Top 5: Gonna Drive You Home
Lots of notable birthdays today in the music world--here are five of them, in approximate order of coolness.
5. Star Trek. The debut episode was broadcast on this date in 1966. By making stars of William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy, the show is indirectly responsible for some of the most misguided musical ideas in history, including (but not limited to) Nimoy's version of "Proud Mary" and Shatner's "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."
4. Benjamin Orr. The Cars' bassist was born in 1947. Orr dropped out of high school to pursue a musical career, but it didn't happen for him overnight. He was nearly 30 when the Cars got together, not quite 40 when he released his only solo album, and one month past his 53rd birthday in 2000 when he died of pancreatic cancer. Key tracks: "Drive" (with the Cars), "Stay the Night" (solo).
3. Ron "Pigpen" McKernan. A founding member of the Grateful Dead, McKernan was born in 1945. By 1968, more talented musicians had joined the band, and McKernan was eventually replaced on keyboards and relegated to playing congas. When the rest of the band started getting deeply into psychedelic drugs, McKernan stuck with alcohol, and he died from complications of alcoholism in 1973. Given all the 60s stereotypes about dirty hippies, one can only speculate why McKernan got the nickname "Pigpen."
2. Aimee Mann. Born in 1960, and first noticed by everybody as the photogenic front-woman of the 80s group Til Tuesday. Mann's solo career has resulted in some of the most consistently interesting and creative music of the last 10 years or so. Key tracks: the Magnolia soundtrack, "Two of Us" (with Michael Penn from the I Am Sam soundtrack).
1. Patsy Cline. Born in 1932, she had it all: a gorgeous bluesy voice, great songs, a glamorous image, and the kind of tragic death from which legends are made. It was only a little over five years from her first hit, "Walkin' After Midnight" to her death in a plane crash in 1963, but in that time, she recorded several of the greatest records Nashville ever produced: "She's Got You," "I Fall to Pieces," and "Crazy," by some tabulations the most popular jukebox record of all time--all of which were substantial pop hits, too. She also helped break the stereotype of female country singers as blushing, demure girls in cowgirl outfits in favor of outspoken women in sequins and heels, which was controversial at first and copied later on.
Tune of the Day: This is something new I want to see if I can keep up--with every post just a mention, although sometimes a link or a posted MP3, of the best song I've heard yet today. For this day, there are two: First, a song that will make you laugh like crazy--I wept, that's how funny I thought it was--but merely listening to it will probably send you straight to Hell after you die. Second, "Detroit Diesel" by Alvin Lee, which popped up on a crappy-sounding oldies tape I had on in the car today. It's the title song from a 1986 album, and it rocks as hard as anything I've ever heard in my life. I'll have to find a cleaner copy before I can post it, though.