when I look back now,

That summer seemed to last forever,

And if I had the choice,

Yeah, I’d always wanna be there,

Those were the best days of my life.

 

The “Summer of ‘69” was a time when Canadian rocker Bryan Adams was buying his first guitar and reminiscing about that summer being the “best days of his life.”

That summer of 1969 was an eventful time for those in the United States. The Vietnam War continued with over 500,000 American troops still in Southeast Asia and Neil Armstrong became the first man to walk on the moon.

During August, the Woodstock “3 Days of Peace and Music” Festival happened, with over 400,000 people attending one of the greatest events in rock music history. Meanwhile, the Beatles recorded their last album, “Abbey Road” just before John Lennon quit the legendary rock band.

The summer of 1969: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times,” to quote Charles Dickens from his book, “A Tale of Two Cities.”

Various Records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

It was during the hot summer of 1969, that I listened to the radio 10 to 12 hours a day and made a decision that I wanted to be a radio announcer when I grew up. My pursuit to become “DJ Dave” started in the summer of ‘69.

I have fond memories of listening to Top 40 radio during the summer of ‘69. Living in Roanoke, Virginia during this time, I would mostly listen to legendary Top 40 WROV 1240 AM in the daytime, with DJs Jack Fisher, Fred Frelantz and Bart Prater. I also would occasionally tune into WBLU 1480 AM Salem, a second Top 40 station in the Roanoke radio market. WBLU DJ’s Chris Shannon, Les Turpin and Bill Cassidy played the hits, while Dave Moran was the general manager at the station.

At sundown, WROV reduced their power and WBLU signed off the air, so I tuned my radio into stations hundreds of miles away from my Virginia home. Since radio waves changed on a nightly basis, I would listen to a variety of 50,000 watt, clear channel AM stations on any given night.

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

The two main stations that I listened to during the nighttime were WLS 890 AM Chicago and WABC 770 AM New York. On the Big 89 WLS, Larry Lujack, Chuck Buell and Kris Erik Stevens were my favorite DJs. When listening to WABC, Dan Ingram and Cousin Brucie (Bruce Morrow) are the two radio DJ voices that I remember from that hot summer.

On nights that WLS or WABC were hard to pick up, I had other clear channel stations that I could listen to. Among those other stations: WOWO Fort Wayne, WCFL Chicago 1000 AM, CKLW Windsor, Ontario (Detroit) 800 AM, WKBW Buffalo 1520 AM and WKYC Cleveland 1100 AM.

Because I spent so much time listening to Top 40 radio that summer, I decided that I wanted to become a DJ when I became an adult. My desire to work in radio became a reality for me five years later in 1974, as I landed a remote engineer position with WROV Roanoke when I was 18 years old.

Dave Woodson playing records for WROV Roanoke remote broadcast during 1974.

For the remaining portion of this message, I will be focusing on the music that was played on Top 40 radio during the summer of 69. I will be highlighting hits songs from 50 years ago that are still considered relevant here in 2019.

Musically, the summer of ‘69 is considered part of the “Golden Age of Top 40 Radio.” Diversity accurately describes the music that accounted for the biggest hits during that summer.

It was not uncommon to hear different genres played back to back: A DJ might start a music set with country crossover, “A Boy Named Sue” by Johnny Cash, segueing into a gospel song, “Oh Happy Day” from the Edwin Hawkins Singers and finally playing a reggae tune, “Israelites” by Desmond Decker and the Aces.

 

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

To further show the diversity of the music, here are five songs that reached number 1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Cash Box Top 100 charts during the summer of 69:

 

1. Get Back—The Beatles with Billy Preston

2. Love Theme From Romeo and Juliet—Henry Mancini & his Orchestra

3. In the Year 2525 (Exordium and Terminus)—Zager & Evans

4. Honky Tonk Women—The Rolling Stones

5. Sugar, Sugar—The Archies

 

In addition to those five songs, “In the Ghetto” by Elvis Presley spent the last week of June at the number 1 position on the Cash Box Top 100 chart.

 

WLS Chicago Hit Parade Surveys 7/21/69 & 8/4/69. Courtesy of Pete Battistini: Author of AMERICAN TOP 40 WITH CASEY KASEM (THE 1970’S)

Before I reveal my Top 10 most relevant songs from 50 years ago, I am going to share some other significant songs from the summer of ‘69.

Top Underrated Songs:

1. I’m Free—The Who

2. See—The Rascals

3. Marrakesh Express—Crosby Stills and Nash

4. Spinning Wheel—Blood Sweat and Tears

5. Polk Salad Annie—Tony Joe White

 

WROV Roanoke Super Summer Survey 8/24/69. Courtesy of DJ Steve Nelson and WROV History Website/Pat Garrett.

