Stray Cat Strut

Stray Cat Strut is the eighth track on the Stray Cats’ debut album, Stray Cats, released in 1981 in the UK, where it peaked at No. 11. That same year it peaked at No.78 on US Dance/Disco chart, where it was released as an import record. In the US, the song was released in 1982 on Built for Speed. The song became a hit in the US, peaking at No. 3 on the Billboard Hot 100.

The music video for the song received extensive airplay on MTV during the channel’s early days. The video consisted of band members (and extras) performing in an alley while an irate resident throws things at them. It also featured scenes from the 1949 MGM cartoon Bad Luck Blackie.

In the October 1998 issue of Guitar World magazine, Brian Setzer’s solo from “Stray Cat Strut” ranked No. 92 on the “Top 100 Guitar Solos of All Time” list. (source: Wikipedia)

Killing Me Softly With His Song

“Killing Me Softly with His Song” is a song composed by Charles Fox with lyrics by Norman Gimbel.

The song was written in collaboration with Lori Lieberman, who recorded the song in late 1971. In 1973 it became a number-one hit in the US and Canada for Roberta Flack, also reaching number six in the UK Singles Chart. The song has since been covered by numerous artists, including the version by the Fugees, which won the 1997 Grammy for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

Lieberman was the first to record the song in late 1971, releasing it in early 1972. Helen Reddy has said she was sent the song, but “the demo… sat on my turntable for months without being played because I didn’t like the title”.

Roberta Flack first heard the song on an airline, when the Lieberman original was featured on the in-flight audio program. After scanning the listing of available audio selections, Flack would recall: “The title, of course, smacked me in the face. I immediately pulled out some scratch paper, made musical staves then played the song at least eight to ten times jotting down the melody that I heard. When I landed, I immediately called Quincy Jones at his house and asked him how to meet Charles Fox. Two days later I had the music.” Shortly afterwards Flack rehearsed the song with her band in the Tuff Gong Studios in Kingston, Jamaica, but did not then record it.

Released in January 1973, Flack’s version spent a total of five non-consecutive weeks at #1 in February and March, more weeks than any other record in 1973, being bumped to number 2 by the O’Jays’ “Love Train” after four straight weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. Billboard ranked it as the No. 3 song for 1973. (source Wikipedia)

Blowin’ in the Wind

“Blowin’ in the Wind” is a song written by Bob Dylan in 1962 and released as a single and on his album The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan in 1963. Although it has been described as a protest song, it poses a series of rhetorical questions about peace, war and freedom. The refrain “The answer, my friend, is blowin’ in the wind” has been described as “impenetrably ambiguous: either the answer is so obvious it is right in your face, or the answer is as intangible as the wind”.

In 1994, the song was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. In 2004, it was ranked number 14 on Rolling Stone magazine’s list of the “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”.

Dylan originally wrote and performed a two-verse version of the song; its first public performance, at Gerde’s Folk City on April 16, 1962, was recorded and circulated among Dylan collectors. Shortly after this performance, he added the middle verse to the song. Dylan recorded “Blowin’ in the Wind” on July 9, 1962, for inclusion on his second album, The Freewheelin’ Bob Dylan, released in May 1963. (source: Wikipedia)

Autumn Leaves

“Autumn Leaves” is a popular song. Originally it was a 1945 French song, “Les Feuilles mortes” (literally “The Dead Leaves”), with music by Hungarian-French composer Joseph Kosma and lyrics by poet Jacques Prévert. The Hungarian title is “Hulló levelek” (Falling Leaves). Yves Montand (with Irène Joachim) introduced “Les feuilles mortes” in the film Les Portes de la nuit (1946).

The song is in AABC form. “Autumn Leaves” offers a popular way for beginning jazz musicians to become acquainted with jazz harmony as the chord progression consists almost solely of ii-V-I and ii-V sequences which are typical of jazz. It was originally, and is most commonly, performed in the key of G minor, but is also played in E minor and other keys. Eva Cassidy’s version (clip on the right) is played in B-flat minor. (source: Wikipedia)

Ain’t No Sunshine

Ain’t No Sunshine is a song by Bill Withers from his 1971 album Just As I Am, produced by Booker T. Jones. The record featured musicians Donald “Duck” Dunn on bass guitar, Al Jackson, Jr. on drums and Stephen Stills on guitar. String arrangements were done by Booker T. Jones, and recorded in Memphis by engineer Terry Manning. The song is in the key of A minor.

