The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP-Song# 458…Stand By Me by Ben E. King.

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 #458: Stand By Me by Ben E. King

“Stand By Me” is one of those songs that seems to transcend time. It was written, recorded and released in the 60s, saw itself be reborn in the 80s (thanks to the movie of the same name) and, since then, pops up on a fairly regular basis as background music for TV shows or commercials. The lyrics are familiar to young and the not-so-young, alike. The opening bass notes are among the most instantly-recognizable notes in all of music history. But, did you know that this song..”Stand By Me”…is one of the only songs on this list of 500 great songs to draw its’ inspiration directly from The Bible?! Well, it did. Here is the story of how this came to be.

The 1950s in the US were a time of racial segregation in much of the country. If you were a person of colour who wanted to make your living as a singer, your options were not as plentiful as those accorded to white singers. For instance, if you wanted to perform in a club or cabaret setting, you were limited to those places that allowed people of colour inside. There were some of these clubs scattered throughout the States. To travel around performing in these clubs was called “playing the Chitlin’ Circuit”. But safety was always a consideration in those times so, even playing in “Coloured” clubs on the “Chitlin’ Circuit” didn’t necessarily guarantee a singer’s safety before, after or, even, during a show. Therefore, many singers of colour found their voice on the inside of churches. Singing praises to The Lord for His many blessings helped lay the foundation of a style of music called Gospel music. Gospel music was often sung with great passion and fervour. Soaring melodies, luscious harmonies, hand-clapping/foot-stomping contributions from the congregation, all combined to make Gospel music one of the most passionate and beautiful of modern musical genres.

Ben E. King cut his musical teeth in the Gospel-rich environment of the southern US. Not only was he exposed to Gospel music, he was, also, exposed to Gospel preaching which, in the case of our story, included much talk about The Psalms. Originally, the great Sam Cooke recorded a Gospel track entitled, “Stand By Me Father”. This song was based upon the 46th Psalm which is nicknamed, “The Psalm of Confidence”. This song by Sam Cooke gave Ben E. King the inspiration to take another look at the 46th Psalm. I will post a few lines from this Psalm and when I do, it will become obvious how they helped to inspire the lyrics that we have all come to know and love from “Stand By Me”.

Pslam #46:

“God is our refuge and our strength, a very present help in trouble.

Therefore we will not fear, though the earth be removed and mountains be carried into the midst of the sea…..”

It goes on from there. Now, lets look at the lyrics from “Stand By Me”.

“If the sky that we look upon, should tumble and fall

Or the mountains should crumble to the sea.

I won’t cry. I won’t cry. I won’t shed a tear.

Just as long as you stand by me.”

The lyrics were written by Mr. King. The music, including those iconic opening bass notes, were written by King, in collaboration with fellow songwriters Mike Stoller and Jerry Leiber. The one main tweak that was made to the song, in order to give it broader audience appeal, was that the references to God were changed to references about the power and importance of having friendship and Love in your life. As a result, “Stand By Me” has gone on to serve as one of the most popular songs ever written about having good people in your life. The bonds of friendship and the power of Love combine to form the foundation of a good life for those of us lucky enough to have learned this lesson. I consider myself to be among the lucky. For that, I am very grateful.

“Stand By Me” stands as one of the most popular and well-received songs of all time. Sales of the song have been certified as Gold. The song has been inducted into the Library of Congress for being considered as something that has improved the fabric of life for all Americans (and the rest of us around the world, too). “Stand By Me” has, also, been inducted into the Song Category of The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame. It is one of those songs that help comprise the soundtrack of our lives. And, it all began from The Bible, rising up on soaring Gospel-inspired voices, from a Peoples who know a thing or two about the power of Love and of the importance of Faith. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for Stand By Me by Mr. Ben E. King can be found here.

Stand By Me was sung at the Royal Wedding of Meghan Markle and Prince Harry. The singer was Karen Gibson, accompanied by The Kingdom Choir. The link to that video can be found here.

Ben E. King has a website which can be reached by clicking on the link can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their terrific website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP-Song #459…Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen.

