Most awarded songs #10

mondegreen of long duration

Sam Cooke

More fun with tunes that are among the most awarded songs #10. I own every one of them in some form. Here are some of your Grammy and Oscar winners. They’ve been touted by Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and others.

60. A Change Is Going To Come – Sam Cooke. If you saw the biopic One Night in Miami, you get a sense of the importance of this song on society at that point. He was inspired by Bob Dylan’s Blowing In The Wind. Cooke chose to share feelings he had from dealing with discrimination, at hotels, e.g., that he experienced. Unfortunately, he was killed on December 12, 1964, two weeks before the song was released as a single.

59. I Only Have Eyes For You – The Flamingoes. Quoting me: “I hear those first three or four chords and I am always surprised how it leads to such a lush tune. My first favorite song, probably for 30 years.”

58.  Layla – Derek and the Dominoes. I loved this song when I was in college. My neighbors Howie and Debi had a cat named Layla, who was a sister to our cat Doris. It is, of course, about Clapton’s longing for his friend George Harrison’s wife, Pattie Boyd. Rita Coolidge has claimed credit for co-creating the piano part, a segment that her then-boyfriend Jim Gordon was playing the tune during the album sessions.

57. Losing My Religion – R.E.M. I could always relate to this song.

56. Imagine – John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band. I’m on record of having overdosed on this recording and especially all of the covers. Still, I’m glad that John had a signature song by which he’ll be remembered. His son Julian sang it to support the Ukrainians recently.

“Picket lines and picket signs”

55. What’s Going On – Marvin Gaye.  Berry Gordy famously wasn’t a fan at first.

54. You Send Me – Sam Cooke. Cooke took a lot of grief for abandoning the gospel music with the Soul Stirrers. Still, this song is pretty tame for such outrage.

53. I Walk The Line – Johnny Cash. as his first big hit – #1 country, #17 pop in 1957 – it is the song I most associate with him. A biopic about him and June Carter was titled Walk The Line.

52. Brown Eyed Girl – Van Morrison. Apparently, because of signing a bad contract with Bang Records, Morrison never made a cent on his first, and signature hit.

51. California Dreamin’ – The Mamas and The Papas. They were listed as The Mama’s and the Papa’s on their first big single. Here is was one of the mondegreens I lived with for the longest time:
Stopped into a church
I passed along the way
Well, I got down on my knees (got down on my knees)
And I pretend to pray (I pretend to pray)
but I heard
And I began to pray
Moreover, I’ve heard a number of cover versions that made the same mistake.

Soul music or rhythm and blues?

Harlem Hit Parade

I was asked to describe the difference between soul music and rhythm and blues. Paraphrasing Potter Stewart, I know it when I hear it. But I indeed could not define it.

The site Music Fans indicates: “R&B (rhythm and blues) was a term popularized by the music charts coining as a way of describing Black-oriented radio hits without specifically referencing race. Over the course of the 80 years, the term has been in use, it has described many very different types of music. Its primary use has always been the contemporary music popular among black Americans.

“Starting in the 80s, hip-hop became the dominant musical genre in the Black American community, leading R&B to be redefined as the contemporary black music that was NOT hip-hop. In the 90s, that sound was heavily influenced by ‘neo-soul,’ a revival of the soul sound, but with modern influences.”

Conversely, Masterclass suggests that “various genres of popular Black-pioneered music—gospel, blues, R&B, and forms of jazz—are often grouped together in a category known as soul music.”

So is soul a subset of rhythm and blues or vice versa? I dunno.  Sweet Soul Music – Arthur Conley (1967) from Atlantic Rhythm and Blues, 1947-1974, a collection I recommend.

By the book

I have the book edited by the late, great Joel Whitburn called Top R&B/Hip-Hop Singles. It notes the synopsis of Billboard’s R&B Singles Charts. From 1942 to 1945, it was the Harlem Hit Parade. 1945 introduced the term Race Records with multiple charts for Juke Box and Best Sellers; this was also true for pop songs.

By 1949, the term was Rhythm & Blues. From 1952 to 1956, it used no designation at all, but it was understood. By 1956, R&B was the nomenclature, with multiple charts ending on 13 October 1958.

From 11/30/63 to 1/23/65, there was no Billboard chart in this category. It is thought that the magazine believed the R&B and pop charts were too similar.

