Thursday, July 14, 2011

Rant #546: Let's Live For Yesterday

Let's go back to 1968 or so.

You turn on your radio, and you hear the latest hits of the day. Everyone knows these tunes, and probably eight out of every 10 people on the street can tell you the No. 1 song in the country.

You go from AM Top 40 station to AM Top 40 station, and you hear an incredible mix of music, including Frank Sinatra, the Temptations, Paul Revere and the Raiders, the Beatles, the Monkees, Otis Redding, and Dean Martin.

Incredible. Something for everyone.

And you also heard the Grass Roots.

You heard songs like "Midnight Confessions," "Let's Live For Today," "Bella Linda," "The River Is Wide" ... I could go on and on and on.

And when you heard the Grass Roots--and you would at least twice every hour into the early 1970s--you heard the voice of Rob Grill, the group's lead singer.

Grill, one of the most recognized/unrecognized voices during that era, died the other day. He had been ill with various ailments for the last several years.

The Grass Roots had a sound, and Grill's voice generally propelled that sound. But ask the guy on the street who Rob Grill was during that time period, and I am sure that those same eight out of 10 people who knew what the No. 1 song was hadn't a clue who Grill was.

The Grass Roots started out in the mid 1960s as a studio band that was going to be used to record the work of a number of songwriters, including Steve Barri. When "Where Were You When I Needed You" hit, the thought was that a touring band was needed to keep the momentum going.

A band of young, nice looking musicians was recruited from various working bands in the Los Angeles area, and Grill was among those chosen for this band.

So although he wasn't on the first set of recordings made by the Grass Roots, for all intents and purposes, Grill defined the Grass Roots sound: light and breezy pop with hooks the size of the Grand Canyon.

The band never had a No. 1 hit--"Midnight Confessions" got up to No. 5--but from about 1965 to 1972 or so, they had nearly two dozen singles make the Hot 100.

The aforementioned tunes were among their biggest hits, but their sound really didn't change during this period. "Two Divided By Love" and "The Runway" could have easily come out in 1967, and not in the 1970s as they did.

By the mid-1970s, music had changed, and most of the members of the band had left, but Grill soldiered on. He eventually had a solo album, "Uprooted," which is quite sought after, because it features Grill and just about every member of Fleetwood Mac on it. It had one song, "Rock Sugar," that you would swear was from the Grass Roots' own catalog.

Grill kept different versions of the band intact through the present time, but due to many ailments, he often didn't appear with the band at all.

Now he is gone.

The Grass Roots still live on as a touring band, and Creed Bratton has received some modicum of fame away from the band with his appearances on "The Office."

But the Grass Roots were a hit machine, and Grill was its engine.


I will be taking tomorrow off to deal with some very minor medical issues, but I will be back strong on Monday. Speak to you then.

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