Marlon Brando, Eva Marie Saint & Willy Deville : On The Waterfront, Spanish Stroll – Immortal Moments

Another post from the first year of The Jukebox.

Of all the hundreds of Posts I have written for The Jukebox this may be my own favourite.

Sometimes it might take just a single beat of your heart.

A lightning strike seared into your memory: something really crucial has happened and whatever happens from now on it will be in the shadow of this!

Maybe it’s the first time alone together when she called you by your name and it felt like a new christening.

Or the time your toddling son folded his hand into yours without thinking as he looked for stability and security on the road ahead.

Sometimes it might take years; the slowly dawning realisation, (like a photograph emerging from the darkroom) that it was that moment, that event, which seemed so trivial at the time, where a new course was set that’s led you to your current harbour.

Moments, Moments, Moments.

Immortal Moments.

Our lives in our imaginations and memories are never a complete coherent narrative but rather a silvery chain of moments: some cherished and celebrated some sharply etched with pain and sorrow.

Some in which we have the starring role and others where we are strictly extras in the shadows at the edge of the stage.

The older we get the more we learn that some of those moments have become our own immortal moments: the moments we will return to again and again, voluntarily or necessarily as we try to make some sense of our lives.

And, when we shuffle through these moments we will find many have been supplied by our encounters with the music, films and books that have become part of the imaginative and emotional furniture of our lives.

Snatches of lyrics and melodies from favourite songs that you find yourself unexpectedly singing; scenes from films that seem to be always spooling somewhere deep in the consciousness now spotlit in front the mind’s eye, lines of poetry read decades ago that suddenly swoosh to the surface, seemingly unbidden, in response to some secret trigger.

I remember the exact moment, as a teenager, when I idly picked up a dusty book in a rundown junk shop and read these lines:

‘ Thou mastering me God!
Giver of breath and bread;
World’s strand, sway of the sea
Lord of living and dead;
Thou hast bound bones and veins in me, fastened me flesh,
And after it unmade, what with dread,
Thy doing: and dost thou touch me afresh?
Over again I feel thy finger and find thee.’

The opening lines of Gerard Manley Hopkins’ poem, ‘The Wreck Of The Deutschland’.

Rooted to the spot I read the further twenty or so stanzas with my head and heart ablaze.

I was aware of taking in only a fraction of the meaning and technique of the poem but I was absolutely sure that this was poetry of the highest order and that sounding its depths would be the work of a lifetime.

I had made an emotional and spiritual connection that could never be undone and Poetry with that capital P was now a territory open for me, necessary for me, to explore.

Strangely enough this was also the moment when I also glimpsed a future in which I might write poetry myself.

Similar thrilling encounters with literature, music and film now form a personal rosary of treasure in my life.

I want to share just two more with you here.

Marlon Brando and Eva Marie Saint as Terry and Edie in a duet scene from, ‘On The Waterfront’ from 1954 in pristine monochrome with wonderful cinematography by Boris Kaufman.

This scene played with such truthfulness, tenderness and delicacy by both actors struck me very forcefully at the moment when first viewed and it has continued to bloom in my memory and imagination.

If asked to give testimony for Marlon Brando as the greatest film actor of his time I would, of course, cite his thrilling physical presence and ability to dominate and take possession of the screen with special reference to, ‘A Streetcar Named Desire’.

But, it is this scene that would win the argument for me.

Brando here hits a peak of American naturalistic acting using the method techniques he had learned but without being imprisoned by them.

In this scene with humour, pathos and dignity and without a shred of affectation or disrespect he incarnates Terry as a living, breathing man who wins our sympathy, as fellow human strugglers, trying stumblingly to articulate our feelings both to ourselves and to those we love and those we yearn to love us.

Watch the way his body language evolves through the scene as he realises Edie is intrigued by him and interested in him for himself.

The way he picks up, plays with and finally wears her dropped glove (seemingly improvised) should be required viewing in every drama school.

