♫ We Are The World ♫

Hello my friends.  With a heavy heart tonight, I was not going to do a music post, but two special people convinced me, without realizing that they had a thing to do with it, to do one … and this one in particular.  I shall explain …

A few nights ago, I was chatting via email with our friend Ellen, and she noted that while sometimes one doesn’t feel that they have a song in their heart, they should … sing anyway!  Tonight, I felt as if I had no song in my heart, and really, I just wanted to go to bed.  But, somewhere in my head, I heard Ellen saying, “C’mon, Filosofa … sing anyway!”

And the second motivator was another dear friend, Dutch (Larry Woller) who posted on his own blog this song … We Are The World … and everything just suddenly clicked into place.

This was a benefit single for victims of famine in Africa. It raised over $60 Million, which was distributed to Ethiopia, Sudan, and other impoverished countries.

Michael Jackson and Lionel Richie wrote this song, and Quincy Jones produced it. This talented trio was perfect for the job: Quincy Jones was the hottest producer around, and his Rolodex (what would now be a contact list) was filled with the biggest names in music; Richie had written songs that went to #1 on the Hot 100 each of the previous seven years (“We Are The World” made it eight); Michael Jackson had the biggest album of 1984 with Thriller (produced by Jones) and was the biggest star in the world.

The USA For Africa project began as an idea calypso singer Harry Belafonte had for a benefit concert featuring black musicians. In late December 1984, looking for artists to participate, Belafonte called Ken Kragen, who managed an impressive roster of talent, including Lionel Richie. Kragen convinced Belafonte that they could raise more money and make a bigger impact with an original song; Belafonte agreed and Richie came on board to help.

Kragen asked Quincy Jones to produce, and Jones enlisted Michael Jackson. Richie got Stevie Wonder involved, and from there, word got out and many members of the music industry signed on to help. The project from conception to recording took about a month.

This all-star charity single was inspired by Band Aid, the British group Bob Geldof put together the year before to record Do They Know It’s Christmas?. Band Aid, which included Bono, Phil Collins, David Bowie, Paul McCartney, and Sting, served as a template, showing how a disparate group of famous artists could come together in one day to record a song.

The stars who sang solos were, in order, Lionel Richie, Stevie Wonder, Paul Simon, Kenny Rogers, James Ingram, Billy Joel, Tina Turner, Michael Jackson, Diana Ross, Dionne Warwick, Willie Nelson, Al Jarreau, Bruce Springsteen, Kenny Loggins, Steve Perry, Daryl Hall, Michael Jackson (again), Huey Lewis, Cyndi Lauper, and Kim Carnes. Bob Dylan and Ray Charles were also featured on the song and given close-ups in the video.

Harry Belafonte, who had the original idea for the project, was in the chorus but didn’t get a solo, joining Bette Midler, Smokey Robinson, The Pointer Sisters, LaToya Jackson, Bob Geldof, Sheila E., and Waylon Jennings as backing singers.

Quincy Jones was responsible for managing the egos of all the stars. It went very smoothly considering some very famous people did not get to sing a line. Most of the singers knew Jones personally and respected his wishes that they check their egos at the door.

Just goes to show what we can accomplish when people of all sorts come together for a common cause.  I think … though the cause is different … this song has just as much meaning for our world today as it did when it was released in 1985, some 34 years ago, don’t you?

We Are the World
U.S.A. for Africa

There comes a time
When we heed a certain call
When the world must come together as one
There are people dying
Oh, and it’s time to lend a hand to life
The greatest gift of all

We can’t go on
Pretending day-by-day
That someone, somewhere soon make a change
We’re all a part of God’s great big family
And the truth, you know, love is all we need

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me

Oh, send them your heart
So they know that someone cares
And their lives will be stronger and free
As God has shown us by turning stones to bread
And so we all must lend a helping hand

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving
Oh, there’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me

When you’re down and out, there seems no hope at all
But if you just believe there’s no way we can fall
Well, well, well, well let us realize
Oh, that a change can only come
When we stand together as one, yeah, yeah, yeah

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me

We are the world
We are the children
We are the ones who make a brighter day, so let’s start giving
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me

We are the world (are the world)
We are the children (are the children)
We are the ones who’ll make a brighter day, so let’s start giving (so let’s start giving)
There is a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me

Oh, let me hear you!

