I think of the Hammond organ as the Whiter Shade of Pale organ. When its sound grabs me in other songs, I say I like their use of the Whiter Shade of Pale organ.
Of course, the Hammond organ goes back to about 1934, over 30 years before A Whiter Shade of Pale.
Here are some of my favorite Hammond organ songs that span the decades.
The 60s were like the height of Hammond use, and this song is iconic.
This one’s good for emotional detoxing. Incredibly beautiful.
I’m eternally grateful to my friend Becky for telling me about this song during a Hammond discussion. Another gorgeous one, where the organ trembles like a broken heart.
Booker T’s famous for his Hammond playing, and this jam bares his talents as much as his entire catalog of good-vibe tunes.
Booker T is said to have written the classic organ line for Green Onions when he was 17.
It’s also fun to watch this live version from 1967 because it’s always cool to see how bands play together, and everything from the cameras to the stage to the eyeglasses is a fascinating piece of history.
In this Booker T paragon, both the organ and the guitar are kind of sour in a delicious, funky way like a fine pickle.
This is the B-side to Toussaint’s Nothing Takes the Place of You, and it’s good too:
The Charlatans are known for Rob Collins’ Hammond for good reason.
All my life, anytime I’ve heard the opening bassline of this song, I’ve lost my mind with joy. What I love is the bass, the “ahhhh,” the vocals… and the organ is groovy too.
Between Richard Wright’s Hammond and the tenor sax, Us and Them is easily one of my favorite songs of all time.
It’s almost like working a Hammond organ into a song guarantees Classic status.
Milt Buckner is known for popularizing the Hammond in the 50s. This one reminds me of Fever and so many slinky tunes from that era.
Very fun 60s-style garage-rock tune right here. The Prisoners were central to British psych in the 80s and 90s.
“Where’d you get your information from, huh?”
↑ Immortal words from this song. I find myself asking them more and more.
But seriously, that Hammond, right?
This super fun, catchy tune even includes a Hammond solo.
(Also, doesn’t Nino look like Denis Leary?)
Here are a few of my favorite non-Hammond organ songs.
The moody synth in this spectacular song reminds me of a Hammond B-3 but is, well, not a Hammond B-3.
The Mellotron in Kites is just one part of what makes it completely weird and magnificent.
One Sunday in Athens, someone across the street from where I was staying kept playing the same record over and over of an incredible gospel song from the 70s. Every time it ended my heart would sink, and every time it started again, the entire neighborhood would breathe a sigh of relief. It piqued a deep resonance in our souls, but I couldn’t place it. I kept trying to Shazam it from the balcony, but there was too much noise on the street. I Googled the lyrics, but sadly never found the song. What came out of my search, however, was a suggestion that I listen to this Moog masterpiece.
Listen to all the songs in this post on my Hammond organ playlist!
Top image by David DeHetre.
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