Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll Is Dead? Again?

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on on May 31, 2012. See original post here.

Dave Grohl and Jack Black, image from

Actor Jack Black recently joined a long line of prognosticators shaking the death rattle for rock 'n' roll. However, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl says, "There will always be rock 'n' roll." If saltine crackers are any way of judging, I'm with Grohl on this.
In the past week I've had Jack White’s new Blunderbuss album on repeat, much to my 6YO's dismay. He groans when I belt out the line, "I eat sixteen saltine crackers / Then I lick my fingers."; I'll take my son's reaction to be a commentary on my cringe-worthy warbling instead of an assessment of one of today's leading rockers.

If prognosticators are to be believed, my offspring's generation will never experience rock music because the genre has departed to that great musical graveyard in the sky. Of course, rock 'n' roll has survived multiple death sentences practically since birth, making cats' nine lives look like nothing. As far back as 1956, the Maddox Brothers & Rose reshaped Ray Charles’ “I Gotta Woman” into a song rechristened “The Death of Rock and Roll”.

Musing about rock’s demise has become a clichéd and surefire method for sucking readers into publications ironically dependent on the genre’s survival. I would think the bite-the-hand-that-feeds-them approach would backfire, but it must work, because I continuously cross paths with variations of the “Rock and Roll Is Dead” headline.

The latest terminal-illness pronouncement comes from Jack Black, half of the jokey-rock duo Tenacious D and an actor known for rock ‘n’ roll-roles in movies like High Fidelity and School of Rock. Black is pushed to explain the title of the D’s new song, “Rock Is Dead” in a Rolling Stone interview (“Off the Cuff: Jack Black on ‘Bernie,’ Tenacious D and the Death of Rock”, 3 May 2012). He argues no one today has the capacity to rouse audiences like the Beatles. He contends Nirvana was the last band to come close. He concedes there are still worthwhile rockers today – including the Jack White and the Foo Fighters, fronted by none other than ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. He just doesn’t believe any of today’s bands can capture the hearts of a generation.

Since Black references Nirvana and the Foos, Grohl’s opinion on the matter seems particularly pertinent. In an interview with Billboard magazine (“Dave Grohl Q&A: Why Rock Will Never Die…”, 10 January 2012), he jokes that an article surfaces annually asking, “Is Rock Dead?” He responds “There’s always gonna be rock ‘n’ roll bands, there’s always gonna be kids that love rock ‘n’ roll records, and there will always be rock ‘n’ roll.”

Dave Grohl, image from

I’m with Grohl. Black’s comments can be viewed as tongue-in-cheek, but they reveal a common belief that rock is dead because there are no bands now like there used to be. In a article (“How Technology Killed Rock and Roll”, 17 January 2011), Corey Crossfield asserts that in the heyday of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones music had an urgency it now lacks.

Well, duh. Rock ‘n’ roll grew up. That baby who was born in the ‘50s is now eligible for AARP. Elvis was hailed as The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll because he was the first to ascend to the throne. The Beatles were at the forefront of the British Invasion because they led the takeover of the hearts of American teens. Girls wanted them and boys wanted to be them. These were landmark artists in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll precisely because they were spawned in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.

The lack of modern-day superstars on par with The King or The Fab Four is actually an indicator of the genre’s continued influence. In the early days of any genre’s birth, a handful of names become the standard bearers. As the genre becomes more widespread, it is more difficult to stand out in the pack.

Audiences are now so saturated with avenues for discovering music that no genres or musicians can have the same level of impact as those long-ago glory days. Despite the larger-than-life personas of pop divas like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga, they lack the cultural impact of the stars who launched rock.

Today’s focus on pop giants is often cited as evidence for why rock is on life support. Eric Been notes the absence of rock on the charts in The Atlantic (“10 Years After the White Stripes ‘Saved’ It, Rock Is Again in Crisis”, 5 July 2011). He points to Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” as the only rock song in the top ten of Billboard’s Hot 100 songs of 2010. That didn’t impress The Village Voice, who deemed it the worst song of the year and “the whitest song to ever have the word ‘soul’ in it.”

An article in The Guardian (“RIP rock’n’ roll? Professor of pop reads the last rites”, 10 January 2011) professed a similar fate overseas that year. Only three rock tracks appeared in the top 100 best-selling hits in the UK. DJ Paul Gambaccini – who the article dubbed “the professor of pop” – stated, “It is the end of the rock era…That doesn’t mean there will be no more good rock musicians, but rock as a prevailing style is part of music history.”

Rock may no longer be a prevailing style or rule the roost on the charts, but that doesn’t justify reading last rites. In fact, if one wants to rely on hard numbers, look no further than the same article’s acknowledgement that rock was responsible for more than 1 out of 4 album sales during that same time frame.

