There walks a lady we all know

I remember when I was young thinking how cool it would be to have a song named after me.  Well, not me personally, but a song that was entitled “Bruce.”  I quickly noticed, however, that while there many dozens, even hundreds of songs named after women, there are only a handful featuring men’s names.  Elton John’s “Daniel” comes immediately to mind, or that macabre tune from 1971 two boys who apparently ate their friend in order to survive being trapped in a mine (“Timothy, Timothy, where on earth did you go?”).

Men (and a few women) have been writing songs about the women in their lives for at least a century or two.  These tunes have come in the form of romantic ballads, bitter group-of-women-smiling.jpg.653x0_q80_crop-smartbreak-up songs, heartfelt tributes and bittersweet odes.

More often than not, songwriters don’t mention their women by name, perhaps to preserve anonymity, or because their manager urged them to keep it more generic so the song might have more universal appeal.  But sometimes a writer insisted on keeping it specific to pay homage, or to hold in contempt, or simply because the sound of the name fit nicely in the song’s meter.

There are several dozen pretty great examples of classic rock songs with women’s names as the title.  No modifiers, no extra words.  Just the name.

In searching for these titles, I came across many others that use women’s names with descriptors (“Judy in Disguise,” “Long Tall Sally”), verbs (“Come on Eileen,” “The Wind Cries Mary”) and other qualifiers (“Helen Wheels,” “Sara Smile”).  All perfectly good songs, but I limited my list to one-word titles.

Here are 20 for your consideration, with my usual Spotify playlist at the end.  Enjoy!


“Sara,” Fleetwood Mac, 1979

saraIt took a while, but in 2014, Stevie Nicks indeed confirmed what had been rumored for quite some time — that this 1979 song from Fleetwood Mac’s “Tusk” LP is about an aborted child she and lover Don Henley chose not to have.  “Had we gotten married and had that baby, and if it had been a girl, her name would have been Sara,” Nicks said.  “It’s a special name to me.  One of my very best lifelong friends is named Sara.”  The recording reached #7 as a single in early 1980, and Nicks still performs the song, both with the band and as a solo act.

“Roxanne,” The Police, 1978

220px-Roxanne_-_The_Police_(Original_UK_Release)In 1977, when The Police were performing in dive clubs around Europe, Sting was inspired by the prostitutes who worked outside the seedy hotel in Paris where the band was staying.  He wrote this sympathetic tune, urging the girl to give up the hard life she had chosen.  He decided to call her Roxanne after seeing a movie poster in the hotel lobby featuring the old film “Cyrano de Bergerac,” whose female lead is named Roxanne.   The song peaked at only #32 in the US in 1978, but it remains one of The Police’s signature songs.

“Gloria,” Them, 1964

220px-Gloria_(Them_song)_coverartVan Morrison said that he wrote “Gloria” in the summer of 1963 as he was turning 18.  The song is as simple as it gets, only three chords, and he would ad-lib lyrics as he performed, sometimes stretching the song to 15 or 20 minutes.  Gloria was a real person, a girl he was infatuated with, and his desire to seduce her made it harder for some ’60s radio programmers to include the song in Top 40 formats.  Indeed, when an obscure group called The Shadows of Knight had a Top 10 hit with their cover of “Gloria” in 1966, it eliminated the reference to “coming up to my room.”

“Victoria,” The Kinks, 1969

220px-Victoria_coverIn the leadoff song on The Kinks’ criminally underrated 1969 LP “Arthur,” Ray Davies’ satirical lyrics juxtapose the grim realities of life in Britain during the 19th century (“Sex was bad and obscene, and the rich were so mean”) with the empathetic hopes of the British Empire in the Victorian age (“From the West to the East, from the rich to the poor, Victoria loved them all”).  Throughout her reign, Queen Victoria was beloved even by the downtrodden working class (“Though I am poor, I am free, when I grow, I shall fight, for this land I shall die”).

“Beth,” Kiss, 1976

5561231359438eae423f7384b93bdeed.500x500x1How peculiar that one of the loudest and most bombastic of all Seventies heavy metal bands would have their biggest commercial success (#7 on the charts) with a ballad, sung by the drummer, with limited instrumental accompaniment.  “Beth” was actually born in 1971 as “Beck” (short for Becky) in reference to the girlfriend of a former band member who would nag him to leave rehearsal and come home.  Drummer Peter Criss later changed it to “Beth” at the suggestion of Kiss’s producer, and even though the rest of the group didn’t want to record it, it ended up boosting sales for the “Destroyer” LP.

“Jolene,” Dolly Parton, 1973

220px-Dolly_jolene_single_coverParton’s solo career was just gathering momentum when she penned this evocative song about a simple gal who pleads with a stunningly beautiful woman named Jolene to leave her man alone:  “Pretty girl, please don’t take my man just because you can.”   So many country music fans could relate to that woman’s desperate feeling that the song soared to #1 on the country charts (although only #60 on the pop charts).  It became one of Parton’s most loved tunes, and many cover versions have been recorded since, as well as a 2017 tune (“Diane”) that was crafted as a heartfelt apology from the beautiful woman.

“Amie,” Pure Prairie League, 1972

pure-prairie-league-amie-rca-2Craig Fuller was the chief singer-songwriter in the original lineup of the country rock group Pure Prairie League, and he wrote great down-home songs on those classic but largely overlooked first two albums in 1971 and 1972.  One song, “Amie,” didn’t do much at first but eventually earned listeners through FM and college radio stations, and by 1975, it was a #27 hit nationwide.  The narrator and Amie have one of those on-again, off-again relationships, and it’s never clear whether they end up together.  As Fuller said later, “The protagonist of the song is just laying it out and then it’s up to her.”

“Suzanne,” Leonard Cohen, 1967

271ad9f7fe1ea769f3f36624c01f06d0_trans_NvBQzQNjv4BqkJnul-JUIdMoNycZiD7Zlp7R5crEcddDrAsWw9J7yjkCohen said “Suzanne” was inspired by his platonic relationship with a woman named Suzanne Verdal, who had been the girlfriend of one of his contemporaries, the famed sculptor Armand Vaillancourt.  The lyrics deftly describe the rituals they enjoyed in Montreal, where they lived near each other.  Contrary to some interpretations, Cohen insisted he and Suzanne were only friends, not lovers.  “I admit I imagined having sex with her, but there was neither the opportunity nor the inclination to actually go through with it,” he admitted.

“Martha,” Tom Waits, 1973

220px-Tom_Waits_-_Closing_TimeFrom the 1970s to the current day, Waits has been known for his distinctive deep, gravelly singing voice and song lyrics that focus on the underside of U.S. society.  Many of the characters who populate his music are unpleasant ne’er-do-wells and unsympathetic outliers, but a few reek of pathos, such as Tom Frost, the elderly guy who places a phone call to “Martha,” an old flame with whom he is meekly hoping to rekindle something.  It becomes clear that that’s not going to happen, but we listeners feel supportive of Tom’s wistful trip down memory lane to speak with her once again.

“Maybellene,” Chuck Berry, 1955

500x500-2Berry wrote and recorded this prototype rock and roll song as an adaptation of the Western swing fiddle tune “Ida Red,” recorded in 1938 by Bob Wills and his Texas Playboys.  Leonard Chess, owner of the legendary Chess Records label, loved Berry’s sprightly lyrics about a hot rod race and a broken romance, but told him he felt the woman’s name needed to be something less rural than Ida Red.  He spied a bottle of Maybelline mascara in the studio and said, “Well, hell, let’s name her Maybellene,” altering the spelling to avoid a potential suit by the cosmetic company.

“Cecilia,” Simon and Garfunkel, 1970

simon_garfunkel-cecilia_s_5This #4 hit single, among Simon and Garfunkel’s last, began life as a cacophony of rhythms pounded out on coffee tables and kitchen counters in Simon’s apartment.  He later wrote the lyrics as a lament about anguish and jubilation regarding an untrustworthy lover.  “Cecilia,” Simon has noted, refers to St. Cecilia, patron saint of music in the Catholic tradition, and he conceded that the song also refers to the frustrations and joy he has experienced in the songwriting process, as musical inspiration comes and goes quickly.

