Welcome back to Turntable Talk! As by now, regular readers know, that’s when I have several interesting guest writers sound off on one topic related to the music that we look at here daily. This is our seventh round of it, and if you’re new here, I recommend taking a look back at some of the earlier topics we’ve covered like why the Beatles are still relevant, or “did video kill the radio star?” or the one dealing with “guilty pleasures” we ran at the start of this month.
Elvis Presley had 114 top 40 hits in the U.S., a couple of them making the charts posthumously. The Beatles, 52 on the Billboard charts… and that doesn’t include songs like “Dear Prduence”, “A Day in The Life” or “Here Comes the Sun”, which were beloved pop-rock classics but weren’t released as singles and thus never hit the sales charts. This time around, it’s pretty safe to say we won’t be dealing with those greats, nor Bruce Springsteen, or U2 or Madonna… because this time we’re looking at Wonderful One Hit Wonders.
Sure, we all love those great, reliable artists who’ve churned out hit after hit for years, or decades. But our musical landscape is made a whole lot more interesting and enjoyable by those acts who have the brief moment in the sun, when their song is heard everywhere and when their name is known…and then disappear from the public’s radar.
“One Hit Wonder” is often seen as a derogatory term but it shouldn’t be. It’s one more lasting piece of music history than I’ve had, or most of us ever do, and in many cases, that one hit will live on after the band is broken up or the artist long retired.
Leading off this time is Michigan’s Lisa from Tao Talk, where she shares poetry, pictures and political thoughts. She writes:
Jeff Healey (full name Norman Jeffrey Healey) (b. 3/25/66 – d. 3/2/08) was a Canadian blues, rock and jazz singer, guitarist, and songwriter per wikipedia. Jeff and The Jeff Healey Band first came to my attention in the 1989 blockbuster movie, Road House, starring Patrick Swayze, Kelly Lynch, Sam Elliott, and Ben Gazzara. In Road House, Jeff’s band is the house band at the place where much of the movie is set. As soon as I heard, “Angel Eyes,” I was sold and immediately went out and bought the album. I admit I didn’t listen to the album much and think I ended up trading it at the used record store for something else, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t love the song and don’t still love it. The other two members of the band are bassist, Joe Rockman and drummer, Tom Stephen.
“Angel Eyes” is the fifth song on the debut album of The Jeff Healey Band, See The Light, released in September 1988. John Hiatt, who co-wrote the song with Fred Koller, finally released his own version of the song on his 1994 live album, Hiatt Comes Alive at Budokan? the title being two parodies of Peter Frampton’s, Frampton Comes Alive” and Cheap Trick’s, Live at Budokan. (source, wikipedia)
Songfacts says that “Angel Eyes” stands as Jeff Healey’s only Billboard Top-40 hit; however, considering what a unique character he was, it seems most unfair to dismiss him as a one-hit wonder. Amongst many other things, he was much bigger on the Canada Singles chart; he picked up Juno Awards, got an Independent Music Award for Best Blues Album, and played alongside such talent as Dire Straits, Stevie Ray Vaughan, BB King, ZZ Top, and Eric Clapton.
The director of Road House gave Jeff a lot of screen time. After the chicken wire, the most noticeable aspect besides the wonderful melody and lyrics of the songs was the way that Jeff played his guitar; flat like a steel guitar. He played that way reportedly because he was blind. Reading about his childhood, I learned that Jeff was adopted as an infant; when he was less than a year old he had to have his eyes surgically removed due to retinoblastoma. Listening to and reading interviews with him, he never considered his blindness as a limiting factor to his success as a human being or as a musician.
In 2006, Jeff had cancerous tumors removed from his legs. In 2007, he had cancerous tumors removed from his lungs. (Makes me wonder if he lived near a toxic landfill!) Unfortunately, at the age of only 41, Jeff passed away on March 2, 2008.
If you’d like to learn more about Jeff Healey, there is a short documentary here (beware there are some reading glitches in it.)