“Hello, Jazz FM listeners! I’m Damian Lewis. I’m gonna share some of my music with you on this first day of 2023.”
Could there be a better way to start the new year than hearing your favorite artist sharing his love for his (and your) favorite music on Jazz FM on New Year’s Day?
So Lewisto and I started 2023 listening to the 2-hour “Damian Lewis Blues and Swing Special” on Jazz FM. And after 2 delicious hours of music, I put together a Spotify playlist for the fans who were not able to hear the program because of annoying zone restrictions. But since that day I have been dying to put together a post with all the songs but also with what Damian talked about when he talked about the music he loved. So… Better late than never, I guess… ENJOY!
“Hello, Jazz FM listeners! I’m Damian Lewis. I’m gonna share some of my music with you this first day of 2023. It’s New Year’s Day…
…It’s got some blues, some heartache… sure, we’ve got some American bad dudes… Frank Sinatra, we’ve got some Dr. John, we’ve got a bit of of Artie Shaw, and we’ve even got a little bit of Elvis.”
And I think his feelings about New Year’s Day attest to the state of mind he has, very understandably, at the time:
“This is a time to reflect; a time to remember those we love. But it’s also a time of hope and a time of renewal. And that puts a spring in my step, so we’re going to get down with some tracks to bump and grind to. And there’s no better band to start that with than Funkadelic.”
Next comes J. J. Cale’s “Call The Doctor.” Damian shares that Eric Clapton called Cale “one of the most important artists in the history of rock.”
And, Clapton, he adds, in his thirties and penniless, covers Cale’s “After Midnight” in his debut studio album and makes him a hit. And guess what? A guy who was born a year after Clapton recorded “After Midnight” is now covering the track in his own upcoming album Mission Creep – I am taking a commercial break here! – which you can pre-order here! The album will be out on June 16.
And just to link Damian’s own music a little bit more to the great J.J. Cale… When someone asked Steve Abbott, Damian’s music manager, about what kind of music Damian played, this was Mr. Abbott’s response on Twitter.
Roots blues type of thing , JJ Cale ?
— abbo / Steve Abbott (@bedlambaby) July 8, 2022
Back to New Year’s Day on Jazz FM… Damian introduces the next track as “one of the most rhythmic, fantastically percussive tracks” from the Rock’n’Roll era.
“But it has no percussion in it but it has the great Bill Black using his standing bass like a drum.” This is ‘Mystery Train’ from Elvis…”
I have to jump in and add that I read on an online source that “Mystery Train” became a fixture in Elvis’ live shows. When he returned to perform live in Las Vegas in 1969, he often opened his shows with it, and he continued to sing it up until the year of his death in 1977.
Next is “Insane Asylum” by Koko Taylor and Willie Dixon whom Damian introduces as “heavyweights of 50s’ blues and jazz” and the song as “heavy.”
As I was listening to the next track, which I also love dearly, I recall Damian saying in an old interview with The Evening Standard:
“In a perfect world I would always be bicycling through Bloomsburyjust as my iPod shuffled to Artie Shaw.”
His iPod?!?! Well, the interview is from 2005!
And guess what Damian talks about when he talks about Artie Shaw now!
“This is Begin the Beguine, from the Great American Songbook by Artie Shaw who turned it into a classic, of the Swing Era. I used to bicycle around Manhattan with it on my headphones and it always makes me smile.”
The next track, we learn, is a song that Damian used to sing to his children at bedtime until… yeah until they said “dad, please don’t sing it to us at bedtime…”
Would you say no if Damian offered to sing this for you? Of course not! And you are in for a treat because Damian sang a bit of “You Brought A New Kind of Love To Me” on Popcorn with Peter Travers back in 2016… Manon was 10 and Gully was 9 and I wonder if dad was still singing to them at bedtime then <3
Now Damian is sharing with us the event known as “The Grit Incident” that led Al Green turn to God: When a woman throws a pot of boiling grits at him causing life-threatening burns and then kills herself, Green takes this as a sign from God, and focuses his career on Gospel Music and preaching. Here’s “Take Me To The River” – a song about a baptism with Biblical imagery which Green recorded a bit earlier than he turned to more Gospel music and became an ordained minister.
The next track makes me smile big: Erykah Badu is one of my favorite musicians and I can’t be happier when Damian agrees with me.
“This is Erykah Badu. She’s just so cool. Badass. LOVE HER.”
He next takes us to New Orleans for a little bit of Dr. John’s voodoo medicine: “Right Time, Wrong Place.”
I also have to remind you all that the first song we saw Damian sing with Kansas Smitty’s in his music journey during the pandemic was “Such A Night” by Dr. John.
And I have good news for you. “Such A Night” is a bonus track on Damian’s upcoming album Mission Creep – another commercial break here! – which you can pre-order here!
Back to New Year’s Day… The next track Damian plays for us is “Be Easy” by Sharon Jones & The Dap-Kings.
