Monday music: “Only the Good Die Young”

There are several albums that I associate with being a little kid, mostly because I played them, um, a lot when I was a pre-teen. In fact, I wore these albums out (they were vinyl, you could do that): Teaser & the Firecat by Cat Stevens, WarChild by Jethro Tull, Born to Run by Bruce Springsteen & the E Street Band, and The Stranger by Billy Joel were a few of them.

Last week, thanks to the good graces of my dear friend ToniAnn, I got to see Billy Joel at Madison Square Garden. He’s 70 now, bald with a white goatée, and dressed very smartly in a suit. His voice couldn’t always quite do what it used to do, but those hands can still make a piano sing like nobody’s business.

Here he is doing “Only the Good Die Young,” a song that several members of Cardinal Spellman High School’s Class of 1986 adopted as our theme song back in the day……

Monday music: “All Along the Watchtower” by many people

Having done Playing for Change’s across-the-world version of “The Weight” last week, now we have a similarly done version of Bob Dylan’s “All Along the Watchtower” by a variety of musicians from all over the world. I particularly like the early bit that mixes Chicago blues harmonica by Billy Branch with Lakota singers and dancers. And it fucking works. Check it out.

Monday music: “The Weight” by a ton of people

Here’s another version of “The Weight” that took several years for Playing for Change to put together, featuring the song’s writer, Robbie Robertson, on guitar, joined by a ton of musicians from all around the world, including Ringo Starr on drums, and tons more folks from the United States (including Hawai’i), Europe, Africa, Asia, and the Middle East, and it’s glorious.

Monday music: “Because the Night”

In 1978, Bruce Springsteen and Patti Smith collaborated on a song called “Because the Night,” which is one of Smith’s biggest hits. There’ve been tons of versions since Smith released it as a single 41 years ago, including Bruce himself as well as a nifty version by 10,000 Maniacs. In 2004, Michael Stipe of R.E.M. joined Bruce and the E Street Band for a fun version…..

Monday music: “Walk This Way”

The divide between white music and black music has always been a sharp one, for all that there has always been crossover. Most of the white British rock musicians of the 1960s (The Who, Eric Clapton, the Rolling Stones, Jethro Tull, etc.) owe their very existence to the black American blues musicians of the 1940s and 1950s (Muddy Waters, Robert Johnson, John Lee Hooker, Howlin’ Wolf, etc.). And yet, the divide has often remained.

In 1986, the rock group Aerosmith had fallen into obscurity, while the rap group Run-DMC were rising stars. Then (and now), a collaboration between a white heavy-metal-tinged rock group and a black rap act was pretty much unheard of, and yet Run-DMC collaborated with Steven Tyler and the gang to do a cover of Aerosmith’s 1975 hit “Walk This Way.”

It remains one of the great collaborations in modern music history, a glorious breaking down of walls (a metaphor used to good effect in the video).

Monday music: “Women with a Y”

Back in the 1980s, a nifty folk trio called Uncle Bonsai got together. I first heard them on Vin Scelsa’s old “Idiot’s Delight” radio show, and I actually got to meet them and interview them for the paper when I was at Fordham University in 1988 and they played the Bottom Line. I’ve remained a big fan of their work, though I do need to catch up on their most recent work.

In any case, here’s one of their best songs, “Women with a Y.” The title riffs on the notion that was first floated in 1976 of taking the word “man” out of “woman” by substituting a Y for the A in the word. But it’s also a brilliantly written song, in particular for this verse:

Mary was a martyr, Mary must have been a martyr

‘Cause her God in all His wisdom wouldn’t look her in the eye

So he took her and he left her with some jackass in a stable

While he boasted of the conquest to the other holy guys

So the man takes his position

With the woman in submission

‘Cause the Bible says that’s how they do it here

And the woman falls from favor

All because some horny savior

Showed that men can come just once and disappear

That’s one of those verses that I listen to and read and just am in awe. And I write words for a living!

Anyhow, here’s the whole thing…..