The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM- Song #416… Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.

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 #416: Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey.

Journey has had an enormously successful career as a band. Beginning in the late 1970s and continuing on through the late 1980s, Journey reigned as one of the top “arena rock” bands in the entire world. Led by vocalist, Steve Perry, lead guitarist, Neil Schon, Johnathon Cain on keyboards, Ross Valory on bass and Steve Smith on drums, Journey had a string of hits such as “Wheels in the Sky”, “Open Arms”, “Lights”, “Lovin’, Touchin’ and Squeezin'”, “Any Way You Want It”, “Who’s Crying Now”, “Faithfully” and, of course, “Don’t Stop Believin'”. Journey have sold over 80 million albums worldwide and have had 19 Top-40 hits but, surprisingly enough, they have never had a #1 hit on the Billboard charts, making them the second most successful band in history never to have had a #1 song. *(Electric Light Orchestra had 20 Top-40 hits without a #1 hit, to claim that dubious honour).

The story of Journey and, in particular, the song, “Don’t Stop Believing”, is one of the more amazing tales, statistically-speaking, in all of Modern Music history. “Don’t Stop Believin'” was released in 1981 and came from an album called, “Escape”. The song reached #9 on the US BIllboard charts. However, it still managed to sell enough to be certified at 5-times Platinum, making it one of the top #100 most successful songs, in terms of sales, of all-time. Sung with passion by Steve Perry, arguably, one of the greatest male vocalists in rock history, “Don’t Stop Believin'” became a staple of all of their live shows. Its message of always believing in your dreams and never giving up, resonated with fans all over the world. In fact, the NHL’s Detroit Red Wings used the song as a “hype song” because of the reference made to “south Detroit” in the opening verses. *Funny bit of trivia about that, though, there is no region of Detroit known as “south Detroit”. Geographically-speaking, south of Detroit is Windsor, Ontario, Canada. When asked about this discrepancy, Steve Perry said that “south” just sounded better, lyrically, than any of the other directions so, the band went with it. A further note of interest is in the actual construction of the song. Most rock/pop songs follow a familiar structure of verse/chorus, verse/chorus…repeat. “Don’t Stop Believin'” abandons this format and refrains from adding the chorus until the very end of the song. Perry says that the band took pride in being storytellers when it came to their songs. In the case of “Don’t Stop Believin'”, Perry says the idea for the portraits he painted with his lyrics came from watching people leaving a Journey concert one night and wondering what some of their personal stories were. So, he decided to write the song to describe just that. If you listen to the lyrics carefully and imagine a crowd leaving an arena after a show, you can get a good idea of what Perry saw in his mind when he penned the song.

Like most popular songs, “Don’t Stop Believin'” had its moment and then, disappeared from the charts, as newer songs took its place. If that had been the end of the story for this song, it still would have been a success for the band. However, “Don’t Stop Believin'” holds a unique record of being the most downloaded song in the history of iTunes streaming service. What caused this 80s rock song to become so popular in the decade of 2010 is its appearance in two iconic TV shows.

(1) First of all, “Don’t Stop Believin'” was the very first song featured in the popular show, “Glee”. For those who may have never watched it, “Glee” was a show about a Highschool Glee club. Each episode, they focussed on a song that reflected on the story arc of that particular episode. For the debut episode, the kids on “Glee” sang a song about holding on to their dreams and never giving up. Their version of “Don’t Stop Believin'” introduced the song to an entirely new generation of fans. Their live performance of this 80s hit was, also, nominated for a Grammy award for Best Live Performance by a Duo or Group.

(2) But, in case “Glee” wasn’t enough, “Don’t Stop Believin'” cemented its place in popular culture by being featured in the closing scene of one of the biggest tv series of all time, “The Sopranos”. Journey’s 1981 hit became the soundtrack to one of the most memorable and controversial closing scenes in television history. Many scholarly articles have been written about that scene (when the screen suddenly goes black in mid-conversation during a family dinner in a diner), with many scholars crediting “Don’t Stop Believin'” with offering the clue to the moral underpinning of mob boss, Tony Sopranos’ philosophy on life.

When the members of Journey originally recorded, “Don’t Stop Believin'” back in 1981, I am sure they thought that the song stood a reasonable chance of being a hit. But, I can’t imagine that they would have guessed at the cultural relevance their song would take on a few decades later. Simply put, “Don’t Stop Believin'” is one of the most popular and recognizable songs ever! Full stop! End of discussion. I will post Journey’s version below, the “Glee” version of the song, “The Sopranos” closing scene and, finally, one of those scholarly articles/podcasts about that scene (which will include a section about the song and its importance to the entire series). So, get ready to go down a rabbit hole today! Enjoy.

The link to the live music video for Don’t Stop Believin’ by Journey can be found here.

The link to the music video for Don’t Stop Believin’ as aired on the TV show, Glee, can be found here.

The link to the closing scene of “The Sopranos” TV series, featuring Don’t Stop Believin’ can be found here.

The link to the podcast that discusses “The Sopranos” and includes a discussion on the importance of Don’t Stop Believin’ to the show, can be found here.

The link to the official Journey website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #417…Strange Fruit by Billie Holliday.

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 #417: Strange Fruit by BIllie Holliday.

“Strange Fruit” is one of the oldest songs in this entire list of 500 songs! It was recorded and released prior to World War II. Billie Holiday gained fame from her show stopping rendition of “Strange Fruit” but, originally, the song was written and released by a Jewish writer named Abel Meeropol, who wrote the lyrics and arranged the music, while his wife, Laura Duncan, sang the song. Together, Meeropol and Duncan sang, “Strange Fruit” as a protest song, in various New York City venues, including Madison Square Gaden. It was at one of these NYC nightspots that Billie Holliday was introduced to the song. She recorded it not long thereafter and it became a staple of her live shows.

However, all is not peachy, when it comes to “Strange Fruit”. First of all, the song describes the horrific sight of black men being lynched in the southern US; specifically, a highly-publicized news photo of the lynching of two men named Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith. A song about racial injustice is controversial in our modern times, let alone, half a century ago. So, when Billie Holliday stated that she wanted to record it, her record company (Columbia) refused to allow her to do so. They feared a public backlash; especially, from record buyers in the south. Holliday turned to her usual record produced, John Hammond but, he refused to touch the song, either. Finally, after performing the song, acapella, for numerous other producers and record label executives, a man named Milt Gabler at Commodore Records agreed to record the song. Holliday was granted a one-song release from her contract at Columbia (who wanted nothing to do with the song) and Holliday finally recorded, “Strange Fruit”.

“Strange Fruit” is such a powerful song, sung in such a powerful way, that Holliday didn’t think it fair for another song to have to follow it when she performed live. So, “Strange Fruit” always closed her shows. When she sang it, which was often in nightclubs or supper clubs, she had a strict rule that the house lights had to all be shut off, all table service by waiters and waitresses had to pause and that the only thing going on was to be a spotlight shining on her as she sang. Suffice to say, the effect was very moving and served to highlight the solemnity of the subject matter of “Strange Fruit”. Time Magazine has listed “Strange Fruit” as the most important song of the entire 20th Century. The song has been inducted into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and the US Library of Congress for its contribution to the cultural fabric of the US.

“Strange Fruit” depicts a sad chapter in US History; one that continues to be an issue, even to this day. I would encourage you to “enjoy”, as I close out this post but, that would be wrong. Instead, I offer this song in tribute to those who have suffered at the hands of racial violence and injustice in the past and to those who continue to be affected today.

The link to the music video for Strange Fruit can be found here.

A website dedicated to maintaining the legacy of Billie Holliday can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP for supporting important music. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #418…Green Onions by Booker T. and the MGs.

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 #418: Green Onions by Booker T. and the MGs.

Some songs tell a big story and some songs are fairly straight-forward. “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MGs falls into the latter category. It is an instrumental song that arose out of jam sessions held back in 1962. The song was released, originally, as a B-side to a single called, “Behave Yourself” but, was quickly made into a single of its own once word-of-mouth spread about how much folks liked “Green Onions”.

Booker T. and the MGs consist of Booker T. Jones on keyboards, Lewie Steinberg on bass guitar and Steve Cropper on lead guitar. Once “Green Onions” was officially released as a single, it made it to #1 on the R & B/Soul charts for four weeks! The song is in the Song Category of The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame and has been placed in the US Library of Congress because of its contribution to the cultural fabric of the United States. “Green Onions” is among the most popular selling instrumental tracks of all time.

The title for the song came from a desire on the part of the band for something “funky” and “nasty”. Some people think the band was making a marijuana reference but, really, they all claim that rotting green onions were as funked-up a situation as they could imagine so, they decided to title their song as such. Funky, it is! I am sure “Green Onions” by Booker T. and the MGs will have your toes a-tapping as you go through your day. Enjoy!

The link to the music video for Green Onions by Booker T. and the MGs can be found here.

Booker T. and the MGs have a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP 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 #419 …This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by The Talking Heads.

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 #419: This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) by The Talking Heads.

The Talking Heads were formed in the mid-1970s and enjoyed much success in the decade or so that followed. The group consisted of charismatic front man, David Byrne, along with Tina Weymouth (bass guitar), Jerry Harrison (lead guitar) and Chris Frantz (drums). Much is made of the fact that these four folks were Art School students. This is a thing because of the way they approached their music; often juxtaposing imagery into their lyrics that helped give deeper meaning to their songs. As well, The Talking Heads were well known for playing around with the lyrical structures of their songs, as well as, the timing of the beats they used. If I dare say, there was an intelligence at work that can be seen in the string of musical gems they produced during their prime. They had hits such as, “Burning Down the House”, “Girlfiriend is Better”, “Life During Wartime”, “Psycho Killer” and “Once in a Lifetime”. In fact, “Psycho Killer”, “Life During Wartime and “Once in a LIfetime” are all inducted into the Song Category of The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” is from one of their most popular albums called, “Speaking in Tongues”. David Byrne states that this song is a love song. It certainly will give you that feeling when you listen to it. But, Byrne claims to have not wanted to write a love song that sounded like any other love song being played on the radio at the time. So, he created a sort of “inside joke” by writing a love song composed entirely of non-sequiturs. A non-sequitur is a writing convention in which two sentences follow each other in ways that make no sense. For example, if you and I were talking and you started by saying, “Nice weather we’re having today” and I answered with, “Please hold my hand”, you would have non-sequiturs in action. So, the genius of this song is that the entire set of lyrics are comprised of line after line that make no sense in relation to the line that preceded it YET, the song makes sense, overall, AND, the song sounds like a love song, all at the same time.

“This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody)” is quite an enjoyable sounding song and quite the feat of linguistic dexterity. In addition to the lyrical gymnastics employed by Byrne, the (Naive Melody) part involves the opening few notes and tones that you hear before the first verse starts. Byrne wanted to de-construct the musical structure of what songs could be. In this case, he created an ultra simplistic ostinato, in which the guitar and bass repeat over the course of the entire song without change. So, in essence, The Talking Heads created a new version of how a hit song could be by writing non-sensical lyrics over a simple, repetitive musical structure but, yet, creating a song that sounds wonderful and will have you humming along and tapping your toes.

If your ever wanted to see The Talking Heads at the peak of their creative powers, they released a full-length concert film called, “Stop Making Sense” that was directed by famed Hollywood director, Jonathon Demme. The point of that title was, in fact, the philosophy of the band. They believed in not having to adhere to convention but rather, re-inventing the way Music had been played and, by doing so, creating something new and different that still sounded fresh and exciting and enjoyable. They weren’t an experimental band that produce ambient screeching and called it Art. The Talking Heads were innovative musicians and hitmakers who produced some of the most memorable songs of all time. *In fact, as I watch the video for this song and, in particular, the way Byrne interacts with the lamp, in combination with the non-sensical nature of the lyrics, I am reminded of Gord Downie (of Canada’s own, “The Tragically Hip”) and how he moved about the stage, often improvising but, always exiting and re-entering his original songs perfectly. So, please enjoy, “This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody).

Enjoy your next meal. These are the times of our lives.

The link to the music video for This Must Be The Place by The Talking Heads can be found here.

The Talking Heads have an interesting website that you can check out by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP for supporting musical artists who create original works for our endless astonishment. A link to their website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #420 …Louie Louie by The Kingsmen.

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 #420: Louie Louie by The Kingsmen.

