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Any Major Albums of the Year: 1982

November 29th, 2022 No comments

Lately I have marked my favourite albums of 1971 (in Vol. 1 and Vol. 2) and of 1972. That era, five decades ago, was a golden period for LPs. I won’t argue that 1982 — 40 years ago — was such a golden time, or even a silver or bronze period. But it was the year when I first started to earn money and could blow much of it on music.

The Nightfly’s Chesterfield Kings
And I wasted a lot of it on irredeemable rubbish (step forward, Supertramp’s Famous Last Words). But 1982 also produced some all-time favourite albums. I loved Donald Fagen’s The Nightfly before I had ever heard a full Steely Dan album (the title of this blog tips you off that I have listened to at least one since then). I remember that I had to comb through several record stores to find a copy, having been seduced by lead single IGY. How delighted I was to discover that the album had such a great cover, with Fagen acting as DJ Lester, a 19509s jazz disc spinner  (I wrote about the cover many years ago).

One thing the cover didn’t do was to convince me of the charms of Chesterfield Kings cigarettes. When I was still stupidly tarring my lungs and stinking up my breath, I tried Chesterfields; the packet was Fagen-cool but they tasted horrible. As a recovering smoker (clean for 13 years this coming week), I’d now say that all cigarettes are abominable, but I had my favourite smokes at various stages of my nicotine addiction. But never Chesterfields.

Album of the Year
Should I ever compile a list of the albums of any year and any genre which I love the most, Too-Rye-Ay by Dexys Midnight Runners will rank very highly (as would their 1981 hit Geno, should I ever rank my most-loved singles). It is a richly rewarding album, one that ought to be heard in full as one goes on a musical journey that glides between genres even within the same song, such as in the albums 7-minute centrepiece, Until I Believe In My Soul, which has soul horns, Celtic fiddle and a jazz interlude. The arrangements are superb.

The lot is narrated by Kevin Rowland in his idiosyncratic vocal stylings, aided by some fantastic backing vocals (just listen to the featured track). In turn, Rowland exudes confidence, exasperation, frustration, even neurosis, and a barrel-full of a nervous energy that holds your attention. I think the nervous energy appealed to me most when I was 16, a time on the verge of adulthood when something was waiting to explode, like the furious fiddle in Come On Eileen (the huge hit which, incidentally, only the fourth single from the album! There is a fine piece about it posted recently on the fine Hooks and Harmonies blog).

The Dexys album also included swearing, which in 1982 was still exciting. In Until I Believe In My Soul, Rowland murmurs, “You must be fucking joking”; in the same tone, it has become a stockphrase of mine when I find myself confronted by an irritating circumstance.

And by way of general housekeeping, two things to note about Dexys: Firstly, no apostrophe. Secondly, not a one-hit wonder, even if the US record-buying public was a fool.

Another F-Bomb
I think it was a few weeks before I bought Too-Rye-Ay that another new release I had hotly anticipated dropped the F-bomb. Billy Joel did so on Laura, his “White Album” tribute from The Nylon Curtain. I was a big Billy Joel fan at the time, but his new album didn’t excite me as much as I had hoped. It’s a cold album; still I played the LP often enough to get to know it very well. It includes some good tracks, and some that have not aged well. The Piano Man was now bearded, angry, frustrated and disillusioned, and he didn’t need to try some new fashion; I had liked him just the way he was.

The Envoy
In the canon of Warren Zevon albums, The Envoy tends to get a bad rap. Indeed, it sports some duff tracks. But when the tracks do hit, they land their punches well. The featured Never Too Late For Love comes towards the end of Side 2, but it holds its own with any of the best Zevon songs.The One I Forgot
In my unbiased opinion, the recent Any Major Soul 1982 mix is very good, but I wonder how on earth I managed to omit Otis Clay from the mix. He featured on Any Major Soul 1982/83, and his 1982 album produced the lesser-known original The Only Way Is Up (featured on Any Major Originals – 1980s Vol. 2).  It’s not the greatest soul album of the year, I’m sure, but I’m always happy to play it in full. By 1982, Clay was something of a soul veteran — he featured on Any Major Southern Soul with a track from 1971 — and kept recording until shortly before his death at 73 in January 2016.

Luther!
Luther Vandross does feature on the Any Major Soul 1982 mix with the gorgeous Once You Know How. Luther has been rightly criticised for never producing a flawless album, except perhaps 1986’s Give Me The Reason. So it’s fair to say that Forever, For Always, For Love certainly has its flaws. But, hell, it’s Luther Vandross singing flawed material. If Luther sung it, then that usually elevated the material. I think his version of The Temptations’ glorious Since I Lost My Baby might even trump the original. I’ll not accept challenges to a duel to defend that point, but even if you regard the original as unassailable, you’d have a heart of tarmacadam not to applaud Luther’s version, which features here.

Yacht Rock
Yes, I absolutely hate that term and the knowing sneers that comes with it, but I love the genre (as 12 volumes and counting in the Not Feeling Guilty series has amply proved). One of my favourite album in that genre is Bill LaBountry’s eponymous LP, which includes the glorious Living It Up (featured on Not Feeling Guilty Vol. 1). LaBounty has featured several times in the Not Feeling Guilty series; it is an injustice that he never became one of the big names in soft rock.

Yacht Pop
One album that just about squeaked into my Top 20 is Duran Duran’s Rio. For purposes of doing this list, I listened to the album again. Back in the 1980s it was a favourite; I don’t think it has aged too well, least of all Simon Le Bon’s voice, which I find grating. Still, some of the tracks hold up today. Hungry Like The Wolf and the title track — talk about Yacht Pop — are proper pop classics.

