Outrageous! Raise Your Glass in Honor of Lionel Richie

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Remember when Lionel Richie hosted the 1986 American Music Awards? That night, he single-handedly attempted to pimp the use of the word “Outrageous!” into our everyday lexicon. Instead, I think the American public cringed and slowly backed away from Lionel. And, unfortunately for us, the man who was on the hottest songwriting and production streak since Barry Gibb masterminded the rise of the late-Seventies Bee Gees empire. It seems that after that fateful night, we basically stopped hearing new music made by Richie while he tried to push the reset button on his life by dealing with those dreaded demons of success.

It seems that over the years, many people have forgotten just how good Lionel Richie was not only as a solo artist, but also as a member with the great funk/soul band Commodores. At one time, the Commodores were mentioned with George Clinton’s “P-Funk” Family, Earth, Wind & Fire and the Ohio Players as the greatest funk band of the Seventies. FYI: My wife and I have a “song”, which is the Style Council’s “You’re the Best Thing”. Unfortunately, we did not dance to that song at our wedding reception 32 years ago today. Instead, bowing to external pressures that we don’t have “weird” music played at our Southern Indiana wedding reception, and danced to Lionel Richie’s “Truly”. To this day, we always dance to the Style Council first, followed by “Truly”. So, here it is, to my man Lionel Richie, My Top Twenty Favorite Songs by Lionel Richie and the Commodores.

20. “We Are the World” – USA for Africa (1985 – We Are the World). Yep, Lionel co-wrote the song with Michael Jackson. ‘Nuff said.

19. “Endless Love” – duet with Diana Ross (1981 – Endless Love OST). I wish I could have ranked this one higher, but honestly, Lionel has a bunch of better songs that he did without Diana Ross.

18. “Penny Lover” (1984 – Can’t Slow Down). Okay, so this song’s not really better than “Endless Love”, but if Richie had big enough balls to know it was going to be a hit song, then you’ve got to give the song some props.

17. “Say You, Say Me” (1985 – Dancing on the Ceiling). This song was technically included on the soundtrack of some long forgotten movie, but that movie’s soundtrack had TWO number one hit songs: this one and “Separate Lives” by Phil Collins & Marilyn Martin. The movie? White Knights.

16. “Hello” (1984 – Can’t Slow Down). Yes, the video is stalker-creepy, but the song isn’t that bad. Still, it’s so difficult to separate the two…

15. “Oh No” – Commodores (1981 – In the Pocket). This song proves that Lionel’s songwriting talent is so great that this ballad, without a chorus or hook, could go Top 10 AND cause emotional responses.

14. “Sweet Love” – Commodores (1975 – Movin’ On). This is the song that started me down the whole Commodores/Richie path.

13. “My Love” (1983 – Lionel Richie). C’mon! This song is so heartfelt and not saccharine! I will fight you about this song.

12. “Dancing on the Ceiling” (1986 – Dancing on the Ceiling). See, Lionel CAN have fun. We almost forgot by 1986.

11. “Just to Be Close to You” – Commodores (1976 – Hot on the Tracks). I love the lyrics of this song! And, then, there’s what I call the Earth, Wind & Fire hook: “Yeow!” Hmmm! I so dig that when Lionel unleashes it!

10. “You Are” (1983 – Lionel Richie). Pound for pound, this song my be Lionel’s finest love song. The downside, if there is one, is that the song is a mid-tempo song and not a slow jam. Still, those lyrics describe every guy’s true love.

9. “Sail On” – Commodores (1979 – Midnight Magic). This is my favorite country song that wasn’t really a country song. Or is it? This is a very underrated song.

8. “Still” – Commodores (1979 – Midnight Magic). This is another great love song from the brokenhearted point of view. And when Lionel whispers “Still!” at the end of the song, man, you feel the pain.

7. “Three Times a Lady” – Commodores (1978 – Natural High). This was a great ballad, until Eddie Murphy stole it for a classic Buckwheat bit on Saturday Night Live, back when SNL rarely had anything that was funny.

6. “Nightshift” – Commodores (1985 – Nightshift). This is the post-Lionel Commodores’ last hit that was in honor of their late Motown brother Marvin Gaye. I still love this song.

5. “Brick House” – Commodores (1977 – Commodores). This song taught me so much when I was young. Who knew that 36-24-36 was a Brick House? And, I never forgot it either.

4. “All Night Long” (1983 – Can’t Slow Down). I remember the dance floors at dance parties I DJ’ed back in the day would fill up when this song would come on. By the way, the African-sounding chant in the song is nonsensical words that only sound African. Lionel invented a language on this song but didn’t tell us what it meant.

3. “Truly” (1982 – Lionel Richie). I rank my wedding dance third on this list? Yes, because Lionel really did write a couple of better songs.

2. “Stuck on You” (1984 – Can’t Slow Down). I can remember vividly the moment when I noticed that I was in love with my wife. We were together when this song came on the radio, and I said this song reminds me of her. And, she laughed, because she thought I was being my usually sarcastic self. Boy, did she feel sheepish when you finally figured out that I was being sincere. When laugh about it to this day.

