Sunday, April 29, 2012

Duke Ellington: His Top 50 Songs

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The man who is called “perhaps the most important talent in American popular music history” by Pop Memories 1890-1954 was born on April 29, 1899. The jazz bandleader and pianist was born Edward Kennedy Ellington in Washington D.C. He died on may 24, 1974.

He was still in his teens when he formed his first band and by 1923 had headed to New York at the suggestion of Fats Waller. Ellington began a five-year association with the famed Cotton Club in 1927. PM Pop Memories described his work from the early 1930s as the time when his “unparalleled genius as a jazz band composer became unmistakable.” PM He charted more than 70 songs from 1927 to 1954 on the Billboard pop and R&B charts.

In celebration, here are his top 50 songs as determined by an aggregate of multiple best-of lists, sales figures, chart data, and awards. Songs which hit #1 on the Billboard pop charts (#1 HT) and R&B charts (#1 RB) are noted, as are seven songs which are ranked by Dave’s Music Database in the top 1000 songs of all time (DMDB 1000) and another 11 which are in the Grammy Hall of Fame (GHoF).

Mood Indigo

1. Mood Indigo (1931) DMDB 1000 GHoF
2. Sophisticated Lady (1933) DMDB 1000
3. Take the “A” Train (1941) DMDB 1000 GHoF
4. Three Little Words (with the Rhythm Boys, 1930) #1 HT DMDB 1000
5. It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing (with Ivie Anderson, 1932) DMDB 1000 GHoF
6. Don’t Get Around Much Anymore (Never No Lament) (1940) #1 RB DMDB 1000 GHoF
7. Cocktails for Two (1934) #1 HT DMDB 1000 GHoF
8. Stormy Weather (Keeps Rainin’ All the Time) (1933)
9. In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree (1933)
10. Diga-Diga-Doo (with Irving Mills, 1928)

Sophisticated Lady

11. Solitude (1934)
12. Caravan (1937) GHoF
13. I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart (1938) #1 HT
14. Do Nothin’ Till You Hear from Me (1940) #1 RB GHoF
15. Black and Tan Fantasy (1928) GHoF
16. In a Sentimental Mood (1935)
17. I’m Beginning to See the Light (with Joya Sherrill, 1945)
18. Limehouse Blues (1931)
19. Rose Room in Sunny Roseland (1932)
20. I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good (with Ivie Anderson, 1941)

Take the “A” Train

21. Satin Doll (1953)
22. Moon Glow (1934)
23. Accent on Youth (1935)
24. Perdido (1942)
25. Blue Again (with Sid Garry, 1931)
26. Doin’ the New Low Down (with Irving Mills, 1928)
27. Sentimental Lady (1942) #1 RB
28. Main Stern (1942) #1 RB
29. Diminuendo and Crescendo in Blue (1956) GHoF
30. Rockin’ in Rhythm (1931)

Three Little Words

31. Cotton (with Ivie Anderson, 1935)
32. Ko-Ko (1940) GHoF
33. Love Is Like a Cigarette (with Ivie Anderson, 1936)
34. East St. Louis Toodle Oo (1927)
35. You, You, Darlin’ (with Herb Jeffries, 1940)
36. Ring Dem Bells (with Cootie Williams, 1930)
37. A Slip of the Lip Can Sink a Ship (with Ray Nance, 1942) #1 RB
38. The Saddest Tale (1934)
39. I’m Satisfied (with Ivie Anderson, 1933)
40. Drop Me Off at Harlem (1933)

It Don’t Mean a Thing if It Ain’t Got That Swing

41. Creole Rhapsody (instrumental, 1931)
42. Black Beauty (1928)
43. Black, Brown and Beige (1944) GHoF
44. The Blues I Love to Sing (with Adelaide Hall, 1927)
45. Merry-Go-Round (1935)
46. Lambeth Walk (1938)
47. I’m Just a Lucky So and So (with Al Hibbler, 1945)
48. Oh Babe! Maybe Someday (1936)
49. Scattin’ at the Kit-Kat (1937)
50. If You Were in My Place, What Would You Do? (with Ivie Anderson, 1938)


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Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Barbra Streisand's Top 50 Songs

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In honor of Barbra Streisand’s birthday (born April 24, 1942), here are her top 50 songs of all time according to Dave’s Music Database. As always, the list is determined by aggregating multiple best-of lists and also factoring in sales figures, chart data, and awards.

The Top 50 Barbra Streisand Songs:

The Way We Were

1. The Way We Were (1973)
2. Evergreen (Love Theme from ‘A Star Is Born’) (1976)
3. Woman in Love (1980)
4. People (1964)
5. You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (with Neil Diamond, 1978)
6. No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (with Donna Summer, 1979)
7. Guilty (with Barry Gibb, 1980)
8. Happy Days Are Here Again (1963)
9. Memory (1982)
10. The Main Event/Fight (1979)


11. What Kind of Fool (with Barry Gibb, 1981)
12. Stoney End (1970)
13. I Finally Found Someone (with Bryan Adams, 1996)
14. My Heart Belongs to Me (1977)
15. Comin’ in and Out of Your Life (1981)
16. Till I Loved You (with Don Johnson, 1988)
17. Second Hand Rose (1965)
18. Don’t Rain on My Parade (1968)
19. Songbird (1978)
20. Tell Him (with Celine Dion, 1997)