Astonishingly, this was Eva Marie Saint’s film debut.

The camera obviously loved her at first sight.

As Edie she is a luminous quiet presence whose watchful stillness, intelligence and sensitivity makes it inevitable that Terry will fall for her and fall hard.

She understatedly lets Edie’s dawning love for Terry emerge as something as natural as drawing breath.

She believably illuminates Edie as a young woman with steel in her character as well as beauty and charm.

Acting with Brando, even for someone with her accomplished background on stage, must have been an intimidating challenge but there can be no doubt that Eva Marie Saint matched and balanced him through every frame of celluloid on show here.

At some heartbreaking level we understand that these fleeting moments of intimacy shared in this scene by characters afflicted by doubt and bruised souls will be moments they will both need to recall in the painfully tempestuous times ahead.

Maybe it’s an eternal truth as Dylan wrote that, ‘Behind every beautiful thing there’s been some kind of pain’.

Few scenes in cinema history bring out the truth of this statement with more clarity.

Mink Deville were led by Willy Deville a pompadoured and preening singer (finger on the eyebrow and left hand on the hip!) who showed himself throughout a roller coaster personal and professional life to be a supreme rhythm and blues and soul song stylist.

He had rasp and romance, swagger and sensitivity as well as presence and power in his vocal arsenal.

I recall the moment of seeing him for the first time on the British flagship chart music programme, ‘Top Of The Pops’ in 1977 and jumping out of my chair to applaud this performance of the signature tune of his early career, ‘Spanish Stroll’.

 

Willy added sass, instrumental colour and wasted seventies urban elegance to the magic and mystery of doo-wop and Brill Building vocal group harmonies to create a wonderful record that creates its own bright shining world every time you hear it.

His wonderfully liquid self regarding, shooting cuffs vocal is all strutting Latin braggadocio anchored in his assured rhythmic poise.

Special praise is due to the mellifluous backing vocalists who wonderfully evoke the steam heat of a New York night on a tenement stoop as they support Willy’s imperious lead role.

I love the ringing tones of the guitars, the Spanish flourishes, the proto rap intervention by bassist Ruben Siguenza, the tempo changes and the dreamlike woozy character of the whole song. Most of all, most of all, I love and keep returning to the moment when Willy sings the line:

‘Make a paper boat, light it and send it, send it out now.’

Especially those last three words.

Anyone who can make the heart leap with three simple words is an artist to cherish and revere.

I’ll write a full tribute to this great late lamented talent in due course but in the meantime trawl Youtube for a series of magnificent vocal performances and load up your shopping cart with his albums. You won’t regret it.

Adios Amigo, adios.

Moments, moments, Immortal moments.

Billy Stewart : Summertime (The Last Hurrah)

Late September.

Autumn is icumen in.

Observe the daily circle of the Sun and the revolving Moon.

Now there is a softer quality to the light and the day is bounded by chilly air and mist.

Image result for images of misty autumn morning in hampshire

Soon the leaves will shiver and fall.

But, last week, miraculously, Summer held on for one last hurrah!

Long days of streaming warm light and air.

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So, as I walked and drove the lanes one song returned over and over to my mind.

A song written in 1934 by George Gershwin and Dubose Heyward for the landmark show, ‘Porgy and Bess’ which debuted the following year.

Stephen Sondheim, who might be admitted to being something of an authority on musical theatre, believes Summertime to have the best lyrics in the history of the genre.

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry
*

One of these mornings you’re gonna rise up singing
And you’ll spread your wings and you’ll take to the sky
But till that morning, there ain’t nothin’ can harm you
With daddy and mammy standin’ by

Summertime, and the livin’ is easy
Fish are jumpin’ and the cotton is high
Oh, your daddy’s rich and your ma is good-lookin’
So hush, little baby, don’t you cry

Now that is Folk Poetry speaking deep to the heart.

