Category: Popular

#355 THREE 1960’s BOBBYS

#355

THREE 1960’s BOBBYS

BOBBY VEE – TAKE GOOD CARE OF MY BABY (1961)

BOBBY VINTON – MR. LONELY (1964)

BOBBY HEBB – SUNNY (1966)

 

 

*****

The songs by today’s respective Bobbys are in chronological order.

BOBBY VEE (1943-2016)

I was in fourth grade, it was fall, and I had actually PURCHASED “Take Good Care of My Baby” at the Music Box, the after-school-within-walking-distance record shop that everyone went to. If you’re of a certain age—say, in your sixties or so right now—you may remember that the cost of a 45 back in the day was not really all that cheap, maybe close to a dollar. That meant serious business for a ten- year old. That is how much I liked the song.

It is interesting to think about music we liked when we were very young because, generally, we are responding to something very primal—or at least something unknown to ourselves at the time—when we really like something. I’m referring of course to musical appreciation. For embryonic musicians, the attraction to music—whatever it is—is at once very basic and very mysterious, whether it’s Mozart or Bobby Vee, when we’re young.

So, I would have to say now, in musical retrospect, that it was a concoction of flexible rhythm, an attractive melody, and great harmonic movement—sometimes straying into minor key territory ever so briefly—that hooked me. I would listen to it each day when I got home from school on the record player in the corner of the dining room. I still cannot just listen to it once.

BOBBY VINTON (b. 1935)

Probably the person, among these three Bobbys, with the biggest career in pop music. He had a string of hit songs, starting with “Roses are Red (My Love).” His biggest hits occurred prior to the British invasion, and although he still had successful releases, like “My Melody of Love” later in 1974, America was listening to him by then in a nostalgic mood for a bygone musical era—his romantic songs were no longer in style.

My favorite Bobby Vinton song is from 1964. Vinton had served in the army in the late 1950’s, and he wrote “Mr. Lonely” to express his feelings of loneliness during that time.

It’s interesting that Epic Records, for whom Vinton recorded, never had much faith in him—and constantly underestimated the degree of approval he had with the public. He became their best-selling recording artist of the 1960’s. It was at his insistence—since, by 1964, he had some clout—that Epic released “Mr. Lonely.” Released in December of ’64, it was his last number one hit.

Vinton’s sliding vocal excursions into falsetto range, melded together with melancholy lyrics, are a potent combination. Record-buyers felt they could identify with what seemed like actual crying near “Mr. Lonely”s conclusion. It still sounds like that to me. Of the over 11,000 comments following this YouTube clip, you can see that many of them are from people for whom this song was a cathartic outlet for their own loneliness…

BOBBY HEBB (1938-2010)

One of the most ubiquitous songs of the summer of 1966—for me, a (literally) sun-drenched summer between eighth and ninth grades—was Bobby Hebb’s “Sunny.” It says a lot for this song that it was Hebb’s single success. But what a success it was. He had been asked to open for the Beatles in their 1966 tour, and at that time “Sunny” was bigger on the charts than any Beatles song!

Hebb had an interesting, if somewhat depressing, life. He was born poor in Nashville to blind parents, both of whom were musicians. He had a song-and-dance routine with his brother Harold while they were growing up, and was a stand-in musician from time to time at the Grand Ole Opry. He was 25 years old when John F. Kennedy was assassinated. The very next day, his brother was killed in a knife fight outside a Nashville club.

The devastation he felt at these two events was deep and long-lasting. The story goes that, in order to keep these torturous feelings at bay, Hebb wrote “Sunny.”

Hebb stayed in the music industry off and on for the rest of his life, but never again achieved the kind of success he enjoyed with “Sunny.” Its upbeat lyrics and continual half-step-up modulations make it a happy song in a minor key.

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#353 BACHMAN TURNER OVERDRIVE YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET

#353

BACHMAN TURNER OVERDRIVE

YOU AIN’T SEEN NOTHING YET

It’s possible you may remember my mentioning the name Randy Bachman last summer in a posting of songs by the Guess Who. The Guess Who had huge international success in 1969-70. But just at the height of the band’s notoriety, Randy Bachman, their rhythm guitarist, converted to Mormonism. Differences with other Guess Who personnel—primarily Burton Cummings, the lead singer—persuaded Bachman to leave the group. Observers and friends were astonished at such a seemingly self-destructive move, leaving a successful band when they had such high visibility.

Back home in Winnipeg, he started putting a band together comprised of himself, two of his siblings, and, at the suggestion of Neil Young, he added a bassist/vocalist named Fred Turner. This group, Brave Belt, had minimal success. But they stuck to what they were doing, and were soon signed by Mercury Records.

They changed their name, combining Bachman’s and Turner’s names with the name of a trucker’s magazine they had seen—”Overdrive.” BTO’s first album, BTO, was a modest success primarily due to the band’s relentless touring. Their second album, BTO II, however, was a tremendous success both in the U.S. and Canada. And the band’s third album, Not Fragile, was an over-the-top success, due in no small part to the inclusion of “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet,” a track that was initially almost excluded.

Although the band has continued to record—and still tours, to this day, albeit with some changed personnel—the mid-1970’s were the high point for BTO. “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was their biggest hit, setting a record for the rapidity with which it zipped to number one.

*****

It would be easy to prejudicially imagine—based on their personal appearance, on the years of their popularity (the drug-drenched 70’s), and just the fact that they were a touring rock and roll band—that they would have probably used drugs and lived in a generally bohemian fashion while on their tour-bus travels. But in fact, Randy Bachman had very rigid rules for BTO—no drugs, no alcohol, no premarital sex. So strict was he about enforcing these standards that he fired his own brother, Tim, from the group. They were a serious band, all about making their own kind of music.

What I love about “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” is its simplicity. A repetitive progression—easily heard in the bass guitar, from A (major) down to G (major), down to D (major)—gives the song a modal feel. The juxtaposing of heavy chords with musical silence during which Bachman keeps on with his n-n-n-n-n-nothing’s is something I never get tired of hearing. And, the obligato phrasing of the lead guitar is really just so nice. For me, this is one of the great rock songs.

*****

Interesting trivia:

You may know that the horror fiction novelist Stephen King, in addition to using his own name, also wrote under a pen name, Richard Bachman. At the time, he did not want to over-saturate the market with books under his own name, so he chose “Richard Bachman” as his nom de plume, having been inspired by listening to BTO’s “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet.”

*****

And personal trivia: “You Ain’t Seen Nothing Yet” was being played on the radio when I was first getting to know Tiraje in 1974. It totally mystified her that I could be attracted to this (and similar fare) while at the same time loving art music. I suppose it still does.

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#352 ETTA JAMES AT LAST

#352

ETTA JAMES

AT LAST

Etta James (1938-2012)—born Jamesetta Hawkins—was an American singer with diverse vocal abilities—blues, rhythm and blues, rock, and gospel. Her long career, starting at age 16, was often interrupted by heroin addiction, bad relationships resulting in physical abuse, and incarceration. Needless to say, she was a person who felt—who had lived through—many of the lyrics she sang.

In her lifetime, James was honored with six Grammys, 17 Blues Music Awards, and is in three Halls of Fame—Grammys, Blues, and Rock and Roll. Her appeal is universal and multi-generational: Stevie Wonder, Beyonce, and Christina Aguilera all sang at her funeral service.

James prolifically recorded, releasing a total of 31 albums and some 58 singles. Although songs such as “The Wallflower” (1955), “All I Could Do Is Cry” (1960), and “Loving You More Every Day” (1964) all did well on the charts, it is James’ “At Last” from 1960 that is most strongly associated with her–her signature song.

