Okay, okay, so the Big Official Day has already passed. But we're still in the Christmas season, and I'm happy to indulge in a bit more holiday cheer, good up through New Year's Day. This comes to us from a 1994 EP titled Graham Parker's Christmas Cracker -- only three tracks but they are choice indeed. You get the snarky satire "Christmas for Mugs," the sweetly yearning "New Year's Revolution," and this marvelous track, a sort of holiday version of "Sweet Soul Music" with shout-outs to all of GP's many soul heroes:
Here's a list of all the artists Graham name-checks in this song, with the able assistance of soul sister Nona Hendryx. It's like a primer of classic R&B history; click on the links below for samples of their artistry:
Naturally you've got to start with the original Soul Men, Stax duo Sam and Dave, along with the Godfather of Soul James Brown and the Queen of Motown Mary Wells. Stax songwriter-turned-solo artist Eddie Floyd also gets a nod for his classic "Knock on Wood."
The next verse gives us Al Jackson, Duck Dunn, Steve Cropper, and Booker T, that bedrock Stax backing line-up otherwise known as Booker T and the MGs. And if you're having a party, who else should tend bar but the King of Soul, Sam Cooke? As royal titles seem to be in plentiful supply, add in the Queen of Memphis Soul Carla Thomas and the other King of Soul Otis Redding, whose duet album King & Queen featured the hit single "Tramp."
Composer-singer Don Covay ("Chain of Fools," "Mercy Mercy") and Chess Records stalwart Little Milton get their mentions, as do the Reverend Al Green, Motown saxophonist Junior Walker, and of course the Queen of Soul Aretha Franklin. (Check out what Graham has to say about her in this song as well.)
The idea may not be original, but I'm so busy loving the music he references, I don't even notice. And it's good to be reminded that Graham Parker is not just a pub rocker/New Waver/British angry young man, but first and foremost a connoisseur of the purest traditions of American R&B. Thanks for the present, Graham!