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.
We’ve been rich, just last week, and now we’re poor. I don’t know what happened, something to do with the economy, I imagine. Today we have the poor songs.
I’ll start with the poor boy who became very rich indeed, ELVIS.
Elvis performed the song Poor Boy in his first film, Love Me Tender. Unlike later films, there weren’t enough songs to release them as a soundtrack album. Instead they were released as an EP (remember EPs?).
Neither the song nor the EP went to the top of the charts. That was about the last time that happened with Elvis. The song is Poor Boy.
JOHNNY RIVERS isn’t as well known today as many of his ilk.
He had several chart topping songs in the sixties and seventies and also wrote a bunch of really good songs. One of those is Poor Side of Town that was covered by Mel Tormé and Ray Charles amongst others.
On his “John Wesley Harding” album, Bob Dylan had a song called I Pity the Poor Immigrant. JUDY COLLINS recorded that same song, but truncated the title to Poor Immigrant.
This was from her album “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”, probably the most country sounding of hers, but not really a country record.
CREEDENCE CLEARWATER REVIVAL didn’t get the respect of some of their colleagues when they were first popular.
That was probably because they produced well-crafted songs that the general public really liked, and bought by the millions. However, time is the great arbiter and their songs are still admired and loved today, unlike the 20 minute noodlings their original critics used to indulge in.
Their song is Down on the Corner, which is about Willy and the Poor Boys, from the album that shares that name.
The EVERLY BROTHERS sing an absolute tale of woe about their girlfriend.
It seems that our lads took Jenny to a party that got out of hand. She was assaulted, the cops were called, they left her in the lurch and Poor Jenny was banged up in the clink. They don’t seem very contrite; I don’t think this relationship will continue.
From around about the same time, there’s no mistaking LITTLE RICHARD on this song.
However, it isn’t one of his usual frantic songs. Well, not entirely. It’s a mid-tempo (for him) song called Poor Boy Paul.
There’s probably an interesting story behind GORDON LIGHTFOOT’s contribution today. That’s because with Gordie there’s always a story that leads to his songs.
This one is called Poor Little Allison.
Linda Ronstadt had a huge hit with the song Poor, Poor Pitiful Me. This was written by WARREN ZEVON and he recorded it first.
This was from his early self-titled album that had many of his best songs on, many covered by Linda (and other lesser musicians). Here’s what Warren makes of it.
VAN MORRISON teams up with TAJ MAHAL on an album where Van rerecords some of his songs helped by other singers.
That album is called “Duets - Re-Working the Catalogue”, a fairly obvious title for such an endeavour. Of course, anything by Van is worth the cost, and if we have Taj along as well, that’s a bonus. They perform How Can a Poor Boy.
I always liked RICKY NELSON. I still do.
He had the advantage over other similar performers early on in that he was on television each week, always ending the program with a song. An added bonus was that he had the best lead guitarist around at the time, James Burton, playing for him. Here’s Ricky with Poor Little Fool, written by Sharon Sheeley.
I’ll go out with a blaze of glory with the lesser known and underappreciated blues man JOHN PRIMER.
Before going out on his own, John was a guitarist for the great Muddy Waters. You really had to be good to get that gig as Muddy could get anyone he wanted by the time that John played with him. Here’s John with Poor Man Blues.