Similar numbers surface when looking at top touring acts. In Billboard’s 2011 year-end issue (“2011 – The Year in Music: 25 Top Tours”), U2, Bon Jovi, and Roger Waters take the #1, #2, and #4 slots respectively. With the Eagles, Journey, and Iron Maiden also on the list, roughly a quarter of the list are rock acts.

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However, even if the numbers are cast aside, it is difficult to argue that rock will never rule again just because it isn’t leading the pack right now. Black pointed to Nirvana as the kings of the hill 20 years ago. The Atlantic article pointed to the White Stripes as the saviors of rock and roll a decade ago. Who’s to say the next rock revolution isn’t right around the corner? 

In the Guardian article, NME associate editor Paul Stokes says, “Music is a cyclical business… We’ve been told rock was dead before, in the late 80s, late 90s, but it came back.”

Grohl voiced a similar sentiment in his Billboard interview. He sees today’s musical climate as similar to when Nirvana exploded in 1991. The late ‘80s was dominated by over-produced, formulaic pop and then a “bunch of bands with dirty kids got on MTV and rock ‘n’ roll became huge again.”

Amusingly, within all these articles’ death sentences, no one actually defines rock and roll. describes it as “a form of popular music that evolved in the ‘50s from rhythm and blues, characterized by the use of electric guitars, a strong rhythm with an accent on the offbeat, and youth-oriented lyrics.”

However, much like the English language always has exceptions to the rule, so does rock ‘n’ roll. One can’t even get past forefathers like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Fats Domino before admitting some of the greats made their names tickling the ivories instead of shredding on a six-string.

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The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself has not adopted a strict definition, a point made clear by its wide musical range of inductees. It isn’t just that, though. Their requirements for induction don’t even mention rock music. Strange but true.

This lends credence to Crossfield’s assertion that rock ‘n’ roll is more than just a musical genre. It transcends lifestyle and is practically a religion. This viewpoint frames rock more as a force which grows out of its attitude and delivery more than its style.

I subscribe to a more traditional concept, but even rock purists can’t deny how rock has crept into other genres. This lends validity to the notion that rock will never die because it will continue to weave itself into the fabric of other genre’s tapestries.

When it comes to Jack Black vs. Dave Grohl, I’ll side with the Foo man, thank you very much. When my 6YO and his peers are the dominant music-buying force in a decade or so, they may not be buying Jack White albums, but there will still be the residue of White’s saltine crackers lingering on whatever music my son consumes.

The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era now in ebook format!

On the back jacket of The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, I noted that many well-known music publications – including Billboard, the Grammys, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine – have all put their stamp on best-of-all-time song lists. Then I claimed they all got it wrong. Well, at least a little wrong. As I said then, those lists all have some bias. With my book, I averaged lists from more than 100 sources to create a far more objective, cream-of-the-crop list.

The print edition of that book came out just over a year ago. Now Dave’s Music Database is proud to introduce the book in e-book format. The book is available through as a PDF which should be accessible through any e-book reader or without a reader at all! For less than half the price, you get all the content of the print edition and more! Check out links on every song page to videos, lyrics, and downloads. The annotated bibliography now includes more than 200 sources to which you can directly link via the e-book. More than 500 links in all. 140 pages. $5.99 in U.S. dollars.

If you prefer the print edition, you can purchase it through

It is also available through

Here’s what people have said about The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999:

“Music and lists are so subjective because what I think, what she thinks, what he thinks or what the 738,000 weekly listeners of the Fox think – there’s no real right answer…You need to check it out for yourself. It is an interesting read.” – Slacker, morning DJ for 101 The Fox, Kansas City’s Classic Rock Station

My Interview with Slacker

“It certainly must have been a daunting job to pick only 100 songs from such a broad timespan. There's plenty to debate and I'm sure your readers will bombard you with what you left out or the positioning of some of the songs....wink...Oh, be warned... I'll be ‘borrowing’ some of your factoids as well...You did a great job.” – Donald Riggio, author of Seven-Inch Vinyl

Excerpt from review on
“I've never met Dave Whitaker personally but I consider him a friend. We started our Facebook pages at around the same time and somehow through the combined influence of extreme music nerdism and cyberspace we found each other. Unlike myself, Dave’s main purpose has been more studious and inquisitive. How else can you explain the mania behind gathering up lists from goodness knows how many publications, putting that data together to create a gestalt that makes more than a little sense out of a myriad of styles, genres, and biases? Ultimately though, this is a book for the common man and I don't use that phrase in jest. Every song here is not only well known but entrenched deeply within our culture…Congratulations Dave. You book is a triumph for all us music nerds.” – Michael Crawley, administrator for Facebook page Todays Song Is…

You can learn more about this book at

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Saturday, May 26, 2012

On This Day (1962): John Lee Hooker “Boom Boom” charted

Boom Boom

John Lee Hooker

Writer(s): John Lee Hooker (see lyrics here)

First Charted: May 26, 1962

Peak: 60 BB, 70 HR, 16 RB, 19 CL, 16 UK, 1 DF (Click for codes to charts.)

