The First Christian Martyr

Getting stoned in the past had a whole different meaning than it has today.  In the First Century, if you got stoned, you lost your life.  There is so much confusion about this period, as I think that the Gospels leave us with more questions than they provide answers.  This is probably the main reason why I wrote my second book, yes it is still unpublished, but the Ancient Book Of Eli contains my ideas about how things went down.  It is a story book, that tells you who got married at the wedding of Cana and it reveals other events that seem to have missing pieces.  It gives some insight to Saint Stephen and although these are only my opinions, they were worked out logically.

Stephen accused the Sanhedrin, the Jewish leaders who had the power back in the day of being responsible for the murder of Jesus and he was stoned to death for this.  Not much is known about Stephen except that the Apostles trusted him enough to ordain him as one of the first seven deacons, where he was responsible for distributing alms to take care of the temporal relief of the poorer members.  Saint Stephen was said to be a man of good reputation, full of the Holy Ghost and wisdom.  After Jesus was crucified a number of His disciples and others not yet to be referred to as Christians, (at this time they referred to themselves as The Way), were in an upper room in Jerusalem when the Holy Spirit descended upon them, as Jesus said would happen to strengthen their faith.  In my book I made this upper room part of Stephen’s house where the Apostles hid out from those who were chasing them, because this makes sense to me.

A conflict broke out when some religious leaders accused Stephen of blasphemy and he was dragged before the Sanhedrin and his accusers twisted his words.  Stephen looked up toward heaven and told the judges, that were made up of his foes, that he was able to see Jesus standing on the right hand of God.  This defiance pissed them off and they took him outside of the city to stone him to death.  As the crowd heaved stones at him, he asked God that they could be forgiven and the blood that they shed was the first seed of a new religion that would soon cover the world.  My book does not answer every question and neither does the Grateful Dead song ‘St. Stephen’.

There is a line in this song that says, “Wherever he goes the people all complain” and I think that because Stephen was in charge of distributing alms, which might include money, food, or other donations given to the poor or needy, that he probably met a lot of people that squabbled because they felt like they got less than some others and did not get their fair shake.  St. Stephen also spoke what was on his mind and I guess that he ruffled some feathers of the local religious authorities wherever he went.  Another line in this song says, “Stephen would answer if he only knew how”, and this most likely pertains to when Stephen was seized by the authorities, he did not answer the questions asked by his inquisitors, but rather told them what he wanted them to hear.  “Did he doubt or did he try?” The answer to this question is an emphatic “No”, as Stephen remained steadfast in his faith till the moment of his death.  “Saint Stephen will remain All he lost he shall regain.”  St. Stephen believed in resurrection.

The Grateful Dead may have written a sacred song that is all about Saint Stephen, but it seems like more than that to me, it is filled with beauty and the imagery has power, and the music transcends the story that is being told.  Robert C. Hunter wrote the lyrics and Jerome J. Garcia and Philip Lesh wrote the music and this song is sacred to me because it is a fun song that I always enjoy listening to.  Hunter took a short trip to New Mexico where he wrote ‘St. Stephen’ in 1967 before he became their primary lyricist.  He sent three songs to Jerry ‘Saint Stephen’, ‘China Cat Sunflower’ and ‘Alligator’ and Garcia told him that they were going to use all of them.

As I already mentioned, the New Testament leaves us with many questions and this song is full of nothing but questions.  Answers aplenty in the bye and bye, but for now, it’s questions all the way down that well.  Did it matter?  Does it now?  Can you answer?  Yes, I can, but what would be the answer to the answer man?  I tend to view that last question as more of a statement, even though it ends with a question mark.  That makes it an easy question to answer, as it tells you that ‘what’ is the answer that you need to use for your response to the answer man.  It is like asking a question to someone that asks you a question and it goes on and on like this.

The William Tell Bridge (highlighted in blue) at the end of ‘Saint Stephen’ was omitted from the version on the Dead’s third studio album Aoxomoxoa and dropped by the Dead in versions after 1969.  It was only played in live versions when ‘St. Stephen’ segued into ‘The Eleven’, a song that I have already written about.

