Aretha Franklin, “Rock Steady” on The Flip Wilson Show, aired January 20, 1972.
Released as a single in February 1971, peaking at #9 on the Billboard Hot 100, and #2 on the Soul Singles chart, this Aretha-penned track gets a blazing new life just 4 days before the release of the astounding Young, Gifted and Black LP. Not only have you never heard this song like this before, you may never have heard Aretha like this before: pedal to the metal and soaring, even by her own elevated standards.
It’s also inspiring to see the Queen of Soul, “Natural Woman” resplendent in natural hair and an African-inspired gown in this pivotal TV appearance, as detailed in Rickey Vincent’s Party Music: The Inside Story of the Black Panthers’ Band and How Black Power Transformed Soul Music.
Aretha herself said, “I believe that the black revolution certainly forced me and the majority of black people to begin taking a second look at ourselves. It wasn’t that we were all ashamed of our ourselves, we merely started appreciating our natural selves…you know, falling in love with ourselves just as we are. We found that we had far more to be proud of.
“I must say that mine was a very personal evolution – an evolution of the me in myself. […] I know I’ve improved my overall look and sound, they’re much better. And I’ve gained a great deal of confidence in myself.”
(More here, although note that Vincent is off on the date of this broadcast, which I verified here. A great read nonetheless.)
This is the sound of Aretha’s newfound confidence, my friends, with one of 1971′s greatest singles taken to new heights. “Rock steady, baby – that’s what I feel now. Let’s call this song exactly what it is!”
Do you have a favorite song from John Lennon's Imagine album? How about Walls and Bridges? Thanks, love your blog!
I obviously feel strongly enough about Imagine the album that I use the back cover as my icon, but that’s
not my favorite song on the album! I do love it, though.
(In fact, in Spain, they used the back cover of the album as the sleeve for the “Imagine” single. I like that idea a lot.)
I think “Imagine” is one of the most important songs in the history of the
world, though, for more reasons than I can go into here…but I’ll give you one. When the
people of Brussels took to the street to remember their fallen loved ones, they burst into singing “Imagine.” There have been many, many examples
of this over the years (too many examples, too many tragedies), but in these
cases, no other song would possibly do.
But my personal favorite
song on Imagine is “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama.” It doesn’t say much
lyrically: pretty simple stuff, like, “I don’t wanna be a lawyer, I don’t
wanna lie,” a couple of dozen words in the song, total. Remember he also did that with “I Want You (She’s So Heavy)” – great song, but maybe even fewer words in it, right? LOL
Musically, “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama” is a wonder: a mix of slinky, heavy, and funky, similar to grooves John came up with
for “Come Together,” “Cold Turkey,” and “Power to the People,” the latter of
which was recorded in the same 1971 sessions as this one.
Terrific combination of musicians here too, including
fantastic slide guitar work from George Harrison, stunning piano by Nicky
Hopkins, King Curtis on sax, two members of Badfinger on acoustic guitars,
Klaus Voorman on bass, plus a member of The Moody Blues, and a fella who would
soon be Yes’s drummer for the next 40+ years here on vibraphone. VIBRAPHONE! God help me, I love
(Wait, what are prog musicians doing on this song? Dunno. LOL But this kind of, “Hey, c’mon over here and play on my song” approach is VERY typical of 1971, maybe moreso than any other year.)
You can tell that “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama” started as a jam in search
of a song, but it eventually turns into a real corker. I really like this video
for it, too. I have no idea who made it, but it’s got some great footage of
John from across his career, including The Beatles, some nice early 70s street scenes, footage of Vietnam, Kent
State, and more.
It also includes a couple of clips from 1971, of course. The first is 2:00-2:33,
and features John and Yoko on New York Harbor, riding toward the World Trade
Center, still under construction.
The second starts at 5:12, at a December 1971 protest rally in
Ann Arbor, MI for marijuana rights activist John Sinclair, who’d been given a
10-year sentence for possessing 2 joints: the so-called “10 for 2” penalty that
was still common across the US in 1971. Can you imagine that today?
The 1971 Sinclair Freedom Rally was John’s first gig as a solo headliner, one of only two shows he’d ever headline.
The response to John’s support for marijuana activism
by the Nixon administration was abject terror. This specific act of 1971 pro-pot
activism, added to John’s overall anti-war stance and the fear that he could
easily rally America’s for all kinds
of trouble, led directly to a 4-year campaign by the FBI to have John deported,
starting in early 1972.
I mention this because right after the Sinclair Freedom Rally
footage in this video, you’ll see President Nixon and FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover.
Their effort to deport John ultimately failed, but not for lack of time or
Did I mention that “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama” is a
great song? LOL Sorry for that detour into the video and 1971 politics, but yes, this is indeed my VERY FAVORITE
song from Imagine.
I’m glad you also asked about 1974’s Walls & Bridges too! I’m not positive, but I may prefer it as an entire album to Imagine. In any case, it has my very favorite
solo John track, from any album, “#9 Dream.”
Like “I Don’t Wanna Be A Soldier Mama,” this is another one that doesn’t say terribly much, but “#9 Dream” is more fully
developed, with wonderful, ethereal vocals….
…and has a chorus that goes “Ah böwakawa poussé,
poussé.” WTF? LOL Who knows what that even means?
This is another thing John did a
lot of. “Goo goo g’joob” from “I Am the Walrus” is the best example. What? LOL
deva om” isn’t entirely made up but sounds like it is (rough translation: “glory to
the shining remover of darkness” says W-pedia), but another great example
of complete gibberish is one of my
favorite songs off Abbey Road: “Sun
King” (mostly written by John), packed with nonsense language like “Questo
abrigado tantamucho que canite carousel.” Come again? LOL
It’s very kicky to me that a guy known as a poet, even a
prophet, wasn’t afraid to throw words completely out the window if that’s what
best served the song.
“#9 Dream” has an official video, released at the time and presented herewith. It too has footage from 1971, from the film called Imagine that Yoko released in 1972. The
1971 footage is sprinkled throughout – basically anything where John and Yoko
are wearing hats. The longest bits start at 2:57, and another one at 4:10 through
the end of the song, where they’re walking along the beach on Staten Island.
Mostly, the video is as fuzzy and vague as the song, with
lots of long, slightly blurry, slow-motion shots, and extremely long dissolves
that look almost like morphing.
Everything about this is awesome to me, including
one of John’s lushest vocals, and by far his finest outing as a producer and
arranger imo. It was one of John’s favorite songs, too. Not that I’d take his
word for anything as important as my
favorite songs LOL but I still think it’s kinda cool that we agree on this one.
Thanks so much for asking about this! I’d apologize for my
ridiculously long 1000+ word reply, except that I assume that, by now, people
expect ALL my replies to be at least 1000 words. LOL
I’ll add my usual reminder that I welcome non-anon Asks, and
never answer them publicly without permission. Let me know who you are!
In the meantime, I’d love for folks to reblog with their own
answers, whether in the post or the tags. And yes, I’ve read every single tag
on a reblog of every one of my 11,500+ posts. I read all the tags I see on
EVERYONE’s posts, tbh. It’s one of my
favorite parts of tumblr.
So, I ask all of you, do you have a favorite track from Imagine? Any other favorite John Lennon solo tracks?
David Bowie, 1971, in front of a billboard advertisement for Peter Noone’s cover of “Oh! You Pretty Things,” on which David also played piano. It was released well before Bowie’s own version on Hunky Dory, and reached #12 on the UK singles chart.
George Harrison’s demo for Ringo’s 1971 hit “It Don’t Come Easy”
Ringo co-wrote the song with George, who also produced this, added background vocals, and played bass and the wonderful guitar that’s so integral to this song’s success.
It’s quite ragged, but this version is AWESOME. There are no horns, and with fewer layers of overdubs, you can really hear backup vocals. George’s guitar is also truly sweet in this version – easily the equal of anything he played on All Things Must Pass. There’s even a bonus “Hare Krishna” chant in the middle!
Peter Frampton with Humble Pie, “Shine On”, 1971, in which our 20-year-old hero helps the band find its hardest-rocking groove on their 4th album together, at exactly the time he decides he wants to head in a more eclectic, acoustic direction himself, and soon departs for a solo career.
As a matter of fact, both Frampton and Humble Pie would quickly ascend to previously unimaginable heights once they went their separate ways that fall. 1971 offered some sneak peeks at what those peaks would look like, however, including their July performance in front of 100,000 fans in London’s Hyde Park, opening for Grand Funk.
Recorded in January 1971 and released in March, Rock On opened with Frampton’s composition “Shine On”, a mid-tempo funky groover featuring the Soul Sisters (P.P. Arnold, Claudia Lennear, and Doris Troy) on the chorus. This is the one song from Frampton’s years with Humble Pie that has been part of his concert repertoire ever since, as well it should be.
As an A-side in 1971 for Humble Pie, “Shine On” failed to chart, but the song featured prominently as part of Frampton Comes Alive, and was the B-side to the 1976 Top 10 single “Show Me The Way.”
So yeah, you’ve surely heard THAT version (my own play count is somewhere north of 10,000), but maybe not THIS one. This 971 studio version by our 20-year-old hero really is an all-time gem. The arrangement is a bit dated, but it’s also a clarion call, the sound of Peter Frampton finding his bedrock and stepping confidently into the light: somewhere between pop and rock, both rocking yet grooving. From here, our boy Peter would continue to Shine On.