Songs,Style Icons: Male »Richie Havens, Here Comes the Sun, Wonder Child


Folk icon Richie Havens is remembered not only for his long career in folk music and particularly his break out performance at Woodstock but for being a genuinely kindhearted man. He devoted his time to educating children about the environment and never let fame get in the way of his life and his music.

It’s difficult to choose a favorite song from such an impressive list but I’d recommend a listen to his fantastic version of Here Comes the Sun, one of his biggest hits, and his touching cover of Wonder Child, a lesser known song originally performed by Helen Reddy on Sesame Street (it might bring you close to tears if you have little kids though!)

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Posted on April 30, 2013

Albums »All Our Own Work

allourby Sandy Denny and The Strawbs (1967, 1973)

All Our Own Work is an album for those quiet days when the sun is streaming through the window and you have time to stop, breathe, and listen to the world. It’s a folk gem and features one of my favorites songs ever, “I’ve Been My Own Worst Friend” as well as the heartbreaking classic “Who Knows Where the Time Goes”. Sandy Denny, she of the most extraordinary voice, is amazing here but even songs without her are beautiful.

The album was recorded when The Strawbs were fledgling and unable to secure a record deal. Denny famously went on to Fairport Convention and The Strawbs found success with various genres. The tracks were forgotten until released a decade later. Later still, a reissue included more unreleased demos and outtakes.


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Posted on April 24, 2013

Songs »Daddy, What If

by Shel Silverstein

While a song like “Daddy, What If”, about the love between a father and son can easily bring me to tears in this heightened emotional (pregnant) state, a song with a squeaky “child” voice is unlikely to make any sort of favorable impression on me.

But such is the magic of Shel Silverstein. Tears were falling before I knew it.

Enjoy this clip from the Johnny Cash show.

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Posted on July 8, 2012

Songs »Rains of Castamere

by The National (2012)

Being away I just got caught up with the “Blackwater” episode of Game of Thrones and what an episode it was! A modern take on the Rains of Castemere was a perfect song to end such epic awesomeness. And now I can say I’ve heard The National.

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Posted on May 30, 2012

Albums »Marianne Faithfull Live at The BBC

by Marianne Faithfull (1965)

Marianne Faithfull is well known for her later period of husky voiced experimentation.

This compilation of her earlier folk songs recorded live for the BBC, Marianne Faithfull Live at The BBC, sheds light on her younger days as a singer and public figure beyond her kinky exploits with Mick Jagger and lovely hit As Time Goes By (though it’s included).

These are several covers and her floating voice usually lends a soft melancholy. I prefer her version of the Herman’s hermits hit Can’t You Hear My Heartbeat.

Many tracks begin with oh so polite interviews and quaint commentary about her life – having a child, getting married, her parents etc. It makes the crassness of modern pop icons more glaring.

This is mini skirt and flowers in your hair music. I particularly love the original The Sha La La La Song and This Little Bird. Even if some of her folkier numbers leave you unmoved, these will win you over.

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Posted on February 17, 2012

Albums »See What Tomorrow Brings

by Peter Paul and Mary (1965)

Peter Paul and Mary are mostly known for their hits Leaving on a Jet Plane (yay) and Puff the Magic Dragon (ehh) but See What Tomorrow Brings displays the trio’s diversity and their signature beautiful harmonizing.

From the bluesy lament of forbidden love in Tryin’ to Win to the medieval awesomeness of one of my favorites (obviously), Hangman (which of course makes me think of this gallows folk song) SWTB shows range.

I am also happy to find that it’s all refreshingly new to me. Even songs I am familiar with and associate with other singers (like The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face which belongs to Roberta Flack) are fun to hear in a new way.

In a prolific 50 year career, this album seems to have almost been forgotten but it is a fine folk experience that deserves to be remebered.

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Posted on August 30, 2011

Songs »She Was Born To Be My Unicorn

by Tyrannosaurus Rex (1969)

We all know and love Marc Bolan and T Rex as a glam band but I was pleasantly surprised when Pandora offered up some early folky stuff.

It’s stunning how contemporary this song sounds, and with a title like She Was Born To Be My Unicorn, echoing the rebirth of the kind of new, wealthy, witchy hippiedom that draws pretty girls to maxi skirts and tarot readings, I’d be less than shocked if this ends up playing the next time I am at a hip coffee shop/cocktail bar/tapas place.

It happened with Pentagle and I never expected to hear that outside our apartment.

Sadly I’ve found the album not easily available.

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Posted on July 19, 2011

Songs »Rumenye Rumenye

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Eleven: Best Song Request at Sammy’s Roumanian Steak House:

Rumenye Rumenye – Traditional Yiddish Song

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Posted on May 11, 2011

Songs »Teach Your Children

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Eight: Best Song To Get Weepy About Parenthood To:

Teach Your Children by Crosby Stills and Nash (1970)

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Posted on May 8, 2011

Songs »Have You Forgotten

30 Day Song Challenge – Day Three: Best Song With Which to Wallow in Your Self Pity:

Have You Forgotten”  by Red House Painters (1996)

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Posted on May 3, 2011

Albums »Songs of Love and Hate

by Leonard Cohen (1971)

I guess Leonard Cohen‘s third album, Songs of Love and Hate could be considered baby Van’s first album pick because he’s been quite moved to kick and punch whenever it’s played. Looks like he’ll be one moody little poet kid because Jim Morrison also gets him going. Fortunately mommy likes the album too. It’s got my favorite Cohen song possibly of all time, the incredibly sad Famous Blue Raincoat.

The entire album is perhaps his most effectively depressing with suicide, infidelity, the pain of becoming obsolete, and lost love as just a few of the topics covered. It’s spare and sparse (only eight tracks) with the focus being on his signature melancholy and beautiful lyrics. I’d call him the perhaps the best lyricist of all time, and this album is certainly evidence of this.

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Posted on September 26, 2010

Albums »Barabajagal

album-Donovan-Barabajagalby Donovan (1969)

The grandpa of cutie-pie-gentle-folk-rock does good and tries mixing up his usual MO on Barabajagal with strange arrangements, blurred influences and inconsistent songs. I Love My Shirt is awful – apologies to anyone who is a fan – but its inclusion on this album doesn’t diminish the brilliance of all the other gems any less.

The title song is catchy and grand, Superlungs My Supergirl is that kind of groovy tune that you can envision short skirted free chicks jamming to shot at a low angle in some counterculture B movie, while Where is She is soft and lovely and spun from feelings of being in love and clouds, Happiness Runs is like the quirkiness of a Wes Anderson movie distilled into music,  The Love Song is very Belle and Sebastian but a bit too goofy for my tastes, Susan on the West Coast Waiting is just odd and perfect, and he goes all off the rails with the storytelling and epic sound wall of Atlantis, Trude has a the upbeat feel of the best and most approachable of the Dead, then Pamela Jo ventures into vaudevillian territory (for better or worse, depending on your mood).

An album reissue came out a few years back with several bonus tracks; I don’t have it but from what I’ve read it might be well worth the investment.

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Posted on January 17, 2010

Albums »Holderlin’s Traum

holderlins traumby Holderlin (1972)

Take a base of traditional folk, add one part Jethro Tull, a generous drop of Nico, a splash of Amon Duul II, and a garnish with Peter and the Wolf, and you’ll end up with Holderlin’s Traum, a musical concoction perfect for a handcrafted clay goblet. It’s a beautiful and gentle first album by the German band that has recently made a sort of comeback with a new album.

This early seventies effort is as appealing and ethereal as the album art and title (Traum translates “dream”) and worth a listen for anyone with a soft spot for folk, krautrock, lilting female voices, and the flute. The songs will stay in your mind, even as you hum along to the unknown lyrics (well, unless you speak German of course). I am surprised this band has not been as rediscovered as others of the genre, but with recent accessibility (amost of their albums are now available on iTunes) I think that might change. Like several former Brix Picks, I might soon hear it playing over some brunch in Brooklyn.

Click here for the rest of Holderlin’s Traum

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Posted on November 29, 2009

Albums »Please To See The King

please to see the king steeleye spanPlease to See the King is the most Renaissance-faire appropriate of the entire electric folk genre. Every song on the Steeleye Span is traditional and entail stories of betrayal, insanity, the devil, and romance.

Not only are the songs themselves culled from the traditional past of England, they use medieval techniques – like singing into the hallow of their instruments to amplify their voices to eerie effect.

Folk greats Maddy Prior, Tim Hart, Peter Knight, Ashley Hutchings, and Martin Carthy unite to make beautiful unique music here.

My favorite of the lot are Cold, Haily, Windy Night and Female Drummer, and Boys of Bedlam, but we've been listening to the whole album while gearing up for the fair.

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Songs »I Think Of You

renaissance i think of youThe band Renaissance had their own Renaissance when the birdlike voice of Ann Haslam took center stage. While I haven't been swept away by the entire Turn of the Cards album yet, the lovely ballad I Think of You has become a favorite.?

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Posted on September 14, 2009

Albums »Aqualung

jethro tull aqualungJim was more than a little surprised (and quite happy) to hear that this week's album choice would be Aqualung; like a father who's been wishing for years that his son would get into baseball, his face tentatively lit up when he asked what song I liked most and I answered all of them. Of course, this is not my first foray into Jethro Tull's flutey universe. Jim had me listen to dozens of album for one of my Renaissance Faire themed weeks, and that planted the seed that turned me into a true die hard fan.

Aqualung is pretty perfect as far as classic rock concept albums go and in this case the concept is anti established religion, an idea that rocked Jim's world when he was a teen first under the influences of progressive rock. It's an intelligent, musically expansive and intriguing album and I'll risk sounding like an old grump and say that it boggles the mind to think that once music this interesting was massively popular too (it reached #7 in America, 4 in the UK 1971; today, we have Lady Gaga twice in the Top Ten).

This has really become one of my very favorite listens from beginning to end, and I meant it when I told Jim I loved the whole thing. The album opens with the classic classic rock heaviness of the title track and ends in embittered defiance with Wind Up. You're in lots of luck with the added bonus tracks that features the jaunty Bach softness of Bouree.

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Posted on June 8, 2009

Songs »Big Yellow Taxi

big yellowtaxi joni mitchellJoni Mitchell, universally lauded for her impact and song-writing, is kind of an acquired taste. Thanks to extremely poignant and relevant environmental lyrics and the beautiful refrain, “Don't it always seem to go, you don't know what you got till it's gone” (which was oddly sampled by Janet without any regard to the original meaning), Big Yellow Taxi is one of Mitchell's most popular and accessible songs.

Even reluctant listeners, like my friend Mike you used to torment the little hippy girls in high school by singing, “I wanna shampoo your haaaaaiiir” in a mocking falsetto would have to admit that this song has a lasting and pretty ring to it.

Written during a trip to Hawaii when Joni, “…took a taxi to the hotel and when I woke up the next morning, I threw back the curtains and saw these beautiful green mountains in the distance. Then, I looked down and there was a parking lot as far as the eye could see, and it broke my heart… this blight on paradise.”

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Posted on April 20, 2009