♫ When A Man Loves A Woman ♫

cute-beeSomething I wrote either last night or the night before about the song of the day made reference to Percy Sledge, and hence … I’ve had this song buzzing around in my head like a bee in a field of clover.

There are a couple of interesting things in the backstory to this song.  First, this song is a huge part of music history, as it is the first #1 Hot 100 hit recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, where Aretha Franklin, Paul Simon, The Rolling Stones and many other famous musicians would later record some of their classic songs.

Second, is the dispute over who actually wrote the song.  Percy Sledge claims that he actually wrote the song one night when he was so upset over a woman that, while performing with The Esquires Combo, he was overcome with emotion and asked the band to play a slow blues backing – any key, their choice – to which he could sing.  The band started to play and Sledge vented in song for about six minutes.

In Sledge’s story, Quin Ivy was at the show and approached the band about polishing the song and recording it. Sledge says he worked on the lyrics with Lewis and Wright, and recorded it at Norala Sound with Ivy producing …

“When I wrote the song at first, it was called ‘Why Did You Leave Me Baby.’ And I changed it from that to ‘When a Man Loves a Woman.’ I just reversed it. Quin told me that if I was to write some lyrics around that melody and the expression I’d put into ‘Why Did You Leave Me Baby,’ he believed it would’ve been a hit record. He was one of the top disc jockeys at that time. Sure enough, he asked me if I had any lyrics for that. He said, “That’s it! Write a story around that title! What a song that would be with that feeling you had!” It was a song that was meant to be. It wasn’t just what I had done; it was the musicians, the producer, the background singers, the right time.”

But, according to Andrew Wright …

“We were set to play a Friday night dance, and we were practicing … I was messing around on the organ when this riff came up out of nowhere. There was no one in the club but us. I told Calvin to go home and write some words.”

According to SongFacts …

In Sledge’s version of the story, he co-wrote the song with his bandmates Calvin Lewis and Andrew Wright, but let them have sole composer credits, since they gave him the opportunity to sing his heart out. Whether Sledge was acting out of the goodness of his heart or had nothing to do with writing the song is a matter of debate, but the writing credit had huge implications, resulting in a windfall for Lewis and Wright, who get the royalties every time it is played. Since the song went on to be covered by many artists, they get paid for those as well. If it was a goodwill gesture by Sledge, it cost him millions of dollars.

Who knows?  Percy Sledge died in April 2015, at the age of 73, so we will likely never know quite how this song came to be.  It was later recorded by Michael Bolton, among others, but I remain partial to the Percy Sledge version.

When a Man Loves a Woman
Percy Sledge

When a man loves a woman
Can’t keep his mind on nothing else
He’ll trade the world
For the good thing he’s found
If she’s bad he can’t see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he put her down

When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Trying to hold on to what he needs
He’d give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that’s the way it ought to be

Well, this man loves a woman
I gave you everything I had
Trying to hold on to your precious love
Baby, please don’t treat me bad

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she plays him for a fool
He’s the last one to know
Loving eyes can’t ever see

When a man loves a woman
He can do no wrong
He can never own some other girl
Yes when a man loves a woman
I know exactly how he feels
‘Cause baby, baby, baby, you’re my world

When a man loves a woman

Songwriters: Andrew James Wright / Calvin Houston Lewis
When a Man Loves a Woman lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC, Warner/Chappell Music, Inc

♫ Scarborough Fair ♫

In the last week or so, daughter Chris who is a lover of all things British, discovered a new television show to love called “Rosemary & Thyme”.  It’s fairly interesting, actually, about two middle-aged British women playing detective and solving murders every week.  I jokingly refer to the title of the show as “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary & Thyme”, ala the song Scarborough Fair by Simon and Garfunkel.  And as payback for my humour, I have had this song looping through my head for two days now, so in a ritual of exorcism, I am sharing it here with you!

Scarborough is a small town on the coast of England. The “Scarborough Fair” was a popular gathering in Medieval times, attracting traders and entertainers from all over the country. The fair lasted 45 days and started every August 15th. In the 1600s, mineral waters were found in Scarborough and it became a resort town. Today, Scarborough is a quiet town with a rich history.

In Medieval England, this became a popular folk song as Bards would sing it when they traveled from town to town. The author of the song is unknown, and many different versions exist. The traditional version has many more lyrics.  Paul Simon learned about this song when he was on tour in England, where he heard a version by a popular folk singer named Martin Carthy. When Carthy heard Simon & Garfunkel’s rendition, he accused Simon of stealing his arrangement. Carthy and Simon did not speak until 2000, when Simon asked Carthy to perform this with him at a show in London. Carthy put his differences aside and did the show.

