What Is Rock & Roll?

3.1 rock_and_roll

Every year, when the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announces its list of nominees, a few of my friends always want to know why a pop artist such as Madonna or ABBA or hip hop artists like N.W.A or Tupac are nominated. They say, “Janet Jackson is R&B and pop, so she should be inducted into those Halls not the Rock & Roll one.” In the past, I have attempted to answer these questions with a historical view, or go on a self-serving treatise about how the term “rock & roll” was a term for the music of the Fifties that is basically useless today. And, all it does is leave all parties unsatisfied why those artists matter as much as Pink Floyd, the Stones and Aerosmith.

So, for the better part of the past six weeks, I have researched this topic in an attempt to assimilate this whole concept into a coherent essay. Unfortunately, each time I attempted this feat, something along the lines of a writer’s block crept in. Only, it’s not a writer’s block but more of a thinker’s block. For weeks on end, I have been turning to my music collection, be it vinyl, CD or mp3, and streaming in an effort to put this thing altogether into words. Along the way, I have absorbed disparate music from the likes of David Bowie, Lady Gaga, Motown, Cheap Trick, Queen, Parliament/Funkadelic, Dr. Dre, Jay-Z and so many others. Then, this morning, I streamed Eddie Kendricks’ greatest hits, some Chaka Khan and Fugees, then watched a concert film of The Who and started to watch a Bowie film on Hulu when I decided enough was enough. I HAD to write.

3.1 sly-family-stone

Back in the early-Eighties, some important players in the music industry decided they wanted to create a Hall of Fame to honor many of the artists from the beginning so they would never be forgotten. It was a noble thought and idea, but I remember immediately upon learning this that the Hall could end up being controversial in who gets into it after the Fifties giants are inducted. Look, unlike jazz, the blues and country, the basics of rock & roll have evolved, mutated and changed into something completely unrecognizable by my parents standards for whom much of the early rock & roll sounds were geared.

When did rock & roll begin? Honestly, no one really knows. The term “rock & roll” was a common euphemism for sex in the black community of the early half of the twentieth century. Seriously, music historians have discovered recordings from as far back as the first decade of the twentieth century in which rock & roll was used in the titles of the songs. But, the phrase was never attached to a type of music until the Fifties. DJ Alan Freed, one of the first white DJs to embrace, promote AND play this music, is the man that is credited with attaching “roll & roll” to the music he was playing.

3.1 alan freed

Now, for a little history, Fifties-era America was NOT a shining beacon of gracious racial integration, not that it’s much better today, so this new music, which was initially coming from the black communities across the nation, was labeled as “Rhythm & Blues” or by the more troubling label “Race Records.” And, labels would slap the “Rock & Roll” anointment upon cover versions of these “race records” by cleanly-scrubbed white artists like Pat Boone. God bless her, but my mom, for whatever reason, had left me copies of “Tutti Frutti” by both Little Richard and Pat Boone. Of course, I immediately knew that Little Richard would have scared the white folks of my mom’s hometown, and that Pat Boone would sound more acceptable. Those two records taught me more about America than anything I learned in history classes. At the dawn of rock & roll, the public was being trained that white musicians were playing rock & roll and black artists were doing R&B. Yet, for all the differences I heard in those two records, the one that stuck out the most to me was that the Boone version lacked the whole “roll,” or rhythm, that the original Little Richard version contained. Immediately, at the age of 16, my mom’s record collection taught me an important lesson: you cannot have rock & roll without the “roll.”

3.1 cat stevens

This thing called rock & roll was more than simply the rock side of things, which predominantly white musicians focused and developed beginning in the mid-Sixties, while mainly black artists continued to keep that roll going in their contributions to modern music. Now, that’s not to say that the two never met or interacted with each other. No, those was continual cross-pollination happening all the time. Additionally, artists would spring up attempting to bridge the two sides in the form of Sly & the Family Stone or Prince & the Revolution or the Red Hot Chili Peppers. While others purposefully developed sounds that belied their skin color. For example, the hard rock Eighties band Living Colour were an all-black band and the Beastie Boys were all-white hip hop crew. The Average White Band were doing funk, while KC & the Sunshine Band was creating disco. And on the flip side, The Chambers Brothers and Love were rocking every bit as hard as white bands during those eras. You see, this is not a race thing, it’s a music thing.

3.1 rrhof

Personally, when I was a teenager, I too that that only the rock portion of rock & roll was worth listening to. But, Mom’s records taught me a little, as did reading books about music. Recently, I mentioned that I bought The Book of Rock Lists, which I attribute me influencing my current definition of rock & roll. Still, I will leave it to the words of the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame itself:

“The more immediate roots of rock and roll lay in the so-called “race” music, or rhythm and blues, and “hillbilly” music, or country & western, of the Forties and Fifties. Other significant influences include blues, jazz, gospel, boogie-woogie, folk and bluegrass…

Over the past five decades, rock and roll has evolved in many directions. Numerous styles of music — from soul to hip-hop, from heavy metal to punk, from progressive rock to electronic — have fallen under the rock and roll umbrella.

The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame recognizes these different types of music and looks forward to seeing how rock and roll will continue to reinvent itself in the future.”

So, this is why I have no problem with artists like Whitney Houston getting in the Hall. Actually, I wish the Hall would loosen their stupid induction requirements, or at least set it up to be similar to the Baseball Hall of Fame, so more artists would be inducted, all of which might alleviate this whole feeling of metal artists or prog rockers feeling ripped off because the Hall might induct Dionne Warwick or Kate Bush or Devo instead of them. And, actually, I think it’s more of a fan issue than it is a musician’s, though there are musicians with this attitude (Gene Simmons, I’m looking at you!).

But, that’s what is so cool about music. All of this stuff speaks to each of us individually. For me, there are days when Tom Petty knows exactly what I am battling. Then, there are others when it’s Earth, Wind & Fire to do the trick, or it could be The Flying Burrito Brothers. Or Fishbone. Or ABBA. Or Pat Benatar.

3.1 fishbone

Whoever your favorite musical artist is, they will always maintain their rightful place in the most important Hall of Fame, your heart. Personally, I follow the words of the prophet Billy Joel in his great classic “It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me”: “Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk/It’s still rock and roll to me.”

It’s the End of My Motown 150: The Top 50 Songs

2.16 Motown Magic

Very few record companies had the impact that Motown as had. Over the years, we had watched as artist after artist attempted to cover songs from the Motown cannon to varying levels of success, with few of them actually coming close to the level of artistic integrity of the original. So, where did the magic come from?

Some have opined that it was the studio, only to have artist after artist try to record there with little success. Others claimed it was their record producers, only to use one of those men to produce an album with little success. And artist after artist attempted writing sessions with some of the big songwriters of the day, only to leave the sessions stymied. So, what was it?

2.16 Stevie Wonder with the Funk Brothers

If you have watched the excellent-though-dated documentary Standing in the Shadows of Motown, you probably know the answer. You see, back in the post-World War II years, there was a migration of poor blacks and whites from the South to Detroit in search of jobs in the automobile factories there. Of course, when a huge influx of people enters an area, so does an influx in musical talent. So, when Barry Gordy Jr. decided to start his own record label, he went in search of the best musicians in the area to become his “house” band. These men were seasoned veterans of the Detroit blues and jazz scenes and were all virtuosos at their craft. The beautiful thing was that they were both black and white musicians who appreciated each other not only for their musical talents but for each other. For some reason, these men, who became known as “The Funk Brothers,” had a chemistry that extended beyond the studio, regardless of the color of their skin. And, they brought a spirituality to their sessions by praying before each one.

No, it wasn’t just the studio or songwriters or producers or songs, it was the musicians who brought it all to life that made Motown special. It was the Funk Brothers. And, this is true of all the great recording studios throughout the history of rock and roll. From Stax to Atlantic to LA to Muscle Shoals, all of the big successful recording studios and record labels of this era had crack studio bands with great chemistry. And the Funk Brothers, in my humble opinion, were the greatest of them all. That is why I have been proposing for the better part of a decade that the whole group known as the Funk Brothers be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.

2.16 Funk Brothers recently

You know that The Temptations, The Supremes, Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, Four Tops and all the rest were unbelievably talented vocalists, and in the case of Gaye and Wonder, talented musicians in their own right. But it was the Funk Brothers who made those songs jump from the speakers. Those guys played uncredited on more hits than Elvis, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones combined. Yet, few know about them.

So, the next time you have a hankering for some Motown music and begin to listen to the music on your prefer mode of audio entertainment, remember that the music of this fabled label was arranged and played by some of the most incredibly talented musicians ever collected in one room. And they like to call themselves the Funk Brothers.

2.16 Motown record labels

So, let’s take at look at the work of the Funk Brothers, who can be found on all the classic music recorded before 1971. By 1972, Motown had left behind Detroit for the glitz of Los Angeles. Not only did Motown abandon Detroit upon their move, they abandoned their crack coterie of blues/jazz/R&B/funk players collectively known as The Funk Brothers.

Now, for the countdown.

