Today is the birthday of Carole King, one of the greatest songwriters of the pop era. Chances are you know songs she had a hand in writing: “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” “So Far Away,” “You’ve Got a Friend,” “One Fine Day,” “The Loco-motion,” “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” “I Feel the Earth Move,” “Up on the Roof,” “It’s Too Late,” and “I’m Into Something Good” among them.
King isn’t the only rock era songwriter celebrating a birthday today. It is also the birthday of her contemporary Barry Mann, who is not the same person as Barry Manilow. As a performer, Mann had one hit – 1961’s “Who Put the Bomp (In the Bomp, Bomp, Bomp).” As a writer, he’s charted nearly 100 times in the US. His credits include “Here You Come Again,” “Bristol Stomp,” “Only in America,” “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’,” “We Gotta Get Out of This Place,” “Make Your Own Kind of Music,” “On Broadway,” and “Sometimes When We Touch,” many written with his wife, Cynthia Weil.
King and Mann feature in today’s playlist, as do others who share their birthday: The Magnetic Fields’ Stephin Merritt, Frankie Goes to Hollywood’s Holly Johnson, Barbara Lewis, and Major Harris. I also threw in some folks who had birthdays yesterday: Daft Punk’s Guy Manuel, England Dan, and James Dean.
Foo Fighters – “Learn to Fly” Today is Foo Fighter Dave Grohl’s birthday. This is easily my favorite song from the group’s album There Is Nothing Left to Lose. Grohl said it’s one of his least favorites on the album. What does he know?
Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire” Today is the birthday of Kings of Leon’s lead singer Caleb Followill. About this song, Caleb’s brother and fellow bandmate Nathan said in an interview “Sex On Fire was just kind of a little lyric just to fill in to kill some time until we could actually write something that wasn’t about sex and fire.”
Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody” Grammy Award winner for Record of the Year.
Foo Fighters – “Everlong” David Letterman introduced a performance of this song on his talk show as “my favorite band playing my favorite song.”
Bobby “Blue” Bland – “I’ll Take Care of You” Written by Brook Benton and originally recorded by Bobby “Blue Bland,” this song was covered by Gil Scott-Heron, whose version was remixed by Jamie xx. That remix was sampled in the Drake/Rihanna hit “Take Care.”
James Brown – “King Heroin” This song is a poem written by New York City Stage Delicatessen worker Manny Rosen set to music.
Barbara Lewis – “Baby I’m Yours” This song was written by Van McCoy, who hit #1 with his classic disco recording “The Hustle.”
Mary Wells – “Two Lovers” This song was written by Smokey Robinson, who was inspired by a movie he was watching on television in which a woman had two lovers. Imagine the song we would have gotten had Smokey been watching The Thing With Two Heads.
Oasis – “Slide Away” Oasis member Noel Gallagher, who write this song, says it contains his brother Liam’s best vocals ever.
Foo Fighters – “I’ll Stick Around” This song’s music video was directed by Jerry Casale of Devo, who is coming up later on this playlist.
Dionne Warwick – “Promises, Promises” Like most of Dionne Warwick’s sixties hits, this one was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.
LL Cool J – “I’m That Type of Guy” Today James Todd Smith turns 52 years old. He’s cool and the ladies love him, hence his rap moniker LL Cool J.
Run-D.M.C. – “Run’s House” Run-D.M.C. sampled this in their final top 40 pop hit, “Down with the King.”
Clarence Carter – “Strokin” Today is the 84th birthday of Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Ooh Shit Clarence Carter.
The Smashing Pumpkins – “Landslide” In 1994, Smashing Pumpkins’ version of this Fleetwood Mac song hit #3 on the US Modern Rock chart, becoming the first version of this song to chart.
Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs” The title track from the 2011 Album of the Year Grammy winner.
Jack Jones – “Wives and Lovers” Another Grammy Award winner, this one for Best Vocal Performance, Male. As with the Dionne Warwick song earlier in this playlist, this was written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The lyrics, which may have already seemed backwards when they wrote it in 1963, come across as downright anachronistic today, telling women they need to stay attractive and attend to their husbands if they want them to remain faithful. Today is Jack Jones’ birthday.
Clarence Carter – “Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street)” Another classic performance from Carter, referenced in “Strokin.”
Devo – “Working in the Coal Mine” A cover of the Lee Dorsey classic, written by the late Alan Toussaint, whose birthday is today.
The Pointer Sisters – “Yes We Can Can” Alan Toussaint write this song also. He wrote a lot of great songs. He also co-produced the Labelle classic “Lady Marmalade.” Respect.