Of the synth pop albums in this lot, Rio is the weakest link. ABC’s Lexicon Of Love still shimmers in its pop perfection, and Yazoo — isn’t it time the US accord the group its full name after 40 years? — issued a thoroughly engaging album in Upstairs At Eric’s, on which several deep tracks might well have become hits, especially the soaring Didn’t I Bring Your Love Down. Instead, only two sings were released as singles, Don’t Go and Only You, which were UK #2 and #3 hits respectively.

Prince vs MJ
The end of 1982 saw the release of the biggest album of all time. I’ve made my views of Michael Jackson’s Thriller know before when I put it head-to-head against Prince’s commercial opus, Purple Rain. In the Jackson canon, I very much prefer Off The Wall, but one cannot deny that Thriller was a game-changer; with its genre-blurring and its incredible promotion, it became a huge cultural phenomenon, as the gentle reader of this blog needn’t really be told. I’d say that Prince’s 1982 double-album 1999 was a superior musical enterprise, but Prince was still building his legend. With Thriller, MJ was making his. And to think that the leading single from Thriller was the much-derided The Girl Is Mine.

Not An Illusion
But in 1982, neither MJ nor Prince made me want to get up and put on my dancing shoes — that was Imagination’s In The Heat Of The Night album. Just An Illusion, Music And Lights, Changes, the title track… half the album is dazzlingly great. The rest is good, too. All’s good, except the awful cover. A couple of years later, a cassette tape of remixes of Imagination songs got stuck in my car stereo, and somehow the volume button was broken, too. For a while I heard more Imagination than was good for my soul or sanity. Why didn’t my Motown mix get stuck instead?

Albums on my shortlist that failed to make the cut include those by Iron Maiden, Toto, Marvin Gaye, Hall & Oates, Men At Work, Dire Straits, Lionel Richie, Marlena Shaw, Shakatak, Culture Club and Germany’s BAP.

As ever, there doubtless will be puzzled headscratchings at my omissions. How could I not include Kate Bush’s The Dreaming? Because I’ve never owned or even heard it in full. Same with Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five’s The Message, much as I love the title track. And if I allowed a live album in Casino Lights, why not Simon & Garfunkel’s The Concert In Central Park? Because whatever I’ve heard from it, I’d rather play the studio versions, or the superb bootleg of a 1960s concert I found somewhere.

Companion mixes for this collection are A Life In Vinyl 1982, Any Major Soul 1982 and Any Major Soul 1982/83. Annual expenses for hosting this corner of the web are coming up, so if you might throw a tip in my coffee jar above, I would be grateful.

So, here are my Top 20 albums of 1982. The length of the mix exceeds a standard CD-R, but I’ve made home-thrillered covers anyway. The above text is included in an illustrated PDF. Comments in PW.

1. Dexys Midnight Runners – Liars A To E (Too-Rye-Ay)
2. ABC – All Of My Heart (Lexicon Of Love)
3. Kid Creole & The Coconuts – I’m A Wonderful Thing, Baby (Tropical Gangsters)
4. Donald Fagen – New Frontier (The Nightfly)
5. Michael McDonald – I Gotta Try (If That’s What It Takes)
6. Bill LaBounty – Look Who’s Lonely Now (Bill LaBounty)
7. Al Jarreau & Randy Crawford – Sure Enough (Casino Lights)
8. Michael Jackson – Baby Be Mine (Thriller)
9. Luther Vandross – Since I Lost My Baby (Forever, For Always, For Love)
10. Joe Jackson – Steppin’ Out (Night And Day)
11. Warren Zevon – Never Too Late For Love (The Envoy)
12. Billy Joel – Laura (The Nylon Curtain)
13. Bob Seger & The Silver Bullet Band – Shame On The Moon (The Distance)
14. Bruce Springsteen – Atlantic City (Nebraska)
15. Simple Minds – Someone Somewhere (In Summertime) (New Gold Dream)
16. Yazoo – Bad Connection (Upstairs At Eric’s)
17. Duran Duran – New Religion (Rio)
18. Prince – Delirious (1999)
19. Imagination – Just An Illusion (In The Heat Of The Night)
20. Otis Clay – Cheatin’ In The Next Room (The Only Way Is Up)

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Any Major Laura Nyro Songbook

November 22nd, 2022 1 comment

October 18 marked the 75th birthday of the great singer-songwriter Laura Nyro. Half a year earlier, April 8 marked the 25th anniversary of Nyro’s death, at the age 49.

By the time  the ovarian cancer claimed Nyro in 1997, her music was making a comeback of sorts, with a tribute album of her songs being recorded by the likes of Rosanne Cash, Suzanne Vega, Jill Sobule, Holly Cole, Phoebe Snow and others. It was released a month after Nyro’s death, but I hope she got to hear it before she left us. Since then, Nyro has become something of a cult figure, a songwriter who isn’t very well known but whose name is traded in reverential tones.

Nyro — pronounced Nero — deserves these reverential tones alone for the influence her exercised on others when her star was at the highest, from her groundbreaking debut in 1966 until early ’70s. Elton John, himself a subject of an Any Major Songbook earlier this year, cited her as a pivotal influence, and the mark of Nyro permeates Elton’s first few albums especially. Nyro, he has said, inspired him to abandon the rigid verse-chorus-verse structure, and to experiment with tempo changes. I wonder whether Elton’s lyricist, Bernie Taupin, was also inspired by Nyro; it would not surprise me.

Others who have named Laura Nyro as an influence include songwriting giants like Joni Mitchell and Carole King, who followed in her pioneering slipstream as a woman singer-songwriter. King, a veteran hit songwriter already when Nyro emerged on the scene in 1966 as a 19-year-old, was encouraged by Nyro to take her seat behind the piano and make it as a solo star. (Carole King has inspired two Songbooks — Vol. 1 and Vol. 2, plus a Tapestry Recovered mix — whole a Joni Mitchell Songbook will drop at some point, but in the interim, there’s the Blue Recovered mix.)

Laura’s ex-boyfriend Jackson Browne rode into LA on her coat tails. The Steely Dan guys and Alice Cooper dug her, as did Todd Rundgren, who modelled his songwriting style on Nyro’s. You can hear Nyro in Elvis Costello, Rickie Lee Jones and Cyndi Lauper, and even in artists as diverse as Kate Bush, Patti Smith and Bette Midler. Stevie Wonder based his If You Really Love Me on Nyro’s music.

In her short heyday, Nyro, the daughter of a jazz trumpeter, wrote a number of songs that became hits for others: And When I Die for first Peter, Paul and Mary and then Blood, Sweat and Tears (a group she was invited to join by founder Al Kooper); Eli’s Coming for Three Dog Night; Stoney End for Barbra Streisand; and for The Fifth Dimension Wedding Bell Blues, the deliciously grooving Stone Cold Picnic, Blowing Away, and Sweet Blindness.

Nyro was a gifted songwriter who fused genres so widely as to make it almost impossible to reduce her to any one classification (much like her chief apostles, The Fifth Dimension). It is quite astonishing to think that the lyrics and melody of When I Die were written by a teenager, at a time when the precedents for philosophical lyrical depth were still quite scarce in pop music. Stoney End was also written and released before Laura reached the age of 20, as was the musically complex Wedding Bell Blues, written when she was 18. As a teenage prodigy songwriter, Nyro stands alongside Jimmy Webb (Webb has been the subject of three Songbooks: Vol. 1, Vol. 2 and Vol. 3) and the Bee Gees guys (Barry Gibb yielded two Songbooks: Vol. 1 and Vol. 2)

But the expressive, three-octave singer also loved to interpret the music of others. With LaBelle, she recorded a whole album of covers, and with the King/Goffin composition Up On The Roof she had her biggest chart hit — though its peak at #92 suggests that Nyro’s music was not the stuff of 7” singles stardom, or any kind of commercial success. Only one of her LPs entered the Billboard Album Top 40, New York Tendaberry (1969)

Apart from Laura’s distinctive voice, which not everybody loved, her own inability to market herself had something to do with that. Nyro was afflicted with debilitating stage-fright — no doubt exacerbated by being booed off stage at the 1967 Monterrey Festival — which impeded her ability to promote her records. Moreover, her personality was too intense and too idiosyncratic for the banality of the pop industry, even though her music demonstrably had popular appeal.

In 1971, at the age of 24, Nyro quit the industry, resurfacing only periodically. In 1993, she released her final album, Walk The Dog And Light The Light. It was well-received by the critics and widely ignored by the public.

Nyro was finally inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2010, and two years later into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. There were some people who thought her induction was elitist and controversial. Fuck those people. Ask Joni, ask Carole, ask Elton….

Annual expenses for hosting this corner of the web are coming up, so if you might throw a tip in my coffee jar above, I would be grateful.

As always, CD-R length, home-surried covers, the text above in illustrated PDF. PW in Comments.

1. Laura Nyro – Sweet Blindness (1968)
2. Three Dog Night – Eli’s Coming (1969)
3. Sammy Davis Jr. – And When I Die (1970)
4. The 5th Dimension – Black Patch (1972)
5. The Supremes – Time And Love (1971)
6. Bobbie Gentry – Wedding Bell Blues (1970)
7. Linda Ronstadt & The Stone Poneys – Stoney End (1968)
8. Barbra Streisand – I Never Meant To Hurt You (1971)
9. Carmen McRae – Goodbye Joe (1970)
10. Karen Wyman – California Shoeshine Boys (1970)
11. Peggy Lipton – Hands Off The Man (Flim Flam Man) (1968)
12. Mama Cass – He’s A Runner (1969)
13. Claire Martin – Buy And Sell (1995)
14. Tuck & Patti – Captain For Dark Mornings (1998)
15. Swing Out Sister – Stoned Soul Picnic (1997)
16. Judy Kuhn – Luckie (2007)
17. Ronnie Dyson – Emmie (1970)
18. Melba Moore – Captain St Lucifer (1970)
19. Julie Driscoll, Brian Auger & The Trinity – Save The Country (1975)
20. Green Lyte Sunday – Woman’s Blues (1970)
21. Laura Nyro – When I Was A Freeport And You Were The Main Drag (1970)

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Previous Songbooks:
ABBA
Ashford & Simpson
Barry Gibb Vol. 1
Barry Gibb Vol. 2
Bill Withers
Bob Dylan Volumes 1-5
Brian Wilson
Bruce Springsteen
Burt Bacharach & Hal David
Burt Bacharach’s Lesser-Known Songbook
Carole Bayer Sager
Carole King Vol. 1
Carole King Vol. 2
Chuck Berry
Cole Porter Vol. 1
Cole Porter Vol. 2
Elton John & Bernie Taupin
Holland-Dozier-Holland
John Prine
Jimmy Webb Vol. 1
Jimmy Webb Vol. 2
Jimmy Webb Vol. 3
Lamont Dozier
Leonard Cohen
Neil Diamond
Paul McCartney Vol. 1
Rod Temperton
Steely Dan

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Any Major Soul 1982

November 15th, 2022 2 comments

The alert follower of this corner of the Internet will have spotted that the Any Major Soul series now runs only once a year, to mark the 40th anniversary of the featured year. And when I contemplate that 1982 is now equidistant to 1942, I feel quite dizzy. But somehow, I don’t think the distance between now and 1982 is as culturally, socially or politically big as that between 1982 and 1942.

That, I think, applies to music as well. In fact, today’s R&B artists especially have an affinity for the stuff that was big four decades ago.

Before the ‘Betrayal’
The opening track on this mix shows how quick things can go downhill. In 1982, Stevie Wonder was still in best form, with songs like That Girl and the majestic Do I Do. By 1984, Stevie issued that song which for once confirms received wisdom, the shameful I Just Called To Say I Love You; a song I could not hate more if it was sung by Michael F Bolton. I had anticipated the new Stevie song with such anticipation that September day in 1984, and felt betrayed when I heard it on the radio. To wash the grease of I Just Called… out of my ears, I put on the Original Musiquarium album. On that “Best Of” type double-LP set, every side ended with a previously unreleased track. All of these would have merited a place on any of the great Stevie Wonder albums of the 1970s.

Knitted Jersey Soul
For those who lived through the ’80s, it is tempting to dismiss Lionel Richie as a somewhat naff pop singer of syrupy ballads and party tunes, whose sartorial style was like a parody of 1980s fashion when 1980s fashion was still happening. And fair enough, I don’t like Dancing On The Ceiling or Hello or Ballerina Girl. But Richie, we must never forget, was also the man from The Commodores, whose place in the pantheon of soul acts is unassailable. And that Richie was also present on his solo albums. The featured track, Round And Round, is a delightfully upbeat song from his eponymous 1982 album.

Not a Smith
I recall arriving in London in 1984 and seeing concert listings announcing gigs by Morrissey-Mullen. I had no ideas what music I might hear at such gigs, and I never sought to find out. But since I loved The Smiths, the name stuck in my mind. Later I learnt that this lot had no truck with the pretentious lyrics and nasty bigotry of their part-namesake. Morrissey-Mullen were a pretty funky jazz fusion act, with Dick Morrissey on saxophones and flute, and Jim Mullen on guitar. Morrissey left us in 2000 at the age of 60.

On the featured track, their groove is given life by the vocals by British singer Carol Kenyon, whose voice you may well know from Heaven 17’s 1983 hit Temptation (featured on A Life in Vinyl 1983), or from Paul Hardcastle’s 1986 hit Don’t Waste My Time. She was a prolific backing singer.

Fifth Stairstep
Keni Burke started his career as a kid in the Five Stairsteps, and wrote the group’s first successful single, You Waited Too Long, in 1966, before he was even 13. A talented multi-instrumentalist, he backed some of the biggest names in soul music while also pursuing a solo career that yielded three albums between 1977 and 1982, followed by another in 1998.

Short Careers
It is a little sad to know that Mighty Fire released only two albums, in 1981 and ’82, before they split. Member Darryl K. Roberts, a singer, bassist and keyboardist, went on to write the Anita Baker song Same Ole Love. Mel Bolton, who also produced the Mighty Fire, had been an arranger for Motown, including the tribute to Berry Gordy, Pops, We Love You, which was recorded by two acts that also feature on this mix: Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder (along with Diana Ross and Smokey Robinson).

Even fewer releases were issued by Wisconsin soul acts Majestics: one single, the featured The Key To Love Is Understanding. The song must have sounded dated in 1982. Today, it is a gorgeous slow burner that really belongs in the 1970s.

Was he?
You may recognise Sweet Pea Atkinson’s voice from Was (Not Was) hits like Spy In The House Of Love and Walk The Dinosaur. On his own Atkinson, who died in 2020, released only two albums, one in 1982 and the other in 2017. Who knows, maybe I’ll feature a track from the latter on this blog in 2057.

A Original?
On the Originals of 1990s hits I included Linda Clifford’s first version 1990 Whitney Houston hit All The Man I Need. It is actually not clear whether Clifford’s version or that by Sister Sledge was the original version. Both were released in 1980, and if Discogs and Wikipedia are correct, the Sister Sledge version came out a month before Clifford’s (other sources date the release of the former to four months later). If Secondhandsongs.com and Whosampledwho.com have it right, Clifford’s recording precedes that of the sisters. Whatever the case, the Sister Sledge version is included here. The uncredited male vocals on what is really Kathy Sledge’s song, by what sounds like Barry White’s kid brother, are those of Philadelphia singer David Simmons.

Long Note
Finally, Melba Moore needs no introduction. But do listen to that absurdly long note she holds at the end of The Other Side Of The Rainbow. That’s no saxophone; it’s Melba!

A companion mix to this collection is Any Major Soul 1982/83, which I posted — gulp — 12 years ago. The Zippy link is still live.

As always, CD-R length, covers, text above in PDF, PW in comments…

1. Stevie Wonder – That Girl
2. Junior – Mama Used To Say
3. Mighty Fire – Just A Little Bit
4. Marvin Gaye – My Love Is Waiting
5. Lionel Richie – Round And Round
6. Luther Vandross – Once You Know How
7. Morrissey-Mullen feat. Carol Kenyon – Ships That Pass In The Night
8. Marlena Shaw – Next Time I Fall In Love
9. Syl Johnson – They Can’t See Your Good Side
10. Majestics – Key To Love Is Understanding
11. Melba Moore – The Other Side Of The Rainbow
12. Patrice Rushen – Where There Is Love
13. Howard Johnson – Take Me Through The Night
14. Mike & Brenda Sutton – All Worth Loving For
15. Sweet Pea Atkinson – Don’t Walk Away
16. Z.Z. Hill – Cheating In The Next Room
17. Keni Burke – One Minute More
18. Sister Sledge feat. David Simmons – All The Man I Need

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In Memoriam – October 2022

November 3rd, 2022 4 comments

What a terrible month for Carly Simon, who lost her two sisters on successive days. Generally, it was a month that claimed several strong women, and a ghastly month for country music.

But the WTF Death of the Month must be that of Amou Haji. The 94-year-old Iranian was billed “The Dirtiest Man in the World”, on account of not having washed in 65 years. He didn’t bother anybody. Amou Haj lived in a hole and ate the meat of dead animals he found. Still, just a few months ago, the villagers persuaded Amou Haj to take a bath. I’m not saying that cleanliness kills you, but soon after Amou Haj had his first confrontation with soap and water in six and a half decades, he died…

The Dead Killer
Music history is filled with scumbags whose art we admire despite our objections to their character. These scumbags appear throughout the history of art (think of Caravaggio, a genius as well as a killer). Jerry Lee Lewis occupies a place of honour in the Artists’ Hall of Infamy. Marrying his 13-year-old cousin was just one strike against Lewis (and it screwed up his career). Of course he also beat his child-bride, as he did almost all of his seven wives. And the death of his fifth wife… well, let’s just say that a case has been made that Lewis’ nickname “The Killer” was not just a hilarious moniker. He earned that nickname long before Wife 5’s suspicious death, in high school, when he tried to strangle a teacher. The man was also a racist and a man given to extreme acts violence. To cut a very long and nasty story short, the man was a sociopath. And he knew it, and seemed pretty pleased about it.

But Lewis also provided at least two incendiary records to the canon of rock & roll, which placed him at the very vanguard of the nascent movement. After the deaths in recent years of Little Richard, Fats Domino and Chuck Berry, Lewis was the last man standing of that vanguard. His contribution, the immediate massive impact notwithstanding, was also the slightest of that rarified group. Of course, even if we reduce his output to just Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On and Great Balls Of Fire, that contribution was huge.

Lewis is one of those artists whose personality has actively put me off from seeking out his catalogue, even as I rather liked those things I’ve stumbled across. It’s not that there is a code I subscribe to — for every Gary Glitter or R. Kelly whose music I avoid there’s a Michael Jackson whom I’ll cheerfully listen to, despite all the allegations. I’ll listen to Lewis stuff, and even enjoy it, but his death won’t encourage me to investigate his body of work.

The Coal Miner’s Daughter
After Kitty Wells broke barriers for women in country music in the 1950s, Loretta Lynn stepped up the cause for women in the 1960s and ’70s. The country legend did controversial songs about the stigma of divorce especially for women, the Pill, sexual autonomy, domestic abuse (in the unsubtly-titled Fist City), and war widowhood (during the Vietnam War, one may add), and did many other songs that spoke to and for women. Some of them were humorous; indeed, Loretta had a way of making funny songs without them becoming novelty records. Her duets with Conway Twitty in the 1970s are a good example of that, especially the superbly-titled You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly.

Many of Loretta’s songs were from her own life. The autobiographical Coal Miner’s Daughter (later also the title of her best-selling memoirs and subsequently a hit film) is a macro example of that; and sometimes they were small touches. On the child-bearing anthem One’s On The Way, she exclaims “Gee, I hope it ain’t twins again!” Her last birth, six years earlier, produced twins.

While Loretta was progressive in many of her lyrics, she was no feminist. Women’s liberation was, for her, at best a necessary evil. Politically she supported mostly Republicans, with the exception of Jimmy Carter. Towards the end of her life she stumped for Trump — precisely the sort of man she censured and mocked in many of her songs.

The Country Folk Pop Singer
Known primarily as a country singer, Jody Miller started out as a folk and pop singer, and in 1965 even participated in the Sanremo Song Festival in Italy, singing “Io che non vivo (senza te)”, a year before Dusty Springfield had a hit with an English version of the song as You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me (the story of that features on The Originals 1960s Vol. 1). Miller also recorded a string of songs in German (with quite good diction for that kind of thing; check out the Stars Sing German mix). Her breakthrough came with Queen Of The House, an answer record to the Roger Miller hit King Of The Road, which won her a Grammy for Best Female Country Vocal Performance.

She followed that with Home Of The Brave, a pop chart hit which due its (mild) anti-bigotry lyrics didn’t even make the country charts. Nevertheless she enjoyed a decent country career throughout the 1970s, especially as a fine interpreter of older hits. Quite remarkable is her lovely 1971 version of The Chiffons’ He’s So Fine, which prominently features a guitar line very similar to that of My Sweet Lord; the George Harrison track which the publishers of He’s So Fine claimed ripped of the song they had bought.

Miller retired temporarily from music in 1979 to breed horses. In 1987 she returned as a country gospel artist. In that field she was highly-respected. In 1999 she was inducted into the Country Gospel Music Hall of Fame — among the other inductees that year was Loretta Lynn.

The Motown Writer
Just a couple of months after the great Lamont Dozier died, another writer of Motown classics left us in Ivy Jo Hunter. Like Dozier and the Holland brothers, Hunter tried his hand at becoming a singer but ended up behind the scenes, as a keyboardist, producer and songwriter. Hunter co-wrote Dancing In The Streets for Martha & The Vandellas, Danger Heartbreak Dead Ahead and I’ll Keep Holding On for The Marvelettes, Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever and Ask The Lonely for the Four Tops, Behind A Painted Smile for the Isley Brothers, Can You Jerk Like Me for The Contours, among others.

