Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 19 (July 11, 2021): ’70s Singer/Songwriters

Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 19 (July 11, 2021): ’70s Singer/Songwriters

Welcome to Radio Faux Show number nineteen.

First things first – click a link to start listening and then come back to read about this week’s songs.


Amazon Music

This Week’s Theme: ’70s Singer/Songwriters

I am certainly no expert in the history of song writing, but it seems to me that it is probably the oldest musical endeavor in human existence. I’m sure there are academic definitions about what constitutes song writing, and one probably has to be doing it for monetary gain to be considered a true songwriter if you study it in those terms. But in my mind, wasn’t the first songwriter the first person who made up some melody and sang some lyrics to it? It’s really just a way of telling a story with musical accompaniment. Caveman, rock, first drummer. If they said ooga booga to the rhythm? First songwriter.

The earliest known recording of a songwriter.

In the United States, Stephen Foster (the father of American music) was one of the first people to write music for the purpose of performing it or selling it for others to perform. He composed hundreds of songs in the 19th century, many of which are still sung today. The next hundred years produced all kinds of avenues for people to write and sing their songs, from minstrel shows to vaudeville to Broadway. Then with the advent of recording technology, this became a much more lucrative endeavor, with the phonograph, film, and radio leading the advancements.

The end result of 100 years of professional songwriting. If you ask me, we could have just stopped here and said, “Success!”

Woody Guthrie

Again, I am not an expert in the history of the singer/songwriter, but I’ll guess that one of the first true singer/songwriters in the modern sense was Woody Guthrie. There are obviously others, such as the thousands of 20th century blues musicians, folk singers, Tin Pan Alley writers, and everyone who came before them. But, to keep it simple and get to the theme in the quickest route possible, let’s stick with Woody Guthrie. He wasn’t doing anything new with regard to singing songs to anyone who would listen, but he was doing it as a career and his songs were about his personal experiences. This is the definition of the modern singer/songwriter, a person who writes and performs a song they wrote in order to express their attitudes, views, emotions, outrage, joy, and opinions.

Incredibly rare footage of Woody Guthrie performing.

Bob Dylan

The obvious lineage in the singer/songwriter discussion if we start with Woody Guthrie is to move to Bob Dylan. Early Dylan, folk singer Dylan, Greenwich Village Dylan – he is the epitome of the modern day concept of a singer/songwriter. With just a guitar and a harmonica, he spoke to the masses about the world around them and presented his views and ideals in a way that others could understand as their own.

Why Focus on the Singer/Songwriter in the ’70s?

There are two good answers to that question. First, if I don’t focus on something specific then there are too many songs to choose from and this entire endeavor becomes impossible. Second, I am currently reading Ronald Brownstein’s Rock Me on the Water, a book about 1974 Los Angeles and the film, music, television, and politics of that period. Some of the main characters in that period of history include Joni Mitchell, Jackson Browne, James Taylor, and the rest of the early ’70s singer/songwriters who shaped the era.

Looking back now, this period is just a step in the evolution of the singer/songwriter, but there is definitely a commonality in the writing of these artists. Although I have tried to present a diversity in my selections, the most obvious similarity in the majority of ’70s singer/songwriters is that they are white and middle class. Marvin Gaye and Stevie Wonder are two of the greatest songwriters of this or any period, but most people would not consider them singer/songwriters. But I think that everyone would consider James Taylor, Joni Mitchell, and Cat Stevens singer/songwriters. I also think that this brief period in music history when soft rock ruled the airwaves stands out because of where it falls in the timeline. Everything before this period led up to the Beatles, so it is easy to make an artificial break in pop music history at the point when they broke up. By the late ’70s pop music exploded into hundreds of subgenres such as punk, disco, funk, rap, metal, and many more as a response to the less confrontational sound of the ’70s up to that point. So these ’70s singer/songwriters were able to achieve success because they both filled a void and their popularity created the niche required to let them all grow.

Finally, I think it is important to look back at these artists and really listen to what they had to say. I think it is easy to look back fondly at the political outrage of Bob Dylan in the ’60s. We all have a newfound appreciation for the racial injustices explored in the music of Marvin Gaye, Stevie Wonder, and the hundreds of other influential black artists of this period. We can easily adore the social outrage presented by the early punk and indie artists of the time. But Joni Mitchell and Carole King sang about heartache, love, and friendship with songs that go far beyond their Top 40 presentation. Jackson Browne’s songs can tear into the human soul with such a fierceness that one can’t help but feel like breaking down. These singers were all presenting their varying attitudes on the human condition, in the same way that Woody Guthrie was, and their songs are timeless because of it.

Selections for this week’s theme

Carole King “So Far Away”

James Taylor “Don’t Let Me Lonely Tonight”

Jackson Browne “Late for the Sky”

Carly Simon “You’re So Vain”

Laura Nyro “I Met Him on a Sunday”

Bill Withers “The Same Love That Made Me Laugh”

Cat Stevens “Can’t Keep It In”

Bob Marley “Three Little Birds”

Paul Simon “Something So Right”

Joni Mitchell “Coyote”

Joan Armatrading “Down to Zero”

Warren Zevon “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”

Bob Dylan “Hurricane”

Tom Waits “The Piano Has Been Drinking”

Highlights from this Week’s Theme

Carole King breaks out as a star with her 1971 album Tapestry.

Jackson Browne defines his sound with his 1974 album Late for the Sky. I am a Jackson Browne fan so I like most of his albums, but this is one of my favorite albums by any artist. Lyrically, I believe it stands with the best albums by any songwriter.

Carly Simon creates one of the most mysterious questions in pop music trivia history – who is “so vain” in “You’re So Vain”? Warren Beatty? James Taylor? Jackson Browne? Less famous people? Simon says the song is about 3 men and one of them is Beatty. On a related note, the song “Anticipation” is about Cat Stevens so at least we know that for sure.

Bill Withers may seem an odd choice for the list, but his songwriting is so idiosyncratic that he deserves to be considered one of the great singer/songwriters of his time. Any day you get to hear some Bill Withers is a good day.

A classic funk groove lies underneath this Bill Withers classic.

This is Cat Stevens at the end of his run of great albums. It is a symbol of how great Cat Stevens was in the early ’70s that the album Catch Bull At Four is often overlooked in comparison to the three albums that came before it.

Bob Marley and Bob Dylan are the two greatest Bobs in the history of music.

Paul Simon is one of the greatest Pauls in the history of music, although Ms. Faux would pick Mr. Weller if she could only listen to one.

Joni Mitchell, Linda Rondstadt, James Taylor, Cat Stevens, Carly Simon, Jackson Browne, and Laura Nyro dated one another in various pairings throughout the early ’70s.

Warren Zevon died much too young and deserves more attention than he gets.

Complete concert from 1982

Tom Waits is Tom Waits and no one else sounds like Tom Waits. Any day you get to hear some Tom Waits is a good day.

Artist of the Week: Laura Nyro

Laura Nyro is now considered one of the greatest songwriters of her generation, but during her lifetime her talent was mostly ignored by everyone other than her fans and supporters. Nyro died in 1997 at the age of 49, but she has received many posthumous awards in the 21st century including induction into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

She recorded seven albums between 1967 and 1978, but only a few more during the next 20 years. Her records sold well enough to keep her working during those first 10 years, but she never achieved the success of her contemporaries, most notably Carole King who may have never released a single record if not for Laura Nyro. She never had a hit single, but many of her songs were hits for others.

This lack of hits under her own name led to a lot of unfortunate negativity when Nyro was posthumously inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2012. I am certainly not one to come to the defense of the Rock Hall board of electors, but they actually got one right with Nyro. So many of the artists who do get inducted by that committee are just artists with a lot of hits and album sales. Laura Nyro is one of the finest examples of an artist who deserves recognition for the work she presented, not the popularity of that work at the time. Listen to the albums she produced from ’67-’78 now and you will find as solid a set of recordings as any of her contemporaries who are now household names.

Her television debut (1969 Kraft Music Hall show)

Songs that were hits for other artists

The 5th DimensionStoned Soul Picnic“: #3 Hit (6/22/68)

The 5th Dimension “Sweet Blindness”: #13 (10/26/68)

The 5th Dimension “Wedding Bell Blues”: # 1 (10/4/69)

Blood, Sweat & Tears “And When I Die”: #2 hit (10/25/69)

Three Dog Night “Eli’s Coming: #10 hit (11/8/69)

The 5th Dimension “Blowing Away”: #21 hit (1/24/70)

The 5th Dimension “Save the Country”: #27 (6/27/70)

Barbra StreisandStoney End“: #6 hit (12/12/70)

Live at Monterey in 1967
“Save the Country”, most likely filmed around 1969

Special 2 for “Two”day Selections

Laura Nyro “I Met Him on a Sunday” and “Sweet Blindness”: The first song is a cover of the classic Shirelles song and is from the album Gonna Take a Miracle which features Labelle (Nona Hendryx, Patti Labelle, and Sarah Dash) as co-vocalists. The second song is from her album Eli and The Thirteenth Confession.

