Feb 282022
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Mark Lanegan

It doesn’t seem five minutes since this, less than two years ago, with the publication of his memoir Sing Backwards and Weep seeming a good time to celebrate his apparent immunity to death. Even in a world becoming nervously aware of the pandemic, he seemed then a figure above such inconvenience, a latter-day Keith Richards made flesh, even in recovery. Little then did we know what his second volume would reveal, Devil In a Coma ripping apart that semblance, the Devil possibly in that very coma at the time of that article’s writing. I guess the assumption was that he had fully recovered from that further near-death, making last week’s news all the more astonishing and upsetting. At the time of this writing the cause of his death remains unknown. I hope he went in peace.

Not the place to regale and remind of his derring-do; others have done that better and by more right elsewhere. Here we celebrate, again, his winning way with the songs of others, his uncanny instinct to possess and inhabit the writings of other artists, as if the words had been written solely for his sepulchral tones. I don’t like the Devil comparison, however many coming up against him in their own lives might, preferring the image that he had the voice of God, with no need of any article, indefinite or otherwise. Sure, an older God, a vengeance-is-mine God, where forgiveness has to be earnt, much as he too tried to atone for his past behaviors, a forbidding God not to be taken in vain.

Hyperbole? Why not? Enjoy these ten further covers and sink one in his memory.
Continue reading »

Feb 072022
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

In the Still of the Night

Stationed at an Army barracks in Philadelphia, Fred Parris found himself longing for his fiancée. It was the mid-50s, and Parris was the lead singer for a doowop group called the Five Satins, so he wrote a song about their time together. Later, while on leave, he and the group holed up in the basement of St. Bernadette Church in New Haven to record “In the Still of the Night.”

The track, sometimes stylized as “In the Still of the Nite” or “(I’ll Remember) In the Still of the Nite,” was a modest hit for the group, reaching number 24 on the Billboard chart in 1956. Parris, who died in January at the age of 85, never became a household name, and he never married that girl. But this song has endured as one the defining tracks of the ‘50s, earning him accolades from around the music world upon his passing.

Parris’ ballad of youthful longing, love, and nostalgia has been a staple of oldies format radio for decades, often topping New York station WCBS-FM’s list of the greatest songs of all time. As both a love song and a remembrance of things past, it presents an idealized version of how people like to remember the ‘50s.
Continue reading »

Aug 272021
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Charlie Watts

“Charlie’s good tonight, inn’ee?”

That classic line from Mick Jagger, as heard and lifted from the early Rolling Stones live opus Get Yer Ya-Yas Out!, is a phrase that has always lasted and lingered, not least because it was unmistakably so true. Charlie was always good tonight, his sense of swing a failsafe metronome over the fifty-plus years of the band. A jazz man by preference, his kit dwarfed by the kits of most of his contemporaries, he was forever the lynchpin at the back, always making sure his band was the greatest rock and roll band in the world.
Continue reading »

Mar 262021
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Last summer I was crushed by mail at my job as a mail carrier, at a time when everyone was ordering Amazon as they stayed at home. I was further flattened by a boulder with the news that Justin Townes Earle had passed away at the age of 38. The headline went by in a blink, like all the news last year, and although I had hoped to write about his career, full of a multitude of covers from several genres, a 100-year pandemic event of mail turned into a 100-year event of election mail, and then a 100-year event of Christmas packages. My timely tribute was not meant to be.

Earle, like all prodigies with musical DNA, was often compared to his father. Some wanted to compare the similarities of their Americana music, while others wanted to highlight the differences, such as JTE’s penchant for wearing traditional bluegrass suits on stage. I sometimes wonder if he defied comparisons on purpose, dressing in a summer suit while dropping f-bombs in a plethora of raunchy realness. But anyone that heard them would never confuse the two.

Earle was the latest victim in a slew of high-profile opioid deaths. Prince. Tom Petty. Jay Bennett of Wilco. After JTE died, Steve Earle came out with a tribute album of his son’s songs, heartbreaking evidence that the father defied the devil’s bookies and outlived the son.

The people who give us joy are suddenly ripped away. But in JTE’s case, some of that joy was recorded on camera. Here, on the ninth anniversary of the release of his album Nothing’s Gonna Change The Way You Feel About Me Now, let’s take a look at some of his best covers.
Continue reading »

Oct 232020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Spencer Davis Group

Before this past Monday, we could have categorized this as a Five Good Covers post, or a That’s a Cover post. Alas, circumstances beyond our control have seen to it that it could only be an In Memoriam.

Spencer Davis, of the eponymous band, has died.

To commemorate this most shadowy of front men, whose band is now famous more for who else was in it besides him, let’s revisit Davis’s life and see why he is worthy of recognition in his own right. We’ll also be drilling down into “Keep on Running,” the first Spencer Davis Group number one.
Continue reading »

Oct 092020
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

John Lennon (of the Beatles, the Quarrymen, the Dirty Mac, and the Plastic Ono Band, among others) was born on this day. He shares the birthday, oddly enough, with his youngest son, Sean. (Happy 45th, Sean!)

One way to celebrate the day is to sing the Beatles’ “Birthday” song (keeping in mind that Lennon considered the song, which he co-wrote, “a piece of garbage”). Another is to listen to his music with renewed appreciation. If we do that, we’re gonna have a good time, just like the song says.

John would be turning 80 today, an auspicious number: He lived for 40 years, and has been gone for 40 years (as of December). Forty years here, forty years gone: those are Biblical numbers. And how funny that this 40/40 business should happen in the year 2020.

John loved numbers and numerology, so it’s ok to fixate on this stuff for a minute. The number nine in particular held Lennon’s interest, the day of the month he was born on. Some of his song titles allude to the obsession: “One After 909,” “Revolution 9,” “#9 Dream” (which reached #9 on the charts). So guess how many covers we’ve lined up today?
Continue reading »