Tag Archives: Ruth Brown

Twenty Songs You Should Hear (1-12-20)

Happy Sunday! I hope it’s a fun day. An I-don’t-have-to-run day.

Here are some songs to play while chillin’ in the crib:

Run the Jewels featuring Zack de la Rocha – “Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck)”
Today is the birthday of Zack de la Rocha, best known as the singer for Rage Against the Machine.

Beck – “Black Tambourine”

Mary J. Blige – “PMS”

Ruth Brown – “I Can’t Hear a Word You Say”
Today is the birthday of the late Ruth Brown. She had so many best-sellers on Atlantic Records in the 1950s that the label became known as “the house that Ruth built.” You may know her from the original movie version of Hairspray, in which she played Motormouth Maybelle.

Marvin Gaye – “Hitch Hike”
With backing vocals by Martha and the Vandellas.

Ray Charles – “Drown in My Own Tears”

Stevie Wonder – “Love Having You Around”

Aretha Franklin – “Spirit in the Dark”
Aretha’s son Kecalf doesn’t want you to see the new biopic of the soul legend, which hits theaters sometime in 2020. He says her family wasn’t consulted about what is in the movie, aside from Jennifer Hudson as Aretha, which was the Queen’s choice.

King Curtis – “Memphis Soul Stew”

Kendrick Lamar – “Hiiipower”
Lamar’s first single, from 2011.

Amerie – “1Thing”
Today is Amerie’s birthday. This song sat on the shelves at Sony Music for a year and a half, at which point Amerie herself leaked it to radio stations. It reached #8 on the pop chart.

Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliott featuring 702 and Magoo – “Beep Me 911”

Madonna – “Take a Bow”
This song went to #1 in the US. In the UK, it peaked at #16, ending her record-breaking streak of 35 consecutive top ten singles.

The White Stripes – “Black Math”

Foo Fighters – “This Is a Call”
Foo Fighter Dave Grohl wrote this song, sang it, and played every instrument on it.

Janet Jackson – “Throb”
Boom boom boom until noon noon noon.

OutKast featuring Raekwon – “Skew It on the Bar-B”
Today is the birthday of Raekwon, best known as a member of the Wu-Tang Clan.

Big Star – “In the Street”
Today is the birthday of Big Star’s Chris Bell. This song was used as the theme for That 70’s Show. The soundtracks to that television sitcom were the first projects I worked on upon getting a job at Jive Records.

Spice Girls – “Say You’ll Be There”
Today is the birthday of Mel C (Sporty Spice).

Sly & the Family Stone – “Dance to the Music”
Today is the birthday of the late Cynthia Robinson, trumpeter and vocalist for Sly & the Family Stone. She and Jerry got a message that’s sayin’ “all the squares, go home!”

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Ruth Brown And 1950s Rhythm And Blues

So successful was Ruth Brown in the 1950s that her label, Atlantic Records, which started in 1947, was nicknamed The House the Ruth Built.

Her first single for the label, “So Long,” reached #4 on the Rhythm & Blues chart in 1949. Her next hit, “Teardrops from My Eyes,” spent 11 weeks at #1 on that chart. She earned the nickname the Queen of R&B, and over the next ten years scored an additional nineteen r&b top ten singles, including four more number ones. In total she spent thirty-two weeks at #1 on the r&b singles chart. In 1953, Brown crossed over to the pop top 40 with “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean.”

In the 1960s Brown focused on her family life. She returned to music the following decade, and added acting gigs to her resume. In 1979 she was a regular character on the sitcom Hello, Larry, and she famously portrayed Motormouth Maybelle in the original 1988 movie version of Hairspray, a role which had echoes of her life performing at segregated dances in the sixties. She won the 1989 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in the Broadway show Black and Blue. Her companion album, Blues on Broadway, won Brown the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance, Female.

Ruth Brown 327410_1258221698098_full
Brown was also influential in the creation of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, founded in 1988. Per the nonprofit’s mission statement, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation is “dedicated to the historical and cultural preservation of Rhythm & Blues music and recognition of participants in its community by providing services and programs to Rhythm & Blues artists and their fans.”

In 1993, Ruth Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

She died in 2006 from complications resulting from a heart attack and stroke.

Inspired by Ruth Brown, who was born on January 12*, 1928, today’s playlist presents twenty of the best rhythm and blues recordings from the 1950s.


(*I initially prepared this entry to be posted on January 12. However, once I was about to post it, I read in a few places that the information I had was incorrect, and that Brown’s birth date was January 30, so I saved it for today. Just after I finished re-editing it this afternoon, I looked on Wikipedia and see they (now) list her birthday as January 12, which some other sites confirmed.)

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I Don’t Believe You, Bob Dylan. You’re A Liar!

“I didn’t really care what Lieber and Stoller thought of my songs. They didn’t like ‘em, but Doc Pomus did. That was all right that [Lieber and Stoller] didn’t like ‘em, because I never liked their songs either. ‘Yakety yak, don’t talk back.’ ‘Charlie Brown is a clown,’ ‘Baby I’m a hog for you.’ Novelty songs. They weren’t saying anything serious.”
– Bob Dylan, February 2015

“I don’t believe you. You’re a liar!”
– Bob Dylan to an audience member who called him “Judas,” May 1966
– Glenn Schwartz to Bob Dylan regarding his disdain for Lieber and Stoller, April 2015

Perhaps Dylan doesn’t like the comical songs Lieber and Stoller wrote for The Coasters (though I’m skeptical of that as well), but how can he honestly dismiss all their work as novelty songs? Their compositions are part of the Great American Songbook – Rock & Roll Edition. “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand by Me,” “On Broadway,” “Hound Dog,” “Kansas City,” “Spanish Harlem,” “Is That All There Is?” These aren’t humorous songs. Okay, “Is That All There Is?” is pretty funny, though that wasn’t intentional.

I think Bob made that comment as he was miffed about Lieber and Stoller dismissing his work. That they didn’t get Dylan is folly on their part, but the duo’s work has stood the test of time.

Today is the birthday of the late great Jerry Lieber. Today’s playlist consists of twenty classics from the Lieber and Stoller songbook.

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