Editor’s note: When Palisadian Alan Eisenstock is not researching and writing one of his nonfiction books (18 thus far!), he pursues what he calls “a crazy labor of love side project” that he started in mid-March: sending a weekly Covid-themed playlist of songs to his family and friends. These playlists (which can be downloaded on Spotify Playlist span rock ‘n’ roll and pop music from the 1950s to 2020, and Eisenstock adds one or two lines of commentary about each song that is clever, amusing and informative.)
Help! Covid is surging, hitting record numbers every day, and we have no federal response. Thankfully, the new administration is gearing up to deal with that… as soon as the old administration lets them in the door. For now, let’s take a deep breath and celebrate our first female VP! What to do? Idea. Here’s our fourth all-women playlist–19 songs performed and/or written by women. Listen up!
- “One Fine Day” The Chiffons. 1960’s Girl group who met at James Monroe High in the Bronx, recorded this Gerry Goffin/Carole King hit in 1963. “You’ll be proud to have me right by your side.”
- “Mama Said” The Shirelles. From New Jersey. They also met in high school, in 1961. A teacher suggested they enter the school talent show. They performed “I Met Him on a Sunday,” which they wrote for the show. Sadly, they came in second to a kid who played “This Land Is Your Land” in his armpits.
- “Ride!” Dee Dee Sharp. Philly-born Dione LaRue changed her name to Dee Dee Sharp, became a backup singer to Bobby Rydell, Frankie Avalon, Lloyd Price et al. Recorded in 1962, this is the answer song to Chubby Checker’s “Pony Time.” Let’s dance!
- “Exile” Taylor Swift, Bon Iver. Don’t judge. Taylor, from West Reading, PA, moved to Nashville in 2004. Here she collaborates with The National’s Aaron Dessner to create “folklore,” a tremendous album. This is a gorgeous duet with Bon Iver (Justin Vernon).
- “Street Life” Randy Crawford. R&B and jazz singer fronts the jazz band The Crusaders in this great 1979 song, written and produced by keyboardist Joe Sample. The original version is a sizzling 11 minutes.
- “Both Sides Now” Joni Mitchell. Canadian singer-songwriter-genius and November birthday Mitchell said this was inspired by her reading of Saul Bellow’s Henderson the Rain King. The song was first recorded by Judy Collins in 1968. Joni hated that version. How do I know? She said, “I hate that version.”
- “He’s A Rebel” The Crystals. R&B sixties group out of NYC. Gene Pitney wrote this song for the Shirelles but they turned it down. Produced by Phil Spector, this is one of my all-time favorite songs. Period.
- “Portions For Foxes” Rilo Kiley. Indie band out of L.A. Jenny Lewis is the driving force. I don’t think she has ever written a bad song. Big claim? I stand by it. I LOVE this song.
- “Motion Sickness” Phoebe Bridgers. Another indie singer/songwriter from L.A. She allegedly wrote this excellent song about her relationship with Ryan Adams. She later accused him of sexual misconduct, as did several other women.
- “Maybe” The Chantels. One of the very first successful African-American “girl groups.” This is from 1957, later covered by Janis Joplin. Lead singer Arlene Smith was classically trained and performed at Carnegie Hall at age 12. At 12, I was playing the accordion in my basement. People called me the Myron Floren of Holyoke, MA.
- “Paul” Big Thief. Indie/alt group led by Adrianne Lenker, one of the most fascinating figures in current music, subject of a recent New Yorker profile. She grew up in a cult in Indiana, has a black belt in karate, and all four members of the band went to Berklee College of Music. This is a song about the two sides of Lenker’s personality, not about a guy named Paul. I am a big Big Thief fan.
- “Buttercup” Lucinda Williams. Louisiana-born, one of our most influential alt-country singer-songwriters. This is a “bad-boy” song from her 2011 album Blessed. Saw Lucinda in person. Perhaps due to a pre-concert cocktail or five, she tripped over her music stand, sent her song sheets flying all over the stage, and didn’t seem to know where she was. She did have a nice hat. LOVE this song.
- “Mr. Big Stuff” Jean Knight. From New Orleans. Her 1971 hit. “Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?” Dedicated to several current, soon to be former, politicians.
- “Don’t Wait Too Long” Madeleine Peyroux. Born in Athens, GA, moved to Paris with her mother when her parents divorced. Good song but she has too many “e’s” in her first name.
- “Across The Great Divide” Nanci Griffith. Contemporary folkie, this from her Grammy-winning album Other Voices, Other Rooms. She sings this Kate Bush song with Emmylou Harris. Same title of the Band’s song from last week, different song.
- “Walk On By” Dionne Warwick. All-time great singer, went to the University of Hartford Hartt School of Music, up the street from where my wife grew up. Dionne recorded this classic Bacharach-David song in German with the title “Geh vorbei.” It hit number einer.
- “Speaking With The Angel” Cry Cry Cry. Folk supergroup made up of Lucy Kaplansky, Richard Shindell, and Dar Williams recorded one album of covers in 1998. This is a stunningly beautiful version of the Ron Sexsmith song. Lucy is fine, Dar is the best, Shindell schlepped the equipment.
- “Free Me” Joss Stone. Born. Joscelyn Eve Stoker. British super soul singer with the grittiest voice this side of Janis. Love her and love this song. “Don’t tell me that I won’t; I will.”
- “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” Yola. Yes, Yola again. Can’t help it. This British R&B singer crushes Elton’s signature song. Stirring.
So…the women are HERE. Congratulations, Kamala. Next week, we return to a more typical pandemic playlist. Enjoy this one– song for song, maybe my favorite. Almost forgot..
Don’t Forget to Disinfect and… PLAY IT LOUD!
The link again: Play List
The Shirelles did not lose to a kid who played “This Land Is Your Land” in his armpits. It was “Goodnight, Irene.”
I did take accordion lessons but was not called the Myron Floren of Holyoke, MA. I played the accordion for eight years and learned one song, “Hava Nagila.”
Poll question result: Dusty Springfield or Nitty Gritty Dirt Band? Dusty by a hair.
This week’s poll question: Indie artist face-off: Phoebe Bridgers or Big Thief?