 

Saint Stephen with a rose
In and out of the garden he goes
Country garden in the wind and the rain
Wherever he goes the people all complain

Stephen prospered in his time
Well, he may and he may decline
Did it matter, does it now?
Stephen would answer if he only knew how

Wishing well with a golden bell
Bucket hangin’ clear to Hell
Hell halfway twixt now and then
Stephen fill it up and lower down and lower down again

Lady finger, dipped in moonlight
Writing, “What for?”, across the morning sky
Sunlight splatters, dawn with answer
Darkness shrugs and bids the day goodbye

Speeding arrow, sharp and narrow
What a lot of fleeting matters you have spurned
Several seasons with their treasons
Wrap the babe in scarlet colors, call it your own

Did he doubt or did he try?
Answers aplenty in the bye and bye
Talk about your plenty and talk about your ills
One man gathers what another man spills

Saint Stephen will remain
All he lost he shall regain
Seashore washed by the suds and foam
Been here so long, he’s got to callin’ it home

Fortune comes a crawlin’, calliope woman
Spinnin’ that curious sense of your own
Can you answer? Yes, I can
What would be the answer to the answer man?

High green chilly winds and windy
Vines and loops around the twining
Shafts of lavender, they’re crawling to the sun
Wonder who will water all the children of the garden
When they sigh about the barren lack of rain and troop so hungry ‘neath the sky, ay

Underfoot the ground is patched
With climbing arms of ivy wrapped around
The Manzanita, dark and shiny in the breeze

William Tell has stretched the bow
Till it won’t stretch no furthermore
And all that they require in change
That hasn’t gone before

Written for 10/21/18 Helen Vahdati’s This Thing Called Life One Word at a Time Song Lyric Sunday Theme where the prompt is “lost”.

300 Pounds Of Sin

My good friend Fandango did a post Killing Me Softly where he selected nine music pieces that someone could listen to if they were going out to commit a murder.  He asked me to try this challenge, but he already took the best songs, Killing Me Softly’ ‘Helter Skelter, ‘Angry Eyes’, ‘I Shot The Sheriff’, ‘(Don’t Fear) The Reaper’ and some others.  I was able to come up with nine songs, but I will never get these last two hours of my life back that I spent writing this post.  I hope that everyone enjoys my selections, but as the Grateful Dead say in their song ‘Dire Wolf’ please don’t murder me.

Not surprisingly the Iron Butterfly song ‘In-A-GaddaDaVida’ didn’t make Rolling Stone’s Top 500 Songs list and it is so lame I could see someone going out on a killing spree after listening to this.

The Fugs song ‘Nothing’ really drones on and this could drive a person to become a whack.

One of three songs sung by Nico on the first Velvet Underground album, ‘All Tomorrow’s Parties’ was inspired when Lou Reed observed the regular patron’s of Warhol’s studio and came up with this dark, brooding tone that permeates the song.

The gloomiest hit by the Yardbirds ‘Evil Hearted You’ which is about a woman stomping on a guy’s heart belongs on this list.

Staying with evil Santana ‘Evil Woman’ is a tale of a poor little guy betrayed by the big bad evil woman.

Here is a totally depressing Billie Holiday song ‘Strange Fruit’ that was inspired by a photograph of a lynching.

The man in black Johnny Cash song ‘Ain’t No Grave’ is kind of creepy and Cash sang this just after he buried his wife, June Carter Cash.

There is a lesson to be learned from this Eric Clapton tearjerker ‘Tears In Heaven’ which is to never ever leave children alone with an open window, or in a swimming pool, or in a car with the windows closed, or in the shopping centre, or any other place! You never know what can happen, before it’s too late and this song was inspired by the death of Clapton’s four-year-old son, Conor.

The Tom Waits song ‘Blue Valentines’ will haunt you with feelings of remorse and guilt.

