Tag Archives: Ashford and Simpson

It’s National Teachers Day And I Need To Dance!

On the off-chance I don’t win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, which, seeing as I have yet to write a single scene, is a remote possibility, I’d like to present the text of my acceptance speech here and now.

“Thank you! Thank you so much! Thank you! (wink at Meryl) Wow! I wasn’t expecting to win. This is such a surprise. Let me read you the speech I wrote for this occasion.

I’d like to thank the Academy, specifically the members who voted for me. I’d like to thank everyone who bought a ticket to see my movie. I’d like to thank the cast and crew. It takes a village! Am I right? Of course I’m right! I’m a right-er! (smile, acknowledge the laughter in the audience)

Mostly, I’d like to thank all those who taught me about writing and provided encouragement. I’d like to thank all of my English teachers, my writing teachers, my stand-up comedy teachers and my improvisation teachers. I’d like to thank my fellow classmates, workshops and meetup members and the friends and family members who provided feedback and support. In particular, I’d like to…oh, they’re playing the music, indicating it’s time for me to leave. Until next year, remember I love you all, except those who voted for my competitors.”
Winston + Hall-Oates
Today is National Teachers Day. Our weekly dance party kicks off with Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “Adult Education.”


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It’s Umberto Tozzi’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Who is Umberto Tozzi? Is that what you just asked?

Born in Italy in 1952, Umberto Tozzi is a singer-songwriter who has sold over 70 million records throughout the world. In 1979 he released a single of his composition “Gloria,” which became a big hit in his home country, remaining in the top ten for 16 weeks, six of those at #2. The song also went top ten in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, South Africa and Spain.

Ringo + Umberto
In 1982, singer Laura Branigan collaborated with Trevor Veitch on English-language lyrics set to the original’s melody. Her recording of “Gloria,” co-produced by Greg Mathieson, arranger and keyboardist on the Tozzi version, reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Our weekly party kicks off with the track for which Umberto Tozzi is best-known in the United States.


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Try A Little Kindness: The Ashford & Simpson Songbook

Try a little kindness and you’ll see it’s something that comes very naturally

I have a neighbor down the hall who has never said hello to me. He has never acknowledged my existence. We’ve been neighbors for twelve years. Until recently, that rankled me. Is it so difficult to say hello? To smile? To half-smile?

There is a couple who live on the floor beneath mine. A couple of years ago, after our morning walk, I got on the elevator with my dogs. One of the guys got on as well and said, unsolicited, “I hate your dogs.” That’s a terrible thing to say under any circumstances, but you should know, my dogs don’t bark. They don’t jump up on people they don’t know. They were standing in the corner of the elevator next to me when this man shared his opinion, an opinion that could not have any positive effect on the environment. Recently that same guy and his partner were on the elevator. The vocal dog hater saw me approaching (sans pets) and held the door open for me. I said thank you. When they exited on their floor, the partner of the vocal dog hater admonished the vocal dog hater. “See what happens when you hold the door for people!” They get on the elevator? They say “Thank you?” I’m not sure what his beef was, but again, what positive effect does such an attitude encourage? If those are your thoughts, why share them?

It still bothers me a little to encounter such uninvited nastiness, but I’ve come to realize it’s not me. It’s them. I’m nice. I say thank you. I adopted two rescue dogs, one of which was abandoned by his previous owners, and nurtured them. That someone can’t appreciate who I am, that someone can’t appreciate what I do, that someone can’t bring themselves to be courteous or half-smile is a sign of their damaged psyche.

Once I fully realized this I decided to make a concerted effort to display more acts of kindness. I say hello to people I pass on the sidewalk, which, as a native New Yorker, took some getting used to. I smile at store clerks, not just the ones I want to date. I “like” more posts on Facebook and LinkedIn.

The more kindness we put out into the world, the kinder the world will be.

The lyric at the top of this post comes from Diana Ross’s first post-Supremes solo hit, 1970’s “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The song was written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, the married couple who wrote so many great songs for Miss Ross, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, and others, including themselves.

Today Valerie Simson turns 69 years old. Our playlist consists of twenty of Ashford & Simpson’s finest.


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It’s Amelia Earhart’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Today is Amelia Earhart’s birthday. She was born on July 24, 1897, and for all we know she is celebrating her 118th birthday with a glass of Chardonnay and a cannoli.

During a 1937 attempt to fly around the world, aviator Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Women. Am I right, fellas? Of course not.

Earhart went off the grid before “going off the grid” became part of our everyday vernacular. Maybe not everyday, but our at-least-twice-a-year vernacular.

Sometimes I contemplate going off the grid, but it seems the rewards of doing so are not worth the efforts.

This would have been a good week for me to be off the grid. It started out good. Sunday morning was the fourth and final day of an entrepreneur conference I attended whereat I got educated and motivated and met many cool people with inspiring stories. On my way home I got into a car accident. I’m fortunate I came out unscathed. My car? Not so much.

When I arrived at home I called my insurance company, then set about to make some lunch. I put my food in the microwave and set it on high for six minutes. When the machine beeped the food was still frozen. I know I’m fortunate in that I had a microwave that served me for 17 years, but did it have to die at that moment?

My car got towed to a body shop. They emailed me forms to sign and return. I couldn’t print them, however, as it turns out my printer and microwave were having an affair and the printer decided she could not go on without the microwave in her life. Women. Am I right, fellas?

