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Wednesday, July 09, 2008

So what do "Wild Thing," "Angel of the Morning," and "Try (Just a Little Bit Harder)" All Have in Common?

All three songs, as different as they are, were written by one Chip Taylor, born James Wesley Voight, in Yonkers, New York.

If Chip's birth name or the photo to your left brings a question to mind, the answer is "yes," he also happens to be Jon Voight's brother, adding "uncle to Angelina Jolie" to his list of credits.

The New Yorker had a piece on Taylor the week of the 7th, noting the recent release of Taylor's latest CD, New Songs Of Freedom. As the article relates, Smith has had one helluva life in 64-odd years. He first tried his luck as a pro golfer, but moved into music - and the famous Brill Building - after a wrist injury. Golf, incidentally, is where Taylor picked up the "Chip" nickname, as in "chipping a shot."

Chet Atkins heard one of Taylor's country songs, and not quite believing anyone who could write country like that was really from New York, asked to hear more... and liked what he heard, launching Taylor into a successful career as a country music writer, penning hits for Willie Nelson and Waylon Jennings among others.

But Taylor liked R&B just as much as country, and by the mid-60s had also written The Troggs/Jimi Hendrix classic Wild Thing, possibly one of the most suggestive songs ever composed. In contrast, Taylor also wrote the near-hymn-like (at least when compared to Wild Thing) Angel of the Morning, a #7 hit for Merrilee Rush and The Turnabouts in 1968, and an even bigger hit in 1981 for Juice Newton, hitting #1 on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart (for four weeks) and #4 on the Hot 100, as well as #22 on the Country chart.

Apparently not satisfied with being an awesome cross-over song writer, Chip Taylor also has had an extraordinarily successful career as a pro gambler - I'm not making this up - specializing in handicapping the ponies and playing blackjack well enough to get him banned from most Atlantic City casinos. Taylor's gaming career was so successful that he quit the music business in 1981, only taking it up again 12 years ago.

And he still plays the ponies.

Here's a link to Chip Taylor's personal label label, Train Wreck Records. As Chip notes on the site:

When Chip got back into the performing business in the mid-1990s he reflected back on his prior experience with the music business. He had not been pleased with how the big labels had handled his unique music that didn't exactly fit within one of the established genres. Given the new climate in the industry that allows small labels a better chance to compete, Chip decided to start his own company.

Train Wreck also has (or had, it looks like there's been no new episodes since 2006) a podcast, Church of the Train Wreck, which you can subscribe to through an iTunes search or from here.

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