I’ve seen much recently in the news, in social media, and in tv shows about how people’s strength is supporting them and others in these pandemic days. It gave me the idea that this might be a good theme for one of these posts: I had been pondering ‘empowerment’ as a theme but thought that might become overtly political, which isn’t my aim. I just want these to be fun, but I may come back to that one at some point.
There are a great many songs I could have chosen, both those that talk of being strong for oneself or for someone else. I’ve managed to keep the selection to what is becoming my usual four tunes, which probably means that I’ve left out some you might have chosen. But that’s the beauty of music: it would be very boring if we all liked the same things! My selection features two songs that speak of staying strong in oneself, and two about being strong for someone else – that’s my attempt at balance!
This week’s first tune is very much of the ‘I’ve survived because I’m strong’ type:
That song was on Reg’s seventeenth album, Too Low For Zero, released in 1983. The album reached #7 in the UK and #25 in the US. I’m Still Standing was released as a single, peaking at #4 in the UK and #12 in the US. It was, he said at the time, his response to feeling that he had become less relevant after the rise of disco, punk and the New Romantics. The video was filmed in Cannes and has been viewed more than 92m times – it did much to garner airplay and contribute to both the single and the album being successful. For him that was a real statement of personal strength, which he needed after a poor run of performance in the singles chart.
My second choice this week is of the ‘I’m here for you’ type. I featured the Boss a few weeks ago, but make no apology for doing so again – he has, after all, made many great records in a career going back to 1973. This is one of his gentler ones:
The song was on Bruce’s eighth studio album, Tunnel Of Love, released in 1987. This was the follow up to Born In The USA so it tends to pale by comparison. I bought it at the time – it was actually the last vinyl album I bought – and I have always loved it. In my view it has been underrated, though it has sold well over 5m copies, which most acts would die for! This was the fourth of five singles released from the album. It didn’t chart in the US but reached #13 here: I guess most who wanted it had bought the album by then, as that was #1 on both sides of the Atlantic.
There have been several covers of Tougher Than The Rest, one of my favourites being that by Shawn Colvin on her 2015 album Uncovered. That leads me neatly into my next selection for this week which is by, you guessed it, Shawn Colvin. It’s almost as if I plan this, isn’t it? One of her cover versions appeared in my previous post, but this is one of her own. It is another of those ‘use my strength’ songs:
Apologies for the static video but with a song as good as that, who needs pictures anyway? The song featured on Shawn’s second album, Fat City, from 1992. She has never been one to make huge dents in the charts: that album got as far as #142 in the States and didn’t chart here at all. In fact, her best chart performances have only been a #39 in the US and a #67 here – and not with the same album. Her singles haven’t fared much better, either. This one didn’t chart anywhere, as far as I can tell, and she has only ever hit the top 100 once in the US, with Sunny Came Home in 1997. That reached #7 there and #29 here, but at least we’ve got six of her other singles into our top 100 too! I’ve heard it said that some music is too good for the charts: if that is true, Shawn is a case in point, as her output has been uniformly excellent.
For this week’s final choice I’m returning to one of my favourite artists, ever. Somehow I’ve reached the 24th in this series without him, and it’s long overdue that I fixed that. I’ve written about his music before, in particular when I marked his passing with my tribute. This song didn’t feature in that tribute – I had so many to choose from! – but it is still one of my favourites, of his or anyone else’s:
That is just so good! Not a bad backing band, either. The song was on what was officially Tom’s debut solo album, Full Moon Fever, released in 1989, though members of the Heartbreakers played on several tracks, particularly Mike Campbell, who you saw playing guitar in the video. The album was #3 in the US and #8 here, and has sold over 6m copies. Three of its tracks, including this one, were released as singles – this one peaked at #12 in the US and #28 here. Its message of strength and defiance against the odds is a perfect fit for my theme this week. It has also been used by a number of US politicians as music at their campaign rallies, most notably in June this year by the orange moron, who received a ‘cease and desist’ letter from Tom’s family, saying that Tom had always wanted his music to bring people together, not divide them. And so say all of us – well, apart from the aforementioned moron, that is.
A little footnote for you, too. As Wikipedia notes: ‘The song has become a tradition at Florida Gators football games at the University of Florida in Gainesville, Petty’s hometown. Petty died unexpectedly on October 3, 2017, and at the next home game the following Saturday, the song was played between the third and fourth quarters after the traditional university song “We Are The Boys From Old Florida.” It has been played at that time at every subsequent Florida home game, with fans singing along and holding aloft cell phones to fill the stadium with lights.’
Here is that first time:
That, for me, is a perfect example both of the strength and power of music, and of its ability to unite us. A suitable place to end this week’s tunes, I think. Take care, be safe and stay strong.