The song was released as a single in 1971, becoming a breakthrough hit for Withers, reaching number six on the U.S. R&B Chart and number three on the Billboard Hot 100 chart.

Withers was inspired to write this song after watching the 1962 movie Days of Wine and Roses. He explained, in reference to the characters played by Lee Remick and Jack Lemmon, “They were both alcoholics who were alternately weak and strong. It’s like going back for seconds on rat poison. Sometimes you miss things that weren’t particularly good for you. It’s just something that crossed my mind from watching that movie, and probably something else that happened in my life that I’m not aware of.”

For the song’s third verse, Withers had intended to write more lyrics instead of repeating the phrase “I know” 26 times, but then followed the advice of the other musicians to leave it that way: “I was this factory worker puttering around,” Withers said. “So when they said to leave it like that, I left it.”

Withers, then thirty-one years old, was working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s at the time he wrote the song. On the American Top 40 program of November 6, 1976, Casey Kasem reported that when the song went gold, the record company presented Withers with a golden toilet, marking the start of his new career. “Ain’t No Sunshine” was the first of Withers’ three gold records in the U.S. (source: Wikipedia)

Eleanor Rigby

“Eleanor Rigby” is a song by the Beatles, released on the 1966 album Revolver and as a 45 rpm single. It was written primarily by Paul McCartney, and credited to Lennon–McCartney.

The song continued the transformation of the Beatles from a mainly rock and roll- and pop-oriented act to a more experimental, studio-based band. With a double string quartet arrangement by George Martin and striking lyrics about loneliness, “Eleanor Rigby” broke sharply with popular music conventions, both musically and lyrically.

Richie Unterberger of AllMusic cites the band’s “singing about the neglected concerns and fates of the elderly” on the song as “just one example of why the Beatles’ appeal reached so far beyond the traditional rock audience”.

McCartney said he came up with the name “Eleanor” from actress Eleanor Bron, who had starred with the Beatles in the film Help!. “Rigby” came from the name of a store in Bristol, “Rigby & Evens Ltd, Wine & Spirit Shippers”, which he noticed while seeing his girlfriend of the time, Jane Asher, act in The Happiest Days of Your Life. He recalled in 1984, “I just liked the name. I was looking for a name that sounded natural. ‘Eleanor Rigby’ sounded natural.”

However, it has been pointed out that the graveyard of St Peter’s Church in Liverpool, where John Lennon and Paul McCartney first met at the Woolton Village garden fete in the afternoon of 6 July 1957, contains the gravestone of an individual called Eleanor Rigby. McCartney has conceded he may have been subconsciously influenced by the name on the gravestone. Although in 2008 he appeared to discard this theory, when a birth certificate was sold at auction of a woman named Eleanor Rigby, believing it to be the person in the song. McCartney thought it was ridiculous and stated in response that “Eleanor Rigby is a totally fictitious character that I made up” and “If someone wants to spend money buying a document to prove a fictitious character exists, that’s fine with me.” (source: Wikipedia)

Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)

Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy) is a song written and performed by John Lennon. It was released on the 1980 album Double Fantasy, the last album by Lennon and Ono released before his death.

Paul McCartney has stated this is one of his favourite songs composed by Lennon, and when he appeared on Desert Island Discs in 1982 included it as his favourite in his selection, as did Yoko Ono as the only John Lennon song in 2007.

The song was written for Lennon’s son Sean, his only child with Yoko Ono. It begins with John comforting his son from what is presumably a nightmare and develops into John passionately describing the love he has for his son and the joy Sean gave him.

At the end of the song, John Lennon whispers “Good night, Sean. See you in the morning. Bright and early.” in a similar fashion to what Ringo Starr whispers at the end of the Beatles song “Good Night”, which was a song written by John Lennon for his other son, Julian Lennon.

The lyrics of “Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)” contain the famous Lennon quote “Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” However, the expression of this sentiment can be traced back to a 1957 Reader’s Digest article, which attributes it to Allen Saunders. (source Wikipedia)

Silent Night

silentnightSilent Night (German: Stille Nacht, heilige Nacht) is a popular Christmas carol, composed in 1818 by Franz Xaver Gruber to lyrics by Joseph Mohr in the small town of Oberndorf bei Salzburg, Austria.

It was declared an intangible cultural heritage by UNESCO in 2011. The song has been recorded by a large number of singers from every music genre. The version sung by Bing Crosby is the third best-selling single of all-time.

The song was first performed on Christmas Eve 1818 at St Nicholas parish church in Oberndorf, a village in the Austrian Empire on the Salzach river in present-day Austria. A young priest, Father Joseph Mohr, had come to Oberndorf the year before. He had already written the lyrics of the song “Stille Nacht” in 1816 at Mariapfarr, the hometown of his father in the Salzburg Lungau region, where Joseph had worked as a co-adjutor.

The melody was composed by Franz Xaver Gruber, schoolmaster and organist in the nearby village of Arnsdorf. Before Christmas Eve, Mohr brought the words to Gruber and asked him to compose a melody and guitar accompaniment for the church service.[2] Both performed the carol during the mass on the night of December 24.

The original manuscript has been lost. However, a manuscript was discovered in 1995 in Mohr’s handwriting and dated by researchers at c. 1820. It shows that Mohr wrote the words in 1816 when he was assigned to a pilgrim church in Mariapfarr, Austria, and shows that the music was composed by Gruber in 1818. This is the earliest manuscript that exists and the only one in Mohr’s handwriting.

In 1859, the Episcopal priest John Freeman Young, then serving at Trinity Church, New York City, published the English translation that is most frequently sung today, using three of Gruber’s original six verses. The version of the melody that is generally used today is a slow, meditative lullaby or pastorale, differing slightly (particularly in the final strain) from Gruber’s original, which was a “moderato” tune in 6/8 time and siciliana rhythm.

The song was sung simultaneously in English and German by troops during the Christmas truce of 1914 during World War I, as it was one carol that soldiers on both sides of the front line knew.

Today, the lyrics and melody are in the public domain. (source Wikipedia)

Thanks to Crazy Orphelia for the nice art work 🙂

We Wish You A Merry Christmas

wewishyouamerrychristmasWe Wish You a Merry Christmas is a popular English Christmas carol from the West Country of England.

In 1935, Oxford University Press published a four-part choral arrangement by Arthur Warrell under the title “A Merry Christmas”, describing the piece as a “West Country Traditional Song”. Warrell’s arrangement is notable for using “I” instead of “we” in the lyrics; the first line is “I wish you a Merry Christmas”. It was subsequently republished in the collection Carols for Choirs (1961), and remains widely performed.

The earlier history of the carol is unclear. It is absent from the collections of West-countrymen Davies Gilbert (1822 and 1823) and William Sandys (1833), as well as from the great anthologies of Sylvester (1861) and Husk (1864). It is also missing from The Oxford Book of Carols (1928). In the comprehensive New Oxford Book of Carols (1992), editors Hugh Keyte and Andrew Parrott describe it as “English traditional” and “(t)he remnant of an envoie much used by wassailers and other luck visitors”; no source or date is given.

The greeting “a merry Christmas and a happy New Year” is recorded from 1740. The English custom of performing inside or outside homes in return for food and drink is illustrated in the short story The Christmas Mummers (1858) by Charlotte Yonge, in which a group of boys run to a farmer’s door and sing:

I wish you a merry Christmas
And a happy New Year,
A pantryful of good roast-beef,
And barrels full of beer.

After they are allowed in and perform a Mummers play, the boys are served beer by the farmer’s maid.

The origin of this Christmas carol lies in the English tradition wherein wealthy people of the community gave Christmas treats to the carolers on Christmas Eve, such as “figgy pudding” that was very much like modern-day Christmas puddings. A variety of nineteenth-century sources state that, in the West Country of England, “figgy pudding” referred to a raisin or plum pudding, not necessarily one containing figs. (source Wikipedia)