After after two years of COVID-19 shutdowns & false starts, live music is beginning to return. Let’s celebrate the power & importance of live music by looking back at a critical moment in history:

April 5, 1968: Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated the day before. America was on edge and riots were breaking out in cities across the country. But the city of Boston, MA held it together. Why? Because the Godfather Of Soul– James Brown— was in town.

(Above Photo: Thomas Atkins (left) and Kevin White (right) speak with James Brown at the Boston Garden, April 5, 1968. It was one day after the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Atkins, Brown and White are credited with keeping the city quiet in the aftermath.)

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Wilson Pickett only recorded 9 songs during his time at Stax in Memphis, but they were defining records. “Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)” is the last of those singles, released in May 1966. Though not as well-known as “In The Midnight Hour”, “634-5789” or “Mustang Sally”, this song is a stone-cold classic in my book. Let’s see what it’s made of.

“Ninety-Nine And A Half (Won’t Do)” (Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper, Wilson Pickett) Copyright 1966 Irving Music and Pronto Music Inc.

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Sugar Pie DeSanto (born Peylia Marsema Balinton) was a ton of dynamite in a tiny 4′ 11″ frame… and still is, at the time of this recording. Let’s have a listen to this super-fun classic track, recorded with the great Etta James in 1966.

“In The Basement (Part 1)” (Billy Davis, Raynard Miner & Carl Smith) Copyright 1966 Chevis Music Inc BMI

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.