Behind the Music: The Death At The Howard Soundtrack – Vol. 1

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Behind the Music: The Death At The Howard Soundtrack – Vol. 1

Death At The Howard (DATH) refers to 34 songs that were – or should have been – popular on the rock or rhythm & blues charts before or in 1968. One of my greatest pleasures in writing the book was getting to give a little “air time” to each of them. It’s my pleasure here to provide a little background on each one so, if you read the book, you might appreciate it a little more. Click the the song’s title to watch the music come alive.

So, on with the countdown, in their order of appearance.

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Martha and the Vandellas

1. Heat Wave: This song was a giant hit for Martha Reeves and the Vandellas in 1963, which made it a common song for other girl groups on the r&b circuit to cover on stage. I gave the honor to The Velvelettes, who were appearing on the undercard to the fictional Brenda Queen in DATH.

2. Needle In A Haystack: This was The Velvelettes’ only hit, in 1964, on Tamla/Motown. A great song with outstanding backup singing.

3. I Can’t Stand Myself (When You Touch Me): A pretty big hit for James Brown in 1967 that should have been huge. Good Gawd!

4. Hypnotized: This was Linda Jones’ biggest hit, from 1967.

5. Respect: Brenda Queen did it in the book, but Otis Redding wrote and recorded it in 1965, with Booker T and the MGs behind him. “Otis Blue,” the 1967 released album it appeared on, is one of the great soul LPs of all time, with tracks including Sam Cooke’s “Change Gonna Come” and “Shake,” “Satisfaction,” “I’ve Been Loving You Too Long,” and the William Bell classic, “You Don’t Miss Your Water.” The link takes you to Aretha Franklin’s incomparable version.

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6. It’s A Man’s World: James Brown’s soulful ballad was released in 1966.

7. Night Train: An early hit for James Brown in 1962, the song was a staple of his live shows for all the reasons you can see with one click.

8. Cold Sweat: This 1967 song was a giant hit for James on both the rock and r&b charts.

9. Poppa’s Got A Brand New Bag: James released this song on both sides of a single in 1965.

10. I Got You (I Feel Good): James’ biggest hit was released in 1965.

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11. Money Won’t Change You: This song, released in 1966, was one of James’ lesser hits, but it deserved a wider audience, not only because of its message, its funk, and its “Hava Nagila” horns, but also for his great delivery of the line “If there’s somebody that’s once been hoit, Then you know how it seems to be treated – like doit.”

12. Kansas City: This rock standard was written in 1952 by the later-to-be-legendary songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, and originally recorded by Wilbert Harrison in 1959. James made it his own, making it a part of the playlist at many, if not all, of his live performances. Click to see his version, live at the Apollo.

13. Please, Please, Please: The finale at every James Brown show. You can read all about it in DATH, but, even better, you can see the video.

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14. The Hunter Gets Captured By The Game: The Marvelettes had many classic r&b hits, including “Beechwood 45789,” “Please, Mr. Postman,” and “Don’t Mess with Bill,” but this one, written by Bill himself – Smokey Robinson – and released in 1967, seemed out of their usual lane, maybe just because of the weird, spiraling sound effect after they sang the title lyric.

15. There Was A Time: Referred to in the book as the Camel Walk, because of the lyric “We don’t talk/We all get together/Any type of weather/Then we do the camel walk,” and the great dance James did while doing it. You can see a classic performance at the link above.

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16. It’s Over: Roy Orbison’s piercing, aching lament over why he won’t be seeing rainbows anymore, from 1964.

17. Shake: This barnburner was recorded at Sam Cooke’s last recording session before his death on December 11, 1964. It was released later that month and made the Top Ten on both the pop and r&b charts.

Next on the Blog: Behind the Music: Death At The Howard Soundtrack – Volume 2

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