A lullaby that makes dandling babes and hopeful parents of us all.

Jump Fish!

Stretch high up to the sky Cotton!

Easy living.

Summertime.

Summertime.

Returning year after year after year as our years proceed.

Oh, one of these days.

One of these days we are gonna rise up singing.

One of these days we will take to the sky.

But, until that blessed day we will believe in the healing warmth of the Sun and Summer’s faithful return.

Hush … don’t you cry.

Don’t you cry.

Summertime is among the most recorded songs in history.

It seems I had some 25, 000 versions to choose from.

Yet, I didn’t hesitate for a second.

The version that played in my head as the fish jumped and the cotton grew high was recorded in 1966 by Billy Stewart for Chess Records.

Image result for billy stewart images

Billy’s bravura performance of Summertime has the fish jumping out of sheer joy and the cotton splitting the cloudless sky.

Oh Yes!

We are rising up singing.

Oh Yes!

We are gonna spread our wings and soar right up to the roof of the sky.

Nothing’s gonna hurt us.

Summertime.

Summertime.

And the living is easy.

The living is easy.

Hush.

Hush.

We won’t cry.

We won’t cry.

Summertime.

Image result for images of late summer evening in hampshire

Summertime.

Summertime.

Notes :

Billy Stewart (March 24, 1937 – January 17, 1970) was as you will know from the above an extraordinary singer and performer.

Track down a collection of his recordings and you will be highly rewarded.

I will return to Billy’s career here on The Jukebox later.

Van Morrison & Mark Knopfler : Last Laugh (Happy Birthday Van!)

You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

Presence.

Some things you just can’t buy.

Presence.

Coaches and Gurus and Snake Oil salesmen will portentously promise to reveal the secret to you.

Better save your money and your time and learn the things that can be taught – vocal exercises, relaxation, the whole assembly of skills that adds up to Technique.

But Presence?

No way.

You’ve either got it or you haven’t.

The gods or muses dispose as they will.

Hard to define but easy to recognise.

Greta Garbo.

Marlon Brando.

Rudolph Nureyev.

Maria Callas.

Miles Davis.

Muhammad Ali.

Van Morrison.

Intensity.

Impact.

Cultural, emotional and spiritual impact.

You’ll recognise it when you confront it.

Mark Knopfler is a gifted songwriter and as a guitar player has undoubted Presence.

He is also canny enough to know that some songs require an extra ingredient that he does not possess.

A voice with Presence.

So, for his Song, ‘The Last Laugh’ he called up Van Morrison.

There must have been a moment in the studio as they listened back when Mark exhaled and smiled deeply as the sound of Van’s voice at the beginning of the second verse lifted the work to a wholly new level.

Presence.

Emotional and Spiritual impact.

Van Morrison.

Sing it Van!

Games you thought you’d learned
You neither lost nor won
Dreams have crashed and burned
But you’re still going on
Out on the highway with the road gang working
Up on the mountain with the cold wind blowing
Out on the highway with the road gang working
But the last laugh, baby is yours
And don’t you love the sound
Of the last laugh going down

Very few singers merit the Bold and the Italics.

Van Morrison always has and always will.

Don’t you love the Sound!

Presence.

Cultural, Emotional and Spiritual Impact.

Demonstrated time after time in studios and on stages from Belfast to Buffalo.

Hey Girl! Baby Blue. Brown Eyed Girl. Sweet Thing. Moondance..

Linden Arden.

Listen to The Lion.

The Healing has begun.

No Guru. No Method. No Teacher.

Just Van and that Voice.

It ain’t why, why, why, it just IS.

A voice capable of transcendence as only the rarest voices are.

A voice that reaches up to the Moon.

Don’t you love the Sound!

Van is 74 this week.

So, Happy Birthday Van!

A heartfelt thanks for all the Songs and all the Singing.

 

May your Song always be Sung.

if this is your visit to The Immortal Jukebox you are very welcome!

