Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 10-8-22

Today’s playlist celebrates the October 8 birthdays of Ramones’ Johnny Ramone and C.J. Ramone, Kool & the Gang’s Robert “Kool” Bell, The Stylistics’ Airrion Love, Average White Band’s Hamish Stuart, BLACKstreet’s Teddy Riley, C.L. Smooth, Bruno Mars, Pigbag’s James Johnstone, and Saturday Night Live‘s Chevy Chase; and the October 9 birthdays of The Beatles’ John Lennon, The Who’s John Entwistle, PJ Harvey, Jackson Browne, Labelle’s Nona Hendryx, Men Without Hats’s Ivan Doroschuk, Heatwave’s Rod Temperton, Ini Kamoze, and Phantom Planet’s Alex Greenwald.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 9-1-22

Today’s playlist celebrates the September 1 birthdays of Archie Bell, Bee Gees’ Barry Gibb, Conway Twitty, Alton Ellis, Gloria Estefan, Lily Tomlin, The Noisettes, and Steven Grossman; and the September 2 birthdays of Billy Preston, Joe Simon, Bobby Purify, Chris Knox, Eleanor Friedberger, Zedd, King Missile’s John S. Hall, K-Ci, and Victor Lundberg.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 8-2-22

Today’s playlist celebrates the August 2 birthdays of The Band’s Garth Hudson, Traffic’s Jim Capaldi, Charli XCX, The La’s’ Lee Mavers, The Shirelles’ Doris Coley, Johnny Kemp, The Cascades’ John Claude Gummoe, Mojo Nixon, Apollonia, Jacob Collier, and Andrew Gold; and the August 3 birthdays of Metallica’s James Hetfield, Tony Bennett, Scroobius Pip, Nice & Smooth’s Smooth B, Skunk Anansie’s Skin, Lucky Dube, Syreeta, and Ricky Blaze.

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Throwback Thursday: 1974

In 1974 Grandpa Abe gave ten-year-old me a radio. Very quickly that radio became shy me’s best friend. I hadn’t paid much attention to music previously, only hearing what played in the family care when we went out to eat or to Sunday school or the orthodontist. With my best friend Radio by my side I was exposed to so much more. Mostly I listened to the top 40 station WABC. By the autumn of 1974 I was making weekly treks on my bicycle to Melody Manor to buy whatever single entered the top 40 that week, unless it was something truly heinous like “Cat’s in the Cradle.” It’s a habit I kept up until the mid to late eighties, when “Lady in Red,” “The Final Countdown,” “Hip To Be Square” and Milli Vanilli convinced me to eschew that habit and only buy records that were tolerable. Today’s playlist celebrates the music of the year I started collecting records.

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A Paul McCartney Playlist

Celebrating Sir Paul McCartney’s career in 30 songs is an impossible task. (I initially wrote that it’s a fool’s errand, but that was the first time I typed that expression and it felt weird.) Anyhoosle, this playlist isn’t perfect, though the songs on it are quite spectacular. I do have issues with the opening of “I Saw her Standing There,” however. Putting aside that she was just 17, the “you know what I mean” line that proceeds that rubs me the wrong way. After that, it’s smooth sailing.

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Queer Music Of The 1950s and 1960s

Happy 2021 Pride! Though LGBTQ+ Pride should be celebrated every month, June is the month officially designated to celebrating one’s identity, orientation and possible otherness.

To celebrate Pride this year I’m going to create thirty-song playlists broken out by decade, kicking off today with two decades combined – the 1950s and the 1960s. I’ll post these lists sporadically throughout the month.

Here is what you’ll hear on today’s playlist and what makes it queer:

“Cry” – Johnnie Ray

Poor old Johnnie Ray, as he was referred in Dexy’s Midnight Runners’ “Come On Eileen,” was a closeted gay man, arrested for soliciting male undercover officers on more than one occasion. “Cry” was a humongous hit, spending more than two months at #1.

“Hound Dog” – Big Mama Thornton

Chances are you’re familiar with Elvis Presley’s hugely successful version of this song from 1956. Three years earlier, Willie Mae “Big Mama” Thornton, who preferred to dress in what would be considered men’s clothing, sold a half million copies of her version, from which she made $500.

“Too Much” – Bernard Hardison

Another song covered by Elvis, Bernard Hardison released his version two years prior to The King. The song was played on the web radio series Queer Music Heritage, though I cannot find any other indication anywhere about Hardison’s sexual orientation.

