Sweet Cherry Wine - Tommy James and The Shondells
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"Sweet Cherry Wine" - Tommy James and The Shondells (1969)
Released at the height of psychedelia in mid-1969 and right after one previous psychedelic song, "Crimson and Clover”, “Sweet Cherry Wine” by Tommy James and the Shondells, expressed Tommy James' Christian beliefs.
He used "sweet cherry wine" as a metaphor for the Blood of Christ. As the lyrics say "Only God has the right to decide who's to live and die". "To save us He gave us sweet cherry wine".
The song begins with the use of an organ, adds brass instruments, and ends with a solo flute that fades out at the end of the song. Adding to the psychedelia sound of the track was the then-new Moog synthesizer. It peaked at number six on the US charts when it was released in 1969.
The composition was also a quiet protest of the Vietnam War with the line: "Yesterday my friend went off marching to war...we ain't a marching anymore.”
Not often considered a protest song, this gorgeous follow-up to "Crystal Blue Persuasion" takes James' earlier psychedelic successes and uses them to make the case that "only God has the right to decide who's to live and to die." Like the legendary folk singer Phil Ochs, he declares that “he ain't a-marchin' anymore”, but he throws his friends in with the deal -- and that subtle but powerful church organ intro seems to be asserting that peace is always the key to being on God's side.
"Sweet Cherry Wine" along with “Crimson and Clover” and "Crystal Blue Persuasion" were such big hits it gave the band a level of respectability that they were not used to as they were typically passed off as “bubble gum pop” by the serious music critics of the day. They were even asked to perform at the Woodstock Music Festival in August 1969 which they turned down because the band was in Hawaii at the time and didn’t feel it worthwhile to make the trip. Within four months of turning down the invitation, the group had disbanded.
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