Music Thursdays with Richard Steele (and Jason Marck): Wind

March 22, 2012

Listen to Jason Marck and Richard Steele discuss their picks

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Though Tony Sarabia is out today, Music Thursdays lives on; Richard Steele is joined by Afternoon Shift director Jason Marck. He's the one who's responsible for picking all those great -- and diverse -- songs you hear in the afternoon, so we knew we'd get good picks out of him. This was practically guaranteed when he and Richard learned that the topic was wind, a subject near and dear to most Chicagoans' hearts.

Jason Marck:

The topic today is wind, and this is generally the windiest time of year in the windiest of cities. For this challenge, I simply had to go to three great cuts from three of my favorite artists.

With music written by one of the all-time greats, Harold Arlen ("Over The Rainbow," "Come Rain or Come Shine," "It’s Only A Paper Moon," "That Old Black Magic" and hundreds of others) and lyrics by Ted Koehler ("Get Happy," "I’ve Got The World On A String," "Stormy Weather," "Wrap Your Troubles In Dreams") Sarah Vaughn's "Ill Wind" is a no-brainer. 

You’re only misleadin’ the sunshine I’m needin’ 
Ain’t that a shame 
It’s so hard to keep up with troubles that creep up 
From out of nowhere, when love’s to blame

The song’s been done to great effect by a number of artists; Sinatra did it on the brilliant In The Wee Small Hours (1955), Dinah and Ella did it, and trumpeter Lee Morgan did a great version on his album Cornbread in 1967. But there’s something about the song that, for me, makes it a perfect match for “Sassy,” aka Sarah Vaughn. This is actually a remix version from an import called Blue Note Sidetracks Volume 6. The song was remixed by Alex Collier of the band Hooverphonic.

Originally recorded in 1972, Van Morrison's "Laughing At The Wind" inexplicably stayed on a shelf until Van The Man released the double CD The Philosopher’s Stone in 1998. That album contains 30 tracks from 1969-1988 that were either alternate takes, or, like this one, never released. Simple tune, simple lyric about a guy trying to pick up a girl in a little café. Classic Van Morrison soul sound with alto sax throughout, and a blistering little guitar solo in the middle.

It’s hazy, it’s lazy, waitin’ for springtime 

Come along Roll along, all you got to do is 

Listen to the song, listen to the melody I’d do it for you, would you do it for me.

The Grateful Dead's "Black Throated Win" was written by Bob Wier, with lyrics by his long-time collaborator John Perry Barlow. The song originally appeared on Wier’s solo album Ace (which every member of the Dead played on) and was in the band’s repertoire from 1972-1974. For whatever reason, they dropped the tune for 16 years, finally picking it up again in the spring of 1990 and playing it sporadically until Jerry’s death in 1995. Wier is known for his quirky/less straight-forward melodies and chord changes, and this fits that mold. But it’s a beautiful tune when done right. And like much of the Dead’s lyrics, they have a timeless, universal human quality to them that can be interpreted and re-interpreted by an individual as one’s life and circumstances shift and change.

This particular version comes from their performance on April 8th, 1972 at Empire Pool, a smaller venue inside the larger Wembley stadium complex in London. 

What's to be found, racing around, 
You carry your pain wherever you go. 
Full of the blues and trying to lose 
You ain't gonna learn what you don't want to know.

So I give you my eyes, and all of their lies 
Please help them to learn as well as to see 
Capture a glance and make it a dance 
Of looking at you looking at me.

Richard Steele: 

   

My first pick is by a man known (in his native New Orleans) as “The Fat Man.” In fact, Fats Domino’s first hit record in 1949 was called “The Fat Man": It sold over a million copies. Throughout his career, he sold millions of records – think “(I Found My Thrill on) Blueberry Hill.”

Fats was living in New Orleans in 2005 when Hurricane Katrina hit. He lost everything, including “The National Medal of Arts” he got from President Clinton in 1998. Fortunately, President Bush replaced it. When he recorded this song in 1961, he had no idea what a big part the “wind” would play in his life later on. Fats Domino sings and plays piano on his recording “Let The Four Winds Blow.”

You can probably tell I’m really into nostalgia…the “way back when” stuff!

“The Wayward Wind” was originally written as a country song. When Gogi Grant recorded it in 1956, she was one of four musicians who recorded it during the same year -- but hers was the winner. It went to No. 1 on the Billboard Chart. The record was so big that Billboard voted her to be “The Most Popular Female Vocalist” at that time. Her record company re-released it in 1961…but the second time was “not the charm.” It only reached a low number on the charts.

Gogi Grant was a made-up name. Her real first name was Myrtle…but Dave Kapp, the head of A&R at RCA Records gave her the name Gogi (the same as his favorite restaurant, Gogi’s La Rue). She worked well into her 80s.

“Blowin’ in the Wind” is one of Bob Dylan’s best-known compositions; he claimed it took him about 10 minutes to write it. It’s generally described as a protest song; it’s been used by many different protest “movements” and recorded by a lot of different artists. The version by Peter, Paul and Mary sold the most records. Sam Cooke did a classic take on his live Sam Cooke at the Copa album. Included in the song’s legendary history, there was a plagiarism claim in 1973. It turned out to be false.

The song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999. But even as successful as the song was, the last person you’d expect to record it would be Duke Ellington. Well here it is, from a 1965 recording, ”Blowin’ In the Wind.”