Saturday, September 14, 1974

Eric Clapton “I Shot the Sheriff” hit #1

I Shot the Sheriff

Bob Marley & the Wailers

Writer(s): Bob Marley (see lyrics here)

Released: February 12, 1973

First Charted: November 19, 2005

Peak: 21 CL, 7 CO, 67 UK, 4 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 0.34 US, 0.2 UK

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 30.16 video, -- streaming

I Shot the Sheriff

Eric Clapton

First Charted: July 13, 1974

Peak: 11 US, 11 CB, 13 HR, 11 RR, 33 RB, 1 CL, 9 UK, 11 CN, 11 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 1.0 US

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 151.85 video, -- streaming

Awards (Marley):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Clapton):

About the Song:

There are arguably no musicians more integral to their genre than Bob Marley was to reggae. Born in Jamaica in 1945, he began his professional career in music at 1963 when he formed what would become the Wailers with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. A decade later, they signed to Island Records and released the albums Catch a Fire and Burnin’ in 1973.

The latter album featured “I Shot the Sheriff,” the last single Marley released with Tosh and Wailer. SF He wrote the song in response to police brutality. The song tells the story of a man being harassed by a sheriff. He is wrongly accused of killing the deputy, but does shoot the sheriff. Marley said, “I want to say ‘I shot the police’ but the government would have made a fuss so I said ‘I shot the sheriff’ instead…but it’s the same idea: justice.” WK Marley also said part of the song was true, but wouldn’t reveal which parts. SF

Marley’s girlfriend, Esther Anderson, claimed the lyrics, “Sheriff John Brown always hated me / For what, I don’t know / Every time I plant a seed / He said ‘Kill it before it grow’” was actually about Marley’s opposition to birth control pills. Supposedly, he initially used the word “doctor” instead of “sheriff.” WK

A year later, Eric Clapton covered the song on his 461 Ocean Boulevard album. His version toned down some of the reggae elements in favor of a softer rock sound. It ended up going all the way to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – Clapton’s only chart-topper.

In 1997, rapper Warren G released his version of the song. He wrote new lyrics, sampled Clapton’s version, and brought in R&B singer Nancy Fletcher to sing the original chorus. The song reached #20 on the Billboard Hot 100 and got to #2 in the UK.


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First posted 8/6/2022; last updated 11/6/2022.

Friday, September 6, 1974

On This Day (1924): Isham Jones “It Had to Be You” hit #1

It Had to Be You

Isham Jones

Writer(s): Isham Jones, Gus Kahn (see lyrics here)

First Charted: July 19, 1924

Peak: 15 US, 2 GA, 2 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 0.29 video, 0.58 streaming

Awards (Isham Jones):

Click on award for more details.

Awards (Betty Hutton):

Awards (Frank Sinatra):

Awards (Harry Connick Jr.):

About the Song:

“This is one of the high points in Tin Pan Alley era songwriting” RCG and “one of the most enduringly popular ballads of the 1920s.” SS-589 Unlike many of its Great American Songbook counterparts, “this effortless classic” RCG didn’t “put love and lovers on a pedestal,” TM but opted for the reality of being “smitten in spite of the significant other’s bossy and cranky nature,” TM and acknowledging that “if we’re lucky, we find somebody who loves us and can’t live without us, in spite of our faults.” TM

It was a sophisticated song “with grown-up, often witty lyrics that have stood the test of time, are endlessly revived and still sound as good today as they did then.” LW Kahn “uses simple masculine rhymes and short but potent phrases throughout” RCG and “easily captivates all the romance and humanity in a simple, straightforward love song.” RCG

Interestingly, the most successful version of the song is Isham Jones’ instrumental recording. Jones took it to #1, as he did eight times total, including with “On the Alamo,” “Swingin’ Down the Lane,” “Spain” and “I’ll See You in My Dreams.” PM While they were all instrumentals, Gus Kahn provided lyrics for all of them, as he also did for classics like “Carolina in the Morning,” “Yes Sir! That’s My Baby,” and “Makin’ Whoopee.” SS

The “perennial nightclub favorite” JA charted six times in 1924 alone. It has been recorded hundreds of times, including versions by Tony Bennett, Ray Charles, Nat “King” Cole, Cliff Edwards (#6), Helen Forrest and Dick Haymes (#4), Marion Harris (#3), Earl Hines (#18), Betty Hutton (#5), Vera Lynn, Billy Murray with Aileen Stanley (#8), Harry Nilsson, Kenny Rogers, Artie Shaw (#10), Frank Sinatra, Barbra Streisand, Danny Thomas, John Travolta, Paul Whiteman, Andy Williams. The song has been featured in more than 40 films, including Casablanca (1942), Incendiary Blonde (1944), the Gus Kahn biopic I’ll See You in My Dreams (1951), Annie Hall (1977), and When Harry Met Sally (1989). RCG


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First posted 9/6/2016; last updated 9/6/2023.