Category Archives: Music

Remembering Mike Bloomfield


I’ve been reading the excellent Greil Marcus book, “Like a Rolling Stone: Bob Dylan at the Crossroads” (2006),  and reencountered the phenomenal Michael Bloomfield.  Mike was born in Chicago July 28, 1943, and died in San Francisco February 15, 1981.

For several years in the sixties (1965-67), Bloomfield was the hottest U.S. blues/rock guitarist, a guy who rivaled Eric Clapton and Jimi Hendrix.  Then Mike fell into addiction and faded away.

In 1959, Mike began playing guitar in Chicago clubs.  He performed with a wide variety of blues legends, including Sleepy John Estes, Yank Rachell, Robert Nighthawk, Muddy Waters, and Howlin’ Wolf.

If there was a first generation of Chicago Blues stars (Muddy Waters, Howlin’ Wolf and others), and a second generation (Buddy Guy, Otis Rush, and others), Mike was a key part of the third generation that included Paul Butterfield, Charlie Musselwhite, and Steve Miller.  In the early 60’s, Mike began playing with Butterfield.  In 1965, they released “The Paul Butterfield Blues Band,” which was hugely influential.  (Im 1966, I saw this saw this band in Southern California.)  From this period, key Bloomfield solos are: “Shake your moneymaker,” “Blues with a feeling,” “Born in Chicago,” and “Mystery Train.”

In 1963, Mike met Bob Dylan.  In July of 1965, he put together a backup band for Dylan at the Newport Folk Festival.  This was where Dylan went electric (publicly) with an over-the-top version of “Maggie’s Farm” — where Bloomfield’s guitar was so loud, no one could hear Dylan’s voice.

However, Bloomfield’s signature contribution to Dylan-lore happened June 15 and 16, 1965, when Mike was responsible for the classic “Like a Rolling Stone.”  In the epilogue to Greil Marcus’ book it’s clear that Bloomfield, not Tom Wilson produced the song; it’s Bloomfield who gives the musicians direction, who translates Dylan.

Over the two days there were 19 takes.  The winner was take 4 on day 2.  The personnel were Dylan, Bloomfield, Al Kooper (organ), Paul Griffin (piano), Bruce Langhorne (tambourine), Joe Macho, Jr. (bass), and Bobby Gregg (drums). It’s clear that Mike Bloomfield drives the song.

In 1967, Bloomfield left the Butterfield Band, moved to San Francisco, and formed the memorable “Electric Flag.”  (From this period, epic Bloomfield solos are “Killin’ Floor” and “Texas.”)  in 1968, Bloomfield broke up the band,  In 1970, his heroin addiction was so acute that he gave up playing.  For the next eleven years, he performed irregularly, mostly in the Bay Area,  In February of 1981, Mike died of a heroin overdose.

There have been three generations of blue guitarists.  The first, Mississippi Delta Blues, is epitomized by Robert Johnson (1911-38),  the second, Chicago Blues, is epitomized by Muddy Waters (1913-1983).  For the third period, full electric blues, the mantle passed to Michael Bloomfield, but he dropped it and Eric Clapton has become the preeminent blues guitarist of the modern period.

Bloomfield, Clapton, and Jimi Hendrix learned the blues by listening to records.  Because he lived in Chicago, only Bloomfield had the opportunity to also learn at the feet of the second-generation masters.  For reason, he had a distinctive sound.  And died way too soon.

Clapton and Bloomfield

50 Top Soul/R’nB Singers

william-guest-death-2-2c7dc00a-13f6-42e4-8121-6637866ee54e Gladys Knight + Pips

Here’s my list of the 50 top Soul/R’nB singers, their best record, and their birthdate. The number one song is “Midnight Train to Georgia.”

Allman, Gregg “I’m no angel” DECEMBER 8, 1947
Ballard, Hank “Work With Me Annie” NOVEMBER 18, 1927
Berry, Chuck “Maybelline” OCTOBER 18, 1926
Bland, Bobby “Blue” “Turn On Your Love Light” JANUARY 27, 1930
Brown, James “Please, Please, Please” MAY 3, 1933
Brown, Ruth “Oh What a Dream” JANUARY 12, 1928
Butler, Jerry “For Your Precious Love” DECEMBER 8, 1939
Carr, James “The Dark End of the Street” JUNE 13, 1942
Carter, Clarence “Steal Away” January 14, 1936
Cassidy, Eva “Songbird” FEBRUARY 2, 1963
Charles, Ray “Night Time is the Right Time” SEPTEMBER 23, 1930
Clovers “One Mint Julep” (1946-1990)
Cooke, Sam (Lou Rawls) “Bring It On Home to Me” JAN. 22, 1931
Domino, Fats “Going to the River” FEBRUARY 26, 1928
Five Du-Tones “Shake a Tail Feather” (1957-67)
Fogerty, John “I Put a Spell On You” MAY 28, 1945
Franklin, Aretha “Respect” MARCH 25, 1942
Gaye, Marvin “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” APRIL 2, 1939
Harrison, Wilbert “Kansas City” JANUARY 5, 1929
Holiday, Billie “The Way You Look Tonight” APRIL 7, 1915
Hunter, Ivory Joe “Since I Met You Baby” OCTOBER 10, 1914
Isley Brothers “Shout” (1954- )
James, Etta “All I Could Do Was Cry” JANUARY 25, 1938
King, B.B. “The Thrill is Gone” SEPTEMBER 16, 1925
King, Ben E. “Stand By Me” SEPTEMBER 28, 1938
Knight, Gladys “Midnight Train to Georgia” May 28, 1944
Lewis, Smiley “I Hear You Knocking” JULY 5, 1913
McPhatter, Clyde “Money Honey” NOVEMBER 15, 1932
McVie, Christine “Say You Love Me” July 12, 1943
Mimms, Garnet “Cry Baby” NOVEMBER 6, 1933
Neville, Aaron “Tell It Like It Is” JANUARY 24, 1941
Peebles, Ann “Can’t Stand the Rain” APRIL 24, 1947
Penniman, Little Richard “Directly From My Heart” DEC. 5, 1932
Pickett, Wilson “Midnight Hour” MARCH 18, 1941
Redding, Otis “Pain in my Heart” SEPTEMBER 9, 1941
Righteous Brothers “You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling”
Robinson, Smokey “Tracks of My Tears” FEBRUARY 19, 1940
Ross, Diana “Come See About Me” MARCH 26, 1944
Scaggs, Boz “Loan Me a Dime” JUNE 8, 1944
Shirelles “He’s So Fine” (1957-82)
Sledge, Percy “When a Man Loves a Woman” NOVEMBER 25, 1940
Temptations “My Girl” (1960- )
Tex, Joe “The Love You Save” AUGUST 8, 1933
Thomas, Carla “B.A.B.Y.” DECEMBER 21, 1942
Troy, Doris “Just One Look” JANUARY 6, 1937
Turner, Big Joe “Shake, Rattle, and Roll” MAY 18, 1911
Turner, Tina “There’s Something on My Mind” NOVEMBER 26, 1939
Willis, Chuck “It’s Too Late” JANUARY 31, 1928
Wilson, Jackie “Higher and Higher” JUNE 9, 1934
Witherspoon, Jimmy “Ain’t Nobody’s Business” AUGUST 8, 1920
Wonder, Stevie “Living For the City” MAY 13, 1950
Wright, O.V. “Eight Men, Four Women” OCTOBER 9, 1939