Being a child of the 70’s I love this song along with most of the easy listening genre that was prevalent during that time. Some of the artists known for this genre are Lionel Ritchie, Phil Collins, Art Garfunkel, Anne Murray, Eric Clapton, Steve Miller Band, the Eagles, ABBA, Neil Young, Gloria Gaynor, Paul McCartney (Maybe I’m Amazed), Marvin Gaye, Crystal Gayle, Juice Newton, The Carpenters, David Bowey (Space Oddity) and even singles by John Lennon such as Imagine.
One of my favourite songs in the 70’s was “On and On” by Stephen Bishop.
One of the main things Stephen Bishop did to survive as a musician was songwriting. You would be surprised at how many very famous recording artists signed on to recording labels for just that reason and churned out hundreds if not thousands of hit-maker songs for other artists (ie., Willie Nelson).
So Stephen Bishop was in this same boat, and after about 8 years didn’t Art Garfunkel come along and select two of Bishop’s songs off a demo tape to record for his platinum record Breakaway. They were “Looking for the Right One” and “The Same Old Tears on a New Background.” Within a year Bishop had his fist album Careless which contained his two biggest hits: “Save it for a Rainy Day” and “On and On.” Other artists who contributed to his album were Eric Clapton, Garfunkel and Chaka Khan. Bishop had one more Top 100 hit on his next album in 1978, but surprisingly he went on to write and perform numerous hit songs for popular movies, including the theme song for the famous Dustin Hoffman movie Tootsie, “It Might Be You”.
Other well-known movies he contributed songs to were “Dream Girl” for Animal House; “Separate Lives” for White Nights, sung by Phil Collins and Marilyn Martin; “Your Precious Love” for Roadie; and “Unfaithfully Yours (One Love)” for Unfaithfully Yours. He also produced some songs for Phil Collin’s 1989 album Bowling in Paris, working with Eric Clapton and Sting.
In 1978 Stephen Bishop was the musical guest star on the acclaimed television show, Saturday Night Live. He also appeared in a scene in National Lampoon’s Animal House as “Charming Guy with Guitar” where John Belushi smashes the guy’s guitar. Bishop claims to have kept the smashed guitar from that scene as a memento of Belushi. He also appeared in the 1980 film The Blues Brothers as “Charming Trooper” who breaks his watch during the mall chase.
Stephen Bishop’s biggest hit remains “On and On”. I just happened to come upon an arrangement of it in Jim Beloff’s music book, Jumpin’ Jim’s Island Ukulele. It can be found on page 57.
I also want to mention that I own two other Beloff music books, Jumpin’ Jim’s Ukulele Beach Party and Jumpin’ Jim’s Gone Hawaiian. But in this particular book, you get a fantastic information page called “Strum Shack” on page 3 that uses illustrations and symbols to explain specific strum patterns. The first one is “Island Strum”and it is INVALUABLE…… for learning towards performing most of the songs in this book. Jim claims the Island Strum can be used to “spice up” songs like “I Can See Clearly Now” and “Jamaica Farewell”.
These books also give you two pages of chords as well. In Ukulele Island it’s called the “Chord Cabana” on pages 4 and 5 (also invaluable). Just as a last comment, I would like to say that it has been my experience that when you buy a Jim Beloff book you get so much more than you were looking for! I never expected to gain those strum patterns from his book but that is exactly where I first learned to do the Roll Strum. Ukulele Island also has “Margaritaville”, “Beyond the Sea”, “Day-O (the Banana Boat Song)”, “Don’t Worry Be Happy”, “Marianne”, “Sway”, “Three Little Birds”, a Jimmy Buffett song called “Volcano” and more (some were Hawaiian or Polynesian and I’m not familiar with them).
So here is my rendition of “On and On” in the Key of C with, of course, my own embellishments. The song rocks back and forth in a 4-beat measure between C and Am, two beats each, so the way I play it is to continue to hold down C and just add Am with my second finger. Beloff’s arrangement uses a suspended G7, but since I never could get my fingers to reach it, I prefer to limit it to G7. Since we are only on it for 2 beats before returning to the C and Am combo I feel that less is more in this instance. We don’t skimp however, on the suspended A7 because it has a leading cadence into the next chord of A7, and this is a really sweet combination. Lastly, at the end of the Bridge, I put in a D7 chord only because I am unfamiliar with playing D9, which is the chord that is called for there, but I am not used to the jazz sound of it. I mention it so you can have the option of replacing the D7 with D9.
My favourite thing about this song is also THE FACT that: EACH CHORUS IS DIFFERENT!!!!! So wake up out there, lyrics writers! Pay better attention!!! I can not tell you how many online versions of this song have – mistakenly – only one chorus. Ahem! It goes like this; the first verse is about Lonesome Sue so the corresponding chorus goes, “On and on, she just keeps on trying, and she smiles….,” etc. The second verse is about Poor Ol’ Jimmy (steals the stars from the sky) so the corresponding chorus is ACTUALLY this: “On and on, HE just keeps on trying, and HE smiles when HE feels…..,” etc. The last verse is about…..ME!! So the corresponding chorus goes, “On and on, I just keep on trying, and I smile when I feel like…..” etc. I can see how the confusion got started, since “he” does happen to rhyme with “she”. So when people began to recognize this song on the radio I imagine they sang along at the top of their lungs, effectively drowning out the song itself and never realizing that the three chorus’s differed from each other.
Thank God for Youtube.