Here’s the first episode of a new series that we’ll be exploring occasionally here on the “I’m In Love With That Song” Podcast. I’m always interested to hear about music that made a big impact on other people’s lives; in this series, I’m inviting some fellow podcasters and friends in the music industry to discuss an album that shaped their lives in some way.

For this first episode, Podcaster Extraordinaire Eric Miller joins us to talk about Living Color’s “Vivid”. And I discuss one of my influential albums, “Anthology” by Sly & The Family Stone. Hope you enjoy the conversation!

The Ohio Players paid their dues for 15 years before their first #1 Top 100 hit, but by then, they were on fire (pun intended). Built on an incessant groove that won’t quit, they brought heavy funk to the top of the pop charts. On this episode, we take a look at all the elements that make up this funky classic.

“Fire” (Ralph Middlebrooks, Marshall Jones, Leroy Bonner, Clarence Satchell, Willie Beck & Marvin Pierce) Copyright 1974 Play One Music and Segundo Suenos Music

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Merry Clayton never had a big hit, but her voice can be heard in dozens of songs you know (we’ve listened to one of them here before– see episode #42). One of the legendary background singers profiled in the documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, most of her solo work is largely unknown– which is a shame, because there’s some great music on those albums. Take this example from her first album, Gimme Shelter. Merry takes this James Taylor classic to a whole new place, one of my favorite cover songs of all time.

“Country Road” (James Taylor) Copyright 1970 Blackwood Music Inc./Country Road Music Inc. (BMI)

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Rare Earth’s sound was equal parts funky soul and straight-up rock. For decades, when there’s cause for celebration, folks have been crankin’ up this chunk of funk rock. Let’s take a closer look at how Rare Earth carved their place in history with this track.

“I Just Want To Celebrate” (Nick Zesses, Dino Fekaris) Copyright 1971 Jobette Music Co., Inc (BMI)

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Hard to believe now, but Motown resisted releasing this song as a single. Marvin’s version sat on a shelf for months before being relegated to an album track– until some DJ’s discovered it, and the rest is history. It became Motown’s biggest selling hit at that time. And it’s a true classic. In this episode, we’ll look at how the track was put together and marvel at Marvin’s performance. One of the greats.

“I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong) Copyright 1966 Jobette Music Co, Inc., BMI

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Earth, Wind & Fire’s 6th album, That’s The Way of The World, was ostensibly a soundtrack album; when the film bombed, the album was on the verge of fading away, too– until “Shining Star” was released as a single and it became their first (and surprisingly only) #1 Top 10 Hit. The whole band is on fire here; beneath the pop sheen is the heaviest of funk grooves, with particularly tasty guitar & bass work. Let’s climb inside this funk machine & see what it took to create this stellar track.

Earth Wind & Fire – “Shining Star” (Maurice White, Philip Bailey and Larry Dunn) Copyright 1975 (Renewed 2003) EMI April Music Inc. 

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“War” was originally written for The Temptations, but when Motown was too squeamish to have one of their top acts release an overtly anti-Vietnam song, Edwin Starr stepped up and secured his place in history. His no-holds-barred delivery of “War” resulted in one of the most commercially successful protest songs ever recorded. Though Edwin Starr never reached these heights again, he left his mark with a song that transcended its Vietnam-era roots: It was one of the songs on Clear Channel’s no-play list after September 11, 2001.

“War” (Norman Whitfield & Barrett Strong) Copyright 1970 Jobette Music Co, Inc.

The Temptations’ first #1 Hit on the Billboard “Hot 100” chart was “My Girl” in 1965. 4 years later, they had their 2nd #1 with “I Can’t Get Next To You”, and the difference between these 2 songs tells you a lot about the 1960’s. “I Can’t Get Next To You” features a different lead vocalist, a more aggressive, funky beat and a trippy vibe courtesy of producer & songwriter Norman Whitfield. The early Temptations songs are great, but for my money, they were never better than when they teamed up with Whitfield and created “psychedelic soul”. Let’s listen to each piece of the puzzle that created this masterpiece.

“I Can’t Get Next To You” (Barret Strong & Norman Whitfield) Copyright 1969 Jobette Music Co., Inc. All rights controlled and administered by EMI Blackwood Music Inc. on behalf of Stone Agate Music (A division of Jobette Music Co., Inc.)

Aretha Franklin recorded over 40 albums during her career; this episode, we revisit a song from her breakthrough album, “I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You” from 1967. This was actually her 11th album (!), but it was the first one recorded for Atlantic Records and it’s the one that made her a legend. Aretha Franklin was probably the single most influential singer of our time– just listen to any episode of American Idol for proof.

Aretha was not only a great vocalist, she was one of the greatest interpreters of songs in history. She didn’t just cover a song, she made it her own. “A Change Is Gonna Come” was Sam Cooke’s finest moment, but Aretha strips it down to its purest form and imbues it with pain, world-weariness, and hope – one of the greatest emotionally cathartic moments on record.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” (Sam Cooke) Copyright Kags, BMI

When a great soul singer meets a song by one of the great pop songwriting teams, magic ensues.  Al Green takes a song by the Bee Gees and turns it into one of the classic singles of all time.  Let’s nurse our broken hearts together as we dig into this amazing song.  Please take a minute to share this podcast, and thanks for spreading the word!

“How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” (Barry Gibb & Robin Gibb) Copyright 1971 Gibb Brothers Music