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 41.8 video, 83.26 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Blues great John Lee Hooker had his first recording session in 1948. “Boogie Chillen,” recorded during that session, was released the following year and topped the R&B chart on its way toward selling a million copies. However, it wasn’t until 1962’s “Boom Boom” that Hooker had his one and only entry on the pop charts. It would also be his final appearance on the R&B charts. In the 1980s and ‘90s, he would have success with albums with a host of guest rock stars.

Hooker achieved his first hits recording on his own in Detroit, “playing guitar and stomping his feet.” BH However, on hs “bad-man theme, ‘Boom Boom,’” BH “the stomping rhythm” BH was provided by James Jamerson (bass), Benny Benjamin (drums), and Joe Hunter (piano). The trio were none other than the famed Motown session men known as the Funk Brothers.

The song was inspired by Luilla, a bartender at the Apex Bar in Detroit where Hooker used to play. As he said, “I’d always be late and whenever I’d come in she’d point at me and say, ‘Boom Boom, you’re late again. And she kept saying that. It dawned on me that that was a good name for a song. Then one night she said, ‘Boom Boom, I’m gonna shoot you down.’ She gave me a song but she didn’t know it.” SF

After he recorded the song and the Animals covered it, he said, “The barmaid felt pretty good. She went around telling everybody I got John Lee to write that song. I gave her some bread for it, too, so she was pretty happy.” SF Others to record the song included Big Head Todd & the Monsters, Buddy Guy, the Oak Ridge Boys, Them, Muddy Waters, and the Yardbirds. SH Hooker performed the song in the 1980 movie The Blues Brothers. It was his only movie appearance.


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First posted 9/11/2023.

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry 10th Anniversary

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For ten years the National Recording Registry has made 25 annual selections of sound recordings which are at least a decade old and deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The Library of Congress established the Registry through the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000. Click here to see a full list of all 350 recordings in the Registry through 2011.

Here are the 25 selections for the 2011 National Recording Registry in chronological order:

1. Edison Talking Doll cylinder (1888)
2. “Come Down Ma Evenin’ Star,” Lillian Russell (1912)
3. “Ten Cents a Dance” by Ruth Etting (1930)
4. Voices from the Days of Slavery by Various speakers (1932-1941 interviews; 2002 compilation)
5. “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana (1935)

I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart

6. “Fascinating Rhythm” by Sol Hoopii and his Novelty Five (1938)
7. “Artistry in Rhythm” by Stan Kenton & and his Orchestra (1943)

Artistry in Rhythm

8. Debut performance with the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (Nov. 14, 1943)
9. International Sweethearts of Rhythm: Hottest Women’s Band of the 1940s (1944-1946)
10. The Indians for Indians Hour (March 25, 1947)
11. “Hula Medley” by Gabby Pahinui (1947)
12. “I Can Hear It Now” by Fred W. Friendly and Edward R. Murrow (1948)
13. “Let’s Go Out to the Programs” by The Dixie Hummingbirds (1953)
14. Also Sprach Zarathustra by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1954, 1958)
15. “Bo Diddley” and “I’m a Man” by Bo Diddley (1955)

Green Onions

16. “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the M.G.’s (1962)
17. Forever Changes Love (1967)

18. The Continental Harmony: Music of William Billings by Gregg Smith Singers (1969)
19. A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio (1970)
20. “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton (1971)

21. Mothership Connection by Parliament (1975)
22. Barton Hall concert by the Grateful Dead (May 8, 1977)
23. “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer (1977)

Rapper’s Delight

24. “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang (1979)
25. Purple Rain by Prince & the Revolution (1984)

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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

"Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star" is added to National Recording Registry

Twinkle Twinkle Little Star

Jane Taylor (lyrics), traditional (music)

Writer(s): Jane Taylor (words), traditional (music) (see lyrics here)

Published: 1806

First Charted: --

Peak: --

Sales (in millions): --

Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 2143.66 video, 151.10 streaming


Click on award for more details.

About the Song:

Jane Taylor, an English poet, wrote a five-stanza poem called “The Star.” It was published in London in 1806 in Rhymes for the Nursery, a collection of poems Jane and her sister Ann. In 1838, it was published as the song “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” in The Singing Master: First Class Tune Book. WK Generally, people only sing the first stanza of the original poem. The song is now in the public domain.

The poem was set to a French melody called “Ah! Vous diraj-je, Maman” (“Oh! Shall I tell you, Mama”), written by an unknown composer in 1761. It has been suggested it may even date back as far as 1740. The song, without words, first appeared in Les Amusements d’une Heure et Demy, a collection of music for garden parties published by a man named Boüin. There is, however, no evidence that he wrote the song. BR

The original melody has often been misattributed to composer Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. There’s even a myth that he wrote the tune as a child, but that isn’t true. BR He did, however, create a twelve-bar variation of the tune for solo piano in the early 1780s. Composers Haydn and Liszt have also integrated the piece into their works. Lewis Caroll created a parody of the tune in his 1865 novel Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.

The tune has also been the basis for “The Alphabet Song (aka “A B C D E F G),” published in the 1824 issue of “Musikalischer Haus-Frend”). It was copyrighted by C. Bradlee on February 3, 1834. WBM The melody was also used for “Baa Baa Black Sheep.” The words first appeared in print about 1744, but the first printing with the French melody appeared in Nursery Songs and Games, which was copyrighted on October 25, 1879. WBM

The song has also played a significant role in music history. The German-born Emile Berliner invented a microphone in 1877 and sold the patent to Alexander Graham Bell. That same year, Thomas Edison invented the phonograph. Berliner would continue to develop technology to allow for recordings to be made and reproduced. He secured a licensing agreement with a German doll manufacturer called Kämmer & Reinhardt to mass produce discs to be played on a gramophone. The first known selections, believed to be of Berliner himself, featured recitations of “The Lord’s Prayer” and “Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star.” NRR The recordings have been inducted into the National Recording Registry.

“Twinkle, Twinkle Little Star” has been used in studies to research child development in “vocal pitch accuracy, perception of intervals, contour and key, to grow self-esteem in the classroom, in music therapy for feeding and sleeping in premature infants, and as a method to encourage children to compose and improvise music.” RNZ


First posted 12/17/2023.

The Top Songs According to…the AARP?

My dad recently sent me a link to an AARP article. Sure, he’s been one of their faithful for nearly three decades, but my half-century birthday is years away. Okay, only five years, but I’m not there yet! Truth be told, music isn’t my dad’s thing, but he’s well aware of my obsession with it so he sent a link my way (“Readers Respond to Jacqueline Mitchard’s ’16 Songs You Must Own’“). It references an article from a couple months earlier (“16 Songs Everyone Over 50 Must Own”) in which author Jacqueline Mitchard offered up the original list. She isn’t cited for any music credentials whatsoever, but she proclaims she has “compiled a list of favorites from every genre, each of which speaks in some important way to our generation.”

EVERY genre? Really? While I give her credit for hitting rock, pop, country, R&B, folk, and rap, where’s world music? Reggae? Is Frank Sinatra her representative for jazz? What about punk, disco, or just dance in general? How about more modern genres like alternative rock, grunge, or Britpop? Perhaps she thinks those over 50 have no awareness of these “modern” formats of music which are only 20+ years old? On the flip side, “Jailhouse Rock”, from 1957, is the oldest song on the list. What, there aren’t any AARP members who listened to any music before the rock era?

Jailhouse Rock, the oldest song on the list

I could go on, but I think you get the point. It isn’t just that it is silly to claim to represent all genres with only a 16-song list. What’s with a list of only 16 songs anyway? She doesn’t explain why she picked such a random number. Oh, Jacqueline also doesn’t help her credibility by identifying “Landslide” as being by Stevie Nicks. Yes, that is Nicks singing, but it was recorded with Fleetwood Mac, not as a solo cut.

Landslide by Fleetwood Mac NOT Stevie Nicks

Now, there are good songs on here and plenty of big-time artists. However, if your list is limited to 16 titles, they really have to be the cream of the crop. 9 of these 16 appear on Dave’s Music Database’s top 1000 songs of all time list. Only three make the top 100 songs of all time list. Perhaps even more astonishing is that out of the hundreds of lists aggregated to create the DMDB best-of-all-time song list, FOUR of these songs (marked by asterisks) had never appeared on any of them. Here’s the full list in alphabetical order by the acts’ names:

  1. AC/DC “You Shook Me All Night Long” (1980) DMDB 1000
  2. The Beatles “In My Life” (1965) DMDB 1000
  3. The Beach Boys “God Only Knows” (1966) DMDB 1000
  4. Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” (1967) DMDB 1000
  5. Patsy Cline “Crazy” (1961) DMDB 100
  6. Coolio with L.V. “Gangsta’s Paradise” (1995) DMDB 1000
  7. Eagles “Hotel California” (1977) DMDB 100
  8. Fleetwood Mac “Landslide” (1975)
  9. Emmylou Harris “C’est La Vie (You Never Can Tell)” (1977) *
  10. George Jones “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (1980) DMDB 1000
  11. Joni Mitchell “Little Green” (1971) *
  12. Elvis Presley “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) DMDB 100
  13. Frank Sinatra “Once Upon a Time” (1965) *
  14. Dionne Warwick “A House Is Not a Home” (1964) *
  15. Stevie Wonder “Lately” (1981)
  16. Neil Young “Harvest Moon” (1993)

Hotel California, the biggest song on the list according to the DMDB

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Monday, May 21, 2012

My Interview on 101 The Fox

This page last updated 3/15/2021.

