It feels a bit odd to end Friday conversations with “Have a great weekend” these days, with no travel, no restaurants, no bars, no concerts, no sports, and not much else brewing to separate weekend from weekday routines. Hopefully it won’t be long before the weekend resumes its rightful place in the rhythms of our lives.
During a conversation this past Friday, lamenting another weekendless weekend, I was introduced to the O’Jays “Living for the Weekend”. Thanks, Spencer! The song was released in 1976, in the middle of the group’s run of classics. Don’t know why I can’t recall it, but maybe clocking in at over six minutes it didn’t get the air play of “Love Train” or “Use ta Be My Girl”. Let the O’Jays sing you through the entire weekend cycle from Friday pay check to Sunday wind down.
A year after “Living for the Weekend”, Dave Edmunds released “Here Comes the Weekend”. The song was co-written by Dave’s regular collaborator and sometime bandmate Nick Lowe, and only demands your attention for a radio-friendly two minutes. Here’s a nice live version.
Among the goofier weekend homages is “Party Weekend” by Joe King Carrasco and the Crowns from 1980. It has a special place in my heart, though. On Friday afternoons in the 1980s, Jonathan “Weasel” Gilbert – DJ for Washington D.C.’s progressive rock station WHFS – played “Party Weekend” along with “Here Comes the Weekend” to close his Frantic Friday shows. Have a great weekend.
HAIM just released their third album, Women in Music Pt. III. Sisters Danielle, Este and Alana Haim arrived on the scene in 2012 with their first album Forever and the hit single “The Wire”. It’s official video is an awfully entertaining girl power trip. The video for “Summer Girl”, one of three singles released from the new album, adds new meaning to “layering” and gives a big boost to the baritone sax.
Forty years before HAIM released Forever, Fanny, fronted by sisters June and Jean Millington, covered Marvin Gaye’s hit “Ain’t That Peculiar” (click through to YouTube to watch the video and forward to 1:30 to skip the studio chatter). If you want to compare Fanny’s version to the original, check out Marvin Gaye’s live performance at New York’s legendary club, The Bitter End.
About half way between the launchings of Fanny and HAIM came the formation of the best selling female group of all time, TLC. Tionne “T-Boz” Watkins, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, and Rozonda “Chilli” Thomas joined forces in 1991. One of four #1 charting U.S. hits from their second album, CrazySexyCool, was “Waterfalls”. It may be their signature tune, and the video won MTV’s Video of the Year. It’s a very heavy song and video with a super-infectious chorus.
On occasion a singer-songwriter becomes so identified with a song written by another singer-songwriter that the ownership of the song seems to transfer. This came to mind when John Prine passed away a couple of weeks ago. Early in her career, Bonnie Raitt made Prine’s “Angel from Montgomery” her own. Enjoy this early performance by Bonnie and take a look at this poignant duet from just a few months ago.
Another classic example is Patti Smith’s version of “Because the Night”, written by Bruce Springsteen. You get the same feeling watching Patti and Bruce perform the song together that you do when watching Raitt and Prine – this is Patti’s song.
And then there’s Elvis Costello’s cover of Nick Lowe’s “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding”. A Costello performance staple for decades, the history of the song is particularly interesting. Lowe originally released it with his band Brinsley Schwarz in 1974. Lowe became Costello’s producer a couple of years later, working on his first five albums, and Costello’s version of the song was first released as the B-side of a Nick Lowe 1978 single. When it became a hit, the track was added to the American release of Armed Forces. Lowe generally performs softer acoustic versions of the song these days, but when he gets on stage with Elvis, it’s the Costello version they’ll do (drop into this video at 3:00). Enjoy Costello’s comic intro below, or go straight to the song at about 1:00.
My personal style of Netflix binging is working my way through its catalog of music documentaries. Recently I watched 2019’s “Miles Davis: Birth of the Cool”. It’s an interesting trip through the entire arc of his career, and I highly recommend it.
I’m among those who consider Davis’ 1959 Kind of Blue one of the greatest albums ever (Rolling Stone slots it in at #12, two ticks above Abbey Road). Its consistent sales over many decades have also made it the best selling jazz album of all time. In addition to being a defining work for Miles, the group that recorded it included sax players John Coltrane and Cannonball Adderley, pianists Bill Evans and Wynton Kelly, drummer Jimmy Cobb, and bassist Paul Chambers. Davis and Coltrane were the gray hair in the group at age 33.
Here’s the second track from Kind of Blue, and please listen to the rest of the album when you have some time.
A few weeks after the sessions for Kind of Blue ended in April 1959, John Coltrane began to record his masterpiece Giant Steps, drawing on Cobb, Chambers and Kelly to help out. While most of the album features the up tempo compositions Coltrane became known for, “Naima” was a dreamy departure that became a jazz standard.
Just after Cannonball Adderley walked out of the Kind of Blue sessions, he began recording Them Dirty Blues, which featured “Jeannine”.
As a way to say thanks for all they’re doing for us at this incredible time, Lizzo has been buying lunch for hospital workers across the nation. From San Diego to Boston and seemingly everywhere in between – including Henry Ford Hospital in her home town of Detroit – she’s been sending heartfelt messages on Instagram with each delivery.
In case you missed the 2020 Grammy Awards back in the kinder, gentler era of January, Lizzo was nominated for 8 awards – most of anyone this year – and walked away with three. While honored for work on her 2019 album Cuz I Love You, “Good as Hell” is from her major label debut with Atlantic Records in 2016.
Dua Lipa’s link to the pandemic is less intentional, no doubt. The chorus to “Break My Heart” features the prescient lyric, “I would have stayed at home, ’cause I was doin’ better alone”, and the video features a scene on a nearly empty airplane. Dua, by the way, won two Grammys last year, including Best New Artist.
This one’s a bit of a stretch for the pandemic theme, but Halsey plays to an empty bar in her recent video for “Finally // Beautiful Stranger”. Had to include it in this post, though, because of all the incredible women dominating pop music these days, she’s my favorite. When you’re done with the video below check out her cool piece of singing-while-painting performance art on Saturday Night Live last year.