Today, I’d like to write about one of the biggest forgotten reggae legends! His name? The late John Holt. This man has made a lot of smooth reggae. Sweet, sweet reggae. He also used to be one of many Jamaican artists that loved to reinterpret American music; and let me tell you, many of them were really nice in my opinion. I didn’t like all his remakes, sometimes it sounded like his voice didn’t fit some of the songs he sang. But, there was one cover he did that I remember my grandfather listening to a lot on his reel2reel (I loved it too). This song was co-written by the late Brook Benton (along with two others), and recorded by the late Nat King Cole. The song was called “Looking Back (1958).” The song hit #2 on the R&B Charts.
However, John Holt’s version of “Looking Back 1972),” took the song to a whole different level. I LOVED how he put together that organ intro; it almost made the song immediately recognizable. It’s a beautiful song that talks about a man realizing his bad mistakes toward the one he loves, and he learned not to do them again. You know, I was saddened to discover that Holt’s cover version wasn’t even mentioned anywhere on Wikipedia. If I didn’t know it existed growing up, it would not be on my blog. I digress.. I tried adding him on Wiki, not sure if they’re going to approve it or not. I want you to check out two more amazing Holt songs. “A Love I Can Feel (1971),” and “If It Don’t Work Out,” also released in 1971. “If It Don’t Work Out,” is actually a cover of the Casinos’s song “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye (1967).”Save an Extra 10% on Guitar Cases and Guitar Gig Bags: Use Code TOURGUITAR
I have to tell yah……… The group “Free,” in my opinion, was one of the many most underrated rock bands in history. As someone who’s in to all kinds of music, I really felt that these guys could sing as a solid rock band. In London, 4 guys decided to come together and form phenomenal rock band; Paul Kossoff, Simon Kirke, Paul Rodgers and Andy Fraiser. In 1968, these 4 guys became “Free.” It’s sad that they broke up within 5 years of getting together. It is unclear exactly why they broke up. I could only imagine it was probably about creative differences.
I guess in the end, it really didn’t matter, as two of the four members died as a result of poor health and drug issues (typical). Free struck gold, with their massive mega rock hit “All Right Now (1970).” The song peaked at #4 on the Top 100 Charts. The song was so popular, it not only made it’s way to a Burger King commercial, it also made Wrigley’s Gum commercial too. Interesting interview I’ve read with drummer Simon Kirke. He shared that “All Right Now,” was actually a song written after a bad gig one night. It was then that the group decided they must increase their tempo. Out of that meeting “All Right Now” was born.
Does anybody remember this oldies album from the legendary Culture Club? Unfortunately, this was not one of their most successful albums as a whole. I’m wondering if this is why the licenses for almost every song on this album have been nuked. However, they did have two hits from this album that had done fairly well on the charts (I think).
My favorite out of the two is their song called “Move Away (1986).” Now, I know it may sound like I’m contradicting myself, but although I liked this song, I also think I liked it because the song just happens to be a catchy tune. Almost like a jingle or a catch phrase (kind of). The other song is called “God Thank You Woman (1986).” This is another catchy tune. The tune is actually danceable. Unfortunately, only the 12 inch extended version is available on Spotify. I much prefer the original album version, or radio edit.
I want to switch gears a little bit. As some of my long time followers may have already figured out, I also love listening to music of different cultures. I’d like to introduce to you a talented group named The Hygrades, from Nigeria. You know, as a whole, I normally don’t listen to a lot of Nigerian music, but when I do, I usually enjoy it very much. However, this group did not create traditional Nigerian music. From the 70s, 80s, and even perhaps the 90s popular Nigerian music had a unique sound that was unmistakably Nigerian. But, The Hygrades did not produce traditional Nigerian music. They made what they called Afro-rock.
Although, in my opinion, I hear more of funk infused with blues than anything else. Then again, 50s/60s rock wasn’t the same rock it is today; it was as though rock from that era deserved it’s own genre. The Hygrades made some good sh*t! Also, let me say, when it comes to music, I think every country/culture has their own specialty. Having said that, I always thought to myself, if you ever wanted to learn how to pick a stringed instrument, let a Nigerian teach you. Those guys can pick them some guitar, as though that guitar was a body part 🤣. It is extremely rare that we see American artists with this level of talent today. All the ones I can think of are all gone now! Like, the late Prince? Jimmy Hendrix? Or perhaps Bo Diddley? Not even them really, ’cause with the exception of Diddley, Prince & Jimmy strung a lot of long notes, whereas Nigerian strings are usually a consistent barrage of quick & complicated high pitched notes at the base of the guitar arm.
The Hygrades were put together by a producer named Goddy Oku, based in Enugu, Nigeria. They were eventually signed to HMV/EMI records, and produced many popular hits. “Keep On Moving,” “Rough Rider,” and one of my hot favorites “In The Jungle (instrumental version).” Unless you’re already familiar with their music, you’d never guess where these guys were from. If it were not for Spotify (not YouTube), I would have never rediscovered this group.