“At Last” was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the Glenn Miller movie, Sun Valley Serenade. It appears, as an instrumental, several times during the movie. Although the song had great lyrics, it was felt that the movie was already overflowing with strong vocal numbers, so movie audiences only heard “At Last” as filler.

In 1960, nearly twenty years after the movie, Etta James’ R&B version was released. It became a classic case of the “crossover” song, equally popular on the R&B and pop music charts. The lyrics make it easy to understand why “At Last” has long been a much-requested song at weddings and wedding receptions:

At last my love has come along
My lonely days are over and life is like a song, oh yeah
At last the skies above are blue
My heart was wrapped up clover the night I looked at you
I found a dream that I could speak to
A dream that I can call my own
I found a thrill to press my cheek to
A thrill I’ve never known, oh yeah
You smiled, you smiled oh and then the spell was cast
And here we are in Heaven
For you are mine at last

“At Last” has been covered many times by other artists, among them Percy Faith, Bing Crosby, Tina Moore, Stevie Nicks, Cyndi Lauper, Aretha Franklin, and Beyonce. Christina Aguilera, who idolized Etta James, performs “At Last” at every one of her concerts.

“At Last” is an American classic.

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#348 CELINE DION BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME

#348

CELINE DION

BECAUSE YOU LOVED ME

When I am mowing the lawn, I listen to music on a headphones-radio. One spring day in 1999, when my son Jason was home from college, I heard Celine Dion—for the first time—while I was mowing. When I came in the house, I asked Jason if he had ever heard of a Celine Dion and did he know anything about her. Obviously, I had been living with my head buried in the pop music sand—he told me she had been around for a while and was way popular.

You would have to live in a pretty far corner of the world now to have no acquaintance with Celine Dion’s singing. Or at least it seems that way. The ubiquity of her songs has been a real phenomenon in the pop music world since 1990. Before that, the French-Canadian singer had a career in Canada and Europe, charting a decades’ worth of French-language pop hits.

Dion (b. 1968) won the Yamaha World Popular Song Festival at the age of 14, and went on to win the Eurovision Song Contest—the same one that propelled Abba and many other great acts to stardom—when she was 20. In 1990, after learning to speak (and sing in) English, she signed with Epic Records and released the first of twenty-six albums, many of which contained at least one single that would reach the top of the charts.

Hearing about Celine Dion’s life is unavoidable—her very popular Las Vegas show, the fairytale romance with her husband/manager Rene Angelil (which ended, sadly, with his death from throat cancer four years ago), and the continual presence for two decades of her voice on pop radio stations–all made Dion a part of American and Canadian and world culture.

An abbreviated list of Dion’s singles would include:

* Where Does My Heart Beat Now
* Beauty and the Beast
* If You Asked Me To
* The Power of Love
* It’s All Coming Back To Me Now
* All By Myself
* My Heart Will Go On (from Titanic)
* That’s The Way It Is

Appearing mid-way in her succession of hit songs was the 1996 song, “Because You Loved Me.” Here are the song’s lyrics:

For all those times you stood by me
For all the truth that you made me see
For all the joy you brought to my life
For all the wrong that you made right
For every dream you made come true
For all the love I found in you
I’ll be forever thankful baby
You’re the one who held me up
Never let me fall
You’re the one who saw me through through it all

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

You gave me wings and made me fly
You touched my hand I could touch the sky
I lost my faith, you gave it back to me
You said no star was out of reach
You stood by me and I stood tall
I had your love I had it all
I’m grateful for each day you gave me
Maybe I don’t know that much
But I know this much is true
I was blessed because I was loved by you

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

You were always there for me
The tender wind that carried me
A light in the dark shining your love into my life
You’ve been my inspiration
Through the lies you were the truth
My world is a better place because of you
You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

You were my strength when I was weak
You were my voice when I couldn’t speak
You were my eyes when I couldn’t see
You saw the best there was in me
Lifted me up when I couldn’t reach
You gave me faith ’cause you believed
I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

I’m everything I am
Because you loved me

*****

For me, this is her most appealing song. But everyone has their own favorite. Tiraje loves Dion’s French-language songs.

