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Archive for the ‘R&B/Soul’ Category

Errol Brown

Posted by purplemary54 on May 6, 2015

You might not know the name, but you sure do know the voice.

Come on.  You know how much you love this song.

Errol Brown was the lead singer for Hot Chocolate, an interracial Funk/R&B group who had a major hit with “You Sexy Thing” in the 70s.   (That’s him rockin’ that striped satin suit.)  Brown also co-wrote “Brother Louie,” which might be more informally known by its chorus “Louie, Louie, Louie.”  (It’s best known these days as the theme to Louis C.K.’s hit comedy on FX.)  But the Jamaican born singer-songwriter quit the music business when he got married and had a family.  I’ll bet he still sang all the time; you don’t have a voice like that and not love making music.  But he didn’t need the fame, which is something I greatly respect.  That kind of integrity will be sorely missed.


Posted in Music, Obituaries, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

Ben E. King

Posted by purplemary54 on May 1, 2015

One of the great voices of Rock/Soul/R&B is silent.  Ben E. King died today at 76.

King was most famous for his solo hit, “Stand By Me,” and deservedly so.  It’s a fantastic song.  King imbued such incredible emotion into that plea for love and loyalty.  It’s kind of hard to pin down exactly what’s going on, there’s so many emotions tumbling around each other.  There’s sadness and love and happiness, and who knows what else.  It is a song about triumph over fear, and it is one of the classics of popular music.

This video was made when “Stand By Me” became a hit for a second time with the 1986 movie of the same title.  Based on a Stephen King short story, the movie was a tender, funny, and sad coming of age story about four boys and their friendships.  I’d forgotten this video was made to support the film, but I’m sure I must have seen it.  (I have to admit that I’m a little partial to John Lennon’s version of “Stand By Me,” but that’s mostly because I’m a little partial to John Lennon.)

My favorite Ben E. King performance was from when he was with the Drifters.  “Save the Last Dance for Me” is one of the sweetest and saddest love songs ever.  There’s such longing in King’s voice as he delivers the lines, “But don’t forget who’s taking you home and in whose arms you’re gonna be.  Save the last dance for me.”  I love that yearning ache he conveys so easily.

There seems to be an undercurrent of sadness to much of King’s oeuvre.  I’m not sure what kind of sadness he faced in his life, but I know there will be some tears shed for him today.  At least we still have these lovely performances to remember him by.

Posted in Music, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Percy Sledge

Posted by purplemary54 on April 14, 2015

Famed Soul singer Percy Sledge has died from natural causes at 73.  While he had a number of popular songs, Sledge was best known for his first and biggest hit, “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

I figure if you’ve got to be known for one song, this is a pretty good one.  It’s loving and tender and kind of sad.  I admit it’s never been a favorite, but I think that’s partly because I’ve heard it so much.  “When a Man Loves a Woman” is one of those ubiquitous songs that just about everyone knows to some degree.  You heard it on the radio growing up, or it was in your favorite movie.  Or maybe this was the song your older sister danced to at her wedding.  Maybe your dad used to sing it to your mom when he thought all you kids had gone to sleep.  The very presence of this song in so many people’s lives tells me that it’s a classic.  If that’s the only thing fans remember Percy Sledge for, then I think he did all right.

Posted in Music, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , , | 2 Comments »

“It’s Too Soon To Know”

Posted by purplemary54 on January 26, 2015

I’ve got some things going on right now, but I’m not quite ready to share anything yet.  It’s part of why I’ve been so neglectful of the Jukebox lately.  When I’ve got things on my mind, my first instinct is to retreat into myself.  My second is instinct is to prove that denial ain’t just a river in Egypt.  But I am working on stuff.  Just not blog stuff.

So I’ll give you this sublime little bit of Doo Wop from the Orioles.  It’s one of those songs that seems ordinary until that moment when the sky opens up and it reveals itself to hold the potential of the universe (you’ll know that moment as soon as you hear it).  It’s something I never would’ve heard at all if it hadn’t been for the equally sublime writing of the great Greil Marcus.

Posted in Music, R&B/Soul, Rock | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Jimmy Ruffin

Posted by purplemary54 on November 19, 2014

Another one of the great soul voices has been silenced.  Singer Jimmy Ruffin passed away on Monday in Las Vegas; he was 78.

Ruffin was the older brother of late Temptations’ singer David Ruffin, and collaborated with his brother on the 1970 album I Am My Brother’s Keeper (which must have been quite the vocal showcase).  His biggest hit, “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted,” is one of those great songs that transcends style and genre.  I’ve known that song all my life, known how good it was, but never really thought much about the artist that made it.  I’m not even sure I knew it was Jimmy Ruffin’s song until the news of his death today.  I just knew that song.

I think that kind of universality is a sign of the artist’s talent.  Something that could’ve been pigeonholed or labeled became ubiquitous instead.  It became something that could be played on virtually any radio station, in the background of any movie, in the soundtrack of anyone’s life.  It wasn’t a cookie cutter song by any means; I can’t imagine any other voice singing this wonderful song.  But the emotion behind it could be anyone’s.  Ruffin took a song that obviously meant something to him, and made it meaningful to everyone else.  That’s the best kind of art there is.

Posted in Music, Obituaries, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

“Rubberband Man”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 2, 2014

I have a jelly jar filled with rubber bands sitting on top of my desk.  Our mailman likes to wrap up the mail in them.  I thought might’ve started back when we still used the mail slot in the front door; it’s probably easier to shove the stack of grocery store fliers, credit card offers, and bills through that two-inch tall opening when it’s corralled somehow.  But it’s not just us: He does this to everyone’s mail.  Why?  Probably a way for him to organize and make his job a little bit easier.

What isn’t easier about it is that I’ve got a jelly jar full of rubber bands on top of my desk.  I use the occasional rubber band to bind up a loose cord, or re-close a bag of chips for later consumption.  But the plain fact is I don’t need that many rubber bands.  I don’t do crafts.  Even if I had long hair, I wouldn’t use regular rubber bands in it (ouch!).  They’re not good cat toys.  That doesn’t mean cats don’t like to play with them.  Quite the opposite, in fact.  My Sasha likes them almost as much as my late lamented Harry did.  But rubber bands can break.  Get swallowed.  Turn into expensive visits to the vet requiring major intestinal surgery.  That’s another reason the rubber bands are in a jar, and not just lying around where anyone can find them.

Okay.  I pushed the pile in the jar down a little, and now it’s only two-thirds full.  More room for the next couple of weeks’ worth of mail.  *sigh*  Well, I guess rubber bands are good for one more thing:


The smallish bands I have won’t stretch the way the ones in the video do.  Heck, today this would be a fitness craze.  “C’mon and burn some calories with the Rubberband Man!  Boingy, boingy, boingy!”  (Brownie points to anyone who gets the “boingy” reference.  And no, it’s not dirty.)  Maybe this is where those resistance bands were inspired (and, really, they are just great big rubber bands).  It’s a fun song, anyway.  Dig all that blue polyester on the stage.  (FYI, for just a moment, I thought one of those backup singers was Ja’net DuBois from Good Times.  But then the picture cleared up a little.)

Just another day on the home front.

Posted in Music, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , | 6 Comments »

Bobby Womack

Posted by purplemary54 on June 27, 2014

One of the best voices in music, and one of my favorites, has been silenced.  Soul legend Bobby Womack has died at 70.

My first exposure to Womack’s singing was through this amazing Todd Rundgren song, but he had a long and storied career that I’ve only just recently begun to explore.  He infused so much emotion into his voice, leaving his listeners afloat in a sea of wonder and feeling.  I know I’ll miss hearing more music from him.

Posted in Music, Obituaries, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »


Posted by purplemary54 on April 30, 2014

It’s really frickin’ hot here in SoCal right now, and it’s probably gonna stay hot for at least another day.  Between the heat, the smell of smoke coming off a fire in the Rancho Cucamonga area, and some problems with my TV service, I’m feeling really unsettled and irritated.  It might just be a lack of sleep (I spent 3-5 AM on the phone with my provider), but I’m not fit company for man nor beast right now.

Luckily, Martha and the Vandellas seem much happier.  Enjoy.


Posted in Music, Pop, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , , , | 3 Comments »

“She Works Hard for the Money”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 26, 2013

We have a housecleaning service.  It’s one of those things I said I’d never do after I read Barbara Ehrenreich’s Nickel and Dimed (btw, if you haven’t read that book, you really should; it’s terrific).  My mother is very concerned about how things look, and likes a clean house.  But she is older and has a bad back, and still works full-time anyway.  I’m lazy and a rotten housekeeper.  I know how to keep a clean house (my mother made sure of that), although there are some things I’m kind of terrible at even when I do them (could someone please show me how to fold fitted sheets neatly?).  I just don’t do it unless I absolutely have to . . . which of course means I end up doing three times as much work as if I’d kept up with it in the first place.

So we have housecleaners come in every two weeks to handle the stuff I’d just neglect if it were left up to me.  I handle laundry, dishes, and litter box cleaning.  We do daily upkeep.  It seems to be working out.  I still feel a little odd having someone else take care of my dirt, but I try to be polite, offer them water if they want it, and stay out of their way.  And I always tip.

So this one goes out to my cleaning ladies, and to all the cleaning ladies out there in the world.  And the sales clerks, and bank tellers, and garbage collectors, and food servers, and everyone else who works way too hard for way too little.  I hope the world someday learns that you’re the people who really make things work.

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“Rocket 88”

Posted by purplemary54 on November 25, 2013

No, this isn’t another theme week, but I thought it might be fun to give this a listen again.

Credited to Jackie Brenston & His Delta Cats, “Rocket 88” is generally considered to be the first Rock & Roll song.  It’s classified as R&B because Rock didn’t exist as a separate genre yet.  And really, there’s not that much to distinguish it from most barroom style Blues from that time.  But as a song, it does rock and roll, with an easy rhythm punctuated by a jangling, jittery piano.

That piano is played by Ike Turner.  Yes, that Ike Turner.  For all his failures as a human being, Ike knew how to make music, and it seems he was one of the architects of early Rock & Roll.  He was all of 19 when he came up with this tune, along with his band the Kings of Rhythm.  I’m not sure why the song wasn’t credited to his band, since they were the ones that recorded it.  The song’s vocalist, Brenston, was the group’s saxophone player.  (There’s more details about the song’s origins here, but no explanation about the credits.)  I guess it doesn’t really matter.  The point is, this is pretty much where it began.

You can hear just about the whole history of the music in this song.  The only thing missing is the excess.  It’s even about a car, one of the enduring themes of Rock music.  1951 was a good year for music.

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