“Josie,” Emily Hackett, 2014

81aTG2tEc1L._SS500_Almost everyone can recall the difficulties one faces during the early teenage years, when friendships and first encounters with the opposite sex seem fraught with uncertainty and insecurity.  My daughter Emily’s song “Josie,” based loosely on the challenges her cousin was facing at the time, offers tender words of encouragement on how best to be true to yourself while navigating the rocky waters of young love.  “It’s about slowing down, enjoying your youth, and knowing that, in time, the person meant to be in your life will find their way to you.”

“Julia,” The Beatles, 1968

JuliaDuring the sessions for The Beatles’ “White Album,” John Lennon was burning with a desire to write a song about his mother, Julia Baird.  “I lost her twice,” he said, “once as a five-year-old when I was moved in with my auntie, and then again when she physically died when I was 17.  Her borrowed phrasings from Kahlil Gibran’s “Sand and Foam” in which the original verse reads, “Half of what I say is meaningless, but I say it so the other half may reach you.”  Lennon performed the song alone on acoustic guitar with none of the other Beatles present.

“Angie,” The Rolling Stones, 1973

the_stones-angieWhen the Stones reached #1 on the charts yet again with the ballad “Angie” in the fall of 1973, speculation was rampant about the identity of the woman in question.  Some said Jagger and Richards were writing about David Bowie’s first wife Angela, with whom they had been spending time during that period.  Others assumed it was a tribute to Richards’ newborn daughter, Dandelion Angela.  In his 2010 autobiography “Life,” Richards said that he had chosen the name at random when writing the song, before he knew that his daughter would be named Angela or even knew that the baby would be a girl.

“Rosanna,” Toto, 1982

R-1882925-1544979774-7688.jpegThis Song of the Year Grammy winner in early 1983 was written by Toto keyboard player David Paich, who said it was a composite of several girls he had known.  During recording sessions, Toto band members initially played along with the assumption that the song was based on actress Rosanna Arquette, who was dating keyboard player Steve Porcaro at the time.  Arquette herself played along with the joke, commenting in an interview that year, “that song was about my showing up at 4 a.m. at the studio to bring them juice and beer.”

“Peggy Sue,” Buddy Holly, 1957

Layout 1“Peggy Sue,” perhaps Holly’s best known song, was originally entitled “Cindy Lou,” named after his niece, the daughter of his sister Pat.  The title was later changed to “Peggy Sue” in reference to Peggy Sue Gerron, girlfriend and future wife of Jerry Allison, drummer for Holly’s band The Crickets, after the couple had temporarily broken up.  Allison asked Holly if perhaps he could rename the song after her in an attempt to woo her back.  “And it worked,” Allison recalled, though Holly’s premature death not long after the song’s release overshadowed that romantic anecdotal story.

“Emily,” Elton John, 1992

Elton_John_-_The_One_coverJohn’s longtime lyricist partner Bernie Taupin penned one of the most poignant character studies in his catalog on this deep track from the 1992 album “The One.”  Taupin recalled writing the lyrics to “Emily” after an afternoon walk through the streets and cemeteries of Paris, France, where he couldn’t help but notice an elderly woman paying respects at various gravesites as she walked haltingly among the headstones.  “Elton wrote such a glorious melody to accompany this one,” Taupin said.  “It’s one of my favorites”:  “The old girl hobbles, nylons sagging, talks to her sisters in the ground…”

“Jane,” Jefferson Starship, 1979

janeVocalist figurehead Grace Slick had temporarily left the band in 1978 when the Jefferson Starship brought in singer Mickey Thomas for the “Freedom at Point Zero” LP.  Bassist David Freiberg wrote most of the music and lyrics for what would become the album’s single, “Jane.”  He said, “She’s no one in particular, just the kind of girl who’s insincere and manipulative in the way she behaves in a relationship.  I think we’ve all know women — and men — like that”:  “You’re playing a game called ‘hard to get’ by its real name, you’re playing a game you can never win, girl…”

“Aubrey,” Bread, 1972

BreadaubreyOf the many hit singles David Gates wrote in the early ’70s as chief songwriter for the soft-rock band Bread, “Aubrey” came across as one of the most sad and heartfelt.  One interpretation had it that Aubrey was the name of a baby girl who died at birth; another said she was a woman the narrator was infatuated with but was too shy to approach.  In the booklet accompanying Bread’s 2006 anthology collection, Gates said the truth behind “Aubrey” was less interesting — it was inspired by an Audrey Hepburn film he saw but never fully understood.

“Peg,” Steely Dan, 1977

220px-Peg_-_Steely_DanSongwriters Donald Fagen and the late Walter Becker have typically been tight-lipped about the meaning behind their often puzzling lyrics, but Fagen once conceded in an interview that “Peg,” a #11 hit in 1978 from their platinum LP “Aja,” referred to Peg Entwistle, a star of Broadway theater in the 1920s and 1930s.  Fagen and Becker found her to be a suitable entry in the Steely Dan cast of offbeat characters because, in 1932, she jumped to her dead off the famous Hollywood sign (when it was “Hollywoodland,” an advertisement for a new housing development) before her first film was ever released.


Honorable mention:

Michelle,” The Beatles, 1965;  “Clarice,” America, 1971;  “Wendy,” The Beach Boys, 1964;  “Valleri,” The Monkees, 1968;  “Amanda,” Boston, 1983;  “Carol,” Al Stewart, 1975;  “Jessie,” Joshua Kadison, 1992;  “Carrie Anne,” The Hollies, 1967;  “Rachel,” Seals and Crofts, 1974;  “Diana,” Paul Anka, 1958;  “Nanci,” Toad the Wet Sprocket, 1994;  “Barbara Ann,” The Beach Boys, 1966.





I know what I like, and I like what I know

Periodically, I use this space to pay homage to artists who I believe are worthy of focused attention — artists with an extraordinary, influential, consistently excellent body of work and/or a compelling story to tell.  In this essay, I delve into the work of a group of superlative musicians who had two or maybe three chapters in their evolutionary arc, exploring genres as disparate as folk-based progressive rock and R&B-laced commercial pop:  Genesis.


I’m pretty sure that a 300-year-old prep school in the English countryside is not the environment you’d expect to find the roots of one of rock music’s most durable bands, even if it was a progressive rock band.  But sure enough, it’s the place where four 13-year-old boys from well-heeled, monied families first met in the fall of 1963 and began nourishing their musical passions into what would become Genesis less than six years later.

Tony Banks was a gifted, classically trained pianist who loved hymns and Bach.   Singer Peter Gabriel, who also dabbled in piano and drums, favored jazz and Otis Redding.


Genesis in 1968:  Anthony Phillips, Mike Rutherford, Tony Banks and Peter Gabriel (and temp drummer John Silver)

Guitar and bass player Mike Rutherford enjoyed The Rolling Stones and R&B, as did fellow guitarist Anthony Phillips.  These four ambitious dreamers worked at first in competing bands (Banks and Gabriel versus Rutherford and Phillips) before eventually joining forces, spending untold hours honing their songwriting skills, rehearsing and jamming, fine-tuning their original arrangements, and performing when given the chance, with various drummers coming and going.

Seeing as how Genesis became known as one of the most important and most respected bands in the progressive rock genre of the early 1970s, it’s interesting to note that “From Genesis to Revelation,” the group’s mostly overlooked debut LP, is comprised chiefly of accessible pop songs.  The charming melodies that mark “She is Beautiful,” “That’s Me” and “Where the Sour Turns to Sweet” are a far cry from the dense, fantasy-driven material that dominated their albums over the next decade.

The group had the luxury of burrowing away in various countryside retreats for several months at a time to compose in bucolic surroundings.  It was there that Rutherford and Phillips began playing 12-string guitars in tandem, which became a huge part of the Genesis sound going forward.

Gabriel and Banks had been writing together on piano, but when Banks switched to 81GkXoHB0bL._SY355_organ, Gabriel found himself with less to do, and he consequently developed an obsession for exploring esoteric lyrical concepts and themes, often inspired by ornate poetry, eccentric fantasy characters and the bizarrely literate humor of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, the comedy trouped newly signed to their Charisma record label.