Sign up for email alerts or follow me on Twitter @thomhickey55 and you’ll never miss a post!

There are more Posts about Van than any other artist here on The Jukebox so, in case you missed one or would like to be reminded of an old favourite here’s the Van Compendium for your delectation and delight!

Brown Eyed Girl’.

An introduction telling the tale of my headlong plunge into obsession following my first hearing of Van’s best known song.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-2L

Don’t Look Back’.

A meditation on Time featuring 2 astounding versions of John Lee Hooker’s tender Blues Ballad. One a reaching for the stars take of a teenager the second the work of a fully realised master musician.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-3k

Carrickfergus‘.

A meditation on family, friendship and loss. How the shadows lengthen! Sung with infinite tenderness and bardic authority.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-7J

In The Days Before Rock ‘n’ Roll’.

A miraculous meditation on the persistence of memory, the power of the radio and the post war world as seen by a young Irish mystic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-bi

Tupelo Honey’.

A rhapsodic meditation on the nurturing, redemptive power of Love. A Hallelujah!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-fr

All in the Game‘.

A meditation on the carousel we all ride. It’s been sung by many singers but never like this!

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-jY

Domino’ .

A Founding Father joyously celebrated by a Master from the next generation.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-pH

Sometimes We Cry‘.

Bringing it all back home to singing on the street corner Days. The sweetness of Doo-Wop seasoned with wry maturity.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-sf

I Cover the Waterfront’.

Van and John Lee Hooker, Blues Brothers and Soul Friends, conjure up ancient tides.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-tq

Buona Sera Signorina‘.

Van puts his party hat on and romps through the Louis Prima classic.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-Xg

Hey Girl’.

Van takes a stroll along the strand and suspends Time.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1cA

Gloria! Gloria!’

Once, Now and Ever.

http://wp.me/p4pE0N-1dh

Coney Island 

A Pilgrim’s glimpses of Eternity in the everyday.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1OQ

Brand New Day

Born again each Day with The Dawn.

https://wp.me/p4pE0N-1kL

And It Stoned Me

A mystic dweller on the threshold shows us the wonder ever present everywhere.

Happy Birthday Van!

Rod Stewart, Carole King, Aretha Franklin : Oh No, Not My Baby

Featuring :

Rod Stewart, Carole King, Aretha Franklin, Maxine Brown & She & Him

The news is out.

All over town.

Your True love has been seen runnin’ around with someone new.

And, don’t some of your, ‘Friends’ love to tell you so!

They’ll tell you, with a theatrical sigh, that you’ve been led on.

They’ll shake their heads and say you’ve been told big, black Lies.

Even your Mama, trying to protect you, will counsel you beware – consider that there might be truth in those ugly rumours.

But. You have Faith.

Faith.

Whatever they say, whatever their motive, You Know.

You Know.

You don’t believe a single word is true.

Not a single word.

Your Love is not like the others.

Not at all.

Oh, no, not my sweet baby.

Oh, no, not my sweet baby.

My sweet baby.

From the heart and soul of Carole King and Gerry Goffin another guaranteed Pop/Soul classic from 1964.

The song was first given to The Shirelles who recorded a version with alternating lead vocals.

Scepter/Wand Reciords Exec Stan Greenberg thought that their version didn’t work because the beauty of the melody and poignancy of the song was obscured by the multiplicity of voices.

But, there was nothing wrong with the backing track so he called up Maxine Brown and told her to take away The Shirelles version and come back with a Hit!

Maxine, listened over and over and as she did she noticed that a group of young girls playing a skipping game outside her apartment had zeroed in on the hook as they skipped and sang ;

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

So, into the studio to overdub her tender, truthful vocal ( with Dee Dee Warwick helping out on the chorus) and Voila!

A sure fire Hit!

Seven weeks on the Billboard Top 40.

Now, the thing about Carole King melodies is that they enter your dreams.

They seem to be contain echoes of half remembered lullabies from your cradle days.

