New Songs For 2016

Every year I try to add new music to the collection. Nowadays I rarely listen to the radio (either broadcast or satellite) for inspiration. I tend to research new music by reviewing end of the year “best of” lists. This year I branched a little more than usual, trying songs suggested from a number of sources.

Over the last few years, NPR Music has been my most reliable source. My tastes are diverging from Rolling Stone Magazine’s favorites; their sensibilities seem to be changing into the greater mainstream of popular music. Review sites such as Pitchfork have wildly different criteria for musical evaluation than I do. Virtually no modern popular music on the radio interests me. I am offended by the lack of diction and inferior mixing that make singing so hard to understand, the loss of melody as a musical component, and the reliance on electronics as a substitute for instrumental virtuosity. It all sounds less human to me.

All of which makes the selection of new songs a very interesting aspect of the project. I have no obligation to include any artist, and am perhaps more free than ever to choose based on my my opinion. This is a topic I plan on exploring in detail sometime. New songs must adhere to the same criteria as all others. They should be well appreciated if called up in a random iPod shuffle. Some effort is made to include different sounding or innovative music, though today there isn’t much in terms of unexplored territory. Many songs I choose tend to fill holes in my personal music education. The last few years seem to include songs by female country songwriters, where there is a wealth of talent. Or maybe I’m just going country in my old age. Overall, modern music has seemed to have completely abandoned the uptempo swing of yesteryear.

I have added 58 new songs for 2016. This is a typical number of songs in recent years, a little less than half of the overall average (11,000 songs in about 100 years). Great songs grow on you over the years, so songs are rarely given a high rating to begin with. It is a rather sedate group of songs, by my standards. If a certain song appeals to you, then consider further research into that artist. My list for new songs will always be woefully incomplete; they are educated guesses. My focus is generally on older music.

It was a big year for working on the collection. In August I completed standardizing and verifying all the song data, a tiring grind which led to a mild post-effort depression that took several months to battle out of. I think I’m ready to start back up again, with an outline for a general essay on collecting the music, and a compilation of lists of specific types of songs. Like the greatest songs with hand claps, or best one-hit wonders. Happy New Year to everyone. I’m hoping to keep making progress on this big project.

2016 Songs

Little Movies, Aaron Lee Tasjan
Memphis Rain, Aaron Lee Tasjan ★★★
Real Bad Lookin’, Alex Cameron ★★
Am I Wrong, Anderson Paak ★★
Celebrate, Anderson Paak

Time Moves Slowly, BADBADNOTGOOD ★★
E.V.P., Blood Orange ★★
Three Kids No Husband, Brandy Clark
There Goes My Love, Caleb Klauder & Reeb Willms ★★
Opposite House, Cass McCombs ★★

I Am Not Afraid, Charley Crockett ★★
Irene, Courtney Marie Andrews
Wine And Peanuts, Daniel Bachman ★★
Watermelon Slices On A Blue Bordered Plate, Daniel Bachman ★★
Lazurus, David Bowie

Can’t Think, Dawg Yawp
The Government Road, The Del McCoury Band
Falling To Believe, Doug Tuttle
What It Means, Drive-By Truckers
Lord It Over, Dylan Golden Aycock

Looking Up, Elton John
Someone In The Crowd, La La Land (Soundtrack)
Ivy, Frank Ocean ★★
Nothing More To Say, The Frightnrs
June Too Soon, October All Over, Glenn Jones

Mr. Fool, John Scofield
Christmas Makes Me Cry, Kacey Musgraves
Present Without A Bow, Kacey Musgraves
This Girl, Kungs & Cookin’ On 3 Burners
Diamond Heart, Lady Gaga

Humble & Kind, Lori McKenna ★★
Dust, Lucinda Williams
Bitter Memory, Lucinda Williams
Emotions And Math, Margaret Glaspy
You And I, Margaret Glaspy

Moth Into Flame, Metallica
Vice, Miranda Lambert
Tin Man, Miranda Lambert
Me & Magdalena, The Monkees
Tragedy, Norah Jones

It’s A Wonderful Time For Love, Norah Jones
Pining, Parker Milsap ★★
Human Performance, Parquet Courts
I’ve Got To Use My Imagination, The Rides
Never Come Home, Robbie Fulks ★★

Aunt Peg’s Old Man, Robbie Fulks
Drivin’, Robert Ellis
Weirdo, Sammus
What’s It Gonna Be?, Shura ★★
Bluebird Of Delhi, Slavic Soul Party! ★★