2.16 50.Boyz_II_Men_End_of_the_Road

50. Boyz II Men – “End of the Road” (1992)

49. The Undisputed Truth – “Smiling Faces Sometimes” (1971)

48. The Supremes – “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” (1966)

47. The Temptations – “Cloud Nine” (1968)

46. Four Tops – “Baby I Need Your Loving” (1964)

2.16 45.Isn't_She_Lovely_-_Stevie_Wonder

45. Stevie Wonder – “Isn’t She Lovely” (1977)

44. Diana Ross – “I’m Coming Out” (1980)

43. The Miracles – “Love Machine (Part 1)” (1975)

42. Diana Ross – “Love Hangover” (1976)

41. Jackson 5 – “Never Can Say Goodbye” (1971)

2.16 40.my cherie amour

40. Stevie Wonder – “My Cherie Amour” (1969)

39. The Supremes – “Baby Love” (1964)

38. The Miracles – “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me” (1962)

37. Four Tops – “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)” (1965)

36. The Supremes – “Where Did Our Love Go” (1964)

2.16 35.boogie on reggae woman

35. Stevie Wonder – “Boogie On Reggae Woman” (1974)

34. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – “I Second That Emotion” (1967)

33. Marvin Gaye – “Got to Give It Up (Part 1)” (1977)

32. The Miracles – “Shop Around” (1960)

31. Marvin Gaye – “Let’s Get It On” (1973)

2.16 30.Tracks_of_my_tears

30. The Miracles – “The Tracks of My Tears” (1965)

29. The Marvelettes – “Please Mr. Postman” (1961)

28. Barrett Strong – “Money (That’s What I Want)” (1959)

27. The Supremes – “Stop! In the Name of Love” (1965)

26. Stevie Wonder – “Higher Ground” (1973)

2.16 25.Easy_by_Commodores

25. Commodores – “Easy” (1977)

24. Jr. Walker & the All Stars – “Shotgun” (1965)

23. Martha & the Vandellas – “(Love Is Like a) Heatwave” (1963)

22. The Contours – “Do You Love Me’ (1962)

21. The Temptations – “Just My Imagination (Running Away with Me)” (1971)

2.16 20.Four-tops-reach-out-1966

20. Four Tops – “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” (1966)

19. The Miracles – “Ooo Baby Baby” (1965)

18. Mary Wells – “My Guy” (1964)

17. The Temptations – “My Girl” (1964)

16. The Supremes – “You Can’t Hurry Love” (1966)

2.16 15.Stevie_wonder-superstition

15. Stevie Wonder – “Superstition” (1972)

14. Jimmy Ruffin – “What Becomes of the Brokenhearted” (1966)

13. Martha & the Vandellas – “Dancing in the Street” (1964)

12. Edwin Starr – “War” (1970)

11. Rick James – “Super Freak” (1981)

2.16 10.ain't-too-proud

10. The Temptations – “Ain’t Too Proud to Beg” (1966)

9. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1967)

8. Marvin Gaye – “What’s Going On” (1971)

7. Jackson 5 – “I Want You Back” (1969)

6. Stevie Wonder – “Sir Duke” (1977)

2.16 5.Standing_in_the_Shadows_of_Love

5. Four Tops – “Standing in the Shadows of Love” (1966)

4. The Temptations – “Papa Was a Rolling Stone” (1972)

3. Smokey Robinson & the Miracles – “The Tears of a Clown” (1970)

2. Martha & the Vandellas – “Nowhere to Run” (1965)

2.16 1.i heard it through the grapevine

1. Marvin Gaye – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1968)

And, there you have it! My Top 150 Motown Songs. Peace.

Day 2 of My 150 Favorite Motown Songs, #51-100

2.16 motown kids

When it comes to music, there are singles, album cuts and albums that have played an important part in the development of my musical tastes. However, the one thing that truly did more in my rock music development was a book entitled The Book of Rock Lists written by former Creem magazine editor Dave Marsh and Kevin Stein. Now, in the Seventies and Eighties Books of Lists were quite the rage, but no one had focused upon rock and roll. That book single-handedly changed everything for me.

Prior to reading The Book of Rock Lists, I mainly listened to Journey, REO Speedwagon and Styx, though I had been discovering artists like Cheap Trick, The Clash, Sex Pistols, Blondie, Devo, The Police, Parliament/Funkadelic and Chic. But, perhaps, nothing changed my musical life more than Chapter 33, entitled “Top of the Pops.”

2.16 Motown package tour

Let me begin by saying, I had no idea at the time the authors were referencing the great weekly British program of the same name with that title. More importantly, Marsh and Stein made an effort to list the best 40 songs and albums for each year of the rock era, which at the time spanned from 1955 through 1980. They used the criteria that each song and album had to have reached the Top 40 of Billboard’s charts for albums and singles. As I read those lists, I discovered that the definition of rock and roll was far more inclusive than I had previously been lead to believe. When I finished that chapter, I gained the confidence that my tastes in music were in line with some of my favorite rock critics. At that moment, my definition of rock and roll expanded to include my beloved Hall & Oates, and that rock and roll included not only poppish artists but black, jazz and country artists as well. So, instead of focusing upon a small, white (artist)-based sound, I was free to include disco, R&B, the Raspberries, southern rock, the Jackson 5 and folk musics in my definition of rock and roll. Suddenly, music went from a thing of relaxation and enjoyment to something of an obsession. And, it remains that way today.

It was while reading this book that I learned how an important of a role Motown played in the development of rock and roll both directly and indirectly. These men showed me the company’s importance by the number of singles and albums recorded by their artists found in their yearly lists in Chapter 33. Suddenly, this skinny lad from the flatlands of Central Indiana found it enrichening as he played Alice Cooper, followed by Thelma Houston, then Journey, Tom Tom Club, Kenny Loggins, Heart, Marvin Gaye, etc. while making mixtapes.

2.16 MJ steals Motown 25

This revelation influenced by DJ-ing as well. Suddenly, I found it musically amusing to watch kids dancing to dance tunes by Donna Summer and Frankie Smith, only to have songs by The Clash or Devo or, God forbid, Foreigner slid into the mix without anyone leaving the dancefloor. All of this was possibly due to The Book of Rock Lists, especially that now-fabled Chapter 33.

Rick James At Home

And Motown, especially that classic stuff from the Sixties, was still so good that kids of the early-Eighties continued to dance to those joyous, carefree songs. Plus, Motown seemed to just put a smile on the faces of those on the dancefloors. And, I’ve kept those memories locked with the sounds of those classic songs.

So, let’s get that countdown restarted, beginning with number 100 on my list of my 150 favorite Motown songs. 

2.16 100.The_Way_You_Do_the_Things_You_Do_-_Temptations

100. The Temptations – “The Way You Do the Things You Do” (1964)

99. Lionel Richie – “All Night Long (All Night)” (1983)

98. Teena Marie – “I Need Your Lovin’” (1980)

97. The Supremes – “Love Child” (1968)

96. The Temptations – “Runaway Child, Running Wild” (1969)

95. Stevie Wonder – “I Wish” (1976)

94. Rare Earth – “I Want to Celebrate” (1971)

93. Mary Jane Girls – “In My House” (1985)

92. Mary Wells – “Two Lovers” (1962)

91. Jackson 5 – “ABC” (1970)

2.16 90.quiet storm

90. Smokey Robinson – “Quiet Storm” (1975)

89. Stevie Wonder – “That Girl” (1982)

88. Diana Ross – “Touch Me in the Morning” (1973)

87. The Temptations – “Psychedelic Shack” (1970)

86. Martha & the Vandellas – “Jimmy Mack” (1967)

85. The Supremes – “Stoned Love” (1970)

84. Gladys Knight & the Pips – “I Don’t Want to Do Wrong” (1971)

83. Lionel Richie & Diana Ross – “Endless Love” (1981)

82. Marvin Gaye – “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” (1964)

81. Rockwell – “Somebody’s Watching Me” (1984)

2.16 80.boogie down

80. Eddie Kendricks – “Boogie Down” (1973)

79. Jackson 5 – “I’ll Be There” (1970)

78. Gladys Knight & the Pips – “If I Were Your Woman” (1970)

77. Commodores – “Nightshift” (1985)

76. The Temptations – “(I Know) I’m Losing You” (1966)

75. Little Stevie Wonder – “Fingertips (Part II)” (1963)

74. Marvin Gaye & Kim Westin – “It Takes Two” (1966)

73. Stevie Wonder – “For Once in My Life” (1968)

72. Smokey Robinson – “Cruisin’” (1979)

71. Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell – “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” (1968)

2.16 70.Neither_One_of_Us_(Wants_to_Be_the_First_to_Say_Goodbye)_-_Gladys_Knight_&_the_Pips

70. Gladys Knight & the Pips – “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye)” (1972)

69. Stevie Wonder – “Uptight (Everything’s Alright)” (1965)

68. Isley Brothers – “This Old Heart of Mine (Is Weak for You)” (1966)

67. Four Tops – “It’s the Same Old Song” (1965)

66. The Temptations – “Ball of Confusion (That’s What the World Is Today)” (1970)

65. The Marvelettes – “Beechwood 4-5789” (1962)

64. Marvin Gaye – “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” (1971)

63. Dazz Band – “Let It Whip” (1982)

62. The Supremes – “Come See About Me” (1964)

61. Commodores – “Brick House” (1977)

2.16 60.master blaster

60. Stevie Wonder – “Master Blaster (Jammin’)” (1980)

59. David Ruffin – “My Whole World Ended (The Moment You Left Me)” (1969)

58. Diana Ross – “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)” (1975)

57. Eddie Kendricks – “Keep on Truckin’ (Part 1)” (1973)

56. Thelma Houston – “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (1976)

55. The Temptations – “I Can’t Get Next to You” (1969)

54. Gladys Knight & the Pips – “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” (1967)

53. Johnny Gill – “Rub You the Right Way” (1990)

52. David Ruffin – “Walk Away from Love” (1975)

2.16 51.three times a lady

51. Commodores – “Three Times a Lady” (1978)

I hope to finish this off this week. Peace.

Motown in 150 Songs, Day 1

2.16 Motown

Honestly, I think I was born with Motown ingrained into my DNA. Of course, I had no idea what Motown was when I was little. I simply knew what songs I liked and those I did not, though many of those grew on me as I got older. As I watch my grandchildren react to music, there is something innately programmed into us to want to dance. So, when I heard Motown artists, Mom said I would dance through the house.

As I got older, Motown’s music continued to move me. I distinctly remember being an elementary kid when Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On” was a hit. Since I realized early on that I lacked musical talent, I focused on the lyrics. And, “What’s Going On” spoke to me. I probably did not understand everything that was going on in the song, but I knew anguish and despair when I heard it. And, Marvin was in pain, and that knowledge moved me. Still, I did not know Gaye was a Motown artist.

2.16 Hitsville USA Studio & Museum

Eventually, I began to learn that this label called Motown was and continued to be a label that was home to many talented artists who I loved. I was the right age for Stevie Wonder to be a major artist on the radio, and old enough to watch a majority of my classmates get excited during lunch whenever the jukebox would play “Love Machine (Part 1)” by The Miracles. Through in Thelma Houston’s “Don’t Leave Me This Way” and a little live Marvin Gaye ditty called “Got to Give It Up,” and we’d have a nice soundtrack to our lunch period.

When I got to college, I immediately discovered that some of my favorite new wave artists, like Culture Club and The Style Council, had a Motown-fixation that was a definite influence on their music. With that in mind, I slowly began to accumulate some Motown music. And, whenever I read a rock history book, there was always large portions of the book reserved for this formerly Detroit-based label and its subsidiaries (Tamla, Melo-dy, etc.). It was then I learned that Smokey Robinson & the Miracles, The Temptations, Four Tops and The Supremes had all grown up together. And, that Stevie Wonder blew the whole “Motown Family” away as a pre-teen by playing almost every instrument in the fabled Hitsville U.S.A. studio at the Motown building (which was actually a small home).

2.16 Temptations

And during those same college years, I began to weave Motown songs into my party mixtapes, discovering these beautifully classic songs kept the party rocking. It was then that I realized I was not the only person in my age group who loved Motown, arguably the greatest record label with the finest array of musical talent.

Today, I am going to begin another of my series of Favorite Songs of an artist, genre or, like the next few days, a record company. Therefore, let’s no longer delay the countdown. Kick it!

2.16 150.Rhythm_of_the_Night

150. DeBarge – “Rhythm of the Night” (1985)

149. Bobby Taylor & the Vancouvers – “Does Your Mama Know About Me” (1968)

148. Stevie Wonder – “Overjoyed” (1985)

147. Rick James – “You and Me” (1978)

146. G.C. Cameron – “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday” (1975)

145. Brenda Holloway – “Every Little Bit Hurts” (1964)

144. Smokey Robinson – “One Heartbeat” (1987)

143. Eddie Holland – “Jamie” (1961)

142. The Velvelettes – “Needle in a Haystack” (1964)

141. Commodores – “Lady (You Bring Me Up)” (1981)

2.16 140.signed sealed delivered

140. Stevie Wonder – “Signed, Sealed, Delivered (I’m Yours)” (1970)

139. Smokey Robinson – “Just to See Her” (1987)

138. Michael Jackson – “Ben” (1972)

137. The Supremes – “Back in My Arms Again” (1965)

136. Commodores – “Sail On” (1979)

135. Shanice – “I Love Your Smile” (1991)

134. Marvin Gaye – “I Want You” (1976)

133. Jermaine Jackson – “Let’s Get Serious” (1980)

132. Mary Wells – “The One Who Really Loves You” (1962)

131. The Spinners – “It’s a Shame” (1970)

2.16 130.Love-u-save-jackson5

130. Jackson 5 – “The Love You Save” (1970)

129. Commodores – “Oh No” (1981)

128. Stevie Wonder – “You Haven’t Done Nothin’” (1974)

127. Boyz II Men – “Motownphilly” (1991)

126. Kim Weston – “Take Me in Your Arms (Rock Me a Little While)” (1965)

125. Lionel Richie – “Truly” (1982)

124. Marvin Gaye – “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” (1971)

123. Stevie Wonder – “I Was Made to Love You” (1967)

122. Diana Ross – “Upside Down” (1980)

121. Mary Wells – “You Beat Me to the Punch” (1962)

2.16 120.On Bended Knee B2M

120. Boyz II Men – “On Bended Knee” (1994)

119. Stevie Wonder – “You Are the Sunshine of My Life” (1973)

118. Rare Earth – “Get Ready” (1970)

117. Smokey Robinson – “Being with You” (1981)

116. Commodores – “Still” (1979)

115. Stevie Wonder – “I Ain’t Gonna Stand for It” (1980)

114. Another Bad Creation – “Iesha” (1991)

113. Lionel Richie – “Stuck on You” (1983)

112. Billy Preston & Syreeta – “With You I’m Born Again” (1979)

111. The Marvelettes – “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game” (1966)

2.16 110.got-to-be-there

110. Michael Jackson – “Got to Be There” (1971)

109. Rick James – “Give It to Me Baby” (1981)

108. Four Tops – “Bernadette” (1967)

107. Bettye LaVette – “Right in the Middle (Of Falling in Love)” (1981)

106. Brenda Holloway – “You’ve Made Me So Very Happy” (1967)

105. Stevie Wonder – “Living for the City” (1973)

104. Bonnie Pointer – “Heaven Must Have Sent You” (1978)

103. Boyz II Men – “I’ll Make Love to You” (1994)

102. The Supremes – “I Hear a Symphony” (1965)

2.16 101.ain't no mountain

101. Diana Ross – “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” (1970)

Next time, let’s do 50 more. Peace.

Who’s Gonna Be Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame This Year?

2.11 rock-hall-2021-nominees

At 0800 EST in the USA on Wednesday, February 10, 2021, the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame announced its 16-artist Nominees List from which five to seven will become members of the Class of 2021 Induction Class for the Hall. And, every year, a coterie of rock music aficionados, loosely known as The Hall Watchers, will converse through various modes of electronic communication, though we mostly found on Twitter waxing poetic about our favorite artists we swear is being snubbed the most by The Hall’s Nominating Committee. I must say that this loosely organized covey consists of some very fine people with interesting occupations, all of whom have a Rock & Roll Hall of Fame fetish.

To be perfectly honest, I have learned a cornucopia of information about the inner workings and politics of the Hall, as well as gained some insight concerning the nomination process. Yet, for all the faults built into the Hall, I still love it. Back during my college days, I read an article in Rolling Stone magazine that the rag’s owner, Jann Wenner, wanted to head a monetary drive to open a Hall of Fame for the world of rock music. The vision of the place would be a museum with displays honoring artists from all eras, covering the pre-rock & roll Fifties up to and including the most current flavor of the moment. And, if you have ever visited the place, located in Cleveland, Ohio, it is truly magical. So much so that even my lovely wife, who only has a passing interest in music, found the Hall to be one of her favorite places we have ever visited, which includes her beloved Disney World. And, she still puts the RRHOF ahead of Magic Kingdom and the rest of the sprawling land containing the so-called “Happiest Place on Earth” (my boys, during their teenage years, would beg to disagree). The Hall, on the other hand, was just breath-taking.

2.11 RRHOF nominees meme

Over the years, we have told our friends that they would love the place. So much so that after the pandemic so been slowed enough, there will be a caravan of crazies from Central Indiana making our own pilgrimage of sorts to Northeastern Ohio to visit this I.M. Pei shrine to the most influential artform of the twentieth century. I really want this trip to be my entry back into the world of humanity.

Anyway, every year, my social media friends and I write our annual blogs or create our annual podcasts as to our predictions for the Nominee List for the RRHOF. And, every year, each of us praise some of the choices on the list and bemoan those whom have been snubbed. Personally, I love to see how many of the artists I predicted actually end up on the list. Now, I always have one artist that is a personal favorite of mine who I become known as that person’s biggest fan. Up until their their 2016 induction, I kept adding Cheap Trick’s name to my list, even telling my boys that I would boycott the Hall until the band from Rockford, Illinois were finally let into the place. So, since 2016, my boycott is over, and Cheap Trick is an inducted member of the RRHOF. Since that time, I have placed The Jam, my beloved artist Paul Weller’s FIRST induction-worthy band, on my prediction for that year’s Nominee List. Unfortunately, The Jam’s snubbing continues into 2021. C’mon people! Ya gotta induct The Jam, then solo Paul Weller, then, when the world finally catches up to the visionary work of his Eighties band, The Style Council. And, right now, I am suffering a little bit more each year The Jam is left off the ballot for induction. Watch out friends! I may have to turn up the heat a bit for this terrific first-wave punk band.

So, let’s review my list from 29 October 2020. On that day, I wrote a blog entitled “Will Anyone Listen to Me? My Picks for the Nominees List for the 2021 Rock & Roll Hall of Fame.” First off, what a long, meandering headline! What was I thinking? No wonder few people actually read the damn thing! Oh, Christ! Anyway, who was on my list? Here it is! I predicted the Nominee List would consist of the following artists: Foo Fighters, Jay-Z, heavy metal gods Judas Priest, dark prog rockers King Crimson, German synthesizer pioneers Kraftwerk, 80s rap god LL Cool J, 60s political proto-punks MC5, 80s hard rock pioneer Pat Benatar, 70s funkateers Rufus & Chaka Khan, Seattle grunge gods Soundgarden, New Wave dance gurus The B-52’s, punk pop pioneers The Go-Go’s, my punk faves The Jam, rock’s greatest comeback queen Tina Turner and my other favorite, rock & roll producer/rocker/video visionary and all-around Renaissance man Todd Rundgren. That means that I got 6.5 correct out of my 15 choices, which, in my mind, sucks.

2.11 RRHOF

To begin with, how can Pat Benatar and Soundgarden get left off the 2021 after having Top 5 showings in the Fan Voting in 2020? That is an insult, especially to Benatar after finishing second in that balloting. Next, Kraftwerk was just ONE ballot away from getting an automatic induction into the Hall if they had made the Nominee List in 2021. This is known as the seven consecutive nominations rule. Get nominated seven times in a row, and you get an automatic induction. Guess we couldn’t allow that to happen, exactly the same thing the Hall did to Chic, whom have not been nominated since 2016 when the Hall, in its infinite wisdom, inducted band member Nile Rodgers while thumbing their collective noses at the rest of the band. That was bad form!

