11. Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams (b. 1953) is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Lake Charles, Louisiana. She is the eldest daughter of renowned poet Miller Williams. The family moved many times during Lucinda’s childhood, as her father pursued a career as a literature professor. In 1970, they settled in Fayetteville, Arkansas, where Professor Williams became a permanent member of the University of Arkansas faculty. By then, Lucinda was playing guitar, writing songs, and just beginning to perform publicly.

Lucinda-2

Compared to most artists profiled here, Lucinda’s road to popularity and financial success was lengthy. She recorded an album of country and blues covers (“Ramblin”) in 1978, followed by her first album of original songs (“Happy Woman Blues”) in 1980. In the early eighties she moved to Los Angeles, California, where her reputation began to grow. In 1985, she began a decade-long collaboration with guitarist Gurf Morlix, which yielded two albums, the self-titled Lucinda Williams in 1988, followed by 1992’s Sweet Old World. Though the twelve song Lucinda Williams did not register significant sales, the album’s sharp songwriting was noticed by industry insiders. Tom Petty covered “Changed The Locks”, and in 1993, Mary Chapin Carpenter scored a major hit with “Passionate Kisses”, which earned Williams a Grammy Award for Best Country Song in 1994.

Lucinda Williams (b. 1953), songwriter, vocals, guitar

Official Lucinda Williams Website
“Lucinda Williams”, by Elizabeth Bukowski, Salon.com, January 11, 2000

A Short List of Lucinda’s Collaborators:

Gurf Morlix (b. 1951), lead guitar, multi-instrumentalist, producer
Doug Pettibone, lead guitar, lap steel guitar, musical director
Jim Lauderdale (b. 1957), singer, songwriter, guitar
Robert “Bo” Ramsey (b. 1951), guitar, producer
Kenny Vaughan, lead guitar
John Jackson, lead and slide guitar

Car Wheels On A Gravel Road

I learned about Lucinda Williams in 1998, by reading the Rolling Stone magazine review for her new album Car Wheels On A Gravel Road. I’ve been a subscriber to Rolling Stone for over twenty years. The way Robert Christgau described her resonated with me, with phrases like “near absolute mastery of pop song craft” and “Williams is such a perfectionist that she recorded it from scratch twice”. Lucinda Williams is the only artist I ever fell for before hearing her sing a song. I knew Mary Chapin Carpenter’s version of “Passionate Kisses”, more evidence I would like Lucinda’s songs. I wasted little time in acquiring Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, and proceeded to wear it out during the next few months, listening to the many new favorite songs over and over.

Rolling Stone Review of “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road”, by Robert Christgau, June 18, 1998

Car Wheels On A Gravel Road is an electric guitar record, with most songs featuring two electric guitarists riffing in duet, or separately offering subtle fills to augment the melody. The sound is reminiscent of the glory days of the Rolling Stones, and albums like Exile On Main Street and Sticky Fingers, the sound and production perhaps a bit less ragged. There isn’t much soloing; the album presents the template versions of each song. Songs like “Joy” are good vehicles for extended soloing in concert, while the structure of sexy songs like “Right In Time” will always be performed faithfully.

For a few years after the release of Car Wheels, Williams toured with a six or seven piece band to recreate the big guitar band sound, most often with Kenny Vaughan and John Jackson as soloists. She followed up the success of Car Wheels in relatively short order, taking only three years to create and release Essence, a worthwhile successor. Since then, Lucinda has released albums of new songs every two or three years, a more typical pace. She streamlined the band, perhaps for financial reasons, and still tours regularly as a quartet, with guitarist Doug Pettibone the featured soloist during most tours.

I saw Lucinda in concert a few times during this period, usually in venues too large for a sense of intimacy. There was one special concert — on July 23rd, 2001 at the Crystal Ballroom in Portland. It’s an odd venue, in a narrow building on the corner of Burnside and SW 14th Avenue. The irregularly shaped room holds a couple thousand people, with the stage set in a corner. It’s a general admission theater, standing room only, except for about hundred seats in the rear of the theater, so you can work your way close to the stage, by arriving early or by being aggressive. We arrived early. I had an old friend visiting from the Bay Area; Carolyn and I made our way up close, just a few feet from the action.

Lucinda’s band was a septet that night, with John Jackson and Bo Ramsey on electric guitars. In addition, her longtime friend Jim Lauderdale opened the show and then joined the band on second acoustic guitar and backup vocals. From the very beginning, the mood was electric down close. Everybody was dancing and moving; this one girl was in a state of pure elation, probably enhanced by one or more chemicals; she had a huge smile as she convulsed wildly on the edge of self-control. The audience roared its approval after every song; after a few songs, Lucinda looked around and noted in her mellow understated way, “Wow. I wish every audience was like this one.”, before launching into the next number. After the set and a short break, Lucinda and Bo Ramsey came out and performed “Down The Big Road Blues” as a duet. Bo shuffled across the stage towards Lucinda as he completed his solo. The house was on fire. Then the unimaginable happened; one of the support personnel says something to Lucinda, who then reports that a fire alarm has been pulled, and the theater must be cleared. And that was it. After a few moments of disbelief, we gathered up, walked down the stairs, out the door, and into the cool summer Portland night.

Carolyn was passing through town, on her way across the country for some reason I can’t recall. I don’t know if she ever made it; I never talked to her again, ending a sometimes close, often uneasy and always ill-conceived sixteen year friendship.

The “Schnitz”, better known as the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall is the best music hall in town, but the Crystal Ballroom is a great venue for that thrill when you’re close to the stage, jostling for position and bouncing around to your heart’s content. I’ve only heard that kind of roar in concert twice; the other time was seeing Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings, also at the Crystal.

Why is Lucinda Williams Ranked in the Top Twenty?

Among the ten artists with the most songs in my iPod collection, two of them appear to be outliers, personal favorites that found their way into the upper echelon. The other eight are in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame, and seven are included in Rolling Stone’s list of the top 100 artists of all time, with Fleetwood Mac not earning that distinction. Los Lobos and Lucinda Williams are odd choices for my ten “best” artists, but the number of songs, and the number of stars awarded, is a fine way to identify the best. The high ranking of Los Lobos will be hard to justify, but I can make a good case for Lucinda Williams.

Lucinda is a fine looking woman, petite and pretty, but in an industry that values beauty so highly, she was not destined to be a Nashville country music star. Lucinda is a fine singer, with a voice capable of both emotion and nuance, but in an industry that values powerful voices over songwriters, she was never headed for the mainstream. She has an idiosyncratic presence on stage, rocking back and forth, often seemingly in a trance as she sings, her eyes focused on a single point of reference. She does not connect to the audience with her eyes; she does it with her music. Van Morrison is the same way; for many years he has worn sunglasses so he can close his eyes, and not bother with the charade of connecting with the audience through eye contact.

“Lucinda Williams”, The Believer Magazine Interview, July/August 2012

As music fans we embrace Bob Dylan, John Lennon and Jerry Garcia as singers, even though their voices are not ideal instruments. Lucinda is similar, blessed with a less powerful voice capable of nuance and feeling. These are among my favorite singers, the ones who have something to say. Like Dylan and Garcia, her voice has grown weaker and a bit harsher with age. Here are two later career performances with her quartet, “Over Time” and “Fruits Of My Labor” from the album World Without Tears.

Still I Long For Your Kiss

Lucinda Williams uses simple words to evoke strong feelings and convey complex emotions. She is my singer for affairs of the heart more than any other, especially when it comes to heartache. There’s “I don’t want you anymore ’cause you took my joy”, when I’m mad and need to let off steam. There’s “I’ll get over you over time”, when I’m sad and missing somebody from the past. In “Crescent City”, Lucinda sings, “me and my sister, me and my brother, we used to dance down by the river.” It makes me wish my family was closer. But there’s also the happy, open sexuality of “Right In Time”, as Lucinda “lies on her back and moans at the ceiling”. The way you move is right in time with me. She has a gift for describing life’s challenges and pleasures in simple, memorable ways.

“Still I Long For Your Kiss” is a “grinder” song, neither a fast or slow tempo for dance. With the exception of the compound word “downtown” and the “shouldn’t” and “couldn’t” contractions, there isn’t a word over six letters long. I marvel at its simplicity, not to mention the big beat and the chiming guitars. In the video, check out Kenny Vaughan’s guitar solo:

“The days go by,
but they don’t seem the same
I cry and cry,
and I call out your name.

I go downtown,
I see your face,
Nobody around can take your place.
But you put me down,
And you turned me away,
Still I long for your kiss,
Still I long for your kiss.”

— Lucinda Williams

You Wait In The Car On The Side Of The Road

If Car Wheels On A Gravel Road is a Stones album, then Lucinda Williams is like an early Beatles album, with short little love songs played on quietly amplified instruments. Every song has merit, and as Robert Christgau notes, a leap forward in songwriting from her previous album, Happy Woman Blues. Artistically, it’s a long way from the person who covered female country blues songs only a decade before. Gurf Morlix plays the George Harrison role, with short, thoughtful guitar solos that fit, and never overwhelm. During the long peak of her career, Lucinda Williams worked slowly; her defining trio of albums from Lucinda Williams to Car Wheels taking sixteen years to create, inspiring to someone like me who needs time in hopes to creating something worthwhile.

“Side Of The Road” reminds me of Glen Campbell’s “Gentle On My Mind”, a song about maintaining one’s independence within the bonds of love. In “Side Of The Road”, the storyteller needs to establish that distance, that space to think things through, whereas in “Gentle On My Mind”, the need to display one’s love and allegiance by superficial gestures is meaningless. No shackles, words or bonds; he returns because he wants to, because it makes him happy. “Side Of The Road” is the preamble to “Gentle On My Mind”; first we need the space to operate, then we decide what we want.

The second verse of this song, wondering if the people in the farmhouse are happy and content, slays me.

“You wait in the car on the side of the road.
Lemme go and stand awhile, I wanna know you’re there but I wanna be alone.
If only for a minute or two,
I wanna see what it feels like to be without you,
I wanna know the touch of my own skin,
Against the sun, against the wind.

I walked out in a field, the grass was high, it brushed against my legs.
I just stood and looked out at the open space and a farmhouse out a ways.
And I wondered about the people who lived in it,
And I wondered if they were happy and content,
Were there children and a man and a wife?
Did she love him and take her hair down at night?

If I stray away too far from you, don’t go and try to find me.
It doesn’t mean I don’t love you, it doesn’t mean I won’t come back and
stay beside you.
It only means I need a little time,
To follow that unbroken line,
To a place where the wild things grow,
To a place where I used to always go.

— Lucinda Williams

Lucinda Williams Song Notes:

1. In order, the best albums are:

Car Wheels On A Gravel Road
Lucinda Williams
Essence
Sweet Old World

In addition, clever fans will want a copy of the KFOG radio program of Lucinda performing before a small audience in Berkeley, California on September 26th, 1998, sometimes known as Too Cool To Be Forgotten. A first class performance featuring excellent sound quality and friendly narration by Lucinda. The following songs in the list come from Too Cool To Be Forgotten:

Pineola (Live)
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (Live)
Right In Time (Live)
Greenville (Live)
Joy (Live)
Disgusted (Live)
Come To Me Baby (Live)
2 Kool 2 Be 4-Gotten (Live)

2. The highly rated performances listed above skew Lucinda’s position in the list of great artists. That’s OK; all that matters is the best possible music for the collection. It’s valuable to have good live performances to see how songs translate to the stage. The studio performances of “Still I Long For Her Kiss” and “Can’t Let Go” tend to sound better than live performances, while “Joy” and “Car Wheels On A Gravel Road” come alive in performance. If you can’t acquire the September 1998 KFOG performance, the deluxe edition of Car Wheels On A Gravel Road has a full 1998 concert performance featuring the big band, plus a couple of tracks that didn’t make the album. These songs were added from this deluxe edition, available on iTunes:

Down The Big Road Blues
Still I Long For Your Kiss (Alt)
Metal Firecracker (Live)
Still I Long For Your Kiss (Live)

3. The following live performances are found on the expanded edition of Lucinda Williams:

Side Of The Road (Live)
Something About What Happens When We Talk (Live)
Sundays (Live)

As of September, 2013, the release of a 25th anniversary edition of Lucinda Williams, complete with additional live and studio tracks, is imminent. I will augment the song list as needed. In this recent article for http://www.nodepression.com, Amos Perrine argues that Lucinda Williams is the first “Alt Country” album, a good place to draw the imaginary line. The timing also coincides with the emergence of the popular country music heard on major radio stations today.

“Lucinda Williams” and the 25th Anniversary of “Alt-Country”

4. “Over Time (Live)” is recorded from the Youtube performance presented in this blog.

5.

“All I ask,
don’t tell anybody the secrets,
don’t tell anybody the secrets,
I told you.”

Lucinda Williams Songs:

Side Of The Road, Lucinda Williams ★★★★★
Still I Long For Your Kiss, Lucinda Williams ★★★★★

Passionate Kisses, Lucinda Williams ★★★★
Crescent City, Lucinda Williams ★★★★
Joy (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★★
Something About What Happens When We Talk, Lucinda Williams ★★★★

Car Wheels On A Gravel Road (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★
Right In Time, Lucinda Williams ★★★
Car Wheels On A Gravel Road, Lucinda Williams ★★★
2 Cool 2 Be 4-Gotten, Lucinda Williams ★★★
Can’t Let Go, Lucinda Williams ★★★
Metal Firecracker, Lucinda Williams ★★★
Joy, Lucinda Williams ★★★
Still I Long For Your Kiss (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★
Still I Long For Your Kiss (Alt), Lucinda Williams ★★★
Out Of Touch, Lucinda Williams ★★★
I Just Wanted To See You So Bad, Lucinda Williams ★★★
Pineola, Lucinda Williams ★★★
Pineola (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★
Right In Time (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★
Disgusted (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★
2 Cool 2 Be 4-Gotten (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★
Over Time (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★★

Drunken Angel, Lucinda Williams ★★
Lake Charles, Lucinda Williams ★★
Metal Firecracker (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★
Lonely Girls, Lucinda Williams ★★
Are You Down, Lucinda Williams ★★
Essence, Lucinda Williams ★★
Reason To Cry, Lucinda Williams ★★
Get Right With God, Lucinda Williams ★★
Like A Rose, Lucinda Williams ★★
Changed The Locks, Lucinda Williams ★★
Side Of The Road (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★
Something About What Happens When We Talk (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★
Sweet Old World, Lucinda Williams ★★
Greenville (Live), Lucinda Williams ★★
Fruits Of My Labor, Lucinda Williams ★★
Over Time, Lucinda Williams ★★

Sweet Side, Lucinda Williams
Sundays (Live), Lucinda Williams
Nothing In Rambling, Lucinda Williams
Born To Be Loved, Lucinda Williams
I Lost It, Lucinda Williams
Greenville, Lucinda Williams
Jackson, Lucinda Williams
Down The Big Road Blues, Lucinda Williams
Bus To Baton Rouge, Lucinda Williams
Lafayette, Lucinda Williams
Happy Woman Blues, Lucinda Williams
Howlin’ At Midnight, Lucinda Williams
Sharp Cutting Wings (Song To A Poet), Lucinda Williams
The Night’s Too Long, Lucinda Williams
Big Red Sun Blues, Lucinda Williams
Am I Too Blue, Lucinda Williams
Price To Pay, Lucinda Williams
Me And My Chauffeur, Lucinda Williams
Six Blocks Away, Lucinda Williams
Prove My Love, Lucinda Williams
Come To Me Baby (Live), Lucinda Williams
Are You Alright?, Lucinda Williams
Those Three Days, Lucinda Williams

Related Songs:

Passionate Kisses, Mary Chapin Carpenter ★★★★

Disgusted, Lil’ Son Jackson

Big Road Blues, Tommy Johnson
Down The Big Road Blues, Mattie Delaney ★★

Nothing In Rambling, Memphis Minnie

Me And My Chauffeur Blues, Memphis Minnie ★★
Chauffeur Blues (Alt), Jefferson Airplane

Come To Me Baby (Single), Howlin’ Wolf ★★

Masters Of War, Bob Dylan ★★★
Masters Of War (Alt), Bob Dylan ★★★

I Asked For Water (She Gave Me Gasoline), Howlin’ Wolf ★★
Cool Drink Of Water Blues, Tommy Johnson

8. Neil Young

Neil Young is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Omemee, Ontario. The youngest of two children, Neil’s father Scott Young was a prominent Canadian journalist and sportswriter. His parents divorced when Neil was twelve; he and his mother “Rassy” Young moved back to Rassy’s hometown of Winnepeg, Manitoba, where Neil’s interest in playing music began in earnest. In addition to Neil Young’s contribution to popular music, the Winnepeg music scene of the sixties also produced two well-known bands, The Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive.

neil-young-770

Although his early musical journey is more complicated, a brief summary is as follows. By 1964, Young toured central Canada with The Squires, among other bands. In 1966, he moved to Detroit to work with The Mynah Birds, a brief, ill-fated attempt to join Motown Records. Young left Detroit for Los Angeles, where he quickly integrated himself into the local music scene. He gained his first national exposure with Buffalo Springfield, after reuniting with Stephen Stills, a friend he met during his days in Canada. When Buffalo Springfield folded due to infighting, Stills asked Young if he would like to join his new band, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. Young maintained a lifelong on-again, off-again relationship with the popular band, which brought financial success, plus the ability to fund his own solo music projects. Throughout his long career, Young is a prolific songwriter known for two specific styles — a soft country folk sound, and his raucous, hard-rocking guitar band Crazy Horse. Young lived illegally in the United States until he was able to procure a green card in 1970.

Wikipedia Biography of Crazy Horse

Neil Young (b. 1945), guitar, keyboards, harmonica, vocals, songwriter

Current Members of Crazy Horse:

Billy Talbot (b. 1943), bass
Ralph Molina (b. 1943), drums
Frank “Poncho” Sampedro (b. 1943), guitar

Former Members of Crazy Horse:

Danny Whitten (1943-1972), guitar, vocals, songwriter
Jack Nitzsche (1937-2000), arranger, producer, composer
Nils Lofgren (b. 1951)
, guitar, songwriter

Other Well-Known Contributors:

Ben Keith (1937-2010), steel guitar
Larry Johnson (1947-2010), music and film producer
Linda Ronstadt (b. 1946), singer

Broken Arrows, Trains & Automobiles

As Neil Young experienced financial success, he used the money to invest in a variety of personal projects. In 1970, Young purchased the 140 acre Broken Arrow Ranch in the coast range mountains near La Honda, California, in the cool, windy grasslands south of San Francisco, where the giant coast redwoods grow. My friend Keith has lived nearby, close to the Summit Road, for many years. Keith says the redwoods were all cut down after the 1906 earthquake to rebuild San Francisco, but Sequoia sempervirens regenerate naturally, and after a century, these magnificent trees stand 200 or more feet tall. Keith once saw Neil at the local La Honda restaurant where he and his friends used to play volleyball on Friday nights.

The weather south of San Francisco is harsh, cold and windy and foggy much of the time. The coast range shields the Bay Area from the ocean’s might, which explains the warm, benign Mediterranean climate. In a metropolitan area with well over five million people, few live along the coastal headlands between Half Moon Bay and Santa Cruz, where Young still resides.

I read Neil’s recent autobiography “Waging Heavy Peace” and learned he has a model railroad. He became a part owner in the Lionel Corporation, as part of a personal project to create a realistic locomotive whose sounds and sights resemble real steam engine action. My Dad was a model railroader for many years, and built his own throttles and switching systems, too. My question is why Neil would choose the “O” gauge Lionel trains, with the center third rail used for electrical contact. It must be a sentimental choice from childhood. I always thought Lionel trains looked unrealistic with that third rail.

Amazon.com Link to “Waging Heavy Peace”, by Neil Young

Neil Young is fascinated by big American cars, ever since his mom helped him buy a 1948 Buick Hearse to travel with the Squires. Over the years he acquired a number of buses and vintage American automobiles, and still maintains a stable of his favorites. One of his current projects is the LincVolt, a private project to create an efficient electric car, using a nineteen foot long, 1959 Lincoln Continental as the template. Neil’s long term goal is to eliminate refueling stations and the need for international oil politics.

If that wasn’t enough, Neil Young has also produced several films. I admire him for investing in himself and his ideas. Here are two recent interview excerpts in which he discusses his various projects:

A Chance Meeting

While researching Neil’s career and music, I had a wonderful, improbable chance meeting. One evening, my wife and I went to our local golf club to socialize and have a drink. They had a guest that evening, Randy Petersen, a friend visiting from Arizona. As the conversation turned to asking Randy about himself, we discover that he is a musician, and serves as business manager for The Guess Who. His brother Garry was The Guess Who’s drummer for all their hit songs of the late sixties and early seventies. Randy, also a drummer, also traveled with Winnepeg bands throughout Canada, including The Squires, Neil Young’s first band. I proceeded to spend the next hour or so guiding the conversation to my music project, and asking all sorts of questions about Neil Young and the Guess Who. Fortunately, he seemed to enjoy the attention, and our friends didn’t seem to mind either.

Randy Petersen Discusses the Early Days with Neil Young – Uncut Magazine

Amazon.com Link to “Shakey, Neil Young’s Biography” by Jimmy McDonough

Most of Randy’s thoughts about his time with Neil Young can be found in the referenced article. He suggested I read the biography “Shakey” by Jimmy McDonough. He also says Neil was a confident, even cocky young man. The McDonough biography paints a portrait of a controlling man, but that appears to be the rule rather than the exception with the artists I have profiled.

Marijuana and Creativity

“I’ve always wrote when I was high before. Getting high is something I used to do to forget one world’s realities and slip into the other world, the music world where all the melodies and words come together in a thoughtless and random way like a gift. I always have said that thinking is the worst thing for music, and now I would like to know how to get back to music without getting high. Some people are probably saying I should get high and write more songs ’cause that works. My doctor does not think that is good for my brain.”

“Of course there are many reasons to be straight and many reasons to be stoned, but that doesn’t solve anything. There are many reasons to live and die, too. Where is this headed? I’ll be damned if I know, Hoss; some highway the bottom of some hill? Tell me about it. I’ve been there. I can still see myself out of that road, ripping it up in some honky-tonk or tearing down some arena with the Horse, but when I occasionally see myself in the mirror, it just doesn’t add up. Where are we headed with this? Beats the hell out of lookin’ back, that’s for sure. I’m not sure of what’s real anymore, I can tell you that. The straighter I am, the more alert I am, the less I know myself and the harder it is to recognize myself. I need a little grounding in something and I am looking for it everywhere.”

— Neil Young (from “Waging Heavy Peace”)

“Neil Young Comes Clean”, by David Carr, New York Times Magazine, September 19, 2012

Mr. Young’s recent decision to stop drinking and smoking makes for an opportune time to summarize my thoughts about marijuana. I’ve battled with the highs and lows of drug and alcohol use throughout my adult life. Cocaine use as a young adult was disastrous; fortunately I quit that over twenty years ago. Since then I’ve alternated between complete sobriety and periods of “partying” — drinking, mostly beer and smoking, both marijuana and cigarettes. It seems each successive period of partying finds me drinking and smoking, especially cigarettes, more heavily, while my sensitivity to marijuana grows more acute. I exhibit little ability to moderate; though it would be ideal to have a smoke and a few drinks with friends every month or two, I can’t do that. I am also incapable of separating the three; if I drink or smoke, I eventually use them all, before eventually tiring of the partying lifestyle and quit for a long stretch once again. I had been sober for five and a half years when I decided to give the partying lifestyle another try in June, 2011. After two years of mixed results, I’m on my way back to the sober life.

Neil Young wrote his recent autobiography sober, after a lifetime of consistent marijuana use, which he feels made him more creative as a songwriter:

I’ve enjoyed the positive benefits of getting high while writing the blog these last couple years. There are times, after a few beers and a couple of puffs, when the ideas come fast, and the blog has benefited. The partying life means significant bursts of creative thought, mixed with days where I’m so tired little gets done. On average, the sober life is happier, more productive and more enjoyable.

Marijuana acts as a mental stimulant for me; my mind often races with ideas and thoughts. I can be difficult company for typical users who like to have a beer and a smoke to chill out. If I overreach, and smoke too much herb, I can become very anxious and afraid. There was one evening a few months ago where I experienced a minor psychotic break from reality, where I was very agitated and frightened. Every time I closed my eyes to sleep, I experienced psychedelic, disturbing visions, my mind concocting its own horror story.

I pay for the extra mental energy later. It’s as if my body takes out a loan, borrowing an excess of the pleasurable, creative chemicals (like dopamine and serotonin), and making up the deficit with a lethargic period afterwards. Furthermore, the loan balance accumulates, and when I’m ready to quit for a while, it takes days, even weeks, before I return to feeling good.