1. “Easy” – Commodores (1977 – Commodores). This is such a Seventies song. It could have been sung by the Eagles or Jackson Browne, but Lionel gives it a touch of soul to the song that makes it jump above the country rock/west coast stuff that was popular at the time.

At this point, I want to give special mention to Kenny Rogers’ 1980 hit “Lady”, which was written and produced by Lionel Richie. I often wonder how great that song would have been if Lionel would have recorded it. As is, the song was the finest one recorded by Mr. Rogers.

So, Rock & Roll Hall of Fame voters: Put Lionel Richie, with OR without the Commodores, in the RRHOF! This man helped define the music from 1974 to 1981 with the Commodores and 1981 to 1987 as a solo artist. That’s 14 years of radio domination of songs mainly written by one main – Lionel Richie.

The First Modern Diva: Diana Ross

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Yesterday, I saddled Whitney Houston with the Greatest Diva of the Rock Era title, even enough I never really said such a thing nor is she alive to really worry about such a title of hyperbole. Anyway, I would like to turn our attention to one of the first divas to emerge during the rock, Miss Diana Ross. The Supremes burst onto the rock scene as an all-girl singing trio from the Motown family. After a  run of five straight number one hit singles, Berry Gordy took his infatuation with singer Diana Ross to new levels, where he first gave Miss Ross top billing in the group’s name, then had her break away from her two long-time friends to pursue a solo career. Along the way, Diana Ross developed into a true diva, by hitting number one on the Hot 100 Singles Chart a whopping 17 times (both with and without the Supremes) and earning an Oscar nomination for her lead performance in the 1973 movie Lady Sings the Blues.

Although, Gordy was highly motivated to make Ross into an across-the-board star, Diana was most successful as a singing diva. So, today, I present to you My Top 10 Diana Ross Solo and the Supremes Songs. Let’s get going.

10. “Love Hangover” (1976 – Diana Ross). What a great disco ballad! Did Ross knock this outta the park…or what? Rhetorical, just being rhetorical.

9. “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1970 – Ain’t Know Mountain High Enough). Personally, I love Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell’s version better, but Ross sang the crap out of this song in such a majestic manner that the song single-handedly anointed Ross a diva. This song is the blueprint for the careers of Whitney Houston, Mariah Carey, Katy Perry and the rest of the divas who have followed.

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8. “Stop! In the Name of Love” – Supremes (1965 – More Hits by the Supremes). This is simply an iconic song.

7. “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” (1975 – Diana Ross). This song was playing during one of my first slow dances ever at a school dance, so forgive me that memory. Oh, and the song is great too.

6. “Endless Love” – Duet with Lionel Richie (1981 – Endless Love OST). First, this song is easy to make fun of because it’s on the schmaltzy side. But, Richie wrote this one when he was just beginning to hit his stride as the writer of 80s ballads. Controversially, this song was used in the sexploitation film of a naked underage Brooke Shields. If you throw out the yucky pedophilia context of that stupid film the song was recorded for and focus on the great lyrics Lionel wrote, it is a great song. Thank goodness the movie association has been lost to history.

5. “You Keep Me Hanging On” – Supreme (1966 – The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozier-Holland). According to my mom, the three-year-old version of myself used to dance through the house whenever the song came on the radio she was listening to.

4. “Upside Down” (1980 – Diana). From the album that was produced by the Chic Organization, this was the first single from that album and Diana Ross’ last solo number one hit.

3. “Where Did Our Love Go” – Supremes (1964 – Where Did Our Love Go). This one kicked off the Supremes’ domination of the charts, as well as Diana’s.

2. “Baby Love” – Supremes (1964 – Where Did Our Love Go). This song, like so many from the early Motown period, is timeless and holds up when other artists cover it.

1. “I’m Coming Out” (1980 – Diana). This great piece of Chic Organization production is Ross’ ode to her gay fans as well as a statement of independence from Motown, whom she was about to leave as an artist. Personally, I love the drum intro; and, I was hooked.

So much for my quick overview of Diana Ross. I hope it inspires you to check out deeper cuts in her magnificent catalog.

Whitney Houston: Didn’t She Almost Have It All?

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Wikipedia defines the term diva like this:

A diva is a celebrated female singer; a woman of outstanding talent in the world of opera, and by extension in theatre, cinema and popular music. The meaning of diva is closely related to that of prima donna.

If you were born in the Sixties, like me, then we missed out on the European opera divas of the 19th and first half of the 20th centuries, who were renown throughout the Old World. We, as well, missed out divas from the blues such as Ma Rainey and Bessie Smith, along with gospel divas like Mahalia Jackson. We are left to dig into the history of music to discover recordings of those early divas.

