Musings On Music History: In Which We’re Kind Of Blue, Take A Sad Song & Make It Better, and Got Georgia On Our Mind

09.23: On this day in 1930, Ray Charles was born. This baby would become the man who would propel R&B into the future, melding gospel with juke joint lyrics and jazz rhythms, as well as taking pieces of country, rock, and blues along for the ride. A singular, monumental talent, if you only know Ray from the biopic of the same name, then you need to delve further into his catalog, need to experience the albums that defined this man. We’ve rattled ’em off before, but just pick up The Genius Hits The Road (from whence “Geogia On My Mind” came) or his masterpiece Modern Sounds in Country and Western Music and you’ll understand the talent in his arrangements, production, playing and voice. Happy birthday, Ray! We miss you, sir.

09.23: On this day in 1949, Bruce Springsteen was born. ‘Nuff said. If you don’t know this man, you don’t know rock, so just give it up. Happy birthday, Bruuuuuuuuce! You still rock harder and put on a better show than 99.99% of anyone out there.

09.24: This day in 1988 saw a song with absolutely no musical instruments top the Billboard Hot 100 music charts. Quick, name that tune! If you said “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin you get a cookie. That cookie, however, won’t help you get the tune out of your head. You’re welcome.

09.25: On this day in 1968, The Fresh Prince, Will Smith, was born and his parents, by the way, did understand. Remember when Will Smith was a rapper? Yeah, it’s just weird to think of him like that now, even with the lilting chorus of “Summertime” rolling through our head. [more]

09.25: On this day in 1980, a monster behind the kit, Zeppelin drummer John Bonham died. The Led Zeppelin legend died at Jimmy Page’s house after a night of drinking, as many have done before and since, choking on his own vomit as he slept. Rather than soldier on without him, the other members of the band decided to close the curtain on one of the greatest chapters in rock ‘n’ roll history. John Bonham was only 32. So young and so talented and so missed. Can you imagine if he’d lived, if Zeppelin had gone on to record and perform through the ’80s, ’90s, and into the present? It could’ve been amazing or it could’ve been awkward. We’ll never know, but it’s fun to think about sometimes.

09.26: On this day in 2003, Robert Palmer died of a heart attack in Paris. Singer of such ’80s iconic standards as “Addicted to Love” and “Simply Irresistible,” Palmer enjoyed success in the ’70s, ’80’s, & ’90s, a veritable elder statesman in the world of pop and rock. Yeah, that video, you know the one, with the awesomely awesome guitar-weilding and drum-playing babes in tight black dresses and the brightest red lipstick, still has it.

09.27: On this day in 1947, Marvin Lee Aday was born. He would later go on to receive recognition as Meatloaf, a man who would do anything for love. Except, of course, that. Whatever that is. We’ve speculated over the years as to what that is. Could it be eating live bats like Ozzy? Or perhaps taking a role in a rock ‘n’ roll musical? Or wearing polyester? Or saying “Bloody Mary” three times in front of a mirror in a dark room? The options are endless.

09.28: On this day in 1991, the jazz world lost a legend when Miles Davis passed away at the age of 65. Innovator, improviser, student, and mentor, Davis’ massive influence on jazz, musicians and fans alike, proves formidable. His Kind of Blue album ranks as the best-selling jazz album of all time, while his Bitches Brew album is considered a masterpiece in the history of music, not just jazz. Davis’ life in jazz mirrors jazz itself, as he lived through or led every major movement within jazz from the ‘40s until his death, from swing to be-bop to fusion. Don’t know what we’re talking about? You should.

09.28: 1968, this day, saw The Beatles biggest single hit the top of the charts. “Hey Jude” sat at #1 for nine weeks and has, to date, sold over 7.5 million copies. It also hit #1 in 11 other countries. Considering that the Beatles had 16 other #1 hits (!), “Hey Jude” ranking as the tops says a lot. Yeah, these guys had some talent.

09.29: Jerry Lee “Great Balls of Fire” Lewis, with a whole lotta pushin’ and screamin’, came to be on this day in 1935. The early rock ‘n’ roll pioneer introduced piano to the genre, telling one producer, who suggested he switch to guitar if he wanted to make it in said genre, “You can take your guitar and ram it up your ass!” Yeah, Jerry Lee didn’t mince words or stray too far from controversy in his life. When he married his 13-year old cousin (first, once removed), his career spiraled down pretty quick, yet he is still regarded today as one of the greatest performers ever to set a piano on fire and play it with his butt. (That last part may or may not be be true, but it’s pretty fun to think about.)

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