Favourite Roberts

It’s Robert Cray’s birthday today.

Born in 1953 in Columbus, Georgia, Cray is widely acknowledged as being responsible for the blues revival of the 1980s, with the platinum-selling and Grammy Award-winning Strong Persuader (1986) proving to be his breakthrough album in terms of its mainstream success. He followed it two years later with Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark and two years on from that with Midnight Stroll, both of which featured the Memphis Horns.

With his soulful voice and prominence in glossy promotional videos, which went down well on the blossoming MTV, accusations of ‘selling out’ were never far away, with blues traditionalists irritated by his slick crossover into the realms of mainstream and increasingly corporate pop music. Yet the fact remains that most of his albums – and he continues to be prolific, with a release almost every other year since his 1980 debut – have either been nominated for, or won, a Grammy Award. Fender observed his loyalty to their brand by introducing a custom Stratocaster in 2003.

I’d like to know which of Robert Cray’s songs or albums you most enjoy. ‘I Wonder’, ‘Move a Mountain’ and ‘The Score’ are among my favourite tracks, as well as the more recent, poignant ‘Twenty’, from the 2005 album of the same name.

Here he is with one of his most famous songs, ‘Right Next Door (Because Of Me)’.

I also thought it would be nice to honour at the same time all the Roberts, Robertses and Robertsons out there, not forgetting the Robs, Bobs and Rabs, Robertos, Robertas, even the Robins and the Ruperts.

Here are ten that I particularly appreciate – or appreciated – but don’t go googling ‘Best Bobs’ to help refresh your memory because you’ll only end up with this:

Bobby: 2006 film about the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy
– Roberto Carlos: Brazilian footballer, scorer of this memorable and quite exquisite free kick
– Robertson Davies: Canadian novelist and essayist
– ‘Doctor Robert’ by The Beatles, from their 1966 Revolver album
– Bob Dylan: genius singer-songwriter
– Robert Ludlum: author who, within the space of a decade, created The Bourne Trilogy
– Paul Robeson: actor, activist, singer
– Robin, Batman’s dependable sidekick
– ‘Mrs Robinson’ by Simon & Garfunkel, a 1968 hit single
– The Rupert River in Quebec, Canada (once wild, now dammed to provide hydroelectric power)

I leave you with a quick quiz to test your knowledge of famous Roberts.

63 comments

  1. Bella

    Somehow (why?) I imagine if Barack Obama had gone into show-biz he would have vaguely looked and sounded like Robert Cray. If Bar had “sold-out” in show-biz the way he did this week-end in politics, it would have had less impact on his fellow-Americans…

    Favourite Robbies, without a doubt:

    – Robbie Robertson (The Band)
    – Robert Charlebois (Canadian singer)
    – Robert Plant (Led Zeppelin)
    – Roberto Benigni (Life is Beautiful)
    – Robert Harris (Author – Imperium)
    – Robert Altman (superlative film director)
    – Robert de Niro (for Taxi Driver, Raging Bull)

    Special mention to rising star Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame who landed the lead in Bel-Ami, a film-adaptation of French XIXth Century author Guy de Maupassant’s novel and one of my most favourite books ever – For the moment the stills are looking great! :)) Huge expectations!

    Bella x

    • FEd

      Robert Harris, of course.

      Have you read his earlier, I believe his first, novel, Fatherland? It’s set in the Sixties. Hitler won the war.

    • Michèle

      It’s set in the Sixties. Hitler won the war.

      How interesting.

      It’s called “une uchronie” here, coming from “utopie” and “chronos”, I think (sort of non-time), a genre of fiction which allows people to imagine how the world would look like if some historical events never happened. I wonder if there is a similar word in English. Please?

      Reminds me a quote by Blaise Pascal : “Le nez de Cléopâtre, s’il eût été plus court, toute la face de la terre aurait changé.” (“Cleopatra’s nose, had it been shorter, the whole face of the world would have been changed.”) 😉

    • FEd

      If there is such a word, and I’m sure there is, I can’t think of it. (Alternate history?)

