Charlie Rich, “Life’s Little Ups and Downs” (12/13/69)

Bob Dylan has said more than once that Charlie Rich is one of his favorite musicians—as a songwriter and as a singer. Nik Cohn, in Rock From the Be­ginning, names Rich as one of the hand­ful of men in the history of rock who’ve had real talent, along with Phil Spector, John Lennon, Pete Townshend, Eddie Cochran, and a few others. Perhaps you’d remember “Mohair Sam” from the Fifties; perhaps not. His albums, those that are still in print, are not carried by “hip” record stores; ask for them and you’ll find yourself handed a stack of big band LPs by Buddy Rich.

Rich records for Epic now, and his new single is about as good as anything he’s ever done. Charlie is, perhaps, a soul singer with country roots, very close in his approach to music and songwrit­ing to Joe Tex. He has the same deli­cate feel for the relationships between men and women. “Lay Lady Lay” and “Tonight I’ll Be Staying Here With You” are songs in the style of Charlie Rich, and “Life’s Little Ups and Downs” would fit well on Nashville Skyline. There’s a careful intrusion of piano and guitar in places, but Rich’s vocal is virtually the whole song–husky, deep, tender and masterful. It’s a simple tune about the money problems of an ordinary white couple: “Don’t know how to tell her that I didn’t get that raise in pay… today.” And Rich is a careful songwriter. Notice how he follows an image through his chorus–the same word for two different contexts, thus linking two separate scenes into one: “No one grabs the brass ring every time… But she don’t mind/She wears a gold ring on her finger… and it’s mine.”

Rich’s new single could make it on all the charts at once: R&B, Pop, Easy Listening, and Country. The song and Rich himself have that much range. If you can’t find it in your record stores, call a distributor. It’s worth whatever trouble it takes.

Rolling Stone, December 13, 1969


One thought on “Charlie Rich, “Life’s Little Ups and Downs” (12/13/69)

  1. Almost certainly my favorite Charlie Rich record – a truly great piece of songwriting, masterfully arranged, performed and produced.

    However, Charlie didn’t write it – his wife Margaret Ann Rich did. (Which if anything just makes it cooler.)

    As long as I’m correcting, no-one could have remembered “Mohair Sam” from the fifties – it was released just four years before this record! (His earliest hit, “Lonely Weekends”, came in 1960.)

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