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Thursday, May 31, 2012

Rock 'n' Roll Is Dead? Again?

Originally published in my "Aural Fixation" column on PopMatters.com on May 31, 2012. See original post here.

Dave Grohl and Jack Black, image from fooarchive.com


Actor Jack Black recently joined a long line of prognosticators shaking the death rattle for rock 'n' roll. However, Foo Fighter Dave Grohl says, "There will always be rock 'n' roll." If saltine crackers are any way of judging, I'm with Grohl on this.
In the past week I've had Jack White’s new Blunderbuss album on repeat, much to my 6YO's dismay. He groans when I belt out the line, "I eat sixteen saltine crackers / Then I lick my fingers."; I'll take my son's reaction to be a commentary on my cringe-worthy warbling instead of an assessment of one of today's leading rockers.

If prognosticators are to be believed, my offspring's generation will never experience rock music because the genre has departed to that great musical graveyard in the sky. Of course, rock 'n' roll has survived multiple death sentences practically since birth, making cats' nine lives look like nothing. As far back as 1956, the Maddox Brothers & Rose reshaped Ray Charles’ “I Gotta Woman” into a song rechristened “The Death of Rock and Roll”.

Musing about rock’s demise has become a clichéd and surefire method for sucking readers into publications ironically dependent on the genre’s survival. I would think the bite-the-hand-that-feeds-them approach would backfire, but it must work, because I continuously cross paths with variations of the “Rock and Roll Is Dead” headline.

The latest terminal-illness pronouncement comes from Jack Black, half of the jokey-rock duo Tenacious D and an actor known for rock ‘n’ roll-roles in movies like High Fidelity and School of Rock. Black is pushed to explain the title of the D’s new song, “Rock Is Dead” in a Rolling Stone interview (“Off the Cuff: Jack Black on ‘Bernie,’ Tenacious D and the Death of Rock”, 3 May 2012). He argues no one today has the capacity to rouse audiences like the Beatles. He contends Nirvana was the last band to come close. He concedes there are still worthwhile rockers today – including the Jack White and the Foo Fighters, fronted by none other than ex-Nirvana drummer Dave Grohl. He just doesn’t believe any of today’s bands can capture the hearts of a generation.

Since Black references Nirvana and the Foos, Grohl’s opinion on the matter seems particularly pertinent. In an interview with Billboard magazine (“Dave Grohl Q&A: Why Rock Will Never Die…”, 10 January 2012), he jokes that an article surfaces annually asking, “Is Rock Dead?” He responds “There’s always gonna be rock ‘n’ roll bands, there’s always gonna be kids that love rock ‘n’ roll records, and there will always be rock ‘n’ roll.”

Dave Grohl, image from PopMatters.com

I’m with Grohl. Black’s comments can be viewed as tongue-in-cheek, but they reveal a common belief that rock is dead because there are no bands now like there used to be. In a Musicthinktank.com article (“How Technology Killed Rock and Roll”, 17 January 2011), Corey Crossfield asserts that in the heyday of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones music had an urgency it now lacks.

Well, duh. Rock ‘n’ roll grew up. That baby who was born in the ‘50s is now eligible for AARP. Elvis was hailed as The King of Rock ‘n’ Roll because he was the first to ascend to the throne. The Beatles were at the forefront of the British Invasion because they led the takeover of the hearts of American teens. Girls wanted them and boys wanted to be them. These were landmark artists in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll precisely because they were spawned in the early days of rock ‘n’ roll.

The lack of modern-day superstars on par with The King or The Fab Four is actually an indicator of the genre’s continued influence. In the early days of any genre’s birth, a handful of names become the standard bearers. As the genre becomes more widespread, it is more difficult to stand out in the pack.

Audiences are now so saturated with avenues for discovering music that no genres or musicians can have the same level of impact as those long-ago glory days. Despite the larger-than-life personas of pop divas like Katy Perry, Rihanna, and Lady Gaga, they lack the cultural impact of the stars who launched rock.

Today’s focus on pop giants is often cited as evidence for why rock is on life support. Eric Been notes the absence of rock on the charts in The Atlantic (“10 Years After the White Stripes ‘Saved’ It, Rock Is Again in Crisis”, 5 July 2011). He points to Train’s “Hey, Soul Sister” as the only rock song in the top ten of Billboard’s Hot 100 songs of 2010. That didn’t impress The Village Voice, who deemed it the worst song of the year and “the whitest song to ever have the word ‘soul’ in it.”

An article in The Guardian (“RIP rock’n’ roll? Professor of pop reads the last rites”, 10 January 2011) professed a similar fate overseas that year. Only three rock tracks appeared in the top 100 best-selling hits in the UK. DJ Paul Gambaccini – who the article dubbed “the professor of pop” – stated, “It is the end of the rock era…That doesn’t mean there will be no more good rock musicians, but rock as a prevailing style is part of music history.”

Rock may no longer be a prevailing style or rule the roost on the charts, but that doesn’t justify reading last rites. In fact, if one wants to rely on hard numbers, look no further than the same article’s acknowledgement that rock was responsible for more than 1 out of 4 album sales during that same time frame.

Similar numbers surface when looking at top touring acts. In Billboard’s 2011 year-end issue (“2011 – The Year in Music: 25 Top Tours”), U2, Bon Jovi, and Roger Waters take the #1, #2, and #4 slots respectively. With the Eagles, Journey, and Iron Maiden also on the list, roughly a quarter of the list are rock acts.

image from glits.mx

However, even if the numbers are cast aside, it is difficult to argue that rock will never rule again just because it isn’t leading the pack right now. Black pointed to Nirvana as the kings of the hill 20 years ago. The Atlantic article pointed to the White Stripes as the saviors of rock and roll a decade ago. Who’s to say the next rock revolution isn’t right around the corner? 

In the Guardian article, NME associate editor Paul Stokes says, “Music is a cyclical business… We’ve been told rock was dead before, in the late 80s, late 90s, but it came back.”

