Thursday, November 06, 2008

Guilty Pleasures Part Thirty-Two: Music Is Life Edition

If you've spent any time around here, you know that music is one of my great passions. I can't imagine how someone can go through life without music. No matter how dire the circumstances, a song, if it hits you just right, can instantly change your mood and make things seem better. So after what's been a very disheartening week on the political scene, let's go back to something better. Let's go back to music.

I let my media player pick five songs for tonight. As it happens, it picked well. There's outright joy, great songwriting and some remarkable talent on display. And I was able to find something representative on YouTube for all five songs.

First up, we have a very young Frank Sinatra, from 1943, as always reaching into the Great American Songbook for one of the greatest of all American songs. This is a song he returned to with different, more swinging arrangements later on; as usual, I prefer the 1950s version that he recorded during his great period at Capitol Records. But this more formal, old-fashioned version has plenty to recommend it. Whether near to me or far, it's no matter, darling, where you are. I think of you. . . .

Next, we head to the end of the 1960s. This group had already nearly 20 years in the business when they hit it big with a song that clings very closely to the zeitgeist of that era. Still one of the best horn charts in the history of rock, too. I can't tell you who to sock it to, because it's the Isley Brothers singing

Next we go further another six years, to 1975. We're in that odd time, at the dawn of the disco era, when the music world had essentially bifurcated and the music lovers were starting to form opposing camps. Still, there were some records that got played everywhere, mostly because they were really good. I'm especially fond of this big hit from one of the best singles acts of the decade, the Spinners. It's one of their sweetest songs, but listen carefully because there's more than a little undercurrent going on, too. Why, mostly because

Then we move forward four more years, to 1979. Disco is at its zenith but about to head for a precipitous fall. A child star who had consistently charted throughout the decade with his brothers now was ready to take the stage by himself and dominate. This was a huge hit back in 1979 and while disco itself hasn't necessarily aged that well, the vocal performance and the dazzling Quincy Jones arrangement still sound fresh and vital nearly 30 years later. My goodness -- has it really been 30 years? It's pre-weird, pre-facelift Michael Jackson with

Finally, we head back about 30-40 years. It's perhaps the greatest all-around American musician of the 20th century, leading his orchestra through its paces with another durable from the Great American Songbook. As Stevie Wonder so memorably described him, it's the king of all, Sir Duke, with:

Now tell me -- how can you listen to such great music and not feel better about life? There's plenty of stupidity and hatred in the world, plenty of people cutting you off in traffic or selling you a line of crap. We have entire industries that spend their days chronicling our worst moments. But we have music. God has blessed us, indeed.

Pick your favorite or, if you'd like, suggest a song that makes you feel better about life, and tell us why.


W.B. Picklesworth said...

It's tough to be angry or depressed when listening to Herb Alpert. As an added bonus, listening to the Tijuana Brass is cross-cultural!

Anonymous said...

Random songs that make me happy:
Groove is in the Heart - Deee - lite
Genius of Love - the Tom Tom Club
You Sexy Thing - Hot Chocolate,
You Dropped a Bomb on Me - the Gap Band

Odd that I love dance music, since I'm probably the worst dancer this side of Elaine Benis

Anonymous said...

It's hard to beat Sir Duke.

I am giving this a whirl on the IPOD right now. Here's my next five:

1) Pretty Boy Floyd by Woody Guthrie.
I can't find Woody's version, but here's Bob Zimmerman's

2) Chickimauga by Uncle Tupelo

3) Feels Like Rain by Buddy Guy

Set to a montage of the city I love: Chicago. (Seems to be a hot topic these days).

4) Tangled Up In Blue by the aforementioned Mr. Zimmerman from

This is a live version, but the original is on the 1974 album Blood on the Tracks, which is on my short list of albums I would want with me if stranded on a deserted island.

5) I'm a Lonesome Fugitive by Merle Haggard

It's just my opinion, but I listen to guys like Merle Haggard and cringe at what has become of mainstream Country Music these days. A real classic.

Thanks for getting our mind off politics for a while. Withdrawl is gonna be a biatch.


Mr. D said...

No doubt, good sir. I'll check out those links when I get home. I certainly know the Buddy Guy and Zimmerman, but I don't know much Uncle Tupelo - I believe they morphed into Wilco, which is a band I do like. And I agree completely about Hag.