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 #459: Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen.

Not too long ago in our civilized world, writing a personal letter to a friend or family member was one of our main forms of conversation. Letter writing allowed the writer to paint a picture of their world, their thoughts and feelings, in a leisurely and elegant manner. A proper pen was important, as was formal stationary. Finally, the setting mattered. “Famous Blue Raincoat” may be a song but, what it actually is, are the words of a letter being written by Leonard Cohen to a man about a woman he has loved and lost to that same man.

Cohen sings as he writes. He describes his apartment on Clinton Avenue in New York. He talks about a lock of hair being sent as message. As he sings, you can almost sense the cigarette smoke slowly pirouetting toward the ceiling, the red wine sitting just off to the side. As a poet and wordsmith, Leonard Cohen is beyond compare. This letter he is writing lays his soul bare. His sense of loss is palpable. But, one of the things that I like about this song/letter is that, despite the loss of this important woman and all of the drama that such a loss implies, he actually sings his signature, too. Listen for it at the very end of the song as he signs off “Sincerely, L. Cohen”. For me, a bit of whimsy amid the seriousness of the topic adds to the pleasure of listening to such a song.

Cohen has never come completely clean about whether this song is based upon a real event from his life but, there are enough accurate details to suggest that it is. He did own a blue raincoat. He did know people who dabbled in Scientology. *(The phrase, “Did you ever go clear?” refers to the Scientology practice of having new recruits “clear” their minds of negative thoughts and memories before adopting the teachings of Dianetics). He did have many relationships with women. And, of course, he did like to write.

“Famous Blue Raincoat” is a beautiful, slow-moving song that allows you to bask in every turn of phrase, every perfectly descriptive or cutting word and every emotion that one can feel when you eavesdrop on a private conversation between two men on opposite ends of woman’s love and attention. Lines like, “Thanks, for the trouble you took from her eyes. I thought it was there for good so I never tried.”…. an entire world, in all of its nuance, captured in a three-four minute song, written and performed by, arguably, the best writer of words Canada has ever produced. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for Famous Blue Raincoat by Leonard Cohen can be found here.

A lovely cover version by Cohen-devotee, Tori Amos, can be found here.

There is a website dedicated to Leonard Cohen. The link can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. A link to their great website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP-Song #460…You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones.

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 #460: You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones.

The Rolling Stones have a vast catalogue of hits. Their songs are such that they span a complete generation and have managed to maintain their significance for the several generations that have followed. The Rolling Stones are comprised of Mick Jagger on vocals, Keith Richards on lead guitar, *Ronnie Woods on rhythm guitar, Bill Wyman on bass and the incomparable, Charlie Watts on drums. All throughout the 1960s, The Rolling Stones, along with their close compatriots, The Beatles, helped define what it meant to play Rock n’ Roll music. With early hits like “Satisfaction”, “Paint It Black” and many others, The Rolling Stones enjoyed the life of Rock n’ Roll royalty. But, by the time the decade was drawing to a close, The Stones, like The Beatles, were feeling like the end might be in sight and that they should break up because the process of being who they had to be to live up to their own standard just wasn’t fun anymore.

In his absolutely terrific autobiography called, “Life”, Keith Richards devotes an entire chapter of his book to the creation of the album, “Let It Bleed”. In particular, he talks about the importance of the arrival of “Mr. Jimmy”, producer (and drummer), Jimmy Miller. All throughout his book, Keef is at his most animated when he is talking about the creative process that went into the making of many of their songs, as well as, the magic he felt playing music with as tight a group of professional players as The Stones had. Richards goes to great lengths to credit Jimmy Miller with understanding the alchemy of the band and helping each member re-connect with that part of themselves that liked to tinker and experiment with sounds. The joy in Richards voice when he writes about the giddiness with which they created “Let it Bleed”, along with “Beggars Banquet”, “Sticky Fingers” and “Exile on Main Street”…(all produced by Miller), makes his book one of my all-time favourite reads ever! There is magic in play. “Mr. Jimmy” helped The Rolling Stones to re-discover that. One of the results was a song called “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”.

The Rolling Stones built their music on a foundation of The Blues. The song, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” incorporates Gospel, along with Blues, to deliver a social commentary on the times in which it was produced. By the end of the 1960s, people saw much to be optimistic about because of such things as putting a man on the moon and the “Summer of Love” vibe that began San Fransisco and travelled around the world. But, the Vietnam War was, also, on-going and the political corruption and subsequent fallout from scandals such as Watergate was percolating away; waiting to explode. This conflicted sense of optimism and pessimism is reflected in one of The Rolling Stones most pragmatic of songs, “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”. The song offers commentary in three parts; each verse a topic, with the topics being drug use, politics and love. In each verse, there is an early sense of excitement, a crushing realization that all is not what it seems and then, the acceptance of the balance that Life tends to offer. Providing the musical structure for the song is a gospel choir, Bluesy piano and guitars, along with the heartbeat of the band, Charlie Watt’s excellent drum work. “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” was not the biggest selling song that The Rolling Stones ever produced but, it is a song that captured the essence of the times in which it was produced in a way that still resonates today….fifty years later!

When people speak of the songs that defined the early days of Rock n’ Roll, this is one of the songs that they’re talking about. A song built on a foundation of Blues and Gospel that went on to be a song that helped form the foundation of Rock n’ Roll. In the video for this song, you will see the original rhythm guitarist, Brian Jones playing the opening notes. By the time “Let It Bleed” was produced, Jones was close to being fired because of drug problems he was experiencing. He would actually end up drowning in a swimming pool not long after this video was shot. *(Jones was replaced by a man named Mick Taylor who, in turn, was replaced by Ron Woods). On a different note, my girls have only heard the name “Jagger” in reference to the Maroon Five song, “Moves Like Jagger” that was a hit a few years ago. In this video, you will see Jagger with his real moves on display. A cock-sure rooster strutting around his stage, interacting with the audience in ways rarely seen today. The whole video captures The Stones at the height of their creative power during the second phase of their career. It is musical history. It is Rock n’Roll as it was meant to be. It is The Rolling Stones! Enjoy.

The link to the music video for You Can’t Always Get What You Want by The Rolling Stones can be found here.

The Rolling Stones have an extensive website that can be reached by clicking on the link here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP for providing the inspiration for this post. A link to their great website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP-Song #461…Love Shack by The B-52s.

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 #461: Love Shack by the B52s.

The B52s are from Athens, Georgia (the same hometown that gave rise to R.E.M., as well). The band consists of singers Fred Schneider, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson, Ricky Wilson on guitar and Keith Strickland on drums and keyboards. *(Ricky Wilson has since passed away). The band had several minor hits such as, “Roam”, “My Private Idaho” and “Planet Claire” but, they are best known for their two monster hits, “Rock Lobster” and this song, “Love Shack”.

“Love Shack” was released in 1989 from an album called, “Cosmic Thing”. It became a #1 hit all over the world for the band and earned them a Gold record in the process. There is no hidden meaning nor symbolism behind the lyrics of the song. It is a party song. It is set in a small cabin, reminiscent of one owned and enjoyed by singer, Kate Pierson, as she grew up. When the songs closes with Pierson exclaiming, “Tin roof….rusted!”, she is referring to this cabin which had a rusty tin roof on top and so many fun times held within.

“Love Shack” is a song that is loved and enjoyed by all manner of music lover. It certainly is well-loved in our house. It was even performed at a school concert at the girl’s elementary school one year! Part of the appeal of this song is that it is fun and light and describes cherished times with friends and family that we all enjoy. A good house party is a wonderful thing. Hopefully, we will be able to safely enjoy that again, sooner than later. When that time does come….and it will…..I will happily provide the tunes!

The link to the music video for Love Shack by The B-52s can be found here.

The B-52s have a fun website that you can reach by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP for inspiring the writing of this post. A link to their great website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP-Song #462…Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane.

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 #462: Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane.

