Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Cry Cry Cry: Cry on my Shoulder

Bonnie Raitt: Cry on My Shoulder


Some musical pairings seem obvious in retrospect, but make no apparent sense at the time. In 1988, executive producer Hal Willner was working on Stay Awake, his album of unusual takes on songs from Disney movies. Here were Sun Ra doing Pink Elephants on Parade, Tom Waits voicing the seven dwarves, and Sinead O’Connor on the title track. And Willner had the crazy idea of pairing Bonnie Raitt, known at the time mainly as a blues artist, with Don Was, from one of the strangest groups of the 80s, Was (Not Was). And remember that, to be one of the strangest groups of the 80s, you had to be really strange.

The song was Baby Mine, (heard here during the week of the same name), and the pairing worked amazingly well. So well, in fact, that Raitt tagged Was as her producer for her next album. This was Nick of Time, and the album proved to be Raitt’s commercial breakthrough, after almost twenty years in the music business.

Of course, Cry on My Shoulder comes from Nick of Time. The song was written by Michael Ruff. Ruff is one of those people who is regarded as a “songwriter’s songwriter”. You’ve probably heard his songs without knowing they were his. Besides Raitt, artists who have recorded his songs include Natalie Cole, India Arie, Kenny Loggins, Huey Lewis and the News, and The Doobie Brothers. Ruff doesn’t really tour, never venturing much beyond his native Hawaii. And he is primarily a Christian artist, doubly insuring his distance from the mainstream.

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