A somewhat nostalgic look at rediscovered classics. The only rule is that each recording be at least ten years old. This is our comfort music. Brought to you by Pel, raven + crow studio, and friends.
Jackie Wilson
“Lonely Teardrops”
Lonely Teardrops / In The Blue Of The Evening 7"
Brunswick
1958

Jackie Wilson SmokingThe year was 1958. And while songs like “All I have To Do Is Dream,” “Tequila,” “Great Balls of Fire” and “Peggy Sue” were topping the charts, a man by the name of Jackie Wilson released “Lonely Teardrops.” Written by Berry Gordy (of Motown fame), along with his sister Gwen and fellow songwriter Billy Davis, the song became a hit among both pop and R&B fans. Rolling Stone later even named it one of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Ratings aside, when I heard “Lonely Teardrops” last week, as I had so many times before, something occurred to me: I had no idea who Jackie Wilson really was. Sure, he was mentioned in a Van Morrison song…but who was this guy?

Wilson, it turns out, was born in 1934 and raised in Detroit, where he first showcased his vocal talent through gospel music. He also had a penchant for boxing as a teenager but ultimately decided to pursue singing. In 1953, he joined Billy Ward and His Dominoes and went on to his solo career a few years later.

Whether partially due to his boxing background or simply an innate sense of rhythm and swift gracefulness, his gospel-esque stage presence and fancy footwork were inspirations for popular artists like Elvis, James Brown and Michael Jackson.

Wilson’s career was unfortunately cut short in 1975 when he suffered a heart attack during a live performance. He was left semi-comatose and lived at a retirement community in New Jersey, where he passed away in 1984.

Now that I know Wilson’s story, “Lonely Teardrops” seems more melancholic to me than it ever did before. But it’s still a forgotten favorite that will always fill me with joy.

Jackie Wilson - Lonely Teardrops
Guest Contributor:

Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.

Bonnie Raitt
“Nick of Time”
Nick of Time
Capitol
1989

Sometimes you can hear a song hundreds of times, pay no attention to the lyrics, but still enjoy it. There’s just something about the pitch, rhythm and instrumentation that draws you in. Perhaps even hearing the song years after its debut takes you back to a moment—or moments—in your life when you felt completely at peace.

I’ve encountered countless songs like this, and Bonnie Raitt’s “Nick of Time” is one of them. The title track on Raitt’s 1989 album, Nick of Time, kicks off the pace and sets the mood for the songs that follow. And they’re all great.

So when the song began playing in my head yesterday I decided to finally look up the lyrics. It’s actually quite sad in the beginning. “A friend of mine, she cries at night / And she calls me on the phone / Sees babies everywhere she goes / And she wants one of her own…” But it’s so upbeat and Raitt’s voice exudes a sort of soothing confidence that makes you feel like everything will be okay. So it’s hard to feel down while listening to it. Luckily, the song ends on a (lyrical) high note, of finding “love—love in the nick of time.” Bittersweet I suppose.

Come to think of it, a lot of the album is probably depressing. But, like I said, this is a song I never really paid much attention to lyrically.

To me this album symbolizes joy and simplicity. I can’t remember if it was just my mom or also my aunt who loved the album, but I definitely spent years hearing it during my childhood. Back when my only worries were deciding how tall to build my Lego structures, which Barbies needed haircuts and how many hours I should be practicing flute.

Bonnie Raitt - Nick Of Time
Guest Contributor:

Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.

Janet Jackson
“Love Will Never Do (Without You)”
Rhythm Nation 1814
A&M Records
1989

Janet JacksonThis past weekend my boyfriend was kind enough to join me for a Commodores and Jacksons concert. As we sat amid a crowd of folks significantly older than us — a typical weekend experience for a little old lady trapped in the body of a 32 year old — we watched Tito, Marlon and Jackie Jackson shuffle and twirl around in sequined jackets while singing Jackson 5 classics, as well as some Michael songs. After the show ended, all I could think about was listening to Michael and Janet when I got home. And two days later, here I am, still listening to them.

