KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Honourable mention Song #24: Have Not Been the Same by Slow (as Chosen for Ian Jack).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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 final Honourable Mention song.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Honourable Mention Song #24: Have Not Been The Same by Slow (as Chosen for Ian Jack).

So, you are out and about, driving merrily along, when you happen to pass a local church hall or community centre with a sign out front that says something like, “Ladies Auxiliary Bake Sale Today!!!”…..what do you do? Well, if you are like me, you safely apply your brakes, pull into their parking lot and head on inside. Why? Because one of the truisms of my life so far is that anywhere little white-haired Grandmothers are making meals or baking pies, there is bound to be good eating going on inside! So, in I go. Always. Every time.

Ironically enough, I drive by fast food and chain restaurants every day without getting the same feeling. It is not like simply having access to food is my motivating factor. What it is, really, is having access to a certain kind of food that is lovingly made, by the very people whose name is on the sign out front. For the most part, community groups and, by extension, most “Mom and Pop”-type food stores, put a lot into the food they serve because their food represents who they are, as real people. That isn’t the same as it is for minimum wage earners who ask if you want fries with your burger. For them, the experience of preparing food for others is a job….a way to make the money needed to live the lives they seek to live. It is not an experience that is often filled with passion and pride, as if the server’s reputation is connected with the assembly-line burgers being kept warm under heat lamps. No, for me, home-made is best. And, if I can find that home-made taste experience, out in the real world, that is where I will spend my money every time.

The same rule applies to my taste in music. I have never been an off-the-rack Pop follower. Over the course of this countdown, I have noticed trends in how many of you respond to the songs I post. Most of you are consistently willing to “Like” or “Love” almost anything I write but, some of the songs I like the most….Radiohead, Bjork, Kate Bush, DJ Shadow, etc., have been the posts that have garnered the fewest kindhearted responses. That is not a criticism of you but more, an acknowledgement that my tastes tend to not be the same as most people’s tastes in music. For this reason, over the course of my entire music-loving life, I have had to fight to find access to the types of music that mean the most to me. Like the grey-haired ladies making pies in the church hall, I tend to gravitate toward music that doesn’t follow formulas and isn’t being made with commercial considerations at the forefront of the creative process. I guess you could say, I tend to be drawn to Alternative and Indie music most of all. That is not everyone’s cup of tea but, it works for me. So, this post, more than anything else, is about how I have found the music that has held the most meaning in my life and why it hasn’t been from commercial radio. It is, also, about a kindred spirit that I didn’t really even know that I had until doing this project…..Mr. Ian Jack, for whom this post is dedicated.

One of the hobby horses I have ridden for awhile is that commercial radio bugs me. What it is that bugs me exactly is how most commercial radio stations are more concerned with advertising and marketing than they are about the Art of making music. One of the ways you can tell this is by their lack of involvement in the local Arts scene in the communities in which they broadcast. The second thing is by how they allocate their advertising and promotional dollars toward artists who just happen to be touring in the area and/or have just released new work that is in need of promotion. In my own experience working in radio for the short time that I did, commercial radio operates on a continuous cycle of promoting the same popular acts, over and over again, ad nauseam. To me, commercial radio is like Walmart or McDonalds…..sure, I can get things that are useful there but, it is not really the quality of the experience I am really looking for. So, I have had to find ways to find artists and bands who create, first and foremost, for the sake of the Art they are making.

I have been like this forever and, truth be told, I didn’t know I was like this until one evening, waaaaaaay back in the early 1980s, when I discovered a programme on CBC Radio that was airing all the way in the commercial dead zone of midnight. That show was called, “Brave New Waves”. It was hosted, at that time, by a lady named Augusta LaPaix. Back in those days, I used to enjoy winding down from my day by listening to music in the dark, after everyone else had gone to bed. By the time that happened, it was usually late at night. So, on one of those late nights, I happened to tune the radio dial, in search of anything interesting, headphones on, when suddenly, I heard music I had never heard before. It was jangly and fast and loud and was speaking about all sorts of things that I didn’t normally hear in the Top 40 music that I was used to listening to. It was music by bands like The Spoons, when they were just starting out….King Cobb Steelie, Eric’s Trip, Mary Margaret O’Hara and many more. Most of the artists or bands were completely unknown to me. My first time hearing them was when Augusta LaPaix decided to spin their record. Before I knew it, I was tuning in to “Brave New Waves” as often as I could manage. The logical next step in my music listening evolution was in trying to find some of the music by these artists and bands…….that is when I began to realize that commercial radio was not for me. To this day, I still cannot remember a time when I have tuned into CHUM-FM….Toronto’s big Top40 station…..and heard them play a Sloan song or The Skydiggers or Jane Siberry. It just never happens. So, I turned away from stations like that and found other sources where I could find new music, indie music, alternative music.

As I was discovering and loving “Brave New Waves”, I was, also, discovering Much Music (Canada’s version of MTV, for my American readers). In the early 1980s, Much Music had lots of air time to fill and were quite open to airing just about anything remotely appropriate by any Canadian artist or band. It was via Much Music that I discovered the Rheostatics, The Pursuit of Happiness and, even, a very young band called Barenaked Ladies, who got their big break by appearing on a CITY-TV project called “Speaker’s Corner”. Many Canadian artists and bands got their first national exposure via the VJs on Much Music and, by extension, I got to hear interesting bands that way, too.

Nowadays, I tend to spend much of my time consuming whatever YouTube algorithms send my way. Because I actively search out Independent music online, streaming services like Spotify and Apple Music, along with platforms such as YouTube, tend to push me toward newer content from artists such as Idles (who were the whole reason I ever found out about Internet streaming radio station, KEXP, in the first place, let alone their list of the Top 500 songs of all-time, that inspired our very own countdown journey). Because of the algorithms I create online, I have come to know singers such as Aurora, who is this generation’s Bjork, in my mind. What a talent! I am lucky to have found her, and all of the like-minded, Art-first musicians I tend to be drawn towards.

This brings me back to my friend, Ian Jack. Ian is an elementary school teacher in my area. I worked with his wife, Cara, when I was still teaching. My wife, Keri, taught Ian and Cara’s eldest son. So, we all know each other, professionally and personally, in ways that have nothing to do with music. Fast forward a few years, another way I have gotten to know more about the music I like….and that is so hard to find on commercial radio…..is via books. One of my favourite music authors is a man named Michael Barclay. I was introduced to his writing by way of the fabulous book about The Tragically Hip called, “Never Ending Present”. Once I finished that book, I looked for other work by Barclay and, lo and behold, what did I find but a book entitled, “Have Not Been The Same” by Barclay and, my pal, Ian Jack! Up until that point, Had never read “Ian’s book” but, I have now and it was like seeing my own life story told by someone else. So many of the stories told in this book correlate directly to my love of Alternative music, my experiences with “Brave New Waves” and the early days of “Much Music” and how those times laid the groundwork for much of what has come to pass as a Canadian music scene today.

The title of Ian’s book is the title of a song by a mid 1980’s punkish band called, Slow. Slow were a rather notorious band, as it turned out due to cases of indecent exposure in BC, as well as, problems with drugs and alcohol. But, when you see the video for the song, Have Not Been the Same” you are going to see Grunge before Grunge became a thing. Slow had a lot of potential to be “the next big thing” in music circles but, being the next big thing was never what they were about. That they didn’t survive as a band says a lot about them but, so does the fact that many of the original members are still making music today in bands that nobody hears unless they catch them in a small town bar or opening a festival in a farmer’s field somewhere for the just-after-lunch crowd. Sometimes, when you pour yourself into the songs you create, it is a recipe for the best music of all….even if it doesn’t chart and only a handful of people ever hear it. You made it. It is part of you. And, if something that is part of you can become part of someone else’s life then, you have succeeded in making good Art.

