1,000 Greatest Songs of the 1960s – 660 to 651
Hello, darkness, my old friend.
660. “Daddy’s Home,” Shep and the Limelites. Songwriters: James “Shep” Sheppard, Clarence Bassett, Charles Baskerville; #2 pop/#4 R&B; 1961. The Queens based vocal trio Shep and the Limelites was comprised of three doo wop veterans; James Sheppard had co-written and performed the lead vocals on The Heartbeats 1957 Top Ten R&B hit “A Thousand Miles Away.” Sheppard referenced that previous hit in the lyrics (“I’m not a thousand miles away”) of “Daddy’s Home,” as well as the “rat-a-tat” backup vocal phrase. The lyrics of “Daddy’s Home” could be interpreted from the standpoint of a child reuniting with their father, a husband reconciling with his wife, or an absentee father returning to the fold. “Daddy’s Home” was a Top Ten pop hit in the U.S. for Jermaine Jackson (or Jermain’s afro, which may have been a separate entity) in 1972 and a #2 U.K. single for Cliff Richard in 1981.
659. “The Sound of Silence,” Simon and Garfunkel. Songwriter: Paul Simon; #1 pop; 1965. The 1964 acoustic Simon and Garfunkel album “Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M.” bombed so badly that it caused Simon and Garfunkel to break up. Paul Simon relocated to England and Art Garfunkel enrolled at Columbia University, but producer Tom Wilson felt there was still a commercial opportunity in the burgeoning folk rock community. Without coordinating with the duo, Wilson added electric instruments to “The Sound of Silence” and released the updated single almost a year after the album had died a quiet death. Singer/songwriter Al Stewart, “Paul was horrified when he first heard it.” Simon reflecting decades later, “Really the key to ‘The Sound of Silence’ is the simplicity of the melody and the words, which are youthful alienation. It’s a young lyric, but not bad for a 21-year-old. It’s not a sophisticated thought.”
658. “Sunny,” Bobby Hebb. Songwriter: Bobby Hebb; #2 pop/#3 R&B; 1966. Bobby Hebb started performing as a tap dancer as a child and even made appearances with Roy Acuff’s band in Nashville. “Sunny,” his sole major hit record, was rejected by several publishers, leading Hebb to add the drum roll intro to capture the listener’s attention. Bobby Hebb, “Well, it was dark when I started working on the song and the sun was rising. The sky was a different color. It was like purple. At that moment, I didn’t realize how special it would become. I thought it was good. The president had been assassinated, everybody was feeling really negative at that time. I think we all needed a lift.” There have been over 250 cover versions of “Sunny” with The Electric Flag’s blues rock take being particularly interesting.
657. “Freedom Highway,” The Staple Singers. Songwriter: Roebuck “Pops” Staples; Did Not Chart; 1965. The Staple Singers formed as a family gospel act in 1948 and their 1950’s material, although non-secular in nature, reflected a folk music influence. They started bringing social commentary into their music during the 1960s, with “Freedom Highway” being inspired by the 1955 lynching of Emmett Till in rural Mississippi. “Freedom Highway” was a live church recording, produced by Nashville legend Billy Sherrill. Inspired by the Civil Rights movement, the lyrics reflect an unflinching determination to march toward social equality. Mavis Staples commenting on the U.S. political environment in 2018, “It’s like we have to start all over again. It’s worse than it was in the ’60s because we have this man – I don’t like to speak his name – bringing out the worst in us.” Rhiannon Giddens also noted this reality, covering “Freedom Highway” in 2017.
656. “B-A-B-Y,” Carla Thomas. Songwriters: Isaac Hayes, David Porter; #14 pop/#3 R&B; 1966. Isaac Hayes and David Porter were primarily known as the Stax songwriting team behind the wall shaking eruptions of Sam and Dave, but they also wrote the soft soul love song “B-A-B-Y” for Carla Thomas. The seductive/sensual number was the second Top 40 single for Thomas, released six years after her 1960 Top Ten hit “Gee Whiz.” Thomas initially refused to sing “B-A-B-Y,” changing her mind when Booker T. (Jones) reshaped the material. Thomas, “Booker changed the whole song. They (Hayes and Porter) don’t like for me to say that, but Booker was on the organ, and they had come up with this little introduction on the bass line. I said, ‘Now I can sing it!’” “B-A-B-Y” was lovingly covered by fellow Memphian Alex Chilton in 1985.
