When country star Porter Wagoner discovered a relatively unknown 21-year-old Dolly Parton, it was a match made in music business heaven. Over the next seven years, she became a staple on his TV show and they recorded numerous duets together. It was a very lucrative partnership for both of them. But seven years later, Parton was starting to feel artistically stifled and wanted to branch out on her own as a solo performer. It was neither an easy decision nor an uncomplicated business transaction, given that their careers were tied together. But she did it and, to soften the blow, she composed this lovely farewell song for him, expressing her undying gratitude for all he had done for her.
“I Will Always Love You” was a number 1 country hit for Parton in 1974 and then again in 1982, a truly rare feat. And then, in 1992, Whitney Houston released a cover of the song for the soundtrack to the movie “The Bodyguard,” and it became one of the best-selling songs in the history of recorded music.
“Je T’aime … Moi Non Plus” by Serge Gainsbourg
When Brigitte Bardot asked Serge Gainsbourg to write a song for her in 1967, the result was the scandalously erotic “Je t’aime...moi non plus” (“I love you...neither do I”) recorded as a duet while they were making out in the recording booth. However, Bardot was married at the time, and her husband was, to say the least, not pleased when he heard about it. So Bardot asked Gainsbourg not to release the song, and he complied. Two years later, he recorded the song again with his new girlfriend, English actress Jane Birkin. This version was a major international hit, despite (because of?) being censored and banned all over the place. Afterward, Gainsbourg himself was shameless about offering to re-record the song with just about any pretty singer he came across, from Marianne Faithfull to Valerie Lagrange. The original Bardot version was finally released in 1986.
Serge Gainsbourg was one of the most famous songwriters in France in the second half of the 20th century. As a songwriter, he had a rich and varied output in almost every imaginable genre. In addition, he was a singer, actor, and director of note.
“Isn’t She Lovely” by Stevie Wonder
In 1976, Stevie Wonder released an ambitious double album called Songs in the Key of Life which included a sweet song dedicated to the recent birth of his daughter Aisha Morris. The song opens with the sound of Aisha’s first cry as she was born, and closes with the sound of Wonder bathing her when she was a little older. The album version of the song was over six minutes long, far too long to be released as a single at the time.
Songs in the Key of Life was Stevie Wonder’s most successful album and, in the view of many observers, marks the end of his early “classic” period. As he entered the 1980s, he developed a more polished commercial pop sound to massive success, which continues to this day.
“50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” by Paul Simon
It’s a bit of a mystery to try to unravel how much of this song is a joke and how much represents Paul Simon’s actual frustrations after his recent divorce from his first wife, Peggy Harper, and his new relationship with actress Carrie Fisher. “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” is a comedic chronicle of all the ways a person can sabotage his romantic relationship. Simon and Fisher finally got married in 1983 after years and years of on-again-off-again romance, but then got divorced after just a year before starting to date again! Perhaps Simon was taking too much of his own advice from this song!
One of the most acclaimed songwriters of the 20th century, Paul Simon achieved the heights of fame as half of the classic duo Simon and Garfunkel, before achieving enormous success as a solo artist in his own right. And every once in a while, he’ll wink at the audience with just the briefest hint of a deep comedic side to his nature.
“God Save the Queen” by The Sex Pistols
It was the early days of punk music, and it was a scary time for the music establishment and the establishment in general. The Sex Pistols did nothing to allay their fears when they released this blatantly anti-monarchy and anti-establishment anthem. Cheekily and ironically taking its title from the British national anthem, “God Save the Queen” is all about criticizing the monarchy and the whole system for its perceived injustice and its treatment of the poor. Oh, and the cover art for the single was none too respectful of Her Royal Highness, either.
Unsurprisingly, both the BBC and the Independent Broadcasting Authority banned “God Save the Queen.” That didn’t stop it from being a huge hit, though. It was the number two single on the official charts, leading to speculation and accusation that it was really number one, and was purposely kept off the top spot as a form of punishment.