The B List: 10 Classic Clavinet-Fueled Songs

9. Whatever Gets You Through The Night – John Lennon (Ken Ascher)

Most people think Elton John contributed the clav part to John Lennon’s #1 hit, Whatever Gets You Through The Night, but in fact it was Ken Ascher who contributed the song’s signature clav line. Elton John adds piano and vocals to the mix.

8. Life In The Fast Lane – The Eagles (Glenn Frey)

The Eagles’ Glenn Frey was never known for his keyboard skills, but he did contribute the funky clav line in Life In The Fast Lane that gives the tune an edge. This was one of the first tunes that “new” Eagles’ guitarist Joe Walsh shared writing credits on with Frey and Don Henley.

7. Have A Cigar – Pink Floyd (Richard Wright)

Pink Floyd keyboardist Richard Wright was always ahead of his time when it came to the use of synthesizers and electric keyboards including his frenetic clav work on Have a Cigar and Shine On You Crazy Diamond (Part 8).

6. Use Me – Bill Withers

Bill Withers not only had a voice that made females swoon, but he was also a helluva instrumentalist. For the studio version of one of his most famous tunes, Use Me, Withers added guitars, piano and a funky clavinet line. In concert, he generally played guitar for Use Me and let his keyboard player handle the clav.

5. Kid Charlemagne – Steely Dan (Paul Griffin)

The opening track of Steely Dan’s legendary album, The Royal Scam, features biting clav work by Paul Griffin. The band’s Black Cow also features the clavinet.

4. Custard Pie – Led Zeppelin (John Paul Jones)

Led Zep bassist John Paul Jones was a master of many instruments including the mandolin and an assortment of pianos. For Custard Pie, JPJ came up with an inventive clav line that helps power the song. Trampled Underfoot also features JPJ on electric clavinet.

3. Outta Space – Billy Preston

The late Billy Preston made fantastic use of the clav on this instrumental hit from 1972. Preston also rocked a clav for Will It Go Round In Circles and decades later with the Red Hot Chili Peppers for Warlocks.

2. Up On Cripple Creek – The Band (Garth Hudson)

The Band’s Garth Hudson ran his clav through a wah-wah pedal to create the swampy sound that powers Up On Cripple Creek. Supposedly, this was the first use of a wah’d-out clav on record. Many funk and disco artists made use of the wah’d-out clav moving forward.

1. Superstition – Stevie Wonder

The granddaddy of the clav movement, Stevie Wonder used the keyboard extensively to create one of the funkiest songs in the history of music. Our friends at NoiseAddicts dissected Wonder’s clav part from the studio version of Superstition and figured out that the tune contains multiple tracks of clavinet as explained in the video above.

What’s your favorite clavinet-fueled song? Let us know…

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22 Responses

  1. What about Christine MacVie on Fleetwood-Mac’s Tusk album, song: “Honey Hi” Maybe it would be in the top 20

  2. Sorry to spell McVie wrong, but what about a top 20 or top 50 and why not add Jo Jo Herman from Widespread Panic, and the other suggestions, and then add Christine McVie on her song, “You Make Lovin’ Fun”? Wow, I forgot about Custard Pie.

  3. I’ve Been in the Right Place Dr. John
    Use Me Bill Withers
    Outa Space Billy Preston
    Superstition Stevie Wonder
    Higher Ground Stevie Wonder
    Frankenstein Edgar Winter Band

  4. A.B. Skhy ‘Camel Back’ and ‘Of All Sad Words’
    Opus Seven ‘Bussle’
    The Band ‘Mystery Train’ -sounds like CCR with a clavinet
    James Brown ‘Body Heat’
    Led Zeppelin ‘In The Light’ -not too many folks mention this one when discussing JPJ’s clav work
    Mother’s Finest ‘Baby Love’
    Sisters Love ‘Now Is The Time’

    a very obvious one-Walter Murphy ‘A Fifth Of Beethoven’

    I could list plenty more examples that are both familiar and obscure but it would be huge

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