Monday, October 19, 2015

Born In 1944

Today in 1944 saw the birth of both George McCrae and Peter Tosh, two musicians who have given me much happiness since my childhood.

Hearing McCrae's Rock Your Baby would alternately have me feeling slightly melancholy and tapping my toes - it still has much the same effect. The proto-disco song was co-written by Casey (KC) and Finch of KC & The Sunshine Band and came out of the TK Records system, just one of Henry Stone's landmark projects.

Give a listen - does it make you feel good, too?

George's wife Gwen was also a beneficiary of the genius of TK, having a hit with Rocking Chair, which was included on an excellent album of the same name.

But Gwen was actually born in December 1943 so pardon the digression. I just love that TK sound!

Peter Tosh made his mark as a member of The Wailers with Bob Marley and Bunny Wailer. He had a uniquely deep voice and a folk-based songwriting sensibility that worked very well in the context of the Jamaican genres he worked in from ska to reggae.

After he and Bob could no longer work together (and Bunny retreated to the hills), Tosh had a strong solo career, especially out of the gate with the Legalize It and Equal Rights albums. 

I think the moment he became crucial to me was watching the classic reggae movie Rockers at a midnight show somewhere when I was in high school. Stepping Razor came on the soundtrack and I had to have it! That soundtrack was in seriously high rotation for at least a year. It may be that his ultra-tough image came tragically home to roost in 1987 when he was gunned down in his own house.

I once heard a radio broadcast where Tosh introduced one of his songs as being for "the intellectual herb smoker," which was quite accurate. Although his patois was often darkly humorous (Chris Blackwell became "Chris Whitewrong" in his parlance) he was fundamentally a serious dude. That made it all the more delightful when he hooked up with that old scamp Mick Jagger to cover Smokey Robinson's Don't Look Back, originally recorded by The Temptations.

Tosh and Jagger's wickedly good version was actually the second time the reggae magus had sung the song. The first time was back in 1966 under The Wailers name. Although the song was written by Smokey Robinson and Marley was far away, trying to make ends meet in Delaware or Detroit, the song was credited to him! There's no music biz like the Jamaican music biz.

There's your 1944 rabbit hole for today. If you want to go deeper into the world of Henry Stone, check out the playlist below.

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