They are both fresh and familiar at first and thousandth hearing.

And, if you are a singer in want of a killer ballad (as singers always are) you inevitably turn to the Goffin/King Songbook because their songs rooted in universal emotions can never go out of style.

Never.

When it comes to singing a killer ballad The Jukebox will brook no argument that Rod Stewart in his early 70’s pomp with The Faces was absolutely as good as it got.

Ronnie Wood providing the tasty guitar licks.

Ian McLagan, Kenney Jones and above all Ronnie Lane providing the rugged but oh so right Rock ‘n’ Roll/Soul musical mash up.

Rod, of course, knew that when it came to breaking hearts there millions practiced in the art.

Yet, he brings total conviction to the lover’s cri de couer :

Not my baby, not my baby, not my baby, Oh, No, Not My Baby!

Rod, in those days had sensitivity as well as swagger.

I’m sure that the music press of those times would have described Rod as a, ‘Rock God’ along with Robert Plant and several other extravagantly maned stage strutters.

But, when it came to the Soul arena there was only ever one Queen.

Aretha Franklin.

The key word here is Faith.

Incarnating on record and in performance the attractions of the flesh and faith and giving each realm its proper due was Aretha’s special gift.

Whatever she sang she sang with a Believer’s passion.

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

Alongside the majestic vocal listen to the testifying of Cornell Dupree and Eddie Hinton on Guitar, Barry Beckett on Keyboards, David Hood on Bass and Roger Hawkins on Drums.

Not my baby, not my baby, not my baby, Oh, No, Not My Baby!

Now tell me you don’t Believe!

Remember the mantra, ‘A Goffin/King song never goes out of style’?

Well, from just a few years ago here’s the proof.

Music chameleon M Ward and Actor/Singer Zooey Deschanel are together ‘She & Him’.

Embed from Getty Images

*

Embed from Getty Images

And together on their CD, ‘Classics’ they have recorded an utterly charming version of, ‘Oh, No, Not My Baby’.

 

Well, you might have had a last minute fling

But In am sure it didn’t mean a thing

‘Cause yesterday you gave me your ring

And I’m so glad I kept right on saying :

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

To conclude let’s go back to the Source.

Carole King at the piano slaying us all with a deep heart’s core take on her own masterpiece :

Wonderful the first time you hear it and wonderful as long as people can say, with Hope and Faith to all the doubters :

Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby
Oh, no, not my baby
Oh, no, not my sweet baby

 

Rolling Stones, Bob and Earl : The Harlem Shuffle

There is Presence in Place Names.

There is Romance in Place Names.

There is Poetry in Place Names.

Ulan Bator. Medicine Hat. Yekaterinburg.

Valparaiso. Terra Del Fuego. Finisterre.

Spoon River. Brigadoon. Elsinore.

Kathmandu. Coeur D’Alene. Cahirciveen.

Firenze. Maratea. Vigata.

New York City. New York City. New York City.

Manhattan. Queens. The Bronx. Staten Island. Brooklyn.

Harlem. Harlem. Harlem.

Black and white image of a street scene in Harlem in the 1930s.

Now for profound reasons of History Harlem has felt compelled to Shout!

Now for profound reasons of History Harlem has felt compelled to Scream!

But in all ages and conditions Harlem has lived and breathed through Song.

Harlem Sings! Harlem Sings! Harlem Sings!

Image result for aaron siskind harlem images

Harlem sings in the photographs of Aaron Siskind.

Harlem sings in the poetry of Langston Hughes, Claude McKay and Georgia Douglas Johnson.

Harlem sings in the melodies captured by a Harlem Airshaft.

Harlem sings in the writing of James Baldwin, Countee Cullen and W.E.B. DuBois.

Harlem sings in the polemics of Hubert Harrison and Marcus Garvey.

Image result for aaron siskind harlem images

Harlem sings at Olympic Field as the Lincoln Giants win again.

Harlem sings in the words and melodies of George and Ira Gershwin.

Harlem sings in the escapades of Harry Houdini.

Harlem sings in the crazed cavorting of Groucho, Chico and Harpo.

Harlem sings through Count Basie and Coleman Hawkins.

Harlem sings in the Knockout majesty of Joe Louis.

Harlem sings in the fleet feet of Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson.

Harlem sings through the inescapable Joy flowing from Fats Waller.

Image result for aaron siskind harlem images

Harlem sings through Frankie Lymon and Garland Jeffreys.

Harlem sings through Ralph Ellison and Johnny Hartman.

Harlem sings as another winner pings off the racket of Althea Gibson.

Harlem sings in the firm Gavel of Thurgood Marshall.

Harlem sings at Club Harlem.

Harlem sings at The Alhambra Ballroom.

Harlem sings at Havana San Juan.

Harlem sings at The Lennox Lounge.

Harlem sings at Minton’s Playhouse.

Harlem sings at Monroe’s Uptown House.

Harlem sings at Small’s Paradise and The Sugar Cane Club.

Harlem sings at The Park Palace and The Park Plaza.

Harlem sings and sings and everybody, everybody, wants to sing, sing, sing at The Apollo Theatre.

You move it to the left – you go for yourself.

You move it to the right – if it takes all night.

Take it kinda slow  with a whole lot of Soul

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

The Harlem Shuffle.

 

Harlem sings through through the raise the dead glory of Bob Relf and Earl Nelson’s, ‘Harlem Shuffle’ from 1963.

Don’t move it too fast – just make it last.

How low can you go?

Yup, even Lazarus himself, when he was laying down, would have got up off the bed and on to the floor once that brass fanfare kicked in!

Barry White (yes .. that Barry White) played Piano and did the arrangement (with Gene Page?) while Fred Smith produced.

Bob and Earl sing their hearts out through every line.

Now come on – don’t fall down on me now.

Just move it right here to The Harlem Shuffle.

The Harlem Shuffle.

Ride. Ride. Ride.

And that’s what Bob and Earl do.

They ride, ride, ride, slide and swoop so that we ain’t got no choice but to shake a tail feather for all we’re worth.

The combination of the urgent vocals and the insistent rhythms intoxicatingly surrounds you ’til you feel you can’t stand it no more.

That last for about a nanosecond before you want to be out on the floor again – head spinningly lost for another lifetime encapsulated in 162 seconds.

Yeah, yeah, yeah to the Harlem Shuffle.

Whoa, Whoa, Whoa.

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

Take All Night.

Make it last.

Meanwhile ….

Far across the Atlantic Ocean in England in an unremarkable place named Dartford two young men found that they shared a passion for The Blues, Rhythm & Blues and Rock ‘n’ Roll.

Mick Jagger and Keith Richard were and are true aficionados of Black Music.

Maybe they heard Harlem Shuffle on the radio or through hipper than hip Guy Stevens DJ-ing at London’s New Scene Club.

It was Stevens running the UK arm of Sue Records who first issued the record in Britain in 1965.

Keith, in particular, was taken by the horn heavy blast of Harlem Shuffle and he knew that Mick could really shake a tail feather to this one on stage.

He also knew that he had in Charlie Watts the coolest drummer in the whole wide world at his back so the song would hit the groove and stay hit throughout allowing him to dig deep.

Being the wily old bird he is Keith kept putting Harlem Shuffle on tapes of songs he gave to Mick until one fine day Mick just sang along as Keith and Ronnie Wood ran the song down in a rehearsal studio.

And, when they hit the stage – all brass and backing singers blazing there can be no resistance.

You scratch just like a monkey.

Yeah you do real cool.

Real Cool.

Real Cool.

Do The Harlem Shuffle.

The Harlem Shuffle.

Tail Feather well and truly shaken!

Notes :

Bobby Relf died in November 2007.

