4. Los Lobos

Los Lobos is just another band from East Los Angeles, California. The original quartet all attended the same high school; Louie Pérez and David Hidalgo were in the same graduating class at Garfield High School, and bonded over a mutual interest in lesser known musical artists such as Ry Cooder and Randy Newman. Conrad Lozano and Cesar Rosas were already a year or two out of school, and playing in local bands. Like most aspiring young American musicians, they listened to the diverse sounds of the late sixties and early seventies, perhaps the peak era for creativity and growth for guitar-based popular music. British greats The Rolling Stones and The Beatles, soul musicians James Brown and Sly & The Family Stone, and guitar virtuosos Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix were among the influential artists of the era. For young men growing up in the Chicano neighborhoods of East Los Angeles, local stars Ritchie Valens and Thee Midniters served as inspiration, in a town with a rich musical heritage. Though they played modern music in their own bands, the four young men who would become Los Lobos forged their long partnership by learning traditional Mexican folk music together.

los-lobos

Conrad Lozano (b. 1951), bass, guitarron, vocals
David K. Hidalgo (b. 1954), guitar, accordion, vocals, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist
Cesar Rosas (b. 1954), guitar, bajo sexto, vocals, songwriter
Steve Berlin (b. 1955), saxophone, keyboards
Louis Pérez (b. 1953), guitar, jarana, percussion, vocals, songwriter

Three drummers who have contributed to the band are:

Enrique “Bugs” Gonzalez, drums, percussion
Cougar Estrada, drums, percussion
Victor Bisetti, drums, percussion

Los Lobos on Wikipedia
Official Los Lobos Website
Los Lobos Tour Dates & Setlists 1983-Present (Unofficial)

The band spent many hours at Cesar’s house, listening to his mother’s record collection for study, and learning the intricacies of this complex music. The band began to perform at local social functions in 1973:

After lots of living room rehearsals they played at that Florence tardeada/tamalada. The response was amazing and overwhelming for both the audience and the guys. Here were five hippie-looking Chicanos playing for an audience that ranged from teenagers to gray-haired abuelitas. The grandmothers were amazed. Tears welled up in their eyes to hear the music of their heart being played by these youngsters. It was a sign that the musical legacy of Mexico would be perpetuated, albeit with a new, creative, universally appealing twist. Dave recalls, “At that point, we knew we had hit on something.”¹

In its early inception, the fifth band member was Francisco Gonzalez, a gifted harp and mandolin player. In this 1975 documentary video, Gonzalez has a dominant role as lead singer and band spokesperson. The highlights are the introduction, where Gonzalez explains the band’s motivation for learning the traditional songs, and the performance of “Sabor A Mí” at about 10:30 into the documentary.

Small “p” Politics

In 1976, Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles was recruited to provide the music for Sí Se Puede, a charity album for the United Farm Workers of America. In 1978, they produced their eponymous first album, which sold a limited number of copies. By then, Francisco Gonzalez had left the group. In the future, he would serve as the musical director for El Teatro Campesino, a theatrical troupe that served as the cultural arm of the United Farm Workers, and a teacher of son jarocho, a musical style from the Mexican state of Veracruz.

Little has been written about Los Lobos; to date, no comprehensive biography exists. However, the band’s role in the growing Chicano movement of the sixties and seventies was analyzed in Stevan Cesar Azcona’s book Movements in Chicano Music: Performing Culture, Performing Politics, 1965-1979. Azcona concludes that Los Lobos, who spoke English as a first language, wore beards, and dressed in American working clothes for gigs, used musical excellence rather than overt protest as a political statement:

I submit that it was the particular musicality of the Lobos, within the traditional styles of son and huapango, which excited audiences. The technical musical proficiency of the group as instrumentalists, coupled with the improvisational aspect of the son jarocho, in the words of Loza, “affected not only the performance of the son jarocho, but also the manner in which it was heard and evaluated by Chicanos.”²

The Lobos Go West (Of The River)

Los Lobos spent several years performing folk music in East Los Angeles and surrounding cities. But they hadn’t lost interest in electric guitars and rocking music. Pop music had experienced a period of relative stagnation, but the late seventies brought a wave of new bands reverting to simpler forms of rock and roll music, with shorter songs and often rudimentary musicianship. Some bands displayed their societal disaffection with anger and violent behavior. The punk rock movement was growing, and Los Angeles was a hotbed for this new direction in pop music.

The band experimented with electrified instruments at gigs, and took note of the burgeoning punk scene in Hollywood and Los Angeles. They attended concerts and befriended members of the local bands The Plugz and The Blasters. The quartet reorganized for electric music, with Louie Pérez moving to drums and Dave Hidalgo learning accordion in addition to his guitar expertise. They developed a new repertoire of music, Tex-Mex polkas and straight ahead rock and roll songs, while maintaining their Mexican-American roots and sensibilities. In January, 1981, they received their “big break” opening for The Blasters at the Whisky-A-Go-Go in Hollywood. They became a fixture on the punk rock scene, and eventually signed a contract with Slash Records, a subsidiary of Warner Brothers. In 1983, they released …and a Time to Dance, their first major label record. The short, seven song EP sold modestly, but enabled the band to begin touring nationally to develop a larger audience.

Here is the band performing in 1984, the subject of its second short documentary in a decade. Steve Berlin, who previously played saxophone in the Blasters, has been added to complete the quintet which has remained intact for thirty years.

Who Is That?

For the first seven years after college, I lived in an old apartment in East Palo Alto, on Woodland Avenue just across San Francisquito Creek from Palo Alto proper. It was a third story apartment with a balcony, and you entered from a central hallway. My next door neighbor Keith and I worked for the same company, and we became loingtime friends after spending three years living across from one another. For a year or so, Keith had a roommate, Mike Murphy, who would come home periodically with a few record albums. One evening, with the doors open between the apartments, Mike played some music which got my attention immediately. It was either “Serenata Norteña” or “Evangeline”.

“Mike, what is that?”, I demanded.
“That’s Los Lobos. You’ve never heard Los Lobos before?”
“No.”

And that was that; I went in to their room, listened carefully for the next 10-15 minutes, and have been in love with the band ever since. I bought a copy of their new album, How Will The Wolf Survive?, plus their first EP as soon as I could find it. I went to my first Los Lobos concert with Mike Murphy later that year, at the old Keystone in south Palo Alto. Thanks to the Internet, the date must have been June 1st, 1985. We were in the middle of the small, packed dance floor bouncing around, just a few feet from the band. I remember the impassive look on Dave Hidalgo’s face as the audience reveled. I also remember Murphy being appalled when I spent something like twenty bucks for a six pack of Michelob beer, only to give four of the beers away when I returned to the fray.

Since then I’ve seen the band perhaps fifteen to twenty times. They always perform at a high level, but like every band some concerts are better than others. At a San Jose Cinco De Mayo celebration in 1990, salsa great Willie Colón opened for Los Lobos and played for three hours, in what appeared to be an act of sour grapes for not headlining. Later that year, we took Cheryl’s youngest daughter to her first rock concert, at the Paul Masson Winery in Saratoga. One of the great concerts was in May 2004, at the tiny Catalyst club in downtown Santa Cruz. It was right after they released their album The Ride to commemorate thirty years together as a band. I drove down from Portland, listening to The Ride a couple times to familiarize myself with the new songs. My old neighbor Keith joined me for dinner and the concert. By then the band had added a dedicated percussionist, with Louie Pérez moving back to the front of the stage as a third guitarist. It was loud in there, and we were blazed, and the songs from the new album came alive. Then there was a 2010 concert at an old theater in Ventura, California with an old college friend which didn’t go well. The acoustics were awful, and before the concert started I witnessed this great big guy lift a much smaller man up by his neck and hold him helplessly against the wall for a good thirty seconds before letting him go. It’s scary to see violence like that close up. Finally, in July of 2011 my wife and I saw Los Lobos at the Portland Zoo. There wasn’t any room to sit down when we got there, so we opted to stand right in front of the stage. The band was on and sounding great. In the middle of the concert, a very tall, athletic woman and her boyfriend moved up to the little dance area, right in front of Cheryl, not only obscuring her view, but also occasionally bumping into her while we all danced in place. She was really pissed. For a moment I thought they were going to go! That girl was big and strong; I don’t know if that would have been a good idea.

America’s Greatest Band

With about one hundred and sixty songs, Los Lobos retains their position as having the third most songs in my music collection. They remain in my top five with four titans of popular music. What an interesting subject to write about! Evaluating bands quantitatively, by the number and quality of songs, makes perfect sense to me. I don’t understand how some bands with just a few good songs receive the type of recognition that has eluded Los Lobos. So why do I love Los Lobos so much?

On the “Introduction” page of the blog I have a list of general criteria for evaluating music. I wrote a rough draft six years ago, and the review of Los Lobos prompted me to take a second look at this section. The Introduction page has been edited and updated.

A. Clear, Understandable Singing: Call me old fashioned, but I like the style of singing where the lyrics can be easily understood. I like plain, controlled singers, and don’t care for singers who sustain notes unnecessarily. Overly emotive singing has the opposite effect; songs lose their emotional impact. Frank Sinatra and Ray Charles are examples of good singers who don’t wail and sing effectively.

B. Musical Virtuosity: Perhaps more than anything I admire skillful musicianship. Though I lack a formal musical education, I’ve listened for a long time, and believe I can tell who can play. Skillful musicians often play with restraint; it’s not always about being the center of attention. Great musicians and great bands play fast or slow, in different keys and different rhythms, and use their instruments to convey a variety of emotions.

C. Swing It and Move Me: Even as simple as bobbing your head back and forth, music that moves the body is the greatest kind. Dance is the timeless mating ritual, where two people express themselves physically. Some songs are too fast or slow for dance; at any speed I’m looking for songs that move the mind.

D. Different Rhythms, Different Sounds: In recent years, popular music seems to have strayed from the use of complex, danceable rhythms, choosing to play it safe with a 4/4 tempo with the emphasis on the 2nd and 4th beat. This would limit both the creativity of the dance, and the musician’s ability to improvise. My music collection should offer good examples of both traditional and non-traditional music rhythms.

Variety is everything. There should be a grand variety of instruments and sounds, and the recognized masters of the common popular instruments shall be included.

E. The Lyrics and The Story: Defining great lyrics is hard, and may require repeat listenings before they make an impact. More than half of my collection features songs about love, sex, and the concepts of home and God. Since I like “moving” songs, I also have many songs that remind me of trains, or driving along in an automobile. I tend to like simple, direct lyrics, and often tire of deciphering dense, complex subjects. On the other hand, ambiguous lyrics that can be interpreted differently by two people are special. As are catchy songs with unique subjects. I recently added a song called “Plea From A Cat Name Virtute”, sung from the standpoint of the cat trying to cheer up its owner. There are infinite possibilities for a good song.

What constitutes good lyrics is personal, though there are consensus favorites. The lyrics should fit to the melody and the cadence. How the singer emphasizes the syllables is essential. Bob Dylan is a master of punctuating his lyrics. Dylan is also the rare author who tells a long story well. Overly abstract lyrics, and nonsensical lyrics chosen for their sound rather than their meaning, have limited value. As always, there are exceptions. “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” is rather abstract and nonsensical, but it evokes dreamy imagery well, of plasticine porters with looking glass ties.

F. Exceptions To The Rule: There are exceptions to the rule, good songs about nothing in particular, good songs where the singing is unclear, or the music is crude and amateurish. Once again, variety is the key.

G. Perfect Sounding Music is a No-No: I dislike overproduced music, where every human imperfection is filtered out of the final product. There are few exceptions, as it dehumanizes the music. I have a tough time enjoying modern popular music, though part of the problem is the well established repertoire developed over fifty plus years. In contrast, accomplished musicians can take a loosely rehearsed concept and create something spontaneous and beautiful with limited preparation. Many great jazz and pop songs were completed in just a couple of takes.

H. Variety Within an Artist’s Career Almost without exception, the greatest bands and musicians evolve, and have distinctive stages of their careers. The Beatles are still the gold standard in this regard, from their beginnings as a rock and roll quartet singing overt love songs, to a mature phase, writing songs on a variety of subjects, and incorporating the instruments and studio sound effects deemed best to achieve the desired result.

