Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Songs of the week 1.10.07

Like many Clevelanders my age, I was introduced to the sounds of earl rock and roll via the Sunday morning radio show on WMMS that ran for years.  Soon after WMJI became Magic 105 and exclusively played "oldies", that radio show stopped.

But while it lasted, it gave me a weekly history lesson in the birth of rock and roll (ironically, after church).  While I was supposed to be finding salvation and awakening my spiritual side through Christ and his teachings, I was instead becoming a disciple of guitars, bass and drums.  A servant of soul music.

Those Sunday mornings from years ago made introduced me to the early music of the Beatles, Kinks, Donovan, Dave Clark 5, Roy Orbison, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry.  Coupled with my adoration of "Animal House" (which made me a fan of Sam Cooke) and "The Blues Brothers" (which inspired me to look into the music of Ray Charles, Aretha and my favorite, Otis Redding), I came to appreciate the music from those early years, even if they weren't as musically intricate of the bands I liked back then, like Rush.

Of course, another of the artists I came to know and love was James Brown.  With his passing over the holidays, there have been so many accolades for his music and what he meant to America and the Civil Rights movement.  I doubt I can add anything new to what has been said.  His music meant so much to so many people, be they politicians, blue collar workers, or the countless number of recording artists, alive and dead.  His hard working ethic can be seen in artists ranging from Sam & Dave to Bruce Springsteen (who, I guess, now becomes the hardest working man in show business).

While so many of JB's songs are classics, I like this one, "Out of Sight" from 1964.  I'm not sure what "high heel sneakers" are, but they sound dangerous.

Another artist heavily influenced by Brown (and other R & B singers) was a lad named Robert Plant.  As The Honeydrippers attested, he loved the music and sang every song he performed with Zeppelin and as a solo artist with the same soulfulness and conviction as his idols.  Zeppelin were one of the many bands brought to Atlantic records by legendary executive, Ahmet Ertegun, who also passed away late last year.    Ertegun and his brother, Neshui, immigrated from Turkey and forged a company to record, distribute and publicize the sounds of Black America, which at that time were largely going ignored.  They helped popularize jazz, soul, and in the 60's and 70's some of the most influential rock music, including Zeppelin.  Zeppelin recorded their own tribute to JB in 1973 called "The Crunge".  Throughout the song, Plant riffs on the words of Otis Redding and James Brown, while Page and Bonham create JB sounding guitar and drums.  Meanwhile, John Paul Jones creates both an ultimate bass line and comes up with some horn sounding riffs on his keyboards.  It's a fun, stupid song that the guys obviously did as a tribute to one of their heroes.

Just like I discovered so many "oldies" artists on Sunday mornings, it was those long, hazy Saturday nights driving around that I discovered artists like, Zeppelin, Cream and Yes.  Once again, WMMS was what gave me my lessons in rock.  And the DJ who happened to run both of those blocks of programming was the gravely voiced Len "Boom" Goldberg.  Before he became a sidekick on the most annoying morning show ever (i.e Jeff and Flash), Goldberg was a decent DJ.  Like Kid Leo before him, Boom spoke with authority about the music he was playing ans came off as a regular guy.  By the time he was drafter into the Morning Zoo, the Sunday morning oldies show was gone and Classic Rock Saturday Night was soon to be ditched, too (thanks to the "new" classic rock format adopted by WNCX).

Len Goldberg also died over the holidays.  Many Clevelanders probably don't know who he was.  But for those of us, he taught us about what was decent music and what was crap.  

So, adios, JB, Mr. Ertegun and Boom.  You effected my life and so many others.  You will all be missed.

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