Reconsidering the Flute

Over the summer, I noted the flute in several pop songs from the 1970s, something I hadn’t noticed in more recent pop music.  I mean prominent flute lines.  Through some research, I noted the flute on The Beatles’ “You’ve got to hide your love away,” but I became interested in songs where the flute was a strong contributor to the overall feel of the song.  A couldn’t find anything recent and it got me wondering, “Am I imaging all of this?”

I mean, as a writer, I hope that I have a wild imagination.  Curious: was this a 1970s trend? Was it something to do with the soul movement?  Is there a common link to the arrival and disappearance of the flute in popular music?  Can I infer something about more modern arrangements?

Let’s listen to some.  Remember the rule:  these are songs that I like and love, otherwise they couldn’t be featured at CommunityNoise.blog.

Eric Burdon, with the Animals and with War, is a basic element of my 1960s musical diet.  I’ve featured this beloved song before, “Spill the Wine”.

The band includes guitar, bass, drums, frontman / lead singer – basic rock band stuff – but the bongos and flute steal the song.  And that’s the angle I’m looking for – adding instrumentation can really make a song.  Make a band.

I grew up on and, by the miracle of DVDs, I continue to watch the early years of Saturday Night Live.  Curious collection of live musical performers back in the day – the cast invited who they listened to.  That’s how I noticed Brick – a jazz band that started playing disco music in the early 1970s.

 

It’s a shame Gill Scott-Heron is not better known and better recognized for his music.  A poet coerced into singing with a band behind him, he is a brilliant story teller, bringing his life-on-the-streets views with a dash of love.

 

The flute thing seems to be something that grew out of folk and jazz genres, then to soul, and then died.  It’s a shame.

More generally, I think rock–n–roll, over time, has found itself in a rut, for a handful of reasons.  Eventually, my opinion, the rock–n–roll stagnated in the 1990s under the weight of the corporate machine, and inability of A&R and marketing people within that machine to actually think creatively, and encourage bands that sounded fresh and new.  I think a big part of that was falling in love the 2-guitar, bass, drums, lead singer structure of musical composition.  The blues, soul, disco, new wave, and other musical style innovations rested on the brilliance of embracing an ensemble or embracing new ways of making noises.

Instead of finding the way to be just like everyone else, an artist needs to find the best ways to make themself unique.  Only when the artist is at their best as an individual, or as an individual ensemble, do we build a meaningful community – rich in texture, full of colors and vibrancy.  It’s like that in life, too, but people don’t always think that way either.

Which reminds of something Brian Eno said, ”What is possible in art, becomes thinkable in life.”

 

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If the reader is interested, here’s a few more that I came across.

Van Morrison –             https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lFxGBB4UGU

Canned Heat –               https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nBhpiUFSYWI

The Rolling Stones –     https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=a00_tPLcE_g

That last track has a really nice flute blowing back there, beneath the vocals and keyboards – you have to want to hear it, and it’s there.

 


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