The lyrics are about a man trying to attain his true love. In Medieval times, the herbs mentioned in the song represented virtues that were important to the lyrics. Parsley was comfort, sage was strength, rosemary was love, and thyme was courage.

Scarborough Fair
Simon & Garfunkel

Are you going to Scarborough Fair?
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Remember me to one who lives there
For once she was a true love of mine

Have her make me a cambric shirt
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Without no seam nor fine needle work
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Tell her to weave it in a sycamore wood lane
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
And gather it all with a basket of flowers
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Have her wash it in yonder dry well
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
where water ne’er sprung nor drop of rain fell
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Have her find me an acre of land
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Between the sea foam and over the sand
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Plow the land with the horn of a lamb
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Then sow some seeds from north of the dam
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Tell her to reap it with a sickle of leather
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
And gather it all in a bunch of heather
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

If she tells me she can’t, I’ll reply
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Let me know that at least she will try
And then she’ll be a true love of mine

Love imposes impossible tasks
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Though not more than any heart asks
And I must know she’s a true love of mine

Dear, when thou has finished thy task
Parsley, sage, rosemary and thyme
Come to me, my hand for to ask
For thou then art a true love of mine

Songwriters: Arthur Garfunkel / Paul Simon
Scarborough Fair lyrics © Warner/Chappell Music, Inc, Universal Music Publishing Group

♫ Bridge Over Troubled Water ♫

Did you know that Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel met in grade school when they both appeared in a production of Alice in Wonderland. Paul was the White Rabbit and Art was the Cheshire Cat.  They began recording together in high school as Tom and Jerry — yes, as in the cartoon cat and mouse.

Simon and Garfunkel split up in 1970, and Garfunkel went on to become a math teacher at a private school in Connecticut.

The album, Bridge Over Troubled Water, was the last the duo recorded together before their breakup, and it remains, to this day, the biggest selling album ever for Columbia Records.  Paul wrote the title song, although Art Garfunkel sang it alone.  It was one of the few songs to top the US and UK charts at the same time. It was #1 in the US for six weeks, #1 in the UK for three.

In 1971, this won five Grammy Awards: Song of the Year, Record of the Year, Best Contemporary Song, Best Engineered Record, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists. The album also won Album of the Year.  Just about everybody and their brother has tried to jump on this bandwagon with a recording of their own, including Elvis Presley, Mary Blige & Andrea Bocelli, and Aretha Franklin.

In June 2017, a charity version was recorded by Artists For Grenville, a group comprising 50 well-known British vocalists and musicians. They were collected together by Simon Cowell to record a charity single to raise money for the families of the victims of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. The song immediately climbed to #1 on the UK singles chart.

Bridge over Troubled Water
Simon & Garfunkel

When you’re weary, feeling small
When tears are in your eyes, I’ll dry them all (all)
I’m on your side, oh, when times get rough
And friends just can’t be found
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

When you’re down and out
When you’re on the street
When evening falls so hard
I will comfort you (ooo)
I’ll take your part, oh, when darkness comes
And pain is all around
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Like a bridge over troubled water
I will lay me down

Sail on silver girl
Sail on by
Your time has come to shine
All your dreams are on their way
See how they shine
Oh, if you need a friend
I’m sailing right behind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind
Like a bridge over troubled water
I will ease your mind

Songwriters: Paul Simon
Bridge over Troubled Water lyrics © Universal Music Publishing Group

Sounds of Silence

In a comment earlier this evening, Keith happened to mention Simon & Garfunkel, and immediately this song came to mind … and stayed … and stayed … and so, I am sharing this one with you, dear friends …

The Sound of Silence
Simon & Garfunkel
Produced by Tom Wilson

Hello darkness, my old friend
I’ve come to talk with you again
Because a vision softly creeping
Left its seeds while I was sleeping
And the vision that was planted in my brain
Still remains
Within the sound of silence

In restless dreams I walked alone
Narrow streets of cobblestone
‘Neath the halo of a street lamp
I turned my collar to the cold and damp
When my eyes were stabbed by
The flash of a neon light
That split the night
And touched the sound of silence

And in the naked light I saw
Ten thousand people, maybe more
People talking without speaking
People hearing without listening
People writing songs that voices never share
And no one dared
Disturb the sound of silence

“Fools”, said I, “You do not know
Silence like a cancer grows
Hear my words that I might teach you
Take my arms that I might reach you”
But my words, like silent raindrops fell
And echoed in the wells of silence

And the people bowed and prayed
To the neon god they made
And the sign flashed out its warning
In the words that it was forming
And the sign said:
“The words of the prophets are
Written on the subway walls
And tenement halls
And whispered in the sound of silence.”