It says in the Bible:
I returned and saw under the sun, that the race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, neither yet bread to the wise, nor yet riches to men of understanding, nor yet favour to men of skill; but time and chance happeneth to them all.
That is the King James translation, at any rate. If you want to get all-1970s and groovy, there is the Message version:
I took another walk around the neighbourhood and realized that on this earth as it is— The race is not always to the swift, Nor the battle to the strong, Nor satisfaction to the wise, Nor riches to the smart, Nor grace to the learned. Sooner or later bad luck hits us all.
Hmm. Not perhaps the finest moment in the Message. Anyway, you get the point. Life ain’t always fair. Sometimes, people do something wonderful, and get no recognition.
Case in point. In 1974, Sam Leno released his one and only LP. It was on Anchor Records – not a major label, but home to Alice Cooper among others, so big enough. I am a researcher by trade, so to find out more about Leno did not seem like a challenge. Mainstream release, mid-1970s: should be easy. But no. The sole reference I can find to Sam was written four decades later – in a piece mostly about someone else.
John Apice, in the roots music journal No Depression, compares a contemporary artist, Comrad, to “an obscure English singer-songwriter named Sam Leno”, who:
had one wonderful album called “Ordinary Man,” … these two artists are on the same wave-length, kindred spirits, soul-brothers. … It’s a rich, ignored musical style … Tin Pan Alley, pop songs of the 1920s and dance hall frivolity … Leno’s album was filled with these kinds of light, well-recorded, fun to sing melodies … Comrad is not imitating Sam Leno. How could he? I doubt Comrad ever heard of Sam Leno.
Neither had I, but Apice is apt in his description and justified in his appreciation. This is the B-side of one of Leno’s handful of singles. It is a gem. It deserved to succeed, but didn’t. No further albums followed, and I don’t know what happened to Leno. The race is not always to the swift.
- Artist: Sam Leno
- Single Title: Oh, Joanna
- Track: B-side, “You Know What I Mean”
- Format: 7”, 45 rpm
- Label: Anchor
- Catalogue: ANC-10646
- Manufactured in: Australia
- Year: 1974
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