♫ Mr. Tambourine Man ♫

I had a song in my head all day today.  It wasn’t this one, but was Turn, Turn, Turn, also by the Byrds.  I opted for this one instead, for a couple of reasons that … I shan’t disclose!  I have to keep a few secrets tucked away, right?  Anyway … when I went digging for information about this song, my jaw dropped.  Even my daughter, who is a musical guru, did not know who wrote and first recorded this song.  Do you?  I’m betting that Keith and Scott both know that Bob Dylan wrote this song and recorded it on his fifth album Bringing It All Back Home on March 22, 1965.  But it was the Byrds cover, released later in 1965, that brought the song to the #1 spot, and is the only song Dylan ever wrote that went to #1 in the U.S.

Dylan wrote this on a road trip he took with some friends from New York to San Francisco. They smoked lots of marijuana along the way, replenishing their stash at post offices where they had mailed pot along the way.

The Byrds’ version is based on Bob Dylan’s demo of the song that he recorded during sessions for his 1964 album Another Side of Bob Dylan. It was The Byrds’ manager Jim Dickson who brought in the demo and asked them to record it – the group refused at first because they thought it didn’t have any hit potential. When The Byrds did record it, they took some lyrics out and added a 12-string guitar lead.

Only three of the five members of the Byrds performed on this song: Roger McGuinn sang lead and played lead guitar; Gene Clark and David Crosby did the vocal harmonies. Session musicians were brought in to play the other instruments, since the band was just starting out and wasn’t deemed good enough yet by their management.

This was the Byrds’ first single.  According to Roger McGuinn …

“To get that sound, that hit sound, that ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ sound, we just ran it through the electronics which were available to us at that time, which were mainly compression devices and tape delay, tape-sustain. That’s how we got it, by equalizing it properly and aiming at a specific frequency.

For stereo-buffs out there who noticed that ‘Mr. Tambourine Man’ in stereo isn’t really stereo, by the way, that’s because when Terry Melcher, the producer, first started mixing records he didn’t know how to mix stereo, and so he made all the singles up to ‘Turn Turn Turn’ mono. The label is misrepresentative. See, when Columbia Records signed us, they didn’t know what they had. So they gave production to someone low on the totem-pole-which was Terry Melcher who was Doris Day’s son who was getting a token-job-in-the-mailroom sort of thing. They gave him the Byrds and the Byrds were supposed to flunk the test.”

I was only planning to play the Byrds’ version here, but when I saw the one of Dylan playing guitar and harmonica plus singing, I just had to include it, too.

Mr. Tambourine Man
Song by The Byrds

Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there ain’t no place I’m goin’ to
Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come followin’ you

Take me for a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
All my senses have been stripped
And my hands can’t feel to grip
And my toes too numb to step
Wait only for my boot heels to be wanderin’

I’m ready to go anywhere I’m ready for to fade
On to my own parade cast your dancin’ spell my way
I promise to go under it

Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there ain’t no place I’m goin’ to
Hey Mister Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning, I’ll come followin’ you

Songwriters: Bob Dylan
Mr. Tambourine Man lyrics © Audiam, Inc

♫ 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

♫ 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

♫ A Change Is Gonna Come ♫

Sam CookeThis one was never a #1 hit, maybe some of you have never even heard it before, but in light of today being the one-year anniversary of the terrible tragedy in Charlottesville, Virginia, I felt this was the most appropriate song to share.  I do hope you will spend the 3 minutes to listen … it is poignant, moving.

The song was inspired by various personal events in Cooke’s life, most prominently an event in which he and his entourage were turned away from a whites-only motel in Louisiana. Cooke felt compelled to write a song that spoke to his struggle and of those around him, and that pertained to the Civil Rights Movement and African Americans.

On October 8, 1963, en route to Shreveport, Louisiana, Cooke called ahead to the Holiday Inn North to make reservations for his wife, Barbara, and himself, but when he and his group arrived, the desk clerk glanced nervously and explained there were no vacancies. While his brother Charles protested, Sam was fuming, yelling to see the manager and refusing to leave until he received an answer. His wife nudged him, attempting to calm him down, telling him, “They’ll kill you,” to which he responded, “They ain’t gonna kill me, because I’m Sam Cooke.” When they eventually persuaded Cooke to leave, the group drove away calling out insults and blaring their horns. When they arrived at the Castle Motel on Sprague Street downtown, the police were waiting for them, arresting them for disturbing the peace.

Upon hearing Bob Dylan’s “Blowin’ in the Wind” in 1963, Cooke was greatly moved that such a poignant song about racism in America could come from someone who was not black, and was also ashamed he had not yet written something like that himself. However, his image and fears of losing his largely white fan base prevented him from doing so. Cooke loved the song so much it was immediately incorporated into his repertoire.

Many others, including Aaron Neville and Patti LaBelle have recorded this song, but … well, it belongs to Sam Cooke, so without further ado …

Blowing in the Wind

blowing2How many roads must a man walk down

Before they call him a man?

How many seas must a white dove sail

Before she sleeps in the sand?

How many times must the cannon balls fly

Before they’re forever banned?

 

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 

How many years must a mountain exist

Before it is washed to the sea?

How many years can some people exist

Before they’re allowed to be free?

How many times can a man turn his head

And pretend that he just doesn’t see?

 

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 

How many times must a man look up

Before he can see the sky?

How many ears must one man have

Before he can hear people cry?

How many deaths will it take ’til he knows

That too many people have died?

 

The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

The answer is blowin’ in the wind.

 

Bob Dylan wrote Blowing in the Wind in 1962 and it was first released in 1963 on Dylan’s album Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. The song was later sung by Peter, Paul and Mary.  In 1994 it was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame, and in 2004, it was ranked #14 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. In 2012, Bob Dylan, then age 70, was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom by President Barack Obama, in large part due to Blowing in the Wind. The song was once considered the anthem of the civil rights movement.  It has long been debated whether the song’s title means the answer is, just like the wind, right in your face, or whether the answer, like the wind, can never quite be seen.  I post these lyrics here today because I think they pose questions about peace and freedom that are just as relevant today as they were 50 years ago.  I think we need this song as much today as ever.  If I were running for president (I am not), this would be my theme song, my mantra.

 

“There ain’t too much I can say about this song except that the answer is blowing in the wind. It ain’t in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group. Man, it’s in the wind – and it’s blowing in the wind. Too many of these hip people are telling me where the answer is but oh I won’t believe that. I still say it’s in the wind and just like a restless piece of paper it’s got to come down some …But the only trouble is that no one picks up the answer when it comes down so not too many people get to see and know . . . and then it flies away. I still say that some of the biggest criminals are those that turn their heads away when they see wrong and know it’s wrong. I’m only 21 years old and I know that there’s been too many   . . . You people over 21, you’re older and smarter.” – Bob Dylan (24 May 1941 – Present)

 

Go back and read the lyrics again, think about them, share them, listen to the song, sing it … feel it.

Peter, Paul and Mary version

Bob Dylan version