Woman in Love

21. The Way He Makes Me Feel (1983)
22. Left in the Dark (1984)
23. Where You Lead (1971)
24. Love Theme from ‘Eyes of Laura Mars’ (Prisoner) (1978)
25. Sweet Inspiration/Where You Lead (live, 1972)
26. Kiss Me in the Rain (1980)
27. Funny Girl (1964)
28. Somewhere (1985)
29. Make No Mistake, He’s Mine (with Kim Carnes, 1984)
30. Promises (1981)


31. Time and Love (1971)
32. He Touched Me (1965)
33. All in Love Is Fair (1974)
34. Free Again (1966)
35. Flim Flam Man (1971)
36. Why Did I Choose You (1965)
37. Didn’t We (live, 1972)
38. Emotion (1985)
39. Places That Belong to You (1992)
40. Mother (1971)

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers

41. My Man (1965)
42. Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long (1966)
43. Our Corner of the Night (1968)
44. Where Am I Going? (1966)
45. Stout-Hearted Man (1967)
46. We’re Not Makin’ Love Anymore (1989)
47. My Father’s Song (1975)
48. Sing a SongMake Your Own Kind of Music (live, 1972)
49. Non…C’est Rien (1966)
50. All I Ask of You (1988)

No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)


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Saturday, April 21, 2012

The Lumineers’ “Ho Hey” charted

Ho Hey

The Lumineers

Writer(s): Wesley Schultz, Jeremy Fraites (see lyrics here)

Released: June 4, 2012

First Charted: April 21, 2012

Peak: 3 US, 2 RR, 18 AC, 18 A40, 18 AA, 12 MR, 8 UK, 2 CN, 3 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): 5.0 US, 0.89 UK, 7.69 world (includes US + UK)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 388.6 video, 1038.34 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

The late 2000s saw a mini-folk-rock revival led by groups like Fleet Foxes and Mumford & Sons, capped by the latter’s Album of the Year Grammy win for 2012’s Babel. It was then that the Lumineers came riding onto the scene with arguably the most successful song of the movement – “Ho Hey.”

The song first emerged in December 2011 when it was used in a television episode for Hart of Dixie. It was released as a single the next February. SF It gained another push in June because of its appearance in the Bing “Discovering Hawaii” commercial. SF It was also used in promoting the Oscar-winning film Silver Linings Playbook and in the United Kingdom for a television advertising campaign for E.On energy. SF

Not only did the song reach #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, but hit #1 on the alternative, adult pop, and adult alternative song charts. The song’s 62 weeks on the Hot 100 was of the longest chart runs ever. WK Outside of the U.S., the song was a top 10 hit in Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, the Czech Republic, France Germany, Ireland, Israel, Italy, the Netherlands, New Zealand, Scotland, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, and the UK. It hit #1 in Poland and Portugal.

The band wrote the song as “a kiss-off to disinterested concert-goers,” punctuated by the famous “ho hey” shouts of the song to get attention. SF That gave the song a campfire sing-a-long vibe. Anne Erickson of Audio Ink Radio said “It’s darn refreshing to sit back and take in some genuine, straightforward music that comes from the heart.” WK


First posted 2/28/2021; last updated 7/23/2023.

Record Store Day: April 21, 2012

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April 21, 2012 marks the celebration of the fifth annual Record Store Day. Independent record store employee Chris Brown conceived the idea in 2007 and the first one was held April 19, 2008. Approximately 300 stores participated. It has since been celebrated the third Saturday of every April.

According to the official website a participating store is defined as “a stand alone brick and mortar retailer whose main primary business focuses on a physical store location, whose product line consists of at least 50% music retail, whose company is not publicly traded and whose ownership is at least 70% located in the state of operation.”

One of the highlights of the day has become special vinyl and CD releases. In its first year, there were roughly ten special releases from artists such as R.E.M., Death Cab for Cutie, Vampire Weekend, and Jason Mraz. In 2009, the number grew to 85 special releases from artists including Bob Dylan, Tom Waits, The Stooges, and Leonard Cohen. More than 1000 stores participated. 2010 saw the participation of more than 1400 stores and more than 150 special releases from the likes of The Rolling Stones, Bruce Springsteen, John Lennon, and Gorillaz. In 2011, the Foo Fighters, Beastie Boys, Duran Duran, and Todd Rundgren were among the 150 exclusive releases.

The 2012 day celebates releases from Arctic Monkeys, The Black Keys, David Bowie, The Clash, Coldplay, Florence + the Machine, Metallica, Paul McCartney, Katy Perry, The White Stripes, and more than 100 others. See the full list here. The day’s official ambassador is Iggy Pop. Previous ambassadors were Ozzy Osbourne (2011), Josh Homme (2010), and Jesse Hughes (2009).

I capture the love of shopping in a record store in my latest column, “Record Store Day: Spend Your Money on Music – It’s Better Than Therapy.”

TRAILER: SOUND IT OUT - A documentary by Jeanie Finlay from Jeanie Finlay on Vimeo.

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Thursday, April 19, 2012

Reading at Boozefish: How to Spot Music Geeks

April 19, 2012: Rachel Ellyn (aka The Disfunctional Diva) and I did a reading at Boozefish Wine Bar in the Westport area of Kansas City. My selections were from various pieces I’ve written about music, tied together around the theme “How to Spot Music Geeks.” Earlier in the week, I posted my planned reading, but it underwent some transformation by the time Thursday night rolled around so I thought I’d repost. You can see the original post here.

My name is Dave and I have a problem. I am a music geek. This is a terrible affliction which may render its victims unable to have a conversation without slipping in bits of music trivia. Today I feel it is my responsibility to teach you “How to Spot Music Geeks.” If you know the warning signs, maybe you can help a music geek become a semi-functional human being who is a somewhat productive member of society. Please help – before it’s too late.

1. Seek them out in their natural habitats.
Music geeks can be found at concert venues and bars featuring local bands. They often hang out in basements downloading songs on the computer. Depending on their station in life, it may be in their mother’s house – even if they’re well into their thirties.

Once upon a time, the best place to find music geeks was in a record store. Sadly, the digital age has shuttered many a store, but some do still exist. Even those which have closed, however, still hold fond memories for music geeks. My first reading is taken from my in-the-works music themed novel Music Lessons from The Pit. While The Pit is a fictional store, it is modeled after my own fond memories of shopping at used record stores. Read the excerpt at the Writ by Whit Facebook page or read the full chapter from which the excerpt is taken.

“My advice is, don’t spend money on therapy. Spend it in a record store.” – German film director Wim Wenders

2. They take their love of music to obsessive levels.
Everyone can relate to having a favorite group or song, but Music geeks don’t just love music; they love it obsessively so. As evidence of the extremes to which music geeks will go, check out the title piece from my collection of essays, No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”. Read the excerpt at the Writ by Whit Facebook page or check out the original post on the DMDB blog.

“Music is my religion.” – Jimi Hendrix

3. Music geeks believe if it sells, it sucks.
This reading is an excerpt of an article I penned for my column “Aural Fixation.” In the piece, entitled “Waxing Nostalgic: The Mantras of the Music Geek,” I recounted some of the discussion between three friends over dinner at Joe’s Crab Shack. Read the excerpt at the Writ by Whit Facebook page or check out the original article in its entirety at

4. They believe any advancement in technology is crap.
Within the “Waxing Nostalgic” piece, I also broke down the changes in music technology over roughly the last 60 years and showed how diehard music geeks have steadfastly resisted any changes to come along, preferring to faithfully stick to vinyl. Read the excerpt at the Writ by Whit Facebook page or check out the original article in its entirety at

5. They bore everyone around them with music trivia.
Think of music geeks as savants. They may lack the skills to carry on normal conversation or be functioning members of society, but they excel in one area – the ability to completely bore the average adult with incessant music trivia. The most severe cases even write entire books devoted to the stuff.

For my book The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, I actually used a very objective method for determining which songs were featured. I aggregated hundreds of best-of lists along with chart data, sales figures, and awards to determine the top songs of the last half of the 20th century. Read a few snippets on the Writ by Whit Facebook page.

There is hope, however.
Even the staunchest of music geeks is capable of reform. They can learn to recognize that anyone’s musical interests are valid. Read the excerpt on the Writ by Whit Facebook page or read the original post on the DMDB blog. Also available in No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”.

“Without music life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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Goodbye, Dick Clark

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“America’s oldest teenager” will not be blowing out any more candles on birthday cakes. We’ll never ring in another new year with him. The man who helmed the original American Bandstand and gave us the famous catch phrase, “It’s got a good beat and you can dance to it” was stricken down at age 82. On Tuesday night, Dick Clark underwent an outpatient procedure at St. John’s Hospital in Santa Monica, California. He suffered a heart attack afterwards and could not be resuscitated. He is survived by three children and third wife, Kari Wigton, whom he married in 1977.

Clark’s career began in 1945 in the mail room at a radio station in Utica, New York when he was still in high school. In 1952, he went to Philadelphia to work for radio station WFIL and its affiliated television station. In 1956, he became the host of Bandstand, a Philadelphia dance show targeted to teens, and took it national the next year. It was a mainstay on ABC for thirty years becoming one of the most influential television shows in history as kids rushed home after school to see it every weekday afternoon. In its infancy, rock ‘n’ roll was perceived as a passing fancy; Clark legitimized it. The show marked the network television debuts of artists like Jerry Lee Lewis, The Doors, The Jackson Five, the Talking Heads, and Prince.

The Jackson 5 “I Want You Back”

While his clean-cut image and the sanitized American Bandstand had its critics, Clark was a defender of artistic freedom and condemned censorship. At a time when it was safer and more commercially viable to turn to white performers for cover versions of popular R&B hits by black artists, Clark played the original songs.

In 1972, Clark launched a tradition with his New Year’s Eve telecast. He also created the American Music Awards and hosted shows such as The $25,000 Pyramid and TV’s Bloopers and Practical Jokes. At one time during the 1980s, he had shows on all three networks. He suffered a stroke in 2004, but continued to be an iconic presence for events such as New Year’s Rockin’ Eve despite his impaired speech.

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Dick Clark interviews Madonna

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Record Store Day: Spend Your Money on Music - It's Better Than Therapy

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on April 18, 2012. See original post here.

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My advice is, don’t spend money on therapy. Spend it in a record store. - German film director Wim Wenders

Over the last couple years, I’ve toiled away at a novel tied to the alternative/ college rock scene of the ‘80s. The focal point of the story is a record store, nicknamed The Pit, where the main characters worked and hung out during their college days. In 2007, Gil is headed back for a reunion – and a final goodbye – because the store is closing, unable to compete in the digital age. Each chapter is wrapped around a specific song and the memories it evokes. Overall, consider the book as sort of a High Fidelity meets The Big Chill.

