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In Memoriam – December 2011

January 5th, 2012 14 comments

December’s headline death probably is that of the great Cesária Évora, who emerged from the tiny West African island of Cape Verde, a former Portuguese colony.

But as a soul fan, percussion maestro Ralph MacDonald is my headline departure of the month. He wrote some stone-cold classics and appeared on an impressive catalogue of soul and fusion albums, including those released in their heyday by Bill Withers, George Benson, Donny Hathaway, Ashford & Simpson, Brothers Johnson, Margie Joseph, Patti Austin, Grover Washington, Maynard Ferguson, The Crusaders, Michael Franks,  Eric Gale, Bob James,  Herbie Mann, Earl Klugh, and Sadao Watanabe, as well as on pop albums by the likes of Billy Joel (The Stranger, 52nd Street, Innocent Man) and Paul Simon (Still Crazy…, One Trick Pony, Graceland).

The Ragovoy curse struck again. First the great songwriter died in July; then his occasional collaborator Jimmy Norman, with whom he wrote Time Is On My Side, died in November; in December singer Howard Tate, for whom Ragovoy wrote and produced several songs (including Get It While You Can, which Janis Joplin later covered, and 8 Days On The Road) passed away at 72.

Three of the world’s longest-performing artists died in December: Myra Taylor first took to the stage as a 14-year-old in 1931; she made her final performance in a career spanning 70 years on 24 July this year. Fans of The Originals will appreciate the first recording of the great Ink Spots hit I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire, which featured Myra Taylor on vocals (originals fans will also enjoy Ruby and the Romantics’ Our Day Will Come, covered by Amy Winehouse on her new posthumous album) .

Johannes Heesters, who died at 108, had been a huge star in Nazi Germany and counted Nazi leaders among his friends – a stigma that followed him to his death. Hated in his native Holland, he was still hugely popular in West Germany.  He still toured as a centenarian, and performed to the age of 105.

Bill Tapia, dead at 103, was a ukulele maestro. Check out his version of Stars and Stripes Forever, from just two years ago, which he introduces as having played during World War I – the audience laughs, but the guy isn’t joking. He has been performing since 1918.

Among the more bizarre deaths is that of Willie Nelson’s drummer Dan Spears, who fell outside his house and, unable to move, froze to death.

Sadly, this will be the final monthly In Memoriam. Compiling each instalment simply takes up much more time than I can afford to spend, so this is a decision I had to make – with much regret, because I don’t think anyone is doing it quite this way on the Internet.

 Michal ‘Michal the Girl’ Friedman, singer, from complication during the birth of twins on November 25
ATB – The Autumn Leaves (2004)

Howard Tate, 72, soul singer, on December 2
Howard Tate – 8 Days On The Road (1971)

Bill Tapia, 103, legendary ukulele player, on December 2
Bill Tapia – Stars And Stripes

Ronald Mosley, 72, baritone and guitarist with Ruby & the Romantics, on December 3
Ruby and the Romantics – Our Day Will Come (1963)

Hubert Sumlin, 80, legendary blues guitarist (with Howlin’ Wolf), on December 4
Howlin’ Wolf – The Red Rooster (1962, as guitarist)
Hubert Sumlin – Down In The Bottom (1987)
R.J. Rosales, 37, Filipino-born Australian singer and actor, on December 4

Violetta Villas, 73, Belgian-born Polish diva, on December 5
Violetta Villas – Przyjdzie Na To Czas (1964)

Dobie Gray, 71, soul singer (Drift Away, The In-Crowd), on December 6
Dobie Gray – River Deep, Mountain High (1973)

Bob Burnett, 71, member of ’60s folk group The Highwaymen, on December 7
The Highwaymen – Universal Soldier (1964)

Dan ‘Bee’ Spears, 62, long-time bassist for Willie Nelson, on December 8
Willie Nelson – Remember Me (1975, as bassist)
Dick Sims, 60, keyboard player for Eric Clapton, Bob Seger a.o., on December 8
Eric Clapton – Wonderful Tonight (1977, as keyboardist)

Alan Styles, Pink Floyd roadie and subject of Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast, on December 8
Pink Floyd – Alan’s Psychedelic Breakfast (1970)

Myra Taylor, 94, jazz singer and actress, on December 9
Harlan Leonard and his Rockets – I Don’t Want To Set The World On Fire (1940, as vocalist)

Dustin Hengst, drummer of pop-punk band Damone, on December 9

Karryl ‘Special One’ Smith, member of hip hop duo The Conscious Daughters, on December 10
The Conscious Daughters – Somthin’ To Ride To (Fonky Expidition) (1993)
Billie Jo Spears, 74, country singer, on December 14
Billie Jo Spears – Blanket On The Ground (1975)

Bob Brookmeyer, 81, jazz trombonist, on December 16
Lalo Schifrin & Bob Brookmeyer – Samba Para Dos (1963)

Slim Dunkin, 24, rapper with 1017 Brick Squad, shot dead on December 16

Cesária Évora, 70, Cape Verdean singer, on December 17
Cesária Évora – Nho Antone Escade (1999)
Cesária Évora – Cabo Verde Terra Estimada (1988)

Sean Bonniwell, 71, American guitarist and singer of ’60s rock band Music Machine, on December 17
Ralph MacDonald, 67, percussionist, songwriter and producer, on December 18
Roberta Flack & Donny Hathaway – Where Is The Love (1972, as songwriter)
Grover Washington Jr with Bill Withers – Just The Two Of Us (1980, as songwriter)
Billy Joel – Rosalinda’s Eyes (1978, as percussionist)

Johnny Silvo, 75, folk singer and children’s TV presenter, on December 18

Clem DeRosa, 86, jazz drummer, arranger, bandleader and music educator, on December 20

David Gold, 31, singer and guitarist of Canadian death-metal band Woods of Ypres, on December 22
Johannes Heesters, 108, Dutch-born actor and singer, on December 24
Johannes Heesters – Ich werde jede Nacht von Ihnen träumen (1937)

Jody Rainwater, 92, bluegrass musician (with the Foggy Mountain Boys) and radio DJ, on December 24

Jim ‘Motorhead’ Sherwood, 69, saxophone player for Frank Zappa’s Mothers of Invention, on December 25
Frank Zappa – Conehead

Sam Rivers, 88, jazz musician and composer, on December 26
Sam Rivers – Verve (1980)

Barbara Lea, 82, jazz singer and actress, on December 26
Betty McQuade, 70, Australian singer, on December 26
Betty McQuade – Blue Train

Dan Terry, 87, American jazz trumpeter and big band leader, on December 27

Kaye Stevens, 79, singer and actress (frequent guest of the Rat Pack), on December 28

Christine Rosholt, 46, jazz singer, on December 28

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In Memoriam – April 2011

May 2nd, 2011 4 comments

For a blog going by this name, the death of multiple Grammy award-winning producer and pioneering sound engineer Roger Nichols is particularly noteworthy. The school mate of Frank Zappa was crucial in the development of Steely Dan’s sound, from the West Coast rock of Can’t Buy A Thrill to the jazz-tinged material on Aja and the comeback album Two Against Nature.It’s his hand on the back-cover of Countdown To Ecstasy.

Actor Tim Robbins’ parents were folk singers. Gil Robbins was a member of the pioneering folk group The Highwaymen; he died on 5 April; his wife Mary passed away 12 days later. It’s romantic in a way, but poor Tim.

The oldest death this month was that of bandlerader Orrin Tucker at the age of 100. His recording career went back to the late 1930s. And I was most saddened by the death at 60 of Phoebe Snow, a wonderful singer who cut down her music career to care for her disabled daughter for more than 30 years.

Richard Patterson, 66, drummer of Canadian group The Esquires, on April 2

Calvin Russell, 62, singer-songwriter, on April 3

Scott Columbus, 54, drummer of heavy metal band Manowar, on April 4
Manowar – Manowar (1982)

Gil Robbins, 80, singer with folk group The Highwaymen and father of actor Tim Robbins, on April 5
The Highwaymen – Whiskey In The Jar (1962)

John Bottomley, 50, Canadian singer-songwriter, of suicide on April 6
Bill Pitcock, 59, guitarist of power pop group Dwight Twilley Band, on April 8
Dwight Twilley Band – I’m On Fire (1975)

Orrin Tucker, 100, orchestra leader, on April 9
Orrin Tucker and his Orchestra – You’d Be Surprised (1939)

Roger Nichols, 66, sound engineer and producer for Steely Dan, Beach Boys, Roy Orbison, Diana Ross a.o., on April 9
Steely Dan – Any Major Dude Will Tell You (1974)

Lacy Gibson, 74, blues guitarist and singer, on April 11
Kent Morrill, 70, singer and keyboardist for garage rock pioneers The Fabulous Wailers, on April 15
The Fabulous Wailers – Out Of Our Tree (1965)

Mary Robbins, 78, American musician, mother of Tim Robbins, on April 17

Roy Burris, 79, songwriter and drummer for Merle Haggard & the Strangers, on April 19
Merle Haggard – Okie From Muskogee (as drummer and co-writer, 1969)

Gerard Smith, 36, bassist of TV on the Radio, On April 20
TV On The Radio – Staring At The Sun (2003)
Joe Pennell, 66, member of surf rock band The Rivieras, on April 21
The Rivieras – California Sun (1964)

Hazel Dickens, 75, bluegrass singer, on April 22
Hazel Dickens – Here Today, Gone Tomorrow (1983)

Tom King, 68, founder and singer of ’60s pop band The Outsiders, on April 23
The Outsiders – Time Won’t Let Me (1967)

Dutch Tilders, 69, Australian blues musician, on April 23

Poly Styrene, 53, singer of punk band X-Ray Spex, on April 25
X-Ray Spex – I Am A Cliché (1977)

Phoebe Snow, 60, singer-songwriter, on April 26
Phoebe Snow – Poetry Man (1974)

Dag Stokke, 44, keyboardist of Norwegian glam metal group TNT, on April 27

Neusinha Brizola, 56, Brazilian pop singer, on April 27
Neusinha Brizola – Mintchura (1983)

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In Memoriam May 2010

June 15th, 2010 2 comments

I realise that this is coming rather late in the month, and there has been the death of Marvin Isley in the interim. Anyway, the two big deaths in May were those of the stunning Lena Horne and heavy metal legend Ronnie James Dio. Another particularly notable death is that of country musician and songwriter Slim Bryant, who died at 101. He had one of his songs recorded by the legendary Jimmie Rodgers, who died in 1933, and played guitar on his 1932 song Mother Queen Of My Heart, and collaborated with the seminal fiddler Clayton McMichen.

Siphiwo Ntshebe, who died of tuberculosis, was a promising South African tenor, who merits inclusion by dint of having been slated to sing at the World Cup opening ceremony on June 11.

I owe the Chubby Carrier song to the marvellous Cover Me blog, which posted it on May 15, apparently unaware that Carrier had died 12 days earlier.