Top Love Songs:

1. What Does It Take (To Win Your Love)—Jr. Walker & the All Stars

2. Love (Can Make You Happy)—Mercy

3. Baby, I Love You—Andy Kim

4. My Cherie Amour—Stevie Wonder

5. My Pledge of Love—Joe Jeffries Group

 

My 45 RPM single of the Rascals “See” record that I bought in 1969.

Top Miscellaneous Subject Songs:

1. Grazing in the Grass—Friends of Distinction

2. Color Him Father—The Winstons

3. Black Pearl—Sonny Charles & the Checkmates

4. Sweet Caroline—Neil Diamond

5. More Today Than Yesterday—Spiral Staircase

 

My 45 RPM single of Oliver’s “Jean” record that I bought in 1969.

Now I will be focusing on what I consider to be the top ten 1969 summer radio songs. These are songs were either released and/or were hits between June and September 1969.

The top ten songs that I have selected fit into the following categories: I deem the 10 songs to still be culturally, historically, aesthetically significant, meaningful or relevant. There are no rankings with my listing and the songs are placed in a random order.

 

My 45 RPM single of CCR’s “Fortunate Son/Down on the Corner” record that I bought in 1969.

One—Three Dog Night

When the Beach Boys and the Byrds started to wane on Top 40 radio, a new vocal powerhouse came upon the scene: Three Dog Night. Group members Chuck Negron, Danny Hutton and Cory Wells were all talented vocalists and their blended harmonies and vocal versatility soared with their catchy, up-tempo rock tune. “One” spent 3 weeks at number two on Cash Box Top 100 chart and was the first of 21 consecutive songs to reach the Billboard Top 40 between 1969 and 1975 for Three Dog Night.

Easy To Be Hard—Three Dog Night

Just after their song “One” became a hit, Three Dog Night had a second smash tune during the summer of 69: “Easy To Be Hard” from the Broadway musical “Hair.” Chuck Negron has excellent passion when singing the lyrics that question the harsh treatment of humanity: “How can people be so heartless, how can people be so cruel, easy to be hard?” Three Dog Night went on to have a 3rd Top 10 hit with “Eli’s Coming,” a Laura Nyro tune, during the fall of the same year.

Bad Moon Rising—Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

The second CCR song to reach number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, after “Proud Mary” in the spring of ‘69, is considered to be one of the first tunes in the “Swamp rock” genre of music. Plus, “Bad Moon Rising” has perhaps the most misheard lyric ever in modern music history. Many folks think CCR’s leader John Fogerty sings “There’s a bathroom on the right” instead of “There’s a bad moon on the rise.” “Bad Moon Rising” remains popular and is still played at many sporting events here in 2019.

Fortunate Son—Creedence Clearwater Revival (CCR)

Summer of ‘69 was huge for CCR. The band played at Woodstock, 4 hit singles charted and their “Green River” album was released. Then in September, the band released “Fortunate Son.” The song quickly became an anti-war movement anthem and is considered a signature song for John Fogerty. In 2013, “Fortunate Son” was added to the National Recording Registry by the Library of Congress for being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

 

Crystal Blue Persuasion—Tommy James and the Shondells

With the Vietnam War ongoing, Tommy James had his 3rd consecutive top 10 hit, a song longing for a future age of brotherhood, harmony and living in peace. James has been quoted multiple times, stating that the inspiration for “Crystal Blue Persuasion” came from him reading the books of Isaiah, Ezekiel and Revelation in the Bible. The melodic acoustic guitar and organ on the tune help to make this song still sound good, 50 years later.

Get Back—The Beatles with Billy Preston

A song that was originally performed at the historic Beatles “Rooftop” concert in January 1969, the single “Get Back” was the first number 1 song, on both Billboard and Cashbox charts, during the summer of ‘69. The Beatles’ “Get Back/Don’t Let Me Down” single is the only time that another artist was credited on a Fab Four recording, with Billy Preston sharing the honor for the biggest Beatles single in 1969. “Get Back” was also the Beatles’ first single released in America in true stereo.

Get Together—The Youngbloods

With the catchy chorus, “Come on people now/Smile on your brother/Everybody get together/Try to love one another right now,” the Youngbloods created a timely classic with their “Love and Peace” anthem “Get Together.” American involvement in the Vietnam War remained strong in 1969 and the song was a huge hit on Top 40 radio. It was also embraced by many Christian churches during this time period, that wanted to promote “Love and Peace” in their congregations. A true quintessential song from the golden age of Top 40 radio.

Put a Little Love in Your Heart—Jackie DeShannon

It is interesting to look back on how many of the most significant songs from 50 years ago were on the subject of love and peace. Jackie DeShannon’s biggest hit record, “Put a Little Love in Your Heart” is one of those “Love and Peace” songs that resonated with radio listeners in the summer of 69. Along with DeShannon’s other big hit, “What the World Needs Now,” her message of seeking love and peace, rather than war, is still relevant today.