Hailing from Los Angeles (born 1937) he was in The Upfronts with Barry White.

Harlem Shuffle owes a lot to a West Coast tune, ‘Slausson Shuffletime’ by Round Robin.

Bobby kept in touch with Barry White and provided lucrative material for his fabulously successful Love Unlimited.

Earl Nelson died in July 2008.

He had an earlier brush with fame when he sang lead on The Hollywood Flames’ hit, ‘Buzz, Buzz, Buzz’.

Remembering Aretha Franklin : R – E – S – P – E – C – T!

 

Before night comes each of us must work, in our few days, the work we were uniquely created to accomplish.

Surely, that’s exactly what the late Aretha Franklin did in singing with such splendour and grace from earliest childhood until the last year of her life.

Enormous gifts were bestowed on Aretha.

The triumph of her life was in her acceptance, nurture and stewardship of those gifts.

In so doing she became the greatest female singer in popular music since the Second World War.

Her profound legacy can be found in scores of breathtaking performances and in the inspiration she gave to fellow musicians and singers as well all of us privileged to hear her in our lifetimes.

When Aretha sang she summoned up her whole humanity to insist upon, to imperiously demand our attention!

 

 

R – E – S – P – E – C – T!

R for Roots :

Aretha’s roots lay in Church.

Her Father, the Reverend C. L. Franklin was a celebrated Baptist preacher – immensely influential in the community through his recordings, radio and touring appearances. New Bethel Church in Detroit was visited by all the great and good of the Gospel world.

Chuch and Choirs and Quartets.

In Church wide eyed young Aretha took into her deepest being the rhythms and dynamics of her Father’s Sermons, the soaring exultation of the choirs.

Aretha conquered far flung worlds in her career but she never strayed in her heart far from that Church in Detroit.

From her Father and the Gospel tradition she knew that singing was Important.

An important aspect of sacred drama.

Important to her, important to a whole community – the heart of Life.

Throughout her life when Aretha sat down at her beloved piano or took centre stage her very presence and every note she sang, every breath she took had the force of a sworn Vocation.

She knew from the Bible and increasingly from her own personal life that this world could be a vale of tears, a place of sore trial and torment.

But, she knew there was a further shore.

She knew that in turmoil she could turn to song to guide her there.

She believed that though you might be abandoned by all who you relied on there was yet a hand that would reach out for yours and gently lead you Home.

 

E for Ecstacy :

Rapture. Euphoria. Exultation!

Listening to Aretha on record or in person gave you the opportunity to stand outside yourself transcending the cares of your everyday shackles.

Filled with the spirit Aretha pierced the veil.

Filled with the spirit Aretha gave us glimpses of no time, glimpses of Eternity.

Filled with the spirit Aretha lifted herself and her audience into other worlds.

Filled with the spirit Aretha called out to us to respond with all our hearts.

FIlled with the spirit Aretha made us reciprocate her urgency to be understood, to be respected, to be heard.

Filled with the spirit when she sang Aretha was always reaching, reaching, reaching.

S for Soul :

If you gotta ask you don’t know what it is.

Aretha not only had Soul in her recordings and performances she came to define its essence.

She sang as a woman in full.

A woman who was unaffaid to expose her vulnerability.

A Woman Of Heart and Soul.

A Woman of blood and bone and guts and unabashed carnality.

A Woman who could shout and scald, scream or tenderly whisper.

A Woman who could thrillingly fuse the sacred and the secular to examine and embody our deepest emotions.

 

P for : Politics

Like Bob Dylan says we live in a Political World.

Aretha grew up knowing Martin Luther King.

Her Father ordained Jesse Jackson.

Aretha was an inspiration to all the struggles for Civil Rights.

Civil Rights and Respect for African Americans.

Civil Rights and Respect for Women.

Civil Rights and Respect for The Poor.

With Aretha’s Voice At your back and in your heart no barrier could seem insurmountable.