Motown didn’t release any of Hunter’s own recordings until much later, other than a soon-out-of-print album of his songs in 1969. In the 1970s Hunter went his own way, working with Funkadelic and in 1979 co-writing and producing graduation anthem Hold On (To Your Dream) for erstwhile Dramatics singer Wee Gee.

The Backing Leader
It was a really tough month for country music. After Kitty Wells and Jody Miller, Nashville mourned Anita Kerr, whose impressive vita included singer, arranger, composer, conductor, pianist and producer. Fulfilling all or any of these roles, she was central to the development of the Nashville sound in the 1950s. The Anita Kerr Singers provided backing vocals on countless country recordings, many of them classic hits. If it wasn’t The Jordanaires crooning background vocals on a country record in the 1950s to mid-‘60s, then it was the Anita Kerr Singers. And besides all that, Kerr often arranged and co-produced those recordings, usually with the A-Team of session musicians in the studio and not always credited.

Kerr and her singers debuted on record when they trilled in the background to Red Foley’s song Our Lady Of Fatima, a #16 hit in 1950 (Foley and Kerr were both Catholics, which explains this strange subject matter). They went on to back — with Kerr often also arranging — acts like Patsy Cline, Jim Reeves, Eddy Arnold, Skeeter Davis, Dean Martin, Don Gibson, Burl Ives, Ernest Tubb, Webb Pierce, Faron Young, Chet Atkins, Hank Snow, Brenda Lee, Perry Como, Pat Boone, Rosemary Clooney, Bobby Vinton, Roy Orbison, Willie Nelson, Floyd Cramer, Al Hirt and many others.

The group also recorded in its own rights, winning a Grammy in 1965 for singing Henry Mancini songs (incongruously beating The Beatles’ Help album in the best vocal group performance category). In a neat reversal, the singers from the country world dug into the repertoire of Ray Charles, who had enjoyed great success with reinterpreting country songs.

In 1965, Kerr packed in the Nashville country scene, and moved to LA, and in 1970 to Switzerland. In both places she recorded easy listening covers with reconstituted Anita Kerr Singers. In Switzerland, Kerr and husband Alex Grob set up Mountain Studios at Montreux Casino in 1975. Bought in 1979 by Queen, it has been the place of many noteworthy recordings.

The Songwriter
Last year and a few weeks ago, I compiled mixes to highlight my Top 20 albums of 1971 (with a second volume making it a Top 40), and 1972. If I make it as far as 2024, I shall compile my Top 20 albums of 1974. And that list will include the only album songwriter Bettye Crutcher ever released, the awkwardly titled Long As You Love Me (I’ll Be Alright). That album included the wonderful Up For A Let Down, which featured on Any Major Soul 1974.

Crutcher should have had a career in front of the mic, but most of her work was behind the scenes, as a songwriter and occasionally as producer. In the 1960s, Crutcher wrote a string of soul songs for artists on the Stax roster, as a third of the writing collective We Three. Their best-known hit is Johnnie Taylor’s widely-covered 1968 hit Who’s Making Love. In the 1970s, Crutcher wrote extensively with Mack Rice (the original singer of Mustang Sally), and a lot for Canadian-born soul singer Eric Mercury, whom we lost in March this year (a Crutcher co-wrote also appeared on Any Major ABC of Canada). She also wrote the majestic I’m Gonna Hate Myself In The Morning for Betty Wright. It is represented here by Otis Clay, an alumnus of Hi Records, for which Crutcher also wrote.

Crutcher, the only woman in Stax’s creative department, attended the Grammys in 1969, where Who’s Making Love was nominated. Also attending was John Lennon. “I wanted so much to meet him,” she later recalled, “but I found out that he wanted to meet me.”

After Stax folded in the mid-1970s, Crutcher retired from the music industry, other than writing the occasional song, and became an antiques dealer and jeweller.

The Older Sister
Perhaps Lucy Simon, who has died at 82, should be most famous for greater things than being the older sister of Carly Simon, with whom she formed a folk duo in the 1960s. The Simon Sisters came from a privileged background — their father was the co-founder of publishing giants Simon & Schuster, but their mother was also a social activist and singer. All three daughters went into music: oldest sister Joanna went into opera; Lucy and Carly into folk music as The Simon Sisters. In October, Joanna died one day (!) before Lucy, at the age of 84. Both were killed by cancer.

Starting in 1964, The Simon Sisters released three albums, appeared on TV and had a minor hit with Lucy’s adaptation of the poem Winkin’, Blinkin’ And Nod — the first song she ever wrote. As the 1960s fizzled out, Lucy got married and Carly pursued a solo career in LA, marrying fellow folkie James Taylor. Lucy would periodically do backing vocals on her sister’s recordings.

In the mid-1970s, Lucy returned full-time to music, recording two albums: 1975’s eponymous album was a folk affair, 1977’s Stolen Time an AOR effort. On the latter, Carly Simon and James Taylor did backing vocals on about half of the songs. But neither album did brisk business.

In 1980 Lucy and husband David Levine produced the Grammy-winning album In Harmony: A Sesame Street Record, on which some top stars (Doobie Brothers, George Benson, Bette Midler, Al Jarreau, Dr John, and, of course, Simon and Taylor) recorded songs for children which their boomer parents could groove to (truth be told, other than Ernie & Cookie Monster doing their turn, I suspect almost everything else bored the kids stiff). They also oversaw the sequel album in 1982. That set also included an all-star cast; among them Bruce Springsteen with his version of Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town. That album also won a Grammy in the Best Recording for Children category.

Lucy then went into writing music for stage musicals, scoring notable successes with The Secret Garden and Doctor Zhivago.

The Enginering Producer
If you produce one classic album in your life, then doing it with Santana’s Abraxas — with Black Magic Woman, Oye Como Va, Samba Pa Ti etc —  isn’t a bad way to go. Of course, Fred Catero, who has died at 89, produced many other albums. And he engineered on many hit records for acts like Peaches & Herb, The Buckinghams, Blood Sweat & Tears, Big Brother & Holding Company, Janis Joplin, Linda Ronstadt, Chicago, Taj Mahal, Herbie Hancock, The Pointer Sisters, Bobby Womack, LaBelle and many others.

In the 1980s he founded the independent Catero Records label for jazz acts, with Herbie Hancock as the headliner act.

The Gay-Country Singer
Strangely, I’ve never considered the notion of there being a gay country scene. But whatever there is by way of gay country, it was spearheaded by the band Lavender Country, led by Patrick Haggerty, who has died at 78. In 1973, Lavender Country released the first known gay-themed album in country music.

The eponymously-titled album was funded by gay rights activists in Seattle, and only a thousand copies were pressed. That might not be the only reason why we haven’t seen Lavender Country on stage of the Grand Ole Opry singing their songs like Come Out Singing, Back In The Closet Again, Straight White Patterns, or the timeless Cryin’ These Cocksucking Tears.

The band released their second album, Blackberry Rose, almost 50 years later, in February this year. In the intervening decades, Haggerty (who in the 1960s was kicked out of the Peace Corps for being gay!) was the only permanent member.

The Legend
Most of us probably associate Angela Lansbury with the TV series Murder, She Wrote, in which Jessica Fletcher’s presence at any social event would lead to at least one murder, which the author-sleuth would then solve. The episode would always end with a freeze-frame of Ms Fletcher laughing. Was she laughing at us, having committed all these murders herself, directly or by plotting, and framing some poor saps for them?

Lansbury, an all-round quality person, also appeared in the 1944 film that has given us the modern term “gaslighting”. Gaslight was more Hitchcockian than a film typical of director George Cukor. I recommend Gaslight highly.

Lansbury’s credits were many (The Manchurian Candidate!), and they included several eminent stage musicals, including Mame and Gypsy. As such, Lansbury featured on this funkin’, rockin’, soulin’ blog before, with her song We Need A Little Christmas from Mame, on Any Major X-Mas Favourites.

Another singing British actor left us this month in Robbie Coltrane, whose recording career was shortlived.

Expenses in running this joint are coming up again at the end of the year. If you are enjoying what you read, please consider buying me coffee to help keep this place going.

As always, this post is reproduced in illustrated PDF format in the package, which also includes my personal playlist of the featured tracks. PW in comments.

Bin Valencia, 61, drummer of Argentine metal band Almafuerte, on Oct. 1

Mary McCaslin, 75, folk singer-songwriter, on Oct. 2
Mary McCaslin – Sunny California (1979)

Mon Legaspi, 54, bassist of Filipino rock band Wolfgang, on Oct. 3

Janet Thurlow, 96, jazz singer, on Oct. 4
Lionel Hampton Orchestra – I Can’t Believe That You’re In Love With Me (1951, on vocals)

Loretta Lynn, 90, country singer-songwriter, on Oct. 4
Loretta Lynn – I’m A Honky Tonk Girl (1960)
Loretta Lynn – Coal Miner’s Daughter (1970)
Loretta Lynn & Conway Twitty – You’re The Reason Our Kids Are Ugly (1978)
Loretta Lynn – Van Lear Rose (2004)

Lenny Lipton, 82, poet and lyricist, on Oct. 5
Peter, Paul & Mary – Puff (The Magic Dragon) (1963, as co-writer)

Ann-Christine Nyström, 78, Finnish singer, on Oct. 5

Jody Miller, 80, folk and country singer, on Oct. 6
Jody Miller – Magic Town (1965)
Jody Miller – Liebelei hat keinen Sinn (1965)
Jody Miller – He’s So Fine (1971)
Jody Miller – Soft Lights And Slow Sexy Music (1978)

Ivy Jo Hunter, 82, Motown songwriter, singer and keyboardist, on Oct. 6
The Marvelettes – Danger! Heartbreak Dead Ahead (1965, as writer and co-producer)
Ivy Joe Hunter – Loving You Is Sweeter Than Ever (1969, also as co-writer)
Wee Gee – Hold On (To Your Dreams) (1979, as co-writer and producer)
Ivy Jo Hunter – Running Through My Fingers (1991, also as co-writer)

Fred Catero, 89, producer and engineer, on Oct. 6
Blood, Sweat & Tears – Spinning Wheel (1968, as recording engineer)
Santana – Hope You’re Feeling Better (1970, as producer)
Webster Lewis – Give Me Some Emotion (1979, as engineer)

Winston Henry, 74, Trinidadian calypso artist, on Oct. 7

Ronnie Cuber, 80, jazz saxophonist, on Oct. 7
Ronnie Cuber – Cumana (1978)
Chaka Khan & George Benson – We Got The Love (1978, on baritone saxophone)

Chuck Deardorf, 68, jazz bass player, on Oct. 9

Andrés Cuervo, 34, Colombian singer-songwriter, on Oct. 9

Kenny Clayton, 86, British jazz pianist, producer, arranger, conductor, on Oct. 10
Kenny Clayton – Strawberry Fields (2008)

