December 2017


220px-Norah_Jones_-_Come_Away_With_MeNorah Jones – “Come Away With Me” – (2002)

Remember after 9/11 when Norah Jones swooped in and swept America off its feet? Though not a pop smash, this song (the title track from her debut album) is one the jazziest songs to receive any kind of mainstream radio airplay in the last quarter century. Songs like this is why this album won Album of the Year at the Grammys.

220px-WillSmith-BigWillieStyleWill Smith – “Just The Two of Us” – (1997)

This isn’t a direct cover of the Grover Washington Jr./Bill Withers song of the same name, but that song is sampled heavily in the chorus. But Will raps the verses about being a dad to his sons. It reached #20 on the Hot 100 in 1998.

51CmB1+M35L.jpgB.B. King – “Merry Christmas Baby” – (2001)

Yes, this is the same “Merry Christmas Baby” that Bruce Springsteen made famous. Except that it’s different. Instead of that upbeat E. Street Band thing he had going on, B.B. King made it his own, in that familiar bluesy way.

51uWZhPXr9LBob Rivers – “Shoppin’ Around For a Christmas Tree” – (2002)

We say it every year and we’ll say it again this year: Bob Rivers does amazing parody songs. Christmas is on Monday, and if you don’t have a tree yet, well it’s probably not worth it, but if you do already have one, this song probably hits close to home.

downloadDonald O’Connor & Debbie Reynolds – “Chrissy the Christmas Mouse” – (1992)

I bet you didn’t even know this was a thing. It is, you’re welcome. It’s not great, but people who are of an age where they love Debbie Reynolds or Donald O’Connor, they seem to enjoy this well enough. I hope this gets stuck in your head for days.

220px-The_Unforgettable_FireU2 – “Pride (In the Name of Love)” – (1984)

We’re taking a break from out countdown of the top songs of 1962 because of Christmas being around the corner. Before we get to a few Christmas songs, here is one of U2’s best. It’s from 1984 but I always though it was from the early 1990s. Also, as good as this song is (it’s about MLK by the way, if you didn’t pick up on it), it only reached #2 in Ireland. What could’ve been #1 that week?

Twistin'_the_Night_Away_(album)#13 – Sam Cooke – “Twistin’ The Night Away” – (1962)

Sam Cooke is one of the all-time greats. A phenomenal voice who died way too young (at age 33). This was a top ten hit in the U.S. and across the world. This song has a screaming sax and trumpet, recorded with some of the best session musicians available in 1962.

R-6630753-1423461946-5592.jpeg#14 – Tommy Roe – “Sheila” – (1962)

Tommy Roe got his first big hit in 1962, with this #1 hit. It sounds like something Buddy Holly would’ve done and is very teen pop sounding. He had another big hit in 1969 with another bubblegum pop song, but the thing is, most artists couldn’t make the transition from the pop-fueled early 60s to the more psychedelic late 60s. Tommy Roe did it.

hqdefault#15 – David Rose & His Orchestra – “The Stripper” – (1962)

As we go backward in time with these countdowns, this marks the first appearance of the words “and his orchestra” on a song’s artist. This is the norm in the 1940s and even somewhat into the 1950s, but kind of odd for a #1 hit from 1962. Then again, this song is called “The Stripper” – something probably more appropriate for the 60s than the 50s or 40s.

220px-Ppm#16 – Peter, Paul and Mary – “If I Had a Hammer” – (1962)

Folk music was alive and well in 1962. This song was originally recorded by Pete Seeger’s The Weavers in 1950. Peter, Paul & Mary rode this track into the top 10 on the Hot 100, winning two Grammys in the process. The song is confusing, because it talks about wanting a hammer but then, once a hammer is acquired, performing many acts where the hammer is completely superfluous and unnecessary.

600x600#17 – Gary U.S. Bonds – “Quarter to Three” – (1961)

Well this song was from the summer of ’61, but you get the point. This #1 hit was actually derived from an earlier, instrumental hit, called “A Night With Daddy G” by the Church Street Five (which Mr. Bonds calls out lyrically in this song). If this song sounds like it’s being played on a worn-out record, that’s because it was recorded with sub-par sound quality on purpose. If you listen closely, you’ll notice that this has a bit of a “Runaround Sue” vibe to it – which is because Dion wrote that song after hearing this one. Look for “Runaround Sue” in our 1961 countdown where it belongs.

BabyItsYouAlbum#18 – The Shirelles – “Soldier Boy” – (1962)

The Shirelles were an early girl group (founded in 1957) that made it huge just prior to Phil Spector arriving on scene and dominating the sub-genre of female pop groups. The pre-dated Motown as well. “Soldier Boy” was a #1 hit.

61riIKCEnDL._SY355_#19 – Rene Touzet – “Baby Elephant Walk” – (1962)

Why am I featuring Cuban bandleader Rene Touzet’s version of Henry Mancini’s “Baby Elephant Walk?” Good question. I have no idea. Mancini wrote it in 1961 for use in the 1962 movie Hatari!, of which, I’ve never heard. It won Mancini a Grammy and is fairly recognizable across generations.