♫ (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman ♫

There are times … oh yeah, there are times … when the music of Aretha Franklin just comes back and fills the head … with joy, with sorrow, with pain, but always with feeling.

This song was written by the legendary songwriting team of Gerry Goffin and Carole King.  They were a married couple who helped shape the Brill Building sound, named for the famous building in New York City where many hits from the ’60 were written and recorded. Ode Records owner Lou Adler, who worked closely with King and Goffin, said:

“Gerry Goffin is one of the best lyricists in the last 50 years. He’s a storyteller, and his lyrics are emotional. ‘Natural Woman,’ ‘Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow.’ These are perfect examples of situations, very romantic, almost a moral statement. Coming out of the 1950s, with the type of bubble gum music, and then in 1961, Gerry is writing about a girl who just might let a guy sleep with her and she wants to know, ‘is it just tonight or will you still love me tomorrow?’ Goffin could write a female lyric. If he could write the words to ‘Natural Woman,’ that’s a woman speaking. Gerry put those words into Carole’s mouth. He was a chemist before he was a full time lyricist. He’s very intelligent and obviously emotional.”

Regarding the origins of the song, Adler added:

“Last year (2007) I spoke to Jerry Wexler at his home in Florida, and he told me the story that Gerry was coming out of a building in New York, (Goffin now remembers it as an Oyster House), and Jerry Wexler is passing in a car, and yells out, ‘Why don’t you write a song called ‘Natural Woman’?’ They felt the title was so distinct and so important to the song that they gave him a piece of it. So, when I spoke to Jerry recently to call him on his 90th birthday, he said, ‘Isn’t it amazing what those kids gave me? The checks keep coming in and I’m really happy about it.’ Knowing how much he added to the song, not really as a third writer but the title and the inspiration of what was to be, a great song.”

Carole King recorded her own version of this song on her 1971 Tapestry album.

When Aretha Franklin performed this song in tribute to Carole King at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors, she brought the house down, wowing King and the many luminaries present, including Barack and Michelle Obama. The crowd rose to its feet when Franklin shed her fur coat to belt out the end of the song.  And by the way, that was Carole King throwing kisses from the audience in the Kennedy Center.

I have chosen both the clip from the Kennedy Center and the official video, for both touch my heart in a way that few do.  Aretha Franklin … one of the greats of her time.  The sound quality isn’t as good on the Kennedy Center clip, but the emotional value is … oh man.  Watch then-President Obama wipe a tear from his eye and tell me that didn’t move you.

This one made it to #8 in the U.S. and #11 in Canada, but only #79 in the UK.

♫ Wonderful World ♫

When you hear the song title “Wonderful World”, you likely first think of the immortal Louis Armstrong … which I played twice last year and once already in June of this year.  I love Louis, love that song … but for tonight, I am playing a different song with a similar title … this one by Sam Cooke, another of my way-back-when favourites.

Wonderful World was originally written by music legends Lou Alder and Herb Alpert, but Cooke added the finishing lyrical touches, and the trio used the songwriting pseudonym “Barbara Campbell,” the name of Cooke’s high school sweetheart. Adler went on from this success to found Dunhill Records and manage big name artists such as Jan & Dean, The Mamas & The Papas, and Carole King. Not to be outdone, his writing partner, Herb Alpert, put the “A” in A&M Records after performing for several years with his band Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass.

Don’t let the bouncy rhythm and upbeat tempo fool you. According to Craig Werner, a professor of African American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the song may have a more politically charged meaning. In his book, A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race and the Soul of America, Werner writes that “Wonderful World” may be one of the first examples of Cooke’s crossover into politics, where he informs white listeners that he “don’t know much about history” and “don’t know much biology” as a comment that these are the things to forget about African-Americans, and all they need to remember is love.

Throughout the years, “Wonderful World” has been covered by a number of artists including Otis Redding, Bryan Ferry, Michael Bolton, and Rod Stewart. After Sam Cooke’s death in 1964, there were a rash of “tribute” covers released including a 1965 up-tempo version by Herman’s Hermits, which reached #4 on the US Pop Singles chart and #7 on the UK Singles chart, and a rendition by The Supremes released on their 1965 album “We Remember Sam Cooke.” In 1977, Art Garfunkel put his spin on the hit for his album, Watermark, which featured harmonies by friend, James Taylor, and former partner, Paul Simon.

Wonderful World
Sam Cooke

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for

But I do know one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be

Now, I don’t claim to be an A student
But I’m trying to be
For maybe by being an A student, baby
I can win your love for me

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful world this would be

Latatatatata ah
History (Mmmm)
Biology (Well a-tatatatata)
Science book (Mmmm)
French I took, yeah

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful world this would be

Source: Musixmatch
Songwriters: George David Weiss / Robert Thiele

♫ Poor Side Of Town ♫

Have you ever noticed that when you get cracker crumbs or pretzel salt in the keyboard of your laptop, the keys don’t work quite right?  If I didn’t spend the biggest part of my life at the laptop, then I wouldn’t have to do my munching here and my keyboard would be safe from crumbs.  Well, now that I got that out of the way …

I would have sworn I had already played this one by Johnny Rivers, but a search through my archives says otherwise.  I was probably thinking of Elvis’ In the Ghetto.  I was not aware of it, but this was Johnny Rivers’ only U.S. chart-topper.

Rivers co-wrote it with Lou Adler.  Marty Paich, who arranged for Mel Torme and Ray Charles, did the string arrangement.  According to Rivers …

“I had this tune I’d been working on, and I kept playing it for Lou. It took me about 6 months to finish. We cut it with Larry Knechtel, Joe Osborn and Hal Blaine. I did my vocal performances live with the band. I sat and played my guitar and sang. There weren’t any overdubs. So we said it could use some singers and maybe some strings. That’s the time we got together with Marty Paich.”