Anita Kerr, 94, singer, choir leader, arranger, pianist, producer, on Oct. 10
Tennessee Ernie & The Dinning Sisters – Rock City Boogie (1952, as co-writer)
Jim Reeves – He’ll Have To Go (1960, on backing vocals)
The Anita Kerr Quartet – Too Little Time (1965)

Angela Lansbury, 96, British actress and musicals singer, on Oct. 11
Angela Lansbury – If He Walked Into My Life (1969)

Willie Spence, 23, American Idol runner-up (2021), in car crash on Oct. 11

Monsta O, 56, American rapper, on Oct. 12

Verckys Kiamuangana Mateta, 78, Congolese bandleader, composer, label founder, on Oct. 13
Verckys & Son Ensemble – Bankoko Baboyi (1969, also on saxophone)

Mike Schank, 56, American musician and actor, on Oct. 13

Christina Moser, 70, Swiss half of Italian new wave duo Krisma, on Oct. 13
Chrisma – Lola (1977)

Steve Roberts, 68, drummer of British punk band U.K. Subs, by suicide on Oct. 13
U.K. Subs – Keep On Running (1981)

Robbie Coltrane, 72, Scottish actor, comedian, occasional singer, on Oct. 14
Robbie Coltrane – New Orleans (1988)

Marty Sammon, 45, blues pianist, on Oct. 15
Buddy Guy – Let The Door Knob Hit Ya (2010, on piano)

Mikaben, 41, Haitian singer, songwriter and producer, on Oct. 15

Joyce Sims, 63, soul singer-songwriter, on Oct. 15
Joyce Sims – (You Are My) All And All (1985)
Joyce Sims – Come Into My Life (1987)

Noel Duggan, 73, guitarist, singer with Irish folk group Clannad, on Oct. 15
Clannad – Theme From Harry’s Game (1982)
Clannad feat. Bono- In A Lifetime (1986)

Paul Dufour, 74, original drummer of UK rock band Libertines, announced Oct. 16

Robert Gordon, 75, rockabilly singer, on Oct. 18
Robert Gordon feat. Link Wray – The Way I Walk (1978)

Franco Gatti, 80, singer, musician with Italian pop band Ricchi e Poveri, on Oct. 18
Ricchi e Poveri – Sarà perché ti amo (1981)

Joanna Simon, 85, opera singer, sister of Carly Simon, on Oct. 19
Carly Simon – Older Sister (1974)

Lucy Simon, 82, folk-rock singer and songwriter, sister of Carly Simon, on Oct. 20
The Simon Sisters – Calico Pie (1968)
Lucy Simon – Silence Is Salvation (1975)
Lucy Simon – If You Ever Believed (1977)
The Doobie Brothers – Wynken, Blynken And Nod (1980, as producer, co-writer)

Bettye Crutcher, 83, soul singer and songwriter, on Oct. 20
Johnnie Taylor – Who’s Making Love (1968, as co-writer)
Eric Mercury – If I Make It To The Top (1973, as co-writer)
Bettye Crutcher – Up For A Let Down (1974, also as co-writer)
Otis Clay – I’m Gonna Hate Myself In The Morning (1982, as co-writer)

Zuri Craig, 44, actor and singer, on Oct. 21

Robert Gordy, 91, singer, songwriter, publishing executive, on Oct. 21
Bob Kayli with Barry Gordy Orchestra – Everyone Was There (1958, as singer, co-writer)

Luiz Galvão, 87, songwriter with Brazilian rock band Novos Baianos, on Oct. 22

Don Edwards, 86, western singer, on Oct. 23
Don Edwards – Deep Water, Ice And Snow (1992)

Gregg Philbin, bassist of REO Speedwagon (1968-77), on Oct. 24
REO Speedwagon – Ridin’ The Storm Out (1973)

Paul Stoddard, singer of metalcore band Diecast, on Oct. 25

Christie Nelhlick, drummer of rock band ROX, announced Oct. 26
ROX – American Kan Kan (1979)

Agustín Ramírez, 70, singer-songwriter with Mexican band Los Caminantes, on Oct. 26

Geraldine Hunt, 77, soul and disco singer and songwriter, on Oct. 27
Geraldine Hunt – Can’t Fake The Feeling (1980, also as co-writer)

Bruce Arnold, 76, singer and songwriter of rock band Orpheus, announced Oct. 28
Orpheus – Cant Find The Time (1968, also as writer)

Jerry Lee Lewis, 87, rock & roll and country singer and pianist, on Oct. 28
Jerry Lee Lewis – Whole Lotta Shakin’ Goin’ On (1957)
Jerry Lee Lewis – Hound Dog (1974)
Jerry Lee Lewis – Sunday Morning Coming Down (2010)

H. Peligro, 63, drummer of the Dead Kennedys, on Oct. 28
Dead Kennedys – Bleed For Me (1982)

Robin Sylvester, c.71, British bassist of rock band RatDog, On Oct. 29
The Rubinoos – Early Winter (2000, on bass)

Ryan Karazija, 40, founder of Icelandic electronica project Low Roar, announced Oct. 29
Low Roar – Give Me An Answer (2017)

John McGale, 66, member of Canadian rock band Offenbach, on Oct. 30
Offenbach – Sad Song (2000)

Danny Javier, 75, member of Filipino band APO Hiking Society, on Oct. 31

Patrick Haggerty, 78, singer-songwriter of country band Lavender Country, on Oct. 31
Lavender Country – Come Out Singing (1973)
Lavender Country – Don’t Buy Her No More Roses (2022)

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