A-Covay Part 1

Old school soul has always been one of The Nerd’s favorite kinds of music. The love began as I started to analyze music as a player. As a burgeoning drummer, I immediately fell in love with drummers who could make a groove swing and make people dance. The pyrotechnics of many rock drummers like Keith Moon and John Bonham, although impressive, didn’t really move me much – I was more into Al Jackson, Bernard Purdie and whoever played on the soul records I heard as a child. Their grooves were enormous and sucked me into the soul world.

I remember one of my favorite songs being Chain of Fools by Aretha Franklin. When I finally got the album it was on many years down the line, I saw in the writer’s credits it was written by Don Covay. Although I searched pretty hard for info and albums (this was prte-Internet after all) I could never find anything by him in the “C” section and just assumed he was a studio songwriter and had never put out any albums on his own.

Boy, was I wrong! He has actually put out quite a few discs, all of them decent and some of them great.

Now, when people think of Don Covay….I started that sentence just to see what it would sound like because you and I both know people don’t ever think of Don Covay. You know why? Because radio never plays his songs and labels really haven’t re-issued his output properly despite his being the writer of over 15 gold records.

To be honest, Covay had always had more success as a songwriter than as an artist. His classic ’60’s song “See Saw” has always been his biggest hit and that came relatively early on in his singing and songwriting career. He never stopped trying to hit it big, though, releasing albums and singles with regularity right up until the ’80’s.

His songwriting, on the other hand, made big waves and continues to do so. Everyone from Aretha to Wilson Pickett to The Rolling Stones have covered his songs, making him a go-to guy when soul stars and rock bands were looking for something soulful to cover. You can still find plenty of albums with Covay songs on them, his songs being evergreens that could drive a star up the charts at any time. Though it’s been a while since a Covay song went high up the charts, his songs are so solid the potential is always there to see one of his songs in the top 10.

Still, he always wrote new songs and continued to perform and show up on albums every once in a while. Not many people know it, but Don Covay filled in for Mick Jagger on the Stones’ Dirty Work CD. You see, Mick and Keith Richards had been feuding over Mick’s then upcoming solo album She’s The Boss and neither one of them wanted to see the other in the studio. Covay (and also Bobby Womack) would sing the guide vocals on the Stones songs so Mick could go in to the studio at a later date and lay down his vocals. On certain parts of the CD, especially Harlem Shuffle, you can still hear Covay and Womack in the background, singing their brains out.

I have given you a little background info on Covay because everything I write about this week is going to involve him. I hope to tell you about two little known blues rock albums he put mout in the early ’70’s that show his versatility in the rock arena and also tell you a little about a series of tribute albums done by Jon Tiven on Shanachie Records – one of which is dedicated to Don Covay.

If you can, find some of Covay’s music. It is soulful as hell and immensely heart-felt – each song containing nothing but the truth and a big fat beat to go along with it.

Do you know about Don Covay?

The Music Nerd Knows….and you will too, starting with the next blog.