Monday, January 10, 2005

Birthday Day

January 10 is a date rich with rock and roll birthdays, and away we go.

Pat Benatar is 53. I never had much use for Benatar's tough rock chick bit back in the day, and her stuff hasn't worn well at all in the 20 years or so since her last meaningful hit. Essential track: "Hit Me With Your Best Shot," and nothing else is close.

Donald Fagen is 57. After the demise of Steely Dan, Fagen released only two or three tracks in 13 years, but has recorded two solo albums since 1994, plus two more with the reformulated Dan. His cynicism must have mellowed a bit in the intervening years, if only because he'll record what sounds like a love song now and then. Representative love song: "The Things I Miss the Most" from the Dan's Everything Must Go. Essential track (solo records only): "Snowbound," from Kamakiriad.

Rod Stewart is 60. Few things in recorded music are finer than old Rod Stewart records. They're a British version of American roots music, sort of, blues-based and mostly acoustic. But that was never where Rod's bliss lay, not really. He clearly relished the rock-star flourishes he could indulge with Faces, and his success in the 1970s allowed him to adopt the lifestyle of an international playboy, with grave consequences for his music. In recent years, he's recorded three albums of standards, which are dire enough to make you nostalgic for "Do You Think I'm Sexy." Essential album: Every Picture Tells a Story. (An essay I wrote in 2000 for a friend, "The Rod Stewart Hater's Guide to Rod Stewart," is here.)

Jim Croce would have been 62 today, had he not gotten onto a doomed airplane in September 1973. One of the more interesting what-ifs in pop music regards Croce. What would have become of him? The way he liked to create colorful characters in his songs leads me to believe he would have branched out into fiction after a while, a la Jimmy Buffett. Given his wife's success as a restauranteur, he may have emulated Buffett in that way too. "Thyme in a Bottle," maybe. (Don't laugh: that's already the title of a cookbook Mrs. Croce has published.) Essential track: "It Doesn't Have to Be That Way."

Jerry Wexler is 88. As one of the founding fathers of Atlantic Records, Wexler is responsible for bringing some of the 20th century's most important artists to prominence--Ray Charles and Aretha Franklin, to name just two. A brief 1999 biographical sketch of Wexler is here. Essential album: For an overview of Atlantic during its most influential years, there's the massive anthology Atlantic Rhythm and Blues 1947-1974.


At 12:40 PM, Blogger nichole said...

Thanks for the birthday roster! And your Rod Stewart essay is great - not enough to get this twentysomething to like him, but very good nonetheless.

At 6:54 PM, Blogger Willie said...

Sorry jb, but I must take exception to your evaluation of Pat Benatar. She was and is a rock and roll diva. Granted, her latest blue mascara episode is a bit scary.

Pat's classics such as "Love is a Battlefield," "Heartbreaker," and "We Belong" are great. Other, lesser known tracks, "Fire and Ice," "Hell is for Children," "Treat Me Right," "You Better Run," and "Promises in the Dark" are also good.

Pat is as important to rock history as Grace Slick or Stevie Nicks.

If you want to bag on someone, try Linda Ronstadt.

At 8:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Pat Benatar as important as Stevie Nicks or Grace Slick? Beg to differ. Slick was an important component in the sound of a seminal 60s group, while Nicks propelled Fleetwood Mac to stardom. At the same time, she pioneered a look that other performers imitated for a while in the 1980s. Pat Benatar made some nice records, that's all.


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