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.
Something a little different today.
PLAYING FOR CHANGE is a movement designed to connect people all over the world through the medium of music. They have organised dozens, maybe hundreds, of people throughout the world to perform, and have filmed and recorded them and put the results on Youtube and their own website.
These are wonderful and I have some of the ones I like best for you today. After seeing the results, I marvel at the editing job someone has done to create these videos.
I had originally selected twice as many as finally made the cut. Any of the omitted ones would have been worthy of inclusion, but I had to be brutal. The whole series is worth searching out – it’s quite easy, and I have included links for you at the bottom of this post.
There are several artists who appear in quite a few of these songs: Roberto, Grandpa, Chaz, Keiko, Mermans. I had fun looking out for the regulars.
My goodness, these are terrific.
Ripple was the first of the Playing for Change songs I discovered. I was a little apprehensive before I played it as I thought the song was the finest moment for the Grateful Dead on record (they weren’t much of a recording band, only two studio albums that are worth more than one or two listens. They were an excellent live band, however).
I was pleasantly surprised at its quality when I played it. There are a few famous musicians along for the ride – it was fun spotting them all. The song was written by regular Dead songwriters, Jerry Garcia and Robert Hunter.
La Bamba is a Mexican folk song, originally from Veracruz. It was made famous in the English speaking world when Ritchie Valens had a (posthumous) hit with the song. Many have recorded it over the years, including Los Lobos, a couple of whose members are featured.
RIVERS OF BABYLON
Rivers of Babylon is a little different from the other songs today, as there are only three players (Rocky Dawuni, Mermans Mosengo and Jason Tamba with some unseen backup musicians).
It was written and performed originally by the Jamaican group The Melodians, and it was featured prominently in the fine film The Harder They Come.
I imagine you all know this one (sorry about that). It was John Lennon’s most famous and popular song he wrote and performed as a solo performer. John gets a piece of the action in this video.
Bombino (Omara Moctar) is a singer, songwriter and guitarist from Niger. His song translates to “I greet my country”, and he wrote it after being exiled from his country for years after extremists and the country’s leaders (they overlap) tried to ban the guitar (and probably music as well).
Bombino features prominently in the clip which will certainly get your toes a’tapping.
DOCK OF THE BAY
Dock of the Bay was the last song Otis Redding recorded and was a big hit for him, alas, after he died. He wrote the song with his guitarist Steve Cropper, also a member of Booker T and the MGs.
Today’s version was recorded to celebrate 50 years since the original (50 years! Where does the time go?) Included in the clip are Otis’s two sons.
WHAT’S GOING ON
What’s Going On was the name of a song from the album of the same name. It was recorded by Marvin Gaye and was written by Al Cleveland who first sent it to The Four Tops, but they turned it down.
The album turned into a concept album, a song cycle, the first of its kind on Motown Records. Berry Gordy, head of Motown, hated it and didn’t want to release it. It eventually saw light of day and was an immediate critical and popular success that eventually sold squillions.
CONGO TO THE MISSISSIPPI
The song Congo to the Mississippi probably sums up what Playing for Change is all about better than any. It was written by Mermans Mosengo and Greg Johnson. The song is aptly named, as you’ll see.
DON’T WORRY, BE HAPPY
This isn’t the rather sappy Bobby McFerrin song that was a huge hit some time ago. This one was written by Pierre Minetti especially for the Playing for Change project. Pierre kicks the song off in fine form.
Everyday People was written by Sly Stone and first recorded by Sly and the Family Stone. It’s been covered by a whole bunch of people over the years. Its message fits perfectly with the aims of Playing for Change.
You will notice several famous musicians along the way as well as a few famous non-musicians.
Redemption Song, written by Bob Marley, was released on his album “Uprising”. Bob wrote it after he’d been diagnosed with the cancer that eventually killed him. On the original, Bob sang and played with just an acoustic guitar. He appears in this clip as does as one of his sons, Stephen.
Robbie Robertson wrote The Weight and it was on The Band’s first album “Music From Big Pink”. It was his most Bob Dylan-like song. Robbie is present on this video along with a drummer who looks vaguely familiar.
If you want to find out more about Playing For Change, you can do that at their website. They also have all the videos, although some are blocked unless you become a member. If you prefer to go through Facebook, you can find them here.