Thursday, February 19, 2015

Music Break: Sad Songs

According to a certain Elton John song, "sad songs say so much".  So here are a few of my favorite sad songs, some being slow as you might expect, and others surprisingly more lively.  The closing selection, in fact, is both.  To start, here's one that would have fit into last month's theme of Beatles covers - Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers' version of George Harrison's I Need You, performed at the Concert For George.

Harrison helped fellow ex-Beatle Ringo Starr write Photograph, which reached the #1 position in the Billboard's US singles chart in 1973.  Written about a lost lover, the song took on a new meaning for Starr with Harrison's passing, which he indicated before performing it at the above-mentioned Concert For George.  This is the studio version from the album Ringo, which includes Harrison on acoustic guitar and harmony vocals.

One of Peter Green's last contributions to Fleetwood Mac's early repertoire was his autobiographical song Man Of The World, here performed on the German TV show Beat Club.  From left to right:  Jeremy Spencer (guitar), Danny Kirwan (guitar), Mick Fleetwood (drums), John McVie (bass) and Peter Green (guitar and lead vocals).

In the early seventies, Don McLean had a huge hit with American Pie, and also came out with Vincent, inspired by the painter Vincent van Gogh.  The lyrics feature the line "starry starry night", derived from the title a van Gogh painting.  The video is a slide show of van Gogh's works, set to McLean's song, compiled and posted to YouTube by modern painter Anthony DiFatta.

As promised above, the last song is both slow and fast.  From Lynyrd Skynyrd's debut album, Free Bird laments a breakup, with the singer blaming himself while expressing his desire to be free.  The song's mood, tempo and chord progression all change, launching one of classic rock's most famous guitar solos.  At this time, the band's personnel were Ronnie Van Zant (vocals), Allen Collins (guitar, including this solo), Gary Rossington (guitar, including the slide), Billy Powell (keyboards), Ed King (bass) and Bob Burns (drums).  Original bassist Leon Wilkerson would rejoin the band shortly after the album was recorded, with King moving to guitar, thus giving the band their famous three-guitar lineup.  The album's producer Al Kooper, credited under the pseudonym Roosevelt Gook, plays the mellotron with a strings setting during the second verse.  I was able to find a video that had some amazing aerial footage.

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