Cranes In The Sky, Solange
Easier Said, Sunflower Bean
Every Time I See A River, Van Morrison
Caledonia Swing, Van Morrison
No Woman, Whitney ★★

The Three Of Me, William Bell
Fly Away, Yola Carter ★★
A Change Of Heart, The 1975

33. Bob Marley & The Wailers

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

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

M122979W595

The original Wailin’ Wailers:

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

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

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

Jamaica’s two most important record producers:

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

Other interesting links for Bob Marley and reggae music:

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

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

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

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

Old Grey Whistle Test Performances

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

Trenchtown Rock

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Marley & The Wailers Song Notes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Bob Marley & The Wailers Songs:

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

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

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

Related Songs:

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

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

Stir It Up, Johnny Nash ✭✭

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

This Train, Sister Rosetta Tharpe ✭✭

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

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

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

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

68. Gordon Sumner (“Sting”)

Sting is a bassist and singer/songwriter from Newcastle Upon Tyne, England. Together with American drummer Stewart Copeland and English guitarist Andy Summers , he achieved great success as lead singer and principal songwriter for The Police, a pop trio influenced by the Jamaican ska and reggae rhythms popular in England at the time. The Police produced five albums of music in their short career, reaching the pinnacle of success in 1983 with the blockbuster Synchronicity, featuring the #1 single “Every Breath You Take”. The band disbanded in acrimony only a few months later. Since then, he has composed and performed as a solo artist, producing a significant body of work that fit neatly into the easy listening radio format. The Police were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 2003.

FOR SUNDAY PULSE  The Police perform on stage, New York, 1980, L-R Sting, Stewart Copeland, Andy Summers. (Photo by Michael Putland/Getty Images)

Wikipedia Biography of The Police

Gordon Sumner (b. 1951), better known as “Sting”, bass, singer, primary songwriter
Stewart Copeland (b. 1952), drums
Andy Summers (b. 1942), guitar

Solo Career (1984 – present)

Embarking on a solo career, Sting chose some to collaborate with some of America’s finest young jazz musicians. This was not without controversy; it created a rift between saxophonist Branford Marsalis and his family, especially his famous brother, trumpeter Wynton Marsalis. This article details the familial rift:

People Magazine Article: “Branford Marsalis Blows His Own Horn”

But Branford has not pleased everyone. When he returned from making Bring On The Night with Sting in mid-1985, he found he had been fired as the saxophonist in Wynton’s band. In interviews, Wynton made his low opinion of pop music—and jazz musicians who stoop to playing it—witheringly clear. Soon the press was picturing the two as a latter-day Cain and Abel, a notion Branford stoutly denies. “It was just business,” he says. “It wasn’t a feud.” Whatever it was, it couldn’t have been pleasant. “The whole concept of a white person getting a band of Negroes together I never approved of,” says brother Delfeayo, 22, a trombonist and record producer. “My whole family gave Branford a rough time about it. But Branford always wanted to do stuff like [play pop music] anyway.”

— Eric Levin

Sting’s first solo album, Dream Of The Blue Turtles, might be his best; I’m not qualified to make that judgement. I bought that album, and it received significant attention on my record player. But I lost interest in Sting’s solo career, and never purchased another Sting record, except for a cassette single of the lovely “Fields Of Gold”, during a brief period when individual songs were unavailable on vinyl records or compact disk format. Do you remember cassette singles?

Sting’s best songs tend to be love songs. Here he performs “Fields Of Gold” as a duet on lute:

Despite assembling first-rate talent, Sting’s solo work is not as compelling as his work with The Police. By the mid-eighties, music production had effectively eliminated imperfection out of recorded performances, and though the young jazzmen provide subtle touches of class, these tend to be lost deep within the antiseptic presentation. Besides, Sting’s music and vision does not leave significant space for jazz improvisation. The mid-eighties establish a demarcation point, where a lot of bland music is created by some very talented singers and musicians. Major radio stations exist where every song sounds sort of similar. I’ve always wished Whitney Houston had eschewed her popular ambitions, and played traditional vocal jazz with a small combo. She’s a great singer, and might have enjoyed a longer life, and left a more memorable legacy.

As he matured, Sting addressed more political and philosophical subjects, with mixed results. At times they seem pompous or condescending, though I’m certain he had the best of intentions.

Mitch Schiewe and Ron Migliori

I first heard about the Police as a second year college student. Mitch Schiewe was the roommate of Ron Migliori, an engineer and starting forward on the basketball team. Ron and I became good friends during his two years there. Mitch was his best friend, an animal science major from Hemet, California. He wanted to be a veterinarian, U.C. Davis being a premier school for that discipline. I remember him mentioning the Police while holding a copy of Reggatta De Blanc one day; I didn’t take his recommendation seriously. It was a couple of years before I took notice.

