Nightly Song
Musings on Songs that Strike a Chord Tonight

Posts Tagged ‘Soul Music

Don’t Give Up on Me by Solomon Burke

October 13, 2010

Don’t Give Up on Me

Performed by Solomon Burke. Witten by Dan Penn, Carson Whitsett and Hoy Lindsey.

The big man passed on Monday morning while en route to a concert in Amsterdam. My 17-year-old son just walked in and asked if Solomon Burke died why it’s not big news, why aren’t the flags at half-mast. He suggests a train like Lincoln’s carrying the body around the country. We would all do well to mark his passing by listening to the music and inspiration of the King of Rock ‘n Soul.

My son only knows the greatness of the songs. Not the meandering career, the early gospel songs, the early 60’s disks with Atlantic records, the wanderings for nearly three decades until the audience caught up with this King of Soul and his release of Don’t Give Up on Me where he covers songs written by Tom Waits, Bob Dylan, Brian Wilson, Van Morrison and others.

As much a myth as he is a man, Burke’s biography tells of how his grandmother – Mother Moore – foresaw her grandson’s birth and established a church – Solomon’s Temple – several years before his birth. Like many myths, Burke’s origins are hard to pin down. He claims to have been born upstairs from a church or even in the church, his first wails mingling in perfect unison with the choir. He was born in 1936, 1938, or 1940; take a choice.

Try a Little Tenderness by Otis Redding

October 7, 2010

Written by Irving King and Harry M. Woods. Performed here by Otis Redding.

A classic soul performance that starts out slow, even melancholy, and builds, Redding unwinding his voice a little more with each chorus, Booker T and the MGs providing the fuel, until we reach the furious R&B ending with Redding fully engulfed in the passion of the song. It makes for great music and great theater.

Take a Letter Maria – by R.B. Greaves

September 20, 2010

Take a Letter Maria

Written and performed by R. B Greaves.

I kept my cool, I ain’t no fool.

Take a Letter Maria is the very definition of hip-swinging, sophisticated soul. R. B. Graves, who wrote and performed the song, sings with a voice so full of confidence and hipster’s grace that you can picture his sharp suit and wry grin, maybe even the cocked hat as he unfurls his tale. His voice is so smooth that it will come as no surprise that he’s a nephew of Sam Cooke. The Latin beat and mariachi horns add to the jauntiness of the tale. In the end, Greaves writes with such subtle complexities and sings with such smooth soul that his performances makes new and vibrant what would otherwise be a tired story of betrayal and romance alive.

Bettye LaVette – Damn Your Eyes

May 29, 2010

Damn Your Eyes

Performed by Bettye LaVette on the album Bettye LaVette in Concert: Let Me Down Easy. Written by Steve Bogard and Barbara Wynick.

This woman can sing, can grab you by the collar, shake you up and make you tremble. A nine minute song with five verses and a chorus, yet it all comes down to the title line, “Damn your eyes.” With Bettye LaVette, one line is enough. With that single, short line she makes us understand that dilemma when the brain knows better, but the heart, the stomach and the groin can’t help themselves. Damn your eyes. She wails, she growls, she stammers, she whispers and she howls. Damn your eyes. How much meaning, how much life she pushes through those three words. Damn your eyes.

Make her the Queen of Soul. Make her the Queen of Heartache. Give her whatever crown she wants. Bettye LaVette climbs into the song and the two – woman and song – are never the same.

I Pity the Fool by Bobby Blue Bland

May 19, 2010

I Pity the Fool

Performed by Bobby Blue Bland. Written by Deadric Malone.

If you don’t play an instrument and you don’t write songs, you better be able to sing. Bobby Blue Bland is a singer who more than earns his keep with his voice. He recorded “I Pity the Fool” on his seminal album from 1962, Two Steps from the Blues; the song rose to number one on the R&B charts and even made a dent on the pop charts.

What mastery we hear on this song: the production, the musicianship and the singing blend to form a sonic dynamo. The drums set the beat matched by a pulsing bass and masterful guitar work provided by Wayne Bennett who carries a BB King-influenced riff throughout the song. The performance starts quiet and small, as if the singer is curled up within himself, though as he goes on, the voices opens out and the music grows. We get horns (trumpets, tenor and baritone saxes and a slide trombone) and the tinkling of a piano. And that voice, soaked in hurt and maybe bourbon, raised on gospel and the blues, but now it’s something new altogether, call it soul or rhythm and blues, “I pity the fool that falls in love with you.”