655. “I Gotta Dance to Keep from Crying,” The Miracles. Songwriters: Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, Eddie Holland; #35 pop/#17 R&B; 1963. Making a pun on the phrase “I got to laugh to keep from crying” sounds like a Smokey Robinson move, but it was Holland-Dozier-Holland who penned “I Gotta Dance to Keep from Crying.” This party record was a smaller hit and a superior song compared to “Mickey’s Monkey,” which H-D-H also wrote and was a Top Ten single for The Miracles in 1963. Smokey’s battling a romantic depression on “I Gotta Dance” even as the music swings and hands clap in the background. Dave Marsh once wrote, “no band ever cut a deeper groove than the Motown group does here.” This is a pure fun, no hangover, Detroit dance party not to be missed.
654. “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do,” Bobby Bland. Songwriters: Deadric Malone (Don Robey), Joe Scott; #20 pop/#3 R&B; 1964. Bobby Bland started performing in Memphis gospel groups in the late 1940s and worked with B.B. King as a member of The Beale Streeters. He recorded for several years before breaking through in 1957 with the #1 R&B single “Farther Up the Road.” Bland was a regular on R&B radio during the 1960s, but he only had three Top 40 hits with “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do” peaking the highest. Bland describes how physical pain can be overcome on “Ain’t Nothing You Can Do,” but there’s no remedy for emotional turmoil, singing the word “heartache” like his soul is reverberating.
653. “Stray Cat Blues,” The Rolling Stones. Songwriters: Mick Jagger, Keith Richards; Did Not Chart; 1968. This funky celebration of statutory rape had an unlikely inspiration. Mick Jagger, “I mean, even we’ve been influenced by The Velvet Underground. I’ll tell you exactly what we pinched from (Lou Reed), too. You know ‘Stray Cat Blues?’ The whole sound and the way it’s paced, we pinched from the very first Velvet Underground album. You know, the sound on ‘Heroin.’ Honest to God, we did!” Andy Greene, “It’s the sort of song that could never be released today: Its lyrics are about having sex with a 15-year-old groupie. ‘Bet your mama don’t know you scream like that,’ Jagger sings. ‘I bet your mother don’t know you can spit like that.’ Even crazier, Jagger changed her age to 13 on the live version.”
652. “Who’s Cheating Who?,” Little Milton. Songwriters: Carl Smith, Billy Davis, Raynard Miner: #43 pop/#4 R&B; 1965. Little Milton on his mixture of traditional blues and R&B, “I never could and still can’t see myself playing nothing but 12-bar blues all night long. I always wanted to be more versatile.” Little Milton was performing in the style of Bobby Bland on “Who’s Cheating Who?” (a different song than the country number of the same name popularized by Charly McClain and Alan Jackson). The self-destructive lyrical theme argues that when you cheat on a good person, the instigator is ultimately the victim. Milton, later in life, on how he stayed in the music industry, “If you treat promoters and club owners right and make a name for yourself, you can work. During my cooling-off period, I still worked just about as much but I didn’t make quite as much money. They started calling me the master of the chitlin’ circuit, but I love the chitlin’ circuit. It’s kept me eating and living the type of life style I enjoy. It’s been good to me.”
651. “Let it Out (Let It All Hang Out),” The Hombres. Songwriter: B.B. Cunningham; #12 pop/1967. Red Ingle and His Natural Seven released a novelty record in 1947 titled “Cigareetes, Whuskey, and Wild, Wild Women” that began with the spoken intro, “A preachment, dear friends, you are about to receive on John Barleycorn, nicotine and the temptations of Eve.” The Hombres, who popularized that droll opening, evolved from part of the touring band for Ronny & The Daytonas, an act that had a #4 pop hit in 1964 with The Beach Boys rip “Little G.T.O.” B.B. Cunningham on the inspiration for his loose, cynically humorous hit, “What prompted me to write it was Dylan playing on the radio. We heard ‘Subterranean Homesick Blues’ and realized right there that Bob was really putting these kids on. Shit, man, this junk don’t mean anything.” These Memphis garage rockers were one hit wonders; half of the band later died via gun violence – one suicide, one murder.