Continuing to journey through this list of the top 15 musicians that have had the most impact on my life is starting to cause a bit of angst and stress. Neither of these feelings are at worrisome levels, and I say it in a kind of tongue in cheek manner. Nevertheless, my contemplations seems to resemble that of a reflective lyric from a Bob Seger classic, Against the Wind, as I ponder “who to leave in and who to leave out.” Even so, I continue on with today’s countdown from #10 thru #6. (This is the second post of the series)
#10 Prince: For a majority of my life, I was not a fan of Prince. His provocative mannerisms and vulgarity weren’t highly esteemed traits in the Davis household while growing up. That all started to change as I reached my high school years around the time of the release of his fifth studio album 1999. Without question, the title song of the album was my favorite release, followed closely by Little Red Corvette and then Delirious. 1999 can still be found on many of my various playlists today.
When Prince released the Purple Rain album and movie in 1984, many of my feelings for him started to shift and my primary focus became on how tremendously gifted he was as a musician. I began to dig into his past and it is there that I discovered his 70’s hit, I Wanna Be Your Lover. I also discovered that Prince created another one of my favorite groups in the 80s, The Time – remember the songs 777-9311, Wild and Loose, Gigolos Get Lonely Too? How about Morris Day, remember him? He also wrote hits for other musicians and bands such as The Bangles (Manic Monday), Chaka Khan (I Feel For You), Sheila E. (Glamorous Life), Stevie Nicks (Stand Back), The Time (Jungle Love), Sinead O’Connor (Nothing Compares 2 U), and more. Lastly, it is said that Prince played all 20+ instruments and sang every part in his debut album For You (1978)!
The Purple Rain album contains two songs in particular that I still have high regard for today. Trying to separate one from the other, at least for me, is difficult. Which is best…When Doves Cry or Let’s Go Crazy? Some may even prefer the title track itself or I Would Die For You. But I guess if I had to narrow it down, When Doves Cry is probably my favorite, followed closely by Let’s Go Crazy. Favorite album: Purple Rain.
#9 Matchbox 20: Not until later in my adult life did I become familiar with Matchbox 20. That is due in large part to them not forming until the mid 90s. Rob Thomas, Paul Doucette, and Brian Yale were formerly part of the band Tabitha’s Secret before breaking away to form Matchbox 20. They later recruited Kyle Cook and Adam Gaynor to join them, though Gaynor is not presently a member. The song 3 AM is the first one that I heard from the group and something about it still resonates with me. If I must choose, it is probably my favorite. I also really like Push, Unwell, Bent, If You’re Gone, Real World, Back to Good, and Hand Me Down. And when Rob Thomas is producing his solo stuff, I’m a big fan of his tunes such as Someday, Streetcorner Symphony, and his collaboration with Santana in Smooth.
Matchbox 20 is also a band that both my wife and I enjoy together. Because of this, I spent the most money I’ve ever spent on concert tickets to see them and the Counting Crows in Jacksonville a few years back. Was it worth it? Absolutely! In fact, I’d do it again if given the chance! Their sound and stage presence was electric. The crowd was fully engaged throughout – singing and dancing! I could say much more about these guys, but I’m sure by now you get the point. Favorite album: Yourself or Someone Like You.
Bonus: Favorite video-3 AM.
#8 The Commodores: Who didn’t love the Commodores back in the day? Regardless of the great tunes that they seemed to always pump out, the main reason I was a huge fan of the Commodores is because it was the first concert I ever attended in 1980. There, in all their glory were the Commodores on stage before a sold out crowd at the Macon Coliseum! I was 13 years old at the time, but I certainly enjoyed their live renditions of Easy, Brick House, Sail On, Just to Be Close to You, Still, and Three Times a Lady. It was a huge night for me and one that I’ve never forgot. But even beyond the concert, I followed the Commodores for years until the unfortunate split with Lionel Richie (see my previous post). Even afterwards, I guess I always seemed to associate Richie as a Commodore while he molded for himself quite a successful solo career. His music always reminds me of that once, great band. Favorite album: Commodores Live!
#7 (TIE) Rick Springfield: Much like the Commodores, Rick Springfield was one of my early favorites in life. Most people would probably agree that this former Aussie turned American was not only a pretty face, but he had skills. Though his looks garnered him much attention and success, Springfield continually fought to be considered a serious musician, and in 1981 he hit paydirt with his chart topping song, Jessie’s Girl. From his album Working Class Dog, he also scored other hits (though not nearly as successful as Jessie’s Girl) such as: Love is Alright Tonight and Sammy Hagar’s, I’ve Done Everything for You. But he didn’t stop there. Rick followed up the wildly successful Working Class Dog album with the 1982 release of the album Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet. You might remember a few enduring hits from that album, too. Songs like Don’t Talk to Strangers, Tonight, I Get Excited, Calling All Girls, and Kristina. Those two successful albums alone would be enough to carry many musicians for their career; however, Springfield continued to be a regular on the charts with subsequent released albums such as Living in Oz and Hard to Hold. The latter was the soundtrack to the film of the same name in which he starred. And though both albums produced quality songs such as Affair of the Heart, Souls, Human Touch, Love Somebody, and Don’t Walk Away; as I look back now, they were what I’d consider to be the end of his best stuff. Sure, he followed with additional albums like Tao and Rock of Life, but it seemed to me that he started losing his way in trying to redefine himself personally and as a musician. Songs started becoming a bit darker and veiled. Even so, Rick was a force to be reckoned with. He was a heartthrob for the ladies, and young guys like me took notice. I can even remember going out and buying a black, Member’s Only vest/jacket similar to one that he wore from time to time. Not that it helped me with the ladies, but I tried. Later in life, my fandom was revived for a brief period of time when my wife and I had the chance to catch a Rick Springfield concert. Though many years past the height of his success, I was still amazed at the energy and the sound that he possessed. The concert was simply amazing. Favorite album: Success Hasn’t Spoiled Me Yet.
#7 (TIE) Sammy Hagar: Where to place the Red Rocker was a struggle for me! I very easily could have him listed at #2, but for the sake of this countdown, I’m okay with his place at #7. Before his days with Van Halen, Sammy Hagar had a successful run as a lead vocalist along side of Ronnie Montrose in the band Montrose through the mid 70s. From there, he’d go on to a successful solo career before being tabbed as David Lee Roth’s replacement as the front man for Van Halen. And while I could go on and on about why I feel he was a better lead for Van Halen, I understand that many feel as strongly as I do about DLR being the better of the two. That argument continues to this day with most saying that Van Halen was more rock centric with DLR and turned to more of a pop rock sound with Hagar. Either way, their success with Hagar at lead can’t be discounted as they reeled off four consecutive number one albums with him there. Prior to his time with Van Halen, Sammy already had quite an established career.
Like many others, I consider I Can’t Drive 55 (VOA) his signature song; however, there are many other classic Hagar tunes worth mentioning such as Three Lock Box (Three Lock Box), Your Love is Driving Me Crazy (Three Lock Box), Two Sides of Love (VOA), I’ll Fall in Love Again (Standing Hampton), Heavy Metal (Standing Hampton), There’s Only One Way to Rock (Standing Hampton), Give to Live (I Never Said Goodbye), and my all-time favorite, Eagles Fly (I Never Said Goodbye).
But Sammy’s talent extends far beyond his musical abilities. He is also quite savvy as a business man. To date, his net worth is estimated to be somewhere north of $150 million, much attributed to his foray into tequila, particularly his Cabo Wabo brand in which he sold for $80 million. He also has a very popular nightclub and restaurant of the same name in Cabo San Lucas, Baja California Sur, Mexico, with franchises on the Las Vegas Strip and Hollywood Boulevard. Sammy is also the host of the popular AXS TV program Rock & Roll Road Trip. Though I could go on and on about my admiration for the “free spirit” that is Sammy Hagar, I’ll end it for now and leave you with a video of him performing my favorite song Eagles Fly with Van Halen:
#6 Foreigner: 70’s Foreigner, 80’s Foreigner, 90’s Foreigner, and today’s Foreigner – I enjoy them today as much as yesterday! From Lou Gramm’s hit songwriting ability and vocals to the passing of the torch to Kelly Hansen, Foreigner’s music has been a mainstay on any music apparatus that I’ve owned through the years!
To be clear, my infatuation with Foreigner was formed from the days of the dynamic pairing of Mick Jones and Lou Gramm, and it is the music they produced at the helm that I most adore. It’s a shame that they weren’t able to overcome the differences that caused their split and Lou Gramm’s unceremonious departure; however, the band has continued on nicely with Kelly Hansen at the helm. Their song-making abilities may not be what they once were, but with a repertoire of hits like theirs, do they really need to produce new music? Give me the old stuff, please!
The first 8 Track that I ever remember owning was the Double Vision album. Released in 1978, it produced two top five songs with Hot Blooded at #3 and then Double Vision at #2. Blue Morning, Blue Day would also climb to #15 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. I guess it was because I went around singing Hot Blooded all the time that caused my aunt and her boyfriend to gift me with the tape when I was around 10 or 11. I’ll never forget riding around in his cool Torino with those hot sounds blasting from his 6×9 coaxial speakers! Those moments cemented Foreigner into every fiber of me, and I have been a fan since. And though Hot Blooded has always remained my favorite, I’m equally smitten by Juke Box Hero, Cold as Ice, Urgent, Dirty White Boy, Double Vision, Long, Long Way From Home, Head Games, and Feels Like the First Time. If it’s a mellower tune that I’m after, Waiting for a Girl Like You and I Want to Know What Love Is will fit the bill, nicely. Favorite album: Double Vision.