Tag Archives: soul

Tolerable Xmas Records (3)

I’ll let you into a secret – I hate the song ‘White Christmas’  in its original version.  It drones along, a malformed slice of seasonal tedium, just like all the ones we used to know.

But as it has been brought into the world, we might as well get someone to record a good version of it. Sort of stripped back, soulful, nice brass section,  schmaltz-free, recorded by someone like, oh I dunno… Otis Redding perhaps ?

Wouldn’t that be worth hearing ?

 

Carla Thomas is a midwinter child, born around the Shortest Day (December 21, 1942), the daughter of Rufus Thomas, no stranger to seasonal opportunism himself (‘I’ll Be your Santa Baby‘).

Described by some as the Queen of Memphis Soul, she also dueted with Otis Redding (notably on ‘Tramp’) and in 1963 released what may just about be my favorite Tolerable Xmas Record – ‘Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas‘)

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Almanac – June 09

1915 – Les Paul born. American jazz, country and blues guitarist, songwriter, luthier and inventor.

He was one of the pioneers of the solid-body electric guitar, which made the sound of rock and roll possible, and is credited with many recording innovations.

Although he was not the first to use the technique, his early experiments with overdubbing, delay effects such as tape delay, phasing effects and multitrack recording were among the first to attract widespread attention.

 He recorded with his wife Mary Ford in the 1950s, selling millions of records.

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1934 – Jackie Wilson born. American singer and performer.

Wilson was important in the transition of rhythm and blues into soul. He was considered a master showman, one of the most dynamic and influential singers and performers in R&B and rock history.

Gaining fame in his early years as a member of the R&B vocal group Billy Ward and His Dominoes, he went solo in 1957 and recorded over 50 hit singles that spanned R&B, pop, soul, doo-wop and easy listening.

Wilson’s powerful, electrifying live performances rarely failed to bring audiences to a state of frenzy.  His live performances consisted of knee-drops, splits, spins,back-flips, one-footed across-the-floor slides, a lot of basic boxing steps (advance and retreat shuffling) and one of his favorite routines, getting some of the less attractive girls in the audience to come up and kiss him. “If I kiss the ugliest girl in the audience, they’ll all think they can have me and keep coming back and buying my records.”

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Almanac – June 03

1924 – Franz Kafka died. German-language writer of novels and short stories, regarded by critics as one of the most influential authors of the 20th century.

 Kafka strongly influenced genres such as existentialism. His works, such as Die Verwandlung (The Metamorphosis), Der Process (The Trial), and Das Schloss (The Castle), are filled with the themes and archetypes of alienation, physical and psychological brutality, parent–child conflict, characters on a terrifying quest, and mystical transformations.

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1926 – Allen Ginsberg born. American poet and one of the leading figures of the Beat Generation in the 1950s.

He vigorously opposed militarism, economic materialism and sexual repression. Ginsberg is best known for his epic poem “Howl“, in which he denounced what he saw as the destructive forces of capitalism and conformity in the United States.

Ginsberg took part in decades of non-violent political protest against everything from the Vietnam War to the War on Drugs. His poem “September on Jessore Road“, calling attention to the plight of Bangladeshi refugees, exemplifies what the literary critic Helen Vendler described as Ginsberg’s tireless persistence in protesting against “imperial politics, and persecution of the powerless.”

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1942 – Curtis Mayfield born.  American soul, R&B, and funk singer, songwriter, and record producer.

He is best known for his anthemic music with The Impressions during the Civil Rights Movement of the 1960s and for composing the soundtrack to the blaxploitation film Super Fly, Mayfield is highly regarded as a pioneer of funk and of politically conscious African-American music.

He was also a multi-instrumentalist who played the guitar, bass, piano, saxophone, and drums.

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Almanac – May 28

1938 – Prince Buster born. Jamaican singer-songwriter, producer and sound system operator.

He is regarded as one of the most important figures in the history of ska and rocksteady music. The records he released in the 1960s influenced and shaped the course of Jamaican contemporary music and created a legacy of work that later reggae and ska artists would draw upon.

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1944 – Gladys Knight born. American singer-songwriter, actress, businesswoman, humanitarian, and author, best known for the hits she recorded during the 1960s and 1970s, for both the Motown and Buddah Records labels, with her group Gladys Knight & the Pips.