Sung With A Dramatic Feel

I Can’t Help Myself as I have more oldies rock today, a song from a different time era, but this song has the intensity that songs of today just don’t have any more.  ‘Bernadette’ is a 1967 hit song recorded by the Four Tops, a group that defined and created the environment of soul for the Motown label.  The song was written, composed and produced by the legendary Motown team of Eddie Holland, Lamont Dozier and Brian Holland, Motown’s main songwriting team, who wrote most of the hits for the Four Tops, including ‘Baby I Need Your Loving’ and ‘Reach Out I’ll Be There’.  The song reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was The Four Tops’ final Top 10 hit of the 1960s.  On the soul chart, ‘Bernadette’ went to number three.  It also reached #8 in the UK on its first release and was a hit again in 1972, reaching #23.  ‘Bernadette’ was the Tops last Top 10 hit until “’Keeper of the Castle’ took off in 1972 and ‘Bernadette’ was also the Tops next-to-last collaboration with Holland-Dozier-Holland.  The HDH-Four Tops swan song ‘7-Rooms of Gloom’ hit No. 7 on the R&B charts in the summer of 1967.

Four Tops lead singer Levi Stubbs who is considered to be Motown’s greatest male vocalist delivers a passionate vocal on this song and the background vocals are done by Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir, Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson, Lawrence Payton, and the female session group that sang background vocals known as The Andantes which includes Jackie Hicks, Marlene Barrow, and Louvain Demps.  The Funk Brothers (group of Detroit-based session musicians) provided the lush orchestration of instrumentation and virtually every musician who ever played on a Motown track was considered to be a Funk Brother.  The Funk Brothers were paid by the day, their aim was to record as many songs in a day as possible to accommodate all the Motown artists.  The Funk Brothers and the background singers the Andantes gave their all on dozens of records for Motown, but they eventually faded into obscurity.  There are very few singers who could evoke the kind of divine desperation that Levi Stubbs brought when he sang with the Four Tops.  Levi Stubbs stood out as one of the most exciting singers on the Motown roster, with a talent for putting his own stamp on a song.  He thrived on songs that were difficult to sing, which made him a good fit for song writing team of Holland-Dozier-Holland.

Levi Stubbs was born Levi Stubbles on June 6, 1936 in Detroit and he also died in Detroit on October 17, 2008.  Levi had a cousin who was two years older than him, the soul singer Jackie Wilson who was nicknamed ‘Mr. Excitement’.  Like many black American teenagers in the early 1950s, he and three of his school friends Abdul ‘Duke’ Fakir, Lawrence Payton and Renaldo ‘Obie’ Benson formed a vocal group called, The Four Aims, and they were mainly playing school graduation dances and church functions.  With harmonies similar to that of The Inkspots, they quickly moved on to the jazz and R&B circuit, working with Billy Eckstine and Count Basie, as well as Betty Carter, Della Reese, Brook Benton and with Wilson himself.

It was suggested that The Four Aims might be confused with the then popular Ames Brothers a singing quartet from Malden, Massachusetts who had the 1949 single ‘I’m Just Wild About Harry’.  They chose their new name because they were aiming for the top, thus they became The Four Tops.  In 1963, the Four Tops signed with the Berry Gordy recording company Motown.  Unlike the Temptations, they had a fierce loyalty that prolonged their longevity and they stayed together like granite, having no personnel changes and they remained together as a group for decades till Lawrence Payton died in 1997.  Unlike The Supremes and The Miracles, their lead singer never felt the need to step out on his own.

At first the Four Tops spent several months providing back-up vocals to other Motown groups, including the Supremes on ‘When the Lovelight Starts Shining Through His Eyes’, but in 1964 they recorded their first Motown song ‘Baby, I Need Your Loving’ which reached #11 on the charts.  The Four Tops landed 45 singles on the Billboard Hot 100 from 1964 to 1988.  The group’s repertoire includes soul music, R&B, disco, adult contemporary, doo-wop, jazz, and show tunes.  In the 1990s, the group was performing up to 200 times a year, often with the Temptations, on the oldies circuit.

‘It’s the Same Old Song’ has an interesting story, as The Tops were looking for a quick hit to follow-up their previous song ‘I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie, Honey Bunch)’ that Motown released.  Duke Fakir and Lamont Dozier were both a little tipsy and Lamont was changing the channels on the radio when he said, “It sounds like the same old song.”  Then Lamont said, “Wait a minute” and he took ‘I Can’t Help Myself’ and he reversed it using the same chord changes.  The next day they went to the studio and recorded it, and then they put it on acetate, chief engineer Lawrence Horn oversaw the creation of some 300 hand-cut discs, and within 24 hours, about 1500 copies of the new single were in the hands of many a key radio disc jockey across the country.  The Four Tops continued to crank out the hits with ‘Something About You’ and “’Shake Me, Wake Me (When It’s Over)’.  In 1990, with 24 Top 40 pop hits to their credit, the Four Tops were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame.  The Four Tops also received the Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and were ranked #79 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Artists of All Time.

There was actually more than one Bernadette, the songwriter Lamont Dozier explained that there were three Bernadettes, and they were all different girls.  This interesting tidbit was kept to themselves as Eddie, Lamont and Brian each had their our own Bernadette.  ‘Bernadette’ has the greatest pause of silence in any song, as it hangs in the air leaving you in suspense and then it falls back to earth like an explosion sending debris flying at you at incredible speeds.  The song is notable for its false ending, where the instruments drop out and the background singers hold a chord.  Lead singer Levi Stubbs then shouts ‘Bernadette!’ and the song resumes, ending in a fade-out.  You could hear the tear in his voice, it is kind of a plaintive cry of anguish and a pain, as he is urging his girl to stick with him and ignore the advances of other men.  ‘Bernadette’ provides burning romantic intensity, where a guy has found desire and jealousy in his girl.  Bernadette is like this perfect girl who everyone seems to want and this guy says that he lives only to hold her, while some other men just long to control her.  He is going to tell the world that she belongs to him, as he finds peace in her arms, she gives him joy in his heart and that is why he will treasure her, for the only joy in life is to be loved.  Bernadette means more to him than a woman was ever meant to be.

Levi Stubbs provided the voice of ‘Audrey II’, the alien plant in the 1986 musical horror comedy film Little Shop of Horrors.

Bernadette, people are searchin’ for the kind of love that we possess
Some go on searchin’ their whole life through
And never find the love I’ve found in you
And when I speak of you I see envy in other men’s eyes
And I’m well aware of what’s on their minds
They pretend to be my friend

When all the time they long to persuade you from my side
They’d give the world and all they own for just one moment we have known

Bernadette, they want you because of the pride that gives
But Bernadette, I want you because I need you to live
But while I live only to hold you some other men
They long to control you
But how can they control you Bernadette
When they can not control themselves, Bernadette
From wanting you, needing you
But darling, you belong to me

I’ll tell the world you belong to me
I’ll tell the world, you’re the soul of me
I’ll tell the world you’re a part of me

In your arms I find the kind of peace of mind the world is searching for
But you, you give me the joy this heart of mine has always been longing for
In you I have what other men long for
All men need someone to worship and adore
That’s why I treasure you and place you high above
For the only joy in life is to be loved
So whatever you do
Bernadette, keep on loving me, Bernadette, keep on needing me Bernadette

You’re the soul of me
On that dream, you’re a ? to me
And Bernadette, you mean more to me
Than a woman was ever meant to be

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Accommodate, for FOWC with Fandango – Fierce, for Scotts Daily Prompt – Jockey and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Granite.

The Can Can

Can I get you some fries with that, is something that I have been fortunate enough to never have had to say.  When I think I can, I think I can turns wrong it becomes, I thought I could, I thought I could.  Having a can do attitude might allow you to accomplish many things.  I have opened up many a can of worms and I only went fishing twice in my life.  He said, “That’s okay, boy, won’t you feed him when you can”, Take a load off Fanny, (Sorry I started singing, but I am thinking that you actually like my singing anyway).  I used to watch Popeye when I was younger and he would eat a can of spinach so he could beat up Bluto and rescue Olive Oyl.  Time to put this post in the can.

Written for 10/20/18 Linda G. Hill’s ‘Life in progress’ Stream of Consciousness Saturday where the prompt is “can” with bonus points issued for starting and or ending with the prompt.  I imagine that double bonus points can be collected for doing both.  Bonus points for Linda if she can name the song that I was singing.

Not A Bright Future

The passing of a year can be marked by the four seasons going by, winter, spring, summer and fall or autumn, but in the 1960s, the Four Seasons were one of the very biggest rock & roll groups around.  Their most distinguishing trademark, came from the high falsetto vocals of their lead singer, Frankie Valli.  They sang doo wop romantic tunes with group harmonies that became a little too clean-cut, once the Beatles invaded.  No other white American group of the time besides the Beach Boys could match their intricate harmonies.  They were four distinctly different voices, unlike The Beach Boys, who had that brotherly sound, or the Everly Brothers, who were hard to tell apart.  They were immensely successful, making the Top Ten thirteen times between 1962 and 1967 with hits like ‘Sherry’, ‘Big Girls Don’t Cry’, ‘Dawn’, ‘Rag Doll’, ‘Walk Like a Man’, ‘Can’t Take My Eyes Off You’ ‘Oh, What a Night’, ‘My Eyes Adored You’, ‘Bye Bye Baby (Baby, Goodbye)’ and ‘Let’s Hang On’.

Francesco Castelluccio was born on May 3, 1934, in Newark NJ, and grew up in a public housing complex.  His manager thought that Castelluccio was too long of a name and that no one would understand it, and while living in Newark, Frankie met a hillbilly singer named ‘Texas’ Jean Valli and Castelluccio, so he borrowed her last name and he changed his name to Frankie Valli.  Frankie was the son of a barber, who at the age of seven decided to be a singer.  In the 1940s, he attended Central High School in Newark and then he enrolled in the American College of Cosmetology to become a hairdresser. Frankie and his good friend Nicky DeVito both had a license to cut hair.  Valli grew up singing on street corners in Stephen Crane Village and in the early 50’s, Valli began singing with the Variety Trio, a vocal group made up of Hank Majewski, and brothers Nick and Tommy Devito, but late 1952, the Variety Trio disbanded.  In 1953, Frankie Valli released his first song ‘My Mother’s Eyes’ which was released under  the name Frankie Valley, but he eventually changed it to the same spelling that Texas Jean Valli was using.

The following year, he and guitarist Tommy DeVito became a team forming The Variatones (with Hank Majewski, rhythm guitar, Frank Cattone, accordion, and Billy Thompson, drums), which between 1954 and 1956 performed and recorded under a variety of names before settling on the name The Four Lovers.  The Four Lovers had a minor hit with ‘You’re the Apple of My Eye’ by Otis Blackwell and they also cut an album called Joyride and appeared on the Ed Sullivan Show.  The Lovers caught a break when a friend named Joe Pesci (yes, the Oscar-winning actor) introduced the Lovers to Bob Gaudio, a piano-playing, song-writing prodigy and former member of the Royal Teens.  He had co-written the monster hit ‘Short Shorts’, but then his Teens had returned to obscurity.  The Lovers started working with Bob Crewe, a brilliant lyricist and producer who had written ‘Silhouettes’ for the Rays signed the Four Lovers to a three-year artist contract.  The Lovers flunked an audition at a cocktail lounge located in a bowling alley named the Four Seasons they decided this would make a good name for their ensemble.  In 1962, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons came to fame when they had their first hit, the chart-topping ‘Sherry’. Bob Gaudio wrote the song ‘Jackie’ as a tribute to the First Lady, Jackie Kennedy, but Bob Crewe changed it to ‘Sherry’.  The unknown Seasons sang ‘Sherry’ on American Bandstand, and they suddenly became the hottest band in the land, and after nine years as a recording artist, Frankie Valli became an overnight sensation with a No. 1 record. The sound of ‘Sherry” was unlike anything else on the airwaves.

‘Dawn (Go Away)’ entered the Top 40 on February 8, 1964 and climbed to #3 the week of February 22, behind two Beatles songs ‘I Want To Hold Your Hand’ and ‘She Loves You’.  It stayed at #3 for three weeks until March 14, when it was bumped to #4 by ‘Please Please Me’.  By March 28, it was at #5 as ‘Twist and Shout’ entered the Top 5.  On April 4, ‘Dawn’ was out of the Top 10 and The Beatles held all five top positions.  In February 1964, 60% of the singles sold in the US were by the Beatles, but the second-biggest seller was The Four Seasons.  The fateful year of 1964 brought the British invasion, but that didn’t stall the Four Seasons.  With the Gaudio-Crewe engine firing on all cylinders, the group released one smash after another including, ‘Ronnie’, ‘Rag Doll’, ‘Save It For Me’ and ‘Big Man in Town’.