I was still in diapers when Jefferson Airplane formed in 1965 in San Fransisco. The band consisted of Grace Slick (vocals), Marty Balin, Paul Kantner and Jorma Kaukonen (guitars/vocals), Jack Casady (bass guitar) and Spencer Dryden (drums). Jefferson Airplane were one of the founding groups that gave rise to the West Coast Rock Movement (along with bands such as The Grateful Dead) and, in particular, the songs that made up “The Summer of Love”. Jefferson Airplane were given headlining slots at some very famous music festivals such as Woodstock, Monterey Pop Festival, as well as, the now infamous, Altamont Free Concert. They were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 1996.

The song, “Somebody to Love” was originally written by Grace Slick’s Brother-in-Law, Darby Slick. The intent of the song was to talk about Love, not as something that one hoped to find if one was lucky. But, instead, Love was something that you gave of yourself to find. It was very much in keeping with the West Coast vibe at the time of getting what you give and giving what you get. This song, along with “White Rabbit” were what really launched Jefferson Airplane as a band. Performances of “Somebody to Love” are noted for their intensity, as well as, for Grace Slick’s powerful vocals and stage presence.

As happens to many bands, Jefferson Airplane broke up several years later with Kantner, Dryden and Slick staying together to form Jefferson Starship which, many years later, ended up simply becoming, Starship. My wife, Keri MacInnes, favours this final version of the band because she likes the songs, “We Built This City”, “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now” and “Sara”. Regardless as to whether you are a fan of the original Psychedelic Rock players from Jefferson Airplane or the Pop stylings of Starship, Grace Slick, Paul Kantner and company have dedicated a lifetime toward creating and playing some of the most memorable hits in music history. The video you are about to see denotes that role in music history very well. It is their performance from the original Woodstock concert in 1969. This performance was given around 8:00 in the morning on the final day of the festival. What a way to start the day!!!! What a showstopper Grace Slick is in this video! Enjoy.

The link to the music video for Somebody to Love by Jefferson Airplane can be found here.

There is an official Jefferson Airplane website that can be reached by clicking here.

Whenever I hear this song now, all I can think about is Jim Carrey absolutely killing it in lip sync-mode during a scene from the movie, The Cable Guy. To view a true master at work, click on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire me to create this post. A link tot heir website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM-Song #463…I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt.

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.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #463: I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt.

“Cause I can’t make you love me if you don’t,

You can’t make your heart feel something it won’t.

Here in the dark, in these final hours,I will lay down my heart and I’ll feel the power

But you won’t. No, you won’t.

‘Cause I make you love me, if you don’t.”

Never has relationship wisdom been so beautifully or elegantly expressed as it is here, in this song by singer, Bonnie Raitt. Bonnie Raitt was a well-respected Blues/Folk guitarist, going on a quarter century, when she was given this song to record. Growing up, I had always heard her name mentioned whenever music industry folks talked about the best Blues players or the best female musicians but, to be honest, I could not have told you any of her songs back then.

Raitt was never commercially-successful in the first half of her career; almost falling into the category of “sought-after session player” more than successful solo artist. But then, one day, out from the darkness that came from a domestic assault court case, a moment happened that ended up changing Bonnie Raitt’s life. A man was charged with shooting up his ex-girlfriend’s car. When asked about what lessons he could draw from going to jail as a result of losing his temper, the man replied that, “Well, I guess, you can’t get a woman to love ya if she don’t.” I am not sure how the domestic assault case ended up…….I hope the lady was ok…..many aren’t, we all know. But, the line that was uttered by this man struck songwriters, Mike Reid and Alan Shamblin as providing them with an opportunity to write about the dissolution of a relationship that is handled in a safer and more mature way.

The song that they wrote was, “I Can’t Make You Love Me”. They gave it to Raitt, who recorded it and subsequently, released it on her album, “Luck of the Draw”. Bruce Hornsby, who many of you may know, plays the gorgeous piano notes that help to complete this song. “Luck of the Draw” elevated Bonnie Raitt into the stratosphere of recording artists. Since then, Raitt has won ten Grammy Awards, sold over ten million albums and was elected to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.

But, Raitt’s level of success isn’t only measured in album sales and Gold record awards. Over the entire course of her career, Raitt has been active in all manner of political and humanitarian causes; everything from the anti-nuclear movement, to pro-environmental groups, to promoting the Arts in schools and volunteering to participate in a variety of benefit concerts and fundraising endeavours for fellow musicians who might be down on their luck. One of the things that Raitt is most proud of is her on-going recovery from drug and alcohol addiction. In the early phases of her career, Raitt bought into the idea that experiencing altered states of reality was necessary to achieving a higher level of creativity. But, she later became inspired to clean herself up and adopt a more sober and healthy lifestyle after watching the legend, Stevie Ray Vaughn kick his own addictions and, in Raitt’s words, “Play even better than before”. Raitt has maintained her health for the past two decades and willingly offers counsel to any person/artist who may look to her as an inspiration the way she once did for Stevie Ray Vaughn.

“I Can’t Make You Love Me” is one of those songs that is held up as the gold standard when it comes to ballads. It has been covered by superstars like George Michael and Adele and has been used to test the creative chops of aspiring singers on shows like American Idol and Rockstar INXS. But, no one quite matches the artistry of Bonnie Raitt. As painful as the realizations are that are being expressed in this song, “I Can’t Make You Love Me” stands as one of the most beautiful sounding songs of all time. A gift to all of us from a lady who has accrued a lifetime of wisdom of her own from a career as vast and respected as anyone to ever stand upon a stage and sing. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for I Can’t Make You Love Me by Bonnie Raitt can be found here.

Bonnie Raitt’s excellent website can be reached by clicking on the link here.

Domestic Abuse is no joke. Far too many people (mostly women) have had their lives forever altered because of the violent nature of the partners they are living with. To help those who find themselves as victims of domestic violence, there are various organizations, locally and nationally, that are available to help. The website for an agency near where I live in Cobourg, Ontario, can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM-Song #464…Seven-Nation Army by The White Stripes.

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.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #464: Seven Nation Army by The White Stripes.

For as long as musicians have been arranging notes to create music, they have done so with the reaction of their audience/listeners in mind. For example, if a performer wants to bring energy to a song, they may play harder and faster. If they want something more atmospheric, maybe they will slow things down, add some romantic violins and so on. As consumers of music, we often like the artists we do because of the way their music makes us feel. This relationship….this partnership….between performer and audience is often quite out in the open and obvious and welcome. But, what if it not so obvious why we react to a song as we do? What if there is something so visceral and primal embedded within the structure of a song that we are unaware of how our emotions are being manipulated? That is the subject of today’s song, “Seven Nation Army” by The White Stripes.

Released in 2003, “Seven Nation Army” is unique among songs that have reached #1 on the charts. For starters, this song has no chorus. Secondly, the opening guitar notes sound deep like they are made by the thick strings of a bass guitar. Those notes are not made by a bass guitar. Finally, aside from the opening two lines, the lyrical story told by this song has absolutely zero impact on audience reaction. “Seven Nation Army” is a song that is built with a structure laden with psychological tricks that have transformed a story about the price of fame into a modern day battle anthem known the world over. Let’s dissect the opening of the song to see how this effect was achieved.

The White Stripes are comprised of singer/guitarist, Jack White and his sister, Meg, on drums. When “Seven Nation Army” begins, it opens with Jack playing seven distinct notes on his guitar. The sequence of these notes repeats several times. Each note played increases by one up the musical scale. So, you have this repetition of seven rising notes played, again and again. As an experiment in your home, if you were to say the word, “Oh!” seven times in a row, raising the octave level by one each time, you would see that the effect is to create an anticipatory sense of urgency. So, as Jack White plays these guitar notes he, then, starts to stomp his foot to establish a beat. Then, Meg White begins to echo that beat on her drum. If you know much about Indigenous culture then, you will know that a drum beat is often symbolic of a heartbeat. Psychologically, your mind tells you that something urgent is about to happen, you have been drawn in, emotionally, because of the drum/heart beats and then, Jack white lets everyone know what this is all about by uttering the opening two lines….”I’m gonna fight ’em all! A seven-nation army couldn’t hold me back!”