      Special mention to rising star Robert Pattinson of Twilight fame

      Come to think of it, Bella, I don’t know about R-Patz (God, I hate these tabloid conveniences. Why am I using one of them here?), as his name is already down in my little black book for acting alongside an elephant which is alleged to have been cruelly treated to make many people in the entertainment industry rich (Water for Elephants). Don’t like that. He’ll now have to so something pretty heroic to get out of it, I should think.

    • JulieD

      Robert Harris’s ‘Enigma’ was unputdownable. It had you sitting on the edge of your seat. I love mystery and intrigue books.

  2. Will Roberts

    I am attending the Wall concert in Brisbane in January.

    I have mortgaged a kidney to ensure that the first concert my 14 year old son will experience is Floyd (or a derivation thereof). I am also taking my two older daughters and am now by consensus the world’s coolest dad. I have been told that the lead break from Comfortably Numb (my favorite) will be played by Roger himself. Can anybody confirm this? As much as I obviously appreciate his titanic lyricism, but feel shall we say a tad deflated by said prospect.

    Mr Gilmour, Queensland, Australia is lovely in January.

    Yours in blind hope.

    Will Roberts

  3. Paul Sexton

    Favourite Robert Cray track is – Phone Booth followed closely by Back Door Slam.

    – Robert Randolph and the Family Band… serious pedal steel player.
    – Robert Wyatt – Love him singing with David on Comfortably Numb.
    – Brian Robertson – Thin Lizzy
    – B.A. Robertson.. starting to struggle a bit now….

    • Alessandra

      Robert Randolph and the Family Band are amazing.

      I had the chance to see them play with Ben Harper on 18 July (in Lucca) and I really enjoyed the show.

  4. Elisabetta Corsi-Italy N.E.

    Dear all,

    A first memory on “Robert” of a long time ago (1975) is a disco–dance song “Fly, Robin, Fly “by Silver Convention (do you remember the joke that came out that time? “What did Batman say when he threw Robin out the window?” Fly, Robin, Fly.)

    Honestly I can remember just a couple more, like

    – Robert Palmer with his “Jonny and Mary ” (he was a very charming man)
    – Robert_Schumann , the famous composer
    – Roberto Benigni – Oscar Award for “La vita è bella”. (Believe me, I never saw it due to the sad storyline of that movie)
    – Julia Roberts, Robert Redford, two of my favourite actors
    – Bobby Fischer – the legend of the world’s greatest Chess player

    Bye for now

    Ciao, Elisabetta

  5. Taki

    … I have only a few that come to my mind, FEd,

    Robert Johnson
    Robert Crumb
    Bob Marley
    Rob Hallford (trivia knowledge: was Bob on their first album Rocka Rolla)
    Bob Geldof
    Rory Gallagher (not sure it’s a Robert variation, though)

    One of them is not a musician. 😉

    Regards

    Taki

  6. Bill C

    Long time, no post, F’ed! Been a bit busy lately (but still reading the blog when possible, of course).

    Robert Cray went through the same unfair criticism that plagued George Benson in the ’70’s. In some minds, the Blues (or Jazz) should not be glitzy and polished – or for that matter, popular. But Mr. Cray did help bring Blues back to our collective conciousness, and for that I am grateful.

    One of my favorite Roberts is doubly blessed, name-wise; Robbie Robertson. Great, evocative songwriting brought to life in the earlier days by a superb bunch of musicians, arrogant yet talented enough to call themselves “The Band”. Not too many writers can take my mind to places I’ve never actually seen.

    Bill C.

  7. Sharon Woods

    I came to this site with the sole intention to list “Mrs. Robinson,” but I read Fed’s list and Bob’s your Uncle! 😉

    …or Robert’s your mother’s brother! :))

    Sharon the Bobbysoxer

  8. Michèle

    There’s always something new to learn here, I had never heard of Robert Cray before and didn’t know that the bob was a hairstyle (if I understood well), here a bob is a hat. 😉

    I like ‘Don’t Be Afraid Of The Dark’ by Robert Cray, it could be a motivational song for me when I’m feeling down…

    My list of Roberts & Co that I appreciate:

    – Robert Plant
    – Robert Hossein
    – Robert De Niro
    – Robert Doisneau (photographer)
    Roberta Flack
    – Bob Marley

    Love Robin Williams in ‘Le Cercle des poètes disparus’ (is it ‘Dead Poets Society’?)

    And does Spongebob count? 😉 Actually, I hate Spongebob.

    Will play the quiz later.

  9. Damian Cunningham

    Mmmm, scratching one’s head here.

    Of course the one and only Robert Plant.

    Errrrrr, Roberta Flak.

    Scraping the barrel now. Bob Geldof, hee. Sorry Bob but you did slag The Wall off and admitted you did not like Pink Floyd.

    Bob Dylan.

    And last but not least my good friend Bob who has not been discovered yet who boasts a superb guitar collection, can sing, and is a great Artist. Also he has a 13 year old nephew who can play the guitar like a little rock legend, I kid you not. A little Eddie Van Halen.

    Kind regards as always
    Damian. :))

  10. Michèle

    No Rupert Murdoch on your list of ten that you particularly appreciate? 😉

    • FEd

      Funnily enough, no.

      I think we’d all struggle to list ten Ruperts, but no amount of struggling would end with that man on my list.

      First, there’s Rupert Bear. Then Rupert Brooke, the First World War poet (once of Grantchester, Cambridgeshire, of course). Er, and that’s about it.

    • Michèle

      Speaking of World War (WWII, this time), weren’t the dummy parachutists – dropped by the Royal Air Force to attract German attention away from the landing beaches of Normandy (Operation Titanic) – nicknamed ‘Rupert’?

      Hard to find ten Ruperts? Look, I offer you 500 Ruperts in one go. What do I win? 😉

      • FEd

        How about… my ‘Cracker’ DVD box set? Starring Robbie Coltrane as the intriguing criminal psychologist, Fitz.

  11. Alessandra

    As most of my favourite Roberts, Robertos and Bobs have already been mentioned, I would add:

    – Robert Fripp, guitarist for King Crimson
    – Bob Geldof
    – Bob Marley
    – Robin Williams, actor and comedian
    – Robert Zemeckis, director of “Forrest Gump”, one of my all-time favourite movies
    – Bobby McGee, from the song “Me and Bobby McGee”, also sung by Janis Joplin

  12. ash

    I scored 40% on the quiz, oh dear, I only knew two answers for definite. 8|

    Robert Koch who was the founder of modern bacteriology and microbiology.

    Robert Llewellyn, actor (whom I could have sworn was Welsh with a name like that).

    Robby Krieger of The Doors.

    Robin (Nanu Nanu) Williams (also must have a Welsh ancestor).

    ash

  13. Michael Kelly

    How about a double double?

    Robin Roberts – Former ESPN sportscaster and current Good Morning America host.

    Robin Roberts – Hall of Fame pitcher for the Philadelphia Phillies who led the National League in wins for 4 straight years in the 1950’s.

  14. JulieD

    I had the album ‘Strong Persuader’. Love that album. I used to jam along to ‘Smoking Gun’ – great song too. As a matter of fact, back in the good old days I was going to name my band the Smoking Gunn Blues Band – being as I was a Gunn – which was named after this song.

    I saw him live at Hammersmith too and he blew the roof of the place.

    Then of course there is (Rado) Bob Klose early lead guitarist of the Screaming Abdabs, The Abdas and who put in a guest appearance on David’s ‘On An Island’. 😉

  15. tim_c

    I scored 50% which makes me at least more “Bob-Savvy” than a baboon.

    Favourite Roberts in no particular order:-

    Robert Plant – the archetypal rock God turned serious down to earth artist
    Roberts Charlton and Moore – England’s finest footballers
    Roberts Redford and de Niro – If I could choose how to look and act … (in that order)
    Bob Geldof … credit to the man, he made a big mark for a gobby bastard and in the end has learned to love the Floyd as well.

    Oh and “Bob” from Blackadder, just for the way it’s said.

  16. Alessandra

    I discovered some time ago that the real name of Joni Mitchell is Roberta. Does it count?

    • FEd

      Is it really? Yes, that definitely counts and she should be near the top of my list.

      You know, I was wondering about middle names. I’m sure there could be a few surprises.

      • FEd

        Ooh, I’ll have a go. I hope I can make up for a shameful result of my own (I only got two right when I attempted the Famous Roberts quiz mentioned up top).

  17. Pavlov

    Howdy,

    I cannot go without putting in at least a little something all the way from sunny (during the day) and freezing (at night) South Africa:

    Robert Leroy Johnson (US blues guitarist – he may very well be the patriarch but I’m not sure)
    Robert Downey Jr. (actor)
    Robert Duvall (actor — I especially enjoyed him in The Handmaids Tale)
    Bobby Vinton
    Anton Rupert (a phenomenal business man and one of the greatest philanthropists)

    How about Bobby Vee of “Take Good Care of My Baby” fame?

    Hope you are all well! 😀

  18. pavlov

    Darn … forgot:

    Robert Browning of Pied Piper of Hamelin fame and Robert Frost.

  19. jan

    Beautiful! Robert Cray is a new favorite. Thank you for this FEd. Another Southern blues discovery. Sorry to say I did not know about him before.

    Robert Duvall of Apocalypse Now fame. ” I just love the smell of napalm in the morning.”

  20. KenF

    Here’s a few for you to “honour” FEd…

    Robert Baden-Powell
    Robert Downey Jnr.
    Robert Duvall
    Robert Lindsey
    Robert Louis Stevenson
    Robert Mitchum
    Robert The Bruce
    Robert Wagner
    Rabbie Burns
    Rab C.Nesbitt
    Rob Lowe
    Rob Roy (MacGregor)
    Robbie Coltrane
    Robbie Fowler
    Robin Beck
    Robin Gibb
    Robin Hood
    Robin Knox-Johnson
    Bob Carolgees
    Bob Ezrin
    (Whispering) Bob Harris
    Bob Hope
    Bob Hoskins
    Bob Monkhouse
    Bob Mortimer
    Bob Paisley
    Bob Seger
    Bob The Builder
    Bobbie Gentry
    Bobby Robson
    Bobby Womack

    10 Rupert’s to follow. 😛

    • FEd

      Bob Carolgees! Of course we should include Bob and Spit the Dog.

      Ken, as ever, your list reigns supreme. I’m glad that somebody mentioned Robbie Coltrane before I did, but I’m especially glad to see the name of English football’s most successful manager, Bob Paisley. Three European cups in five years…

      I’m kicking myself for not thinking of Whispering Bob or Bobby Robson (or, perhaps surprisingly and certainly unforgivably, Robbie Fowler, for that matter). I shall now keep Liverpool’s repetitive and beep-heavy 1996 FA Cup Final song, ‘Pass and Move (It’s the Liverpool Groove)’, in mind all day as punishment for excluding “God” from my list and will try my best to keep memories of the game itself out of it. I don’t think a game has ever upset me more than that one.

      “Go Robbie, go Robbie, go.”

    • KenF

      D’oh… forgot to include Robert Calvert.

      This track is from the album ‘Quark, Strangeness and Charm’ recorded in the same year as Animals.

      Both album covers were designed by Hipgnosis and both feature a certain power station.

  21. KenF

    I think we’d all struggle to list ten Ruperts, but no amount of struggling would end with that man on my list.

    Without resorting to ‘that man’ here’s ten for you FEd…

    Rupert Brooke (1st World War Poet, The Soldier – which has part of the second line mentioned in “The Gunner’s Dream” on “The Final Cut”)

    “If I should die, think only this of me:
    That there’s some corner of a foreign field
    That is for ever England. There shall be
    In that rich earth a richer dust concealed;
    A dust whom England bore, shaped, made aware,
    Gave, once, her flowers to love, her ways to roam,
    A body of England’s, breathing English air,
    Washed by the rivers, blest by suns of home.

    And think, this heart, all evil shed away,
    A pulse in the eternal mind, no less
    Gives somewhere back the thoughts by England given;
    Her sights and sounds; dreams happy as her day;
    And laughter, learnt of friends; and gentleness,
    In hearts at peace, under an English heaven.”