Grohl voiced a similar sentiment in his Billboard interview. He sees today’s musical climate as similar to when Nirvana exploded in 1991. The late ‘80s was dominated by over-produced, formulaic pop and then a “bunch of bands with dirty kids got on MTV and rock ‘n’ roll became huge again.”

Amusingly, within all these articles’ death sentences, no one actually defines rock and roll. History-of-rock.com describes it as “a form of popular music that evolved in the ‘50s from rhythm and blues, characterized by the use of electric guitars, a strong rhythm with an accent on the offbeat, and youth-oriented lyrics.”

However, much like the English language always has exceptions to the rule, so does rock ‘n’ roll. One can’t even get past forefathers like Jerry Lee Lewis, Little Richard, and Fats Domino before admitting some of the greats made their names tickling the ivories instead of shredding on a six-string.

image from louisianamusicfactory.com

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame itself has not adopted a strict definition, a point made clear by its wide musical range of inductees. It isn’t just that, though. Their requirements for induction don’t even mention rock music. Strange but true.

This lends credence to Crossfield’s assertion that rock ‘n’ roll is more than just a musical genre. It transcends lifestyle and is practically a religion. This viewpoint frames rock more as a force which grows out of its attitude and delivery more than its style.

I subscribe to a more traditional concept, but even rock purists can’t deny how rock has crept into other genres. This lends validity to the notion that rock will never die because it will continue to weave itself into the fabric of other genre’s tapestries.

When it comes to Jack Black vs. Dave Grohl, I’ll side with the Foo man, thank you very much. When my 6YO and his peers are the dominant music-buying force in a decade or so, they may not be buying Jack White albums, but there will still be the residue of White’s saltine crackers lingering on whatever music my son consumes.


The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era now in ebook format!

On the back jacket of The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999, I noted that many well-known music publications – including Billboard, the Grammys, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and Rolling Stone magazine – have all put their stamp on best-of-all-time song lists. Then I claimed they all got it wrong. Well, at least a little wrong. As I said then, those lists all have some bias. With my book, I averaged lists from more than 100 sources to create a far more objective, cream-of-the-crop list.

The print edition of that book came out just over a year ago. Now Dave’s Music Database is proud to introduce the book in e-book format. The book is available through Lulu.com as a PDF which should be accessible through any e-book reader or without a reader at all! For less than half the price, you get all the content of the print edition and more! Check out links on every song page to videos, lyrics, and downloads. The annotated bibliography now includes more than 200 sources to which you can directly link via the e-book. More than 500 links in all. 140 pages. $5.99 in U.S. dollars.

If you prefer the print edition, you can purchase it through DavesMusicDatabase.com:

It is also available through Amazon.com.

Here’s what people have said about The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, 1954-1999:

“Music and lists are so subjective because what I think, what she thinks, what he thinks or what the 738,000 weekly listeners of the Fox think – there’s no real right answer…You need to check it out for yourself. It is an interesting read.” – Slacker, morning DJ for 101 The Fox, Kansas City’s Classic Rock Station

My Interview with Slacker

“It certainly must have been a daunting job to pick only 100 songs from such a broad timespan. There's plenty to debate and I'm sure your readers will bombard you with what you left out or the positioning of some of the songs....wink...Oh, be warned... I'll be ‘borrowing’ some of your factoids as well...You did a great job.” – Donald Riggio, author of Seven-Inch Vinyl

Excerpt from review on Amazon.com:
“I've never met Dave Whitaker personally but I consider him a friend. We started our Facebook pages at around the same time and somehow through the combined influence of extreme music nerdism and cyberspace we found each other. Unlike myself, Dave’s main purpose has been more studious and inquisitive. How else can you explain the mania behind gathering up lists from goodness knows how many publications, putting that data together to create a gestalt that makes more than a little sense out of a myriad of styles, genres, and biases? Ultimately though, this is a book for the common man and I don't use that phrase in jest. Every song here is not only well known but entrenched deeply within our culture…Congratulations Dave. You book is a triumph for all us music nerds.” – Michael Crawley, administrator for Facebook page Todays Song Is…

You can learn more about this book at thetop100songsoftherockera.com.


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Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Benny Goodman was born: May 30, 1909 / His Top 50 Songs

image from lessignnets.com

Benny Goodman is one of the most important musicians in jazz history. He was a clarinetist and bandleader who became “The King of Swing” in the 1930s and personified the Big Band Era. In celebration of his birth, the DMDB presents his top 50 songs. Those songs which make Dave’s Music Database’s top 1000 songs of all time are noted (DMDB 1000), as are those songs which hit #1 in the U.S. In addition, one song (“Solo Flight”) also peaked at the pinnacle of the R&B chart.

There is a qualifier. Goodman recorded many songs which have become standards. In the event that another version of the song is ranked higher according to Dave’s Music Database, Goodman’s version is NOT included in the list below. Some of the standards he recorded, but received higher rankings by other artists include “Star Dust,” “St. Louis Blues,” “Blue Moon,” “Blue Skies,” “Blues in the Night (My Mama Done Tol’ Me),” “Body and Soul,” “How High the Moon,” “The Way You Look Tonight,” “How Deep Is the Ocean?,” “The Japanese Sandman,” “The Man I Love,” and “After You’ve Gone.”

