Archive for the ‘Saturday Single’ Category

Saturday Single No. 627

Saturday, February 2nd, 2019

It was twelve years ago tomorrow, a Saturday, when I wrote:

As I was wandering through my music files, I came upon a single that was – for a few weeks, at least – omnipresent in Denmark during the nine months I spent there many years ago. No matter where my girlfriend of the time and I went that autumn, we heard – sometimes just off in the distance – Lecia & Lucienne singing “Rør Ved Mig” (which translates roughly, I think, into “Stay With Me”).

I now think it’s more likely that “Rør Ved Mig” means “Touch Me” or possibly “Make Love To Me.”

When I got back to the U.S. in the spring of 1974, I was startled to hear coming from my radio the same tune and nearly the same arrangement, but this time with the words in Spanish. I’ve never been able to determine whether Mocedades’ “Eres Tu,” was the original song and “Rør Ved Mig” was the second-language copycat, or the other way around. And it could be, I suppose, that there are other versions of the song out there in other languages, although in the more-than-thirty-years since I spent my time in Denmark, I’ve heard none.

In the eleven years since I wrote that, I’ve come across versions in English, Swedish and Norwegian, and the website Second Hand Songs tells me that there are also versions in Finnish, Dutch and Czech. As to which came first, the website shows it was Mocedades’ Spanish version.

A couple years after I came back to the U.S., my Danish brother visited, and during his visit, I mentioned “Rør Ved Mig” to him. After he got home, he mailed me a copy of the single. I don’t suppose I’ve played it often, but I did every once in a while. And then I got online about seven years ago and found an mp3 of the tune on the web. (When I got my USB turntable, I made a file from my own copy.) It pops up on the RealPlayer now and then.

And whenever I hear “Rør Ved Mig,” it has the same effect: For just a few moments, it is the fall of 1973, and I am walking somewhere inside the old portion of the city of Fredericia, maybe heading to have a beer with a buddy, maybe walking with that long-ago girlfriend, or maybe just walking. It’s a golden day in October, and somewhere, not too far away, Lecia & Lucienne are singing “Rør ved mig. Så jeg føler at jeg lever . . .”

And with that Saturday post in 2007 – after a month or so of false starts – I figured out what I wanted to do with this blog: Share the music that has shaped my life and share the tales that brought that music to me. I didn’t title the post “Saturday Single No. 1” – that came a week later – but I should have. In the years since, I’ve shared Lecia & Lucienne’s “Rør Ved Mig” numerous times. This time, as it marks the twelfth anniversary of Echoes In The Wind, it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 626

Saturday, January 26th, 2019

Wondering about January 26, I did a search on the RealPlayer and came up with eight tracks recorded on today’s date over the years. (As always, I should note that I have recording date information on maybe ten percent of the tracks in the player.) And I thought we’d run down a little bit of what we know about those tracks.

The earliest of the bunch comes from Alcide “Blind Uncle” Gaspard, a guitarist and singer with Cajun roots from Louisiana. He was in Chicago on this date in 1929, laying down some tracks for the Vocalion label. Two of them are in the digital stacks here: “Assi Dans La Fenetre De Ma Chambre” on his own and “La Danseuse” with the help of Irish fiddler Delma Lachney.

The first of those two tunes came my way via the soundtrack to the 2002 movie Divine Secrets Of The Ya-Ya Sisterhood, and the second found its way onto the shelves here on my copy of Harry Smith’s Anthology Of American Folk Music, a three-volume anthology first released in 1952.

Moving ahead five years, we find two tracks laid down in New York City by Jimmie Lunceford & His Orchestra on January 26, 1934: According to discogs.com, “Jazznocracy” was released on the Victor and Bluebird labels, while “Swingin’ Uptown” came out on His Master’s Voice. Lunceford and his band don’t come immediately to mind when one thinks of the Big Band music of the 1930s and 1940s, but whenever I’ve come across his stuff, I’ve been pleased. His stuff swings.