We are the world (we are the world)
We are the children (said we are the children)
We are the ones who’ll make a brighter day so let start giving (so let’s start giving)

There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me, come on now, let me hear you

We are the world (we are the world)
We are the children (we are the children)
We are the ones who’ll make a brighter day so let’s start giving (so let’s start giving)
There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me, yeah

We are the world (we are the world)
We are the children (we are the children)
We are the ones who’ll make a brighter day so let’s start giving (so let’s start giving)

There’s a choice we’re making
And we’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me

We are the world (are the world)
We are the children (are the children)
We are the ones who’ll make a brighter day so let’s start giving (so let’s start giving)

There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me

We are the world, we are the world (are the world)
We are the children, yes sir (are the children)
We are the ones that make a brighter day so let’s start giving (so let’s start giving)

There’s a choice we’re making
We’re saving our own lives
It’s true we’ll make a better day, just you and me, ooh-hoo!

We are the world (dear God) (are the world)
We are the children (are the children)
We are the ones that make a brighter day so let’s start giving (all right, can you hear what I’m saying?)
There’s a choice we’re making, we’re saving our own lives

Songwriters: Michael Jackson / Lionel Richie
We Are the World lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner Chappell Music, Inc

♫ She’s Always A Woman ♫

It’s Saturday, and I had a brilliant inspiration while I was working on my Saturday Surprise post … Sam Cooke’s Another Saturday Night!!!  Oopsie … played it twice last year, including once in another Saturday Surprise post.  Bummer.  Well, I had this one earmarked to play sometime soon, and I’m too tired tonight to go in search of something more Saturday-ish.

Billy Joel wrote this song about his first wife, Elizabeth, whom he was married to from 1973-1982. When they first got together, she was still married to Joel’s drummer Jon Small. Billy was so tormented by his affair that he made a halfhearted attempt to kill himself by drinking furniture polish. Ironically, the rocker was saved by the very man he was betraying when Jon Small rushed him to hospital.

Joel’s then-wife Elizabeth was also his manager and worked in the music industry at a time when very few women did. Billy saw her take a lot of gruff in the working world and get called a lot of names, which led to him writing this song to defend her, in a way. He explained: “If you look at the structure of the song, it says, ‘she can do this to you, she can do that to you, but she’s always a woman to me.’ That was the point of the song: they’re bitching about her, and I’m saying, you can bitch all you want, she’s great at business and she comes home and she’s a woman with me.”

When the American singer-songwriter Pink married motocross racer Carey Hart in Costa Rica, she walked down the aisle barefoot accompanied by this song.  She was always a huge Billy Joel fan, and she got the chance to perform this song with her idol in 2014 at a Billy Joel town hall event hosted by Howard Stern. “I got to see my dad become happy when your songs came on, and we sang them together,” she told him. “It’s changed my life. When I sit down to write a song, my first thought is, ‘this is going to suck, and I’m never going to be Billy Joel.'”

She’s Always a Woman
Billy Joel
She can kill with a smile, she can wound with her eyes
She can ruin your faith with her casual lies
And she only reveals what she wants you to see
She hides like a child but she’s always a woman to me
She can lead you to love, she can take you or leave you
She can ask for the truth but she’ll never believe you
And she’ll take what you give her as long as it’s free

Yeah she steals like a thief but she’s always a woman to me
Oh, she takes care of herself, she can wait if she wants
She’s ahead of her time
Oh, she never gives out and she never gives in
She just changes her mind

And she’ll promise you more than the garden of Eden
Then she’ll carelessly cut you and laugh while you’re bleeding
But she brings out the best and the worst you can be

Blame it all on yourself ’cause she’s always a woman to me
Oh, she takes care of herself, she can wait if she wants
She’s ahead of her time
Oh, she never gives out and she never gives in
She just changes her mind

She is frequently kind and she’s suddenly cruel
She can do as she pleases, she’s nobody’s fool
But she can’t be convicted, she’s earned her degree
And the most she will do is throw shadows at you
But she’s always a woman to me

Songwriters: Billy Joel
She’s Always a Woman lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ It’s Still Rock And Roll To Me ♫

I have done some 294 music posts since I started doing them last July, almost a year ago.  I’ve repeated a few, but not too many, not too often.  Some days it seems that I’ve already played everything I like, but then other days I am filled with songs I want to play and cannot decide on one.  Today was rather in between those two … a couple of false starts, then I came across this one.

Released in May 1980, this was one of Billy Joel’s most popular songs, and his first #1 hit on the Hot 100, spending two weeks at the top spot in July 1980. The single was certified Platinum, which at the time meant sales in excess of 2 million.

The song is a cynical look at the music industry as a publicist/manager begs the protagonist to remain hip for the younger crowd (“What’s the matter with the car I’m driving?” / “Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?”), and the protagonist’s refusal to change, claiming his music will remain relevant regardless of his appearance. The song was a reaction by Joel to the new music genres that were around in the late 1970s (punk, funk, new wave). It was inspired by Joel reading a review about a particular (unnamed) band, and realizing that he had no idea what their music sounded like.

I love the song, and especially love the saxaphone solo played by Richie Cannata.

It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me
Billy Joel

What’s the matter with the clothes I’m wearing?
Can’t you tell that your tie’s too wide?
Maybe I should buy some old tab collars?
Welcome back to the age of jive
Where have you been hidin’ out lately, honey?
You can’t dress this trashy till you spend a lot of money
Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout the new sound
Funny, but it’s still rock and roll to me

What’s the matter with the car I’m driving?
Can’t you tell that it’s out of style?
Should I get a set of white wall tires?
Are you gonna cruise a miracle mile?
Nowadays you can’t be too sentimental
Your best bet’s a true baby-blue Continental
Hot funk, cool punk, even if it’s old junk
It’s still rock and roll to me

Oh, it doesn’t matter what they say in the papers
‘Cause it’s always been the same old scene
There’s a new band in town but you can’t get the sound
From a story in a magazine
Aimed at your average teen

How about a pair of pink sidewinders
And a bright orange pair of pants?
Well, you could really be a Beau Brummel, baby
If you just give it half a chance
Don’t waste your money on a new set of speakers
You get more mileage from a cheap pair of sneakers
Next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways
It’s still rock and roll to me

Alright

Ooh, what’s the matter with the crowd I’m seeing?
Don’t you know that they’re out of touch?
Well, should I try to be a straight-A student?
If you are then you think too much
Don’t you know about the new fashion, honey?
All you need are looks and a whole lotta money
It’s the next phase, new wave, dance craze, anyways
It’s still rock and roll to me
Everybody’s talkin’ ’bout the new sound
Funny, but it’s still rock and roll to me

Songwriters: Billy Joel
It’s Still Rock and Roll to Me lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ We Didn’t Start The Fire ♫

This Billy Joel song was mentioned twice in comments recently, by Keith and Ellen.  The lyrics are a stream of consciousness list of more than 100 events that Joel felt his generation was not responsible for. Many of the references are to the Cold War (U.S. vs. Russia), a problem his generation inherited.

we-didnt-start-fire

Joel says he got the idea for the song after a conversation with his friend, Sean Lennon, son of Beatle John Lennon, on the event of Sean’s 21st birthday, .  The conversation went like this:

Lennon: It’s a terrible time to be 21!

Joel: Yeah, I remember when I was 21 – I thought it was an awful time and we had Vietnam, and y’know, drug problems, and civil rights problems and everything seemed to be awful.

Lennon: Yeah, yeah, yeah, but it’s different for you. You were a kid in the fifties and everybody knows that nothing happened in the fifties.

Joel: Wait a minute, didn’t you hear of the Korean War or the Suez Canal Crisis?

According to Joel …

I had turned forty. It was 1989 and I said “Okay, what’s happened in my life?” I wrote down the year 1949. Okay, Harry Truman was president. Popular singer of the day, Doris Day. China went Communist. Another popular singer, Johnnie Ray. Big Broadway show, South Pacific. Journalist, Walter Winchell. Athlete, Joe DiMaggio. Then I went on to 1950 … It’s one of the worst melodies I’ve ever written. I kind of like the lyric though.

Musically, the song does leave something to be desired.  Blender magazine rated this the 41st worst song ever in its 2004 article “Run for Your Life! It’s the 50 Worst Songs Ever!” Comparing it to “a term paper scribbled the night before it’s due.”

But the song carries a message, and that overrides the flaws in the composition, at least for me it does.

