The Sunday Six

Celebrating music with six random tracks at a time

Another Sunday is upon us, and the show must go on with a new explorative trip to celebrate great music of the past and present, six tunes at a time. This installment of The Sunday Six strikes out broadly, touching the ’40s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s and 2017. Let’s do it!

Ry Cooder/I Think It’s Going to Work Out Fine

I’d like to start today’s journey with some beautiful instrumental music by Ry Cooder. I believe the first time I heard of him was in connection with the great 1984 Wim Wenders motion picture Paris, Texas, for which Cooder wrote the score. This is some of the best acoustic slide guitar-playing I’ve heard to date – if you don’t know the movie’s score, check it out! In addition to 17 film scores, the versatile Cooder has released the same amount of solo albums since his 1970 eponymous debut. Not surprisingly, Cooder has also collaborated with the likes of John Lee Hooker, The Rolling Stones, Randy Newman, Linda Ronstadt, David Lindley and numerous other artists. This brings me to Bop Till You Drop, Cooder’s eighth solo album from July 1979, which I received as a gift in the late ’80s from my longtime German music buddy and former bandmate. Here’s Cooder’s great instrumental rendition of It’s Gonna Work Out Fine. Written by Rose Marie McCoy and Joe Seneca, the tune first appeared as a single by Ike & Tina Turner in June 1961.

The Animals/It’s My Life

After a gentle start, I’d like to step on the gas a bit with one of my favorite ’60s blues rock and R&B bands: The Animals. Not surprisingly, I’ve covered the British group’s music on various previous occasions, which among others include this Sunday Six installment and this post dedicated to their original lead vocalist Eric Burdon, one of the best British blues vocalists I can think of! It’s My Life first came out as a single in October 1965. Notably, it was penned by Roger Atkins and Carl D’Errico. This was not the only time Brill Building songwriters wrote a tune for the group. In May 1966, The Animals released another single, Don’t Bring Me Down, co-written by Gerry Goffin and Carole King. It’s My Life was also included on the band’s first compilation The Best of The Animals, which appeared in the U.S. only in February 1966. I’ve always loved this great psychedelic-flavored tune.

Steve Winwood/Roll With It

When it comes to Steve Winwood, I generally prefer his early years with The Spencer Davis Group, Traffic and Blind Faith over his oftentimes more pop-oriented solo period. Perhaps the biggest exception is Windwood’s fifth solo album Roll With It from June 1988. While undoubtedly influenced by ’80s pop, this record is also quite soulful. It became his most successful album, topping the Billboard 200 in the U.S. and reaching no. 4 in the UK, with more than three million copies having been sold. Here’s the excellent opener and title track, a co-write by Winwood and Will Jennings. Subsequently, Motown songwriters Holland-Dozier-Holland received a co-credit due to the tune’s similarities publishing rights organization BMI saw to (I’m a) Roadrunner, which had been a hit in 1966 for Junior Walker & the Allstars.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe/Strange Things Happening Every Day

Next let’s turn to a trailblazer and true rock & roll pioneer, the amazing Sister Rosetta Tharpe. While John Lennon famously said, “If you were to try to give rock & roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry,” one of the genre’s early pioneers we must not forget was Tharpe. The prominent gospel singer started playing the guitar as a four-year-old and began her recording career at age 23 in 1938. She was one of the first popular recording artists using electric guitar distortion. Her technique had a major influence on British guitarists like Eric ClaptonJeff Beck and Keith Richards. She also influenced many artists in the U.S., including Elvis PresleyLittle Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis and Chuck Berry, to name a few. Tharpe has been called “the original soul sister” and “the godmother of rock & roll.” Unfortunately, her health declined prematurely and she passed away from a stroke in 1973 at the untimely age of 58. In May 2018, Tharpe was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame as an Early Influence. Here’s Strange Things Happening Everyday, originally a traditional African American spiritual that became a hit for Tharpe in 1945. This recording is historic, as it’s considered to be one of the very first rock & roll songs. Tharpe’s remarkable guitar-playing, including her solos, distorted sound and bending of strings, is more pronounced on later tunes, but you can already hear some of it here. Check out this clip and tell me this amazing lady didn’t rock!

Prince/Cream

For this next pick, I’m jumping 46 years forward to 1991. Prince is an artist I’ve always respected for his remarkable versatility and amazing guitar skills, though I can’t say I’m an all-out fan. But I really like some of his songs. I must also add I’ve not explored his catalog in greater detail. It was largely my aforementioned German music buddy who introduced me to Prince. I recall listening together to his ninth studio Sign o’ the Times from March 1987. Cream, off Diamonds and Pearls that appeared in October 1991, is a tune I well remember hearing on the radio back in Germany. Based on Wikipedia’s singles chart, it looks like the song was Prince’s first big hit in the ’90s. Among others, it topped the U.S. charts, climbed to no. 2 in Canada and Australia, and reached the top 5 in France, Switzerland and Sweden. Here’s the official video. The actual tune starts at about 2:05 minutes into the clip. Sadly, we lost Prince way too early in April 2016 at age 57.

