Something Musical, Not Political

Maybe you know what song this is.

It plays over the closing credits of a recent French movie called Things To Come (L’avenir). Hearing the song a couple days ago, I thought it was so good that I wondered who recorded it. It sounded very contemporary, so I was quite surprised to see it was recorded in 1959. It was an album track by a group called the Fleetwoods, from Olympia, Washington. Their two #1 hits, “Come Softly To Me” and “Mr. Blue”, came out that same year. 

Researching the song, I came across a site called World’s Music Charts. I don’t know anything about the site, or how they calculate their results, but based on their collection of music charts from various countries, they have this song listed as the world’s 4th most popular song. Not the 4th most popular recording, but the 4th most popular song.

From its Wikipedia article:

It has since become a standard and one of the most recorded songs of the 20th century, most notably by the Righteous Brothers. According to the song’s publishing administrator, over 1,500 recordings of [it] have been made by more than 670 artists in multiple languages.

In 1955, three versions of the song charted in the Billboard Top 10 in the United States, and four versions appeared in the Top 20 in the United Kingdom simultaneously, an unbeaten record for any song. The song and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” are the only songs to reach number one in four different recordings in the UK. [The Righteous Brothers] version achieved a second round of great popularity when it was featured in the 1990 film Ghost.

The song was written for a little-known prison movie by two songwriters, Alex North and Hy Zaret, who never became famous. 

Here it is as performed by the Righteous Brothers in 1965. It was originally intended as an album track, not a single, and although Phil Spector took credit for the production (that’s the kind of guy he was), it was apparently one of the Righteous Brothers, Bill Medley, who produced it. You’ll recognize it when you hear it.

And here is the Fleetwoods version from their album Mr. Blue. This doesn’t sound like six years earlier to me. I hope you enjoy it, which you might even if you don’t like the famous version. This one is very different.


PS: Want to do something about what happened in Washington today? This might help.

Friday Night “Soul Music” Potpourri

There is an ongoing discussion at Brian Wilson’s website called “The Battle of the Bands”. Every week someone selects four songs from YouTube that have something in common (say, songs about food or songs with great bass lines). At least one of the songs has to be related to Brian Wilson or the Beach Boys. Then the 20 or so regular participants rank the four songs (gold, silver, bronze and tin).

Opinions are offered, other videos are posted, stories are told and at the end of the week, the votes are tabulated. It’s an enjoyable pastime, since the participants are into music and extremely well-mannered (although they tend to be a little long in the tooth, like a certain blogger).

This week’s theme is Soul Music. The artists represented are Etta James, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke (singing the Beach Boys song “Sail On, Sailor”),  and Barbara Mason (doing her big hit “Yes, I’m Ready”).

I voted a couple days ago, giving gold to Otis Redding. This afternoon, one thing led to another (I believe that’s the definition of “the Internet”) and I ended up listening to and sharing several YouTube videos more or less associated with “soul music”. You might find some of them of interest. 

First, some related philosophical observations:

“There is two kinds of music, the good, and the bad. I play the good kind.” – L. Armstrong 

“You blows who you is.” – L. Armstrong

“Without music, life would be a mistake.” – F. Nietzsche

Whether it’s gospel-influenced, doo wop, R&B, soul or whatever, this one is pretty damn amazing. The Chantels, featuring lead singer Arlene Smith, from 1957/58:

James Brown sings it’s “It’s a Man’s, Man’s, Man’s World” in Paris. He launches into a bit of a medley around 6:40 or so:

Which doesn’t really lead to Bill Medley talking about Brian Wilson, Phil Spector, Carole King or Eric Burdon, or “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling” or some famous songs he had the chance to record but didn’t:

The #1 “blue-eyed soul” record that he and Bobby Hatfield did right after they split from Phil Spector:

Which leads in a way (“she’s been my inspiration”) to an extended version of Stevie Wonder’s “I Was Made To Love Her”, including instrumental intro and outro:

I really disliked that song when it was on the radio in 1967, and was very surprised when the Beach Boys put it on their terrific “Wild Honey” album later that year. But sometimes we progress. This is the late Carl Wilson doing the lead vocal:

The Beach Boys covered Stevie Wonder, and in 1980 the Los Angeles punk rock band X covered the Doors (whose “Soul Kitchen” referred to a soul food restaurant in Venice, California):

Which doesn’t lead at all to Jimmy Cliff, but this is real good and clearly soulful (although rhyming “over” and “White Cliffs of Dover” is geographically suspicious in a song called “Many Rivers to Cross”. Those cliffs aren’t known for their waterfalls.):

Too bad there’s no money in propagating this Internet stuff.