Friday Five: After the Beatles

We’ve been listening to a lot of Beatles this week and my son and I got into a conversation about our favorite “post-Beatles” songs by the Fab Four. We discovered that we’re not as big fans of Paul as the others, and that we still gravitate to George more than most fans. Maybe not surprisingly, most of the standouts are in the immediate post-break-up period–probably the release of the “best” songs from the remaining three. But my boy’s favorite is the grand exception.

So with a little help from my son, here are our five top songs by the Beatles made after the band split up. The order is mine but the influence is ours together.

5. “It Don’t Come Easy” (Ringo Starr)
Our favorite Ringo song, this was an early part of our household because of the live performance of it from the Concert for Bangladesh, was one of my son’s favorite DVDs when he was only 2. I think it’s one of the finest percussion performances by the post-Beatles Ringo, and one of his catchiest tunes overall.

4. “My Sweet Lord” (George Harrison)
My boy used to sing this song, maybe one of the first non-kid songs he took to. His favorite version was from the tribute concert for George Harrison after his death, where Billy Preston leads a band that includes Ringo, Eric Clapton, Jeff Lynne, and Dhani Harrison, George’s son. The Concert for Bangladesh version was a close second. Harrison was sued for the song, a challenge he lost. Turns out he was ripping off the Chiffons’ “He’s So Fine,” at least inadvertently. It’s still a classic.

3. “Instant Karma!” (John Lennon, or Lennon/Ono with the Plastic Ono Band)
It’s my sentimental favorite. I love how this song brings together all of John’s strengths, the rougher rock ‘n roll traditions he loved, and some great work by Phil Spector. My vote for his best solo song…

2. “Imagine” (John Lennon)
It’s hard to not include this song on a list like this. John Lennon wrote a pop music hymn, straight from the church of the Sixties, that has become an anthem for peace and love. I’m sure it spoke to the time in which it was created and released (1971) but it’s also timeless (unfortunately). What impresses me most is that it’s some of the typical simple lyrics of Lennon but, as he is at his best, they are profoundly deep.

1. “End of the Line” (Traveling Wilburys)
This is a mostly George Harrison penned song by the late-80s super group featuring Harrison, Roy Orbison, Tom Petty, Jeff Lynne, and Bob Dylan (who doesn’t sing on this one song). It’s my son’s favorite George Harrison song after the Beatles, and I love it a lot, too.

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New Obama Music Video

Dave Stewart has written and produced a song in support of (and organized mobilization for) the candidacy of Barack Obama.  It’s called “American Prayer” and it features the talents of Forest Whitaker, Whoopi Goldberg, Sergio Mendes, Barry Manilow, fellow Brit Joss Stone, among others.

I present the song and video to make two points. First, as one example of a growing effort of non-campaign (and even non-political, in the sense that these musicians are not part of the organized political system as a job) produced campaign efforts, this is yet another example of something different from the left.  This “creative” movement is more than noteworthy.  If it sustains itself it may reflect something of a moment when popular political mobilization from liberals and others on the left actually changed.

Secondarily, the song presents an interesting analytic.  It seems to make its political advocacy on the basis of making the “dream” a reality.  In other words, it suggests the election of Obama is racial reconciliation and an opportunity to “end the darkness.”  Provocative and, to me troubling.  If only racial justice were that easy.

Artistically, I’m not sure it’s any better than Dave Stewart’s other recent effort with Ringo Starr.