Artist: Michael Martin Murphey
I don’t know guys, I may or may not turn you off with today’s selection? But, like I’ve always said, my tastes are extremely diverse, and that quality is one of the reasons why I decided to start this blog 😄. If you asked me which “go to” genre I loved the most, that would be a really difficult question. Perhaps that question would be easier answered, if I broke them down by era. My primary genres really depended on the decade I was in. I think in the 70’s I was drawn to more “easy listening” type music, which included country. I may be bias, but in my opinion, I think the 70s yielded some of the best love ballads of all-times.
A Love Song Between A Man And His Horse!
Now, let me give you some real context. A male country artist (in the 70s) can write a song about his love for a pony, and become a successful hit! I can’t even remember anywhere in time, any American has a song about any animal (not even a dog, and Americans love dogs) and became a massive hit 😳! I don’t believe this could be done today, even with the most ardent country music fans.
His Song Made High Scores On The Billboard!
Murphey’s song “Wildfire (1975),” hit #1 in Canada. In the U.S., it hit #1 on Easy Listening, and #3 on the Top 100 Charts. It’s still a beautiful song tho. Very calming, as well as a beautiful story behind the lyrics. Murphy has had quite a few hit songs after “Wildfire.” About 11 Top 10 Hits to be exact. He also one a few awards for some of his albums. However, I’m sorry to say that I only loved “Wildfire.” Not that I thought his music was bad, I just wasn’t drawn to it. If I were to be honest, I think it probably was because he performs traditional country, whereas my country tastes are a little more modern than that. So, I can’t say he’s a “one hit wonder,” just only loved one song. Today, Mr. Murphey is around 75 years old.
Song: It’s Mashed Potato Time
Artist: Dee Dee Sharp
Genre: Dance Grooves
Shamefully, although I remember this artist as though her music was out yesterday, however in the music world today, she has drifted towards the vacuum of obscurity. This woman was once one of the hottest acts of the 60s! She could have easily been another Mary Wells as far as I’m concerned! Her biggest hit came during the 50s-60s dance craze era. The song was called “It’s Mashed Potato Time!” The song was released in 1962, and became an instant hit! It reached #2 on the Top 100, and #1 on the R&B charts, making it the biggest song of her career! This song was so popular, she had the nerve to come out with another song called “Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes).” Now that I think about it, it was completely hilarious.
Mashed Potato Time, Was The Biggest Hit Of Her Career!
Now, just think about it for a minute. This song was released more than 5 years before I was born, and remembering hearing this song even as a very young boy, tells me just how majorly popular this song was! Come to think of it, I never did learn how to do “The Mashed Potato.” Even if I wanted to, there were just too many dances goin’ on to keep up with all of them anyway. These dance crazes were so important for the Black community back then. It was one of the very few things that helped us deal with the massive racism.
I Never Did Learn How To Mash Potato! 😜
Despite her big dance hit, I think she was also extremely underrated as far as her other music. Dee Dee had an incredible voice! I am just dumbfounded that (at least when I examine the music charts) music lovers only responded to her dance music and not her ballads. I guess it is possible that fans were so moved (hard) by her dance music, they really didn’t want to hear any other type of music by her. However, I highly recommend that you check out some of her ballads. She’s made some incredible covers too!
I Highly Recommend That You Check Out Her Ballads!
One badass song I think you should check out, is a song called “I really Love You (1965),” the musical arrangements for this song was perfect! As far as I’m concerned, this was an ignored gem, barely reaching #78 on top 100. Also listen to her cover of Jerry Butler’s 1958 hit “For Your Precious Love (c.’60s),” a lot of people refuse to believe we are losing our culture; her cover of this song doesn’t appear to be listed anywhere on Wikipedia. Even on discogs I had trouble finding (had to use advanced search! WTF?). So sad, it’s an amazing song. Listen to her cover of 10CC’s 1974 hit “I’m Not In Love (1975),” you know the way she sings this song, she reminds me a lot of the late Nancy Wilson. Lastly, check out her cover of Jackie Wilson’s 1958 hit song “To Be Loved (1963).” At the age of 74, she is still performing!
Song: Sexy Eyes
Artist: Dr. Hook
Genre: Soft Rock
To my small young readers, I know that today’s group is most likely waaaaay before your time, and perhaps out of your league. 🤣🤣 I know these guys probably look like a bunch of winos by today’s standards. However, don’t let looks fool you! These men where very talented, and produced quite a bit of hits under their belt. You know, it was kind of confusing…. Growing up, I’ve always assumed that the lead singer at the time, Ray Sawyer (the one with the eye patch), was Doctor Hook. Turns out I was wrong. The band’s name was actually “Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show,” but it was later shortened to just Dr. Hook.
This Group Had Natural Soul!
This band had a natural soulful sound that I really liked. By looking at how they looked, I would have never pictured in my mind how good they sounded. They produced several of my favorites for the 70’s/80s era. One of those biggest favorites is “Sexy Eyes (1980).” I still love to play this song on occasion. The song did very well on the charts. Canada & New Zealand had this song at #1, U.K. was at #4, and in the U.S. it reached #5. It’s such a great song. If you meet someone new, and you needed a song to try and court that person, this song would be perfect I think 😄. You know, despite this song being fully obscure, I mean, I haven’t heard any radio station play them in about the last 10-15 years. The song managed to racked up almost 19M streams on Spotify alone (perhaps more). That’s pretty damn good for an artist that’s been forgotten by many music fans.
Sadly, The Group Only Stayed Together For Barely 16 Years!
Unfortunately, for various reasons, the group did not stay together long. Although, I guess some people would say 16-17 years is still a long time to have enjoyed their music. By the time 2010 rolled along, two members have died from complications of their illnesses. Even Dennis Locorriere had his own battles with cancer before he eventually left the group (if I understand correctly). Update: Just saw an article that Ray Sawyer just past-away last year. Now, according to WIKI, the band discontinued some time in ’85. However, I found Dr. Hook’s website that kind of looks like their still active, practically made up of entirely new people (with the exception of Dennis Locorriere).
Two More Great Songs!
I would like to end my blog post with two more great songs. I think “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman (1979),” was their biggest and most memorable hit in my opinion. It received even more streams, over 28M plays! The song did very well around the world, ending with the U.S. on the top 10 charts! Another huge favorite of mine, and was also hugely popular “Sharing The Night Together (1978),” with 28M streams under their belt. This is the kind of great music I grew up with as a child.
Artist: Carla Thomas
Album: Gee Whiz (1961)
Genre: True R&B Music
Oh my goodness. Today’s artist appeared to be sooooooooo underrated. Well…… Maybe underrated isn’t the word I’m looking for. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is unacknowledged. Carla definitely had the gift of voice in my opinion. She appears to have a tenor voice with a wide key range. The beautiful thing I loved about Carla’s voice was that, she simply sang. She wasn’t one of those artists that tried to do a bunch of acrobatics with her vocal chords. She just simply sang, and her soul poured out.
She Has Phenomenal Tenor Range!
Her hit song “Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes) (1961),” was her biggest hit of her career. This was such an amazing song. Although she had other songs that did well on the Billboard Charts, this was her most notable, ever. The song shot up to #10 on the Top 100. She sang the shit out of this song, and I really think it should have been #1 instead! But, in the end it doesn’t matter, because that song still immortalized her forever (among my generation). If I am not mistaken, this was actually from her first album. She was signed to Atlantic Records, which was just as an important label for Black artists as Motown was back in the day.
Carla is also known for her many hit duets with the late Otis Redding. Songs like “Tramp (1967).” By the way, I don’t know how many remember, but Salt -N- Pepa sampled “Tramp” on their 1986 album called “Hot, Cool & Vicious.” She had another hit duet with Otis, it’s actually a cover of Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood,” which they’ve recorded in 1967. I was delighted to discover that her music has not been forgotten. Her 1966 hit song B-A-B-Y was included in the soundtrack for the movie “The Baby Driver (2017),” co-starring Jamie Foxx. By the way, did you know that the late Isaac Hayes written “B-A-B-Y?” Yup, he sure did. He was truly a hit maker.