“Louie Louie” is a song about a sailor about to arrive in port at Jamaica. He has been at sea for awhile and is longing to reunite with his girl. There is not much more to the song than that. As songs on this list of the 500 Greatest of all time, “Louie Louie” is, arguably, the simplest in construction and lyrical content. Yet, it is beloved! When the history of classic rock is written, “Louie Louie” makes the playlist every time. It was a #1 hit for a band called The Kingsmen. In fact, it was their only hit. But, what a hit! The song was originally written by a man named Richard Berry in the 1950s. It was recorded and released by several bands prior to The Kingsmen in 1963. But, their version seemed to come along at exactly the right time. The combination of infectious beats and simple, catchy chorus, caught the imagination of young Americans who were just falling in love with this new form of music called Rock n’ Roll. “Louie Louie” has been selected for induction into the Song Category of The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame.

However, for such a simple song, “Louie Louie” has an interesting history that is told in two separate-but-connected parts. First of all, we have the chicken and egg phenomenon of where this song is most popular. “Louie Louie” has become most loved as a party song. Not a birthday party song for your child or a romantic anniversary party song to be danced to with your beloved. No, “Louie Louie” is a party song most often played at University Frat house parties and at bars with sticky floors, where sweat-soaked bodies press against each other in a state of drunkenness and debauchery. There is just something memorable about belting “Louie Louie” aloud with a group of others bonded in the type of camaraderie that comes with being boozehounds together. In 1978, the movie, “Animal House” was released. In a famous/infamous scene, John Belushi and the members of his fraternity drunkenly party to “Louie Louie” while wearing togas. I suspect that “Animal House” tapped into a Frathouse scene in America that already existed but, whatever the case, AFTER the movie premiered, “Louie Louie” took on a second life, as did, toga parties!

In a related twist, “Louie Louie” was one of the first songs ever investigated by the FBI on obscenity charges. Apparently, there is an x-rated version of the lyrics that are often sung at Frat house keggers. If you replace each “Louie” with the words, “Screw ya!”, you can kind of let your imagination take it from there. Anyway, a formal complaint was filed with the FBI about the underground lyrics to the song and the dangerous atmosphere that they caused for women at these parties. The FBI investigated and determined that there was no basis for charges to be laid against The Kingsmen or the original writer of the song, Richard Berry.

I am going to include three different videos for this song. First off, I have a video of The Kingsmen performing at an real Frat party where everyone is actually wearing togas. It is amazing to watch the scene. Such a hedonistic scene! Secondly, I will post the “Louie Louie” scene from Animal House. Finally, this song has been covered by anyone and everyone who plays classic rock so, I will show a Tom Petty take on “Louie Louie”. The reason I chose Petty is that he is really the only one who enunciates the lyrics clearly enough for you to understand them. The Kingsmen are all slurred words and mumbles, except, of course, for the chorus which is all most people really know. So, without further delay, strap on your beer bongs and put on your coolest toga because here are The Kingsmen with their only hit, “Louie Louie”. Enjoy, Party People!

The link to the music video for Louie Louie by The Kingsmen can be found here.

The link to the video for the Louie Louie scene from the movie Animal House can be found here.

The link to the music video for Louie Louie by Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers can be found here.

The Kingsmen have a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers have a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP 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 #421 …Party Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force.

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 #421: Party Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force.

Afrika Bambaataa forms one third of Hip Hop’s holy trinity, along with DJ Kool Herc and Grandmaster Flash. He is respectfully called “The Godfather of Hip Hop”. He is responsible for helping to unify the various forms of Hip Hop that were taking place all over the US in the early 1970s. I should be clear, off of the top, that rapping is the song stylings and Hip Hop is more the overall culture of the movement. Under Afrika Bambaataa’s leadership, dance and rap and electro music and funk and disco and soul all found a home in the world of Hip Hop. Because of the work he did, you can draw a direct line of influence from him to Run-DMC, to Public Enemy and N.W.A. and onward to rappers like Snoop Dogg and Eminem and, in more recent times, to Kendrick Lamar.

The song, “Party Rock” was so different at the time of its release that music critics didn’t know how to classify it. When you hear it, you will detect a hint of funk, a dash of electro dance and a whole lot of rap but, in those early, formative days, this melding of musical and cultural influences was revolutionary. If you grew up in the late 70s, as I did, I am sure that you will find some parts of “Party Rock” to be familiar to you.