In the Ghetto—Elvis Presley

For most folks who think about Elvis songs, very few remember his songs of social concerns. “In the Ghetto” is completely different than almost every other Elvis tune and provided a comeback for the “King of Rock and Roll” in 1969. The Mac Davis-written song tells a narrative of generational poverty that is set in the city of Chicago. With the success of this song, Elvis charted two consecutive number 1 songs in 1969: “In the Ghetto” and “Suspicious Minds.”

Suite: Judy Blue Eyes—Crosby Stills and Nash (CSN)

When CSN played at Woodstock during August 1969, the band opened up their set list with “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes.” The song was the second single from the CSN self-titled debut album, after “Marrakesh Express” and was released as a single in September ‘69. The tune is made up of four separate sections and is seamlessly woven together by excellent harmonies of the band. Truly, “Suite: Judy Blue Eyes” is the signature song for CSN.

 

Various records that I bought during the summer of 1969.

Now that I have humbly submitted my thoughts on the most significant singles from the summer of 1969, I am curious to find out your opinion on the music from 50 years ago.

Obviously, I do not want to come across as authoritative with my critique of music from the golden age of Top 40 radio. The songs that you feel are the best from the summer of 1969 could be completely different than my selections.

So I am asking for your opinion: What songs do you feel are the best, greatest or most significant singles from the summer of 1969?

Listening to the music on Top 40 radio in 1969 highlighted some of the best days of my life. Rock on!

I leave you with the ending lyrics to “Crystal Blue Persuasion:”

Maybe tomorrow.

When he looks down,

On every green field,

And every town,

All of his children,

In every nation,

There’ll be peace and good,

Brotherhood,

Crystal blue persuasion

 

To subscribe to my blog via email, please click the “Follow” button in the menu above. I am looking forward reading your comments on my latest blog message.

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Artist Profiles, Music, Virginia Artists

David Hollandsworth: Musical Maestro

My music makes you dance and gives you spirit to take a chance,

And I wrote some rock ‘n roll, so you can move,

Music fills your heart, well that’s a real fine place to start,

It’s from me, it’s for you,

It’s a worldwide symphony,

I am music and I write the songs.

Bruce Johnston wrote the above lyrics for the tune “I Write the Songs,” which became a number 1 hit in America for Barry Manilow in 1976.

Although Johnston’s lyrics are referring to God and not an individual person, the concept of writing multiple musical songs for the world to hear reminds me of composer David Hollandsworth.

David Hollandsworth 2019

Over the past 10 years, David Hollandsworth has written hundreds of short, instrumental songs and melodies that have been used in countless TV shows, movies and commercials. The Roanoke, Virginia resident has also written many full-length instrumental tunes, some which have been heard by millions of listeners, via SoundCloud, YouTube and other online music platforms.

More than likely, most have never thought about the instrumental music playing while watching reality shows, movies on Netflix or even viewing commercials. Quite frankly, this is probably a topic that many have never considered prior to reading this message about Hollandsworth and his prolific career.

Some may be wondering how Hollandsworth got started on a career path of writing musical tunes. I had the opportunity to interview David earlier this month to find out how his musical past during childhood and as a young adult helped influence his career.

The seeds of Hollandsworth’s musical talent began during his high school years in southern California. Jethro Tull was a favorite band of David’s, and he asked his mother Dot Hollandsworth to buy him a flute. His mom thought a flute was too expensive so she bought him a cheap classical guitar instead of David’s desired woodwind instrument.

Young David Hollandsworth with Guitar

After Hollandsworth received his guitar, he took lessons for around a year. As a young adult, David started playing guitar during his church’s morning worship services, where his father Jimmy Hollandsworth was the pastor

During this same time period, Hollandsworth started listening to the “Jesus Music” scene in Southern California, which was being developed by the Calvary Chapel fellowship in Costa Mesa. David’s favorite artists at Calvary Chapel both played the piano: Chuck Girard, who played in the band Love Song, and singer-songwriter Erick Nelson.

With the influence of Girard and Nelson’s music, Hollandsworth decided he wanted to play the piano. Since David could not read music, he taught himself how to play the piano by ear.

In 1977, Jimmy Hollandsworth moved his family to Roanoke, Virginia and founded a new church. David and his mother became the worship leaders at the new Church of the Living Way.

David Hollandsworth with Piano 1986.

Eventually David’s mom stepped away from playing piano and David became the sole worship leader for his father’s church. Piano became the instrument of choice for Hollandsworth with these new duties.

For the next 20 years, Hollandsworth was the worship leader for the same church: first called Church of the Living Way and then renamed Grace Covenant Church in 1990. Here in 2019, David is still involved with music ministry.  Hollandsworth continues to play keyboard in the worship band, most Sunday mornings, at the church where he now attends.

David Hollandsworth Playing Guitar 1986

When the Internet grew in popularity during the mid 90’s, Hollandsworth took his love and knowledge of Contemporary Christian Music from his teenage years and made a website called “One-Way.org: A Decade of Jesus Music 1969-1979.”

