Category Archives: Music on Mondays

Music on Mondays (1-26-15)—I don’t want to get thin

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

My wise old grandmotherToday would have been the 104th birthday of my wise old grandmother (1911-2003).

In her honor, I thought I would feature some songs that were popular in 1911 when she was born.

I thought that I wouldn’t find anything and would have to resort to modern renditions of 1911 songs.

Well, there actually are recordings on YouTube of original versions from 1911.

The first song I discovered was by Sophie Tucker (1887-1966), and since I knew the name, I decided to delve more into who she was. Once I started researching her, I decided to feature her instead of songs from 1911. I think my wise old grandmother would be okay with that….

Sophie Tucker (neé Sonya Kalish) was a Ukrainian-born American singer, comedian, actress, and radio personality. She was bornto a Jewish family en route to America from Tulchyn, Vinnytsia Region, Russian Empire. The family appropriated the last name Abuza, settled in Hartford, Connecticut, and opened a restaurant. She was one of the most popular entertainers in America during the first half of the 20th century, widely known by the nickname “The Last of the Red Hot Mamas.”

Here is the first song I found:

“Some Of These Days” by Sophie Tucker (1887-1966)

“Some Of These Days” was entered into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1995. “Some Of These Days” also is the title of her 1945 autobiography.

Considered “big and ugly,” Sophie Tucker in 1908 started including “fat girl humor” in her burlesque shows.

Two of her most famous fat girl songs are “I Don’t Want To Get Thin” and “Nobody Loves A Fat Girl.”

Listen closely to the lyrics from 104 years ago. Seems when it comes to “fat girls,” nothing has changed in over a century. That, in my view, is a sad commentary on society, or maybe a sad commentary on a male-dominated society. I think we need more Sophie Tuckers in the world….

“I Don’t Want To Get Thin”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

“Nobody Loves A Fat Girl”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (1-19-15)—One man come in the name of love

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

In 1997, Jim and I visited Atlanta, our main interest being the site of the 1996 Olympics and Centennial Olympic Park bombing, and the CNN headquarters.

mlkAfter our Atlanta visit, I considered The Martin Luther King Jr. National Historic Site, 35 acres, the most interesting place in Atlanta that we had visited—the Sweet Auburn Historic District, King’s boyhood home, and the historic Ebeneezer Baptist Church where both King Jr. and King Sr. were pastors.

Since today is Martin Luther King Jr. Day, a federal holiday and, in California, a state holiday, I thought I’d explore songs about Martin Luther King Jr.

When I went looking for such songs, interestingly I found two by a little Irish band called U2.

Whoever thought that such a historic man in the United States would be of such interest to a band from Ireland?

Both songs, “Pride (In The Name Of Love)” and “MLK,” are from U2’s classic 1984 album, “The Unforgettable Fire.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

Interestingly to me, “The Unforgettable Fire” reached #1 on the album charts in Australia, New Zealand, and Britain, but only #5 in Canada and #12 in the United States.

“Pride (In The Name Of Love)” made it to #1 on the single chart in New Zealand, #2 in Ireland, and #3 in Britain, but only #27 in Canada and #33 in the United States.

I think that’s telling considering that we still have significant racial problems here in the United States. Maybe Canada is more closely aligned to the United States than I once thought….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (1-12-15)—I’ll light a fire, you put some flowers in the vase

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I had the pleasure of meeting Nevin Williams in person this morning after knowing him online for seven years!

Nevin is a mortgage broker, so in his honor, I thought we’d listen to two of my favorite songs about houses.

“This Ole House” by Stuart Hamblen, 1954

Stuart Hamblen (1908-1989) was one of American radio’s first “singing cowboys,” getting his start in 1926. According to Wikipedia: “This Ole House” was inspired while on a hunting trip in the High Sierras with a friend. The two men came upon what looked like an abandoned shack, wherein they found the body of an elderly man, apparently dead of natural causes. Hamblen came up with the lyrics to the song while riding horseback down the mountain, and composed the melody within a week.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

“Our House” by Crosby Stills Nash & Young, 1970

According to Wikipedia: “The song originates in a domestic event that took place while Graham Nash was living with Joni Mitchell (and her two cats) in her house [in Los Angeles] …. What happened is that Joni and I – I don’t know whether you know anything about Los Angeles, but on Ventura Boulevard in the Valley, there’s a very famous deli called Art’s Deli. And we’d been to breakfast there. We’re going to get into Joan’s car, and we pass an antique store. And we’re looking in the window, and she saw a very beautiful vase that she wanted to buy… I persuaded her to buy this vase. It wasn’t very expensive, and we took it home. It was a very grey, kind of sleety, drizzly L.A. morning. And we got to the house in Laurel Canyon, and I said – got through the front door and I said, you know what? I’ll light a fire. Why don’t you put some flowers in that vase that you just bought? Well, she was in the garden getting flowers. That meant she was not at her piano, but I was… And an hour later ‘Our House’ was born, out of an incredibly ordinary moment that many, many people have experienced.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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Music on Mondays (1-5-15)—Makes me wanna get up and dance