I. Originality: The first musicians to introduce a new style of music, and the best practitioners of that style, are considered valuable traits. I study traditional forms of popular music, including some that originated in foreign countries. Less attention is paid to recent musical trends, after the demarcations between musical styles started to blur. Even the roots of rap music, a genre I listen to infrequently, can be found in the dub poetry of men like Linton Kwesi Johnson, or the socio-political rants of Gil Scott-Heron.

A songwriter’s original version of a song tends to be the highest rated and most coveted interpretation.

J. Short Songs Are Best: When I first started listening to music, most popular songs were brief, often with a short instrumental break between the second and third verse. Beatles and other pop music songs were two to three minutes long. Before the development of long playing records, and the advanced recording techniques of the late forties and early fifties, musicians were limited to about three and a half minutes per song, the outside limit for recording on 78 rpm records. By the late fifties, jazz musicians were creating longer songs with well developed improvisations, and eventually all musicians followed suit. I tend to like short songs better; longer songs, and especially longer improvisational passages, must conform to a higher standard, as it more difficult to maintain the listener’s interest. Ten minute songs are a rarity, about one percent of the collection, and multiple improvisational pieces by a single artist are the exception rather than the rule.

Analysis of Los Lobos Music

Los Lobos is unique among American bands. They began their professional career playing Mexican music, even though they spoke English as a first language. The folk music they perform is complex; they became accomplished musicians at a young age. Los Lobos evolved from Veracruz folk songs to Tex-Mex polkas, on by the mid-eighties had incorporated elements of both rock & roll and country & western music.

A representative song from this era is “A Matter Of Time”. The story of a man searching for work while his family waits at home is revisited in future songs.

The band’s songwriters tend to not make sweeping statements. Even when composing the rare anthem, the small town reality of life’s struggle remains.

A young girl tosses a coin in the wishing well,
She hopes for a Heaven while for her there’s just this Hell.
She gave away her life, to become somebody’s wife,
Another wish unanswered in America.

People having so much faith,
Die too soon while all the rest come late,
We write a song that no one sings,
On a cold black stone where a lasting peace will finally bring.

A wise man was telling stories to me,
About the places he had been to,
And the things that he had seen.
A quiet voice is singing something to me,
An age old song ’bout the home of the brave,
And this land here of the free,
One time, one night in America.

— David Hidalgo/Louie Pérez

The La Bamba Conundrum

In the early days, Los Lobos featured three Ritchie Valens songs in their live repertoire. While performing in Santa Cruz, California, the Valens family approached the band, and asked them to provide the music for a proposed movie about the young star who died tragically in the same accident which claimed Buddy Holly and The Big Bopper. The band was honored to do so, and provided the music for La Bamba, which became a surprise summer hit in 1987. After toiling in relative anonymity for fifteen years, the remake of the song “La Bamba” became a #1 hit.

This created a dilemma for the band, who created three solid albums of original material to limited national exposure and success. The next few years were difficult, as they struggled to establish their own methods of operation. Rather than attempt to capitalize on “La Bamba”, the band reverted to its roots and released La Pistola y El Corazón, a second album of Mexican folk songs. The Neighborhood followed two years later, which was a good rock record, with well crafted songs and performances, but a frustrating experience for the band, who spent months poring over the tiny details. They went back to the drawing board to find a better way to do business.

“So all we could do at that point was basically entertain ourselves and make the kind of music we wanted to make, and use the instruments we wanted to use, and just completely ignore everything and everybody. And that’s more or less the vibe we went into Kiko with. It was like, ‘Nobody’s gonna tell us shit.'”³

— Steve Berlin

“The core of the song was there. The band would listen to it and the run to our instruments. We’d capture that first impression and a lot of times it would be the run-through of the track, but it had a feel to it — I don’t know, it was something we’d never had before…I realized why I loved Jimmy Reed so much, or Howlin’ Wolf, because that was the way they did records. Nobody knew the songs; they came and did them in one or two takes, ’cause they weren’t gonna waste their time thinking, and they had to move on to the next song. So that’s why they’re so fresh.”³

— David Hidalgo

In 1992, Los Lobos released Kiko, a quantum leap forward in songwriting and musical diversity. Solos are kept to a minimum on these song templates, with plenty of room for improvisational exploration in concert. While still grounded in day-to-day life, there’s an element of psychedelic mysticism from deep within the southwestern United States. Kiko is a great record.

As an eagle soars,
Our spirits fly,
To our gentle rest,
Under loving sky.
Oh sacred night,
On quetzal plumes,
Of dying suns,
And purple moons.
Oh sacred night.

— “Wake Up Dolores”, Hidalgo/Pérez

By the early nineties, the band was augmenting both their studio and live music with additional percussionists. This allowed Pérez to move forward as a third guitarist and occasional singer. In concert, Pérez still plays drums for short periods, especially when they perform the old songs. Here are three songs from Kiko:

“Angels With Dirty Faces”

“That Train Don’t Stop Here”

“Kiko And The Lavender Moon”

Having reached a mature phase of their career, Los Lobos continues to produce new music and tour the world. They have a devoted following, but they receive little national publicity. That they only command small to medium size venues is a bonus for true fans, who get to see the band up close and hear their music in a relatively quiet environment. Their new approach to studio recording resulted in greater productivity. They’ve made twelve albums since Kiko, including three live performances and two children’s records. Of these, my favorites are The Ride (2004) with a number of cameo appearances, and The Town And The City (2006), a loose concept album about Los Angeles, which conveys a tired sense of sadness and concern for their hometown.

Cesar Rosas has evolved as a songwriter. From writing bluesy, “greasier” songs in English, many of Cesar’s best songs are now written in Spanish, and incorporate traditional Caribbean rhythms. “Marciela” from Colossal Head is a crowd favorite.

The Beatles used a variety of studio tricks and tape loops to create their iconic songs from Revolver and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. A testament to Los Lobos musicianship is their ability to recreate the mood of “Tomorrow Never Knows”:

Dear Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame

Music is very personal, and each person can only hear a small subset of new music. When I was young, there were fewer performers and fewer bands, and the world focused its attention on a few talented artists. By the early seventies, artists like the Beatles, and Charlie Parke, and Sun Ra, had challenged the boundaries of popular music. Since then, the number of gifted musicians has grown, but the frontiers for innovation are more limited. Among post-seventies bands who played traditional dance music, Los Lobos is a rare innovator who incorporated a unique traditional style into their music. Los Lobos plays music of astonishing breadth; no other American band can lay claim to such a wide variety of styles and rhythms. Their songs are grounded in their reality; they do not attempt to make grand, vague statements outside their sphere. To the best of my knowledge, they have never cursed on record or in concert. They sing their songs plainly, and they enunciate well. Their music is often playful; they recorded an album of Disney songs, and a few of their songs have a child-like simplicity. They are very humble in their appearance and presentation. When they were presented with a chance to capitalize on the success of “La Bamba”, they retreated to their own music. They are all family men, with wives and children, though Cesar’s wife passed away unexpectedly in 1999. They have stayed together as a quartet for forty years, and now as a quintet for thirty. From this outsider’s view, they are a clean-cut, great American success story.

“Los Lobos Marks 40 Years of Distinctive, Eclectic Music”, by Chris Junior, Goldmine Magazine, June 2013

I grew up in Palo Alto, the home of the Grateful Dead, but my heart belongs to Los Lobos del Este Los Angeles, four hundred miles to the south. They are closer to my age, and lived close enough where I heard and enjoyed all the same musical influences. I’d like to believe life was not that different for children raised in Palo Alto and East Los Angeles. In conversation they sound like the Californians I know. From the first time I heard them, Los Lobos music resonated deeply with me, and their appearance and behavior is the essence of California cool.

This reminds me of a story. I played basketball in college, at UC Davis near Sacramento, California. For the first couple of years, I was an understudy for Audwin Thomas, the team’s starting point guard, who became one of the school’s all-time leading scorers. He was from Oakland, and in high school the two of us played against each other in a holiday basketball tournament. One day we were talking about that day we played against each other. Before the game, his coach came into the locker room and said, “You can’t let these guys beat you. These guys eat donuts and hot chocolate for breakfast!” Their coach was wrong, as I stopped eating donuts for brunch in junior high.

On the Not In Hall of Fame website, Los Lobos is currently ranked as the 133rd ranked band not in the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame. A few publications and websites give the band a little more love, but the chances appear slim. When I suggest to non-fans that Los Lobos belongs in the Hall Of Fame, I get either blank stares or comments that I’m crazy. I admit a tendency to latch onto a favorite band with a passion. But only three or maybe four of the top hundred bands in the countdown appear to be personal favorites that look wildly out of place. I’ve studied music reviews for many years, and the rest of my list looks very reasonable, with consensus great artists of rock, jazz, blues, folk, bluegrass and reggae. If Los Lobos has a weakness as an all-time rock band, it would be the inability or reluctance to make the grand statement, the catchy pop song with that memorable hook that everyone knows and loves. Had they done this, I still have doubts whether their songs would have gained widespread acceptance.

Perhaps the most compelling reason to induct Los Lobos is to recognize David Hidalgo, a most versatile and talented musician. Not only a fine singer and songwriter, he has the rare gift of swing, propelling songs forward with his guitar or his accordion. Here’s how Hidalgo and the band sent the Austin City Limits crowd home in 2001:

“There’s a big fat heart,
With an arrow through the middle,
Of this place that I call home.
And when I get lost,
And don’t even got a nickel,
There’s a piece of dirt I call my own.

I gotta say one, two, three,
More things before I go on.

You can’t run and try to hide away,
Here it comes, here comes another day.
You can’t run to try to hide away,
Here it comes, here comes another day.
Where you are, never really far away,
Good morning Aztlan.”

— Hidalgo/Pérez

Los Lobos Song Notes:

1. There are a couple of essential documents to obtain if possible. One is Chuy’s Tape Box, Volume 1, a 1984 soundboard recording from a small club in Santa Barbara. There are only a few thousand copies floating around. It captures the band in rare form with a very enthusiastic audience. The second is a KFOG radio recording of the December 16, 1993 Christmas benefit program in San Francisco, California. Not only was Kiko recently released; it features both acoustic and electric programs, with definitive versions of “A Matter Of Time” and “One Time, One Night”.

Los Lobos Songs:

Sí Se Puede

De Colores, Los Lobos

(Just Another Band From East L.A.)

El Canelo, Los Lobos ★★
Sabor A Mi, Los Lobos ★★★
Flor De Huevo, Los Lobos
La Iguana, Los Lobos
El Cuchipe, Los Lobos ★★★
Guantanamera, Los Lobos ★★★
La Feria De Las Flores, Los Lobos
El Bon Bon De Elena, Los Lobos

…And A Time To Dance

Let’s Say Goodnight, Los Lobos ★★★★
Walking Song, Los Lobos
Anselma, Los Lobos ★★★
Come On, Let’s Go, Los Lobos ★★
How Much Can I Do?, Los Lobos ★★★
Why Do You Do, Los Lobos
Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio, Los Lobos

How Will The Wolf Survive?

Don’t Worry Baby, Los Lobos ★★
A Matter Of Time, Los Lobos ★★★★
Our Last Night, Los Lobos
I Got Loaded, Los Lobos ★★★
Evangeline, Los Lobos ★★
I Got To Let You Know, Los Lobos
Lil’ King Of Everything, Los Lobos
Will The Wolf Survive?, Los Lobos ★★★

By The Light Of The Moon

One Time, One Night, Los Lobos ★★★★★
Shakin’ Shakin’ Shakes, Los Lobos
Is This All There Is?, Los Lobos
Set Me Free (Rosa Lee), Los Lobos
The Hardest Time, Los Lobos ★★
My Baby’s Gone, Los Lobos
Tears Of God, Los Lobos ★★

La Pistola Y El Corazón

La Guacamaya, Los Lobos ★★
Las Amarillas, Los Lobos
Estoy Sentado Aquí, Los Lobos ★★
El Canelo, Los Lobos ★★★★
La Pistola Y El Corazón, Los Lobos

The Neighborhood

Down On The Riverbed, Los Lobos
Emily, Los Lobos ★★
I Walk Alone, Los Lobos
Angel Dance, Los Lobos ★★
Little John Of God, Los Lobos
Deep Dark Hole, Los Lobos ★★
Georgia Slop, Los Lobos ★★
I Can’t Understand, Los Lobos
The Giving Tree, Los Lobos ★★★
Take My Hand, Los Lobos ★★
Jenny’s Got A Pony, Los Lobos
Be Still, Los Lobos ★★★
The Neighborhood, Los Lobos ★★

Kiko (20th Anniversary Edition)

Dream In Blue, Los Lobos
Wake Up Dolores, Los Lobos ★★
Angels With Dirty Faces, Los Lobos ★★★
That Train Don’t Stop Here, Los Lobos ★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon, Los Lobos ★★★★
Saint Behind The Glass, Los Lobos ★★★★
Reva’s House, Los Lobos
When The Circus Comes, Los Lobos ★★★★
Arizona Skies, Los Lobos ★★
Short Side Of Nothing, Los Lobos
Two Janes, Los Lobos
Wicked Rain, Los Lobos ★★
Just A Man, Los Lobos ★★★
Peace, Los Lobos ★★★
Peace (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Arizona Skies/Borinquen Patria Mia (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Just Another Band From East L.A. – A Collection

Someday, Los Lobos
Bertha (Live), Los Lobos ★★
What’s Going On (Live), Los Lobos

Live At The Warfield (12/16/1993, KFOG Broadcast) (Unauthorized)

Los Ojos De Pancha (Live), Los Lobos
One Time, One Night (Live), Los Lobos ★★★★★
A Matter Of Time (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Red Headed Woman (Live), Los Lobos
Don’t Worry Baby (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Wicked Rain (Live), Los Lobos ★★★★

Papa’s Dream

Cielito Lindo, Los Lobos
La Bamba, Los Lobos

(I chose the second version of “La Bamba” from this disc. Both versions are moderately interesting.)

Colossal Head

Revolution, Los Lobos ★★
Mas Y Mas, Los Lobos ★★
Maricela, Los Lobos ★★
Manny’s Bones, Los Lobos ★★

This Time

This Time, Los Lobos ★★★
Cumbia Raza, Los Lobos ★★

El Cancionero: Mas Y Mas (4-CD Box Set)

La Bamba, Los Lobos ★★
Goodnight My Love, Los Lobos
I Wan’na Be Like You (The Monkey Song), Los Lobos ★★★
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Los Lobos
Alone In A Crowd, Los Lobos
Tomorrow Never Knows (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes, Los Lobos (with Paul Burlison) ★★

Good Morning Aztlan

Hearts Of Stone, Los Lobos ★★★
Luz De Mi Vida, Los Lobos ★★
Good Morning Aztlan, Los Lobos ★★★★
Tony y Maria, Los Lobos
What In The World, Los Lobos
Round & Round, Los Lobos

The Ride

La Venganza De Los Pelados, Los Lobos
Rita, Los Lobos ★★★
Somewhere In Time, Los Lobos ★★★
Wicked Rain/Across 110th Street, Los Lobos
Wreck Of The Carlos Rey, Los Lobos
Someday, Los Lobos
Chains Of Love, Los Lobos ★★★

Ride This – The Covers EP

It’ll Never Be Over For Me, Los Lobos ★★

Live At The Fillmore

The Neighborhood (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Maricela (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Kiko And The Lavender Moon (Live), Los Lobos ★★★

Live In Carmel (3/3/2005) (Unauthorized)

La Llorona (Live), Los Lobos
Sabor A Mi, (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Gema (Live), Los Lobos ★★

Acoustic En Vivo

Canto A Veracruz (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Colas (Live), Los Lobos ★★
El Cuchipe (Live), Los Lobos
Two Janes (Live), Los Lobos
Saint Behind The Glass (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Soy Mexico Americano (Live), Los Lobos
Volver, Volver (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Teresa (Live), Los Lobos
Guantanamera (Live), Los Lobos ★★

The Town And The City

The Valley, Los Lobos ★★
The Road To Gila Bend, Los Lobos ★★★
Chuco’s Cumbia, Los Lobos ★★
If You Were Only Here Tonight, Los Lobos ★★
Luna, Los Lobos
The City, Los Lobos
No Puedo Más, Los Lobos
The Town, Los Lobos ★★

Los Lobos Goes Disney

I Will Go Sailing No More, Los Lobos ★★

Tin Can Trust

Burn It Down, Los Lobos ★★
Tin Can Trust, Los Lobos
Jupiter Or The Moon, Los Lobos ★★
Do The Murray, Los Lobos
West L.A. Fadeaway, Los Lobos
27 Spanishes, Los Lobos

Kiko Live

Dream In Blue (Live), Los Lobos
Angels With Dirty Faces (Live), Los Lobos
That Train Don’t Stop Here (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Saint Behind The Glass (Live), Los Lobos
When The Circus Comes (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Arizona Skies (Live), Los Lobos

Disconnected In New York City (Live)

Chuco’s Cumbia (Live), Los Lobos ★★
La Venganza De Los Peladoes (Live), Los Lobos
Little Things (Live), Los Lobos

Chuy’s Tape Box Volume 1 (Live in Santa Barbara, 1/14/1984)

Let’s Say Goodnight (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
Our Last Night (Live), Los Lobos
Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I Got To Let You Know (Live), Los Lobos
Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Los Ojos De Pancha (Live), Los Lobos
Volver, Volver (Live), Los Lobos
How Much Can I Do? (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Anselma (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I’m Sorry (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Come On, Let’s Go (Live), Los Lobos ★★★
La Bamba (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Sleep Walk (Live), Los Lobos
I’m Tore Down (Live), Los Lobos

One Time, One Night (Live Recordings Vol. 1)

Just A Man (Live), Los Lobos

One Time, One Night (Live Recordings Vol. 2)

Angel Dance (Live), Los Lobos ★★
I Can’t Understand (Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone Intro), Los Lobos
Estoy Sentado Aquí, Los Lobos
Hearts Of Stone (Live), Los Lobos ★★
Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy (Live), Los Lobos

Miscellaneous

Rolling, Los Lobos
Carabina 30-30, Los Lobos ★★

“Rolling” is a 56 second single, while “Carabina 30-30” can be found on KCRW Sounds Eclectico.

Related Songs:

Sabor A Mí, Eydie Gorme & Trio Los Panchos ★★
Sabor A Mí (Live), Bebo Valdés & Javier Colina

El Cuchipe, Brigitte Bardot

Guantanamera, Evaristo Quintanales ★★★
Guantanamera (Live), Pete Seeger

El Bombón De Elena, Cortijo y Su Combo ★★

Come On, Let’s Go, Richie Valens ★★

Ay Te Dejo En San Antonio, Flaco Jimenez ★★★

I Got Loaded, Lil’ Bob & The Lollipops ★★★

Georgia Slop, Big Al Downing ★★★
Georgia Slop, Jimmy McCracklin (added to Wish List)

Borinquen Patria Mia, Claudio Ferrer y Su Conjunto (added to Wish List)

Bertha (Live), Grateful Dead ★★★★

What’s Going On, Marvin Gaye ★★★★
What’s Going On (Alt), Marvin Gaye ★★★★
What’s Going On (Live), Chaka Khan

Los Ojos De Pancha, Los Alegres De Terán

Cielito Lindo, Trio Los Panchos

La Bamba, Ritchie Valens ★★★
La Bamba, Los Nacionales de Jacinto Gatica

Goodnight My Love, Jesse Belvin ★★

I Wan’na Be Like You, Louis Prima & Phil Harris ★★★★★

The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Nat King Cole ★★★★
The Christmas Song (Merry Christmas To You), Vince Guaraldi Trio ★★

Tomorrow Never Knows, The Beatles ★★★★
Tomorrow Never Knows (Alt), The Beatles

Midnight Shift, Buddy Holly ★★

Lonesome Tears In My Eyes, Johnny Burnette & The Rock ‘n’ Roll Trio ★★
Lonesome Tears In My Eyes (Live), The Beatles

La Llorona, Chavela Vargas ★★
La Llorona, Alberto Vasquez ★★

Canto A Veracruz, Andres Huesca & Trio Huracán

Soy Mexico Americano, Los Cenzontles
Soy Mexico Americano, Los Pinguinos Del Norte

I Will Go Sailing No More, Randy Newman ★★

Buzz Buzz Buzz, Hollywood Flames ★★★
Buzz Buzz Buzz (Live), Jonathan Richman ★★

I’m Sorry, Bo Diddley

Sleep Walk, Santo & Johnny ★★★

I’m Tore Down, Freddie King ★★

Angel Dance, Robert Plant

Three Hundred Pounds Of Joy, Howlin’ Wolf ★★★

¹ Excerpts from “Siendo la Verdadera Historia de Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles”, by Luis Torres (found in liner notes of the El Cancionero: Mas y Mas box set)
² Movements in Chicano Music: Performing Culture, Performing Politics, 1965-1979, by Stevan Cesar Azcona, p. 234
³ Excerpts from “The Hollywood Years and Beyond” by Chris Morris (found in liner notes of the El Cancionero: Mas y Mas box set)

17. Jimi Hendrix

James Allan “Jimi” Hendrix was a guitarist, singer and songwriter from Seattle, Washington. His childhood was defined by hardship and uncertainty. His parents married when his mother Lucille was only sixteen years old, and his father Al left a few days later to serve in the Army during World War II. Hendrix was often neglected as an infant, but family members helped raise him until Al returned home in 1945. The young family reunited, but Al struggled to find steady work. Both parents drank to excess. The couple had four more children, but gave the three youngest up for adoption, and eventually divorced in 1951.

When Dad bought James his first guitar in 1958, the young man promptly began devoting most of his free time to playing and learning the guitar. With few prospects after school, he enlisted in the Army in 1961, but was honorably discharged for “unsuitability” within eighteen months. While in the Army, he made friends with Billy Cox through their mutual interest in music, and after Cox left the Army, the two headed to Nashville, Tennessee. Over the next three years, Hendrix toured and recorded as a support musician for such acts as Little Richard and the Isley Brothers, and moved to New York City, to improve his chances of success as a solo artist. By the summer of 1966, now a top notch, soulful rhythm and lead guitarist, James (or Jimmy) caught his big break. Former Animals bassist Chas Chandler was trying to break into the record business as a manager, watched Hendrix perform, and convinced to move to London, England. To add a distinctive ring, Hendrix changed his stage name to Jimi, and paired himself with two young British musicians, drummer Mitch Mitchell and guitarist Noel Redding, who switched to bass, and formed the Jimi Hendrix Experience.

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Their first single was a version of the recent folk song “Hey Joe”, which reached #6 on the British pop charts.

Buoyed by the success of “Hey Joe”, the band recorded an album of original material. The resulting effort, called Are You Experienced?, is one of the greatest debut albums in popular music history, featuring a broad exploration of the electric guitar’s capabilities, with strange but evocative lyrics that helped define the psychedelic era of rock music. Within months, Hendrix had become the toast of the town, winning the envy and admiration of the biggest rock stars in London’s orbit.

America’s introduction to the Jimi Hendrix Experience came a few months later, at the Monterey International Pop Festival in June, 1967. Their wild performance, featuring Hendrix’s mastery of feedback techniques and ending with a ceremonial guitar burning, gained him instant notoriety. Combined with the instrumental virtuosity and the hip, humorous stories of Are You Experienced?, Jimi Hendrix became a worldwide sensation.

In His Prime and Decline

The next three years were a whirlwind of activity, and a period of rapid decline. From 1967 to 1970, Hendrix performed and recorded incessantly, issued three more albums of material, fought to gain control of his finances and music, and opened the Electric Lady studios in New York City, while trying to manage his entourage of friends and managers, especially the women who demanded his attention. Hendrix indulged heavily in a wide variety of drugs, which took their toll on his health and well being. Similar to his mother Lucille, who passed away at only thirty three due to alcoholism and cirrhosis of the liver, Jimi Hendrix passed away on September 18th, 1970, only twenty seven years old, due to an overdose of barbiturates and alcohol. With the possible exception of Duane Allman, the premature loss of Jimi Hendrix is the greatest tragedy in rock music history. Hendrix was evolving rapidly, moving away from pop music and into the broader world of jazz music expression.