The results of this period can be found first on their inconsistent second album, “Trespass,” which included six long, rather complicated tracks (most notably the aggressive “The Knife”) composed primarily by Banks and Gabriel.  This made Phillips uncomfortable with the band’s musical direction because he thought there were too many songwriters in the group, making it difficult to get his ideas across.  He chose to quit, which came as a big shock to the other three.  They seriously contemplating breaking up at that point.


Genesis in 1970:  Phillips (about to depart), Gabriel, Rutherford, Banks and (newly arrived) Phil Collins

Instead, they redoubled their resolve and forged ahead.  They ran an ad in Melody Maker in search of both a full-time drummer and a guitarist.  Enter Phil Collins, a scrappy Londoner who shared none of the privilege and baggage of prep school life but offered an obvious self-confidence and enthusiasm that Gabriel noticed immediately.  “I was convinced from the first moment,” he recalled in the Gabriel biography “Without Frontiers,” written by Daryl Easlea. “I knew when Phil sat down at his drum kit that this was a guy who was fully in command of what he was doing, like a cover_183462112008jockey on a horse.  I used to have a lot of fun telling the drummers how to do their drum parts.  Once Phil came along, that finished.”

In his autobiography, “Not Dead Yet,” Collins remembered, “I didn’t know at the time how close they were to splitting up, and therefore how much was riding on the auditions.  Nor was I aware that Genesis’s finely balanced creative symmetry had had the legs kicked from under it.”  Collins was thrilled to land the job, even though he often found himself playing the role of the jovial outside mediator, keeping peace between the tightly wound schoolboy chums.

A few months later, Gabriel spied this ad:  “Imaginative guitarist/writer seeks involvement with receptive musicians determined to strive beyond existing stagnant musical forms.”  This was Steve Hackett, a quiet, self-taught player who was fond of 12-string guitars and was as influenced by the blues and beat as he was by Bach and baroque.  After a promising audition, he was invited to join Genesis.

This five-man lineup was the one that collaborated on the four albums that would define


Genesis 1971-1974:  Banks, Rutherford, Gabriel, Steve Hackett, and Collins

what became known as Early Genesis — 1971’s “Nursery Cryme,” 1972’s “Foxtrot,” 1973’s “Selling England By the Pound” and 1974’s double LP “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.”  With this wonderfully original music they developed sizable fan bases in Holland, Italy, Canada and their native England (“Selling England By the Pound” reached #3 on the UK charts) and won the praise of many British critics.

Gabriel took to wearing increasingly eccentric masks and costumes to augment the stage delivery of the fanciful songs, and the press was clearly gobsmacked by his arresting stage presence.  The New Musical Express reviewer wrote:  “In the demonic, black-clad figure of Peter Gabriel, Genesis have a vocal performer who has the precocious magnetism of which contemporary pop heroes are hewn.  A macabre jY3tuT43mtJYQmXWQxfD9Jentertainer who wears a flower mask one minute and a weathered dwarf face the next, he introduces each selection with strange neo-fantasy monologs which border on insanity.”

The one-hour video clip below from 1973 does a pretty solid job of capturing what Genesis looked like and sounded like at this juncture: 

Meanwhile, in the US, the albums weren’t selling much and the cult audiences who 81m0ZN5P4ZL._SY355_attended their small-venue shows here were loyal but few in number.  Full confession:  I was not among the Americans who comprised that cult following who were absorbing and worshipping these records upon their release.  I loved certain British prog rock groups, especially Jethro Tull and Yes, but for some reason, I wasn’t exposed to the wonder of Genesis until about 1976, after Gabriel had already flown the coop.  It took a while (and prodding by the girl I would eventually marry) to go back and learn to appreciate the marvelous complexities of lengthy tracks like “The Magical Box,” “Supper’s Ready,” “The Cinema Show,” “Dancing With the Moonlit Knight,” “The Carpet Crawlers” and a dozen others that featured Gabriel and company at their most inventive.

