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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Monday, May 28, 2012

Frank Sinatra charted with In the Wee Small Hours: May 28, 1955

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“For a decade, Sinatra pushed to make a cohesive LP at a time when no one in the record business was thinking beyond singles. Finally, his break-up with Ava Gardner provided the perfect catalyst” TL for “the first collection of songs Sinatra recorded specifically for an LP.” RS It is also one of “one of Sinatra’s most jazz-oriented performances” AMG and “one of the finest jazz albums of all time.” CAD It “sustains a midnight mood of loneliness and lost love – it’s a prototypical concept album;” RS it is “considered by many to be the first concept album.” CAD

“Recorded in just a few days,” TL this collection makes for an “authoritative take on masculine loneliness.” TL “If you want to cry, here’s one to do it with.” ZS The reviewer at Cool Album of the Day even suggested playing “this album in its entirety while leaning against a lamp post preferably with a cigarette dangling out of the side of your mouth…Once you are finished put out your cigarette, down one more shot of whiskey, and leave the wee small hours of the morning behind you….and go to sleep.” CAD

The “feeling of not being able to sleep, tossing and turning, thinking about his lover sets the mood for the entire album.” CAD Ol’ Blue Eyes “wears his heart on his forlorn sleeve” CAD as he works “through a series of standards that are lonely and desolate.” AMG “Like all Sinatra songs, they’re not just beautifully sung but interpreted into drama.” TL thanks to “ravishing and heartfelt vocal phrasings” CAD from “the man with the world’s greatest diction.” ZS

Sinatra took on a deliberate “musical recipe of less-is-more” TB with “somewhat muted guitar work and the lush almost in the background string arrangements.” CAD The songs were crafted “around a spare rhythm section featuring a rhythm guitar, celesta, and Bill Miller’s piano, with gently aching strings added every once and a while.” AMG The “carefully selected melancholy standards that come across with even more sublime poignancy with the expertly crafted arrangements by Nelson Riddle and his orchestra.” CAD

“Sinatra recordings were the yardstick by which all other vocalists would be judged when it came to dealing with the American Popular Songbook.” TB “Both Tom Waits and Marvin Gaye have cited the album as one of their favorites with Waits using the album art on the cover of his own album The Heart of Saturday Night.” CAD

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning


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Saturday, May 26, 2012

“For Me and My Gal” charts for the first time: May 26, 1917

George W. Meyer was a composer born in Boston in 1884. He had hits spanning many years, including “”My Song of the Nile,” “Lonesome,” “My Mother’s Rosary” and the great novelty song “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go with Friday on Saturday Night?” PS However, his biggest hit was probably “For Me and My Gal,” with lyrics written by Edgar Leslie and E. Ray Goetz. When Meyer died, his wife had the song title inscribed on his tombstone. RCG

The song “was a forerunner of the jazz age.” RCG Its lyrics about “bells ringing and birds singing as two turtle doves go off to their wedding” RCG showed that in 1917, even as Americans were consumed by World War I, they still relished love songs.

The popular vaudeville team of Van & Schenck recorded the song and took it #1. Others to sing it on vaudeville included Belle Baker, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker. 1917 saw three more chart version in addition to Van & Schenck’s – Prince’s Orchestra (#5), Henry Burr & Albert Campbell (#7), and Billy Murray (#9). PM The sheet music moved three million copies.

The song “was still on pianos all over America” RCG In 1942 when Gene Kelly and Judy Garland sang the song in the movie of the same name. The movie celebrated vaudeville and other hits from the World War I era. Their recording was a #3 hit featuring Garland’s then-husband David Rose and His Orchestra. JA Guy Lombardo also charted with a version of the song in 1943, reaching #17.

For Me and My Gal (Gene Kelly & Judy Garland)


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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

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 Queen of Disco Donna Summer: May 17, 2012

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Donna Summer, often dubbed the Queen of Disco, had her “Last Dance” today. She passed away this morning in Florida after a battle with lung cancer. She believed it came from inhaling particles following the 9/11 attacks in New York. She is 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.

She 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.

