Tag Archives: Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Song: “Johnny B. Goode”

I think we should all be thankful that Chuck Berry's cousin Marvin Berry heard Marty McFly play this song at that high school dance, or else we'd have missed an important part of American musical history. Uploaded by last.fm.

Not every song is great because it has memorable lyrics. Or a memorable performance. Some achieve greatness by striking the culture in the sweet spot at the perfect moment in history. That’s what happened when Chuck Berry, former auto assembly worker and ex-con, released “Johnny B. Goode” in 1958.

Uploaded to Photobucket by drjohncarpenter.

This wasn’t Berry’s first million-seller. That was “Maybelline” in 1955. Nor was it his biggest hit, an honor held by “Sweet Little Sixteen.” (“My Ding-a-Ling” went to number one in 1972, but as a novelty song.) But from its opening guitar licks through the end, it represented the energy of this new force called rock and roll. It is, after all, mostly autobiographical. Berry was born on Goode Ave. in St. Louis, and the “B.” probably stands for Berry. In fact, the original lyric said “Oh my, that little colored boy can play” but Berry changed it to “country boy” so the song would be played on the radio.

The longevity of “Johnny B. Goode” is evident by the number of artists who’ve covered it, ranging from country (Buck Owens) to metal (Twisted Sister) to the sublime (Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain). The song was listed by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll, and is in the Grammy Hall of Fame. And Rolling Stone put it at number one in its list of the 100 Greatest Guitar Songs of All Time.

Music: Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

Their website says it well: "It would be impossible to imagine the last four decades of pop music without the melodies of Barry Man and the lyrics of Cynthia Weil. Mann and Weil have created a body of work so significant it has often been described as 'a soundtrack to our lives.'" Uploaded by rockhall.com.

This husband and wife team were a part of the famous Brill Building songwriters (Great American Things, June 18, 2010), and they wrote some of the greatest and biggest hits of the second half of the twentieth century. Here’s a partial list of their hits, along with the artists with whom they’re most closely associated:

Uploaded by songwritersuniverse.com.

  • “Don’t Know Much” (Aaron Neville and Linda Ronstadt)
  • “Here You Come Again” (Dolly Parton)
  • “Hungry” (Paul Revere and the Raiders)
  • “I Just Can’t Stop Believing” (B.J. Thomas)
  • “Just Once” (James Ingram)
  • “Make Your Own Kind of Music” (Mama Cass Elliott)
  • “On Broadway” (The Drifters)
  • “Only in America” (Jay and the Americans)
  • “Somewhere Out There” with James Horner (Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram)
  • “Uptown” (The Crystals)
  • “Walking in the Rain” (The Ronettes)
  • “We Gotta Get Out of this Place” (The Animals)
  • “(You’re My) Soul and Inspiration” (The Righteous Brothers)
  • “You’ve Lost that Lovin’ Feeling” with Phil Spector (The Righteous Brothers

That’s a very impressive list. Mann and Weil won an incredible 112 awards from BMI, and “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feeling” was determined to have been the most-played song in the entire twentieth century. “Somewhere Out There” won the Grammy for Song of the Year, and received an Oscar nomination. The couple are members of the Songwriters Hall of Fame, and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. They will receive the Johnny Mercer Award, the highest honor bestowed by the Songwriters Hall of Fame, at its annual awards next month.

Singers: The Rascals

The Young Rascals/Rascals had nine songs make the top 20, and three reached number 1 - Good Lovin', Groovin', and People Got to be Free. Uploaded by filetraffic.eu.

Depending on when you first started listening to this band, you may either consider them a frenetic blue-eyed-soul group, or a mellow, almost jazz-influenced pop band. During their eight years together (1965-72), they were both. They even had two names that roughly correspond with their two eras. Initially, the band was The Young Rascals, then became just The Rascals in 1968.

Uploaded by rockhall.com.

It was their soulful sound that first caught my attention when I heard “I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore,” the band’s first single. Though it only made it to number 53 on the Billboard singles chart, it featured a distinctive sound and the promise of good things to come. Here’s a list of the band’s Top 20 singles, and the highest chart position for each:

  • “Good Lovin'” (1 – 1966)
  • “You Better Run” (20 – 1966)
  • “I’ve Been Lonely Too Long” (16 – 1967)
  • “Groovin'” (1 – 1967)
  • “A Girl Like You” (10 – 1967)
  • “How Can I Be Sure” (4 – 1967)
  • “It’s Wonderful” (20 -1967)
  • “A Beautiful Morning” (3 -1968)
  • “People Got to be Free” (1 – 1968)

The Rascals were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1997. To give you a feel for the group’s blues and mellow periods, here are a couple of videos. The first is a medley of “Mickey’s Monkey” and “Turn on Your Love Light.” Notice the great drumming by Dino Danelli. The second is the huge hit, “People Got to be Free.”

Singer: Buddy Holly


He didn't want to be on the Midwest tour, and his bus was cold and broken down. So he chartered a flight to his next show. It was the day the music died. Uploaded by moockmusic.com.


He died at the way-too-young age of 23. He’d only been recognized on the music scene for a year and a half. And yet he managed to create memorable music and an innovative sound that are instantly recognizable half a century later.

Holly had made a name for himself in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas, where he opened shows for both Elvis Presley (Great American Things, July 29, 2009) and Bill Haley and the Comets. He put together a band he called the Crickets, signed a contract with Decca Records, and went to Nashville to record his first songs.

They bombed. Decca dumped him. But he found another manager, signed another contract, and released “That’ll Be the Day.” Decca said, “Come on back,” so he did.

Uploaded by totallydublin.ie.


Of course, you know the sad ending to this story. Holly went on a tour of the Midwest along with Dion and the Belmonts, Richie Valens, and the J.P. “Big Bopper” Richardson. The tour was plagued with transportation problems, so Holly chartered a plane to take some of the performers from Iowa to Minnesota. It crashed, killing Holly, Valens, Richardson, and the pilot.

It was “the day the music died.”

We’re left with a number of great recordings Holly made in a short time. His unique singing style influenced future artists as diverse as Bob Dylan and the Beatles. Among his hits were “That’ll Be the Day,” “Peggy Sue,” “Oh Boy!,” “Maybe Baby,” “Rave On,” “It’s So Easy,” “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore,” “Not Fade Away,” “Raining in My Heart,” and “True Love Ways.”

Buddy Holly was in the first group inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Great American Things, August 31, 2009), and was ranked number 13 by Rolling Stone in its list of Fifty Greatest Artists of All Time.

Architecture: I.M. Pei

We don't always know architects by name, but the great ones become more than artists, they become brand names. Uploaded by archtracker.com.

With few exceptions, most architects remain unknown by name to the public at large. Usually, we know them by their designs. One of the few men whose accomplishments are so great that his reputation has spread beyond trade circles is the great I.M. Pei.

Pei was born in the Chinese city of Guangzhou (what we wish we could still call “Canton”), and was raised in Hong Kong and Shanghai. At age 18 he left to come to college in the USA, starting at the University of Pennsylvania, but quickly transferring to M.I.T. His talent became evident quickly, and he joined the Harvard Graduate School of Design. He became a U.S. citizen in 1952.

One of the first projects that made his reputation was the L’Enfant Plaza Hotel in Washington, DC. That led to the building considered his first signature structure, the National Center for Atmospheric Research in Colorado. Since then, he’s gained wide acclaim for the National Gallery of Art’s East Building, the John F. Kennedy Library, and the glass and steel pyramid of the Louvre Museum in Paris.

Architecture, like art, can only be described feebly by words. Here’s a gallery of some of I.M. Pei’s wonderful designs…

Pyramid entrance to the Louvre Museum, Paris

Uploaded by legacy.lclark.edu.

Museum of Islamic Art, Qatar

Uploaded by internetstones.com.

Javits Convention Center, New York City

Uploaded by blog.megapixel.net.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Cleveland

Uploaded by rockhall.com.

National Gallery of Art, East Building

Uploaded by i.pbase.com.

National Center for Atmospheric Research, Boulder

Uploaded by dianasomerville.com.

John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum, Boston

Uploaded by architecturaldigest.com.

Singer: Carole King

Carole King's album Tapestry stayed at number one for an amazing 17 weeks and remained on the charts for almost six years. Uploaded by cci.tomakomai.or.jp.

One of the standard descriptions of a musical artist today is “Singer-Songwriter.” If Carole King didn’t create that category, she could have.

As a songwriter, she and her then husband and writing partner Gerry Goffin wrote these great songs of the 1960s: “Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow” (The Shirelles), “Take Good Care of My Baby” (Bobby Vee), “Chains” (The Cookies), “The Loco-Motion” (Little Eva), “Go Away Little Girl” (Steve Lawrence, later Donny Osmond), “Crying in the Rain” (The Everly Brothers), “Don’t Say Nothin’ Bad About My Baby” (The Cookies), “One Fine Day” (The Chiffons), “Up on the Roof” (The Drifters), “Don’t Bring Me Down” (The Animals), “Pleasant Valley Sunday” (The Monkees), and “A Natural Woman” (Aretha Franklin).

