Greatest Pop Rock Ballads (1960's)

The Greatest Pop Rock Ballads (1960’s)

There are many definitions for “ballad” songs and many sub categories as well such as the; Sentimental, Blues, R&B, Hard Rock, Soft Rock and of course the Power-Ballad. A ballad is generally defined as a song with emotion and sentimentality that may include a story of love, loss, longing or self reflection. It is typically a longer and slower paced song. We can trace the origins back to the singing bards and traditional folk music, through the Victorian parlours, Big Bands and all the way to songs such as Sam Smith’s “Stay with Me“. I think all of us generally know a ballad when we hear one. Today I want to talk about Pop-Rock Ballads.

Yesterday” (recorded June 14, released August 6, 1965) written by Paul McCartney, credited to Lennon/McCartney and sang solo as a Beatles member by McCartney.  I’ve blogged on this, the most covered ‘pop’ song of all time before but not in this particular capacity, for me it ticks all the boxes for a great ballad. This was a turning point for ballads in Rock music and for that matter in popular music period. Just because the song is now almost 55 years old and most everyone knows the song doesn’t make it great, it was exceptional right from the first time it was performed. It’s well documented from McCartney’s own words that the melody came to him in a dream, and after months of using the comical placeholder lyrics of “Scrambled eggs/Oh my baby how I love your legs/Not as much as I love scrambled eggs” the words were finalized while on a holiday break. Paul has credited John Lennon with coming up with the title of “Yesterday” which helped him finish the song. There is so much written about the uniqueness of the song, the chord progression, lyrics and Paul’s acoustic guitar playing-not to mention George Martin’s brilliant idea to add the orchestra. While it was very briefly debated to release the song as it was, a solo by McCartney, this was vetoed and the the band would not allow it to be released as a single in the UK. Their American label was Capitol Records and the distance (both physical and legal) from EMI’s Parlophone label allowed them to make the decision to release the single on September 13, 1965 but in the US only. It hit #1 after four weeks and reportedly sold a million copies in five weeks, not unheard of however, even for the most popular singles at that time it was still about a year’s worth of sales. And people are still listening to and talking about the song. Currently there are well over 800 documented cover versions with likely a couple thousand others so it is tough to pick just a few. The first cover was from Marianne Faithfull in 1965 (catch the irony!) The Supremes  and John Denver are two of the over 70 versions from just 1966 alone. Frank Sinatra (1969). Himesh Patel from the movie ‘Yesterday’. (2018). Billie Eilish from the 2020 Oscars.

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Greatest Blues Songs

Greatest Blues Songs

As with any list of songs as I’ve mentioned before there is always a lot of subjectivity. However I do take some time and do some research so most of my choices are influenced by others with much more expertise than myself. I have also taken liberties with my categories as well, but hey it’s my blog 😉. I already got a start on this list in a previous post with these first two songs

Greatest Traditional Blues vocal performance “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday.Read More »

Happy St. Patrick's Day

Happy St. Patrick’s Day!

A day when typically many have celebrated perhaps a bit too much, all that is Irish, green and is in a beer glass. Most of us don’t have much reason to be celebrating this year I know, but if anyone knows about making through tough times it’s the Irish. Clichés and all it is recognized in most places as more of a secular fun day than the traditional church ceremonies by Irish Catholics. The Patron Saint gives the public an official holiday in Ireland, Northern Ireland and Monserat. In my Mother’s native province of Newfoundland it is also a public holiday that gets moved to the nearest Monday to give people a long weekend, as they really know how to party!  I understand from my best friend Steve who is of Irish descent the parts of the world that party and carry on is not the same way it is celebrated in most of  Ireland at all.

While in 2020 the gatherings may be cancelled there still will be some, albeit smaller ones than usual where the music of the Emerald Isle will be blaring out of if not pubs, clubs and bars perhaps just peoples homes. You’ll hear the worst renditions of Danny Boy ever sung by a bunch of drunken Irish wanna be’s. Karaoke singers will be belting out the classic St. Paddy’s Day songs and every musician with even a hint of the Gaeltacht blood will be (hopefully) working a small stage or a even just a stool somewhere in the world. If you are housebound, here is your own private bit of Irish music for March 17 or 16th in Newfoundland! I will indulge in a few of the classic style songs and then list just a sampling of the impressive list of artists that hail from Ireland and Northern Ireland.

Song for Ireland“, the wonderful Mary Black.

Fiddlers Green” by the consummate Irish group The Irish Rovers.

Whisky in the Jar” by the legendary Irish Folk band The Dubliners.

Poor Paddy Works on the Railway” is a traditional Irish Folk song, a rousing rendition from The Pogues.

Drunken Lullabies” as no list is complete without an original song from Flogging Molly

Rose Tattoo” while we are talking ‘Celtic Punk’ (above song) we must add the American band the Dropkick Murphys. Named after a professional wrestler not as I had thought, the Rugby Football move. Which incidentally, unlike my pal Steve I never quite mastered the “bouncing the ball before you kick it” thing back in the day when we played the game. However, Steve played Varsity as well so it has to be the Irish blood as they have played Rugby Football since the mid 1800’s.

The Night Pat Murphy Died“, Newfoundland’s own Great Big Sea. No longer playing together (some great solo stuff from the members) but they have an amazing repertoire of nine albums and the actor Russell Crowe is quite the fan and sometimes even a band member.

The ultimate classic pub drinking song to many is “Drunken Sailor” sung here by The Irish Rovers among a thousand others. It is a traditional folk song classified as a “Sea Shanty” and based on the very old Irish song “Óró sé do bheatha abhaile” (Oh-ro You’re Welcome Home) sung here by Seo Linn.

As nations there is little doubt both Northern Ireland and Ireland punch above their weight, there’s a pun in there if you want it. Many know the obvious Irish singing and playing artists as in the above mentioned list, and one of the most famous Rock bands of all time is U2, formed in Dublin in 1976. Also one of the best selling artists of all time at close to 170 million albums sold they have produced 14 studio albums and released 67 singles. They have 22 Grammy Awards, 7 Brit Awards and countless other accolades including being second only to the Rolling Stones (for bands) in box office income making them some of the richest recording artists on the planet. With so many great songs it would take several blogs to even put a dent in the list so I will just go with “One” released in 1991 on the album ‘Achtung Baby’.

Van Morrison was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland (August 31, 1945) and has a voice unmatched by very many. Once again too many great songs to mention and I’m going to go with one of my favourites that not many will know “Spanish Rose” was written by Morrison and released on the controversial and legal nightmare ‘Blowin Your Mind’ in 1967 (it’s a long story destined for a future blog). While we are here, the wonderful vocalist Ottilie Patterson (January 31, 1932-June 20, 2011) was born in Comber, County Down, Northern Ireland and sang for many years with the Jazz master Chris Barber. Another great was Ruby Murray, (March 29, 1935-December 7, 1996) born in Belfast, Northern Ireland. She had a #1 hit in the UK with “Softly Softly“. More recently there are artists such as  Rebekah Fitch and Lee Rogers.

Getting back to Ireland again we can listen to the recently departed Dolores O’Riordan who sang with The Cranberries (“Zombie“, 1994) for many years. There is also Christy Moore, EnyaSinéad O’Connor, HozierThe Boomtown Rats, Thin Lizzy and I could go on but just one more Imelda May.


If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I can compile data from my blog it’s not tracking in terms of any one’s identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!

Healing Power of Music

Healing Power of Music

Whether a song can give you a little “pick me up” or make a tragic situation just a bit more bearable, many look to music in times of trouble. These days many people are concerned about the immediate future and some have been isolated, so turning to music is a good way to not only pass the time but improve your mood. For a personal crisis, a health concern or even in the face of imminent death there is solace in listening to your favorite music. I have quite a bit of personal experience with this so I will give just two examples you may be able to relate too. My mother while in palliative care enjoyed listening to music, albeit just for a song or two at a time, it would bring a smile to her face and mine as well, especially when she would gently let me know “that’s too loud”. Funny the little exchanges we remember at times like that. My brother in-law passed away more recently and we shared many a chat about music, being a musician and former DJ he’d slay me on music trivia. The last song I played for him was, “Fire and Rain” by James Taylor. My sister was trying to get her tablet to play some songs and was unsuccessful, the hospital wifi was not very strong and eventually I could only get that one tune to play on my phone, turns out it was his favorite song. I sincerely hope it brought him some peace in his final moments as it did to those around him. The day of his Celebration of Life my wife and I got into the car, I started it and “Fire and Rain” was playing on the radio. So yes, I believe in the healing power of music.

If you need to forget your troubles, destress yourself or just unwind from a tough day, music can be your best friend. Maybe you need to just cry it out and there are plenty of songs that will help you do that as well. I have read many stories and have seen hundreds of comments on YouTube videos about the positive effects of song. Recording artists are constantly being told how their music has changed their fans lives or gotten them through a rough patch. Maybe you have a “go to” song depending on your mood or perhaps it’s a new favorite. So if it’s Baroque, Beatles or Bieber to Yanni, Yes or Young Lyric that you enjoy it does not matter. What does is if you have a song, a playlist, album or even just a line or two that you can relate to. Maybe you are working on your own daily soundtrack or you have found one of the many lists out there already relating to this topic. Well, here are some songs and performances that perhaps are not on many ‘healing’ lists and a few that several of us have looked to for peace of mind, inspiration or at the very least a good distraction.

Hope and faith;

“Oh Happy Day” from the The Edwin Hawkins Singers  cover by Aretha Franklin and the amazing Mavis Staples (1987) with a somewhat different arrangement.
Kanye West with”Jesus Walks“, cover by NYU’s ‘Mass Transit’ “Kanye Medley

Love and Peace; 

K’naan, “Wavin’ Flag“, cover by ‘Young Artists For Haiti
All You Need is Love” The Beatles, cover by Elvis Costello
Brinsley Schwarz “(What’s So Funny ‘Bout) Peace, Love & Understanding“. covered by Elvis Costello

Uplifting songs;

Three Little Birds” from Bob Marley, covered by I-Three
Juice” by Lizzo, covered by Scott Bradlee’s Postmodern Jukebox feat. Mario Jose


Walking on Sunshine” by Katrina & The Waves, cover by The Dollyrots
Le Freak” by Chic, cover medley “Ain’t No Stoppin / Le Freak” by Wet Wet Wet
Mark Ronson “Uptown Funk” ft. Bruno Mars, this is the original melody “I Don’t Believe You Want to Get Up and Dance (Oops!)” by The Gap Band

Rock it out;

Blind Melon “No Rain” cover by Meiko
Sheryl Crow  “If It Makes You Happy“, cover by Scary Pockets feat. Rachael Price
Queen “Don’t Stop Me Now“, covered by The Vandals 

Sing it out;

Neil Diamond’s “Sweet Caroline” covered by Bad News
Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da” The Beatles, cover from No Doubt

Hold on to Love;

Like I’m Gonna Lose You” Meghan Trainor , ft. John Legend, cover Jasmine Thompson
Amy Winehouse “Valerie“, original by the Zutons
Happy” by Leona Lewis, cover by Gaby Borromeo

Git your Country on;

Brad Paisley  When I Get Where I’m Going ft. Dolly Parton cover by Justin Ryan
Girl” by Maren Morris covered by Maddie Wilson
Taylor Swift -“Everything Has Changed”  ft. Ed Sheeran, covered by Hannah Trigwell

Changes in life;

Carole King “So Far Away” cover by Rod Stewart
David Bowie “Changes” covered by The Muffs

Mellow out;

Margaritaville” by Jimmy Buffett, cover from Sammy Hagar
Astrud Gilberto With Stan Getz  “Girl From Ipanema“, covered by Diana Krall (Boy from Ipanema)

Happy Songs; there are likely thousands of songs that have the word happy or a derivative in the title or in the lyrics themselves. Not all are always on the positive side of the Happy equation but these ones are;

Happy” Pharrell Williams cover by Maroon 5
Don’t Worry be Happy” by Bobby McFerrin, covered by George Ezra
And from my own playlist the Boss, the Man, Bruce Springsteen from 1998 “Happy

Spotify Playlist; MMC Blog Healing Power of Music


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If you like my blog, please consider filling in the follow by email link at the top right hand of the page. Remember to confirm the subscription when you get the first email. Confidentiality is assured unless you are a close friend or family member then all bets are off. While I can compile data from my blog it’s not tracking in terms of any one’s identity. For past blog posts click on the menu at the top right corner. Pass it along to a friend who might enjoy it as well or post it to your timeline on FB. And many thanks as always for reading my blog!

Western and Cowboy Music

Carl Sprague

Western Music

When we hear the term “Western Music” the obvious question is where is the “Country”? It has been some time since the two genres have been attached to one another. I can’t say exactly when the “Western” was dropped but it appears to have lost popularity in the 1970’s with the development of other sub genre such as Outlaw Country and the “Bakersfield Sound” from Merle Haggard and Buck Owens. Of course there’s a lot of different genres of music that were played and came from the Western part of the US but today I’m focused on what is attached to the term, Western (Country) music. It was quite different; in Texas, Arizona and Oklahoma there were cultural influences not found in it’s more eastern ‘Country’ cousin. Here are some songs typical of the genre; ‘The Browns’ “My Adobe Hacienda“, “Abilene” by George Hamilton IV, and a song with origins from Canadian and American Voyageurs, Tennessee Ernie Ford with “Shenandoah“.Read More »