by Robert Wilkinson
Today we celebrate the birthdays of three outstanding musical talents of the 20th century, one a legendary songwriter, one a blues Master, and the third the "First Lady of Jazz."
Rock and Roll Hall of Famer Jerry Leiber (April 25, 1933 – August 22, 2011) with partner Mike Stoller (March 13, 1933) were two of the greatest songwriters of rock and roll, and wrote some of the most famous songs of the second half of the 20th century over a 60 year collaboration. Mike wrote the tunes and Jerry wrote the lyrics for such amazing songs as "Hound Dog," "Jailhouse Rock," "Love Me," "King Creole," "Yakety Yak," "Searchin'," "Young Blood," "Love Potion #9," "Kansas City," "Charlie Brown," "Drip Drop," "Poison Ivy," "Stand By Me," "Spanish Harlem," "Smokey Joe's Cafe," "Riot in Cell Block #9," "On Broadway," and the immortal Christmas song, "Santa Claus Is Back in Town," among the many that shaped a couple of generations of musical fans.
They created the hits of the 50s and 60s, and their songs were done by many of the greatest of rock and rollers, including Elvis Presley, the Beatles, Dion, the Coasters, the Drifters and Ben E. King. They created a joyous new musical songwriting style by combining blues, jazz, and pop in a sound that captivated millions over decades. They also produced more major hits than I can list here.
Over their career, they had 15 No. 1 hits in a variety of genres by 10 different artists. Among the performers who took their hits to the top of the charts we can include Barbra Streisand, Aretha Franklin, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Willie Nelson, Frank Sinatra, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor and Otis Redding.
… they created a string of ground-breaking hits that are some of the most entertaining in rock and roll, by using the humorous vernacular of the teenagers sung in a style that was openly theatrical rather than personal, songs that include “Young Blood,” “Searchin’,” and “Yakety Yak.” They were the first to surround black music with elaborate production values, enhancing its emotional power with the Drifters in “There Goes My Baby” and influencing Phil Spector who worked with them on recordings of the Drifters and Ben E. King. Leiber and Stoller went into the record business and, focusing on the “girl group” sound, released some of the greatest classics of the Brill Building period.
Here are a few of the songs that made the team of Leiber and Stoller immortals:
From the Steve Allen show in 1956, Elvis doing "Hound Dog."
From the movie, here's "Jailhouse Rock"
Here’s an early Ed Sullivan performance by the King squeezing out the plaintive "Love Me"
By the Coasters, their timeless teen age lament, "Yakety Yak"
From 1956, the Coasters’ original studio version of the Lieber-Stoller hit, “Ruby Baby.” For the more famous version from a few years later, here’s the legendary Dion DiMucci live on television in 1963 with his unmistakeable New York attitude belting out “Ruby Baby”
From 1957, a great live performance by the original Coasters on the Steve Allen show of “Searchin’”
Here’s the Beatles in 1962 with Paul on lead vocals offering up their studio version of “Searchin’”
From 1958, also with King Curtis on sax, the original studio version by the Coasters of “Three Cool Cats”
From 1962 with George singing lead, here are the Beatles giving us their studio version of “Three Cool Cats”
From 1959, the Coasters in the original studio version of "Poison Ivy"
From 1963, the original Rolling Stones studio release of “Poison Ivy”
From 1962, the original studio version by the Coasters with King Curtis on Sax grinding out “Little Egypt”
As we originally saw in the movie “Roustabout,” here’s the King mugging for the camera while giving us a slick performance of “Little Egypt”
From 1965, the Coasters in a live performance of “Along Came Jones”
Here’s a later vintage of the Coasters in a live performance of “Young Blood”
Here are the very early Beatles in an audio-only version of “Young Blood”
Last year I had a third version of “Young Blood” from “the Concert for Bangladesh,” a really fantastic video! This year it’s nowhere to be found. So instead, we have the audio-only medley by the great Leon Russell preaching the gospel of ”Jumping Jack Flash” followed by “Young Blood”
From 1954, the Robins’ original studio version of “There’s A Riot Going On (Up In Cell Block Number 9)”
Here's the great Ben E. King, ex-lead singer of the Drifters in their immortal Atlantic era, doing his signature hit, "Stand By Me"
Here's Ben E. King doing another of his greatest, "Spanish Harlem"
From Shindig 1964, the great Jay and the Americans in a very real live performance doing the very funny "Come A Little Bit Closer"
From Hullabaloo in 1965, a live performance of Jerry and Mike's iconic tune, a somewhat scathingly satiric commentary on the lack of civil rights at the time, “Only In America” (Originally written for the Drifters, it is not the tune "America" from West Side Story. From Songfacts: The song was written at a time before integration, and the lyrics were originally about racism. It had the following chorus: "Only in America, land of opportunity, can they save a seat in the back of the bus just for me. Only in America, Where they preach the Golden Rule, will they start to march when my kids go to school." Atlantic Records had a problem with the lyrics, so the songwriters changed them to be a satiric message of patriotism.)