For most of us, we learned about the term diva when it was attached to such pop/rock/R&B singers as Aretha Franklin, Diana Ross, Dusty Springfield, Karen Carpenter, Donna Summer and Janis Joplin. Then, the Eighties and Nineties rolled around, and all of a sudden, we were blessed with some many talented females singers, or as they collectively became known as divas. Ponder these names: Deborah Harry (Blondie), Cyndi Lauper, Tina Turner, Madonna, Janet Jackson, Chaka Khan, Patty Smyth (Scandal/solo), Terri Nunn (Berlin), Annie Lennox (Eurythmics/solo). They were but a few of the women who burst during the first decade of MTV. Then, those ladies were followed by Sinead O’Connor, Mariah Carey, Mary J. Blige, Faith Evans, Christina Aguilera, to name but a few very. Yet, in my mind, we have one beautiful woman who casts such a large shadow over all of these women, that it is difficult for the most of these talented singers to get much of the spotlight. But, when drugs and alcohol had robbed this diva of her superpower, we still loved her. The diva who knocked us out with her 1985 debut album, eponymously titled album is none other than Whitney Houston.

Whitney hit us hard with a crystal clear voice that emerged from the body of a supermodel. She was the perfect “package”. Unfortunately, no amount of success could ever take away the pain she long felt. So, even during her most successful days, the path of self-destruction had been set in motion, and most probably hasten her ultimate fate. Yet, we are still left with some of the finest music ever recorded by a female, or diva.

Today, I bring to you My Top 20 Whitney Houston Songs.

20. “Love Will Save the Day” (1988 – Whitney). I always used to ask why Whitney sang such crappy songs like this, and not great songs like the ones I ranked in the Top 10.

19. “I Believe in You and Me” (1996 – The Preacher’s Wife OST). Once in a while, Whitney actually got a decent song to sing. Too bad it wasn’t this one.

18. “I Learned from the Best” (1999 – My Love Is Your Love). Here, Whitney’s talent transcends the song.

17. “Didn’t We Almost Have It All” (1987 – Whitney). This was a decent song that Whitney made better.

16. “My Love Is Your Love” (1999 – My Love Is Your Love). Much of Whitney’s career was singing the hell out of crappy songs, instead of giving her classy blues/rock/R&B song, and this song is proof of the former instead of the latter.

15. “Where Do the Broken Hearts Go” (1988 – Whitney). Another nice Whitney pop song.

14. “It’s Not Right but It’s Okay” (1999 – My Love Is Your Love). Here is the album where we start to hear Whitney’s gift leaving her.

13. “All the Man I Need” (1990 – I’m Your Baby Tonight). Whitney made this crappy song into a good song, which she seemed to do all too often during her lifetime.

12. “Greatest Love of All” (1986 – Whitney Houston). Now, I really do prefer George Benson’s version of this song. But, the way radio overplayed this version only drove the point home.

11. “Exhale (Shoop Shoop)” (1995 – Waiting to Exhale OST). For some reason, this song sounds like Whitney doing a Motown song.

10. “Heartbreak Hotel” (1998 – My Love Is Your Love). I don’t know why, but I’ve always liked this song.

9. “I Have Nothing” (1993 – The Bodyguard). In retrospect, maybe Whitney connected to this summer all

8. “I’m Your Baby Tonight” (1990 – I’m Your Body Tonight). Here is a fun pop song that Whitney just sings the hell out of it.

7. “I Wanna Dance with Somebody” (1987 – Whitney). Once again, “fun” Whitney from this video was a ruse.

6. “I’m Every Woman” (1993 – The Bodyguard). Somehow, Whitney made me forget that Chaka Khan did this song first.

5. “Saving All My Love for You” (1985 – Whitney Houston). This song was a natural for the “Quiet Storm” playlists of those types of radio formats.

4. “How Will I Know” (1985 – Whitney Houston). This song showed the world just how much fun this young lady could be. Unfortunately, it was just a video and not reality.

3. “You Give Good Love” (1985 – Whitney Houston). This song hooked me onto the Whitney Houston train. I’ve always felt this song had a double meaning.

2. “I Will Always Love You” (1992 – The Bodyguard). Sure, we were all tired of hearing this version of Dolly Parton’s song, but, you know what? This is Whitney’s signature song.

1. “So Emotional” (1987 – Whitney). I don’t know why, but when Whitney talks at the beginning of the song about not knowing why she likes it, she just does, I’m hooked.

