Classic Rock And Pop Music Blog

Category: Genre Playlist

This Land Is Your Land – American Folk Music Celebration

The inspiration for this playlist was my neighbor, who casually commented on one of my blog posts that she only knew folk music.  As my “about me” blog entry states “I often think in music. I live my daydreams in music.  I see my life in terms of music.” (Albert Einstein), I of course thought what a great idea for a new playlist!

American folk music encompasses several musical genres.  Songs tend to be traditional, often sung for generations, many tracing root back to Great Britain, mainland Europe, or Africa.  Non-electrified instruments are the norm in folk music, including acoustic guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, upright bass, harmonica, and hand percussion. Mike Seeger, folk musician and half-brother to perhaps the most famous folk musician Pete Seeger, offered that American folk music is “all the music that fits between the cracks.”

In Folk Music, the earth sings, the mountains sing, the rivers flow, the crops sing.

Gandhi

I think American folk music can be described by paraphrasing US Supreme Court Justice Potter Stewart’s famous 1964 quote to describe his threshold test for obscenity “I know it when I see it.”  I can’t fully define the parameters that define folk music, but “I know it when I hear it.” 

American folk music is a broad musical genre drawn from a wide array of musical traditions from populations and ethnic groups.  It includes several genres and themes, such as Appalachian music, bluegrass, railroad songs, protest songs, cowboy songs, and sea shanties.

Rising to popularity first in the 1930s thanks to the Carter Family, with songs such as “Will The Circle Be Unbroken.”  In the 1960s, folk music became a part of pop culture, with themes including the Civil Rights Movement as well as countercultural influences.  Popular folk singers included Pete Seeger, Woody Guthrie, Joan Baez, Joni Mitchell, Peter, Paul & Mary, John Denver, Arlo Guthrie.  Also popular were The Kingston Trio, The Serendipity Singers, The Journeyman, The New Christy Minstrel, The Seekers, The Brothers Four, The Limelighters, and The Rooftop Singers.  Some folk blues and folk country artists appear, including Lead Belly, Mississippi John Hurt, Doc Watson, and Roy Acuff.  And even more mainstream folk and pop artists included Bob Dylan, Simon & Garfunkel, The Byrds, The Youngbloods, Crosby Stills & Nash, The Mamas & The Papas.  The Singer-Songwriters of the 70’s and 80’s, think Cat Stevens, James Taylor, Carole King, Jim Croce, Gordon Lightfoot, Harry Chapin, Don McLean, Dan Fogelberg, Tracy Chapman, often had folk offerings, though with a bit more of a pop sound, as part of their repertoire.  The folk tradition is being carried on by some current artists, including the likes of Bruce Springsteen, The Old Crow Medicine Show, Nickel Creek, Dave Rawlings, Sean Rowe, and Gillian Welch.

Music Themes include:

Spirituals, originating with white ministers setting European folk melodies to religious lyrics, as well as African American adaptations with themes including slavery and emancipation, such as “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “Go Tell It On The Mountain,” and “We Shall Overcome,”

Work Songs, including Cowboy Songs and Sea Shanties which functioned to lighten the burden of work and keep rhythm as a team, such as “Blow The Man Down” and “Shenandoah,” as well as Railroad Songs, such as “The Ballad of John Henry” and “Frieght Train.”

Protest songs were prominent in the 60s, with the very popular songs “If I Had A Hammer,” “Blowin’ In The Wind,” “The Times They Are A Changin,” and “Where Have All The Flowers Gone.”

Appalachian Music, such as “Wabash Cannonball” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken”, with popular artists including the Carter Family and Doc Watson, influencing country artists such as Roy Acuff, Earl Scruggs, as well as Folk and Rock artists Bob Dylan and Bruce Springsteen, all included in this playlist.

My Spotify folk playlist “This Land Is Your Land” is organized (if you have the premium version of Spotify) as follows:

Standout folk songs: a collection of my favorites, by great folk artists

Female folk songs: a very “easy listening” style of folk

Wow, Mama Cass, Joni Mitchell – singing “Both Sides Now” and Mary Travers all in one room together:

And the same song from the Apple TV Academy Award winning movie CODA:

Pop/mainstream folk song: very pop styling, by the likes of The Byrds, Simon & Garfunkel, Gordon Lightfoot, and CSN (though a very limited selection of CSN songs on Spotify since Neil Young withdrew most of his music in protest of Spotify COVID misinformation podcasts)

Holy 60’s, Batman, check out The Byrds version of “The Times They Are A Changin’”

Guys & Gals folk songs: often lamenting lost love, unrequited love, bad blokes, or just songs in celebration of men and women.  Some of these are lots of fun, such as “Old Dan Tucker,” “Buffalo Gals,” “Cotton Eyed Joe,” “Clementine,” “Oh, Suzannah,” “Tom Dooley,” and “Mr. Bojangles.”

What a cool duet by James Taylor and Johnny Cash of “Oh, Susannah”:

Location folk songs: often invoking the countryside or wilderness, though sometimes cities, including “Angel From Montgomery,” “Coming Into Los Angeles,” “Cumberland Gap,” “Rocky Mountain High,” and “Yellow Rose of Texas.”

And who can forget Bonnie Raitt’s version of “Angel From Montgomery” from the No Nukes concert:

Railroad folk songs: with images of the railway or travel, such as “500 Miles,” “Freight Train,” and “Hobo’s Lullaby.”

And this version of “500 Miles” shocked me, performed by Justin Timberlake (really!):

Water and Sea folk songs: with images of sailing, the ocean or rivers, with “Calypso,” “Blow The Man Down,” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

I haven’t seen this Netflix series yet, but the cast sure does a great job singing “Blow The Man Down.”  You can see how these functioned as work songs:

Spiritual folk songs: including “Michael Row The Boat Ashore,” “Swing Low Sweet Chariot,” “I Saw The Light,” and “We Shall Overcome.”

Yet another movie I need to see, about Hank Williams, “I Saw The Light” (song clip at the end):

Assorted folk songs: more great folk songs by a variety of artists

“It Ain’t Me Babe” – Johnny Cash (covered by Joaquin Phoenix in Walk The Line)

Singer-songwriter folk songs: 70s and 80s singer-songwriters sang folk style and themed songs in their repertoire, such as James Taylor, Jim Croce, Don McLean, Harry Chapin, Dan Fogelberg, Carole King, and Tracy Chapman.

Kind of a cool video with a historical perspective of Dan Fogelberg’s “Sutter’s Mill.”  Again a true folk theme:

Modern folk songs: 21st century folk songs by contemporary artists including Bruce Springsteen, The Old Crow Medicine Show, Nickel Creek, Dave Rawlings, Gillian Welch and Sean Rowe.

I love Darius Rucker’s version of “Wagon Wheel” just as much as Old Crow Medicine Show’s.  From his video, you can see how well its theme fits into the folk genre.

I hope you have as much fun exploring this folk music as I have.

I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew.  Rediscover the passion of music in your life.

Live in the moment.

Enjoy the moment.

Love the moment.

Listen to the MUSIC!

I Won’t Forget You – Tribute to my brother Bob

Out of the blue, on December 28, 1989, my younger brother Bob and one of his friends died tragically in a house fire.  Today is thus the 32 anniversary of that awful, life-changing day.  My younger brother lived life loud and large.  He was a mid to late 80’s hair metal music fan, and got me listening to the likes of Motley Crue, Ratt, Cinderella, Tesla, Dokken, and even Ygwie Malmsteen.

He also liked a range of artists in other genres, such as Elton John’s pop, Duran Duran’s techno-pop, Van Halen and Bon Jovi’s hard rock.  He actually went to Live Aid in Philadelphia in 1985 with me, my brother, and my Uncle Joey, who had attended Woodstock when just 16, which I think helped give him a bigger appreciation of some of the bands of the 70’s and 80’s that were perhaps a bit before his time.

Uncle Joey & Bob awaiting entry to Live Aid ’85

As I have previously related in my blog (see October 6, 2021 blog “Dance With My Father & Big Bad John – Tribute to Dad”) music has the ability to comfort, console, and heal.  I had previously shared a playlist of music that reminded me of my dad or helped me process my grief after his death.  Again I will cite Albert Einstein, “I often think in music.  I live my daydreams in music.  I see my life in terms of music.”  So it is not surprising that after my brother died, I found it therapeutic to make a mixed tape (pre-music streaming or even CD burning) of music that he liked and/or somehow seemed fitting for dying unexpectedly at a young age in a house fire. 

I titled the cassette “Out Of The Blue” after the David Gilmour song of the same name. The first 22 songs of this now 130+ song playlist comprised the original cassette tape offerings. The rest of the songs were added to the Spotify playlist as popular songs by many of his favorite artists. “Out Of The Blue” summarized my grief and emotions soon after the fire and loss of my brother:

Out of the blue on the wings of a dove
A messenger comes, with the beating of drums
It’s not a message of love

Our children are born, and we keep them warm
They must have the right, to live in the light
To be safe from the storm

Out of the blue, with wings on his heels
A messenger comes, bearing regrets
For the time that he steals

But steal it he will, my children’s and mine
Against our desires, against all our needs
Our blood spilled like wine
Over and over we call, no one hears
And further and further and further we fall
And though we pray that we soon will awake
It is clear, that it’s no dream at all
Our lives are at stake

I cannot believe, nor even pretend
That the thunder I hear, will just disappear
And the nightmare will end

So hold back the fire, because this music is true
When all’s said and done, the ending will come
From out of the blue

And with losing him to a house fire, Bon Jovi’s “Silent Night” was too hauntingly familiar:

After the smoke clears
When it’s down to you and I
When the sun appears
And there’s nothing left but good-byes
We’ll just turn and walk away
How could we let it end like this
Just turn and walk away
Should we seal it with a kiss”

Also fitting was a song he had quoted in some of his writings, Yngwie Malmsteen’s “Dreaming (Tell Me):

“Shades of night, fall upon my eyes 
Lonely world fades away 
Misty light, shadows start to rise 
Lonely world fades away. 

In my dreams your face is all I see 
Through the night you share your love with me.
 

Dreaming visions of you 
Feeling all the love I never knew.”

As a teen who turned his life around, deciding to put effort into his repeating senior year of high school, improving from failing most classes to strait A’s, this song, by Led Zep drummer John Bonham’s son Jason’s band Bonham seemed fitting:

“Walking down that road
Of no tomorrows
Spend up my time
Living for today
Well, I got a long way to go
And I know it ain’t easy
But that’s okay


Lookin’ at my dreams
Oh so near
To where I want to be once again
I’m gonna hold on with all the rest I’m givin’ in
Oh, you gotta fight to win


Oh, doncha think about it
What you could
What you could do with your life
Oh, you must think about it
Sometimes, sometimes


Keep it up
Up so high
Reach for the sky
Never give up
Keep it up
Up so high
Reach for the sky
Never give up”

Poison’s  “Every Rose Has It’s Thorn” maintained the sorrowful mood:

“Every rose has its thorn
Just like every night has its dawn
Just like every cowboy sings his sad, sad song
Every rose has its thorn

Though it’s been a while now
I can still feel so much pain
Like a knife that cuts you the wound heals
But the scar, that scar remains”

And a verse of “I Won’t Forget You” seemed appropriate as well:

“… Late at night I close my eyes
And think of how things could have been
And when I look back
I remember some words you had said to me

… It’s better to have lost at love
Then never to have loved at all

… I won’t forget you baby
(I won’t forget you)”

A few lines of Cinderella’s “You Don’t Know What You’ve Got (Till It’s Gone)” again seemed fitting.

“I can’t feel the things that cause you pain
I can’t clear my heart of your love, it falls like rain
Ain’t the same

I hear you calling far away
Tearing through my soul, I just can’t take another day”

“Nobody’s Fool” is yet another of their great power ballads:

Rounding out the mid-80’s hair band of Poison and Cinderella were Motley Crue (video further below) and Ratt, with their video “Round And Round” featuring old-school comedian Milton Berle.  The song has been featured in the series “Supernatural” and “Stranger Things,” and video games Grand Theft Auto and Guitar Hero.

He introduced me to Yngwie Malmsteen, whose neoclassical playing style in heavy metal.  Be sure to give a listen to “Arpeggios From Hell” on the Spotify playlist.  His “Rising Force” video is spectacular.

And “Heaven Tonight” is probably Yngwie’s most popular song:

And from Breakfast Club, Simple Minds‘ “Don’t You (Forget About Me)” seemed appropriate.

Bon Jovi‘s “Wanted, Dead or Alive”:

Queen‘s “Who Wants To Live Forever” from Highlander, such a good cult movie of the 80’s, a must watch if you haven’t seen it.

Def Leppard‘s “Rock Of Ages”, which is, interestingly enough, quoted in “Highlander” when the gorgon says “I’ve got something to say – it’s better to burn out than fade away”:

My older brother and I along with some friends took Bob when he was around 10 years old to see “American Werewolf in London.”  He was so terrified that he was in tears, and I had to take him to the lobby of Vernon Cine and call home on a pay phone (well before the time of cell phones) and have my mom and dad come pick him up.

Warren Zevon’s “Werewolves of London” is prominently featured in the movie, as well as CCR’s “Bad Moon Rising”:

Fast forward a few years, and he couldn’t get enough of scary and even slasher movies.  Halloween became his favorite holiday (even once dressing as a street walker), followed closely by Christmas. 

Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” was an early favorite of his (he even had a MJ phase of dressing for a bit!):

Then zombie movies (or dressing like a zombie, above), featured in Billy Idol’s “Dancing With Myself”:

And eventually even Freddie Kruger couldn’t scare him.  He not only liked the movie, but also the band Dokken, who’s song “Dream Warriors” was prominently featured:

After his dog “Skippy” died when he was younger, he found solace in Elton John’s “I Guess That’s Why They Call It The Blues” which featured Stevie Wonder on harmonica. He also liked Elton’s “Sad Songs Say So Much” on the follow-up album a few years later:

He also loved Duran Duran.  The “Hungry Like The Wolf” video was filmed in Sri Lanka, with a distinctively “Raiders of the Lost Ark” vibe, and won the very first Grammy Award for Best Short Form Music Video in 1984:

Bob also had an attraction to girls, and vice versa.  He was a true chick magnet.  He loved girl videos, part of the decade of excess misogynistic 80’s.  Such videos included:

Motley Crue‘s “Girls, Girls, Girls”:

ZZ Top‘s “Legs” (I remember him asking me to guess who was singing “Rough Boy”, and it blew me away that it was ZZ Top, not their characteristic southern rock/blues sound):

Van Halen’s “Hot For Teacher”, a video which almost every teen guy in the 80’s couldn’t get enough of.  David Lee Roth was debauched, but made it seem so lighthearted and funny and innocent that he got away with his sexist, irreverent humor, probably wouldn’t be able to this day in age:

David Lee Roth with his solo offering “California Girls”, a remake of the Beach Boys classic:

I will be seeing David Lee Roth for his last hurrah, his last concerts at House Of Blues in Las Vegas New Years Eve.  I heard that the last Van Halen tour, before Eddie died, that the band and Sammy Hagar was great, but David was awful, usually drunk, forgetting the lyrics, a big mess.  I am hopeful that he realizes that he needs to leave on a high note, and Mandalay Bay and House of Blues will try to keep him in line and sober to wow the audience on his last go-round.  I’ll update the blog post after the concert.

The last few songs on the list seemed to fit the theme of the tribute, though they were released a year or two after he died, including Poison’s “Something To Believe In,” Ozzy’s “Mama, I’m Coming Home,” and Queensryche’s “Silent Lucidity.”  I know they are songs my brother would have loved.

I do worry about the burden the fire has placed on my older brother John, and Bob’s friends Craig and Justin, narrowly escaping the ravages of the fire, and unable to aid Bob and Michael despite their efforts. I fear it weighs heavily on their hearts, though it was not their fault. It was out of their control. Yet they likely carry the weight and trauma of the tragedy with them still. This scene from the Netflix series “Daredevil”, where Matt states “God’s plan is like a beautiful tapestry, and the tragedy of being human is that we only get to see it from the back, with all the ragged threads and muddy colors. We only get a hint of the true beauty that would be revealed if we could see the whole pattern on the other side as God does” can help us make sense of such tragedies in life.

I miss him, and think of him often.  I sometimes wonder what he’d be doing had he lived.  While we didn’t always see eye to eye, toward the end we appreciated each others’ talents and gifts.  He was large (over 6’ 1”, to my 5’ 4”), loud, obnoxious, funny, caring, and troubled, but he was changing, evolving, excelling, and finding direction, just in time for dying an untimely death.  He lived life to its fullest, cramming a lot into his 19 years of life.  It was as though he knew he didn’t have a full lifetime to live.  As the cars processed from the church to the cemetery for his funeral, half the procession took a wrong turn.  I think he had the last laugh.

And now for the playlist – pretty killer of hair-band songs and then some from the 80’s.  Here to lots of great memories of a larger than life personality, my younger brother Bob.

Just Can’t Get Enough & This Is The Day – Techno-Pop & New Wave Retrospective

For today’s blog playlist entries, I thought I’d focus on a sub-genre of 80’s New Wave music.  New Wave was popularized in the late 70’s and 80’s as a post-punk rock catch-all for almost anything that wasn’t classic rock, progressive rock, hard rock, heavy metal, or punk.  Techno-pop, also known as Synth-pop, short for synthesizer pop is a subgenre of new wave of that era as well.  Less guitar oriented in nature, it featured synthesizer as the most dominant musical instrument.  Synthesizer use had become more common in progressive rock with bands such as Emerson, Lake & Palmer, Pink Floyd, and Yes, as well as in disco.  It later gave way to true Techno and House Music in the late 80’s.  But not before creating some incredible, memorable music that was part of the fabric of the 80’s.  Who can forget stepping into the storybook to “Take On Me”:

“I Feel Love” by Donna Summer included in this playlist, would be a major influence on the later sound of Techno-pop.  David Bowie’s sound of the late 70’s adopted was also influential.  Early acts including Kraftwerk, Ultravox, and Gary Numan paved the way for later groups such as Flock of Seagulls, Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark, Soft Cell, Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, Erasure, with many New Wave bands such as The Cars, Duran Duran, The Fixx, INXS, Talking Heads, and Tears for Fears incorporating synth sound in a more accessible rock or pop presentation.  It was an international phenomenon, though dominated by Western Europe, with Kraftwerk, Alphaville (German), Telex (Belgian), Yello (Switzerland), A-Ha (Norwegian), Blancmange, Bronski Beat, Erasure, Flock of Seagulls, OMD, Pet Shop Boys, Soft Cell, Thompson Twins, Ultravox (British), Howard Jones (Welsh), with fewer popular North American counterparts such as Men Without Hats (Canadian) and Devo (American).

Of course several of these acts performed at Live Aid, including Duran Duran, Howard Jones, Spandau Ballet, Thompson Twins, and Ultravox.  When it comes to Techno-pop, perhaps I just can’t get enough!

Also included today is a compilation of some 80’s moody new wave faves of mine from college, that likely defies classification as a true genre, but is perhaps more an expansion of John Hughes’ “Pretty In Pink” Soundtrack, if you will, somewhat of an 80’s post-punk mood music.  It includes a bands with intriguing names, especially “The The,” reportedly decided upon to have a name even more detached than “The Band” (Robbie Robertson’s band that started out and gained fame as Bob Dylan’s backup band, feeling most band names childish, and choosing what most fans called them when backing Dylan – the band, pretty anonymous…). “This Is The Day” even spawned an M&M Commercial in 2007:

Interesting band names perhaps should be the theme, with “Boomtown Rats” (a gang from Woody Guthrie’s fictionalized autobiography “Bound for Glory”), “The Church” (shortened from “The Church of Men”), “Echo & The Bunnymen” (just a name “as stupid as the rest” of the suggestions by one of their mates), “The Psychedelic Furs” (from The Velvet Underground song “Venus in Furs”). I hope you enjoy this one as much as I do.

Comments are not only welcomed but encouraged.  Let’s dialogue about great music.

I hope that this music and my blog truly serve as a “revival: a new presentation of something old,” a springboard to return to the music of your youth, or perhaps to find artists you want to discover anew.  Rediscover the passion of music in your life.

Live in the moment

Enjoy the moment

Love the moment

Listen to the MUSIC!

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