‘Dawn (Go Away)’ was written by Bob Gaudio and Sandy Linzer.  Besides co-writing ‘Dawn (Go Away)’, Sandy Linzer also wrote ‘Let’s Hang On’, ‘Working My Way Back to You’, and ‘Opus 17’ (also known as ‘Don’t You Worry ‘bout Me’) for the Four Seasons.  Bob Gaudio was a performing member of The Four Seasons, the original keyboardist and tenor vocalist, and on most occasions he was also their main composer, and sometimes their lyricist, but he achieved his greatest successes by collaborating with other lyricists.  Charlie Calello is an American, singer, composer, conductor, arranger, and record producer born in Newark, New Jersey who started his career with the Four Lovers and has since worked for superstars such as Barbra Streisand, Frank Sinatra, Bruce Springsteen, Neil Diamond, Glen Campbell and the Four Seasons.  ‘Dawn (Go Away)’was originally written with a totally different feel as a slow folk ballad, but arranger Charles Calello sped it up and at Valli’s suggestion and added a galloping rhythm guitar borrowed from Kai Winding’s version of ‘More’.

Two days before ‘Dawn’ was recorded, Frankie Valli and Charlie Calello were in a car when the song ‘More’ came on the radio and Frankie said, “that’s the kind of feel we need on our next session.”  ‘Dawn’ was recorded with 5 other songs on the same date.  Calello usually worked on the arrangements with Gaudio just before the sessions, but when it came to ‘Dawn’, it just did not feel right and he knew he had to come up with something to meet the challenge.  After Calello came up with the resolution of how to change ‘Dawn”, Frankie and Gaudio were both blown away.  Calello had developed the basic figure that was the glue to the song and the bell sound that became part of the Seasons’ sound for the next few years.  Charlie Calello changed all the chords, and wrote the whole tone scale rise at the end of the bridge.

Bob Gaudio said that the song ‘Dawn’ was not written about a specific girl. ‘Dawn’ contains happy music with dark, deplorable lyrics that seem to be contradictory at times.   Dawn is told to stay with him, because he’ll be good to her.  If she can hang on, then he will hang on to her.  She should think about what a big man he’ll be and about the places she’ll see.  However, Dawn is then told to think about her future being with a poor boy.  The singer tries to persuade Dawn that she will be better off with someone who can support her in the style to which she is accustomed and someone that her family would approve of.  I think he is trying to conceal his true motives, by choosing to dissemble his real intentions of actually wanting Dawn to be with him.  By telling Dawn to go away or to give him up, because he is too poor for her is a futile attempt, as this will probably not work on Dawn, because the more he protests the more Dawn will want to be with him.

The Four Seasons got a lot of help from some of the top New York session musicians who played on their songs.  ‘Dawn’ was part of the first session for Ralph Casale, a guitarist from Newark, New Jersey who became part of this elite group of studio pros.  Drummer Buddy Saltzman accented the recording with bombastic around the kit fills and ghost notes, while never using a cymbal once.  Saltzman begins with a short drum intro, featuring a louder perhaps even more frantic drum backing.

Frankie Valli along with The 4 Lovers and The 4 Seasons were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall Of Fame in 1990. The Four Seasons songs appear in a bunch of movies.  Frankie Valli appeared many times as Rusty Millio on the HBO series The Sopranos.

The Deer Hunter

Dirty Dancing

Conspiracy Theory

The Wanderers

Pretty as a midsummer’s morn’

They call her Dawn.
Dawn,
Go away I’m no good for you.
Oh Dawn,
Stay with him, he’ll be good to you.
Hang on,
Hang on to you.
Think,
What a big man he’ll be.
Think,
Of the places you’ll see.
Now think what the future would be with a poor boy like me.
Dawn go away,
Please go away.
Although I know,
I want you to stay.
Dawn go away,
Please go away.
Baby, don’t cry.
It’s better this way.
Ahh, ahh, ah.
Ohh-ohh-oh.

Dawn,
Go away back where you belong.
Girl we can’t,
Change the places where we were born.
Before you say,
That you want me.
I want you to think,
What your family would say.
Think,
What your throwing away.
Now think what the future would be with a poor boy like me.
Meee-ee.

Dawn,
Go away I’m no good for you.
Dawn,
Go away I’m no good for you.

