Apr 142015


Singer Percy Sledge has died at 73, after an estimated 27,000 performances of “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

I used to think only so much of Sledge for his one big hit, no matter how great it was. It was overplayed by the time I was 15, and it inspired Procol Harum’s “Whiter Shade of Pale,” about which I’ve always had mixed feelings. About 15 years ago E. Pluribus Gergely and I saw him at a soul revue show at Atlantic City featuring Jerry Butler, Lloyd Price, and others. I’ve mentioned this show a few times before. Don Covay was in the audience, seated in our row, just a few people down from us!

EPG and I started to snicker as Percy waddled out in a tight-fitting tuxedo to sing his “one and only song.” (I know, I know, he made other records, some of which I’m sure are fine.) I expected him to come out like a wind-up doll, but a minute into the performance I felt he was still giving it his all. The performance moved me more than I could have imagined. That was the only song he sung that night, but he committed to it after god knows how many times he had to perform it. Pretty cool!

Feb 032015

I’ll need to get some time and write out my thoughts in some detail after hearing the news that Don Covay has died. I’ve loved Covay since discovering the man behind so many songs I first knew by other artists, thanks to a collection put out by the record label owned by a friend’s brother. My friend E. Pluribus Gergely and I, with whom I argued over who was better, Covay or Joe Tex (he was on Team Tex), went to a soul revue in Atlantic City about 10 to 15 years ago. Lloyd Price took a moment, at one point, to note his friend Don Covay in the audience. He made Don stand up and take a bow. A big guy in a white suit did as instructed. He was about 5 seats down from us. We so wanted to leap over the people beside us and hang with Covay!

Covay was probably the most rocking of R&B guys (see “Sookie Sookie” among songs rockers covered with ease and success) – not in an over-the-top “white” way but in terms of playing guitar-based rhythms that perfectly bridged the slight gap in the ’60s of “white” and “black” music. Graham Parker & the Rumour‘s live cover of “Chain of Fools” comes to mind. His knack for out-Stonesing the Stones continued into the early ’70s, with the amazing song “Hot Blood.” I can’t find it on YouTube just now, but it could easily pass for the best song on Black and Blue. So much great stuff that overcame a degree of hokiness, such as “I Was Checking Out (While She Was Checking In)”. I wish I could crank up “We Can’t Make It No More” right now. Hey, maybe I just took the time I needed to write down my thoughts.

Dec 222014

Sad to hear of Joe Cocker’s death. Thanks to my Uncle Joe, he was one of my first Rock Superheroes. Uncle Joe bought me the early Cocker albums, including the mind-blowing The Mad Dogs & The Englishman live album, in which the band members were given little sobriquets, like Leon Russell’s (I believe) unattainable title of “Master of Space and Time.” My uncle saw a tour after that album at the Spectrum and brought me home a huge button with the cover shot and a cardboard cutout of Cocker’s wild face on a stick. I wish I still have that face on a stick. I loved the way Cocker and his band simply KICKED IT OUT. Even his ballads were delivered with force. He will be missed in this age of the navel-gazing artists who sing like Confederate soldiers taking their last breath while holding their newborn sons. Cocker, who was not a songwriter, made the most of so many other artists’ works. Here’s my favorite by him, “Delta Lady.”

Dec 022014


Bobby Keys, best known for his sax work on The Rolling Stones’ Exile on Main Street and Stones concert tours of that era, has died at 70 of cirrhosis. My favorite Keys memories involve countless rants from my close personal friend and founding Townsman E. Pluribus Gergely. Somewhere in the archives there’s probably an entire thread built around one of EPG’s Keys rants, but a taste of his thoughts on the man are available in this old thread. Track 5, specifically, cites Keys’ work. What’s your favorite Bobby Keys moment?


RIP Dick Wagner

 Posted by
Aug 012014

By playing guitar for Alice Cooper, Aerosmith, KISS, and most especially on Lou Reed’s Rock ‘n Roll Animal, this guy had an immeasurable yet under-the-radar impact on me during my musically formative years. He was a GREAT man.

Jun 202014
Gerry Goffin.

Gerry Goffin.

As you surely know by now, lyricist Gerry Goffin, half of the legendary Brill Building songwriting team with ex-wife Carole King, died yesterday at 75 years old. I’ve got nothing profound to say other than the obvious things: he wrote many excellent songs, 75 is too young to die, he was a great…man. I especially love “Up on the Roof,” which captures the sound of the city the way rock ‘n roll songs rarely do these days.

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