Sunday, October 30, 2005

Mr. Mississippi

Writers Note: I dedicate this post to the wonderful residents of Biloxi, Mississippi whose spirit continues to inspire me.

Ask anyone to name a singer from Mississippi and it's a safe bet they'll respond with "Elvis Aaron Presley." Maybe 1 in 20 will name B.B. King, but Mr. King is sure to trail THE King by a large margin. But, I've always been partial to the great singer/songwriter from Meridian, Mississippi who once set the record for most consecutive weeks on The Billboard Hot 100 singles chart. I'm talking about Paul Davis and, to me, he is Mr. Mississippi.

From 1974-1982, Paul scored eight Top-40 hits and two Top-10s. I guess that's not a lot compared to the 114 Top-40 hits scored by the man from Tupelo, but let's give Paul his due: he actually WROTE most of his records. The timeless "I Go Crazy" spent a then-record 40 weeks on the charts from 1977-78 (give yourself two points if you know that "Tainted Love" was the song that broke the record when it logged 43 weeks on the charts in 1982), ultimately peaking at #7 and almost single-handedly defining the late 70's mellow-rock sound. The influence of "I Go Crazy" can be heard in many other tunes from that era, most noticeably on Styx's 1979 hit "Babe," the only #1 hit of the lengendary band's career.

As one who's obsession with pop music imploded during 1982, I relate heavily with Paul's two Top-20 hits from that year: "Cool Night" and "'65 Love Affair." The former is surely one of the most sentimental ballads of all time. The first time I ever listened to Casey count down the entire Top 10 was on Sunday, February 7 1982 (two points if you know that it was Garth Brooks' 20th Birthday) and I turned on the radio as "Cool Night" was being played at its peak position of #11. '65 Love Affair, which became Paul's biggest hit peaking at #6, was one of the most infectious records of the year and its Lindy/East Coast Swing beat still gets me pumping everytime I put it on.

Paul's songs sounded great no matter who was singing them. In the mid-80's, Dan Seals (one half of 70's hit pop-duo England Dan and John Ford Coley and brother to Jim Seals, one half of 70's hit pop-duo Seals & Crofts), resuscitated his career on the country charts. Two of his biggest (and best) hits from that era were written by Paul Davis: "Bop" (a song about dancing, though everyone thought it was about sex) and "Meet Me in Montana" (a gem of a romantic duet with Marie Osmond, one half of 70's hit pop-duo....oh you know who).

Paul's life story may never make it to the big-screen (especially since I don't think he had any drug, alcohol, violence or gambling issues) and you may never see his face on a postage stamp. But one day I hope to have kids and I plan on using music to help them understand history and what life for me was like growing up. Paul Davis has earned a prime place on the soundtrack of my life, I hope he earns a place on theirs.