A line of cars and they’re all painted black

“To me, Charlie Watts was the secret essence of the whole thing.” — Keith Richards

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In the wake of Watts’ death last week at the age of 80, many musicians have stepped forward with heartfelt and laudatory remarks about the man and his contributions to rock music in general and The Rolling Stones’ music in particular. It seems to me there’s no better way to kick off my tribute to the late great drummer than with Richards’ comment. In his 2010 autobiography “Life,” Richards gave Watts a great deal of credit for the band’s success and his own development as a guitarist.

“If it hadn’t been for Charlie, I would never have been able to expand and develop,” he wrote. “Number One with Charlie is he’s got great feel. He had it from the very start. There’s tremendous personality and subtlety in his playing. If you look at the size of his drum kit, it’s ludicrous compared with what most drummers use these days. They’ve got a fort with them. Charlie, with just that one classico setup, could pull it all off.”

Richards gets a bit technical as he explains an important truth about The Stones. “The other thing is Charlie’s trick. On the hi-hat, most guys would play on all four beats, but on the two and the four, which is the backbeat, which is a very important thing in rock and roll, Charlie doesn’t play, he lifts up. He goes to play and pulls back. It gives the snare drum all of the sound. He does some extra motion that’s totally unnecessary. It pulls the time back because he has to make a little extra effort. Part of the languid feel of Charlie’s drumming comes from that. It’s very hard to do — to stop the beat going for just one beat and then come back in. The way he stretches out the beat like that, and what we do on top of that, is the secret of The Stones sound.”

Most casual music lovers don’t realize how integral drums are to any great band’s sound, and The Stones are no exception. Jack White of The White Stripes once said, “Drummers are like the foundation of a building.  They are the girders. The other musicians are going to add the doors, the windows, the floors, the roof and all the shiny details everybody notices.  But without the drums, there’s no building.”

Or, put another way: “If you have an OK singer or an average guitarist, you might still have a great band, but if you have a mediocre drummer, your band will never be anything more than mediocre.”

Charlie Watts was the epitome of the rock and roll drummer who put the emphasis on the roll — with swing but without flash, with the steady backbeat but without the drum solo. He had a love for jazz music, and his drumming style reflected that sort of intelligent approach. He played to the song, giving it just what was necessary — no more, no less.

Stewart Copeland of The Police, who also had a background in jazz, said, “One thing you can see of the jazz influence on Charlie is that he went for groove, and derived power from relaxation. Most rock drummers are trying to kill something. They’re chopping wood.  Jazz drummers instead tend to be very loose to get that jazz feel, and he had that quality. The jazz factor in Charlie wasn’t in the use of the ride cymbal going ting-ting-ti-ting, it was his overall body relaxation. It’s also why he hardly broke a sweat while driving the band to light up a stadium.”

To get a feel for what Watts brought to the party in the Stones’ best moments, I invite you to refer for a moment to the first five tracks on my Spotify playlist, found at the end of the essay. Just listen to these classics that illustrate what I’m talking about: “Honky Tonk Women,” “Beast of Burden,” “Get Off Of My Cloud,” “Rock and a Hard Place,” “Paint It Black.”

The way he opens “Honky Tonk Women” and then gradually, imperceptibly, picks up the pace by song’s end… The easy, deliberate, loping beat behind “Beast of Burden”… The quintessential example of a drummer setting up the song on the intro to “Get Off Of My Cloud”… The furious yet controlled attack that highlights “Rock and a Hard Place”… The insistent double-time underneath “Paint It Black.”

I confess to not really noticing the finesse Watts brought to the Stones repertoire, at least not until much later. In the ’60s and ’70s, I admired the flashy guys — Keith Moon, Ginger Baker, John Bonham — but I eventually came to understand the excellence of drummers like Watts, and how the “playing to the song” approach is more valuable. I have three different friends who are drummers, and their experiences and informed observations have helped form my appreciation and respect for drummers and what they do. They have each mentioned Watts as one of the best ever.

Rod Argent, who has known Watts since 1964 when The Zombies and The Stones were on the same tour, said, “Like all the great jazz drummers, Charlie existed to serve the music, serve the groove, and enhance everything that was going on in front of him. His drumming sounded deceptively simple, but it swung. Every fill really counted, and nothing ever detracted from what was being played. The architecture of what he constructed was always absolutely right, and was one major reason why The Rolling Stones always, right from the beginning, sounded so exciting, and made some magnificent records.”

Randy Bachman, guitarist/singer with the Guess Who and Bachman-Turner Overdrive, said he felt Watts was “one of rock and roll’s greatest drummers and time keepers of all time. Many times, when playing with drummers who were getting a bit too flashy for their own good, I’ve said to them, ‘Please just play like Charlie Watts!’ What a legacy of music he leaves behind.”

Max Weinberg, drummer for Bruce Springsteen’s E Street Band, echoed Bachman’s declaration that Watts was one of a kind. He recently recalled, “When I was a kid in New Jersey, if you were looking for work, there’d be ads for musicians. In the mid-60s and 70s, they would often say: ‘Wanted: Charlie Watts type drummer.’ Charlie was not just a drummer – he was a genre.”I

As Watts himself recalled in a 2012 interview, he had a natural predilection, an innate desire, for playing drums at an early age. “I was always pounding on countertops, pots and pans, tables, whatever was around. My dad bought me a cheap banjo, but I couldn’t get the hang of it, so one day, I took the bloody thing apart and started beating on the parts instead. I never really learned to play drums in the traditional sense. I didn’t take a single lesson. I actually got in bands by watching drummers play and copying them.”

He remembers, at age 13, first hearing jazz saxophonist Gerry Mulligan, “and I fell in love with that, whatever it was called.” He drifted toward jazz combos, entranced by the “elasticity” of jazz. “Rock and roll is restrictive. It has no movement. But jazz breathes, you know. Improvised music breathes. It’s very difficult to do well. It still comes as a challenge to me.”

The Stones in 1968: Brian Jones, Charlie Watts, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bill Wyman

Watts was 19 when he met Brian Jones, the founder and original spark plug of The Rolling Stones, who asked him to join his new group. Said Watts, “When they asked me to join, I figured, well, OK, it’ll last a year and then it’ll fold. That’s how it was in London in those days. Nothing lasted too long. So for me, the Stones was just another gig. But then we started touring England… I was hoping to start another job, but I never went back to it. I was a little out of sync with them at first, but Keith advised me to listen to Buddy Holly and Jimmy Reed and things like that. Mick (Jagger) taught me a lot about playing TO songs, and about melodies, and guitar parts. When you’re playing rock and roll, the challenge is the regularity of it.”

In addition to the universal praise for his skills on the skins, Watts is also noted for being a genuinely nice guy, and a very well-dressed man off stage (and sometimes on stage). He was absolutely not a typical rock star, not remotely flamboyant like Jagger or Richards, even in the band’s peak years, as he would be the first to admit. “When people talk about the ’60s, I never think that was me there. It was me and I was in it, but I was never enamored with all that. It’s supposed to be sex and drugs and rock and roll, and I’m just not like that. Touring was tough. I like what I do, but I wish I could go home every night.”

Watts had his period of drug abuse in the late ’80s, but it didn’t last long. What did last long was his marriage to his wife Shirley, with whom he celebrated his 57th anniversary this year. What rock star does that?

“He singlehandedly brought the rock world some real class,” said rock historian and E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt. “He was a gentleman’s gentleman. Rock and roll will miss him profoundly. We are significantly less without him.”

Elton John referred to Watts as “the most stylish of men, and brilliant company.”

Joan Jett added, “Charlie Watts was the most elegant and dignified drummer in rock and roll.”

