by Robert Wilkinson
Today is the birthday of two musical geniuses. Bob Gaudio was musical genius behind the Four Seasons, and David Amram is beyond description and one of a kind!
First, we begin our birthday celebrations with the amazing Bob Gaudio. Though the world put its spotlight on Taurus Frankie Valli with his 3 1/2 octave voice belting out hits like "Sherry," "Big Girls Don't Cry, "Dawn (Go Away)," "Rag Doll," and "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You," (to name a few of their many hits) it was Bob Gaudio who wrote all these and more.
As I've told you in previous birthday celebrations, Bob Gaudio was a child musical prodigy who performed a Carnegie Hall recital at 7 years old and originally made his mark as founder, songwriter, and star of the Royal Teens ("Short Shorts"). Reintroduced to Frankie Valli by Joe Pesci (yes, THAT Joe Pesci of "My Cousin Vinnie" fame!) he became the musical director and organist singing harmony in many years of hitmaking with the 4 Seasons.
The music of the Four Seasons affected literally tens of millions of people for about a decade. His collaborator in the remarkable string of multi-million selling singles and albums throughout the 60s was fellow Scorpio Bob Crewe, who co-wrote most of the hits and co-produced and arranged the "sound" of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.
These two Scorpios created songs that rivaled the best ever written. Their collaborations succeeded in topping the charts every few months in an era when most of the top spots were owned by the Beatles, Stones, Beach Boys, Supremes, Kinks, Animals, Four Tops, Temptations, Ray Charles, Mamas and the Papas, Stevie Wonder, Simon and Garfunkel, Young Rascals, Lovin' Spoonful, all the way to the Doors, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi, Janis, the Who, and other major competition. Remember - this was an awesome era in music.
So for your enjoyment, here are a few video clips of the band at their best. And yes, Frankie really IS hitting those unbelievable high notes!
Here's Frankie Valli & The Four Seasons on the Popendipity tv program in 1967 performing a medley of their hits Sherry, Big Girls Don't Cry, I've Got You Under My Skin and Bye Bye Baby.
A 1965 Four Seasons medley on Hullabaloo of Dawn, Rag Doll, Toy Soldier, and Bye Bye Baby Goodbye The medley may have had other instruments hidden from the cameras and whatever primitive tricks and backing tracks they used in teevee music shows back then, but his phrasing clearly shows he wasn't lip synching!
A 1966 medley by the Four Seasons, including You're Going to Hurt Yourself and Working My Way Back to You
This year I found it again! Here’s a video of the 4 Seasons lip synching their major hit, "Walk Like A Man" For the original studio version as we first heard it almost 50 years ago, here's "Walk Like A Man."
Frankie's first big one! From the Popendipity television show, here's a live performance of Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You in 1967. Here’s another live performance by Frankie with the 4 Seasons of "Can't Take My Eyes Off Of You" here, and a solo performance by Frankie at this link.
Dawn (Go Away) - from the early 80s.
A strange staged "music video" of the Four Seasons not exactly performing Rag Doll lip synched all the way.
An interesting video remix of Beggin
The Four Seasons - December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) - Written by Gaudio, performed with a different lineup than the original Four Seasons, and the first time anyone but Frankie sang at least part of the lead.
A great mini-documentary from VOA news, Singer Frankie Valli Going Strong at 74
From “Undercover,” a three part interview with Bob Gaudio about “Jersey Boys,” the story of the Four Seasons.
(On a final note, lest you think Bob Gaudio was a mere 30 hit wonder, he also went on to work with Peabo Bryson, Roberta Flack, Eric Carmen, Neil Diamond, Barry Manilow, and of course, with Frankie Valli wrote the Tony and Grammy award winning Broadway musical, "Jersey Boys," based on their life story with the Four Seasons.)
And now, a huge birthday shoutout to my friend of many decades and a true octogenarian hipster, David Amram. One of the original Beats (with Kerouac, Ginsburg, Orlovsky, Cassady, Corso, and others), David has had a stellar life as a composer, performer, world reknown musical ambassador and all around nice guy. He's one of the best, so here's a big happy to you, David, and may you keep writing and performing as many years as possible. You're a very bright spirit, and I am privileged to have known you for over 30 years.
For a little taste of David, here's the trailer for the movie, "David Amram: The First 80 Years."
Here’s a delightful piece from the 2011 Philadelphia Folk Festival with David and friends performing "Mama Don't Allow No Music Playin' Round Here" featuring Larry Campbell, Erik Lawrence, John DeWitt, Kevin Twigg, Adam Amram & more!
Also from 2011, Pete Seeger, Arlo Guthrie, David Amram performing "This Little Light" at OWS.
You want beat? We got beat! For your enjoyment, a piece of history! Here’s David live performing his composition "Pull My Daisy" at Beyond Baroque, Venice, California. As the video sez, . “Tales of Kerouac, Cassady and Ginsberg sung in an improvised scat from one who was on the scene and digging it all.”
Here’s another piece of history! David Amram performs his composition from the movie of the same name, “Splendor in the Grass” at the Montreal Jazz Festival, featuring Vic Juris on the guitar.
Have fun with this 16 minute clip of David Amram on the beats and jazz. In case you still don't have the picture on this beautiful man, from the description of the video: “David Amram is a highly accomplished composer, french horn player, writer, and raconteur. Amram offers his reminisces on Beat Generation artists Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg.... Amram moves then to a discussion of the multiple connections of jazz and improvisation with modern culture. In this clip, Amram is introduced by Sara Villa, who talks briefly about Amram's role as a character and score composer in the movie "Pull My Daisy."
Here's a great youtube performance by David Amram on psychedelic pennywhistle with Dizzy Gillespie and some other jazz cats in a PBS tribute to Thelonius Monk.
A great you tube David Amram playlist
For more about this remarkable man for the ages, check out the David Amram website and blog
If you're into some great jazz and classical offerings, check out the other videos on you tube. Again, he's one of the best! Thanks for the years, David. The Red Lion lives on!!
© Copyright 2012 Robert Wilkinson
ps - I forgot that this is also Gordon Lightfoot's birthday. No, he's not dead, and he is touring. Please go to the Gordon Lightfoot site to find out what this amazing talent is up to, his tours, and a lot more!