His Top 50 Songs

Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing)

1. Sing Sing Sing (With a Swing) (1938) DMDB 1000
2. These Foolish Things Remind Me of You (with Helen Ward, 1936) DMDB 1000 #1
3. There’ll Be Some Changes Made (with Louise Tobin, 1941) DMDB 1000 #1
4. Taking a Chance on Love (with Helen Forrest, 1943) #1
5. Jersey Bounce (with Peggy Lee, 1942) #1
6. Goody Goody (with Helen Ward, 1936) #1
7. Moon Glow (1934) #1
8. And the Angels Sing (with Martha Tilton, 1939) #1
9. Don’t Be That Way (1938) #1
10. Darn That Dream (with Mildred Bailey, 1940) #1

These Foolish Things Remind Me of You

11. Goodnight My Love (with Ella Fitzgerald, 1937) #1
12. Sometimes I’m Happy (1935)
13. Somebody Else Is Taking My Place (1942) #1
14. Exactly Like You (with Lionel Hampton, 1936)
15. The Glory of Love (with Helen Ward, 1936) #1
16. I Know That You Know (1936)
17. Why Don’t You Do Right? (with Peggy Lee, 1943)
18. This Can’t Be Love (with Martha Tilton, 1938)
19. It’s Only a Paper Moon (1945)
20. I Want to Be Happy (1937)

There’ll Be Some Changes Made

21. I Didn’t Know What Time It Was (with Louise Tobin, 1939)
22. Stompin’ at the Savoy (1936)
23. Gotta Be This Or That (with Dottie Reid, 1945)
24. You Turned the Tables on Me (with Helen Ward, 1936) #1
25. This Year’s Kisses (with Margaret McRae, 1937) #1
26. We’ll Meet Again (with Peggy Lee, 1942)
27. It Isn’t Fair (with Buddy Greco, 1950)
28. Ev’ry Time We Say Goodbye (with Peggy Mann, 1945)
29. It’s Been So Long (with Helen Ward, 1936) #1
30. Basin Street Blues (1934)

Taking a Chance on Love

31. I Let a Song Go Out of My Heart (with Martha Tilton, 1938) #1
32. Symphony (with Liza Morrow, 1945)
33. Jingle Bells (1935)
34. I Got It Bad and That Ain’t Good (with Peggy Lee, 1941)
35. You Can’t Pull the Wool Over My Eyes (with Helen Ward, 1936)
36. My Honey’s Lovin’ Arms (with Martha Tilton, 1939)
37. Serenade in Blue (with Dick Haymes, 1942)
38. Give Me the Simple Life (with Liza Morrow, 1946)
39. Afraid to Dream (with Betty Van, 1937)
40. Idaho (with Dick Haymes, 1942)

Jersey Bounce

41. Flying Home (1939)
42. Swingtime in the Rockies (1936)
43. Solo Flight (with Charlie Christian, 1941) #1 RB
44. The Flat Foot Floogee (1938)
45. Scatter-Brain (with Louise Tobin, 1939)
46. In a Sentimental Mood (1936)
47. Lullaby in Rhythm (1938)
48. I Thought about You (with Mildred Bailey, 1939)
49. Cabin in the Sky (with Helen Forrest, 1943)
50. As Long As I Live (1941)


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Tuesday, May 29, 2012

New Musical Express (NME) Top 100 Songs

image from manikmusic.net

NME (New Musical Express) is a British music magazine which has published numerous best-of lists over the years. In light of their most recent list last week (30 Beautiful Song Lyrics), I have updated the Dave’s Music Database list in which I consolidated the various NME lists into an aggregate list.

  1. Bob Dylan…Like a Rolling Stone (1965)
  2. The Rolling Stones…Jumpin’ Jack Flash (1968)
  3. The Beach Boys…Good Vibrations (1966)
  4. The Strokes…Last Nite (2001)
  5. The Beatles…Strawberry Fields Forever (1967)
  6. The Rolling Stones…(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction (1965)
  7. Joy Division…Love Will Tear Us Apart (1980)
  8. The Smiths…This Charming Man (1983)
  9. Futureheads…Hounds of Love (2005)
  10. Stone Roses…Fools Gold (1989)

    Like a Rolling Stone

  11. The Beatles…Paperback Writer (1966)
  12. The Miracles…The Tracks of My Tears (1965)
  13. The Smiths…How Soon Is Now? (1985)
  14. The Kinks…You Really Got Me (1964)
  15. This Mortal Coil…Song to the Siren (1982)
  16. Yeah Yeah Yeahs…Maps (2003)
  17. The Verve…Bittersweet Symphony (1997)
  18. The Who…My Generation (1965)
  19. Franz Ferdinand…Take Me Out (2004)
  20. Ike & Tina Turner…River Deep, Mountain High (1966)

    Jumpin’ Jack Flash

  21. The Rapture…House of Jealous Lovers (2002)
  22. The Libertines…Time for Heroes (2003)
  23. The Jimi Hendrix Experience…All Along the Watchtower (1968)
  24. Marvin Gaye…What’s Going On (1971)
  25. The Streets…Dry Your Eyes (2004)
  26. Arcade Fire…Rebellion (Lies) (2005)
  27. The Beatles…Penny Lane (1967)
  28. Joy Division…Transmission (1979)
  29. Marvin Gaye…I Heard It Through the Grapevine (1968)
  30. The Byrds…Mr. Tambourine Man (1965)

    Good Vibrations

  31. The Kinks…Waterloo Sunset (1967)
  32. Sex Pistols…Anarchy in the U.K. (1976)
  33. Wolfman with Pete Doherty…For Lovers (2004)
  34. Lou Reed…Walk on the Wild Side (1973)
  35. Manic Street Preachers…A Design for Life (1996)
  36. Aretha Franklin…Respect (1967)
  37. Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott…Get Ur Freak On (2001)
  38. Robert Wyatt…Shipbuilding (1982)
  39. The Righteous Brothers…You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’ (1964)
  40. Johnny Cash…Hurt (2003)

    Last Nite

  41. The Beatles…She Loves You (1963)
  42. Derek and the Dominos…Layla (1963)
  43. The Who…I Can’t Explain (1965)
  44. Four Tops…Reach Out (I’ll Be There) (1966)
  45. The Byrds…Eight Miles High (1966)
  46. Stevie Wonder…Superstition (1972)
  47. The Doors…Light My Fire (1967)
  48. Kylie Minogue…Can’t Get You Out of My Head (2001)
  49. The Ronettes…Be My Baby (1963)
  50. The Beatles…Hey Jude (1968)

    Strawberry Fields Forever

  51. The Jimi Hendrix Experience…Purple Haze (1967)
  52. The Pixies…Gigantic (1988)
  53. Otis Redding…(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay (1968)
  54. The Jimi Hendrix Experience…Hey Joe (1966)
  55. The Beach Boys…God Only Knows (1966)
  56. Roxy Music…Virginia Plain (1972)
  57. My Bloody Valentine…You Made Me Realise (1988)
  58. The Beatles…I Want to Hold Your Hand (1963)
  59. The Undertones…Teenage Kicks (1978)
  60. The Rolling Stones…The Last Time (1965)

    (I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction

  61. Nirvana…Smells Like Teen Spirit (1991)
  62. Oasis…Live Forever (1994)
  63. The White Stripes…Seven Nation Army (2003)
  64. OutKast…Hey Ya! (2003)
  65. The Rolling Stones…Brown Sugar (1971)
  66. The Walkmen…The Rat (2004)
  67. The Libertines…Can’t Stand Me Now (2004)
  68. The Rolling Stones…Honky Tonk Women (1969)
  69. Dionne Warwick…Walk on By (1964)
  70. Kate Bush…Running Up That Hill (1985)

    Love Will Tear Us Apart

  71. The Smiths…There Is a Light That Never Goes Out (1986)
  72. Aretha Franklin…I Say a Little Prayer (1968)
  73. Oasis…Don’t Look Back in Anger (1996)
  74. Arctic Monkeys…I Bet You Look Good on the Dance Floor (2005)
  75. Beyonce with Jay-Z…Crazy in Love (2003)
  76. The Beach Boys…I Get Around (1964)
  77. Prince…Kiss (1986)
  78. Queens of the Stone Age…No One Knows (2002)
  79. Klaxons…Golden Skans (2007)
  80. LCD Soundsystem…Losing My Edge (2002)

    This Charming Man

  81. The Who…Substitute (1966)
  82. Rod Stewart…Maggie May (1971)
  83. Procol Harum…A Whiter Shade of Pale (1967)
  84. Bob Dylan…Positively 4th Street (1966)
  85. Dizzee Rascal…Fix Up Look Sharp (2003)
  86. Coldplay…Yellow (2000)
  87. Pulp…Common People (1995)
  88. Bloc Party..>Banquet (2005)
  89. Oasis…Supersonic (1994)
  90. The Clash…London Calling (1979)

    Hounds of Love

  91. Percy Sledge…When a Man Loves a Woman (1966)
  92. Martha & the Vandellas…Dancing in the Street (1964)
  93. The Who…Pinball Wizard (1969)
  94. Underworld…Born Slippy (1995)
  95. The Gossip…Standing in the Way of Control (2007)
  96. Kaiser Chiefs…I Predict a Riot (2004)
  97. Sex Pistols…God Save the Queen (1977)
  98. The Killers…Mr. Brightside (2004)
  99. Pink Floyd…See Emily Play (1967)
  100. Joe Cocker…With a Little Help from My Friends (1968)

Fools Gold



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Monday, May 28, 2012

Frank Sinatra charted with In the Wee Small Hours: May 28, 1955

image from ottens.co.uk

“For a decade, Sinatra pushed to make a cohesive LP at a time when no one in the record business was thinking beyond singles. Finally, his break-up with Ava Gardner provided the perfect catalyst” TL for “the first collection of songs Sinatra recorded specifically for an LP.” RS It is also one of “one of Sinatra’s most jazz-oriented performances” AMG and “one of the finest jazz albums of all time.” CAD It “sustains a midnight mood of loneliness and lost love – it’s a prototypical concept album;” RS it is “considered by many to be the first concept album.” CAD

“Recorded in just a few days,” TL this collection makes for an “authoritative take on masculine loneliness.” TL “If you want to cry, here’s one to do it with.” ZS The reviewer at Cool Album of the Day even suggested playing “this album in its entirety while leaning against a lamp post preferably with a cigarette dangling out of the side of your mouth…Once you are finished put out your cigarette, down one more shot of whiskey, and leave the wee small hours of the morning behind you….and go to sleep.” CAD

The “feeling of not being able to sleep, tossing and turning, thinking about his lover sets the mood for the entire album.” CAD Ol’ Blue Eyes “wears his heart on his forlorn sleeve” CAD as he works “through a series of standards that are lonely and desolate.” AMG “Like all Sinatra songs, they’re not just beautifully sung but interpreted into drama.” TL thanks to “ravishing and heartfelt vocal phrasings” CAD from “the man with the world’s greatest diction.” ZS

Sinatra took on a deliberate “musical recipe of less-is-more” TB with “somewhat muted guitar work and the lush almost in the background string arrangements.” CAD The songs were crafted “around a spare rhythm section featuring a rhythm guitar, celesta, and Bill Miller’s piano, with gently aching strings added every once and a while.” AMG The “carefully selected melancholy standards that come across with even more sublime poignancy with the expertly crafted arrangements by Nelson Riddle and his orchestra.” CAD

“Sinatra recordings were the yardstick by which all other vocalists would be judged when it came to dealing with the American Popular Songbook.” TB “Both Tom Waits and Marvin Gaye have cited the album as one of their favorites with Waits using the album art on the cover of his own album The Heart of Saturday Night.” CAD

In the Wee Small Hours of the Morning


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Saturday, May 26, 2012

“For Me and My Gal” charts for the first time: May 26, 1917

George W. Meyer was a composer born in Boston in 1884. He had hits spanning many years, including “”My Song of the Nile,” “Lonesome,” “My Mother’s Rosary” and the great novelty song “Where Did Robinson Crusoe Go with Friday on Saturday Night?” PS However, his biggest hit was probably “For Me and My Gal,” with lyrics written by Edgar Leslie and E. Ray Goetz. When Meyer died, his wife had the song title inscribed on his tombstone. RCG

The song “was a forerunner of the jazz age.” RCG Its lyrics about “bells ringing and birds singing as two turtle doves go off to their wedding” RCG showed that in 1917, even as Americans were consumed by World War I, they still relished love songs.

The popular vaudeville team of Van & Schenck recorded the song and took it #1. Others to sing it on vaudeville included Belle Baker, Fanny Brice, Eddie Cantor, George Jessel, Al Jolson, Sophie Tucker. 1917 saw three more chart version in addition to Van & Schenck’s – Prince’s Orchestra (#5), Henry Burr & Albert Campbell (#7), and Billy Murray (#9). PM The sheet music moved three million copies.

The song “was still on pianos all over America” RCG In 1942 when Gene Kelly and Judy Garland sang the song in the movie of the same name. The movie celebrated vaudeville and other hits from the World War I era. Their recording was a #3 hit featuring Garland’s then-husband David Rose and His Orchestra. JA Guy Lombardo also charted with a version of the song in 1943, reaching #17.

For Me and My Gal (Gene Kelly & Judy Garland)


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Friday, May 25, 2012

Procol Harum’s “A Whiter Shade of Pale” charted: May 25, 1967

With lyrics about vestal virgins and skipping the light fandango, this song has become a “favorite for university theses.” KL “The song nobody understands” BBC managed to simultaneously sound literary with its allusions to Chaucer while also capturing “what most people thought was going on at these LSD parties.” CR While mostly sounding like a drunk trying to hit on a girl at a party, the words quite possibly mean nothing at all. HL “Even the writer Keith Reid couldn’t explain it” BBC saying it was just “’a lot of abstract phrases.’” CR “Ultimately, it’s probably no more or less than a love song packed full of intentionally bewildered nautical metaphors.” TB

A Whiter Shade of Pale

The song resembled nothing else on 1967 radio, RS500 which helped it to top the charts in several countries and has made it a popular cover song, with some 800 known recordings. WK It has also become the go-to song when television and films, such as The Big Chill, are looking to capture the spirit of 1960s counterculture. WK Additionally, the song birthed a fusion of classical and rock music, which gave rise to groups like the Moody Blues. RS500 While commonly believed to be paraphrased or even directly copied from Johann Sebastian Bach, WK the song is merely inspired by his “Sleeper’s Awake” and “Air on a G String” works. WK

Astonishingly, this is the only track recorded by the band’s original lineup RS500 with writing credits originally given only to Brooker and Reid. However, organist Matthew Fisher won a 2006 court case which was supposed to give him a co-writing credit as well. With the case upheld on appeals, his royalties remain under dispute. WK


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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry 10th Anniversary

image from

For ten years the National Recording Registry has made 25 annual selections of sound recordings which are at least a decade old and deemed “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” The Library of Congress established the Registry through the National Recording Preservation Act of 2000. Click here to see a full list of all 350 recordings in the Registry through 2011.

Here are the 25 selections for the 2011 National Recording Registry in chronological order:

1. Edison Talking Doll cylinder (1888)
2. “Come Down Ma Evenin’ Star,” Lillian Russell (1912)
3. “Ten Cents a Dance” by Ruth Etting (1930)
4. Voices from the Days of Slavery by Various speakers (1932-1941 interviews; 2002 compilation)
5. “I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart” by Patsy Montana (1935)

I Want to Be a Cowboy’s Sweetheart

6. “Fascinating Rhythm” by Sol Hoopii and his Novelty Five (1938)
7. “Artistry in Rhythm” by Stan Kenton & and his Orchestra (1943)

Artistry in Rhythm

8. Debut performance with the New York Philharmonic, Leonard Bernstein (Nov. 14, 1943)
9. International Sweethearts of Rhythm: Hottest Women’s Band of the 1940s (1944-1946)
10. The Indians for Indians Hour (March 25, 1947)
11. “Hula Medley” by Gabby Pahinui (1947)
12. “I Can Hear It Now” by Fred W. Friendly and Edward R. Murrow (1948)
13. “Let’s Go Out to the Programs” by The Dixie Hummingbirds (1953)
14. Also Sprach Zarathustra by Fritz Reiner and the Chicago Symphony Orchestra (1954, 1958)
15. “Bo Diddley” and “I’m a Man” by Bo Diddley (1955)

Green Onions

16. “Green Onions” by Booker T. & the M.G.’s (1962)
17. Forever Changes Love (1967)

18. The Continental Harmony: Music of William Billings by Gregg Smith Singers (1969)
19. A Charlie Brown Christmas by the Vince Guaraldi Trio (1970)
20. “Coat of Many Colors” by Dolly Parton (1971)

21. Mothership Connection by Parliament (1975)
22. Barton Hall concert by the Grateful Dead (May 8, 1977)
23. “I Feel Love” by Donna Summer (1977)

Rapper’s Delight

24. “Rapper’s Delight” by the Sugarhill Gang (1979)
25. Purple Rain by Prince & the Revolution (1984)


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Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Top Songs According to…the AARP?

My dad recently sent me a link to an AARP article. Sure, he’s been one of their faithful for nearly three decades, but my half-century birthday is years away. Okay, only five years, but I’m not there yet! Truth be told, music isn’t my dad’s thing, but he’s well aware of my obsession with it so he sent a link my way (“Readers Respond to Jacqueline Mitchard’s ’16 Songs You Must Own’“). It references an article from a couple months earlier (“16 Songs Everyone Over 50 Must Own”) in which author Jacqueline Mitchard offered up the original list. She isn’t cited for any music credentials whatsoever, but she proclaims she has “compiled a list of favorites from every genre, each of which speaks in some important way to our generation.”

EVERY genre? Really? While I give her credit for hitting rock, pop, country, R&B, folk, and rap, where’s world music? Reggae? Is Frank Sinatra her representative for jazz? What about punk, disco, or just dance in general? How about more modern genres like alternative rock, grunge, or Britpop? Perhaps she thinks those over 50 have no awareness of these “modern” formats of music which are only 20+ years old? On the flip side, “Jailhouse Rock”, from 1957, is the oldest song on the list. What, there aren’t any AARP members who listened to any music before the rock era?

Jailhouse Rock, the oldest song on the list

I could go on, but I think you get the point. It isn’t just that it is silly to claim to represent all genres with only a 16-song list. What’s with a list of only 16 songs anyway? She doesn’t explain why she picked such a random number. Oh, Jacqueline also doesn’t help her credibility by identifying “Landslide” as being by Stevie Nicks. Yes, that is Nicks singing, but it was recorded with Fleetwood Mac, not as a solo cut.

Landslide by Fleetwood Mac NOT Stevie Nicks

Now, there are good songs on here and plenty of big-time artists. However, if your list is limited to 16 titles, they really have to be the cream of the crop. 9 of these 16 appear on Dave’s Music Database’s top 1000 songs of all time list. Only three make the top 100 songs of all time list. Perhaps even more astonishing is that out of the hundreds of lists aggregated to create the DMDB best-of-all-time song list, FOUR of these songs (marked by asterisks) had never appeared on any of them. Here’s the full list in alphabetical order by the acts’ names:

  1. AC/DC “You Shook Me All Night Long” (1980) DMDB 1000
  2. The Beatles “In My Life” (1965) DMDB 1000
  3. The Beach Boys “God Only Knows” (1966) DMDB 1000
  4. Buffalo Springfield “For What It’s Worth” (1967) DMDB 1000
  5. Patsy Cline “Crazy” (1961) DMDB 100
  6. Coolio with L.V. “Gangsta’s Paradise” (1995) DMDB 1000
  7. Eagles “Hotel California” (1977) DMDB 100
  8. Fleetwood Mac “Landslide” (1975)
  9. Emmylou Harris “C’est La Vie (You Never Can Tell)” (1977) *
  10. George Jones “He Stopped Loving Her Today” (1980) DMDB 1000
  11. Joni Mitchell “Little Green” (1971) *
  12. Elvis Presley “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) DMDB 100
  13. Frank Sinatra “Once Upon a Time” (1965) *
  14. Dionne Warwick “A House Is Not a Home” (1964) *
  15. Stevie Wonder “Lately” (1981)
  16. Neil Young “Harvest Moon” (1993)

Hotel California, the biggest song on the list according to the DMDB



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Monday, May 21, 2012

My Interview on 101 The Fox

image from cars4christmas.org

This year I’ve been determined to more aggressively market my books. In researching effective marketing techniques, I found plenty of mentions of radio interviews. They allow the writer to have free advertising, are quick and easy to do, and can hit a widespread audience. Also, radio stations – especially talk show formats – are always looking for content.

I’ve spent most of my life in the Kansas City area and one of the radio station staples from my high school years on has been KCFX 101.1 FM (“The Fox”). They originated in 1983, playing album rock. In 1985, they became the first classic rock station in a major market, playing artists from the late 1960s through the 1980s. In 1990, they switched frequencies with Carrollton’s KMZU, moving from 100.7 to 101.1 on the dial. That was also the year they became the first FM music station to carry play-by-play for an NFL team when they became the official home for the Kansas City Chiefs radio broadcasts.

The station, which is owned by Cumulus Media, is housed in an office complex in the Overland Park, Kansas area within walking distance from my house. Where better to start marketing my book, The Top 100 Songs of the Rock Era, than via the radio station in my back yard which I’ve listening to for more than 25 years?

I shot off an email describing the book and offering up a short bio. The program director shot the email to Slacker, the morning DJ. At their request, I brought in a review copy of the book and a couple more for giveaways. I sent a list of possible questions and within a couple weeks of the initial email, we’d booked a time for the interview.

Slacker, image from twitter.com

I went in Friday morning, May 18 and taped the interview with Slacker in the studio. We talked about a half hour about my book, our kids, and how radio has changed over the years. Sandwiched in between our chatting, we squeezed in a roughly five-minute interview. Slacker asked me how the book came about and ran down the top 10 songs from the book, asking for commentary on some of them. I had a blast. I felt more like I was talking to a buddy about music than doing an interview. I’m ready for more.

Click to play my interview with Slacker at 101 The Fox

As an added bonus, I came back the next week with my kids. I assumed they'd just get to see the radio station, but Slacker put them on the air as well!

Click to play my kids' interview with Slacker


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Tragedy: Another Gibb Gone / The Top 40 Bee Gees Songs

Robin, Barry, and Maurice Gibb
image from spinsouthwest.com

Singer, songwriter, and multi-instrumentalist Robin Gibb died May 20, 2012 in London, England, after a long battle with colorectal cancer. He made up one-third of the Bee Gees with his brothers Barry and Maurice. They were known for three-part harmony and falsetto voices. They started as a pop-rock act in Australia, but returned to their native UK and hit their commercial peak in the latter-half of the 1970s when they became disco icons. Their string of hits from 1977’s Saturday Night Fever soundtrack made for one of the greatest chart dominations ever accomplished by a group as the album lingered atop the U.S. album chart for six months fueled by four #1 hits. During a forty-year run, the group sold more than 220 million albums.

He was born on 12/22/1949 in Douglas, Isle of Man, UK. His younger brother, Andy, was a hugely successful pop singer in the 1970s, but died in 1988. Robin’s twin brother, Maurice, died in 2003. The oldest brother, Barry, is the only one still alive.

The Top 40 Bee Gees Songs *

Stayin’ Alive

1. Stayin’ Alive (1977) DMDB 100 #1
2. How Deep Is Your Love (1977) DMDB 1000 #1 #1 AC
3. Night Fever (1978) DMDB 1000 #1 #1 UK
4. Tragedy (1979) #1 #1 UK
5. You Should Be Dancing (1976) #1

How Deep Is Your Love

6. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (1971) #1
7. Too Much Heaven (1978) #1
8. Jive Talkin’ (1975) #1
9. The Lights Went Out in Massachussets (1967) #1 UK
10. To Love Somebody (1967)

Night Fever

11. Lonely Days (1970)
12. Love So Right (1976)
13. Love You Inside Out (1979) #1
14. I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You (1968) #1 UK
15. Nights on Broadway (1975)

Tragedy

16. Fanny Be Tender with My Love (1975)
17. Words (1968)
18. Run to Me (1972)
19. One (1989) #1 AC
20. My World (1972)

You Should Be Dancing

21. I Started a Joke (1968)
22. The Woman in You (1983)
23. Alone (1997)
24. More Than a Woman (1978)
25. New York Mining Disaster 1941 (1967)