Denny Laine, who served with both The Moody Blues and Paul McCartney and Wings, said, “He always made me feel at ease in his company. That’s the thing that stands out. What a gentle soul.”

I find it particularly telling that a newer generation of rock musicians have also lavished praise on Watts very publicly following his death. There’s guitarist Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, who had this to say about Watts: “He was one of the greatest and most important architects of the music we love. Rock and roll would not be rock and roll without the rhythm, the style, the vibe of this incredible musician.”

Pearl Jam’s lead guitarist Mike McCready paid tribute by saying, “The Rolling Stones have always been my favorite band, and Charlie was the engine. I’ll put on ‘Sway,’ which is my favorite song of all time, and listen to how he anchors that track. None of us in a rock band would be here if it hadn’t been for Charlie.”

Duran Duran drummer Roger Taylor called Watts “an absolute inspiration to a legion of drummers since the 1960s. A man of grace, style, dignity and composure.”

Hmmm. Well, even the coolest cucumber has his breaking point, and the story that illustrates this point emphatically has been repeated often in numerous articles in the past ten days. It’s chronicled in great detail in Richards’ autobiography, “Life.” It goes like this:

The band was on tour in Amsterdam in 1984. Richards and Jagger went clubbing after the performance, not returning to the hotel until 5 a.m. Jagger decided to call Watts’ room to wake him up, yelling into the phone, “Where’s my drummer?” No answer, so he hung up. Twenty minutes later, there was a knock at the door. Richards opened it, and in walked Watts, not disheveled in pajamas but fully dressed in suit and tie. He approached Jagger, grabbed him by the lapels, and screamed, “Never call me your drummer again! I am not your drummer, you’re my damn singer!!” Then he punched Mick in the face, knocking him over a tray of smoked salmon, then turned on his heels and marched out.

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Does the death of Charlie Watts spell the end of The Rolling Stones? Maybe it should, but it won’t. After a year of inactivity due to COVID, the band has been eager to get back out on the road in 2021, but Watts had some sort of medical procedure that required rest and recuperation, so he announced he’d be opting out of the tour. The group had lined up a replacement named Steve Jordan, who had performed with Richards in the past. In the wake of Watts’ passing, the band is laying low for a couple weeks in respect for their longtime drummer, but the revived tour begins September 26.

For years, The Stones have been lampooned for not knowing when to quit. When they reached 60, critics started calling them The Strolling Bones. Now they’re past 75…but they’re living legends, they keep coming back for more, and they still sell out everywhere they play.

Watts and his wife Shirley

In the 2013 interview, Watts reflected on how much longer the band would last. “Now you have to seriously look at your age, because if this continues for another two years, I’ll be 74. But I say it at the end of every tour. And then you have two weeks off and your wife says: ‘You are not going to work?'”

Rest in peace, Charlie Watts. God knows you deserve it.

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The Spotify playlist was selected to highlight the tracks in The Rolling Stones catalog that show how Watts’ drumming proficiency was pivotal to the band’s sound, groove and overall presentation.

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How much, how much do you really know?

In recent months, I’ve been testing my readers’ skills at recalling the words to well-known classic rock songs by offering a series of Lyrics Quiz posts, and I’ll continue to do so periodically.

With this week’s post, I’ll begin branching out into the broader area of classic rock trivia. I came across an old “special edition” of a Rolling Stone Rock Trivia Quiz and decided it was high time I put together my own set of multiple-choice questions for you all to answer.

So here it is: My first Hack’s Back Pages Rock Trivia Quiz! Peruse the 15 questions and multiple-choice possible answers, then scroll down to find the answers and learn more about the topics raised. At the end, there’s also a Spotify playlist of the songs being discussed here.

I hope you get a kick out of this one!

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Van Morrison, 1971

1. “Brown-Eyed Girl” may get more airplay than any other Van Morrison song, but which of his singles charted higher on the US Top 40 listings?