I looked up Mitch Schiewe online to see if I could fine him, and it was easy. It’s Dr. Schiewe now, and he is a celebrated specialist in the field of human reproduction and fertility. As an undergrad, he gave the commencement speech for the College of Agricultural and Environmental Sciences for his graduating class. Looking back at those whose paths I crossed in college, that’s how it often goes. I met nice, smart people, but rarely gave a second thought to their intelligence or potential. When I check back decades later, I find great success stories.

Ron Migliori started both years for the basketball team, tall and slender, with a fine shooting touch and a simple, efficient offensive game. A civil and structural engineer who always received top grades, Ron graduated, married and settled in a Sacramento suburb. He joined a Sacramento architecture firm out of school, and does exactly what he was trained to do: design large buildings.

Me? I write essays on old bands that a couple dozen friends read. It’s humbling. One other curious coincidence is worth sharing. One of my closest friends here in Oregon is Mitch Scheele (pronounced SHEE-lee), which rhymes with Schiewe (SHEE-wee).

Sting and Stewart Copeland

The Police had a unique sound, a punky, white man’s reggae, propelled by their outstanding drummer Stewart Copeland, ranked by Rolling Stone magazine as the fifth best rock drummer of all time. By their fourth album Ghost In The Machine, Sting and Copeland did not get along.

MSNBC Article Discusses Relationship Between Stewart Copeland and Sting

Copeland is a visceral musician, one who sees music as a spontaneous exercise of joy and who loves the creative process. Copeland views Sting as a musical genius, but one sure of his ideas and not really interested in collaboration. Now that Copeland has spent several years composing film music, hiring musicians to play exactly the notes he wrote, he can understand why he drives Sting nuts.

“When he exercises his right to have it the way he imagined it, it’s a problem for both him and me,” he said. “I just can’t do it. I can’t remember it. I have my own ideas. I’m incorrigible.”

Let’s watch the Police in action, starting with “Roxanne”, their first hit record:

If I had to choose one Police record, it would be their third album, Zenyatta Mondatta, especially the consecutive trio “Driven To Tears”, “When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around” (longest song title in the collection?) and “Canary In A Coalmine”.

By 1983, the Police are big stars, all gussied up (except for Copeland), playing big venues with big sound systems. Listen to the great drummer cut loose on “Walking On The Moon”.

Every Breath You Take

“Every Breath You Take” played a major role in my life. The famous breakup song coincided with the demise of my relationship with Andrea, my college sweetheart. We spent six and a half years together. During five years of college, I never dated anyone else. I sometimes regret that, but she was such a fine, happy companion. She was short and voluptuous, with facial figures that vaguely suggested the Native American descendant in her family tree. Thoughtful and intelligent, loyal and easy to please, Andrea was a happy person who laughed a lot, and we had lots of fun together.

It was my first true love, and I didn’t know what a great girlfriend I had. After college, we moved to a one bedroom apartment in East Palo Alto. I found a job and started working the day after my 23rd birthday. She looked for a job while cooking the meals and taking care of me. My problems controlling cocaine and alcohol use were beginning to take their toll — the last two years of college were a disaster, and I still sought opportunities to use. She grew weary of the grind, and after defying her ultimatum one May morning, we broke up.

The summer of 1983 went by in a haze and work, basketball and alcohol. She moved out, we each dated a bit, but as the summer wore on, we began to see each other regularly again. But I met Katarina, a stunning Swedish girl working at the local toy store where I bought sneakers, and fell head over heels for her. This ended our relationship. Andrea married the first man she dated, and they are still married and living in Marin County.

Around that time, there was a new radio station that played the top ten hits over and over each morning and evening during rush hour. KITS (105.3 FM), which became the Bay Area’s premier alternative rock station, began its career with this narrow format. During that summer, I was glued to that station on my morning and evening commute, hoping to hear “Every Breath You Take”, and receiving my wish more often than not. Curiously, I don’t remember drawing a direct connection with my relationship, and mourning my loss through the song. I just loved it and wanted to hear it.