There’s your obligatory boilerplate opening passage, my dismal effort to summarize a great musician’s life into as few paragraphs as possible. There is a wealth of information of the beloved Hendrix for those so inclined. While studying Jimi Hendrix I read “Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky” by David Henderson, a rambling yet ultimately rewarding book which, in particular, well describes the chaos and tragedy during the final couple years of the great guitarist’s life. In the book, a conspiracy theory of Hendrix’s demise is offered, the suggestion that he was murdered by either a greedy businessman or a jealous lover. None of these allegations were proved. Hendrix’s financial affairs were in disarray at the time of his death; it took his father Al more than twenty years to regain full control of his son’s estate.

www.jimihendrix.com — Official Website

The Jimi Hendrix Experience:

Jimi Hendrix (1942-1970), guitar, bass, vocals, songwriter
Noel Redding (1945-2003), bass
Mitch Mitchell (1947-2008), drums

The Band Of Gypsys:

Jimi Hendrix with:

Billy Cox (b. 1941), bass
Buddy Miles (1947-2008), drums

Amazon.com Link to “Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky”, by David Henderson

Do Chicks Dig Hendrix?

I listen to music a couple hours a day; lately, I’ve been reviewing music over breakfast. Inevitably, my wife hears a cross section of each artist in the big countdown. Jimi Hendrix is her least favorite musician to date, a distinction that will stand, given the ten remaining artists to profile. She doesn’t hate his music, but there are few if any songs she actively enjoys, and the shrill sound of Hendrix’s stinging lead guitar grates on her nerves.

A while back I played “Little Wing” for a friend, who didn’t think much of it, and she couldn’t comprehend why I considered it a top song. About ten years ago, I sent my sister a Hendrix compilation for Christmas, along with other music I consider essential, only to have the CD returned with the comment, “We (her family) don’t listen to that kind of music anymore.”

I don’t recall ever meeting a woman who said she enjoyed Jimi Hendrix, or made an effort to listen to his music. I’m a bit surprised by this, as some of his gentle songs have a cosmic warmth to them. He was considered by those closest to him a shy, nice person, except those rare occasions when he had too much to drink.

By contrast, Jimi Hendrix was a veritable sex symbol in London, constantly surrounded by female friends and admirers. Though he had steady girlfriends throughout his career, he also maintained a policy of open sexuality and promiscuity.

“Pete Townshend of the Who had found Hendrix’s early London performances very sexual, not in an “appealing way”, but rather, more “threatening.” When he asked his girlfriend Karen Astley (who he married in 1968) if she thought Hendrix’s act was sexual, and she replied, “Are you fucking kidding?,” Townshend had been unaware of how “aroused” his girlfriend had become seeing those shows.”

— David Henderson, “Excuse Me While I Kiss The Sky”

“I saw Paul (McCartney) again at the Bag ‘O Nails in Soho, where Jimi Hendrix was making a celebratory return. Mick Jagger came for a while and then left, unwisely leaving Marianne Faithfull, his girlfriend at the time, behind. Jimi sidled up to her after his mind-bending performance, and it became clear as the two of them danced together that Marianne had the shaman’s stars in her eyes. When Mick returned to take Marianne out to a car he’d arranged, he must have wondered what the sniggering was about. In the end, Jimi himself broke the tension by taking Marianne’s hand, kissing it, and excusing himself to walk over to Paul and me. Mal Evans, the Beatles’ lovable roadie-cum-aide-de-camp, turned to me and breathed a big, ironic Liverpudlian sigh. “That’s called exchanging business cards, Pete.”

— Peter Townshend, “Who I Am”

Here’s a very amusing clip, the first known video featuring Jimi Hendrix. He’s on the left in the back row, and you can hear him quite clearly making some fancy fills in the background:

Why So Many Jimi Hendrix Songs?

In a new feature to be repeated for Lucinda Williams, Grateful Dead and especially Los Lobos, it’s time to defend the high ranking of the profiled artist. Why is Jimi Hendrix rated so highly, given his career was only four years long, and typical American baby boomerettes find his music unappealing? How can I possibly recommend sixty four songs?

My iPod collection, and my list of best artists, attempts to highlight the major innovators of 20th century pop music, and among them is Jimi Hendrix. Jimi Hendrix was the first to fully explore the spectrum of sounds possible with an electric guitar. Pete Townshend and John Lennon experimented with feedback, but not to the extent Hendrix did. His command of his instrument sent other musicians home to practice, thinking they’d better try harder; sometimes they thought they should just quit trying. He’s also the rare guitarists able to play complex riffs while singing.

Especially in his first year recording with the Jimi Hendrix Experience, Hendrix showed a flair for writing concise, unique and fun pop songs. He had a way of telling a story, of talking to his audience that drew in the listener. His narrative story telling is equal parts Howlin’ Wolf and Bob Dylan. After the initial success of his first two albums, his music became more ambitious, with mixed results. Years on the Chitlin’ Circuit made him a great R&B rhythm guitarist; at the time of his death, his ability to play engaging solos was improving. When compared to the all-time great soloists, men like Charlie Christian, Django Reinhardt or Eric Clapton, Hendrix was a neophyte, still learning how to construct dynamic, coherent passages that resolved in a pleasing fashion. His solos showed a great command of the sounds a guitar could make, but he hadn’t yet become a master of improvisation. Included are several examples of his posthumous work to show his progress as a musician, and the musical direction he was headed. As a soloist, “All Along The Watchtower” is perhaps his greatest achievement, and also notable as the greatest, most inventive cover version in rock music history.

Beyond his psychedelic pop sensibilities, Hendrix was a first class blues musician, and it would be fair to suggest that his most similar musical ancestor is Robert Johnson. Take away the electrification of his instrument, and the connection appears more obvious. Hendrix owned an extensive knowledge of old blues music, and recorded dozens of blues songs in his career.

Stone Free

“Everyday in the week I’m in a different city,
If I stay too long people try to pull me down.
They talk about me like a dog,
Talk about the clothes I wear,
But they don’t realize they’re the ones who’s square.”

— Jimi Hendrix

You might think that Jimi Hendrix would appear menacingly swinging from treetops, brandishing a spear, and yelling blood-curdling cries of “Aargh!”

For Jimi, who makes Mick Jagger look as respectable as Edawrd Heath and as genial as David Frost, could pass for a hottentot on the rampage; looks as if his foot-long hair has been petrified by a thousand shock waves, and is given to playing his guitar with his teeth.

When the Jimi Hendrix Experience made its first appearance in Britain a few months ago, he was immediately dubbed “The Wild Man of Borneo,” and the group was referred to as “an unfortunate experience.”

“Yet Jimi Hendrix is no snarling jungle primitive.

Though the gold-braided military jacket over the black satin shirt could be taken as incongruous, Jimi off-stage behaves with a quiet polite charm that’s almost olde worlde.

He stands up when you enter a room, lights all your cigarettes, and says: “Do go on,” if he thinks he might be interrupting you.

That “ugly” image, however, doesn’t worry him in the slightest. And he says: “Some of the fans think I’m cuddly, and as long as people buy my records I’ll be happy.”

He could be laughing all the way to the bank.

— Anne Nightingale, Sunday Mirror, May 9, 1967

“Listen to this baby…
A woman here, a woman there, try to keep me in a plastic cage,
But they don’t realize it’s so easy to break.
Oh, but sometimes I get a ha,
I can feel my heart kind a runnin’ hot.
That’s when I got to move before I get caught.
And that’s why, listen to me baby, you can’t hold me down,
I don’t want to be tied down,
I gotta be free!”

— Jimi Hendrix, “Stone Free”, 2nd verse

Sadly, Jimi Hendrix was anything but free in his final years. He was surrounded by people who wanted something, and he was trapped. Women fought for his time and affection; (Monika Dannemann), who was with Jimi during his last evening, had declared to all who would listen that she and Jimi were engaged, and protested when he wanted to spend time with other people. Manager Chas Chandler resigned when Jimi’s music became less pop oriented, and his new manager, Michael Jeffery, was unscrupulous. Offshore Bermuda banking accounts were established, and Hendrix’s personal balance always seemed short of funds. Jeffery surrounded himself with large, thuggish associates, who always had high quality drugs available for Jimi and his entourage. David Henderson’s book chronicles his descent in detail. Just four years before his death, the fresh young guitarist from Washington state proclaimed his freedom. In the last year of his life, he tried to reclaim it, and failed.

Jimi Hendrix plays an unusual role in pop music history —— he was a dark-skinned performer (mixed descent including African and Native American blood) popular with white audiences while receiving little attention from the African American community. Chas Chandler actually discouraged him from performing with Billy Cox and Buddy Miles, both black musicians, because they might lose their appeal with white audiences. But Jimi was black, and comfortable in the company of black men, and as he evolved, he wanted to perform more music with black artists.

In terms of introducing a generation of white music fans to hip African American lingo and culture, Jimi Hendrix was perhaps the most influential. James Brown was influential within the black community, but not outside it. Sly & The Family Stone were also popular with white audiences, but Jimi Hendrix’s hip use of language and emotive on-stage persona was most admirable and impressive. Hendrix was impossibly cool. In unheralded fashion, Jimi Hendrix was a key figure in liberalizing racial views during the civil rights era.

Conversely, Hendrix went largely unrecognized by his own community during his lifetime. Soul and R&B music stations rarely if ever played his music. The African American community may have resented Hendrix for crossing over and playing hard rock music; more likely, the community was just as shocked as conservative white audiences by his radical departure from traditional sounds. Historically, African-Americans embrace this artistic creativity, but in this rare case they failed to fully endorse one of their most creative contributors.

Jimi Hendrix Song Notes:

The first three albums are all highly recommended:

Are You Experienced?
Axis: Bold As Love
Electric Ladyland

The other recommended songs can be found on the following CDs:

Band Of Gypsys

Who Knows (Live)
Machine Gun (Live)
Them Changes (Live)
Message Of Love (Live)
Power To Love (Live)

First Rays Of The New Rising Sun

Angel
Dolly Dagger
My Friend
Belly Button Window

The Jimi Hendrix Experience Box Set

Little Wing (Live) (★★★ version)
Little Wing (Alt)
Hey Joe (Live)
Purple Haze (Alt)
If 6 Was 9 (Alt)
Message To Love

Live At Monterey

Rock Me Baby (Live)
Like A Rolling Stone (Live)
Wild Thing (Live)

BBC Sessions

Catfish Blues (Live)
Stone Free (Live)
Driving South (Live)
Day Tripper (Live)

West Coast Seattle Boy

In particular, the alternate mix of “Fire” is better than the original.

Love Or Confusion (Alt)
Fire (Alt)
May This Be Love (Alt)
The Wind Cries Mary (Live)
Castles Made Of Sand (Alt)
Red House (Live)

Miscellaneous Albums

“Johnny B. Goode (Live)” and “Little Wing (Live)” (★★ version) can be found on Hendrix In The West.—

“Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) (Live)” can be found on Live At Berkeley.

“All Along The Watchtower (Alt)” can be found on Voodoo Child — The Jimi Hendrix Collection.

“Pali Gap” can be found on South Saturn Delta.

“Hear My Train A-Comin’ (Live)” can be found on Live At The Fillmore East.

“Star Spangled Banner (Live)” can be found on Woodstock: Three Days of Peace & Music.