    Rupert Davies – Actor (Maigret)
    Rupert Everett – Actor
    Rupert Friend – Actor
    Rupert Graves – Actor
    Rupert Grint – Actor (Harry Potter)
    Rupert Henry St. John Barker Moon – Welsh Rugby International
    Rupert Penry-Jones – Actor (Spooks)
    Rupert Soames (Winston Churchill’s grandson)
    Rupert Georg von Trapp

    There’s obviously something very theatrical going on in the Rupert domain, which must draw them into the performing arts.

    • FEd

      There’s obviously something very theatrical going on in the Rupert domain, which must draw them into the performing arts.

      Funny, that.

      Shouldn’t have forgotten Rupert Moon. Rudders wouldn’t have.

    • Sharon Woods

      Well now. There’s a Rupert who moved me to tears.

      I’ll look at the poppies blooming in the corner of my foreign field just a little bit closer. They are open now and red-orange this year.

      Thank you for that beautiful poem KenF!

  22. NewYorkDan

    Bob Denver (Gilligan)
    Bob Dylan
    Rob Thomas (singer, the kids like him)
    Robin Williams (Mork)
    Robert Frost (poet)
    Robert Pattinson (actor)
    Robert Downey, Jr. (actor)
    Robert E Lee (general, confederate army in American Civil War)
    Rob Lowe (actor)
    Robert Altman (film maker)
    Robert Blake (Baretta)
    Bob Marley (rasta)
    Robert Duvall (actor, ex-husband of my high school English teacher)
    Robert Kennedy (brother of President Kennedy)
    Bobby Flay (celebrity chef)
    Robert Redford (actor)

    • NewYorkDan

      Add to the above:

      Doctor Roberts (song by The Beatles)
      Bob Roberts (movie)
      Robin Trower (guitarist from Procol Harum, now a jazz player)
      Rob Reiner (“Meathead”)
      Roberta Flack (wrote “Killing Me Softly”)
      Robin Wright (actress)
      Robin Hood (stole from the rich, gave to the poor)
      Rockin’ Robin (tweet twelley)
      Robin Meade (anchor, “Morning Express” news show on HLN)

  23. Michèle

    Following Alessandra’s comment about Joni Mitchell whose real first name is Roberta, here are ten celebrities to identify by their real names:

    1 – David Robert Jones
    2 – Roberta Lee Streeter
    3 – Robert James Ritchie
    4 – Robert Matthew Van Winkle
    5 – Roberta Joan Anderson
    6 – Robert Peter Williams
    7 – Robert Sylvester Kelly
    8 – Marion Robert Morrison
    9 – Ray Charles Robinson – Too easy, I know.
    10 – Roberto Modini

    OK, I stop invading the blog now.

    • FEd

      Oh dear. I think I only know the easy one, plus the one I discovered today thanks to Alessandra.

      I guess Robert Sylvester Kelly is better known as “R. Kelly”?

    • Michael Kelly

      I’m pretty sure #8 is John Wayne, but I never knew his middle name was Robert.

    • Michèle

      Thumbs-up to FEd and Michael!

      And me I would never have guessed that John Wayne’s first name was Marion, as Marion is exclusively a female name here. :))

    • Michèle

      1 – David Bowie (Well done, Alessandra 🙂 )
      2 – Bobbie Gentry
      3 – Kid Rock
      4 – Vanilla Ice (American rapper)
      5 – Joni Mitchell
      6 – Robbie Williams
      7 – R. Kelly
      8 – John Wayne
      9 – Ray Charles
      10 – Robert Stack

  24. frank par

    How about the famous Scotch poet Robbie Burns. I had the privilege to sing a poem of his a couple of years ago in Oct. for my mother -in-law on her passing. Can’t remember the chords now. Darn, I need a recording studio.

    Mr. Hope did sing along with Bing and others. So all I can say is “Bob’s you’re Uncle”. Nyuk, nyuk. 😉

  25. Mike

    Too much time on your hands…

    Robert A. Heinlein

    Or is it Time Enough for Love?