E for : Eternity

The greatest artists stop time when they sing.

Most music, most art is ephemeral.

It is given to very few to add to the cairn Human Beings have added to the treasures of Eternity.

Aretha has beyond all question added significantly to that cairn.

C for : Choir and Community

When Aretha sang she was always singing to a surrounding community.

A community including fellow singers and musicians and fellow pilgrims.

Even alone at the piano there was a senses that she was singing to Another.

In her singing offering up gifts.

In her singing offering pleas for redemption.

In her singing offering cries of supplication.

In her singing offering heartfelt sorrow.

In her singing shouting to be heard – to be heard and answered.

T for : Thankfulness

Aretha was fully aware of the plenitude of her gifts and was properly grateful for them.

Looking back at her wondrous career we should be properly grateful too.

Now that she has crossed over we are all immensely in her debt.

Take her hand Precious Lord.

Take her hand Precious Lord gently in your own.

Lead her Home.

Lead her Home.

 

 

Little Richard with Jimi Hendrix & Billy Preston – I Don’t Know What You Got But Its Got Me

Epistemology.

Full many a year did I labour in the stony fields of Epistemology.

I’ve got the deep furrowed brows to prove it.

Knowledge that …

Knowledge how …

Savoir … Connaitre

Kennen … Weten.

Do you Ken?

Either you don’t know nothing or you know too much – it don’t seem there’s anything in between (hats off to Russell and Riddley).

What do I know?

Well, I know that if you have a song written by Don Covay

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With Guitar by Jimi Hendrix

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With Organ by Billy Preston

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And if you have the one and only Little Richard singing like a sanctified revival preacher

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Then, Brothers and Sisters, I do Know, I most assuredly Know that the resulting record is one of the greatest Singles ever made!

That’s what I Know.

Listen and you’ll Know too.

And, when you Know, as we all Know – You just Know.

 

 

Notes :

Little Richard:

recorded ‘I Don’t Know …’ in Los Angeles in 1965.

He had, of course, already given nuclear energy to the launch of Rock ‘n’ Roll in the mid ‘50s.

Here he draws upon his Gospel and R&B roots with all those hours listening to Brother Joe May, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and Billy Wright informing the volcanic steam heat of his performance.

Perhaps only James Carr singing, ‘Dark End Of The Street’ matches Richard on this record for soul searing intensity.

Don Covay :

was gifted as singer, songwriter and producer. He had a particular mastery of the Soul Ballad.

His Father was a Baptist Preacher and his first forays into public performance was with his family Gospel Quartet, The Cherry Keys.

Classics he wrote include:

‘Mercy, Mercy’ (covered by The Rolling Stones),

‘Chain Of Fools’ and ‘See Saw’ for Aretha Franklin,

‘That’s How I Feel’ for The Soul Clan

’Pony Time’ (a No 1 for Chubby Checker)

’Letter Full Of Tears’ for Gladys Knight

’Its Better to Have and Don’t Need (Than Need and Don’t Have) is a magnificent song he put out under his own name.

The version he cut of ‘Mercy, Mercy’ with The Goodtimers In 1964 featured Jimi Hendrix.

At one time Don gloried in the role of Valet and Driver for Little Richard.

Jimi Hendrix :

Appeared like a meteor into the consciousness of the Rock world yet he had served his time on the ‘Chitlin’ Circuit’ backing up a host of R&B and Soul acts.

His hook up with Little Richard was short lived – in part no doubt because Richard was not a man to be upstaged by a flamboyantly brilliant guitar player able to play solos with his teeth!

Billy Preston :

Billy had been a part of Little Richard’s constellation since the early 60s when he was still a teenager. In Hamburg The Beatles looked on in awe as Richard tore up the joint with his crazed vocals while Billy hit grooves that seemed to affect gravity itself.

At the end of their career together it seemed there was little they could all agree on – except that Billy Preston trailed Joy all around him and that he was a hell of a musician.