Aretha Franklin - Cry Like A Baby
As reported all over the place, Nick Ashford of songwriting duo Ashford and Simpson went on to his reward on Monday. My stance on Ashford and Simpson may not be a popular one - I much prefer them as songwriters than performers, but whether you agree or not, you can’t deny they wrote an imperial pantload of great songs, a metric fuckton of halfway decent songs, and well, a lot of other songs too. The list of songs they penned that you undoubtedly know is endless; but a couple that jump out - ‘Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing’ (recorded by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell), ‘California Soul’ (originally recorded by the 5th Dimension but perhaps best known lately for the Marlena Shaw version), ‘You’re All I Need to Get By’, which just fucking slays by the way - the list goes on.
Ashford and Simpson were a husband/wife duo as well, which is a fantasy entertained by just about any male musician that hasn’t actually experienced it. Not that you ever take my advice anyway, but I strongly recommend against, how can I put this delicately, fucking anyone you work with. You would be better served to tongue kiss the next homeless person you see. What are my credentials to offer such prescriptive advice, you ask? The tracks of my muhfuggin tears, y’all.
Anyhow, one of my favorite bits of Ashford trivia is that beyond barfing out countless kilohectares of songs of varying quality, he also reportedly played tambourine on ‘hundreds’ of Motown and other sessions. I just love that visual; I mean look at the picture below, and think of this well manicured, luxuriously-maned swarthy fella loitering in the studio, forcing his tambourine work onto anything being recorded in there. “Who’s that?”, one studio tech might ask. “We’re not sure, but he won’t leave, and he just keeps playing that fucking tambourine and yelling ‘Keep rolling’. There isn’t even any tape in the machine.” Sort of a proto Rick James, really. Cocaine. It’s a helluva drug.
This little raw nugget of soulful goodness, penned by Ashford and Simpson for Aretha Franklin and released in 1966 (actually her last single for Columbia) is a well written song with a clever inversion of the song’s title in the last chorus, with a bit of a non-traditional chord progression that definitely perked up my ears. The production on this is also effin’ great. This is the 2010 remaster (don’t hate) but they really did a great job on it. RIP Ashford, you cowardly lion-lookin’, songwritin’ motherfucker.
Fig 1.1: Disco karate (artist’s rendering)