I lost track of what day it was and in doing so missed posting about George Harrison’s birthday, which was yesterday.
The Beatles are my favorite recoding act of all-time, and if I had to rank the group’s members in order, George would make the top four (no disrespect to Pete Best).
I’d been thinking about what to post for George’s birthday for a couple of weeks. His recordings are not on Spotify, the program I use to create the playlists in each blog entry. I couldn’t find any worthwhile vintage performance clips of George on YouTube. I could post the music video for “Got My Mind Set on You,” but that track is hardly representative of the man’s genius. I was leaning toward creating a playlist of great covers of George’s songs, but what I came up with before abandoning that idea was an unremarkable collection that would not serve as a fitting tribute.
I love so many of his songs – “My Sweet Lord,” “Handle With Care” (Traveling Wilburys), “The Inner Light” (The Beatles), “What Is Life,” “All Those Years Ago,” “It Don’t Come Easy” (written by George and Ringo Starr, recorded by Ringo), “Something” (The Beatles), “Here Comes the Sun” (The Beatles), “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” (The Beatles), “If Not For You,” and “When We Was Fab” at the forefront, though my favorite of George’s solo recordings is “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace on Earth).” In his autobiography George wrote “This song is a prayer and personal statement between me, the Lord, and whoever likes it.” The Lord and I aren’t on speaking terms; however, I love the song’s message. I’m a sucker for songs espousing love for all. “Put a Little Love in Your Heart?” Yes! “Love Train?” Hell, yeah! The Black Eyed Peas’ “Where Is the Love?” Sure, even though it includes the lyric “to discriminate only generates hate / And when you hate then you’re bound to get irate, yeah / Badness is what you demonstrate.” And then you won’t be able to meet a mate named Nate / You won’t even get a date / To gain weight will be your fate / You won’t make it through the gate and then you’ll be late / That isn’t great.” And that’s why I adore George’s “Give Me Love.”
The Johnny Cash playlist kicks off with his 1963 hit “Ring of Fire.” The writing of the song is credited to June Carter, who married Johnny in 1968, and Merle Kilgore. Though initially recorded by Carter’s sister Anita, Carter said the song was inspired by Cash, who at that time was her friend and singing partner. Though not romantically-involved, she was drawn to him against her better judgment, despite his drug use. Per June, there is “no way to extinguish a flame that burns, burns, burns.”
Cash’s wife at that time, Vivian Liberto, claimed that June had nothing to do with writing that song. Per Liberto, Johnny wrote it “while pilled up and drunk” and it’s not about the love June described, but rather it’s “about a certain private female body part,” which provides a much different image to accompany the line “I went down, down, down.” I’m not an expert on this body part to which Liberto refers, but if it burns, burns, burns, you should probably have it checked out by a professional. Anyway, Liberto said Cash gave Carter the writing credit because she needed the money.
Our Fats Domino playlist kicks off with one of Richie Cunningham’s favorites, “Blueberry Hill.” Though Domino wrote many of his hits, this one was written by Vincent Rose, Larry Stock and Al Lewis (not the Grandpa Munster Al Lewis) in 1940.
Domino recorded this song at a session after he ran out of material. His long-time producer, Dave Bartholomew, was against doing the song, perhaps because all of Fat’s hits up to that point had been original compositions. Domino’s version hit #2 in 1957 and has become one of his most recognizable recordings.
Some other facts about Fats: In the fifties he sold more records than any other rock & roll artist except Elvis Presley; he’s had 35 US top 40 pop hits; his song “The Fat Man,” from 1949, is considered by many to be the first rock and roll record; today he turns 86.