So why the shameless plug? Well, Saturday, 21 April marks the celebration of Record Store Day. The idea was launched in 2007 to celebrate independently owned record stores in the United States and internationally. Celebrated the third Saturday of April, some stores have turned the day into an elaborate festival. There are special promotional releases – on both vinyl and compact disc – made available in conjunction with the day.

It’s with a certain degree of guilt which I confess my own shortcomings in supporting independent record stores over the last decade. I’ve become a digital download junkie. Any number of arguments can be made for or against this change in music technology. Downloading is more convenient, but lacks the sound quality of physical releases. Record stores can still offer a physical product and its packaging, but digital is much cheaper – even free, depending on one’s proclivity towards law-breaking.

For me, however, the change in technology has largely left me longing for the days when I made at least a weekly trek to my local used record shop. I also lived in a large enough metropolitan area to make a pilgrimage to the artsy, downtown area which sported half a dozen such establishments. I experienced the dual thrill of hitting the shops seeking out specific releases and hoping to stumble across hidden gems.

When I reflect on the stores I enjoyed the most, it’s about more than just what was on the shelves. I think of the musty/dusty smell of such places, the crates stuffed full with albums, the unforgettable personalities who staff the place. I think of, well, I’ll let my story tell the tale.

Excerpt from my novel in progress, Music Lessons from The Pit

Chelsea Drive, the road that separated my dorm from the rest of campus, also served as the town’s primary artery. I’d only been in college two weeks and had yet to explore anything much beyond the campus. Lo and behold, there were actual non-collegiate-affiliated businesses mere blocks away. I spotted a tea house and could sense the artsy vibe wafting onto the sidewalk. Actually, I think it was the smell of cinnamon.

Next door was a battered green awning with “4 the Record” in white lettering. It sheltered a large display window in which album covers were propped up on the window seat inside. Naturally blockbusters like The Police’s Synchronicity Michael Jackson’s Thriller, and the Flashdance soundtrack were featured, but there were also left-of-center features like Elvis Costello’s Punch the Clock and the Talking Heads’ Speaking in Tongues.

I tugged at the handle of the wooden door plastered with D.I.Y. flyers for bands coming to local clubs. A slight mustiness greeted me. It was as welcoming as the scent of cinnamon from the tea shop. Few things authenticate a used record store more than that smell.

A much abused hardwood floor with a noticeable warp splayed out toward shelves of cassettes and crates of records. Posters and album covers decorated the brick walls. Occasionally the corner of a poster drooped where the old masking tape had given out.

To my left was the front counter. Atop it was an old cash register, a plastic cup with incense for sale, and a sprawled open textbook. Huddled behind the book sat a thin-faced, sullen-looking guy hidden behind a pair of round, John Lennon-esque sunglasses hanging on the bridge of his nose.

The purple tint of his shades was the only bit of color about the guy. He wore dark jeans and a long-sleeved grey button shirt over a black tee. It was the quintessential, although ironic, “I’m Independent” uniform of the outsider.

The music pumping from the speakers had a “I think I’ve heard this before” kind of sound – but I couldn’t place it. I was curious enough to disrupt Mr. Black’s studies to inquire. “What’s this playing?”

He peered above his rims with an air of disgust that a nuisance customer would dare to be musically illiterate. “London Calling, by the Clash,” he sputtered.

After what I’m pretty sure was a roll of his eyes, they dropped back behind his purple shield, commanding me to go away. “Cool,” I said. “Thanks.”

Back home, my high school buddy, Rich, and I played the roles of faithful suburbanites and did most of our music shopping at the local mall. Occasionally we’d trek downtown to the handful of used-record stores within walking distance of each other. This store, however, had a charm beyond any other shop I’d seen. It wasn’t just that flipping through the old records left a coating of dust on one’s hands comparable to the residue from eating a bag of Cheetos.

The back corner had a sunken seating area, like those homes with a couple steps leading down into the living room. It was decorated with second-hand furniture that looked like it had been passed over at a garage sale. A pair of unmatched couches fervently competed for ugliest fabric. A slightly lopsided brown leather recliner leaned against one wall, propped up to keep the back of the chair from collapsing. It all wrapped around a battered wooden coffee table that looked so heavy it had seemingly been carved out of a tree trunk which had grown up right through the floor of the store.

Music Exchange - Kansas City. One of the real stores where I often hung out.
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There wasn’t an actual store in my past called “4 the Record” or “The Pit”. In fact, I went to college in a town too small to support a “real” music store. Our only option for buying music was via the dreaded Wal-Mart. However, the fictional Pit taps into my memories of Mom-and-Pop music stores I’ve visited over the years. So, in celebration of Record Store Day, I fondly recall not just the music I’ve acquired in such stores, but the cherished memories which were created, real and imagined.

For more of my writing, check out or my Amazon store.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Dave’s Music Database: April 19 Reading

Dave Whitaker of Dave’s Music Database

Thursday, April 19, 2012, 7:00pm: I will be reading selections from my music books The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era and No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze” at Boozefish, a wine bar in Kansas City. For those in the Kansas City area, drop by! Here are the details as posted in the original Facebook invitation. For those who can’t attend or those who want a sneak preview, I am offering up a glimpse of the performance here. Enjoy!

My name is Dave and I have a problem. I am a music geek. This is a terrible affliction which may render its victims unable to have a conversation without slipping in bits of music trivia. We embarrassingly dress like we still think we’re teenagers – jeans and rock T-shirts – even if we’re well into our forties. We can be found at bars, concert venues, or in basements huddled in front of computer screens downloading songs. Today I feel it is my responsibility to teach you “How to Spot the Music Geek.” If you know the warning signs, maybe you can help a music geek become a semi-functional human being who is a somewhat productive member of society. Please help – before it’s too late.

1. Ways to Spot a Music Geek: Seek them out in their natural habitats.

Once upon a time, record stores were the easiest place to find music geeks. Sadly, many music stores have closed. My in-the-works music-themed novel tentatively titled Music Lessons from The Pit is tied around the closing of a music store. In 2007, “The Pit” could no longer compete in the digital age. As a last hurrah, the main character (Gil) and his college friends from the ‘80s are reuniting to celebrate their favorite hangout from 25 years ago. While driving there he plays songs from the era which bring back old memories. Think of this book as a sort of High Fidelity meets The Big Chill. The chapter, “Blue Monday”, introduces the reader to “The Pit.” Read it here.

“My advice is, don’t spend money on therapy. Spend it in a record store.” – German film director Wim Wenders

2. Ways to Spot a Music Geek: They often huddle in groups.

Music geeks often travel in packs, largely because of their inability to form normal relationships with everyday human beings. My second reading focuses on a dinner I had with three friends. I turned it into an article for my Aural Fixation column for Read it here.

3. Ways to Spot a Music Geek: They cannot go five minutes without inserting music trivia into conversation.

Think of music geeks as savants. They may lack the skills to carry on normal conversation or be functioning members of society, but they excel in one area – the ability to completely bore the average adult with incessant music trivia. The most severe cases even write entire books devoted to the stuff. It should be noted that music geeks don’t necessarily have any actual music talent.

“I haven’t understood a bar of music in my life, but I have felt it.” – Igor Stravinksy

Here’s what I say in the introduction of my book, The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era.

I couldn’t find middle C on a piano if my life depended on it. In instrumental music in 5th grade, I failed to grasp that the intent was not to saw away at all the violin strings at once. Even the recorder exceeded my abilities. Some people are born to play an instrument. Others are born to play the radio. I had no hope of ever joining a band, but would become adept at babbling about bands more than any normal human being would ever care to know.

For that book, I actually used a very objective method for determining which songs were featured. I aggregated hundreds of best-of lists along with chart data, sales figures, and awards to determine the top songs of the last half of the 20th century. As a sample, read here to see what I said about The Rolling Stones’ “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction.”

4. Ways to Spot a Music Geek: Plain and simple, they love music.

This is the most universal aspect of the music geek. We can all relate to having a favorite song or favorite group. It’s just that the music geek takes it to dangerous levels. For example, check out the title essay of my collection No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”.

“Music is my religion.” – Jimi Hendrix

5. Ways to Spot a Music Geek: They can be pretentious snobs.

One of the lessons I’ve learned over the years is to try not to attack someone’s musical tastes. Frankly, I think it is more dangerous than discussing religion, politics, and sex. Music is ingrained in who we are and to criticize one’s music is to criticize that person’s very soul. In that spirit, I wrote “The Styx Defense,” which is also featured in No One Needs 21 Versions of “Purple Haze”. Read here.

“Without music life would be a mistake.” – Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche

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Wednesday, April 11, 2012

50 years ago: Tony Bennett charted with “I Left My Heart in San Francisco”

I Left My Heart in San Francisco

Tony Bennett

Writer(s): George Cory (m)/Douglass Cross (l) (see lyrics here)

Released: February 2, 1962

First Charted: April 14, 1962

Peak: 19 US, 7 AC, 25 UK (Click for codes to singles charts.)

Sales (in millions): 15.0 worldwide (includes 1 million in sheet music)

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 8.06 video, -- streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

“Tony Bennett has reigned (albeit with utter modesty) as one of the definitive interpreters of American popular song for more than sixty years.” SS Frank Sinatra “considered him without equal,” SS calling him “the best singer in the business” in a 1965 Life magazine interview. SF In regards to “I Left My Heart in San Francisco,” Bennett’s “trademark song,” SS author Thomas Ryan said, “Imagine, for a moment, anyone else singing this song. It is beyond the reach of most artists, and the very few who could pull it off wouldn’t dare because it would inevitably invoke comparison.” RY

The then-unknown team of composer George Cory and lyricist Douglass Cross composed the song in 1954. They gave it to Ralph Sharon, who became Bennett’s pianist and musical director in 1957. Sharon put it and some other songs in a drawer and forgot about them. When he re-discovered them in mid-1961, he played “I Left My Heart in San Francisco” for Bennett after a show in Arkansas. Bennett loved it. SS

They introduced the song at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Remarkably, Bennett had never performed in the city before. SS When label representatives from Columbia heard the song during a rehearsal, they were sure it could be the comeback hit Bennett needed. SS While it barely scratched the top 20, it went on to sell more than 14 million copies over the years, plus another million in sheet music sales. SF

The song won Grammys for Record of the Year and Best Male Solo Vocal Performance. When it was honored with the Towering Song Award from the Songwriters Hall of Fame, chairman Hal David said, “Tony Bennettt is a songwriter’s singer, who has recorded outstanding and unforgettable interpretations of many pop songs which have become standards. He is one of the best examples of the true marriage of song and singer.” SF


  • DMDB Encyclopedia entry for Tony Bennett
  • RY Thomas Ryan (1996). American Hit Radio: A History of Popular Singles From 1955 to the Present. Prima Publishing: Rocklin, CA. Pages 89-90.
  • SF Songfacts
  • SS Steve Sullivan (2013). Encyclopedia of Great Popular Song Recordings (Volumes I & II). Scarecrow Press: Lanham, Maryland. Pages 311-2.
  • WK Wikipedia

First posted 4/11/2020; last updated 7/17/2022.

The movie Singin’ in the Rain was released: April 11, 1952

Singin’ in the Rain was an Oscar-nominated film from 1952 which starred Gene Kelly, Donald O’Connor, and Debbie Reynolds. Kelly and Stanley Donen directed the musical and Kelly also oversaw choreography. The comedic film follows the three main stars during Hollywood’s days of switching over from silent films to “talkies.”

Kelly plays silent film star Don Lockwood. He and co-star Lina Lamont (played by Jean Hagen) are a famous on-screen romantic couple and the studio has even promoted the idea that they are linked off-screen as well, even though Lockwood can barely tolerate her. When faced with the transition from silent film to talkies, Lamont’s shrill voice just won’t work and Lockwood faces career jeopardy.

Lockwood’s best friend, Cosmo Brown (played by O’Connor), suggests dubbing Lamont’s voice with that of aspiring actress Kathy Selden (played by Reynolds). Lockwood falls in love with her, which poses problems since Lamont is convinced her relationship with Lockwood goes beyond the screen.

The film wasn’t a big hit upon its initial release, but has achieved legendary status. It topped the AFI’s list of top musicals of all time and the AFI also ranked it as the fifth best American film ever made. Interestingly, while Kelly’s performance in the movie – especially the title cut – has become one of the most iconic images in movie history, he wasn’t originally cast for the role. Initially Howard Keel was slated to portray the character as an actor in Westerns, but the role become more one of a vaudeville performer.

Singin’ in the Rain

  • National Film Registry
  • Oscars – nominated for best picture
  • BAFTA – nominated for best picture
  • Directors Guild of America – Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly nominated for best director
  • Golden Globes – Donald O’Connor won for best actor
  • Golden Globes – nominated for best musical or comedy

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Wednesday, April 4, 2012

The Beatles had the top 5 songs in the U.S.: April 4, 1964

image courtesy of

The height of Beatlemania was never more apparent in the United States than during the week of April 4, 1964. That week, The Beatles commanded the top 5 spots on the Billboard Hot 100. “Can’t Buy Me Love” made what was then the largest leap to #1 from #27 the week before. It held that record until 2002 when Kelly Clarkson’s “A Moment Like This” vaulted to #1 from #52. She would then break her own record in 2009 when “My Life Would Suck Without You” leapt from 97 to 1.

Closing in behind “Can’t Buy Me Love” were “Twist and Shout” (2), “She Loves You” (3), “I Want to Hold Your Hand” (4), and “Please Please Me” (5). It was also significant in that it marked The Beatles’ third consecutive chart-topper. “I Want to Hold Your Hand” was knocked from the top by “She Loves You” which, in turn, gave way to “Can’t Buy Me Love.” In the history of the Hot 100, no other act has had three consecutive #1 songs.

The closest anyone has come to duplicating the feat was in 2005 when 50 Cent had top five hits with “Candy Shop” and “Disco Inferno” and a guest spot on The Game’s “How We Go” in the weeks ending March 12 and March 19.

In that same week, The Beatles had a whopping 7 more titles on the Hot 100 – “I Saw Her Standing There” (31), “From Me to You” (41), “Do You Want to Know a Secret” (46), “All My Loving” (58), “You Can’t Do That” (65), “Roll Over Beethoven” (68), and “Thank You Girl” (79). The following week, “There’s a Place” and “Love Me Do” also charted, giving The Beatles a record 14 slots on the Hot 100 for the week ending April 11, 1964.

Can’t Buy Me Love


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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

The Marcels hit #1 with “Blue Moon”: April 3, 1961

Richard Rodgers and Lorenz Hart made their names as giants of musical theater having written The Garrick Gaieties (1925), A Connecticut Yankee (1927), and Present Arms (1928). Ironically, though, their biggest-selling song TY didn’t become a hit because of an appearance in a musical or movie. The pair wrote a song intended for a 1933 Jean Harlow film which has been said to be called “The Prayer” TY and “Make Me a Star.” BR1 It underwent several revisions, becoming “The Bad in Every Man” and “Act One,” but continued to be passed over for movies.

Jack Robbins, the head of MGM’s musical publishing division, heard the song and said he’d promote it if the lyrics were rewritten to be more commercial. KL The resulting “Blue Moon” became a #1 hit for Glen Gray in 1935. That same year, Benny Goodman had a #2 hit with it and Al Bowlly and Ray Noble took it to #5. In 1949, the song charted again thanks to its appearance in the 1948 film Words and Music. Mel Torme took it to #20 and Billy Eckstine got to #21.

After that, it was featured in movies frequently, including With a Song in My Heart (1952), This Could Be the Night (1957), New York, New York (1977), and An American Werewolf in London (1981). Elvis Presley recorded the song while at Sun Records and had a minor hit with it. However, the song got its biggest boost from a quintet from Pittsburgh who were named after a popular hairstyle. BR1

The Marcels went into the studio to record four songs. One was “Blue Moon,” a song which only one of the members knew, but he’d taught to the rest of the group in an hour. In their final eight minutes of recording time, they recorded two takes of the song. The vocal arrangement was borrowed from The Collegians’ 1957 doo-wop classic “Zoom Zoom Zoom,” TB a move which Richard Rodgers called “an abomination.” KL After New York DJ Murray the K played the Marcels’ recording 26 times one one show at WINS radio, BR1 became a hit, launching a doo-wop revival. TB It hit #1 in the U.S. on the pop and R&B charts and also topped the charts in the UK.

Blue Moon


Resources and Related Links:
  • DMDB page for “Blue Moon”
  • Richard Rodgers’ DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
  • Lorenz Hart’s DMDB Music Maker Encyclopedia entry
  • BR1 Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). New York, NY: Billboard Books. Page 87.
  • JA David A. Jasen. (2002). A Century of American Popular Music: 2000 Best-Loved and Remembered Songs (1899-1999). Routledge: Taylor & Francis, Inc. Page 24.
  • KL Jon Kutner/Spencer Leigh (2005). 1000 UK Number One Hits: The Stories Behind Every Number One Single Since 1952. London, Great Britain: Omnibus Press. Page 74.
  • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 50.
  • TY Don Tyler (1985). Hit Parade 1920-1955. New York, NY: Quill. Pages 72-3.
  • PM Joel Whitburn (1986). Pop Memories 1890-1954. Menomonee Falls, WI; Record Research, Inc. Page 478.

Monday, April 2, 2012

When Politicians Hit Wrong Notes

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on April 2, 2012. See original post here.

image from

From Reagan in the '80s to Limbaugh in 2012, Republicans have an uncanny knack for linking themselves to musicians who don’t support them. Just ask Bruce Springsteen, Tom Petty, and John Mellencamp.

With the arrival of Bruce Springsteen’s Wrecking Ball, released 6 March, I was psyched to pen an article advocating we all bow down to the altar of Bruce as the mouthpiece for what ails the average American. However, after reading multiple reviews framing it as “the album for the Occupy Movement”, the idea felt as clichéd as describing early R.E.M. as “jangly” or double albums as “sprawling”.

It’s difficult to write about a musician so universally loved he rarely courts controversy. With few exceptions, Springsteen’s critical acclaim and public appeal throughout his career make a mockery of even the best politicians’ poll numbers. His celebration of the blue collar work ethic in the context of “the runaway American dream” make The Boss the unofficial leader of Every Man, everywhere.

Besides, there’s a more fascinating story than Bruce, à la the ghost of Woody Guthrie, reminding us that times are tough, again, because of greedy money-grubbing power brokers, again. Musicians are lining up left and right – well, lining up on the left and against the right – to make sure they aren’t associated with Wall Street and certain politicians.

The GOP isn’t unique in the art of foot-in-mouth disease, but 2012 is proving a banner year for the party with the pachyderm mascot to wade knee-deep in elephant dung. The Republicans just can’t stop picking campaign songs without first securing the rights. Candidates are supposed to get permission from ASCAP (American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers) to use copyrighted music in any kind of public performance. However, the Grand Old Party seems to have developed a Grand Old Tradition of failing to do so – or at least, failing make sure the act they’re playing is actually on board with the politician.

This classic stumble can be traced back to 1984. When President Ronald Reagan was running for re-election, he cited Bruce Springsteen as representative of the American dream. What he failed to realize is that “Born in the U.S.A.”, Springsteen’s hit at the time, was not a flag-waving anthem but a seething attack on the poor treatment received by Vietnam veterans when they came home. Oops.

On the flip side, when running for President in 2004, John Kerry tapped Springsteen’s “No Surrender” and Barack Obama used “The Rising” in 2008 and neither suffered any fall out. Perhaps Republican candidates’ constant desire to align themselves with St. Reagan has inspired them to even repeat his gaffes. Newt Gingrich lost the “eye of the tiger” he had just weeks ago that would have allowed him to survive until November. While songwriter Jim Peterik okayed Newt using Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger”, co-writer Frank Sullivan filed suit for the song being used without permission.

Similarly, when Michele Bachman was still a candidate back in June, Tom Petty’s camp sent a nice little cease-and-desist letter regarding the use of “American Girl”. She should have taken a lesson from the other side of the aisle. Hillary Rodham Clinton did have permission to use the song when she sought the Presidential nomination in 2008.

Tom Petty vs. Michele Bachman, image from

Petty also took action when George W. Bush used “I Won’t Back Down” in the 2000 race. In an apparent attempt to lose the classic rock vote, Bush also miffed Sting and John Mellencamp when he used “Brand New Day” and “R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A.”, respectively. In 2008, the rocker from Indiana also offered up a “nay” vote to the Senator from Arizona. In John McCain’s Presidential bid, he played Mellencamp’s “Pink Houses” and “Our Country” without approval.

It isn’t that these artists object to their music being used for anything more than “artistic purposes”. Sting and Mellencamp both sold songs for commercials hawking cars and trucks. However, both artists made their political affiliations clear were when they authorized those same songs to Al Gore in 2000 and John Edwards in 2008.

In 2008, McCain seemed determined to align the GOP with AOR (album-oriented rock). However, he not only failed to get Mellencamp’s vote, but got the Foo Fighters and Jackson Browne squarely against him, as well. Ironically, McCain tried to use Browne’s “Running on Empty” as a commentary on Obama’s campaign, but we know who came up empty on that one.

McCain’s VP candidate, Sarah Palin, took the stage at the Republican National Convention to Heart’s “Barracuda”. It may have been her nickname as a basketball player in high school, but instead of cheering for her on the sidelines, Heart’s Ann and Nancy Wilson blew the whistle and called foul.

I don’t deny there are ample bone-headed errors from both sides of the political fence. When it comes to politicians associating themselves with music, though, the Republican party has a runaway lead on hitting sour notes.

Current events have shown a need to reign in their mouthpieces, as well. The recent fracas surrounding radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh and his attack on Sandra Fluke demonstrates rock ‘n’ rollers will run away in droves from controversial pundits with equal speed as they will politicians. Peter Gabriel laid the hammer down on Rush for soundtracking his sludge with Gabriel’s “Sledgehammer”.

The spirits of Canadian rock band Rush nosedived when they learned their song “The Spirit of Radio” provided the lead-in for commercial breaks on Limbaugh’s show. Anyone with the decency to find Rush the Man’s antics offensive has to chuckle when even Rush the Band doesn’t want to be associated with that name. At this point, “Slut” would be a more acceptable band name.

image from

Artists like Springsteen and Mellencamp have made their political positions well known and have used their own music to make political statements. Musicians have a rich history of crafting music with social and political commentary. Entire genres, such as folk, punk, and rap have grown out of musicians railing against the destruction the establishment has wrought.

Detractors whine that music with a message oversteps the role these entertainers have earned with their public platforms. Frankly, I get excited when I see artists making bold statements that challenge the status quo. As for their qualifications, I was unaware one had to be authorized to express an opinion.

Similarly, politicians are certainly allowed their opinions – and can attempt to tie their images to any musicians they wish. Regardless of what political stance an artist may (or may not) take, all listeners are welcome.  Young Republicans for Mellencamp have every right to like the music they like. I’m sure John is happy to sell records no matter who buys them.

However, here’s a memo to the GOP candidates from this year and years to come: Please, learn from your party’s past mistakes. Before you start blaring the latest pop ditty with a fighting spirit or patriotic bent from the speakers at your rally, ask permission.

Marvin Gaye's Top 50 Songs

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April 2, 1939: Marvin Gaye was born. According to the DMDB, he ranks #3 on the list of top 100 R&B acts. He also rates as one of the top 100 singers of all time and one of the top 100 songwriters of the rock era. He got his start singing in his father’s Apostolic church in vocal groups the Rainbows and Marquees. He joined Harvey Fuqua in the re-formed Moonglows. He moved to Detroit in 1960 and got session work as a drummer at Motown. He first recorded under his own name in 1961. That same year he married Anna Gordy, the sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy. They divorced in 1975. On the eve of his 45th birthday – April 1, 1984 – he was tragically shot and killed by his own father after a quarrel.

I Heard It Through the Grapevine

1. I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1968)
2. What’s Going On (1971)
3. Let’s Get It On (1973)
4. Sexual Healing (1982)
5. How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You (1964)

What’s Going On

6. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough (with Tammi Terrell, 1967)
7. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology Song) (1971)
8. It Takes Two (with Kim Weston, 1966)
9. Got to Give It Up (1977)
10. Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler) (1971)

Let’s Get It On

11. Your Precious Love (with Tammi Terrell, 1967)
12. Too Busy Thinking About My Baby (1969)
13. Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing (with Tammi Terrell, 1968)
14. You’re All I Need to Get By (with Tammi Terrell, 1968)
15. Ain’t That Peculiar (1965)

Sexual Healing

16. I’ll Be Doggone (1965)
17. I Want You (1976)
18. Can I Get a Witness (1963)
19. You’re a Wonderful One (1964)
20. If I Could Build My Whole World Around You (with Tammi Terrell, 1967)

How Sweet It Is to Be Loved by You

21. Pride and Joy (1963)
22. That’s the Way Love Is (1969)
23. Hitch Hike (1963)
24. My Mistake Was to Love You (with Diana Ross, 1974)
25. Trouble Man (1972)

26. You’re a Special Part of Me (1973)
27. One More Heartache (1966)
28. Stubborn Kind of Fellow (1962)
29. Once Upon a Time (with Mary Wells, 1964)
30. Come Get to This (1973)

Ain’t No Mountain High Enough

31. Try It Baby (1964)
32. Baby Don’t You Do It (1964)
33. What’s the Matter with You (with Mary Wells, 1964)
34. Keep on Lovin’ Me Honey (with Tammi Terrell, 1968)
35. Pretty Little Baby (1965)

Mercy Mercy Me

36. Music (with Erick Sermon, 2001)
37. Distant Lover (1974)
38. You (1968)
39. Chained (1968)
40. Your Unchanging Love (1967)

It Takes Two

41. Little Darling, I Need You (1966)
42. The End of Our Road (1970)
43. Good Lovin’ Ain’t Easy to Come By (with Valerie Simpson, 1969)
44. How Can I Forget (1970)
45. Take This Heart of Mine (1966)

Got to Give It Up

46. You’re the Man (1972)
47. You Sure Love to Ball (1974)
48. What You Gave Me (with Valerie Simpson, 1969)
49. Don’t Knock My Love (with Diana Ross, 1974)
50. Pops, We Love You (A Tribute) (with Diana Ross, Smokey Robinson, & Stevie Wonder, 1978)

Inner City Blues


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