Top 11 Classic Songs Featured in ‘The Many Saints of Newark: A Sopranos Story’

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Rock Cellar Magazine

“I listen to a lot of music all the time… A lot of these things are dredged up from memory. I’ll go, ‘Oh, that was a really good song.’ Or I’ve kept this catalog in my head of so-and-so I’ve always wanted to use. And then a movie situation will come up in which they fit very well.”

– David Chase, writer and producer of The Sopranos

The Many Saints of Newark, directed by Alan Taylor and written by David Chase and Lawrence Konner, is the prequel to the hit TV series The Sopranos. Set in Newark, New Jersey in the 1960s and ’70s, Michael Gandolfini plays the young Tony Soprano, the part played by his father, the late James Gandolfini, in The Sopranos

The Many Saints of Newark is streaming now on HBO Max, and beginning on Nov. 19 it will be available on a number of other platforms (click here for more details).

Like the series, the film makes generous use of period music of the era, as documented in depth by Screenrant. Here are some of the most notable songs featured in the film. 

  1. “Sway” by the Rolling Stones

One of the reasons guitarist Mick Taylor left the Rolling Stones in 1974 after five years was because he felt he did not receive credit for his contributions to songs. Two of his best efforts were “Moonlight Mile” and “Sway,” from the 1971 LP Sticky Fingers. “Let’s put it this way — without my contribution those songs would not have existed,” Taylor told The Guardian. “There’s not many but enough, things like ‘Sway’ and ‘Moonlight Mile’ on Sticky Fingers and a couple of others … Mick had promised to give me some credit for some of the songs — and he didn’t.”

“Sway” was recorded during one of Keith Richards’ absences; Richards contributed vocals but no guitar solos. Taylor plays a bottleneck slide guitar during the bridge and an outro solo that is considered some of his best work. “I added my solo to ‘Sway,’ but it’s very much Mick’s song,” Taylor notes in Songfacts. “I don’t think Keith’s on it. It had a great, loose feel. Mick played rhythm guitar on that. He’s a great rhythm player. My theory is he has a natural feel and that’s also why he’s such a great dancer.”

  1. “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised” by Gil Scott-Heron

Gil Scott-Heron has been called “the Godfather of Rap” because of his 1970 spoken-word release “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised.” The track lists politicians, celebrities and TV shows as examples of what “the revolution will not” be. The song’s title became a slogan of the Black Power movement.

Scott-Heron explained in a 1990s interview in Open Culture  that the revolution is not something you will see on TV or anywhere else. “The first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move. The thing that’s going to change people is something that nobody will ever be able to capture on film. 

“It’s just something that you see and you’ll think, ‘Oh, I’m on the wrong page,’ or ‘I’m on the right page but the wrong note. And I’ve got to get in sync with everyone else to find out what’s happening in this country.'”

  1. “When Will I Be Loved” by the Everly Brothers

Phil and Don Everly began their string of hits in 1957 with “Bye Bye Love.” By 1960 the brothers decided to abandon the rockabilly style they’d adopted at Cadence Records. The Everlys moved to Warner Bros. Records and developed a more pop/rock sound in 1960, recording their biggest hit, “Cathy’s Clown.”

Cadence that year released “When Will I Be Loved,” a song the Everlys recorded before leaving the label. The song rose to No. 8, their last hit for Cadence. According to Rolling Stone, Phil wrote the song while parked outside an A&W root beer stand. Linda Ronstadt reached No. 2 with her 1975 cover.

“When Will I Be Loved” by the Everly Brothers

“When Will I Be Loved” by Linda Ronstadt

  1. “Anyone Who Had a Heart” by Dionne Warwick

Dionne Warwick was one of the best interpreters of the music of composer Burt Bacharach and lyricist Hal David. “I had great songs to work with,” Warwick recalled in Stuff. “Those songs that Burt and Hal wrote together had memorable melodies and wonderful words, and listeners in those days had a real affinity for that. They could relate to the range of strong emotions they heard in those records.”