David wrote about the early days of Jesus Music, covering artists like Larry Norman, Randy Stonehill, Keith Green, Love Song, 2nd Chapter of Acts and many other pioneers in this genre of music.

Although this website may seem antiquated by today’s standards, Hollandsworth’s website was one of the first to document the history of “Jesus Music” on the Internet. Below is a quote from David about the beginnings of his creation:

“The idea for this site started as a wild thought back in 1995. This thing called the World Wide Web was the new buzzword all over the world. As I surfed around I realized that there wasn’t much to be found about the Jesus movement, its history and music. Then and there, I decided that I would put together a site dedicated to this music and the artists who created it. Call it a historical, pictorial, musical archive of a very special time in Christian history.”

While Hollandsworth doesn’t currently maintain or update the “Jesus Music” website he created, it is still available for viewing on the Internet.

During the mid 2000’s, David slowly exchanged his “Jesus Music” historian activities for composing instrumental music tracks. This undertaking was not an overnight venture for Hollandsworth, as he slowly developed his skills and learned how to record music on a professional level.

 

Ten years ago, Hollandsworth started the process of composing music on a computer, utilizing the Musical Instrument Digital Interface (MIDI). With the MIDI technology, David used a keyboard to create multi-track files.

Since that time, David has created hundreds of music tracks. Some songs are full-length songs, lasting 3 minutes or longer, while “production” tunes that Hollandsworth creates are shorter segments of music, generally lasting less than two minutes in duration.

In my interview with David, I asked him to classify the type of music he composes and he replied, “I would classify most of the music I have out there for the public as new age, neo-classical and ambient. I also have some albums of orchestral and vocal/choir music.”

Hollandsworth went on to explain to me how TV producers and commercial writers utilize his instrumental music. “Reality TV uses a lot of different genres of music these days. If you listen to a show, you will hear dozens of short cues used throughout a program. The most commonly used are quirky, “dramedy” shows with a hip hop/urban feel and tension music. Tension music is big with all the crime, CSI, investigative type shows on the air.”

David continued, “Other types of music used a lot in commercials and ads are what they call positive, uplifting, or corporate music. Often these have a pop feel to them or use a piano motif to convey what they want to get across. I’ve even done some creepy music for horror/alien type use.”

“A lot of times I will hear something on TV that will spark an idea for a composition. I have dozens of unfinished projects that I will often go back to years later and finish,” Hollandsworth said.

 

Below are various links for David Hollandswoth’s music:

“Discovery” album was voted Best Ambient album 2015 by One World Music Radio. https://music.apple.com/us/album/discovery/1065067459

The song “Flow” has been streamed over million times on Soundcloud: https://soundcloud.com/davidhollandsworth/flow

The official Webpage of David Hollandsworth music: http://davidhollandsworth.com/

The IMDB link: https://www.imdb.com/name/nm8392380/

David Hollandsworth 2019

Before ending my conversation with David, I was curious to find out what artists and genres of music that he listens to on a regular basis. Hollandsworth quickly stated, “Anything with piano is my favorite.”

Core artists that Hollandsworth plays frequently include: Windham Hill artists; pianists/keyboardists Yanni, George Winston & David Lanz; synthesizer artists Vangelis & Tangerine Dream; Progressive rock bands Emerson Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, Traffic & Yes; plus jazz fusion artists Pat Metheny and Spyro Gyra.

David’s music is available on multiple outlets, throughout a variety of sources on the Internet: streaming platforms such as Soundcloud, Pandora, Spotify, Apple and Amazon. His music is also available for purchase on his official website and various other online media platforms.

David Hollandsworth 2019

As I think about the prolific musical scores of Hollandsworth, I am amazed by how this man has written hundreds of tunes over the years but can’t read music. (Paul McCartney is also a person who can’t read music but it hasn’t hurt his career). Obviously, the fact the David doesn’t know how to read music hasn’t stopped him from creating professional music either.

The other thing that I admire about David is his tenacity to start a new career writing and composing music later in his life. His perseverance to switch careers and perform in an area in which he is gifted is extremely encouraging to me.

When all is said and done, instrumentalist David Hollandsworth is truly a musical maestro.

 

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Music, Theatre Reviews

Hamilton: In the Room Where it Happened

What’s your name, man?

 

Alexander Hamilton

My name is Alexander Hamilton

And there’s a million things I haven’t done

But just you wait, just you wait

 

These lyrics come from the song “Alexander Hamilton,” the opening number of the Broadway smash hit Hamilton: An American Musical.

So why is DJ Dave writing about Hamilton? My family and I attended a matinee performance of Hamilton on Broadway in New York on May 1st. While my daughters Amy, Stephanie and Julianne had all attended shows on Broadway in the past, this was the first opportunity for my wife Priscilla and I to attend a show in New York.

For this edition of my musical musings, I will be exploring my first ever attendance of a Broadway musical, specifically focusing on the music of Hamilton. My daughter Stephanie will also be sharing some of her thoughts on the biggest Broadway musical hit in recent memory.

The playwright, lyricist, and star of Hamilton is Lin-Manuel Miranda. He based his musical on a 2004 biography of founding father Alexander Hamilton, written by historian Ron Chernow. Miranda bought a copy of Chernow’s book and took quite a few years researching Alexander Hamilton’s life before coming up with the finished product.

In fact, as Miranda told CNBC: “It took me seven years to write this show. This is no overnight success — took me a year to write the second song in the show ‘My Shot.’ I’m in awe of people who can just write well and quickly.”

“…[I]t took me a long time to be able to write about that guy, but that was sort of what inspired me about his story,” Miranda stated in the CNBC interview.

Hamilton stage door at Richard Rodgers Theatre, 46th Street, New York. May 1st, 2019.

A tweet Miranda wrote in 2009 shows the struggle behind his genius: “Spent the entire day working on one couplet about George Washington. Hamilton’s slow-going, my friends, but I promise you it will be worth it. It’s hard converting whole swaths of history into a hot 16 bars.”

Since this message is strictly about the music and songs of Hamilton, I will not be critiquing the traditional theatre aspects of the play, or the historical accuracy of Miranda’s script. Much has been written on those features during the past four years, and you can check out those unique evaluations elsewhere by searching the Internet.

Julianne, Stephanie and Amy Woodson in front of the Schuyler Sisters silhouette, Richard Rodgers Theatre. May 1st, 2019

After seeing Hamilton on Broadway, it is evident to me that Lin-Manuel Miranda’s music is the glue that holds together the story of the script. I estimate that some type of music was played at least 98 percent of the time during the play.

The show actually contains 46 songs. According to Leah Libresco from FiveThirtyEight, there are “20,500 words in the Hamilton script and an average of 144 words are-sung, rapped or spoken per minute.”

In an interview by Rembert Browne of Grantland, Miranda stated it would be impossible to tell Hamilton’s story at the traditional pace of a Broadway play.

“It would have to be 12 hours long, because the amount of words on the bars when you’re writing a typical song — that’s maybe got 10 words per line,” declared Miranda.

Hamilton clocks in at 2 hours and 23 minutes and is broken down into two acts. The pace of the play is excellent, aided by the carefully crafted songs. I consider the majority of the songs in the show to have up-tempo rhythms but there are select ballads that are normally associated with Broadway theatre.

Hamilton playbill autographed by Austin Scott, the actor who plays “Alexander Hamilton” in New York. May 1st, 2019.

The music from Hamilton is altogether different than most other musicals on Broadway. Miranda utilizes hip-hop as the unifying musical style throughout his theatre masterpiece.

However, don’t misunderstand: Hamilton is more than just a hip-hop music vehicle. The play also incorporates unique and diverse sounds from genres such as R&B, big band jazz, pop, rock, rap, and traditional show tune melodies. Miranda’s blending of multiple musical genres has proven to be a groundbreaking success in the world of Broadway musicals.

As stated above, Hamilton’s script contains over twenty thousand words. Miranda’s fusion of lyrics with various styles of music is brilliant. So what makes the blending of words and music in Hamilton come alive during this Broadway play?

Stephanie Woodson is front of Hamilton silhouette, Richard Rodgers Theatre. May 1st, 2019.

According to my daughter Stephanie Woodson, Miranda’s use of repetition is one of the keys to success with Hamilton: “As an English teacher, I cannot stress enough the importance of an author using repetition. There is something immensely satisfying about it. Hamilton’s use of repetition indeed left me satisfied. The connections within the lyrics are simply a work of genius. Lin-Manuel Miranda is a true artist.”

So you may be asking: What are the best Hamilton songs, from purely a musical standpoint? After spending my afternoon watching the play, I have fresh comprehension of Miranda’s music.

While many Broadway critics have ranked what they consider to be the “best” songs from Hamilton, I am going to refrain from this type of critique. The rest of my message will chronicle what I feel are the most significant songs from a diverse musical perspective.

Please note that as I transition to a detailed accounting of Hamilton songs, none of the songs I am listing are ranked and are all placed in a totally random order.

 

Stephanie, Amy and Julianne Woodson on Times Square, two hours prior to attending Hamilton show. May 1st, 2019.

My Shot

 

“My Shot,” the third track from Act 1, is a quintessential throwback to 90’s old school hip-hop. The song features a killer beat, is catchy and reminiscent of golden age rap.

 

The phrase, “I’m not throwing away my shot” is repeated in multiple other songs that follow and the unforgettable line is a foundation for the entire show. This is an impressive song.

 

The Room Where It Happened

 

“The Room Where It Happened” by far is one of the most musically complex songs in Hamilton. The music fuses big band/ New Orleans style jazz, new wave, pop, hip-hop and even features a banjo. “The Room Where It Happened” has a prominent backing chorus and is similar to traditional show tunes on Broadway.

 

Stephanie and Priscilla Woodson inside Richard Rodgers Theatre, just minutes prior to the start of Hamilton. May 1st, 2019.

Helpless

 

“Helpless” is song that focuses on the romance and eventual wedding of Eliza Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton. I describe the song as classic Motown/R&B/hip-hop, girl group groove. Lyrics are half-rapped, half-sung cadences and the upbeat, sing-a-long chorus help make “Helpless” one of the more memorable songs from Hamilton.

 

Wait For It

 

“Wait For It” has Aaron Burr lamenting about Alexander Hamilton’s quick rise to power and showing determination to ultimately prevail against his foe. The tender pop ballad has an excellent mix of stuttering beats and a Jamaican reggae dancehall sound. A cello played with the melody line gives the song a superb vibration.

 

Satisfied

 

“Satisfied” features a duet between Angelica Schuyler and Alexander Hamilton. Arguably the most popular song in the play, it combines R&B/hip-hop grooves with a string section and chorus line backing. The rapid-fire vocal delivery, followed closely by singing of operatic vocal runs by Angelica is absolutely amazing.

 

Priscilla and David Woodson in front of Hamilton silhouette, Richard Rodgers Theatre. May 1st, 2019.

You’ll Be Back

 

“You’ll Be Back” is an outstanding tribute to British Invasion pop/rock and American Sunshine Pop from the 60’s. I definitely heard influences of the Beatles’ songs “Penny Lane” and “Getting Better” during the play, as well as positive vibes similar to the Turtles’ song “Happy Together.” Miranda’s musical salute to “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band” is the catchiest song in his award-winning musical.

 

Non Stop

 

“Non Stop” is the last song of Act 1 before intermission and utilizes the best of multiple musical genres. This melodic tune blends piano based synth pop, samba, reggae, funk and even record scratching as part of the mix. The diversity and blending of musical styles on this song is a masterful work of art.

 

Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story

 

“Who Lives, Who Dies, Who Tells Your Story” completes the Hamilton play as the last song of the show. Although it is most like traditional Broadway show-tunes, the song still fuses R&B/hip-hop/pop with a lush classical orchestra musical bed. With the entire cast singing on this selection, the song is a crown jewel as the finale of the show.

 

 

Priscilla and David Woodson at Times Square, two hours prior to attending Hamilton show. May 1st, 2019.

Obviously, there are many other excellent songs in Hamilton but I have limited my writing to just the 8 tunes listed above. For additional information on Hamilton music, please go to the official Hamilton New York online site.

Before I leave the topic of Hamilton, I must ask the question: Will the music of Hamilton appeal to all different types of theatre patrons? Especially those loving traditional old school Broadway plays?

Since some people have an aversion to any type of hip-hop music, I understand how those folks will never embrace the music of Hamilton. Even though Miranda’s story is based on the beginning history of America’s founding fathers, Hamilton’s music will never resonate with some individuals.

However, for the rest of us, Hamilton’s music is riveting, exhilarating and stimulating. Without a doubt, Lin-Manuel Miranda’s musical theatre achievement is one of the most engaging Broadway plays to be performed during the 21st Century

Julianne, Stephanie and Amy Woodson with Austin Scott, the actor who plays “Alexander Hamilton” at Richard Rodgers Theatre stage door. May 1st, 2019.

As I ponder back on my first ever Broadway play experience, I was definitely blessed to attend Hamilton as my first show. I told my family, “I’m not throwing away my shot” and missing the opportunity to see Hamilton in New York. Sharing this event with my family will always be a fond memory for me.

Lyrics for “The Schuyler Sisters” song summarizes my final thoughts on Hamilton:

 

Look around, at how lucky we are to be alive right now!

History is happening in Manhattan and we just happen to be,

In the greatest city in the world.

 

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Artist Profiles, Music, Radio, Virginia Artists

Robin and Linda Williams: The Shenandoah Valley’s Musical Pioneers

When I want to hear quintessential Americana music, all I need to do is to travel up the Shenandoah Valley, 90 miles from Roanoke to Staunton, for the music of Robin and Linda Williams.

Known to many for their regular performances on Garrison Keillor’s live radio show “A Prairie Home Companion,” the husband and wife duo have been making music from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia since the 1970’s.

As their official website states: “For more than four decades now, Robin & Linda have made it their mission to perform the music that they love, ‘a robust blend of bluegrass, folk, old-time and acoustic country that combines wryly observant lyrics with a wide-ranging melodicism.

“Today some might call it ‘Americana,’ but these two revered music masters were living and breathing this elixir 20 years before that label was turned into a radio format.”

Robin and Linda Williams in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Last month, I spoke with Robin and Linda via phone to find out what the couple has been doing musically over the course of their career and to check out what their plans are for 2019.

I first met Robin and Linda during my junior year attending James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia during the late 70’s. I worked at public radio station WMRA and was the producer of a daily radio program called “Country Afternoon.”