This year I’ve been determined to more aggressively market my books. In researching effective marketing techniques, I found plenty of mentions of radio interviews. They allow the writer to have free advertising, are quick and easy to do, and can hit a widespread audience. Also, radio stations – especially talk show formats – are always looking for content.

I’ve spent most of my life in the Kansas City area and one of the radio station staples from my high school years on has been KCFX 101.1 FM (“The Fox”). They originated in 1983, playing album rock. In 1985, they became the first classic rock station in a major market, playing artists from the late 1960s through the 1980s. In 1990, they switched frequencies with Carrollton’s KMZU, moving from 100.7 to 101.1 on the dial. That was also the year they became the first FM music station to carry play-by-play for an NFL team when they became the official home for the Kansas City Chiefs radio broadcasts.

The station, which is owned by Cumulus Media, is housed in an office complex in the Overland Park, Kansas area within walking distance from my house. Where better to start marketing my book, The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, than via the radio station in my back yard which I’ve listening to for more than 25 years?

I shot off an email describing the book and offering up a short bio. The program director shot the email to Slacker, the morning DJ. At their request, I brought in a review copy of the book and a couple more for giveaways. I sent a list of possible questions and within a couple weeks of the initial email, we’d booked a time for the interview.

Slacker, image from

I went in Friday morning, May 18 and taped the interview with Slacker in the studio. We talked about a half hour about my book, our kids, and how radio has changed over the years. Sandwiched in between our chatting, we squeezed in a roughly five-minute interview. Slacker asked me how the book came about and ran down the top 10 songs from the book, asking for commentary on some of them. I had a blast. I felt more like I was talking to a buddy about music than doing an interview. I’m ready for more.

Click to play my interview with Slacker at 101 The Fox

As an added bonus, I came back the next week with my kids. I assumed they'd just get to see the radio station, but Slacker put them on the air as well!

Click to play my kids' interview with Slacker

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Saturday, May 19, 2012

The People’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame: 10th Class of Inductees

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As it says on the blog, this is “the only Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame FOR and BY the people.” It has been designed as a direct alternative to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The former is based on fan votes while the latter is based on a selection committee who determines nominees who are then voted on by those already inducted. Ted Cogswell initiated the concept in January 2010.

The 10th class was announced May 18, 2012. 50 acts who’d released their first recording by the end of 1969 were nominated (see full list here). Voters could select a minimum of ten and up to 25. All acts who made it on more than half the ballots were inducted. Eleven new acts have been added: Alice Cooper; The Allman Brothers Band; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; The Faces; George Harrison; Led Zeppelin; John Lennon; Mott the Hoople; Santana; The Small Faces; and Yes. In all, 121 acts have been inducted. Check the full list of inductees here.

The Rock Hall has yet to see fit to say

to these prog-rock giants, but the People’s Hall inducted them this year.

The People’s Hall and Rock Hall share many common inductees: 86% (105 out of 121) of the People’s Hall inductees are also Rock Hall inductees. However, the differences are highlighted by the exceptions. Last fall, I compiled a list of The Top 100 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Hopefuls, an aggregate of 39 lists of who belongs in. Here’s a list of the People’s Hall inductees who haven’t been inducted in the Rock Hall and how they fared on my list: The Moody Blues (#3), Deep Purple (#5), Yes (#8), T-Rex (#10), The Zombies (#33), Jethro Tull (#41), The MC5 (#42), The Guess Who (#45), The Monkees (#51), Dick Dale (#61), and Johnny Burnette & the Rock ‘N’ Roll Trio (#75). Five more People’s Hall inductees didn’t make my list: Chubby Checker, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jan & Dean, Mott the Hoople, and Paul Revere & the Raiders.

Many hard-rock fans are seeing red that

aren’t yet in the Rock Hall, but they don’t have to feel blue:
The People’s Hall has inducted them.

It should also be noted that the People’s Hall had 1969 as their cut off this year, compared to the Rock Hall’s 1987 eligibility date. That means there are plenty of Rock Hall inductees (there are 279 inductees as of the 2012 class) who aren’t eligible yet for the People’s Hall. Similarly, if one looks at the DMDB’s list of Rock Hall Hopefuls, any acts from the ‘70s and ‘80s haven’t had a shot at the People’s Hall yet.

In any event, congrats to the newest inductees and kudos to Ted Cogswell for the creation of a fan-based Hall.