So, here are the 16 Nominees for the 2021 Induction Class for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. The five to seven nominees will be announced sometime in May 2021 with the induction ceremony to take place in Cleveland in November 2021. After many complaints, the Nominating Committee finally put together a very diverse list of men and women, straight and otherwise and of various nationalities and races. For that I am thankful and pleased. And, the quality of the nominees is terrific, covering many genres within the rock world.

And, the nominees are…

2.11 blige

Mary J. Blige. This is Miss Blige’s first nomination. She is the Voice of the Nineties and the diva from Generation X. What made her a more approachable diva as opposed to Mariah Carey is that Blige has much more street cred. She was never afraid of acknowledging that in her music, which transposed her peerless vocals against music grounded in hip hop. She is very deserving of this nomination, but it just is not her year…YET!

2.11 bush

Kate Bush. Miss Bush hit my radar in two ways. First, I had a pen pal from      Australia who was fanatical in her devotion to Kate Bush. Then, I saw her perform one very quirky near-art performance of her British hit song at the time on SNL. Of course, being a teenage male, I was taken immediately by her beautiful. Then, her unusual singing style immediately hooked me. In the Eighties, Bush developed a cult following in the US, while attaining star status in the UK and throughout the British empire. I still think her cult status here in the States will hurt her induction chances this year. Yet, I do envision her induction one day. Unfortunately, she is suffering due to the stupid backlog of worthy artists that needs to be rectified by the Hall ASAP.

Devo - 1980

Devo. If you were a teen in the late-70s/early 80s, you were taken by the whole performance art schtick of Devo immediately after seeing them deconstruct “(I Can’t Get No) Satisfaction” on SNL  in 1978 and then again in 1980 when the performed a rousing version of “Uncontrollable Urge” on the late, great ABC late night sketch comedy show Fridays! A whole generation of computer geeks got sucked into Devo’s world, not unlike we got sucked into “Dungeons and Dragons” back in the day. This band is on the edge of getting the call and being left out again.

2.11 foo fighters

Foo Fighters. Nobody is surprised that Dave Grohl’s second band was nominated during their first year of eligibility. My older son has described Grohl as being the last of the traditional rock stars with a dynamic stage presence. The last thing about these Nineties alternative nation survivors is they are still creating excellent music, as heard on their brand new LP called Medicine at Midnight, which happens to be one of the best albums ever. The Foos are a slam dunk to be inducted.

2.11 go gos

The Go-Go’s. This band became a trendy pick for nomination after all the positive reviews and stories of their excellent documentary The Go-Go’s. By now, you know they were the first all-female band who wrote their own songs to have a number one album on Billboard’s Top 200 Albums Chart back in the spring of 1982. After Joan Jett and Heart, you cannot underestimate this band’s lasting impact. Just ask recent inductees Green Day who one of their biggest influences are. The Go-Go’s will definitely be one of that band’s bigger influences.

2.11 iron-maiden

Iron Maiden. Heavy metal has be unfairly marginalized. Sure, Sabbath, Zep and Metallica are all in, along with hard rock stalwarts AC/DC. but recent nominees like Judas Priest, Motörhead and Thin Lizzy have been unfairly passed over. Could Maiden’s first nomination be enough to get the boys in the Hall? I think it could.

2.11 jay-z

Jay-Z. Arguably one of rap’s greatest MCs, Jay-Z should be a slam dunk for induction during his initial year of eligibility. It doesn’t hurt him that his Mr. Beyoncé either.

2.11 chaka khan

Chaka Khan. This poor woman! Sometimes she has been nominated with her former band of funk masters Rufus, and other times as a solo artist. She should be inducted in both manners. Her non-induction should be remedied soon. Unfortunately, 2021 won’t be the year for her.

Photo of Carole KING

Carole King. Can you believe this lady has NOT been inducted as a performer yet? This has been one of the biggest outrages of the past 30 years. She should be in the Hall if she had only recorded Tapestry. When she is inducted, this will become her second induction, with the first being as a songwriter with her ex-husband and former songwriting partner Gerry Goffin. Many have been yelling sexism concerning her exclusion. I expect this oversight to finally be rectified this year.

2.11 fela kuti

Fela Kuti. Few artists of color have done more for the music of their country outside of Bob Marley and Jamaica than Kuti has done with funkified versions of his native Nigeria’s music. World music artists have long been overlooked outside of a couple of reggae studs. Fela’s nomination was the feel-good left field nomination we get each year. Now, people will stream his long-deserving material much like everyone (re)discovered John Prine after his surprise nomination a couple of years ago. Unfortunately, Kuti will not be inducted this year, meaning the backlog of deserving artists continues to grow.

2.11 ll cool j

LL Cool J. One of the first transcendent hip hop stars of the Eighties, LL has been overlooked for a very long time since he has been concentrating on his acting career. But, back in the day, he was every bit as good as Run-DMC and Kurtis Blow (another overlooked rapper). He was dominate in the Eighties, at least until Eric B. & Rakim and Public Enemy came along. And they inspired LL Cool J to greater heights with Mama Said Knock You Out. Unfortunately, with Jay-Z on the ballot, LL will be outside looking in again.

2.11 new york dolls

New York Dolls. So what?! They dressed up like women. Everyone does that now and again. However, not in the Seventies. Therefore, no one, especially in the Midwest, took the band seriously. If they had just debuted three years later, they would have been punk heroes. Instead, they are another of the proto-punk bands beloved by those in the know, like we love The Stooges (inducted in 2010) and MC5 (still not in either). This band is on the fence for induction.

2.11 RATM

Rage Against the Machine. The band took the political fury of MC5, The Clash and Woody Guthrie, set it to metal music with a guitar that could sound like a scratching turntable in hip hop and hip hop rhythms to create something totally new and unique. RATM is yet another band that is straddling the fence this year.

2.11 rundgren

Todd Rundgren. Rundgren is still one of my personal all-time faves, so I think he should be inducted. And, honestly, I believe things are breaking his way. He just might be inducted, whether he says he cares or not.

2.11 turner

Tina Turner. That’s right! She has not been inducted for her stellar solo career. Oh, she was inducted as part of Ike & Tina Turner along with her asshole ex-husband who made Tina into a punching bag during their marriage. But, Tina ran off in the middle of the night in order to escape Ike, resumed her career, and became one of the best artists of the Eighties.

2.11 warwick

Dionne Warwick. This woman made Burt Bacharach’s middle of the road music come alive, with a touch of soul. Dionne’s craft was one of vocal restraint and not fireworks as her niece, Whitney Houston, made as her calling card. Warwick is another singer that people will find surprising that she is not an inductee. Since becoming a witty Twitter user over the winter, Warwick’s presence is at an new high, which means that she just might get inducted.

So, which of the outstanding 16 acts do I believe will be inducted? Usually, when choosing, we only go with five acts, since that was the policy of the RRHOF that caused this massive backlog of uninducted artists. Personally, I believe there are four slam dunks: Jay-Z, Foo Fighters, Carole King and Tina Turner. My fifth is Todd Rundgren. If the Hall went with six inductees, as they have the past few years, I believe The Go-Go’s will get in. After that, I put the rest in this order of their chances: Dionne Warwick (7), Devo (8), Iron Maiden (9), New York Dolls (10), Rage Against the Machine (11), Chaka Khan (12), Kate Bush (13), LL Cool J (14), Fela Kuti (15) and Mary J. Blige (16).

This does not mean I dislike any of these fine artists. I just believe some of these people have a better chance of induction right now than some of the others. I can’t wait to discover just how wrong I have been!

My Ode to the Disco Era: Day 3 of My 150 Favorite Disco Songs

1.30 Disco Dancing in the 70s

Now that the election has finally been put to rest, I have noticed that many of my friends have, like me, been feeling a bit nostalgic lately. For my high school class, we are celebrating our 40th anniversary of our graduation so that may be causing so many to wax poetic about our youth. Now, when I say this I do not mean to cause controversy, but I NEVER want to be a teenager again. The thing I miss the most is the relatively lack of responsibility for anyone else. And, since I am mainly a fairly self-sustained person (introverted with a touch of shyness) that goes in the opposite direction of my image (I’m a paid extrovert, but that takes much energy to go into that mode). As a teen, I was very insecure about every aspect of my physical appearance and personality. But, when I got home, I could retreat to my bedroom, pop on a record and escape into a world in which the songwriter knew exactly to express my inner thoughts.

1.30 1970s-disco

So, the thing about disco music that I have learned over the years was how revolutionary it truly was as a cultural movement. Foremost, it was a music forum that celebrated diversity in sounds, textures and in all humanity. Disco clubs were the one place in which people danced with and next to others of different color, culture and sexual orientation. Unfortunately, when that happens, people who are scared of such changes are going to push back against anything that promotes this stuff in the public forum. And, this push and pull continues to this day. And, maybe it always will. But, at least baby steps are being made along the lines of true equality in which we celebrate the diversity of each other. Maybe we should begin to look at the States as being not so much a melting pot, as we have been taught for decades, but actually a gumbo in which are seasonings are celebrated and work together for the betterment of the taste of the pot of a mixture.

1.30 Dancing in the 21st century

Unfortunately, we really haven’t had a galvanizing movement is the intervening years. We have lived through many movements within the musical world from punk and new wave through rap and country to nu-metal, grunge, teen idols, hair metal, pop punk and EDM, none of which have brought the masses together in one cohesive movement. In science, inertia says that all matter is looking to become individualistic and chaotic, so by an extension, so to must humanity, I’m afraid. It would just be cool to see something like The Wyld Stallions from the Bill and Ted movie franchise actually happen again.

So, I am left to dream of this scenario. And to reminisce about a bygone era, the disco era. With that said, here’s my Top 50 songs of the Disco Era, as I listen to some Bee Gees.

