Monday, February 2, 2009

My Picks for Greatest Singles of the 1970s, Part 5

In 2008, Paul Davis passed away, just a day after his 60th birthday. Though he wasn't among the biggest hitmakers of the 1970s, he was a tremendous singer/songwriter and left behind a sorely underrated catalog. From his appearance on the Jesus Christ Superstar concept LP in 1970 to the respectable singles success late in the decade, he was a steady if not spectacular chart presence.

Among his better hit singles were his remake of The Jarmels' "A Little Bit of Soap," a song called "Superstar" that wasn't at all related to Jesus Christ Superstar, the sublime "Sweet Life" and a tune called "Darlin' " that just missed the Top 40 but was better than many singles that outpaced it. Besides his pop tunes that carried him into the 1980s, he had minor success in the Country format later on. He hinted at a Country direction with 1974's "Ride 'em Cowboy" and in 1986, Tanya Tucker took his "Just Another Love" to the top of Billboard's Country chart...though Davis's fans knew the tune (called "I Don't Want to Be Just Another Love") from his 1977 LP Singer of Songs, Teller of Tales.

That LP contained another song that is perhaps one of the finest pop songs of the 1970s. "I Go Crazy" is Paul Davis's signature tune. The record-buying public certainly agreed; the song remained on Billboard's Hot 100 chart for 40 weeks from late summer of 1977 until the spring of '78, setting an all-time longevity record that stood for nearly two decades.

What sets this song apart is Davis's delivery. The song is told from the point of view of a person who has finally picked up the pieces of a broken heart but still feels the sting when he sees her again. She's found somebody else and he's happy for her, even though it's tearing him up inside. It's different from "Baby Come Back" because he's accepted that she's gone. But the way Davis follows up the piano solo with a soaring "whoah, whoa...who-oah" you know he's still got a long way to go before he's finally able to let go of his past.

There is also a personal reason for my affection to the song. Like many of the songs I consider greatest 1970s hits, there's a point where the lyrics resonate with something that's going on in my life at the time I'm hearing it. When I was 18 and serving in the Army, I was walking around Ft. Gordon one night listening to a local station through a small pocket radio. "I Go Crazy" came through the earphones and it immediately brought to mind an old girlfriend from high school. I realized I still missed her and called her the next day. We began corresponding again, made plans to see each other again and start our relationship again.

Alas, it wasn't meant to be. Once I went back home, I quickly realized she'd been cheating on me even when we were dating in high school. In my case, it didn't take long to get over her, but there's still the sting that remained from the breakup, and the song takes me back to the moment.

Unfortunately, Paul Davis's catalog is sparse on CD. It's a shame that Singer of Songs, Teller of Tales doesn't seem to have been given a CD release at all; Amazon shows it available as an audio cassette or vinyl LP. There's a greatest hits CD on Amazon that is a great career overview:

For the MP3 version of "I Go Crazy":

Lastly, the iTunes link for "I Go Crazy": Paul Davis - Paul Davis: Greatest Hits - I Go Crazy