I’ve decided to write about Janet Jackson’s “Love Will Never Do (Without You)” because the song always made me feel girly, good and hopeful about one day falling in love. Off the well-received Rhythm Nation 1814 album released in September of 1989, this song could have made a great duet (Prince was even considered!) and that’s exactly what R&B producer Jimmy Jam had in mind when he told Janet to “sing it low,” like a guy would. The result — a first verse in a low octave and a second verse in an octave above.

All I wanted was to be a dancer like Janet Jackson or The Fly Girls.

This album brings back so many memories for me. Like most young girls, I spent my early years in dance school doing jazz, tap and ballet. All I wanted was to be a dancer like Janet Jackson or The Fly Girls. And the sappy writer side of me was always a sucker for lyrics. So there I sat in my bedroom for countless hours with the cassette tape insert unfolded in all its glory, memorizing the lyrics and listening to the album — only breaking for cassette flips. (The accompanying dance routines came later.)

There was a certain smell the insert had, whether from the type of paper or ink or something that might make more sense to someone else. I still remember that distinct smell and think of it each time I hear a song from this album.

Janet Jackson - Love Will Never Do (Without You)
Guest Contributor:

Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.

Dan Hartman
“I Can Dream About You”
Streets of Fire Soundtrack
MCA
1984

Streets of FireThe other day in my not-so-beautiful singing voice, I began to serenade a friend mid-conversation with, “I can dream about youuuuuu…” But he didn’t get the reference, so I had to pull up the video on YouTube. He said he wasn’t familiar with the song. And in my astonishment, I began thinking… how many other people have been deprived of this cheesy ’80s gem?

Written and recorded by the late (basically) one-hit-wonder Dan Hartman, “I Can Dream About You” first appeared in the film Streets of Fire, where it was sang by fictional band The Sorels, whose performance is playing on the TV in the background of Hartman’s music video.

Hartman had originally written the song for Hall & Oates but they had just finished recording an album and missed the boat. The band did do a cover, with alternate lyrics, on their Our Kind of Soul album in 2004 though. As much as I love Daryl and John, I am partial to Hartman’s version because I think it captures the ’80s in a way the cover falls short.

I hadn’t even thought about this song for years until it popped into my head the other day. Though I was very young when it came out, I recall my mom blasting it in the station wagon time and again as we drove through the many jughandles (aka Jersey lefts) of the good ol’ Garden State. And it really holds up today!

Dan Hartman - I Can Dream About You

Guest Contributor:

Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.

Gladys Knight & the Pips
“Midnight Train to Georgia”
Midnight Train to Georgia
Buddah
1973

Midnight Train to GeorgiaThe moment I hear the drums at the start of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” I can’t help but smile. Sometimes it’s even accompanied by an, “I love this song!” I am not sure at which age I first heard it but it’s been on my list of all-time favorites for many years.

A gorgeous woman with a beautiful voice, “Empress of Soul” Gladys Knight sings with a sense of power, expression and purpose that never fails to give me goose bumps. The echoes of her loyal Pips are featured through memorable lines such as “He said he’s goin’,” “Leavin’ on the midnight train,” “I know you will,” “Ooh-ooh,” and “A superstar but he didn’t get far.” And they have impressive choreographed dances to boot. Then there are the various horns, keys and a melodic bass line that make this a multi-layered musical masterpiece. Having been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1999, “Midnight Train to Georgia” is truly a classic.

The song was first written and performed in a country, John Denver-esque style by singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly, who had initially called it “Midnight Plane to Houston.” He wrote it after speaking on the phone with Farrah Fawcett, who said she was packing her bags to take a midnight plane to Houston to see her parents. After he wrote the song, Cissy Houston, Whitney’s mother, soon contacted him wanting to omit “Houston” from the title and sing it herself. She ended up recording an R&B version of “Midnight Train to Georgia,” then Gladys Knight and The Pips’ version followed.

Though the original members of then 8-year-old Gladys’ Pips were her brother, sister and cousins, other extended family members were introduced and the lineup changed a couple times. Eventually, Gladys and her Pips split but The Pips went on to record two albums of their own. And let’s not forget The Pips’ comical appearance on the Richard Pryor show. Seems like they did just fine without Gladys stealing the spotlight.

Gladys Knight and the Pips - Midnight Train to Georgia
Guest Contributor:

Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.

Midi, Maxi & Efti
“Bad Bad Boys”
Midi, Maxi & Efti
Columbia Records
1991

As a big music and film lover, I’m the type of gal who quizzes people with, “What movie/TV show is this from?” whenever a noteworthy song comes on. And “Bad Bad Boys” is one of those songs that’s special to me because Rosie Perez dances to it while waitressing in Untamed Heart, one of the best cheesy love movies ever. Beyond that, it’s catchy, fun and really captures the early ’90s.

Recorded by a trio of African teenagers who had migrated to Sweden, the song is one of three popular tracks off their self-titled album. Unfortunately, they never made another full-length album and ended up calling it quits after some brief touring.

Though there’s no sense dwelling on what could have been, I can’t help but be curious about how their music careers would’ve evolved as they grew to write their own songs. But at least we had Ace of Base to carry the Swedish ’90s pop torch for us into the 2000s.

Midi, Maxi & Efti - Bad Bad Boys

Guest Contributor:

Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band
“Mr. Bojangles”
Uncle Charlie & His Dog Teddy
Liberty
1970

Beauty can be found in the most unexpected places. In the case of Jerry Jeff Walker, it was a New Orleans jail cell where he met and befriended an alcoholic tap dancer called “Mr. Bojangles.” Walker’s encounter spawned the 1968 creation of a catchy, somber tune of the same name that was later recorded by legends like Bob Dylan, Nina Simone and the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band (NGDB), who are credited with making the song famous.

Apparently, NGDB guitarist/vocalist Jeff Hanna first heard Walker’s “Mr. Bojangles” on the radio driving home from rehearsal and was so moved by the song that his eyes filled with tears. He ended up recording a version with NGDB and chose to include both accordion and mandolin for an added layer of emotion.

If you thought the song paid homage to popular tap dancer Bill “Bojangles” Robinson of the early 1900s, don’t worry, you’re not alone. I used to think that too. And if you’ve never heard the song, give it a good listen. You may interpret it as a touching story of a man whose battle with alcoholism gets in the way of his tap dancing, which brings him joy and hope for a better tomorrow. Or just as a cool song about a lush and his dead dog. But either way, it’s a good one.

Nitty Gritty Dirt Band - Mr. Bojangles
Guest Contributor:

Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.

The Contours
“Do You Love Me”
Do You Love Me b/w Move Mr. Man Gordy
Motown
1962

The Contours - Do You Love MeMy parents are big music fans and while I was growing up music was constantly playing on the radio, tape deck or record player, whether we were in the house, garage, car, or even out by the pool. It always seemed foreign and miserable to me when I’d be hanging out with certain childhood friends whose parents drove in silence, ate meals in silence and seemed to have missed the invention of the radio.

And while my parents each had some of their own musical tastes—dad’s love for America vs. mom’s #1-most-hated song, “A Horse with No Name” (by America)—they did agree on country, doo-wop and Motown, the latter of the three being one of my favorite genres.

Each time “Do You Love Me” came on, my mom would turn up the radio and get excited, then proceed to sing and dance. It didn’t matter which conversation anyone was in the middle of, whether she was driving in the car or we were hanging out at home, it was always the same reaction. And the joy was contagious. Watching her face light up with her bright smile, anyone in her presence couldn’t help but smile back and join in the song and dance.

“Do You Love Me” was written by Motown founder Berry Gordy and recorded in 1962 by The Contours, though it’s been said he’d originally intended on having The Temptations record it. Either way, I’m just glad it was recorded. It’s brought so much joy to my family and apparently to the rest of the United States as it was a chart topper in 1962 and again in 1988, after it appeared in the movie Dirty Dancing.

I’ve heard the song many times in the past 14 years since moving out of my mom’s house, and every single time I hear it I think of her and I smile. Sometimes I even partake in a little song and dance myself.

The Contours - Do You Love Me
Guest Contributor:

Through her company, Word Charmers, Mary provides writing, editing and proofreading for clients in New York and beyond. When not working, she can be found playing name that tune wherever background music is heard, toying with her instruments, exploring the city or sipping wine to the backdrop of a live band.