I totally and completely forgotten about this group! WOOOOOOOOW!! Does anybody even remembers an old Spanish group called Mocedades? This is one Spanish group that should not be forgotten! Why is that you ask? Well, allow me to give you a quick synopsis. Mocedades entered some sort of song contest in Spain. The song that was chosen is called “Eres Tu (1974).” After the song won second place in the contest, it was then released as a single. What’s important to note is that the group sang the entire song in their native language. To date, it is the only Spanish song that peaked #9 on the American Billboard. I remember hearing this song all the time, I expected this to be #1 on the Top 100 Charts. Actually, it peaked #3 on the Easy Listening category. I didn’t even remember we had an Easy Listening scoreboard back in the day. Now, to be honest, I don’t know how popular this group is in Spain, because obviously their music ecosystem is different from ours. But one thing I can obviously tell, Eres Tu was their money maker. Every greatest hits album they produced, Eres Tu, was either near or on top of the list. 😂 🤣 Wow, this song really took me back to my childhood. Eventually, the song was translated into several languages.
I wonder out of curiosity, how many people remember Tracy Ulman? I would think not that many. Tracy was born in the UK, and she was an extremely successful 80s actress and singer. She had her own TV show, called The Tracy Ulman show. It aired from 1987 thru 1990. It was funny as hell in my opinion. I think she’s talented both as an actress and as a singer. One of my favorite songs she sung (which I also believe (if my memory is correct) was the theme song from that show) was “They Don’t Know (1983),” It was from her debut album “You Broke My Heart In Seventeen Places.” The song hit #8 on the Top 100 Charts. The album was actually cute, it has a 60s sound to it. I don’t think she has made an album in quite a long time. Most are just re releases of her old stuff. Although I think her music was cute, honestly I think I liked her better as an comedian.
Aaah! You know, when I was practically still a baby, I believe this was the first album I remember seeing of Mr. Belafonte. I’m sure I still have the album somewhere 😃. I’m just going to come out and say it. In America, unless you came from the Caribbean, almost no one thinks of Caribbean music; unless you’re dating someone who happens to by Caribbean; or someone is talking about going to a NYC carnival/West-Indian day parade. So many things you could be writing about for Black History Month.
Let’s see now. What we can say about the incredibly multi-talented and then very handsome, Harry Belafonte? Well, he was born on 1927! That’s right guys! That makes him about 92 years old now 👀 ! BTW, he still looks healthy and amazing! Belafonte wasn’t just a singer & actor, he was also a heavy civil rights activist and a humanitarian.
Tally Me Banana!
I think it’s safe to say that, when people hear the name Harry Belafonte (and if they do actually remember him), they would most remember him for his “Banana Boat” song released in 1956; sometimes called the “Day-O” song. And that maybe because the younger generation heard it used in the then popular hit movie called “Beetlejuice (1988).” By the way, I should add that another one of his popular songs called “Jump In The Line (1961)” was also in the movie as well. If I’m not mistaken, there was supposed to be a reboot of Beetlejuice this year. Not sure if the project was cancelled or not.
Anyway, Harry was so much more than just a Caribbean performer. You know, in today’s political climate, the news media always take shots at how many people in office who’s been entertainers. In reality, this is nothing new. I’d say what is new (probably), is the lack of characters of the “once a celebrity” politicians, etc. Harry had intelligence beyond his years, an intelligence that America then and today were not ready to hear. He surrounded himself with great men in their own right; Sidney Poitier and Charlton Heston. And BTW, Charlton also fought fiercely for Black rights during the civil rights movement. Some how Charlton’s name always gets omitted in conversations of Black history.
Did you know that Harry was one of Martin Luther King’s very few confidants? Harry also helped MLK and his family financially, because king made very little money as a preacher in the beginning. Wow, that’s what you’d call a friend. Not many of those today (sorry to say). Did you also know that in the mid 80s, Harry helped to organize the whole “We Are The World Project?” Harry did so much for South Africa, especially when it came to the A.I.D.S. crisis. Africa had it really bad, there were no resources for them, neither was there education about the disease. Again, Harry Belafonte was, and still is, the last of his breed. He truly not only has a pure love for mankind, but sees the undying need to help each other.Diamond Hemp
Now, judging from the kinds of music I’ve posted in the past, many of my readers may be quite surprised to know that I love “Blinded By The Light,” recorded by Manfred Mann’s Earth Band in 1976. I’m not sure what was it about this rock song I loved so much. Maybe it was the mixture of rock & space age sound effects? Sometimes I wasn’t sure whether or not I was listening to actual music, or listening to an actual alien invasion! 😀 This was their only major hit throughout their career. “Blinded By The Light” hit #1 on the Top 100 Charts in 1977, and stayed at #1 for a week. People still love their music tho. On Spotify, this song reached 20.5M plays, 2.2M Shazams, and about 16M additional plays throughout YouTube. By the way, did you know that “Blinded By The Light” was actually a Bruce Springsteen song, released in 1973 (I believe)? Wow, they almost sound like two completely different songs.