From the Mind of George Clinton: It’s More Than Just Parliament and Funkadelic

Greetings everybody! Sorry about my writing the past couple of days. I know it was nothing but crappy drivel. I had fallen on Saturday, so my back spasms were way out of control, not that my spasms are ever under control. But they have been worse than normal. Then, Monday morning I got a call from my step-father called me to say that he was having trouble getting my mother out of bed. Long story short, Mom has pneumonia and is in the hospital. As most of you know who are around my age or older, watching your parents’ health deteriorate is heartbreaking and stressful. So, instead of not writing and just listen to music, I chose to write two crappy entries. Oh well…

So, I have been listening to lots of music. Recently, I had received George Clinton’s autobiography. I have not started reading it, but it is next on my list. But, I have been pulling out my records/CDs/mp3s of the various artists of his empire. I did not limit myself to his Parliament, Funkadelic and solo stuff, but his Bootsy’s Rubber Band, Eddie Hazel and Zapp music as well. This musical empire has yet to have been matched by anyone. Some people have compared Clinton to Frank Zappa, and maybe artistically they were attacking their music from a similar muse, but where Zappa always likened himself to classical composers, Clinton was more about fusing different forms of rock and R&B musics into his own, recognizable sound. His basses and synths melted into each other, providing a bedrock of whizzes, pops and farts, not the simple dance sounds of traditional sounds. Clinton’s funk was an amalgamation of space sounds, rock guitars, fuzz basses and adapted reggae/funk beats colliding head on with James Brown’s funk. Clinton’s music is busy, strange and quite possibly the sound of funk rock on acid. And, yet, you can dance yo’ butt off on the dance floor to this music.

When Clinton started, his band was called The Parliaments, and the band had a hit in the 60s with the song “(I Wanna) Testify”. After that hit, a lawsuit arose about the band’s name. So, Clinton, under the influence of late-60s rock music and his own use of LSD lead to a rechristening his band under the banner of Funkadelic. Funkadelic was created as an R&B-based rock.

Then, after a few years, Clinton won the right to his original band’s name, but he decided to drop the “The” and the ending “-s”, renaming this band Parliament. Clinton’s genius was his ability to use the same crack musicians while creating two completely difference musical identities. Thus, Parliament became the funk band. As the years moved on, various members of the bands produced solo albums for various members, such as guitar god Eddie Hazel, bassist extraordinaire Bootsy Collins and leader of the Horny Horns Fred Wesley. Then Clinton created two girl groups to give him his own “Supremes” in the form of Parlet and a more rocking R&B girl group like Labelle called The Brides of Funkenstein.

The strange thing is that as the 70s moved toward the 80s, there was very little difference in the sounds of Parliament and Funkadelic. Parliament got more guitars in their, and Funkadelic got more horns. Still, with a huge stable of some of the finest, and wildest, musicians who played in every form of the bands, Clinton could establish a concert tour that featured five or more bands with the same musicians playing all night long. Add to that the crazy recording scheduling, from which they could release five albums in a calendar year while touring during their “off” time. This led to mass defections of the musicians, leading to financial problems for Clinton.

But, what saved George Clinton and his empire’s reputation was the rise of rap music and it’s reliance on samples from music. Clinton was a huge supporter of rap music and was the friendliest musician toward rap’s use of samples. Those samples gave Clinton the cash flow that was desperately needed. So, through the 90s, Clinton and all of his Motown-inspired bands’ reputations were on the rise, recognizing the genius of the Parliafunkadelicment Thang. Now, Clinton and his posse are musical gods .

With that said, here are My Top 20 Albums from George Clinton’s P-Funk Empire, along with an album rating, from 0 to 5, from the website AllMusic.com.

20. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – Bootsy? Player of the Year (1978). 4.5

19. Fred Wesley and the Horny Horns – A Blow for You, a Toot for Me (1977). 4

18. The Brides of Funkenstein – Funk or Walk (1978). 4

17. Parliament – Up for the Down Stroke (1974). 4

16. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – Stretchin’ Out in Bootsy’s Rubber Band (1976). 4.5

15. P-Funk All-Stars – Urban Dancefloor Guerillas (1983). 4

14. Funkadelic – Uncle Jam Wants You (1983). 4.5

13. Funkadelic – Standing on the Verge of Getting It On (1974). 4

12. Funkadelic – Free Your Mind…And Your Ass Will Follow (1970). 4.5

11. Parlet – Invasion of the Booty Snatchers (1970). 4

10. Bootsy’s Rubber Band – Ahh…The Name Is Bootsy, Baby? (1977). 4.5

9. Parliament – The Clones of Dr. Funkenstein (1976). 4.5

8. Funkadelic – Funkadelic (1970). 4.5

7. Parliament – Motor Booty Affair (1978). 4.5

6. Eddie Hazel – Games, Dames and Guitar Thangs (1977). 4

5. George Clinton – Computer Games (1982). 4.5

4. Parliament – Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Syndrome (1977). 5

3. Funkadelic – Maggot Brain (1971). 5

2. Funkadelic – One Nation Under a Groove (1978). 5

1.Parliament – Mothership Connection (1975). 5

I love the music from the mind of George Clinton, and his lasting legacy has been galvanized by the rise of rap music on the samples used from his music. It’s never too late to discover the main source of many of the young people’s favorite rap songs. Don’t be afraid!

For Black History Month, Let Me Honor Some of the Blacks Who Have Rocked the World

Happy Valentine’s Day to you all! I thought about writing about romantic songs, but that’s such a cliche. So, I decided to turn my back on the Valentine’s Day theme altogether and turn to an important Black History Month topic. I wanted to pay respect to all of the great music that African-Americans and blacks from the rest of the world have given us. During the late 70s and early 80s much was done through radio playlists to separate black and white artists. Simply put, white artists played rock, and black artists played R&B, which was complete bunk.

