When I was in college, one of the more prevalent songs on the radio was "Alex Chilton" by The Replacements. It was the first time I ever heard the name and I had no idea who Alex Chilton was. Later I learned that Alex was the lead singer of an incredibly influential band, Big Star, in the 1970's that influenced a lot of the power pop bands of the 80's like The Replacements, REM and The Posies. Big Star was the type of band that didn't have any big hits but gained critical appeal and had some very dedicated fans. I have listened to Big Star a number of times and I can't say that I find the appeal. Chilton was scheduled to play today in a reunion concert at this year's South By Southwest Festival in Austin. Unfortunately, he died of a heart attack three days ago in a New Orleans hospital.
Today I learned that Alex was also the lead singer of The Box Tops and at age sixteen sang the 1967 number one hit "The Letter." You might also know it by the awesome cover that Joe Cocker did of it in 1970.
Gimme a ticket for an aeroplane,
Ain't got time to take a fast train.
Lonely days are gone, I'm a-goin' home,
'Cause my baby just a-wrote me a letter.
Ya, that song. This is an awesome song and it doesn't sound like a sixteen year old kid singing it. The Box Tops (named The Devilles before Alex joined the band), a Memphis band, apparently heard about his popular vocal performance at a high school talent show and asked him to join the band. They had three top 40 hits, but "The Letter" is the most famous.