This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their list, from Song #500 to Song #1. So, when you see the song title listed as something like: “KEXP: Song #XXX”….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. If I post the song title as being: “KTOM: Song #xxx”….it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In either case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Enough said! Let’s get on to today’s song.
KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.
Song #443: “Walk This Way” by Run-DMC and Aerosmith.
In the 1970s, Aerosmith had a string of Top 10 hits with songs such as, “Dream On”, “Sweet Emotion” and “Walk This Way”. They had reached the top of the musical mountain, as it were, and were rock stars in every sense of the word. However, it isn’t easy maintaining a rock-star lifestyle so, as the 1970s drew to a close and the 80s began, Aerosmith’s relevance began to wane, their ability to produce new hits songs dried up and Aerosmith faced the very real risk of breaking up due to the addictions suffered by various band members; Steven Tyler and Joe Perry, “The Toxic Twins”, in particular.
Meanwhile, as Aerosmith slipped into decline, along with many other “arena rock” bands, a new genre of music called, Hip Hop, was in its formative stages. The originators of Hip Hop, such as Grand Master Flash and the Furious Five, Afrika Mambaataa and, even funk master, George Clinton, all were releasing new music that bore the now-familiar cadence of rap-style singing and performing. Because they tended to wear flamboyant costumes and sang songs about lifestyles that weren’t considered “mainstream” at the time, those early innovators were not considered to be performing rock n’ roll. They were afforded a small niche on the musical spectrum and were not taken too seriously by the commercial music industry at large. Then, along came Run-DMC.
Run-DMC was comprised of three performers; Joseph Simmons (known as “Run” or “Reverend Run”), Darryl McDaniels (“DMC”) and Jason Mizell (“Jam Master Jay”). They re-invented the “look” of Hip Hop by wearing white Adidas sneakers, jeans, t-shirts and dark jackets. Their songs had a harder edge to them and their performances were spectacles not to be missed. They were managed by a young producer named Rick Rubin. Rubin saw that an opportunity existed to expand the reach of Hip Hop, into the mainstream music world, by adding an element of good, old rock n’ roll to the mix. Rick Rubin, representing Run-DMC, approached Aerosmith to see if, in the words of Simon and Garfunkal, they wanted to “marry their fortunes together” and work together on a groundbreaking project. That project was to be the first-ever collaboration between Hip Hop stars and Rock stars, using one of Aerosmith’s signature songs, “Walk This Way”. Fortunately for all involved, Aerosmith decided that they had nothing to lose and agreed to re-work their song.
In the video below, you will see the fruits of that collaboration. Normally, I prefer live performances but, in this case, the “official” video is noteworthy. In it, you will see the two groups working individually, separated by a wall. Aerosmith performs the familiar opening to their song then, to their surprise, they hear Hip Hop coming from the other side of the wall. Initially, they are frustrated at being interrupted so, they punch a hole in the wall. Once they actually see Run-DMC at work, they knock the wall down completely and the two separate groups merge as one, with Run-DMC emerging on to the traditional rock area stage with Aerosmith. This was meant to act as the symbolic union of Rock and Hip Hop in the larger, music industry sense.
This collaboration, when viewed through the lens of historic significance, has had many positive ramifications. For instance, it brought Run-DMC into the mainstream spotlight and, as a result, they became the very first Hip Hop group to tour sold-out arenas, to have Gold records and so on. Run-DMC were inducted into The Rock N’ Roll Hall Of Fame by Eminem in 2009. Without Run-DMC and “Walk This Way”, there may not have been a career path for people such as Eminem or The Beastie Boys or 50 Cent and others. Run-DMC helped establish Hip Hop as a legitimate music genre and helped lift it up out of its niche market. For Aerosmith, the performance revitalized their careers. Steven Tyler and Joe Perry cleaned up their addictive behaviours and put together a more Pop-infused second phase to their careers with hits such as “Janie’s Got a Gun”, “Love in an Elevator”, “I Wouldn’t Have Missed a Thing”, “Dude Looks Like a Lady”, “Crying” and “Angel”.T
o toss in one final piece of trivia….Disney Channel has a tv show called, “All About the Washingtons”. The main character on the show is an old, retired rapper named “MC Joe Speed”. In real life, MC Joe Speed is, none other than, the legendary Joseph Simmons from Run-DMC. Every now and again, his character will toss off a few rhymes and it is all I can do to not stand up and shout at my own children, “Do you know who this actually is!? This man helped change music as we know it today! He is a legendary performer.” But, all they see is the character. Too bad. I see Joseph Simmons and my head fills with, “Its Tricky” or “Sucker MCs” or, sometimes, “Walk This Way”. I smile and nod at the girls and end up enjoying that show as much as they do. For now, here is the groundbreaking video for “Walk This Way” by Aerosmith and Run-DMC. Enjoy.
The link to the music video for Walk This Way by Run-DMC (featuring Aerosmith) can be found here.
Run-DMC have an important and informative website that can be found here.
Aerosmith have a terrific website of their own that can be reached by clicking on the link here.
Thanks, as always, to KEXP for supporting groundbreaking music. A link to their website can be found here.