Released in 1963, “Anyone Who Had a Heart” was Warwick’s first Top 10 hit. Warwick first heard the song before it was finished in Bacharach’s New York apartment while rehearsing with the duo. David completed the lyric in the bedroom while Warwick and Bacharach rehearsed in the living room.

“With my most famous songs, I found it very easy to relate to those sorts of melodies, and the lyrics were saying things that were meaningful to me, so I found I could sing them. When a song means something to you, you can put that emotion into it.”

“Anyone Who Had a Heart” by Dionne Warwick

  1. “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” by the Casinos

Written by country music writer John D. Loudermilk, “Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye” was a No. 6 hit in 1967, the twilight era of vocal groups like the Casinos. It would be the Cincinnati-based group’s only hit.

“I had heard this song ‘Then You Can Tell Me Goodbye,’ performed by Johnny Nash on WLAC,” recalled lead singer Gene Hughes in One Hit Wonders. “His version was never a hit, so we started doing it at the clubs for years. So, while we were in the studio in the King Studios in Cincinnati, cutting this instrumental ‘Soul Serenade’ for a disk jockey, we used the time to cut ‘Then You Can Tell Me.’

“Everybody says, ‘What a great idea, what a great arrangement.’ It was luck. Luck and perfection. We were comfortable with it. There was nothing to it. Luck. Work hard and sometimes luck happens.”

The Casinos’ luck ran out with their follow-up, “It’s All Over Now,” written by Don Everly. Harry Carlson of Fraternity Records insisted on releasing the tune, despite Hughes’ objections. “Harry and I — well, it was the only argument we every had. He followed the hit with ‘It’s All Over Now’ — and as I told him, that song didn’t have our sound. It was just to be an album cut, then on the way back from a gig I heard it on the radio announced as our next single — and I knew it was all over.”

  1. “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” by the Delfonics

The Delfonics were one of the best of the Philly soul vocal groups of the 1960s and ’70s. “Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” was written by producer Thom Bell and Delfonics lead singer William Hart. “Didn’t I” was a Top 10 hit on the Billboard chart in 1970.

Asked about the song’s inspiration in Wax Poetics, Hart said, “In a lot of cases, there’s not very much of a story; it’s more or less imagination. What I mean is, I would imagine a situation where a guy left this chick 20 different times and keeps coming back, or she left him. It doesn’t all the time come from experience. It comes from imagination. I imagine a situation, then I write about it, like: ‘Ten times or more / Yes, I’ve walked out that door / Get this thing through your head / There’ll be no more / Didn’t I blow your mind?’ There’s a lot of poetry, actually, involved in writing. In fact, most songs are poems with music.”

“Didn’t I” has been covered by Aretha Franklin, Patti LaBelle and brothers David and Jimmy Ruffin. Hart maintains that the best version was by a lesser-known singer. “That boy Jackie Jackson did ‘Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind)’ — Jackie Jackson of the Jackson 5. He sang the hell out of ‘Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind).’ When I first heard that, it blew me away. It still blows me away when I put it on. He did a good job on that.”

“Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” by the Delfonics

“Didn’t I (Blow Your Mind This Time)” by Jackie Jackson

  1. “I Am … I Said” by Neil Diamond

“I Am … I Said” is an intensely personal song written by Neil Diamond when he was homesick for Brooklyn after moving to Los Angeles. “It was consciously an attempt on my part to express what my dreams were about, what my aspirations were about and what I was about,” Diamond told Mojo in 2008. “And without any question, it came from my sessions with the analyst.”

David Wild, author of He Is… I Say: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Neil Diamond, told Songfacts, “Neil began the song after doing a screen test to play rebel comedian Lenny Bruce in a film. Feeling that he had failed, Neil was thrown into something of an existential funk and started the song. It would take months for him to finish the song, but in the end it would become a classic. One postscript: around 2000, Neil allowed me to see the ‘failed’ screen test that set him off, and I was surprised to see that after all that he was really wonderful in the part. Still, things worked out pretty well for Neil.”

“I Am… I Said” reached No. 4 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1971.

  1. “Astral Weeks” by Van Morrison

“Astral Weeks” is the title song of Van Morrison‘s 1968 album. In the book Celtic Crossroads: The Art of Van Morrison, Morrison described the song as being “like transforming energy, or going from one source to another with it being born again like a rebirth. I remember reading about you having to die to be born. It’s one of those songs where you can see the light at the end of the tunnel, and that’s basically what the song says.”

The songs are rooted in Morrison’s life in Northern Ireland, but Morrison told the Los Angeles Times why it was recorded in New York City. “I had been with Bert Berns’ Bang Records label, and I didn’t get paid, so I was living on a shoestring — a very hand-to-mouth existence at that time — in Boston and for a long time after that, too. I went down to New York and this is when I got the offer from Warner Brothers. They had told me they had to buy out the Bang deal. 

“The real reason I made Astral Weeks recordings in New York is because I was literally broke and they kept me stranded there.”

  1. “Living in the USA” by the Steve Miller Band 

“Living in the U.S.A.” was released by the Steve Miller Band in 1968, an era when the Vietnam War and the Civil Rights movement inspired demonstrations across the country. “I had come out of a radical environment at the University of Wisconsin in the early ‘60s,” Miller told People. “I had been a Freedom Rider in the Civil Rights campaign and then I got involved in the Vietnam War demonstrations and debates. That was all going on, and then I ended up out in California where the psychedelic revolution was taking place. So when you combine those things, it was very powerful.

“‘Living in the U.S.A.’ was put together with the idea of playing at the Democratic National Convention in 1968 in Chicago. That was the one where the cops beat everybody up — Mayor Daley brought out the Chicago police. So it was a political tune. It came out, and it was kind of a hit. Then it went away, and then about five or six years later it sold 100,000 copies in a week in Philadelphia for no reason whatsoever.”

  1. “Fingertips – Pt. 2” by Stevie Wonder

“Fingertips” was originally a jazz instrumental recorded on Stevie Wonder‘s debut LP, The Jazz Soul of Little Stevie. Its better-known version was recorded live by Wonder in 1963 during a Motown Revue performance at Chicago’s Regal Theater. Marvin Gaye, before his rise to superstardom, played drums for the revue. At the end of his planned performance, Wonder, then 12, unexpectedly returned to the stage to sing his “goodbye” encore. 

The impromptu performance was so long that the single was released as Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 in May 1963. The track was edited so that Pt. 2 begins as Wonder tells the crowd, “Everybody say yeah!” Disc jockeys flipped the single over and made “Fingertips – Pt. 2” Wonder’s first song top reach No. 1 on Billboard‘s Pop Singles chart.

  1. “Woke Up This Morning” by Alabama 3

The Many Saints of Newark ends as the young Tony Soprano reaches maturity and decides to pursue a life in organized crime. “Woke Up This Morning,” the theme of The Sopranos, is heard as the credits roll — a revisiting of one of the most iconic television show theme songs of the past few decades, if not longer. 

“Woke Up This Morning” was recorded in 1997 by British band Alabama 3. Lead singer Rob Spragg, also known as Larry Love, wrote the song after reading about the 1996 Sara Thornton murder case. Thornton killed her husband after years of abuse. The song was chosen by director David Chase and the band was paid $40,000 for its use on The Sopranos.

“We didn’t make too much money from it,” Love told GoldenPlec. “We didn’t get the best deal at the time, because our manager was not a rock and roll manager, he was a sort of gangster we knew from Brixton. It has opened a lot of doors, but we never really exploited it. I mean, we’ve been approached many times to cash in. 

“At one point Kellogg’s approached us and wanted us to record a version of ‘Woke up this Morning’ with the words changed to ‘woke up this morning / got myself some bran.’ But we’ve never gone for anything like that.”

Stream the Spotify playlist of The Many Saints of Newark soundtrack below.

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