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Paul McCartney Tag

Soul Serenade - Billy PaulIt’s time to head down the Turnpike to Philadelphia again. These trips to the City of Brotherly Love are pretty much my favorite part of writing this column. As I’ve said many times, here and elsewhere, it was the kids of Philadelphia, with their profound love of soul music, that had an everlasting effect on a kid growing up an hour away in Atlantic City. It’s a debt I can never repay, for a gift I will never forget.

You know the names. They echo down the halls of the virtual museum of American soul music, in the wing that they call Philly Soul. Gamble & Huff, Harold Melvin & the Bluenotes, the Stylistics, Barbara Mason, the Intruders, Teddy Pendergrass, the Delfonics, MFSB, Patti LaBelle, Blue Magic, Hall & Oates, the Soul Survivors. And they’re not all Philadelphians either. Out-of-towners like Jerry Butler, the O’Jays, and the Spinners found their greatest success when they recorded in Philadelphia.

Objectivity be damned; this is The Beatles we're talking about.  The single, most important cultural entity to happen in my lifetime; merely a rock and roll band who re-shaped traditions - musically and on a grander, far deeper social scale.  But not to quickly digress,

Soul Serenade - Allen ToussaintWhen Allen Toussaint died this week he was far from the city he loved. He had played a concert in Madrid and then suffered a heart attack. Toussaint was revived once, but a second attack took his life. Although he was an ocean away at the time of his death, the truth is that Allen Toussaint took New Orleans wherever he went, and any place he played was transformed into New Orleans for just a little while.

Soul Serenade - Billy Preston
I have a Billy Preston story. It seems like a distant dream sometimes, but it really happened. Really.

Billy was born in Houston, but moved to L.A. as a young child. By the age of ten he was an accomplished organist, backing gospel legends like Mahalia Jackson, James Cleveland, and Andrae Crouch. A year later he was performing “Blueberry Hill” on Nat King Cole’s TV show, and a year after that he appeared with Cole in the movie St. Louis Blues, the story of W.C. Handy.

Unless you’ve been off terraforming a planet in a distant galaxy, and thus out of the communications reach of earth, you’ve probably heard a little something about the Beatles recently. The celebrations to mark the 50th anniversary of the band’s arrival in the United States have been hard to miss, to say the least. Personally, I can’t get enough.

I’m old enough to remember that night, February 9, 1964, when the Beatles first played on the Ed Sullivan show. I can vividly recall gathering in the living room with my family to watch the show that night. Something like 80 million people were tuned in, and they included pretty much everyone I knew. To say that the Beatles debut was audacious doesn’t begin to cover it. As important as the music that blew us all away was (yes, even the parents fell in love with them that night, although they were loathe to admit it), what followed transcended music. It is often said that the Beatles changed music forever, and they surely did. But again, it’s more than that. They changed everything.

We lost Phil Everly late last week. Working with this brother Don, the Everly Brothers brought the sound of country music to rock and roll when it was still in its infancy. The vocal harmonies that the brothers became famous for influenced countless musicians who followed them, including John Lennon and Paul McCartney and Simon & Garfunkle, all of whom were quick to credit the influence of the Everly Brothers on their music.