Tag Archives: Wilson Pickett

My Life In 33 Songs: #30: “Sweet Soul Music” – Arthur Conley (Soul Music 101)



Do you like good music?

It’s no secret that I love Soul Music. It’s one of my favorite musical genres and it always puts me in a good mood. It’s one of the few genres that almost everyone can agree on. No wedding is complete without a few Soul songs thrown in.

The odd thing is, I’m a relatively new-convert. I’ve always liked it, but for whatever reason I never bothered to truly explore it until recently. Once I did get into it, I became a full-fledged fan. All it took was one boxed set and a little help from help from Arthur Conley.

One Christmas I received a $50 Gift Card to a local record shop. About a day or so after Christmas when I returned to Baltimore from my parent’s house, I took a drive over to the record shop. Usually when I get a gift like this, I have a pretty good idea of what I want. Usually it means something special that I would not otherwise buy.

This time though, I had nothing particular in mind. It was both exhilarating and terrifying. The possibilities were endless and the chances of getting something new was high. On the flip side, there was also the potential to end up with some really shitty. Or even worse, I would just buy something because I had a gift card.

I wandered around the small store flipping through the discs for at least a half hour. Bob Dylan? Nope, I have everything I want by him and I’m certainly not going to buy one of his Christian albums. Lou Reed? I have Transformer and the only other one is Metal Machine Music so that’s a definite no. I suppose I could get the debut album from this new band, but they seemed to get crappy reviews.  

Feeling frustrated, I walked over to the boxed set area. Nothing there seemed to fit either. On a whim I pulled out a 4-disc set called Soul Spectacular – The Greatest Soul Hits of All Time. I was expecting it to be a third tier collection – one that has a lot of songs from a genre, but due to record licenses the most well-known songs are left off.

Upon further inspection, this set did indeed have a ton of great material on it: “Respect”, “Green Onions”, “Midnight Train to Georgia”, “What’d I Say” among numerous others. Now I knew that I had found my purchase.

As I drove home and listened to the first disc, I was surprised by how fresh and exciting all these songs felt. I felt cooler by the minute having James Brown, Martha Reeves & the Vandellas and Otis Redding blast from the speakers of my car. There were quite a few songs I knew, but the majority I didn’t. Clearly, I had to a lot to catch up on.

As it turns out, I didn’t have to do a lot of research just yet. It was provided for me in Arthur Conley’s “Sweet Soul Music”. “Sweet Soul Music” is like Soul Music 101 led by Professor Conley. If the answer is affirmative to the question, “do you like good music?” you know you’ve come to the right place. “Just as long as it’s swinging,” is the course description. Get your notebook ready, because in a quick two and a half minutes, Conley’s going to lead you through a quick and easy guide to Soul.

Spotlight on Lou Rawls.
Ah don’t he look tall y’all.
Singin’ loves a hurtin’ thing now.

I have to admit, I’d never heard of Lou Rawls before. Obviously he must be pretty important if he gets a shout-out. I glanced at the track listing for “Loves a Hurtin’ Thing” to see if it was included on the set. It was. I played the song and realized I had heard that song before and had no idea who sang it. Got it!  Thanks Professor Conley.

Spotlight on Sam and Dave now
Ah don’t they look boss y’all.
Singin’ hold on I’m comin.

Sam & Dave I knew. My first introduction to them was The Blues Brothers when I saw it on TV as as a kid. I was too young to fully appreciate the musical moments in that film. I brushed them off as Oldies. Which is a shame, because the musical scenes in The Blues Brothers were probably aimed at people like me – who had an ignorance in Soul Music. Sam & Dave have since become one of my favorite groups of Soul in part because of their famed call and response passages.

Spotlight on Wilson Pickett.
That wicked picket Pickett.
Singin Mustang Sally.

Wilson Pickett was another familiar name. I knew of “Land of 1,000 Dances”  thanks to the ending of The Great Outdoors. But “Mustang Sally?” Didn’t know that one.  Since then, I’ve grown to love Pickett for his raw energy and sexually charged vocal performances. And his cover of “Hey Jude” might actually be better than The Beatles’ version.

Spotlight on James Brown now.
He’s the king of them all.
He’s the king of them all.
Oh yeah, oh yeah.

Everyone knows James Brown. How can you not? His influence is vast and wide even beyond Soul. And Conley’s right for leaving him to be the last. Without James Brown, Funk might not exist and Mick Jagger wouldn’t have his famous dance moves.

The simplicity of the lyrics  in “Sweet Soul Music” is perfect. If there were any additional lines in the verses, it would be robbed of its power. It’s direct and catches your attention. In a way, it reminds a little bit of The Ramones: the lyrics are reduced to their essence and yet still serve a purpose. With this song, I gained some more knowledge of Soul that I might otherwise would have.

Do you like good music?
That sweet soul music.

Yes, I do. Thanks Professor Conley.


Song of the Week: “Hey Jude” – Wilson Pickett



Everyone knows The Beatles original version of “Hey Jude”.  Its extended ending is imbedded in our musical consciousness.  Lesser-known and nearly as great, is Wilson’s Pickett’s version of the song.

Pickett’s “Hey Jude” is full-on Gospel, something that The Beatles recording only hinted at.  (In fact, Gospel might be the only form of music that the Beatles couldn’t really tackle properly.  The Rolling Stones were much better at it.)  Starting off slow with a faint organ and soft guitar licks, Pickett’s voice is in fine form.  It’s loud and commanding, but also comforting.  When Pickett sings McCartney’s famous line, “the movement you need is on your shoulders” its feel like a helping hand will appear from heaven itself in a matter of seconds.

Wisely, Pickett decided not to recreate the famous coda of the song.  Instead he offers his own version.  As the song draws to its conclusion, the musics soars skyward with a rollicking, bluesy solo courtesy of Duane Allman.  For the last minute or so of the song, Pickett owns “Hey Jude” so much that for those last moments, you forget that the original was done by four lads from Liverpool.

Random Song of the Day: “Land of 1,000 Dances” – Wilson Pickett

If there’s ever a song that will automatically put me in a good mood, it’s Wilson Pickett’s version of “Land of 1,000 Dances”.  The song is bursting with energy that practically blows from the speakers. Paul McCartney might have the most famous count-off in rock history at the beginning of “I Saw Her Standing There”, but Pickett’s count-off comes in at a close second in my book. The sexual urgency in his voice as he calls out, “One two, three” not once, but twice is only hints at things to come.

Pickett’s band takes off in full flight. There’s a slight hint of chaos, but they’re so tight. The refrain of Charlie Chalmers and Andrew Love’s tenor saxophone playing can barely keep up with Pickett as he shouts out the differences dances. Then of course there’s the famous “na na na na na”  refrain (which wasn’t in the original version by Chris Kenner).  If there was ever a song that demanded audience participation, it’s Pickett’s version.

I first came across the song in The Great Outdoors (that ludicrous movie starring John Candy and Dan Aykroyd).  Come to think of it, Dan Aykroyd is probably responsible for exposing me to soul music in general with the Blues Brothers.  For years I always referred to it as “that song from The Great Doors‘.  Luckily, I don’t have that problem now.

As if the song couldn’t be any cooler, Patti Smith also includes several lines from the song in her song “Land” of her debut Horses.