My thanks to Keith and Ellen for reminding me of this song and its message …

We Didn’t Start the Fire
Billy Joel

Harry Truman, Doris Day, Red China, Johnnie Ray
South Pacific, Walter Winchell, Joe DiMaggio

Joe McCarthy, Richard Nixon, Studebaker, television
North Korea, South Korea, Marilyn Monroe

Rosenbergs, H-bomb, Sugar Ray, Panmunjom
Brando, “The King and I” and “The Catcher in the Rye”

Eisenhower, vaccine, England’s got a new queen
Marciano, Liberace, Santayana goodbye

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Joseph Stalin, Malenkov, Nasser and Prokofiev
Rockefeller, Campanella, Communist Bloc

Roy Cohn, Juan Peron, Toscanini, Dacron
Dien Bien Phu falls, “Rock Around the Clock”

Einstein, James Dean, Brooklyn’s got a winning team
Davy Crockett, Peter Pan, Elvis Presley, Disneyland

Bardot, Budapest, Alabama, Krushchev
Princess Grace, “Peyton Place”, trouble in the Suez

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Little Rock, Pasternak, Mickey Mantle, Kerouac
Sputnik, Chou En-Lai, “Bridge on the River Kwai”

Lebanon, Charlse de Gaulle, California baseball
Starkweather, homicide, children of thalidomide

Buddy Holly, “Ben Hur”, space monkey, Mafia
Hula hoops, Castro, Edsel is a no-go

U2, Syngman Rhee, payola and Kennedy
Chubby Checker, “Psycho”, Belgians in the Congo

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Hemingway, Eichmann, “Stranger in a Strange Land”
Dylan, Berlin, Bay of Pigs invasion

“Lawrence of Arabia”, British Beatlemania
Ole Miss, John Glenn, Liston beats Patterson

Pope Paul, Malcolm X, British politician sex
JFK, blown away, what else do I have to say

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Birth control, Ho Chi Minh, Richard Nixon back again
Moonshot, Woodstock, Watergate, punk rock
Begin, Reagan, Palestine, terror on the airline
Ayatollah’s in Iran, Russians in Afghanistan

“Wheel of Fortune”, Sally Ride, heavy metal, suicide
Foreign debts, homeless vets, AIDS, crack, Bernie Goetz
Hypodermics on the shores, China’s under martial law
Rock and roller cola wars, I can’t take it anymore

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
But when we are gone
Will it still burn on, and on, and on, and on

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

We didn’t start the fire
It was always burning
Since the world’s been turning
We didn’t start the fire
No we didn’t light it
But we tried to fight it

Songwriters: Billy Joel
We Didn’t Start the Fire lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ Uptown Girl ♫

Once again, I have been ever-so-gently chided by dear Ellen for my music choice yesterday.  It wasn’t that she didn’t like Stevie Wonder, for she did, but apparently I missed the 70th birthday of Billy Joel.

I have mentioned before that Ellen is a walking encyclopedia when it comes to all things pertaining to music, and she continues to prove me right.  She gave me many facts that I was completely unaware of, such as that Billy Joel had attempted suicide by furniture polish in 1970.  Now, Ellen was very gentle, knowing that I’ve been in a state of angst of late, and she made the chiding nearly painless.  Fortunately, I do like some, though not all of Joel’s music.  However, though she mentioned several songs, I picked a different one, one that I like because it has a beat that makes the toes start tap-tap-tapping and stays in your mind for a while after it’s done.

Released in 1983, Uptown Girl was conceived on an occasion when he was surrounded by Christie Brinkley, Whitney Houston and his then girlfriend Elle Macpherson.

“The song was originally called ‘Uptown Girls’ not ‘Uptown Girl.’ I know its associated with Christie but when I started to write that song I had recently divorced prior to meeting her, all of the sudden I’m a rock star and divorced. All these women were going to go out with me.”

He married supermodel Christie Brinkley less than two years after this song was released, but he wasn’t even dating her when he started writing the song.  Joel also said that the song was inspired by the music of Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons.  He and Christie divorced after just nine years.

Apologies to Mr. Joel for the belated birthday tribute.  And sorry, Ellen, that I chose a different song … I’ll make it up to you!

