Probably the best capture of the hobo lifestyle ever recorded - a lifestyle that's largely gone away. Uploaded by avclub.com.
Roger Miller wrote and recorded a series of lighthearted songs in the 1960s that might be called “novelty songs” except for one thing. They were really good. You might remember songs like “England Swings,” “Dang Me,” and “Chug-a-Lug.” But it’s “King of the Road” that featured Miller’s smart lyrics and breezy country vocal style.
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I’m not sure if there’s another popular song written about hobos. In fact, I’m not sure if what we think of as hobos – train riding, nomadic, freeloading folks – are still around. But Miller’s song romanticized the lifestyle, and gave it to us as a time capsule.
I smoke old stogies I have found
Short, but not too big around
I’m a Man of means by no means
King of the road
The song won five Grammy Awards: Best Country Song, Best Vocal Performance – Male, Best Country and Western Recording – Single, Best Contemporary Vocal Performance – Male, and Best Contemporary (Rock and Roll) Single. The song was selected for the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
Bonnie Raitt was well known inside the music community, but didn't experience commercial success until 1989's Nick of Time, which earned the Grammy for Album of the Year. Uploaded by lastfm.es.
Exactly how did a white Quaker girl from Radcliffe College become an acclaimed blues guitarist? (No, the answer isn’t ‘Practice, practice, practice.) In Bonnie Raitt’s case, she became friends and then a protegé of blues promoter and journalist Dick Waterman. Waterman represented such artists as Mississippi John Hurt and “Lightnin'” Hopkins, and he took Raitt under his wing.
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Raitt, daughter of Broadway musical star John Raitt, didn’t need a whole lot of help. She was the total package. Great musician, great singer and, of course, great DNA. She received lots of recognition among musicians and insiders, but didn’t see commercial success until the release of the album Nick of Time, her tenth album, in 1989. Featuring some great songs (“Thing Called Love,” “Have a Heart,” “Nick of Time”), it earned the Grammy for Album of the Year, and Raitt won both Best Female Pop and Best Female Rock Performances.
But it was her follow-up, Luck of the Draw, that produced her signature song, the hauntingly beautiful “I Can’t Make You Love Me” (Great American Things, January 15, 2010). Raitt has now earned a total of nine Grammy awards. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2000.
Dolly Parton wrote this song to honor the breakup of her partnership with Porter Waggoner. Her version reached number one in 1974 and again in 1982. Whitney Houston's cover was the number one song of 1993. Uploaded by viddug.com.
Most of us associate this song with Whitney Houston, which is only natural: Her version is one of only a handful of singles that have sold more than 10 million copies. But the songwriter did okay with her original, too. Dolly Parton (Great American Things, June 3, 2010) wrote and released this single as a follow up to Jolene, and it reached number one on the Country Music charts. Parton had been discovered and featured by singer Porter Waggoner, but after seven years as his protegé, she became more popular than her boss. The only answer was to go on her own, and she wrote this song in honor of their relationship.
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In 1982, Parton re-recorded “I Will Always Love You” for the soundtrack of the movie version of The Best Little Whorehouse in Texas, and it again topped the charts. A decade later, Whitney Houston did her own interpretation of the song for another movie, The Bodyguard. You could say it was a modest hit…if being number one for 14 consecutive weeks and landing as the number one song for the year 1993 is your idea of modesty.
Houston’s recording was named “Record of the Year” and “Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female” at the Grammy Awards. And it is number one on the list of 100 Greatest Love Songs as chosen by both VH1 and CMT. But don’t feel bad for Dolly that she had the less-successful version – the story is that Whitney’s recording brought Dolly $6 million in royalties and publishing fees.
Compare the two versions for yourself:
The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face was Roberta Flack's first No. 1 hit (she had two more) and won the Grammy for Record of the Year and Song of the Year. Uploaded by bluenote.co.jp.
This is a testament to what inclusion in a movie can do for a song. “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was written back in 1957 by Ewan MacColl as a love song to his future wife, Peggy Seeger. It was a folk song. It was fast and, contrary to Mr. MacColl’s protests to the contrary, forgettable.
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Roberta Flack recorded a fresh version, slowing it down and making it much more sensual. She has a beautiful voice, and she took the song to a different level. Even so, she included it on a 1969 album, and nothing ever came of it. Then Clint Eastwood (Great American Things, July 13, 2009) included it in his directorial debut, Play Misty for Me, and Flack released it as a single in 1972. It sent straight to number one, and stayed there for six weeks.
“The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face” was Flack’s first hit, following a pair of solo albums that had a difficult time finding an audience. She would later have two more solo number one hits, and two top five songs with Donny Hathaway. “The First Time” won Grammy Awards for Record of the Year and Song of the Year in 1973.
Tapestry won the big four Grammy Awards in 1972: Album, Song, Record, and Female Performance of the Year. Uploaded by psychprog.com.
Carole King (Great American Things, March 28, 2010) isn’t one of the great singers of our times. Nor is she one of the great entertainers. But she is one of the great songwriters, and in Tapestry she brought her considerable talents to this 1971 album that still ranks, almost 40 years later, as the longest run a female artist has had on the Billboard chart: 305 weeks.
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A couple of the songs (“Natural Woman” by Aretha Franklin and “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” by the Shirelles) had already been hits for other artists. One more (“You’ve Got a Friend”) would become a number one hit for James Taylor (Great American Things, September 6, 2009). Even so, two of the other songs became number one hits for King (“I Feel the Earth Move” and “It’s Too Late”), and two others (“So Far Away” and “Smackwater Jack”) reached number 14.
Tapestry has sold more than 11 million copies in the U.S., and more than 25 million worldwide. The album won the top four Grammy Awards of 1972: Album of the Year, Song of the Year (“You’ve Got a Friend”), Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”), and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. In Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, Tapestry was selected number 36.