A friend got me to thinking the other day, an accomplishment most of my friends try to avoid. This friend once said, “Give Dan a subject, and he will think it to death.” Another good friend from radio once introduced me, saying “Here is Dan Sanders. Give him a subject, and he’ll give you 20 minutes whether he knows anything about it or not.” I never believed those last eight words.
So I was thinking about the hidden talent and connections in music we forget or never even know about. For example, my friend told me the hit song “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” a song I like a lot, was written by Cat Stevens, and he gave it to the great soul singer P.P. Arnold. P.P. Arnold recorded it in 1967 and had a hit. It’s also interesting to note she was a member of the Ikettes, the troupe that provided vocal and dance accompaniment for the Ike & Tina Turner Revue. In 1973, “The First Cut Is the Deepest” was an international hit for Keith Hampshire, a well-known British singer who between July 1966 and mid-August 1967 was also a DJ for the offshore pirate radio station Radio Caroline. The Rod Stewart version of the song, which I and most of the world knows and loves, was not recorded until 1977.
Here’s another name for you: Lisa Fischer. Any Rolling Stones fan has heard her a thousand times but might not know the name. Since 1989, she has toured with The Rolling Stones and is a popular background singer with Mick. Check her out on later versions of “Gimme Shelter” (Merry Clayton recorded the first version) and “Honky-Tonk Woman.” She is also featured in a great documentary about background singers called 20 Feet from Stardom.
Just as I was finishing up this blog, I got the news that on this day, May 15, B.B. King died at age 89, the same day astronomers discovered a rare Quasar Quartet. More than ever, I want that job at WHEA, Heaven’s Radio, where there are a multitude of great quartets. Can you imagine hearing “Goooooooood morning, universes, galaxies, and stars of all ages! We’ve got some B.B. King, Ben E. King, Percy Sledge, and James Brown to kick off your sunrise today!”
All of this got me into particularly ponderous pondering (god, don’t you love alliteration?). I discovered not only something about a song I love but also about the first person to record it and the second and then more about them. I learned P.P. Arnold was one of the Ikettes and Keith Hampshire was a radio pirate on Radio Caroline, and I kept going. The history of one song, “The First Cut Is the Deepest,” I found fascinating as one thing led to another, a result of song sleuthing, a term I made up to describe getting down to the deepest links. My interest in music details is why I became a DJ, or at least one of the reasons.
A few more song-sleuthing moments and other thoughts are on the shores of Rambling Harbor. Drop anchor and join me there.