RIP Nick Ashford and Jerry Leiber

Posted in Youtube Favs on August 24th, 2011 by Willie

Two songwriting icons passed away yesterday, and ironically, both were halves of legendary songwriting teams.  Nick Ashford, legendary Motown songwriter, who was paired with his wife Valerie Simpson, died at 70 in Manhattan.  Jerry Leiber, partnered with Mike Stoller, co-wrote some of Elvis Presley’s greatest hits, died at 78 in Los Angeles.  Among Ashford’s greatest hits were “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” and “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing,” displaying his mastery of the word “ain’t.”  Leiber and Stoller churned out “Hound Dog,” “Yakety Yak,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Stand By Me.” Both Ashford and Leiber were beloved geniuses of their craft and produced songs that are etched like concrete in the public’s minds.  It’s a sad day, but on the sunny side, the great  thing about dying a master songwriter is that your music truly lives on, leaving the perfect memorial.  My little memorial comes in the form of Ben E. King’s rendition of “Stand By Me,” and Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell’s version of “Aint No Mountain High Enough.”  Oh, and just a reminder, click here and you can vote for me every day for CBS’s Most Valuable Blogger where I am a finalist!  Thanks!

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My Top 100 Youtube Favorites, a Retrospective, Part 1

Posted in Youtube Favs on June 27th, 2011 by Willie

Now that my countdown is complete, I thought it’d be fun to look back at the whole list, organize it, link it up, and add a fresh comment or two for posterity’s sake.  So, without further ado, here it is, part 1 of my youtube countdown featuring the last 25 songs to appear on the list.

#100.  The Beatles, All You Need is Love – Is it my favorite Beatles song?  Not technically, but I think it’s their greatest triumph.  FYI, this video was originally in black and white until the art gurus at Apple colorized it based on photographs from the event.

#99.  The Beatles, Nowhere Man – The song that inspired me to become a Beatle slave, and a musician myself.  Fun fact, not many songs have a guitar solo after the first verse.

#98.  Tribalistas, Ja Se Namorar – 21st century island cool Brazilian pop at its finest.

#97.  Carl Perkins and Friends, Rockabilly School – One of the greatest TV concerts in rock and roll history.  Does anyone have a magic pair of blue suede shoes so I can travel back in time and be at this show?

#96.  Simon and Garfunkel, The Sounds of Silence –  You get to see S & G in all their young nerdy early 60s glory in this vid…Amazing. Read more »

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Marvin Gaye, Sexual Healing, 1983 Grammys

Posted in Marvin Gaye, Youtube Favs on June 9th, 2011 by Willie

Part 85 my soul people, back with more Marvin Gaye like I promised.  This time, its a special performance of “Sexual Healing,” sung live at the 1983 Grammys.  This was Marvin’s last worldwide smash hit, eventually peaking at #3 on the Billboard 100 after dominating the R&B charts.  There is a lot of tragedy and joy to be found in the creation of this record.  It’s a reflection of Marvin attempting  to embrace a healthier more peaceful life through sobriety, exercise, and  Sadly, just as he was in the midst of his triumphant comeback, he was gunned down by his father in one of the more bizarre rock and roll assassinations.  It reminds me a lot of John Lennon’s demise after he completed Double Fantasy. It’s really painful to think of the three icons; Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, and Bob Marley, all dying in the early 80s.  They left a tremendous void.  Anyway, this song was almost entirely produced by Marvin himself outside of the rhythm guitars.  It’s a true masterpiece that touched on elements of doo-wop, snythpop, reggae, funk and gospel.  This performance, a lot like the song, is a triumph.  Marvin reminds the music elite that he is an absolute God, taking them to school by defining what pop music is and can be.  RIP Marvin.

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Marvin Gaye, The National Anthem

Posted in Marvin Gaye, Youtube Favs on June 8th, 2011 by Willie

Soul week grooves on with part 84 of my youtube countdown.  Today I have Marvin Gaye, the Prince of Soul, singing “The National Anthem” at the 1983 NBA All-Star Game.  For my money, this is the greatest National Anthem ever, slightly better than Jimi Hendrix’s psychedelic Woodstock performance.  Marvin managed to turn the normally stuffy and militaristic anthem into a smooth soul jam complete with the most seductive beat and vocal delivery ever achieved for the song.  There is just too much to love about this video.  I love the way he sexualizes the song, driving every woman in the crowd absolutely crazy.  I love the way the NBA arena reflects off his large sunglasses.  Most of all, I love the way he squeezes all that emotion from his performance to the point where he looks like he is going to cry.  The most amazing feat of the song is that Marvin’s version somehow reflects the entire history of cultural cool that America has produced in its history, not just its military glory and political power.  It’s almost a personal anthem, reflecting Marvin’s sad yet sexy soul.  Whatever it is, its a pure wonder, and an essential listening experience.  Enjoy.  Oh, PS, expect more Marvin this week.

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Al Green, Tired of Being Alone

Posted in Youtube Favs on June 7th, 2011 by Willie

Happy Tuesday everybody, part 83 of my countdown is all about soul.  In fact the rest of the week is soul week here at  I officially kick things off with Al Green’s soulful classic, “Tired of Being Alone,” from his 1971 LP, Al Green Gets Next to You. This song is like a bridge from classic Motown pop to sophisticated 70s soul.  It features that familiar Motown sound with the syncopated brass and steady drumming, but is differentiated with less busy production that allows for Al’s voice to soar seductively in an emptier space.  It’s a work of genius.  This clip is a priceless rare performance of a young Al singing live in full 70s soul glam.  It’s Al in his utter prime which is kind of redundant because he has rarely been out of his prime in his sprawling hall of fame career.  Be sure to come back tomorrow for some classic Marvin Gaye.

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