Thank you very much for music

Sly is especially thankful

Thanksgiving is coming. To the degree that I have maintained sanity this year, it’s been from listening to recorded music. A lot.

One of my friends envies how invested I am in music. It’s not as though I made a choice. It has always been omnipresent. I still remember chunks of my father’s singles collection. I sang in school, in church, with my father and sister. I’m appreciative of that, but there’s never been a point when it wasn’t a big part of my life.

Thank you very much for music.

Some songs about thanks

Sam and Dave – I Thank You  (“I want everybody to get up off your seat And get your arms together, and your hands together And give me some of that o-o-old soul clapping.”)

Led Zeppelin – Thank You   “If the sun refused to shine, I would still be loving you.”

Sly and the Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) –  I was a sucker for songs by artists who refer to their other songs. See Creeque Alley by the Mamas and the Papas, Glass Onion by the Beatles. This includes Dance to the Music, Everyday People, Sing a Simple Song, and You Can Make It If You Try. Thank You For Talking To Me Africa  A stoned version of the above.

Boyz II Men – Thank You. The first song on their second album, and my favorite

Andrew Gold – Thank You For Being A Friend. The late son of the late, great Marni Nixon. This is the theme of the TV show Golden Girls 

The Beatles – Thank You, Girl. The perennial B-side, of the single From Me to You in the UK, of the single Do You Want to Know a Secret in the US

Alanis Morissette – Thank U  

John Denver – Thank god I’m a country boy 

Neil Diamond – Thank the Lord for the Nighttime.  My absolute favorite Diamond song.

U is for Unique: Sly & the Family Stone

Sly-family-stone(The second, and final, letter for which I couldn’t find a musical family group.)

Sylvester Stewart was a record producer and DJ in the San Francisco Bay Area; I have a very early Billy Preston produced by him. He changed his name to Sly Stone, and started a band, as did his brother Freddie. The groups merged in 1967 to become Sly & the Family Stone, with sister Vaetta as one of the background singers. The band was unique, in part, because it was racially mixed at a point when that just wasn’t done. Their songs, especially by their third album, Life, was infused with themes about unity and integration.

Sly’s music was so good that it would be sampled years later. At about 40 seconds into that great Fatboy Slim video featuring Christopher Walken, I hear echoes of Sly’s Into My Own Thing [LISTEN to both]. It was clear that the psychedelic soul of Motown, especially by the Temptations producer Norman Whitfield, came from the group’s sound, notably Larry Graham’s bass playing, and the shared lead vocals; George Clinton & Parliament/Funkadelic and many others would also be influenced.

Yet, except for the title song from the second album, Dance to the Music [LISTEN] (#8 US in 1968), the band was not having much commercial success, despite the addition of sister Rose on that second album.

Things changed with the fourth album, Stand!, which made my list of Top 25 favorite albums of the decade 1961-1970 [LISTEN TO ALL]:
I Want to Take You Higher, #60 US in 1969, #38 in 1970 when it was re-released after their legendary Woodstock appearance that I loved watching on the film
Sing a Simple Song, a B-side that got to #89 US on its own
Everyday People, #1 US for four weeks in 1969
You Can Make It If You Try
and the title track, #22 US in 1969

But the album I would have rather have put on the list, had it been permitted, was their greatest hits album, which featured these songs not found on other albums:
Hot Fun in the Summertime, #2 US in 1969 (“ooo, Lawd”)
Thank You Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin, #1 US in 1970 [this is a remake]
Everybody is a Star, its B-side

Unfortunately, members of the band, and especially Sly, got caught up in heavy drug use.

The last Sly album I bought, until considerably later, was the druggy There’s A Riot Going On, with two Top 40 singles in the US, Family Affair, #1 for three weeks in 1971, and Runnin’ Away, #23 US in 1972.

The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, with George Clinton as the presenter.

The Family Stone is still playing together in 2014, alas without Sly.


ABC Wednesday – Round 14

Song: Hot Fun in the Summertime

A song from the summer of 1969, Hot Fun in the Summertime by Sly & Family Stone entered the Billboard charts on August 9, remained there for 16 weeks, and got up to #2 for two weeks, blocked from the top spot by the Temptations’ Can’t Get Next To You.

It also entered the soul charts on August 23, and got up to #3.

In a clever bit of marketing, the first time this song appeared on an album was the greatest hits collection. Unless you owned the singles, and you wanted this song, Everybody is a Star, and Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin), you needed to buy the LP. And so I did.

The song.

A religious experience.

X is for Xenophobia

How do you feel about your own racism and xenophobia? Are you confident enough to declare “I’m not racist”?

So I was looking up xenophobia in Wikipedia, which lists this definition:
Xenophobia is the uncontrollable fear of foreigners. It comes from the Greek words ξένος (xenos), meaning “stranger,” “foreigner” and φόβος (phobos), meaning “fear.” Xenophobia can manifest itself in many ways involving the relations and perceptions of an ingroup towards an outgroup, including a fear of losing identity, suspicion of its activities, aggression, and desire to eliminate its presence to secure a presumed purity. Xenophobia can also be exhibited in the form of an “uncritical exaltation of another culture” in which a culture is ascribed “an unreal, stereotyped and exotic quality”…

A xenophobic person has to genuinely think or believe at some level that the target is in fact a foreigner. This arguably separates xenophobia from racism and ordinary prejudice in that someone of a different race does not necessarily have to be of a different nationality. In various contexts, the terms “xenophobia” and “racism” seem to be used interchangeably, though they can have wholly different meanings (xenophobia can be based on various aspects, racism being based solely on race ethnicity and ancestry). Xenophobia can also be directed simply to anyone outside of a culture, not necessarily one particular race or people.