Most of us all know the importance that black musicians have played in the development of early rock & roll, in addition to the music’s move toward rock music and beyond. Many of us continue to hold Ray Charles, James Brown, Fats Domino, Little Richard and Chuck Betty as some of the important pioneers of 50s rock & roll. We should acknowledge all of the great blues artists whose influence became more apparent as the 60s progressed. Motown songs were the cover songs of choice for many of the white English bands to cut their teeth on. On the early Beatles album, you will find that the Fab Four covered many Motown songs. And, on the other hand, The Rolling Stones, Eric Clapton/Jeff Beck/Jimmy Page looked for records to American Blues artists, who were black, on which to base their modern sounds.

Today, I would like to pay tribute to some of my favorite, and I hate to write it this way, all-black rock bands, as well as my favorite integrated bands. Personally, I never really thought of these bands and artists as black, white, red, brown, purple or yellow. Yet to say that I am racially blind is false. But, to say that I only see people who happen to be different colors is true. I will NEVER know or understand the struggles of my non-white friends, but I was given the gift of empathy, which means to me that I must treat everyone with equal respect.

Okay, enough of my effort to help race relations. Allow me to naively list my favorite black artists who play rock music.

  1. Bad Brains – This highly influential 80s punk/hardcore was recently nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. One day, I hope…
  2. Ben Harper
  3. Benjamin Booker – The latest guitar god.
  4. Bo Diddley
  5. Bob Marley & the Wailers
  6. Body Count – Ice-T’s controversial hardcore band.
  7. Curtis Mayfield – NO ONE SHOULD EVER FORGET THIS SOUL MAN OF THE 60s AND 70s. Can you hear me now?
  8. Death – Most of us recognize these guys’ Detroit proto-punk brethren: The Stooges and MC5. So how, this all black punk band was buried by time but recently rediscovered.
  9. Don Letts – This London native did more to put punk rock on the map than nearly anyone else. Plus, his 80s dreads were nearly as big as his body, which makes him cool in my back.
  10. Fishbone – This all-black band came up at the same time as the Red Hot Chili Peppers. Both bands fused funk, rock, blues and pop into a great exciting sound. The difference was that Fishbone never broke through, which I always felt was a racist thing because they are awesome.
  11. Funkadelic – This band started as George Clinton’s acid rock persona of his Parliament band, though by the end of the 70s you could hear very little difference between the two.
  12. Garland Jeffreys – This guy was compared to Bruce Springsteen when he first arrived on the scene.
  13. Gary Clark, Jr. – The Stevie Ray Vaughn of the millennials.
  14. Gnarls Barkley
  15. Howlin’ Wolf
  16. Ike & Tina Turner
  17. Joan Armatrading – In the late 70s and early 80s, it was so unusual to hear a black man playing rock music, let alone a black woman. She was part of the first wave of strong women who preferred to rock out.
  18. John Lee Hooker
  19. Labelle – This trio of strong female personalities was much more than their “Lady Marmalade” hit song., though
  20. Lenny Kravitz
  21. Living Colour – Guitarist Vernon Reid was bringing back visions of Hendrix to fans in the 80s and 90s.
  22. Mykki Blanco – This black woman is new on the corner of Rock & Roll.
  23. N.E.R.D. – Anyone remember Pharrell Williams’ funk/rock band from the early part of the 21st century. Too bad he has.
  24. Pure Hell – Pure Black metal in the new century though it’s NOT black metal that they play.
  25. Richie Havens
  26. Robert Johnson
  27. The Isley Brothers
  28. Thundercat – The Stanley Clark jazz bassist of the new century never backs away from musical challenges, like playing rock on his latest solo album or rap music on Kendrick Lamar’s two most recent releases.
  29. Tracy Chapman
  30. WZRD – If Pharrell could do it, then so could Kid Cudi. Or at least Cudi thought he could.

Now, how ’bout a taste of my favorite interracial bands. The list is MUCH longer!

