SOUL ON FIRE
© PJ HAYWARD
NEW YORK, 2015
With all that is going on in the world right now, I thought I’d take us in a different direction today. Those of us who have been around for awhile may remember some of what I am talking about. . .but maybe the young people can take a listen too. . ..hopefully they might find something new in something so old….
I have been thinking about my life-long love affair with music.
Music is that thing that transcends all dimension of sight, space and time. No matter what is going on around you – the right sound will lift you from the bonds of earth and carry you to another world.
To me, throughout my lifetime whether I was feeling great or feeling low, music was like blood to me, I had to have it to survive. And there has been one constant in all music that moved me – it had to be that heavy beat… percussion, horns – and most especially some wild saxophones – yeah. Starting from the first song I can remember that just electrified me and had me dancing all around the room: probably starting with Doo Wop, to rhythm and blues to rock n roll and then later, those down home blues – that thumping, pounding delta blues; to gospel music that had me and everybody else jumping; to African music, Brazilian music, Latin music from all over; to Reggae….wow. What a blessing it is to have so many sounds to rescue us from the cares of the day and carry us away to another place and time!
So just for today, I want to share a few memories with you just to show you where I came from – musically – and share a few of my favorite old songs that will magnify any great mood or take away any care or pain – at least for me -maybe for you too.
I was probably about 7 years old or so the first time I realized I could go live in another world just from the sound of music on the radio. The song was “Rocket 88”, recorded by Jackie Brenston who was part of Ike Turner’s band at that time. I’m not sure if this is the same as another version he put out along with his Delta Cats, but this is the song I remember that had my little 7 year old legs spinning and jumping all over the room.
JACKIE BRENSTON, 1951: Rocket 88
The next side I want to share with you is the song that gave me my pen name and I just love it so here is (by the way, if the piano riffs sound familiar it’s because you are listening to a young but already GREAT, legendary Fats Domino on piano):
LLOYD PRICE, 1952: Lawdy Miss Clawdy
There was another song around that time that I remember loving a lot called “Money Honey”..but I guess I can only put a few up in this post so I will just mention that one.
Starting from the age of ten I guess would be the place where I actually started collecting records and gathering many, many musical memories. The first record of my own that I ever got was one of those giant black glass ’78 records. It was a Christmas gift from my favorite Auntie who was the only family member that ever paid attention to my love of music. The record was “Speedoo” by The Cadillacs, and here it is:
THE CADILLACS: SPEEDOO
That next year or two there must have been a million great GREAT old tunes that are still today considered to be classical old time Doo Wop or maybe they call it Rock n Roll, I’m not sure. The ones I can tell you I loved the most were Fats Domino’s “Aint That a Shame” and “Blueberry Hill”, Chuck Berry’s “Maybelline” (I once had a car I named after that song because it was fickle and would only run sometimes), Tweedlee Dee by La Verne Baker and Ray Charles’ “Drown in my own Tears”. Then there was this hilarious song called “Stranded in the Jungle” by the Cadets that used to crack me up. Also the first time I can remember hearing the great Godfather of Soul sing any song, “Please, Please, Please”. But – no disrespect meant to James Brown – to me the BEST was when I discovered Little Richard. I just love me some Little Richard. He was so wild!! He would play the piano standing backwards, stand on top of the piano and play – just all kinds of carrying on – and he had this GREAT band! That year he came out with Long Tall Sally, Rip it Up, Slippin & Slidin and Tutti Frutti. Here he is with Long Tall Sally – and if you can catch it, about a minute and 9 seconds into this video you can spot Alan Freed and Bill Haley and some other guy I don’t recognize, sitting at a table in the audience. (This clip must be from some movie but the audio isn’t the greatest quality – still I had to show it to you because you can see this great pioneer of Rock n Roll along with his wild band just doing what they do.)
LITTLE RICHARD: Long Tall Sally
Now, just because it is such a beautiful song, I have to throw in one slow song. Many people have done this one over the years and Johnnie Taylor is one that sticks out in my mind as having one of the great renditions. But anyone who has ever been in love has got to love this first version I ever remember ever hearing – Jerry Butler’s beautiful, soulful, heart rending version of – “For Your Precious Love”
JERRY BUTLER: For Your Precious Love
Wow.. so many memories. The Coasters started coming out with all their crazy tunes. The Platters were releasing all kinds of records that are still just as beautiful and soul wrenching today as they were then. And so many other memorable artists and groups came along – Jackie Wilson, Wilson Pickett, Lloyd Price, Sam Cook, Ray Charles, Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – all had so many spectacular hits that anyone my age would still know all the words to because we used to listen to those songs over and over and over again until our records were so scratchy we sometimes had to go and buy new records of the same songs just so we could hear the actual words anymore. Around that time I had a boyfriend that worked in a record shop so I got lucky that way – he brought me all the latest tunes as soon as they came out. But I think I will skip ahead a little bit now or I’ll keep you here all day listening to old timey Doo Wop and Rock n Roll.
I’ll just mention that I had planned to give you a few samples from every decade. The great, great Temptations, The O’Jays, The Spinners and the Four Tops, the Isley Brothers, Smokey Robinson with/without the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, David and Jimmy Ruffin – there are so many icons from the 60’s, 70’s and 80s. Also I thought I’d give you a few samples of some of my favorite Blues masters – Buddy Guy, Luther Allison, Albert King (in my opinion some of the greatest blues guitarists of all time) and of course Muddy Waters, Little Walter and a million other great great blues artists like Howlin Wolf, Bobby Bland, Big Mama Thornton, Taj Mahal, ZZ Hill, Denise LaSalle, John Lee Hooker, the great Etta James, Johnny Taylor, Jimmy Reed, Otis Rush and so so many other people Then I am a huge fan of Latin music – Celia Cruz, Tito Puente, The Fania All Stars, Oscar de Leon to name a few: African Music – Baaba Maal, King Sunny Ade, Angelique Kidjoe, Youssou N’dour…and then of course came Ska and Reggae. Obviously the iconic Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, Black Uhuru, Burning Spear, Yellowman, Everton Blender- and then newer people like Shabba Ranks, Cutty Ranks, Buju Banton, Beenie Man, various Marley children…just SOOOO many reggae masters. I could go on and on for days…
But instead of sampling all those great old tunes, I actually think I will close with the song that unified millions of brothers young and old alike at a time, not so different from today, when there was so much division and dissension in our country. The awesome Godfather of Soul is saying it all right here in this song – “WE’D RATHER DIE STANDING ON OUR FEET THAN KEEP LIVING ON OUR KNEES”.. So here is this mighty mentor and cheerleader in the fight for Civil Rights; one of the greatest performers ever to slide and glide, wiggle and spin his way onto the stage like some kind of liquid human being:
JAMES BROWN: Say it Loud, I’m Black & I’m Proud
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