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176: Chuck Berry, ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ (Bob Dylan, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’)

Posted by jeff on Mar 17, 2017 in Rock, Rock and Roll, Song Of the week

Chuck Berry – ‘Too Much Monkey Business’

Bob Dylan – ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’

 

© Mark Seliger

I don’t know bubkes about hip-hop, and I can’t say I feel any pervasive sense of inadequacy or overwhelming need to learn. The sum total of my ignorance is from good-old Wikipedia: “Hip Hop” usually refers to Hip-Hop music, aka MCing, aka rapping. But Hip-Hop culcha is also marked by DJing/scratching, breakdancing, and graffiti writing. There’s some conceptual dissonance in the parallelism of that list, but I guess that’s the point.

I’ve seen enough of it at the gym to know that ‘rapping’ is chants rhymed verse to a strong 4/4 beat, and that the attitude is distinctly anti-establishment. There’s Gangsta Rap, there’s West Coast rap, but there’s apparently no Republican rap – unless I missed something by Pat Boone.

The origins of rap have been attributed to everything from Pigmeat Markam’s ‘Here Come the Judge’ (1968, Chess Records) to the opening scene of “Music Man” (1962) to Glenn Miller’s ‘The Lady’s in Love with You’ (1939), not to mention Woody Guthrie’s talking blues, Gilbert & Sullivan and the Beat Poets.

Who yo’ daddy?

Even Rolling Stone Magazine has asked “Is Bob Dylan Hip-Hop’s Godfather?” Sure, there’s the obvious heavy, in-your-face, chunky, chutzpadik rhyming, performed by a sullen, gum-chewing, too-inured-to-touch punk. Oh, the world’s such a mess but I’m so cool.

Of course, the quintessential expression of that particular Dylan persona is ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’, the opening track on “Bringing It All Back Home” (March, 1965). This was a few months before the infamous Newport Folk Festival Fiasco. The album was the public’s first exposure to Electric Bob, ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ the first-punch KO.

It’s eight minutes of frenetic, seditious lyrics packed into 2:22, immortalized by the famous visual gag in D.A. Pennebaker’s documentary “Don’t Look Back”, in which Poker-Faced Bob peels off key words in a series of cardboard signs in an alley with Allen Ginsberg (in a tallis?) chatting in the background.

Johnny’s in the basement/Mixing up the medicine/I’m on the pavement/Thinking about the government/The man in the trench coat/Badge out, laid off/Says he’s got a bad cough/Wants to get it paid off.
Look out kid/It’s somethin’ you did/God knows when/But you’re doin’ it again/You better duck down the alley way/Lookin’ for a new friend/The man in the coon-skin cap/By the big pen/Wants eleven dollar bills/You only got ten.

Maggie comes fleet foot/Face full of black soot/Talkin’ that the heat put/Plants in the bed but/The phone’s tapped anyway/Maggie says that many say/They must bust in early May/Orders from the D.A.
Look out kid/Don’t matter what you did/Walk on your tiptoes/Don’t try “No-Doz”/Better stay away from those/That carry around a fire hose/Keep a clean nose/Watch the plain clothes/You don’t need a weatherman/To know which way the wind blows.

Get sick, get well/Hang around a ink well/Ring bell, hard to tell/If anything is goin’ to sell/Try hard, get barred/Get back, write braille/Get jailed, jump bail/Join the army, if you fail.
Look out kid/You’re gonna get hit/But users, cheaters/Six-time losers/Hang around the theaters/Girl by the whirlpool/Lookin’ for a new fool/Don’t follow leaders/Watch the parkin’ meters.

Ah get born, keep warm/Short pants, romance, learn to dance/Get dressed, get blessed/Try to be a success/Please her, please him, buy gifts/Don’t steal, don’t lift/Twenty years of schoolin’/And they put you on the day shift.
Look out kid/They keep it all hid/Better jump down a manhole/Light yourself a candle/Don’t wear sandals/Try to avoid the scandals/Don’t wanna be a bum/You better chew gum/The pump don’t work/’Cause the vandals took the handles.

