Song Of The Day by Eric Berman – “Do You Know What I Mean?” by Lee Michaels
When one thinks late 1960s San Francisco rock, images of psychedelic light shows and twirling female fans in peasant dresses populate the mind’s eye, while the sounds of endless goodtime jams by the likes of Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Santana, Moby Grape and It’s A Beautiful Day fill the ears.
But late ‘60s San Francisco rock also produced the stripped-down, organ-driven blue-eyed soul of Lee Michaels who released four albums before breaking it big with his top-ten signature hit (and today’s Song Of The Day), “Do You Know What I Mean” from the album Lee Michaels Fifth.
Michaels got his start playing in surf bands like The Sentinals that also featured future Turtles and Jefferson Airplane/Starship member Johny Barbata. After moving to the Bay area, he hooked up with manager Matthew Katz who also handled the careers of Jefferson Airplane, Moby Grape and It’s A Beautiful Day.
While the music of Katz’s other charges was elaborate and jamtastic, Michaels music was stripped down and soulful consisting of Michaels on the Hammond organ augmented only by drums. Tying it all together was Michaels’ powerful, high octave-high octane soulful voice.
Playing the Hammond organ and piano in the guitar-oriented world of San Francisco rock afforded Michaels opportunities to session with the likes of Jimi Hendrix, and Katz was soon able to get him signed to A&M records where he released four marginally successful albums between 1968 and 1970.
Lee Michaels Fifth, was a two-man band affair released in 1971 featuring Joel Larson (later of Grass Roots) on drums. Like the records of his A&M label-mate Joe Cocker, the album predominantly consisted of covers including Johnny Otis’ “Willie And The Hand Jive,” Lee Dorsey’s “Ya-Ya” and Marvin Gaye’s “Can I Get A Witness” (his only other top-forty single), plus a few originals including “Do You Know What I Mean” which was hastily written and added to the album at the last minute.
Two more albums for A&M followed before Michaels signed to Columbia Records where he had no luck at all at coming up with a hit over three album releases. By the mid-1970s, Michaels had thrown in the towel and retired from the music business in Hawaii.
He released two more albums, Absolute Lee (1996) and My Life (2008) which went nowhere, and hasn’t been heard from since…except on oldies radio stations where today’s Song Of The Day still reigns supreme.
- Keep the Circle Turning (2:44)
- You Are What You Do (3:01)
- Willie and the Hand Jive (3:03)
- Didn’t Have to Happen (2:33)
- Rock Me Baby (2:31)
- Do You Know What I Mean (3:13)
- Ya Ya (2:21)
- Can I Get a Witness (3:06)
- Oak Fire (2:56)
- I Don’t Want Her (2:23)
Give it a listen below. There are all 10 songs in this playlist.
Here’s more from 1971 that you might like.