Joan Armatrading “Already There,” “Down to Zero,” and “(I Love It When You) Call Me Names.”: I almost selected Joan Armatrading as Artist of the Week, so instead I gave her a triple shot of songs and a special entry here. Just like Laura Nyro, Armatrading does not have any Top 40 hits in the US. Unlike Nyro, she has enjoyed a continuous, 50 year career as a popular artist.

Her lack of hits is most likely due to her being a black woman from England with a unique voice who sings rock and pop. That is unfortunate if for no other reason than songs like “Drop the Pilot,” “Love and Affection,” and “Willow” would certainly be favorites of a lot of people in the States if they had only been given the chance to hear them more over the years.

“Drop the Pilot” is one of the most unappreciated songs of the ’80s – a classic video and perfect song.

The strength of her songwriting is in her ability to strip down people’s pain into a few verses of a 4 minute pop song. Her music is timeless and even her latest album is as strong as her earlier work. Watching the video for her latest single “Already There” feels like the ’80s and 2021 all at the same time. Listening to her now in the current world climate, some of her best songs feel like they could become anthems for the times.

Here are some specially selected Joan Armatrading videos.

Armatrading’s 1st classic song, “Love and Affection,” live in 1976
One of the most uplifting songs ever written, Armatrading performs “Willow” live in a rehearsal studio.
Brand new song and video by a 70 year old pop star. Timely. Modern. Amazing.


Carole King “So Far Away

James Taylor “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight”

Linda Ronstadt “Poor Poor Pitiful Me”

Carly Simon “You’re So Vain”

Pointer Sisters “He’s So Shy”

Kool and the Gang “Too Hot”

Thurston Harris “Little Bitty Pretty One”

Lee Dorsey “Ya Ya”


Tenacious D “You Never Give Me Your Money/The End”: When Tenacious D put out a Beatles cover you have to start with it.

This one is good too.

Jimbo Mathus and Andrew Bird “Sweet Oblivion”: This is from the new album These 13 by one of the founding members of Squirrel Nut Zippers (Mathus) and one of the most underrated songwriters of the 21st century (Bird).

Joan Armatrading “Already There”: This is from her 2021 album Consequences.

Happy Birthday (July 11)

Bob McGrath: Bob McGrath got his start in show business as a singer for Mitch Miller, but to a lot of us he will always be remembered as just “Bob from Sesame Street.” (Note: Bob’s birthday is actually June 13 -oops – but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t all know our “A,B,C,D”s.)

Suzanne Vega: Suzanne Vega is still recording and touring. She is also known as the “Mother of the MP3” because the 1990 hit remix of “Tom’s Diner” was used for testing during creation of the MP3. Who knew?

Bonnie Pointer: Bonnie Pointer is one of the Pointer Sisters. “He’s So Shy” is one of their hits.

Peter Murphy: Peter Murphy was the lead singer for the band Bauhaus. “Lagartija Nick” is one of many songs by Bauhaus who, along with Joy Division, The Cure, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and others, formed the foundation of goth music in the early ’80s.

This isn’t the official video, but it is better than the original.

Thurston Harris: Harris was a minor R&B star in the ’50s. I have always preferred his version of “Little Bitty Pretty One” to Bobby Day’s original.

Michael Rose: Michael Rose wasn’t the original lead vocalist for Black Uhuru, but he was the voice of all of their classic albums. “Happiness” is the first track on their 1980 album Sinsemilla.

Andrew Bird: Andrew Bird is a multi-instrumentalist, songwriter, and all around cool guy (I assume based on the stuff he has done during his career). “Sweet Oblivion” is from a new collaboration with Jimbo Mathus, who he worked with for a little while in Squirrel Nut Zippers. All of Bird’s albums are worth a listen, especially just to hear his world-class whistling. He has changed his sound over the decades, but his songwriting has always remained top notch and unique.

This is the kind of stuff that makes Tiny Desk Concert so great

City Pop

City Pop is a form of Japanese pop music that was most popular in the late ’70s and early ’80s. These are three songs that exemplify the genre, but all have a different sound.

Minako Yoshida “Soto Wa Minna”: I think she sounds like Laura Nyro. She is one of the foundational artists of city pop music.

Makoto Matsushita “First Light”: I think this band listened to Steely Dan a little bit.

Anri “Stay By Me”: This one showcases the early ’80s dance pop version of the city pop style.

Top 10 R&B Crossover Hits

These are 3 songs that were Top 10 hits on both the R&B and Pop charts.

Pointer Sisters “He’s So Shy”: This was their 2nd Top 10 hit and the first to show the direction they were heading before their string of four Top 10 hits in 1984.

Larry Graham “One in a Million”: After he left Sly and the Family Stone, Graham formed Graham Central Station and produced some great ’70s funk, but he also put out an album of smooth R&B in the late ’70s and scored a major hit with this song.

Kool & The Gang “Too Hot”: In honor of climate change, I present an old song as the new theme for a new world.

Unsung Heroes of Rock and Roll

Thurston Harris “Little Bitty Pretty One”

Lee Dorsey “Ya Ya”: The lyrics are silly but the song is still good. Dorsey also had a hit with the original version of “Working in a Coalmine.”

Smiley Lewis “Lillie Mae”: Smiley Lewis was a local star in New Orleans but was overshadowed nationally by Fats Domino when rock and roll came of age in the mid-’50s.

Catch a Fire

The Maytals “Pressure Drop”: Toots and the Maytals were a seminal band in the invention of reggae. This song is a classic.

Toots live in 1975

Black Uhuru “Happiness”: Black Uhuru won the first ever Grammy for Reggae with their 1985 album Anthem. “Happiness” is from their 1980 album Sinsemilla.

“Solidarity” video from the album Anthem

Bob Marley “Three Little Birds”: I would put this song on every Faux Show if I didn’t follow any rules at all.

Three artists not selected for this week’s theme

There are just too many artists to include them all in each’s weeks show, and this week’s theme provided a ridiculous bounty of riches. Here are three artists who, with heavy heart, I cut from the final list. This could have easily been a week for a super theme.

Jim Croce died tragically in a plane crash in 1973 at the age of 30. At that time, Croce was arguably about to become the most popular singer/songwriter in the United States, if not the world.

Randy Newman has become a joke to some people because of the ridiculous amount of soundtrack work he has done for Disney over the last 20 odd years, all of which start to sound the same due to his unique songwriting and singing style. He has written a slew of hits for both himself and other artists, and his albums are a masterclass in how to write lyrics. He is sarcastic to the point that you occasionally have to step back and realize he does not believe the things he is singing about. Most importantly, he writes with a wit that can be honest, beautiful, and funny all at the same time.

“Political Science” live in 1972 on the fantastic Old Grey Whistle Test show
Beautiful video created for the song “Louisiana 1927”

Dolly Parton will get her own Faux Show at some point. She is one of the greatest songwriters in the history of modern music. For now I’ll just say that as far as I can tell she really is as nice as she appears to be.

“Light of a Clear Blue Morning” should be this year’s theme song. One of her best songs performed this year at the age of 75.
And here is the original just to listen to.
And here is the classic “Jolene” from 1974.

Thanks for listening (and reading)!

Track List

TrackArtistSong Title
1Tenacious DYou Never Give Me Your Money/The End
2Bob McGrathA, B, C, D
3Carole KingSo Far Away
4James TaylorDon’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight
5Jackson BrowneLate for the Sky
6Linda RonstadtPoor, Poor Pitiful Me
7Carly SimonYou’re So Vain
8Suzanne VegaTom’s Diner
9Laura NyroI Met Him on a Sunday
10Laura NyroSweet Blindness
11Minako YoshidaSoto Wa Minna
12Makoto MatsushitaFirst Light
13AnriStay By Me
14Pointer SistersHe’s So Shy
15Larry GrahamOne in a Million You
16Kool and the GangToo Hot
17Bill WithersThe Same Love That Made Me Laugh
18Cat StevensCan’t Keep It In
19Thurston HarrisLittle Bitty Pretty One
20Lee DorseyYa Ya
21Smiley LewisLillie Mae
22MaytalsPressure Drop
23Black UhuruHappiness
24Bob MarleyThree Little Birds
25Jimbo Mathus and Andrew BirdSweet Oblivion
26Paul SimonSomething So Right
27Joni MitchellCoyote
28Joan ArmatradingAlready There
29Joan ArmatradingDown to Zero
30Joan Armatrading(I Love It When You) Call Me Names
31BauhausLagartija Nick
32Warren ZevonPoor, Poor Pitiful Me
33Bob DylanHurricane
34Tom WaitsThe Piano Has Been Drinking

3 thoughts on “Radio Faux Show Volume 1, Number 19 (July 11, 2021): ’70s Singer/Songwriters

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s