1.30 50.Love Train

50. The O’Jays – “Love Train” (1972)

49. Kiss – “I Was Made for Loving You” (1979)

48. KC & the Sunshine Band – “(Shake, Shake, Shake) Shake Your Booty” (1976)

47. Bee Gees – “Jive Talkin'” (1975)

46. ABBA – “Dancing Queen” (1976)

45. Frankie Smith – “Double Dutch Bus” (1981)

44. Lipps Inc. – “Funkytown” (1980)

43. Peaches & Herb – “Shake Your Groove Thing” (1978)

42. Amii Stewart – “Knock on Wood” (1979)

41. Madonna – “Holiday” (1983)

1.30 40.The_Groove_Line_-_Single_by_Heatwave

40. Heatwave – “The Groove Line” (1978)

39. Sister Sledge – “We Are Family” (1979)

38. Diana Ross – “Love Hangover” (1976)

37. Dr. Buzzard’s Original Savannah Band – “Chez La Femme/Se Si Bon” (1976)

36. Sugarhill Gang – “Rapper’s Delight” (1979)

35. Prince – “I Wanna Be Your Lover” (1979)

34. KC & the Sunshine Band – “Get Down Tonight” (1974)

33. Dan Hartman – “Instant Replay” (1978)

32. Ohio Players – “Love Rollercoaster” (1975)

31. Donna Summer – “Love to Love You Baby” (1975)

1.30 30.Born_to_Be_Alive_by_Patrick_Hernandez

30. Patrick Hernandez – “Born to Be Alive” (1979)

29. Chic – “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” (1977)

28. Thelma Houston – “Don’t Leave Me This Way” (1976)

27. Cheryl Lynn – “Got to Be Real” (1978)

26. Andrea True Connection – “More, More, More (Part 1)” (1976)

25. Michael Jackson – “Don’t Stop ’til You Get Enough” (1979)

24. Blondie – “Call Me” (1980)

23. Barry White – “Can’t Get Enough of Your Love” (1974)

22. Chaka Khan – “I’m Every Woman” (1978)

21. Village People – “Y.M.C.A.” (1979)

1.30 20.Diana_Ross_-_I'm_Coming_Out_single_cover

20. Diana Ross – “I’m Coming Out” (1980)

19. Donna Summer – “Love Is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)” (1982)

18. Chic – “Good Times” (1979)

17. Bee Gees – “You Should Be Dancing” (1976)

16. The Dazz Band – “Let It Whip” (1982)

1.30 15.shake your body

15. The Jacksons – “Shake Your Body Down to the Ground” (1978)

14. Rick James – “Super Freak” (1981)

13. Sylvester – “You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)” (1978)

12. Gloria Gaynor – “I Will Survive” (1978)

11. McFadden & Whitehead – “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” (1979)

1.30 10.The_Rubberband_Man

10. The Spinners – “Rubberband Man” (1977)

9. Evelyn “Champagne” King – “Shame” (1978)

8. The Rolling Stones – “Miss You” (1978)

7. A Taste of Honey – “Boogie Oogie Oogie” (1978)

6. Blondie – “Heart of Glass” (1978)

1.30 5.Last_Dance_-_Donna_Summer

5. Donna Summer – “Last Dance” (1978)

4. Bee Gees – “Stayin’ Alive” (1977)

3. Chic – “Le Freak” (1978)

2. The Trammps – “Disco Inferno” (1976)

1.30 1.donna_summer_i_feel_love

1. Donna Summer – “I Feel Love” (1977)

What a wonderful musical moment in time! Peace.

Dance, Dance, Dance: My 150 Favorite Disco Singles, Day 2

1.28 Studio 54

Man, the month of January 2021 has been something of an epilogue for the story of 2020. Remember, around Christmas, my dad tested positive for COVID-19 and began to show symptoms. He was then hospitalized for a couple of days, appeared to be medically stable and discharged on New Year’s Day. Then, within 48 hours, everything went south for him. His wife had him rushed to the hospital via ambulance. Thus, he began what has turned into a month-long stay in two different facilities. Finally, he is beginning to get to the point in which I believe the medical team will begin to discuss his release. This is miraculous as he is 85, but his physical conditioning has always defied his age. The man had a pre-coronavirus activity of stretching, push-ups, sit-ups and walking 2.5-3 miles a day. I think this might be his secret for his survival up to this point.

1.28 Donna Summer

So, it is with a joyful heart in which I tackle this second day of my 150 favorite disco songs. After apologizing my aberrant behavior as a naïve sixteen year-old in 1979 for unwittingly promoting xeno- and homophobia with my “Disco Destroyer” t-shirt, today, I would rather praise the attributes of this unfairly maligned era in rock history.

Thus far, the only “disco” artists to be inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame are Donna Summer, Bee Gees and Abba, though one might say both Abba and the Bee Gees were more of pop groups with a catalog and resume similar to that of Madonna, with the ability to jump from one genre to the next. On the other hand, Donna Summer was referred to as the “Queen of Disco.” And, yes, it was true that she dominated the club dancefloors. Yet, I would argue that she were no different that Janet Jackson in her effort to make her music transcend the dancefloor while making art.

1.28 Chic

Therefore, it is my belief that Chic and KC & the Sunshine Band’s accomplishments and music should be reevaluated, as well as Sylvester, Grace Jones and Cher. All of these artists were given a huge black eye during the “Disco Sucks” backlash in the aftermath of that “Disco Demolition Night” in July 1979 in Chicago. First, I know the whole Chic argument seemed to be put to rest when the Hall, in its infinitely stupid decision, decided to induct Chic guitarist and half of the songwriting and production partnership known as the Chic Organization Nile Rodgers for Musical Excellence. But, how could the Hall overlook the contributions of Rodgers’ partner and bassist Bernard Edwards, along with the whole crew of vocalists, drummer Tony Thompson and other musicians who all worked together to not only create some everlasting dancefloor classics, but helped birth hip hop along the way. Remember, no “Good Times,” no “Rapper’s Delight,” and thus no big bang moment for rap music.

And, I could go on forever about my firm belief that what Chic did for R&B music with the “Deep Hidden Meaning” in their lyrics is exactly what Steely Dan did for rock. Yet, Steely Dan gets a Hall induction and universal adoration, and Chic, many of whose members were actual jazz, rock and jazz fusion musicians before coming together to form a band whose big hits happened to be disco standards of the day, are left out of the Hall. Few in the rock world can play bass like Edwards, play guitar like Rodgers or drum like Thompson. So, if you are going to ignoring Chic their due since of their disco hits, why then don’t we turn our backs on Kiss (“I Was Made for Loving You”), Rod Stewart (“Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?”) and the Grateful Dead (“Shakedown Street”) for their disco hits? As far as Chic is concerned, go listen to their first three albums, Chic, C’est Chic and Risqué, as well as the recent Chic Organization compilation, Nile Rodgers Presents the Chic Organization: Up All Night which collects the best of all of their production works with Chic and others.

1.28 KC & the Sunshine Band

Besides Chic, the other artists I listed who are all unfairly labeled as “Disco” are artists whose production work and musicianship influenced the way music moved in the year immediately after their successes and running into this very day. KC & the Sunshine Band paved the way for the Bee Gees big late-Seventies run by showing that Miami had a very vibrant music scene going on back in the day that continued through Gloria Estefan and the Miami Sound Machine’s Latin-influenced run up to today’s hits by Pitbull and others. Likewise, Sylvester and Grace Jones’ gender-bending images and lyrics made important strides for the acceptance of the LGBQ+ community during a time when acceptance was barely happening. And, Cher, who is now universally loved for her Bowie-like musical chameleon ability to adapt to the times, is still laughed at by the boomer-aged music critics running the Hall. Yet, that woman is a survivor and a forerunner to Madonna with a more diverse musical catalog.

1.28 Sylvester1.28 Grace Jones

Disco is NOT a “bad word” in music. The music represents the widest range of musical sounds within a genre this side of new wave. And, like new wave the sprung up in disco’s wake, the attitude of acceptance was everywhere. I am talking about the acceptance of race and sexual orientation. The problem for mainstream America is that all of this acceptance was beginning to make them feel as though they were loosing their “American” identity. Sound familiar? In this regard, disco was not really a mindless, feel good dance music movement but the beginnings of a revolution of liberal love and acceptance in a cultural war that is still being waged over four decades later. Will the insurrection that occurred on 6 January 2021 become the same cultural conflict point as Disco Demolition Night between games of a twilight double header in Chicago on 12 July 1979? Who knows, but as long as I am around, I will continue to point out the parallels between the two.

1.28 Cher

Please give disco its due! This was a fan moment in time, although I was actually too young to get the full club experience at the time. The one time I really did experience a “real” disco happened during that week I was in Fort Collins, Colorado, during the summer of 1978 for a national athletic event. But, does a disco for teens really count? Did I have fun each night? You bet! Then, yes.

So, get on with the countdown, will ya Keller? Here we go!