I perused another Joel Whitburn book, Across the Charts: The 1960s. The Supremes dominated both the Billboard pop charts and the Cash Box R&B charts, which he used instead of Billboard.

But the Beatles never had a soul hit in the sixties. And some of the black artists of 1964, such as Solomon Burke, Jerry Butler, Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, and even the Temptations, had songs that did considerably better on the R&B charts than the pop charts.

When Billboard returned to precisely charting the category, they used Rhythm and Blues or R&B from 1965 to August 1969, when they chose Soul. In June 1982, it became Black, then in October 1900, R&B again. Finally, in December 1999, the category was R&B/Hip-Hop.

We want the funk

The conversation was initiated when I played the album Head Hunters by Herbie Hancock this month. I described how musically eclectic Hancock was and noted the funk elements of, e.g., Chameleon.

So what’s funk? I think, “Can’t you feel that bottom?” But okay, a definition: “a style of popular dance music of African American origin, based on elements of blues and soul and having a strong rhythm that typically accentuates the first beat in the bar.”

And rock and roll was built on country music and R&B. This is why I organize my music by artist, not the category. I won’t even get into jazz…

Most awarded songs #7

“the catchiest song in the history of pop music”

These are the most awarded songs #7. They’ve won commendations from the Grammys, the Oscars, Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and similar entities. Yet, there is one song on this list I had never heard before. Naturally, it came out after 1999.

90. I Will Always Love You – Whitney Houston. I never owned this record. Never had to. It’s embedded in my brain forever, even though I haven’t heard it much in thirty years. I don’t even much LIKE it from overexposure. Still, I’m glad that songwriter Dolly Parton used some of the royalties to invest in an office complex in a Black neighborhood in Nashville, TN.
89. In The Still Of The Nite – The Five Satins. I never knew that “Nite” was spelled that way, to avoid confusion with a Cole Porter tune. A great song that may lay claim to being the origin of the term doo-wop.
88. I Hope You Dance – Lee Ann Womack. I did not recognize this 2000 song from its title and performer. Though it was highly regarded, I just managed to miss it.
87. On Broadway – The Drifters. The Drifters, I once wrote, were my favorite 1950s/early 1960s group, even though I never owned their albums. They were always generously represented on compilation albums. A Mann/Weil song tweaked by Leiber and Stoller.
86. Johnny B. Goode – Chuck Berry. Quite probably the first rock and roll hit about rock and roll stardom

Very Brazilian

85. The Girl From Ipanema – Astrud Gilberto/Stan Getz. Even as a kid, the song seemed exotically sexy. it may be the second-most recorded pop song after Yesterday.
84. King Of The Road – Roger Miller. I got the Roger Miller Greatest Hits album, on Smash Records, from the Capitol Record Club c. 1966. I LOVED it, especially this song. Lyrics: “Two hours of pushin’ broom Buys an eight by twelve four-bit room. I’m a man of means by no means.”
83. We Will Rock You/We Are The Champions – Queen. I associate both of these with sports. We Will Rock You is a stadium anthem. Any number of championship sporting teams have attempted to sing We Are The Champions. “In 2011, a team of scientific researchers concluded that ‘We Are The Champions’  was the catchiest song in the history of pop music, despite its not reaching #1 in the charts in any major market.”
82. Green Onions – Booker T. and The MG’s. Since it came out, it may have been the most popular choice by disc jockeys breaking away to the news at the top of the hour. Or so I remember. Unlike other hit instrumentals of the era, it was really funky. And it had the word Green in the title. I remember Wolfman Jack saying in the movie American Graffiti that the green onions hanging all over the studio would “keep the vampires away.”
81. Whole Lot Of Shakin’ Going On – Jerry Lee Lewis. Big Maybelle made the first recording of the song in 1955, produced by Quincy. A couple of years later, Jerry Lee’s version added the boogie piano and the “suggestive spoken asides”. Sam Phillips thought it was too risque.

Most awarded songs #6

a library school story

Frankie Lymon

Counting down to the most awarded songs #6. Still more tunes that got awards from the Grammys, the Oscars, Rolling Stone magazine, RIAA, ASCAP, CMA, NPR, and the like.