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Team, for Daily Inkling Prompt – Ensemble, for FOWC with Fandango – Challenge, for Sheryl’s A New Daily Post Word Prompt – Dissemble, for Ragtag Community – Week, for Scotts Daily Prompt – Resolution and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Deplorable.

Just A Bit Older

Paul Anka was born in Ontario, Canada, in 1941, and he had already recorded several records by the time he was 15.  In 1957 the 15 year-old Anka became a teen idol for his song ‘Diana’ and he became the first teenager at the time to have a million seller in the U.K.  Paul Anka has had a remarkably successful career to this day as a singer, songwriter, and performer.  Paul is a music legend whose contribution to the industry ranges from making his own hits to writing music for fellow stars.  Paul captured magic with his music that was relevant when he was young, but it is still obvious today.  Oddly, Paul Anka still has not made it into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame which was established in 1983 and is located in Cleveland.

Anka proved a child prodigy, beginning his show business life at the age of 12 by doing impressions of the ‘pop’ singers of the day.  At Fisher Park High School, Anka was part of a vocal trio that he formed called the Bobbysoxers that performed locally in Ottawa.  By the age of 14, he was stealing the family car to drive to amateur singing contests in nearby Hull, Quebec, and writing his own songs based on his personal experiences.  Paul won a trip to New York by winning a Campbell’s soup contest for IGA Food Stores that required him to spend three months collecting soup can labels.  He began taking piano and guitar lessons and in 1956 he went to Los Angeles to visit his uncle.  A meeting with Modern Records led to the release of his first record, Paul Anka with the Jacks single, ‘Blau-Wile Deverest Fontaine’ which was not a hit, as it didn’t make it to the charts.  He also recorded ‘I Confess’, which appeared on the Riviera subsidiary of Jules and Joe Bihari’s RPM label, but the couple songs he had written for Modern only sold 3,000 copies.

During Easter vacation, Anka went to New York with the Rover Boys, a Canadian quartet.  While in New York, Anka gained an audition with the director of artists and repertoire for the ABC-Paramount label producer Don Costa, and he sang his own composition, ‘Diana’.  Costa was initially more impressed with the number of Anka’s completed songs then with his singing ability.  Costa liked what he heard, he soon called Paul’s father to New York and a contract was signed so the teenager could be recorded.  Anka was then sent to voice coaches and received training in song composition.  Within a month, ABC-Paramount was ready to record Anka’s ‘Diana’.  Anka watched as the single hit number one on both sides of the Atlantic later in 1957, eventually selling a reported ten million copies worldwide.   When school started back up in September, Anka didn’t return, as he was busy touring to support his hit.

‘Diana’ was a love song in the form of a plea from a teenage boy who was in love with an older teenage girl.  When Anka was 14, he developed a crush for a 19-year-old girl named Diana Ayoub, who worked as a secretary in the offices of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police in Ottawa.  He saw her at a church and she was a former babysitter for his younger brother and sister.  Anka said that Diana was a little out of his league, she really didn’t want anything to do with him, which made it even worse.  ‘Diana’ is a clear example of unrequited love, Paul’s infatuation with Diana was one-sided love, it was not reciprocated and she was barely aware of him.  The music was based on a popular Latin rhythm called cha-lypso, which is a modified cha-cha done to a calypso beat.  Cha-lypso had been invented a only a few months earlier, when teenagers needed a special step so they could dance to Mickey and Sylvia’s ‘Love Is Strange’.

In August 1957, American Bandstand, was a new television show that was broadcast out of Philadelphia, PA, and it featured local teenagers dancing to the new rock ‘n roll music.  The show had just gone national on the ABC television network with its new young host, Dick Clark, airing every day at 3 p.m. for an hour-and-a-half.  Within six months of its national debut, American Bandstand was picked up by 101 stations.  Soon there were about 20 million viewers tuning in, and fan letters poured in by the tens of thousands.  Teenagers came to Philadelphia from wide and far for a chance to dance on the show.  American Bandstand also became a place where new talent could be seen, as Clark allotted featured spots on each show for new acts to perform their songs.  The guest performers appeared in person and typically sat with Clark in brief conversation, answering his questions about their music, where they were from, what they were doing next, etc.

Two days later after the August 5, 1957, first national broadcast of ‘American Bandstand’, Paul Anka became the first performer to make his national debut during a television appearance singing his new song ‘Diana’.  At the time the song was at #13 on Billboard’s Hot Top 100 chart, on August 18th it peaked at #2 (for 5 weeks) a week later it would went to #1 (for 1 week), and ‘Diana’ spent 29 weeks on the Top 100.  While ‘Diana’ was at #2, the #1 record was ‘Tammy’ by Debbie Reynolds. On November 3, 1957, Paul Anka performed ‘Diana’ on the CBS-TV variety program The Ed Sullivan Show.

Anka placed four songs in the Top 20 a year later, including ‘You Are My Destiny’ and ‘Crazy Love’, tempering the all-out rebellion of rock & roll with songs that questioned parental authority rather than promoting outright disobedience.  He wrote one of Buddy Holly’s last hits, ‘It Doesn’t Matter Anymore’, which was recorded in 1958 and released posthumously. Less than three weeks after the recording, Buddy Holly was in that tragic accident with Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper where the plane crashed flying into a blizzard, and the title of this song seems rather prophetic.  Anka moved into movies with Let’s Rock and Girls Town. The latter film spawned his biggest American hit, ‘Lonely Boy’, which was just the first in a string of 1959 chart successes including ‘Put Your Head on My Shoulder’, ‘It’s Time to Cry’, and ‘Puppy Love’, which he wrote for his old flame Annette Funicello, and later it became a hit for Donny Osmond as well.

When the teen idol craze began to cool off, Anka (a millionaire while still being a minor) was able to modify his style and take on the adult market, becoming a junior associate of Sinatra and the Rat Pack.  In 1959, he debuted at the Sahara Hotel in Las Vegas and a year later Paul groomed a solo act became the youngest performer to headline the Copacabana.  By 1961, Anka could boast of the over 125 compositions under his belt, his own record label (Spanka), and the recognition of being behind the second-best-selling single of all time (only ‘White Christmas’ had sold more copies than ‘Diana’).  Anka next moved to RCA and, in yet another shrewd business move, bought the rights to his old masters and made a fortune on reissues alone.

He diversified his career by appearing in several more movie roles including the 1962 drama The Longest Day, for which he provided the Academy Award-nominated theme and made a cameo appearance as a US Army Ranger.  Paul was one of the first pop singers to do shows in Las Vegas, he also hosted television variety shows like Hullabaloo, The Midnight Special, and Spotlite, and moved on to foreign audiences in Asia and Europe where he found his wife, Parisian model Anne de Zogheb. He wrote the theme to The Tonight Show which aired every weeknight for almost 30 years and he got royalities every time it was played.  Anka rewrote the French lyrics to the song ‘Comme d’Habitude’ which later became one of Frank Sinatra’s most famous songs, ‘My Way’, and he also wrote Tom Jones’ biggest hit, ‘She’s a Lady’.  Although he had hit the Top 40 only once since 1963, Anka stormed back into the number one slot in 1974 with ‘(You’re) Having My Baby’, a duet recorded in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, with his singing protégée, Odia Coates.  Anka co-wrote Michael Jackson’s final hit, ‘This Is It’, which was released after it was discovered at the singer’s home following his 2009 death.

“I’m so young and you’re so old
This, my darling, I’ve been told
I don’t care just what they say
‘Cause forever I will pray
You and I will be as free
As the birds up in the trees
Oh, please stay by me, Diana

Thrills I get when you hold me close
Oh, my darling, you’re the most
I love you but do you love me
Oh, Diana, can’t you see
I love you with all my heart
And I hope we will never part
Oh, please stay by me, Diana

Oh, my darlin’, oh, my lover
Tell me that there is no other
I love you with my heart
Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh
Only you can take my heart
Only you can tear it apart
When you hold me in your loving arms
I can feel you giving all your charms
Hold me, darling, ho-ho hold me tight
Squeeze me baby with all your might
Oh, please stay by me, Diana
Oh, please, Diana
Oh, please, Diana
Oh, please, Diana”

Written for Daily Addictions prompt – Modify, for FOWC with Fandango – Former, for Ragtag Community – Blizzard and for Word of the Day Challenge Prompt – Prophetic.