Jimi Hendrix Songs:

All Along The Watchtower, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★★

Voodoo Child (Slight Return), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Manic Depression, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Hey Joe, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
The Wind Cries Mary, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Little Wing, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★
Fire (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★★

Stone Free, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Purple Haze, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Foxy Lady, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
If 6 Was 9, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Castles Made Of Sand, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Crosstown Traffic, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Rainy Day, Dream Away, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Little Wing (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Like A Rolling Stone (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★
Little Wing (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★★

Machine Gun (Live), Jimi Hendrix ★★
Them Changes (Live), Jimi Hendrix ★★
Message Of Love (Live), Jimi Hendrix ★★
Message To Love, Jimi Hendrix ★★
Red House (Live), Jimi Hendrix ★★
Third Stone From The Sun, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Spanish Castle Magic, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Wait Until Tomorrow, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Bold As Love, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Have You Ever Been (To Electric Ladyland), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Little Wing (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Purple Haze (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
If 6 Was 9 (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Red House, The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
All Along The Watchtower (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
Love Or Confusion (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★
The Wind Cries Mary (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience ★★

Who Knows (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Power To Love (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Angel, Jimi Hendrix
Dolly Dagger, Jimi Hendrix
My Friend, Jimi Hendrix
Belly Button Window, Jimi Hendrix
Johnny B. Goode (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Hey Baby (New Rising Sun) (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Hear My Train A-Comin’ (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Pali Gap, Jimi Hendrix
Star Spangled Banner (Live), Jimi Hendrix
Castles Made Of Sand (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Are You Experienced?, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Remember, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Up From The Skies, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
You Got Me Floatin’, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Catfish Blues (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Stone Free (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Driving South (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Day Tripper (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Voodoo Chile, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Burning Of The Midnight Lamp, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
1983…(A Merman I Should Turn To Be), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Still Raining, Still Dreaming, The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Hey Joe (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Killing Floor (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Rock Me Baby (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Wild Thing (Live), The Jimi Hendrix Experience
May This Be Love (Alt), The Jimi Hendrix Experience

And The Gods Made Love, The Jimi Hendrix Experience

Related Songs:

Mercy, Mercy, Don Covay ★★

Old Times, Good Times, Stephen Stills ★★

Testify (Parts 1 & 2), Isley Brothers

All Along The Watchtower, Bob Dylan ★★★★
All Along the Watchtower, Dave Mason ★★

Hey Joe, The Leaves ★★
Hey Joe, Tim Rose
Hey Joe, Patti Smith

Little Wing, Derek & The Dominos ★★
Little Wing (Live), Derek & the Dominos
Little Wing, Stevie Ray Vaughan & Double Trouble ★★

Like A Rolling Stone, Bob Dylan ★★★★★
Like A Rolling Stone (Mono), Bob Dylan ★★★★★
Like A Rolling Stone (Live), Bob Dylan ★★★

Them Changes, Buddy Miles ★★

Johnny B. Goode, Chuck Berry ★★★★★
Johnny B. Goode (Live), Grateful Dead

Catfish Blues, Robert Petway ★★
Rolling Stone (Alt), Muddy Waters ★★

Travelin’ To California, Albert King

Day Tripper, The Beatles ★★★
Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, The Beatles ★★

Killing Floor, Howlin’ Wolf ★★

Rock Me, Muddy Waters ★★★★
Rock Me (Alt), Muddy Waters ★★
Rock Me Baby, B.B. King ★★
Rock Me Mama, Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup ★★

20. James Brown

James Brown was a singer, dancer and songwriter. He was a bandleader, and played piano, organ and drums. James grew up in the woods near Augusta, Georgia, and moved into Augusta at an early age to hustle and make his way. He quit school after seventh grade. For James it was always hustle time.

James-Brown-that-grape-juice

James Brown (1933-2006), vocals, songwriter, bandleader, piano, organ, drums

A Short List of James Brown’s Most Significant Contributors:

Bobby Byrd (1934-2007), vocals, keyboards, producer
Bobby Bennett (1938-2013), vocals

Fred Wesley (b. 1943), trombone
Maceo Parker (b. 1943), saxophone
Alfred “Pee Wee” Ellis (b. 1941), saxophone, arranger

Bernard Odum (1932-2004), bass
William “Bootsy” Collins (b. 1951), bass
Fred Thomas, bass

Jimmy Nolen (1934-1983), guitar
Alphonso “Country” Kellum, guitar

John “Jabo” Starks (b. 1938), drums
Clyde Stubblefield (b. 1943), drums
Nat Kendrick, drums

The Short List

My short list of albums to own:

Live At The Apollo (1963)
Live At The Apollo II (1967)
Star Time (1991) (4-CD compilation)

The More I Listen To James Brown

Many times over the years I have said “the more I listen to James Brown’s music, the more I like it.” Although I heard a few James Brown songs on the radio beforehand, the first time I really listened was in 1976, when my friend Rich played me the second side of Live At The Apollo II. Muscular, athletic dance music, with chicken scratch guitars and thumping horn ensembles. James Brown sang with such confidence; even when he begged please, please, please for love, the agenda was to satisfy his unquenchable desire. Nicknamed “the hardest working man in show business” with good reason, James Brown rose from abject poverty and neglect to become a great American bandleader, though in his prime, his music and live performances were mostly enjoyed by non-white audiences. One of the most compelling and creative artists in this countdown, I recommend the Wikipedia entry and these magazine articles as a starting point to learn about this tireless force of nature.

“Being James Brown, by Jonathan Lethem, Rolling Stone Magazine, December, 2010

Downbeat Magazine, “James Brown’s Musicians Reflect On His Legacy”

With the exception of one or maybe two friends, I like James Brown music more than anyone I know. Was it because I loved basketball and was good at it, which moved me into an athletic, talented, and bi-racial circle of friends? While this may account for my fondness for soul music, it doesn’t explain the interest in James Brown, whose music covers decades of trends, is jazzier and often very intense. In my case, it’s more about being an introvert, the guy who sits at home and studies music, reads books and listens carefully for songs I make my own. It’s also about dance; I get that mostly from my mother. James Brown was an influential dancer who created good dance songs, both the swinging hot numbers and the slow grinders.

The ultimate criteria for the iPod collection is whether a song is enjoyed in iPod shuffle mode. From the doo-wop R&B songs of the fifties to the funk classics of the early seventies, there’s a wide variety of quality James Brown songs. Every important review guide or ranking puts James Brown among the all time greats. I agree, and have over sixty songs in my collection.

Though James Brown is a seminal influence on rap and hip-hop music, I have little interest in the music created by sampling his rhythms and grooves. Here are three links to lists of rap songs that sample James Brown music:

Article: Hip-Hop’s Top 25 Greatest James Brown Sampled Records

A.J. Woodson, 50 Greatest Hip-Hop Songs That Sampled James Brown

Kevin Nottingham: The 10 Most Sampled Songs in Hip-Hop

James Brown Song Notes:

1. James Brown is the first artist in the countdown to have zero star songs included as recommended songs. Four of these are connecting passages, ten to forty second snippets of music that connect together full songs on Live At The Apollo and Live At The Apollo II. I consider “Opening Fanfare”, the introduction to the star of the show on Live At The Apollo, iconic and worth two stars. These connecting pieces are essential to the pace and enjoyment of these concert albums, and are an enjoyable amusement during an iPod shuffle.

James Brown’s studio and concert performances are distinctly different. In concert, the songs are often played at a fast tempo, as Brown and his singing group, the Famous Flames, dance manically and go for maximum emotional impact. James Brown becomes one of the first artists in the countdown where the live performances add a significant component to the collection. Several of the top twenty artists (including some like Los Lobos and Lucinda Williams that seem out of place) are there because of the good live performances I’ve collected. Fortunately for James Brown fans, the best live performances are readily available.

The fifth zero star song, “Funky Drummer (Bonus Beat Reprise)”, is included as a widely used sample for hip hop music.

2. James Brown created great new beats, syncopated rhythms using drums, bass, guitar and horns together in inventive ways. He owes a lot to his great bands for helping him. Often, the lyrics he adds are based on a simple mantra — “Say It Loud, I’m Black And I’m Proud” and “I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing” are good examples — upon which Brown augments the simple story of pride. At other times he comes up with a priceless, simple set of lyrics. The two quatrains in “I’ll Go Crazy” are ambiguous and special:

“If you leave me, I’ll go crazy,
If you leave me, I’ll go crazy,
‘Cause I love you, love you,
Oh, I love you too much.

You’ve got to live for yourself,
Yourself and nobody else,
You’ve got to live for yourself,
Yourself and nobody else.

— James Brown

The overt chauvinism of “It’s A Man’s World” may distract the sensitive (female) listener from hearing the beauty:

“How man needs a woman,
How man needs a woman.
The man who don’t have a woman. He’s lost!
In the wilderness.
The man who don’t have a woman. He’s lost!
In bitterness.
The man who don’t have a woman. He’s lost!
In loneliness.”

— James Brown

“King Heroin” is a meaningful poem about the dangers of drug addiction:

“My little white grains are nothin’ but waste,
Soft and deadly and bitter to taste.
I’m a world of power and all know it’s true,
Use me once and you’ll know it, too.
I can make a mere schoolboy forget his books,
I can make a world-famous beauty neglect her looks.
I can make a good man forsake his wife,
Send a greedy man to prison for the rest of his life.
I can make a man forsake his country and flag,
Make a girl sell her body for a five-dollar bag.
Some think my adventure’s a joy and a thrill,
But I’ll put a gun in your hand and make you kill.”

— James Brown

3. Every song in this collection can be found on the three suggested albums, plus the Christmas album titled James Brown’s Funky Christmas, except:

“Make It Funky, Part 2” can be found on The Singles, Vol. 7: 1970-1972
“Living In America” can be found on Living In America
“Like It Is, Like It Was” can be found on Messing The Blues
“Funky Drummer (Bonus Beat Reprise)” can be found on In The Jungle Groove (another highly acclaimed compilation)
“The Boss” can be found on Black Caesar

4. One of my favorite musicians, Van Morrison, has covered at least two James Brown songs in live performances. Mr. Morrison adopted many of James Brown’s approaches to live performance, though he is very shy by contrast. Both men demand perfection from their bands, and both men sing with great emotion.

Conclusion

James Brown is difficult to profile. It would be fair to suggest that many black and Hispanic baby boomers considered James Brown a hero, someone who made them feel proud. Many of those same people lost respect for Brown when he endured highly publicized drug and legal problems in middle age. Accounts of hard life on the road with James Brown’s orchestra surfaced, and the bandleader was cast as a tyrant and a miser. Some years these men and women would play 300+ nights a year, often multiple shows each day, trying to execute perfectly to avoid paying fines and incur Mr. Brown’s wrath. On off days, Brown would bring the band into the studio to record.

And yet, there is no doubt that artists like Bootsy Collins, Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker benefited from their association with Brown. Lesser musicians enjoyed the luxury of a long time gig with a legendary performer. He was clearly a tyrant, but it’s a double edge sword.

Great music was made because a desperate young man let nothing stand in his way for attention and fame. A tornado of energy, bravado and emotion, it was James Brown’s desire for perfection that created this music, and the music is what I focus on.

James Brown Songs:

It’s A Man’s World, James Brown ★★★★
I’ll Go Crazy, James Brown ★★★★
I’ll Go Crazy (Live), James Brown ★★★★
I Got You, James Brown ★★★★
Night Train, James Brown ★★★★
Let Yourself Go (Live) James Brown ★★★★
That’s Life (Live), James Brown ★★★★
Get Up (I Feel Like Being A) Sex Machine, James Brown ★★★★

I Don’t Mind (Live), James Brown ★★★
Bring It Up (Live), James Brown ★★★
Get On The Good Foot, James Brown ★★★
I Got You (I Feel Good), James Brown ★★★
Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag, James Brown ★★★
There Was A Time (Live), James Brown ★★★
It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World, James Brown ★★★

Papa Don’t Take No Mess, James Brown ★★
Opening Fanfare (Live), James Brown ★★
Try Me (Live), James Brown ★★
Kansas City (Live), James Brown ★★
It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World/Lost Someone (Live), James Brown ★★
Cold Sweat (Live), James Brown ★★
Please, Please, Please, James Brown ★★
Try Me, James Brown ★★
Think, James Brown ★★
Think (Alt Mix), James Brown ★★
Devil’s Den, James Brown ★★
Out Of Sight, James Brown ★★
Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag (Parts 1, 2 and 3), James Brown ★★
Bring It Up (Hipster’s Avenue), James Brown ★★
Let Yourself Go, James Brown ★★
Give It Up Or Turnit A Loose, James Brown ★★
Soul Power, James Brown ★★
Make It Funky, James Brown ★★
I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself), James Brown ★★
Doing It To Death, James Brown ★★

The Boss, James Brown
Go Power At Christmas Time, James Brown
Merry Christmas Baby, James Brown
Think (Live), James Brown
Night Train/Closing (Live), James Brown
I Feel Alright (Live), James Brown
Like It Is, Like It Was (The Blues, Continued), James Brown
The Payback, James Brown
Living In America, James Brown
Make It Funky, Pt. 2, James Brown
Bewildered, James Brown
Prisoner Of Love, James Brown
Grits, James Brown
Super Bad, James Brown
Hot Pants, James Brown
King Heroin, James Brown
There It Is, James Brown
Say It Loud, I”m Black And I’m Proud (Pt. 1), James Brown

