Certain Songs #1068: Macy Gray – “I Try”

Album: On How Life Is
Year: 1999

Like no doubt most of you, I didn’t pay a lot of attention to Macy Gray after her award-winning smash debut, On How Life Is, but right around the turn of the century, that record was pretty much everywhere, led by its biggest song, the anthemic “I Try.”

Grammy nominated for both record and song of the year, and a winner of Best Female Pop Performance, “I Try” was also a top five single, no doubt because the first time you heard the elegant chorus, you instantly needed to hear it again.


Certain Songs #1067: M – “Pop Muzik (Long Version)”

Album: New York * London * Paris * Munich
Year: 1979

An absolutely deft fusion of disco, pop and new wave — with the tiniest bit of rap tossed in there as well — M’s “Pop Muzik” was an insanely huge worldwide smash that somehow landed just this side of being a full-blown novelty number.

Or, it was the most fucking irritating thing you’d ever heard in your life, and I’m an asshole for putting it into your head again. Hee-hee. Because you’re totally stuck with it now, aren’t you?


Certain Songs #1066: Lynyrd Skynyrd – “That Smell”

Album: Street Survivors
Year: 1977

Then Lynyrd Skynyrd’s plane went down, killing Ronnie Van Zant, guitarist Steve Gaines and his backup singer sister Cassie. And just like that, a band that blazed bright and hot — putting out an album every year from 1973-1977 — was gone forever.

And yeah, I know that something calling itself “Lynyrd Skynyrd” has been touring and recording for the past three decades, but let’s face it, Ronnie Van Zant was the guiding light and the key figure behind that band, and nothing was ever going to bring him back.


Certain Songs #1065: Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Free Bird (Atlanta, July 1976)”

Album: One More For From The Road
Year: 1976

Free Bird, Part 1

At the beginning of Southern Rock Opera, the Drive-by Truckers’ magnificent concept album about Lynyrd Skynyrd and their fans, there is a deadly car crash involving the narrators best friend and his “best girl”, who had abandoned him at night-before-graduation party to go for a joy ride and listen to some Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The car crash kills the best friend, and the and the girl is left alive, pinned to her seat, screaming into the night, waiting for for the ambulance. And as the story was passed from kid to kid at their graduation, “Free Bird” is competing with her screams and the sound of the ambulance’s “si-reeens.”

Because, as Patterson Hood wryly noted: “it’s a very very long song.”


Certain Songs #1064: Lynyrd Skynyrd – “Working For MCA (Atlanta, July 1976)”

Album: One More For From The Road
Year: 1976

One More For From The Road was the first Lynyrd Skynyrd album I ever bought. Pretty sure I got it during either the spring or summer of 1977, not when it came out, but definitely before their plane went down, and as such, it’s always held some sentimental value to me.

That’s subjectively, of course, because in an era suffused with double-live albums, the highlights of Lynyrd Skynyrd’s post-Bicentennial 1976 stand at the Fox Theater in Atlanta stand with any of them.