Raised on the Radio

Because growing up on 70s television didn't kill me. It just made me who I am today.


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Gordon Lightfoot

 

I’ve been listening to Gordon Lightfoot for 44 of my 44 years. It’s a gimme, isn’t it? If you were alive in the 70’s, you listened to Gordo.

That doesn’t mean I knew the ins and outs of the man. Actually…..I heard from a reliable source that his life took some serious wrong turns, and there may have been some unfortunate drinking involved. It was the 70’s, why am I surprised?

For most of us, it’s easy to brush Gordon Lightfoot off as some musician with a ton of songs on the Easy Listening radio station. Oh wait, I like that station. Okay, some guy who makes the easy listening station easier to listen to.

How many times have you heard Sundown, or If You Could Read My Mind on Lite FM?  I admit to being stuck in the land of 70’s pop music. Heck, I’m a child of 70’s radio, and frankly, feel lucky to have been so.

I often credit Gordon Lightfoot with my inspiration to be a writer.

Just like a paperback novel. The kind that drugstores sell.
-If You Could Read My Mind

But if you leave your knowledge of Gordon Lightfoot there. You would be missing so much. I was missing it too. It took my 8yo’s obsession with The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald and then later The Canadian Railway Trilogy, for me to see it.

I Bet You Didn’t Know

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery then Gordon Lightfoot has a lot to be flattered about. In 1964 he wrote “The Early Morning Rain”, and because he was a nobody, he wasn’t even the first to record it. A couple of friends who “discovered” him offered to record his song on their album. It was a good move. For both of them.

He did record the song in 1966… and after that 74 other bands and artists recorded it too. Not the least of which were Bob Dylan, Harry Belafonte, Judy Collins, The Grateful Dead, George Hamilton IV (who took it to #9 on the country charts), Elvis Presley, Jerry Lee Lewis and Peter Paul and Mary (the most well-known pop version).

At 13-years-old Gordon Lightfoot was already making a name for himself, he loved to sing and his parents encouraged him to do so. Between the ages of 13-17 he won multiple awards for singing. That recognition helped him find his path so he attended West Lake College of Music in Los Angeles. This decision would prove to be invaluable to him.

The 60’s started a fire in Gordon, by 1964 he had already written 75 songs. However, he felt none of them really had a “sound” he could call his own. And then – he met Bob Dylan. Through Dylan, and many friends that came along with that sound, he found his sound and that sound would take him all over the world.

Bob Dylan had something to say about Gordon Lightfoot as well. In an article written when Dylan inducted Gordon Lightfoot into the Canadian hall of fame he said, “He (Lightfoot) became a mentor (of Dylan’s) for a long time. I think he probably still is to this day.” Obviously the feeling was mutual. And from an article in The Huffington Post:

BF: Who are some of your favorite songwriters?

BD: Buffett I guess. Lightfoot. Warren Zevon. Randy. John Prine. Guy Clark. Those kinds of writers.

BF: You and Lightfoot go way back.

BD: Oh yeah. Gordo’s been around as long as me.

BF: What are your favorite songs of his?

BD: “Shadows,” “Sundown,” “If You Could Read My Mind.” I can’t think of any I don’t like.

Bob Dylan often covered the song “Shadows” when playing live.

As I sat down to write this, I began listening to some Gordon Lightfoot songs I have very little memory of hearing, it could be I never heard them. I was inspired to track them down when I happened upon a list of all of his songs that have been covered by other artists. This one piqued my interest – after all it was covered by Eric Clapton. I found Clapton’s version of it on YouTube, and frankly, I wasn’t impressed. But that irked me, there had to be a reason that Eric Clapton would want to play that song. Right? There was. The problem is, you cannot improve upon perfection.

The 1970’s would be when Gordon Lightfoot would truly see fame. Finally being recognized by listeners outside of the folk music scene, yet continuing to create using his own unique sound, his songs began to top the charts. Being a child of the 70’s, it was only natural that my experience with Gordon Lightfoot would be: If You Could Read My Mind, Sundown and of course The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. But being a lover of music, that is never enough. When a songwriter sings and plays with so much raw emotion I naturally want to know, what more?

Exploring Gordon Lightfoot was something I did many years ago, to connect with my father, who was very influenced by folk music. And now again I am finding it as a way to connect with my son, to expand his knowledge of music, as I capitalize on his fascination with The Wreck of The Edmund Fitzgerald*. Every minute is a learning moment with music. With Gordon, it could be a lifetime.

I will not leave you without Sundown:

Some trivia:

Aside from his success in writing, singing and performing his own songs, Lightfoot has found fortune in having his songs recorded and performed by other great artists including:  Bob Dylan, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash, Hank Williams, Jr., Marty Robbins, Jerry Lee Lewis, Judy Collins, Johnny Mathis, Anne Murray, Olivia Newton-John, Sarah McLachlan, Barbra Streisand, Peter Paul & Mary, Harry Belafonte, Jane’s Addiction, Richie Havens, Glen Campbell, Toby Keith, George Hamilton IV and Eric Clapton.

In June of 2012 Lightfoot’s legacy was further enhanced when he was inducted into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame.  Lightfoot was honored for his role in defining the folk-pop sound of the 1960s and ’70s.  There are fewer than 400 inductees who make up the impressive roster enshrined in the Songwriters Hall of Fame including Barry Mann, Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, Hal David and Burt Bacharach, John Fogerty, Bob Dylan, Isaac Hayes, Carole King, Paul Simon, Billy Joel, Sir Elton John, Bernie Taupin, Brian Wilson, James Taylor, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, Jim Croce, Phil Collins, Loretta Lynn, Jimmy Webb, Van Morrison, Kris Kristofferson, Dolly Parton, Diane Warren, Garth Brooks, Leon Russell and Leonard Cohen.

* Shameless plug alert. This is a YouTube video of my son singing every single word of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald 3 years ago. He still sings that song almost everyday.

Gordon Lightfoot Graphic.png


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The Blues: New Releases

blues new releases

I’m sitting here, listening to Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown sing about being “Born In Louisiana.”

This might be called “mellow” Blues.

In fact, most of this album, “10 Days Out: Blues From The Backroads” might be called “mellow” blues.  But, then again, since when does the blues have to be hardcore?

Kenny Wayne Shepherd got together with many of the most famous, but some of the most obscure blues artists of the past and came out with this album.  It contains a couple of studio tracks, but mostly live cuts.  And, what live cuts they are!

The King is here … B.B. King that is, and you’ll never hear a better live performance of “The Thrill Is Gone” then you will here.  In fact, most of the songs you’ll hear here are better than normal.

KWS with Clarence “Gatemouth” Brown

No, it’s not because Kenny Wayne Shepherd is playing along with the classic stars.  As much as I hate to say it, I’m not that much of a KWS fan.  Oh, I’ve got a couple of his albums, but mostly, I find his vocals something beyond “melodious.”  Can’t help it.  That’s just the way it is.

I will admit to him being a strong musician on the guitar, though.  And, it doesn’t have to be a power strokin’ mode to sound good.  KWS does extremely well on many of the acoustic tunes here.

Still, it’s the classic artists that make this what it is.  Besides B.B. King, KWS joins Cootie Stark, Neal “Big Daddy” Pattman, Henry Gray, Henry Townsend, Etta Baker, Pinetop Perkins, and many others in making this a Blues cd you won’t want to pass on.

So, sit back, grab a beer or drink of your choice, and let the toe tapping begin.  You won’t be sorry you did!

I took a chance on a cd the other night.  It’s by a Blues band known as The Homemade Jamz Blues Band.

Who?

That’s just what I thought when I saw it.  After investigating, I found that this band was formed in 2007 by two brothers and their younger sister (she was only nine at the time).  Not only that, but the brothers use a homemade guitar and bass that were made out of used automobile parts!  How’s that for rustic?

The Homemade Jamz Blues Band  “Rumors”

Don’t let it turn you away, by any means.  In fact, these kids (I use the term loosely) have won so many honors and awards it’s unbelievable, including the Bay Area’s Blues Society West Coast Hall Of Fame Blues New Artist Of The Year for 2008.  (The size of the trophy had to be monstrous just to get all that on the tag!)

Whether you like is slow and classic sounding, or fast and more progressive, this band will take you there.  They’ve been around for a while now, and their latest release, “I Got Blues For You”, continues to ensure they’ll be here for a long time coming.

Ben Harper has classified himself as an artist of many genres.  True, he’s never had a major crossover hit of any sorts, but considering the crap that becomes hit records these days, that might be more a blessing than a curse.

Charlie Musselwhite, at 69 years of age, has more experience in playing the Blues than Harper’s got years on this Earth.  He started playing with many of the greats as a teenager, later became a major part of the Paul Butterfield Blues Band, and then broke out again on his own.

So, what do you get when you put the two of them together?

I wish I could tell you for sure.  I’m still undecided on this release.  Not that it’s a bad release, it’s just really different when it comes to what one would consider traditional, or even progressive blues.  Oh, there’s the typical blues riffs and such, but I just feel like there’s something missing here.  The following tune is one of the few the combination of the two works well.

Ben Harper & Charlie Musselwhite “You Found Another Friend”

Charlie’s work is outstanding.  I think Harper’s the weak link.  He seems to present the Blues in a fashion not conducive to blues artists.  It’s almost as if a folk singer walked into a Blues bar and said, “Hey, I can do that!”  Sadly, he found out quickly that the Blues is more of an art form than he anticipated, or, was prepared to handle.  Thinking even more about it, it almost sounds like he’s trying to emulate a Lenny Kravitz sound on a couple of the tracks.  Definitely not what one expects from the Blues!

Again, nothing against Harper.  I have many of his albums and enjoy them.  It might have been the production.  I don’t think so, but I’m willing to give a well-known artist a break.  I hope he deserves it.

And, “No”, I won’t be giving anyone this album for Christmas this year.  I might pick up a copy or two of Charlie’s “Ace of Harps”, but not this one.

I try to keep the friends I have.

Now, several of you know that I’m a big Joe Bonamassa fan.  However, as wonderful as a guitar player that I think he is, I’m beginning to look at him as I did Stevie Ray Vaughan.

What?  Attack Stevie Ray Vaughan?

No, not attack.  Just making a comparison.  SRV and Joe both have many great songs.  And, you immediately know the songs are theirs.  Maybe, too much so.

Same riffs, same beats, same old same old.  Oh, there’s always songs that can be pointed out to be different, but, then again, there’s still major similarities to be found in their signature style.  I guess it just boils down to if you like their style enough to listen to it album after album after album.   (“Yawn!”)

In March, Joe released, “An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House.”  Sad to say, this one didn’t even chart on the U.S. Blues Chart.

Joe Bonamassa  “Slow Train”

Have we heard enough from Joe?  Is it the same stuff being rehashed and put out time and time again?  Or, has his association and participation in the rock band “Black Country Communion” creating a glitch in the Blues energy he was once able to demonstrate?

Hell if I know!

“An Acoustic Evening At The Vienna Opera House” is a nice production to listen to on a long drive at night.  It won’t give you a headache, and some of the tunes (if you’re familiar with Joe), will have you singing along.

But, if you’re not familiar with this individual, and still insist on buying a live album of his in order to get a sampling of his music, I would recommend “Live From The Royal Albert Hall” instead.  The power he projects from this once in a lifetime experience is beyond compare, and his playing impeccable.  And, even though Eric Clapton kind of takes second fiddle during their song together, it’s still a tremendous version to enjoy!

Joe Bonamassa & Eric Clapton “Further On Up The Road”

“…Opera House” deserves six out of ten stars.  If you choose “… Albert Hall”, you’ll enjoy a nine star affair!  The choice is yours!

As I’ve said a couple of times, everyone’s taste in music is different.  I’ve never met another person that likes exactly the same things that I do, nor do I ever want to.  Music is a personal decision.  Just because one person likes one thing over another, it doesn’t make them a music God to follow verbatum.  In fact, be different from the masses and experiment with all different styles and genres.

Who knows?

You just might find something you like!

About the Author:

Having grown up during the 50′s & 60′s, Rich Rumple was a personal witness to the confusion of the times. His love of music drew him into the conflicts of the day as he protested many of the atrocities in civil rights and an overseas war. Ironically, military service, during the final days of the Vietnam Conflict, ended a music career in a successful band. However, his love of music held true as he later chose a career as a radio announcer over law school. Here, along with being able to play the music he cherished, he interviewed many top music acts. This allowed him to gain much knowledge of the recording industry and the psyche of music artists in rock, jazz and R&B. Later, his love of performing transformed him into a career in stand-up comedy. Twenty years later, his love for music continues.
Quote: “Being born in 1954, Rock ‘N Roll and I have grown up together. I wouldn’t have had it any other way!”