Monday, January 15, 2018

Songs Of Proof: The Class Of 1987

Happy Martin Luther King, Junior Day everyone!  We come now to the second class of the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, the Class Of 1987.  This is notably the largest class to date, and quite possibly the largest there ever will be.  And wow, are there a lot of legends.  Many of whom could just as easily have been considered important enough to have been inducted in the charter class, the year before.  This is also the year where we get our first female inductee, our first group of more than two members (and with it, the first run-in with snubbed members), as well as the biggest and most egregious case of Front Man Fever that hopefully we will ever see.

But still, a class with a size that we would like to see more of.  It's fairly diverse, about as diverse as it can be given how many rock and roll acts were actually eligible at that time, and plenty of name recognition to go around.  So many artists with so many good songs, it's hard to choose just one song for each inductee.  Fortunately, it's also hard to go wrong with any of them.  So, what's the playlist for this class?

Leonard Chess: The man behind Chess Records (one of the two, anyway), and considered the driving force.  Hoping that Phil gets his due someday, too.  Meanwhile, as it was Chess Records that introduced the world to Chuck Berry, among other artists, it seemed only right to use "Maybelline," Chuck's introductory record to honor this Non-Performer.

The Coasters:  The first group with more than two members inducted, and a terrific, albeit unlikely selection.  The Clown Princes Of Rock And Roll used humor, particularly urban humor of that era, to reach the youth of America.  The coming together of African-American culture and youth culture is probably what best defines rock'n'roll, particularly early rock'n'roll.  So, I chose the song of theirs that I thought was funniest, and that every teen can relate to: "Yakety Yak."  (Vocal Group Hall Of Fame Song Of Proof: "Poison Ivy")

Eddie Cochran:  A great star that we lost too soon, who wrote and first recorded the song about three stars that we lost too soon, pun intended.  On "American Gold," Dick Bartley avoided using the obvious "Summertime Blues" and chose a different song.  I did that too.  A great, underrated jam from Cochran, in my opinion, is "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie" that just captures youthful exuberance.

Bo Diddley:  Of all the inductees from this class, there are three that I felt were important enough at the dawn of rock and roll to deserve enshrinement in the first class: Bill Haley, Clyde McPhatter, and this man.  Originally, I was using "You Can't Judge A Book By Its Cover," but let's be honest, the song, the man, and the beat are all inextricably tied to each other, "Bo Diddley."

Ahmet Ertegun:  Again, while no man is an island, this man was the main force that helped Atlantic Records become so prominent.  Whatever you may feel about the cronyism surrounding the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame Foundation, the importance of Atlantic Records to rock and roll cannot be denied.  Among the legendary artists he brought to the world are the Drifters, so I've chosen to salute him with a classic from the original lineup.  "Fools Fall In Love" is a fantastic song and wonderfully salutes the man, in my opinion.

Aretha Franklin:  If ever I have to explain the difference between liking and respecting something, Aretha Franklin's music is a fine example for me to use.  As much as I respect her impact and accomplishments, I'm not a fan of her music, at least not her voice.  Just don't like it.  So much so, that the opening bars of her cover of "Respect" have me reaching for the dial.  That said, every inductee gets a song.  Her stature for the empowerment of women is intertwined with her musical legacy, and I believe that "Think" fits the bill quite adequately.

Marvin Gaye:  Gonna say it right out front, this is one I'm actually thinking of changing at some point.  I'm not a huge fan of Marvin Gaye, and my favorite song by him is "It Takes Two," his duet with Kim Weston.  Since that violates the guidelines, I had to look elsewhere.  Now,  the obvious answer is to go to his work from the early '70's, right?  Yeah, I didn't do that.  Marvin's gospel influence and the way it could be heard and felt in his early years created some pretty decent toe-tappers as well.  In all honesty, if I'm gonna change it, it'll probably be to "That's The Way Love Is," but for right now, the song I'm using for him is "Can I Get A Witness."

Bill Haley:  And sometimes you have to go for the patently obvious.  The man and his band made a lot of great music together, but ultimately, the legacy he leaves the deepest is for "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock."

Louis Jordan:  Front man fever in the Early Influence category.  If the Tympany Five ever get tacked on and enshrined at some point, I'll give them "Five Guys Named Moe."  Meanwhile, the man's wit and sensibilities, as well as much of the DNA of rock and roll, is pretty evident in a great song like "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie."

B.B. King:  One of the greatest bluesmen of all time.  Some might consider it a little too commercial, but no one can deny that "The Thrill Is Gone" follows a solid blues format, is soulfully delivered, and has the great guitar work that he was known for.

Jerry Leiber:  As I said, Non-Performer teams are broken up in this set.  The songwriting duo wrote a lot of songs that Elvis is known for, but the Coasters were also another act that recorded a lot of songs they wrote.  As a bonus, on "That Is Rock And Roll," the song I've chosen for this half, it's Jerry Leiber himself who sings during the bridge, since the group member who was supposed to sing it was having trouble nailing it down, so Jerry sang it himself.  This wasn't a chart hit, but it is regarded as one of the group's non-charted classics, so I think this is a fine song to use to remember Jerry Leiber.

Clyde McPhatter:  A talented musician that I have tremendous respect for, and hope he is inducted a third time someday.  There was no one that sounded like him, and still really haven't been any who do.  Even as a soloist, he gave us some immortal songs.  I chose "Lover Please" because it's got a great beat to it and showcases his ability to work a lyric so that it suits him impeccably.

Ricky Nelson:  The legend among other teen idols.  Got into the business to impress a girl, and made a very respectable career out of it.  A lot of his songs had a country or rockabilly tinge to it, and to that end, I've chosen "Believe What You Say" to exemplify him as a rock and roller.

Roy Orbison:  Another artist that it's really hard to go wrong with, no matter what you select, to such a degree that picking a song for him is rather difficult.  Originally, I went with his version of "Mean Woman Blues," but I ended up changing it to something a little closer to his overall general style, that song being "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)."

Carl Perkins:  He's had a lot of great songs, to be sure, but in the end, I had to go with the obvious.  The one that really impacted rock and roll.  Yup, "Blue Suede Shoes."

Smokey Robinson:  So, this is one that I intentionally went with a solo record of his, even though this original induction clearly was about all of it: his solo work, his work with the Miracles, and his work as a songwriter.  If the Award For Musical Excellence category had existed then, he would have been inducted there, most likely.  Anyway, when I first created the project, I held out hope for an induction of the Miracles at some point, and I felt Smokey's solo career really deserved recognition too, so "Being With You" fills this slot.

Mike Stoller:  The other half, the surviving half of this duo, and one of three inductees in this class still alive as of this writing (Aretha and Smokey being the other two).  For this one, I simply went right down to the bone and went with Elvis Presley's "Hound Dog."  If Big Mama Thornton ever gets her due as an Early Influence, I'll happily use another song for her, since I'm sure she'd like to be remembered for more than just doing the original version of this song.

Big Joe Turner:  Another one of those interesting cases.  Here, he's considered a Performer inductee, but as a blues pioneer, so... kinda Early Influence?  It's clear the Rock Hall was really still figuring out what was what at this point.  Either way, the original "Shake, Rattle, And Roll" represents the man's contributions wonderfully.

T-Bone Walker:  A highly influential blues performer, one of his most enduring songs, one that John Mayer sang a piece of during his induction speech for Albert King, no less, is "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just As Bad)," and I use that one here.

Muddy Waters:  Another artist that it's so hard to go wrong with, that there's no one right song either.  That said, I think "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man" is a song that will always be tied most strongly to him, no matter how many covers there have been or will be.

Jerry Wexler:  One of the first professional producers, at least as we understand the concept today.  This is a Song Of Proof that I chose based on a piece of lore.  It's an urban legend, sure, but I love the story of the tuna fish sandwich.  The story goes that the first time he heard "There Goes My Baby" by the Drifters, he threw his tuna fish sandwich up against the wall in disgust.  He was wrong about that song, as it became a big hit for the new incarnation of the Drifters; so, fishmongers everywhere, rejoice, I chose that song for Mr. Wexler.

Hank Williams:  Given how early the man recorded, his discography is surprisingly well-preserved.  A lot of good songs that still get covered to this day, and still good to listen to.  He was inducted without his Drifting Cowboys, so if they get their due for backing him, I'll give them "Move It On Over."  Meanwhile, for the man who has been inducted, I've decided to honor him with "Hey, Good Lookin'."

Jackie Wilson:  The man was nicknamed "Mr. Excitement," which is kind of odd, too, because he did a lot of ballads, a few of which include adaptations of classical melodies.  That said, whether his music was low and lovely or jumping, he was an intense R&B performer.  So, with that intensity in mind, I've gone and saluted him with "Baby Workout."