From the Mike Douglas Show in 1969, another live performance by Jay and the Americans of the iconic “Come A Little Bit Closer”
From 1959 on the Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show hosted by Dick Clark, here’s Wilbert Harrison in a live performance of “Kansas City”
And from 1964, here are the Beatles live on Shindig with Paul singing the lead on “Kansas City”
We'll close today with one of my faves when I was too young to mention. Here's Elvis in "Jailhouse Rock" doing the Leiber-Stoller hit, "(You're so square) Baby I Don't Care." For another great version, here's Buddy Holly doing "You're So Square (Baby I Don't Care)"
You can check out both of these legendary songwriters at the official Leiber-Stoller website
You can check out more at the Jerry Lieber site at the Songwriters Hall of Fame
Thanks for all the fabulous tunes across the decades, Jerry! Glad Mike is still with us. You two are truly in the immortal greats of rock and roll!
Our other birthday celebration is the First Lady of Jazz, one of the greatest voices of the 20th century! Recently the spotlight of our “Saturday Night Attitude” dance brought her to center stage, and today we revisit this fantastic talent.
Ella Fitzgerald (April 25, 1917 – June 15, 1996) was a transcendent performer, and certain one of the all-time greats of scat singing, as well as interpreting standards as few others could. From Wikipedia:
Over the course of her 59-year recording career, she sold 40 million copies of her 70-plus albums, won 13 Grammy Awards and was awarded the National Medal of Arts by Ronald Reagan and the Presidential Medal of Freedom by George H. W. Bush….
Her 1945 scat recording of "Flying Home" arranged by Vic Schoen would later be described by The New York Times as "one of the most influential vocal jazz records of the decade....Where other singers, most notably Louis Armstrong, had tried similar improvisation, no one before Miss Fitzgerald employed the technique with such dazzling inventiveness." Her bebop recording of "Oh, Lady be Good!" (1947) was similarly popular and increased her reputation as one of the leading jazz vocalists.
From the same source, we read she recorded the Cole Porter Songbook, the Duke Ellington Songbook, toured all over the world, and was universally loved and respected when she left us at age 79. She collaborated with the vocal quartet Bill Kenny & The Ink Spots, trumpeter Louis Armstrong, the guitarist Joe Pass, and the bandleaders Count Basie and Duke Ellington. She was, and is, very simply, “the First Lady of Song” and “The Queen of Jazz.” For your enjoyment, Ms. Ella Fitzgerald!
From 1979 in Montreaux, Ella doing her first big scat hit, the rockin’ “Flyin’ Home”
We got more great live scat for happy feet! From 1964 on the Ed Sullivan Show, here’s Ella Fitzgerald and Sammy Davis Junior cookin’ on “’S Wonderful”
We head back to the 1979 Montreaux show where Ella belts out “Sweet Georgia Brown”
This year I found the whole set! For your enjoyment, 1 hour and 6 minutes of great video footage of Ella Fitzgerald at the Montreaux Jazz Festival 1969 with the Tommy Flanagan Trio
Here’s one of my faves done as only Ella could! “All of Me” (It’s clipped about 10 seconds before the end of the song, and leads into part 2 with Ella singing “I’m Gonna To Sit Right Down And Write Myself A Letter”
From 1956, the classic album as only two jazz greats could give us! For your enjoyment, an audio-only 54 minutes of Ella and Louis (Ella Fitzgerald and Louis Armstrong)
Back to a very live 1969 performance of “One Note Samba”
Nat King Cole and Ella doing a live duet of “It’s All Right With Me”
On a lighter, more “contemporary” note, from 1970 here’s a video of Ella and Tom Jones doing a very jazzed up version of “Sunny” (While sitting in rocking chairs? Wow.)
For our finale, here’s Ella and the 4tet in 1965 Helsinki doing a cool set!
From October 1975 in Hannover, here’s the video of the entire 1 hour 12 minute concert! Ella Fitzgerald and Joe Pass – Duets in Hannover
Stepping back a little, here’s a great 54 minute video of Ella’s 1957 performance in Belgium and 1963 performance in Sweden! For your enjoyment, Ella in ’57 and ‘63
We’ll close this with Ella and A Duke Ellington Medley
From 1960, a very danceable encore of Ms. Ella doing an amazing version of the classic “Mack The Knife”
Ms Ella, you left the world a treasure of beautiful and classy music. Thanks for lifting our spirits and raising the bar for all jazz singers to come!
Today is also the birthday of one of the greatest blues legends of all time! Albert King (April 25, 1923 – December 21, 1992) was considered one of "the Three Kings" in blues, along with B.B. King and Freddie King. I had the privilege of seeing all three more than once during the years I lived in Austin. Each had a unique style, and each smoked! Because of other pressing work, I can't do a complete tribute to this blues giant, but I will give you these classics for your enjoyment:
Very live in Montreux with Rory Gallagher, one of his most famous! "As The Years Go Passing By"
Here's a live video from the Fillmore in 1970 of the great Albert King offering up "Blues Power"
Here's a great 90 minute video! For your amazement, Albert King and Stevie Ray Vaughan in Session - 1983
From January 1978, a full audio-only one hour live show from Chicago! Albert King Live in Chicago
We'll close this with an awesome 60 minute PBS live show from 1981! This is a classic! Albert King - Maintenance Shop Blues
You lived the blues, so you got to play them sweet, hot, and very intense, oh Master of the Flying V. I was definitely privileged to see you in action!
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson