Ten "Simple Men," in Honor of Action Bronson

Have you heard this new Action Bronson song? It’s great. And yes, simple. Constructed around a Spanish horns sample looped up by producer Tommy Mas, it doesn’t have a hook or a chorus or anything. In making such a song, one called “Simple Man,” I mean, Bronson takes his place in a long, if not always proud tradition in pop music. There are lots of “Simple Man” songs. They are usually quite simple, and they usually start with a sentence right along the lines of, “I am just a simple man.” (Kudos to Bronson for avoiding that.)

I don’t like to hate on Bad Company. I loved them when I was a kid. I’m still just as psyched to indulge in some brooding, lone-wolf melodrama when their eponymous song comes on the radio as the next guy (who would be in the Camaro in the left lane). And the shotgun-bolt guitar riff in “Feel Like Making Love” is awesome enough to make the phrase “cock rock” almost acceptable in mixed company. But, man, their “Simple Man” sucks. You get the sense that everyone around Bad Company were just so in awe of Paul Rodgers’ voice (and no question, it’s a great voice) that they figured it didn’t matter if it was singing half-baked retreads of Traffic’s “Mr. Fantasy” with lyrics stupid enough to border on the offensive.

Charlie Daniels’ “Simple Man” crosses that border before the end of the first verse.

Songs don’t get much simpler than Elton’s “Simple Man.” And I really like that one. (Despite the utter laughability of the conceit.)

I’m embarrassed at how much I’ve been liking Graham Nash songs lately. That guy in the Camaro should rev his engines and flip me the bird next time I idle my minivan up next to him. (I don’t actually have a minivan.)

This one is a little less simple (though it does start with the words, “I’m only a simple man.”) But it seems pretty clear that Arthur Brown’s brain was well enough infused with LSD by the time he wrote this one as to render even the simplest thought into a kaleidoscopic Escher print.

Bobby Womack’s “Simple Man” does not start with the words “I’m a simple man” (though it does include them) but he says that when it comes to his music, it’s got be simple and funky. This song certainly qualifies. (And Tippy Armstrong’s guitar runs on there are simply sizzling.)

Wow. I don’t even know what to say. Let’s just skip that one. (Although I guess we should be thankful to learn that Lobo doesn’t have a master plan. Since it would have surely been far more horrible than any other master plan any other person has ever had at any time in history.)

I’m guessing that those photos were taken at a concert in the round. But it makes it seem like Gary Puckett is performing with his back to his audience.

This is the best of the bunch, of course. And I’m just mad that there’s no good footage available on Youtube of the original Skynyrd performing “Simple Man” live. Man, if there was, I would crank it up and blow the doors clean off that Camaro next to me. (I always watch Youtube while I’m driving. That’s the good thing about minivans, they come with all those built-in TV screens.) Eat my dust, Rodgers!