Well, OK. I’m not sure if it is xenophobia or racism (or both) which led to offensive characterizations against the Republican candidate for governor in South Carolina. Or the renaming of food so as not to invoke people we don’t like. Or the absurd truthiness of this Comedy Central bit about Obama and his emotions.

At some level, I suppose I had gotten to a point where I had hoped xenophobia and racism were something of the past, such as one segment in this TV show from 1964, which like the Daily Show segment, is a parody. But I realized I was being silly. Xenophobia has lasted for millennia; why should modernism destroy it?

I’m reminded of the story of the good Samaritan. It’s significant because the injured Jewish traveler, passed by two of his “own people”, was helped by a member of a group poorly regarded, thus radically expanding the geography of “Love thy neighbor.”

At your leisure, check out If Gandhi was Palestinian. I don’t necessarily agree with every word, but the notion of trying to be in another’s shoes is appealing.

How do you feel about your own racism and xenophobia? Are you confident enough, as Greg Burgas is, to declare I’m not racist? Not even a little bit. I reject Avenue Q’s song ‘Everyone’s a Little Bit Racist’ completely.

But you really must read Roger Ebert’s take on the topic especially as it relates to his own personal evolution and development. A brief quote: “How do they get to be that way? I read this observation by Clint Eastwood: ‘The less secure a man is, the more likely he is to have extreme prejudice.'”

Interestingly, a couple of the comments to the Ebert piece mention a play and a musical I have seen in the last year. The play is To Kill A Mockingbird, based on the Harper Lee novel, where the slow breakdown in the racist society is embodied by a vigorous defense of the black defendant by Atticus Finch.

The musical is Rogers and Hammerstein’s South Pacific, specifically the song You’ve Got To Be Carefully Taught. (Sidebar: Mixed-race marriages are on the rise in the United States.)

Ultimately, as Leadbelly (d. 1949) wrote and sang, We’re in the same boat, brother.

The Lord looked down from his holy place
Said the Lord to me, what a sea of space
What a spot to launch the human race
So he built him a boat for a mixed-up crew,
With eyes of Black and Brown and Blue.
So that’s how’s come that you and I
Got just one world and just one sky.

Through storm and grief,
Hit many a rock and many a reef,
What keep them going was a great belief.
That the human race was a special freight
So they had to learn to navigate.
If they didn’t want to be in Jonah’s shoes,
Better be mated on this here cruise.—Why—

We’re in the same boat brother,
We’re in the same boat brother,
And if you shake one end,
You gonna rock the other
It’s the same boat brother

Our last song – for I believe in the power of music – is Everyday People by Sly & the Family Stone, lyrics by Sylvester Stewart, a/k/a, Sly Stone.

There is a blue one who can’t accept the green one
For living with a fat one trying to be a skinny one
And different strokes for different folks
And so on and so on and scooby dooby doo-bee
Oh sha sha – we got to live together
I am no better and neither are you
We are the same whatever we do
You love me you hate me you know me and then
You can’t figure out the bag I’m in
I am everyday people, yeah yeah

ABC Wednesday

30-Day Challenge: Day 6 – Favorite Song

I own the vast majority of the music released in the 20th Century on the Rolling Stone magazine list, but did only so-so on this past decade.

If you had access to the soundtrack of my mind – my, that’d be VERY scary, and you don’t know how lucky you are – you would know that picking a favorite song is nigh unto impossible. I did select 100 songs that moved me, with my #1 pick here a couple of years back, but such a list is highly fungible.

Besides, that doesn’t mean any of them are my favorites. I’m always thinking, “How could I forget THAT one?” Experienced that phenomenon just recently when I was watching an episode of Glee and hear the song “A House Is Not A Home” and thought, “I’m very fond of the Dionne Warwick version of that song; should have made the list.”

So, I decided to pick a list of three of my favorite songs that namecheck other songs by that same performer:

3. Creeque Alley by The Mamas and the Papas, with the final line, “And California Dreamin’ is becomin’ a reality…

2. Glass Onion by the Beatles with references to Strawberry Fields Forever, I Am The Walrus, Lady Madonna, Fool on the Hill, and Fixing a Hole

1. Sly and the Family Stone – Thank You (Falettinme Be Mice Elf Agin) that mentions, almost in a row, Dance to the music, Everyday people and Sing a simple song

Rolling Stone has updated its 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. Since none of them are from before 1940, I assume we’re talking popular, recorded songs, not of the classical or jazz genre. Still, I note that I own the vast majority of the music released in the 20th Century on the list, but only so-so on this past decade. I own the first 50, indeed, the first 99; #100 is Crazy by Gnars Barkley.

The Tony Awards, celebrating Broadway’s finest, are on this Sunday, broadcast on CBS-TV. I always watch because it’s generally more entertaining than any other awards show. There’s a large number of actors more associated with TV and film who are nominated this year. Also nominated for Best Musical: American Idiot, based on the Green Day album.

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