Donna Summer’s Top 20 Songs *

Love to Love You Baby (1975)

1. Hot Stuff (1979) DMDB 1000 #1
2. Last Dance (1978) DMDB 1000
3. Bad Girls (1979) #1, #1 RB
4. I Feel Love (1977) #1 UK
5. MacArthur Park (1978) #1

Last Dance (1978)

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)

Hot Stuff (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)

Bad Girls (1979)

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)

She Works Hard for the Money (1983)

* Dave’s Music Database lists are determined by song’s appearances on best-of lists as well as sales, chart data, radio airplay, and awards. Songs which make Dave’s Music Database’s list of the top 1000 of all time are marked (DMDB 1000) as are #1 songs on the Billboard pop and R&B charts as well as the UK charts.


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Monday, May 14, 2012

Vaughn Monroe hit #1 with “Riders in the Sky”: May 14, 1949

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Stan Jones was a forest ranger who wrote songs on the side. SF He wrote this “country and cowboy-style song” WK in the summer of 1948 based on a story he’d heard at 12-years old by an old cowboy friend. WK The following year, the song gave the charts “a rustic, outdoors bias.” TY Vaughn Monroe (#1), Peggy Lee (#2), Bing Crosby (#14), and Burl Ives (#21) all charted with versions of the song on the U.S. pop charts. PM Monroe’s version wasn’t just a #1, but the the biggest pop song of 1949 WHC and the biggest of Monroe’s nine chart toppers. It was also one of three songs of his to sell a million copies. PM

The song serves up a “folk tale” WK of “cowboy hell.” SF A cowboy has a vision of “a herd of red-eyed cows” TY “thundering across the sky, being chased by the spirits of damned cowboys. One warns him that if he does not change his ways, he will be doomed to join them,” WK “doomed to chase the Devil’s cattle for all eternity.” SF

The song, which is also sometimes known as “Ghost Riders in the Sky,” “Ghost Riders,” and “A Cowboy Legend” has been recorded at least 50 times by artists including Johnny Cash, Spike Jones, Frankie Laine, and Marty Robbins. WK Gene Autry sang it in the movie of the same name in 1949. WK Jones recorded it on his own 1957 album Creakin’ Leather. WK Through the ‘60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, other versions by the Ramrods, Lawrence Welk, the Baja Marimba Band, the Outlaws, and Duane Eddy also charted. The Ramrods top-40 instrumental-version was the highest charting.

“The melody is based on the song ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home,’” WK and, “according to Robby Krieger, it inspired the classic Doors song ‘Riders on the Storm.’” WK It also inspired the Marvel Comics Western character Ghost Rider who was later renamed Phantom Rider. WK

Riders in the Sky


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Saturday, May 12, 2012

The Jimi Hendrix Experience released Are You Experienced?: May 12, 1967

Originally posted 5/12/12. Updated 2/22/13.

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Release date: 12 May 1967
Tracks: (Click for codes to singles charts.) Purple Haze (3/17/67, #3 UK, #65 US) / Manic Depression / Hey Joe (12/16/66, #6 UK) / Love or Confusion / May This Be Love / I Don’t Live Today / The Wind Cries Mary (5/5/67, #6 UK) / Fire / Third Stone from the Sun / Foxey Lady (12/23/67, #67 US) / Are You Experienced?

The 1997 US CD release added: Stone Free / 51st Anniversary / Highway Chile / Can You See Me / Remember / Red House

Sales (in millions): 4.0 US, -- UK, 4.0 world (includes US and UK)

Peak: 5 US, 2 UK


Review: Are You Experienced? is “one of the quintessential statements of psychedelic rock” NRR and “one of the most groundbreaking guitar albums of the rock era.” NRR Hendrix “expanded the sonic possibilities of the electric guitar” TL by doing things with the instrument “no one ever dreamed about trying.” DV

It wasn’t just his guitar prowess, but “the range and scope of sheer sound” AZ which made him a virtuoso. By “building upon the experiments of British innovators like Jeff Beck and Pete Townshend” AMG and “radical new techniques in feedback and distortion,” RV Hendrix knocked Eric “Clapton and Townshend right off their guitar-god pedestals.” BN

The album also established him “as an innovative and sophisticated composer” BN featuring “psychedelic frenzy…instrumental freak-out jams…[and] tender, poetic compositions” AMG all done with “his Dylanesque vocals and spacey imagery.” CD The songs “sound as revolutionary and as far beyond category today as they did the day they were recorded.” TL

