Melanie Safka wrote the song “Lay Down” after performing at Woodstock in 1969, where she was inspired by the sight of the audience lighting candles in the rain. It became her first US hit, peaking at number 6 on the Billboard Hot 100.
Melanie was born on this date in 1947. She passed away just over a week ago. A few of her songs are on today’s playlist.
Don and Phil Everly were rock and roll pioneers, combining elements of different musical traditions and creating a distinctive sound that inspired generations of artists. Their songs are timeless classics, full of emotion and harmony.
The Everly Brothers started their musical career singing with their parents on the radio in the 1940s. They learned the art of close harmony singing from their father, Ike, who was a master of the thumbpicking guitar style of western Kentucky. They also absorbed influences from the folk, country, and blues music of their region, as well as from the pop and R&B hits of the day. They began writing and recording their own songs in 1956, and soon caught the attention of Chet Atkins, who helped them get a deal with Cadence Records. Their first hit, “Bye Bye Love”, written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, was released in 1957 and reached No. 1 on the country and pop charts. It was followed by a string of hits, many of them also written by the Bryants, such as “Wake Up Little Susie”, “All I Have to Do Is Dream”, and “Bird Dog”. The Everly Brothers’ songs captured the joys and sorrows of teenage life, with catchy hooks, witty lyrics, and expressive vocals.
In 1960, the Everly Brothers moved to Warner Bros. Records, where they had more creative freedom and control. They wrote some of their own songs, such as “Cathy’s Clown” and “When Will I Be Loved?”, and also recorded songs by other writers, such as “Let It Be Me” and “Crying in the Rain,” the latter being the third top ten pop songwriting credit for Carole King. They experimented with different sounds and styles, incorporating elements of rockabilly, country, and pop. The Everly Brothers’ music was influential to many artists, especially in the 1960s, when the Beatles, the Beach Boys, the Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel, and many others cited them as an inspiration.
The Everly Brothers’ legacy is undeniable and enduring. They have been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, the Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Musicians Hall of Fame. They have received numerous awards and honors, such as the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, the National Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences Trustees Award, and the BMI Icon Award. They have sold over 80 million records worldwide, and have had over 30 top 40 hits.
If you are a fan of the Everly Brothers, or if you want to discover their music for the first time, I invite you to listen to this playlist that I have curated. It includes some of their most popular and memorable songs, as well as some of their lesser-known gems. I hope you enjoy the Everly Brothers’ harmony and history, and appreciate their contribution to music.
In his excellent autobiography Le Freak, Chic’s Nile Rodgers writes how his group’s record label wanted to capture the magic Rodgers and his music partner Bernard Edwards brought to their group to other acts on the Atlantic Records roster, such as The Rolling Stones and Bette Midler. Nile turned down the acts that were firmly established, as with them less attention would be paid to the song’s writers and producers. He wanted to work with a lesser known act. Atlantic Records president Jerry Greenberg suggested a group of sisters who “stick together like birds of a feather,” and so it came to be that Rodgers and Edwards wrote and produced the We Are Family album for Sister Sledge. I think you know what happened next.
Today’s playlist celebrates the birthday of Sister Sledge lead vocalist Kathy Sledge by including several tracks from that classic album.
I recently read a book about the music of 1971. It was pretty bad. I should have been clued off seeing that the book derived its title from the name of a Rod Stewart album that came out in…1972. The author and I agree that 1971 was a great year for music, though he focused mainly on white acts. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, recently named the number one album of all-time in Rolling Stone, was dismissed as being overrated due to white guilt, something the author clearly doesn’t feel. I humbly suggest that the playlist below shows more of the greatness (and diversity) of 1971’s music than this book.