  1. 24-7 Spyz – An English punk band from the 70s and 80s.
  2. 3rd Bass – This Hip Hop band was popular in the late 80s.
  3. Alabama Shakes
  4. Alice in Chains (current line-up)
  5. Apollonia 6
  6. Bloc Party – One of my favorite Gang of Four-influenced bands to pop up in the 2000s.
  7. Bob Seger & the Silver Bullet Band
  8. Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band
  9. Culture Club
  10. Cypress Hill
  11. Dave Matthews Band
  12. dc talk
  13. Dead Kennedys
  14. Doobie Brothers
  15. Fine Young Cannibals
  16. Fitz & the Tantrums
  17. Foo Fighters
  18. Funboy Three – Three former members of the ska band The Specials broke away to write an enduring pop ditty called “Our Lips Are Sealed”. Unfortunately, that song broke The Go-Go’s to the world and not Fun Boy Three.
  19. General Public – The English Beat broke into two bands in the mid-80s: the more successful Fine Young Cannibals and this brilliant pop/rock band.
  20. Germs – One of the original members of the LA hardcore scene.
  21. Guns N’ Roses – Slash, baby!
  22. Haircut 100 – Anyone remember this new wave band from the early 80s?
  23. Hootie & the Blowfish
  24. Hot Chocolate – This English pop/rock outfit had a couple of hits in the 70s, most famously “You Sexy Thing”.
  25. Jimi Hendrix Band of Gypsy – Jimi’s short-lived second line-up.
  26. Jimi Hendrix Experience
  27. KC & the Sunshine Band – After Chic, they are my next favorite disco band.
  28. King’s X – These guys were kind of a cross between Rush, Triumph and Kansas, but I’m not sure what that tells you?
  29. Little Feat – This 70s jam band has been forgotten to time, otherwise they’d be in the RRHOF.
  30. Love – They took off where with folk rock where the Byrds had left off when that band started leaning toward country rock.
  31. Massive Attack – Remember Trip Hop that originated in the UK in the 90s? No? Then, check out this duo.
  32. Nirvana – Became interracial when the trio added guitarist Pat Smear for their last album and tour.
  33. Paul Butterfield Blues Band
  34. Prince & the New Power Generation
  35. Prince & the Revolution
  36. Prince & Third Eye Girl
  37. Rage Against the Machine – Tom Morrello is a guitar god!
  38. Robert Randolph & the Family Band – If Stevie Wonder fronted a R&B-based jam band while playing a steel pedal guitar, for a touch of gospel, you would nearly get this band.
  39. Rufus
  40. Run the Jewels – My newest rap group obsession is an interracial duo consisting of rap stars Killer Mike and El-P.
  41. Santana
  42. Sepultura – South American metal gods.
  43. Sevendust – Part of that alternative-based goth metal groups from around the turn of the century.
  44. Sly & the Family Stone
  45. Suicidal Tendencies – 80s alternative metal gods.
  46. The Allman Brothers
  47. The Average White Band
  48. The Busboys – These guys played music similar in sound to the J. Geils Band. You can hear them in the first Ghostbusters movie (“The Boys Are Back in Town”). I still have their great debut album.
  49. The Chambers Brothers – Another 60s band that you might remember some of their songs that have been used in commercials.
  50. The Disposable Heroes of Hiphoprisy – A political rap group that gave us Michael Franti.
  51. The Electric Flag – This was the original hard rock/jazz/big band band, predating Blood, Sweat & Tears and Chicago.
  52. The English Beat – The great UK ska band from the original 70/80s Two Tone wave.
  53. The Family – Prince’s post-Time protege band.
  54. The Funk Brothers – I am not kidding you when I tell you that Motown’s session band was an interracial group.
  55. The Rolling Stones (current line-up)
  56. The Selecter – Another Two Tone ska band.
  57. The Specials – The most popular of the Two Tone groups until they imploded two years later.
  58. The Spin Doctors – “Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong”
  59. The Time
  60. The Wrecking Crew – These West Coast session hot shots played on all kinds of
  61. Thin Lizzy – I LOVE THIS BAND! PLEASE BUY THEIR MUSIC!
  62. Thompson Twins
  63. Tom Tom Club
  64. Tower of Power
  65. TV on the Radio – I have heard them referred to as America’s Radiohead. Personally, I prefer TV on the Radio, but that’s just me.
  66. UB40
  67. Vanity 6
  68. Village People
  69. War
  70. X-Ray Spex  – Only during the 70s punk era in the UK could a band be fronted by a young black female. Then again, only one band could write tough songs from a female’s perspective.

Yes, this list is a bit daunting. Still, it is conversation starter. One last thing: this topic was to shed light on blacks in rock music, not to patronize my black friends. I hope you found it interesting, if nothing else. Peace to you all!

Here’s to Stevie Wonder and My Favorite 25 Songs of His

Last night’s Grammy Awards Show got me to reminiscing about those shows from the Seventies, when it appeared that the musicians had been served a meal AND an endless flow of drinks. Because of that, you never knew what kind of speech would be given. Personally, I miss Stevie Wonder’s speeches where he thanked all of God’s children for the inspiration for his song or album that had one. His speeches would last like what seemed like tens of minutes before the officials could pull him off the stage. Then came Guns N’ Roses’ fantastic drink and high-influence thank you speeches on the American Musical Awards in 1988 or 1989. Between those, and probably Yoko Ono’s tear-filled thank yous for hers and John Lennon’s last album ‘Double Fantasy’ for winning the Album of the Year in 1981 whose speech was cut off by many local stations. All of these and more incidences led to time limits on those thank you speeches and five-to-ten-second delay that the channels run to keep our tender ears from hearing foul language. So, we are missing out on these great moments now.