The link to the video for “Have Not Been the Same” by Slow, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Slow, can be found here.

If you wish to order the book, Have Not Been the Same” by Michael Barclay, Ian Jack and Jason Schneider, contact your local, independent bookstore. That’s where I got my copy.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Honourable Mention Song #23: Sunflower by Post Malone and Swae Lee from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse” (as Nominated by Siobhan Percolides).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

Honourable Mention Song #23: Sunflower by Post Malone and Swae Lee (from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse” (as Nominated by Siobhan Percolides.

On the “Honourable Mention” side of my scheduled posts, I had one opening left over from the nominated songs process, so I combed through all of those songs which were left over during the first round and opted to go with “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee from the Academy Award winning animated movie, “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse”. We have already had an HM post from Siobhan about the Tragically Hip song, “Fifty Mission Cap”, *(which you can read here) so you can find out all about this totally rad woman there. But, for the sake of this new post, the important thing to note is that, like me, Siobhan has two daughters about the same ages as my girls and, as such, we have our fingers on the pulse of some of the advances going on today when it comes to how stories are told and then, by extension, how those stories are communicated to audiences. It is no longer as simple and straight-forward as it was when I was the age of my girls. So, strap in and hold on because this story might hurt your brain a little but, that is ok because it is important to have an understanding of how the world of information and storytelling is evolving……which is what “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse” is all about. Here we go!

Much earlier in our countdown, I wrote a post about a song called, “Black Sheep” by Metric from the Original Soundtrack to the Film, “Scott Pilgrim vs. The World”. *(You can and should read that post now). The Art of Storytelling has evolved over the past decade or so. Stories are now being told to audiences in greater depth, in a more nuanced manner using techniques such as prequels, sequels, origin stories, etc., to add dimensionality to the characters and storylines found in an original, singular movie. Many of these stories are, in turn, being presented to audiences in a variety of formats such as graphic novels, video games, songs, animated movies or episodic tv shows, full-length movies and much more. The artists involved in these movies also participate in numerous ways as actors, singers, gamers and so on and they, in turn, cross-promote and integrate their involvement in a given story, across multiple communication platforms at their disposal, such as music streaming services, YouTube-type formats, on Social media and so on. The end result is an integrated web of content being created in multiple ways, for multiple purposes and being communicated to audience along multiple platforms. In other words, the structure of the storytelling machine…..which used to be the sole domain of Hollywood movie studios, for example,……..is now much more accessible and inter-active because it appears in so many forms to suit the needs of the people telling the stories, as well as, those receiving these stories at the other end.

The “Spiderman” comic book character is a fantastic example of how things have changed. When I was a young boy, “Spiderman” was a comic book character. He wasn’t part of the “Marvel Universe”, as he is known to be today. In my day, he was simply a comic book character. In that story, his real name was Peter Parker and he came to become the vigilante superhero, “Spiderman” because Parker received a spider bite from a radioactive spider. Eventually, the “Spiderman” comic book character became a cartoon character on Television for kids like me. The shows were episodic and looked like any other animated tv show. After awhile, I outgrew the cartoon show and “Spiderman” disappeared from my life.

However, much has changed in regard to story franchises such as “Star Wars”, “DC Comics” and “Marvel Comics”. The simplistic days of my youth have given way to a more much creative and detailed “world” from which many of these famous comic book characters reside. Whole books have been written about this phenomenon but, for the sake of this post, let’s stick with “Spiderman” and, specifically, the movie, “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse”. First of all, the simple stuff……”Spiderman Into the Spiderverse” was the first full-length animated Marvel superhero movie ever made. It won the Academy Award for Best Animated Feature Film in 2019 because it created its’ animation in a way that had never been done before. Over 200 professional animators and computer graphic designers worked to make a movie that looks like a comic book come to life. The comic book format is, obviously, a tip-of-the-hat to Marvel’s roots but, in practical reality, these animators created a three-dimensional world within the traditional two-dimensional world of a comic book. But, more than that, they did it with a unique twist to the typical storyline used for a movie.

Increasingly, “Marvel”, “Star Wars”, franchises have been dabbling with a philosophical construct called the multiverse or “parallel universes”. The idea behind this concept is that in the whole of totality, we exist in a universe that is but, one, of many similar yet, separate universes that comprise all of existence, as we know it. We are born, live our lives and then, die…all in our own universe. At the same time, others are being born, living their lives and dying, unbeknownst to us, off in their universes at the exact same time as we are. We both exist and are unique to our own world but, our worlds exist separately and, as such, we are not aware of the existence of the other person nor them, us. If you can wrap your head around the notion of parallel universes then, add one further element…..that being the ability to access a different universe and move from one to the other. In modern storytelling, characters have developed the ability to discover portals and other such entry points that allow them to travel between universes. The only problem with this is that a character is uniquely suited to their own universe or world. When they travel to a realm outside of their own, they begin to deteriorate and, as such, their time in a new universe is severely finite. Thus, if I was a character from another universe and travelled to this world where I ended up meeting my future wife, Keri, we couldn’t marry because I would not be from here and would not survive to live longer than a very short time. These sorts of restrictions on movement between universes cause many emotionally-charged moments and lots of weighty decisions that add to the drama of the storyline being told.

So…….the idea behind “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse” is that there is a new Spiderman…..a boy of colour, mixed with Latino heritage…..who is bitten by the spider and who finds himself forced into saving Earth from a criminal mastermind. However, in order to do so, he receives help from many other “Spidermen” and “Spiderwomen” from other universes or “spider verses”, as it were. One of those “Spidermen” who aid our new hero is the original Peter Parker character. The point of doing a movie like this is that it allows Marvel or Star Wars or whatever, the creative license to freshen up their franchise characters and to stretch the story narratives in any direction they desire. From a storytelling perspective, creators are no longer limited to the parameters of the original story. Anything is now possible.

The song, “Sunflower” is by two singers named Post Malone and Swae Lee. Both singers/rappers are big names in the current music scene and have worked with everyone from Madonna to Justin Bieber. Post Malone, for example, has sold over 80 million copies of his albums so far in his short career, which puts him in the same rarified air as many of the greatest selling artists and bands of all-time. The song, “Sunflower” was nominated for a Grammy Award for Song of the Year, as well as, an Academy Award for Best Song from a Movie. The video for this song will show you the comic book animation that was featured all throughout “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse” and is really quite something. My two daughters both like “Sunflower” so, if you want to score points with your own children and grandchildren, name drop “Sunflower” and talk a bit about multiple universes…..everyone will think you are all that and a bag of chips, too.

So, without further delay, here are Post Malone and Swae Lee with their #1 hit song, “Sunflower”, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse”. Thanks for nominating this song and allowing me to tell this story, Siobhan. Enjoy, everyone.

The link to the video for the song, “Sunflower” by Post Malone and Swae Lee, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Film, “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse”, can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer to the film, “Spiderman Into the Spiderverse”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Post Malone, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Swae Lee, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Honourable Mention Song #22: Oowatanite by April Wine (as Nominated by Allister Matheson).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

Honourable Mention Song #22: Oowatanite by April Wine (as Nominated by Allister Matheson.

Allister Matheson and I both went to the same high school…….Morrison High School in Glace Bay, Nova Scotia. At the time, we were not best friends or anything but we knew of each other and, more importantly, we knew many of the same people and, as such, we swam in the same social waters and have many of the same type of memories from our younger, teenage years. Even though we may not have fully known it at the time, both Allister and I shared a love of music back then in the late 1970s/early 1980s. So, this post is about the music of the day, how we listened to it and who we were listening to as our high school days marched on by.

The first thing to know is that back when Allister and I went to high school, there was no Internet, no YouTube or any streaming services such as Apple Music or Spotify. In fact, the digitization of music hadn’t happened yet, either, so there were no iPods or wireless earbuds or anything like that. For us, if we wanted to listen to music, we needed to do so in person to a live band or else, we had to take our music with us…..physically…..in the form of albums, 45s, 8-track cartridges or else, cassette tapes. If we were playing our own tunes, we did so in our homes, on stereos with speakers the size of small refrigerators. In cars, the most important thing was the depth and clarity of the bass. In those days, for most guys, the bigger the home or car stereo you could afford, the better it was. Music was everything! Volume was King!

For those who may not be up on their geography, Glace Bay, Nova Scotia, sits directly on the coastline that meets the Atlantic Ocean. Fishing and coal mining were the major industries in Glace Bay during my high school days. Glace Bay wasn’t a fancy town but it was a great place to grow up. For most of us, our access to music “from away” came from local radio stations and from television. But, the opposite side of that coin is that the cultural foundation of Glace Bay lay in the form of Celtic musical, as well as, a hybrid of Country, Rock and Blues. It was not hard to catch local bands in some of our watering holes around town. Consequently, whether it was Celtic music or something else, Allister and I both grow up knowing talented performers such as Matt Minglewood, Bruce Gouthro, John Allan Cameron, Buddy McMaster, our singing coal miners, The Men of the Deeps and, of course, the Queen of Cape Breton, herself, Rita MacNeil. So, our teenage years were spent listening to local bands in person while listening to bands “from away” on our stereos. Every once and awhile, those two worlds would align and one of those big bands “from away” would tour down our way. Those times were always very exciting. One of those bands that graced our local stages on a consistent basis was April Wine.

April Wine were a Canadian band that formed in Halifax as the 1960s were drawing to a close. In the early 1970s, they moved to Montreal and signed a record contract. Throughout the next two decades, April Wine were one of Canada’s most successful and prolific bands. They had a steady string of hits including, “Could Have Been a Lady”, “Tonite Is a Wonderful Time To Fall in Love”, “Roller”, “You Won’t Dance With Me”, “Say Hello”, “I Like To Rock”, “Just Between You and Me”, “Sign of the Gypsy Queen” and, the subject of today’s post, “Oowatanite”. April Wine won several Juno Awards and had 8 Gold and Platinum albums. They, also, had several hits in the US market and achieved Gold and Platinum status there, as well. The classic April Wine line-up consisted of singer Myles Goodwyn, Brian Greenway, Jerry Mercer, Jim Clench and Steve Lang. While April Wine became headliners and toured the country many times on their own, they began as opening act for some of the biggest bands in the world. The most famous opening experience the band ever had occurred in Toronto at the famous El Mocambo Night Club. The were opening for a group that, on the bill were listed as “The Cockroaches” but, come show time, turned out to be The Rolling Stones. Both bands ended up recording live albums from the El Mo show.

So, with that history in mind, you can imagine how exciting it was to make the half-hour or so drive from Glace Bay into neighbouring Sydney, to see April Wine play at the old Sydney Forum, which was a hockey rink, back in the day. The willingness of a major Canadian band like April Wine to come down and see us on Cape Breton Island was always appreciated by people like Allister and me. As a result, we always supported April Wine in absentia by buying their albums and blasting their tunes in our basements and in our cars. One of the tunes that sounded best; especially coming out of quality speakers, was “Oowatanite”. This song came from an album called, “Stand Back”, which was released in 1975. “Oowatanite” is one of the most distinctive songs in the entire Canadian musical canon because of how it starts……with the loud clanging of a fire station warning bell which, after a few seconds, is joined by an awesomely loud electric guitar and then, the vocals kick in and away we go! Never mind this “more cowbell!” stuff from Blue Oyster Cult. We wanted more Fire Station warning bell in Glace Bay! Allister and I both still smile when we hear the opening to “Oowatanite”, even today.

For me, one of the very best things to come out of doing this musical countdown is that I have gotten to know Allister a lot better. We love sports, we love music and we both love Cape Breton Island and are proud to have that background as part of our personal heritage. Part of being a Cape Bretoner or, Caper, as we call ourselves, is having a love of all kinds of music. Allister and I are just as proud of our local music stars such as The Barra McNeils and the Rankin Family, as we are of our favourite bands “from away” such as The Rolling Stones or Canadian bands such as Trooper and April Wine. Music formed a big part of our high school years and I think I can safely speak for Allister when I say that we wouldn’t have traded it for anything in the world. So, thanks, Allister, for all of your comments and stories that you shared throughout this musical countdown of ours. I have loved hearing about them all, as I am sure many other readers have, as well. Your input made this journey far more interesting for me than it would have been otherwise. For that, I am most grateful.

So, without further delay, set your volume on high and get ready for one of the best openings to any Canadian song ever! Here are April Wine with “Oowatanite”. Enjoy!

The link to the video for the song, “Oowatanite” by April Wine, can be found here.

The link to the official website for April Wine, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Honourable Mention Song #21: We Shall Overcome by Pete Seeger (as Nominated by Jan Fluke).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

Honourable Mention Song #21: We Shall Overcome by Pete Seeger (as Nominated by Jan Fluke).

The marriage of songs and their singers is one that stretches way back for thousands of years. In fact, in some cases, a song, and those who sing it, is actually, History, itself. This is the case for the song, “We Shall Overcome”. It is a song that has existed for several centuries and which has evolved to suit awhile host of singers at various times of crisis; including those caught at sea in storms, people caught under the yoke of racial oppression in the U.S. and elsewhere, those fighting religious and/or political persecution in Northern Ireland, the shipyard workers attempting to unionize at the Gdansk Shipyards in Poland and a myriad of other places and times when people have been in need of a beacon of Hope to guide them forward in their struggle. “We Shall Overcome” is a song that exists to serve, rather than to entertain and, as such, its’ success and importance is not measured in record sales nor performance chart positions. The success of this song can be found in its’ ability to stiffen the resolve of those in need of courage and to help bring together those whose cause requires a unity of purpose. As such, the story of the song, “We Shall Overcome” is one that chronicles the Historical record of our lives. Here is that story.

The musical structure and lyrics to the song that has become, “We Shall Overcome” has existed for centuries and has evolved over time to be what it is today. The earliest evidence connecting this song to its’ past can be found in a 17th Century song of the sea entitled, “O Sanctissima” or, “The Sicilian Mariner’s Hymn”. This hymn was published in a variety of books containing hymns and, as such, was passed down through many Church organizations throughout the world over the years. The next notable historical connection comes from a man named Reverend Charles Tindley of Philadelphia who modified “O Sanctissima” into a new hymn entitled, “I Will Overcome Some Day” in 1901. Rev. Tindley’s hymn was written in a style that we would recognize today as Gospel inspired. It was a song that was meant to rouse the passions of those who sang it. *(As a bit of trivia…..Reverend Tindley wrote dozens of published Biblical-inspired hymns; the most noteworthy of these was the original version of the song, “Stand By Me”, which many of you may know, was made famous half a century later by a man named Ben E. King.) It is not surprising that a few decades later, “I Will Overcome Some Day” began showing up in times of trouble that existed outside of the church. For example, in 1909, there was a recorded incident during a Mine Workers Strike in which an organizational meeting for workers was closed with the singing of “I Will Overcome Some Day”. The song appeared again in 1945 during a tobacco workers strike but, this time, the lyrics had been modified slightly and the song was simply called, “We Will Overcome”. This new iteration was felt to be an important step in the evolution of this song because, by changing “I” to “We”, it changed the focus from an individualized pursuit to a collective one.

