‘Listen to the Music’ and crank it up!

Published 4:47 pm Tuesday, April 12, 2022

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It doesn’t require mad math skills to count the number of birthdays that have come and gone since June of 1953.

Yep….in just a matter of a few months, birthday #69 will arrive. Gee, I can hardly wait (that statement is filled with sarcasm). But then, looking at it another way, at least I’m not 70 yet!

However, having been born in 1953 does have a great advantage…my formative teen years were among the best in rock-and-roll history.

I turned 13 in 1966…the year that Frank Zappa and The Mothers of Invention released “Freak Out!” I haven’t been the same person since.

On a lighter side, 1966 also introduced me to Simon and Garfunkel and their every first LP – “Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme.”

That same year saw the release of several rock-and-roll instant classic LP’s: “Pet Sounds” from The Beach Boys, “Revolver” by four fellas you may remember by the names of Paul, John, George and Ringo, and Bob Dylan’s “Blonde on Blonde.”

I also recall hearing Eric Clapton’s soulful guitar for the first time in ’66, when he was then a member of the band, Cream.

That was also the year of introduction to the still legendary sounds of The Yardbirds, The Who, The Byrds, Buffalo Springfield, The Animals, The Mamas and the Papas, and Jefferson Airplane.

Upon entering high school in 1967, my taste in music was heavily influenced by the Motown sound. I recall hearing Jackie Wilson’s “Your Love Keeps Lifting Me”, Smokey Robinson’s “Tears of a Clown”, “Soul Man” from Sam and Dave, and Stevie Wonder’s “I was Made to Love Her” for the first time and remembering where has this sound been all my life?

But that was just the start of broadening my musical tastes. If there were such a thing as building a digital music library back then, mine would have included the likes of The Fifth Dimension, Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, The Box Tops, Otis Redding, Herman’s Hermits, Paul Revere and the Raiders, Bobby Gentry, The Monkees, Neil Diamond, Bee Gees, Sly and the Family Stone, The Association, The Lovin Spoonful, Canned Heat, James Brown, Tommy James and the Shondells, Ten Years After, Big Brother and the Holding Company, Cat Stevens, Aretha Franklin, Van Morrison, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Traffic, and Jimi Hendrix.

Who could forget that in 1967, “you can get anything you want at Alice’s Restaurant?” Or “Mellow Yellow” by Donovan; or “Whiter Shade of Pale” by Procol Harum; or saying goodbye to “Ruby Tuesday” by the Rolling Stones; or “Light My Fire” by the Doors.

And to cap it all off, 1967 brought us a pair of classic LPs from The Beatles: Magical Mystery Tour, and Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

One year later (1968), The Beatles released perhaps their most masterful album. The cover was simplistic – a solid white background with only two words – The Beatles. It became known as the White Album and sold a record 24 million copies.

1968 also introduced me to a group known as The Band (Rick Danko on bass guitar, vocals, fiddle), Garth Hudson playing the keyboards, accordion, and saxophone, Richard Manuel on keyboards, drums, lap steel guitar, vocals, Robbie Robertson on guitar, vocals, and Levon Helm on drums, vocals, mandolin, guitar). They masterfully combined folk, rock, jazz, country and R&B. I became a fan for life.

New artists kept coming throughout my high school years: Blood, Sweat & Tears, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Janis Joplin, David Bowie, Led Zeppelin, Chicago, Pink Floyd, Joni Mitchell, James Taylor, Deep Purple, The Allman Brothers, Elton John, Santana, Derek and the Dominos, John Lee Hooker and Canned Heat, ZZ Top, Yes, Alice Cooper, Emerson, Lake & Palmer, John Prine, Jethro Tull, T. Rex, Carole King, and Rod Stewart.

Meanwhile, the Motown sound was still making me smile. The year I graduated from high school (1971) came perhaps one of the best Motown songs ever released in my opinion – “What’s Going On” by Marvin Gaye. It was a powerful song as America was entering a new decade on the heels of an unpopular war in Vietnam and civil rights coming way too slowly here on American soil. Nobody’s voice but Marvin Gaye’s could make the words of that song linger within one’s soul.

That brings me to what is now the 50th anniversary of the top albums of 1972. I was a student at Chowan College at that time, working towards a degree in Graphic Arts that one year later launched a newspaper career that still lasts today.

That was the year I first fell in love with a handful of new artists, each with a distinct sound: Fleetwood Mac, Bonnie Raitt, Jackson Browne, Little Feat, Humble Pie, The Carpenters, Steely Dan, Edgar Winter, John Denver, and Seals & Croft.

1972 also continued my musical love affair with the Allman Brothers. They released the album “Eat a Peach” that year and I wore out several of those LPs while listening over and over to Ain’t Wastin’ Time No More, Melissa, One Way Out, Blue Sky, and Mountain Jam.

I witnessed my first live concert in 1972, traveling with a group of friends to the Hampton Coliseum to hear Alice Cooper. He released the album “School’s Out” that year. The title song became an instant classic for all school-aged kids.

1972 introduced me to the Doobie Brothers, a group I still love to listen to 50 years later. They released “Toulouse Street” that year, an album that produced still legendary hits Listen to the Music, and Jesus is Just Alright.

It was also the same year for what became one of the greatest groups of all time when Randy Meisner, Bernie Leadon, Don Henley, and Glenn Frey formed The Eagles. (Note: Joe Walsh and Don Felder joined the band later.)

Their very first album – aptly entitled “Eagles – was released 50 years ago and included classic singles such as Take it Easy, Witchy Woman, and Peaceful Easy Feeling. Between then and now, The Eagles have a half-dozen number one selling albums to their credit. They’ve collected six Grammy Awards and five American Music Awards.

I consider myself a lucky man for the opportunity to feel the beat and hear the powerful lyrics of musical groups and individuals during the 1960’s and into the 1970’s. That music still fills my soul and when I hear them today on the radio or on the internet, I crank the volume up just bit louder.

Cal Bryant is the Editor of Roanoke-Chowan Publications. Contact him at cal.bryant@r-cnews.com or 252-332-7207.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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