‘Chain Gang’ works its way onto the Playlist

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The sound of Sam Cooke working on Chain Gang will reverberate on The Ultimate Mississippi Playlist.

Chain Gang, one of soul stylist supreme Cooke’s biggest hits, garnered 51 percent of the votes in Round 12 of the Playlist competition. Jesse Winchester’s Mississippi You’re on My Mind tallied 24 percent of the votes; The Cedric Burnside Project’s Down in the Delta, 20 percent, and Shelly Fairchild’s Mississippi Turnpike, 5 percent.

Clarksdale native Cooke’s song from 1960 was inspired after a chance meeting with an actual chain gang of prisoners on a highway while Cooke was on tour.

The Playlist salutes the significance of Mississippi music during our state’s bicentennial celebration. Songs selected in previous rounds of voting include Hoochie Coochie Man by Muddy Waters and Willie Dixon, Mississippi River by Paul Davis, Misty Blue by Dorothy Moore, Heartbreak Hotel by Elvis Presley, Hello Darlin’ by Conway Twitty, Stand by Your Man by Tammy Wynette, Great Balls of Fire by Jerry Lee Lewis, Come Monday by Jimmy Buffett, Ode to Billie Joe by Bobbie Gentry, The Thrill is Gone by B.B. King and Cross Road Blues by Robert Johnson.

Next up, four new nominees: Bye Bye Bye by NSYNC; Hush, Hush by Jimmy Reed; Regulate by Nate Dogg and Warren G, and Stop! In the Name of Love by The Supremes.

You can listen to the new entries and vote for your favorite on mississippitoday.org. You also can vote on our Twitter account. Every two weeks through the fall, a fresh ballot of four new nominees will be published.

To be nominated, songs must be about Mississippi or performed by Mississippi artists. All of the contenders were selected by Mississippi music experts, Mississippi Today and The ‘Sip magazine.

Contenders in Round 13

• Mississippi native Lance Bass was a member of NSYNC, one of the best-selling boy bands in history. Formed in 1995, NSYNC performed together for only seven years but sold more than 70 million albums. Bye Bye Bye was released on Jan. 11, 2000, as the first single from the group’s second studio album, No Strings Attached. The song peaked at No. 4 on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 and within the Top 10 in almost every country where it charted. The song was nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal at the 2001 Grammy Awards. No Strings Attached sold more than 1 million copies in one day and 2.42 million copies in one week, which was a record for more than 15 years. Bass, who was born in Laurel and later lived in Clinton, performed in the group with Justin Timberlake, who achieved even greater recognition as a solo artist, JC Chasez, Chris Kirkpatrick and Joey Fatone. Timberlake and actor Christopher Walken humorously make veiled reference to Bye Bye Bye in a commercial for Bai drinks.

Hush, Hush, performed by blues musician and songwriter Jimmy Reed, was recorded in 1960 for his album Found Love. Reed, a preeminent player of electric blues, had a significant influence on rock ‘n’ roll artists such as Elvis Presley, Eric Clapton, Billy Gibbons, Hank Williams Jr., Stevie Ray Vaughan, Jerry Garcia and the Rolling Stones. Reed was born in Dunleith, a small community in the Mississippi Delta, in 1925. He learned the harmonica and guitar from his friend Eddie Taylor and moved to Chicago in 1943. By the 1950s, Reed established himself as a popular musician and had a long string of hits. In 1960, Hush, Hush reached No. 18 on Billboard’s R&B charts and No. 75 on Billboard’s Top 100. Reed died of respiratory failure in 1976 in Oakland, Calif., eight days short of his 51st birthday. He was posthumously inducted into the Blues Hall of Fame in 1980 and the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1991.

Regulate, performed by Nate Dogg and Warren G, was released in the summer of 1994 as the breakout single for both artists. The song appeared on the soundtrack to the film Above the Rim and later on Warren G.’s album Regulate…G Funk Era. The song reached No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and No. 8 on the R&B/Hip-Hop chart. Regulate was No. 98 on VH1’s 100 Greatest Songs of Hip Hop and No. 108 on Pitchfork Media’s Top 200 Tracks of the ’90s. Nate Dogg, born in Clarksdale in 1969 as Nathaniel Dwayne Hale, was one of the pioneers of West Coast hip hop. He was a member of rap trio 213, and in his solo career he collaborated with Dr. Dre, Eminem, Warren G, Tupac Shakur, Westside Connection, Snoop Dogg, 50 Cent, Ludacris, Xzibit and Shade Sheist on many hits. He released three solo albums, G-Funk Classics, Vol. 1 & 2 in 1998, Music & Me in 2001 and Nate Dogg as a bootlegged album in 2003 and on CD in 2014. Nate Dogg died in 2011 in Long Beach, Calif., of complications from multiple strokes.

• Other singers came and went but Greenville native Mary Wilson was a member of The Supremes from start to finish.  The Supremes, the most commercially successful of Motown’s legendary acts, placed 12 singles in the No. 1 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100. Stop! In the Name of Love was released in 1965  on the group’s sixth album, More Hits by The Supremes. The song ranked No. 1 on the Billboard pop singles chart in the United States from March 27, 1965, through April 3, 1965, and reached the No. 2 position on the soul chart. Billboard named the song No. 38 on its list of 100 Greatest Girl Group Songs of All Time. The Supremes, with Diana Ross, Florence Ballard, Betty McGlown and Wilson, started out as the Primettes, a sister act to the all-male Primes. Barbara Martin replaced McGlown in 1960, and the group signed with Motown the following year as The Supremes. Martin left the act in early 1962, and Ross, Ballard and Wilson carried on as a trio.  In 1967,  Ballard was removed from The Supremes by Motown president Barry Gordy and replaced with Cindy Birdsong. Ross left the group for a solo career in early 1970, and at her farewell performance Jean Terrell was introduced as her replacement.  The group, with Wilson as the constant member, subsequently recorded seven top-40 hit singles in a three-year period and officially disbanded in 1977.