Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Otis Blackwell

Otis Blackwell, one of the greatest composers in early rock and roll, was born this day, in 1932.

Among the many hits he penned were Long Tall Sally, Teddy Bear, Breathless, All Shook Up, Don't Be Cruel, Hey Little Girl, Handy Man, Ready Teddy, Return to Sender, Don't, Fever, Good Golly Miss Molly, and Great Balls of Fire.

The range of artists who covered these songs is rather astonishing, as is the quality of Blackwell's catalogue. I really love those early rock and roll tunes—the lack of pretension is hard to come by these days, as is the joy, and the fun.

A handful of artists wrote many, many of those great songs. Besides Blackwell, there was Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman, Sam Cooke, Chuck Berry, Carole King, Mike Lieber & Jerry Stoller, and of course the great Buddy Holly (missed posting on February 3rd, but didn't forget).

Three of Otis's greatest songs, interpreted by three of rock and roll's most brilliant performers: Little Richard live, covering Good Golly Miss Molly sometime in the early 60's, I believe, from the look of it; Buddy Holly, just devouring Ready Teddy (the howl in the middle of the song slays me—I just fucking love it); and the Killer himself, live on American Bandstand, chewing up Great Balls of Fire so thoroughly that anyone else daring to attempt it after does it only at their peril:

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