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I have a huge collection of music, comprising all genres except opera, rap, and hip hop, and split into classical and non-classical. I listen to the non-classical collection in chronological order, and it used to take me about six months to listen to it. I say “used to” because that was when I had television. I quit the television world in September 2013, which has given me more time to listen to more music.

Julian quite often challenged me on just exactly how much digital music I have and how long it takes me to listen to it. Thus, on October 16, as I started a new round of chronological listening, I decided to create another Excel spreadsheet documenting my non-classical music collection. I still have some fine-tuning to do because I am eliminating songs that I don’t like, even if they are part of an album. In some cases, I’m deleting whole albums. I also still have a few albums on my 2014 “to buy” list.

My initial spreadsheet indicates that I have 1,650 hours, 17 minutes, and 42 seconds of non-classical music, and this is how long it would take me to listen to it:

At my current average of 11:11:19 per day: 147 days

At 10 hours per day: 165 days

9 hours per day: 184 days

8 hours per day: 206 days

7 hours per day: 235 days

6 hours per day: 275 days

5 hours per day: 330 days

4 hours per day: 412 days

As I was finishing my initial spreadsheet catalog, I also was finishing listening to the year 1988 (remember that I listen to my music in chronological order). That made me wonder what the #1 song for 1988 was. I Googled it and found that it was “Faith” by George Michael.” Until a few days ago, I had Michael’s “Faith” album, released in October 1987. I had it because at one time I was collecting all of the #1 singles and #1 albums from the rock ‘n’ roll era, generally conceded to have begun in 1955, the same year I was born. After listening to the album twice, I decided that I didn’t like it and summarily deleted it.

So, you might ask, what is my favorite song from 1988, the one 1988 song that I would put on my mp3 player after being told that I was going to be exiled to an island in the Pacific Ocean for the rest of my life? I believe I’m going to have to go with “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys.

“Kokomo” was originally released on the soundtrack to the movie “Cocktail,” starring Tom Cruise, released in August 1988. Eventually “Kokomo” also showed up on The Beach Boys’ album “Still Cruisin'” which was released in August 1989.

“Kokomo” reached #1 on The Billboard Hot 100 chart, garnering for The Beach Boys a record of the longest time between #1 singles, 21 years and 2 months between “Good Vibrations” in 1966 and “Kokomo” in 1988. Cher holds the current record of 24 years and 11 months between #1 singles.

Although “Kokomo” was nominated for a Grammy Award for “Best Original Song, Motion Picture,” it lost to “Two Hearts” by Phil Collins. Sadly, “Kokomo” shows up on VH1’s “40 Most Awesomely Bad #1 Songs” and Blender magazine’s “50 Worst Songs Ever.” Ah, well. I love it. Makes me wanna get up and dance, and I usually do!

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Music on Mondays (12-29-14)—An argument over politics

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

I have always liked music about actual historical events.

I am reminded of them each year because I get daily emails about historical events from

You can sign up here: This Day In History (scroll down one screen, red button, right side).

Yesterday, I learned (again!) about Stagger Lee.

“Stagger Lee,” Lloyd Price, 1959

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

The song was first published in 1911 and first recorded in 1923 by Fred Warring’s Pennsylvanians.

Based on an actual murder on December 27, 1895, in a barroom in St. Louis, Missouri. There are been many renditions throughout the years, but the one by Lloyd Price made it to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1959. Prior to Lloyd Price, the most famous version was “Stack O’ Lee Blues” by Mississippi John Hurt, recorded in 1928. Other versions that I am familiar with include those by Woody Guthrie, Duke Ellington, Bob Dylan, The Clash, and the Grateful Dead.


Under the headline “Shot in Curtis’s Place,” the story that ran in the next day’s edition of the St. Louis Daily Globe-Democrat began, “William Lyons, 25, colored, a levee hand… was shot in the abdomen yesterday evening at 10 o’clock in the saloon of Bill Curtis… by Lee Sheldon, also colored.” According to the Globe-Democrat’s account, Billy Lyons and “Stag” Lee Sheldon “had been drinking and were in exuberant spirits” when an argument over “politics” boiled over, and Lyons “snatched Sheldon’s hat from his head.” While subsequent musical renditions of this story would depict the dispute as one over gambling, they would preserve the key detail of “Stag” Lee Sheldon’s headwear and of his matter-of-fact response to losing it: “Sheldon drew his revolver and shot Lyons in the abdomen… When his victim fell to the floor Sheldon took his hat from the hand of the wounded man and coolly walked away.”

