Creak. . . creak . . . moan. Moan. (Suddenly, a very hideous figure comes into view. It is a zombie, but then it removes its head, revealing the head of a normal suburban 12-year old girl)
Hey guys, did I scare ya?
I'm terrified. No, really, I am.
Yeah, well, I'm back from the dead. It was time to take a break from polynomials and get into some music! Even zombies like me have to get out and smell the flowers every now and then. Though the flowers of this blog are all stinky these days, because the politics killed them just like DDT!
I thought the flowers all died because the shadow of the Vikings stadium kept all the sunlight away.
See, you can't even stop with the politics now, Dad! You're supposed be on a rolling stone, not just a roll! Don't you see how boring this stuff is?
Well, I do. But I'm kinda boring myself.
Well then, get on the fun train, before all the hobos take your place! Besides, they're kinda stinky too for different reasons!
That's what I've heard.
Well, since I'm back from the dead, should we bring some other musicians back from the dead?
Yes. And unfortunately, it's been a tough year for popular music already. A lot of big names have left the world's stage, so to speak.
So they left the building, like Elvis?
You could say that, Maria.
I just did.
Good point. Shall we call the roll?
No, not you, Maria.
Well, I am here. So spin some tunes, Dad! And don't make me pay a quarter. I need to save everything for college money. But first, I want you to know that I'm instituting a grading system with this one. People need to know where they stand, even if they're dead.
Good point. Okay -- we'll start out with this guy, Jimmy Castor. He was famous for some tacky novelty songs like the "Bertha Butt Boogie," but he could play it straight, too. Like this one:
I'm glad you didn't pick the Bertha Butt Boogie, Dad! In fact, this song is actually pretty good in my opinion, and with the usual bad 70s fashion choices, it works out, maybe, to be, a C-. Maybe even a C. I grade on a tough curve, you know.
You are tough. Are you just trying to keep people from crowding the honor roll?
No. . . maybe! C'mon, Dad, you have to go above and beyond to get an A around here! Maybe the next person could get an A.
Let's find out, shall we? Johnny Otis, come on down!
It's "Willie and the Hand Jive," with some really big background singers.
Well, I really like the piano and it seems to be a fun song, and he's dressed appropriately! Just in case you didn't know, guys, the suit and tie is a good fallback option, as compared to some of the other getups (cough cough Arthur Brown). Dad, should I remind people not to click that link?
That would be a good suggestion, yes.
Okay then people, listen to the smart guy with the English degree! Don't click the link! Really, I'm serious! As for Johnny Otis, I'd give him an A!
So Maria, do you think the background sisters were the Butt sisters from Jimmy Castor?
Dad, that's really crude and mean!
I know, but you know someone was going to mention it, so it might as well be me.
Well, that's true. So who do we have next?
Interestingly, we have one of the greatest soul singers of all, who was "discovered" by Johnny Otis. And I think they died the same day. In a song that I think will be the early leader in the clubhouse, we present Etta James:
So, if F stands for failure, what does A stand for? In this case, I think it stands for AWESOME! I really like this song, but I think going blind might be a bit extreme. How else could you look for the next guy, then?
Very practical thinking, Maria.
Well, thank you. And yes, Etta James gets an A.
So now we move on to perhaps the most famous musical performer to die this year, Whitney Houston:
How will I know? Well, one way to know is to stay away from the drugs, Dad! I do like the song, and the dancing is kinda cool, even if the outfits are sort of strange, especially that weird half bride/half groom thing in the middle. I give this one a B-, maybe? Not as good a song as Etta, but fun.
Fun is important. In fact, Davy Jones and the Monkees were all about fun:
That would be "Daydream Believer."
Well, it's a nice song. Fun, too, I suppose. The outfits are a little wacky in the 60s style, but acceptable. I give this one a B. Fun, but not great.
I think you're doing a good job on the grades, Maria.
Well, I get good grades, so maybe I can give good grades, too!
So far, so good. Now for something completely different -- one of the giants of bluegrass, Earl Scruggs:
It's a "Foggy Mountain Breakdown."
Wow, can he play that banjo! Yippie ki ay? Is that what they say? I'm not a big bluegrass person, but I do play the guitar so I know how hard it is to move your fingers like that! And the other instruments are a nice touch, especially the fiddle player, Lester Flatt. Dad told me he was a big deal, too. So, I give this one an A. But so far I like Etta James the best. Do you have more?
Why yes. Yes I do, Maria. It's the drummer for the Band, Levon Helm:
And it's "The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down."
Now, for all the kids who are reading this -- wait, are there any kids reading this?
Maybe just you, or your cousins.
Well, okay then, cousins who are reading this, you should really try and take a leaf out of their book. They don't have anything wild or crazy or flaming going on in this. You can actually sit back, relax, and nothing takes away from what the music is. No flaming headdresses or outfits made out of rugs from the garbage can! This is classy stuff, Dad! I give it an A. But I still like Etta the best so far.
I understand. Now for something else that's completely different -- it's the Beastie Boys:
It's "No Sleep Til Brooklyn." RIP, Adam "MCA" Yauch.
Well Dad, how would you sleep if people were watching you? And all the screaming in this song, that would wake anyone up! And with the boxer shorts, they look more like the Bedtime Boys! Did they leave their blankies with their mommy and their teddy bear?
So you're not buying the bad boy act, Maria?
Ehh, they tried to put it in, but remember -- I hang out with 6th grade boys and they are a lot weirder than these guys! Even the ones that try to be bad -- I'm on to their little game. Yeah, sorry Bedtime Boys, but I'll have to give you a D.
Wait, am I good, or am I tough? Make up your mind, Mr. Carlin! And as for you, I'd give you a -- wait, I'd better not grade my Dad. That might not be too wise.
Yes, you might want to keep that grade to yourself.
Okay, I will. What do you have next?
Perhaps the greatest backing band of all. Booker T and the MGs, featuring Donald "Duck" Dunn on bass:
"Time is Tight." Indeed it is.
Indeed it is, Dad. But I'll tell you, this music is tight. And if you're familiar with present-day slang, "tight" can be taken as a compliment. Nothing too flashy or weird in the outfit department, and nothing too weird in the scenery department. Everything is great in the music department. Just like the Band's song. I like this one slightly better than the Band, so it gets an A.
I like it, too. Now we move on to Chuck Brown, who died this week:
"Bustin Loose," with the Soul Train dancers, too!
And we probably should mention that Don Cornelius died this year, too, Dad. This song has got a good groove and I like it, but unfortunately the 70s outfits on the Soul Train dancers are pretty distracting, yeah. So unfortunately, it subtracts a little bit. I give this song an A-.
Okay, so we're down to the last person, who died today. The Queen of Disco, Donna Summer:
Indeed, it was her "Last Dance."
Uh, well, she is a good singer, but I'm not really a disco person, so I'm not sure. The song seems to be good, although the outfit is a little, well, you know, silly, or maybe skimpy, or both. Yeah, we'll go with both. So here's the question -- is she better than Etta James? And the answer is no. I'll give her a B.
Now it's time to turn over the grading to our readers. Which ones do you like the best? Let us know in the comment section.
That's right. You wouldn't want to not participate and get an F from Fearless Maria, now would you? You do know that this would go down on your permanent record. In my book. And my book is pretty important, people! So get voting!
I'd listen to her if I were you.