ALMOST A FAIRY TALE (Bonnie Pointer, R.I.P.)

Bonnie Pointer left her sisters in 1977 (just before they made the jump to major stardom) and had the usual solo career: strong start, long fade. Her sister Anita was the distinctive lead on most of the Sisters’ iconic hits before and after the split.

But Bonnie left her own large impact on the culture just the same, co-writing several of the group’s early hits, one of which “Fairytale,” became a Grammy-winning crossover hit.

What it crossed over to first was the country chart. What the Grammy was for was Best Country Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group for the year 1974, the year they also became to first female vocal group to perform at the Grand Ole Opry.

If you don’t think that was a big deal in 1974, or yesterday, you haven’t been paying attention. No one–no one–represented the aspirtaional aspects of Rock and Roll America better than the Pointer Sisters, who never did anything but make great records in any style they tried. After her solo career petered out, Bonnie had her share of troubles, sourced in drugs as usual. I hope she’s found the peace she deserved tonight.

You know what we do here. Strive to not forget.

And keep asking: “How long…will this game go on?”

DIAMONDS IN THE SHADE (Dobie Gray Up)

“We Had It All”
Dobie Gray (1973)
Not released as a single.
Recommended source: Drift Away: A Decade of Dobie (1969-1979) (Highly recommended if you have the bucks. One of the era’s great undersung vocalists)

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This is a song that’s been done by Waylon Jennings (he had the country hit), Tina Turner, Ray Charles, Dolly Parton, the Rolling Stones (as a late seventies outtake available on YouTube), Bob Dylan and a cast of thousands.

Like more than a few songs recorded by lots of people it was defined by Dobie Gray. Like every record defined by Dobie Gray that wasn’t “Drift Away” or “The In Crowd,” it was not a big hit. In this case, it was not even released as a single–probably because Waylon (or Waylon’s label) beat him to the punch.

It was a highlight of Gray’s debut LP for MCA, which was also his first attempt at cracking the black-man-in-Nashville code that, in eighty years of the town’s race-coded hegemony, has only been fully solved by Charley Pride and Darius Rucker.

When Dobie came to town, there was a whiff of unusual promise. The era saw established artists like the Pointer Sisters and Tina Turner (this was when she took her own fine crack at “We Had It All”) follow Ray Charles’ long-ago footsteps to the country capital. Better than that, fabulous singers with truly country roots and voices–Gray, Stoney Edwards, O.B. McClinton–came tantalizingly close to establishing themselves on country radio, a bond which, if ever fully formed, would have been bound to be long-lasting. No audience is quite as loyal as the country audience.

It didn’t happen.

I wonder where we’d be now if it had.

We can’t know, but Dobie Gray often sounded like a man who had already accepted the impossibility of catching the version of the American dream–the real American dream–he was chasing. Never more so than here, where every word smiles and every word aches.

(NOTE: The only singer who gave Dobie a run for his money when he dug in was Elvis, who matched him on “Lovin’ Arms” and “There’s a Honky Tonk Angel (Who’ll Take Me Back In).” I’ll give a dollar on a nickel he knew a fellow dreamer when he heard one.)

THE NIGHTBIRD’S FLOWN (Allen Toussaint, R.I.P.)

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Allen Toussaint is probably the only man who could claim to be a Top Five (and probably more like Top Three) Record Man of both the sixties and the seventies. Even earlier he started out hanging with Huey Smith. Even later he ended up being sampled by half of the Hip Hop universe.

In between he was the Alpha and Omega of a certain brand of New Orleans soul: producer, writer, arranger, session man, piano man, and flat out honcho, from beginning (as producer)…

to middle (as writer and producer)…

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=g5Hz-DdAwPs

to mind-blowing end (as writer)…

to, well, even more mind blowing end (as producer…of the original record anyway)…

And I know I sometimes say “better then,” and it sounds like it’s just my prejudices showing and I’m dissing this glorious modern age out of petty malice.

Well, okay.

But, believe me, when guys like Allen Toussaint were in charge…it was better.

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