“Strangely, and credibly, she was a corrections officer before she became a singer.”
And while the Dap-Kings she sings with, Damian adds, was a part of the revival movement of the mid-1970s funk, they sound like the original, real thing.
“They go with so much groove. I love them.”
Damian introduces the next two tracks as what he grew up with in his family home as he was growing up… He says they may not be original but he would not be able to leave them out… After all, New Year’s Day is about remembering those we love… And I applaud him for it because the music Damian grew up at home with, the “household favorites”, are my household favorites!
“On the first we’ve got Miles Davis’ “Kind of Blue.” Incredible that he had the great John Coltrane and “Cannonball” Adderley playing with him (and Bill Evans, Damian, the great Bill Evans!) so it’s like a jazz super group…”
Damian talks about both Davis’ and Coltrane’s heroin addiction and that Coltrane died at 40… and that this is a theme running through his playlist…but the second “household favorite” is a clear exception…
Dave Brubeck lived up to 92 (he died a day before his 92nd birthday) and even I was able to see him play “Take Five” live at Carnegie Hall. It was magical! But Damian is right to point out that while everyone associates the track with Dave Brubeck, it is Paul Desmond, the sax player of the Dave Brubeck Quartet, who composed “Take Five”!
Next track is…
.”Let’s Do it from Ella Fitzgerald who can phrase a lyric as deftly as Frank himself… written by the incomparable Cole Porter.”
Then comes Bill Haley’s “Thirteen Women (And Only One Man in Town)” an early Rock’n’Roll song from the 50’s that I admit I did not know until now but I fall in love at first sight… and I cannot help giggle endlessly when Damian says this was one of the first albums he ever had and that he imagined himself as being the man in that town 🙂
“This next one… I love this man… Jackie Wilson… Mr. Excitement to his friends… And best friends with Elvis…
…that makes him alright by me… Sometimes he was called the Black Elvis… and Elvis said ‘I guess this makes me the white Jackie Wilson’… “
The next track is “Sunday Davidson” from Kansas Smitty’s…
Damian shares that Giacomo Smith, the leader of the band, describes the tune as “part Duke Ellington, part Ethiopian nun Emahoy Tsegue-Maryam Guebrou. Look her up. She’s real. She’s incredible. Well, I looked her up only to find out that this incredible woman, sadly, passed away late March. She has an extraordinary story and it turns out I actually listened to her music on Ethiopiques CD Series both Lewisto and I deeply love!
To get back to Kansas Smittys… Damian met Giacomo Smith during the lockdown when he picked up his guitar again. They started playing some covers together. We saw Damian singing Dr. John’s “Such A Night” with Kansas Smitty’s late 2020 and the rest is history! Giacomo Smith is not only Damian’s good pal and band mate now but he is also producing his upcoming album Mission Creep – yet another commercial break here! – which you can pre-order here!
Damian introduces the following track with a Miles Davis mention.
“We had one of the all-time great trumpeters Miles Davis… I love the way this man plays the trumpet. Hugh Masekela and the Union of South Africa. This is ‘Going Back to New Orleans’…”
And next comes “Clarinet Marmalade”…
“This was Bix Beiderbecke… He was actually a cornet player… Not a clarinet player… Known as ‘young man with a horn’… Died from alcohol in his apartment in Queens, I hate to say, at the age of 28… Told you this may be a theme with these jazzers. But he was one of the great innovators of jazz in the 20s…”
The next track is from Aaron Neville, a musician born and raised in New Orleans with both parents being gospel singers… Such a distinctive voice he has… and how much I (Damianista) loved him when he did that duet “Don’t know much” with Linda Ronstadt…
“That was Cymande… ‘Brothers on the Slide”… A funk band that lasted three years only… from ’71 to ’74 but the first British band ever that headlining the famous Apollo Theatre in Harlem.”
“This next track, Darondo, the man in the white fur coat, snake skin shoes and a white Rolly… History typical of so many artists who had a big hit and then slipped into obscurity. He ended up playing the guitar on a cruise ship and succumbed to a big coke addiction. Then he came back to San Francisco as a speech therapist… until the legendary Gilles Peterson played him on a radio playlist, as late as 2005, and Darondo’s career was reignited… Here’s ‘Didn’t I?’…”
Damian now plays “Mr. Big Stuff” from Jean Knight and “Spanish Moon” from Little Feat back to back.
It turns out Damian only discovered Little Feat recently and loves them.
“How deep is the funk and groove on that? Jimmy Page‘s favorite band apparently… I love that swampy blues sound.”
Damian finishes his fantastic special program with “Love Man” from Otis Redding.
“That’s it. We came to the end of the couple of hours. Thank you. I’m Damian Lewis. I hope you enjoyed my liked songs playlist. I’m gonna leave you with one of the all-time greats. This is Otis Redding. He’s gonna sing “Love Man.” May this song send you off into 2023 with joy in your hearts and a pep in your step. May your light shine on. Happy New Year.”