“Moondance”; “Tupelo Honey”; “Domino”; “Wild Night”

(L-R) Ginger Baker, Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood. Who played bass with them?

2. Blind Faith was comprised of superstars Eric Clapton, Steve Winwood and Ginger Baker…and a fourth, much lesser known musician on bass. Who was it?

Trevor Bolder; Ric Grech; Clive Chaman; John Glascock

3. Which of these four songs does NOT feature mandolin?

“Losing My Religion,” R.E.M.; “The Battle of Evermore,” Led Zeppelin; “Wild Horses,” The Rolling Stones; “Friend of the Devil,” The Grateful Dead

David Bowie as Major Tom in “Space Oddity”

4. Major Tom is the main character in David Bowie’s 1969 debut single “Space Oddity.” In which Bowie song does Major Tom make a return appearance?

“Fame”; “Let’s Dance”; “Ashes to Ashes”; “Heroes”

Mark Knopfler

5. On which Steely Dan single does Dire Straits’ Mark Knopfler make a guest appearance on guitar?

“Peg”; “Time Out of Mind”; “FM”; “Rikki Don’t Lose That Number”

Ringo Starr on vocals

6. Of these four songs Ringo Starr sang in The Beatles catalog, which one did he write?

“Yellow Submarine”; “Act Naturally”; “Good Night”; “Octopus’s Garden”

Rod Stewart in the 1970s

7. On which song does Rod Stewart encourage you to “spread your wings and let me come inside”?

“Maggie May”; “Hot Legs”; “Tonight’s the Night”; “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?”

8. Which Paul Simon album was originally intended to be a Simon and Garfunkel reunion album?

“Still Crazy After All These Years”
“Hearts and Bones”
“You’re the One”
“The Rhythm of the Saints”

9. Of these lengthy classic rock tracks that occupy an entire album side, which one clocks in as the longest?

“In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida,” Iron Butterfly
“Echoes” from “Meddle,” Pink Floyd
“Close to the Edge,” Yes
“Supper’s Ready” from “Foxtrot,” Genesis

10. Which of these four artists did not record a song with Paul McCartney?

Elvis Costello
Stevie Wonder
Billy Joel
Michael Jackson

11. Which one of these pairs of artists did NOT record a song together?

Joni Mitchell and Michael McDonald; Bob Dylan and Johnny Cash; Phil Collins and Philip Bailey; Elton John and Freddie Mercury

12. Which album cover from the 1970s was designed by pop artist Andy Warhol?

“Dark Side of the Moon,” Pink Floyd
“Aladdin Sane,” David Bowie
“Sticky Fingers,” The Rolling Stones
“Imagine,” John Lennon

13. Which one of these talented women sings harmony vocals with Neil Young on his hit singles “Heart of Gold” and “Old Man”?

Bonnie Raitt
Linda Ronstadt
Joni Mitchell
Carly Simon

14. Which lead guitarist was never a member of The Yardbirds?

Jeff Beck
Peter Green
Eric Clapton
Jimmy Page

Kris Kristofferson with Barbra Streisand

15. Who was Barbra Streisand’s first choice to be her co-star in the 1976 film “A Star is Born”?

Neil Diamond
Elvis Presley
Rick Nelson
Jerry Lee Lewis

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ANSWERS:

1. “Domino”

Morrison had an acrimonious relationship with his late ’60s label, Bang Records, for whom he recorded “Brown-Eyed Girl.” Although royalties from that tune have padded his bank account every day since its release, he claims to hate it and rarely will play it anymore in concert. It reached #10 in 1967, but his upbeat song “Domino” from the 1970 LP “His Band and the Street Choir” actually reached one rung higher on the charts at #9. “Moondance,” from the 1970 album of the same name, is well-known but wasn’t released as a single in 1970 and performed poorly upon release as a single in 1977, stalling at #92. “Tupelo Honey” and “Wild Night” from the 1971 “Tupelo Honey” album managed only #47 and #28, respectively.