The song’s impact was ubiquitous. John Lennon was so overwhelmed when he first heard it, he was quoted as saying he didn’t know how he would ever compete. The 1960s radical communist group the Weathermen took their name from the song’s famous line, “you don’t need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.” (The Weathermen went on to bomb several political targets in the late sixties.) A 2007 study of legal opinions and briefs found that that was the song line most often cited by judges and lawyers. For many of us, ‘Twenty years of schoolin’ and they put you on the day shift’ expressed the essence of the baby boomers’ abrupt collision with economic reality. (My first job after graduating with a BA in English Lit in 1969 was actually the night shift in a Pepsi Cola bottling factory.)

But the line my friends and I loved most was ‘The pump don’t work ‘cause the vandals took the handles.’ Fifty years on, it still loiters around my consciousness.

So if ‘SHB’ is the daddy of rap, who’s its forefather? Dylan: “It’s from Chuck Berry, a bit of ‘Too Much Monkey Business’ and some of the scat songs of the Forties.”

If you had to pick one person to credit as the father of rock and roll, it would probably be Charles Edward Anderson Berry (b. 1926).  Brian Wilson says Chuck wrote “all of the great songs and came up with all the rock & roll beats.” And Brian should know. John Lennon said, “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it ‘Chuck Berry’.” We’re not going to try to discuss the totality of Chuck’s songwriting, guitarism, lyric sophistication, showmanship, or musical impact here. His oeuvre and artistry won’t share the stage with anyone. Today we just want to credit him as

The Grandaddy of Rap

When Chuck received the PEN award from the JFK Library, Dylan wrote him: “To Chuck, the Shakespeare of rock and roll, congratulations on your PEN award, that’s what too much monkey business will get ya… Say hello to Mr. Leonard [Cohen, another recipient], Kafka of the blues, and Lord Byron Keith (Richards) if he shows up. In all seriousness, Chuck, congratulations on this prestigious honor. You have indeed written the book with a capital B, and congratulations to Leonard, who’s still writing it – Bob Dylan”

‘Too Much Monkey Business’ was released as the B Side of ‘Brown Eyed Handsome Man’ (a 1956 euphemism for ‘brown-skinned’). The insistent beat, rapid rhymes, monotonous reliance on a single chord, the disaffected litany of kvetching – people who know a lot more than I do about rap have credited it as a seminal progenitor. (Listening to the guitar solo, I can’t help but remember a take on it that I saw in a Mothers of Invention concert in 1966 – Frank Zappa playing the guitar break on ‘Louie, Louie’, a single note that must have gone on for three minutes.)

Here’s Chuck performing it with acolyte Keith Richards in 1987. He may be past his prime, but check out his dance at 1:20 in the clip. Here’s Hippie Chuck performing it in 1969. And just to remember what he looked like in his hey-day (1959), here he is performing ‘Little Queenie’.

‘Too Much Monkey Business’ isn’t even one of Chuck’s dozen greatest songs, but it is one of his most influential. It’s been covered by no less than Elvis (a knock-out treatment, well worth listening to), The Beatles (an unreleased BBC recording), and other British Invaders such as The Hollies (that’s Graham Nash with the white guitar), The Kinks, and Eric Clapton and the Yardbirds (1964).

So, hey, all you hotshot gangstas out there – who da meanest mothafucker you on da block? Y’all listen up to yo’ grandaddy:

Running to and fro/Hard working at the mill/Never fails, in the mail/There comes a rotten bill–Ahh–/Too much monkey business,/Too much monkey business,/Too much monkey business/For me to be involved with.

Salesman talking to me,/Tryin’ to run me up a creek,/Says you can buy it, go on try it,/You can pay me next week–Ahh–/Too much monkey business…

Pay phone, something’s wrong,/Dime gone, will mail,/Oughta sue the operator/For telling me a tale./Too much monkey business, …

Blonde hair, good-lookin’,/Trying to get me hooked,/Wants me to marry, get a home,/Settle down, write a book./Too much monkey business, …

Been to Yokohama, been/fighting in the war,/Army bunk, army chow,/Army clothes, army car./Too much monkey business, …

Same thing every day,/Getting up, goin’ to school./No need for me complaining,/My objection’s overruled–Ahh–/too much monkey business, …

Working in the filling station,/Too many tasks,/Wipe the windows, check the oil,/Check the tires, dollar gas–Ahh–/Too much monkey business,/Too much monkey business,/I don’t want your vib-o-rations, get away/and leave me alone.