Now, the nominees for the awards were sort of boring to me, but the performances were entertaining, with a couple even transcendent. I loved the pairing of Alicia Keys & Maren Morris pairing; those two might consider actually recording together. It was fun for this old guy to see Prince’s greatest proteges, The Time, perform truncated versions of “Jungle Love” and “The Bird”. Of course, I love the rock and roll chaos of A Tribe Called Quest’s performance. And, the Metallica/Lady Gaga match-up was more fun than we have gotten at one of these shows in years. Beyoncé’s act was just plain strange. I just couldn’t get the image of Keenan Thompson and Tracy Morgan acting like her twins in utero the night before on Saturday Night Live. The funniest thing I heard last night was what my wife said to me about her music. My wife thinks it would be hilarious to hear some rapping in the middle of one of her songs. Now, that’s something to contemplate.

Anyway, in honor of last night’s Grammy Awards Show, I am giving to you My Top 25 Stevie Wonder Songs, since he always seemed to be winning awards during the those shows in the Seventies.

25. “Happy Birthday” (1981). Was a hit in the UK. This was written in honor of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. back when people were pressing the US government for a holiday in his honor.

24. “Part-Time Lover” (1985). When I heard this song, I knew his magic had been used up.

23. “We Can Work It Out” (1971). Only Stevie Wonder could take one of my favorite Beatles’ song and turn it into a Motown standard.

22. “Ebony and Ivory” with Paul McCartney (1982). Yes, the metaphor was tired, and so seemed the duo’s performance, but their hearts were in the correct place during the early days of the Reagan era.

21. “Send One Your Love” (1979). Yes, the album from which this song comes IS dopey. Still, the tune remains one of Stevie’s finest ballads.

20. “Do I Do” (1982). In 1982, Stevie released something of a double album greatest hits collection. At the end of each side of the two albums had a new song, and this light funk number was one of them.

19. “Blowin’ in the Wind” (1966). Stevie takes Bob Dylan to church and changes this song into a gospel song.

18. “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” (1965). Stevie took the Motown sound as far as he could. He was ready to take over the creative reigns for his music.

17. “Signed, Sealed, Delivered I’m Yours” (1970). That transition from Stevie as part of the Motown factory to being his own self-contained music production company.

16. “Living for the City” (1973). Now, we are getting to hear the benefits of allowing Stevie to run loose within a studio on the album from which this funky song with sociological lyrics.

15. “Fingertips” (1963). Hello music lovers! This is Little Stevie Wonder, and he’s only 12 years old. And he can sing like that? And blow that harp too? Yes, he’s our newest musical genius.

14. “Skeletons” (1987). Here is Stevie embracing hip hop into his repertoire, and he doesn’t miss a beat either.

13. “You Haven’t Done Nothin'” (1974). Stevie was at his creative peak between the years of 1972 through 1980, as this funky single proves.

12. “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” (1980). This underappreciated slice of rhythm & country was just a minor hit in 1980/1981. Still, the song displays two thing about Mr. Wonder. First, he is a genius at melding these two genres that had drifted far apart, and to predict the direction in which country music would move 30 years later.

11. “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (1973). Just to prove he could battle the Carpenters on equal ground, Stevie Wonder releases this timeless display of love.

10. “I Wish” (1976). This beautiful cut comes from his classic double album Songs in the Key of Life. It will always remind me of my youthful optimism.

9. “I Was Made to Love Her” (1967). This is Stevie at his Motown machine’s best.

8. “Boogie on Reggae Woman” (1974). Few had heard of reggae or Bob Marley before this song. But, Stevie was finding inspiration everywhere for his seemingly insatiable musical appetite.

7. “For Once in My Life” (1968). Stevie shows his growth as a musician as he fits in with Sly & the Family Stone.

6. “My Cherie Amour” (1969). That’s right! Stevie melts women’s hearts all over the world with this song.

5. “Superstition” (1972). Originally written for guitar god Jeff Beck for his band to perform. But, Stevie was creatively antsy and recorded the definitive version himself. And what a great funk/rock song he made here.

4. “Sir Duke” (1977). This salute to Duke Ellington displays Stevie flexing his musical muscles by now amalgamating big band, pop, rock, soul and a tincture of disco into this brilliant song.

3. “That Girl” (1982). This slinky make-out song was the last truly great Stevie Wonder song ever released.

2. “Higher Ground” (1973). I cannot hear this song and not think of the ABA-playing Julius “Dr. J” Erving showing all of his moves in that old Converse basketball shoes commercial as this thick slice of George Clinton-style funk plays on. The whole thing just reeks cool.

1. “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” (1980). Stevie Wonder goes back to the Bob Marley well for an even better tribute to the reggae legend who was dying at the time from cancer. Stevie turned up the bass on this one to make a timeless work of art.

Stevie Wonder played a huge role in my musical life, but I did not fully appreciate it until I got in college. Nevertheless, the Grammys will never be the same as when he was showing us a sanitized version of rap in his seemingly endless acceptance speeches. Everything Stevie Wonder did was always iconic, plain and simple.

