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50 Years Ago This Week...Birthday Tunes!

August 7, 1971 was 50 years ago. Time really does fly when we're having fun, and writing blogs, and going through the daily life adventures! These were the songs that topped the charts when yours truly first debuted on Planet Earth. Rock on with the memories...I know I will...and do!

#10. Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology) by Marvin Gaye. Kicking off the Top 10 from the Billboard Hot 100 this week 50 years ago, this classic from the late great Marvin Gaye resonates as much today as it did 50 years ago. Multiple songs in this week's Top 10 featured social commentary, including the environment, racism, and the need for the world to come together. And, as I celebrate fellow 50-year old Woodsy Owl this year with the litter pick up challenge, I think about how much each of us can continue working to protect, preserve, and make the environment a better one for our children and grandchildren. And I think about how grateful I am to all that continue to fight and work for our environment. Mr. Gaye’s classic tune provides the perfect backdrop for supporting and improving the world around us.

#9. What The World Needs Now Is Love/Abraham, Martin, and John by Tom Clay. The song at Number 9 is the first of three dual-titled hits on this week’s charts; it was like a Top 13 for the price of a single Top 10! It was obvious in 1971 there was just too much good music to simply settle on the single side of a record! This song is a bit like a documentary, and reflection on all that America had recently experienced in terms of racial strife, social justice, and the recent assassinations of President John F Kennedy, Jr., and Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Less of a song, and more of an audio documentary, its message is timeless and should be heard more often than it is.

#8. Beginnings/Colour My World by Chicago. Chicago was only getting its start in 1970, so the dual-sided single Beginnings/Colour My World (with"bonus points" for the British spelling!), seems like a properly titled song, as they were still in their "beginnings" back then. This is another song, or should I say pair of songs, that really do stand the test of time! Each of these two tunes has less of a pop feel, and more of a jazz influence. As time went on, that ratio would change, as their songs became more pop-inspired and produced, with a little jazz thrown in for good measure. In any case, I like Chicago in each of its various incarnations, but I think the early music was their best, including this Number Eight hit from 50 years ago this week in 1971! #7. It's Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move by Carole King. The third of the three double-sided hits on this weeks Top 10 is this classic from Carole King. Here in California, it’s never too late to feel the earth move, as evidenced by our recent swarm of earthquakes! But, in 1971, Carole King was giving us all the "feels" in a song that is as “classic” as she is. It’s Too Late is the perfect accompaniment for a rainy and cold day; it’s moody and introspective, and requires the matching atmospheric conditions. This would be Carole’s biggest hit, and although she produced and released many other outstanding singles, 1971 was her best year chart-wise.

#6. Take Me Home, Country Roads by John Denver. I always think of John Denver as being more of a mid to late 1970s artist, but he actually got his start on the pop charts when his song Leaving On a Jet Plane became a Number One hit for Peter, Paul and Mary in 1969. But, by 1971, John's voice was being featured on his own hits, including this very recognizable tune that eventually would peak at Number Two on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. This is one of those songs that seems to cross generations and backgrounds. Young and old, black and white, it seems to resonate with so many. A lot of us apparently appreciate its gentle and peaceful melody, as well as the message about going home to a place where we “belong!” #5. Draggin' The Line by Tommy James. Many have been accused of “dragging the line,” but Tommy James makes it sound very appealing in this song! Unlike many of the other songs in this Top 10, this song features a harder rock sound. Although the early 1970s featured many songs of the singer-songwriter vein that were more folksy in nature, there were still some harder rock sounds being featured on the charts as well. #4. Mr. Big Stuff by Jean Knight. The next time you get cut off by someone in traffic, why not try the refrain, “Mr. Big Stuff, who do you think you are?” It likely will make you feel better, and the other driver most likely won’t retaliate negatively. If they laugh, they obviously have good taste in music! This is another song that continues to stand the test of time and is still featured on many classic radio stations. #3. You've Got A Friend by James Taylor. James Taylor has written so many fabulous songs over the years, but this isn’t one of them! It was actually written by Carole King, and although she never had a hit with it, James took it all the way to the top of the Billboard charts, where it was Number One just the week before this chart was published. James really makes this song “his own,” with his intimate vocals and signature sound. When you’re feeling down, put this song on, and it can be a gentle (and good) reminder that you do have friends. #2. Indian Reservation by Paul Revere & the Raiders. This song is as relevant as ever. With a powerful message and spot-on production, this is another excellent example of how pop music can challenge our beliefs and assumptions. Some may have seen it as just “another pop song,” but it’s anything but. The lyrics are deep and meaningful, and tell the story of someone who has been ostracized and seen as “other” in society Although it is about Native Americans, but it could easily apply to so other groups as well. Powerful stuff!

#1. How Can You Mend a Broken Heart by The Bee Gees. Well before the disco beat had been introduced, and before those falsettos became part of their traditional sound, The Bee Gees had a much more understated, and introspective, sound. This was their first Number One on the charts, and their only one not to occur during the disco era. Many think of The Bee Gees as a "disco band," but this song is a good example of why they should be considered for so much more than that one particular “sound.” This was the first of four weeks at Number One, as it definitely resonated with its listeners! It’s a fantastic song to listen to, and to sing along with as well! Great melody, harmony, and lyrics dominate this tune in its well-deserved spot at the top of the charts. And, there you have it! These are the Top 10 songs from this week 50 years ago. I can only hope that I have aged as gracefully and as well as these classic tunes…and that I sound (almost) as good!


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