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Almanac – May 27

1894 – Dashiell Hammett born. American author of hard-boiled detective novels and short stories, a screenplay writer, and political activist.

Among the enduring characters he created are Sam Spade (The Maltese Falcon), Nick and Nora Charles (The Thin Man), and the Continental Op (Red Harvest and The Dain Curse).

In addition to the significant influence his novels and stories had on film, Hammett is now widely regarded as one of the finest mystery writers of all time  and was called, in his obituary in The New York Times, “the dean of the… ‘hard-boiled’ school of detective fiction.”

Time magazine included Hammett’s 1929 novel Red Harvest on a list of the 100 best English-language novels published between 1923 and 2005.

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1907 – Rachel Carson born. American marine biologist and conservationist whose book Silent Spring and other writings are credited with advancing the global environmental movement.

 Although Silent Spring was met with fierce opposition by chemical companies, it spurred a reversal in national pesticide policy, which led to a nationwide ban on DDT and other pesticides, and it inspired a grassroots environmental movement that led to the creation of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.

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2011 – Gil Scott-Heron died. American soul and jazz poet, musician, and author, known primarily for his work as a spoken word performer in the 1970s and ’80s.

His collaborative efforts with musician Brian Jackson featured a musical fusion of jazz, blues, and soul, as well as lyrical content concerning social and political issues of the time, delivered in both rapping and melismatic vocal styles by Scott-Heron.

 His own term for himself was “bluesologist“, which he defined as “a scientist who is concerned with the origin of the blues.”

His music, most notably on Pieces of a Man and Winter in America in the early 1970s, influenced and helped engender later African-American music genres such as hip hop and neo soul.

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Almanac – May 23

1701 – Captain William Kidd hanged for piracy, at Execution Dock, Wapping, in London. During the execution, the hangman’s rope broke and Kidd was hanged on the second attempt. His body was gibbeted over the River Thames at Tilbury Point as a warning to  would-be pirates.

Some modern historians deem his piratical reputation unjust, as there is evidence that Kidd acted only as a privateer. Kidd’s fame springs largely from the sensational circumstances of his questioning before the English Parliament and the ensuing trial.

 His actual depredations on the high seas, whether piratical or not, were both less destructive and less lucrative than those of many other contemporary pirates and privateers

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1934 – American bank robbers Bonnie Parker and Clyde Barrow were ambushed by police and killed in Black Lake, Louisiana.

Even during their lifetimes, the couple’s depiction in the press was at considerable odds with the hardscrabble reality of their life on the road—particularly in the case of Parker.

Though she was present at a hundred or more felonies during her two years as Barrow’s companion, she was not the machine gun-wielding cartoon killer portrayed in the newspapers, newsreels, and pulp detective magazines of the day. Gang member W. D. Jones was unsure whether he had ever seen her fire at officers.

 Parker’s reputation as a cigar-smoking gun moll grew out of a playful snapshot found by police at an abandoned hideout, released to the press, and published nationwide; while she did chain-smoke Camel cigarettes, she was not a cigar smoker.

Clyde Barrow and Bonnie Parker were wild and young, and supposedly slept together. Without Bonnie, the media outside Texas might have dismissed Clyde as a gun-toting punk, if it ever considered him at all. With her sassy photographs, Bonnie supplied the sex-appeal, the oomph, that allowed the two of them to transcend the small-scale thefts and needless killings that actually comprised their criminal careers.

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1943 – General Johnson born. American soul  songwriter and record producer, and frontman of Chairmen Of The Board.

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Almanac – April 13

1919 – Eugene V. Debs was imprisoned at the Atlanta Federal Penitentiary in Atlanta, Georgia, for speaking out against the draft during World War I.

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1946 – Al Green born.  American singer, best  known for a series of soul hit singles in the early 1970s, including “Tired of Being Alone”, “I’m Still In Love With You”, “Love and Happiness” and  “Let’s Stay Together”.

Inducted to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, Green was referred to on the museum’s site as being “one of the most gifted purveyors of soul music”, and he was included in the Rolling Stone list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time, ranking at No. 66

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1964 – At the Academy Awards, Sidney Poitier became the first African-American male to win the Best Actor award for the 1963 film Lilies of the Field.

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