July 16, 2011

"Time Is on My Side," "Piece of My Heart," "Cry Baby"...

... songs written by Jerry Ragovoy, whom I'd never heard of until I read his obituary just now. He died at the age of 80. His music career goes back to 1953 and doo-wop groups. He used pseudonyms. For example, on the "Cry Baby" record label, he's "Norman Meade."

And here's a great old recording that Meade and I remember fondly — "Wonderful Dream":



You can see on the label that Ragovoy produced and arranged it, but — I see in the obituary — he was also the songwriter "R. Margolies." That's from 1962.

His connection to Janis Joplin is fascinating:
Joplin recorded “Try (Just a Little Harder),” a collaboration between Mr. Ragovoy and Chip Taylor, on her first solo album, “I Got Dem Ol’ Kozmic Blues Again Mama!” Her last album, “Pearl,” included three Ragovoy songs: “My Baby,” “Get It While You Can” and “Cry Baby.” But she died, in October 1970, before she could record a song that Mr. Ragovoy, with Jenny Dean, wrote specifically for her, “I’m Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven.”
Did anyone ever record "I’m Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven"? I can't find that title in YouTube or iTunes. Searching the web, all I can see is that it was sung as the finale in a small-time show called "One Night with Janis Joplin" that played in Portland last spring and got terrible reviews ("one big hot mess").

20 comments:

Fred4Pres said...

Great songs. RIP

edutcher said...

A very ecletic collection, not to mention people who recorded them. A man who could move with the times.

I can just hear, "A Wonderful Dream".

Well, I hope it was good for him.

Sheepman said...

I'd always assumed that "Time is on My Side" was a Jagger/Richards song. Sort of saw it as a companion song to "The Last Time".

The Crack Emcee said...

It's tragic, the number of unheralded giants in music. Everybody gives the singer or band full credit, while those who really toiled in it for a living get nothing but belated recognition, if that.

R.I.P., Old Man, you did good.

Gary Rosen said...

" Everybody gives the singer or band full credit, while those who really toiled in it for a living get nothing but belated recognition, if that."

However, songwriters, IF they don't sign away their royalties, make out better financially in the long run. If you write just one really popular song it's a lifetime meal ticket.

Songwriting (or more broadly composition) is also the rarest musical talent, and the most difficult to sustain. Once you achieve facility on an instrument or vocally, you've got it until old age unless you blow it with drugs or something. But a songwriter can be a "one-hit wonder", or go dry for years.

Ann Althouse said...

"Everybody gives the singer or band full credit, while those who really toiled in it for a living get nothing but belated recognition, if that."

Some people want to be in the background, and Ragovoy obviously benefited by having Joplin and others as the face/voice of his work. Performing is a particular skill and orientation, and all that work in the background is different. I'm sure he made a lot of money and was respected by the people he worked with. There's nothing to feel sorry for here that I can see.

Ann Althouse said...

The saddest thing here is the thing we already know: Joplin died young.

Gary Rosen said...

"I'd always assumed that "Time is on My Side" was a Jagger/Richards song. Sort of saw it as a companion song to "The Last Time"."

"Time is On My Side" preceded "Last Time". The original version was recorded by New Orleans R&B artist Irma Thomas who was resentful that the Stones stole her thunder.

Another New Orleans R&B song the Stones recorded around the same time was "It's All Over Now", originally written and recorded by Bobby Womack and the Valentino's for Sam Cooke's Sar record label. The Valentino's version is a great, great recording that very few people have heard, very different from the Stones' version.

Robert Cook said...

Chip Taylor, by the way, wrote "Wild Thing," and is brother to Jon Voight, and thus uncle to Angelina Jolie.

CELEBRULUL NECUNOSCUT said...

I've seen Janis Joplin documentaire on http://janis-joplin-fanclub.blogspot.com/
You saw?Great artist!

Ann Althouse said...

The Stones did tons of cover songs in their early years. We who bought those early albums had no trouble understanding that they were doing R&B covers. The Beatles did plenty of cover songs back then too. It was the norm. All the folk rockers with folk songs. The idea that performers would be singing all their own songs came later.

Clyde said...

Okay, I'll ask: Why the pseudonyms? Especially on a record where he gets credit under his own name? I could understand if it was totally different genres of music and he didn't think that he would be taken seriously in more than one. I know that some famous authors use synonyms to get more than one book out at a time (Stephen King as Richard Bachmann or Harry Turtledove as H.N. Turteltaub, for instance), but that doesn't really look like it was the case here. It just seems... odd.

Gary Rosen said...

"We who bought those early albums had no trouble understanding that they were doing R&B covers."

It said right on the albums who the songwriters were, although sometimes the Stones themselves used pseudonyms ("Nanker Phelge"). However I think in many cases the white teenage listeners (e. g. Ann and me) had never heard the originals, or had to go out and search for them. Especially for the Stones because their covers tended to be more obscure.

BT said...

What's also interesting about that era of Soul Music or R&B is the collaboration of black and white musicians, singers and writers which rarely ever gets talked about. There were many groups that were integrated. Sly & The Family Stone, Charles Wright & The Watts 103rd Street Rhythm Band and on and on. And you would never know it by just listening that many of the great soul hits were written by people like Jerry Ragovoy.

I've seen Irma Thomas do "Time Is On My Side" several times but I never knew who wrote it. I always thought it was someone from New Orleans, it just had that kind of feel. What's cool is that it was a Jewish guy from Philly. That's what is great about this country; you can put yourself in others shoes and reach a level of expression that in many cases is impossible in other places.

RIP Mr. Ragovoy. As Crack says you did good.

gadfly said...

HEAVEN CAN WAIT: A song Janis Joplin intended to record on her last album, "I'm Gonna Rock My Way to Heaven," will be the finale of a new Broadway show about her life, claims composer Jerry Ragovoy, coauthor of Joplin's "Piece of My Heart." One problem: The "Heaven" lyricist, known simply as "Jenny," has disappeared. Ragovoy vows to find her so he can give her royalties. But chances of her showing up might not be likely. If you remember the '60s, you weren't really there.... EW.Com, 1992

Lo and behold . . . the song supposedly has been performed at the Portland Centerstage during the "One Night with Janet Joplin" show that ran from May 27 - June 26, 2011.

The Crack Emcee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
The Crack Emcee said...

Ann,

Some people want to be in the background, and Ragovoy obviously benefited by having Joplin and others as the face/voice of his work. Performing is a particular skill and orientation, and all that work in the background is different. I'm sure he made a lot of money and was respected by the people he worked with. There's nothing to feel sorry for here that I can see.

You're going to presume to tell me what goes into performing? Or any other aspect of this industry? O-kay, Miss So-Aware-Of-The-Business-She-Worships-Dylan.

Look, I'll make you a deal, alright:

I'll let you be the constitutional lawyer and you let me be the recording artist with my own career and multiple members of my family - including Charles Mingus - in the business (and who's own bass player was Dylan's god son) will ya?

Nothing to feel sorry for YOU can see? Did you see Obama before you voted for him?

He was pretty fucking sorry,...

Shouting Thomas said...

An old friend of mine, Nikki Armstrong, recently did an all Joplin show at the revived Cafe Wha? in the Village.

I wasn't invited to play and had something else to do.

I'll have to ask her how it went.

caplight said...

Crap. Robert Cook beat me to that little piece of trivia about Chip Taylor. I knew that because Chip Taylor was a mentor and collaborator with my favorite singer, song writer, performer Billy Vera. All thoss
e guys wrote such great songs.

Popville said...

My appreciation of Jerry Ragovoy began ~1971 with a discount bin copy of Howard Tate's 45 "Baby I Love You", written & produced by Ragovoy. That lead to Tate's lp and to others Ragovoy worked with like Garnett Mimms, The Enchantors, The Majors, The Olympics & Carl Hall. A thorough review of Ragovoy's work would also include the stuff he did with Bert Burns & Mort Shuman. There's a compilation with both Regovoy's best & obscure work on the UK reissue label ACE.

Still my favorite: Howard Tate - Baby I Love You