2. Ric Grech

Grech was a multi-instrumentalist who had written songs and played bass and violin for Family, a relatively obscure British progressive rock group known for a diversity of styles and lineups. He was tapped to fill out the ranks of Blind Faith, which lasted for less than six months, one brief tour and one album before disbanding. Winwood later invited Grech to join the reconvened Traffic in time for their popular LP “The Low Spark of High-Heeled Boys.” The other names mentioned above: Trevor Bolder became bassist in David Bowie’s backup band, The Spiders From Mars; Clive Chaman was the bass player for The Jeff Beck Group for a spell; and John Glascock was Jethro Tull’s bassist from 1976-1979.

3. “Wild Horses,” The Rolling Stones

While this is one of the handful of songs in the Stones catalog that has a strong country music influence, “Wild Horses” does not include mandolin in the instrumental arrangement. There’s plenty of pedal steel guitar, and slide guitar, and Jagger’s vocals have a bit of Southern drawl, all a result of country rock pioneer Gram Parsons hanging out with the band during the 1969-1972 years. On Zeppelin’s “The Battle of Evermore,” keyboardist/bassist John Paul Jones picks up a mandolin to complement Jimmy Page’s acoustic guitar; R.E.M. guitarist Peter Buck uses mandolin as the primary instrument as Michael Stipe sings “Losing My Religion”; and guest mandolinist David Grisman’s flourishes on mandolin become increasingly prominent with each successive verse of The Grateful Dead’s “Friend of the Devil.”

4. “Ashes to Ashes”

“Ashes to ashes, funk to funky, we know Major Tom’s a junkie, /Strung out in heaven’s high, hitting an all-time low…” These are lyrics from the chorus of the hit single from Bowie’s 1980 LP “Scary Monsters.” Bowie himself acknowledged in 1990 that the words reflect his own struggles with drug addiction throughout the 1970s. He said he wrote “Ashes to Ashes as a confrontation with his past: “You have to accommodate your pasts within your persona. You have to understand why you went through them. You cannot just ignore them, put them out of your mind or pretend they didn’t happen, or just say, ‘Oh, I was different then.'”

5. “Time Out of Mind”

Although Steely Dan first recorded and performed as a six-man band when they debuted in 1972, they soon became sort of a studio laboratory run by Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, who brought in a wide array of session guitarists, drummers, bassists and background singers to play on the various album tracks. Particularly on their albums “The Royal Scam” (1976), “Aja” (1977) and “Gaucho” (1980), Fagen and Becker tried out as many as a dozen guitarists to play solos before finding the one they were looking for. On the “Gaucho” track “Time Out of Mind,” Mark Knopfler’s spare, fluid style was just what the songwriters were seeking. It was a modest hit, reaching #22 in early 1981. You can also hear Michael McDonald providing guest vocals behind Fagen on this one.

6. “Octopus’s Garden”

From their very first album onward, The Beatles made a point of featuring Ringo on vocals on at least one track. It was sometimes a cover of an earlier rock hit — The Shirrelles’ “Boys,” the Carl Perkins tunes “Matchbox” and “Honey Don’t,” or the Buck Owens hit “Act Naturally.” More often, it was a Lennon-McCartney original they wrote with Starr in mind: “I Wanna Be Your Man,” “What Goes On,” “Yellow Submarine,” “With a Little Help From My Friends.” Ringo tried in vain to write songs, but they ended up being little more than rewrites of someone else’s tune. He came up with the simple country ditty “Don’t Pass Me By” which appears on Side 2 of “The White Album,” and then, during the sessions for “Abbey Road,” he wrote “Octopus’s Garden,” which he regarded as “a sequel to ‘Yellow Submarine.'” George Harrison helped out with a marvelous guitar intro, and John, Paul and George all added harmonies.

7. “Tonight’s the Night”

Almost from the beginning, Stewart projected a playfully naughty image as a lovable rascal who’d love to take you to bed. He hung out with — and sometimes married — attractive, much younger women, and the lyrics of the songs he chose to record and release as singles were fairly obvious in their sexual overtures. “Maggie May” (1971) tells the tale of a young man’s first sexual experience with a much older woman; “Hot Legs” (1978) is about a young woman who drops by only for spirited, casual sex; and “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy?” (1978) is about a couple of strangers who lust for each other and are at first too shy to make a move but end up doing the deed. “Tonight’s the Night,” though, is the one that features the lyric in question, which was boldly blatant about what he wanted from the young lady.

8. “Hearts and Bones”

When Simon made the daring decision in 1970 to end his enormously successful partnership with Art Garfunkel, it was because he wanted to explore new musical territories that he felt weren’t a good match for the Simon-Garfunkel tight harmonies. In 1975, the duo reunited, but for only one song, “My Little Town,” which appeared on his “Still Crazy After All These Years” album AND Garfunkel’s “Breakaway” LP. In 1983, following a spectacularly successful reunion concert, video and album in Central Park, Simon and Garfunkel did a reunion tour, and started work on a full S&G album, but the pair had a falling out, and Simon actually erased Garfunkel’s vocal parts and made the album a solo work called “Hearts and Bones.” The other two albums listed, 1991’s “The Rhythm of the Saints” and 2000’s “You’re the One,” had no involvement from Garfunkel.

Pink Floyd’s “Meddle” LP, 1971

9. “Echoes,” Pink Floyd

From the late ’60s through the mid-’70s, progressive rock bands were eager to push the boundaries of rock music, not only in format and influences but in length as well. British artists like King Crimson, Pink Floyd, Genesis, Jethro Tull and Yes wrote songs that lasted more than 15 or 20 minutes. American and Canadian acts from Frank Zappa and Bob Dylan to Rush and Styx got in the act as well. In 1968, California’s Iron Butterfly was one of the first bands to take up a whole album side, releasing the stoner classic “In-A-Gadda-da-Vida,” but it lasted just 17:05. Yes released “Close to the Edge” in 1972, and its title track was 18:43 in length. Genesis, with Peter Gabriel still firmly in charge, released the 23:06-long “Supper’s Ready” in 1972. The winner, though, is Pink Floyds “Echoes,” from their 1971 album “Meddle,” which edges out “Supper’s ready” by a half minute at 23:31.

10. Billy Joel

You can look at the accessible pop songcraft of Joel from his earliest work onward and assume he’d be a perfect match for McCartney’s similar vein of highly melodic material… but no, they never worked together. In 1982, McCartney teamed up with Stevie Wonder for the massive hit “Ebony and Ivory” and also “What’s That You’re Doing,” both from his “Tug of War” LP. In the 1982-83 period, McCartney collaborated successfully with Michael Jackson on three hits: “The Girl is Mine” from Jackson’s “Thriller” album, and “Say Say Say” and “The Man” from McCartney’s “Pipes of Peace” LP. In 1989, following poor sales of his previous album “Press to Play,” McCartney struck an alliance with Elvis Costello on four of the 12 songs on “Flowers in the Dirt,” as well as Costello’s hit “Veronica” the same year.

11. Elton John and Freddie Mercury

These two bombastic Brits were both prone to big, splashy theatrics in their performances, and they were good friends, so you’d think a duet would’ve been a natural for them, but it never happened. On the other hand, the other three pairs of artists found great results pooling their talents on various recordings. For her “Dog Eat Dog” album in 1985, Joni Mitchell invited ex-Doobie Brother Michael McDonald to perform a duet with her on “Good Friends,” which stiffed as a single at #85 but reached #28 on Mainstream Rock charts. In 1984, for his third solo LP, “Chinese Wall,” Philip Bailey of Earth Wind & Fire collaborated with Phil Collins, who produced the album, played drums throughout, and co-wrote and sang on the international #1 hit “Easy Lover.” Back in 1969, Johnny Cash sang a duet with Bob Dylan on his “Nashville Skyline” album on a re-recording of Dylan’s 1963 tune “Girl From the North Country.”

12. “Sticky Fingers,” The Rolling Stones

One of the earliest examples of a controversial album cover design that made it into production was the infamous tight jeans close-up on The Stones’ “Sticky Fingers” LP, courtesy of Andy Warhol. Although members of his design collaborative, The Factory, actually implemented the design and photography, Warhol conceived of the idea, which Mick Jagger enthusiastically endorsed. The actual working zipper on the original pressing was later removed because it tended to damage albums during shipping. Hipgnosis, a British graphic design group that created album covers for Pink Floyd, Led Zeppelin, Alan Parsons Project and more, came up with the award-winning “Dark Side of the Moon” cover art. Famed fashion and portrait photographer Brian Duffy, who worked often with David Bowie, shot and created the cover for Bowie’s “Aladdin Sane” album. Warhol was rumored to have shot the polaroid photo of John Lennon for his “Imagine” cover, but it was instead taken by Yoko Ono.

13. Linda Ronstadt

Young went to Nashville in 1971 to appear on a taping of the ABC musical variety show “The Johnny Cash Show,” where Linda Ronstadt and James Taylor were also scheduled to appear. Immediately following the taping, Young invited Ronstadt and Taylor to a nearby studio, where he had assembled some country musicians to record some tracks for a new project that would become the chart-topping “Harvest” LP. It’s difficult to make out Taylor’s voice in the mix of either “Heart of Gold” or “Old Man,” but Ronstadt’s voice is easily identifiable. Young has shared the stage with Joni Mitchell, notably for The Band’s “The Last Waltz” album and concert film. Young performed with Bonnie Raitt at least once, at the Bay Area Music Awards ceremony in 1990. As far as I can tell from online research, Young and Carly Simon have never performed or recorded together.

14. Peter Green

Peter Green was a brilliant blues guitarist who played first with John Mayall and then formed Fleetwood Mac in 1967. He never served with The Yardbirds, a blues-based band later noted for their “rave-up” instrumental breaks. Tony “Top” Topham was the group’s original lead guitarist, but he lasted only a few months and was replaced by hot new blues guitar sensation Eric Clapton. He remained for a year and a half but, as a blues purist, he was turned off by their pop single “For Your Love” and left to join Mayall’s Bluesbreakers (and then Cream). Clapton recommended prominent session guitarist Jimmy Page, who said no and suggested Jeff Beck instead, who was instrumental in their most fertile period on such Yardbirds hits as “Shapes of Things” and “Heart Full of Soul.” Page ended up joining later on bass, then played guitar alongside Beck for several months before Beck grew disillusioned and split. Page stayed on until the group’s disbanding in 1968, turning it into first The New Yardbirds and then Led Zeppelin.

A mock-up album cover of what might’ve been

15. Elvis Presley

In the 1927 and 1945 versions of “A Star is Born,” the story centered on an aspiring actress and declining actor, but in 1975, Streisand was interested in reviving the film by making it about the music business instead. Consequently, when she went looking for a co-star to play the part of the singer on his way down, she wanted someone who could both sing and act. Neil Diamond made the short list as a possible candidate. Rick Nelson might’ve worked, and Jerry Lee Lewis as well, but neither were ever under consideration. (The studio mentioned Marlon Brando, who was ruled out because he wasn’t a singer.). Streisand was eager to get Elvis Presley, who met with them and was interested in taking the part, but imperious manager “Colonel” Tom Parker demanded top billing for Elvis and asked for too much money. He also objected to Elvis portraying someone whose career was in decline. Filmmakers instead settled on Kris Kristofferson, an acclaimed songwriter and actor.

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