“Jazznocracy” most likely came to the digital shelves here during the early days of this blog, when music of all eras and genres was widely offered at blogs and forums. Which blog or forum? I have no idea. I found “Swingin’ Uptown” on The Fabulous Swing Collection, a 1998 anthology that I came across last May.

Harry Smith’s name pops up again when we get to the year 1938. On January 26 of that year in Charlotte, North Carolina, the Arthur Smith Trio recorded “Adieu, False Heart” for the Bluebird label. In 2000, it was included in Volume Four of Smith’s Anthology, a set assembled based on notes Smith made before his death in 1992 and released on the Revenant label by the Harry Smith Archives. The album notes call “Adieu, False Heart” a “darkly sentimental piece” that was collected by a folklorist in south central Virginia in 1931. Its language, the notes say, “suggests that it comes from the 1860s or 1870s.”

Moving ahead quite a few years, we come to 1956, when Buddy Holly recorded “Midnight Shift,” a track that went unreleased for a couple of years before landing on the 1958 album That’ll Be The Day. “Midnight Shift” was recorded in Nashville, most likely one of the tracks from sessions that the Decca label found unpromising. Holly evidently took the track with him when he headed to Norman Petty’s studio in Clovis, New Mexico.

Two tracks in the RealPlayer were recorded on January 26, 1962. One of them I know nearly nothing about and the other is very well known. The first is Edith Piaf’s “Fallait-il?” I can say nothing more about the track except that it was recorded in Paris. The second track from this date in 1962 is Claude King’s “Wolverton Mountain,” about which I know much more: The track was No. 1 for nine weeks on the Billboard country chart and went to No. 6 on the magazine’s Hot 100.

The Piaf track came here via the 2000 collection Éternelle, and I found “Wolverton Mountain” in the five-CD set Columbia Country Classics.

So, we have a fair number of tracks to choose from for a feature this morning. But my mind was pretty well made up from the start of this post. Buddy Holly doesn’t show up here very often, probably because – as important as he is to the history of rock and pop – he’s an icon of the Fifties, which is not my era, and then, not a lot of his music ever really grabbed me. (“Rave On” is the one exception; it was included in my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox.)

But listening to “Midnight Shift” this morning (almost certainly for the first time), I found myself startled by the topic of the song, written by Jeff Daniels and Jimmie Rogers:

If you see old Annie better give her a lift
Cause Annie’s been a-working on a midnight shift

If Annie puts her hair up on her head
Paints them lips up bright, bright red
Wears that dress that fits real tight
Starts staying out ’til the middle of the night
Says that a friend gave her a lift
Well, Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

If she acts a little funny, seems a little strange
Starts spending your money for brand new things
Tells you that she wants to use the car
Never explains what she wants it for
Brother, there just ain’t no “ifs”
Cause Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

Early in the morning when the sun comes up
You look at old Annie and she looks kinda rough
You tell her “Honey, get out of that bed”
She says “Leave me alone, I’m just about dead”
Brother, there just ain’t no “ifs”
Cause Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

If you got a good mama that’s staying at home
You’d better enjoy it, ’cause it won’t last long
When you think everything’s all right
She starts slipping round in the middle of the night
Brother, there just ain’t no “ifs”
Cause Annie’s been working on a midnight shift

So with that, here’s Buddy Holly’s “Midnight Shift,” and it’s today’s Saturday Single:

Saturday Single No. 625

Saturday, January 19th, 2019

Tired, weary, fatigued . . .

I had more energy, I’d go get my thesaurus and look up some more synonyms.

Here’s Jim and Jean’s version of Bob Dylan’s “Lay Down Your Weary Tune.” It was first released on their 1966 album Changes, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 624

Saturday, January 12th, 2019

I am home after one night in the hospital. Sore and tired, yes, but home.

And for the first time in almost two years, my hamstrings do not ache. The doctor said that the surgery went perfectly – his actual word – and the nurses who took care of me from Thursday afternoon into Friday afternoon said they’d never seen someone recover from a fusion so rapidly, in the minimal terms of getting out of bed, walking to the bathroom and taking a walk though the hallways.