Uptown Girl
Billy Joel

Uptown girl
She’s been living in her uptown world
I bet she’s never had a backstreet guy
I bet her mama never told her why

I’m gonna try for an uptown girl
She’s been living in her white bread world
As long as anyone with hot blood can
And now she’s looking for a downtown man
That’s what I am

And when she knows
What she wants from her time
And when she wakes up
And makes up her mind

She’ll see I’m not so tough
Just because
I’m in love with an uptown girl
You know I’ve seen her in her uptown world
She’s getting tired of her high class toys
And all her presents from her uptown boys
She’s got a choice

Uptown girl
You know I can’t afford to buy her pearls
But maybe someday when my ship comes in
She’ll understand what kind of guy I’ve been
And then I’ll win

And when she’s walking
She’s looking so fine
And when she’s talking
She’ll say that she’s mine

She’ll say I’m not so tough
Just because
I’m in love
With an uptown girl
She’s been living in her white bread world
As long as anyone with hot blood can
And now she’s looking for a downtown man
That’s what I am

Uptown girl
She’s my uptown girl
You know I’m in love
With an uptown girl
My uptown girl
You know I’m in love
With an uptown girl
My uptown girl
You know I’m in love
With an uptown girl
My uptown girl
You know I’m in love
With an uptown girl

Songwriters: Billy Joel
Uptown Girl lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ Piano Man ♫

Our friend Scottie mentioned this song in passing a few days ago, and ever since then I have had it weaving in and out of my head.  So, exorcism time again … time for me to transfer the earworm from my head to yours.  No no … no need to thank me … it’s my pleasure!  😄

In 1972-1973, Billy Joel worked at the Executive Room bar in Los Angeles as a piano player using the name “Bill Martin”.  He was in dispute with his then-recording company and took the job to pay the bills while waiting for his lawyers to straighten things out back in New York.  The song Piano Man tells of a number of different characters that were based on real people Joel met while playing in the lounge.

“It was a gig I did for about six months just to pay rent. I was living in LA and trying to get out of a bad record contract I’d signed. I worked under an assumed name, the Piano Stylings of Bill Martin, and just bulls–ted my way through it. I have no idea why that song became so popular. It’s like a karaoke favorite. The melody is not very good and very repetitious, while the lyrics are like limericks. I was shocked and embarrassed when it became a hit. But my songs are like my kids and I look at that song and think: ‘My kid did pretty well.'”

His ‘kid’ did pretty well indeed!  Piano Man peaked at #25 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in April 1974. Following Joel’s breakthrough as a popular musician with the release of The Stranger, it became one of his most well-known songs. It is now a highlight of Joel’s live shows, where he usually allows the audience to sing the chorus in place of him. In 2016, the Library of Congress selected Piano Man for preservation in the National Recording Registry for its “cultural, historic, or artistic significance.”

Piano Man
Billy Joel

It’s nine o’clock on a Saturday
The regular crowd shuffles in
There’s an old man sitting next to me
Makin’ love to his tonic and gin

He says, “Son, can you play me a memory
I’m not really sure how it goes
But it’s sad and it’s sweet and I knew it complete
When I wore a younger man’s clothes”

La la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Sing us a song, you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well, we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you’ve got us feelin’ alright

Now John at the bar is a friend of mine
He gets me my drinks for free
And he’s quick with a joke or to light up your smoke
But there’s someplace that he’d rather be
He says, “Bill, I believe this is killing me”
As the smile ran away from his face
“Well I’m sure that I could be a movie star
If I could get out of this place”

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Now Paul is a real estate novelist
Who never had time for a wife
And he’s talkin’ with Davy, who’s still in the Navy
And probably will be for life

And the waitress is practicing politics
As the businessmen slowly get stoned
Yes, they’re sharing a drink they call loneliness
But it’s better than drinkin’ alone

Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright

It’s a pretty good crowd for a Saturday
And the manager gives me a smile
‘Cause he knows that it’s me they’ve been comin’ to see
To forget about life for a while
And the piano, it sounds like a carnival
And the microphone smells like a beer
And they sit at the bar and put bread in my jar
And say, “Man, what are you doin’ here?”

Oh, la la la, di da da
La la, di da da da dum

Sing us a song you’re the piano man
Sing us a song tonight
Well we’re all in the mood for a melody
And you got us feeling alright

Songwriters: Billy Joel
Piano Man lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group