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Tuesday, April 30, 2019

Need Some Quick Cash?

Now that I've got your attention, I'd like your opinion on a significant musical matter. Ready?

Among the dozens of aging baby boomer singers who have taken a turn crooning classics from the Great American songbook - Gershwin, Porter, Rodgers, et al - which, in your view, has been up to the challenge? To my ears, there are three clear tiers. Cue the violins. In descending order ...

Tier one includes the first boomer to take a real shot at this songbook - Carly Simon - whose 1981  recording called Torch, set the bar for others who followed. Carly's follow up - My Romance (1990) - was almost as good. Also in my tier one are Kenny Rankin - whose voice was meant for these songs - and Linda Ronstadt, who had the good sense to hire Nelson Riddle as her arranger starting with her first recording of standards, 1983's What's New.

My tier two - boomers I'll listen to sing these timeless songs only in a pinch - includes, among others, Rod Stewart. I'll say this for Rod the Mod - at least he takes the time to learn the correct lyrics, picks keys he can manage, and avoids elongating any notes.

My tier three i.e. don't even get me started, has several would-be crooners but one stands out in this "What were they thinking?" category. Bob Dylan is an important, seminal, influential songwriter who almost single handedly changed the musical landscape in the mid 60's. Some of his covers of blues, folk, and country songs are worth listening to. But Bob -  Harold Arlen, Hoagy Carmichael, Jerome Kern? Please say it ain't so.

OK, I'm ready. Who do you put in each of these three tiers? And, will you take a check? Bitcoins?


  1. I put both Joe Jackson (for his album, the Duke) and Elvis Costello (for My Funny Valentine) in the Top tier.

  2. Tier 1 I have non-boomers Lady GaGa and Paul McCartney on the strength of her album with Tony Bennett and his "Kisses on the Bottom." I also include Queen Latifah among successful Great American Songbook interpreters whose main gig is elsewhere. Tier 2 is Cyndi Lauper for "At Last" and Boz Scaggs who has devoted significant time to this repertoire. Finally, Tier 3 is Bryan Ferry whose idiosyncratic version of "These Are the Things I Love" really doesn't work. It does, however, include the very rarely heard verse. Also in Tier 3 Van Morrison who has two recent albums incorporating jazzy versions of American Standards. Problem: he really doesn't know how to sing it.
    Special achievement award to Willie Nelson whose "Stardust" album really did as much as Ray Charles did for country music to revive interest in old standards.

    1. Richard; You're right about neither Lady Gaga or Paul McCartney being technically baby boomers; first too young, second too old. For that matter neither Dylan nor Kenny Rankin are boomers either; Rod the Mod is right on the edge. Still, I appreciate the obvious thought you gave this post. And we're in agreement re Van Morrison belonging in tier 3 w/Mr. Zimmerman. I'll suspend judgment re Bryan Ferry (never a favorite) because I haven't heard him do this material; same goes for Cyndi Lauper. I am looking forward to following up re both Lady Gaga and Queen Latifah, based on your endorsement of both. Finally, we'll agree to disagree re in which tier to place McCartney and Boz Scaggs.

  3. Sorry, the Bryan Ferry tune is "These Foolish Things" and not "These Are the Things I Love."