This was a change of direction for Johnny Rivers, who had tired of the upbeat Go-Go sound that provided him with his early hits. However, he found his record company reluctant to tamper with a winning formula. He recalls …

“Al Bennett and those guys were goin’ Man. don’t start comin’ out with ballads. You’re gonna kill your career. You got a good thing goin’ with this funky trio rock sound, stay with that.”

And the rest, as they say, is history.

Poor Side of Town
Johnny Rivers

How can you tell me how much you miss me
When the last time I saw you, you wouldn’t even kiss me
That rich guy you’ve been seein’
Must have put you down
So welcome back baby
To the poor side of town

To him you were nothin’ but a little plaything
Not much more than an overnight fling
To me you were the greatest thing this boy had ever found
And girl it’s hard to find nice things
On the poor side of town

I can’t blame you for tryin’
I’m tryin’ to make it too
I’ve got one little hang up baby
I just can’t make it without you

So tell me, are you gonna stay now
Will you stand by me girl all the way now
Oh with you by my side
They just can’t keep us down
Together we can make it girl
From the poor side of town

Oh, with you by my side
This world can’t keep us down
Together we can make it baby
From the poor side of town

Source: LyricFind
Songwriters: Johnny Rivers / Lou Adler
Poor Side of Town lyrics © BMG Rights Management, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

♫ Wonderful World ♫

I’ve been behind on everything since two days before Thanksgiving, when I began grocery shopping, planning, baking, etc., and I’m still not caught back up, but … getting there.  I have missed reading friends’ blogs, and tonight I was trying to make a dent in the backlog when I came across a poem written by fellow-blogger and friend, Paul, aka Parallax.  As I commented on his post, a song came to mind … this song … What a Wonderful World, by Sam Cooke.

Released on April 14, 1960, this song was mainly composed by songwriting team Lou Adler and Herb Alpert, but Cooke revised the lyrics to mention the subject of education more.

According to Craig Werner, a professor of African American Studies at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, the song may have a more politically charged meaning than at first glance. In his book, A Change Is Gonna Come: Music, Race and the Soul of America, Werner writes that “Wonderful World” may be one of the first examples of Cooke’s crossover into politics, where he informs white listeners that he “don’t know much about history” and “don’t know much biology” as a comment that these are the things to forget about African-Americans, and all they need to remember is love.

Wonderful World
Sam Cooke

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful world this would be

Don’t know much about geography
Don’t know much trigonometry
Don’t know much about algebra
Don’t know what a slide rule is for

But I do know one and one is two
And if this one could be with you
What a wonderful world this would be

Now, I don’t claim to be an A student
But I’m trying to be
For maybe by being an A student, baby
I can win your love for me

Don’t know much about history
Don’t know much biology
Don’t know much about a science book
Don’t know much about the French I took

But I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful world this would be

La ta ta ta ta ta ta (history)
Hmm-mm-mm (biology)
La ta ta ta ta ta ta (science book)
Hmm-mm-mm (French I took)

Yeah, but I do know that I love you
And I know that if you love me, too
What a wonderful world this would be

Songwriters: Herb Alpert / Lou Adler / Sam Cooke
Wonderful World lyrics © Abkco Music, Inc

♫ You Make Me Feel Like A Natural Woman ♫

I had a song picked out for tonight … one that was originally sung by Aretha Franklin, then later recorded by Barbra Streisand, The Way We Were, but I discovered I had played that one back in March.  But, by then I had Aretha on my mind … that woman could flat out sing!  It seemed as if her voice was penetrating my mind, so I went in search of something ‘Aretha’ that I haven’t already played, and this is what I came up with …

This was written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. They were a married couple who helped shape the Brill Building sound, named for the famous building in New York City where many hits from the ’60 were written and recorded.

Regarding the origins of this song, in 2008 Ode Records owner Lou Adler, who worked closely with King and Goffin remembers …

“Last year I spoke to Jerry Wexler at his home in Florida, and he told me the story that Gerry was coming out of a building in New York, (Goffin now remembers it as an Oyster House), and Jerry Wexler is passing in a car, and yells out, ‘Why don’t you write a song called ‘Natural Woman’?’ They felt the title was so distinct and so important to the song that they gave him a piece of it. So, when I spoke to Jerry recently to call him on his 90th birthday, he said, ‘Isn’t it amazing what those kids gave me? The checks keep coming in and I’m really happy about it.’ Knowing how much he added to the song, not really as a third writer but the title and the inspiration of what was to be, a great song.”

The version I’m playing tonight is from 2015 when Aretha performed the song in a tribute to Carole King at the 2015 Kennedy Center Honors where she literally brought the house down.  In attendance were then-President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.

Ms. Franklin would die some three years later, on 06 August 2018, and the world lost one of the greatest singers of all time, at least in this writer’s opinion.

(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman
Aretha Franklin

Looking out on the morning rain
I used to feel so uninspired
And when I knew I had to face another day
Lord, it made me feel so tired
Before the day I met you, life was so unkind
But you’re the key to my peace of mind

‘Cause you make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like
A natural woman (woman)

When my soul was in the lost and found
You came along to claim it
I didn’t know just what was wrong with me
‘Til your kiss helped me name it
Now I’m no longer doubtful, of what I’m living for
And if I make you happy I don’t need to do more

‘Cause you make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like
A natural woman (woman)

Oh, baby, what you’ve done to me (what you’ve done to me)
You make me feel so good inside (good inside)
And I just want to be, close to you (want to be)
You make me feel so alive

You make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like
A natural woman (woman)

You make me feel
You make me feel
You make me feel like a natural woman (woman)

You make me feel
You make me feel

Songwriters: Gerry Goffin / Carole King / Jerry Wexler
(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC