Saturday, May 14, 2016

70 Years Old; 70 Years of Music

Well, I’ve done it. Reached 70 today. Who would have thunk it? It’s time to reflect, and I’ll like to indulge you and me with thoughts about music over 7 decades. I have seen the changes from 78’s to 33 1/3’s, regular LP’s to the revolutionary Hi Fi, and stereo. Along came reel to reel, 8 tracks, cassettes, CDs, DVDs, ITunes, YouTube, and even the partial rebirth of albums. YouTube makes it easy today. Watch one music video, and YouTube throws scores of related ones at you. Some nights I spend hours listening and watching songs on YouTube. It’s addictive. First, we start with the popular music of the 1950’s with such classic songs as “How much is that doggy in the window?” Patty Page, “Mack the Knife (Bobby Darin), “Town Without Pity” (Gene Pitney), Tony Bennett, and Elvis. But then several genres developed in the late 1950’s and early 1960’s. First up was the Folk Music boom, led by the Kingston Trio, the Limeliters, the Smothers Brothers, Joan Baez, and Peter, Paul and Mary on AM. FM Radio entered the scene with “underground” music, such as Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs, etc., switching into Rock. We had the surfing sound, Jan and Dean and the Beach Boys. Rock emerged, Buddy Holly and the Crickets, Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis. Sun Records, Chess Records, MoTown. Then came the British Invasion led by the Beatles Glen Campbell had a string of geographic hits in the late 60’s:” Galveston,” “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” “Wichita Lineman” John Denver was the star of the 1970’s Elton John soared in the 1970’s Classical and Country were always in the background. Comedians made their names off LP sales. Bubble Gum music never left. The first country western song I remember is still one of the best, Marty Robbins, “El Paso” The juke box at the University of San Francisco was stuck on three songs: Johnny Cash, “Folsom Prison Blues,” Simon and Garfunkel, “Bridge Over Troubled Waters,” and, of course, The Mamas and Papas with “California Dreaming.” Of course, we’ll in California. It’s not a Dream – the Haight-Asbury during the Summer of Love. My favorite San Francisco song therefore is Scott McKenzie’s “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair).” (Watch the YouTube video with the Flower Children). That replaces “San Francisco: Open Your Golder Gate” by Jeanette MacDonald. Tony Bennett’s “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” never did it for me. And yet, the car radio played “California Dreaming” as I drove to Bradley Airport in 1994 to catch a flight to Orange County for a job interview at Chapman University. It was a sign. The juke box at the Northern Freeze in Ada, Ohio kept playing Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young’s “Four Dead in Ohio.” As for Michigan, there is no great song. Simon and Garfunkel in “America” sang “It took four days to hitchhike from Saginaw.” A sad song for Michigan is Golden Lightfoot’s “Black Day in July,” about the riots in Detroit Speaking of Michigan, John Phillips Souza once said Michigan’s “The Victors” was the greatest college fight song. I’m biased so I agree, but the Notre Dame Fight song and USC’s Fight On are right up there. I had plenty of time to catch the music of the time, as well as complete my dissertation, between 1972 and 1975 when I taught at Ohio Northern University in Ada, Ohio. I could stack the turntable with LP’s. So here’s my list. It is highly personal and difficult. There were so many great musicians and music that it’s tough to decide. Most beautiful voice with a great song: Judy Collins and “Amazing Grace” A modern runner up to Judy Collins would be Celtic Woman’s “Amazing Grace” on their Songs from the Heart Live Album Best album, Carol King, Tapestry Best retro soundtrack, Forrest Gump The song which touches me after my personal diaspora from San Francisco was Neil Diamond’s “I Am, I Said:” “L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home, New York’s home, but it ain’t mine no more.” I’m back in California, but the OC is not San Francisco. Political song for all ages: The Who, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” Best IRS song, George Harrison, “The Tax Man” Best environmental song: Joni Mitchell’s Big Yellow Taxi, “They paved paradise to put up a parking lot,” was a major hit, but I favor John Prine’s “Paradise,” dealing with Peabody Coal’s strip mining of Paradise, Kentucky. Randy Newman’s “Burn On, Big River, Burn On’ is worth listening to about the Cuyahoga River catching on fire. Best idealistic song, John Lennon, “Imagine” Best railroad song: Arlo Guthrie’s “City of New Orleans,” was also a big hit, but my favorite is Gordon Lightfoot’s “Canadian Railroad Trilogy” Best airplane song, Peter, Paul and Mary, “Leaving on a Jet Plane” or Gordon Lightfoot, “Early Morning Rain” Best anti-war song, The Kingston Trio, “Where Have All the Flowers Gone” Best Canadian commentary, The Guess Who, “American Woman” Best New Orleans Song: Eric Burdon and the Animals, “The House of the Rising Sun” I once found a souvenir shop named The House of the Rising Sun on Bourbon Street) Best one hit wonder, Zager & Evans, “In the Year 2525” Best song of seduction, Limeliters, “Have Some Madeira, M’ Dear?” Best weather song, The Beatles, “Here Comes the Sun” Most memorable concert: The Allman Brothers at the Lenox Music Inn (since defunct) in August 1979 - my first date with my wife Apocalyptical song, Barry McGuire, “The Eve of Destruction” Alaska song, Johnny Horton, “North to Alaska” Colorado song, John Denver, “Rocky Mountain High” Massachusetts song: The Bee Gees, “Massachusetts” New York, Frank Sinatra, “New York, New York” Tacoma, Washington, no song, but watch the video on Galloping Gertie Washington State, Woodie Guthrie, “Roll On, Columbia, Roll On” West Virginia, John Denver, “Take Me Home Country Roads” Southern California song, Albert Hammond, “It Never Rains in Sunny Southern California” Food song, Larry Groce, “Junk Food, Junkie” Best Elvis song: “In the Ghetto” (just as poignant today) My favorite Woody Guthrie tune, “This Land is Your Land” Pete Seeger’s greatest, “Turn, Turn, Turn” Favorite Rolling Stones song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” Most cryptic song, Don McLean “American Pie” Song for women, Helen Reddy, “I Am Woman” Favorite Beach Boys Song: “California Saga” Favorite Woodie Guthrie song, “This Land is Your Land” Song I cited twice in law review articles, Simon and Garfunkel, “The Sound of Silence” – “People hearing without listening” Theme songs that define and make a movie: The first I remember is Tex Ritter, “Do Not Forsake Me, Oh My Darlin’,” in High Noon. Others are the Theme from the Magnificent Seven, which also became the song of the Marlboro Man commercials (check the videos) Vangelis for “Chariots of Fire.” Check out the combined “Chariots of Slumdog” on YouTube Great movie songs at the end of the movie: “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes in An Officer and a Gentleman, and Irene Cara’s “What a Feeling” in Flashdance Favorite Country-Western videos: “Even God-Fearin’ Women Get the Blues” and Independence Day” by Martini McBride and “How Do You Like Me Now” by Toby Keith. Best group: The Beatles Best duo: Simon and Garfunkel Favorite Canadian singer: Gordon Lightfoot Thanks for indulging me.

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