Purple Haze

Purple Haze serves up Jimi’s signature sound – “the wild soloing, the psycho lyrics, the screams…easily Jimi’s best songwriting effort.” GS The “dreamy The Wind Cries MaryTL “represents Hendrix’s softer side” RV while Foxey Lady “helped define the power-trio format.” CD Other highlights are the “dramatically transformed West Coast hippie folk ballad,” JA Hey Joe, “the moody, waltzing” BN Manic Depression, and “the blues-powered Fire.” BN

Hey Joe

Hendrix developed “at a rapid pace throughout…his brief career,” AMG but “never surpass[ed] his first LP in terms of consistently high quality.” AMG “These songs pound, smash, crack, whirl, cringe;” GS making this “one of the greatest and most important debuts in rock history.” RV

Are You Experienced?

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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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Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Billy Joel: His Top 50 Songs

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William Martin Joel, better known as Billy Joel, was born in Long Island, New York on May 9, 1949. While he spent a good chunk of the ‘60s in various bands including The Lost Souls, The Hassles, and Attila, he made his name as a solo singer, songwriter and pianist who was adept at pop and rock.

In celebration of his birthday, here are his top 50 songs according to Dave’s Music Database. DMDB lists are aggregates of multiple best-of lists with sales figures, airplay, and awards figured into the mix as well. In this case, appearances on Joel’s many compilations and live albums are also factored in. Songs which hit #1 on the Billboard U.S. pop charts (#1) and adult contemporary charts (#1 AC) are noted, as is the one song to pull off the feat in the UK (#1 UK). In addition, two songs which are ranked by Dave’s Music Database in the top 1000 songs of all time.

She’s Got a Way (1971)

1. Just the Way You Are (1977) DMDB 1000 #1 AC
2. Piano Man (1973) DMDB 1000
3. Uptown Girl (1983) #1 UK
4. We Didn’t Start the Fire (1989) #1
5. The River of Dreams (1993) #1 AC

Piano Man (1973)

6. It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (1980) #1
7. Tell Her About It (1983) #1 #1 AC
8. My Life (1978)
9. Goodnight Saigon (1982)
10. She’s Got a Way (1971)

Just the Way You Are (1977)

11. An Innocent Man (1983) #1 AC
12. Honesty (1978)
13. Movin’ Out (Anthony’s Song) (1977)
14. The Longest Time (1983) #1 AC
15. You May Be Right (1980)

My Life (1978)

16. Allentown (1982)
17. She’s Always a Woman (1977)
18. This is the Time (1986) #1 AC
19. Only the Good Die Young (1977)
20. A Matter of Trust (1986)

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me (1980)

21. Don’t Ask Me Why (1980) #1 AC
22. I Go to Extremes (1989)
23. You’re Only Human (Second Wind) (1985)
24. Big Shot (1978)
25. Say Goodbye to Hollywood (1976)

26. The Downeaster Alexa (1989)
27. And So It Goes (1989)
28. Keeping the Faith (1983)
29. All About Soul (1993)
30. New York State of Mind (1976)

Goodnight Saigon (1982)

31. Leave a Tender Moment Alone (1983) #1 AC
32. Baby Grand (with Ray Charles, 1986)
33. The Entertainer (1974)
34. Modern Woman (1986)
35. Scenes from an Italian Restaurant (1977)

Tell Her About It (1983)

36. Pressure (1982)
37. The Night Is Still Young (1985)
38. Miami 2017 (Seen the Lights Go Out on Broadway) (1976)
39. Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel) (1993)
40. Captain Jack (1973)

Uptown Girl (1983)

41. Prelude/Angry Young Man (1976)
42. To Make You Feel My Love (1997)
43. The Ballad of Billy the Kid (1973)
44. Sometimes a Fantasy (1980)
45. All Shook Up (1992)

We Didn’t Start the Fire (1989)

46. Leningrad (1989)
47. Shameless (1989)
48. Big Man on Mulberry Street (1986)
49. Everybody Loves You Now (1971)
50. That’s Not Her Style (1989)

The River of Dreams (1993)


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