With James Taylor. Uploaded by i73.photobucket.com.

Following a number of unsuccessful songwriting and recording ventures, Carole released the album “Tapestry.” It still reigns as one of the most successful albums of all time. The stats are just remarkable: Number One on the chart for 17 consecutive weeks…Spawned two number one singles…and remained on the charts for nearly six years. It was recognized by the Grammys as Album of the Year, Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, Record of the Year (“It’s Too Late”) and Song of the Year (“You’ve Got a Friend”).

Carole continues to record and perform, and is on tour this year with James Taylor, who made “You’ve Got a Friend” one of his own signature recordings. She’s been honored by membership in the Songwriters Hall of Fame, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Great American Things, August 31, 2009), and the Grammy Trustees Award. But considering her immense talent, more honors and recognition may still be coming…

Singers: Talking Heads

You may find yourself in a beautiful house, with a beautiful wife, and you may ask yourself, Well, how did I get here? Uploaded by img124.imageshack.us.

It’s not unusual for bands to be formed by people who are in school together. A clue to what made Talking Heads so unique is where they went to school – the Rhode Island School of Design. They were as unique in their performance as in their sound.

David Byrne photographed by Annie Leibovitz. Uploaded by iwant.on.ca.

Much of the credit for that has to go to lead singer David Byrne. The Talking Heads came along during the height of the music video, when prime rotation on MTV could make or break a song. The videos of the group’s “Once in a Lifetime” and “Burning Down the House” were hugely popular, largely on the basis of Byrne’s distinctive appearance and vocal phrasing.

The group’s lyrics also appealed to an audience that craved creativity. Here are a couple of examples. First, from “Life During Wartime”:

I got some groceries, some peanut butter
to last a couple of days
But I ain’t got no speakers
ain’t got no headphones
ain’t got no records to play

And from “Once in a Lifetime”:

You may find yourself in a beautiful house
With a beautiful wife
You may ask yourself
‘Well, how did I get here?’

Director Jonathan Demme filmed one of the band’s concerts, and released it as Stop Making Sense. It’s one of the most remarkable concert movies ever produced, building from a solo beginning with David Byrne singing “Psycho Killer”, one of the band’s signature songs, and increasing in complexity through the rest of the show.

For a band that had a limited number of chart singles, Talking Heads was a major part of the new wave music scene and still influence artists today. They were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (Great American Things, August 31, 2009) in 2002. From Phish to Radiohead, the innovative music of Talking Heads continues to influence the music scene. But nothing is better than hearing – and seeing – them for yourself:

Singer: James Brown

"The Godfather of Soul." Uploaded by asymptoia.com.

James Brown closed his act as no one before or since. He’d give so much of himself, work himself so hard, that he appeared to finally collapse from exhaustion. An assistant would come with a cape, and lead Brown offstage as The Famous Flames continued playing. Then the singer would shrug off the cape and do a series of encores.

He probably had more nicknames (mostly self-proclaimed) than anyone in music history. He was “The Hardest Working Man in Show Business.” He was “Soul Brother Number One.” He was “Mr. Dynamite.” He was “The King of Funk.” And, probably most appropriate of all, he was “The Godfather of Soul.”

A classic move. Uploaded by heyokay.com.

A classic move. Uploaded by heyokay.com.

Brown was one of the first black entertainers to consciously work to draw young white audiences. He did it with some of the greatest songs of the sixties and early seventies, including six that made Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time: “Papa’s Got a Brand New Bag”, “I Got You (I Feel Good)”, “It’s a Man’s Man’s Man’s World,” “Please, Please, Please,” “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud,” and “Get Up (I Feel Like Being a) Sex Machine.”

He got in trouble with the law in the nineties, and served three years in prison for drug and driving offenses. And he was arrested several times on domestic abuse charges. This is a good time to remember that not every person named a “Great American Thing” lived an exemplary life. But James Brown’s music and performances are so legendary and influential – he was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s (Great American Things No: 145) initial class, and he’s number seven in Rolling Stone’s 100 Greatest Artists of All Time – that he definitely earned his place on this list.

Now, watch this dancing – Michael Jackson only hoped he could be this smooth: