Expressions of Creative Passion is a study of five musical artists. I have chosen them not for their ‘fame and fortune’. In fact, I have chosen them because at times in their careers, they had to wrestle with challenges to those most sought after goals. Instead, I chose them because, to me, they embody riches far greater than ‘fame and fortune’. I chose them for their extraordinary embodiments of creative passion.
Three are male and two are female. One was born in the 1910’s, one in the 1930’s and three are alive today. In fact, one only started singing within the last decade. One is in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame. Another is in the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Expressions of Creative Passion: Part One
AS EXEMPLIFIED BY
SISTER ROSETTA THARPE
Sister Rosetta has come to be known as the ‘Godmother of Rock ‘n’ Roll. She invented styles of singing and guitar pickin’ that were adopted by later, greater artists who got the credit. She was never inducted into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame despite fervent attempts. She is remembered only by the most erudite of Rock ‘n’ Roll students.
Expressions of Creative Passion: Part Two
HEART & SOUL
AS EXEMPLIFIED BY CLARENCE COLLINS AND
Clarence Collins was the founder and a member of ‘Little Anthony & The Imperials’. The guys met and became famous as teenagers from Boys High School in Brooklyn, NY.
Expressions of Creative Passion: Part Three
AS EXEMPLIFIED BY TEDDY RANDAZZO
Teddy Randazzo, like Sister Rosetta Tharpe showed musical prowess as a child. He played the accordion so well that even his ‘hard to please’ father agreed he had talent. His songs were big successes with Little Anthony & The Imperials and sung by cross generational stars.
Expressions of Creative Passion: Part Four
AS EXEMPLIFIED BY KEITH GALLIHER JR. MUSIC
Thanks to Keith Galliher, Jr. Teddy’s music is experiencing a long overdue revival and recognition. It is a great joy and will become so for many people.
As mentioned in CREATIVE PASSION: PART ONE, there are many motivating factors that drive the creative passion within an artist. It is a challenge and an honor to have the opportunity to study, discover and identify them. It involves listening a great deal to the work of an artist, in this case, a singer, songwriter, producer and teen idol movie star. It also involves learning as much as possible about the artist from written research. If one is fortunate enough, there are primary research sources, as well. All of these elements exist in the case of our third example.
EXPRESSIONS OF CREATIVE PASSION: PART THREE
TIMELESSNESS EXEMPLIFIED BY TEDDY RANDAZZO
Teddy was an extraordinarily talented young man who started as a teen idol. He starred in four movies including two Alan Freed Rock ‘n Roll movies. Throughout his life, and at various times, he was either primarily a singer, songwriter and/or music producer.
He began his singing career as backup in a group that combined comedy and song. He quickly moved up to lead singer of ‘The Three Chuckles’. He was electric and romantic at a microphone or in front of a camera. Despite both of those skills, he withdrew into the background focusing on songwriting and producing. He worked with some of the most popular groups in the 1950’s and 1960’s and beyond. He wrote some of the great hits for groups like ‘Little Anthony & The Imperials’. Among them was ‘Hurt So Bad’ that had great success sung by not only Little Anthony but also Linda Ronstadt. His songwriting hits included, ‘It’s Gonna Take A Miracle, ‘Tears on My Pillow’, “Goin’ Out of My Head”, and “Pretty Blue Eyes” in the 1960s. His songs were also sung by great crooners like Frank Sinatra, Steve Lawrence and many other big names in the music industry. He was driven to express his creative passion. Sharing his art with the world was more important to him than, who shared it, who sang it or who became famous because of it. It was not a short lived proposition. It was a labor of love that had timelessness sewn into its very fabric.
“Teddy Randazzo was never quite as visible as other New York-spawned rock ‘n’ roll talent of the 1950’s — to name a few, Dion was more of a star and for a lot longer, and the various members of Jay & The Americans enjoyed hits right to the outset of the 1970’s. But Randazzo had his day in the sun as a singer, and he also wrote hundreds of songs, and saw many dozens of recordings of the best of his work.”
The above quote from the YouTube comment about Teddy is shortsighted. In my opinion, he was extraordinarily talented as a singer. The fact that he did not experience the short lived singing fame that Dion or Jay and The Americans does not reflect a superior talent on their parts. In fact, I believe Teddy had more talent than all of his contemporaries. His focusing on writing rather than singing was to everyone’s benefit. Who remembers either Dion or Jay and The Americans now? Did they write hundreds of songs that other singers recorded, had and are still having success with singing today? Teddy Randazzo’s songs were sung by some of the greatest pop singers over decades and are sought after today. In fact, the tribute CD sung by Keith Galliher, Jr. has just being released.
“Born in New York City in 1935, he was lucky enough to grow up in a musical family, and by 15 was a good enough accordion player to turn professional, as a member of the group the Three Chuckles, who were in the market for a new keyboardman and singer — the singing took a little time to develop, with help from his decade-older fellow group members Tommy Romano and Russ Gilberto, but when the group started recording, it was the sides that Randazzo sang on that initially hit, and by 1955, at 17, he was the frontman for the group. They had a number one hit with “And The Angels Sing”, which had a rocking beat and brought them to the attention of deejay Alan Freed, who put the group into his first jukebox movie, Rock, Rock, Rock (shot in New York, in the Bronx, actually), but also gave Randazzo a solo spot.
When Teddy finished the movie, Randazzo had decided to go solo. “He continued recording for Vik Records, a unit of RCA Victor, and enjoyed a minor success in 1958 with “Little Serenade”, and made an appearance in Freed’s next movie, Mister Rock And Roll, as well as in the 20th Century-Fox CinemaScope color production The Girl Can’t Help It, among other movies. By 1960, he’d moved to ABC-Paramount, where he had another minor hit with “The Way Of A Clown”, and in 1963 he had another small hit with “Big Wide World” on the Colpix label.”
“But it was mostly as a songwriter and producer that Randazzo busied himself and made his real success in the music business; he wrote some 650 songs over the ensuing decades, and saw them recorded by the likes of Frank Sinatra and Dionne Warwick. “Pretty Blue Eyes”, authored with Bob Weinstein, was a number one hit for Steve Lawrence. But it was with Little Anthony & The Imperials that he had his longest success — in addition to producing the group, he authored “Going Out Of My Head”, “I’m On The Outside Looking In”, and “Hurt So Bad” (later covered by Linda Ronstadt), among other hits.
“Randazzo became less visible as the 1960’s wore on, and in the 1970’s was largely forgotten by all except oldies fans. He remained active as a songwriter and behind-the-scenes, and did the occasional live performance to keep his hand in, but by then he was earning a good income from his annual royalties. He busied himself in local production in both Florida and Hawaii, especially the latter, and reportedly enjoyed a very happy second marriage — his son from his first marriage, Teddy Randazzo Jr., has also had a successful music career. Randazzo died in his sleep in 2003.”
As I listen to the following song written by Teddy and sung by Frank Sinatra, I can’t help but feel that this is his good-bye song.The photos include those he worked with and those he was close to. I feel such sadness and such pain. But he will always be remembered, remembered for his songs. Anytime you hear one, it could have just been written. His songs are evergreen.
WHAT IS CREATIVE PASSION? How can one define or describe it? I am writing this blog post, and others to come, in an attempt to answer these questions. There are many types of expression of creative passion. For the sake of manageability, I am focusing on the art of music in this series. In addition to this discipline, I am narrowing my exploration to American Music History from the 1920’s to the 1970’s.
You are welcome to visit the above page, American Music History from the 1920’s through the 1970’s. There are obviously many other great periods and countries where creative passion lived within the soul of an artist and blossomed. But this is meant to be an introductory blog post to whet a reader’s appetite. Maybe one day there will be a book composed of chapters of these kinds of artists. But for now, we have a small feast of five. Let’s go to:
Expressions of Creative Passion: Part One
AS EXEMPLIFIED BY SISTER ROSETTA THARPE
A great example is one of my favorite singers who spanned many of the decades of this study. Her name was Sister Rosetta Tharpe. Click on her name for the link to Wikipedia about her. She is considered the ‘Godmother of Rock ‘n Roll. But if I were to ask most Rock ‘n Roll enthusiasts who she was, they would have no clue.
The above video is of Sister Rosetta singing, ‘Didn’t It Rain’ in her UK appearance as part of the American Folk Blues Festival that took place between 1963-1966. Click on the link for more information about this event. Suffice to say, a collection of the greatest living American musicians came to Europe to tour and introduce European audiences to American music. The European response was the British Invasion which to a great extend ‘copied’ the American music they had been introduced to.
Sister Tharpe is credited with inventing the guitar picking style of Elvis Presley and the music styles of many other musicians. But one can see how obscurely she is mentioned on the poster promoting this several year tour event.
Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s name is barely legible in the bottom right hand corner of the poster
“Born in Arkansas in 1915, Sister Rosetta Tharpe began performing as a child with her mother. One of the first gospel artists to perform in both churches and secular clubs, she is credited with bringing gospel music into the mainstream in the 1930s and 1940s. She toured until her death in 1973.” Quoted from biography.com. She was recognized by the USPS, with a stamp that was issued in 1988 as part of the ‘Gospel’ series.
It is posted on the facebook page of Sister Rosetta & the Rosettes at the beginning of this post. The page exists primarily in memory to both Sister and the Rosettes. It is maintained by Jacquelyn (Jacki) Harris, the niece of one of the Rosettes, Erma Fitzgerald (later Patterson) who was a very talented singer, igniting the church going community with her passion. I would love to see it get many more ‘LIKES’
Essentially, Rosetta had faded away into obscurity. But the American Masters:PBS Special about her helped to revive interest and awareness. One wonders if she will ever get full, public credit for being the ‘Godmother of Rock ‘n Roll? I don’t think she has ever been inducted into the Rock ‘n Roll Hall of Fame. Was there a glass ceiling in the musical world when she was at her best? In any event, to those who know her music, she is unforgettable and undeniable as a creative genius. Thanks to author and biographer of Sister Rosetta, Gayle Ward, we know as much as we do about the ‘Godmother of Rock ‘n Roll.
Unfortunately, she died in poverty without the money for a gravestone. A memorial concert was held to raise the money for this beautiful stone she now has. January 11th has also been declared Rosetta Tharpe Day. That’s okay with me. I will listen to her music and watch her documentaries all day. Creative genius is no guarantee of eternal worldly riches or even a gravestone. But the love and respect for the creative geniuses can.