10 Forgotten Songs You Need to Hear (and the story behind them)
Bobby Caldwell’s mother worked in real estate, and sold a house to Bob Marley when Bobby Caldwell was young. Bobby and Bob went on to become friends even though Caldwell was young at the time.
When Caldwell was recording the album that, “What You Won’t Do For Love,” was featured on, his record label executives thought there wasn’t a hit on the album. He went back to the studio, re-recorded the songs and wrote, “What You Won’t Do For Love.” After releasing the album with the new hit song, the executives tried to hide his racial identity, hoping to avoid alienating the listeners. But after starting a tour, the secret was out, and he became bigger than he was before.
Bernard Allison - Just My Guitar and Me
When you hear the opening licks of this song, you know something special is coming. Then the beat drops and the band kicks in and the groove hits you in waves.
Son of legendary blues guitarist Luther Allison, Bernard was surprisingly self-taught. Once his father noticed his impressive guitar chops from age 12, he bought him a new guitar and the rest is history. Upon graduating high school, Allison learned from another legend Stevie Ray Vaughan, who is ranked by Rolling Stone as the 7th best guitarist of all time.
Toni Braxton was on her way to a career in teaching when she was discovered by William E. Pettaway Jr. He recognized her from one of her local performances, and approached her while she was pumping gas.
The song follows a real life story about the new wife of her former husband showing off to her, and Braxton explaining to the woman that her ex is a cheat. “He Wasn’t Man Enough,” was one of her first attempts to make a non-ballad pop song. The song became her biggest hit and earned her a Grammy in 2001.
Sam Moore and Dave Prater met in gospel music settings, and after performing together one night at The King of Hearts Club in Miami, began working together exclusively. The duo helped pave the way for the acceptance of soul music into predominantly white pop audiences, with their perfected ‘call and response’ singing style. They are known influences of many huge artists, including Bruce Springsteen, who brought out Sam Moore in concert to show off his ‘call and response’ style and silky smooth singing voice, even at his advanced age.
“Hold On, I’m Coming,” was actually inspired by waiting for someone to finish up in the washroom! But songwriters Isaac Hayes and Dave Porter understood there to be other connotations, including some sexual ones, which were worked into the lyrics as well.
As a young boy, lead singer of Simply Red, Mike Hucknall, clashed with his father. His mother abandoned the family when he was three years old. Hucknall added that they clashed simply because there wasn’t anyone in the house "to be the referee."
Hucknall began writing the song when he was seventeen, but only added the famous chorus years later, inspired by a number of events, including his mother’s departure. The other major inspiration was something he learned from a teacher at The Manchester School of Art: that painters do their best while working in a stream of consciousness.
The Spinners were hardly a cohesive group for most of their time as a band. In the first ten years, they had turnover amongst multiple members, and very limited commercial success. This prompted their label to demote them to work as managers, chaperones, chauffeurs, and even shipping clerks for Motown Records and the other, more mainstream acts.
But when they were signed to Atlantic Records, they released, “I’ll Be Around,” which immediately gained traction on the airwaves. Even though the song was on the B-side of two singles, it was such a hit that the label flipped the record to let the song be on the A-side.
Bill Withers - I’m Her Daddy
There are a number of songs from Withers that stand out, but, “I’m Her Daddy,” is the one that I listen to most often from the enigmatic artist.
Withers, born with a stutter that shattered his confidence, grew up on the border of a segregated neighbourhood. He’d listen to the country music and the gospel music from both sides of the street. His dad died when he was thirteen, and after graduating high school he joined the Navy as an aircraft mechanic. After leaving the Navy and finding himself a steady factory job, he saved his money and bought a cheap guitar from a local pawn shop. He taught himself how to play, started writing music, and began handing out demo tapes to anyone who would listen.
Eventually, he got the chance to record an album. He showed up after his shift at the factory in a beat up car with a notebook filled with lyrics in his hand. After seeing a star studded band waiting for him in the studio, he pulled the producer aside and asked who the lead vocalist is. The producer said, “You are, Bill.” Withers wasn’t ready for something like this, especially given his stutter, until folk rock legend Graham Nash came in and told him, “you don’t know how good you are.”
After the studio session, Withers lost his factory job and lacked some direction in his life. That was, until the day he received two letters in the mail. One, from his former employer asking him to return to work, and the second, from Johnny Carson, asking him to come to, “The Tonight Show.” Oddly enough, a few years later, he quit the music business completely despite having immense talent and the possibility of longevity. To this day, he still states that when people see him on the street, they don’t recognize him or believe him to be Bill Withers.
The next rather enigmatic artist on this list is k-os, who released his first album, “Musical Essence,” in 1993. This oddly spurred ex NBA player John Salley to become his manager. By 1996, k-os felt his music lacked originality, and thought of it to be, “pretentious and derivative.” By 2002, he was back with, “Exit.” In 2004, he released, “Joyful Rebellion.” And in 2006, “Atlantis: Hymns for Disco.” All three albums are critically acclaimed, although lack the attention of mainstream audiences, as they blend slightly underground genres of soul, funk, hip hop, and reggae.
The song, “Man I Used to Be,” is apparently about Michael Jackson and k-os himself. It describes the struggle of a man trying to be more like the man he used to be (duh). k-os has shied away from the limelight recently, until releasing an EP called, “Boshido,” this year with the help of Kaytranada.
Green was kicked out of his home as a teenager after getting caught listening to famous artist Jackie Wilson. He then lived with a sex worker and began using recreational drugs. As an artist, he had trouble finding his own unique voice, instead drawing inspiration from Jackie Wilson, Sam Cooke, and James Brown.
“Love and Happiness,” was said to be pulled from a, “raw and gritty need.” Green also stated that the song felt like mixing explosive chemicals; everything had to be added at just the right time and the right dose. I’d say he nailed it.
Redding was forced to quit school at age fifteen. His father was diagnosed with tuberculosis and his mother wasn’t able to support the family with just her singular income.
Somehow, he found a way to get his name out there, and recorded, “Sittin’ On the Dock of the Bay,” just days before dying in a tragic plane crash. The song was written on a rented houseboat in California. Originally, Redding had planned to record a final version in the coming days, but sadly didn’t have a chance to do so. In the proposed final version, he was going to end the song with an ad-libbed rap that faded out similarly to how the song ends today. But in the last recording, he forgot to rap and decided to whistle instead, leaving us with the iconic ending we know today.
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