Funky Drummer (Bonus Beat Reprise), James Brown
Instrumental Bridge, James Brown
Instrumental Bridge 2, James Brown
James Brown (Thanks) (Live), James Brown
Money Won’t Change You/Out of Sight (Live), James Brown

Related Songs:

I Know You Got Soul, Bobby Byrd

Think, The “5” Royales ★★★

Night Train, Jimmy Forrest ★★

Merry Christmas Baby, Charles Brown ★★★
Merry Christmas Baby, Chuck Berry ★★

I’ll Go Crazy (Live), Chris Isaak ★★★

Kansas City, Wilbert Harrison ★★★★
Kansas City, Albert King ★★★
Kansas City/Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!, Little Richard ★★
Kansas City (Alt), Little Richard ★★
Kansas City/Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey!, The Beatles
Kansas City/Hey! Hey! Hey! Hey! (Alt), The Beatles

That’s Life, Frank Sinatra ★★
That’s Life (Live), Van Morrison

My Lovin’ (You’re Never Gonna Get It), En Vogue ★★

I’ll Take Care Of You/It’s A Man’s Man’s Man’s World (Live), Van Morrison ★★★

37. Santana

Santana is a rock band from San Francisco, California, formed in 1966 by “happy accident” when the Paul Butterfield Blues Band was unable to perform a Sunday concert at Fillmore West. Concert promoter Bill Graham assembled an impromptu band to fill the slot. The jam session was a success, as Graham and the audience took notice of the band, especially the fine young guitarist Carlos Santana. In 1967, the group was officially formed as the Carlos Santana Blues Band, with Santana as leader because paperwork dictated that a leader be selected. After achieving popularity as a regular feature at San Francisco clubs, Santana signed with Columbia Records. The band’s first attempt at a record album prompted three key additions to the band: Micheal Shrieve, Mike Carbello and Chepito Areas. The first album was then released in August 1969. The band’s big break also came in August, 1969, when they performed at the Woodstock Music Festival, the publicity they needed. The first album was a great success, and the band led by Carlos Santana has enjoyed worldwide popularity since. The original lineup only remained intact for four albums, the core of any Santana collection. Since then, the band has performed quality, jazz inflected Latin rock music, with the great guitarist providing many of the instrumental fireworks. Santana was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1998.

Santana

Wikipedia Biography of Santana

Notable Band Members:


Carlos Santana (b. 1947)
, guitar, vocals
Gregg Rolie (b. 1947), organ, lead vocals
David Brown (1950-2000), bass
Michael Shrieve (b. 1949), drums, percussion
Jose “Chepito” Areas (b. 1946), timbales, percussion
Michael Carabello (b. 1947), conga, percussion

Neil Schon (b. 1954), guitar
Tom Coster (b. 1941), keyboards

Each of these eight men made significant songwriting contributions. Over the years, dozens of performers have played for Santana.

New York City

“Few musicians have had a more profound influence on me personally. I grew up with “pure” Latin Music and am a musician myself. You can find my recorded music on iTunes “El Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino”. We created two recordings “Concepts in Unity” in 1975 and “Lo Dice Todo” in 1977. I played Congas and Shekere and did background vocals. I will tell you the story of how the band came to be. Much earlier, I was a child of the sixties and loved Soul, Motown, Blues, Reggae, Jazz, Funk and Rock & Roll. Huge influences were James Brown for his messages of self reliance and self respect. Dizzy Gillespie I met in college when he came into WYBC while I was doing my Latin Jazz show on the Yale radio station. He did a free promo. My band in college was a Latin jazz band. It was a trio and included Nat Adderly, Jr., son of Nat Adderly and nephew of Cannonball Adderly. My first band was a dreadful syncretic tribute to Santana, we called ourselves “Pracazoid”. I was 13 years old. I learned to play guitar so that I could play “Samba Pa Ti”, still one of the most evocative songs I’ve ever heard. Santana was a symbol to me of the ethnic melting pot that I grew up in and loved. Where there was genuine respect for multi cultural experiences. How did we move away from the promise of the mid sixties to mid seventies and slide backwards toward intolerance and bigotry? Santana will always symbolize for me that promise of the human spirit where we cherish that which makes us culturally unique while we readily accept and also cherish the cultural roots of others, as expressed by that deepest residue of culture, the power of music. I so vividly remember my best friend and I staying up all night as he introduced me to Pink Floyd, Procol Harem and Grand Funk Railroad. And I introduced him to Eddie Palmieri, Willie Colon and Ray Barretto. Santana was the music that blended our tastes and musical roots in perfect harmony. We started Pracazoid that night. I got to see Carlos Santana in the amphitheater in Atlanta. It was a magical moment of remembrance of a special friendship. The band broke up when I was 17 and my friend died of a drug overdose the same week that my other best friend came back from Vietnam in a body bag. Powerful emotions.”

— David Guzman

[Note: If you are interested, try “Anabacoa” or “Cinco En Un Callejero” by El Grupo Folklorico y Experimental Nuevayorquino.]

Palo Alto

In the sixties, my parents attended numerous rock shows in San Francisco, but I don’t think they ever saw the Santana Blues Band. Our introduction to Santana was the Woodstock movie. Mom bought the first four Santana albums, and I still have them. The band evolved rapidly; the fourth album, Caranvanserai in 1972, is challenging and complex, highly influenced by free form jazz, and far from the hard rocking elements of the eponymous debut in 1969. Disagreements over the band’s musical direction between Carlos Santana and Gregg Rolie always existed, and after Caravanserai, Rolie and second guitarist Neil Schon left to form Journey. It’s easy to hear the Santana influence in the first two Journey albums; after that, they added vocalist Steve Perry and transformed themselves into a popular rock band with several major hit singles.

Since 1972, Santana has maintained his small orchestra with a rotating cast of characters. He searches for new singers and songs to perform with, continues to create new music, and has a large legacy of recordings. Once again, the first four records are the starting point for a Santana collection; the albums Supernatural and Blues For Salvador are considered excellent as well. My personal interest in Santana lasted until the early eighties, and I purchased several of their lesser known works of the seventies, like Amigos, Carnaval and Moonflower. These are all first class productions with quality musicianship.

“Carlos Santana was originally in his own wing of the Latin Rock Hall of Fame, neither playing Afro-Cuban with rock guitar, as did Malo, nor flavouring mainstream rock with percussion, as did Chicago.”

— From the “All Music Guide” review of the first album

Amazon.com Link to the “All Music Guide To Rock”, by Vladimir Bogdanov, Chris Woodstra and Stephen Thomas Erlewine

Santana was essential to my musical education, my introduction to Latin rhythms. But “Latin rhythms” simplifies the unique hybrid of influences. Santana’s presence as a dominant soloist separates the music from virtually all other “Latin” bands.

“It’s a complete racial/musical collision, too: a Mexican-American guitar player steeped in the salsa of the Eastern Caribbean playing a black blues song written by a British/Jewish guitarist turned fundamentalist Christian.”

— From Dave Marsh’s essay on “Black Magic Woman” in his book The Heat of Rock & Soul

Amazon.com Link to “The Heart of Rock & Soul”

Abraxas is arguably the best album, and Caravanserai the most inventive, but my favorite album is the first one, Santana. It features the great guitarist soloing in short bursts, and driving the music by strumming rhythm. He’s a fantastic rhythm guitar player, and this is the last time you hear him consistently pushing the rhythm before he concentrates on riffs and soloes. The first album also has my favorite passage of music, the three song series “Shades Of Time/Savor/Jingo”. I rarely choose full sequences of songs as a single integrated piece, but this is the best example that features the entire band in their full, original glory. That’s when Santana moves me most. He’s such a dominant presence, but here he simmers in the background, except for a few powerful statements. I’ve always loved “Jingo”.

Santana Song Notes:

1. “Toussaint L’Overture (Live)” is found on the legacy edition of Abraxas.

2. “Jingo (Live)”, “Treat (Live)” and “As The Years Go Passing By (Live)” are found on Live At Fillmore 1968.

3. “Savor (Live)”, “Soul Sacrifice (Live)” and “Soul Sacrifice (Take 4)” are found on the legacy edition of Santana. “Soul Sacrifice (Live)” was recorded at the Woodstock Music Festival.

4. Willie Bobo may have had the most influence on early Santana recordings. Willie Bobo’s Finest Hour is highly recommended.

Santana Songs:

Samba Pa Ti, Santana ★★★★
Shades Of Time, Santana ★★★★
Savor, Santana ★★★★
Jingo, Santana ★★★★
Black Magic Woman/Gypsy Queen, Santana ★★★★

Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile), Santana ★★★
Evil Ways, Santana ★★★
Song Of The Wind, Santana ★★★
Waves Within, Santana ★★★
Oye Como Va, Santana ★★★
Incident At Neshabur, Santana ★★★
Everything’s Coming Our Way, Santana ★★★
Treat, Santana ★★★
No One To Depend On, Santana ★★★

Soul Sacrifice (Take 4), Santana ★★
Soul Sacrifice, Santana ★★
Soul Sacrifice (Live), Santana ★★
Toussaint L’Overture (Live), Santana ★★
Singing Winds, Crying Beasts, Santana ★★
Dance Sister Dance (Baila Mi Hermana), Santana ★★
Just In Time To See The Sun, Santana ★★
Stone Flower, Santana ★★
Let The Children Play, Santana ★★
Treat (Live), Santana ★★
As The Years Go Passing By (Live), Santana ★★
Everybody’s Everything, Santana ★★
Guajira, Santana ★★

Se A Cabo, Santana
Mother’s Daughter, Santana
Hope You’re Feeling Better, Santana
El Nicoya, Santana
Trane, Santana
Mirage, Santana
Eternal Caravan Of Reincarnation, Santana
Look Up (To See What’s Coming Down), Santana
Future Primitive, Santana
Carnaval, Santana
Jugando, Santana
Verao Vermelho, Santana
Jingo (Live), Santana
Dawn/Go Within, Santana
You Just Don’t Care, Santana
Savor (Live), Santana
Soul Sacrifice (Live), Santana
Fried Neckbones (Live), Santana
Batuka, Santana
Jungle Strut, Santana
The Game Of Love, Santana
Smooth, Santana
El Farol, Santana

Related Songs:

Naima, Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin ★★
Naima (Take 4), Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin ★★
Meditation, Carlos Santana & John McLaughlin

Gypsy Queen, Gabor Szabo ★★★

Fried Neckbones And Some Home Fries, Willie Bobo ★★★
Spanish Grease, Willie Bobo ★★
Evil Ways, Willie Bobo ★★

Stone Flower, Antonio Carlos Jobim ★★

Black Magic Woman, Fleetwood Mac ★★★★

Europa (Earth’s Cry Heaven’s Smile), Gato Barbieri ★★

As The Years Go Passing By, Fenton Robinson ★★★
As The Years Go Passing By, Albert King ★★★
As The Years Go Passing By (Live), Boz Scaggs ★★★★

Guantanamera (Live), Pete Seeger ★★
Guantanamera, Los Lobos ★★★

Oye Como Va (Live), Tito Puente ★★

27. Stevie Wonder (Stevland Morris)

Stevie Wonder is a singer, songwriter and multi-instrumentalist from Saginaw, Michigan. Stevie was born six weeks premature, and the blood vessels to his eyes failed to develop properly. He has been blind since birth. Stevie’s mother Lula Hardaway moved her family to Detroit when Stevie was four. As a child, he played a number of instruments and sang in his church choir. By age eleven, the precocious young man was introduced to Motown Records founder Berry Gordy, and “Little Stevie Wonder” signed his first contract with Motown in 1961.

061313-shows-bet-awards-performers-stevie-wonder-portrait

Stevland Morris, aka Stevie Wonder (b. 1950), singer, songwriter, keyboards, harmonica

Comprehensive British Website for Stevie Wonder
New York Times Index of Stevie Wonder Articles
The Funk Brothers: Standing In the Shadows Of Motown Website

Adolescence

Stevie Wonder’s career has two distinct phases. In the early sixties, Stevie was Motown’s first childhood star, years before the record company struck gold with The Jackson 5. Initially, the record label struggled to find a niche for the talented young man. Motown scored a surprise #1 hit in 1963 with the live performance “Fingertips (Part 2)”, which featured Wonder singing a few simple phrases, while playing harmonica and bongos. Otherwise, Wonder’s early career finds the record company trying to find the right fit, somewhere between the extremes of jazz musician and singer of pop standards. Several albums of songs were released with little success. Throughout these early years, Wonder was a diligent student of music and studio production, a trait that would soon pay dividends.