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Rob McConnell, 75, Canadian jazz trombonist, on May 1
Rob McConnell – My Bells (1980).mp3

Eddie Jackson, 63, founder guitarist of soul group Brenda & The Tabulations, on May 3
Brenda & The Tabulations – Dry Your Eyes (1967).mp3

Chubby Carrier, 63, American zydeco (Creole folk) musician, on May 3
Chubby Carrier – Rockin’ Robin (2001).mp3

Dave Fisher, 69, singer with folk band The Highwaymen, on May 7
The Highwaymen – Whiskey In The Jar (1962).mp3

Francisco Aguabella, 84, Cuban-born jazz percussionist, on May 7
Francisco Aguabella Orchestra – Que Mambo.mp3

Lena Horne, 92, actress and singer, on May 9
Lena Horne – Stormy Weather (1941).mp3

Ronnie James Dio, 67, heavy metal singer with Black Sabbath, Rainbow and Dio, on May 16
Ronnie James Dio – Holy Diver (1983).mp3

Hank Jones, 91, legendary jazz pianist and bandleader, on May 16
Hank Jones – I Mean You.mp3
Marilyn Monroe – Happy Birthday, Mr President.mp3
(with Jones on piano)

Larry Dale, 87, blues singer and guitarist who inspired Brian Jones, on May 19
Larry Dale – Feelin’ Alright (1955).mp3

Judy Lynn, 74, country singer and beauty queen, on May 26
Judy Lynn – Hello Mr DJ.mp3

Slim Bryant, 101, country singer-songwriter, on May 28
Jimmie Rodgers – Mother Queen Of My Heart (1932).mp3

Ali-Ollie Woodson, 58, singer with The Temptations (1984-86, and from 1988-96), on May 30
The Temptations – Treat Her Like A Lady (1984).mp3

Kevin Thomson, 56, bassist of Christian rock group Sweet Comfort Band, on May 30
Sweet Comfort Band – When I Was Alone (1977).mp3

Rubén Juárez, 62, Argentine tango singer-songwriter, on May 31
Rubén Juárez – Como dos extraños (1980).mp3

Also passing away in May:
Joëlle van Noppen, 30, singer with Dutch girl band WOW, on May 12
Beaver, 59, New Zealand jazz singer, on May 23
Paul Gray, 38, bassist of masked heavy metal group Slipknot, on May 24
Stella Nova/Steve New, 50, British guitarist and (as Steve New) member of the Rich Kids,on May 24
Siphiwo Ntshebe, 34, South African tenor, on May 25

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The Originals Vol. 31

August 28th, 2009 10 comments

Volume 31 and 160 songs covered now. Here we have the originals of the Piranhas’ Tom Hark, the Rolling Stones’ It’s All Over Now, Middle of the Road’s unjustly reviled Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, Georgie Fame’s Yeh Yeh, and Donovan’s Universal Soldier (whose writer, Buffy Sainte-Marie, apparently was not the first to record it either). As always, many thanks to my friends who have helped me out with some of the songs featured here.

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Elias and his Zig Zag Jive Flutes – Tom Hark (1956).mp3
The Piranhas – Tom Hark (1980).mp3
Mango Groove – Tom Hark (1996).mp3

eliasA staple these days on English football grounds, the impossibly catchy Tom Hark had its origins in South Africa. There was no Tom Hark: the song’s title was either a pun or more likely a sloppy mis-heard rendering of the word tomahawk, the axes gangs in Johannesburg’s Alexandra township used to carry.

Composer “Big Voice” Jack Lerole and his mates used to record in the pennywhistle-based kwela genre, though it was not yet known by that name — the contemporary term was marabi or pennywhistle jive. The word kwela is Zulu for “get up”, and as kwela-kwela also a township term for a police van (after the cops’ command “Kwela! Kwela!, meaning “climb in, climb in”), the unwelcome approach of which often was signalled by a lookout blowing his tin flute. Lerole, commonly known as Jake, learnt to play the pennywhistle as a little boy, observing the flautists from Scottish regiments that often played near Alexandra and which influenced a generation of pennywhistlers who adapted the complex techniques of flute-playing to the simple pennywhistle, thereby enhancing its versatility.

