Friday, March 18, 2011

Looking to honor the dead, instead I pay tribute to the living.

Ferlin Husky died this week. I felt like I should know more about Ferlin Husky, and so like when Charlie Louvin died, I went to The You Tubes to look up the best work of Ferlin Husky.

I gotta say it. His name and his hairdo were better than his singing or his choices of songs. His biggest hit was Wings of a Dove. It's bad form to speak ill of the dead but... meh.

He did record Mountain of Love, which was written and originally recorded by Howard Dorman in 1960.

I love Mountain of Love, but if I was going to recommend one recording, it would be the Top Ten version from Johnny Rivers.

Let us now spare a thought for Johnny Rivers. He will likely never be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, though he deeply deserves it. Born John Ramistella in New York City but raised in Baton Rouge, young Johnny played in a trio with his dad and his uncle. The DJ Alan Freed recommended he find a less ethnic name and he became Johnny Rivers, the main river being the Mississippi, with a little help from the Hudson.

Rivers could record anything, from country stuff like Mountain of Love to covers of R&B like The Seventh Son by Willie Dixon and soul classics like The Four Tops' Baby I Need Your Loving and Smokey Robinson's Tracks of My Tears. He also made a big hit out of Secret Agent Man.

Here's Johnny Rivers' original stereo version of Mountain of Love. If you know enough music theory, you know this song's great strength is the use of the triplet. If you don't that much music theory, just get up and dance. It's got a helluva beat.

And if I'm going to give a salute to Johnny Rivers, it would be just dead wrong not to include his greatest hit, a song he wrote with Jerry Adler called The Poor Side of Town. They called his genre The Go-Go Sound, and while it's very poppy and lushly produced, Johnny had himself one hell of a lot of soul.

Best wishes to Johnny Rivers, his family and friends, from a fan.


susan s. said...


namastenancy said...

Great tribute - I'd forgotten about Johnny so I got out my old LP's and did an (almost ) full moon dance in his honor.

Matty Boy said...

Girl, it's hard to find nice things... on the po' side of town.