If this is your introduction to Afrika Bambaataa then, get ready for a legendary, iconic figure. He is a proud black man who sought to promote his culture and unify his people through music. The video I will post is about a Lifetime Achievement Award he received at the VH1 Music Awards. It is part-History lesson/part-celebratory blow-out! After the accolades have been given and everyone says their piece, there is a large-scale performance of “Party Rock” that concludes the tribute to Bambaataa. As you watch this video, you can feel the respect that he is accorded and get a small sense of how revered he is in Hip Hop circles. I will, also, post the original, “official” video of the song (It is a very interesting slice-of-life video as it really captures that moment in time when Hip Hop was being born). So people, get ready! “Party Rock” is in the house! Enjoy!

The link to the music video for Party Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force can be found here.

The link to the “official” music video for Party Rock by Afrika Bambaataa and Soulsonic Force can be found here.

Thanks to KEXP for always supporting important and innovative music. A link to their wonderful website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KEXP- Song #422 …I Am the Resurrection by Stone Roses.

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 #422: I Am The Resurrection by Stone Roses.

The Stone Roses are from Manchester, England. They burst on to the UK music scene in the late 1980s, just after The Smiths, The Happy Mondays had established themselves. The Stone Roses were hailed as “The Next Big Thing” at the time. Their self-titled debut album contained their biggest hit, “I Wanna Be Adored”, along with “She Bangs The Drum” and “I Am The Resurrection”. The band consisted of Ian Brown on vocals, John Squire (lead guitar), Mani (bass guitar) and Reni (drums).

This particular song, “I Am The Resurrection” reads like a break-up song, in which the male sings of having enjoyed the relationship but now, being happy to be past it. However, most people feel that the message of the song is either about one, of two, things:

1- Ian Smith was a vocal critic of organized religion and, in particular, what he believed was the hypocrisy that lay at its core. Smith’s issues with organized religion were myriad and included topics such as The Catholic Church preaching about abstinence when pedophilia was rampant among priests or, that Christianity held up Jesus as an example of the humble lifestyle parishioners should follow, all the while building ornate cathedrals for themselves. Lines from the song such as,

“Turn, Turn, I’d wish you’d learn, there’s a time and place for everything…” are said to be a play on the song, “Turn, Turn, Turn” by The Byrds, which is famously based on a Bible verse from Ecclesiastes.

2- If I was the one making an educated guess, I am more apt to say that the song is a break-up song disguised as an homage to The Beatles. As you may know, John Lennon famously caused a media storm when he was asked about the popularity of The Beatles and he answered by saying that, in his opinion, they were more popular than Jesus and that, by extension, Christianity was in decline and that Rock n’ Roll might just end up outlasting it. The Stones Roses song, “I Am The Resurrection” picks up on that theme by denouncing Christianity and ending with Smith proclaiming that he (Rock n’ Roll) is the real resurrection and the source of everlasting life.

The song is, also, noteworthy because it plays in two parts. The first half of the song is the traditional music and lyrics combined while, the second half of the song is all instrumental. The guitar work through “I Am The Resurrection” has been hailed as one of top guitar performances in UK Music history. So, with that having been said, it is time for you to experience “The Resurrection”, Stone Roses-style! Enjoy.

The link to the music video for I Am The Resurrection by Stone Roses can be found here.

The Stone Roses have a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

Thanks to KEXP 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: KTOM- Song #423 …Stan by Eminem.

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 #423: Stan by Eminem.

“Stan” by Eminem is a controversial and difficult song…not gonna lie. In fact, calling it a song is a bit of a misnomer. “Stan” is actually a play that is told in four complete acts. Each verse is a scene or an act. Each scene builds toward a dramatic and disturbing conclusion. “Stan” is controversial because of the unflinching look given to those suffering from mental illness, as well as, how that plays out in terms of domestic violence. There are several versions of this song; each one increasingly more descriptive and graphic. The one that gets played on radio or tv is the most heavily-censored version and, even with that, “Stan” still requires listener/viewer discretion.

In the song, Eminem plays himself. Stan is a character who is a fan of Eminem. As many of you know, the term “fan” is drawn from the word, “fanatic”, which is where the inspiration for this song arose. In each of the first three verses or scenes, Stan writes letters to Eminem. In each scene, Stan seeks to give meaning to his own life by becoming increasingly obsessed over Eminem. This crosses the line into clinical obsession when Stan starts to believe that Eminem is actually part of his life and that they are friends for real. Stan tries to bring Eminem into his world via his letters to him. Unfortunately for Stan, Eminem, like many stars, doesn’t read much of his own fan mail and, as such, doesn’t even know, until it is too late, that Stan is even trying to reach him. From Stan’s perspective, he interprets Eminem’s silence as rejection. This rejection pushes Stan to commit a violent act (murder-suicide) in order to make a final statement that Eminem couldn’t possibly ignore. In the final scene, Eminem grabs several fan letters to read and finally sees one from Stan. He notes the obsessive nature of Stan’s wild claims of friendship and thinks back to a news story about the death of an obsessive fan and then, only then, does Eminem realize that the letter he is holding was from the same obsessed fan from the news and that, maybe, if he had known sooner, he could have prevented three deaths.

Disturbing content aside, for a moment….as a writer, I have to give credit to Eminem for creating a character with such an authentic “voice”. There aren’t any wasted words in these “letters” that Stan writes to Eminem. His words help us to very clearly see inside his troubled mind. Stan’s voice is distinctive and stands out in contrast to the remorsefulness of Eminem’s “own voice” in the final verse. Good dramatic scenes help paint complete portraits of their character’s lives and Eminem does that in “Stan”. As dramatic plays go, this is as tight and concise a script as can be.

Furthermore, Eminem is considered to be one of the best Hip Hop rappers in the world. If you have never listened to him rapping (because of his reputation or because you don’t like Rap) try and push past that and give this song a try. Eminem’s rapping skills are phenomenal all throughout “Stan”. His ability to enunciation crisply and to control his breath while rapping is extremely impressive. Overall, the writing and performing that is on display in “Stan” is second-to-none.

This song is widely hailed as Eminem’s second best song (after, “Lose Yourself” from the movie, “8 Mile”) and has sold millions of copies around the world. “Stan” is ranked as being one of the top Hip Hop songs of all-time. Not only that, the cultural influence of this song is such that the term, “to Stan” someone is now an accepted medical term and can be located in all major dictionaries with the definition being, “to obsessively stalk, harass and/or harm a celebrity or person with whom one seeks to have a relationship when, in fact, no real relationship actually exists.”

Because of the graphic nature of the song, “Stan” has not often been performed on live TV. But, one notable exception took place at the 2001 Grammy Awards. Prior to this show, Eminem had been criticized for the nature of some of his lyrics which, people claimed, were homophobic and misogynistic. Normally, Eminem performs “Stan” with English singer, Dido. Dido sings the bridge verses that help separate the verses dealing with Stan’s letters. But, when Eminem appeared on stage at the Grammy Awards, it wasn’t with Dido but, instead, was with Sir Elton John. Many observers wondered why Elton John (who is openly Gay) would wish to associate himself with someone like Eminem. As it turns out, Elton John and Eminem had been friends for many years and, even more, when Eminem had drug and alcohol addiction issues in his younger days, it was Elton John who acted as his AA sponsor. The two men stay in regular contact. When the controversy surrounding “Stan” began to blow up prior to the airing of The Grammys, Elton John suggested he appear in Dido’s place as moral support. When the song ends and they hug and hold hands together, they were sending a symbolic message that claims about Eminem being homophobic were unfounded. It was a powerful moment in a genre (award shows) where powerful moments don’t always happen.

“Stan” is a technically-brilliant song but, it is a song to be entered into with eyes wide open. As Eminem has said, with regard to the subject matter of many of his songs, sometimes in order to discuss difficult topics, you have to actually write difficult songs and tell difficult stories openly and honestly. “Stan” certainly accomplishes that. One of the reasons I am interested in writing these posts is that I want people to know the real stories behind the songs they like to sing and dance to. In this case, I see far too many folks joking on social media about being a “Kim Kardashian stan” or else, “stan-ing Ryan Reynolds or Chris Hemsworth”. I cringe every time I see this in print. Mental illness and domestic violence are nothing to joke about. They are awful things to experience. “Stan” depicts that sense of awfulness honestly and, as such, it depicts it brutally. Even as I warn you about “Stan”, I do encourage you to watch the Grammy performance with Elton John. The importance of that moment is palpable on screen.