Now in my mid-fifties, I fear that the drinking and smoking, and the poor dietary habits that accompany them, will kill me. Lately I am paranoid about every sore throat, every twinge in my tongue, and every other inconsistency in my diurnal patterns, believing this time I’ve really done it. Give me a few weeks of clean living, good exercise and a healthy diet, and the fears will fade, meaning I can begin living happy and carefree again. Some fear will always be there. My father stopped smoking cigars at age 52, but died of lung cancer complications at age 75. My father’s father stopped smoking at age 50, and lived to age 95. Neither one ever drank alcohol, whereas I have been a binge drinker on and off for years. On average, my closest relatives lived into their late seventies. Another twenty years in this beautiful life would make me ecstatic. I have things I want to accomplish.

Speaking from personal experience, I believe marijuana is a better drug than alcohol, but I don’t think it should be legalized. They can both be lovely enhancements to one’s creativity. The fact cigarettes are legal is ridiculous. They’re fun to smoke, and enjoyable to ponder life’s mysteries while smoking, but they make me feel like crap.

Judging by his own descriptions, Neil Young smoked more marijuana than I ever did, but was not a regular cigarette smoker. He is 67 years old now, in good health for someone who has suffered a variety of handicaps and health scares throughout his life. I wish him moving forward for the first time in sobriety, chasing his dreams building the perfect electric car and playing music with his beloved Crazy Horse.

Harvest Moon

I first listened to Neil Young in high school, as a solo artist and as a member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young. I paid little attention to his music afterwards until 1989, when Rolling Stone magazine came out with a five star review of his new CD Freedom. I became a devoted fan for a few years, acquiring the next several compact disk releases. A short list of my favorite Neil Young CDs is:

Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere
Decade (a compilation of early works)
Freedom
Ragged Glory
Harvest Moon
Neil Young Unplugged

Ragged Glory is the dark horse selection. Neil Young with Crazy Horse, loud and rowdy and unrefined. Beautiful in its own way.

I remember hearing “Harvest Moon” the first time. Neil solo with his guitar and harmonica on Saturday Night Live. Played solo it sounded incomplete, but when I heard it with the whole band, I fell immediately for this beautiful and romantic song about old love.

But now it’s gettin’ late,
And the moon is climbin’ high.
I want to celebrate,
See it shinin’ in your eye.

Because I’m still in love with you,
I want to see you dance again.
Because I’m still in love with you,
On this harvest moon.

— Neil Young

My interest in Neil Young’s music was renewed about the time I began courting my wife Cheryl. We began dating in 1989 and were married in early 1992. Though my broad music tastes would never allow me to select one song, and though it was released a year after we married, “Harvest Moon” is as close to our song as will ever be. Perhaps a romantic song about rekindling the love of a long marriage is an odd choice. Cheryl is several years older than me, and there has always been something very settled about our friendship. We started talking, and the relaxed, comfortable conversation continues. There have been challenges and significant heartache, but the friendship is old and everlasting, even when the marriage has been in jeopardy. It is the right song for me and Cheryl, a favorite song I never tire of.

Neil Young with his band on the MTV Unplugged program, using a broom for percussion. I love the smiles on his fellow guitarists as they sit in a tight circle and play this gentle gem.

Neil Young Music Notes:

1. In general, Neil Young’s songs have simple chord structures in basic guitar keys. Within these constraints, Young created a diverse body of work. He uses the guitar as a percussive instrument, and a master of syncopation. As a lead electric guitarist, he is crude and not a great technician, but he knows how to use electronics to coax the necessary sounds to achieve the desired emotional impact.

2. “Cowgirl In The Sand (Live)”, “Down By The River (Live)” and “Old Man (Live)” can be found on Live At Massey Hall 1971 (Deluxe Version).

3. “Sugar Mountain (Live)” and “I Am A Child (Live)” can be found on Sugar Mountain – Live At Canterbury House 1968.

4. “Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Live)” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young can be found on Neil Young Archives, Vol. 1 (1963-1972).

5. “Cowgirl In The Sand (Live)” and “Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Live)” by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young can be found on 4-Way Street.

6. “Like A Hurricane (Live)”, “The Needle And The Damage Done (Live)”, “Harvest Moon (Live)”, “Unknown Legend (Live)”, “Look Out For My Love (Live)” and “From Hank To Hendrix (Live)” can be found on Neil Young Unplugged.

7. “Powderfinger (Live)” can be found on Live Rust.

Neil Young Songs:

Harvest Moon, Neil Young ★★★★★

Keep On Rockin’ In The Free World (Live) (Rocking), Neil Young ★★★★
Cinnamon Girl, Neil Young with Crazy Horse ★★★★
The Needle And The Damage Done, Neil Young ★★★★
Harvest Moon (Live), Neil Young ★★★★
Old Man, Neil Young ★★★★

Sugar Mountain (Live), Neil Young ★★★
From Hank To Hendrix, Neil Young ★★★
From Hank To Hendrix (Live), Neil Young ★★★
Wrecking Ball, Neil Young ★★★
Unknown Legend (Live), Neil Young ★★★
Hangin’ On A Limb, Neil Young ★★★
Down By The River, Neil Young ★★★
Cowgirl In The Sand (Live), Neil Young ★★★
The Needle And The Damage Done (Live), Neil Young ★★★
Old Man (Live), Neil Young ★★★

Only Love Can Break Your Heart, Neil Young ★★
Lotta Love, Neil Young ★★
Southern Man, Neil Young ★★
Love Is A Rose, Neil Young ★★
Long May You Run, Neil Young ★★
Rockin’ In The Free World (Live) (Acoustic), Neil Young ★★
Crime In The City (Sixty To Zero, Pt. 1), Neil Young ★★
No More, Neil Young ★★
Heart Of Gold, Neil Young ★★
Unknown Legend, Neil Young ★★
One Of These Days, Neil Young ★★
Down By the River (Live), Neil Young ★★
It’s A Dream, Neil Young ★★
Silver & Gold, Neil Young ★★
Cowgirl In The Sand, Neil Young with Crazy Horse ★★
Powderfinger (Live), Neil Young ★★
Over And Over, Neil Young with Crazy Horse ★★
Change Your Mind, Neil Young with Crazy Horse ★★

Don’t Let It Bring You Down, Neil Young
Look Out For My Love, Neil Young
Already One, Neil Young
The Loner, Neil Young
Tonight’s The Night (Part 1), Neil Young
Walk On, Neil Young
Eldorado, Neil Young
Ways Of Love, Neil Young
On Broadway, Neil Young
Alabama, Neil Young
You And Me, Neil Young
War Of Man, Neil Young
Like A Hurricane (Live), Neil Young
Look Out For My Love (Live), Neil Young
Falling Off the Face Of The Earth, Neil Young
My My, Hey Hey (Out Of the Blue), Neil Young
Hey Hey, My My (Into The Black), Neil Young
I Am A Child (Live), Neil Young
Can’t Believe Your Lyin’, Neil Young
Come On Baby Let’s Go Downtown, Neil Young
Out On The Weekend, Neil Young
Everybody Knows This Is Nowhere, Neil Young with Crazy Horse
When You Dance, I Can Really Love, Neil Young with Crazy Horse
White Line, Neil Young with Crazy Horse
Fuckin’ Up, Neil Young with Crazy Horse
Farmer John, Neil Young with Crazy Horse
Mansion On The Hill, Neil Young with Crazy Horse

Buffalo Springfield Songs:

For What It’s Worth, Buffalo Springfield ★★★★
Mr. Soul, Buffalo Springfield ★★
Burned (Mono), Buffalo Springfield
I Am A Child, Buffalo Springfield

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young Songs:

Carry On, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★★
Ohio, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★★
Cowgirl In The Sand (Live), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★★

4 + 20, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★
Teach Your Children, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★
Find The Cost Of Freedom, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★
Woodstock, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★
Our House, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★
Only Love Can Break Your Heart (Live), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★
Helpless, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young ★★

Deja Vu, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
Don’t Let It Bring You Down (Live), Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young

Here is a full concert performance from 2002 for those interested. Neil Young with Poncho Sampedro and members of Booker T. & The MGs:

22. Alison Krauss & Union Station

Alison Krauss is a singer and fiddle player from Champaign, Illinois. She was a precocious child, taking classical violin lessons at age five, but soon directing her interests to bluegrass music. Humorously noted by Wikipedia, “At the age of eight she started entering local talent contests, and at ten had her own band.” Early in life, she was better known as a champion fiddle player, while it took years to fully develop her sweet soprano voice. After appearing as a sideman on two albums, she recorded her first solo album, Too Late To Cry, at age sixteen. Her breakthrough album was her third, I’ve Got That Old Feeling in 1990, which earned her first Grammy award for Best Bluegrass Recording at the age of nineteen.

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Alison Krauss and Union Station:

Alison Krauss (b. 1971), vocals, violin, viola
Barry Bales (b. 1969), bass, vocals
Ron Block (b. 1964), guitar, banjo, vocals, songwriter
Dan Tyminski (b. 1967), vocals, guitar, mandolin
Jerry Douglas (b. 1956), dobro, guitar

Other Important Contributors:

Adam Steffey, mandolin
Alison Brown (b. 1962), banjo, guitar
Robert Lee Castleman, songwriter
John Pennell, songwriter

Though it received critical acclaim, I’ve Got That Old Feeling peaked at #61 on the Billboard Country Music album chart. It took a few more years for Alison Krauss and her band Union Station to achieve commercial success. After a pair of albums, the bluegrass Every Time You Say Goodbye and the gospel I Know Who Holds Tomorrow (with the Cox Family), Rounder Records released the compilation Now That I’ve Found You: A Collection in 1995, which reached #2 on the Billboard Country Album chart. In 1998, veteran dobro player Jerry Douglas joined Union Station, the final change to the band’s roster. Union Station responded with another creative peak, the studio album New Favorite in 2001, with a followup Live album and DVD in 2002. Ms. Krauss and Union Station continue to compose new music and tour, though less frequently than in the past. They are in demand as collaborators, and in the last few years, Krauss has performed many duets, most notably with Led Zeppelin vocalist Robert Plant.

Though never a country music superstar, Alison Krauss enjoys great respect and admiration from her peers. She has won twenty-seven Grammy awards, tied with Quincy Jones for the second most Grammy awards of all time, behind classical musician George Solti. She helped popularize bluegrass music for a new generation, and is the rare bluegrass and gospel artist to transition successfully into both country and pop music.

Wikipedia List of Awards and Nominations Received by Alison Krauss
FuckYeahAlisonKrauss Fan Blog

Three Wonderful Concert Experiences

I’ve seen Alison Krauss & Union Station in concert about ten times. Among those concerts are three great experiences.

1990: A Small Church In Downtown Los Gatos

I was lucky to learn about Alison Krauss early in her career. I’m not sure how I discovered her; rather than a national publication like Rolling Stone magazine, I must have read a review in the San Francisco Chronicle. I purchased a copy of I’ve Got That Old Feeling in 1990, which prompted me to see her in concert if given the chance. For me, it was an uncommon case of love at first listen.

Still sketchy on details, but I learned that she was playing at a church in Los Gatos on a weekday evening in 1990, just a year or so after I began dating my future wife. I called the box office the day of the concert, and discovered the church seated only four hundred people, so we arrived a couple hours early to buy tickets and have dinner in the beautiful old town, at the foot of the coastal range where state highway 17 rises abruptly up to Summit Road and gently down to Santa Cruz.

The church was so spartan, with wooden benches twenty or twenty-five rows deep. It was packed; we were near the back, but close to the stage. There was a buzz as we approached and entered the church; many patrons knew she was special, and that we were lucky to see her in this intimate setting. The band did not disappoint, with their uptempo instrumentals, heartbreaking waltzes and modern bluegrass numbers, all to thunderous applause. It was very exciting.

The highlight of the evening came during the encore, when Alison politely asked, “If everybody promises to be quiet, then we’ll step out in front of the microphones and sing a song.” The enraptured crowd was silent as Alison sang Paul McCartney’s “I Will”, with Union Station standing behind her providing harmony, without amplification. Before or since, I have never seen anybody else do this in concert. In future years, she would often begin an encore with the group singing bluegrass style in front of a single microphone, but never again would we see her in such an intimate environment.

After the concert, Union Station set up a table out front with merchandise and did a meet and greet with the crowd. We said hello and bought a couple of the earlier CDs. I noticed they were a very tall band, big people. Krauss is about 5’8″, and both Barry Bales and Adam Steffey were over 6’3″.

Oaks Park, Sellwood, July, 1996

Three albums later and we still love Alison Krauss, seeing her at almost every opportunity. We are married and have moved to Portland, Oregon. Krauss had released the Now That I’ve Found You compilation and was getting famous. Still, we were seeing her at Oaks Park, an old amusement and recreation park, right on the Willamette River, in a part of town called Sellwood. There was an opening act, so when Union Station took the stage, it was getting dark, but it was the middle of summer and very pleasant outside. They played under an old open canopy onto a big lawn that went way back, with the concessions on the side. Perhaps there were a thousand to fifteen hundred people there. I had a couple glasses of wine before the concert and settled in briefly. After a couple songs, I went to the back of the property, had a quick smoke and then returned to our blanket under the stars all aglow. Alison started sounding real good. I can’t remember which song she was playing, but when the band followed with “Baby, Now That I’ve Found You”, I completely lost it and the tears started streaming down my face. The canopy lights were on by now, and I was about 10 rows back, and during the song she saw my tear stained face, and I saw her face hesitate for just the briefest time. Eye contact and recognition for a half second. It was a unique moment in my life.

Down From The Mountain At The Schnitz, February 2002

Most people know the movie “O, Brother, Where Art Thou”, Joel and Ethan Coen’s interpretation of Homer’s Odyssey. The movie featured traditional music by Alison Krauss and other famous folk and bluegrass musicians, selected by producer T-Bone Burnett. The movie and its music were a rousing success, so the musicians organized and toured the country with a variety show of down home string music. At the time we had recently seen Alison Krauss at the Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, touring in support of New Favorite. Now she was returning as part of a variety country music show, something we had never experienced.

It deserved to be one of those special evenings of celebration. At the time I would look for special occasions for our parents to enjoy with us. I contacted our ticket broker, and he found us four tickets around the fourth or fifth row, right in the middle of the concert hall. Tickets were a couple hundred dollars apiece; well worth it given the circumstances. My Mom died in 1999, and her Dad in 2000. Concert night was February 13th, 2002, just a year and a day before my Dad died. There was a sense of urgency.

We asked my Dad and her Mom whether they’d like to go, and Dad flew up from California, and we all got dressed up, and had dinner downtown, and sat down close. In particular, my mother-in-law was thrilled, as this constituted her last date night in life. My father was kind, and represented an opportunity to be herself, to be on a proper date, walking arm and arm with somebody safe. Faces were aglow, and everybody was ready.

We didn’t know exactly what to expect, but soon we started to see how the music was presented. Artists would come on stage and play two or three songs, followed by the next artist, and so on. Early in the show, I look over and see Dad tearing up when Norman and Nancy Blake offered a unadorned rendition of “You Are My Sunshine”, one of the simplest songs offered during the two hour jubilee.

It was clear Alison Krauss was feeling ill. She dropped out of some later performances in the show, though early on she and Union Station rocked the house with their syncopated rhythms. I can see Daddy looking at me with raised eyebrows, after Jerry Douglas produced a wild flourish of notes over Union Station’s precise, crazy rhythms. Krauss returned to sing “Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby” a capella, with Gillian Welch and Emmylou Harris. Later, the Nashville Bluegrass Band weaved their string magic on the night. Patty Loveless was there. Ralph Stanley was there, too. Another great evening in life, with Alison Krauss at the center of this brief folk music renaissance.

Alison Krauss Song Notes:

1. The videos are not well organized, and that’s OK. Since she is a relatively modern artist in the context of this blog, Alison Krauss has perhaps the best and most videos of any artist to choose from. I included a disproportionate number of videos from her earliest days, as I tend to like the earlier, strictly bluegrass music better. I enjoy all the videos presented.

2. In the last three weeks, I challenged my wife Cheryl a few times to name a better female performer/bandleader than Alison Krauss. I received no answer, and could not come up with one myself, though we discussed Aretha Franklin as the consensus favorite. The two share the ability to both sing and play very well, with Alison Krauss on fiddle, and Aretha Franklin an underrated piano player. Their instrumental prowess lifts them to the top. Franklin, and singers like Billie Holiday and Ella Fitzgerald are perhaps more influential, but the song list and countdown says Alison Krauss is my favorite female musician. She’s so talented, and so dreamy.

3. “Rich Woman (Live)” by Robert Plant & Alison Krauss is found on Rounder Records 40th Anniversary Collection. A better version of this song.

4. The Live album is excellent, with one reservation. There is too much time allocated for the audience cheering wildly. We get it. We already thought she was the best.

5. “Foolish Heart” is special, as it is the rare song that wasn’t even in the collection when I started the review. After adding it as a one star song, I decided about the third or fourth time through that it is a four or even five star song, which up until this time, hasn’t happened while doing the countdown of artists. Alison Brown plays banjo here, and having the two young female stars together makes it even more notable. “Foolish Heart” is an underrated and largely unrecognized gem.

6. Several times I felt foolish rating Alison Krauss songs, just embarrassed by what I was doing. Maybe it’s that she’s a girl, and such a humble, unassuming person that makes feel like a dope evaluating her life’s work.

7. Alison Krauss has remained faithful to Rounder Records her entire career, which may have made a significant difference in her career arc. Perhaps remaining with the minor label freed her to follow her artistic instincts, rather than attempting to capitalize on talent with grand popularity.

8. Cheryl’s Mom passed away on February 5th this year. We were fortunate to have her for ten extra years after the other parents were gone. But we never enjoyed an evening of entertainment again as much as Down From The Mountain.

Top Ten Alison Krauss Songs, by Jenny Tolley
Essential Alison Krauss Songs, by Kim Ruehl
“The World According to Alison Krauss, by Piers Henru, April 23rd, 2011

Alison Krauss Songs:

Down To The River To Pray (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★★
Endless Highway, Alison Krauss ★★★★
Let Me Touch You For Awhile, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★★
Foolish Heart, Alison Krauss ★★★★

In The Palm Of Your Hand, Alison Krauss & The Cox Family ★★★
The Lucky One, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
Baby, Now That I’ve Found You, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
Every Time You Say Goodbye, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
I’ve Got That Old Feeling, Alison Krauss ★★★
Steel Rails, Alison Krauss ★★★
I’ll Fly Away (Live), Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch ★★★
The Lucky One (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
Every Time You Say Goodbye (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★
Who Can Blame You, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★★

New Favorite (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
New Favorite, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Jacob’s Dream, Alison Krauss ★★
Dark Skies, Alison Krauss ★★
It’s Over, Alison Krauss ★★
Ghost In This House, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Let Me Touch You For Awhile (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Lose Again, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Cluck Old Hen (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
The Boy Who Wouldn’t Hoe Corn (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
I Am A Man of Constant Sorrow (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
When You Say Nothing At All (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Oh, Atlanta (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
There Is A Reason (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Choctaw Hayride, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Crazy Faith, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Daylight, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Oh, Atlanta, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
I Will, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
When You Say Nothing At All, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★
Paper Airplane, Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★

Tonight I’ll Be Lonely Too, Alison Krauss
Too Late To Cry, Alison Krauss
Gentle River, Alison Krauss
Sleep On, Alison Krauss
Never Will Give Up, Alison Krauss & The Cox Family
Another Night, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Last Love Letter, Alison Krauss & Union Station
It Won’t Work This Time, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Choctaw Hayride (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station
Ghost In This House (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station
Faraway Land (Live), Alison Krauss & Union Station
Take Me For Longing, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Looking In The Eyes Of Love, Alison Krauss & Union Station
Beaumont Rag, Alison Krauss & Union Station
As Lovely As You, Alison Krauss & Union Station

Related Songs:

Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On), Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ★★
Rich Woman (Live), Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ★★
Please Read The Letter, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss
Polly Come Home, Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

Make The World Go Away (featuring Alison Krauss), Jamey Johnson ★★

Didn’t Leave Nobody But The Baby, Emmylou Harris, Alison Krauss & Gillian Welch

You’re Still The One (Live), Shania Twain w/ Alison Krauss & Union Station ★★

I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, The Soggy Bottom Boys ★★★
I Am A Man Of Constant Sorrow, Bob Dylan

Baby Now That I’ve Found You, The Foundations ★★★

I Will, The Beatles ★★★★
I Will (Alt), The Beatles ★★

Beaumont Rag, Doc Watson

Oh, Atlanta, Bad Company (not included in collection)

25. Creedence Clearwater Revival Band

Creedence Clearwater Revival Band is a rock band from El Cerrito, a small city a few miles north of Oakland, California. The long road to the band’s success begins with brothers Tom and John Fogerty. By high school, older brother Tom was singing for local rock and roll bands, while his younger brother John had formed his own trio with junior high classmates Stu Cook and Doug Clifford. After high school, Tom’s band (Spider Webb & the Insects) tried and failed to produce a hit record with Del-Fi Records. The setback pushed Tom in the direction of John’s instrumental band, and the brothers would often perform together as Tommy Fogerty & the Blue Velvets.

1959-1967

The next eight years are a testament to perseverance and optimism. The band practiced diligently, experimented with different styles of popular music, and recorded singles for local record labels. They disbanded for periods while band members went to college, took full-time jobs, or spent time in the Army reserves. They performed in small towns and military bases up and down the Central Valley, often in ridiculous outfits with puffy white wigs dictated by their record label. Furthermore, by 1967 both John and Tom Fogerty were married with children.

In 1964, the band signed a contract with the local jazz label Fantasy Records, hot off the heels of a surprise hit, Vince Guaraldi’s “Cast Your Fate To The Wind”. The band tentatively named itself the Visions, but the record label changed their name to The Golliwogs, a poor attempt to mimic British Invasion band names. The record contract gave the band access to high quality studios where they could refine their playing and production techniques. In particular, John became a “studio rat”, both working for and hanging around the studio. He started to sing on many of the Golliwogs’ tunes, and became the band’s permanent lead singer after the release of the regional hit “Brown Eyed Girl”. The last piece of the puzzle was a management change at Fantasy Records. Saul Zaentz bought the company from Max and Sol Weiss, and urged the band to pick a new name.

Creedence Clearwater Revival Band, led by John Fogerty, produced seven albums of original material in under five years, with an unprecendented series of 45 RPM “singles” with a hit song on each side, an inefficient business practice that ended shortly afterwards. Years in the making, the band disintegrated quickly, as jealousy over John’s prominence as songwriter, vocalist and lead guitarist, plus John’s insistent control over all aspects of the band’s music and business affairs, led to an acrimonious breakup in October, 1972. In their short career, Creedence ranks among the greatest of all American rock bands. In the midst of the San Francisco psychedelic renaissance, this small band created emotionally direct, rocking music with timeless themes that transcends the era in which it was created.

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Wikipedia Biography of Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Pre-Creedence: The First Decade, by Alec Palao

Band Members

John Fogerty (1945-), lead vocals, lead guitar, primary songwriter, horns, keyboards
Tom Fogerty (1941-1990), rhythm guitar, vocals
Stu Cook (1945-), bass, vocals
Doug “Cosmo” Clifford (1945-), drums, vocals

Woodstock Performances

Creedence played the famous Woodstock music festival in the summer of 1969, but the experience was somewhat disappointing. They rushed to get there, and had to start playing at 3 AM, because the Grateful Dead played an hour over their scheduled time. The band wasn’t very pleased with the arrangements nor their performance, and none of their songs were featured on the best selling record.

Previously unavailable, you can find snippets of Creedence Clearwater’s performance at Woodstock. Here are “I Put A Spell On You”, “Bad Moon Rising”, and the band’s traditional closer, “Keep On Chooglin'”, in the middle of the night in upstate New York:

Northern California Country

California is young, part of the newer America. Starting in 1848, hundreds of thousands of “forty-niners” moved to California, seeking their fortunes in gold mining. The territory was granted American statehood in 1850, and San Francisco began to develop as a Pacific center of commerce. By 1861, plans for the first intercontinental railroad were made, and by 1870, the original Western Pacific Railroad completed the final leg of the railway; from Sacramento south to Stockton, then west through the Niles Canyon and north through San Leandro to Oakland. Within ten years, the original Sacramento-Oakland route was replaced by a more direct route to Benecia, and over the Carquinez Straits to Port Costa via ferry, then west and south through the ranchos to Oakland, where another ferry would complete the trip to San Francisco and the Pacific Ocean. This all happened about one hundred and fifty years ago, which means this man in his mid-fifties has seen one-third of modern California history.