Berry Gordy feared his young star’s popularity would dim with adulthood, but Wonder’s voice matured handsomely and in early 1966, Wonder achieved a breakthrough hit with “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)”, based on a riff that he constructed. Over the next four years, Wonder found a niche as lead singer on a series of Motown classic singles, including “I Was Made To Love Her” and “For Once In My Life”, each of which feature memorable contributions by bassist James Jamerson.

Adulthood

Wonder’s contract with Motown expired in 1971, and he became the equivalent of a sports free agent, holding out for agreeable contract terms. While on hiatus, and equipped with a full complement of recording skills — singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, producer — he worked independently on his own musical ideas. Motown signed him to a lucrative new contract in 1972, with Wonder commanding near complete control and a higher royalty rate for songs. He then embarked on his most fruitful period of music, five albums in a four year period which define his mature phase as a popular artist.

Music Of My Mind
Talking Book
Innervisions
Fulfillingness’ First Finale
Songs In The Key Of Life

Analyze and Reminisce

In the fall of 1976, I left home for my first year in college with a second hand stereo, a box of cassette tapes and two record albums, The Best of the Crusaders and Songs In The Key Of Life. Songs In The Key Of Life was that rare double album where all four sides were good enough to play all the way through. I never heard anyone criticize the record; everybody knew it was a masterpiece. In my experience, the Beatles’ White Album and perhaps Jimi Hendrix’s Electric Ladyland are the only double albums of new material that are comparable, and they don’t match Wonder’s masterpiece in terms of depth and musical complexity.

Among an audience of his peers, Wonder’s contributions to music during the seventies received unprecedented acclaim. The National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded Wonder twelve Grammy Awards between 1973 and 1976, including best album for Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Songs In the Key Of Life. In an era where less musical territory remained unexplored, Wonder created beautiful, complex, relevant music with a social conscience.

“Wonder’s songs are renowned for being quite difficult to sing. He has a very developed sense of harmony and uses many extended chords utilizing extensions such as ninths, elevenths, thirteenths, diminished fifths, etc. in his compositions. Many of his melodies make abrupt, unpredictable changes. Many of his vocal melodies are also melismatic, meaning that a syllable is sung over several notes. Some of his best known and most frequently covered songs are played in keys which are more often found in jazz than in pop and rock. For example, “Superstition”, “Higher Ground” and “I Wish” are in the key of E flat minor, and feature distinctive riffs in the E flat minor pentatonic scale.”

— Wikipedia

Here’s an excerpt from the documentary Classic Albums – Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life. Not only does Stevie Wonder sing, play keyboards and harmonica and produce his greatest albums, he also plays drums on most songs.

Amazon.com Link to the Documentary “Classic Albums – Stevie Wonder: Songs in the Key of Life”

I reviewed the chord structures for a number of Stevie Wonder songs. They are as complex as any non-jazz musician in my artist countdown. Wonder composes with a keyboard, a more versatile instrument than the guitarists who dominated much of my early education in music. Nevertheless, the complexity indicates extensive knowledge and attention to detail. A serious musician, whose stage persona belies his true nature. The stereotypical image of Stevie, perhaps enhanced by a memorable impression by comedian Eddie Murphy, is carefree, smiling broadly, weaving back and forth to the music. Perhaps his blindness frees him from any restraints of self-consciousness.

The repetitive use of E-flat minor for the funky, upbeat songs is curious. The E-flat minor triad (E-flat, G-flat, B-flat) are all black keys; perhaps the dominant use of black keys makes the sound distinctive. Stevie Wonder helped popularize the use of various keyboard synthesizers, including the clavinet which gives the “Superstition” riff its unique sound. Without being able to ask Mr. Wonder whether E-flat minor has special significance, I’d guess it’s just a favorite key to work in, one that worked well for him when creating upbeat music. I think of Wonder’s own music as listening music first, and not dance music, with the upbeat songs being danceable, but not dance music. Except for “I Wish”, to which I danced to many times in the lounge of my college dormitory. “I Wish” is a great bumping song. We used to bump back then; that was a fun way to dance.

Stevie Wonder sings and plays “Love’s In Need Of Love Today” from Songs In The Key To Life. A beautiful song about agape, the universal love:



For Once In My Life

“Adding to the pitch saturation of “My Cherie Amour” is the fact that it modulates up a half-step for the last stanza. Musicians often criticize this type oF upward modulation (heard to great effect in Wonder’s “I Just Called To Say I Love You”, in which he changes key several times) as being a somewhat cheap way to maintain or increase intensity, but it works fairly well for Stevie Wonder, probably because he used the technique so sparingly in his career.”

— James E. Perone, “The Sound of Stevie Wonder: His Words And Music”

Amazon.com Link to “The Sound of Stevie Wonder: His Words And Music”, by James E. Perone

I disagree with Mr. Perone. There are quite a few Stevie Wonder songs that use the upward modulation. Here are a few examples of songs that use this “trick”:

And I Love Her, The Beatles
Penny Lane, The Beatles
My Sweet Lord, George Harrison
These Eyes, The Guess Who
New Kid In Town, The Eagles
Hello It’s Me, Todd Rundgren

There’s a funny website, no longer maintained, that documented this phenomenon in over a hundred songs. You can find anything on the Internet.

The Truck Driver’s Gear Change Hall of Shame

“C’mon, Marianne” by the Four Seasons, modulates down one half step in mid-song.

In addition to the Stevie Wonder songs mentioned by James Perone, “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life”, “Heaven Is Ten Zillion Years Away” and “For Once In My Life” all change gears. “For Once In My Life” a lifetime favorite, moves from F to F# for the harmonica solo and final verse. My Dad absolutely loved “For Once In My Life”, and once again, the apple does not fall far from the tree. He thought the harmonica solo was the most beautiful thing he ever heard, and though I agree it may be the best harmonica solo in pop music history, what moves me these days is the Motown ensemble, driven by James Jamerson’s bass and Earl Van Dyke’s piano. Classy, swinging, timeless, it is forever one of the greatest songs I’ve ever heard.

It’s impossible to replicate the beauty of a classic recording, but here is a fine rendition from the Motown 25th anniversary program in 1986:

In conclusion, here is Stevie Wonder performing the Beatles’ “We Can Work It Out”. In 2010, McCartney was awarded the Gershwin Prize by the Library of Congress, and performed a concert at the White House. Wonder, who had received the Gershwin Prize the year before, was invited to perform his version with Paul McCartney’s band. The band clearly appears to enjoying himself, perhaps more than McCartney, seated next to the President. Good luck to the Jonas Brothers, who have to follow this:

Stevie Wonder Song Notes:

1. I have included 45 Stevie Wonder songs in the collection. Only four of the songs, “Ribbon In The Sky”, “Do I Do”, “Part-Time Lover” and “Master Blaster (Jammin’)”, were recorded after Songs In The Key Of Life. A distinct lack of attention is given to his later work.

2. I try to include alternate mixes of favorite songs, when I can find them. Motown has good stereo and monaural mixes of many hits, and two are included here, though they won’t count towards the artist’s “total star” rating. The monaural mixes are reserved for devoted fans.

3. Good clean versions of every song can be found on the At The Close Of the Century compilation. Since I decided upon a list independently, it’s interesting to compare my list of songs with the seventy songs recommended there.

4. “If It’s Magic” has special meaning for me. There was a time during the first year of dating my wife, when it looked like our relationship would end. I made her a cassette tape of love songs, and “If It’s Magic” is perhaps the most memorable entry. No other song on the tape draws a straight line to that event, and that time in life.

Stevie Wonder Songs:

For Once In My Life, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭✭✭
For Once In My Life (Mono), Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭✭✭
Uptight (Everything’s Alright), Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭✭✭

I Wish, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭✭
I Was Made To Love Her, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭✭
I Was Made To Love Her (Mono), Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭✭
My Cherie Amour, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭✭
If It’s Magic, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭✭

Boogie On Reggae Woman, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭
Higher Ground, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭
Sir Duke, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭
Signed, Sealed, Delivered, I’m Yours, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭
Superstition, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭
You Are The Sunshine Of My Life, Stevie Wonder ✭✭✭

Shoo-Be-Doo-Be-Doo-Da-Day, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
If You Really Love Me, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Fingertips (Parts 1 & 2) (Live), Stevie Wonder ✭✭
I Believe (When I Fall In Love It Will Be Forever), Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Too High, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Visions, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Golden Lady, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Don’t You Worry ‘Bout A Thing, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
You Haven’t Done Nothin’, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Ribbon In The Sky, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Love’s In Need Of Love Today, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Isn’t She Lovely, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Ngiculela – Es Una Historia – I Am Singing, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
Living For The City, Stevie Wonder ✭✭
He’s Misstra Know-It-All, Stevie Wonder ✭✭

We Can Work It Out, Stevie Wonder
Blowin’ In The Wind, Stevie Wonder
A Place In The Sun, Stevie Wonder
Yester-Me, Yester-You, Yesterday, Stevie Wonder
Heaven Is 10 Zillion Light Years Away, Stevie Wonder
Creepin’, Stevie Wonder
Part-Time Lover, Stevie Wonder
Superwoman (Where Were You When I Needed You), Stevie Wonder
Master Blaster (Jammin’), Stevie Wonder
Do I Do, Stevie Wonder
Have A Talk With God, Stevie Wonder
Knocks Me Off My Feet, Stevie Wonder
Pastime Paradise, Stevie Wonder
Summer Soft, Stevie Wonder
Ordinary Pain, Stevie Wonder
As, Stevie Wonder
Another Star, Stevie Wonder
Big Brother, Stevie Wonder

Related Songs:

Until You Come Back To Me (That’s What I’m Gonna Do), Aretha Franklin ✭✭✭✭

We Can Work It Out, The Beatles ✭✭

Blowin’ In The Wind, Bob Dylan ✭✭✭✭
Blowin’ In The Wind (Alt), Bob Dylan ✭✭✭
Blowin’ In The Wind, Peter, Paul & Mary ✭✭

Little Old Man (Uptight, Everything’s Alright), Bill Cosby

The Tears Of A Clown, Smokey Robinson & The Miracles ✭✭✭✭
The Tears Of A Clown, The English Beat ✭✭✭

It’s A Shame, The Spinners ✭✭✭
It’s A Shame, The Funk Brothers ✭✭

I Was Made To Love Her, The Funk Brothers ✭✭

For Once In My Life, The Funk Brothers ✭✭

Tell Me Something Good, Rufus ✭✭

I Can’t Help It, Michael Jackson ✭✭

Ebony & Ivory, Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder

109. The Doobie Brothers

The Doobie Brothers are a rock band from San Jose, California. A friendship between guitarist Tom Johnston and drummer John Hartman gradually coalesced into a quartet with guitarist Patrick Simmons and bassist Dave Shogren. A favorite of the local chapter of Hells Angels, the band caught the attention of Warner Brothers Records producers Ted Templeman and Lenny Waronker in 1970. After an inauspicious debut album, the Doobies replaced Shogren with bassist Tiran Porter, and added a second percussionist, Michael Hossack. Their second album, Toulouse Street in 1972, was the first in a string of albums that achieved the band lifelong popularity. A band that experienced major changes in both band personnel and musical styles over the years, The Doobie Brothers sold over forty million records and continue to perform in concert on a semi-regular basis. The group was inducted into the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 2004.

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Biography of The Doobie Brothers on Wikipedia
The Doobie Brothers’ Official Website
Doobfan.com – Fan Website

The First Successful Lineup:

Tom Johnston (b. 1948), guitar, vocals, songwriter
Patrick Simmons (b. 1948), guitar vocals, songwriter
Tiran Porter (b. 1948), bass, vocals
John Hartman (b. 1950), drums, percussion
Michael Hossack (1946-2012), drums

Three Important Additions:

Michael McDonald (B. 1952), keyboards, vocals, songwriter
Jeff “Skunk” Baxter (b. 1948), guitars
Keith Knudsen (1948-2005), drums, vocals

Listen To The Music

I have a lasting memory of the first time I played Toulouse Street on the home record player. I was a sophomore in high school — Mom took me to the record store to buy it. At the time, “Listen To The Music” was a hit song. The short, edited version was played on fidelity-challenged AM radio, and I couldn’t wait to hear what it sounded like on record. I remember opening the jacket to see the liner notes, and pulling the pristine, shiny jet black vinyl from its clear plastic sleeve. I turned the record on its side, so I could see what the grooves looked like in the reflection of the den’s lamp. Reading the list on Side One, I noted the song’s length [1. Listen To The Music (4:44)], another useless fact etched in memory. Nearly two extra minutes of music to enjoy! Most of all, I remember how crisp and perfect those opening guitar strums sounded on the family headphones, when I laid the phonograph needle upon it. Each new record shared these tactile, visual and aural gifts, but Toulouse Street is the one I remember vividly.