But now comes the hard part: Letting the Texas Gal take care of me and the house while I recuperate. I am not a good patient. But I will do my best.

And it’s a Saturday morning. I’ve had my bacon sandwich. I doubt we’ll have a fish fry here tonight, but to cover our bases, here’s Louis Jordan & His Tympani Five with “Saturday Night Fish Fry.” It’s from 1949, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 623

Saturday, January 5th, 2019

We continue our increasingly frequent wandering through the EITW archives in search of posts that might have some interest. Today’s it a meandering look at the song I first heard from the Beatles about a city where you can hang around Twelfth Street and Vine. The piece first ran here in October 2008. I’ve made some minor changes.

For a time around 1969-70, the evening deejay at WJON, the radio station just down the street and across the railroad tracks from our house, was a fellow who used the name Ron P. Michaels (his initials were then RPM, you see). And one evening during the summer of 1970, he put on a special show.

From seven o’clock to (I think) midnight one weekday evening, Michaels played nothing but the Beatles. From the hits like “Hey Jude,” “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “I Want To Hold Your Hand” to tracks from deep in the group’s catalog, WJON was all-Beatles for one five-hour stretch that summer night.

I was a fledgling Beatles fan, just beginning to learn about the Fab Four’s music. I had – and knew well – the Let It Be and Abbey Road albums. I owned – with my sister – Beatles ’65, one of the albums of bits and pieces that Capitol had created in the early days of the group’s American success. Later that summer, I would buy Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band and Hey Jude, a package of hits and B-sides (also known as The Beatles Again).

There was still plenty I did not know about the Beatles’ music. I was determined to learn, however. So I stationed myself in my bedroom with my Panasonic cassette recorder and carefully stopped and started the tape to edit out commercial breaks. My recording technique was brutal: The radio was on the bed, with the microphone set down nearby, but the sound quality was good enough. I ended up with three-and-a-half hours of music, which was nothing near the group’s entire output on Capitol/Apple (During their active recording years, from Please Please Me through Let It Be, I estimated ten years ago that the Beatles released about eleven hours of music), but it was certainly a place to start learning about the deeper places in the group’s catalog.

I recall that some of the songs I heard for the first time that evening weren’t, to be honest, high points in the Beatles’ career: “Devil In Her Heart,” “Yes It Is,” “Act Naturally” and “Blue Jay Way” come to mind. On the other hand, that was the evening I was introduced to “In My Life,” “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Back In The U.S.S.R.,” the last of which remains one of my favorite recordings by anyone, ever.

Another song that I heard for the first time that evening was titled at the time “Kansas City.” It started, “I’m goin’ to Kansas City, bringing my baby back home.”

Released on Beatles For Sale in 1964, the song was the Beatles’ cover of Little Richard’s version of the tune written in the early 1950s by Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller. Little Richard’s indelible contribution to the song – beyond his lethal performance of “Kansas City” itself – was the “Hey, hey, hey hey” coda, which was his own creation. From what I’ve read, the Beatles were unaware of Little Richard’s addition; they called the song simply “Kansas City” and listed only Leiber and Stoller as the writers. (Eventually, the title of the Beatles’ recording was changed; it’s now called a medley of “Kansas City” and “Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey” with Little Richard given a writing credit [as Richard Penniman].)

Looking a little bit deeper, there was no way the Beatles really could have known. After all, when Little Richard’s recording was released as Specialty 664 after it was recorded in 1955, its title was simply “Kansas City,” with only Leiber and Stoller listed as writers. As was the case with the Beatles’ omission, that error has since been corrected. The 1991 CD The Georgia Peach, a Little Richard hits package, lists the song as “Kansas City/Hey-Hey-Hey-Hey” and lists Penniman as a writer along with the team of Leiber and Stoller.

