09 May 2008

Mix Tape Friday: Musical Roots

My life is ruled by my passions. I absolutely adore or abhor things. The passion that burns brightest — more than baubles, more than Favorite Boy’s four and a quarter above six feet, more than books or movies or margarita swirls — is music. It’s at the heart of everything I do. If I’m awake, I’m singing or humming or chair-dancing. If I’m asleep, my dreams are soundtracked with a wide variety of songs. I can introduce a musical reference in most conversations, and everyone at my company knows I’m the go-to for the best tune to open a presentation.

Where did this passion ignite?

In the womb. My mother has a musical soul — a trait her three children share, that my brother’s kids (especially my niece) have. My childhood memories are filled with the music she loved and we loved.

Mama was a great age for introducing me to all types of music — young enough to love Elvis and The Beatles, old enough to introduce us to Frank Sinatra and the standards she grew up hearing. Through her, I learned to love all genres of music — rock and pop, R&B and country, jazz standards and gospel.

The radio was always playing. If we were in the kitchen, cooking a meal or cleaning up, chances are we were singing. Music was — and is — a big part of our lives. The first concert was a family night out to see Willie Nelson with Waylon Jennings (and Leon Russell on piano). She gave us our first albums, and always took us to spend allowance on the latest 45 we couldn’t live without.

And so, on this Friday before Mother’s Day, I’m proud to publish this mix tape of her favorite songs, songs that remind me of her, songs that will always be special to me because they’re special to her.

The mix kicks off with the first song I remember loving: Ray Charles’ “Hit the Road, Jack.” My mother loved the song, and so I loved it. How could I not live a life of musical obsession when one of my earliest memories is loving that song?

Ray Charles :: Hit the Road, Jack

Little Richard :: Rip It Up

The Beatles :: Revolution

Rare Earth :: Get Ready

Steve Winwood :: Roll with It

Johnny Rivers :: Memphis

Elvis Presley :: That’s All Right, Mama

Van Morrison :: Blue Money

Michael Jackson :: Billy Jean

Parliament :: P. Funk (Wants to Get Funked Up)

Marvin Gaye :: I Heard It Through the Grapevine

Rod Stewart :: Maggie Mae

Carole King :: Smackwater Jack

Squeeze :: Tempted

Barry Manilow :: Copacabana (At the Copa)

Robert Klein + Lucie Arnaz :: They’re Playing Our Song

Lena Horne :: The Lady Is a Tramp

Billy Joel :: Only the Good Die Young

Neil Diamond :: Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show

Dionne Warwick :: I’ll Never Fall in Love Again

Bobbie Gentry + Glen Campbell :: Little Green Apples

ABBA :: Fernando

Fats Domino :: Blueberry Hill

Etta James :: At Last

Frank Sinatra :: Stars Fell on Alabama

Kevin Kline :: La Mer

Bryan Ferry :: Falling in Love Again

Willie Nelson :: I’d Have to Be Crazy

The Platters :: Smoke Gets in Your Eyes

Elton John :: Someone Saved My Life Tonight

Gladys Knight & The Pips :: Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

Roberta Flack :: Feel Like Makin’ Love

Phoebe Snow :: Poetry Man

Nat King Cole :: Ramblin’ Rose

Leon Russell :: Back to the Island

R.E.M. :: Wichita Lineman

Janis Joplin :: Me and Bobby McGee

Waylon Jennings + Jesse Colter :: Suspicious Minds

Norah Jones :: Come Away with Me

Aretha Franklin :: (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman

Tony Bennett + k.d. lang :: Dream a Little Dream of Me

Simon & Garfunkel :: Flowers Never Bend with the Rainfall

Blood, Sweat & Tears :: And When I Die

Bobby Darin :: Splish Splash

Big Mama Thornton :: Hound Dog

Ruth Brown :: 5-10-15 Hours

Jerry Lee Lewis :: Good Rockin’ Tonight

Herb Alpert & The Tijuana Brass :: Taste of Honey

Luciano Pavarotti, Placido Domingo + José Carreras :: Funiculì, Funiculà

Download all these gems with one right-click to the zip file and get back to that handmade Mother’s Day card you’ve been working on all day.

"Revolution" kicks off a short set of some of Mama and OM’s favorite dance songs. Damn, those two could work a dance floor. They were perfect partners.

Okay, so chances are my mother has never heard R.E.M.’s cover of the Jimmy Webb classic “Wichita Lineman” … but Glen Campbell already appeared with Bobbie Gentry … and you know I had to work in the boys somehow. It’s a damn good cover.

But she has heard Parliament’s “P-Funk.” We’d often spend a weekend in the mountains during our junior high and high school years. My brother brought along his tape (maybe an 8-track?) of Mothership Connection for one drive, and Mama enjoyed listening to it. I don’t know if it’s wishful thinking in this embellishing Southern brain or a true moment, but I remember her singing along with the chorus. Yep, Mama’s cool.

Squeeze made it on the tape for a different — yet just as cool — reason. My parents, my sister, and I went to Europe in 1984 — a year of intense Tilbrook obsession. I’d read that he deejayed weekly at a club (if memory serves, it was something like The Yow Club) — and I was dying to go. Mama said if I could find it, she’d go with me. Hard as I tried, I couldn’t find it during our three days there. She’s damn cool, that one.

My parents saw They’re Playing Our Song — the musical story of Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager’s love affair — on Broadway in the late 1970s. During the intermission, Ruth Gordon grabbed OM’s arm, saying, “Isn’t this fun?” Mama brought home the soundtrack, and we listened to it all the time. I haven’t listened to the album in ages — but I had quite the Great White Way evening listening to the theme over and over (and over and over, for about 45 minutes) Monday — singing at the top of my lungs, dancing down the hall like a “Step It up and Dance” contestant, jazz-handing with the cat. I’m proud to say I can hold Lucia Arnez’s long note — not beautifully, but I held it.

Mama and I saw the great Lena Horne in The Lady and Her Music at the Fox Theater. We’ve shared some great concerts.

What are your mama's favorite songs?

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At 5/09/2008 01:21:00 AM, Blogger Moxie said...

Once again, I remembered to get here early. I rule!

Momcat loves her some classical tunes; to this day when I hear Van Cliburn playing Greig I think the vacuum is about to start up. She also loves Barbra, Neil Diamond, Olivia Newton-John (pre-Physical album), King's Singers, Roberta Flack, Johnny Mathis...can't think of who else. But if it's too raucous - a word I frequently heard in reference to my music choices - she's not interested.

At 5/09/2008 04:17:00 AM, Blogger lulu said...

When I think of my childhood, I remember my mom playing CSNY, Carol King, Simon and Garfunkel, the Beatles, all that kind of mellow sixties stuff. Marrakesh Express is probably the one I most associate with her.

Now she listens to Wilco (she particularly likes Mermaid Ave)Jenny Lewis, and Van Morrison in addition to all of that, and really likes it when I burn her CDs of things I think she's enjoy.

At 5/09/2008 08:24:00 AM, Anonymous HollyC said...

Great list Mama Coffee! I know my Mom really liked Dionne Warwick too. My folks primarily listened to Big Band, so I love all of that. And my Mom always listened to NPR on the car radio, so I still have that set on my dial. But one of her favorite pop songs was by the Spiral Staircase, "I Love You More Today Than Yesterday"--we even gave her that album for Mother's Day. And "Sir Duke" by Stevie Wonder--"Songs From The Key Of Life"
Happy Mother's Day Mama Cup!!!

At 5/09/2008 08:33:00 AM, Anonymous HollyC said...

Oh yea, and "Everybody's Talkin' " by Harry Nilsson, she used to sing that to us to get us to pipe down.
Sorry about the misspelled Coffee, Mama Coffey! It's that darn spell check on the computer....

At 5/09/2008 10:30:00 AM, Blogger BeckEye said...

So, Mama Coffey wants to get funked up? Awesome!

I usually pick and choose which songs to download, but I think I'll be zipping it this week. I don't see a bad song in the bunch! (Love to see that your Mom also loves Squeeze. I won't have to fight with her over Glenn's affections TOO, do I?)

My love of music also started at an early age. I was fortunate enough to be a "mistake," being a lot younger than my siblings who were spaced out in years enough to each have different taste in music. My Dad helped me appreciate oldies and standards, the brother closest to my age (8 years my senior) got me into rock 'n roll (I think I was the only 3rd grader at my school who was diggin' on Led Zeppelin), my sister liked pop and country, my middle brother (after being stationed in London while in the Air Force) introduced me to all that wonderful new wave (and Squeeze!) and my oldest brother was into some nerdy easy listening, but he gave me an appreciation of Neil Diamond and Jimmy Buffett, and even borderline novelty acts like Ray Stevens.

At 5/09/2008 10:41:00 AM, Blogger Keith Kennedy said...

Great List Beth! These bring back the memories so thick that I have to brush them off.


At 5/09/2008 01:02:00 PM, Blogger Mathdude said...

No Buddy Holly or Eddie Cochran? I'm soooo disappointed.

At 5/09/2008 03:13:00 PM, Blogger Red said...

You've inspired me to write a whole post in response to this. I'll send folks your way. Check out WILATU (www.rockandrollastronaut.blogspot.com) sometime soon.

At 5/09/2008 06:03:00 PM, Blogger Barbara Bruederlin said...

What a lovely tribute to your mama, Beth!

My mom and I could not have more different tastes in music - she likes Tom Jones, while I prefer Thom Yorke. My daughter and I however - well, I am proud to say she gets her good musical taste from her mother.

At 5/09/2008 07:39:00 PM, Blogger coffeypot said...

What?!?! No Box Car Willie or Burl Ives????

At 5/09/2008 08:28:00 PM, Blogger Writeprocrastinator said...

Now I see where the great musical taste comes from and OMG, you were so cute!

You still are ; )

At 5/09/2008 11:33:00 PM, Blogger Artful Dodger said...

Your mom is so cool. Come to think of it my mom never really played too much music and when she did it was mostly in Spanish. It was fun watching her sing off key though.

At 5/09/2008 11:33:00 PM, Blogger Bluez said...

*sniff* I miss my Mom!! These tunes bring back SO many good memories being the youngest in a family of 5. So sad that since my Mom passed its just not the same. Mom's are the glue.

At 5/10/2008 09:39:00 AM, Blogger SkylersDad said...

Fantastic post Beth, cute picture and a list of songs that are excellent!

You and mama rock!

At 5/10/2008 10:37:00 AM, Anonymous filegod1 said...

I was introduced to the P-Funk phenomenon from my cruising days with Mordicai Etchison and Antoin Brown. Spent many nights cruising in my dads Buick Lesabre with The Mothership Connection blasting from the 8-track. Little did I know that proper Vinings Housewives were down with the boys from New Jersey. Glad to know Momma Coffey let her freak flag fly. Great tribute to your mom. Diverse musical taste obviously is in your Jeans. (Oops Genes).

At 5/11/2008 01:37:00 PM, Blogger Scott said...

At first I believed you'd mistyped the name of that Dionne Warwick song - it's "I'll Never Love This Way Again," I thought. But it turns out they're two different songs.

Damn, that woman's had some heartbreak in her life.

At 5/11/2008 02:45:00 PM, Blogger Erik Donald France said...

Zowie! Me-Mom likes Johnny Cash, and I recall her listening to Bobby Darin way back when. Waylon Jennings, too.

Love the pix here and of course the selections.

Seeing Squeeze And Elvis for $5 a pop seems like a dream now. Can we transport as we are back to then, please?

At 5/11/2008 07:43:00 PM, Blogger Mountjoy said...

That's one cool rockin mama you got there, Beth! No question that was the wellspring of your passion.

The Countess of Mountjoy was a big Frank Sinatra fan, but I have shown her that today's music can pull the heart strings just as easily. She loves Bruce's "My Hometown", and always felt homesick when I played Cold Chisel's "Khe Sanh" while we were living away from Australia, but is just as tuned in to The Wall or Bohemian Rhapsody.

Thanks for the great Mother's Day mix.

At 5/11/2008 10:21:00 PM, Blogger Gifted Typist said...

My relationship with her is so problematic that this day is always sort of painful, but she never meant it to be that way. She isn't an awful person, just a victim of her circumstances.

"Castles in Spain" and "They're going to put me in the movies" are the song she always used to sing or hum.

At 5/12/2008 07:49:00 AM, Blogger Bubs said...

What a sweet tribute to your mom, I love it!

I have lots of memories of listening to the radio in the kitchen while my mom cooked dinner, waiting for my dad to get home from work. Some of those same songs, I'm sure...

At 5/12/2008 09:49:00 AM, Blogger Sean Wraight said...

That really is an amazing tribute to your Mom Beth. The picture you included is wonderful too. Digital cameras just don't capture the essence of persons the way the old school cameras used to... You are so right too about the effect parentals have on our love of music. When you are surrounded with it as a child there is no doubt it will follow throughout your life. I can not tell you the joy I feel each time I hear my son humming some song he has heard me play. Heck he was even defending R.E.M. as a "cool" band to his friend the other day. Made me smile and he'd probably earn a big ol' hug from you.


At 5/12/2008 06:11:00 PM, Blogger David Amulet said...

Wow--quite a list. Several of these also would show up on my Mom's favorites, too. Her big ones I remember were:

Barry Manilow, most anything
ABBA, same.
Huey Lewis, the "Sports" album
INXS, Devil Inside
Wang Chung, "Everybody Have Fun Tonight"

Just don't play her Blondie's "One Way or Another." She always hated that one for some reason.

At 5/12/2008 08:45:00 PM, Blogger Ginormous Boobs said...

Great mix. My parents always played oldies and Simon and Garfunkel and they top my favorites list.

At 5/13/2008 08:55:00 PM, Blogger pistols at dawn said...

My mom always hated music, as she was (and is) a largely joyless sort. But she read for eight, so I suppose she's got that going for her.

At 5/14/2008 10:48:00 AM, Blogger Blowing Shit Up With Gas said...

My mom likes a lot of those, too -- esp Gladys Knight, Willie Nelson, Nat King Cole, Etta, Carole King, Aretha... Great mix!!!

At 5/14/2008 11:37:00 AM, Blogger Grant Miller said...

Great list, as usual.

My mom was part of the first Rock and Roll generation. But hated the Beatles and everything that followed. Growing up, it was all Elvis, Chuck Berry, Little Richard et al all the time. Still, no complaints from me.

At 5/14/2008 09:16:00 PM, Blogger Pagan Sphinx said...

Hey, Beth
Great playlist your mother inspired! One of these days I'll get over here and actually have time to listen.

Meanwhile...thinkin' of ya


At 5/31/2008 07:18:00 PM, Blogger Jewgirl said...

Our mama's would love each other. I grew up listening to many of the songs you mentioned. Staples include, Neil Diamond (still cracks me up to this day), Bette Midler, Peter Allen, Queen and of course.... Come on, you can guess... Baaaaabra Streisand.


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