Settlers came for gold, but stayed for the maritime trade, the pleasant weather and the fertile soil. Early California farming started close to the delta waters of the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, where the water table was high and water transport efficient. Dams and canals were added to utilize the rest of the Central Valley for agriculture, and the railroads expanded to deliver the goods. Though it represents only 1 percent of the nation’s farmland, the Central Valley now produces over 230 crops and 8 percent of the nation’s agricultural output by value. Similarly, the Santa Clara Valley has fertile soil and a sizable aquifer, and for much of California’s history was a major fruit producing region. In 1939, the county seat, San Jose, had a population of only 57,600, but was the largest canning and dried fruit packing center in the world, with 18 canneries, 13 dried fruit packing houses and 12 fresh fruit and vegetable shipping firms. It was only after World War II that young men and women flocked to the Santa Clara Valley for opportunities in engineering and science-related occupations. Today, San Jose has nearly a million residents, and suburban sprawl replaced the flowering orchards and plants in once what once known as “The Valley of Heart’s Delight”.¹

My first love in life was trains. Between the ages of two and ten, my family lived in the Atherton Half Acres project, the poorest section of one of the most exclusive towns in America. Once I could ride a bike, my parents would let me ride down Fair Oaks Avenue, past the Lane where Willie Mays lived, to the Atherton train station around 5 o’clock to watch the daily procession of commuter trains during rush hour, and then around 6:00-6:15, the Coast Daylight would rumble north, gaining speed after its last stop in Palo Alto heading for journey’s end in San Francisco, a fitting climax to a day’s trainwatching. Sometimes I headed in the other direction, over to the unincorporated Fair Oaks district, to the Home Grocery on Sundays where I’d spend my fifty cents allowance on ten packs of baseball cards. When I got older, I’d ride over to the miniature golf course by the Bayshore Freeway, to play golf or pinball machines. To get there, I’d cross over a seldom used mainline, the spur route from Redwood Junction, through Belle Haven and over the Dumbarton Rail Bridge to Niles Canyon and points east. If I was lucky, I might get to see a freight train passing through.

My father loved trains. He made me a simple HO gauge miniature train layout for Christmas when I was four years old. By age six I was pounding out make believe train schedules on a typewriter. For a few years he was fascinated with building model railroads, and was working on his Rio Grande Southern layout in the garage one evening when he and I listened to a countdown of top 40 songs on either KFRC (610 AM) or KYA (1260 AM), the top pop stations of the era.

I developed other grade school fascinations. The Beatles loom large in my legacy, to steal a line from “Hard Day’s Night”. Baseball was another, especially the statistical analysis, an obsession that lasted well into adulthood. Willie Mays was a hero to most every boy in the Bay Area. The next big thing after that was John Fogerty and Creedence Clearwater Revival Band. Around fifth grade they replaced the Beatles as my favorite band, and everything Creedence was great. I remember being over at my friend Beep’s house, hearing “Bad Moon Rising” for the first time on the radio, and running around his house together singing “There’s a bathroom on the right!” (On John Fogerty’s CD Premonition, Fogerty sings the alternate “bathroom on the right” lyric. Big smile when I heard that the first time.)

Beep and I listened to a lot of Creedence. Once they started making hit singles, every one sounded good. There is no analysis when you are ten years old; it was really neat and I couldn’t have told you why.` But Dad sure liked them, too.

A Creedence or Grateful Dead Person

My life in Atherton ended after sixth grade. We moved to south Palo Alto, off Oregon Expressway, close to the Baylands. I had to say goodbye to Beep and school friends, but the new neighborhood was great, filled with kids who loved sports and music. I brought with me my focused interest in Creedence Clearwater, and though my new friends liked them too, the new neighborhood had diverse tastes, and as Creedence wound down its short career, I was exposed to soul music, the Rolling Stones, and Hendrix, and so much more. The lifelong immersion in music began in earnest. Still, for years, Creedence remained the easy answer to the question “What’s your favorite band?” Once that died, I went a few years without any particular allegiance, until the David Grisman Quintet took over the favored spot sometime in 1976 or 1977.

Sometime near the end of high school, I remember a conversation with a high school acquaintance, Corry A., who became close friends withy my best friend’s neighbor Tad. Corry was giving me a hard time about liking Creedence Clearwater so much. I asked him what his favorite band was — he chuckled shyly and said probably the Grateful Dead. I saw him once since then, at our fifteen year high school reunion. I reminded him of the conversation during the party. “Remember that? Maybe that wasn’t such a bad call!” “Yeah, yeah, John. Fascinating.”

The two greatest Bay Area bands are quite different. The Grateful Dead’s music a strange hybrid of high lonesome bluegrass, beat poetry and jazz improvisation, whereas one sees Creedence Clearwater’s roots in the blue collar world of rock and roll, the country music popular in the Central Valley, and the sixties soul music popular in Oakland and Berkeley. Both bands feature cryptic lyrics, though Creedence songwriter John Fogerty tended towards simplicity and brevity. Importantly, Fogerty’s songs and singing is direct and blunt, where the Dead’s Jerry Garcia and Bob Weir seem emotionally distant by comparison. But John Fogerty sings with more authority and presence than perhaps any of the modern singer songwriters. He’s a powerhouse. I saw him perform at an AIDS benefit in Oakland once, around the time he was emerging from a self imposed exile, and he was literally twice as loud and powerful as every other singer on the bill. And, by the way, on that day Jerry and Bob were backing him on rhythm guitar.

I like the hometown Grateful Dead a lot. But I love Creedence Clearwater Revival Band. I’m a Creedence person.

Simple does not mean inferior or less insightful. John Fogerty was a wonderful poet, whose simple lyrics about the war on Vietnam, or about gun control, are just as relevant today as then.

“Some folks inherit star spangled eyes,
Ooh, they send you down to war,
And when you ask them, “How much should we give?”
Ooh, they only answer more! more! more! yoh,
It ain’t me, it ain’t me, I ain’t no military son, son.
It ain’t me, it ain’t me; I ain’t no fortunate one, one.”


“Over on the mountain, thunder magic spoke,
“Let the people know my wisdom, fill the land with smoke”.
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle,
Better run through the jungle, don’t look back to see.”

— John Fogerty

Lyric excerpts from “Fortunate Son” and “Run Through The Jungle”

Creedence Clearwater was defiantly conventional during a time when both jazz and pop were stretching musical boundaries. The songs are defiant as well: pro-labor, anti-war, and suspicious of government intent. John Fogerty insisted on playing 45-50 minute concerts, and refused to play encores, against the wishes of his band mates. He thought encores were bullshit, and refused. During a time performers were wearing tie-dyed shirts and Nehru jackets, he wore plaid shirts and jeans. Not just an iconoclast, but in the punk rock tradition of confident defiance against convention. I remember reading a Rolling Stone article about Fogerty a few years ago. The story goes that he’s doing a sound check at one of the big San Francisco music venues, playing with an E7 chord when somebody in the local music business tells him that sound won’t go anywhere, to which he responds, “Yeah? Just wait.”, as he continued to work on the riff that became “Born On The Bayou”. So many John Fogerty songs have rudimentary chord structures, perhaps the simplest set of chord structures I’ve studied so far. Most are three or four chords, but some songs, like “Run Through The Jungle”, “Commotion” and “Keep On Chooglin'” are one chord songs. John’s brother Tom loved “Run Through The Jungle”, partly because of its simplicity.

Booker T. & The M.G.’s

On January 31, 1970, my mother took me, my best friend Tim, and my younger sister to see Creedence perform at the Oakland-Alameda County Coliseum. It was a full house, maybe thirteen or fourteen thousand in attendance, and we sat facing the band from the cheap seats, just a few rows from the top of the arena. In what seems unbelievable to me today, I asked my mother to smuggle a medium sized cassette recorder in her purse into the arena to record the concert, and she said OK, and we got away with it. The recording was barely listenable, the product of bargain, late sixties technology. But I still have it, the kind of memory I like to keep. I didn’t know this until recently, but the concert was recorded professionally for posterity, and can be found on the album called The Concert. In addition to Creedence, the great Booker T. & The M.G.’s performed as the second of three acts. Here is Booker T. performing “Time Is Tight” from that night, with the members of Creedence Clearwater watching from side stage.

In many ways, Booker T. & The M.G.’s is similar to Creedence Clearwater, minus the powerful vocals. Both are four piece bands with the musical sensibilities of sixties soul music, though the Memphis Greats are the authentic item.

Here’s an entire concert clip, from Royal Albert Hall in April, 1970.

Final Analysis And Remarks

There are virtually no allusions to romantic love, and no sentimentality attributed to women. There’s a steady dose of ballin’ and rollin’ with Cajun queens, a dash of “Pagan Baby” and “Molina” running around, but nothing resembling a love song. Before becoming Creedence Clearwater, the Golliwogs and Blue Velvets wrote some straightforward love songs, but stopped for their great five year run. Even after the band’s breakup, John Fogerty wrote a few love songs, mostly for his second wife Julie. There’s a weak argument that “Who’ll Stop The Rain” relates to his first marriage falling apart. But great sentimental weight is given to other things, like trains and rivers and in the case of “Have You Ever Seen The Rain?”, the breakup of his great band. Maybe that’s part of the reason why his music appealed to a ten year old boy, before life was complicated by a desire for the opposite sex.

IMG_4747

Well Worn Artifacts From Childhood – Creedence 45 Singles

The band’s breakup was bad. There were fights over money, and fortunes were lost. In particular, John Fogerty seems deeply scarred by the experience. He fought bitterly in a highly publicized dispute with Fantasy Records owner Saul Zaentz, and went into seclusion for years. The quartet never played together again, and Fogerty was estranged from his bandmates for life. He regrets not reconciling with his brother Tom, who died unexpectedly when he contracted AIDS from a tainted blood transfusion in 1990. Worse, he refused to perform with Stu Cook and Doug Clifford when the remaining three members were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1993. I don’t understand that. As my wife often says, you can’t unring that bell.

Here’s the Hall of Fame induction ceremony, plus a couple of interview clips with Stu Cook and three good links for more information about the band:

Creedence Online: Comprehensive Fan Website
Interview With Doug Clifford
Finnish Website – List of CCR Trivia

Though a California band, Creedence Clearwater is often grouped with Southern rock bands of the same era. Their second album, Bayou Country, is a concept album written by a Californian who had never been to the bayou, but the swamp rock description stuck. As it is, California has a huge, swampy river delta just miles east of El Cerrito, and the descriptions in Bayou Country are easily translated to the Sacramento River. Even today Creedence Clearwater Revival’s music still feels like the idealized depiction of my life and my childhood, a world of great beauty, with powerful rivers and golden foothills dotted with live oaks. Driving in the hazy summer heat towards the setting orange sun on valley highways bounded by vast fields of crops and the great Southern Pacific. I lived the suburban life, but in my dreams I’m rolling down highway 101, watching the scenery and hoping a freight train goes by.

I went to college in Davis, twelve miles west of Sacramento, the state’s top agricultural university in the heart of the delta. Putah Creek meanders through the property, on its way west towards Winters, and Cody’s Camp where Tom and John Fogerty spent summer vacations. It was a two hour drive from Palo Alto; sometimes I’d head east over the Dumbarton Bridge and through Niles Canyon before heading north on interstate 680. If traffic was light, I’d head right over the Bay Bridge to Oakland, and north on I-80 through El Cerrito and Richmond, then over the Carquinez Straits Bridge to Vallejo and points east.

Creedence Clearwater Revival Band Song Notes:

1. All of their music is very easy to find, with the exception of the Golliwogs recordings. “Commotion (Live)” is from the Woodstock concert; all other live recordings are from the January 31, 1970 recording The Concert.

Creedence Clearwater Revival Band Songs:

Proud Mary, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★★

Born On The Bayou, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★
Lodi, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★
Bad Moon Rising, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★
Have You Ever Seen The Rain?, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★
Commotion, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★
I Put A Spell On You, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★
Fortunate Son, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★
Run Through The Jungle, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★
Green River, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★★

Midnight Special, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★
Suzie Q (Part 1) (Mono), Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★
Who’ll Stop The Rain, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★
Someday Never Comes, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★
Long As I Can See The Light (Mono), Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★★

Down On The Corner, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Wrote A Song For Everyone, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Bootleg, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Lookin’ Out My Back Door, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do), Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Suzie Q, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
It Came Out Of The Sky, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Feelin’ Blue, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Cotton Fields, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
My Baby Left Me, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Good Golly Miss Molly, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★
Green River (Live), Creedence Clearwater Revival Band ★★

Up Around The Bend, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Travelin’ Band, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Before You Accuse Me, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
(Wish I Could) Hideaway, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Don’t Look Now, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Porterville, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Cross-Tie Walker, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Walk On The Water, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Poorboy Shuffle, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Keep On Chooglin’, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Proud Mary (Live), Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Fortunate Son (Live), Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Down On The Corner (Live), Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Commotion (Live), Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Ooby Dooby, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
The Night Time Is The Right Time, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band
Graveyard Train, Creedence Clearwater Revival Band

Related Songs:

Brown Eyed Girl, The Golliwogs
Fight Fire, The Golliwogs
Walking On The Water, The Golliwogs

My Baby Left Me, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup ★★
My Baby Left Me, Elvis Presley ★★★★

Proud Mary, Ike & Tina Turner ★★

I Put A Spell On You, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins ★★★★
I Put A Spell On You, Nina Simone ★★

Good Golly Miss Molly, Little Richard ★★★

Wrote A Song For Everyone, Mavis Staples ★★

Midnight Special, Harry Belafonte ★★
Midnight Special, Johnny Rivers

Ninety-Nine And A Half, Wilson Pickett ★★★

Cotton Fields, Odetta ★★

Suzie Q, Dale Hawkins ★★★

I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Gladys Knight & The Pips ★★★★
I Heard It Through The Grapevine, Marvin Gaye ★★★

The Right Time, Ray Charles ★★★★

¹ Thanks to Wikipedia for the many articles used in developing this little history of California. Other websites for historical railroad maps of the Western Pacific, plus a history of the Niles Canyon, were also used.

18. Johnny Cash

J.R. “Johnny” Cash is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Dyess, Arkansas. Cash grew up on a cotton farm, and was working in the cotton fields by the time he was six years old. He embraced his mother’s love of country and gospel music. The family would sing while working in the fields, and young J.R. learned the basics of guitar playing from a family friend. He enlisted in the Air Force (where he was renamed John R. Cash for legal reasons) after high school, and upon returning home from Germany in 1954, he married Vivian Liberto (1934-2005) and moved to Memphis, Tennessee. In Memphis, he sold appliances door to door, while learning to be a radio announcer. In the evenings he played music with his new friends Marshall Grant and Luther Perkins. Together they auditioned for Sam Phillips at the Sun Studios in Memphis, and together they would create the simple yet distinctive “boom-chicka-boom” sound that defines Johnny Cash’s early music.

Johnny Cash Performing

On his famous song of devotion, “I Walk The Line”, Johnny hums to find the proper key, which changes with each verse.

Official Johnny Cash Website
Fine Unofficial Biography of “The Man In Black”

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Two achieved immediate success. Their first single, “Hey, Porter” b/w “Cry! Cry! Cry!”, was a top 20 hit on the Billboard Country Chart. From that point forward, Johnny Cash remained a relevant figure in popular music for the rest of his life. He released a series of successful rockabilly and country singles with Sun Records before signing a contract with Columbia Records. His stardom grew in the sixties with Columbia Records, punctuated by a memorable concert performance at Folsom Prison in California. At the height of his popularity, Johnny Cash hosted his own variety show on network television. As his popularity waned in later life, he stayed hungry, and enjoyed a renaissance by creating a series of excellent acoustic albums with famed producer Rick Rubin, which made him relevant to a whole new generation of fans. Over his career, he created an enormous body of work, recording well over a thousand songs. His deep, expressive voice is instantly recognizable to millions of Americans. His struggles with addiction, and his highly publicized love life with June Carter Cash are well known and documented. An iconic performer who defies categorization, Johnny Cash is a member of the Country Music Hall of Fame (1980), the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (1992), and the Songwriters Hall of Fame (1977).

One of my favorites, “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord?”, with the Carter Family. Anita Carter is the featured vocalist.

Johnny Cash and the Tennessee Three:

John R. “Johnny” Cash (1932-2003), guitar, vocals, songwriter
Luther Perkins (1928-1968), electric guitar
Marshall Grant (1928-2011), bass
W. S. Holland (b. 1935), drums

The Carter Family:

“Mother” Maybelle Carter (1909-1978), guitar, autoharp, vocals
June Carter Cash (1929-2003), autoharp, vocals
Anita Carter (1933-1999), vocals, bass
Helen Carter (1927-1998), vocals, accordion and other instruments

American Recordings

Growing up in the suburbs of San Francisco, Johnny Cash was not part of my childhood soundtrack. My parents were not country music fans. We never watched the Johnny Cash Show on TV, though in retrospect I wish we had, as it was one of the better music programs of its day. My Mom did buy a 45 single of “A Boy Named Sue”, and when I was in college, I bought a two album compilation named Dick Clark’s 20 Years of Rock and Roll, which introduced me to many of the great rock and roll hits of the fifties, including Cash’s “I Walk The Line”. Otherwise, Johnny Cash is one of the artists I read about and discovered later in life. Ten or fifteen years ago I purchased the three-CD compilation The Essential Johnny Cash (1955-1983), a great starting point.

However, it was the Rolling Stone magazine review of 1994’s American Recordings that catalyzed my interest. A solo acoustic folk record, just Johnny and his guitar, singing old and new songs, some his, some written by others. It’s the rare case where an aging artist creates one of his best albums, and it augments his life’s work beautifully. Producer Rick Rubin, who had previously gained notoriety producing influential hip hop music, deserves credit for encouraging Cash to play solo on the first of the American Recordings series. He also urged Cash to keep working and recording, and Cash responded by producing hundreds of recordings in the last decade of life, many that feature accompaniment by members of Tom Petty & The Heartbreakers. These performances cement his reputation as the charismatic and mysterious troubadour of American folk music.

To summarize, a good starter set of Johnny Cash recordings consists of:

The Essential Johnny Cash (1955-1983)
Live At Folsom Prison
American Recordings
Unearthed (Box Set)

Walk The Line

In addition to reviewing a thoughtful subset of Johnny Cash’s music, I also watched “Walk The Line”, the biographical film that focuses on his romantic life with singer and comedienne June Carter, as well as Cash’s struggles with alcohol and amphetamines. It was the third time I watched the entire movie, and I am increasingly dissatisfied with the simple portrayals of key characters. The father, Ray Cash, appears to hold his son responsble for the death of his older brother Jack in a fatal saw accident, and susbsequently disapproves of his every action and decision. Johnny’s first wife Vivian is portrayed as a joyless shrew who resents Johnny’s musical aspirations. In addition, Johnny is portrayed as a disinterested father, rarely if ever happy at home.

Johnny and Vivian’s daughters Kathy and Rosanne Cash have publicly criticized the film’s depiction of events. Vivian and Rosanne both published memoirs in recent years, and they portray life with the famous ex-husband and father differently. Vivian views June as a home wrecker, emotionally available to Johnny while Vivian was left home in California to raise their four daughters. Rosanne says her father was down to earth and a typical proud father, when he was sober. In the movie, Johnny pursues June, who resists Johnny’s consistent advances until he is divorced. And though Ray and Johnny Cash had a complex, damaged relationship, Johnny himself treads lightly and wrote charitably of his father, though he emphasizes his mother’s role in helping him succeed.

“They Walked The Line”, Ventura County Star, November 18, 2007

Nodepression.com Review of Vivian Cash Distin’s Biography

ChasingTheFrog.com Breakdown of the Movie “Walk The Line”

Decent Films Guide Review of “Walk The Line”

The Statute Of Limitations

Since watching “Walk The Line” again, I’ve wanted to somehow address these complexities in relationships, and how the affected parties perceive the various words and actions. Johnny and June were married in 1968, and were apparently happy together for the rest of their storybook lives. Vivian remarried in 1968, though she never fully recovered from the pain of divorce from his famous first husband.

The story is somewhat similar to my parents, who divorced in 1968. My father, not famous but a popular, charismatic man in his own right, found love shortly thereafter and settled into a lifelong committed relationship, while my mother never found love again, and died a rather lonely person. My father, though friendly and loving, was distant and guarded in what he gave; my sister and I suffered from not having a male role model and his strong presence in our home. I made big mistakes early in life, leaving scars that still affect my confidence and self-esteem. It took my sister years to develop the tools she needed to become a successful person; still, these childhood experiences left her jaded and resentful of her father and brother. Like Johnny Cash, my father did not file for divorce, but could be accused of provoking it, and in the end was happy for most of his remaining life.

Does he deserve part of the blame for not being there through the day to day grind of raising young children, and an undisciplined son who made mistakes along the way? Perhaps. By design, neither parent instituted much structure or discipline. Both my sister and I hold onto a few tenacious remnants of the past, and we are not as close I would hope to be. Every few months, either my wife or I breaks out one of my father’s chestnuts of wisdom: “The statute of limitations for blaming your parents has run out.”

Spoken words, and the rationalizations people give for their actions, can’t be trusted. Whether Johnny or June was the pursuer reduces a decade long, complex relationship into a one dimensional problem. Cash’s drug abuse in the sixties could be a reaction to being young and desirable, while tied down by the responsibility of a wife and children when opportunities for fun and adventure were plentiful, but that again oversimplifies things. All that matters are the actions and results. In matters of the heart, things sometimes happen and people get hurt, lovers get jilted, and there’s collateral damage, guilt and pain and loss. Experience tells me those who grow up in stable households face fewer struggles in loving relationships, but that’s a generalization, too. Perhaps “Walk The Line” is more clever than it seemed at third glance, addressing the key changes in the life of a musician admired for his authenticity, and his ability to sing authoritatively about love and loss, of tribulation and sin, of God and redemption.

“The Beast In Me”, written by Nick Lowe:

“Redemption”, written by Johnny Cash

Johnny Cash Song Notes:

1. I struggled more than usual to whittle down the list of songs, though there are fewer great songs than other major artists. The final list of sixty three songs consists mostly of one and two star songs. Johnny Cash is like the Frank Sinatra of folk music. He recorded versions of most folk standards, with quite a few definitive versions.

2.

“I’ve Been Everywhere” and “Rusty Cage” can be found on Unchained.
“Another Man Done Gone” and “One More Ride” can be found on The Legend.
“The Troubadour” and “Wreck Of the Old 97” can be found on Essential Johnny Cash.
“Five Minutes To Live” can be found on Bootleg, Volume 2.
“Belshazzar” can be found on The Original Sun Recordings, Part 2.
“In Your Mind” can be found on the soundtrack to Dead Man Walking.

Everything else should be easy to find.

3. “Crescent City Blues” by Gordon Jenkins, is very similar to, and precedes “Folsom Prison Blues”.

Johnny Cash Songs:

I Walk The Line, Johnny Cash ★★★★
Ring Of Fire, Johnny Cash ★★★★
Were You There When They Crucified My Lord, Johnny Cash ★★★★

Folsom Prison Blues, Johnny Cash ★★★
Folsom Prison Blues (Live), Johnny Cash ★★★
The Long Black Veil, Johnny Cash ★★★
Hurt, Johnny Cash ★★★
The Mercy Seat, Johnny Cash ★★★
I’ve Been Everywhere, Johnny Cash ★★★

Drive On, Johnny Cash ★★
Solitary Man, Johnny Cash ★★
That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day), Johnny Cash ★★
Delia’s Gone, Johnny Cash ★★
Let The Train Blow The Whistle, Johnny Cash ★★
Tennessee Stud, Johnny Cash ★★
Down There By The Train, Johnny Cash ★★
Redemption, Johnny Cash ★★
The Long Black Veil (Live), Johnny Cash ★★
A Boy Named Sue (Live), Johnny Cash ★★
Highway Patrolman, Johnny Cash ★★
Get Rhythm, Johnny Cash ★★
Rock Island Line, Johnny Cash ★★
Big River, Johnny Cash ★★
Tennessee Flat-Top Box, Johnny Cash ★★
(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley, Johnny Cash ★★
Jackson, Johnny Cash ★★
What Is Truth, Johnny Cash ★★
Don’t Take Your Guns To Town, Johnny Cash ★★
Another Man Done Gone, Johnny Cash ★★

I Won’t Back Down, Johnny Cash
Wayfaring Stranger, Johnny Cash
The Beast In Me, Johnny Cash
Oh, Bury Me Not, Johnny Cash
Like A Soldier, Johnny Cash
The Man Who Couldn’t Cry, Johnny Cash
Busted (Live), Johnny Cash
Send A Picture Of Mother (Live), Johnny Cash
Apache Tears, Johnny Cash
Five Minutes To Live, Johnny Cash
In Your Mind, Johnny Cash
The Troubadour, Johnny Cash
Wreck Of The Old 97, Johnny Cash
Guess Things Happen That Way, Johnny Cash
I Still Miss Someone, Johnny Cash
The Ballad Of Boot Hill, Johnny Cash
Hey Porter, Johnny Cash
Cry! Cry! Cry! Johnny Cash
Luther Played The Boogie, Johnny Cash
Five Feet High And Rising, Johnny Cash
The Ballad Of Ira Hayes, Johnny Cash
I Got Stripes, Johnny Cash
Orange Blossom Special, Johnny Cash
Understand Your Man, Johnny Cash
San Quentin #2 (Live), Johnny Cash
Singing In Vietnam Talking Blues, Johnny Cash
One More Ride, Johnny Cash
Belshazzar, Johnny Cash
Sunday Mornin’ Comin’ Down, Johnny Cash
The Rebel — Johnny Yuma, Johnny Cash
Rusty Cage, Johnny Cash
Thirteen, Johnny Cash
The Man Comes Around, Johnny Cash
Cocaine Blues (Live), Johnny Cash
Redemption Song, Johnny Cash & Joe Strummer

Related Songs:

The Long Black Veil, Lefty Frizzell ★★★★
The Long Black Veil, The Band ★★

I’ve Been Everywhere, Hank Snow

Solitary Man, Neil Diamond ★★★★★

That Lucky Old Sun (Just Rolls Around Heaven All Day), Ray Charles ★★★

Tennessee Stud, Doc Watson ★★
Tennessee Stud (Live), Doc Watson & David Holt

Rock Island Line, Lonnie Donegan

Big River (Live), Grateful Dead

(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley, Elvis Presley ★★★
(There’ll Be) Peace In The Valley, Red Foley & Sunshine Boys Quartet ★★★

Another Man Done Gone, John Mayall ★★★
Another Man Done Gone, Vera Hall ★★
Another Man Done Gone, Carolina Choclate Drops ★★

I Won’t Back Down, Tom Petty ★★★

Wayfaring Stranger, Burl Ives ★★★

The Beast In Me, Nick Lowe

Busted, Ray Charles ★★★★

Wreck Of The Old 97, Charlie Louvin

Orange Blossom Special (Live), The Stanley Brothers ★★★
Orange Blossom Special, Bill Monroe & His Bluegrass Boys ★★

Crescent City Blues, Gordon Jenkins ★★

Girl From The North Country, Bob Dylan (With Johnny Cash) ★★★

Give My Love To Rose, Bruce Springsteen ★★

Texas Sun, Bastard Sons Of Johnny Cash ★★

Pickin’ Time, Grandpa Jones

Johnny Met June, Shelby Lynne ★★

Hurt, Nine Inch Nails (not included in collection)
Rusty Cage, Soundgarden (not included in collection)

24. Led Zeppelin

Led Zeppelin is a rock band from London, England. Founded in 1968, Led Zeppelin evolved from the disintegration of The Yardbirds, a blues band whose alumni includes guitarists Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck and Jimmy Page. After several band members dropped out, Page recruited singer Robert Plant and drummer John Bonham from Band Of Joy to satisfy concert obligations in Scandinavia. When bassist Chris Dreja also left to become a photographer, Page replaced him with arranger and studio musician John Paul Jones. After the new quartet was ordered to cease using the Yardbirds name, they decided upon the name Led Zeppelin, after The Who drummer Keith Moon and bassist John Entwhistle suggested their music would “go over like a lead balloon”.¹

Led-Zeppelin-remasters-770

Wikipedia Biography of Led Zeppelin
www.ledzeppelin.com — Official Band Website

Jimmy Page (b. 1944), guitars
Robert Plant (b. 1948), vocals
John Paul Jones (b. 1946), bass guitar, keyboards, multi-instrumentalist
John Bonham (1948-1980), drums

Peter Grant (1935-1995)
, band manager

Peter Grant is noteworthy for his stewardship of Led Zeppelin. He negotiated their recording contract with Atlantic Records, which granted them a large advance on their first album, the power to decide what to record and when to tour, plus a far greater percentage for songwriting royalties than typically given. The band disdained the concept of hit singles, believing their music was better presented as conceptual albums. They produced two albums in 1969. Led Zeppelin was a surprise top 10 hit in both the U.S. and the U.K. The second album, Led Zeppelin II, featured “Whole Lotta Love”, a top ten hit song that gave them mainstream exposure on AM radio. Over the next dozen or so years, the band enjoyed immense popularity as a live musical act. Their first album, which debuted to modest critical acclaim, is now considered a seminal document in the development of “hard rock” or “heavy metal” music. Over their career Led Zeppelin has sold over 200 million albums, and were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1995.

Rolling Stone Magazine’s Original Led Zeppelin Review, March, 1969

Personal Experience

I first heard Led Zeppelin when I was in seventh grade. “Whole Lotta Love” was harsh sounding, unusual. It was a fertile time in pop music, with many rock musicians at or near their peak, and local radio stations featuring good soul and country music, too. Maybe the older high school kids took an immediate interest, but it seems to me Zeppelin was more a curiosity in my town until “Stairway To Heaven” became famous. Before I graduated high school, my family owned a copy of Houses Of The Holy.

My interest in Led Zeppelin died after Houses Of The Holy. In high school, I had a large circle of friends interested in music, and it seemed no band received more attention than others. By freshman year in college, my musical preferences had moved away from guitar based rock groups. I was never a big fan of Led Zeppelin; they were part of the musical landscape of my youth, but not a dominant presence. Over the years I acquired copies of the first four albums, plus the excellent BBC Recordings compilation.

Revisiting Led Zeppelin

The iTunes player tallies how many times each song is played. Compared to other artists profiled in this countdown of favorite bands, Led Zeppelin songs have few plays, with no individual song played over ten times. But I’ve met quite a few guys that think Led Zeppelin is the greatest band of all time. They are very influential, the template band for a whole musical genre that took off in their wake. But the band’s hyper-dramatic take on the blues, and their acoustic forays into fantasy worlds, don’t quite resonate with me. However, devoting the last ten days or so to Led Zeppelin’s music has been enjoyable; the band’s skill is undeniable. Four of their first five albums are strong enough to play all the way through without being tempted to skip a song, perhaps the highest praise possible. The powerful beat established by Bonham and Jones gets the big muscles in the body moving; even if Zeppelin’s music is not dance music, the big beat punctuated by Plant’s and Page’s bursts of jagged sound is kinetic, in a violent sort of way. My interest in heavy metal music is tepid at best, but Led Zeppelin is the original, and the standard by which other bands of this genre are measured. Nevertheless, as I’ve aged I prefer swinging, danceable music as a rule, and after this profile, Led Zeppelin will likely return to its typical dormant status in the collection.

A List of Cover Versions of Led Zeppelin Songs

Two Thoughts, Both Wrong

Over the years creating my iPod collection (eight years and counting), I’ve had two recurring thoughts about Led Zeppelin’s music. First, Led Zeppelin is a band with no great (★★★★★) songs, but many excellent (★★★★) songs. No fives, but lots of fours. It didn’t work out that way. I’m a tougher grader than I used to be, a subject for a blog post of its own. I downgraded some Led Zeppelin songs because the lyrics carried little weight. Robert Plant has a fantastic singing voice, one of the all-time greats, but the words do not transport me anywhere, and rarely evoke emotion. Even when he uses age old blues phrases, they lose power by the method he delivers them.

The great “Stairway To Heaven” is an exception, with its cryptic yet coherent lyrics, and music that gently escalates in intensity, setting the table for one of Jimmy Page’s most famous solos, which he nails on the first take.

My second hypothesis was “There is no song after Houses Of The Holy worth including”. Overall, Led Zeppelin released nine studio albums, including one (Coda in 1982) after John Bonham’s untimely death in 1980. Band members think the sixth album, Physical Grafitti, is one of the band’s best. It received critical acclaim and significant FM radio airplay, especially the eight minute long “Kashmir”. I added “Kashmir”, based on its unusual chord progression and instrumentation, but generally I think it’s monotonous.

“Kashmir” is one example of Led Zeppelin’s creativity. They also experimented with guitar tunings (“That’s The Way”, “When The Levee Breaks”), time signatures (“Four Sticks”, “Black Dog”) and musical modes (“Dancing Days” – Lydian, “Ramble On” – Dorian).

An Introduction to Music Modes
Wikipedia Description of Musical Modes

I also added the bluesy “Tea For One” from Presence. I can’t listen to every song, so I try to make educated choices. No Zeppelin songs played on the radio after Houses Of The Holy ever piqued my interest. Other than these two songs, I just have songs from the first five albums, plus live performances from BBC Sessions and How The West Was Won.

Live Music and Video Choices

Led Zeppelin earned a reputation as a great band to see in concert. I never saw the band, but based on the available YouTube videos, I have some reservations about that characterization. Some of their songs translate well to the stage, but others sound inferior to the studio versions. Some songs, like “Four Sticks”, were too complex to execute on stage. Jimmy Page overdubbed guitar parts, sometimes more than once, on some of the band’s best and most famous songs to complete the sound. The inability to recreate that sound is a weakness; live versions of songs like “Stairway To Heaven” and “Over The Hills And Far Away” are inferior. They needed a Jimmy Page clone to take second lead during performances. Also, some of their songs have long instrumental passages of modest interest at best, a trait of late sixties and seventies rock music.

Songs from the first album are well suited to performance, when the band concentrated on developing a following. The selected videos reflect what works well.

Wikipedia Entry on Led Zeppelin Concerts

Musical Pirates

As a rule, I focus on the positive attributes of musicians featured in this blog. I have been uncharacteristically critical of Led Zeppelin. The horror stories of the band’s exploits on the road are unavoidable. I’m not as offended by tales of property destruction as I am by those of personal violence, especially by the late drummer John Bonham, by many accounts a belligerent drunk who behaved like a common thug as his alcoholism progressed. Though he was the worst offender, and Robert Plant is cited as being a decent man, the band and crew used their position as the “greatest rock and roll band in the world” and pretty much did whatever they wanted, regardless of the collateral damage. That’s not to say they’re the only ones who traveled to your town and wreaked havoc, but they may be the most notorious.

What I find most offensive was the band’s failure to legally attribute musical ideas that were introduced by others before them. On the first two albums, there are many lyrical phrases and riffs taken, without giving proper songwriting credit until legal action was required by the damaged parties. An example is “Dazed And Confused”, the quintessential Led Zeppelin song, is written by Jake Holmes, who opened for the Yardbirds a few times in 1967. Jimmy Page is listed as the author in the song credits. The opening and closing passages of “Bring It On Home” are identical to Willie Dixon’s song, even Sonny Boy Williamson’s singing style, but no credit is given. Even when attribution is given, as when Willie Dixon is credited for “You Shook Me”, there are feelings of betrayal when Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page’s longtime friend, is furious, since he recorded a similar version of the song just months before. There are several other breaches of copyright infringement on the first two albums, before the band started using its own ideas more extensively. Granted, Robert Plant, who often made up lyrics on the spot, while the band jammed and worked out the music, was following an folk-lyric tradition of using past fragments of songs (discussed briefly in the Arthel “Doc” Watson profile). But nowadays song ideas are very lucrative, and the band and its management appear to have resisted giving credit if they could. Led Zeppelin may be the last famous band to engage in this practice.

My disappointment in the band’s behavior and business practices does little to reduce the song rankings. In a few cases, I leaned towards a lower rating if they didn’t write the song, but that’s always true. Let’s return to the power of positive thinking, and appreciate this fine, innovative band.

“In The Evening”, by Chuck Klosterman (Grantland.com)
Led Zeppelin: The Real Monsters Of Rock
“Trampled Under Foot”, from The Guardian, September 2012
“The Untethered Decadence of Led Zeppelin, December 2012
“Zeppelin Took My Blues Away”, Willard’s Wormholes

Led Zeppelin Song Notes:

1. “Going To California (Live)” and “Black Dog (Live)” are found on How The West Was Won. All other songs designated “(Live)” are found on BBC Sessions.

2. “Hey Hey What Can I Do” is found on The Complete Led Zeppelin. In fact, the rest of the songs can be found on this compilation, though I prefer to add from the original albums.