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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Last Dance for Donna Summer, the Queen of Disco

Donna Summer

Top 20 Songs

Donna Summer, dubbed the Queen of Disco, was born LaDonna Gaines on December 31, 1948 in Boston. Singing in church prompted her to pursue music as a career in the late 1960s. Her first single, “Sall Go ‘Round the Roses,” was released in 1971 under her birth name after she had performed in some musicals in Europe, including a production of Hair in Germany. That same year she married actor Helmuth Sommer and even after their divorce in 1975, she kept an anglicized version of the name.

Her first chart hit was “the breathy, sexualized” BB #2 “Love to Love You Baby” in 1975. She charted more than 30 songs on the Billboard Hot 100 over three decades, but was at her peak in the latter half of the 1970s. “Her collaborations with producer Giorgio Moroder…broke ground for dance music and have been hugely influential on electronic music in the decades since.” RS

She took four songs to #1 in 1978 and 1979. She also had three consecutive #1 albums from 1978 to 1980. Even though her career waned in the post-disco era, she still made several trips to the top ten in the 1980s. She had 14 top ten hits total and collected five Grammys over the years.

Summer died on 5/17/2012 after a battle with lung cancer. She believed it came from inhaling particles following the 9/11 attacks in New York. She was survived by her husband Bruce Sudano (who she married in 1980) and their daughters Brooklyn and Amanda. She also had a daughter, Mimi, with her first husband, and had four grandchildren.



Top 20 Songs

Dave’s Music Database lists are determined by song’s appearances on best-of lists, appearances on compilations and live albums by the featured act, and songs’ chart success, sales, radio airplay, streaming, and awards. Songs which topped the Billboard Hot 100, R&B charts, and UK charts are noted.

1. Hot Stuff (1979) #1
2. Last Dance (1978)
3. Bad Girls (1979) #1, #1 RB
4. I Feel Love (1977) #1 UK
5. MacArthur Park (1978) #1
6. Love to Love You Baby (1975)
7. No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) (with Barbra Streisand, 1979) #1
8. On the Radio (1980)
9. She Works Hard for the Money (1983) #1 RB
10. Heaven Knows (1979)

11. Dim All the Lights (1979)
12. This Time I Know It’s for Real (1989)
13. The Wanderer (1980)
14. Love Is in Control (1982)
15. There Goes My Baby (1984)
16. Unconditional Love (with Musical Youth, 1983)
17. Cold Love (1980)
18. Winter Melody (1976)
19. The Woman in Me (1982)
20. Dinner with Gershwin (1987)

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First posted 5/17/2012; last updated 12/30/2023.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Irving Berlin was born: May 11, 1888

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He was born Israel Isidore Baline in Tyumen, Russia on May 11, 1888. He became a renowned composer and lyricist in America. George Gershwin called him “the greatest songwriter who ever lived.” Jerome Kern said, “Irving Berlin has no place in American music – he is American music.” A 2001 Time magazine article estimated Berlin has written around 1250 songs. 25 have reached #1 on the pop charts.

He wrote 17 complete scores for Broadway musicals and revues including Call Me Madam and Annie Get Your Gun. The latter is one of the top 1000 albums of all time, was rated best album of the year by the DMDB, and is in the Grammy Hall of Fame.

Berlin’s first notable hit was in 1911 with Alexander’s Ragtime Band. While covered many times, it was Arthur Collins and Byron Harlan’s version which garnered the most praise. It ranks in the DMDB’s top 1000 songs of all time and NPR ranked it one of the most Important American musical works of the 20th century.

Alexander’s Ragtime Band

“Ragtime” was also named to the Grammy Hall of Fame, as were “Puttin’ on the Ritz” (Earl Burtnett & His Los Angeles Biltmore Hotel Orchestra with Harry Richman, 1930), “Cheek to Cheek” (Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers with Leo Reisman’s Orchestra, 1935), “Marie” (Tommy Dorsey, 1937), “God Bless America” (Kate Smith, 1939), and “White Christmas” (Bing Crosby with the Ken Darby Singers, 1942).

Cheek to Cheek

All Told, Berlin landed 15 songs in the DMDB’s top 1000 songs of all time. In addition to the above titles are “When I Lost You” (Henry Burr, 1913), “Oh, How I Hate to Get Up in the Morning” (Arthur Fields, 1918), “A Pretty Girl Is Like a Melody” (John Steel, 1919), “What’ll I Do?” (Paul Whiteman, 1924), and “All Alone” (Al Jolson, 1925). Also rating in the elite 1000 list are “Blue Skies” (Ben Selvin, 1927), “How Deep Is the Ocean?” (Guy Lombardo with Carmen Lombardo, 1932), “Easter Parade” (Leo Reisman with Clifton Webb, 1933), and “I’ve Got My Love to Keep Me Warm” (Les Brown, 1948).

“Ragtime,” “All Alone,” and “White Christmas” all earned distinction as DMDB Songs of the Year. “Ragtime,” “Christmas,” and “Cheek to Cheek” rank amongst the the biggest #1 pop songs in U.S. chart history. “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” “Cheek,” and “Christmas” are all in the American Film Institute’s list 100 Years…100 Songs">. “God Bless America” and “Christmas” are also in the National Recording Registry.

God Bless America

Of course, no song is bigger than Berlin’s “White Christmas” as recorded by Bing Crosby. It doesn’t just rank as one of the top 100 best-selling songs in the world, but tops that list. Its 56 million in worldwide sales put it nearly 20 million ahead of its closest competition, Elton John’s “Candle in the Wind 1997.” The song went to #1 for 11 weeks in 1942 and then recharted eleven times over the next dozen years, even picking up three more weeks atop the charts. All told, it looged over 100 weeks on the pop charts over 20 Christmas seasons. Berlin , who was often insecure about his work, referred to the song not just as the best one he’d ever written, but the best anyone had ever written. LW Dave’s Music Database concurs, ranking it the #1 song of all time.

White Christmas


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Friday, May 4, 2012

Adam Yauch of the Beastie Boys dead at 47

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Adam Yauch, the Beastie Boys rapper known as MCA, died on May 4, 2012. While not yet confirmed, it is assumed he succumbed to cancer. PM He underwent treatment for cancer in his salivary gland in 2009. It was reported in 2011 that he had beat cancer, but Yauch released a statement saying, “While I'm grateful for all the positive energy people are sending my way, reports of my being totally cancer free are exaggerated…I’m continuing treatment, staying optimistic and hoping to be cancer free in the near future.” BB The group has not performed live since Yauch’s diagnosis in 2009.

Yauch was 47. He is survived by his wife Dechen Wangdu and their daughter Tenzin Losel. In addition to being one-third of one of the biggest rap groups in history, Yauch “was heavily involved in the movement to free Tibet and co-organized the Tibetan Freedom Concerts of the late Nineties. In 2002, he launched the film production company Oscilloscope Laboratories.” RS Russell Simmons, whose Def Jam Recordings released the Beasties debut album, Licensed to Ill, said of Adam, he “was incredibly sweet and the most sensitive artist who I loved dearly. I was always inspired by his work. He will be missed by all of us.” BB

With Michael “Mike D” Diamond and Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz started as a hardcore punk group in 1979, but had moved toward hip-hop by the time of 1986’s Licensed to Ill. It became one of the most important albums in rap history, giving the Beasties the distinction of being the first rap group to top the Billboard album chart. As producer Rick Rubin said, “The Beasties opened hip-hop music up to the suburbs…As crazy as they were, they seemed safe to Middle America, in a way black artists hadn’t been up to that point in time.” BB

That album owed much of its success to the iconic hit single, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party).” The DMDB ranks the song as one of the top 1000 of all time. A DMDB blog entry from December 2011 took an in-depth look at that song.

You Gotta Fight for Your Right to Party

While that first album had a certain campy appeal, the Beasties surprised everyone the next time out with 1989’s Paul’s Boutique, “a critically lauded, sample-heavy record that featured production from the Dust Brothers.” BB

Both of those albums rank in the DMDB’s top 1000 albums of all time, as did their next two releases, 1992’s Check Your Head and 1994’s Ill Communication. All four albums also rank in the DMDB’s list of the top 50 rap albums of all time.

The latter album sported another of the Beasties’ most iconic songs, “Sabotage.” Not only did the song prove the Beasties had an audience beyond rap by ranking as one of the top 100 alternative songs of all time, but the video for the song proved one of the most celebrated in history, ranking in the top ten on the DMDB’s list of the top 100 videos of all time.


This year the Beastie Boys were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Due to his illness, Yauch was unable to attend the ceremony on April 14. Check out The Daily Guru’s blog for a nice tribute about what the Beastie Boys meant to him.


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The first Grammys were held: May 4, 1959

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Frank Sinatra once described Elvis Presley, the man who in 1959 was responsible for nearly half the sales at RCA, as a “deplorable, a rancid-smelling aphrodisiac.” TO Apparently the Grammys agreed with Ol’ Blue Eyes. In 28 categories, Sinatra was nominated the most – 12 times. Elvis and his fellow rock musicians, received no nominations. As Variety magazine said, the complete absence of any rock titles was “a demonstrative brushoff to the prevailing trend in the pop field.” TO

The Grammy Awards were established in 1958 by the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences. The “Grammy” nickname is short for gramophone. The awards focused on “artistic achievement, technical proficiency and overall excellence instead of album sales or chart position.” LF “The award itself is a gold gramophone, symbolic of the first home record players, on a black base.” LF

525 people from the music industry attended that first ceremony on May 4, 1959 at a banquet ceremony at Los Angeles’ Beverly Hilton Hotel. Shockingly, there was no music on the program. The event was not televised. Paul Weston, the Grammy president, was still lining up presenters during dinner.