The Final Day for My Top 100 Songs Countdown of the Jackson Family

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Wake up everyone! It’s Friday. We are on the cusp of another weekend. Sports-wise, there is no football, but plenty of basketball, as the college teams are trying to begin their push toward the tournament, March Madness. The biggest thing this weekend will be the Grammys, Sunday, on CBS. I usually spend the program on Facebook making snarky remarks about the show, winners, clothing, music, whatever makes me feel better about myself.

Well, enough about the Grammy Awards Show, let’s get going with My Top 20 Jackson Songs! I’m sure you have been wanting this countdown, so here we go!

20. The Jackson 5 – “ABC” (1970 – ABC). At the time this song was released, the J5 were riding high with several consecutive number one songs, including this one.

19. Michael Jackson – “Ben” (1972 – Ben). Here was the first clue that Michael had a creepy song, as he sang this song about a rat with so much emotion.

18. The Jackson 5 – “The Love You Save” (1970 – ABC). Here is another J5 song that was part of the original number one streak that started their career.

17. MJ with Siedah Garrett – “I Just Can’t Stop Loving You” (1987 – Bad). Michael wrote this song with the hopes of singing a duet with Barbra Streisand. He ended up sharing the song with an up-and-coming Siedah Garrett, from whom I haven’t heard much ever since.

16. Janet Jackson – “Runaway” (1995 – Design of a Decade). You never know what kind of song you will get when an artist tacks a song or two on their latest greatest hits. In the case of this song, we got a classic.

15. MJ – “Remember the Time”/”Come Together” (1992 – Dangerous). This double-sided hit was a great pairing.

14. MJ – “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough” (1979 – Off the Wall). This is where the adult version of Micheal Jackson started. Which meant he was leaving his brothers behind.

13. MJ – “Beat It” (1983 – Thriller). Although many dance/disco songs had guitar solos, none of them featured Eddie Van Halen, who was the Guitar God of the moment.

12. JJ – “Doesn’t Really Matter” (2001 – All for You). This album was the last great Janet Jackson album. You can still hear the Janet magic in every song.

11. The Jackson 5 – “I Want You Back” (1969 – Diana Ross Presents the Jackson 5). This is the song that started the whole Jackson phenomenon off. To this day, this song sounds very bit as urgent as it did when it was released.

10. MJ – “Rock with You” (1979 – Rock with You). This is Michael’s first great make-out record. And, it was performed long before we found out how strange he was.

9. JJ – “Again” (1993 – janet.). Janet did go through a stage where she was titling her songs with single, monosyllabic words, but how great were they all?

8. The Jackson 5 – “I’ll Be There” (1970 – Third Album). What a great ballad! And the brothers cut this during their initial streak of number one hits.

7. MJ – “Black or White” (1991 – Dangerous). This song was Michael’s largest statement on race relations ever. Side note: anyone remember who knocked Dangerous from the top spot on Billboard‘s Top 200 Chart? Nirvana’s Nevermind.

6. JJ – “Together Again” (1997 – The Velvet Rope). This is Janet’s big hit from her soft porn hit album, The Velvet Rope.

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5. Paul McCartney & MJ – “Say Say Say” (1983 – Pipes of Peace). This song was recorded during the same sessions that resulted in that schlock classic “The Girl Is Mine”. This song, however, was saved for the next McCartney album. And thank goodness that it was, because that was the only good song on that album. Think about what would have happened if the songs had been switched on albums. Thriller would have sold another 5-10 million copies, and Pipes of Peace would have been completely forgotten over time.

4. MJ – “Billie Jean” (1983 – Thriller). This song changed everything. First, supposedly, the video got other black artists’ videos on MTV. Next, it blew Thriller into the stratosphere. Finally, when Mike performed this song on the Motown 25 TV show, he gave us “The Moonwalk”. And, did you know that this song hit #1?

3. MJ – “You Are Not Alone” (1995 – HIStory). Unfortunately, this was MJ’s last gasp of true greatness. Still, what a beautiful way to end one of the greatest runs of songwriting in rock history.

2. JJ – “All for You” (2001 – All for You). Can you believe Janet has the second biggest selling single ever? If this is a surprise, guess what? No one should have underestimated the Jacksons’ youngest sister.

1. JJ – “That’s the Way Love Goes” (1993 – janet.) That’s right! Janet Jackson has the biggest selling song of the Jackson Family. Timing had everything to do with this. This fantastic song was released at the beginning of the “Go-Go Nineties”. Think about this: how many copies of Thriller would have been sold if it have been released in the 90s? Honestly, who cares, but the 90s were a great decade for music sales.

And, that’s the Top 100 Songs by the Jackson Family. I was every bit as surprised to find out that Janet had the top two best-selling songs of the family. I think that list should go a long way to proving that she belongs in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, joining Michael and her other brothers. Hey Hall! Make It Happen!