“Don’t You Want a Man Like Me” – Billy Wright

As a youth, Billy Wright sang the gospel in church and worked as a female impersonator. The openly gay Wright was an influence on young Little Richard, suggesting he wear his hair in the pompadour style. Speaking of…

“Tutti Frutti” – Little Richard

No matter that the hit version altered the original lyrics “Tutti frutti, good booty / If it don’t fit, don’t force it / You can grease it, make it easy,” the song and the performer are oh so queer.

“Rockin’ Pneumonia and the Boogie Woogie Flu” – Huey “Piano” Smith and the Clowns

As his nickname might indicate, Huey Smith was a piano player. The singer in his band was an openly gay man named Bobby Marchan.

“Chances Are” – Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis never covered up his sexual orientation, though he didn’t come out as gay until 1982, when a reporter printed his off the record acknowledgment.

“Jailhouse Rock” – Elvis Presley

“Number 47 said to number 3, ‘You’re the cutest jailbird I ever did see. I sure would be delighted with your company. Come on and do the jailhouse rock with me.” Nothing queer about that, right?

“Secretly” – Jimmie Rodgers

“Wish we didn’t have to meet, secretly / Wish we didn’t have to kiss, secretly / Wish we didn’t have to be afraid to show the world that we’re in love / ‘Til we have the right to meet openly / ‘Til we have the right to kiss openly / We’ll just have to be content to be in love secretly.” Make of those lyrics what you will.

“Rockin’ the Joint” – Esquerita

Though Little Richard released records prior to Esquerita, it was Black flamboyant Esquerita who taught Little Richard his style of piano playing and perhaps introduced the high-pitched “whoo”s in his singing.

“Frances and Her Friends” – Frances Faye

Frances Faye was openly embracing of bisexuality in her stage shows, as the lyrics of this tune will attest. In the late 1950s she met a woman named Teri Shepherd who became her life partner.

“My Baby Likes Western Guys” – Brenda Lee

Oh, does he now?

“He Don’t Care About Me” – The Miracles

Yes, those Miracles. Written by Smokey Robinson with lead vocals by his wife Claudette, you wonder why he don’t care about her. When she sings “Don’t he know that I could make him gay?,” you just have to respond “Girrrrrrrl!”

“Up on the Roof” – The Drifters

Rudy Lewis, who sang lead on this Drifters hit as well as “On Broadway” and others, was a closeted gay man who sadly died of a drug overdose when he was just 27 years old.

“Any Other Way” – Jackie Shane

Though she didn’t call herself trans, Jackie Shane presented and sang in a way typically associated with women. She considered herself to be a gay man, and my use of pronouns here is not intended to disrespect that.

“You Don’t Own Me” – Lesley Gore

Lesley Gore came out as a lesbian in 2005, revealing that she knew she was attracted to women since age 20 and never sought to hide out, though didn’t announce it before then.

“You’ve Got To Hide Your Love Away” – The Beatles

Many believe that The Beatles’ John Lennon wrote this song about the group’s gay manager, Brian Epstein. It wasn’t until 1967, two years after this song’s release, that England decriminalized sex between two men over the age of 21, and Epstein would no longer have to hide his love away. Sadly, he died in August of that year.

“See My Friends” – The Kinks

The Kinks’ Ray Davies wrote this song about a young man who is unsure of his sexual orientation, a feeling Davies said he experienced.

“To Try for the Sun” – Donovan

The song’s teenage narrator and his “gypsy boy” friend have an obvious affection for each other. “And who’s going to be the one to say it was no good what we done?”

“You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me” – Dusty Springfield

“I know that I’m as perfectly capable of being swayed by a girl as by a boy. More and more people feel that way and I don’t see why I shouldn’t. There was someone on television the other night who admitted that he swings either way. I suppose he could afford to say it, but I, being a pop singer, shouldn’t even admit that I might think that way. But if the occasion arose I don’t see why I shouldn’t.” – Dusty Springfield, 1970, in an interview with The Evening Standard

“Do You Come Here Often?” – The Tornados

Produced by legendary gay producer Joe Meek, “Do You Come Here Often?” has to be heard to be believed. The song was the b-side of a forgotten 45, released on a major record label.

“I’m a Boy” – The Who

The story of a boy whose parents wanted a girl, so his mother raises him as a girl.

“Willkommen” – Joel Grey

From the Tony Award winning musical Cabaret, written by openly gay lyricist Fred Ebb and openly gay composer John Kander, based on a book by openly gay writer Christopher Isherwood, comes this number, performed by Joel Grey, who publicly came out in 2015 at age 82.

“Sweet Soul Music” – Arthur Conley

Arthur Conley was living as a closeted gay man in the United States when “Sweet Soul Music” became a smash. He later moved to the Netherlands, changed his name to Lee Roberts, met a man who became his life partner, and then lived as an openly gay man.

“Arnold Layne” – Pink Floyd

“Arnold Layne” became Pink Floyd’s first hit single, despite Radio London eventually banning it from airplay as its subject matter of a transvestite stealing women’s clothing off clothes lines was considered by them to be too distasteful for “normal” society.

“Let the Heartaches Begin” – Long John Baldry

Reginald Dwight changed his name to Elton John after Elton Dean, a fellow musician in the backing band of Long John Baldry, the gay vocalist from where the John comes.

“Save the Country” – Laura Nyro

The late Laura Nyro was bisexual, enjoying romantic relationships with men and women, the longest one being with painter Maria Desiderio.

“Triad” – The Byrds

Written by The Byrds’ David Crosby, this 1967 recording of a song about a throuple went unreleased until 1987.

“Candy Says” – The Velvet Underground

Inspired by Candy Darling, a transgender actress in Andy Warhol films, “Candy Says” tells of a trans woman who has “come to hate her body.”

“That’s the Way God Planned It” – Billy Preston

A brilliant musician whose friends and collaborators knew he was gay, Billy Preston didn’t publicly come out until shortly before his passing in 2006.

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Throwback Thursday: 1980

Nineteen eighty wasn’t a game changing year on the US pop chart. It wasn’t 1964. It wasn’t 1991. For the most part it was music business as usual. The death of disco was greatly exaggerated. Just ask any member of Lipps, Inc., should you have any idea what any member of Lipps, Inc. looks like. Seventies hit makers stayed on the charts. Paul McCartney. Diana Ross. Stevie Wonder. Barbra Streisand. The Captain & Tennille did it to us one more time, it meaning having a hit single. A few outsiders snuck into the top 40 with sounds unlike the rest – Devo hit with “Whip It,” Gary Numan with “Cars,” and The Vapors with “Turning Japanese.” In the coming years more such weirdos would make their presence known.

While many of 1980’s hits were great singles, many classics were born outside of the mainstream. Releases such as Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Redemption Song,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Peter Gabriel’s “Biko,” Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” and Funky 4 + 1’s “That’s the Joint” are often referred to as classics these days. In 1980, not a single one of them troubled the US Hot 100. Change was on its way. In 1980, rap wasn’t a fixture on the top 40, though its influence was heard in Queen’s #1 smash “Another One Bites the Dust.” The next few years saw #1 hits from Peter Gabriel, Prince, David Bowie and a rap song, plus a top ten reggae song.

Today’s Throwback Thursday playlist shines a spotlight on 1980.

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Throwback Thursday: 1972

This Throwback Thursday we revisit 1972. What happened in music in 1972?:

Michael Jackson had the first of 13 solo US #1 Hot 100 singles with a song
about a rat.

Chuck Berry had his first US #1 single with a song about his penis.

Roberta Flack spent six weeks at #1 on the US Hot 100 with a song she
released in 1969.

Helen Reddy rerecorded a song from her 1971 album I Don’t Know How To Love Him. It became the first of her three US #1 Hot 100 singles and became an anthem for women’s equality.

The Staple Singers scored their first of two US #1 Hot 100 hits with a classic song that had only one verse.

Neil Young scored his only US #1 Hot 100 single.

Some of the other classic singles to peak in 1972 are “American Pie,” “Let’s Stay Together,” “Me & Mrs. Jones,” “Without You,” “If You Don’t Know Me By Now,” “Alone Again (Naturally),” “Lean On Me,” “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone,” “School’s Out” and “The Harder They Come.”

David Bowie released The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders
from Mars
.

The Rolling Stones released Exile on Main St.

Elton John released Honky Château.

As far as music goes, I’d say 1972 was pretty pretty pretty pretty good. Even the bad songs were good! Here are thirty highlights.

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A Martin Luther King Day Playlist

“You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Birmingham. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations.” – Martin Luther King, Jr. 1963

“He had a dream now it’s up to you to see it through, to make it come true” – “King Holiday”

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