Monday, January 21, 2008

These are not the greatest songs in the world, these are just a tribute: Musicians remember musicians

I posted a music video of The Mamas and The Papas recently and doing so got me to thinking about how much I love Mama Cass. And so I thought that I would share with you a great song written as a tribute to her. But I didn't want to stop there, so decided that I would compile a set of tribute that give the nod to musicians that have sadly left us to attend that big ole Woodstock in the sky. There are some great tunes here...eulogies for those who are always worth remembering for their contribution to the world of music. All songs can be downloaded as mp3s - just right click on the song title and choose 'save target as'.

Mama, I Remember You Now - Marit Bergman (no online lyrics available for this one)

We start, predictably, with the song mentioned above. A lovely song in honour of the great Mama Cass from the Swedish singer Marit Bergman. The song is gorgeous and sunshiney...very much in keeping with the sound of Mama Cass herself.

Cass, we remember you not just now, but always.

Bonus factoid: Did you know that Keith Moon, some four years later, died in the same London flat as did Cass Elliot?

Read more about her here.

Or learn about The Mamas and The Papas.

Pearl - The Mamas and The Papas (lyrics)

The Mamas and The Papas paid their own tribute with their song Pearl, from the album People Like Us. This was in remembrance of Janis Joplin who, despite leaving us at the age of only 27, left behind some incredible and truly groundbreaking music...a white girl with a belting bluesy wail that, whilst powerful, showed every inch of her vulnerability and (some might say self-imposed) struggles.

"Here's a prayer for honky-tonk Pearl -
Hope she finds someplace outta this world
Where she feels at home"
Musical contemporaries Jerry Garcia and Joan Baez have also paid their respects to Janis:

Bird Song - Jerry Garcia (lyrics)

In The Quiet Morning - Joan Baez (lyrics)
But my very favourite ode to Ms Joplin has to be that of American folk singer Dory Previn. This tells the touching story of Joplin, in August 1970, buying a headstone for the unmarked grave of, perhaps her greatest musical influence, Bessie Smith.

"she got it for her grave-site on a temporary loan
but she forgot she had not paid for her own"

Bessie Smith - Bob Dylan and The Band (lyrics)

Next up a song that really is about Bessie Smith, courtesy of Bob Dylan and The Band, from The Basement Tapes. The profound influence of Bessie's music can not be understated and you all should crank this up in tribute.

Read about her here.

A Tribute To A King - William Bell (lyrics)

Whilst all the above songs followed neatly on from one to the next, I really was unable to think how to follow Bessie Smith. I decided to plump for A Tribute To A King, for little other reason than it is very good indeed; in my opinion one of the best songs on this list, and another very worthy honouree in the shape of Otis Redding.

Read about Otis and his wonderful soulful voice here.

From a king to The King...none other than Mr Elvis Presley. First up we have Gillian Welch and her testimonial in the form of Elvis Presley Blues, from which the very best line has to be:

"He shook it like a chorus girl"

And he certainly did. It's amazing to think now about exactly how racy Elvis' dancing was considered - this was the age of rock n roll and rebellion...a time when teenagers really came into their own.

Elvis Presley Blues - Gillian Welch (lyrics)

It's obvious from the title that Welch's song is about Elvis Presley, but here's another one that you may not have realised was a tribute to The King:

Black Velvet - Alannah Myles (lyrics)

It was "a new religion that'll bring ya to your knees" was a (beautiful) young man mixing up elements of black and white music, country and rhythm and blues, and really causing a bit of a stir in the process! Again, his risque dancing is given a mention, "The way he moved, it was a sin, so sweet and true".

And why not check out the tribute album from Wanda Jackson (whom I bloomin' love!) I Remember Elvis.

I can't imagine that you need to read up on Elvis Presley, but if you do, you can do so here.

Another song that you may not know to be a tribute is Don McLean's American Pie. Yessiree, this one's about Buddy Holly, who also made massive contributions to what it meant to be a teenager in the 1950s.

American Pie - Don McLean (lyrics)

Another one (obviously) about Buddy Holly is:

Tribute To Buddy Holly - Mike Berry (lyrics)

But how about Three Stars, which memorialises not only Holly, but also Richie Valens and The Big Bopper, who died along with him in the same plane crash. Again this is a tribute from a musical peer, who lost three friends to that plane crash, as the world lost three of its singers.

Three Stars - Eddie Cochran (lyrics)

In 1989, on their album 11, The Smithereens remembered those left behind, with a song for the widow of Buddy Holly, itself a 60s-influenced piece of jangly guitar pop.

Maria Elena - The Smithereens (lyrics)

Read about Buddy Holly here.

Lady Stardust - David Bowie (lyrics)

Moving on, we have another gender-swapping tribute, although this one makes more sense.

In 1972, David Bowie paid his respects to a compeer loved and lost on his infamous album The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars.

This song is about Marc stage, "The boy in the bright blue jeans", on stage the titular "Lady Stardust". Bolan was another artist who was controversial in his time, for his feminine appearance, glamming it up with feather boas and sparkly make-up on stage:

"People stared at the makeup on his face
Laughed at his long black hair, his animal grace".

Read about Marc Bolan here.

And go here to read about Tyrannosaurus Rex/T-Rex.

Next up is a song for Gram Parsons, courtesy of The Eagles (the nearest thing to a link between this and the last track that I could think of was that Bolan and Parsons died in the same week...although as this was four years apart, I think we'll just do without a link!).

My Man - The Eagles (lyrics)

Read about the not-talked-about-nearly-enough Parsons here.

Giving up on linking between songs altogether, we have Sonic Youth singing about Karen Carpenter, and her sad death at the hands of anorexia-related heart failure.

Tunic (Song For Karen) - Sonic Youth (lyrics)

Sonic Youth also did a fabulous cover of The Carpenters' song Superstar, which is worthy of inclusion here despite being a cover and not a tribute simply because it is so good. Apparently even good enough to be used by trendy indie film makers (it's on the Juno soundtrack).

Superstar - Sonic Youth (lyrics)

Go here to read about Karen Carpenter.

Or read about The Carpenters.

Last up we have a song for a much more recently deceased, although still massively influential, musician. That musician is Kurt Cobain, remembered here by Neil Young.

Sleeps With Angels - Neil Young (lyrics)

To read more about Kurt Cobain, go here.

Or read about his band, Nirvana.

Well, that's our nice round top ten done, but I feel it is my duty to crank it up to eleven and add a bonus track...we can't blow this joint without mentioning Johnny Cash right?

Nickajack Cave (Johnny Cash's Redemption) - Gary Allan (lyrics)

Tot them up, that's 19 songs...enough for another mix CD! Get downloading and burning folks!


--Bamboo Blitz-- said...

Wow, very cool and inventive theme divinyl!

You know, I'm a huge Neil Young fan but I'm ashamed to say that I haven't heard "Sleeps with Angels"...Man, I gotta get back on my game :P

Divinyl said...

Well there are no excuses now BB...the download's there for you to enjoy!

Did you get the problems over at your site sorted? :o)

Pablothehat said...

Hi babes..your blog is really looking great. How you settling in back at work?
Like the Marc Bolan fact I have a couple of nice piccies I scanned from a T.Rex songbook I have.
I will put em up for you!
Laters xx

Dan said...

Jeff Buckley is an artist many singers have wrote tribute songs about: