I’m too busy to synthesize this piece on a song written by former NFL quarterback Donovan McNabb’s mom, but if you have even a mild interest in the cross-section between sports and smothering, well-intentioned motherhood I highly recommend you reading it.
Man, I am so thankful my Mom doesn’t fancy herself a songwriter.
What are the most embarrassing tribute songs, the ones the person being celebrated probably wishes were never written? For the purposes of this discussion suggest tribute songs to specific people. It can’t be any old creepy love song to an anonymous and possibly even imaginary figment of the songwriter’s imagination.
The first one that comes to mind for me is William Bell‘s “A Tribute to a King,” the king being the then-recently departed Otis Redding. I’m sure there are more embarrassing tribute songs than this one. It simply popped into my head first because as a lover of Redding’s music (and Bell’s for that matter), I remember the sense of tremendous anticipation I had as I first placed the needle on the record I’d acquired being replaced by a discomfiting sense of remorse. The song struck me as too trite for its subject.
The two that pop into my head are the unlistenable “Ballad of Ronnie Drew”, a tribute to the Dubliners (Irish folk) legend written by Bono, Shane MacGowan and Robert Hunter, the lyricist of the Grateful Dead, of all people http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vGNxz7zeU10
Eddie Vedder’s tribute to the Chicago Cubs, “All the Way,” guaranteed to cause fan suicide faster than a 10-0 drubbing by the last place Astros.
Rock and Roll Heaven by the Righteous Brothers
And Candle in the Wind was merely maudlin when is was about Marilyn Monroe. Elton took it to a whole new level when he retooled it for Lady Di. Still, he was grieving the loss of a friend so I can’t really fault him too much. Those Righteous Brothers, on the other hand….
William Bell is one of my secret heroes but the Otis tribute is not so good. Still, I think it is hard to top Ronnie McDowell’s “The King Is Gone.” http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V_tv-_3UtjU
A sports related tribue that sucks is that “Talking Baseball” song by Terry Cashman — the version he does for my Minnesoata Twins makes my teeth hurt — “Just like Tony, the Killer, and Carew” Arrghh!
Although not embarrassing, I’ve always thought Rolling Stone’s Sweet Black Angel was at least insulting. Angela Davis was a teacher, feminist, and activist, and Mick somehow decides to pay tribute to her as being sweet and black? Damn, I know misogyny ran deep through their lyrics, but I would have hoped they could turn it off in a tribute. This coupled with Mick’s forced jive lyrics (nothing insulting about that!) makes me glad the Stones did not do many tribute songs.
Excuse me, but I think the lyrics are “sweet blacka angel”.
Have you not heard “Thunderbird”? Quiet Riot’s tribute to Randy Rhoads. Perhaps a 13 year old boy in 1983 could have defended this soaring ballad but that was a long time ago and lot of hair back then.
I’ve always liked “All Those Years Ago,” but it’s oddly focused on the negative that happened during John’s life rather than celebrating all the good or even just remembering his friend. And the digression into the general lack of Godliness is just…not good.
I like it a lot, too, so I don’t consider it embarrassing, but that’s a pretty interesting point about how “All Those Years Ago” is one of the rare “in the moment” tribute songs where the singer really vents.
I wonder how much of that was driven by whatever feelings Harrison had leftover from their various rifts in the ’70s.
Rock and Roll Heaven is amazing. The most awesomely out-of-touch-old-dudes-song ever recorded, maybe?
“Jimi gave us rainbows”!
I vote for American Pie.
American Pie. One of the most disturbing rock songs ever. Its such a morbid bunch of lyrics that go on and on and on. forever. I would vote for “American Pie” just because of its morbidity. It isn’t only the fact its a tribute to Holly, Valens, the Big Bopper its such a downer.
At least American Pie was somewhat ambitious. I’m not sure if it’s due to laziness or lack of imagination but the best the Righteous Brothers can muster is a nod to the dead person’s hit song (see below). Arther Connolly essentially did the same thing with Sweet Soul Music using people who were still alive but at least he had a much better groove.
Jimmy gave us rainbows,
And Janis took a piece of our hearts,
And Otis brought us all to the dock of a bay.
Sing a song to light my fire,
Remember Jim that way,
They’ve all found another place, another place to play.
Remember bad bad Leroy Brown,
Hey Jimmy touched us with that song.
Time won’t change a friend we came to know.
And Bobby gave us Mack the Knife,
Well look out, he’s back in town.
They’ll all be there together
When they meet in one big show.