One’s musical tastes are clearly biased by songs heard in adolescence. I experienced a second musical “peak” at age twenty-four, and for many years argued that 1983 was a high point for pop music. Madonna and Michael Jackson were emerging into prominence, and MTV was new and very influential at introducing new artists into our homes. Over time I grew less keen on early eighties pop and its highly synthesized sound. Here is the famous video of “Every Breath You Take”, which spent eight weeks at #1 in the summer of 1983, when MTV was king and I was adrift. Note that the song is slightly truncated at the end, losing about twenty seconds of the critical fade portion of the song.

The Ultimate Stalker Song

“It was also one of the most difficult ones to record on the group’s Synchronicity album, guitarist Andy Summers informed Christopher Connelly in a 1984 Rolling Stone article. An elaborate synthesizer section had been discarded so as not to distract from the song’s simplicity. Sting told Connelly that it was not intended to be the sweet love song that many people believed it was. “I consider it a fairly nasty song,” he said. “It’s about surveillance and ownership and jealousy.”

— Fred Bronson, “The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (revised and enlarged edition)”

By Fred Bronson’s Book at Amazon.com

I interpreted the song as a poignant love song, and I adored it. The stalking aspect had to be pointed out to me, an inability or unwillingness to see my obsessive and possessive nature. I don’t let go of women I’ve loved well at all. I talked to Andrea every year or so until about five years ago; we ended on relatively good terms. Every few years I use to lower myself and attempt to contact Katarina, who ignores all communications, and rightly so. It was a bad match, and I was terrible to her. I feel compelled to stay in touch, to follow their lives, and make sure that they are alright.

The breakup impacted my view of romance. After feeling satisfied the first few years with Andrea, I began to wonder what other people were like, and my curiosity disintegrated the romance. I’ve been in love a precious few times since, and fortunate to have known wonderful women — all attractive, smart, nice and devoted. I’ve been so lucky in love. They were each different, with various strengths and weaknesses, with their own past and their own demons. I never recovered from that initial wanderlust. I often struggle with commitment, though I’ve been married for nineteen years. Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me; did I meet the right person? Perhaps they were all excellent mates, and with each a different reality, a different life together. But first love is special and sacred; sometimes I wonder if I would have been happiest if I settled in with my first love. I never quite found the magic experienced within that bond. Youth might be a factor. But it may have to do with opening Pandora’s box, and acknowledging the spectrum of possibilities, and subsequently never being able to fully embrace one person.

I listened to “Every Breath You Take” fifteen or twenty more times while preparing the profile, and rediscovered what moved me all those years ago. Such an unusual song, beautifully constructed, with edgy lyrics and a hypnotic sound. The alternative definition of a five star song is a personal favorite; when I was young and full of fire this one blew me away. As I drove the ten miles to and from work each day in the summer of 1983, I waited in anxious anticipation to hear my favorite song. I listened to each and every sound in wonderment, and waited anxiously for the closing mantra:

(I’ll be watching you)

1. Every breath you take, every move you make, every bond you break, every claim you stake…
(I’ll be watching you)
2. Every single day, every word you say, every game you play, every night you stay…
(I’ll be watching you)

(repeat for phrases 3-4, 5-6, and 7-8)

I’d relish the squeak of the bass strings in the third iteration, Sting’s “ooooooo” the fourth time. And if I was lucky, the radio would play the song all the way to the seventh phrase, when Sting’s voice rises a bit, to say:

I’ll be waaaaa-tching you.

Police Songs:

Every Breath You Take, The Police ✭✭✭✭✭

Walking On The Moon, The Police ✭✭✭
Roxanne, The Police ✭✭✭
When The World Is Running Down, You Make The Best Of What’s Still Around, The Police ✭✭✭
Spirits In The Material World, The Police ✭✭✭

Driven To Tears, The Police ✭✭
Message In A Bottle, The Police ✭✭
Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic, The Police ✭✭
Don’t Stand So Close To Me, The Police ✭✭
De Doo Doo De Da Da Da, The Police ✭✭
Tea In The Sahara, The Police ✭✭
Murder By Numbers, The Police ✭✭
Can’t Stand Losing You, The Police ✭✭
Canary In A Coalmine, The Police ✭✭

The Bed’s Too Big Without You, The Police
Bring On The Night, The Police
Reggatta De Blanc, The Police
Wrapped Around Your Finger, The Police
Rehumanise Yourself, The Police
Invisible Sun, The Police

Sting Songs:

Fields Of Gold, Sting ✭✭✭

Brand New Day, Sting ✭✭
Consider Me Gone, Sting ✭✭
Epilogue (Nothing ‘Bout Me), Sting ✭✭

All This Time, Sting
Love Is The Seventh Wave, Sting
If You Love Somebody, Set Them Free, Sting