1.28 100.Take_Your_Time_(Do_It_Right)_-_SOS_Band

100. S.O.S. Band – “Take Your Time (Do It Right)” (1980)

99. Donna Summer – “Hot Stuff” (1979)

98. Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes – “Bad Luck” (1975)

97. Musique – “In the Bush” (1978)

96. Van McCoy – “The Hustle” (1975)

95. KC & the Sunshine Band – “Boogie Shoes” (1978)

94. G.Q. – “Disco Nights (Rock-Freak)” (1979)

93. Carol Douglas – “Doctor’s Orders” (1975)

92. Bell & James – “Livin’ It Up (Friday Night)” (1979)

91. Carl Carlton – “She’s a Bad Mama Jama (She’s Built, She’s Stacked)” (1981)

1.28 90.Stomp

90. Brothers Johnson – “Stomp” (1980)

89. The Weather Girls – “It’s Raining Men” (1982)

88. The Pointer Sisters – “I’m So Excited” (1982)

87. Foxy – “Get Off” (1978)

86. Earth, Wind & Fire – “September” (1978)

85. Instant Funk – “I Got My Mind Made Up” (1979)

84. Michael Jackson – “Billie Jean” (1982)

83. Isaac Hayes – “Don’t Let Go” (1979)

82. Donna Summer – “She Works Hard for the Money” (1983)

81. Indeep – “A DJ Saved My Life Last Night” (1982)

1.28 80.Celebration

80. Kool & the Gang – “Celebration” (1980)

79. Patrice Rushen – “Forget Me Nots” (1982)

78. Wild Cherry – “Play That Funky Music” (1976)

77. Ohio Players – “Fire” (1974)

76. Funkadelic – “One Nation Under a Groove” (1978)

75. Michael Sembello – “Maniac” (1983)

74. The Emotions – “Best of My Love” (1977)

73. Anita Ward – “Ring My Bell” (1979)

72. Alicia Bridges – “I Love the Night Life (Disco ‘Round)” (1978)

71. David Naughton – “Makin’ It” (1979)

1.28 70.Dim_All_The_Lights_(Holland)

70. Donna Summer – “Dim All the Lights” (1979)

69. BT Express – “Do It (‘Til Your Satisfied)” (1974)

68. Vickie Sue Robinson – “Turn the Beat Around” (1976)

67. The O’Jays – “I Love Music” (1975)

66. Shannon – “Let the Music Play” (1984)

65. Blondie – “Atomic” (1979)

64. Sister Sledge – “He’s the Greatest Dancer” (1979)

63. Disco Tex & the Sex-O-Lettes – “Get Dancin'” (1974)

62. Michael Jackson – “Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin'” (1982)

61. Tavares – “More Than a Woman” (1977)

1.28 60.How_Deep_Is_Your_Love

60. Bee Gees – “How Deep Is Your Love” (1977)

59. Donna Summer – “McArthur Park” (1978)

58. Silver Convention – “Fly, Robin, Fly” (1975)

57. Sylvester – “I Wanna Funk” (1982)

56. Chic – “Everybody Dance” (1977)

55. Machine – “There but for the Grace of God I Go” (1978)

54. Donna Summer – “Bad Girls” (1979)

53. The Gap Band – “You Dropped a Bomb on Me” (1982)

52. Santa Esmeralda – “Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood” (1977)

1.28 51.Get_Down_On_It_by_Kool_&_the_Gang

51. Kool & the Gang – “Get Down on It” (1982)

Fifty more to go! See you next time. Peace.

My Moment of Shame & Day 1 of My 150 Favorite Disco Songs

1.19 disco demolition night

1979 was a transitional year in my life. Early on in the year, a month and a day after my sixteenth birthday, I got my driver’s license. Musically, I was diving head-first into new wave and all the new technologies of the Digital Age reinventing the sound of rock music without sacrificing the music’s danceability. Plus, we were looking at the end of a troubling decade and the entrance of a bright shiny new decade full of possibility. To me, it was an exciting time.

Now, forty years on, I look back at one particular incident, and I cringe. Back in 1979, disco music was THE dominant genre of the year, most specifically the first half. But, then it began to happen. The one thing that will kill any movement, from political to musical. All musical movements have their beginnings in the underground, and as they become successful, the bean counters at the record companies immediately look for ways to make money. Thus, the oversaturation point will be hit.

1.19 Comiskey Park Disco Demolition Night

Disco really did not rear its beautiful diversity-celebrating head until 1973, when some dance-based club hits began to find their way on Top 40 radio. For the most part, disco was a producer’s and disc jockey’s playground. Far too many artists of the era were studio concoctions and not true put their time in the bars artists. The transcendent artists of disco, however, were the traditional “put in the time” up from the bars people. I am talking about Bee Gees, Donna Summer, Chic and KC & the Sunshine Band, but I would argue that they were all much more than disco acts. The Bee Gees had hits in many different eras with terrific songwriting and an uncanny ability to adapt to any era. KC and his cohorts were excellent session players with excellent pop instincts. Donna Summer had one of the greatest voices of the rock era who happened to record some excellent disco songs. And, Chic was a band that took the idea of disco and turned that idea on its head with a combination of grace, style and musicianship that put them more in the funk category than disco. Yet, I am willing to admit that I did not realize at the time how disco being a producer’s genre was simply following the format first exploited by Motown, Phil Spector, bubblegum pop, among others.

The oversaturation began every bit as slowly as the genre began to explode in scope. The first sign of this was in 1976 with the novelty hit song “Disco Duck” by disc jockey Rick Dees, who would go on to host a weekly Top 40 radio show as a rival to the great Casey Kasem’s American Top 40. But, after Saturday Night Fever mania set in during the winter of 1977-78, disco started to be found everywhere. Disco could be found in commercials, and disco dancing TV shows were all the rage. Suddenly, our parents were going out to dance, and that was wrong to the youth of America. When our parents began to appropriate our pop culture, it is time to move on.

1.19 disco sucks

So, by the summer of 1979, I was ready for something new in music. I didn’t care how great Bad Girls, Spirits Having Flow and Risqué were, I was sick of hearing that 4/4 dance beat on the radio when I KNEW there was some exciting new stuff bubbling up from the underground, such as Devo, Talking Heads and Blondie, never mind that they were all doing some demented things with disco. I was simply in a “out with the ‘old’ and in with the ‘new'” mode. So, when the local rock radio station began a “Disco Destroyer” promotion, I was in. And, I went out and bought a T-shirt in support and wore it often. Proudly, at the time.

Around the same time, the whole “Disco Sucks” movement was underway. Now, allow me to emphatically state right now that I was NEVER a “Disco Sucks” kind of guy. Au contraire! I owned, and still own, my share of disco rather proudly. I was tired of the oversaturation of the genre in pop culture as we lost many terrific new wave singles to yet another club hit, no matter how it was missing some pop hooks. But, in the summer of ’79, the Chicago White Sox held a promotion called “Disco Demolition Night.” That night, if a patron donated a disco record, he or she could buy a ticket to the doubleheader for 99 cents. Now, the White Sox were financially hurting at the time and were looking for all kinds of promotions in an attempt to lure fans into their ballpark for some baseball. With this night, the team was expecting 10 to 25 thousand fans. Instead, 50,000 showed up with their records, their own booze and their own stashes of pot. To top it off, these young people were ready to blow up some records and celebrate their fact that “Disco Sucked.”

1.19 t shirt

According to the ushers, most of the records were not disco, but a variety of R&B and funk albums, full of black artists. This was the first sign that they were witnessing a racial act. Between games, the large box of records were “blown up” in center field, and a melee ensued. Quickly, a full-on riot broke out as thousands of “fans” stormed the field, causing the second game to be cancelled. A keen-eyed rock journalist Dave Marsh, an elder statesman in rock journalism, likened the scene to a fascist book-burning in Nazi Germany. In retrospect, the man was spot on.

As we were on the cusp of the Eighties, the majority of the country was ready to shift back to more conservative political beliefs. Unfortunately, conservative political thought also gives much cover to more racist overtones to become mainstream. And, when I look back at this event, I see this being nearly a white power rally. The thing I am saddest about this whole incident is how I perhaps naively fell for this thing hook, line and sinker. I walked around my school, which was essentially all-white outside of a handful of students of color, with my “Disco Destroyer” shirt believing I was a woke sixteen-year-old who was also exceptionally hip. Now, I see myself as a tool for institutional racism, something that took me 40 years to fully understand.

1.19 The Aftermath

Look, I WAS tired of hearing some bad disco getting airplay over new wave at the time, but I went about my protest the wrong way. Suddenly, I stopped listening all the aforementioned artists, no matter truly transcendent I believed they were at the time. It was hard enough to survive my teen years as a nerdy athlete (they did not go together in my hometown back then) who had strange political ideas as a teen to continue to publicly pledge allegiance to the Bee Gees and Chic in a rural white school.

This happens to be my darkest moment in music or sports, two sanctuaries in my life where race never played a role to me. But, I allowed myself to become a pawn in a larger scheme that I should have seen back then, but I realized recently just how bad of a role I actually played in this pushback against diversity.

1.19 the night disco died

I am not asking for forgiveness. I want to point out just how insidious society’s racism can be, that I, a lover of all kinds of music, regardless of the color of the artist’s skin, religion or sexual orientation, could be unwittingly be enlisted into a subtle racial movement. This will remain the albatross around my neck.

Now, that I have this thing off my chest, let’s get on with a countdown. A countdown?, you ask. Yep! Over the next few days, I am celebrating my 150 favorite disco songs, a group of songs that celebrated the beautiful diversity of life. Everywhere else in the world, disco never died. And, artists from all over the globe have been repackaging it and selling back to us. Americans allowed our disco culture to be extinguished, but we never really stopped buying it. From the hits of ABC in the Eighties to the new stuff by Dua Lipa and Kylie Minogue today, disco remains very much alive today.

Now, let the countdown begin!