piranhasLerole and his bandmembers recorded under several names, mostly as Alexandra Black Mambazo (mambazo is zulu for axe — or tomahawk), but were signed by EMI in 1956 as Elias and His Zig Zag Jive Flutes; the Elias of the moniker being Lerole’s brother. Having recorded Tomahawk, or Tom Hark, EMI sold the rights to the song to British TV to serve as the theme for a series called The Killing Stone. On the back of that, the song became a British hit, reaching #2 in 1958. Lerole and his band received £6 for recording the song and not a red cent in royalties, even when the song became an international hit again in 1980 with an affectionate cover by the British ska band The Piranhas, whose frontman Bob Grover put lyrics to the song (“The whole things daft, I don’t know why, you have to laugh or else you cry”). On the single cover The Piranhas paid tribute to the original by emblazoning it with the word “kwela”.

After the Alexandra Black Mambazo split in 1963, Lerole enjoyed a fair career, though more as a gravelly baritone singer and saxophonist than as a pennywhistler, having followed the lead of pennywhistle king Spokes Mashiyane into the new mbaqanga style of music. He made a comeback in the ’80s as a member of the multi-racial group Mango Groove (which recorded Tom Hark with their own lyrics), on whose first hit, Dance Some More, Lerole provided his distinctive growling vocals. Before Mango Groove became famous in South Africa, he left the group. In 1998 he and the reformed Alex Black Mambazo were invited by South African-born Dave Matthews to perform with his group in the US. The band performed to international acclaim and total indifference in their home country. Leralo died in 2003 at the age of 63.

Also recorded by: Ted Heath (1958), Millie (1964), The Talksport Allstars (as We’re England, 2006)

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The Valentinos – It’s All Over Now (1964).mp3
The Rolling Stones – It’s All Over Now (1964).mp3

Molly Hatchet – It’s All Over Now (1979).mp3
valentinosWhen the Rolling Stones arrived in the US for their first tour, they met the legendary New York radio DJ Murray the K (or Murray the Kunt, as Keith Richards would dub him), who had a heavy hand in promoting the Beatles before and during their triumphant debut tour of the US a few months earlier. Murray suggested that the group might do well to record the latest single by Cleveland’s R&B group the Valentinos, which comprised the Womack brothers Bobby, Cecil, Harry, Friendly and Curtis.

It’s All Over Now was written by Bobby with his sister-in-law Shirley, but the publishing rights resided with Sam Cooke’s SAR Records. The Stones’ young manager Andrew Oldham obtained the rights to record it from SAR’s manager/accountant, Allen Klein (soon to become the Stones’ despised manager). Bobby Womack was furious, correctly anticipating that the rock version by these kids from England would sabotage any chance of the Valentino’s soul single becoming a hit. He later recalled his mentor Cooke comforting him, presciently assuring him that he’d now be a part of music history by dint of having written the Rolling Stones’ first US hit. A little later Womack found another upside: when he received the first royalties cheque, “it was huge”.

Within three weeks of Murray the K turning them on to It’s all Over Now, the Stones recorded the song during their sessions at Chicago’s Chess studio (where they allegedly encountered their hero Muddy Waters painting the ceiling), which also yielded Time Is On My Side, which will feature in this series later. It was released almost immediately. The Valentino’s version tanked at #94 in the US, while the Stones reached the top 20 and went to #1 in Britain.

Also recorded by: The Chambers Brothers (1965), Ian and the Zodiacs (1965), Johnny Rivers (1965), The Pupils (1966), Waylon Jennings (1968), The Bintangs (1969), Rod Stewart (1970), Ry Cooder (1974), Faces (1974), Catfish Hodge (1975), Johnny Winter (1976), Molly Hatchet (1979), Jimmy & The Mustangs (1984), John Anderson (1985), The Dirty Dozen Brass Band (1987), Charles et les Lulus (1991), Bobby Womack (1997), Southside Johnny (1997), Paper Parrot (1999), The Alarm Clocks (2000), The Patron Saints (2008) a.o.

