Local DJs pick the songs that don't suck at weddings
By Thomas Fawcett,
5:06PM, Tue. May 13, 2008
“Weddings, simply, are the place where good music goes to die,” eulogizes Daniel Shiman, better known as DJ Little Danny of the Waxploitation DJs. More evidence was heaped onto that verdict when I attended a friend’s wedding in Kansas this weekend. The couple shared their first dance to Van Morrison’s “Crazy Love” and the bride and father waltzed to Stevie Wonder’s “Isn’t She Lovely,” both solid tunes. Yet most couples inexplicably pay lots of money for a stranger (this one called himself Dr. Tunes) to play atrocious music at what should be the best party they ever throw. From “Hokey Pokey” to “Ice Ice Baby,” Dr. Tunes was a disaster. It begs the question: Does wedding music have to suck?
A friend who's getting married this summer is ditching the DJ entirely, letting a carefully crafted iTunes playlist control the dancefloor. Not a bad option, though it leaves you on your own for the PA system and other tech chores. Other lovebirds wary of Dr. Tunes and his ilk seek out hipper options, local DJs with crates of soul and funk rarities. Little Danny, who hosted KOOP’s Soul Sauce and the excellent Office Naps blog before diving into grad school, has been roped into presiding over a few of these functions.
“They’re invariably torturous affairs,” he says. “No matter the good intentions of the friend who hires you, you’ll always wind up dealing with their belligerent second cousin who keeps asking you for ‘that Outkast song.’ The wedding DJ’s approach is lowest common denominator, so it makes it extra difficult for the hapless hired hand with tastes that tend to the obscure.”
Despite the pitfalls, Danny offered up these five songs that pack a wedding dance floor without offending better senses: “Tighten Up” by Archie Bell & the Drells; “Roadrunner” by the Modern Lovers; “Shattered” by the Rolling Stones; “I Can’t Stand It” by James Brown; “ABC” by the Jackson 5.
In defense of love songs, I asked Selector J of KVRX’s When Roots Attack to say a few words about his favorite romantic reggae riddims:
“Cherry Oh Baby” by Eric Donaldson: "The first dance at our wedding was to this tune. An early reggae gem with a chorus consisting entirely of well-timed variations of ohs and yeahs. Later, UB40 made it famous but their version pales in comparison. No pun intended."
“Everything I Own” by Ken Boothe: "Beautifully interpreted by Ken Boothe, it's a heartwrenching song about love lost. Probably the most powerful song I've ever heard on the subject. I only hope some emo band doesn't discover it and ruin it for everybody."
“So Many Ways” by Reggie Antonie: "The only song I know from Reggie Antonie appears on the compilation of Scratch Perry productions, Divine Madness ... Definitely. A signature Scratch production, “So Many Ways” sounds like a love song written by a very dread, trident-wielding Neptune for his very lovely Venus."
“All I Have Is Love” by Johnnie Osbourne: I'm sure it's not an original and it's probably not even written by a Jamaican but the Johnnie Osbourne cut is deadly. He sings the familiar song of the man who's light on loot but heavy on game. Recorded at Coxsone Dodd's Studio One and appearing on Studio One Showcase Vol. 1 (Heartbeat), this extended version is a testament to those who believe the Studio One sound can't be beat."
“All Day All Night” by Bob Marley & the Wailers: "Previously unreleased before it appeared on the reissue of Catch a Fire in 2001, the song is nothing short of a rocking love jam showcasing Bob's dynamic songwriting genius. Ever since my first listen, I've been in disbelief of how such an amazing song could sit in a can for so long. There's no question in my mind it would have been a No. 1 in Jamaica and certainly charted in the U.K. Hell, Clapton may have even covered it."
And, lastly, five of my own favorites:
“I’ll Let Nothing Separate Us” by Otis Redding: One of the most devastating love songs from the incomparable crooner.
“After All These Years” by Solomon Burke: Solomon sings, “To me you’re like steak and gravy.” That’s no joke coming from a man too big to stand up while he sings.
“Ice Cream Song” by Dynamics: Cheesy, formulaic, and completely irresistible.
“Your Love (Means Everything to Me)” by Charles Wright: A funk burner about the good times and the bad.
“You’re the One (That I Adore)” by Buddy Miles: The slow blues won’t cause a stampede to the dancefloor but it’s awfully good.