911fNcBFeEL._SY355_Meanwhile, in 1974, Gabriel, who had quite intentionally placed himself at the vortex of the group’s stage shows, had also come to dominate the songwriting process, much to the consternation of Banks, Rutherford and Hackett.  The often impenetrable lyrics to “Lamb Lies Down” were exclusively Gabriel’s domain and, combined with the ever-tricky special effects and numerous costume changes he insisted on, life on tour with Genesis became wearisome, especially for Gabriel, as it turned out.

The self-imposed pressures, combined with an anxiety-filled home life (his wife was in the midst of a complicated pregnancy), caused Gabriel to back away once the “Lamb Lies Down” tour came to an end in May 1975.

Many assumed Genesis could not survive the departure of such a hugely integral component as Gabriel.  But the remaining players were united and determined.  As Collins put it, “Our defiant feeling was, ‘We’ll show them!’  All Peter, was it?  He wrote everything, did he?  We might have to find a singer, but the new material we’re working on is great.  Rumors of our death are greatly exaggerated!”

They endured a lengthy, stressful audition process, putting dozens of would-be contenders through the paces.  “We were asking a lot, but hey, we were a demanding R-1995057-1257437660.jpegband, and Peter’s were big shoes to fill,” Collins said.  They tried hard to find a guy who could convincingly sing challenging touchstones like “Supper’s Ready” or tricky new pieces like “Squonk” but the candidates kept coming up short.

With studio hours racking up, and options running low, one day Collins, who had sung one or two ballads on each of the previous Genesis LPs, says “How about I have a go?”  The others shrugged, “Might as well.”  Banks and Rutherford later said it was “like one of those cartoon lightbulb moments when they looked at each other in the control room and said, ‘By George, I think he’s got it!'”

The press and the public were mighty skeptical — “Wait, the new singer is the drummer?” Even Collins was unsure, but damned if his voice didn’t strongly resemble Gabriel’s, and when the new album, “A Trick of the Tail,” was released, the response was largely positive and encouraging, perhaps partly because expectations were so low.  The album did well, reached #3 in the UK, matching the peak of “Selling England By the Pound.”  But then came the acid test — how will the new Genesis come across on tour?


Genesis in concert 1976-1977 with Collins as lead singer

To everyone’s relief, things went surprisingly well.  With ex-Yes member Bill Bruford (and, later, Chester Thompson) manning the drum kit, Collins stepped out front tentatively, not moving much at first but singing his heart out as the group played fan favorites and a handful of new songs.  “Wow,” people told him backstage, “you were great.  You sounded a lot like Peter.”  Said Collins, “I didn’t know whether to take that as a compliment, but at that point, I’d take anything.”

“A Trick of the Tail” and its follow-up, “Wind and Wuthering,” both released in 1976, and also the spectacular 1977 double live album “Seconds Out,” showed that Genesis could and did make a successful transition and prevail, even after the departure of one of rock’s most charismatic front men.  Their fan base grew considerably in Germany, Australia and elsewhere in Europe, and in the US, the cult audience steadily grew, with ever-better (but still modest) showings on the charts.

But yet again, there was dissension in the ranks.  Hackett had released a solo LP on the


Genesis 1978 and on:  Banks, Rutherford, Collins

side and was becoming frustrated (as had Phillips back in 1970) that his songs weren’t getting the attention he felt they deserved within the band structure, so he departed.  Collins, Banks and Rutherford quickly concluded that if they could survive the loss of Gabriel, they could survive the loss of a guitarist, so with Rutherford handling both bass and guitar duties in the studio, they self-confidently entitled their next album “…And Then There Were Three.”

Here was truly the beginning of the latter-day Genesis.  Banks and Rutherford, very adept at writing moody and aggressive instrumental passages, had long had aspirations Genesis-And-Then-There-Were-Three-Album-Cover-web-optimised-820to write actual songs with lyrics, songs that could be hit singles that reached the pop charts.  Sure enough, the group’s first entry in the US Top 40 came in the spring of 1978 with “Follow You Follow Me,” peaking at #22, which helped push the album to #14.  By 1980’s “Duke,” Genesis had become a very hot commodity here, now filling arenas and making regular appearances on the singles chart with catchy ditties like “Turn It On Again” and “Misunderstanding.”

This commercial success was not without its drawbacks.  Many early fans abandoned the new version of Genesis as something so completely different as to not warrant being called Genesis… and truth be told, they had a point.  The kind of R&B and pop-based 220px-Abacabsongs that won them the praise of newer, younger audiences had little to do with the mystery and complexity of Genesis’s earlier period.

And that’s the dichotomy Genesis had to deal with as they became international superstars.  Beginning with 1982’s “Abacab” and its horns-driven single “No Reply at All,” they put on unparalleled light shows on tour and still performed a few Gabriel era tracks but also soon found themselves being played ad infinitum (some might say ad nauseum) on not just FM stations but Top 40 radio as well.

In actuality, it often wasn’t Genesis songs they were hearing.  Collins had simultaneously begun a remarkably successful solo recording career that included film soundtrack work (“Against All Odds”), special duets (“Easy Lover” with Philip Bailey, “Separate Lives” with Marilyn Martin) in addition to a regular stream of often annoying hits from solo albums (“One cover_254881842016_rMore Night,” “Sussudio,” “Don’t Lose My Number”).  He even wrote all the music to the 1999 Disney animated movie “Tarzan,” and it was Collins alone, not Genesis, who made the memorable appearance(s) on both stages at the Live Aid concert event in 1985.

All of these things shared a common element with Genesis songs — Collins’ ever-present vocals — and eventually, even a big Genesis fan like me grew tired of the sameness of Collins’ pop material and sometimes had trouble differentiating it from concurrent Genesis tracks.

To be clear:  Although I balked at some of the hit singles on the 1983 “Genesis” album (“Mama,” “That’s All”), 1986’s multiplatinum “Invisible Touch” LP (the title cut and “In Too Deep”) and 1991’s “We Can’t Dance” (“No Son of Mine” and “I Can’t Dance”), I really enjoyed and much preferred many of the deeper album tracks.  Banks, Rutherford and even Collins never completely shook the art-rock leanings of their formative years, 16invisiblewhich showed up in tres cool tunes like “Home By the Sea/Second Home By the Sea,” the two-part “In the Glow of the Night”/”The Last Domino” and the 10-minute beauty “Driving the Last Spike.”

Collins finally left Genesis in 1996, and Banks and Rutherford made a valiant attempt to proceed with new singer Ray Wilson at the microphone.  Their 1997 LP “Calling All Stations” did all right in England but stiffed in the US, and the subsequent tour of North America was cancelled due to poor response.  Banks and Rutherford called it quits the following year.

But holy smokes, what a legacy.  Genesis 1.0 is universally regarded as the prime exemplars of the art rock branch of the prog rock movement, while Genesis 2.0 sold a gajillion records of their radio-friendly pop music around the world.

Gabriel, meanwhile, put together a fascinating solo career as a pioneer of “world music” beginning in 1977 that both perplexed and thrilled his fans, who alternately shunned and embraced his occasional forays into strange new worlds (“The Last Temptation of Christ” soundtrack) and more commercial landing boards (1986’s “So” and the #1 hit “Sledgehammer”).

Despite the defections over the years and the bad feelings they may have caused, the


Genesis alums, circa 2010:  Gabriel, Hackett, Collins, Banks, Rutherford

various members of Genesis have maintained amicable relations, for the most part.  They have appeared beside one another at awards inductions and even staged one reunion show to help out Gabriel when he found himself in serious financial difficulties in 1982 due to a mismanaged charity festival.

The music created by these two very talented versions of Genesis over more than three decades always had something challenging and/or enjoyable to offer, even if some of it rubbed certain parts of their audiences the wrong way.  That’s the fickle nature of the independently-minded music listening fans out there, of which I am one.


These two Spotify playlists, which divide the Genesis repertoire into the Gabriel and post-Gabriel eras, include three or four selections from each studio album, sometimes including hits that I didn’t particularly like but can’t be omitted from any balanced collection.  Enjoy!