We have been primed by this song to fight so, let he battle begin. It is little wonder that “Seven Nation Army” appeals to the gladiator within an audience. This song has long-ceased to be a simple song on the radio. It has taken on a life of its own and is now a staple at sporting events around the world. It is a song used to introduce combatants and to pump up supporters. It is a battle anthem built upon a structure of psychological tricks designed to illicit a primal response. It works well. Audiences love it and happily play along, even if they don’t always know why.

I am including four (!) videos for this post. The first one is the official video for this song. This video is yet another example of the ingenious/nefarious nature of “Seven Nation Army”. While the song, itself, induces a willingness to engage in battle, this video induces motion sickness in many who view it. The perpetual-motion element of the video makes it difficult to concentrate and serves to disorient you as you watch. Like the song, the video manipulates your senses and causes a visceral reaction. This video won the award for “Video of the Year” because of the unique and original construction. I would encourage you to watch as much of the video as you can manage. But, at the same time, YOU HAVE BEEN WARNED!!!! Viewer discretion advised.

I will explain the other three videos in the comments section below. But, please check them out. They each bring something different that will help you understand and appreciate what makes “Seven Nation Army” so special. As songs go on this list of the 500 greatest of all time, “Seven Nation Army” holds a unique place. It is a song rarely, fully sung by audiences yet one that everyone loves to sing to when it starts. It is a song that possesses a simple, repetitive structure yet, the song structure is unique among a majority of hit songs. It is a song better suited for combat octagons and sporting arenas than concert stages. It is a song with an opening riff as recognizable as legendary songs like, “Satisfaction” by The Rolling Stones but yet, a riff that is now used to teach children how to play the guitar in the same way that “Smoke on the Water” by Deep Purple is used for the same purpose. It is a song about the price of fame that has made The White Stripes famous. It is “Seven Nation Army”. Try not to enjoy. I dare ya.

The link to the official music video for Seven-Nation Army by The White Stripes can be found here.

The link to The Whites Stripes website can be found here.

***Bonus video #1:

Seven Nation Army used as a motivational chant at a US College football game. This is an example of the group frenzy that the song inspires and, also, the fact that it is a song rarely, fully sung by those who sing it. In this case, the crowd ignores the lyrics being played and, instead, get lost in the repetitive structure of the opening riff. The link to this video can be found here.

***Bonus video #2:

Jack White dissects the opening riff for fellow guitar legends, Jimmy Page (from Led Zeppelin) and The Edge (from U2). I have always liked it when craftsmen share the tricks of their trade. In this case, what I want you to look for is how visually easy it is to see the rising octaves of the seven opening notes. As each man plays the riff, you will see their hand slide up the neck of the guitar in complete relation to each note of the riff. The link to this video can be found here.

***Bonus Video #3:

Homer Simpson plays “Seven Nation Army”. A guitar shop staple now. The link for this video can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP-Song #465…I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown.

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 #465: I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown.

Ladies and Gentlemen! I am proud and honoured to introduce to you today, a man who was part of the very first group of musicians ever inducted to The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame! A man who has won so many awards and received so many honours over the course of his life that he needs a museum to display them all! A musical innovator! A showman extraordinaire! The hardest working man in show business! The King of Funk and the Godfather of Soul, Himself! Put your hands together for the incomparable, Mr. James Brown!!!!!

Simply put, James Brown was one of the most legendary performers of all time. He was named the #1 R. & B. artist of all time! He has won individual Grammy awards, as well as, a Lifetime Achievement Grammy Award, too. He has had statues erected in his honour and bridges and streets named in his memory. His shows contained all of the glitz and the glamour of any Vegas-style revue. He performed for hours, to the point of exhaustion many nights. He was known for his throaty, passionate singing style and his electric dance moves. His band and his back up singers were always dancing to choreographed routines, too. Showmanship, flawless execution on stage and boundless energy were always characteristics of a James Brown show.

Off stage, his legacy is more complicated. He was known for his philanthropy, as well as, his sense of civic responsibility. One classic story that is told about James Brown is how he gave a free, multi-hour concert in Boston the day after Martin Luther King was assassinated in order to help channel all of the outrage and shock of the Black Community in a way that was more positive and less violent. But, as powerful a creative force as he was, James Brown, also had a temper. He was a strict taskmaster when it came to his band and singers…fining them for poorly executed dance moves on stage or for failing to have their shoes shined properly. He was arrested numerous times for domestic abuse, too.

So, as you listen to today’s song, do so with an appreciation for the talent of this man. He helped bring Soul and R&B music into the mainstream of popular culture and, as well, he was the driving force behind the introduction of Funk as a musical style. But, as well, listen to this song with the knowledge that he was a flawed man, on a personal level, too. His abuse victims deserve that much from all of us.

“I Got You (I Feel Good)” was a number #1 hit when it was released and remains a signature song of his to this day. Even my beautiful wife, Keri has been known to bop around our home singing throatily, “I feeeeeeel good…na-na, na-na, na-na, na…I knew that I would now…na-na, na-na, na-na, na”. Sing along if ya wanna. I hope that it makes you feel good, too.

The music video for I Got You (I Feel Good) by James Brown can be found here.

The link to the James Brown website can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for helping to inspire the writing of this post. The link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP-Song #466…Grace by Jeff Buckley.

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 #466: Grace by Jeff Buckley.

If you know of Jeff Buckley at all then, you will know why we are here today.

In 1994, Jeff Buckley released his debut album called, “Grace”. He and his band toured for a year and half in support of this record. One hot summer night, he went for a night swim in a shipping canal near where he was playing. A passing tugboat’s wake pulled him under and he drowned. He had not consumed any drugs nor alcohol. His death was not a suicide. His death was simply an accident…a misadventure, as it were. And, just like that, Jeff Buckley’s light was extinguished. What is left to remember him by is that one album, along with the video recordings of him singing those songs. Oh yes, that, and the unfathomable sense of loss for what might have been if he had lived.

Jeff Buckley is most known for his singing voice, which many have described as “angelic”. He had a multi-octave range that few possess. The sounds he produced will be the first thing you notice when you hear his songs. His voice was an instrument, every bit as integral to his musical arrangements as any guitar, piano or drum. As Jimi Hendrix was a prodigy on the electric guitar, so too was Jeff Buckley with his voice.

The great Bob Dylan referred to the album, “Grace” as being the best album of the 90s in any genre. The combination of singing, songwriting and musicianship formed a tapestry unlike anything else produced by anyone anywhere in the world at the time. David Bowie was a big fan, as were Jimmy Page and Robert Plant of Led Zeppelin. So, too, were countless other musicians who recognized Buckley’s virtuosity and countless fans who were moved by his words and sounds.

Jeff Buckley is best known for his cover of the Leonard Cohen classic, “Hallelujah”. I can give you a bit of a hint and tell you now that, as our musical countdown winds down and approaches its conclusion, you will see and hear from Jeff Buckley again. For now, we celebrate the man and his music with the title track from his only album, “Grace”. The song, “Grace”, is about the power of being loved and how that fills you with the courage needed to face your greatest fears; including, death. The performance you are about to see is noteworthy for the contrasts between the silence that opens the song, the incredible intensity of the actual song and then, again, the silence at the end when the announcer signs off of the show with barely a word of recognition for the amazing, draining spectacle that she just witnessed.

Jeff Buckley was a beautiful man and a supremely talented singer/songwriter. He is missed. But, we are all better for him having graced us with his music. Enjoy, “Grace” and have an excellent day!

The link to the music video for Grace by Jeff Buckley can be found here.

There is a website dedicated to Jeff Buckley, which can be accessed here.

Thanks to KEXP for supporting great music and for helping to inspire the writing of this post. a link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP-Song #467…Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.

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 #467: Astral Weeks by Van Morrison.