The singer has been dealing with hearing-related problems over the past couple of years. Even so, her show-stopping Vegas act goes on… Like Barbra Streisand, Celine Dion was born to be a performer.

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#347 RANDY TRAVIS ON THE OTHER HAND

#347

RANDY TRAVIS

ON THE OTHER HAND

A soothing, silky voice…

I can’t say Randy Travis is well represented in my music collection—I only have two of his CD’s—Storms of Life and his Christmas album. I really need to amend that. Travis’s voice is so soothing that I really should have more of his 20 albums. I cannot actually remember the very first time I heard his voice, but I do know I was attracted to it immediately.

If you are not familiar with his name, Randy Travis (b. 1959) is—or was—a great country music singer, songwriter, and actor based in Nashville. His first album, Storms of Life, propelled him to immediate fame in 1986. “On the Other Hand”, taken from the album, was his first number one hit.

Travis has had something of a tumultuous life. With the release of Storms of Life, his career took off. He sold over 25 million records, won six Grammys, ten American Music Association awards, and had a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame—not bad for a high-school dropout, juvenile delinquent from rural North Carolina.

Travis had a spiritual awakening of some kind around the year 2000. His first 11 albums had been traditional, and well-received, country albums. After 2000, though, when he signed with Word Records, all of his albums have been Christian-country. He received eight Dove awards (the highest honor in the Christian recording industry) in the first decade of the century.

In 2010 though, Travis and his wife of 19 years, Lib Hatcher, divorced. Two years later, events in his life became widely publicized, well outside the C&W community. He was twice arrested for indecent exposure, public intoxication, and resisting arrest. In 2013, he suffered, in quick succession, a bout with viral cardiomyopathy and then had a massive stroke. He was unable to sing or even speak for a year after this. It seems likely that what had appeared to be mental illness the year before was a result of his impending physical illness.

Travis did ultimately recover his voice enough by 2016 to appear at his induction into the Country Music Hall of Fame.

*****

I love “On the Other Hand” primarily for Travis’s silky voice. The lyrics of the song—about a man resisting the temptation of having an affair with a married woman—are standard country fare. But the leisurely-yet-forward-moving tempo and the presence of the slide guitar, which I love under ANY circumstance, make this a special song.

On one hand I count the reasons I could stay with you
And hold you close to me, all night long.
So many lover’s games I’d love to play with you
And on that hand I see no reason why it’s wrong

But on the other hand, there’s a golden band
To remind me of someone who would not understand
On one hand I could stay and be your loving man
But the reason I must go is on the other hand

In your arms I feel the passion, I thought had died
When I looked into your eyes I found myself
When I first kissed your lips I felt so alive
I’ve got to hand it to you girl, you’re something else

But on the other hand, there’s a golden band
To remind me of someone who would not understand
On one hand I could stay and be your loving man
But the reason I must go is on the other hand

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#345 WALKER BROTHERS TWO HIT SONGS

#345

WALKER BROTHERS

MAKE IT EASY ON YOURSELF
THE SUN AIN’T GONNA SHINE ANYMORE

From talking with other musicians, I know that their formative and most impressionistic years are the years of adolescence. I guess that should be no surprise. I think I was 13 or so when I realized that there was no time of day or night when I wasn’t hearing music in my mind. Perhaps this had been going for some time, and I just hadn’t been self-conscious about it.

I don’t know whether this experience is common only among musicians, but I do know that I don’t know any musician for whom this is not their daily experience.

One of my earliest memories of really appreciating this phenomenon was waking up in the middle of the night when I was in eighth grade, and while turning over and trying to go back to sleep, I realized I was hearing in my mind, just as loudly as if I had headphones on, “Make It Easy On Yourself”, the Walker Brothers first big hit song. At the time—and still today—I thought that Scott Walker’s voice was really beautiful, that he could make lyrics come alive with meaning.