Anyway, that night was the first time I’d heard “Kansas City” with or without the Penniman addition. I thought it was a pretty good song, but I didn’t bother in those days to dig too deeply into the history of the music I was listening to. I was having a difficult enough time keeping track of current groups and their catalogs. So I didn’t know for years that “Kansas City” – sometimes listed as “K.C. Lovin’” – had been around since before I was born.

As noted above, the song came from the duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, a duo credited with writing hit after hit during the Fifties and early Sixties, including “Hound Dog,” “Young Blood,” “Yakety Yak,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “Stand By Me” (with Ben E. King), “Ruby Baby” and many more, including the very odd No. 11 hit for Peggy Lee in 1969, “Is That All There Is?”

Originally recorded in 1952 by Little Willie Littlefield, “Kansas City” is without doubt one of the most-covered R&B songs of all time. The listings at Second Hand Songs show more than 160 versions of “Kansas City” and fourteen additional versions of “Kansas City/Hey, Hey, Hey, Hey.” The most famous cover of “Kansas City” is most likely Wilbert Harrison’s 1959 version, which was No. 1 for two weeks. (As good as Little Richard’s version on Specialty was, it did not reach the Top 40.)

Other covers of the song that I have in my collection are from Joe Williams, Muddy Waters, Paul McCartney (on his 1988 album Снова в СССР, originally released only in the Soviet Union) and Albert King. It’s not a song in which I’ve invested a lot of time.

I’ve since added more versions by artists including bluesman David “Honeyboy” Edwards, guitarist Billy Strange, Big Bill Broonzy, and Jan & Dean.

But there is one fascinating version I do have. In 1977, Libby Titus – who I think is generally forgotten today – recorded a version of the song that she titled “Kansas City (K.C. Lovin’)” and released it on her self-titled album. The album is pretty good, but is, I think, of additional interest because Titus was once in a relationship with Levon Helm of The Band (and is the mother of musician Amy Helm, who’s been mentioned here a few times). Helm’s former bandmate Garth Hudson shows up on one track, and Robbie Robertson produced two tracks and plays on one. (Producing the remaining tracks were, in various combinations, the intriguing trio of Paul Simon, Carly Simon and Phil Ramone.)

Among the other highlights of the album – which used to be pricey on both CD and vinyl but has since been re-released on CD and is now available in both formats for reasonable prices – are Titus’ work on the classic song “Love Has No Pride,” which she co-wrote with Eric Kaz, and the slightly odd “The Night You Took Me to Barbados in My Dreams.” But “Kansas City (K.C. Lovin’),” with its own odd moment in the introduction, is likely the best thing on the album and one of the slinkier covers of the song I’ve ever heard.

And it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 622

Saturday, December 29th, 2018

While wandering through the archives this morning, I came across this meditation on Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” from December 2007. I think it still holds some interest, and while I may have heard additional versions of the song in the intervening years, my conclusion remains the same as it was eleven years ago. I’ve made a few modest changes.

The first time I heard Bob Dylan’s “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” it was in an interesting setting. Not in terms of physical place: The basement rec room on Kilian Boulevard was a pleasant place to spend some hours, but its decor was pretty standard for the early 1970s. I was thinking about its musical setting, as I heard the song, one of Dylan’s earliest recorded tracks, dropped in between two of his later tracks on his Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, a 1971 release.

The album opener was Dylan’s recent single, “Watching The River Flow,” produced by Leon Russell, and the third track on Side One of the new hits album was “Lay, Lady, Lay,” Dylan’s 1969 hit from his countryish Nashville Skyline. Nestled between the two tracks was “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right,” released in 1963 on Dylan’s second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan. It was, as I wrote above, an interesting place to find one of the longest surviving songs of Dylan’s career – a career just less than ten years old at the time but already lengthy give the standards of the era, a time when the idea of creating a career out of being a pop/rock musician was just being invented.

(It’s worth recalling that Elvis Presley’s manager, Col. Tom Parker, maneuvered Elvis into his long string of mediocre movies because he could not envision any performer creating a lengthy career in rock ’n’ roll or its antecedents. Simplifying a good deal, until the Beatles and Dylan, no mainstream pop/rock performer had really done that.)