3. The most famous songs missing here are “Misty Mountain Hop” and “The Lemon Song”.

Led Zeppelin Songs:

Stairway To Heaven, Led Zeppelin ★★★★★

Black Dog, Led Zeppelin ★★★★
Whole Lotta Love, Led Zeppelin ★★★★
Going To California (Live), Led Zeppelin ★★★★

Good Times Bad Times, Led Zeppelin ★★★
Dazed And Confused, Led Zeppelin ★★★
What Is And What Should Never Be, Led Zeppelin ★★★
Heartbreaker, Led Zeppelin ★★★
Ramble On, Led Zeppelin ★★★
Rock & Roll, Led Zeppelin ★★★
Going To California, Led Zeppelin ★★★
When The Levee Breaks, Led Zeppelin ★★★
Over The Hills And Far Away, Led Zeppelin ★★★
The Ocean, Led Zeppelin ★★★
Hey Hey What Can I Do, Led Zeppelin ★★★

Communication Breakdown, Led Zeppelin ★★
I Can’t Quit You Baby, Led Zeppelin ★★
How Many More Times, Led Zeppelin ★★
Thank You, Led Zeppelin ★★
Moby Dick, Led Zeppelin ★★
Bring It On Home, Led Zeppelin ★★
Since I’ve Been Loving You, Led Zeppelin ★★
That’s The Way, Led Zeppelin ★★
The Battle Of Evermore, Led Zeppelin ★★
Four Sticks, Led Zeppelin ★★
The Rain Song, Led Zeppelin ★★
The Crunge, Led Zeppelin ★★
D’Yer Maker, Led Zeppelin ★★
Black Dog (Live), Led Zeppelin ★★
Since I’ve Been Loving You (Live), Led Zeppelin ★★
That’s The Way (Live), Led Zeppelin ★★
Thank You (Live), Led Zeppelin ★★
Dazed And Confused (Live), Led Zeppelin ★★
What Is And What Should Never Be (Live), Led Zeppelin ★★

Babe I’m Gonna Leave You, Led Zeppelin
You Shook Me, Led Zeppelin
Your Time Is Gonna Come, Led Zeppelin
Kashmir, Led Zeppelin
Living Loving Maid (She’s Just A Woman), Led Zeppelin
Gallows Pole, Led Zeppelin
Tangerine, Led Zeppelin
The Song Remains The Same, Led Zeppelin
Dancing Days, Led Zeppelin
No Quarter, Led Zeppelin
Tea For One, Led Zeppelin
Travelling Riverside Blues (Live), Led Zeppelin
Communication Breakdown (Live), Led Zeppelin
Black Mountain Side, Led Zeppelin

Related Songs:

Angel Dance, Robert Plant
Ship Of Fools, Robert Plant
Gone, Gone, Gone (Done Moved On), Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ★★
Rich Woman (Live), Robert Plant & Alison Krauss ★★

I Can’t Quit You Baby, Otis Rush ★★
I Can’t Quit You Baby (Alt), Otis Rush

How Many More Years (also known as “You Gonna Wreck My Life”), Howlin’ Wolf ★★★★
How Many More Years (Original), Howlin’ Wolf

Bring It On Home, Sonny Boy Williamson II ★★★

You Shook Me, Muddy Waters ★★★

Killing Floor, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★
Killing Floor (Live), Jimi Hendrix Experience

The Hunter, Albert King

Jimmy Page appears as a studio musician on the following:

You Really Got Me, The Kinks ★★★★
All Day And All Of The Night, The Kinks ★★★

I Can’t Explain, The Who ★★★

It’s Not Unusual, Tom Jones ★★★★

Gloria, Them ★★★★★
Baby Please Don’t Go, Them ★★★★
Here Comes The Night, Them ★★

Tobacco Road, The Nashville Teens ★★★

With A Little Help From My Friends, Joe Cocker ★★★★
Bye Bye Blackbird, Joe Cocker ★★

Sunshine Superman, Donovan ★★
Hurdy Gurdy Man, Donovan ★★★

Beck’s Bolero, Jeff Beck ★★

Goldfinger, Shirley Bassey ★★

John Paul Jones performs or helps arrange the following songs:

She’s A Rainbow, The Rolling Stones

No Milk Today, Herman’s Hermits ★★★
There’s A Kind Of Hush, Herman’s Hermits ★★★
Dandy, Herman’s Hermits

Mellow Yellow, Donovan ★★★

Morning Dew, Lulu ★★★

¹ From Led Zeppelin: The Story of a Band and Their Music 1968–1980, by Keith Shadwick (2005)

33. Bob Marley & The Wailers

Bob Marley (1945-1981) was a singer, guitarist and songwriter from St. Ann Parish, Jamaica. He is the son of Norval Marley, an elderly white Marine officer, and Cedella Booker, a much younger black woman from a respected local family. Marley’s father died when he was ten years old. Without significant means of support, Cedella moved to Trenchtown, a poor neighborhood in Kingston, the island’s capital. For several years, Cedella lived with Taddeus “Taddy” Livingston; his son Bunny and her son Bob became roommates and lifelong friends.

By the late fifties, the two boys had a serious interest in the growing Kingston music scene, then focused on American rhythm and blues music. When rhythm and blues popularity waned, entrepreneurial record producers like Coxsone Dodd searched for local musical talent to fill the void. Dodd opened Studio One Records in 1963 with his house band The Skatalites. Marley and Livingston, along with their friend Peter Tosh, auditioned for Studio One records as the Wailin’ Wailers. They were signed on the spot, and their first single, “Simmer Down”, a #1 Jamaican hit in early 1964, is considered the first hit song in the Jamaican ska style.

M122979W595

The original Wailin’ Wailers:

Bob Marley (1945-1981), vocals, songwriter, guitar
Peter Tosh (1944-1987), vocals, keyboards, guitar
Bunny Livingston, aka Bunny Wailer (b. 1947), vocals, songwriter, percussion

The Barrett brothers, two important musicians who joined the Wailers around 1967:

Aston “Familyman” Barrett (b. 1946), bass
Carlton Barrett (1950-1987), drums

Jamaica’s two most important record producers:

Clement “Coxsone” Dodd (1932-2004), music producer
Lee “Scratch” Perry (b. 1936), music producer

Other interesting links for Bob Marley and reggae music:

Welcome to the Reggae Supersite – Roger Steffens Reggae Archives
Dubwise Garage/Bob Marley Concerts, An Elaborate Fan Blog
Director Kevin Macdonald Discusses “Marley” Documentary, Wall Street Journal, April 13, 2012

The Wailers’ rise to stardom happened gradually; their impact is perhaps greater today than during their heyday as worldwide pop stars. They were among Jamaica’s most popular bands in the sixties, during a creative period of music making that yielded three distinct types of popular dance music: ska, rocksteady, and reggae. Still, the band struggled to make a living as musicians. In 1966, Marley left the band and moved to Delaware to take a manufacturing job for a short time. Marley returned home, and over the next five or so years they worked with producer Lee “Scratch” Perry and refined their sound in hopes of greater commercial success.

In 1972, the band got a lucky break, while out of money and stranded in London, England. Island Records producer Chris Blackwell was looking for a replacement for Jimmy Cliff. Marley went to Blackwell seeking an advance to produce a single, and walked away with a deal to produce a whole album, 1972’s Catch A Fire. They followed up the album with their first significant tour of America, at which point the band caught fire, beginning a decade long period of growing worldwide popularity. In 1974, both Livingston and Tosh left the band to pursue solo careers, as the charismatic Marley began to assume the spotlight. The Wailers are fondly remembered for their hypnotic dance beats, their gentle songs of love and their forceful songs of protest against slavery. Diagnosed with melanoma in his toe in 1977, Marley failed to recognize the serious nature of his illness, and decided against having his toe amputated. He passed away in 1981, only thirty six years old.

Wikipedia Description of Ska Music
Wikipedia Description of Rocksteady Music
Wikipedia Description of Reggae Music

Old Grey Whistle Test Performances

There are several Wailers videos available on Youtube. The two performances from the British program “Old Grey Whistle Test” stand out as superior, and the only videos featuring Marley with Peter Tosh and Bunny Wailer. There is no significant video documentation before these performances, despite the band being at its creative peak.

Trenchtown Rock

Next, a South African journalist’s report on Jamaican culture, including the frightening poverty of Trenchtown, and the hope of reggae music and the Rastafarian movement. The report reveals as much of the journalist’s preconceptions as it does the plight of the people. Bob Marley’s sullen compliance answering the journalist’s questions is a sight to behold.

The Wailers were among the many young men influenced by the Rastafari movement in Jamaica, a spiritual philosophy based on Christianity which identifies Haile Selassie I, the former emperor of Ethiopia, as God’s chosen King on earth. The movement also stresses a repatriation of African people from the white man’s world (Babylon) back to the African homeland (Zion).

Wikipedia Description of the Rastafari Movement
How To Speak Jamaican, A Glossary

Several other interviews with Mr. Marley are worthwhile. Interviewed here by a fellow rastafari, they create a relaxed, peaceful atmosphere for conversation, which is instructive given the dire circumstances of his fellow men in Jamaica. Marley’s importance as a world figure grew after his premature death; his peaceful but insistent protest against the status quo evokes comparisons with India’s Mahatma Gandhi. Marley was able to take his message worldwide through the power of music.

The risks to one’s safety are magnified in a poverty stricken country, where envy and jealousy are acute, and so few have the means to live comfortably. The story of the Wailers is both tragic and violent. Peter Tosh was murdered at his home in 1987; so was Carly Barrett, the longtime drummer who joined the Wailers with his brother Aston in 1970. Early Wailers member Junior Braithwaite (1949-1999) was also murdered at the home of a fellow musician. Marley survived an assassination attempt in 1976. The relaxed and peaceful feeling achieved when listening to the hypnotic reggae belies its dangerous origin.

Aston “Family Man” Barrett Fails in Legal Attempt to Acquire Royalties

Bob Marley & The Wailers Song Notes:

I selected forty-seven songs for the collection. Several well known songs, such as “Three Little Birds”, “Exodus”, and “Could You Be Loved”, are not included. The song ratings are very consistent; I like many Wailers songs, but very few stand out as superior to the others. Bob Marley is a subtle pleasure, one that I enjoyed more and more during this study.

I reviewed a couple of music blogs to compare which Bob Marley albums they consider best. Both blogs chose Exodus and Natty Dread, while Tom Moon also selected Catch A Fire. The selected albums may be their finest “modern” records, but they don’t address the band’s early years in Jamaica, where ska music gradually transformed into reggae. The early Jamaican recordings are quite crude, with poor fidelity; audiophiles should stick with the Island recordings. I like the muddy sound of the old recordings; the late seventies Island recordings sound homogenous and a bit antiseptic. Early Wailers songs feature unique singing interplay between Tosh, Marley and Wailer. If only one album is acquired, I recommend African Herbsman. Finally, rather than the posthumous hits compilation Legend, I recommend the original documents such as Catch A Fire, Natty Dread and Rastaman Vibration.

Tom Moon’s 1000 Recordings To Hear Before You Die
Liz’s 1001 Albums

1. “Get Up, Stand Up (Alt)”, “Duppy Conqueror (Live)”, and “Slave Driver (Live)” are found on Burnin’.

2. “Trenchtown Rock (Live)”, “Burnin’ And Lootin’ (Live)” and “Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Road Block) (Live)” are found on Live At The Roxy: The Complete Concert.

3. Three compilations will acquire most or all of the early Jamaican music:

One Love At Studio One
Fy-ah, Fy-ah – The JAD Masters, 1967-1970
African Herbsman

4. “Bend Down Low (Live)” and another good version of “Slave Driver (Live)” are found on Talkin’ Blues, aka Rastaman Chant. The version of “No Woman, No Cry (Live)” is the famous version from Live!.

Bob Marley & The Wailers Songs:

Small Axe, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭✭
I Shot The Sheriff, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭✭
No Woman, No Cry (Live), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭✭
African Herbsman, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭✭
Bend Down Low (Live), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭✭
Waiting In Vain, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭✭

Keep On Moving, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Don’t Rock The Boat, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Sun Is Shining, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Brain Washing, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Four Hundred Years, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Get Up, Stand Up, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Get Up, Stand Up (Alt), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Hypocrites, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Mr. Chatterbox, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
One Love, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
It Hurts To Be Alone, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Sunday Morning, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Is This Love, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Buffalo Soldier, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Stir It Up, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Redemption Song, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Trenchtown Rock (Live), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Rebel Music (3 O’Clock Road Block) (Live), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Slave Driver (Live), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Lively Up Yourself (Alt), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Them Belly Full, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
He Who Knows It Feels It, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Roots, Rock, Reggae, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
War, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Duppy Conqueror, Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Duppy Conqueror (Live), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭
Could You Be Loved (Alt), Bob Marley & The Wailers ✭✭

All In One, Part 1, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Burnin’ And Lootin’, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Burnin’ And Lootin’ (Live), Bob Marley & The Wailers
Slave Driver (Live), Bob Marley & The Wailers
Soul Rebel, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Mellow Mood, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Simmer Down, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Sinner Man, Bob Marley & The Wailers
One Love/People Get Ready, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Jammin’, Bob Marley & The Wailers
This Train, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Rolling Stone, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Roots, Rock, Dub, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Kaya, Bob Marley & The Wailers
Lively Up Yourself, Bob Marley & The Wailers

Related Songs:

I Shot The Sheriff, Eric Clapton
I Shot The Sheriff (Live), Eric Clapton ✭✭✭

This Time/Waiting In Vain (Live), Los Lobos ✭✭

Stir It Up, Johnny Nash ✭✭

Sinner Man (Alt), Nina Simone & Felix Da Housecat ✭✭

This Train, Sister Rosetta Tharpe ✭✭

Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan ✭✭✭✭✭
Like A Rolling Stone (Mono), Bob Dylan ✭✭✭✭✭
Like A Rolling Stone (Live), Bob Dylan ✭✭
Like A Rolling Stone, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ✭✭✭✭

Get Up, Stand Up, Peter Tosh ✭✭
Stepping Razor, Peter Tosh
Why Must I Cry, Peter Tosh ✭✭

Fighting Against Conviction, Bunny Wailer
Dreamland, Bunny Wailer
Armagideon, Bunny Wailer