Neither Scott Engel, Gary Leeds, or John Maus were born with the last name of Walker. When the California trio got together in 1964, it seemed right to them to go to England to try their fortunes there. Going against the prevailing trend of British groups making it big in America, they were an American group going to England–where they achieved great success, for a brief time outstripping the Beatles in popularity. They also underwent their name change: “Walker” meant nothing in particular to them, they just liked the sound of it. So, they became the Walker Brothers.

Although their success was overwhelming in Britain, it did not last long or translate into world touring. They group disbanded in 1968, with each person going his separate way. But these two hits were huge–and they have become forever implanted in my mind.

“Make It Easy On Yourself” was a Burt Bacharach/Hal David song that had first been recorded by Jerry Butler. It was given the full symphonic treatment by the Walker Brothers, replete with the Phil Spector wall-of-sound wordless-chorus backup.

“The Sun Ain’t Gonna Shine Anymore” was similarly first recorded by Frankie Valli, but the Walker Brothers version was far, far more successful. The wide appeal of the song, written by Bob Crewe, is evident in its “afterlife.” It has been covered by everyone from straight-laced Jay and the Americans to the punk gothic Kommunity FK. It was the recurring musical theme of the Alan Rickman movie Truly, Madly, Deeply.

My guess is that the Walker Brothers will be a good musical memory for a number of readers. But if the Walker Brothers are new for you, I think you will enjoy giving them a listen.

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#342 TERRY STAFFORD SUSPICION

#342

TERRY STAFFORD

SUSPICION

A penetrating one-hit wonder…

Terry Stafford (1941-1996) was a pop singer and songwriter. His claim to musical fame was his 1964 hit, “Suspicion.” The song had actually been recorded by Elvis in 1962, but Stafford’s cover of the song immediately rocketed up the charts. In April 1964, when the Beatles held four of the top five spots in the pop charts, “Suspicion” held fast at number three. It sold over a million copies and was awarded a Gold Disc by the RIAA.

Stafford had been born in rural Oklahoma, but went to Los Angeles at the age of nineteen, right out of high school, to pursue a music career. Success came very slowly. Only when he had the opportunity to record “Suspicion” did his fortunes change. He had been let go by A&M Records (Herb Albert’s production company) and was picked up by the newly formed Crusader Records. With a single person, Bob Summers, playing all the instruments (including an Ondioline, an electronic keyboard) overdubbed on top of each other, and with some further electronic tweaking in post-production, “Suspicion” became a great success.

Unfortunately, it was Stafford’s only real success. Although he continued to record and compose, he never again achieved the success which he had with “Suspicion.” He divided the rest of his life between Amarillo, Texas and LA, dying of liver failure in Texas at 54.

*****

1964 was a momentous year for me. It seemed like all the events of my young life that year were in Technicolor. I had won a 4-round national piano contest in Chicago involving players my age from all over the country, I was about to “graduate” sixth grade and go on to junior high school—in a different building (!) with hundreds more kids, which I felt would inevitably be really exciting—I had developed a passionate interest in building radios, and the Beatles were the talk (literally) of the world—certainly of my world. So it is with crystal clarity that I remember listening to “Suspicion” on my newly built crystal radio, with its antenna strung out my window to the nearest telephone pole.

Although I could not have verbalized it at the time, the musical elements of “Suspicion” were (and still are) quite pleasing. The alternation between the tonic and minor sixth chord, the jazzy off-beat trumpet playing in a muted fashion, the unity of the backup singers, the rhythmic use of triplets in a duple meter song. Plus, there was Stafford’s voice, which so many people have thought was actually Elvis. His voice certainly had a warm and appealing timbre.

Definitely a pop song I loved.

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#339 GREEN DAY BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS

#339

GREEN DAY

BOULEVARD OF BROKEN DREAMS

To say that I have an in-depth knowledge of punk rock would be a gross overstatement. My “knowledge” of punk rock has been acquired coincidentally, gained through accidental exposure to just a handful of songs, one of which is “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day.

Punk rock was a genre of rock music that developed in the mid-1970’s, faded in popularity, and then had a resurgence in the 1990’s. Green Day was part of this resurgence. The music of punk rock, both early and later, was characterized by a return to basics—stripped down instrumentation, hard-edged melodies, anti-establishment lyrics, and extreme simplicity of musical design. Participants—musicians and audiences alike—often adopted a certain kind of appearance—leather, spiked hair, heavy eye make-up and so on. Collectively, punk rock musicians were attempting to re-define rock music to exclude sentimentality

Boulevard of Broken Dreams was a song from 2004. I remember scoring a lot of points with one of my Sinclair classes—comprised of twenty kids in their late teens—when I mentioned my fondness for this song at some point during that school year. I was “cool” for the moment.

As all music-lovers know, your own state of mind often dictates what music you are going to listen to. I suppose this is a psychological self-affirmation of “this is the way I feel right now.” As it happens, I just found out that my car—the one involved in last week’s crash—was declared a total. The car was new, only a month old, the result of searching for exactly what I wanted until I found it. But the cost of the repair was truly eye-popping and with no guarantee that there would be no future problems. The frame had been bent… So now I’ll start the car search all over again, the financial calculating, the loan acquisition, the insurance and BMV visits, and so on.

So the grittiness of this song, the repetitive refrain, the self-pity of the lyrics—somehow this music has surfaced in my mind.

I should also say, though, that I have loved this song, for musical reasons, from the first time I heard it, when I was obviously in a fine mood.

Green Day is comprised of Billy Joe Armstrong, Mike Dirnt, and Tre Cool. They are a Berkeley, California band. It was with their seventh album, American Idiot, that they were really propelled to fame. They have subsequently won five Grammys, and quite a number of other honors. The stage adaptation of American Idiot—which itself is a rock opera—won two Tony Awards.

Green Day was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in their first year of eligibility, 2015. “Boulevard of Broken Dreams,” from their American Idiot album, was the Grammy Record of the Year for 2004.

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#331 JUDY COLLINS/JOSHUA RIFKIN NIGHTINGALE I and II

#331

JUDY COLLINS/JOSHUA RIFKIN

NIGHTINGALE I
NIGHTINGALE II

 

On her 1970 album, Whales and Nightingales, Judy Collins only included one of her own songs, “Nightingale.” All of the other songs on the album were written by others—Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, and Bob Dylan, among them. Also included in the album was her version of Amazing Grace—which still makes chills run up and down my spine each time I hear it, and which has become very well-known.

“Nightingale” was a little problematic for Collins. While its melody was firmly rooted in her head, finding the appropriate lyrics did not come easily. She finally settled on lyrics that she felt best matched the mood of her music, and they were a kind of Aesop’s fable:

Jacob’s heart bent with fear,
Like a bow with death for its arrow,
In vain he searched for the final truth
To set his soul free of doubt.

Over the mountains he walked,
With his head bent searching for reasons,
Then he called out to God
For help and climbed to the top of a hill.

Wind swept the sunlight through the wheat fields,
In the orchard the nightingale sang,
While the plums that she broke with her brown beak,
Tomorrow would turn in to songs.

Then she flew up through the rain
With the sun silver bright on her feathers,
Jacob put back his frowns and sighed and walked
Back down the hill.

God doesn’t answer me and
He never will.

*****

On the album, the song was given the title of Nightingale I. It was immediately followed by Nightingale II, which was an absolutely gorgeous orchestration—and elaboration—of her melody, written by Joshua Rifkin.

Joshua Rifkin (b. 1944) is one of the most gifted jack-of-all-trades musicians alive, a true Renaissance man. He has, at various times in his life, been:

• responsible for the revival of Scott Joplin’s music
• a performer, author, and conductor of Bach all over the world
• guest conductor of the English Chamber Orchestra, the San Francisco Symphony, and Theater Basil in Switzerland
• a respected music scholar of worldwide fame, publishing in-depth works on composers as far afield from each other as Josquin and Webern
• an in-demand arranger

Rifkin’s collaboration with Judy Collins came about during this “arranging” time when he was a young man of 26, just out of Juilliard. Today, Rifkin is Professor of Music at Boston University, having previously taught at Brandeis, Yale, and Harvard.

I was deeply attracted to this short Judy Collins song the very first time I heard it. I still love it, but it is Rifkin’s orchestration that I return to very often. It is just so lovely, very Vaughan-Williams-ish.

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#327 CYNDI LAUPER TIME AFTER TIME

#327

CYNDI LAUPER

TIME AFTER TIME

 

Cyndi Lauper—Cynthia Ann Stephanie Lauper—(b. 1953) is a singer, songwriter, and actress from Astoria, Queens, New York City. Known as well for her variety of hair colors and eccentric clothing as she is for her singing and acting, her career was propelled by a series of pop hits in the mid-1980’s. “Time After Time” was part of Lauper’s debut album, She’s So Unusual.

I liked this song from the very first time I heard it, listening on the car radio. I was in my third year of being part of Sinclair’s Music faculty, Tiraje and I had a young son, and life felt like it was at its beginning…the happiness of this song permeated my mind.

I still find “Time After Time” difficult to just listen to it once–it always takes several re-plays for me to get my fill. It is a simple and well-composed song, with a catchy refrain. This may have been the peak of keyboard synthesizer usage in pop music, and it certainly got a boost here. Of special appeal to me was the flexible, repetitive bass guitar line (very good for air guitarists!).

The song, from 1984, has had an immense amount of recognition:

American Video Award for both Best Female Performance and Best Pop Video
BMI Award for Pop
Billboard Best Female Performance
Most Performed Foreign Song (in Canada)
MTV Best New Artist
MTV Best Female Video
Grammy Song of the Year
Grammy Best New Artist
Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Love Songs
VH1 Greatest Songs of 1980’s
Nerve’s 50 Greatest Love Songs of All Time

The language that critics used for Time After Time was florid and impressive:

• “Time After Time” stands tall among the music of the entire rock era as one of its all-time great timeless ballads”

• “a masterpiece…the best and most significant song Lauper ever wrote or recorded…sentimental, gorgeous”

• “gorgeously heartfelt, one of the decade’s finest ballads”

• “beautiful and bittersweet ballad”

• “Lauper’s most enduring masterpiece hits at the very essence of commitment…she captures real romance in the most simple and straightforward of lines”

Here are those straightforward lines:

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Caught up in circles confusion–
Is nothing new
Flashback–warm nights–
Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories,
Time after–

Sometimes you picture me–
I’m walking too far ahead
You’re calling to me, I can’t hear
What you’ve said–
Then you say–go slow–
I fall behind–
The second hand unwinds

If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time

After my picture fades and darkness has
Turned to gray
Watching through windows–you’re wondering
If I’m OK
Secrets stolen from deep inside
The drum beats out of time–

If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time

You said go slow–
I fall behind
The second hand unwinds–

If you’re lost you can look–and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you–I’ll be waiting
Time after time

Time after time…
Time after time…
Time after time…
Time after time…

Lauper is understandably and immediately associated with “Time After Time.” But it should be noted—and I will, in a future post about her—that Lauper is a significant composer for Broadway. She won the 2013 Tony Award for her score to Kinky Boots. Additionally, she has attracted a lot of attention for her acting in films, on television, and on the Broadway stage—truly, a multi-talent.

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And, as an important aside about Lauper: she has long been associated with the LGBT movement, championing causes, raising support funds, and campaigning all over the world for equal rights. Her song, “Above the Clouds” was written in remembrance of Matthew Shepherd, the young Wisconsin man who was beaten to death because he was gay. Lauper’s True Colors House in New York City serves as a residence for homeless LGBT youth.

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