700 people filled out ballots. While prognasticators assumed Sinatra would be the big winner of the night, he was nearly shut out, only winning Best Album Cover for Only the Lonely. Instead, the night’s top honors went largely to non-rock-oriented pop titles. Domenico Modugno’s “Volare” won Record and Song of the Year. Henry Mancini’s television soundtrack The Music from Peter Gunn, which had topped the LP chart for 10 weeks, took the prize for Album of the Year. Mancini would become a Grammy regular, winning a total of 20 awards before his death in 1994.


Some of the other winners of the night included Ella Fitzgerald (Best Female Vocal Performance, Best Individual Jazz Performance) and Count Basie (Best Performance by a Dance Band, Best Jazz Performance Group). Despite Grammy leaders claim that the awards were about “artistic merit,” they handed out three awards to The Chipmunks. Check out a full list of the first year’s winners here.

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Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Jack White on track for first #1 album

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Jack White, one of today’s most celebrated musicians, is set to accomplish something this week he couldn’t do with his groups The White Stripes, The Raconteurs, or Dead Weather – land a #1 album on Billboard with his first solo effort, Blunderbuss. White got his start with the 1999 release of The White Stripes, a roots-oriented duo comprised of himself on guitar and vocals and his ex-wife Meg White on drums. De Stijl followed in 2000. Neither charted in the U.S. or U.K.

The group had its big break with 2001’s White Blood Cells, an album which, along with The Strokes’ Is This It, powered a garage-rock revival. The album rates as one of the top 1000 albums of all time and one of the top 100 albums of the 2000s. The album appears on best-of lists from Q Magazine and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Spin magazine ranked it Album of the Year. Its song “Fell in Love with a Girl” ranked in Blender’s Top 500 Songs Since You Were Born (1980-2005) and is rated by the DMDB as one of the top 100 videos of all time.

Fell in Love with a Girl

With high expectations, Jack and Meg delivered an even more acclaimed and commercially successful follow-up with 2003’s Elephant. It was Jack’s first visit to the top ten in the U.S. and in the UK it was not only The White Stripes’ first charting album, but went to #1. It also is the best-selling title of White’s catalog with more than 5 million sales worldwide. Like its predecessor, it also ranks in the DMDB’s top 1000 albums of all time and one of the top 100 albums of the 2000s. It was also named Album of the Year by Mojo, NME, Q, and Spin magazines.

That album spawned Jack’s most celebrated song – “Seven Nation Army.” The DMDB ranks it as one of the top 100 song of the 21st century and one of the top 1000 songs of all time. It also rates as one of the top 100 alternative rock songs of all time and makes best-of lists from Blender, NME, and Q magazines.

Seven Nation Army

Two more White Stripes albums followed – Get Behind Me Satan (2005) and Icky Thump (2007). Like Elephant, they both won the Grammy Award for Alternative Album of the Year. The latter was White’s second #1 album in the UK.

The Raconteurs, image from

In between those albums, White formed another band, The Raconteurs, with The Greenhornes’ Jack Lawrence and Patrick Keeler as well as solo artist Brendan Benson. That group released two albums – 2006’s Broken Boy Soldiers and 2008’s Consolers of the Lonely. Both were top ten albums in the U.S. and U.K.

The Dead Weather, image from

Not content to limit his resume to two groups, White also formed The Dead Weather. Lawrence came along from The Raconteurs and Dean Fertita, guitarist and keyboardist for Queens of the Stone Age, entered the picture. White actually took a back seat as the drummer and put The Kills’ Alison Mosshart up front. That group also released two albums – 2009’s Horehound and 2010’s Sea of Cowards. Both were top ten albums in the U.S., but neither made the top ten in the U.K.

Outside of his group projects, White contributed five solo cuts to the Cold Mountain soundtrack in 2003. That same year, he was rumored to have collaborated with Electric Six on the songs “Danger! High Voltage” and “Gay Bar.” In 2008, he and Alicia Keys dueted on “Another Way to Die,” the theme song for the James Bond film Quantum of Solace. In 2009, he released his first official solo single “Fly Farm Blues,” which was written and recorded in 10 minutes during the filming of the documentary It Might Get Loud which featured White alongside Jimmy Page and The Edge discussing guitar. In 2010, White contributed vocals to three tracks for Danger Mouse’s Rome album.

Now, in 2012, White releases his first full-fledged solo album. Blunderbuss dropped on April 24, 2012. White wrote, recorded, and produced the entire album. January 30 saw the release of the album’s first single, “Love Interruption.” The second single, “Sixteen Saltines,” was released on March 13.

Sixteen Saltines


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