Neal’s Fandango

The Doobie Brothers had two distinct career phases. The original lineup, with Tom Johnston and Patrick Simmons, created a mellow hybrid of folk and rock music, consistent with the post-hippie Bay Area vibe. After the band’s fifth album, Stampede, Johnston dropped out for many years. The band recruited singer and keyboard player Michael McDonald, plus guitarist and government spook Jeff “Skunk” Baxter, Steely Dan veterans who moved the band in a funkier, soulful direction. Both lineups used harmony vocals to great effect, though there’s little similarity between the two. Remarkably, the Doobie Brothers produced a #1 hit single (“Black Water” and “What A Fool Believes”) with each lineup.

The Tom Johnston era lasted five albums, and most of my favorite Doobie Brothers songs are from the early days. The two best albums are Toulouse Street and The Captain & Me, in that order.

The song “Neal’s Fandango” from Stampede holds a special place in my heart:

“Well, a travelin’ man’s affliction makes it hard to settle down,
But I’m stuck here in the flatlands while my heart is homeward bound.
Goin’ back, I’m too tired to roam, Loma Prieta my mountain home,
On the hills above Santa Cruz, to the place where I spent my youth.

Well it was Neal Cassady that started me to travelin’,
All the stories that were told, I believed them every one.
And it’s a windin’ road I’m on you understand,
And no time to worry ’bout tomorrow when you’re followin’ the sun.

Papa don’t you worry now and mama don’t you cry,
Sweet woman don’t forsake me, I’ll be comin’ by and by.
Goin’ back, I’m too tired to roam, Loma Prieta my mountain home,
On the hills above Santa Cruz, to the place where I spent my youth.

— Patrick Simmons

West_Flank_of_Loma_Prieta_Mountain,_April_2012

Loma Prieta Mountain

My parents moved west to California in 1956, and spent their first few years living on Loma Prieta Avenue, on the north slope of Loma Prieta, off the Summit Road south of Highway 17. I spent my first two years living in the Santa Cruz Mountains. By the early sixties, my parents tired of their long commute, and moved down into the flatlands near the San Francisco Bay. The up-tempo “Neal’s Fandango” is the only song I know that mentions Loma Prieta, and has that nice sense of home, a favorite musical subject.

While perusing the Internet for data, I came across this nice blog entry by someone with similar feelings for “Neal’s Fandango”:

Total Music Geek Blog Entry for “Neal’s Fandango”

Concluding Remarks

Here are videos for the band’s two #1 hits, a vintage performance of Michael McDonald’s “What A Fool Believes”, followed by a more recent performance of “Black Water” from the CD/DVD Live at Wolf Trap:

Amazon.com Link to the CD/DVD “Live At Wolf Trap”

The original Doobie Brothers are similar to The Eagles, laid back California music with prominent vocal harmonies. The Doobies also bring to mind Huey Lewis & The News, another Bay Area “bar band” that made it to the top of the charts. During my high school years, the Doobie Brothers reminded me of Creedence Clearwater Revival Band, with strumming guitars, driving rhythms and that high lonesome mindset common among country rock bands in the early seventies.

As life and musical tastes evolved, I left the Doobie Brothers behind, and rarely return. The songs are melodic and toe-tapping, but the lyrics often fail to inspire. Michael McDonald gets short shrift in this collection; only four songs feature his songwriting and deep, distinctive voice. Keeping twenty-three songs seems sentimental; most collectors would see many of these choices as superfluous. I imagine a typical collector from England or the Eastern Seaboard having little interest in the Doobies, and instead suggesting a similar-sized collection of songs by The Clash, or Bon Jovi, or another band nearer and dearer to home.

Doobie Brothers Song Notes:

1. Everything is easy to find, there are no notable alternate versions, and there are no related songs, which is very rare.

Doobie Brothers Songs:

Listen To The Music, Doobie Brothers ✭✭✭
Long Train Runnin’, Doobie Brothers ✭✭✭
Black Water, Doobie Brothers ✭✭✭
Clear As The Driven Snow, Doobie Brothers ✭✭✭

Neal’s Fandango, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
South City Midnight Lady, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
Nobody, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
Toulouse Street, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
Jesus Is Just Alright, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
Another Park, Another Sunday, Doobie Brothers ✭✭
What A Fool Believes, Doobie Brothers ✭✭

Without You, Doobie Brothers
China Grove, Doobie Brothers
Ukiah, Doobie Brothers
Minute By Minute, Doobie Brothers
Slat Key Soquel Rag, Doobie Brothers
I Cheat The Hangman, Doobie Brothers
Rockin’ Down The Highway, Doobie Brothers
White Sun, Doobie Brothers
Snake Man, Doobie Brothers
Takin’ It To The Streets, Doobie Brothers
Spirit, Doobie Brothers
Daughters Of The Sea, Doobie Brothers

60. U2

U2 is a rock quartet from Dublin, Ireland. At fourteen years old, Larry Mullen posted a sign on the school notice board to start a band, and among the six respondents were the three boys destined to start a lifetime musical partnership. The band went through a couple name changes, and “phased out” Dik Evans, Dave’s brother, to form the final quartet by March, 1978. They were encouraged by winning a national talent contest; by 1980 they moved from CBS records to Island Records, who distributed their music internationally, and jump started their slow ascendance to stardom.

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Founded in 1976, U2 has maintained the same lineup for nearly forty years. They are:

Paul Hewson (b. 1960), known as “Bono”, vocals
Dave Evans (b. 1961), known as “The Edge”, guitars and keyboards.
Adam Clayton (b. 1961), bass guitar
Larry Mullen (b. 1961), drums

U2 achieved critical acclaim after their first album, Boy, in 1980. Here in America, maybe you heard them on college and new wave radio stations. I first heard them on M. Dung’s morning show KFOG 104.5 FM in 1984. I bought the 45 for “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”, back when hit songs cost less than a buck. Although The Joshua Tree made them worldwide stars, it was Achtung Baby in late 1991 that moved me. Always a late adopter of technology, Achtung Baby was one of my first hundred compact discs (CDs), and is still a favorite. U2 is perhaps the most famous band in the English speaking world these last twenty odd years, a creative quartet with a great front man and a gifted guitarist.

Biography of U2 on Wikipedia

Official Site For U2
Detailed U2 History on “ticketretriever.com”

Analysis

“Because U2 had such a grandiose sound long before its lyrics had anything especially grand to say, some listeners immediately assume that this Irish quartet was self-impressed and shallow. And, to be honest, there is some truth in that. But despite the occasional eloquence of issue songs like “Sunday Bloody Sunday” or “Pride (In The Name Of Love)”, most U2 songs emphasize the sound of the band over the sense of the lyrics, an approach that, at its best, lends a certain naive majesty to the group’s albums.”

— J. D. Considine, “The Rolling Stone Album Guide”

“The Rolling Stone Album Guide” on Amazon.com

U2 is best appreciated loud, their sound well suited for arena size performance. They generate a big, bright sound with only four musicians, one of whom sings almost exclusively. Clayton and Mullen provide compelling rhythms, and The Edge adds the shimmering, high frequency textures so recognizable in their music. Notes are chosen sparingly, and though The Edge performs the occasional guitar solo, everything is geared to accentuate the drama in Bono’s earnest lyrics. All three musicians are groove makers, adding syncopation and volume as needed. Among the artists in my countdown, U2 started their career latest, with Boy in 1980. By the time I complete a list of favored artists, Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings may hold that distinction. In many ways, they are like The Who, another famous rock quartet with a dedicated lead singer. Both bands write anthems for the people, but The Edge and Pete Townshend use the guitar differently. U2’s music lacks improvisation, but the band packs some giant dance grooves.

U2 are the unusual group that reached an artistic peak in mid-career. The critics generally cite The Joshua Tree as their best. It has both of U2’s #1 hit songs, “With Or Without You” and “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For”. In this video, Bono seduces a lucky fan with his voice and his tenderness:

I like Achtung Baby best. For few months in 1992, I was enamored with the ambiguous lyrics of “One”.

“Have you come here for forgiveness?
have you come to raise the dead?
have you come here to play Jesus?
to the lepers in your head.

Did I ask too much?
more than a lot.
You gave me nothing,
now it’s all I got.

We’re one, but we’re not the same,
see we hurt each other,
then we do it again.

You say Love is a temple,
love a higher law,
love is a temple,
love a higher law.
you ask me to enter,
but then you make me crawl,
and I can’t keep holding on,
To what you got,
when all you’ve got is hurt…

One love,
One blood,
One life,
you got to do what you should.

One life, with each other,
Sisters, Brothers.
One life, but we’re not the same.
We get to carry each other, carry each other.”

— Bono

Presently, I would rather hear “Mysterious Ways” or the dark “Until The End Of The World”, which I consider first class free form dance music. The band at their 2005 induction into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame:

Bono is such a ham. He embraces the spotlight, and his position as the lead vocalist for the biggest band in the world. Overall, Bono, and U2 as a whole, handle their fame with uncommon grace and dignity.

Few rock bands have possessed the ability to exhilarate huge crowds like U2. Another example is this performance of “Beautiful Day”, where the band builds the intensity to a fever pitch. It appears that everyone raises their arms, and jumps to the beat on cue:

Other modern bands may inspire this type of group exaltation, but they are outside my sphere of music. I will guess that hard rock bands like Guns ‘n Roses, Metallica, and Kiss all inspire their fans to rejoice together.

U2 reaches for the grand statement. They aim high, and sometimes they succeed brilliantly. Their lyrics are thought provoking at times, while the musical structures tend to be simple in comparison to other great artists. They are superb at creating a sound which inspires. Bono has a beautiful voice, but it’s The Edge, and the way he creates sound with his guitar, that is the key characteristic of their music.

U2 Song Notes:

1. A special thanks to unofficial eighties music consultant Jon Spaulding for an hour long conversation about U2. He used “All I Want Is You” for his first dance at his wedding.

2. During their career, the band covered Robert Knight’s “Everlasting Love”, which received some FM radio attention. Their version is not included in the collection, but the original song is among my favorites, and the marching beat of “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” sounds inspired by this wonderful song.

3. The band Coldplay owes a debt to U2. “Beautiful Day” seems a precursor to “Clocks”.

U2 Songs:

I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, U2 ✭✭✭✭
Mysterious Ways, U2 ✭✭✭✭
One, U2 ✭✭✭✭
Until The End Of The World, U2 ✭✭✭✭

Pride (In The Name Of Love), U2 ✭✭✭
Even Better Than The Real Thing, U2 ✭✭✭
Desire, U2 ✭✭✭
Beautiful Day, U2 ✭✭✭
In God’s Country, U2 ✭✭✭

Tryin’ To Throw Your Arms Around The World, U2 ✭✭
Electrical Storm (Alt) (William Orbit Mix), U2 ✭✭
Sometimes You Can’t Make It On Your Own, U2 ✭✭
With Or Without You, U2 ✭✭
Running To Stand Still, U2 ✭✭
Sunday Bloody Sunday, U2 ✭✭
Ordinary Love, U2 ✭✭
New Year’s Day, U2 ✭✭
When Love Comes To Town (Live), U2 & B.B. King ✭✭

I Will Follow, U2
Sweetest Thing, U2
Angel Of Harlem, U2
Gloria, U2
All I Want Is You, U2
Lemon, U2
Where The Streets Have No Name, U2
Song For Someone, U2
Raised By Wolves, U2
The Troubles, U2

Related Songs:

Gloria, Them ✭✭✭✭✭
Gloria (Live), Van Morrison ✭✭✭
Gloria, Van Morrison
Gloria, The Doors