No. 50 Fifty Years Ago

It’s time for another game of Symmetry, checking out the No. 50 record in the Billboard Hot 100 from the first week of 1971, fifty years ago. Along the way, we’ll check out the Top Ten from that week and see how they stacked up then and whether they matter now.

Here’s the Billboard Top Ten released on June 5 of that year, fifty years ago tomorrow:

“Brown Sugar” by the Rolling Stones
“Joy To The World” by Three Dog Night
“Want Ads” by the Honey Cone
“It Don’t Come Easy” by Ringo Starr
“Rainy Days and Mondays” by the Carpenters
“Bridge Over Troubled Water/Brand New Me” by Aretha Franklin
“Sweet and Innocent” by Donny Osmond
“Never Can Say Goodbye” by the Jackson 5
“It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King
“Me and You and A Dog Named Boo” by Lobo

Back then, having just graduated from high school and about to start a summer of lawn-mowing, janitoring and floor-cleaning at St. Cloud State, I liked most of those. The Donny Osmond single left me pretty blah, and something about Lobo’s single bothered me. (Maybe it was “the wheatfields of St. Paul” and the farmer from whom the narrator stole eggs. Not the St. Paul I knew.)

And I do not at all recall hearing Aretha’s cover of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” at the time, even though it went to No. 24 on the Twin Cities’ KDWB. (I don’t think I heard that meditative take on Paul Simon’s masterpiece until I sought it out after reading a Dave Marsh piece about it during the early 1990s.) The flipside went unheard until the Nineties as well.

The others, though, would make up a more than pleasant stretch of listening. My favorites among them? The Stones, Ringo, the Carole King A-side and the Carpenters. And not much has changed today. Those four are in my current day-to-day listening in the iPod, along with “Want Ads” and “Joy To The World.” (I maybe should add “I Feel The Earth Move.” We’ll see.)

Now to our other business, checking out the No. 50 record from fifty years ago. And we find a slow and sad piece of soul from an artist who doesn’t show up here very often: “I Cried” by James Brown. There are several videos of the tune at YouTube, and under one of them, a commenter said, “This is how you sing a soul song.” I agree. (The record went no higher in the Hot 100, but it did go to No. 15 on the magazine’s R&B chart.)

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