The link to the music video for Stan by Eminem (featuring Sir Elton John) can be found here.

Eminem has a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM- Song #424 …People Get Ready by Curtis Mayfield.

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 #424: People Get Ready by Curtis Mayfield.

What a beautiful, powerful and inspiring song this is! An R & B classic, with its roots firmly planted in the Gospel tradition of so many Chicago Bluesfolk, “People Get Ready” tells the story of the importance of Faith when it comes to times of struggle and strife and of always believing in the purpose of one’s journey. Curtis Mayfield was the leader of a musical group called The Impressions. They were based out of Chicago. Growing up, Mayfield was a regular church-goer; consequently, sermons about the power of Faith, accompanied by the passionate singing of Gospel choirs, both became part of his musical DNA. So, it was a surprise to absolutely no one that a singer with as soulful voice as Mayfield’s would write a song such as “People Get Ready”. It is a song filled with references to “The Lord”, to a journey to a better place and to the essential pre-requisite for this journey, which is, Faith. When Curtis Mayfield sings this song, he is often accompanied by back-up singers, which helps create a church-like atmosphere, no matter where the song is being sung.

One person who was moved by Mayfield’s lyrics was another man of Faith…Dr. Martin Luther King. By the time that “People Get Ready” was released, the Civil Rights Movement was fully-engaged in Marches for Justice all over the southern U.S. Dr. King quickly saw that Mayfield’s lyrics spoke eloquently to the cause of Civil Rights; especially, as it dealt with maintaining Faith in the face of seemingly insurmountable obstacles. The violent opposition the greeted Black marchers every step of the way was such that it would have been very easy for them to have given up. “People Get Ready” was soon adopted by the Movement and used in hymn-like fashion to help stiffen the spines and steel the resolve of those seeking to integrate schools and bus transportation and restaurants and to expand voting rights and so on. When Martin Luther King was assassinated, “People Get Ready” was one of the songs played at his funeral. It is said that it was sung in the streets of Black communities throughout Chicago and across America as a way of honouring Dr. King, as well as, re-affirming that the fight for racial justice would continue. Having Faith in the purpose of one’s journey is among the most important traits person can have in their life. “People Get Ready” speaks to that as well as any song ever. The power of that message resonates, even today, as the quest for racial equality continues to play out in courtrooms and legislatures throughout the land.

One of the ways that you can judge the quality of a song is the willingness and the ability of others to try and cover it. “People Get Ready” has been covered by the likes of Al Green, Aretha Franklin, Aaron Neville, The Blind Boys of Alabama and a whole host of others, too. My first introduction to “People Get Ready” was by way of “The Tartan Terror”, Rod Stewart, who teamed up with guitarist extraordinaire, Jeff Beck back in the mid-90s. Normally, I am careful about cheering on “white” remakes of “black” songs but, there is an exception to be made in this case. If you ask any of the early rockers about their music roots, they will all state that rock n’ roll is built upon a foundation of The Blues. Both Stewart and Beck follow that line of thinking and, as a result, both have always had an affinity for Blues-based songs and musicians. Both men really liked “People Get Ready” and would perform it in their shows (always giving credit to Mayfield) but, they had never officially recorded it. That changed when Curtis Mayfield became injured during a concert. Stage lighting fell on him, injuring his back and requiring multiple surgeries and much in the way of therapy afterwards. Very quickly, Mayfield’s medical bills reached a point beyond which he was able to pay. Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck approached Mayfield and asked for his blessing to record and release their version of “People Get Ready”. Proceeds from the sale of the song went toward Mayfield’s medical expenses.

I almost hate to say it but, I think I like the cover version by Beck and Stewart better than the original by Mayfield. Rod Stewart has a deep, soulful voice and Jeff Beck’s guitar playing is gorgeous! Regardless of which version speaks to you….they are both good…..you will get to see each one. I will place the original version by Curtis Mayfield and The Impressions first and then, below it, you can find the Beck/Stewart collaboration.

“People Get Ready, there’s a train a-coming.