 

If you enjoyed this post, you may also like:

122: George Harrison (The Beatles), ‘You Know What to Do’ b/w Buddy Holly, ‘You’re the One’
087: Bob Dylan, ‘Black Diamond Bay’
162: The Everly Brothers, ‘Crying in the Rain’

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258: Stephen Stills, ‘Do For the Others’

Posted by jeff on Mar 10, 2017 in Rock, Song Of the week

10-03-2017 11-16-28Stephen Stills, ‘Do For the Others’

All the photos here are from the really lovely “Carry On” booklet.

It’s been an uplifting, memorable, dream-come-true week, hosting the royal couple of modern a cappella in Israel – Sir Duke Peder Karlsson and the uncommonly unique Lady Katarina Henryson, founding members of The Real Group, musicians/pedagogs/mensches non pareil – to work with my love-child, Vocalocity.

So our energy reserves are way, way down below the red line, my fingers running on fumes, which means you guys are going to get off easy this week. No endless piles of meaningless, esoteric facts or mind-numbing ramblings on cockamamie theories and personal impressions which wouldn’t even interest my own mother.

snowWe’re just gonna give you one fine song you might have missed – ‘Do for the Others’, from Stephen Stills’ first (eponymous) album, 1970.

I stumbled across “Carry On”, a 4-CD retrospective of his career (curated by Graham Nash, who performed the same service for himself and for David Crosby) and have been knocking around his career, reading a fine interview (from Paul Zollo’s “More Songwriters on Songwriting”, which I highly recommend); watching a 1979 concert to see what happened to him after he fell off my radar (pretty much what I had guessed: immeasurable talent floundering in search of something to say); listening to “Carry On”; checking out some later Crosby Stills and Nash; and re-enjoying some of my old favorites, especially his first solo album.

I’ve discussed a couple of my favorite Stills before: SoTW 198, Buffalo Springfield’s ‘Rock and Roll Woman’; and SoTW 072, ‘Suite: Judy Blue Eyes’ from the fascinating “Just Roll Tape”.

pianoWe all know that Stills at his best is about as good as things get. And we all pretty much get that an awful lot of his output since those peaks has been pretty mediocre, even patience-trying.

I think Stephen Stills is one of the most talented musicians of my generation. When he’s on his game, he’s right up there in the pantheon. But from my recent nibbling around the edges – if you stop at 1970, you’re not missing anything essential.

I’m watching the aforementioned video from 1979. At 11:00, he begins a drum solo. I do what I usually do when the drum solo rolls around – reach for the Next button. But wait! I’d just read in Zollo’s interview that the drums were Stills’ first instrument.

HendrixAnd we’re talking about the guy who plays acoustic guitar on the first CSN album; who plays piano on the live ’49 Reasons/For What It’s Worth’ from “4-Way Street”; who plays bass on Joni Mitchell’s ‘Night in the City’; who plays organ on ‘Love the One You’re With’; who goes nose-to-nose guitaring with his buddy Jimi Hendrix on ‘No-Name Jam’ from “Carry On”; who does the horn arrangement on one of the finest 7/4 rock songs ever written, ‘Cherokee’. So the guy has all the credentials in the world.

But the drum solo is still just a drum solo. Sigh. And to be perfectly honest, the jam with Hendrix is pretty boring for me. And the ‘Cherokee’ is more memorable for the curiosity of the time signature than for the song. Et cetera. And the 1977 “CSN” album – yeah, it’s got more admirable moments than I’d remembered. Bottom line? I ain’t gonna go back to it in the near future.

guitarsBut still, Stills.