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Lally Stott – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (1970).mp3
Middle of the Road – Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep (1971).mp3

lally_stottMy old friend Bono likes to tell the story of how seeing Middle of the Road performing Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep on Top of the Pops persuaded him that anyone, even little Paul Hewson, could become a pop star. It’s easy, even for Bono, to take a dig at a song called Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, of course. But I submit that, lyrics apart, it is a fine pop song.

Middle of the Road, who thought of themselves more as a folk group than as the bubble gum pop combo they are usually remembered as, didn’t want to record the song. It had been a hit in Italy (with the subtitle Cirpi cirpi, cip cip) and Australia for its composer, Liverpudlian Lally (Harold) Stott, and even dented the US charts at #92, though the song had greater success there, reaching #20, in a version by Trinidad-born duo Mac and Katie Kissoon (the female sibling of whom later became a session singer for the likes of Van Morrison, Elton John, Eric Clapton and the Pet Shop Boys). Despite Stott’s success in Italy and Australia, his label, Philips, evidently had little confidence in the recording, so Stott farmed it out to the Middle of the Road, who had just abandoned their previous moniker, Los Caracas, to take up an engagement in Italy.

motrThe band recorded the song reluctantly at singer Sally Carr’s insistence. Bandleader Ken Andrews was initially dismissive: “We were as disgusted with the thought of recording it as most people were at the thought of buying it. But at the end of the day, we liked it.” Their version, produced by Giacomo Tosti, became a massive hit throughout Europe in early 1971 and was imported to Britain by holidaymakers. At first it seemed that the Kissoon’s version would be a hit there, but influential radio DJ Tony Blackburn championed the Middle of the Road version on his BBC breakfast show, and it eventually reached #1 in June ’71.

Stott went on to work with Middle of the Road, writing their hit Tweedle Dee, Tweedle Dum. He died in 1977 in an accident while riding his Harley-Davidson — said to have been bought with the royalties of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep.

Also recorded by: Los 3 de Castilla (1971), Paul Mauriat (1971), Joe Harris (1971), The California Gold Rush (1971), Hajo (1971), The Jay Boys (1972), The Panda Peeple (1973), Little Angels (1973), Briard (1979), Lush (1990), Cartoons (2000), Mickie Krause (as Reiß die Hütte ab, 2003), The Poco Loco Gang (2005)

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Mongo Santamaría – Yeh-Yeh (1963).mp3
Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan – Yeh-Yeh (1963).mp3
Georgie Fame & the Blue Flames – Yeh Yeh (1964).mp3
Matt Bianco – Yeh Yeh (1985).mp3
yeh_yehWritten by jazz musicians Rodgers Grant (piano) and Laurdine “Pat” Patrick (saxophone), Yeh-Yeh was first recorded in 1963 by Afro-Cuban jazz percussionist Mongo Santamaría, whose band Grant and Patrick were members of at the time. Still an instrumental — though Santamaría’s single version includes what might be described as vocal ticks — it appeared on his Watermelon Man album. It soon came to the attention of jazz singer Jon Hendricks, one of the great purveyors of scat singing and a third of the ’50s trio Lambert, Hendricks & Ross. Hendricks had a long line of instrumental songs to which he added lyrics, doing so most famously for an album of Count Basie standards. Hendricks recorded Yeh-Yeh with the trio, in which Yalande Bavan had by now replaced Annie Ross, for the At Newport ’63 live album.

English singer Georgie Fame (his moniker was an innovation of promoter Larry Parnes who at one point even briefly renamed the yet unknown Beatles) heard the Newport recording of Lambert, Hendricks & Bavan’s version, and incorporated into his Blue Flames’ live shows. At one point in 1964 Fame and his team were stuck for a new single. Somebody suggested Yeh Yeh.