The most famous use of the song, now entitled, “We Will Overcome”, happened during the US Civil Rights Marches of the 1950s and 60s. However, that Movement didn’t materialize overnight in response to the Birmingham Bus Boycott or various lynchings and other acts of repression and violence that characterized the times. The Civil Rights Movement evolved over time and was built upon a foundation of much organization and training by those who would put their lives at risk in the name of racial equality. As part of this organization process, a school for activists was established in Tennessee called “The Highlander Folk School“. This was not a school for children but, instead, it was a school that trained adults in the politics of voter suppression, in how to register voters, all about Jim Crow laws and much, much more. Needless to say, a school for political activism tended to attract likeminded people. So it was that one day the musical director of The Highlander Folk School, a person named Zilphia Horton, taught “We Will Overcome” to a white union organizer and singer named Pete Seeger. *It should be noted that one of the mandates of The Highlander Folk School was to unify the races through music. Thus, a white man, like Seeger, was welcomed into the school with the belief that learning from one another was an essential part, going forward, of the goal of achieving racial harmony.

Pete Seeger was a political activist who spread his message of worker’s rights and civil rights, through song. He published a magazine called, the “People’s Songs Bulletin” and then, travelled across the country, banjo in hand, and sang these songs for his audiences. Many authorities at the time viewed Seeger with suspicion; labelling him as a Communist during the McCarthy Witch Hunt days. In any case, the final bit of tweaking to the song, “We Will Overcome” came when Seeger, a trained singer, noted that changing the word, “Will” to the word, “Shall” caused the singer’s mouth to open wider and, as such, it gave the sentence more power when sung. So, Seeger re-wrote the traditional song, changing the lyrics slightly and coming up with the version that we know today as, “We Shall Overcome”. Pete Seeger introduced his new version of the song at The Highlander Folk School. One of those in attendance that day was a young, fiery Church Minister named Martin Luther King. King was impressed by Seeger’s changes and the final version of the song. He advocated for it to become one of the standard hymns sung at all Civil Rights rallies and marches from that point onward. And so, the song “We Shall Overcome” became an anthem to those in the Civil Rights Movement. Singer Joan Baez sang the song during the March on Washington, just prior to Dr. King giving his famous, “I Have a Dream” speech.

As mentioned at the top of this post, some songs are meant to entertain and some songs are meant to serve. “We Shall Overcome” is definitely one of those songs that has served those in need, going back hundreds of years now. It is a song of defiance and solidarity that has helped steel the resolve of many who toiled under the oppressor’s whip, fist and boots in the U.S. and around the world. “We Shall Overcome” was sung at the inauguration of U.S. President, Barack Obama, the first Black man to ever reach and hold that Office. It is, also, a song that has been inducted into The Library of Congress as a song of “cultural significance”.

So, thank you Jan Fluke, for nominating a song like “We Shall Overcome” that has resonated so loudly and clearly on the side of justice over the years. It is an important song whose story was a pleasure for me to tell. I have to say, folks, that I am not surprised that Jan would have nominated such a song. We have known each other for many years; as writers and an educators. All through those years, I have always known Jan to be someone who stands up for those in need. She isn’t hesitant, in the slightest, to voice her concerns and fight for causes that she believes are right and just. That she would hold a song such as “We Shall Overcome” near and dear to her heart speaks volumes of her character. My wife and I feel fortunate to know Jan and look forward to sharing many more cups of tea with her in the years to come. ***Just fyi, Jan’s most current project is as an author of children’s books. I will include a link to her website below.

So, without further delay, here is Mr. Pete Seeger…..folk singer, union organizer, political activist, communist (apparently)….with the seminal classic song, “We Shall Overcome”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, We Shall Overcome” by Pete Seeger, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Pete Seeger, can be found here.

The link to the official website for “The Story Snuggery”, Jan Fluke’s website, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History: Honourable Mention Song #20…I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You by Elvis Presley (as Nominated by JoAnn Kroft-Hedley).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

Honourable Mention Song #20: I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You by Elvis Presley (as Nominated by JoAnn Kroft-Hedley).

“I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” is a song that is based upon a French song called, “Plaisir d’ amour” that was written all the way back in 1784!!! That song was, also, written for a female lead to be sung about falling in love with a man. In the late 1950s, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” was created by three songwriters named Hugo Peretti, Luigi Creatore and George Davis Weiss. As it turned out, these three gentlemen ended up writing some of the biggest hits of the day; including, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight” for The Tokens and “Honeycomb” and “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine” for Jimmie Rodgers and “Lullaby of Birdland” for Ella Fitzgerald. All three were inducted into The Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame in the Songwriting Category and finally, as if that wasn’t enough, David George Weiss served as President of the Songwriter’s Guild of America for over two decades. But, the biggest hit produced by this trio of accomplished songwriters was “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” which became a worldwide hit when it was sung by The King, himself, Elvis Presley.

Elvis Presley sang this song as part of the soundtrack to the movie, “Blue Hawaii”. That song became a #1 all around the world and remained in the top spot for seven weeks. In fact, the “Blue Hawaii” soundtrack album was the #1 album for twenty consecutive weeks, which held the record for almost two decades until it was replaced by Fleetwood Mac’s, “Rumours” LP in the late 1970s.

One of the things I have always admired about Elvis, as a performer, was his stage presence. He sure knew how to move and how to work an audience. He even knew what strings to pull in his movies. For example, in “Blue Hawaii”, Elvis did not do the cliched thing and sing this song to his love interest. Instead, when courting her, he did so by singing this song to her grandmother! That Elvis was a clever boy, for sure! In real life, Elvis often saved “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” for the finale of his shows. Sometimes when he sang this song, he would pick out the prettiest girl in the room and sing it to her but, just as often, he would focus in on a Grandma in the audience and serenade her. When finished, Elvis would smile and, on occasion, would kiss Grandma on the cheek or hand. The audience would swoon. Elvis was “The King” for a reason.

As an aside, in several previous posts, I have pumped the tires of a TV show called, “Full House/Fuller House” that starred, among others, John Stamos as “Uncle Jesse”, an aspiring singer who loved Elvis. Anyway, that show was a treasure trove of smart musical references, hidden amid the family comedy storylines. In one episode, the entire family went to Hawaii for a vacation. Uncle Jesse was so excited to visit all of the locations where “Blue Hawaii” was filmed. At one point, the family was invited to participate in a ceremonial luau near their hotel. Uncle Jesse, being a singer, asked to sing, “Rock a-Hula, Baby”, which he did. “Rock a-Hula, Baby” was the B-side to “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” when it was released as a single. When we watched that episode as a family, my daughters completely enjoyed the song but missed the clever Elvis reference. I, on the other hand, enjoyed the moment because I had to respect the attention to detail that the creators of this show employed each week. As a lover of the history of music, I can’t speak highly enough of “Full House/Fuller House” and the lengths they went to honour the History of Rock n’ Roll.

This song was nominated by my friend, JoAnn Kroft-Hedley. If there is a bigger Elvis fan then, I haven’t met her. She has been promoting him to me all throughout this musical countdown journey of ours so, I was definitely not surprised at all when her nominated song turned out to be an Elvis pick. JoAnn was lucky enough to have seen Elvis perform in person. According to her, as was his tradition, he saved “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” until the very end and then, when he started to sing, she says it felt like he was singing directly to her. She swooned and is still swooning to this very day. As mentioned, Elvis either picked the prettiest girl in the room or the most matronly Grandma. In JoAnn’s case, I am sure it was the former and not the latter. 🙂

JoAnn has been a staunch ally and good friend for a few years now. I met JoAnn through her daughter, Cuyler. Cuyler was a student teacher who spent time in my classroom a year or two before I retired. Because we both live in the same town, I used to run into Cuyler and her family on occasion when we were out and about. On one of those occasions, Cuyler introduced me to her Mom and we have been fast friends ever since. I am fortunate to know them, both. In fact, Cuyler has gone on to be one of the teachers that my youngest daughter, Sophie, has this year. Small world, eh?

So, thanks, JoAnn for nominating such a great song. As well, I thank you for your comments, questions and shared stories all the way through the countdown process as it has unfolded. Your input has made this experience more enjoyable for me. I am endlessly appreciative.

