This Sunday Elder Music column was launched in December of 2008. By May of the following year, one commenter, Peter Tibbles, had added so much knowledge and value to my poor attempts at musical presentations that I asked him to take over the column. He's been here each week ever since delighting us with his astonishing grasp of just about everything musical, his humor and sense of fun. You can read Peter's bio here and find links to all his columns here.
What happened in 1974?
- Ryan Adams was born
- Cyclone Tracy destroyed Darwin on Christmas Eve
- We really didn't have Nixon to kick around anymore
- Rubik's Cube invented
- Duke Ellington died
- Blazing Saddles was released
- Richmond were premiers
Well, we're solidly into singer/songwriter territory this year. All it needs is Bob to complete my favorite list of those – I'm omitting him from these years as he features prominently in other columns. Similarly you won't have found The Beatles or The Stones either.
I don't know if you'd call BOB MARLEY a singer/songwriter but I suppose that technically he fits the bill – he sang songs he wrote himself.
No Woman, No Cry was Bob's breakthrough song. It was on the "Natty Dread" album but the big hit was from his album "Live" which, curiously enough, was a live album. The one today is from the former album.
GORDON LIGHTFOOT is the first of the recognized singer/songwriters today.
Sundown came from the album of the same name and the song is about his girl friend of the time who wasn't a very nice person at all.
Midnight at the Oasis was from that wonderful first solo album by MARIA MULDAUR.
The song was really just a last minute inclusion and was written by David Nichtern who also wrote the beautiful I Never Did Write You a Love Song, also on the album.
Seasons in the Sun started life as a song called Le Moribond written by Jacques Brel. The poet Rod McKuen wrote English words for it and it was recorded by TERRY JACKS.
Both English and French versions are sung from the point of view of a dying man but the French version is more scathing and sarcastic making references to the singer's wife's infidelity. Jacques himself was dying of cancer when he wrote the song.
Before Terry's version, The Kingston Trio (closer to the mood of the French language version) and The Fortunes both recorded it to some success. Terry's, though, went gangbusters – it's one of those rare records to have sold more than 10 million.
I was going to gush here because JESSE WINCHESTER was such a wonderful songwriter and a terrific singer. I had originally included suggestions to catch his performances but alas, he died not so long ago.
I'll just introduce Mississippi You're on My Mind.
BILLY JOEL wrote the song Piano Man about his experiences of playing in a piano bar.
Billy doesn't think much of the song musically and was surprised and embarrassed when it took off. However, he says his songs are like his children so he was pleased that "the kid had done pretty well.”
TOM RUSH is known mostly as an interpreter of other people's songs and a damn fine one at that.
However, he does now and then write songs, and really good ones. This isn't one of those. It's by Richard Dean and is called Jenny Lynn. It's an amusing little ditty.
JACKSON BROWNE was starting to make a name for himself around about now.
Many of Jackson's songs turned up on other people's records long before he ever recorded them. It's remarkable how someone who was so young as he was at the time could come up with such profound and wise songs. I just shake my head and listen to the music. For a Dancer.
RY COODER was, still is, the go-to man if you want some fine guitar playing on your record. He's graced many a memorable (and some not so) album.
He has recorded his own as well and they are really worth a listen. Besides that, he's brought to the general public forms of music that aren't generally heard outside their own musical ghetto.
With the "Buena Vista Social Club" album, film and live performances he brought a number of great Cuban musicians to the fore who hadn't been heard outside their country for decades. He's also a champion of what's labeled "Tex-Mex" music.
We're going back a few years, to 1974, of course, and from the album "Paradise and Lunch" we have Tatler, a song Linda Ronstadt covered pretty well.
JOHN SEBASTIAN was the driving force of the Lovin' Spoonful who were featured in previous years. You may also remember him for his performance at Woodstock (the film anyway, if you happened not to attend the actual event).
John's songs have been covered by many artists who have made them more recognized than his own versions. Here he covers one of his own. The song Sportin' Life was recorded originally by the Spoonful and John later also included it on his album "Tarzana Kid.”
1975 will appear in two weeks' time.