1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 550 to 541
Right about now, funk soul brother.
550. “If You Need Me,” Wilson Pickett. Songwriters: Robert Bateman, Wilson Pickett, Sonny Sanders; #64 pop/#30 R&B; 1962. Having left The Falcons for a solo career in 1962, Wilson Pickett was looking for his first hit and felt confident that he had one in the gospel influenced soul number “If You Need Me.” Pickett biographer Tony Fletcher, “With the Adantes cooing in the background and the (mostly) Motown rhythm section servicing the song modestly, ‘If You Need Me’ occupied a middle ground between the gospel soul that was Pickett’s natural forte and the Motown style pop that came so easily to his cowriters and producers.” Pickett was signed to a small label who shipped the single to Jerry Wexler of Atlantic in search of promotion and distribution. Instead, Wexler purchased the publishing rights and gave the song to Solomon Burke, who had a much bigger hit with an inferior release. The master recording of Pickett’s version was sold to yet another label and the two versions of “If You Need Me” competed on the charts at the same time. New York disc jockey Nathaniel “Magnificent” Montague pushed the Pickett version, later writing, “You could hear Pickett and know that he had the kind of voice that brought out in listeners what a great preacher brings out in his congregation – he brought alive the amen corner, those people you see who are high on the spirit.”
549. “It’s All Over Now,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Bobby Womack, Shirley Womack; #26 pop; 1964. Rock ‘n’ roll hero/soul legend Bobby Womack, who performed with Sam Cooke before dropping out of high school at the age of sixteen, wrote “It’s All Over Now” with his sister-in-law Shirley Womack. The song was a minor hit for Womack’s group The Valentinos, but became an international smash when released by The Rolling Stones in 1964. The Stones first heard “It’s All Over Now” from influential New York disc jockey Murray The K (Murray Kaufman) and recorded the song nine days later at Chess Studios in Chicago. Womack was initially angered that the Stones covered his song – lifelong royalties soothed those feelings. “It’s All Over Now” has become a standard in pop, blues, and country music having been covered by over seventy artists, including Waylon Jennings, Rod Stewart, Molly Hatchet, the Grateful Dead, Wanda Jackson, and John Anderson.
548. “Another Place, Another Time,” Jerry Lee Lewis. Songwriter: Jerry Chesnut; #97 pop/#4 country; 1968. Songwriter Jerry Chesnut was raised in Eastern Kentucky coal mining country, did a tour in the military, and worked in Florida radio before relocating to Nashville in 1967. Chesnut was an immediate success as a songwriter, penning three Top Ten country singles in 1968 – “Holding On to Nothin’” by Porter and Dolly, “Looking at the World Through a Windshield” for Del Reeves, and the Jerry Lee Lewis comeback hit “Another Place, Another Time.” With his career largely dormant in the 1960s, Jerry Lee Lewis’s manager Eddie Kilroy pitched the idea of a Nashville album, but had trouble finding material since the commercial prospects where dim. “Another Place, Another Time” became a surprise hit, kick-starting a second, prodigal son career for the inimitable stylist. Lewis demonstrated his ability to play a traditional country weeper while sacrificing none of his signature brashness.
547. “My Lover’s Prayer,” Otis Redding. Songwriter: Otis Redding; #61 pop/#10 R&B; 1966. Otis Redding may have been the greatest soul singer of all time, but he wasn’t a major pop star. His only Top Ten hit was the posthumous “(Sittin’ on) The Dock of the Bay,” a #1 single in 1968. His natural intensity didn’t fit well with much of the sugar coated soul music of the times. Redding sounds positively anguished on “My Lover’s Prayer,” a plea for reconciliation punctuated with somber tones by the horn section. Rodgers Redding, the great man’s brother, once commented that the song “might just be Otis’s favorite record.”
546. “Sherry,” The Four Seasons. Songwriter: Bob Gaudio; #1 pop; 1962. Bob Gaudio, “I was in my house and had a little piano there and (the song) popped into my brain and I couldn’t get rid of it. I wrote some silly lyrics that I never intended to keep, but we wound up keeping them. Some of the guys liked it and some of them didn’t. We had a split moment of – ‘is this worth recording?’ Bob Crewe was the tiebreaker and fortunately he made the right decision.” The working title of the song was “Terry” and according to Gaudio it took longer to decide on the female name than it took him to write it. This was the band’s breakthrough single and they had three more #1 singles during the decade – “Big Girls Don’t Cry,” “Walk Like a Man,” and “Rag Doll.” Franki Valli, “With ‘Sherry,’ we were looking for a sound. We wanted to make the kind of mark that, if the radio was playing one of our songs, you knew who it was immediately. But I didn’t want to sing like that my whole life.”
545. “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man,” Bob Seger. Songwriter: Bob Seger; #17 pop; 1968. Don Brewer of Grand Funk Railroad, “I’ll never forget hearing ‘Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man’ for the first time. I was saying, ‘Man, listen to this. Listen to that B3 (Hammond organ),’ ’cause we were totally R&B guys. ‘Listen to that – the whole song is nothing but B3! This is so cool!’” Seger had his first national hit with this high energy rocker, a song with an organ sound inspired by The Spencer Davis Group’s “Gimme Some Lovin’.” Future Eagle Glenn Frey contributed backing vocals. Seger, “You can really hear Glenn (Frey) blurt out on the first chorus. He comes out really loud, tremendous gusto.” Trivia notes: At one point during the recording process, producer Ed “Punch” Andrews had to stop the band, due to too much noise coming from the upstairs bowling alley. A sixteen year old John Mellencamp was riding with friends in Seymour, Indiana when he first heard “Ramblin’ Gamblin’ Man” on the radio. He immediately made the driver stop so the song could be heard without static or engine noise. Mellencamp, “That was the beginning of a love affair with Bob Seger’s music – thoughtful and badass in one measure.”
544. “Hey, Joe,” The Jimi Hendrix Experience. Songwriter: Billy Roberts; Did Not Chart; 1966. Rock critic Richie Unterberger, “Although ‘Hey Joe’ was not a traditional song, such was the archetypal nature of its tale of infidelity and bloody revenge that it sounded like a murder ballad which had been handed down through the generations.” Perhaps, Lester Bangs said the same thing, in his own inimitable way: “There was this song called ‘Hey Joe’ that literally everybody and his fuckin’ brother not only recorded but claimed to have written even though it was obviously the psychedelic mutation of some hoary old folk song which was about murderin’ somebody for love just like nine-tenths of the rest of them hoary folk ballads. “Hey Joe” was first recorded by the San Francisco band The Leaves as a frantic garage rocker and it is believed that Hendrix’s slower, folk influenced version was inspired by Greenwich Village performer Tim Rose. While not a hit in the U.S., the Hendrix version of “Hey Joe” went Top Ten in the U.K., beginning his rise as an international superstar.
543. “Sliced Tomatoes,” Just Brothers. Songwriter: Winifred Terry; Did Not Chart; 1965. Frank Bryant was a Detroit based bass player who did studio work with Gino Washington and J.J. Barnes during the mid-1960s. His guitar playing brother Jimmy Bryant returned from military service in 1965 and they were hired to record with Winifred Terry of The Drifters. Out of those sessions came “Sliced Tomatoes,” an irresistible instrumental that integrated surf guitar into soul music. The record was rescued from obscurity in 1971 by U.K. Northern soul dee-jay Ian Levine and the track was the basis for Fatboy Slim’s 1998 international hit “The Rockafeller Skank.” Norman Cook (a.k.a. Fatboy Slim), “I had this vocal, “the ‘right about now, the funk soul brother’ bit, but it was at 160 bpm, and it was like, ‘What happens at 160 bpm?’ That week I happened to play the Just Brothers’ ‘Sliced Tomatoes’ at (the Brighton club) the Big Beat Boutique and everyone was really grooving to it. I’m like, ‘Ooh we’re onto something here.’”
542. “Hello Stranger,” Barbara Lewis. Songwriter: Barbara Lewis: #3 pop/#1 R&B; 1963. The romantic plea of “Hello Stranger” was inspired in the most innocuous way. Barbara Lewis on traveling with her musician father, “I would make the circuit with my dad and people would yell out: ‘Hey stranger, hello stranger, it’s been a long time.’ I was writing it as a friend, ‘don’t leave me,’ but I know that second verse makes it sound like lovers.” Producer Ollie McLaughlin hired the R&B group The Dells to provide the “chew-bop, chew-bop, my baby” backing vocals, while Lewis sounded simultaneously sexy and sad, singing alongside John Young’s gliding Hammond B-3 organ sound. Lewis on leaving the music business completely from 1970 until the early 1990s, “I went back to Michigan and I never told a soul. I would hear it on the radio and it was disassociation. It was another lifetime. I was never sad about it. I just went about my life.”
541. “Breaking Up is Hard to Do,” Neil Sedaka. Songwriters: Neil Sedaka, Howard Greenfield; #1 pop/#12 R&B; 1962. Neil Sedaka split his time as a teenager between classical music lessons and keeping an ear on Top 40 music. During his high school years, he was in an early version of The Tokens, who later found fame with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight.” He co-wrote the 1958 Connie Francis hit “Stupid Cupid” and quickly thereafter found success as a solo artist. “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” was first a hit for Sedaka as a doo wop pop number sung using a puppy dog tenor vocal style. After being swept away by the British Invasion during the ‘60s, Sedaka reemerged as an adult contemporary artist in the 1970s. He released a new version of “Breaking Up is Hard to Do” in 1975 that sounded more like Barry Manilow than The Four Seasons and scored another Top Ten single.