Sunday, July 23, 2017

Rita Coolidge – "Superstar" (1970)

Long ago, and, oh, so far away
I fell in love with you before the second show

Any groupie would have been thrilled if she had hooked up with as many famous musicians as Rita Coolidge did back in the sixties and seventies.

Of course, Coolidge wasn’t a groupie.  She was as accomplished a performer as the many musicians with whom she was romantically involved, and it appears she was the chasee more often than she was the chaser.   

Leon Russell was smitten enough by Coolidge to write “Delta Lady” about her.

Onetime boyfriend Jim Gordon – he was the drummer on the Derek and the Dominos album (among others) – once hit her hard enough to knock her out.  To add insult to injury, he stole the tune for the “Layla” piano coda from her.  (Gordon stabbed his mother to death in 1983, and is still confined in a California psychiatric prison.)

Rita Coolidge
Some believe Rita's decision to dump Stephen Stills and hook up with Graham Nash was the main reason Crosby Stills Nash & Young broke up in 1970.

Later that year, Coolidge met Kris Kristofferson while waiting to board a flight out of LAX.  She was flying to Memphis, while Kristofferson was going on to Nashville – but he decided to debark when she did rather than say goodbye.  They eventually got married.

One of the best things about the 1973 Sam Peckinpah movie, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid, was a bedroom scene featuring the newlyweds.

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Rita Coolidge got her start as a recording artist when she was discovered singing in Memphis by Delaney and Bonnie Bramlett.  She moved to Los Angeles, and sang backing vocals on several of their albums.  

She also sang on records by Leon Russell, Joe Cocker, Bob Dylan, Jimi Hendrix, Eric Clapton, Dave Mason, and many others before going on to have a successful solo career.

Coolidge has claimed that she came up with the idea for “Superstar (Groupie)” after seeing the adulation that Eric Clapton’s fans had for him when he toured as part of Delaney & Bonnie and Friends.

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Joe Cocker and Leon Russell
When Leon Russell was tasked with putting together a band to accompany Joe Cocker on his famous “Mad Dogs and Englishmen” tour in 1970, he called on a number of his pals from Delaney & Bonnie and Friends, including Carl Radle (bass), Bobby Keys (sax), Jim Gordon and Jim Keltner (drums), and Rita Coolidge.

The set list for that tour included “Superstar,” which Coolidge sang.  Her performance of the song on the live Mad Dogs and Englishmen album is fine, but I don’t think it’s any better than Bonnie Bramlett’s original studio version.

The most notable aspect of the Mad Dogs version of “Superstar” is Leon Russell’s piano accompaniment.  But while Leon tickles the ivories as only Leon could do, his playing is way too show-offy for such a quiet and intimate song.  (He plays as if he thinks he’s the soloist, not the accompanist.)

Here’s Rita Coolidge’s cover of “Superstar” from the Mad Dogs and Englishmen album:

Click below to buy the song from Amazon:

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