Without further delay, here is Elvis Presley with “I Can’t Help Falling In Love With You” from the movie, “Blue Hawaii”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “I Can’t Help Falling in Love With You” by Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Elvis Presley, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Rock a-Hula, Baby”, as shown on the TV show, “Full House”, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Honourable Mention Song #19: The Rose by Bette Midler from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Movie, “The Rose” (as Nominated by Barb Henderson).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

Honourable Mention Song #19: The Rose by Bette Midler from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the Movie, “The Rose” (as Nominated by Barb Henderson).

This post contains the story of four women: Janis Joplin, Bette Midler, Amanda McBroom and my pal, Barb Henderson. I shall tell their tale in order, from Janis to Barb. Regardless of which woman I am discussing at any one time, they are all fabulously talented, strong, intelligent and creative females. I am happy to follow Bette Midler and Amanda McBroom on Social Media and to know Barb Henderson in real life. Here is the story of how all four are connected.

It all begins with singer extraordinaire, Janis Joplin. Janis Joplin had a voice that helped define the musical sound of the 1960s. *(you can read all about her, here). As with any public figure who lived hard, soared to the highest reaches of fame and fortune, only to see it all come crashing down due to addictions to drugs and alcohol, dying far too soon at age 27, Joplin’s was a story that had fascinated many people for years. So, in the early 1980s, it came as no surprise that Hollywood decided to tell her life story in film. The movie was supposed to be called, “Pearl” because that was Joplin’s nickname…..it was, also, the name of the last album she ever released before her death, as well. However, those entrusted with guarding her legacy and her personal estate, let Hollywood know, in no uncertain terms, that they did not have permission to make a movie about her life, nor could they create characters based upon her family, friends and bandmates and, especially, that they were not allowed to use her name and/or nickname in the title of any such film. So, “Pearl”, the movie, was shelved.

But, the idea of making a movie “inspired” by a gravelly-voiced, curly-haired, drug-addicted singer who became the voice of her generation held too much appeal and so, the idea for “Pearl” evolved into a new movie called, “The Rose” starring Bette Midler. “The Rose” is, essentially, Janis Joplin’s life story except that, it isn’t. The producers of the movie went to great lengths to fictionalize her story in all regards; especially when it came to the music that was to be sung. Because the producers weren’t allowed to use any of Joplin’s original music, nor to cover any tunes that even remotely resembled her work, a call was placed for new, original works…..preferably from new songwriters. As a result of this open call, over 3000 demo tapes were submitted. One of those 3000 demo tapes belonged to an aspiring singer-songwriter from Los Angeles named Amanda McBroom.

McBroom had never sold a song before and, at first, wasn’t even sure how to go about submitting a song of hers called, “The Rose”. McBroom wrote “The Rose” in her family home, surrounded by cats and dogs and rabbits and one husband, apparently, after being encouraged by a local L.A. musician to create a tape of her own songs that she could shop around town. She asked her musician friend what sorts of themes were popular sellers in the L.A. market and he replied that all of the best songs are about Love. So, McBroom headed for home with a head filled with thoughts about what exactly Love was. The more she began to answer her own question, the more the song, “The Rose” began to form in her mind. At the time, “The Rose” was just a song that she hoped someone would buy for a couple of hundred bucks. Then, Hollywood came knocking at her door.

McBroom submitted “The Rose” to the production team but, unfortunately, those vetting the 3000 songs (which they were to reduce to an even 100 for Midler and the producers to pick from) rejected McBroom’s song and sent it to the discard pile. But as the production team started combing through the final 100 songs, it was noted that there were no songs with a soaring ballad. The producers especially wanted a grand ballad to play over the closing credits. So, they went through the discarded songs one more time……this time, specifically looking for a soaring ballad song. That is when, “The Rose” was given new life. In fact, when the production team listened to the lyrics more closely and heard McBroom sing about love being like a rose, it caused them to all agree that “The Rose” and “Pearl” shared several similar aspects in common and, just like that, McBroom’s anonymous song changed the course of the whole movie. Joplin’s “Pearl” was now, Midler’s “Rose” and McBroom’s life changed forever.

The song, “The Rose” won the Grammy Award for Song of the Year. It, also, won a Golden Globe Award for Best Song in a Movie. But, “The Rose” did not win an Oscar. In fact, it was not even nominated! That story speaks to the innocence of McBroom, when it came to how to play the Hollywood game. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences has rules that must be met in order to someone to be nominated in any of the various categories for which Oscars are awarded. In the case of “Best Song”, one of the criteria is that the song had to be written specifically for the movie. Well, when “The Rose” movie came out, Amanda McBroom found herself the subject of much media attention as the writer of the iconic song from the film. In the course of her interviews, she happily told her story of being a struggling wannabe songwriter, hoping to make it big by shopping her demo tape of songs she had written. As a result of watching these interviews, The Academy ruled McBroom’s song as being ineligible because it was not written specifically for the film. So, even though her song won every conceivable award for movie-related music that year, an Oscar was denied on a technicality. McBroom, however, has never complained about her gaff. She went from a “nobody” to a “somebody” in the blink of an eye and has been never had to shop her songs around town again.

This brings us to my friend, Barb Henderson. I first met Barb about ten years ago. She was a retired educator who was volunteering her time with an organization called, “S.O.N.G.”. The “S.O.N.G. Programme”, as we called it at the school I was teaching at, was designed upon a South American model that helped children in poverty discover the discipline and creative beauty of choral and orchestral music. Because Barb and her colleagues at “S.O.N.G.” ran after-school programmes which many of my own students attended, I got to know her well. She has been a fan of my writing since I used tell my stories using the Blogger platform. Back then, I wrote mainly about Education and children. Since those early days, I have retired and moved over to WordPress. Barb has continued to support my work, while continuing to volunteer with “S.O.N.G.”, as well as, at a Fair Trade store in our town called, “Ten Thousand Villages“. In fact, when the Covid-19 Pandemic first graced our shores back in 2020, Barb was kind enough to offer to make handmade face masks for anyone who wanted some. I asked her for four; one for each member of my family. We still have and use all four of those masks today.

Anyway, for many, many years, Barb was married to a kind-hearted man named Roger. The story is that one day, waaaaaay back in their early days together, when Barb was still deciding if Roger was truly the one for her, he surprised her after school one day with a scroll containing the handwritten lyrics to “The Rose”, curled around a beautiful red rose of her own. Needless to say, Barb decided that Roger was a keeper. I believe there may have been roses grown in their garden, as well.

Music is wonderful. A song like “The Rose” can be a song about love. It can change the lives of those who wrote it (McBroom), those who sang it (Midler…..Grammy Award) and those who listened to it (Barb and Roger Henderson). That a song can touch so many lives in so many different and yet, profound ways, is the magic of music. It is why songs matter.

Thanks, Barb, for nominating such a terrific song and for trusting me to share your story of how “The Rose” impacted your life. As well, thank you for all of your comments, questions and shared stories that you have contributed to this musical countdown journey of ours along the way. Your support of me and my writing has made all the difference and is gratefully-appreciated. Much thanks to you for everything.

So, without further delay, here is Bette Midler, singing an Amanda McBroom song that sealed the union of Roger and Barb……..”The Rose”, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the movie, “The Rose”. Enjoy.

The link to the video to the song, “The Rose” by Bette Midler, from the Original Motion Picture Soundtrack to the movie, “The Rose”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bette Midler, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Amanda McBroom, can be found here.

The link to the video for the trailer for the movie, “The Rose”, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Janis Joplin, can be found here.

The link to the official website for the “S.O.N.G. Programme”, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Honourable Mention Song #17: Lost Weekend by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions (as Nominated by Erin Thompson).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

Honourable Mention Song #17: Lost Weekend by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions.

