Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Rant #863: Everything Is Beautiful

On the morning after the day that the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame named its latest inductees, let me talk about a performer who will never get into this supposedly hallowed institution, but somehow, I have more respect for him than the people who are in there, to be honest about it.

I like Ray Stevens, always have, always will.

His music is filled with sardonic humor, is catchy, and his non-novelty records have been about as successful as his novelty records have been.

Although today considered a country artist, Stevens has reported on the current state of mind of the U.S.A. since the early 1960s. His songs talk about mores, current trends, and he looks at everything in generally a fun way.

Take three of his singles, which were pretty much straight comedy recordings, and then take another, which is a straight, non-comedy record that topped the charts.

First, from 1963, you have "Butch Barbarian," which, quite frankly, I have had a tough time figuring out exactly what it's about. I guess it is about a guy who lives like a slob in our modern society.

The song never charted, but I have always liked it. It is silly as all heck, and that may be its charm.

Much later, take "Everything is Beautiful," from 1970. This was a straight, non-comedy recording, and it managed to hit the top of the charts.

It had almost a gospel feel to it, used a children's chorus, and was certainly an antidote for those who didn't buy in to the new artists of the day, like Jimi Hendrix and Janis Joplin.

During the same year, Stevens followed up that chart topper with a song that wasn't going to top anybody's chart, "Bridget the Midget."

Today, the song might seem completely out of place, certainly non-politically correct, but I don't think Stevens would care about such things.

It is one of my favorite Stevens singles, talking about a girl who had height problems who got beyond that by performing on stage. Everyone loved her, and she became the biggest star in the land.

Social commentary, eh?

More of the same came in 1974, when Stevens had by far his biggest national hit.

"The Streak" talked about the phenomenon of "streaking," where people would strip naked and flash themselves upon unsuspecting citizens. Remember, this even happened on the Academy Awards, where, as David Niven put it, the man who streaked was showing his "shortcomings."

Anyway, the song made No. 1 and fed into the curious behavior.

There were so many other hits for Stevens, like "Mr. Businessman," and "I Need Your Help, Barry Manilow," and Stevens continues to record today.

In fact, I believe it was announced recently that all his work is planned to be released in a boxed set sometime soon.

As a social commentator, writer, composer, performer and singer, Stevens may have no equal, because rather than beat you over the head with his beliefs, he does it in a way that tickles your funny bone, or in some cases, makes you cry.

I don't know another artist who elicits that range of emotion, and yes, he is funny (see yesterday's Rant).

So here is to Ray Stevens, and yes, when I listen to his music, everything is truly beautiful, in its own way.

1 comment:

  1. Butch Babarian, from 1964, is about a yodeling champion in the Alps. It's a novelty song through and through. The name is based on Busch Bavarian beer...if anyone ever comes across one of the late 1950's TV commercials on YouTube for the beer, you'll hear the "Busch Bavarian Beer..." jingle, followed by a yodel. Ray spoofed the jingle in the opening part of "Butch Babarian".

    The 'box set' being mentioned isn't actually a career box set. It's Ray's newly recorded versions of classic novelty songs made popular by other artists of the last 50+ years. He recorded songs made famous by The Coasters, Phil Harris, Roger Miller, Bill Carlisle, Chuck Berry, and a host of other artists. It's called 'The Encyclopedia of Recorded Comedy Music'. He includes some re-recordings of his own classic songs throughout the collection. It's 9 CD's altogether.



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