Genius is complicated.

Irish-born Van Morrison lived most of his life in the United States. While he was often regarded, socially, as being distant and curmudgeonly, he is regarded, musically, as being a songwriter gifted with extraordinary insight into the human soul. Van Morrison is generally regarded as a peer to folks such as Bob Dylan when it comes to the craft of putting poetry to music. I have a great admiration for Morrison when it comes to the uniqueness of his singing voice and the integrity that he brought to bear with his choice of musical expression. He was one of those rare musicians who, after achieving a huge commercial hit with “Brown-eyed Girl”, sought to completely re-invent himself, professionally. That re-invention took the form of an album called, “Astral Weeks”. The lead track was a song called “Astral Weeks” as well.

The willingness to strip a successful career down to the studs can be made by choice or by chance. In Morrison’s case, it was a little of both. The story is that after the success of “Brown-eyed Girl”, Morrison was under pressure from record executives to create similar-sounding songs. Morrison balked at limitations being imposed upon his creative freedoms. Arguments ensued and, shortly thereafter, the head of his recording company died of a heart attack. His widow, who inherited the company, along with Morrison’s recording contract, publicly blamed the acrimony between Morrison and her husband for being the cause of his death. There were also questions about the involvement of the Mob in the record company. In any case, Morrison found himself in contractual limbo; unable to record as he wished and unwilling to record as he was being directed. So, he abandoned his career.

Van Morrison married his US girlfriend to avoid being deported by the new studio head. He settled around the Boston area and began earning money playing acoustically at coffee houses and small clubs. Soon, he partnered up with fellow musicians who were inclined toward Blues and Folk and a musical partnership was formed. Morrison started creating songs that were more poetic and philosophical. The more he played acoustically, the more liberated he began to feel and the more artistic his songs became.

At one such session, an executive from Warner Brothers Music saw his set and asked to sign him to a new contract. After many meetings and an exchange of a briefcase filled with money(!), Van Morrison was let out of his old contract and was able to start recording again….on terms acceptable to him. His first recording session resulted in the album, “Astral Weeks”.

“Astral Weeks” was released in 1968 and is widely regarded as one of the most important and influential albums of all time. It is more “concept album” than it is a collection of singles. In fact, Warner Brothers did not release even one single from the entire album. “Astral Weeks” is viewed as a complete entity, with all tracks contributing to a singular message which was that, as humans, we have worth beyond measure; individually and collectively. The song, “Astral Weeks” was recorded almost without any direction. In studio, Morrison played the full version of the song acoustically and then told the session players who had been hired to assist him, to play their instruments as they saw fit. To this day, those who sat in with Morrison claimed that his trust in their musicianship was total and filled them with a sense of freedom and of pride unlike anything else they had ever been involved with prior or since.

But, with Genius comes the complication. Many regard “Astral Weeks” as, not only being one of the great albums of all time but, that it was Morrison’s greatest work. The downside to that great achievement is living forever in its creative shadow. “Astral Weeks” was released 53 years ago! For all of those 53 years, Van Morrison (who is still alive and actively performing) has had his every musical effort compared to “Astral Weeks” and, almost always, those efforts have been found wanting. That is not to say that he hasn’t produced good work….he has. But, none have reached the creative splendour of his album, “Astral Weeks”. It is a legacy of frustration that has manifested itself in surly behaviour toward others and an increasingly extreme set of political views that cast him as an outsider, more and more.

“Astral Weeks” the album, and the song, are both unlike anything else found on this list of the 500 Top Songs of all time. It is peaceful and uplifting and satisfying in a way that is difficult to put into words. All I can really say is that if a song can give you the same feeling as the first warm sunshine of Spring when it blankets your skin then, “Astral Weeks” is it. Enjoy the experience.

The link to the music video for Astral Weeks by Van Morrison can be found here.

Van Morrison’s website can be accessed by the link found here.

Thanks to KEXP for providing the inspiration necessary to create my own list of 500 great songs and, more specifically, the words for this post. A link to their terrific website can be found here.