When I first went to university in Toronto, I stayed in a residence called Neill-Wycik College which was a co-ed, co-operative apartment complex. Each apartment housed from between 4-6 people. During my first year, one of the young women in my apartment was named Lisa Weinstein. She was a year younger than me and a year behind me in the same Radio and Television Arts Programme at Ryerson University. Lisa was a lovely, bubbly person and we got along just fine. But, the ace that Lisa had tucked up her sleeve was that she had a connection to the entertainment industry. Her father was a man named Les Weinstein. He was an entertainment manager. His biggest client, at the time, was the legendary Canadian group, The Irish Rovers. Mr. Weinstein, as I called him, went on to represent many fledgling young stars at a record label called Nettwork Records, including an unknown young singer named Sarah McLachlan. Anyway, the point of this story is that, every once and awhile, Lisa would bring home promotional material that we could have….posters, t-shirts, etc.,…..and, even better, we would sometimes be invited to attend TV tapings of live shows; especially, when The Irish Rovers had their own show. Those times were always fun because being on those sets was like being given a behind-the-scenes tour of how TV shows were actually made. It was like holding a secret that no one else had. And, as we know, secrets can be fun.

The same holds true for my pal, Erin Thompson. Erin lives in the same town that my wife and I do but, she was originally from across the pond, in England. Erin spent her teen years in a place called Buckinghamshire or, Bucks, as the locals call it. Bucks in about a hour and a half northwest of London and, for the interest of my daughter, Leah, it is about halfway between Bletchley Park and Oxford. Anyway, Erin was in Buckinghamshire in the early-mid 1980s, just as the music scene in the UK was exploding with New Wave, Alternative and Punk music. Bands such as The Cure, Depeche Mode, Yaz, The Smiths, The Clash and many more were all bursting forth and producing some of the best music the world has ever heard. But, the funny thing about being at the epi-centre of such a scene is that, for many young people, that scene played out in basements and bedrooms, as opposed to night clubs and concert halls. It was during those teenage years, in the privacy of their own bedroom space, that many were introduced to these new and exciting singers and bands. For Erin, she had a friend “on the inside” like I did. A girlfriend whose father worked in the music business and who had access to demo tapes that were submitted for the label’s consideration. It was with her girlfriend that Erin first heard a demo tape produced by an unknown group at the time called, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions. I wasn’t there to witness any dancing, giggling or dreaming that went on when “Lost Weekend” poured forth from those bedroom speakers but, that jangle-Pop sound must have made an impact because, when I asked for Honourable Mention submissions, it was “Lost Weekend” by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions that came my way.

In our conversations about this song, Erin asked if it was ok by me that Lloyd Cole and the Commotions never ended up becoming “the next big thing”. Of course it was. The pure mathematics behind reaching the top means that only a very small percentage of acts make it to the top, as defined by record sales, Gold records, awards and the like. Most singers and bands….even those who manage to crack the Top Forty, as Lloyd Cole and the Commotions did five times….have their moment in the national spotlight and then go back to the smaller towns and cities that they came from and become legends back there. For me, the measure of creative success has never been about awards and sales figures….says the guy who has never sold anything to anyone. Instead, my measure of creative success has always been in how my words make others feel. When any of you comment on a post of mine that my words made you think or moved you and gave you a laugh then, I feel as though I have done my job and am a success. The same thinking applies to musicians. If Lloyd Cole’s only success in the business was fuelling the dreams of a teenage girl from Bucks then, he created something monumental, too. For, at the end of the day, music is a very personal endeavour; both, for the listener and for the musician. Good music is music that touches your heart and your mind. End of discussion. With that criteria as our metric, Lloyd Cole and the Commotions were a success.

Lloyd Cole and the Commotions formed in Glasgow, Scotland in 1982. They stayed together long enough to record and release four albums. Of the songs that charted, “Lost Weekend” was the biggest charting song, reaching into the Top Twenty. Lloyd Cole, himself, was a handsome, young man, with good hair and eyes that seemed to twinkle as he sang. The band played a form of Pop that will appear familiar and fun and, certainly, dance-worthy by teenage girls in their private bedroom shrines. Teenage dreams have fuelled many a band’s fortunes over the years and, as such, there is much validity to those dreams and the dreamers who dream them. Those were the days when Hope was free of charge and anything was possible in a future that was yet to be written. Erin wrote one of my favourite comments during this entire countdown journey when she replied to one of my posts with the line that we seem to share a similar taste in music; one that, if we had known each other back in the day, would have seen us sharing headphones as we walked. For music is creativity best enjoyed in the company of a kindred spirit and, as such, I would have happily have shared my headphones with you, Erin. Listening together as we walked would be akin to sharing a musical secret and, as we know, sometimes having a secret to share is fun.

So, thank you, Erin, for nominating such a fun, boppy song for us all to listen to and enjoy. Thanks, as well, for all of your stories and comments given throughout the course of this countdown. Your input was always welcomed and most appreciated by me. For everyone else, here are Lloyd Cole and the Commotions with “Lost Weekend”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Lost Weekend” by Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Lloyd Cole and the Commotions, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Honourable Mention Song #15: Johnny Was by Bob Marley and the Wailers (+) covered by Stiff Little Fingers (as Nominated by John Barr).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

Honourable Mention Song #15: Johnny Was by Bob Marley and the Wailers (+) covered by Stiff Little Fingers (as Nominated by John Barr).

To make a bit of an editorial comment: I have always felt that those artists and bands who first had a hit with a particular song should be the ones given credit for it. This was the case just recently with the song, “Hound Dog” *(which you can read here), that many people associate with Elvis but, in fact, was first sung by “Big Mama” Thornton. So, when I published that post, I did so as “Hound Dog” by “Big Mama Thornton. I certainly gave Elvis his due in the body of the post but, I felt it was best to attribute the song where all began and, that was with “Big Mama” Thornton. So, a similar situation has arisen today with our nominated song, “Johnny Was”. My buddy, John Barr, put this song forward as being a Bob Marley cover that gained fame when performed by Stiff Little Fingers. The SLF cover is a very inspired choice. Their version is a searing rendition that I will speak more to below. But, truth be told, it was the great Bob Marley who wrote this song…..there are some who say it was actually written by Marley’s wife, Rita. Regardless of which Marley spouse penned the song, I will give them their credit. I just wanted to be clear; especially to John, that I actually like the Stiff Little Fingers version a lot and that I recognize that this is the version John wanted me to showcase…..which I am happy to oblige……but, Bob Marley first because, after all, it is his song.

As noted in a previous post about the song, “No Woman, No Cry”, *(which you can read here), Bob Marley was raised in a part of Kingston, Jamaica, known as Trenchtown. This area was home to a public housing development in which the various homes were built in the shape of a “U”, with all three or four homes facing inward toward a shared communal space where all of the cooking was done, children could safely play and the bathrooms were housed. When young boys grew too big for the inner compound, they would head out into the streets. In many cases, gang members patrolled those areas and many a young boy found himself swept up in the embrace of these gangs. A life of crime awaited most who joined. Not surprisingly, there were turf wars between gangs and violence was not uncommon. What was, also, not uncommon was for young boys and men to be killed as a result of this violence and then, for their mothers to mourn their child’s senseless death. It was against this backdrop of violence and criminal activity that Bob Marley spoke out in the form of a song called, “Johnny Was”. This song title is short for “Johnny Was A Good Man”, which is the line uttered by weeping mothers for their sons and by neighbours who shook their head at it all and remained thankful that their own family was spared.

“Johnny Was” appeared on an album called, “Rastaman Vibrations” from 1976. It credits the song to Rita Marley on its cover. The first verse of the song was used as a sample by Rapper The Notorious B.I.G. in his song, “Hold Ya Head” and gained a new amount of fame in Hip Hop circles. As you are all, no doubt, well aware, many Hip Hop songs have dealt with the subject of gang violence, drug dealing and the epidemic of street violence which remains so prevalent among Black men, in particular. Thus, it is not surprising that there would be a sort of universal appeal to the subject matter contained within “Johnny Was”.

Furthermore, it should also, not be surprising that, arguably, the most intense and respected cover of “Johnny Was” came from a punk band from Northern Ireland called Stiff Little Fingers. Stiff Little Fingers formed during the late 1970s and shared the same music era as did The Clash and The Sex Pistols. However, unlike their English punk counterparts, Stiff Little Fingers found themselves caught in the middle of the violence that plagued Northern Ireland that became known as “The Troubles”. While English punk bands, like the Sex Pistols, railed against high unemployment and a host of social issues, Stiff Little Fingers felt that they had much more urgent issues to speak out against. Sectarian violence was killing scores of people in cities like Belfast. Whether the dead were British soldiers, I.R.A. sympathizers or, as was often the case, innocent civilians who were caught in the crossfire, Stiff Little Fingers channeled their anger into music and, as such, they came to be known for the intensity of their live sets. One of the songs that seemed to fit their situation like a glove was Bob Marley’s, “Johnny Was”. They took a song that in Marley’s hands read almost like a lament and infused those same words with a sense of anger and frustration. The result was easily one of the most fervent anti-Troubles song to come out of the Irish punk scene.

Sadly, the universal appeal of a song about sadness and anger at the loss of life due to senseless violence allows a song like “Johnny Was” to fit far too many situations all around the world. But, just the same, I am thankful that such words do exist and are at the ready when need be. I just wish that need didn’t happen for often as it does.

Thank you, Johnny Barr, for presenting “Johnny Was” as your song choice. It was a perfect song for me to discuss in this forum of ours. And, just so everyone knows who John is……he and I (and my wife, Keri) were teachers on the same staff at a school in Bowmanville. We have stayed in touch over the last two decades; with education, music and many of the same friends all helping to maintain our personal connection. Johnny used to host his own radio show here in Cobourg a few years ago, too. I am thankful to John for his many comments, questions and song ideas throughout the course of this countdown journey. For example, John was directly responsible for suggesting I cover “All The Things That I’ve Done” by The Killers because of the interesting back story to that song *(which you can all read here). As always, John, it is a hoot and a holler swapping music tales with you. Thanks for helping to make the process of completing these 500 song posts so interesting for me. I appreciate your input, interest and support along the way.

So, without further delay, here is “Johnny Was” by Bob Marley and as well, by Stiff Little Fingers. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Johnny Was” by Bob Marley and the Wailers, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Bob Marley and the Wailers, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Johnny Was”, as covered by Stiff Little Fingers, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Stiff Little Fingers, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Honourable Mention Song #14: The Chain by Fleetwood Mac (as Nominated by Lori Schroeder).

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Honourable Mention Song #14: The Chain by Fleetwood Mac (as Nominated by Lori Schroeder).

Today’s Honourable Mention Song was brought to us by a lady named Lori Schroeder. My whole family know Lori from her role as a CYW (or Child and Youth Worker) in schools. Lori is tasked with helping students who require assistance to successfully navigate through their day at school. In that role, people who are CYWs tend to be well-known figures within the school community. Both of my daughters had the pleasure of having Lori at their elementary school and were able to look to her as a “trusted adult” out on the playground and/or in the school hallways, if they ever needed help. As for my wife and I, we were both teachers and got to rely on Lori’s help at the schools we worked at, too. But, for the purposes of this post, the really important connection that Lori has to me is through music. Lori is a music lover and frequent concert goer and, as such, she has contributed a lot to this musical countdown journey of ours. So, when I called for Honourable Mention nominations, I knew Lori would come up with a good song or two and she did not disappoint. Her first nominated song….and the one I went with…..was “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac. What a song this is! What an album it comes from! What incredible behind-the-scenes goings-on there were while this song was being recorded! Here is the story of “The Chain”. Thanks, Lori.

“The Chain” is a special song in the annals of Fleetwood Mac’s storied history. First of all, it is the lead song on Side #2 off of one of the world’s biggest selling albums of all-time, “Rumours”. That album sold over 40 million copies, making it one of the Top Ten best selling albums ever in music history. The story of “The Chain” is actually, reflective of the story of the band during the time they were recording “Rumours”. So, let’s back up a little and talk a bit about the band per se, before we dive into the song because that context is important in understanding why “The Chain” was written and what significance it holds within Fleetwood Mac’s musical canon.

I am the last person in the world to ever admonish anyone for dating a co-worker because my wife and I were teachers on the same school staff when we started dating. Luckily for us, we were confident that we were a match and so, the normal worries and woes about how to co-exist as colleagues should our relationship go awry never amounted to anything and our lives went merrily along. However, as a general rule, dating a co-worker is an exercise that is often fraught with landmines and pitfalls. Quite often, when a relationship ends, it does so on acrimonious terms. In such circumstances, it is often better for people to be able to wash their hands of each other and go their separate ways. But, when you date a co-worker, it is impossible to go one’s separate way. You are both “chained” together, to a certain extent, because of your workplace duties and responsibilities. That is exactly what happened to the members of Fleetwood Mac.

At the time “Rumours” was being recorded, Fleetwood Mac consisted of five members; two couples (John and Christine McVie were married, while Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham were dating), along with drummer, Mick Fleetwood, who was married to a woman who was not in the band. Just prior to their recording sessions, the McVie’s divorced and only spoke to each other when it was necessary for musical reasons. Stevie Nicks and Lindsay Buckingham broke up. Their split was very bitter; with much emotional baggage seeping into the lyrics of many of the songs on “Rumours”, as well as, during many of the band’s live performances, going forward. And, poor Mick Fleetwood……..just prior to the start of the recording sessions, he discovered that his wife, back in England, had left him for another man…..his best friend! So, needless to say, the social dynamic at play during the recording sessions was quite toxic.

This is where a song like “The Chain” comes in. “The Chain” is the only song on “Rumours” in which all five band members earned a songwriting credit. The song stands as an island of collaboration amid a sea of marital discontent. What happened was that “The Chain” was not written around a conceptual idea, the way most songs are. Instead, “The Chain” was made up of bits and pieces of various jams that were going on at the time. As it turned out, Mick Fleetwood and John McVie were musicians schooled in improvisational jazz and, as such, they enjoyed jamming together. It was during one of these personal jam sessions between McVie and Fleetwood that John McVie came up with the throbbing baseline that eventually worked its way into “The Chain”. Stevie Nicks made note of the baseline and a day or two later, reported to work with preliminary lyrics in hand. Christine McVie and Lindsay Buckingham, who worked well together despite all the acrimony ongoing between everyone else, took Nicks’ lyrics and polished the chorus. When the song was completed, all members had played a role in its creation which, in turn, proved the message of the song as being accurate. That message was that, no matter what problems and challenges the band faced, they recognized the strength of themselves as a musical unit and were pledging that nothing was going to stop them from making great music.

That sounds like the definition of professionalism to me. They all had their jobs to do and, individually and collectively, they promised themselves and each other to, not only do their jobs but, to continue to work to ensure that their jobs were completed at the very highest level of skill and quality. I think we can all agree that they managed to accomplish this with “Rumours”. It is an album that produced hits such as “Go Your Own Way”, “Dreams”, “Don’t Stop”, “Gold Dust Woman”, “You Make Loving Fun”, along with “The Chain”. It was a huge artistic accomplishment and one that, in spite of the rancour and the discord, speaks highly of the professionalism inherent within each member of Fleetwood Mac.