Greta Van Fleet/Safari Song

Last but not least, I’d like to turn to Greta Van Fleet, one of the contemporary bands that give me hope classic rock isn’t entirely dead yet. L.A. rockers Dirty Honey are another great example in this context. Greta Van Fleet were formed in Frankenmuth, Mich. in 2012 by brothers Josh Kiszka (lead vocals), Jake Kiszka (guitars, backing vocals) and Sam Kiszka (bass, keyboards, backing vocals), along with Kyle Hauck (drums). Other than Hauck who was replaced by Danny Wagner in 2013, the band’s line-up hasn’t changed. The group has been criticized by some as a Led Zeppelin knock-off, and the tune I’m featuring here probably is part of the reason. Selfishly, I don’t care since in my book, Zep are one of the greatest rock bands of all time. I would also add Greta Van Fleet’s sound has evolved since their early days. To me, their most recent album The Battle at Garden’s Gate from April 2021 bears very little if any resemblance to Zep. Here’s Safari Song, Greta’s second single released in October 2017. Credited to all members of the band, it was also included on their debut EP Black Smoke Rising that had come out in April of the same year. This just rocks and I could care less about the critics!

Here’s a playlist featuring all of the above tracks.

Sources: Wikipedia; YouTube; Spotify

16 thoughts on “The Sunday Six”

  1. Ry Cooder also went to Cuba and came out with Buena Vista Social Club. He’s a quality musician for sure. Great Animals tune; I think you know how much I enjoy Eric Burdon’s voice (“Spill the Wine”.) I’m sure I’ve done aerobics to the Winwood tune. Sister Rosetta Tharpe sounds like a merry mix of gospel, r&r, and boogie woogie. Good stuff! Anything Prince is fine by me. He’s such a talented creator and performer. Gone way way way too soon 😦 Greta Van Fleet: I keep seeing that name around but this is the first time hearing them. Zep is the first thing I thought. My statement about that is what’s wrong with more Zep? Not a thing. Yay! Glad you shared this tune. Very awesome that they are from Michigan and the home of Bronners, the world’s biggest Christmas store. I loved every tune on your playlist this week, Christian.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thanks – wow, six out of six, I take it, Lisa! 🙂

      When I read the name of Greta’s hometown Frankenmuth, I kept thinking this sounds very German. Prompted by your comment, I just did what I should have done in the first place. I checked out Frankenmuth on Wikipedia.

      It turns out I was correct. Apparently, Frankenmuth’s nickname is “Little Bavaria,” since the original settlers came from the Bavarian Province of Franconia. Have you ever been to Frankenmuth?

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Cool history of the name. I’ve been there once (maybe twice?) to Bronners. The town as I remember it is very small but I hear the chicken dinners are out of this world good at one of the restaurants there.

        Liked by 2 people

    1. Agree. She was a true rock & roll trailblazer who I feel oftentimes gets forgotten. Have you ever seen the below clip?

      To start with, how cool is that white SG? And what she is playing. Some of this sounds like Chuck Berry and the early British blues guitarists!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. People were talking so much shit about Greta Van fleet being a Led Zeppelin rip off that I was shocked that I liked it the first time I heard them. They do it really well I think . And I’d rather hear someone singing like Robert Plant than hear all these other crappy singers who are around today. Same thing with their music, which isn’t bad either.
    And along with It’s My Life, the other great Brill Building song by The Animals is We Gotta Get Out of This Place. I think those are their two best songs, other than House of the rising Sun.
    I think Roll With It by Steve winwood is pretty good too.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Right, Cynthia Weil and Barry Mann – forgot about them and agree “We Gotta Get Out of This Place” is one of The Animals’ gems.

      It’s really amazing how many famous composers and lyricists were associated with The Brill Building – a true music hit factory in the late ’50s and ’60s.

      Like

    1. Thanks, I’m with you on Greta. I never had any issue that some of their songs sound like Zep.

      I think part of the criticism may have been inadvertently fueled by Robert Plant who during a 2018 interview said Greta sounded like Led Zeppelin I and called lead vocalist Josh Kiszka “a beautiful little singer”.

      His comments were prompted by a question about up-and-coming rock & roll he liked, so think he meant it in a positive way.

      Liked by 3 people

  3. A great array of songs Christian, as always. I’ve never explored much of Ry Cooder’s music, though I’ve liked those I’ve heard. Love The Animals and Steve Winwood, and “Roll With It” was one of my favorite songs of the 80s. I practically wore out my copy of his 1986 album “Back in the High Life”. I loved Prince’s early music from the 80s, but wasn’t wild about his later stuff. And I loved Greta Van Fleet the moment I heard their first hit “Highway Tune”.

    Like

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