100. Your Song – Elton John. The first song on the first Elton John album I owned, which I mistakenly thought WAS the first Elton John album because it was eponymously named.
99. You Really Got Me – The Kinks. The early Kinks were a really LOUD band, and this song epitomized that. I don’t think I really appreciated the band until later on.
98. Why Do Fools Fall In Love – Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers. This is a very good question! This song was SO infectious it was covered by the Beach Boys, Diana Ross, and even Joni Mitchell.
97. Maybellene – Chuck Berry. His first hit and it redefined rock and roll. Apparently named for the makeup company.
96. I Got You (I Feel Good) – James Brown. Not only was it #1 on the R and B charts for SIX weeks, but it was also the highest-ranked song of his on the pop charts, #3 for three weeks in 1965.
95. Suspicious Minds – Elvis Presley. I always associate this song with Elvis’ big comeback c. 1968.

“Just look over your shoulder”

94. Reach Out I’ll Be There – The Four Tops. Their second #1, on both the R and B, and pop charts, after I Can’t Help Myself. I saw the Four Tops and The Temptations at Heritage Park in Colonie, near Albany in the mid-1980s. It was not a great venue but they were fine anyway.
93. House Of The Rising Sun – The Animals. This is a really old song, at least six decades before it became a #1 hit in 1964.
92. Wake Up Little Susie – The Everly Brothers. I loved this song at the time. In retrospect, I love it even more. It denotes a certain level of innocence. “What are we gonna tell our friends when they say, ‘Ooh, la, la’?”
91. Billie Jean – Michael Jackson. When I was in library school, I had written a paper about how, initially, MTV wasn’t going to show Michael Jackson videos because MJ was too.. “urban” or something. His label, Columbia/Epic, said that if he didn’t get on the platform, the label would yank their OTHER videos from MTV, and MTV capitulated. MTV made Michael, and Michael made MTV. Anyway, my professor was surprised that the facts I stated about this situation, which I thought were rather well known, were actually true. I was a bit bemused by that, and maybe a bit ticked off.

1982 #1: fodder for Weird Al

three movie songs

As I looked at the 1982 #1 hits on the Billboard singles chart, two things occurred to me. One was that I’m positive I own at least 14 of these 15 songs, usually on greatest hits albums or compilations, even though there are a few I don’t particularly like. I’m not sure of the Vangelis track. The other is that a few of them were parodied by Weird Al Yankovic.

I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll – Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, 7 weeks at #1, platinum record. A song originally performed by a group called the Arrows. Weird Al parody: I Love Rocky Road
Ebony and Ivory – Paul McCartney with Stevie Wonder, 7 weeks at #1, gold record

Eye Of The Tiger – Survivor, 6 weeks at #1, double platinum record. The theme to the movie Rocky III, which like its predecessors, I did see. Weird Al parody: Theme From Rocky XIII (The Rye or the Kaiser)
Centerfold – The J. Geils Band, 6 weeks at #1, gold record

Maneater – Daryl Hall and John Oates, 4 weeks at #1, gold record. Weird Al parody: Spameater, which was not commercially released.
Jack and Diane – John Cougar, 4 weeks at #1, gold record. Weird Al parody, sort of: Buckingham Blues.

Don’t You Want Me – The Human League, 3 weeks at #1, gold record
Up Where We Belong – Joe Cocker and Jennifer Warnes, 3 weeks at #1, platinum record. Used in the movie An Officer and A Gentleman, which I saw at the time. Jennifer Warnes’ Famous Blue Raincoat is a great album of Leonard Cohen covers.

Abracadabra – the Steve Miller Band, 2 weeks at #1, gold record. Album cut.
Hard To Say I’m Sorry – Chicago, 2 weeks at #1, gold record
Truly – Lionel Richie, 2 weeks at #1, gold record

A single week at #1

I Can’t Go For That (No Can Do) – Daryl Hall and John Oates, gold record; Album cut 
Mickey – Toni Basil, platinum record. Weird Al parody: Ricky, based on I Love Lucy
Who Can It Be Now – Men At Work
Chariots Of Fire: Titles  – Vangelis. The only instrumental on the list. I saw the movie with my girlfriend and her son right after it won the Oscar, and we were disappointed. “That was Best Picture?” I probably should watch it again. 

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