georgie_fameFames’ manager at the time was nightclub owner Ronan O’Rahilly. His attempts to have Yeh Yeh played on the BBC and Radio Luxembourg were frustrated (reportedly on grounds that it sounded “too black”; the story that it was rejected for airplay because the stations played records only from EMI, Decca, Pye and Philips can be discounted since Yeh Yeh appeared on EMI’s Columbia label). Unable to get airplay, he became part of the group that set up the ship-based pirate station Radio Caroline in March 1964. Among its roster of DJs was the champion of Chirpy Chirpy Cheep Cheep, Tony Blackburn. Radio Caroline naturally gave Yeh Yeh (which O’Rahilly has claimed directly inspired the founding of the pirate station) heavy airplay. Without help from the conventional radio stations, it topped the UK charts in January 1965 (US #25), relieving the Beatles’ five-week occupancy of the top spot with the similarly upbeat I Feel Fine.

In 1985, British jazz-popsters Matt Bianco drew together their British lounge and Latin jazz influences to record a fine version of Yeh Yeh, which strays not too far from Fame’s take. It reached #15 in the UK.

Also recorded by: Dave “Baby” Cortez (1965), Danny Fisher (1965), Claude François (as Alors salut!, 1965), Matt Bianco (1985), The Aislers Set (2000), They Might Be Giants (2001)

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The Highwaymen – Universal Soldier (1963).mp3
Buffy Sainte-Marie – Universal Soldier (1964).mp3
Donovan – Universal Soldier (1965).mp3

highwaymen_universal_soldierEarly in the Vietnam War, Canadian folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie saw an injured soldier return from active duty and decided to write an anti-war song. It would become one of the most potent songs in the peace movement, even if her good advice to you and me evidently has not been taken. By her own account written in a Toronto café to impress a college professor, Buffy, then in her early 20s, sold the rights to Universal Soldier to a man she had just met in Greenwich Village’s Gaslight Café, for a dollar (the contract was written on a paper napkin). Two decades later she bought the rights back for $25,000. In the interim, she made it on the White House’s blacklist for her anti-Vietnam and Native American rights activities, spent five years on Sesame Street (on which she breastfed her child), in 1966 became the first singer to release a quadraphonic album (4.0 stereo) and apparently the first to release an album on the Internet (in 1991).

buffySainte-Marie released Universal Soldier on her 1964 debut album, It’s My Way. The previous year, it was recorded by folk-group The Highwaymen (not to be confused with the country supergroup), who enjoyed their commercial peak in 1960 with the hit version of Michael (Row The Boat Ashore). It’s not clear how the Highwaymen got to record Universal Soldier first; one may guess that they were given the song by Buffy’s new friend from the Gaslight Café. Released as a single and on the group’s penultimate album, March On Brothers, it was not a huge success. Of course, if one channelled Seeger and Guthrie, one did not expect to compete with the Beatles.

donovanAcclaimed though Sainte-Marie’s debut album was, the song’s big breakthrough came with the version by Scottish folkie Donovan, who released it in 1965 at the age of 19, having already two UK Top 10 hits with Catch The Wind and Colours. Young Mr Leitch’s softer version, which adopted Buffy’s arrangement (and using strange pronunciation of the name Dachau). Released as an EP in Britain, it topped the EP charts there and reached #14 in the singles charts.

As for Buffy, she went on to write Up Where We Belong, the hit for Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes from 1981’s An Officer And A Gentleman, with then-husband Jack Nitzsche. She released her first album in 13 years, Running For The Drum, internationally a few weeks ago.

Also recorded by: Glen Campbell (1965), Boudewijn de Groot (as De eeuwige soldaat, 1965), Hector (as Palkkasoturi, 1965), Claus (as Soldato universale,1966), The Roemans (1965), The Caravans (1965), Sheila (as Je t’aime, 1966), Judy Collins and Ethel Raim Dunson (1967), Lester Flatt & Earl Scruggs (1968), Picture (1970), Juliane Werding (as Der ewige Soldat, 1973), Lobo (1974), Eugene Chadbourne (1985), Christopher Franke (1992), Eric Andersen (2004) a.o.

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