Here’s One Rockin’ And Rollin’ Birthday Party

by Kevin Burton

  The idea of a birthday party – you know, with the cake and the funny hats – has always seemed lame to me.  Today I’m changing my tune. 

   There is one such party I would put together and attend if I could.  Wait till you hear the musicians who share a Jan. 10 birthday. 

  Makes me want to throw a party, record it and produce a soundtrack.  It would be a winner, but you’d have to call it “down and disparate” or something like that.

   Some of these are posthumous, but happy Jan. 10 birthday to:

   Donald Fagen, 75.  I always thought it was Fagen writing all those impossible-to-decipher Steely Dan lyrics, but I learned later that was Walter Becker. Fagen could be the coolest musician ever.  He first got into rockers such as Chuck Berry but soon turned to other musical forms.

   “At age eleven, a cousin recommended jazz music and Fagen went to the Newport Jazz Festival, becoming what he called a ‘jazz snob,’ according to Wikipedia.

   “I lost interest in rock and roll and started developing an anti-social personality,” Fagen said.”

   You can hear all of the above along with influence from Henry Mancini, Sly Stone and Earl ‘Fatha” Hines in his work with Steely Dan and his solo tunes.

   Pat Benatar, 70:

   “Hit Me With Your Best Shot” rose to number 9 on the hot 100 in 1980. It’s easily Benatar’s most recognizable song, but the new Rock And Roll Hall of Famer will no longer sing it in concert. This is in protest of the multiple mass shootings in the United States.

   “(The title) is tongue-in-cheek, but you have to draw the line. I can’t say those words out loud with a smile on my face, I just can’t,” she told USA Today. “I’m not going to go on stage and soapbox – I go to my legislators – but that’s my small contribution to protesting. I’m not going to sing it.”

   Jim Croce, died 1973, would have been 80:

   The loss of a man who could write a song as cerebral and timeless as “Time In A Bottle” in his 20s was a profound tragedy for music fans and thoughtful observers. What would Croce have written about 911, divided America, the Gulf War?  

   Had he lived he would have given mid-late-70s disco haters another safe place to land.  As it is, he contributed to the international musical lexicon, characters as sublime as Bad, Bad Leroy Brown, as ridiculous as the Roller Derby Queen who was “built like a refrigerator with a head.”  \

   Johnnie Ray, died 1990, would have been 96.

   I’m not as familiar with the Johnnie Ray catalog as that of Croce and Fagen. For me he’s most notable as the one Dexy’s Midnight Runners sing about in “Come On Eileen.” 

   Those lyrics I had a very hard time figuring out are “Poor old Johnnie Ray, sounded sad upon the radio. Moved a million hearts in mono.”

  But Ray was big. Cited by some as a precursor to rock and roll, Ray had his biggest hit “Cry” four years before “Rock Around The Clock.”

   British Hit Singles & Albums noted that Ray was ‘a sensation in the 1950s; the heart-wrenching vocal delivery of ‘Cry’ … influenced many acts including Elvis, and was the prime target for teen hysteria in the pre-Presley days,” reads his Wikipedia page.

   Rod Stewart, 78.

   You would know that raspy voice anywhere.  His “Maggie Mae” is a staple of 70s compilations and a favorite of classic rock radio.  “Tonight’s The Night” was an even bigger hit for him, so much so that he could pull off the disco infused “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy,” without losing his rock and roll cred.

   From early on Stewart was a big fan of rhythm and blues and soul music, including Sam Cooke and Otis Redding.

   At the risk of ruining the vibe, I’ll mention that longtime Atlantic Records producer Jerry Wexler (died 2008, would have been 106) was also born on this date. 

   The man had talent and could definitely hear a hit. But most accounts I have heard from people involved with Stax Records, indicate that he did that label dirty.

    With or without Wexler, wouldn’t it be great to be a wallflower at a party like this one, listening to all those rock and roll stories of old? 

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