1.19 150.Blondie_-_Rapture

150. Blondie – “Rapture” (1980)

149. Tavares – “Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel” (1976)

148. Bee Gees – “Beat It” (1982)

147. George McCrae – “Rock Your Baby” (1974)

146. Diana Ross – “Upside Down” (1980)

145. Donna Summer with Brooklyn Dreams – “Heaven Knows” (1978)

144. The Gap Band – “Burn Rubber on Me” (1980)

143. Rose Royce – “Car Wash” (1976)

142. Prince – “Why You Wanna Treat Me So Bad” (1979)

141. Diana Ross – “The Boss” (1979)

1.19 140.Heaven_Must_Have_Sent_You_-_Bonnie_Pointer

140. Bonnie Pointer – “Heaven Must Have Sent You” (1978)

139. Debbie Harry – “Backfired” (1981)

138. The Jackson 5 – “Dancing Machine” (1976)

137. Rick James – “Give It to Me” (1981)

136. Chicago – “Street Player” (1979)

135. Chic – “My Forbidden Lover” (1979)

134. Yvonne Elliman – “If I Can’t Have You” (1977)

133. Walter Murphy & the Big Apple Band – “A Fifth of Beethoven” (1976)

132. Shalamar – “Second Time Around” (1979)

131. BT Express – “Express” (1974)

1.19 130.Candi Staton - Young Hearts Run Free

130. Candi Staton – “Young Hearts Run Free” (1976)

129. Banbarra – “Shack Up (Parts 1 & 2)” (1975)

128. Shirley & Company – “Shame, Shame, Shame” (1974)

127. Cerrone – “Love in C Minor” (1976)

126. Prince – “Let’s Pretend We’re Married” / “DMSR” (1982)

125. Kool & the Gang – “Ladies Night” (1979)

124. Earth, Wind & Fire with The Emotions – “Boogie Wonderland” (1979)

123. Irene Cara – “Flashdance…What a Feeling” (1983)

122. Bee Gees – “More Than a Woman” (1977)

121. Ashford & Simpson – “Found a Cure” (1979)

1.19 120.You_Sexy_Thing_

120. Hot Chocolate – “You Sexy Thing” (1975)

119. Barry White – “You’re My First, My Last, My Everything” (1974)

118. Labelle – “Lady Marmalade” (1975)

117. Average White Band – “Pick Up the Pieces” (1974)

116. Silver Convention – “Get Up and Boogie” (1976)

115. Grace Jones – “I Need a Man” (1977)

114. Heatwave – “Boogie Nights” (1977)

113. Barry Manilow – “Copacabana (At the Copa)” (1977)

112. The Spinners – “Working My Way Back to You” (1979)

111. Brick – “Dazz” (1976)

1.19 110.San Francisco

110. Village People – “San Francisco (medley)” (1977)

109. Gloria Gaynor – “Never Can Say Goodbye” (1974)

108. Manu Dibango – “Soul Makossa” (1973)

107. Donna Summer – “On the Radio” (1979)

106. Loose Joints – “Is It All Over My Face” (1980)

105. Bee Gees – “Night Fever” (1977)

104. Peter Brown – “Dance with Me” (1978)

103. Ritchie Family – “Best Disco in Town” (1975)

102. Dan Hartman – “Relight My Fire” (1979)

1.19 101.Boogie_Fever_-_Sylvers

101. The Sylvers – “Boogie Fever” (1975)

A Closer Look at the Chic Organization

1.12 Autographs Chic Organization

I was in the early grades of my high school tenure when Chic hit the local radio airwaves with their first hit song, “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” in the winter of 1977. Back then, I did not have a stereo system as I had in college and beyond. Heck, back then I had a record player and a big transistor radio that pulled in AM stations from all over the Midwest and some New York stations, in addition to the local FM stations. I loved to dial in Chicago’s legendary WLS-AM at night to hear their DJs and their playlist. One thing that I loved about the top hits of those days was that no matter whether I listened to them on the transistor or my mom’s console stereo, they all seemed to jump from the radio. And, this song from Chic absolutely jumped from the crappy radio in Mom’s 1972 Buick Skylark, my transistor and the console stereos of my Mom and the parents of my friends. This record was hot and had that great throwback hook of “Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah” that reminded me of the old big band records my Mom and her brother would play whenever we visited my beloved Uncle Dick.

1.12 Chic 1979

After that, I kept an ear out for Chic on the radio, and during that time period of 1977 through 1979, they were dominating the radio with dance hits like “I Want Your Love,” “Everybody Dance,” “Le Freak” and “Good Times,” to list a few. While I loved that funky brand of disco they played, it was their sly lyrics that separated them from the average disco artist who wanted to boogie all night long. Historically speaking, I have learned just how subversive the whole disco movement was, but I never really got past the music. Plus, I was in my full-blast AC/DC and Kiss phase and had not begun to branch into the punk and new wave stuff beginning to be covered in my favorite rock magazines like CREEM.

1.12 Chic live back in the day

Then that whole awful Disco Demolition night happened up in Chicago in the summer of 1979. Just the year prior, I was dancing the nights away in Fort Collins, Colorado, at a national sports event with young ladies from all over the States. When I came home, I was quietly listening to Chic, Village People and Heatwave at home, while still maintaining my high school cred by still espousing a love for all things hard rock, since all my friends and I were in retrospect harboring some racist tendencies that I personally blamed on naivety. When I got to college, I began to slowly uncloak my true likes and dislikes, at first in the entertainment industry, especially music. That’s when I began to stock up on Chic, Parliament/Funkadelic, Rick James, Prince, Bee Gees, etc., with no irony or care.

1.12 Pic Chic Organization

Over the years, I have begun to noticed just how subversive Chic’s lyrics and music truly were. These guys, first, were creating a version of funk that just so happened to work in discos. Not all funk could do that. Plus, they were not afraid to push the boundaries on  music with drumming that came right out of a Led Zeppelin concert thanks to a Zep-loving drummer named Tony Thompson. Then, the had the funkiest bass this side of Bootsy Collins thanks to Bernard Edwards, who had the ability to sit in that rock-based rhythmic pocket of Thompson’s and funk up the beat with a jazz-like smoothness. On top of all of that was Nile Rodgers’ supped up Steve Cropper-esque scratching that put a rock cherry on top of that R&B-based guitar sound. Plus, he could throw in a Jeff Beck-influenced rock guitar solo that would eventually be expanded by no other than Prince. These guys had the chops of jazz musicians, streamed through the ears of true rock and R&B artists of the past and present. Rodgers claims Chic’s vision and music was influenced by Roxy Music, but I cannot get away from the fact that they seem to be the flipside of Steely Dan more than anything else musically speaking. Either way, this is a band that has gone on to become influences on artists like Sister Sledge, Duran Duran and Prince, to list a couple.

1.12 Chic live 2019

But the true genius of Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, the heart and soul of Chic was the visionary reach of this creative partnership as a whole production company that worked under the guise of The Chic Organization. You see, Chic in essence was a band that originally consisted of Rodger, Edwards, Thompson, and two female singers, Norma Jean Wright (a solo artist in her own right) and Luci Martin. Unfortunately, some legal conflicts eventually saw Wright leave the band and be replaced by Alfa Anderson. But, The Chic Organization had a coterie of musicians, singers, arrangers, engineers, etc. form around New York City who not only worked on the Chic records but also on the outside productions that Rodgers and Edwards did together and separately. Eventually, The Chic Organization crafted the Eighties dance/rock sound that dominated pop music and the dancefloors throughout the decade. Success collaborations happened with disparate artists such as Debbie Harry, Sister Sledge, David Bowie, Duran Duran, The B-52’s, Jeff Beck, Robert Palmer, to name a few. Additionally, Edwards produced a supergroup called The Power Station, whose members included bassist John Taylor and guitarist Andy Taylor from Duran Duran, singer Robert Palmer and Chic drummer Tony Thompson. During Live Aid, Thompson played drums for The Power Station and his heroes Led Zeppelin, while Nile played with both Madonna and Thompson Twins, whom he had produced recent records. Throughout that decade, while Chic was no longer the hit factory it was during the late-Seventies, you could hear the influence of the band’s three musicians all over the radio and beyond.

1.12 Chic today

In 2016, Chic was nominated for the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame for a record eleventh time, but, for what I believe is an anti-disco faction of the voters, never got the call for induction. Since the Hall was facing growing pressure from a group of Twitter followers loosely self-labeled as Hall Watchers (of which I am proudly one), the administrators decided to induct Nile Rodgers for his Musical Excellence. I think that one ticked me off even more as the Hall ignored the contributions of Edwards, Thompson and the trio of female singers of Wright, Martin and Anderson. Like the Bee Gees and Donna Summer before them, Chic should never be pigeonholed as a disco artist. All three, as well as KC & the Sunshine Band, Sylvester and the Village People, transcended the genre, not merely defined it and should be recognized for that feat.

While I would love to dwell on my Chic fixation, I am going to broaden my argument for their influence over music by listing my Top 40 songs from The Chic Organization, which gives the fullest picture of the band Chic. Please, Rock Hall Nominating Committee and voters, Do Not Forget Chic!

1.12 40.Roses - Adam Lambert

40. “Roses” – Adam Lambert with Nile Rodgers (2020)

39. “Lay Your Hands on Me” – Thompson Twins (1985)

38. “Till the World Falls” – Chic feat. Mura Mosa, Cosha & Vic Mensa (2018)

37. “Saturday” – Norma Jean Wright (1978)

36. “Sea of Love” – The Honeydrippers (1984)

35. “When Smokey Sings” – ABC (1987)

34. “Just Another Night” – Mick Jagger (1985)

33. “Why” – Carly Simon (1982)

32. “Dress You Up” – Madonna (1984)

31. “Backfired” – Debbie Harry (1981)

1.12 30.Looking For A New Love - Jody Watley

30. “Looking for a New Love” – Jody Watley” (1987)

29. “Notorious” – Duran Duran (1986)

28. “Forever Young” – Rod Stewart (1988)

27. “You Can Leave Your Hat On” – Joe Cocker (1986)

26. “Upside Down” – Diana Ross (1980)

25. “Pressure Off” – Duran Duran feat. Janelle Monáe & Nile Rodgers (2015)

24. “Savoir Faire” – Chic (1978)

23. “Get It On (Bang a Gong)” – The Power Station (1985)

22. “The Original Sin” – INXS (1984)

21. “Tick Tock” – The Vaughan Brothers (1990)

1.12 20.It Didn't Mean to Turn You On - Robert Palmer

20. “I Didn’t Mean to Turn You On” – Robert Palmer (1986)

19. “Material Girl” – Madonna (1984)

18. “Modern Love” – David Bowie (1983)

17. “My Forbidden Lover” – Chic (1978)

16. “Roam” – The B-52’s (1989)

15. “Addicted to Love” – Robert Palmer (1986)

14. “People Get Ready” – Jeff Beck with Rod Stewart (1985)

13. “I Want Your Love” – Chic (1978)

12. “He’s the Greatest Dancer” – Sister Sledge (1979)

11. “Some Like It Hot” – The Power Station (1985)

1.12 10.We Are Family - Sister Sledge

10. “We Are Family” – Sister Sledge (1979)

9. “Love Shack” – The B-52’s (1989)

8. “Like a Virgin” – Madonna (1984)

7. “Let’s Dance” – David Bowie (1983)

6. “The Reflex (single remix)” – Duran Duran (1984)

1.12 5.Dance Dance Dance - Chic

5. “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” – Chic (1977)

4. “Get Lucky” – Daft Punk with Pharrell & Nile Rodgers (2012)

3. “I’m Coming Out” – Diana Ross (1980)

2. “Le Freak” – Chic (1978)

1.12 1.Good Times - Chic

1. “Good Times” – Chic (1979)

Unfortunately, Bernard Edwards passed away in 1996 at the age of 43 while the band was on tour riding a wave of disco renaissance then. Recently, Rodgers has put together a touring band that has been storming across Europe and Asia where disco never died. In 2012, interest in the band was piqued by Rodgers hooking up with Daft Punk to blend the styles of the electronic band with that of the disco master on Daft Punk’s brilliant album Random Access Memories. Finally, in 2018, Chic release a great album entitled It’s About Time, which led to a successful tour of North America as the opening act for Cher in a brilliant double-billing of the oft-overlooked but continually brilliant acts.

As I typed this blog, I was listening to the playlist I made from this list (Amazon is missing “Tick Tock”! C’mon Jeff! Surely, you could afford to add The Vaughan Brothers’ Family Style album on your service.), and it all sounds fresh today! It’s time for Chic, both the band AND the organization, to receive their due. Peace.

My Favorite Rockumentaries, Part 2

1.9 Rockumentaries

Sorry that my blog has gotten off to such a slow beginning this year. Having your father in the hospital with COVID just takes up so much time. By the way, he is slowly improving, which is miraculous. For an 85-year-old man, he was in great shape, so maybe all those years of taking care of himself are paying off for him. And, maybe it is all the prayers and positive thoughts being sent his way. I prefer to think it is a combination of all of the above. Hopefully, he will continue to improve.

Now, back to my rockumentary list! I cannot lie! I LOVE a good rockumentary. There is nothing better than a great story about a musical artist bringing said artist to life. Let’s face it that there is nothing better in my book than a great biography being brought to life with music and visual. Rock music was meant to be documented in such a manner. By the way, I am still awaiting for a rockumentary based upon the terrific Ken Sharp series of books about power pop called Play On! Power Pop Heroes (There are four volumes, with one more promised that I have been anxiously awaiting Ken!). Additionally, I would love to see documentaries created about disco, new wave, a more in-depth MTV, John Mellencamp, a professional Cheap Trick, Wham!, The Time, to name a few subjects.

Yet, today, I am presenting my Top 25 rockumentaries. So, let’s get this thing going.

1.6 25.Echo in the Canyon

25. Echo in the Canyon (2019). During the Sixties, musicians felt the urge to move West, so they all seemed to settle outside of LA in Laurel Canyon. And, the congregation of so many outstanding songwriting talent led to what we now refer to as the California Sound, that laidback mixture of rock, folk, country and R&B, as popularized by Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and Joni Mitchel to Tom Petty and Fleetwood Mac. Directed by Jakob Dylan of The Wallflowers and son of Bob.

24. Joy Division (2007). This film gives brilliant insight into one of Britain’s greatest post-punk bands that eventually evolved into New Order.

23. Punk (2018). Showtime‘s brilliant series about one of rock’s more notorious genres and how it’s revolution is still affecting music today.

22. Airplay (2012). PBS did an excellent job documenting how radio and rock music both rose and fell together. This is great look at this symbiotic relationship.

21. Amy (2015). Sometimes, certain rock artists burst onto the scene like a hot-burning meteor, streaking across the sky before exploding before our eyes. Amy Winehouse was such a talent, who, in essence, set the stage for the arrival of Adele. Once again rock fans are left to play the “What If?” game.

1.6 20.The Go Go's

20. The Go-Go’s (2020). This documentary may very well become a catalyst for The Go-Go’s to finally be inducted into the Rock Hall. Maybe Showtime could do something similar for Pat Benatar, The Shangri-La’s and Paul Weller/The Jam/The Style Council.

19. REMTV (2014). Two great tastes that taste great together: R.E.M. and MTV. What better way to document the rise of one of Gen X’s most beloved bands.

18. Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice (2019). CNN pulled off a pitch-perfect documentary about the woman with a pitch-perfect voice.

17. CREEM: America’s Only Rock ‘n’ Roll Magazine (2020). CREEM magazine truly had the spirit of rock music in its pages. And this film shows us just how crazy this cast of characters really were. CREEM was my entry rag into the world of rock, and gonzo, journalism. And they were the reason I was always getting in trouble with my journalism teacher for constantly editorializing in my sports articles.

16. Gaga: Five Foot Two (2017). A behind-the-scenes look at Gaga getting prepared to knock us out during the Super Bowl. Gaga rules!

1.6 15.Bee Gees - HCYMABH

15. Bee Gees: How Do You Mend a Broken Heart (2020). The most recent documentary on this list, but there was no denying its greatness. My favorite section of the film occurs as the brothers were dominating the music world, the disco backlash was bubbling up into public view. So, the visual juxtaposition of the trio being joined onstage by their younger brother Andy Gibb in a triumphant concert as the Disco Demolition promotion was being played out in centerfield of Chicago’s Comiskey Park. That crescendo shows the Gibbs’ concert reaching its climax with the fake explosion during “Tragedy,” just as the Chicago DJ Steve Dahl blows up a huge box full of disco records that incited a riot. Simply a breath-taking sequence.

14. Beats, Rhymes & Life: The Travels of A Tribe Called Quest (2011). Getting to watch the rise and fall of one of hip hop’s greatest artists is simply a privilege. Just a great film.

13. All Things Must Pass: The Rise and Fall of Tower Records (2015). A great story about arguably the greatest chain of record stores in the history of mankind reinforces how much we could use Tower Records today.

12. 20 Feet from Stardom (2013). This films tells us the story of how backup singers often have as good of or even voices than the singers for whom they work, but there is just something these people lack in the charisma department that keep them from becoming household names. Still, they press on. This is a more compelling story than Hired Guns.

11. Pearl Jam Twenty (2011). Former rock journalist-turned-successful film director Cameron Crow unfurls the dramatic story of the rise of Pearl Jan from the ashes of Mother Love Bone. Pearl Jam are rock & roll survivors.

1.6 10.Rush - BTLS

10. Rush – Beyond the Lighted Stage (2010). Whenever a movie can make a notoriously off-stage boring band as Rush seem like the most compelling cast of characters, you have a brilliant film. And this documentary IS brilliant.

9. Big Star: Nothing Can Hurt Me (2013). A fantastic look at one of rock’s greatest lost bands. Watch this and become an instant fan.

8. Madonna: Truth or Dare (1991). Any time you get a total access, behind-the-scenes look at one of rock most compelling figures, you know it’s going to be great. But when the subject is Madonna, the film become transcendent.

7. Naptown Radio Wars (2012). Naptown is the old nickname for Indianapolis, back when it was a very boring town. In the 60s, one radio station, WIBC-AM, ruled the airwaves of Central Indiana. Then, WIFE-AM burst onto the scene with some slick-talking DJs and a lively Top 40 playlist. So, the company that owned WIBC created a FM station on this fledgling radio band call WNAP to combat the success of WIFE and to protect WIBC. WNAP, or The Buzzard as the station was known to us fans, not only protected WIBC but also created a whole new format that was adopted by stations across the country. This is the local story about the local radio market yet is so compelling that I feel the message is universal.

6. I Need That Record! The Death (or Possible Survival) of the Independent Record Store (2010). The story of record collecting and the independent record store.

1.6 5.Stop Making Sense

5. Stop Making Sense (1984). One of the greatest in concert films ever by one of the most visually arresting bands in history. Visually compelling in the band’s presentation and fashion statement that is matched by the musicianship of one of rock’s most overlooked bands.

4. Runnin’ Down a Dream: Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers (2007). Some may say this film runs long, but fans will be left with the feeling that we want even more! This is a brilliant chronological ride to the top with one of America’s greatest rock bands. As a long-time Petty fan, this is perfect.

3. The Last Waltz (1978). What is a better way to celebrate the last concert of one of rock’s greatest bands? Of course, you invite your favorite musician-friends to play a song or two with you and hire one of film’s greatest directors (Martin Scorsese) to film the whole damn thing. This should be mandatory viewing for every household on every Thanksgiving (it was filmed on Thanksgiving 1976). This is most compelling concert film of all-time.

2. This Is Spinal Tap(1984). This film coined the term “rockumentary.” Now, is this about a real band or not? Since we all know this is a parody, the improved dialogue is just fantastic. I love to lump this both as a documentary and a scripted film. Either way, this is the most influential film, arguably, of all time (Think about it: Best in Show and A Mighty Wind were created in the same manner. Additionally, rock stars everywhere praise the accuracy of characters’ actions.).

1.6 1.Standing in the Shadows of Motown

1. Standing in the Shadows of Motown (2002). Before this movie, who knew who the Funk Brothers were? Be honest. That’s what I thought, just a handful. Then you watch this joint, and you can’t believe that this group of otherworldly talented musicians who created the Motown Sound were totally left out of the financial pot of gold they made. This is a fantastic story about the brotherhood of a group of black and white men who were brothers in the truest sense. I must watch this documentary every three months, and I’d probably watch it more often if I could stream it for free.

And, that wraps it all up! I hope I have inspired you to watch something new. Peace.