There’s one good thing about enduring a protracted rehab – it gives you time to think.
One of the things I thought about was which 12 artists or groups/soloists I would like to have with me during this period. Here are the names in alphabetical order.
The decisions are based on the quality and the body of work.
One of the early rock superstars, CHUCK BERRY, had a unique style, that included his patented duck walk. He had 14 Top 40 hits, but he didn’t have his first No. 1 smash until 1972 when “My Ding-A-Ling” reached the top of the charts. His earlier Top 10 hits were “Maybellene” in 1955, “School Day” and “Rock & Roll Music” in 1957, “Sweet Little Sixteen” and “Johnny B. Goode” in 1958. Berry died earlier this year at age 92.
From January 1958, when “You Send Me” became his only No. 1 hit, SAM COOKE charted 30 Top 40 hits, including “Chain Gang” in 1960, “Twistin’ the Night Away” in 1962, “Another Saturday Night” in 1963, and “Shake” in 1965. Cooke’s life ended in December 1964 at age 33 when he was gunned down at a Los Angeles motel. Cooke’s success was a result of his changing his style from gospel to pop music. Among his other hits were “Everybody Likes to Cha, Cha, Cha,” “Only Sixteen,” “A Wonderful World,” “Sad Mood” and “Cupid.”
NEIL DIAMOND has known nothing but success throughout his career. He’s had 36 Top 40 hits, including No. 1 smashes “Cracklin’ Rosie” in 1970, “Songs Sung Blue” in 1972, and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with Barbra Streisand in 1978. Diamond and Streisand were close friends from their days growing up in Brooklyn. Another of his big hits was “Love on the Rocks” in 1982, a song that came from the remake of the movie, “The Jazz Singer,” in which he starred. Two other songs from that movie — “Hello Again” and “America” — were both in the Top 10 with “Love on the Rocks.” Diamond announced earlier this year that he will no longer tour, a major disappointment to his legion of fans.
THE DRIFTERS earned their name because there were 30 different singers who performed with them. Most of their success began in 1959 when “There Goes My Baby” topped the charts. When Ben E. King left the group in 1961, their success waned. They had their other No. 1 hit in 1960 with “Save the Last Dance for Me.” Among their other notable hits were “Up on the Roof,” “On Broadway,” and “Under the Boardwalk.” The Drifters generally are recognized as the top Rock ‘n’ Roll group during that span.
Some people would consider THE FOUR SEASONS, led by Frankie Valli and his high falsetto voice, an overnight success. But that’s hardly accurate. They beat the Rock ‘n’ Roll bushes for 10 years before “Sherry” topped the charts for five weeks in September 1962. During the next seven months, they had two other No. 1 hits, “Big Girls Don’t Cry” in 1962, and “Rag Doll” in 1963. The group amassed 32 Top 40 hits during the course of their career. Because of their success, they have had a Broadway show and movie made about their career.
THE KINGSTON TRIO led the modern folk movement during the Rock ‘n’ Roll era when the century-old song “Tom Dooley” reached No. 1 in 1958. The trio’s success led the way for other folk acts, including Peter, Paul and Mary, Joan Baez, John Denver, The Highwaymen and Brothers Four. The trio met as college students in the San Francisco area. They split in 1961 when Dave Guard left. They had one other Top 10 hit, “Reverend Mr. Black.” Their other benchmark hits include “MTA,” “Greenback Dollar” and “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?”
JOHNNY MATHIS had to make a difficult choice in 1956 as to whether to try out for the U.S. Olympic team as a high jumper or continue his music career. Fortunately for music fans, Mathis’ father convinced him to stay with music. In 1957, he had his first major hit with “Wonderful, Wonderful.” Later in the year, he had the first of his two No. 1 hits with “Chances Are.” The other was “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late,” a duet with Denice Williams in 1978. Mathis had 22 Top 40 hits, six of which reached the Top 10. Mathis later changed his direction from singles to albums. His album, “Johnny’s Greatest Hits,” was on the charts for a record 490 weeks.
One of the most successful folk groups was PETER, PAUL & MARY. They met at a nightclub in Greenwich Village, N.Y., in 1961, and remained together for the next 10 years. They first charted in 1962 with “Lemon Tree” and they had their first big hit later in the year with “If I Had A Hammer.” Their only No. 1 hit was “Leaving On A Jet Plane” in 1969. Their other big hit was “Puff the Magic Dragon” in 1963. Overall, they had 13 Top 40 hits as most of their work was done on albums.
Nobody could “sell” a song like FRANK SINATRA. From 1955 to 1980, “Old Blue Eyes” had 31 Top 40 hits, nine of which reached the Top 10. He had three No. 1 hits during that span: “Learnin’ the Blues” in 1955, “Strangers in the Night” in 1966 and “Something Stupid,” a duet with his daughter, Nancy, in 1967. The Sinatras are the only father-daughter duo to have a No. 1 hit. Recognized as this country’s first teen idol, Sinatra had many other hits, including “Love & Marriage” in 1955, “Hey Jealous Lover” in 1956, “All the Way” in 1957, “That’s Life” in 1966, “My Way” in 1968, and “New York, New York” in 1980. He died in 1998 at age 82.
Despite continuous internal problems, THE TEMPTATIONS are generally considered Motown’s premiere male group. They had 31 Top 40 hits, including No. 1 smashes “My Girl” in 1965, “Can’t Get Next to You” in 1969, “Ball of Confusion” in 1970, “Just My Imagination” in 1971 and “Papa Was A Rolling Stone” in 1972. Many of their songs were socially relevant, which separated them from most other rock groups. They also were one of the first groups to use choreography. Another reason for their success was Smokey Robinson, lead singer of The Miracles, who penned most of their hits.
No musicians sustained greater damage from the “Red Scare” during the late ’40s and early ’50s than THE WEAVERS. The quartet, consisting of Pete Seeger, Lee Hayes, Fred Hellerman and Ronnie Gilbert, the group’s female voice, had their careers virtually ruined by Sen. Joe McCarthy when the Republican senator from Wisconsin perpetrated the Red Scare on the American public. As a result, The Weavers were virtually banned from radio, TV and public appearances. Before McCarthy’s false accusations, The Weavers were, perhaps, the nation’s hottest singing group. Among their hits were, “Goodnight Irene,” “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “Wimoweh,” “This Land Is Your Land,” “Tzena, Tzena, Tzena” and “If I Had A Hammer.”
Nicknamed “Mr. Excitement,” JACKIE WILSON exploded on the Rock n’ Roll scene in the late 1950s when “Lonely Teardrops” reached No. 1 in 1958. Overall, he had 26 Top 40 hits, six of which reached to Top 10. Among his biggest hits were “Night,” which reached No. 4 in 1960; “Baby Workout,” No. 5 in 1963; and “Higher and Higher,” No. 5 in 1967. Wilson collapsed while performing at a Cherry Hill, N.J., nightclub with a stroke in September 1975, which incapacitated him for the rest of his life. He died as a result of the stroke in 1984 at age 49.