Golden Oldies, 1972 Edition, by Rich Paschall
It was a great year for cover versions of songs. Some of the earlier versions were big hits as well, and some did not chart too high. Arlo Guthrie did well with the Steve Goodman song, “City of New Orleans.” He sounds remarkably like his father, Woody Guthrie.
Those of us who got on the Illinois Central railroad headed south from Chicago in the 1960s and 70s find this a particularly moving piece of nostalgia. I recall getting to Union Station early in the morning to catch the train. I was only going as far as Tennessee.
The number one song of the year, “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face,” by Roberta Flack was a cover of a 1957 folk song with a decidedly different feel to it. Robert John had a hit with “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” but I recall the earlier version by The Tokens. The song was based on the 1939 Zulu song, “Mbube” (lion), and was recorded many times by 1972.
Young Michael Jackson had a hit with “Rockin’ Robin” originally recorded by Bobby Day in 1958. Cher covered “The Way of Love,” a French tune “J’ai le mal de toi” originally recorded in English in 1965. Donny Osmond covered Paul Anka’s “Puppy Love.” The 1962 Bryan Hyland hit, “Sealed With A Kiss,” was covered by Bobby Vinton. All of these made the Billboard Hot 100 in 1972.
Before we count down my favorite Top 20 for 1972, we have an Honorable Mention. Chuck Berry’s highest charting single of his career is the cover version of a 1952 novelty tune by David Bartholomew, My Ding-a-Ling. This was despite the fact that many radio stations refused to play it due to its rather obvious innuendo.
Now with a steady hand we will set the needle in the right grove and start out with another cover song:
20. The Candy Man, Sammy Davis. OK, admit it. You love this joyful tune originally written for the 1971 movie Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory. Lyricist Anthony Newley recorded it in 1971, not having liked the movie version.
19. Morning Has Broken, Cat Stevens. The hit recording was based on a traditional hymn first published in 1931. Piano accompaniment is by Rick Wakeman, keyboard player for the rock group, “Yes.”
Many people don’t recognize this as a hymn, a beautiful one that doesn’t get sung nearly often enough:
Morning has broken like the first morning
Blackbird has spoken like the first bird
Praise for the singing, praise for the morning
Praise for them springing fresh from the world
Sweet the rains new fall, sunlit from Heaven
Like the first dewfall on the first grass
Praise for the sweetness of the wet garden
Sprung in completeness where His feet pass
Mine is the sunlight, mine is the morning
Born of the one light, Eden saw play
Praise with elation, praise every morning
God’s recreation of the new day
18. A Cowboy’s Work Is Never Done, Sonny and Cher. Sonny wrote the hit song for the pair. It was their last hit together.
17. Family Affair, Sly & the Family Stone. This was the biggest hit for the group.
16. Freddie’s Dead, Curtis Mayfield. The music was used only as an instrumental in the movie “Superfly.” The lyrics were definitely anti-drug. The song was nominated for a Grammy but was not eligible for an Oscar as the lyrics were not used in the movie.
Now we will take a break to make you some popcorn. We hope you like it with Hot Butter.
15. Without You, Harry Nilsson. The Badfinger tune was covered by Nilsson late in 1971. By February of 1972, it hit number one and stayed there for 4 weeks.
14. Brandy (You’re a Fine Girl), Looking Glass. The song was a karaoke favorite, perhaps because it was relatively easy to sing. The song made it all the way to number one and got a lot of radio air time in 1972.
13. Song Sung Blue, Neil Diamond. It was the second number-one song of Diamond’s career and one of many top 40 tunes. Apparently, this one was a bit of a surprise to the popular singer-songwriter. “I never expected anyone to react to “Song Sung Blue” the way they did,” Diamond wrote in 1996.
12. Precious and Few, Climax. This song was the biggest hit by far for the California rock band.
11. Lean on Me, Bill Withers. The popular tune by the singer-songwriter made it number 1 in July of 1972. It has been covered by many artists over the years and the Club Nouveau version also made it to number 1 in 1987. The following video of Withers’ live performance was filmed at Operation Push exposition in Chicago in 1972
The sock hop is over for this week and Marilyn is turning on the lights. There is a lot of “Anticipation” for my top ten but we will just have to take it “Day by Day” until next weekend. There will be a lot of “Joy” when we put the list down in “Black and White.” Until then, “Hold Your Head Up.”
Click on any title above for the music video or hit up our 1972 playlist HERE.