Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing

There’s a remarkable number of notable birthdays today. There’s no cake and no gift, however.

John Belushi would be 58 today, had he not died in 1982. Apart from the hits under the Blues Brothers name, his version of “Louie Louie” from the Animal House soundtrack was also released as a single late in 1978, but failed to chart. The version used in the movie contained the oft-rumored and famously obscene lyrics; for the soundtrack album, Belushi sang the actual, non-obscene lyrics.

Warren Zevon would be 60, had he not died in 2003. I’m not as well acquainted with Zevon as I probably should be. Like most casual listeners, I’ve got Excitable Boy somewhere–and it’s one of the most consistenly enjoyable albums on my shelf. Key track: “Nighttime in the Switching Yard.”

Tammi Terrell would be 62, had she not died in 1970. One of the great what-ifs in pop music regards what Terrell might have become at Motown had she not been felled by a brain tumor in her early 20s. Her duets with Marvin Gaye are glorious, especially “If I Could Build My Whole World Around You” and “Ain’t Nothin’ Like the Real Thing.”

Aaron Neville and Neil Diamond, both happily not dead, are both 66. (There’s a duet for ya.) Neville’s probably the most famous note-bender in the biz; Diamond, meanwhile, probably belongs in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, at least as a songwriter. Key Neville track: “Everybody Plays the Fool” (but get the single version, a remix that vastly improves on the soporific album version). Key Diamond tracks: “Sweet Caroline,” “Shilo.”

Ray Stevens is 68–or also 66, according to some sources. He’s best remembered for novelty songs such as “The Streak,” which went to Number One in 1974, but he’s also a member of the Songwriters Hall of Fame. Key track: one he didn’t write–a straight, countrified version of the jazz standard “Misty,” which made the Top 20 in the summer of 1975.

Recommended Listening:
For several years, I’ve maintained a series of Desert Island tapes. They’re made up of songs that I consider essentials for various reasons–because of what they represent, who they represent, and so on. The tapes became CDs a couple of years ago, and now, a selection of the songs from the list is online for you to listen to. Our pal Dave P. turned me on to Finetune.com, a website that lets you build custom playlists from its library and then put ’em up for everyone to listen to. I could probably imagine an entirely different but still island-worthy list, but “The Desert Island” represents my only actual attempt to make one. It’s mostly old-school Top 40, featuring a touch of bubblegum, a few one-hit wonders, plenty of Philly soul, and “Jimmy Loves Mary Anne.”

Be sure to check out Dave’s tasty Poolside Jazz playlist, also. Then make your own list at Finetune, and send me the link.

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