Like on ‘Do for the Others’, which is right up there with his finest cuts with Buffalo Springfield and early CSN. Which is saying a whole lot.

The entire album is pretty darn fine. Check it out if the mood suits you. You won’t find any epiphanies, but it’s a very respectable listen. It was recorded mid-1970, just months after “Déjà Vu”. Guest artists included Hendrix, Clapton, and Ringo, as well as Booker T. Jones, Crosby and Nash, John Sebastian and Mama Cass. Y’all might not remember back then, but that sort of stellar guest cast was unheard of.

silverOne little point worth mentioning – Stills recorded ‘Do for the Others’ (the snow photos here are by Henry Diltz) all by his little lonesome. All the instruments. All the voices.

The “Carry On” compilation offers up a 1971 live duet performance of ‘Do for the Others’ with the late Steve Fromholz, actor, playwright, record producer, whitewater river guide and Poet Laureate of the State of Texas.

Guys, my forehead just hit the keyboard. I promise to bore you at greater length next time. Class dismissed early. You didn’t get a 50-year treasury. But you sure did get one gem.

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208: Vocalocity, ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’

Posted by jeff on Mar 1, 2017 in A Cappella, Song Of the week

cave60Vocalocity – ‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’

Vocalocity – ‘Problem’

Vocalocity – ‘Child of Man’

Dear SoTW Fans,

I have a confession. I’ve been cheating on you.

‘Where has he been disappearing to? One week a posting, the next week bubkes. Does he think we don’t notice?’

‘You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all of the time, but you can’t fool all the people all the time.’ Arthur Anonymous said that. ‘SoTW readers are way too sharp to ever be fooled.’ I said that.

היכל אומנויות הבמה, הרצליהI have a new love with whom I rendezvous on alternate Fridays, my writing day. Hence the lacunae. I don’t love her more than you, just differently. Her name is Vocalocity.

Vocalocity – ‘Lakachta et Yadi b’Yadcha’

She’s a 40-voice rhythm choir (‘modern a cappella’) which I founded just over a year ago with my partner in crime Ron Gang. I manage her and sing second bass. I love her, I love you, and I figured it’s time to introduce you to each other.

In the beginning, God created the human voice (the only instrument He crafted by His own hand). Noah’s family wiled away the rainy days singing animal songs in close harmony. Throughout the millennia, vocalists from Gregorian monks to The Bulgarian State Radio and Television Women’s Choir and The Mills Brothers sang in block chords, sometimes with the melody inside or on top of the chord, sometimes outside it. Then in 1984, five Swedish music students started imitating Count Basie. Jalka, you sing dum-dum-dum on the bottom; Peder, you make chucka-chucka sounds with your mouth; Anders, you do the tenor sax part; Kat, you do the alto sax counterpoint to Anders; Margareta, you do the trumpet melody way up on top. We’ll call ourselves The Real Group.

cropped059: The Real Group, ‘Joy Spring’
Modern A Cappella – Interview with Peder Karlsson

Thus was born “modern a cappella”: five vocalists singing the arrangement (of jazz standards, classic rock and contemporary rock) in intertwining parts, frequently with an emphasis on the ‘groove’ (rhythmic pattern) created by the low bass voice (that’s me!) and vocal percussion.

In 1991, Jens Johansen formed the 32-voice Vocal Line in Aarhus, Denmark, based on the modern a cappella concept of The Real Group, but now in a symphonic rather than chamber context. Six CDs later, they’re the acknowledged gold standard of the ‘rhythm choir’. The format has grown popular throughout Scandinavia, in Germany, and in Ljubljana, Slovenia with the remarkably successful Perpetuum Jazzile.

174: Vocal Line, ‘Don’t Give Up’
188: Imogen Heap/Vocal Line, ‘Let Go’
Aarhus Vocal Festival, 2013

L2R: Ron Gang, Kevin Fox, Jeff Meshel, Erez Tal

L2R: Ron Gang, Kevin Fox, Jeff Meshel, Erez Tal

In the spring of 2013, Ron (head of Mil”a, the Israeli Center for Choirs and Singing Groups) and I (head of nothing) hosted The Swingle Singers for a day of workshops. Inspired by the amazing response and success of the day, we invited their baritone Kevin Fox to return to Israel three times during the summer to lead a series of 10 workshops. Word went out, Erez Tal was enlisted to run auditions and prepare the group for Kevin’s visits. Thirty-five singers signed up, and Vocalocity was born.

139: The Swingle Singers, ‘On the 4th of July’ (James Taylor)
161: The Swingle Singers, ‘Sinfonia from Partita No.2 in C Minor’

IMG_2891 - LEVELS copyThere was so much magic in the air that it was immediately clear that everyone wanted to make the fling into a permanent liason. At the end of the summer, the group gave two great concerts singing eight songs and made this clip.

In September 2013 Vocalocity reformed as a permanent group with Kevin as musical director and Erez as house conductor. Ten people left, fifteen joined. During the first 12 months of activity we expanded our repertoire to 14 songs (most of them custom-arranged for us); hosted Kevin (several times), the over-talented Erik Bosio from Italy, the remarkable Line Groth Riis from Aarhus (twice), recorded backing vocals for a Swingle Singers CD, gave a number of concerts, including a first birthday celebration in Herzliya before a sold-out crowd of 800.

IMG_2948The first year was one of getting on our feet, getting matters organized. The second one, which began three months ago, is marked by forging a cohesive unit.

Some singers left, some joined. We now stand at 40, equally divided among the 4 (or 8) voices. A composite profile has emerged: late 20s, served in military intelligence in the army, studied computers, working in hi-tech; but along the way studied music, read notes well, with vocal training and experience singing in young groups. A smattering of others is tolerated, including professional musicians and old people.

132_6217Plans for the second year include more visits by guest conductors, two joint concerts in Israel with the Swingles in March, our international debut at the Aarhus A cappella Vocal Festival in May, recording a number of songs with Erik Bosio, and making a scripted video clip.

I love the group. Not quite as much as my wife and my family, but an awful lot. I love the music we’re making, I love the kids loving the music we’re making.

We’re still forming our personality and character and repertoire.  We know we’ll continue creating innovative sounds in both English and Hebrew, young music aimed at intelligent, tasteful 30-year olds. We’re keeping our eyes and ears open to various directions while trying to enlist the finest arrangers in Israel and around the world, both from within the world of modern a cappella and without.

היכל אומנויות הבמה, הרצליהWe’ve just started working on a great arrangement of ‘Child of Man (‘Etz o’ Perach’)’ by Noa (Ahinoam Nini) arranged for us by the mucho talented Kineret Erez; and on Shlomo Gronich’s ‘Nueiba’, arranged by the incomparable Line Groth. And we have some other surprises in the pipeline. And some more in our minds. And some that are just beginning to coalesce. In the meantime, here are some of our ‘greatest hits’:

Change the World’ by Eric Clapton, arranged by Kevin Fox; solo Amir Rothschild

It’s, Oh, So Quiet’ originally performed by Betty Hutton, made famous by Bjork, arranged by Line Groth Riis; solos Liron Morgenstern and Adi Agassi

Shir Makolet’ (‘The Grocery Song’), an Israeli classic, written by Danny Sanderson for Kaveret, arranged here by Erez Tal (here’s the tail at the end of the video)

Here’s to Life’, Line rehearsing her arrangement of the song originally recorded by Shirley Horn and Barbra Streisand

IMG_5798 - CROP+LEVELS copyMangina Avuda’ (‘A Lost Melody’), written by Matti Caspi, arranged for Vocalocity by Ohad Goldbart (check out the photo of the performance)

Lakachta et Yadi b’Yadcha’ (‘You Took My Hand in Your Hand’), written by Matti Caspi for Yehudit Ravitz as a bossa nova, reimagined and arranged for us by Kevin Fox; solo by Inbar Durlacher

Nature Boy’ – a jazz standard arranged by Anders Edenroth for The Real Group; here’s their performance, demonstrating vocal perfection

Nueiba’, an Israeli classic by Shlomo Gronich, here in a brand-new arrangement written for us by Line Groth

Eleanor Rigby’, arranged by Kevin Fox originally for The Swingle Singers and adapted by him for us; solo by Hiram Amir

reutAnd our Song of The Week? That’s like asking me to choose a favorite grandchild. Love ‘em all, completely. But this one’s young, cool, and it’s the best video, so we’ll go with it:

‘Is Your Love Big Enough?’, originally by the young British singer/songwriter Lianne La Havas, arranged by Swingle bass Ed Randell; with an amazing solo by the utterly amazing Reut Levi.

So one Friday I write about music, enjoying listening to myself ramble about some of my favorite musics. And on alternate Fridays, I participate in making great music with a great bunch of great kids (and a few adults). And I even get to provoke a lot of what happens there. So don’t ask me to choose between my two lovers. I love ’em both, each one with all my heart.

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257: Alison Krauss/Brenda Lee: ‘All Alone Am I’

Posted by jeff on Feb 24, 2017 in New Acoustic, Rock and Roll, Song Of the week

snobfAlison Krauss, ‘All Alone Am I’

Brenda Lee, ‘All Alone Am I’ (live version)

Alison Krauss, ‘Losing You’ (live version)

Brenda Lee, ‘Losing You’ (live version)

Guilty pleasures.

Could we keep this just between us?

It’s not something I’m proud of, nor do I care to publicize it. I have a reputation to maintain as an insufferable effete snob. It might not be the glitziest reputation around, but it’s the one I have, and feel an effete snob’s obligation to maintain it.

887348e489221458f047cc295b9fc4d2Guilty pleasures. We all do it. Some of us just have a hard time admitting it.

Eating an entire Milky Way bar.
Scratching an itchy scab.
Listening to Alison Krauss’s new album.

With your permission, I’m just going to skip over the whole Alison Krauss story. About how she began as a fiddle child prodigy, recorded her first album at 14, has won more Grammies (27) than any other member of the female persuasion (surpassed only by Sir Georg Solti). About how she legitimized and populized bluegrass by giving it her commercial “countrypolitan” sugar coating.

I told some of the story (especially the Newgrass aspect) in SoTW 131 about Nickel Creeek. There are other chapters that could be told, had we but world enough and time:

  • Her 14 albums, both solo and with her band Union Station, every one produced and polished to sparkle and shine. The material usually ranges from traditional to pop covers. The focus has shifted from her fiddle to her ‘angelic’ voice. The content is most frequently country soppy sad.
  • Her featured role on the soundtrack to the Coen Brothers’ “O Brother Where Art Thou?” (7 times platinum!!)
  • amd-plant-krauss-jpgThe very fine “Raising Sand”, her ‘gender-bending’ collaboration with Robert Plant (yeah, the guy with the long hair who sang ‘Stairway to Heaven’), impeccably produced by T-Bone Burnett. If you don’t know it, it’s worth checking out—it’s a tough album to not enjoy.

A grouchy old fart might say her music is commercial, derivative and proudly inoffensive. BUT–

She’s as purty as an April daisy (I just made that up).
Her voice is as lucid and limpid as a mountain pool of melted snow on a sunny spring afternoon. (I’m thinking of starting a new career as a coiner of clichés. Does anyone out there have connections at Hallmark?)
She can take a nothing of a song, more often than not country shlock, sing it so innocently and honestly and delicately and sincerely that you won’t notice till the end of the 3:21 that she’s gone and broken your heart.

rs-187105-457938728That’s what she’s been doing to me for the last week with her brand-new album “Windy City”. The album is a collection of country songs, some famous, some obscure – all prettified and just waiting to be listened to, over and over, when no one’s watching and we let our snobbish guard down.

It’s got ‘It’s Goodbye and So Long to You’ and ‘Windy City’, originally by Nashville stalwarts The Osborne Brothers.

It’s got the very beautiful ‘I Never Cared for You’, originally by Willie Nelson (sounding like an out-take from Dylan’s “Desire” album).

It’s got ‘River in the Rain’, written by Roger Miller (‘King of the Road’) for a musical about Huck Finn.

It’s got a knockout ‘Gentle on My Mind’, written by John Hartford and made a standard by Glen Campbell.

_91390895_thinkstockjetty976And it’s even got a perfect ‘You Don’t Know Me’, which you can read about in its own SoTW. Alison Krauss may not have the soul of Ray Charles or the palpable passion of Richard Manuel, but she’s got her own little perfection.

She says she picks one song and then builds an album around it.  I don’t know which cut from “Windy City” came first, but I’d put my money on one of the two Brenda Lee covers, ‘Losing You’ or ‘All Alone Am I’, the two songs that have been earworming me for the last seven days.

Brenda Mae Tarpley was born in 1944 into a poor, uneducated Southern white family. She was a child phenomenon as a singer. Her father died when she was ten, and she became the family’s main breadwinner, performing at local radio stations and contests around the south. In 1955, Red Foley was persuaded to let her perform Hank Williams’ ‘Jambalaya’ at a show of his:

ebb92c77d6db2ec223833cf0ffb6b44cI still get cold chills thinking about the first time I heard that voice. One foot started patting rhythm as though she was stomping out a prairie fire but not another muscle in that little body even as much as twitched. And when she did that trick of breaking her voice, it jarred me out of my trance enough to realize I’d forgotten to get off the stage. There I stood, after 26 years of supposedly learning how to conduct myself in front of an audience, with my mouth open two miles wide and a glassy stare in my eyes.

Here’s a live clip from around that time. Trust me—take a look. That’s why they called her Little Miss Dynamite.

From the late 50s through the mid-60s she was the fourth biggest selling artist in the US, following Elvis, The Beatles and Ray Charles. She had nine consecutive Top Ten hits, and stood 4’9” (145 cm) when fully grown.

Here’s ‘Dynamite’ from 1957. And ‘Just Because’, from 1958, together with an in-depth interview. ‘I’m Sorry’, 1960.

Brenda-Lee-dancing-with-Elvis-PresleyHer last big hit was ‘Losing You’, 1963. I knew the song back then, but to tell you the truth – it didn’t make much of an impression on me back then. But then here comes Alison Krauss. Her ‘Losing You’ opens the new album. What can I say? On its own terms, it’s perfect. If my heart were breaking, that’s the song I’d cry to.

It was written as ‘Connais-tu’ by Jean Renard in 1960. The English lyrics were provided by Carl Sigman, who made a career of Americaphying such songs as (ready for this?): ‘Love Story’! ‘Ebb Tide’! ‘It’s All In the Game’ (which had its very own SoTW, melody written by a Vice President of the United States)! ‘What Now, My Love’! ‘You’re My World’! His lyrics for ‘Losing You’ may never displace ‘Elusive Butterfly’ as rock poetry, but they sure are clean and effective.

And our Song of The Week, which certainly did catch our attention back in 1962, ‘All Alone Am I’. Here’s Brenda singing it live. And here’s her studio recording. I’m still trying to figure out what note she’s singing on the second syllable of ‘ca-ress’.

Brenda Lee Getty Harry Thompson 1964Μην τον ρωτάς τον ουρανό’ was composed by Manos Hadjidakis for the film “To nisi ton genneon”, together with ‘Ποτέ την Κυριακή’, aka ‘Never On Sunday’, which won the Oscar as best original song of 1960.

The English lyrics were provided by one Arthur Altman, who also gave us ‘I Will Follow Him’ and ‘All or Nothing At All’.

I think Brenda Lee’s ‘All Alone Am I’ is a pretty great cut. But Alison Krauss’s version? Oh, it goes down so smoothly. The pure, unadulterated, exquisite pain everyone has felt at one time or another, usually in our teens. Heartbreak incarnate.

My heart’s grown a lot older since I first heard Brenda Lee sing the song. The muscles creak and groan– קרעכצן – rather than weep and sigh. But, boy, Alison Krauss can revive that old feeling. Just please, keep that between us.

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