You don’t need no baggage, you just get on board.

All you need is Faith, to hear that diesel’s hummin’.

You don’t need a ticket. You just thank The Lord.”

Enjoy!

The link to the music video for People Get Ready by Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions can be found here.

The link to the music video for People Get Ready, as covered by Rod Stewart and Jeff Beck, can be found here.

There is a website dedicated to Curtis Mayfield and the Impressions. You can access it by clicking on the link here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: KTOM- Song #425…Waving Flag by K’naan.

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 #425: Waving Flag by K’naan.

It is time to re-visit Leah’s Top Ten list. “Waving Flag” by Somali-born poet, rapper and songwriter, K’naan, comes in at spot #9 on her list. As with most of the songs on Leah’s list, they are there because she has a personal connection with them that has meaning for her. Here is the story of “Waving Flag” and why it holds a special place in the heart of my first-loved.

K’naan grew up in Mogadishu, Somalia. His father had emigrated to the U.S. in search of a better life for his family. So, K’naan spent most of his formative years under the guardianship of his Grandmother, who was a poet and activist in Somalia. Music and language filled his youth and gave him a firm foundation upon which to begin building his own collection of poems and songs. Eventually, Somalia descended into civil war and it became too dangerous to stay so, K’naan and his family joined his father in New York. After six months there, they moved to Toronto, where K’naan’s family settled permanently.

Like many people who find themselves in a new and strange land, K’naan didn’t really know English that well. One of the ways he learned the language was by listening to/singing back the words to Hip Hop songs by US Rappers such as Rakim, Run-DMC and Public Enemy, along with Canadian Hip Hop stars such as Maestro Fresh Wes and Dream Warriors. In time, K’naan moved beyond repeating English words by rote memory and soon developed his own vocabulary. Once armed with a personal arsenal of words, K’naan began writing his own English-language poems and songs. The most popular and successful of these was “Waving Flag”.

“Waving Flag” is a song about not giving up in the face of struggle and adversity. The song talks about K’naan’s own experiences in Somalia and as a new immigrant to Canada but, he also references several historical struggles that people of colour have faced by using terms such as “Buffalo soldiers”. In the end, the song concludes with an acknowledgement that much work remains to be done in order to achieve racial equality but, that he is going to keep on fighting for justice and will never give up.

K’naan rocketed to Fame as a result of “Waving Flag”. He won several Juno Awards in Canada. He was chosen to speak at the United Nations General Assembly on matters of social justice (after having been seen by Senegalese singer/activist and Peter Gabriel collaborator, Youssou N’Dour). “Waving Flag” was chosen as one of the theme songs for the FIFA World Cup in South Africa. K’naan was, also, named as an ambassador for the WE-movement in Canada (*when that was still viewed as an inspiring organization for children). “Waving Flag” became a song with global reach. Its’ message inspired young and old, from all around the world.

One of those who were inspired by this song was my Leah. She was still in elementary school when “Waving Flag” was a thing. Because of the empowering message contained in the song and because of the positive and generous nature of K’naan’s personality, Leah opted to do something that I have tremendous respect for, she volunteered to sing this song…..solo…..on stage at her school’s Spring Talent show. I have always been very proud of Leah. She has many strengths and skills to draw from as she grows up into adulthood. But, if we were being honest, being a singer, as well as, being in the public spotlight in such a raw and naked way, is well beyond her comfort zone. But, there she stood, alone on a stage, in front of a Gym filled to capacity, singing K’naan’s words to the world. As it tuned out, her star-turn stands out as one of the defining moments of her young life to date.

Life is easy when we only make safe and comfortable choices. True growth happens when we push at the boundaries of our existence; whether it is leaving a war zone and coming to a new country (like K’naan) or, whether it is standing alone on a stage for the first time and singing for all the world to hear, (like Leah did).Unfortunately, I do not have a video of Leah’s performance but, I do have a video of K’naan at a WE-Day event. It that video, you can see the positivity pour out of him as he sings for the children in attendance. His story is one of Hope and of Inspiration. Thanks, Leah, for making such a good song choice. Here is “Waving Flag” at WE-Day. Enjoy.

The link to the music video for Waving Flag by K’naan can be found here.

K’naan has a website that can be accessed by clicking on the link here.