The biggest task is now complete.  Hope you haven't strained your brain too much.  Don't forget to share your list in the Comments below.  And now for the skimmers, the recap:

Leonard Chess: "Maybelline" by Chuck Berry
the Coasters: "Yakety Yak"
Eddie Cochran: "Jeannie Jeannie Jeannie"
Bo Diddley: "Bo Diddley"
Ahemt Ertegun: "Fools Fall In Love" by the Drifters
Aretha Franklin: "Think"
Marvin Gaye: "Can I Get A Witness"
Bill Haley: "(We're Gonna) Rock Around The Clock"
Louis Jordan: "Choo Choo Ch'Boogie"
B. B. King: "The Thrill Is Gone"
Jerry Leiber: "That Is Rock And Roll" by the Coasters
Clyde McPhatter: "Lover Please"
Ricky Nelson: "Believe What You Say"
Roy Orbison: "Dream Baby (How Long Must I Dream)"
Carl Perkins: "Blue Suede Shoes"
Smokey Robinson: "Being With You"
Mike Stoller: "Hound Dog" by Elvis Presley
Big Joe Turner: "Shake, Rattle, And Roll"
T-Bone Walker: "Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday's Just As Bad)"
Muddy Waters: "(I'm Your) Hoochie Coochie Man"
Jerry Wexler: "There Goes My Baby" by the Drifters
Hank Williams: "Hey, Good Lookin'"
Jackie Wilson: "Baby Workout"


  1. This class is just too big to dive into every inductee.
    So I'll only post the ones that I would change:

    Marvin Gaye - Sexual Healing
    A recent hit in the 80s, showing that Gaye has been there for three decades and still delivering soulful music.

    Hank Williams - Jambalaya
    Just personal preference.

    Eddie Cochran - Twenty Flight Rock
    Personal preference. The track is so much fun and allegedly started the Beatles.

    Muddy Waters - Rollin' Stone
    Obvious choice. The name influenced the band, the magazine and the bob dylan song.

    1. Good choice of Muddy Waters. That was a strong contender for my list.

      As for Marvin, I intentionally stayed away from the overtly sexual songs. Not on any moral grounds, I just think they're way overrated. Marvin legitimately believed in the medicinal value of intercourse, and it's always left a bad taste in my mouth the way other people cheapen those tunes down to their go-to-to-get-lucky songs. And I personally don't like them as much as the early song of his on Motown. But yeah, if others were more vocal, we'd be seeing that song get mentioned quite a bit, I'd wager.

  2. THE MIRACLES should have been inducted in 1987, not just Smokey. His 1987 solo induction WITHOUT The Miracles ignited the FIRST GREAT CONTROVERSY in Rock Hall history that I'm sure the Hall of Fame hoped would just..go away with time, but,instead,actually just got BIGGER.
    Everybody kept asking the very logical question:
    "How could Motown's first and most important group NOT be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame ??"
    Then, as the years went by, those protests that the Hall of Fame thought would go away, went from a whisper to a ROAR, so much so,in fact, until Rock Hall CEO, Terry Stewart said that he got no less than 900 e-mails PER DAY demanding that The Miracles be inducted...and in that 26 year period, we began to lose the group's members one by one; Ronnie White was first, in 1995. Then Marv Tarplin was next, who passed away in September of 2011, less than SIX MONTHS before the induction ceremony. Then, Bobby Rogers got sick , and lost his leg to diabetes, and couldn't attend the induction only Pete Moore,and Claudette were there to share in the induction, inducted by group lead singer Smokey Robinson. I'm sure THAT was uncomfortable for the two of them, since they actually divorced in 1986...just one year before his solo induction (could that have been a factor?) after 27 years of marriage, and by 2012, Smokey had re-married.So, that special moment that Miracles fans had waited for, for some 26 years, proved to be a big disappointment, as by the time it FINALLY happened, half of the group was dead or dying..and Smokey wasn't even allowed to stand with them onstage; when he tried to have Pete and Claudette join him onstage, some guy came out on stage and told him "no", they would have to stand on stage with the surviving members of five other classic groups, ALL of which were more important to Rock and Roll History than the current inductees for that year...and ALL of which deserved individual recognition...and should have been inducted with their original lead singers in the first place .
    What The Rock Hall did to The Miracles was CRIMINAL !!
    The crime ? Waiting TOO LONG to iNDUCT !!

  3. Just wondering, what and howwould Clyde McPhatter get inducted a third time? He's in as a Drifter and alone.

    1. The Dominoes! aka Billy Ward And The Dominoes. They've been nominated once before.