All musicians are influenced by other musicians, and a great way to discover new music is to pay attention to the bands that your favorite musicians are listening to. I get excited when I hear a shout-out to a great artist in a good song, so I'd like to share a playlist of fifteen songs that are written about other musicians. Though all of these songs mention another artist, either by name or in spirit, the motivations differ in each song. Some are love letters, one is furious hate mail, and others are sarcastic (Pavement
makes fun of bands who name-check too much).
Scroll Through The Player To Listen To All The Songs On the Mixtape
1) "Alex Chilton" - The Replacements
Let's tip our hats to this Big Star once again. The Replacements sing, "Children by the millions sing for Alex Chilton/They say/I'm in love/What's that song?/I'm in love/with that song." It wasn't quite so. Big Star was the poppiest band that was never popular enough. Chilton actually played guitar on "Can't Hardly Wait" (the hit that should have gained recognition far before the movie) off the album that includes this song, Pleased to Meet Me
2) "The Replacements" - Art Brut
On that note, Art Brut is full of excited disbelief in this great song about one of my favorite bands. Eddie Argos exclaims, "I can't believe I've only just discovered The Replacements!" He throws in great lines of hope and music-world-weariness, "I want to love them but I can't be sure/I've been let down so many times before." I know what you mean, Eddie, but you've found a good friend in The Replacements.
3) "Velvet Underground" - by Jonathan Richman
I recently saw Jonathan play a show at the Bell House in Brooklyn and left ready to kick off my shoes, throw out my cell phone and join his cult. The man is so earnest it hurts. In this ode to the Velvet Underground he asks, "How in the world were they making that sound?" Who knows? But he describes them well: "Bold and brash/stark and still/ like the heat's turned off and you can't pay the bill."
4) "Song To Woody" - by Bob Dylan
Well, it would be a crime to make a list like this and forget to mention this classic ode to our great forefather Woody Guthrie. Dylan's lyrics are pure poetry as usual, "Here's to the hearts and the hands of the men/That come with the dust and are gone with the wind."
5) "Song For Bob Dylan" - by David Bowie
Continuing with icons paying tribute to legends, here's a great love letter from Bowie to "Robert Zimmerman." He calls Dylan a "super brain" and recognizes his power, but also seems to differentiate between the man and his persona when he says, "Now hear this Robert Zimmerman though I don't suppose we'll meet."
6) Chelsea Hotel #2 - by Leonard Cohen
Leonard Cohen regrets revealing that this was written in memory of an affair he had with Janis Joplin. It's a heartbreakingly honest account of romance and loss, with unforgettable lines such as, "we are ugly but we have the music." I saw Cohen sing this in San Diego a couple of years back and he delivered the line with a palpable wink in his voice; the crowd hooted and hollered in response.
7) "Hey Joni" - Sonic Youth
Sonic Youth are referring to Joni Mitchell in this dark and energetic song off Daydream Nation
. Lee Ranaldo tells her not to feel so blue when he yells, "Hey Joni put it all behind you!"
8) "Bruise Violet" - Babes In Toyland
Few artists have inspired the kind of vehement disgust that seems to naturally surround Courtney Love. It's widely believed that former bandmate Kat Bjelland wrote this sweet little number in her honor.
9) "Unseen Power of the Picket Fence" - Pavement
In this snarky tribute to R.E.M., Pavement paints a picture of Major General William Tecumseh Sherman's March to the Sea as a funny way of name checking like they say R.E.M. likes to do.
10) "I Am Damo Suzuki" - The Fall (about Can)
Let's amp up the off-kilter intensity with a song by The Fall, dedicated to former Can member Damo Suzuki. What are the chances they actually mean "vitamin C"?
11) "Buddy Holly" Weezer
This song was the bee's knees when I was in elementary school and we still danced around and sang along to it at college parties. The music video shows the band at the Happy Days
diner with a clip of Fonzie (cut to look like he's) dancing to the song.
12) "Michael Jackson" - Das Racist
I don't know if I "feel" this song or not, but the music video certainly is entertaining. Maybe I just don't understand. At one point they say, "Call me, Janet Jackson/I got a hundred dollars," which I take to be a proposition, so are they asking the same of Michael Jackson for a million dollars? Eh?
13) "Dancing With Joey Ramone" - Amy Rigby
Amy Rigby has a wet dream about dancing in a bar with Joey Ramone and recounts the oldies (60's) playlist for us. "They played 'The Worst That Could Happen' by the Brooklyn Bridge/'He Hit Me And It Felt Like a Kiss'."
14) "Ronnie and Neil" - Drive-By Truckers
So many musicians claim Neil Young as a deep and abiding influence, I'm glad the Drive-By Truckers give him a shout out in this song saying, "rock stars these days ain't half as real." They also mention Aretha Franklin, Lynyrd Skynyrd (Ronnie Van Zant) and Wilson Pickett.
15) "The Beatles" - Devendra Banhart
This infectious song starts off by telling us that, "Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr are the only Beatles in the world" before switching into Spanish. I couldn't get "'Riquitiquitiqui' canta el troubador" out of my head for weeks after hearing this. Devendra also mentions Donovan, Six Organs of Admittance, and Marc Bolan.