Having said that, get ready for the video I am about to share. It is a live performance of “The Chain”. In this performance, you can easily see the tension between Nicks and Buckingham. They are barely able to conceal the animosity that exists between them. For whatever reason, they seem able to channel that negative energy into their musicianship and are able to produce an electric performance but, mannnnnn, there are some nasty vibes on display here. I can’t imagine being an audience member, going to a Fleetwood Mac concert, being all excited that your favourite band was performing and then, witnessing such negativity and tension on stage, right before your eyes. I am a big a believer in fairy tales and happy endings but, that doesn’t seem to be the case for the members of Fleetwood Mac. As much as I admire their desire to put the music first and foremost in their minds, the fact that there is so much negativity associated with the creation of all of their best work, changes how I listen to it now. I still love the songs, from a purely musical point of view but, there is something definitely lost in the translation for me now, as a result of how I know the dynamics of their group worked and didn’t work, if you know what I mean.

So, buckle up and get ready for a remarkable video to a terrific song. I thank you, Lori, for nominating a song with such a story behind it. Thanks, as well, for all of your comments and stories that you shared along the way during this countdown of ours. Your love of music is clearly evident. Your interactions helped to make this journey much more interesting for me and everyone else and, for that, I am most appreciative.

Without further delay, here are Fleetwood Mac with “The Chain”, from their highly successful album, “Rumours”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “The Chain” by Fleetwood Mac, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Fleetwood Mac, can be found here.

KTOM: The Top 500 Song in Modern Music History…Honourable Mention Song #13: Fifty Mission Cap by The Tragically Hip.

This list of songs is inspired by a list published by radio station, KEXP, from Seattle in 2010, as well as, the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part, I will faithfully countdown from their lists, 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. “RS: Song XXX” means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone 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.

Honourable Mention Song #13: Fifty Mission Cap by The Tragically Hip.

In our previous Honourable mention Song post about the song, “Egg Man” by The Beastie Boys *(which you can read here), I introduced you all to one of my wife’s best friends, Jackie Pepper. Well today, you are going to meet the third member of their “ladies who lunch” trifecta and that is a woman named Siobhan Percolides. My wife met Siobhan and Jackie when our children were toddlers. All three ladies enjoyed each other’s company and have been able to be there for each other as their children have grown up (all three families have two children each). As well, all three women are married and, as couples, we have been able to share some enjoyable evenings of good food and good conversation together that, in these pandemic times, allow us all to feel as though we still have a bit of a social life outside of our homes. But, for the sake of this post, the third thing that Jackie and Siobhan share in common is that they both have a similar taste in music to me, rather than to my wife…..which amuses me. Siobhan, in particular, shares with me a love of the Canadian band, The Tragically Hip. We have both seen The Tragically Hip live several times and still enjoy listening to their music, even though they stopped releasing new material in 2016, with the death from cancer, of lead singer and songwriter, Gord Downie. So, when I put out the call for Honourable Mention songs, it didn’t surprise me at all that Siobhan came back with a Tragically Hip nomination which was, “Fifty Mission Cap”. Here is the story of a song which, in itself, tells a story that is as Canadian as could possibly be. Here is “Fifty Mission Cap” by The Tragically Hip.

When most people evaluate the legacy created by The Tragically Hip, one of the most common responses about the band is that they known for celebrating Canadian stories. That assessment is undeniable. When you go through The Hip’s musical catalogue, it is filled with references to noteworthy Canadians such as Tom Thomson, David Milgaard, Hugh McLennan, Bobby Orr and, in “Fifty Mission Cap”, Toronto Maple Leaf hockey player, Bill Barilko. The other thing that stands out about The Tragically Hip is that they loved a good story. So, when a noteworthy Canadian was, also, the subject of a good story in his/her real life, that subject matter was mined for gold. In Barilko’s case, his story became the hit song known as “Fifty Mission Cap”.

I really like this song for many reasons. First of all, the song is about hockey and, despite my love for Keri, I still love hockey. *(For those unaware, my wife is not a sports fan. Prior to meeting her, I was a hardcore fan who watched every game, kept track of player point totals, participated in sports pools and so on. Then, I met Keri and all of that changed. *You can read about how I knew Keri was the one, here. It is a sports-related post with a sweet twist).

Secondly, the song is about the Toronto Maple Leafs and I still love the Leafs, even though it is been over fifty years since they won The Cup, as the song points out.

But, mostly, I love this song because of a writing technique the band employs that helps to replicate the setting of the song within the lyrics of the song. Let me explain.


If you have ever found yourself somewhere where a group (of guys, probably) are talking hockey, the structure of their conversation is often the same no matter where you go. There is usually one guy with a bigger voice than the others who tends to use it to dominate the conversation with his stories and/or opinions. Then, his friends will interject their smaller thoughts when the dominant talker takes a breath. If you listen to “Fifty Mission Cap” and, specifically, to the interplay between Gord Downie (as the big voice in the room) and Paul Langlois (as the little friend who is trying to get a word in edge-wise) you will see that they have replicated the boys-in-the-bar style of talking hockey, perfectly. So, for me, it is not always the words that The Hip use in their songs that does it for me, it is, also, the way the lyrics are structured. In this case, a hockey tale is told for all to hear, as if the boys were in a basement rec. room watching the game on TV.

In this verse of the song, Gord sings the main words and Paul whispers the words in parenthesis. In doing so, they begin to tell the story of Toronto Maple Leafs defenceman, Bill Barilko, who scored the winning goal in 1952 that helped my Leafs to win the Stanley Cup as champions of the league. That very summer, he was killed in a plane crash. His body wasn’t found for almost a decade.

“Bill Barilko disappeared that summer (in nineteen fifty-one)
He was on a fishing trip (in a plane)
The last goal he ever scored (in overtime)
Won the Leafs the Cup.
They didn’t win another ’til nineteen sixty-two
The year he was discovered.”

***A tiny bit of Tragically Hip trivia: Bill Barilko’s plane crashed in a deeply wooded area in the northern reaches of Canada. He was headed for a fishing lodge which was known as a fly-in lodge, accessible only via an airplane. Flash forward thirty years, when the band travelled up to Attawapiskat for a benefit concert, *(which you can read about here), they flew over the exact location where Bill Barilko’s plane had crashed. Do with that bit of trivia what you will. 🙂

Gord Downie adds an extra layer of Canadianna to “Fifty Mission Cap”, when he informs us that he “stole” the story of Bill Barilko from a hockey card that he kept tucked away in a cap. Collecting hockey cards was a huge part of my childhood. I spent every quarter I ever got for my weekly allowance (for doing chores around the house) at the convenience store at the end of my street buying Opee-Chee hockey card packs. They went for ten cents a pack and always came with eight hockey cards and one stick of rock hard pink bubble gum. The smell and feel of those freshly opened hockey cards is one of the things that most defines my childhood. And while I never had a Bill Barilko card, like the one shown to the right, I did have lots of other memorable cards, such as Wayne Gretzky’s Rookie Card, which is now worth several thousand dollars but, to me at the time, it was just another card to trade and play with and, eventually, to lose like it was no big deal. In fact, the story linked above about my wife and hockey is about a hockey card. It is one of my favourite stories of all time. Well worth checking out, if you haven’t read it already.

In closing, I am always grateful to live in a country like Canada. I live a safe and peaceful life here. I am safe and free to roam around without restriction or limitation. I, also, live in a country with a tremendous history of Art and Culture that takes many forms. One of the forms I like the best…..and Siobhan, too……is listening to storytellers like Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip. So, Siobhan, I thank you for nominating “Fifty Mission Cap” as your Honourable Mention Song. It fills me with a warm, fuzzy feeling inside, on multiple levels. I, also, want to thank you for all of the stories shared and comments made all throughout this musical countdown journey of ours. Your input was gratefully appreciated and helped make things way more interesting for me as this process unfolded.

So, without further delay, here is the classic Canadian song, “Fifty Mission Cap” by Canada’s own, The Tragically Hip. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Fifty Mission Cap” by The Tragically Hip, can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Tragically Hip, can be found here.