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Seminal Songwriters 3

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Your crusty chronicler is generally a shy, innocent white boy in real life. You know the Clark Kent type . . . a “mild-mannered reporter for a major metropolitan (online) newspaper who fights a never-ending battle for truth. . . " Well, you get the idea.

On the internet, however, he occasionally actually manages to converse. In fact, in one of a few informal chats with California-based, iconic Americana artist Natasha James, the singer-songwriter came up with an idea for a future Examiner article. She said “(James Taylor is a) seminal songwriter, maybe you could do a piece on a collective of seminal songwriters too?” Your rascally writer inquired: “Maybe . . . anyone special in mind?”

At this point she brought out a long list of recording artists including both men and women. At this point, it seemed that maybe a list of said singer-songwriters with brief intros might very well be of interest to someone. So welcome to what could be the first of yet another new series here on Examiner thanks to the inspiration of the lovely Natasha James.

(Please view the photos to see the first line-up of seminal singer-songwriters.)

Guy Clark
Guy Clark Courtesy of TOO

Guy Clark

Singer-songwriter Guy (Charles) Clark is a Grammy Award winning musician and performer.  His resume includes over 20 albums and he works in the genres of country and folk.  Currently based in Nashville, the Texas native has had his songs recorded by a “who’s who” list of performers including Johnny Cash, Jimmy Buffett, John Denver, David Allan Coe, Brad Paisley, Alan Jackson, Kenny Chesney, The Highwaymen and more.

Clark, often referred to as “the Fifth Highwayman”, got his first big break when Jerry Jeff Walker recorded his songs "L.A. Freeway" and "Desperados Waiting For A Train".  Emmylou Harris played with him on his premiere platter, Old No. 1, released in 1975.  Most recently, Clark garnered the 2014 Grammy Award for Best Folk Album for his disc My Favorite Picture Of You.  (For the record, James knew he was a winner well before Clark garnered the Grammy.)

Etta James
Etta James Courtesy of TOO

Etta James

Etta James —born Jamesetta Hawkins in 1938 and died in 2012—was an American singer whose records spanned the genres of blues, gospel, jazz, R&B, rock and soul. Her career spanned decades from 1954 through the late 1980s in spite of numerous personal problems including drug addiction.  Her 1971 release, Peaches, is the most critically-acclaimed of her albums.

She became famous thanks to such hits as "The Wallflower", "At Last", "Tell Mama", "Something's Got a Hold on Me" and "I'd Rather Go Blind".  She gained an additional audience in the late 1980s with Seven Year Itch.  She scored half a dozen Grammys and 17 Blues Music Awards and was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1993, the Blues Hall of Fame in 2001 and the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2008.

Tom Petty
Tom Petty Courtesy of Original Owner

Tom Petty

American singer-songwriter/multi-instrumentalist Tom (Earl) Petty is most famous as the frontman for Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers.  He is also well-known as a member of Mudcrutch and the late 1980s super group the Traveling Wilburys (which included Bob Dylan, Jeff Lynne, George Harrison and Roy Orbison).  He has recorded numerous albums and hit singles with these bands as well as a solo artist.

His music has been labeled as rock ‘n’ roll, heartland rock and stoner rock.  He continues to sell out major venues and has sold well over 80 million records.  He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2002.  His generation-spanning hits include such songs as “I Won’t Back Down”, “Free Fallin’”, “Mary Jane’s Last Dance” and “You Don’t Know How It Feels”.

Ann Peebles
Ann Peebles Courtesy of TOO

Ann Peebles

African-American singer-songwriter Ann Peebles first garnered some celebrity for her 1970 Memphis soul records on the Hi Records label.  Peebles wrote such hits as "I Can't Stand the Rain" and "Breaking Up Somebody's Home".  Peebles also co-wrote "I'm Gonna Tear Your Playhouse Down" with her hubby Don Bryant and radio broadcaster Bernie Miller.

She also wrote “Part Time Love”, “I Pity The Fool” and, as James noted, “a whole bunch of hits”.   Her songs have been covered by such acts as Eruption  and Paul Young and sampled by hip-hop artists such as RZA and the Wu-Tang Clan.  In 2010 she collaborated with Cyndi Lauper on “Rollin' and Tumblin'” for Lauper’s   Memphis Blues CD.

End-note Courtesy of William Hurley


So there you have it, music fans, the third song-filled edition of this new series inspired by none other than seminal songstress Natasha James. James, you may recall, composed cuts such as "Angel With Broken Wings". Hopefully, you enjoyed it. Feel free to submit your favorite seminal songwriters--male or female--for inclusion here. It’s all about sharing the music.

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