Song: Try Jah Love
Artist: Third World
Album: You’ve Got The Power (1982)
I can’t even attempt to find the words to explain how much of an impact this album has made around the world. How many Americans even remember the group Third World? You’ll probably think long and hard for a good half our thinking about their name, until you hear this song! This song is so unique, I still have trouble figuring out an appropriate category. You know it’s has a Caribbean element to it, yet some times it sounds more like American club music. Some might even dare to say it borderlines disco. Maybe this is one of the many complex mysteries of what makes this song not only so awesome, but attract so many people of all walks of life!
This Awesome Song Was Co-Written With Stevie Wonder!
Kind of by accident, I found out that the song was co-written along with Stevie Wonder. Stevie was inspired to write this song shortly after the heartbreaking death of the late Bob Marley. The song became an instant hit. Without knowing any stats, there is no doubt in my mind this turned out to be the biggest global hit of Third World’s career! It truly put them on the map. Probably, I wouldn’t be surprised to find out that it made them the most famous in America, in terms of reggae bands are concerned (next to the Wailers, and even then, most American people remember Bob Marley, and never think about the band playin’ in the background). Now, unfortunately, I think Billboard is tryin’ to charge $10 a month for Billboard Chart info (not gonna happen with me). So, as far as Wikipedia is concerned, “Try Jah Love,” supposedly reached #42 in the UK and #101 on the Top 100 Chart. That sounds wrong to me, I remembered that this song was just too popular in the Black community for those numbers to be right. Black clubs played this all the time, I heard this song throughout the streets of NYC. Those numbers can’t be right.
Again, I don’t mean to hop on this all the time, but it’s true. I’ve heard very few professional reggae performers or bands, were able to fuse their reggae culture with other styles of music and come out successful like this. If never before, this song certainly immortalized them, don’t you think? It’s a shame Spotify doesn’t have this original album, it has some good stuff in it!! If this album doesn’t spark any one of your memory cells, perhaps you’ll remember them for another hit about 4 years before called “Now That We’ve Found Love (1978).” Man…………….. If you don’t at least move your hips to either one of these songs, you’re just a deadbeat dancer. Straight up deadbeat. 🤣
Artist: Midnight Star
🤣 I can’t stop laughing at this album cover! It’s like watching one of those old 70s magazine ads for wigs! 😜 You gotta love the eighties! We’ve done some crazy stuff to ourselves in the name of “style,” yet in reality all we did was copy other people. We may not want to admit it, but many Black styles from the eighties WERE in fact inspired by Prince (for the most part). It’s so weird because listening to this type of music now, synth music, somehow sounds older than what it actually is for some reason. Is it me? Or perhaps I was listening to too much music! 🙄
Listening To Their Music Now Makes Me Feel So Ancient!
You know, now that I think about it, it must be that unique “space age sound” that indirectly makes it sound older. I mean, when I hear it, it kind of reminded of movies like the first Star Wars and earlier movies. Let me tell you, Midnight Star was a pretty huge 80s group back in the day. They sang all kinds of music, but I think it is safe to say that they’ve been best known for their almost disco infused dance music. Now, I’m having some trouble finding their information on Billboard. However, from what I can tell eyeballing the various streaming services, I estimate that the song “Midas Touch (1986)” was their biggest hit. The song was ok… Mind you, I didn’t hate it, it just wasn’t my favorite song by them.
In fact, I don’t remember hearing it a lot (at least in my neighborhood). The huge money maker for me was their song “Freak-A-Zoid (1983).” I absolutely loved this tune. Unfortunately, I don’t remember if this was a “barbecue favorite,” but I do remember a lot of people playing it. Although the lyrics were naughty, the overall song itself was an easy song to dance to for the whole family. Another song I enjoyed was their hit “No Parking (On The Dance Floor) (1983).” I really do feel that this classic group is worth searching for. Every member of that group can sing. Although they didn’t have many hits (relatively speaking), I think you’ll still enjoy some of their albums. It appears that they’re still performing. However, the last album I found was released in 2002.
Song: When You Are Who You Are
Artist: Gil Scott-Heron
Another forgotten phenomenal musician! Well, perhaps forgotten in the mainstream world, but in the world of Funk and Jazz, I think he’s well remembered. In my opinion, in terms of musical status (or popularity if you will), I considered him among the same ranks as Jimmy Hendrix. Keep in mind, I mentioned “popularity,” not meaning to infer that their music are similar. I think their paths were obviously very different.
Gil Scott Was Very Politically Conscious!
The late Mr. Gil was very politically conscious. Growing up, none of my family (that I can recall) had any of his music. However, if I heard him on the radio or on TV I savored the moment and just enjoyed what I heard. I was too young to fully understand half the sh*t he said, but some how I knew there was some serious messages in his music. I admired him so much because he wasn’t just a politically conscious Black musician, he was one of the few well known music figures that actually went in to the communities and literally showed you the challenges of the Black communities. Very few musicians I can think of right now that were that passionate about educating the Black community. The only person that comes to mind at this moment is James Brown. And even then I wonder? Mind you, not saying James did nothing for the community, but there’s a difference between showering the Black community with money, and actually being in the Black community. Not to disrespect the late entertainer, but the more I reflect as I get older, I felt that James was motivated by pure fear (after the assassination of MLK) rather than “helping the community.” Fear in a selfish way. After the assassination of MLK, I felt that he was more concerned that it would have effected his ability to perform in the Black neighborhoods. I could be completely wrong about that, but….. Just my opinion.
Well, enough of my soapbox. During America’s political climax of the 60s-70s in regards to Black Americans, probably (I think) the most well known song (or perhaps technically not really a song) was called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1971).” I know some of my young readers may not like to pay attention to lyrics, but I do recommend that you take the time to listen to that song. It is a true direct representation of what Blacks were going through in the seventies, and in many ways still going through. Shifting the topic a little, there’s a song Gil did that became one of my favorites, and it’s called “When You Are Who You Are.” I think what attracted me to this song was, lyrically speaking, it was one of the very few songs I’ve heard where the male artist sings loving someone for who they are, and not having the need to try so hard to impress him. The lyrics are just beautiful, as well as the music being nice and funky!
Song: So Much Love
Artist: Laurel Aitken
😜 Wow!! This is obscure. I so love rediscovering obscure artists, it’s almost like discovering buried treasure! To think that today’s artist was dubbed “King Of Ska.” You know, I look at music history very different. I think one of the biggest challenges with getting younger folk to be open enough to listening to classic music, is with young people it seems like there must be some sort of prerequisite. If they can’t twerk to it, or do a nasty dance, or sound “modern enough,” it’s not good music. I also thought about social pressure. Not wanting their friends to know they like “old music.” But, “good music” in terms of old school isn’t just about dancing, it’s also about feeling, and how the music can talk to your heart. Unfortunately, this is not the way we connect with music today.
Finding Obscure Music, Is Sometimes Like Finding Buried Treasure!
The late Mr. Laurel Aitken was born in Cuba, and was a descendant of Jamaican family. He was bilingual, but he mostly sang in English, as the majority of music he produced were ska music. You know, it’s interesting how a genre, ska, was so huge even in America, and today it’s been reduced to an acquired taste. Even a lot of old school reggae lovers would probably be more likely to listen to rocksteady before they’d pick up a ska album.
There Was A Time When Ska Music Was Almost Preferred Among Many Black Music Lovers!
One of my rare favorites from Aitken, is a song called “So Much Love (c.1970).” A very nice reggae love song. I just love these lyrics, “I’ll never turn my back on you.” Those are words you don’t hear in songs anymore. My only gripe is that the song is just way to short (I think). Aitkens also made outstanding cover songs in my opinion. Checkout some of my favorite covers from him, starting with “Why Can’t I Touch You,” “Groovin’,” “You Send Me,” and “(Sloop) John B.” Here are some of his other hits, “Baby, I Need Your Livin’,” this one has a some sick beats “Three Dogs Night,” and “I Can’t Stand It.”