I’ve always found “Don’t Think Twice” to be one of Dylan’s prettiest songs and one of the gentlest among his songs that chronicle and catalog the myriad ways we treat and deal with the ones we love. In Dylan’s written universe, the subject and object of love can be savaged, can be adored with reservations, can be worshipped and can be dismissed without hesitation. I’m sure there are other instances that one can find in the Dylan oeuvre, but “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” is one of the few lyrics in which the loved one is forgiven with gentleness and (perhaps sardonic) grace as the singer heads down the road:

I ain’t sayin’ you treated me unkind
You coulda done better, but I don’t mind
You just kinda wasted my precious time,
But don’t think twice, it’s all right.

The only other Dylan love lyric that comes immediately to mind with that level of grace expressed is “You’re Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go,” from 1975’s Blood on the Tracks. In that case, however, the singer is the one who will be left behind, while the singer of “Don’t Think Twice” is the one who is leaving. There’s a difference there, subtle though it may be.

Hearing the song for the first time bracketed by two recent hits for Dylan – “Watching The River Flow” barely missed the Billboard Top 40, peaking at No. 41 during the summer of 1971, and “Lay, Lady, Lay” reached No. 7 during the summer of 1969 – instead of in its original setting on Freewheelin’, gave the song a different sensibility that I might otherwise not have found in it. I didn’t fully appreciate Dylan’s folkie origins at the time, but the context in which I heard “Don’t Think Twice” placed it squarely into the singer/songwriter milieu of the early 1970s. And it became one of my favorite tracks on the two-disc Greatest Hits, Vol. 2, both for its wordplay and for Dylan’s gentle performance.

It’s a song that’s been covered many times. Second Hand Songs lists more than two hundred covers in English and a few more in other languages. Among those who have covered the song are Joan Baez, Bobby Bare, Brook Benton, Johnny Cash, Bobby Darin, Nick Drake, José Feliciano, Bryan Ferry, the Indigo Girls, Waylon Jennings, Melanie, Elvis, Billy Paul, Jerry Reed, the Seekers and the Four Seasons. I’ve heard some of those versions, but not nearly all of them.

Still, I doubt that any performance of “Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right” will grab me as much as does the version that Eric Clapton provided in 1992 during the celebration of Dylan’s thirty years in the recording industry. With a house band made up of the surviving members of Booker T & the MG’s, guitarist G.E. Smith and drummers Jim Keltner and Anton Figg, Clapton pulls the song apart and puts it back together as the blues. All Music Guide rightly calls it “one of the most electrifying performances of his life.”

That performance is today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 621

Saturday, December 22nd, 2018

It’s time for Games With Numbers!

We’re going to take today’s date – 12/22/18 – and add those numbers together in four ways to get 30, 34, 40 and 52, and then armed with those integers, take a look at a Billboard Hot 100 that was released on a December 22. We’ll check out the records at those positions and choose ourselves a Saturday Single. (As is our wont when we do these things, we’ll note the No. 1 record of the week.)

During the spread of years we’re generally interested in, we have four Hot 100s to choose from, released in 1958, 1962, 1973 and 1979. Although we’ve visited them occasionally, the two on the ends of that list don’t interest me this morning. And we do a lot of playing in the early Seventies. So we’re going to take a look at 1962, starting from the lowest ranked record and moving up.

Right off, we come to a name that’s been rare around here: Bobby Rydell, whose record “The Cha-Cha-Cha” is sitting at No. 52. A quick search shows that there have been only four posts where his name has popped up and only one post where his music has been shared; that was a look at the Twist craze in the spring of 1962, and the record we listened to then was a duet by Rydell and Twistmaster Chubby Checker (placed together because their labels, Cameo and Parkway, were sister firms). Rydell is an exemplar of a type of artist I don’t much care for, the teen idol. I lump him with Fabian, Bobby Vee and a bunch of others that labels found in the years between Clear Lake and Liverpool. (Other eras had their teen idols, to be sure. Leif Garrett, anyone?) He wasn’t the worst of them; nor was he the best. In our December 22 chart, “The Cha-Cha-Cha” was on its way down from No. 10, and it’s a pretty feeble piece of work.

So we move up twelve places to No. 40 and find ourselves listening to “Monsters’ Holiday” by Bobby (Boris) Pickett & The Crypt-Kickers, a Christmas-themed sequel to “Monster Mash,” which had spent two weeks at No. 1 in October. “Holiday” went to No. 30, and we’ll leave it sit there.

A trifle distressed, we move up six steps and find more Christmas joy, “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” by the 4 Seasons, heading up the chart to an eventual peak at No. 23. Admission: I am not a fan of holiday music unless it was produced by Phil Spector, sung by Darlene Love, written/adapted from folk songs by John Lennon and Yoko Ono, or has a big honking saxophone solo by Clarence Clemons. And there are some tunes that don’t survive Frankie Valli’s falsetto. So the 4 Seasons record leaves me colder than December in Moscow. At least it’s less than two minuntes long.

So as we ascend to the last of our numbers in play, I am despondent. And we find redemption at No. 30 in “He’s A Rebel,” one of the little symphonies for kids constructed with regularity in the early 1960s by Phil Spector, an admittedly evil genius. Sung by the Blossoms (with Darlene Love taking the lead) but credited by Spector to the Crystals, “He’s A Rebel” is one of Spector’s greatest records, with the Wrecking Crew – including Steve Douglas, who contributed the sax solo – and the Blossoms at the tops of their games. The record was on its way down the chart after spending two weeks at No. 1, and is probably the best thing we could have heard anywhere this morning.

As always, we note the No. 1 record, and fifty-six years ago today, that was the Tornadoes’ “Telstar.” We approve.

Given the four to choose from, we have an easy choice. Actually, out of the thousands and thousands of possibilities that float through here, we’d almost always have an easy choice; there aren’t many records I would choose over “He’s A Rebel.” (No, it didn’t make my long-ago Ultimate Jukebox, but it is among the 3,900 or so on the iPod.) So let’s just listen again (and again) to “He’s A Rebel by the Crystals (Blossoms!), today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 620

Saturday, December 15th, 2018

We’ve been busy on both of the last two weekends. Two weeks ago, we hosted our first Circle Dinner of the church year for our UU Fellowship. (Because of schedules, it took longer than usual to get organized.) It was a pleasant evening with one other couple and a man whose wife was out of town joining us for King Ranch casserole, cornbread and other victuals.

Then last weekend, we hosted a get-together for our UU musicians, which ended – as one might expect – with homemade music in our music and sewing room downstairs. There were four on guitar with me on keys and two listening and frequently joining in on familiar songs. One of my favorite moments came when I wasn’t playing keys but rather when one of the guitarists, Ted, started in on a familiar riff.

It took a moment to place the riff, but I dug quickly into the pile of music books next to me and pulled out a thick book of songs by Bob Dylan and paged more than halfway into it. One of the other guitarists put down her instrument and stood near my bench as I held the book, and the two of us sang along to Ted’s guitar as he ran through “Buckets Of Rain,” one of my favorite Dylan songs.

So that’s where I’m heading this morning. The original version of the tune – from the 1975 album Blood On The Tracks – is (as expected) not available on YouTube. (Mr. Dylan’s gatekeepers are exceedingly vigilant.) But there are always some covers out there. And on another day, I might dig deeper into the ones I do not know, but it’s Saturday, we’re planning a day of very little, and the aroma of frying bacon is wafting to me from the kitchen.

So here is my favorite cover of “Buckets Of Rain,” a duet between Bette Midler and the Bard of Hibbing himself. I’ve posted it before, but it’s been a long while. The track comes from Midler’s 1976 album Songs For The New Depression, and it’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 619

Saturday, December 8th, 2018

It’s hard to believe it’s been thirty-eight years since John Lennon was murdered. Here, edited slightly, is a piece I offered in this space in 2007 and in 2015.

It was a Monday, December 8, 1980, was. It was the second Monday of the month, which meant that I spent the bulk of the evening at Monticello City Hall, listening to the city council debate whatever issues were on its agenda. It sounds deadly dull, but I actually enjoyed covering city government; the ebb and flow of politics and policies over a nearly six-year period gave me insight as to how a city grows.

I don’t recall any of the topics on the agenda, but the meeting was over fairly early. I’d guess it was around 9:30 when the gavel fell and I walked out of the building into the chilly night, headed for my car and my home about two miles out of town. The Other Half was there, probably involved in some craft project, and there was a football game on television, Miami and New England.

And so I was seated in my easy chair, probably dipping into a bowl of popcorn, when Howard Cosell interrupted the game.

“This, we have to say it, is just a football game, no matter who wins or loses,” Cosell said. “An unspeakable tragedy confirmed to us by ABC News in New York City: John Lennon, outside of his apartment building on the West Side of New York City, the most famous perhaps of all the Beatles, shot five times in the back, rushed to Roosevelt Hospital, dead . . . on . . . arrival.”

I stared at the screen, football forgotten. I recall trying to wrap my head around the weight Cosell’s words carried, not quite grasping it, the news too stunning and too fresh for comprehension or sorrow. Not long after the game ended, the result unnoticed, we retired for the night, and I lay there, still shocked. “Do you think it will be on Nightline?” she asked me.

“I can’t imagine they’d cover anything else.”

“Then go watch it. He was yours.”

I went to the living room. In a short marriage in which both of us so often got so many things so wrong about each other, that was one that she got right about me, and I am still grateful. I watched as Ted Koppel and his reporters and guests sorted through what was known and what was supposed. Then they began the first of thousands of assessments of what John Lennon and the Beatles had meant to us.

That’s a topic worthy of several volumes – what John Lennon and the Beatles had meant to us – and not all of the answers can be put into words. The next day was a busy one at work; Tuesday was the day we wrote the bulk of the copy for our newspaper’s weekly edition. But I managed to get home for thirty minutes for lunch. One of the Twin Cities classic rock stations, KQRS, was playing the Beatles’ catalog alphabetically, and as I ate my sandwich, I heard “In My Life.”

As I listened, I finally understood how those folks a few years older than I had felt during the summer of 1977 when they got the news that Elvis had died. Bent over my dining room table, I wept for John; for Yoko, Sean and Julian; for John’s three bandmates; and I wept for all of us who’d loved the man through his music.

In 1998, famed Beatles producer George Martin marked his retirement by producing In My Life, an album of favorite performers paired with his favorites Beatles tunes. For the title track, he selected one of the voices I consider among the greatest in the English-speaking world. Here’s Sean Connery and his recitation of “In My Life,” the song that finally touched what I felt about John Lennon that long-ago day. It’s today’s Saturday Single.

Saturday Single No. 618

Saturday, December 1st, 2018

I did some work early this morning on taming the music of the George Gershwin classic “It Ain’t Necessarily So” for our small group of musicians at our Unitarian-Universalist Fellowship. (Mr. Gershwin’s original arrangement – and various later interpretations – were more complicated than we could master in a few rehearsals.)

As I did so, I moved back and for the between the two keyboards – the one that plays music and the one at the computer. I was trying things, assessing, writing, and listening to versions of the tune at YouTube. And I think after some effort, I’ve come up with an arrangement that will serve our needs without offending the spirit of Mr. Gershwin.

Some of the versions of the tune I listened to were startlingly good. I suppose today’s post might be the first in a series looking at various takes on the tune. There are plenty out there. If we go that route, then the series begins with a piece from a catalogue that a lot of people – including me – mention occasionally but listen to rarely: Aretha Franklin’s time at Columbia, before she went to Atlantic and became the Queen of Soul.

Here’s her take on “It Ain’t Necessarily So” from Porgy & Bess. It’s from her very first album for Columbia, Aretha, released in 1960. And it’s today’s Saturday Single.