I think that Rock and Rock n’ Roll music has a life all its own. I can remember the last generation calling it “Jungle music” and “Garbage” as they compared it to the music of their youth with performers like Frank Sinatra, Perry Como and the like. I guess that some of that could be true, but in the end, each generation has a message, a soul that is fed by music, by lyrics and by our own revered performers. No doubt the movements of the sixties and the seventies brought a message to our songs and influenced it heavily. But later, that era has been immortalized further if that can be true by songs paying homage to the songs and the performers. Now I hope that I have piqued your interest. If so, then read on and you’ll see what I mean.
LIFE IS A ROCK – Reunion/Joey Levine
For those of you who don’t know, Joey Levine was a singer who gave us such great hits as, “Yummy, yummy,yummy, I got love in my tummy” and some other bubblegum type tunes. “Life is a rock but the radio rolled me. Gotta turn it up louder so my DJ told me,” not really a composition that gets remembered like others, but here, Levine and his backups really dove into some history and sort of in rap fashion lines up a wild roster of rock and roll legends like Nilsson, Mott the Hoople, Richie Valens, and then goes into some period dances like the locomotion and the shimmy, and then goes further and hits on FM and AM radio, greeting and salutations, take me higher and rolls right back into Leon Russell. Even Doris Day gets a mention. It is a very imaginative song that reflects music and trends as well as a life long past.
ROCK & ROLL HEAVEN – The Righteous Brothers.
“If you believe in forever, then life is just a one night stand.” This is the opening line to a song that lovingly brings you to a few musical eras. It is a tribute to so many great performers like Otis Redding, Janis Joplin, Bobby Darin and others. Each mention is of a different genre, a different style but a simple, unique measure of greatness and influence. Delivered masterfully by this blue-eyed soul group this is a tribute like no other because of the range of artists it covers. Listen to it a few times so you can really appreciate not only musicians named, but also to listen to a really great song, two perfectly blended voices and a journey through a time in music that has since not been matched.
EMPTY GARDEN – Elton John
The ultimate tribute to John Lennon. The music, the lyrics and the symbolism all merge into what is actually an excellent tune that tugs at your heartstrings. There were a few songs released about Lennon’s murder the best known other than this, “All Those Years Ago” by George Harrison, but this is the definitive one, personifying Lennon as a farmer, “A gardener that cared a lot…a gardener like that no one can replace. Elton John wrote and recorded tributes to Marilyn Monroe and then rewrote that one for Princess Diana, but this one song of his really hits home and uses symbolism just perfectly which is kind of a symbol in itself for that time in our lives.
VINCENT – Don McLean
Think of Don McLean and your immediate thought goes to “American Pie” a song about the day the music died in a plane crash taking the lives of Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and The Big Bopper. A great song it is but I think that with this one, about the tortured life of Vincent Van Gogh, McLean hit an even higher point. Maybe because of the subject matter which opened our eyes to mental illness and how it had been a problem for so many in the past. Here he paints a picture of the artist and his work while all the while Van Gogh lived in virtual poverty and suffered immeasurably. One of the last lines of the song, “I could have told you Vincent, this world was never meant for one as beautiful as you,” is an even sadder comment than the one that mentions the fact that Van Gogh did kill himself. But the lyrics, the background music and McLean’s voice all blend to make this a very powerful ballad, a tribute to a man whose greatness was only realized after his death, and a soulful almost haunting comment on his life and struggles.
ABRAHAM, MARTIN and JOHN – Dion DiMucci
Better known only as Dion, formerly as Dion and the Belmonts, this Bronx born Rock and Roll idol put it all together in one of my favorite songs of all time. Often called the “Liberal’s Lament” this song deals with the tragic deaths of three American leaders, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy. Each one is praised in this song as a leader, as a person who fought for freedom and was killed before his dream could be realized. It is kind of a quirky song though because each verse is virtually the same and it ends with the three of them walking over a hill as they wander into history. “Didn’t you love the things that they stood for…”
So, there you have it, a nice list of songs you can listen to on maybe a rainy day to bring back some memories of your youth. In a way they may bring a tear to your eye, but that’s okay. They were written and performed as a tribute, and like any tribute, those being feted were no longer with us. There are a lot of others too. Maybe some other time.