No room for this gentleman…
In tragic music icon terms, Michael Jackson actually lived a fairly long and prosperous life. He made it to half a century, which isn’t bad at all. Elvis only got as far as 42, John Lennon made it to 40 before taking four bullets in the back, and Michael Hutchence was still a fairly youthful 37. Keith Moon and John Bonham made it fashionable for great drummers to die at 32. Then, of course, you have all of the rock stars who couldn’t make it past 27 – Brian Jones, Janis Joplin, Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison. Gram Parsons was even younger at 26, as was Otis Redding when he died in a plane crash. Tupac was 25, Notorious BIG 24, Ian Curtis 23, and Sid Vicious and Eddie Cochran were barely grown ups at just 21. In fact, the list of tragic early deaths is relatively endless. So with that in mind, we thought it high time to select the four most unfortunate, as decided by us…
1. Jimi Hendrix, 27
It was a very sad day for music in 1970 when Hendrix apparently lay on his back, choking on his own sick, thanks to a few too many red wines. The whole thing still smells a little bit fishy, with rumours floating around that it might not have simply been the innocent death of a drinker. Either way, it robbed the world of a fantastic music man, who managed to mix rock, soul and psychedelic stuff really really well. He keeps the likes of Steve Marriott, Janis Joplin, Marc Bolan and Phil Lynott out of the top four, and, to really put things in perspective, without Hendrix we probably wouldn’t have Prince. What kind of rubbish world would that be?
2. Minnie Riperton, 31
One of the great female soul singers, Riperton died of the damn cancer when she was 31. But what a 31 years. She’ll always be remembered for Lovin’ You, a slightly drippy love song, but we’ll forever love her for the rock/soul numbers she did with Rotary Connection, Les Fleurs, and the rather graphic sex song, Inside My Love. With so many excellent soul singers to choose from, she has achieved the remarkable feat of keeping Marvin Gaye, Donny Hathaway, Otis Redding and Sam Cooke out of the top four. That’s a very big score for the sisterhood.
3. Keith Moon, 32
There were a few decent dead drummers to choose from, but Keith Moon just beat Dennis Wilson and John Bonham to grab a place in the top four. He edged it for being more of a total maniac. Famous for driving cars into pools, flushing explosives down toilets, and for being a completely brilliant drummer in The Who, he died after taking too many anti-alcohol pills in 1978. He’d just been out for dinner with Paul and Linda McCartney, which presumably had nothing to do with the overdose.
4. Big L, 24
The rap game has seen lots of premature deaths – Easy E, Big Pun, Tupac, Scott La Rock, Jay Dee, Biggie Smalls, Jam Master Jay, Ol’ Dirty Bastard. But the one that really makes us slam our fists and weep up to the heavens screaming “why?” is Big L‘s. We honestly think he could have been the greatest rapper of all time, but instead he took seven bullets to the head and chest one evening in 1999. The murder remains unsolved, which makes it double annoying.
Women who can sing the FUNK…
There is a world of difference between being a good soul singer and a good funk singer. Mariah Carey, for example, is a good sweet soul singer, but if she were to suddenly start grunting into the mic and demanding snare kicks from the drummer, her people would rush the stage within seconds to drag her off to the mad house. Presumed breakdown. She hasn’t got the funk. Sadly, neither have many of today’s fine young singers, with the possible exceptions of Beth Ditto, Mary J, Beyonce and that’s about it. Even the greatest soul singer of them all, Aretha Franklin, doesn’t quite have the funk chops to be a BOLD SOUL SISTER. Our top four female funk sensations read like this…
1. Betty Davis
One part of possibly the greatest model/musical genius combo of them all, Betty was the great Mile Davis’ second wife. Back then, in the 1960s, she was just a sexy young model who was friends with Hendrix and Sly Stone, then in the 1970s she emerged as a funk/rock force of nature, with a trio of albums brimming with sexual aggression. An amazing woman, and our top female funk singer.
2. Tina Turner
Before she became Tina Turner with the feathery Rod Stewart hair, and the enormously popular soft rock ballads, Tina Turner was a funk goddess – touring the world with angry, punchy Ike and the magnificent Ikettes. What really marks her out are her excellent dance moves, and a growling voice that sounds like Cathy Beale after a big night on the cigs.
3. Marva Whitney
Featured before as one of our favourite Underrated Soul Stars, Whitney’s piercing, raw voice was the perfect match for James Brown’s band, The JB’s. Alongside other female funk greats like Lyn Collins and Vicki Anderson – both of whom just missed out on a place in the top four – she became a part of the gigantic James Brown family in the 1960s, although she only managed one solo studio album – It’s My Thing, from 1969. Great record.
4. Mary Jane Hooper
Not much is known of this funky Mary Jane Hooper woman. What we do know is that her real name was Sena Fletcher, she had gritty vocal talent that really floated the magnificent Eddie Bo‘s onions, and she churned out about three bona fide funk classics in the 1960s. We also know that she’s our fourth favourite female funk singer.
Jimi Hendrix and Curtis Knight
Our favourite passive-aggressive actor, Tom Cruise, turns 47 today. That makes him nearly 50. How ridiculous that Maverick from Top Gun is nearly 50. Goose must be spinning in his grave. Anyway, he’s had quite a life with all the films, the curiously hollow-eyed girlfriends/wives, and the whole Scientology thing, so we thought we’d buy him a gift. To get into the mood we made up a story about aliens eating the souls of real people, and then got down to present talk, which boiled down to a toss up between a cold slap in the face or a clip of Hendrix singing a funky Birthday song. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Tom Cruise!
Not including food products…
Copycatting – or, as some people call it, copydogging – is rife. If you write down a list of all of your favourite things – from foods, to films, to drinks, to songs, to clothes, to anything at all – they’re probably all total rip offs from something else. Pasta is one Italian man’s version of Chinese rice, whilst a gentleman’s shirt was originally modelled on the womanly blouses worn by buxom whores attracting incoming sailors. Even Scarface, yes Scarface, was a remake of another film called Scarface from 1932. Both great movies, by the way. And let’s not forget that Heinz Baked Beans have been ripped off and outbrillianted by Branston ones. Everything is a cover version. Everything. So, with that in mind, we peered at music, and deduced the four most impressive copydogs, as decided by us…
1. Joe Cocker, With a Little Help From My Friends
Once in a while, The Beatles would throw Ringo a bone, and he’d get the chance to sing on an album. It was a move akin to Monet asking a hysterical four year old to finish off his lilies for him. It just never worked out. What Goes On (Rubber Soul), Yellow Submarine (Revolver), and then this on Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – all the low points on great records. And yet, when Joe Cocker got his teeth into the song, it transformed into a gritty, rock-soul workout. Plus it reminds us of the brilliant Wonder Years. Here’s Ringo’s wrongo attempt…
2. The Clash, I Fought The Law
The Clash painted a snarling picture of spitting teens trying to put one over on the police, while the original – by The Crickets minus Buddy Holly, deceased – sounded more like a cheerful inmate regaling his jail buddies with something he’s just written in his cell. This, of course, making him a serious target for The Marys. Here’s that version…
3. Louie Louie, The Kingsmen
No doubt about it, The Kingsmen‘s version of Louie Louie is one of the greatest pop records ever made. The 1957 original, by Richard Berry, isn’t too bad either. It’s a doo-wap song about a Jamaican man explaining his love life to a bartender called Louie. It’s a far more docile affair…
4. Hey Joe, Jimi Hendrix
Fourth spot was a close call as ever, with some magnificent songs falling at the last minute – James Brown’s version of Think by The 5 Royales, Johnny Cash’s excellent cover of Hurt by Nine Inch Nails, Labelle doing Wild Horses by The Rolling Stones – but in the end, Hendrix just nicked it for Hey Joe. It was a hit for the garage rock band The Leaves just a year before Hendrix made it iconic in 1966. It was an extra close call, because The Leaves‘ version is almost just as excellent…
Hey man, it’s some people pretending to be hippies
Nothing sticks in the craw more than missing out on a cool party. You might have been sick in bed, or perhaps you just weren’t invited. Still, don’t mope around whining, get on with your life, soldier. Let it go. And do not, under any circumstances, attempt to recreate the amazing party, because it definitely won’t be the same, and you’ll invariably end up looking like a plonker. Take the Summer of Love in 1967, for example. The Beatles were there from the start with their hairy sideboards and little spectacles, brandishing Sergeant Pepper. Hendrix, The Who, Janis Joplin, and Jefferson Airplane all gave a kick-ass show at the legendary Monterey Pop Festival. And The Rolling Stones pretty much missed the lot. Sensing that they might have just failed to catch a very important flowery train, they hurriedly threw together this album, just in time for December 1967 – the winter of the Summer of Love, if you like. Awash with songs about crazy futuristic people, rainbows, and citadels, the cover shows the five band members dressed up like technicolor druids in a magical land – their way of saying “sorry we’re late world, we’ve been tripping on mushies… being as we’re far out and everything!” Unfortunately, as a statement of hippydom, it’s up there with putting on a bowler hat and telling the world you’re a cowboy. Unconvincing.
Enjoy one of the cuts from the record after the jump…
Jimi Hendrix, The Dick Cavett Show
What don’t we owe to Tom Selleck? He has single-handedly opened female minds to the raw power of male sexuality, and made it okay to express yourself with a moustache and flowery shirt. Today he turns 64, and buying him a present to truly express our gratitude became almost impossibly difficult. It boiled down to a toss up between a selection of bath salts and body lotions, or a Jimi Hendrix interview from the excellent Dick Cavett Show. In the end we got him both. Happy Birthday Tom Selleck! You’re the BEST!
The cold hand of death grabbed them, damn it!
Annoyingly, death appears to be pretty much unavoidable, and this year people were dropping like flies. Hence, we decided to peruse through the endless lists of deceased, and found quite a few that we really weren’t ready to say goodbye to, making selecting just four corpses pretty tricky. Everyone’s favourite homosexual cowboy, Heath Ledger, didn’t make the list, and neither did everyone’s favourite heterosexual cowboy, Paul Newman. It wasn’t a good year for cowboys. Even prankster Jeremy Beadle couldn’t find a spot for himself – Beadle is not about, you might say. So, you can imagine that the four we did select are quite something, and you’d be absolutely right. Pour out a bit of liquor for the following:
1. George Carlin
Excellent stand up comic, and the friendly old guy in Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventure, his heart packed in around June time. He’d had a pretty good life by all accounts – two good strong marriages, comedy so edgy that he was once arrested for being too rude, plus he was the first person ever to host Saturday Night Live. Below is an excellent clip from his legendary 1978 routine Seven Dirty Words.
These boys and girls had it GOING ORN!
Everyone knows how brilliant Marvin Gaye, Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and the rest were/are. But what about the ones who drifted ever so slightly under the radar? We decided to shine the spotlight back on them…
1. Shuggie Otis
If Hendrix was the ultimate rock guitarist, Shuggie Otis was the ultimate soul guitarist. As a teenager he was considered a musical genius, and at just 21 he made the record Inspiration Information, a stone soul classic. Back in the 70s he turned down a chance to join The Rolling Stones – Ronnie Wood took his place instead. Most recently, he did some odds and ends with the world’s second favourite conscious rapper, Mos Def.