"A Hazy Shade of Winter" by Paul Simon

Piano AR guidance for “A Hazy Shade of Winter”

NPR’s Jenna Strucko speaks of the album “Bookends” as “reuniting with an old friend I didn't know that I had.” Some categorize maestro Paul Simon’s song as the “missing link between Motown and punk rock,” with lyrics “acutely conscious of time passing.” Still others (curiously) consider the track a suitable replacement for a great Hanukkah theme. It’s clear “A Hazy Shade of Winter” is a timeless classic with deep and varied importance to many.

Written by Simon, and sung together with his friend and longtime collaborator Art Garfunkel, the song was released as a single in 1966 and included on the 1968 “Bookends” album, their fourth studio collection together. It rose to number 13 on the Billboard charts. Years later, in 1987, the song would be repurposed as a cover by the band, The Bangles, as part of the soundtrack for Marek Kanievska's film, “Less Than Zero.” The cover version reached number 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 list.

The original Simon and Garfunkel track featured drummer Hal Blaine, a seemingly omnipresent drum kit player of the sixties largely known for his collaborations with Phil Spector in the producer’s session band, The Wrecking Crew. In addition to Simon and Garfunkel, Blaine performed on recordings with Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, Aretha Franklin and The Supremes, The Beach Boys, Barbra Streisand, Leonard Cohen, The Ronettes, Roy Orbison, Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sonny and Cher, and Steely Dan, and would help establish a drumming style that informed and influenced drummers for decades to come.

“When I was growing up, I played along to the radio, so I played along to Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, the Association and the Byrds, and I was really playing along to Hal Blaine,” recalled Rush drummer Neil Peart in 2011.

"While My Guitar Gently Weeps" by George Harrison

The seventh track on the eponymous “White Album” and the b-side release of "Ob-La-Di, Ob-La-Da," George Harrison’s “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” marked his emergence as an elite songwriter and has been hailed by fans and critics alike as among the best Beatles songs of all time. In addition to the celebrated hard rock version, an acoustic outtake was released on the 1996 Anthology with Paul McCartney playing harmonium, and later on the Love compilation with George Martin’s final string arrangement for the group.

"Lean On Me" by Bill Withers

Drummer, front-man, music journalist, historian, and educator Questlove refers to his hero Bill Withers as, “the last African-American Everyman.” Of himself, Withers claims he’s, “not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with.” Grammy Award-winning and Hall of Fame songwriter Bill Withers composed timeless songs from the soul that will live in R&B, rock and pop music for lifetimes to come, though he spent just over eight years in the music industry.

"The Twist" by Hank Ballard

Singer-songwriter Boz Scaggs gave the introduction during Hank Ballard’s induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1990. Scaggs quoted Ballard’s perspective on life as “all about having a good time, and feeling good, and looking fine, and having some laughs, and getting others to do the same.” Scaggs spoke of Ballard as being a “very vital, very positive, very dynamic man.”