The moment my I laid ears to “How Do You Do” by Mayer Hawthorne, I knew it would take a place among the cherished “summer albums” of my life.
Full of pop radio-worthy singles, these albums are the soundtrack of the various summers and eras of my life.
I was raised in a household in which the radio was always on. My mother played jazz and pop on a counter-top radio in the kitchen. Then my parents sprung for a stereo from J.L. Hudson, a huge console probably 6 feet long with horizontal sliding doors on the top. On the right side was the turntable; on the left was a storage space for albums and the radio tuner.
I spent hours lying on the floor in front of that thing, listening to Detroit radio and my parent’s records. I didn’t realize it then, but I was receiving an amazing music education, and I witnessed the magic of Motown from its beginning.
I received a transistor radio for Christmas when I was about 11, and it was my most cherished possession. I listened to it while I washed the dinner dishes, did my homework, or dreamed about my life.
One of my favorite songs back then was the “Bernadette,” the passionate (and kind of obsessive, when listened to with my adult ears) masterpiece by the amazing Holland-Dozier-Holland Motown songwriting team and performed by the Four Tops.
Some of these summer albums instantaneously transport me back in time and place: “Rumours” by Fleetwood Mac; “Silk Degrees,” by Boz Scaggs; “Daryl Hall & John Oates,” by Hall and Oates; “Pirates” by Rickie Lee Jones; “Hideaway” by David Sanborn
There is little music I don’t like. I can find pleasure in just about any musical offering. But these “summer” albums served a higher purpose than just musical entertainment: They played in the background at parties, in my car when it seems like I spent most of my past crazy life driving from here to there, and they lulled me to sleep at night.
The music provided a communal experience with my friends: We danced to the music at the bar, and we played it on the juke box when we hit the diner after closing time, we gossiped to it in our bedrooms and basements.
We surrounded ourselves with the music, becoming one with it.
It’s been a long, long time since I’ve had a “summer” album, partly because I am older and my life doesn’t revolve around partying anymore, and partly because nothing has rung summer-true with me in a while.
That’s until I heard “How Do You Do.” It is one of those magical summer albums. It’s wonderful pop, all sunny and fun, full of clever turns of phrase and great melodies.
It is what I will listen to all this summer, and you should, too!
Mayer Hawthorne, interviewed earlier this week for The Livingston Post by Daryl Bean, produced a lot more than a simple throwback, Motown-esque album. The Ann Arbor native has taken the joy and power of the music of my childhood and launched it forward; it’s familiar, for sure, but it’s also fresh and new.
I can’t recommend it highly enough.
In this era of auto-tuned, studio enhanced vocals, of performers who treat singing like an Olympic sport, it’s wonderful to hear someone with an amazing voice deliver a nuanced song without aiming to break the sound barrier.
Mayer Hawthorne sure can sing! Here he is on “Late Show with David Letterman” performing “The Walk,” which is currently getting radio play: