Last week, one of Scott's favorite recording artists passed away. He says it's cool if you've never heard of Jimmy Castor and the Jimmy Castor Bunch, but there's absolutely no chance you've never heard them. Castor's responsible for thousands of samples, used by everyone from The Beastie Boys to Kanye West, and the original songs are still… well, we'll let Scott tell you more below. As always, click the link and image to see the video on YouTube.
"What we gonna do right here is go back… way back…" That was my first exposure to Jimmy Castor and I was hooked, even before I knew who he was. It was only years later that I heard the full song behind that sample, and it was so good I had to play it again! Yes, the lyrics say "disco novelty" but the music goes so much deeper. That's the beauty of the amazing Jimmy Castor, and today's Music Monday is a short tribute to his absolute genius. Join us after the jump and to learn more, or, if you already knew of him, help us lament his loss.
I'm not going to get into the issue of Jimmy Castor's age except to note it: the Associated Press and Wikipedia says he was born in 1940, AllMusic and the man himself says it was 1947. I'm not sure which is real, but the controversy only serves to illustrate how Castor's first single was strong enough to be the work of an adult. Of course his first gig was as the understudy for singer Frankie Lymon, and Jimmy Castor was an established musician at the age when most people go looking for their first summer job. So what came after that little taste of fame? Surprisingly... college! With a music minor and an accounting major. This kid wasn't fooling around.
Just listen to that song. There's a reason the early rappers all flocked to Jimmy Castor Bunch records, and now you don't need me to explain it to you. The second the music starts, it's like a call to dance or to move or at the very least, come over and sit down and enjoy what's about to happen. Castor learned from Beethoven, Mozart, Rimsky-Korsakov, his own neighborhood experiences with Latin Soul and Doo-Wop. Each of Castor's albums zips between styles in a way that still sounds modern even though most of them have thirty years in the bin. And speaking of modern, Castor might have created one of the earliest mashup tracks in tribute to his buddy Jimi Hendrix, who tragically passed away before officially finalizing his cover of Castor's Hey Leroy. Check out Castor's original below:
The lyrics to Hey Leroy take a "yo mama" gag to an extreme (apparently even the real Leroy respected this never-ending diss at his family) and fused serious chops with crazy fun. Castor was a musician who'd go from joking about monsters to absolutely owning a tender instrumental. There's even a rumor that former President George W. Bush's favorite song was Bertha Butt Boogie. Imagine this one blasting out of the Oval Office on a Friday night:
Maybe it was his accounting degree that caused all the hate, because the suits at the labels never seemed to know what to do with him. Castor did fine on the royalties and got money from his samples, but he never made it to superstar levels of fame. A lot of people familiar with hip hop hits have no idea about the songs that birthed the loops. Even in death he missed out, with any potential tributes being almost immediately overshadowed by the death of the great Etta James. So if this is your first time learning the name Jimmy Castor, head right out and buy a copy of Phase Two and start your journey. And if you already knew the man's music, maybe just hang out in here for a while, and enjoy listening to a talent who deserves to be remembered. Rest in peace, Jimmy Castor. Thanks for everything, man.
As always, once you're done here, feel free to join us in the Woot.com turntable.fm room to help create a Music Monday mix.