Mystery Song of the Day: Little Richard

Tutti Frutti is a great mystery that either you get or you don’t.

If you don’t, come back tomorrow, because these lyrics will be mysterious forever. And if you do, get up and dance!

Little Richard performs live, I think at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. (Side note – if you get Tutti Frutti, you probably are laughing at the concept of a Rock and Roll Hall of Fame! Remember what Pete Towshend wrote in My Generation….)

Canadian Mystery Song of the Day: k.d. lang (Covering Leonard Cohen)

For my last day in Canada (on this trip), how about two great Canadians, k.d. lang (mistress of the lower case) covering Leonard Cohen’s wonderful Hallelujah.

I find it impossible to hear this song without hearing the late Jeff Buckley’s voice, even if it’s Leonard Cohen singing it. Still, this is a fun version (if I can use “fun” in the context of this song). I’ve heard that Cohen was in the house when she sang this. I presume she knew he was there.

I loved hearing Cohen perform it in concert not long ago.

Canadian Mystery Song of the Day: Alanis Morissette

Here’s who’s not on this list for Canada week. Justin Bieber. Rush. Anne Murray. Paul Anka. Celine Dion. Sorry. Just don’t like their music, and it’s writer’s choice here in M.E. Sequoyah-land.

I’ve included songs by Sarah McLachlin and Gordon Lightfoot in the past month, so I’ll pass on them for now as well.

How ’bout Alanis? Ms. Morissette is an interesting study in contrasts, a mystery wrapped in an enigma. But nothing screams Alanis more than… My Humps?

She did a spectacular send-up of Fergie and the Black-Eyed Peas.

Could these be the worst lyrics ever to be a #1 song? No, probably not, but they’re in the running. At least Fergie apparently had the good grace to laugh about this devastating send-up.

Canadian Mystery Song of the Day: Murray McLaughlin

Murray McLaughlin never got the recognition “south of the border” that he received in his (almost) native Canada. (He was born in Scotland but moved to Canada at an early age.)

Child’s Song isn’t his best-known song in Canada, but it got a little obscure-station airplay in the US via Tom Rush’s fabulous cover version. It’s a goodbye letter to his folks as he left home.

This is a live version. I think Tom Rush’s version is one of those rare covers that pulls out emotions that the writer wanted to convey but couldn’t. Nonetheless, for Canada week, here’s the (live) original.

Canadian Mystery Song of the Day: Neil Young

Touching all the big-name Canadian bases, here’s Neil Young.

Mysteries abound with this man – personal, political, musical. So I’ll stay away from all that… because here’s a way to get two Canadians together in one song. (Okay, I’m cheating, but I’m on the road.)

Here he covers – with help from Willie Nelson – Ian Tyson’s folk standard, Four Strong Winds, about a young man wandering around Canada and winding up in Alberta… without his girl.

Great old song. Tyson’s from BC, Young from Ontario, and I guess Alberta is the halfway spot where they meet.

Canadian Mystery Song of the Day: Leonard Cohen

Continuing with Canada week, let’s move to Leonard Cohen, one of my favorite artists.

To be honest, which of his songs is not a mystery?

However, here’s one I can solve… and not solve at all. Who by Fire derives almost literally from a critical prayer chanted on Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement. It’s about who will live and who will die – who by fire, who by sword, and so on.

That’s the easy part.

But Cohen likes to make things difficult. While the prayer tradition places our fate with God, Cohen asks, “And who shall I say is calling?”

That’s an incredible mystery. Are we in it by ourselves? Does Someone pull the strings?

Canadian Mystery Song of the Day: Joni Mitchell

As long as I’m in Canada for a week, I thought I’d try to find some Canadian artists with various mystery songs.

I’ll start with Joan Anderson, a/k/a Joni Mitchell, about a guy who played For Free.

This song is reputed to be about Moondog, a real New York City character during the 50s, 60s, and 70s, a street musician who influenced so many other musicians who hung around New York at the time. I had the pleasure of listening to him many times. I think he usually hung out on 6th Avenue (which was sort-of-but-not-really named Avenue of the Americas around that time). I don’t know how much he formed the influence for this song, but it’s a great mystery. Joni Mitchell would almost certainly have known of his music and heard him on the streets by the time she wrote this song.

Moondog died about 15 years ago.

Mystery Song of the Day: Marc Cohn

I played Levon Helm yesterday. Here’s a great tribute to his influence, by the wonderful storyteller Marc Cohn, about growing up Listening to Levon.

Marc Cohn’s songs are full of subtle mysteries. They sound fully autobiographical, but… put them together and there are details that don’t mesh. In this song not only does he pay tribute to Levon Helm, but he acknowledges his bending the facts to make better songs (which is what you’re supposed to do!). The first time I heard it, I laughed at the first line:

I was sitting with Mary in my dad’s blue Valiant

Wait, what? Everyone knows his dad drove a silver Thunderbird. That was the title of a song on his first album, even! Eventually, though, he says in the bridge

I might have even lied about the car

Yeah… but which car?

Anyway, I saw him in concert last year (and got him to autograph a CD for my son, who was with me) and he talked about getting to play this song for Levon Helm shortly before Helm passed away.

Mystery Song of the Day: Levon Helm

Mentioned Levon Helm yesterday. He left us much too soon in the past year.

He did so many great songs with the band… but I had to pick this one, a cover version, because of the refrain:

Everything dies, baby, that’s a fact / But maybe everything that dies someday comes back.

Someday maybe he’ll come back, and meet us tonight in an Atlantic City of the mind.

One of so many, gone so soon. I wonder if that’s why we like mystery novels, and why I write them – to try and make order out of the fact that our lives not only are finite but are so often cut short, apply some sort of justice available only in a fictional world.

Mystery Song of the Day (Belated Mardi Gras Edition): Robbie Robertson

We segue out of belated-Mardi-Gras week with Robbie Robertson’s mystery song that sounds like it should be about N’Awlins, Somewhere Down the Crazy River.

Apparently it’s actually about Arkansas and time spent hanging with his bandmate from The Band, the late Levon Helm. Oh, well. Sounds like it should be about the bayou, so here it is.

I couldn’t find a live version, unfortunately.

Robertson’s entire eponymous album is full of mystery. Gotta run and listen to the whole thing later today. American Roulette, Showdown at Big Sky, Sonny Got Caught in the Moonlight…. What a fabulous album.