Friday, March 5, 2010

March 5: Sam And Dave, "Hold On, I'm Comin'"

Artist: Sam And Dave
Song: "Hold On, I'm Coming"
Album: Hold On, I'm Coming
Year: 1966

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In every great song, there is some element that sets it far apart from the majority of songs that have been written in history. Whether it is a unique musical hook, a brilliant lyric, or is simply so unlike anything else at the time, it cannot be ignored. In a majority of these cases, the song is an instant hit, and over time, the impact and uniqueness of the song does not fade, as each generation "rediscovers" the song. Then of course, there are the songs that, while perhaps not all that different from the musical trends of the time, are simply so fantastic, that they remain the most well known pop hits across the globe. As the latter half of the 1960's began to move from the R&B sound into the psychedelic era, there were a few soul-based songs that would still dominate, and easily one of the most memorable songs of the era came from a bit of an unexpected source. During this time, nearly every soul/R&B hit was coming out of Motown Records, and yet one of the acts that is most heavily associated with this era and sound was actually based out of Memphis. Bringing a bit more of a gospel feel to the R&B sound, and standing as one of the most important acts in history, there were few artists that so perfectly captured the sound of the times as Stax Records legends, Sam and Dave. With a long list of hits to their name, there are few songs as perfect and timeless as the duo's 1966 classic, the iconic, "Hold On, I'm Comin'."

While there is little question that Same and Dave are music legends, when one looks deeper into "Hold On, I'm Comin'," a number of equally legendary performers appear, and it is more clear why this song was such a success. Over the years, the truth of the source behind the song has been revealed, and it has been said that the songs' title came when Dave Porter (not to be confused with Dave Prater who sings the song) was "answering nature's call" and he yelled "Hold on, I'm coming" when he was being asked to hurry up and come back to work by his songwriting partner, Isaac Hayes. The two instantly sat down and wrote out the song, and then brought in the Stax "house band," known as Booker T and The M.G.'s. Clearly, with this much talent behind the song, it would have been hard for it NOT to have been a success, but one cannot look past the amazing sound that runs throughout. The bright opening horn progression from the Mar-Keys horns may very well be the most recognizable of its kind in music history, and it instantly sets a powerful, upbeat mood for the song. The muted trumpets that accentuate the choruses and nothing short of perfect, and they too have become iconic over the decades. The backing groove that the band creates is absolutely irresistible, as this overall phenomenal sound helped to power the song to the top spot on the charts, and cement it as one of the most influential songs in music history.

The musical backing to "Hold On, I'm Comin'" is truly unforgettable, and yet one can make the case that the song only works due to the brilliant vocal work of Sam and Dave. Bringing an uncanny amount of soul, to a point that it is almost gospel preaching, the singing on the song is absolutely stunning, as the duo clearly found the groove as irresistible as listeners do today. Though the pair had already scored moderate chart success with earlier singles, nothing could have prepared them for the monstrous impact that "Hold On, I'm Comin'" would have. This was perhaps due to this song being the first where Sam Moore took the opening vocals, and Dave Prater was more of the "response" on the song; and this format would be used on their hits that followed. Both vocalists are absolutely amazing on the entire song, and the amount of power and soul that they bring to the track is truly uncanny. Another key to the songs' success is the simply, yet profound lyrics that Porter and Hayes reportedly penned in about ten minutes. In many ways, the lyrics can be seen as a "sister song" to the equally iconic, "I'll Be There," as the words tell the listener that the singer will be there even in the worst of times. Centered around the lines, "...when the day comes, and you know you're a river of trouble, you're 'bout to drown...," in many ways, there are few songs that are so wonderfully supportive as one finds here. The conviction and heart with which Sam and Dave sing the words makes them all the more meaningful, and there are few songs in history that can even remotely compare at any level.

There are few songs that are as instantly recognizable as "Hold On, I'm Comin'," as even the name almost immediately brings to mind the iconic horn hooks and the amazing lyrics. This combination of sensational music and the unprecedented vocal power earned "Hold On, I'm Comin'" the Grammy for "Song of The Year," and it remains one of the most iconic songs ever recorded. As is the case with many great songs, the entire lyrical and musical work was penned very much "out of nowhere," and the song proves that even the most unrelated event or statement can trigger artistic genius. Truth be told though, the song was originally titled, "Hold On, I'm A-Comin'," but many radio stations felt this had a rather questionable subtext, and the song and albums were quickly retitled to the more well known name, and copies of the single with the original title remain one of the most highly sought after records in the world. Proving that the Porter-Hayes writing team was as powerful as Motown's Holland-Dozier-Holland team, they fused together an amazingly catchy musical arrangement with one of the most honest and intense vocal tracks in history, creating a song that in many ways had no choice but to become a true classic. While there are many great soul tracks, and an equally high number of great R&B tracks, no other song brings the genres together with the same impact as Sam and Dave's classic 1966 track, "Hold On, I'm Comin'."

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