How Can You Mend a Broken Heart

26. Boogie Child (1977)
27. First of May (1969)
28. Alive (1972)
29. Edge of the Universe (1977)
30. Someone Belonging to Someone (1983)

Too Much Heaven

31. Holiday (1967)
32. You Win Again (1987) #1 UK
33. Tomorrow Tomorrow (1969)
34. Jumo (1968)
35. Still Waters Run Deep (1997)

Jive Talkin’

36. He’s a Liar (1981)
37. Paying for the Price of Love (1993)
38. Don’t Forget to Remember (1969)
39. Spicks and Specks (1966)
40. Living Eyes (1981)

* Dave’s Music Database lists are determined by song’s appearances on best-of lists as well as sales, chart data, radio airplay, and awards. Songs which make Dave’s Music Database’s list of the top 1000 of all time are marked (DMDB 1000) as are #1 songs on the Billboard pop and R&B charts as well as the UK charts.

The Lights Went Out in Massachussets


Awards for the Bee Gees:


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Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Ivor Novello Awards

image from prsformusic.com

Named after entertainer Ivor Novello, these awards for songwriting and composing – nicknamed The Ivors – are presented annually by the British Academy of Songwriters, Composers and Authors (BASCA). Since it was founded in 1956, the organization has given out more than 1000 awards to primarily British and Irish songwriters and composers. The 57th Ivor Novello Awards were given out on May 17, 2012. See the full list of winners here.

Despite the best efforts of Dave’s Music Database, a source cannot be found for checking out past Ivor winners. This is maddenly common for music awards. One would think the official sites would have all the past winners and nominees available in an easy-to-search database, but more often than not, it isn’t possible to find out winners beyond the most recent year. Here’s what the DMDB has found about past Ivor winners (performer listed first and then writers in parentheses):

2012:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Video Games” by Lana Del Rey (Lana Del Rey & Justin Parker)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “The A Team” by Ed Sheeran (Ed Sheeran)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Rolling in the Deep” by Adele (Adele Adkins & Paul Epworth)

    Lana Del Rey “Video Games”

    2011:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Pass Out” by Tinie Tempah (Timothy McKenzie, Patrick Okogwu, & Marc Williams)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Becoming a Jackal” by the Villagers (Conor O’Brien)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “She Said” by Plan B (Eric Appapoulay, Richard Cassell, Benjamin Drew, Tom Wright-Goss)

    2010:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Daniel” by Bat for Lashes (Natasha Khan)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “The Fear” by Lily Allen (Lily Allen & Greg Kurstin)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “The Fear”

    Lily Allen “The Fear”

    2009:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Grounds for Divorce” by Elbow (Guy Garvey, Richard Jupp, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, & Peter Turner)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “One Day Like This” by Elbow (Guy Garvey, Richard Jupp, Craig Potter, Mark Potter, & Peter Turner)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Mercy” by Duffy
  • Best Selling British Single: “Viva La Vida” by Coldplay

    Coldplay “Viva La Vida”

    2008:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “People Help the People” by Cherry Ghost (Simon Aldred)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Love Is a Losing Game” by Amy Winehouse (Amy Winehouse)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Shine” by Take That
  • Best Selling British Single: “Beautiful Liar” by Beyonce & Shakira (Amanda Ghost)

    2007:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Rehab” by Amy Winehouse (Amy Winehouse)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Elusive” by Scott Matthews (Scott Matthews)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “I Don’t Feel Like Dancin’” by Scissor Sisters (Elton John, Scott Hoffman, & Jason Sellards)
  • Best Selling British Single: “A Moment Like This” by Leona Lewis
  • International Hit of the Year: “Sorry” by Madonna

    Amy Winehouse “Rehab”

    2006:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Athlete” by Wires
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Suddenly I See” by KT Tunstall
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “You’re Beautiful” by James Blunt (Amanda Ghost & Sacha Skarbek)
  • Best Selling British Single: “That’s My Goal” by Shayne Ward
  • International Hit of the Year: “You’re Beautiful”

    James Blunt “You’re Beautiful”

    2005:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Take Me Out” by Franz Ferdinand (Robert Hardy, Alex Kapranos, Nick McCarthy, & Paul Thomson)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Dry Your Eyes” by The Streets (Mike Skinner)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Toxic” by Britney Spears (Cathy Dennis, Bloodshy, Henrik Jonback, & Avant)
  • Best Selling British Single: “Do They Know It’s Christmas?” by Band Aid 20 (Bob Geldof & Midge Ure)
  • International Hit of the Year: “Vertigo” by U2 (Bono, The Edge, Adam Clayton, & Larry Mullen Jr.)

    Franz Ferdinand “Take Me Out”

    2004:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Stronger Than Me” by Amy Winehouse (Salaam Remi)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Leave Right Now” by Will Young (Francis Eg White)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Superstar” by Jamelia (Mich Hansen, Joseph Belmaati, & Remee)
  • Best Selling British Single: “Mad World” by Michael Andrews & Gary Jules (Roland Orzabal)
  • International Hit of the Year: “White Flag” by Dido (Dido Armstrong, Rollo Armstrong, & Rick Nowels)

    Michael Andrews with Gary Jules “Mad World”

    2003:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Weak Become Heroes” by The Streets (Mike Skinner)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “The Other Side” by David Gray (David Gray)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Just a Little” by Liberty X (Michelle Escoffery, John Hammond Hagan, and George Hammond Hagan)
  • International Hit of the Year: “Complicated” by Avril Lavigne (Christy Lauren, David Alspach, Graham Edwards & Avril Lavigne)
  • Best Selling UK Single: “Anything Is Possible” by Will Young (Cathy Dennis and Chris Braide)

    2002:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Shining Light” by Ash
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Walk On” by U2 (Adam Clayton, Dave Evans, Paul Hewson, & Larry Mullen)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Can’t Get You Out of My Head” by Kylie Minogue (Cathy Dennis & Rob Davis)
  • International Hit of the Year: “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”
  • Best Selling UK Single: “Pure and Simple” by Hear’Say (Pete Kirtley, Tim Hawes, & Alison Clarkson)

    Kylie Minogue “Can’t Get You Out of My Head”

    2001:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Seven Days” by Craig David (Craig David, Mark Hill & Darren Hill)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Babylon” by David Gray (David Gray)
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Pure Shores” by All Saints (Shaznay Lewis & William Orbit)
  • Best Selling British Single: “Can We Fix It” by Bob the Builder (Paul Joyce)
  • International Hit of the Year: “It Feels So Good” by Sonique (Sonique, Linus Burdick, Simon Belofsky, & Graeme Pleeth)

    David Gray “Babylon”

    2000:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Why Does It Always Rain on Me” by Travis
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Strong” by Robbie Williams
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Beautiful Stranger” by Madonna
  • International Hit of the Year: “Genie in a Bottle” by Christina Aguilera

    1999:

  • Best Contemporary Song: “Here’s Where the Story Ends” by Tin Tin Out (Harriet Wheeler and David Gavurin)
  • Best Song Musically and Lyrically: “Believe” by Cher (Brian Higgins, Stuart McLennan, Paul Barry, Steve Torch, Matt Gray & Tim Powell) Cher
  • PRS Most Performed Work: “Angels” by Robbie Williams (Robbie Williams & Guy Chambers)
  • Best Selling British Single: “Believe”
  • International Hit of the Year: “Believe”

    Cher “Believe”


    Any help finding pre-1999 Ivor winners would be greatly appreciated.



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  • Saturday, May 19, 2012

    The People’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame: 10th Class of Inductees

    image from peoplesrockhall.blogspot.com

    As it says on the blog, this is “the only Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame FOR and BY the people.” It has been designed as a direct alternative to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. The former is based on fan votes while the latter is based on a selection committee who determines nominees who are then voted on by those already inducted. Ted Cogswell initiated the concept in January 2010.

    The 10th class was announced May 18, 2012. 50 acts who’d released their first recording by the end of 1969 were nominated (see full list here). Voters could select a minimum of ten and up to 25. All acts who made it on more than half the ballots were inducted. Eleven new acts have been added: Alice Cooper; The Allman Brothers Band; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; The Faces; George Harrison; Led Zeppelin; John Lennon; Mott the Hoople; Santana; The Small Faces; and Yes. In all, 121 acts have been inducted. Check the full list of inductees here.

    The Rock Hall has yet to see fit to say

    to these prog-rock giants, but the People’s Hall inducted them this year.

    The People’s Hall and Rock Hall share many common inductees: 86% (105 out of 121) of the People’s Hall inductees are also Rock Hall inductees. However, the differences are highlighted by the exceptions. Last fall, I compiled a list of The Top 100 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Hopefuls, an aggregate of 39 lists of who belongs in. Here’s a list of the People’s Hall inductees who haven’t been inducted in the Rock Hall and how they fared on my list: The Moody Blues (#3), Deep Purple (#5), Yes (#8), T-Rex (#10), The Zombies (#33), Jethro Tull (#41), The MC5 (#42), The Guess Who (#45), The Monkees (#51), Dick Dale (#61), and Johnny Burnette & the Rock ‘N’ Roll Trio (#75). Five more People’s Hall inductees didn’t make my list: Chubby Checker, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Jan & Dean, Mott the Hoople, and Paul Revere & the Raiders.

    Many hard-rock fans are seeing red that

    aren’t yet in the Rock Hall, but they don’t have to feel blue:
    The People’s Hall has inducted them.

    It should also be noted that the People’s Hall had 1969 as their cut off this year, compared to the Rock Hall’s 1987 eligibility date. That means there are plenty of Rock Hall inductees (there are 279 inductees as of the 2012 class) who aren’t eligible yet for the People’s Hall. Similarly, if one looks at the DMDB’s list of Rock Hall Hopefuls, any acts from the ‘70s and ‘80s haven’t had a shot at the People’s Hall yet.

    In any event, congrats to the newest inductees and kudos to Ted Cogswell for the creation of a fan-based Hall.


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    Friday, May 18, 2012

    Byron Harlan hit #1 with “School Days”: May 18, 1907

    In the early 1900s, sentimental ballads were popular and songs like “Shine on, Harvest Moon,” “In the Shade of the Old Apple Tree,” and “School Days” “exemplified this musical style.” WHC These songs dominated sheet music sales, as they “could be sung in the parlor at home around the family piano.” WHC It “remains a singalong favorite.” JA

    Byron Harlan’s recording of “School Days” went to #1 for 11 weeks, making it the top song of 1907, WHC the biggest hit of Harlan’s career, and “the biggest Tin Pan Alley had seen up till that time.” RCG The 3 million in sheet music sales made it one of the top 20 sellers from the first half of the 20th century. PM Albert Campbell took his 1908 recording to #3. Bing Crosby sang it in 1939’s The Star Maker, a film biopic about Edwards. In 1945’s Sunbonnet Sue, Gale Storm and Phil Regan performed the song. PS

    School Days (When We Were a Couple of Kids)

    The song was introduced by its composer, Gus Edwards, in vaudeville’s School Boys and Girls. The show served as a launching pad for budding talent since it featured a number of child stars, such as George Jessel, Eddie Cantor and Georgie Price. PS

    Edwards, who has been called “the most important songwriter to come out of vaudeville,” PS was born in Germany and came to the United States with his family when he was eight. He used to sneak into theaters and befriend the vaudeville performers. At the encouragement of the legendary George M. Cohan, Edwards began writing songs despite not knowing how to read or write music. His first was 1898’s “All I Want Is My Black Baby Back” and by the time “School Days’ came about, Edwards was a famous songwriter with hits like “In My Merry Oldsmobile.” PS While entertaining troops headed for Cuba to fight in the Spanish American War, he met Will Cobb. The pair collaborated on a long list of hits, PS among them “School Days.”


    Awards:


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