My radio program featured folk, bluegrass and old time country music. Once a month, “Country Afternoon” would have bands and performers from the Shenandoah Valley come to the station to give a live one-hour concert on the radio. Robin and Linda performed on my “Country Afternoon” radio program. Little did I know that this husband and wife duo from Augusta County would one day be nationally known for their iconic music style.

Robin and Linda met in 1971 and quickly realized that they made beautiful music together. The duo started writing their own songs and by 1975, they recorded their first album, the self-titled, “Robin and Linda Williams” on Flashlight Records in Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Around the same time, the husband and wife team met Garrison Keillor in Minnesota. As Robin and Linda’s website states: “They made their first appearance on a little radio show just getting off the ground called “A Prairie Home Companion” and their rich relationship with that icon of American broadcasting has continued for four decades.”

In my joint phone interview with Robin and Linda last month, I asked the Williamses if they ever lived in Minnesota? Linda replied “No. We would fly to Minneapolis on Thursday evenings prior to a Saturday show and then stay in the land of 10,000 lakes for a total of 11 days. We would then perform on consecutive Saturdays but still live in the Shenandoah Valley.”

The Virginian couple met Garrison Keillor, “when he came to see us at a venue about 60 miles from St. Paul,” Linda explained. “After watching us for a set of songs, Keillor asked us to come play the radio show. That was in the fall of 1975 and we have worked with him ever since: On the radio, doing concerts and performing on cruise ships.”

“Concerning Garrison, he has been a friend and a mentor to us and he’s the most talented person we’ve ever been around. And we’ve been around some legends”, Linda admired.   The Shenandoah Valley couple will be working again will Keillor again next winter on a Cuban cruise.

Robin and Linda Williams

Over the years, the duo has performed thousands of concerts across the United States, Canada and Europe. Additionally, Robin and Linda are known as superb songwriters. Emmylou Harris, Mary Chapin Carpenter, Kathy Mattea, Tom T. Hall, George Hamilton IV and the Seldom Scene have all covered songs written by Robin and Linda.

According to their website, “Robin and Linda have made appearances on such major programs as ‘The Grand Old Opry,’ ‘Austin City Limits,’ ‘Music City Tonight,’ ‘Mountain Stage’ and they continue to make frequent appearances on ‘A Prairie Home Companion.’   Having always sung gospel music, in the late 1980s they teamed up with their old friend and “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor and bluegrass songstress Kate MacKenzie to form The Hopeful Gospel Quartet.

Robin and Linda Williams

One of the things that I admire the most about Robin and Linda’s music is their focus on the place they have called home for over 40 years: The Shenandoah Valley of Virginia.

I asked the Williamses if they could share with me the influence that living in the Shenandoah Valley has had on their music. Here are Robin and Linda’s thoughts with their four selections:

 

  1. “Stonewall Country”

 

“[This song] got its title from a little known fact that the term was used in the early to mid-19th century as a moniker for the Shenandoah Valley. Evidently the farmers used the limestone rocks they cleared from their fields as fences and walls, thus “stone wall country.”

 

“We changed the title to “Stonewall Country” because the song was written for the musical we wrote about Stonewall Jackson for the “The Theater “at Lime Kiln in Lexington, Virginia.

 

I make my home in Stonewall Country/Down a crooked lane/Where the fields steep and rocky/Took such toil to claim/Now the plows run deep in Stonewall Country/The ground gives back good yields/And the rocks that blocked the furrows/So worrisome to wield/Stand in fences ‘round the fields.

 

I may leave the Shenandoah/But she’ll never leave my heart/ Stonewall Country, clear-eyed daughter of the stars/Stonewall Country, clear-eyed daughter of the stars.

  1. “Buena Vista”

 

“Another song that comes to mind our song “Buena Vista,” a tale that mentions not only the Rockbridge County town but also some landmarks like the Maury River.”

 

So you beat a path to Rockbridge Baths/ ’cause blood kin won’t quit ya/

Or try to dry you out like they do in Buena Vista/

It’s a long walk from your front porch to the Maury River’s edge/

But it’s longer when you’re drunk and hauling back a broken leg/

So here’s to the sawbones who pinned you up and fixed ya/

But you’re out of action lying in traction down in Buena Vista

 

  1. “These Old Dark Hills”

 

“Linda got the title of the song “These Old Dark Hills” after a late afternoon winter walk around our property and looking over to the Allegheny Mountains. Seeing those mountains every day for over forty years, they almost seem like friends,” said Robin.

These Old Dark Hills/On which sore eyes can rest/These Old Dark Hills/Ridge after ridge to the west          

  1. “October Light”

 

“[This] is a song that comes quickly to mind. It’s about the beauty of fall in the Shenandoah Valley.”

Each day we walk up on the hill/And watch the setting sun/Play on the trees and fields until/It falls and day is done/Yellow, orange, blue and rose/The colors neon bright/The evening sky is all aglow/With this October Light.

 

Robin and Linda Williams

Obviously, the Shenandoah Valley is a special place for Robin and Linda. However, their songs cover a wide variety of topics and are respected by fellow songwriters all across many genres of music.

So I asked the Williams couple if they could share with me their top 5 essential songs. These would be the songs they would like for a person to hear, if they were checking out the Virginia duo’s music for the first time. Here are Robin and Linda’s thoughts on each song:

 

  1. “Old Plank Road”

 

“On the last day of filming ‘A Prairie Home Companion,’ director Robert Altman’s last movie, we were asked to perform one of our songs to use for the movie soundtrack. ‘Old Plank Road,’ is a song about a music party in Batesville, VA, and Altman used seven or eight minutes of the film cutting away from us singing it to other scenes that helped develop the story line.”

Charlie you’re a good old boy Charlie you’re all right/Charlie open up the store, we’re coming down tonight/Out where you can see the stars and the living’s slow/We’ll eat potluck and pull guitars down on Old Plank Road.

  1. “Rolling and Rambling (the Death of Hank Williams)”

 

[This song] has never left our repertoire (probably the only one) and which Emmylou Harris recorded.”

Rolling and Rambling, the women loved him half to death/He sang with whiskey on his breath/His heart broke like a child/Rolling and Rambling, the sun has set out on the trail/The hobo’s drifted up the rail/He’s taken his last ride.

 

  1. “Don’t Let Me Come Home A Stranger”

 

“[This song] was in the “Stonewall Country” musical and has made it into the repertoires and recordings of several American and British Isles singers.”

Will there come a time when the memories fade/And pass on with the long, dark years/When the ties no longer bind. Lord save me from this darkest fear/Don’t Let Me Come Home A Stranger/I couldn’t stand to be a stranger

  1. “Across The Blue Mountains”

 

“[This is] a local, traditional, a cappella song that we found on a party tape with Paul Clayton singing it. We’ve sung it for over 35 years and it’s the vehicle that opened the door to our friendship with the legendary Dave Van Ronk.”

One morning, one morning, one morning in May/I heard a married man to a young girl say/Go dress you up pretty Katy and come go with me/Across the Blue Mountains to the Allegheny

 

  1. “Famous In Missouri”

 

“We’re proud of it because it was sung and released as a single by Tom T. Hall, a member of the Country Music and Songwriters Halls of Fame. He was so successful and had such respect as a songwriter that folks labeled him “The Story Teller.” His recording of our song helped us garner respect as songwriters ourselves.”

I was famous in Missouri/Everybody knew my name/Kansas City to old St. Louis/They knew how well I played my game/Now it sure feels strange /To be in South Dakota, out on the range

Robin and Linda Williams in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Being part of the Shenandoah Valley music community has always been extremely important for the Williams couple. Linda states, “We have a network of local musician friends – some professional, some not – some old, some new – and via this musical community we’ve been able make contributions to the area.

“Robin and I started a concert series at the Lime Kiln Theater during the mid-80s. We have also helped start a couple of festivals: The Oak Grove Folk Music Festival in Verona (now in its 36th year) and the Fortune-Williams Festival with Jimmy Fortune, the Country Music Hall Of Famer, which ran for 10 years.”

Clearly, Robin and Linda have been an integral part of the Shenandoah Valley music scene for over 40 years and the duo continues to work on and develop new musical projects here in 2019.

Robin and Linda Williams

One proposed project is for a new musical TV show on Virginian music called ‘Road Trip: Virginia Live.’ Robin explains, “The idea is to go to historic venues in Virginia and present a half hour music show based not only on the musical acts but also the venues.”

The other project for the Williamses this year is the production of a new album, which will be recorded at their home in Staunton. “We called our friend Kevin McNoldy, who showed up with portable recording gear and two Townsend microphones in April and we recorded six songs,” said Linda.

“Our house in Staunton is old and has high ceilings and the room sounds wonderful, better than some studios we’ve recorded in the past,” she said. “We sat in our living room with those Townsend mics and got some really good stuff. Robin and I have recorded six CDs with Kevin in the past and it’s been fun re-connecting with him. We’ll continue recording in June and July.”

Robin and Linda Williams in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia

Touring has always been an important part in the musical career of Robin and Linda, and the couple will have concerts scheduled between now and October. Their next show will be at The Harvester in Rocky Mount, Virginia. The Williamses’ friend, Scott Miller will be opening up for the duo at this concert venue. I am looking forward attending this concert, along with my wife Priscilla. For more information on upcoming concerts and to purchase music, please go to the official Robin and Linda website.

What will be the legacy of Robin and Linda? They are leaders in the Shenandoah Valley music scene and their fingerprints are throughout the musical landscape of Virginia. Without a doubt, Robin and Linda Williams are the quintessential duo of Americana music in America!

 

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