Today marks the 62nd birthday of a gentleman who’s brought us many good times.
Oh, sorry, have we already used that joke? Wait, hang on, how about this? One of the founding member of Chic turns 62 today, so…everybody dance!
Nah, the “Good Times” reference is still funnier.
Born in 1952 in New York City, Nile Gregory Rodgers started his musical career as a session guitarist, touring with the Sesame Street band (yes, really), and serving as part of the Apollo Theater’s house band, where he played with a number of R&B legends, including Aretha Franklin, Ben E. King, and Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, among many others. But just as Sesame Street changed the lives of so many of us over the years, it changed Rodgers’ life as well, albeit in a slightly different way than most: that band is where – in 1970 – he first crossed paths with bassist Bernard Edwards.
Back in early June – on the 6th, to be precise – we took a look back at the anniversary of Peace Sunday, an huge concert at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena where over 85,000 turned up to listen to music and, at least theoretically, to promote nuclear disarmament as well. If you go back and check out the piece, you’ll see that the bill featured a pretty impressive lineup, but while the show was undeniably done in an effort to draw attention to an important matter, it’s fair to say that its success was seriously outshined by the far-higher profile event which kicked off 35 years ago today.
This is the one that made them a household name. Well, dorm room name. Prior to 1971 the Dead were San Francisco hipsters, with a small presence at the Fillmore East, where they most famously played at midnight.
But despite not appearing in the Woodstock movie, in the spring of 1970 the Dead made inroads with the general public with Workingman's Dead most famously with "Uncle John's Band," which was reminiscent of the work of Crosby, Stills & Nash, who were the most popular act of the season. The Dead never sang that well again, but the track played perfectly on FM radio, which was getting traction in all markets, and Workingman's Dead was finally an LP that you could play for nonbelievers. Prior to this, the name scared them off. And if that wasn't enough, the denseness of the music did. But not on Workingman's Dead.
And then came American Beauty. Which arrived mere months after Workingman's Dead the latter coming out in June, the former being released in November. And despite "Box Of Rain" not eclipsing "Uncle John's Band," despite not having an obvious radio track, American Beauty had fewer rough edges than what had come before and a few tracks so lightweight and catchy that anybody in their bell bottoms could get them.
Were he still with us, today would’ve been Dee Dee Ramone’s 63rd birthday, but the fact that he’s not still with us would hardly be a surprise to him if he were still here.
Yes, we know, that’s some pretty twisted logic, but you probably know what we mean…and we’re pretty sure Dee Dee would’ve, too. After all, we’re talking about a man who once admitted, “I'm really lucky I'm still around. Everybody expected me to die next... But it was always someone else instead of me.”
In celebration of Dee Dee’s B-day, we’re opting out of doing the usual look back at his life and times, mostly because we did that when we reminisced about him on the anniversary of his death, but also because we thought it might be more appropriate to pay tribute to his oft-maligned 1987 solo album, Standing in the Spotlight, since we know that – no matter what anyone else might’ve thought of it – he was damned proud of what he accomplished under the guise of Dee Dee King…well, at least for awhile, anyway.
Straight outta Worcester, MA, the J. Geils Band was a vital reminder that rock ‘n’ roll is supposed to be fun and sweaty. From the hard R&B of their early albums, to their New Wave-influenced hits in the early ‘80s, these fellas always delivered the goods. So, let’s get down, no?
34 years ago today, The Doobie Brothers released One Step Closer, their ninth studio album and – as it turned out – the last studio album they’d release before disbanding for more than half a decade.
All things being equal, it’s possible that it was time for the Doobies to call it quits for a while, anyway: by the beginning of 1981, there wasn’t a single founding member of the band left in their lineup, and those who remained were well aware that it was only a matter of time before Michael McDonald kicked off a solo career. (Given that McDonald’s unmistakable voice could already be heard in so many other people’s songs, from Christopher Cross’s “Ride Like the Wind” to Nicolette Larson’s “Let Me Go, Love” to Kenny Loggins’ “This Is It,” it often seemed as if he’d already done so.)
It’s not that One Step Closer didn’t sell well (it hit #3 on the Billboard Top 200 and went platinum) nor that it didn’t feature any hit singles (“Real Love” went to #5, the title track made it into the top-40, and even “Keep This Train A-Rollin’” was a minor hit), but it’s clear that there’d been a major shift in the creative control of the band, and…well, fine, we’ll just go ahead and say it: there’s something not quite right when the rock ‘n’ roll band responsible for “Listen to the Music,” “Long Train Runnin’,” and “Black Water” kicks off an album with a song co-written by Paul Anka.