Hmmmmm. An argument over politics. Things haven’t changed.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Music on Mondays (12-22-14)—I prefer digital

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

On this day in music history, 1980, Magic Records, a subsidiary of the British firm Stiff Records, released an album in Great Britain titled “The Wit and Wisdom of Ronald Reagan.” Here’s an excerpt:

If you don’t seem to get any sound from your speakers, it’s because the album was forty minutes of silence, so the excerpt also is silence. However, if you listen closely, you can hear the vinyl pops, clicks, hisses, and scratches. That’s why I prefer digital!

Also on this day in music history, 1973, Elton John’s classic album “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” was at #1 on the charts in both Great Britain and the United States. Four singles from the album hit the singles charts: “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road,” “Saturday Night’s Alright For Fighting,” “Candle in the Wind,” and “Bennie and the Jets.”

Many critics consider “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” to be Elton’s best song. I agree it is very good but I might have a ten-way tie for best. Here’s “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road”:

Of course, we have to give credit to Bernie Taupin for writing the lyrics for Elton to put music to.

The B side of the single was a song titled “Screw You.” Except in the United States where the song was re-titled “Young Man’s Blues.” Certainly would not want to offend American record buyers…. until Rap and Hip Hop came along.

Of course, some Republicans would say that “The Wit & Wisdom of Ronald Reagan” with its forty minutes of silence is offensive….

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

This post approved by Zoey the Cool Cat

Music on Mondays (12-15-14)—Boléro

The Music Chronicles of Russel Ray

When people find out how large my music collection is (it takes me 6 months to listen to everything at 11 hours of listening per day), I always get asked one of three questions:

What’s your favorite song?
What’s your favorite album?
Who’s your favorite group?

I have never really had an answer for any of those questions because my musical taste is so varied. I do know that The Beatles rank high in all three categories. However, it’s difficult to compare classical music to rock music to country music, and I have a lot of all three genres.

One of my favorite compositions is “Boléro” by Maurice Ravel (1876-1937). Having grown up as a pianist, violinist, and vocalist, I was familiar with “Boléro” from a very early age. Ravel composed it in 1928; it premiered at the Paris Opéra on November 28, 1928.

I’m not familiar with any big name classical music composer in today’s world, so most classical music is a rehash of the same thing by different orchestras with different conductors. That often results in music that is played too fast, too slow, or just right, depending on what one grew up listening to.

In my opinion, “Boléro” doesn’t sound good if it’s played too fast or Quarter notestoo slow. So in my research for this Music on Mondays post, I discovered that Ravel’s original score had the pace set at 76 beats per quarter, but that was crossed out and 66 was written in. Thus, printed scores usually compromise with a stated pace of 72 beats per quarter. “Beats per quarter” means that a quarter note gets the beat, so there would be 72 quarter notes per minute.

Ravel’s own recording of “Boléro” lasts 15’50”. However, in a 1930 interview, he stated that “Boléro” lasts 17 minutes. Thus, I went to YouTube to find a recording that is somewhere between 15’50” and 17 minutes or so. I found a version that is 15’49” by the London Symphony Orchestra, one of my all-time favorite orchestras. Leave it to them to be so precise.

The London Symphony Orchestra has been conducted by Valery Gergiev since January 1, 2007, so this is a fairly recent recording, although I don’t know what year specifically.

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

“Boléro” was background music for the 1979 movie “10” starring Dudley Moore, Julie Andrews, Bo Derek, and Brian Dennehy. In the movie, “Boléro” was identified as the ideal piece of background music for making love. Sales of “Boléro” spiked after the movie was released; no surprise there.

Bolero, starring Bo DerekBo Derek starred in a 1984 movie titled “Bolero” but I have not seen it, and Wikipedia wasn’t much help other than telling me that it was a bad, bad movie, winning Worst Picture, Worst Actress, Worst Director, and Worst Screenplay. In 1990 it also was nominated for Worst Movie of the Decade. I did not find out whether or not the “Bolero” movie uses the “Bolero” music in it.

Now I’m going to take you to another favorite version of “Boléro,” this one by the classical/progressive rock group Emerson, Lake & Palmer. Keith Emerson was classically trained as a youth but eventually developed his own style by combining classical, jazz, and rock music. He is widely regarded as one of the top keyboard players of the rock era, and he shows it with “Abaddon’s Bolero.”

Pictures copyright 2012 Russel Ray Photos

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