Feeling a bit depressed about the turn my week/life had taken, I found it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand. Then I saw a videoclip of a colorblind young man who, thanks to new technology, experienced vibrant colors for the first time. His joy in seeing a patch of grass or a container of Clorox put things in perspective.

There is so much beauty in the mundane, and so much that I take for granted for which I should be grateful. My toaster oven, for example.

I have a music consulting business. I love my clients. I love that I can choose with whom I wish to work. I love the projects I’m handling.

I think I’ll stay on the grid for a while.

Steph and Ringo
Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Kicking off this week’s playlist is Stephanie Mills with “Pilot Error.”


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It Really Shoulda…

Sam + Ringo
It’s that time of year when music geeks such as I think about the I.R.S. I.R.S. as in It Really Shoulda, as in it really should been a top ten hit.

Eight years ago, a colleague from my Sony Music days, Rich Appel, created the I.R.S. countdown. Music fans submitted a list of songs that didn’t make the top ten on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 but should have, in their opinion. Rich compiled the tallies to create the overall I.R.S. top 104. He’s been compiling this survey each year since.

As for why a song should have been a top ten hit, that’s left entirely up to the list-maker. On my list, I included records that are perfect or near-perfect melodically, lyrically and/or production-wise. I included songs that have withstood the test of time and are still part of the public consciousness years later. I included records that everybody thinks were top ten hits. I included tracks that would have been top ten hits except they didn’t conform to Billboard’s rules for chart placement at their time of release (e.g. they weren’t available on commercial 7-inch singles or viral video play didn’t count in metric measurements). I included singles by artists who hit the top ten with lesser songs. I focused on tracks that have pop appeal, leaving out fantastic recordings from some of my favorite acts, such as The Replacements and The Smiths – they were called “alternative” because they weren’t pop.

My list for 2015 is below, followed by a Spotify playlist of those songs. Rich asks people submitting lists to put them in order, with #1 being the record one feels should have, more than any other, been a top ten hit. Ask me to do so tomorrow and my list will likely be in a different order.

For today, here is my I.R.S. 104. After the artist name I listed how high the song charted during its initial release. If the single hit the Hot 100 at a later date, I included that information as well.

You can hear the official I.R.S. 104 tally for 2015 on Rich Appel’s radio show, That Thing, this coming weekend on RewoundRadio.com. Friday at 6PM Eastern he’ll go from #104 to around #53 and Sunday starting at 6PM Eastern he’ll pick up from where he left off and go to #1.

1. Wonderful World – Sam Cooke (#12, 1960)
2. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (#19, 1967)
3. River Deep, Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner (#88, 1966)
4. I Only Want to Be with You – Dusty Springfield (#12, 1964)
5. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#14, 1969)
6. Cupid – Sam Cooke (#17, 1961)
7. Holiday – Madonna (#16, 1984)
8. Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder (did not chart, 1977)
9. 1999 – Prince (#44, 1982; #12, 1983; #40, 1999)
10. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (#23, 1975)
11. It Takes Two – Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston (#14, 1967)
12. Little Egypt (Ying Yang) – The Coasters (#23, 1961)
13. I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & the Family Stone (#60, 1969; #38, 1970)
14. Into the Groove – Madonna (did not chart, 1985)
15. We Will Rock You – Queen (did not chart, 1978; #52, 1992)
16. S.O.S. – Abba (#15, 1975)
17. You’ve Got a Friend – Carole King (did not chart, 1971)
18. Hold On! I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave (#21, 1966)
19. Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding (#25, 1967)
20. The Way You Do the Things You Do – The Temptations (#11, 1964)
21. It’s a Shame – Spinners (#14, 1970)
22. It’s Gonna Work Out Fine – Ike & Tina Turner (#14, 1961)
23. Under My Thumb – the Rolling Stones (did not chart, 1966)
24. Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me) – Four Seasons (#13, 1966)
25. Me and Julio down by the School Yard – Paul Simon (#22, 1972)
26. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko & the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir (did not chart, 1971)
27. I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan (#21, 1978)
28. Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley (#29, 1964)
29. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (#13, 1984)
30. Super Freak – Rick James (#16, 1981)
31. Mighty Love – Spinners (#20, 1974)
32. Stan – Eminem featuring Dido (#51, 2000)
33. So Far Away – Carole King (#14, 1971)
34. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love (did not chart, 1963)
35. Because the Night – Patti Smith Group (#13, 1978)
36. Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (#67, 1970)
37. Candy Girl – New Edition (#46, 1983)
38. Brass in Pocket (I’m Special) – Pretenders (#14, 1980)
39. Everybody Hurts – R.E.M. (#29, 1993)
40. It Takes Two – Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (#36, 1988)
41. Heartbreak Hotel – the Jacksons (#22, 1981)
42. Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Staton (#20, 1976)
43. Valerie – Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse (did not chart, 2007)
44. Rock and Roll All Nite (live) – Kiss (#12, 1976)
45. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester (#36, 1979)
46. L-O-V-E (Love) – Al Green (#13, 1975)
47. It’s Raining Men – the Weather Girls (#46, 1983)
48. I’m a Slave 4 U – Britney Spears (#27, 2001)
49. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (#35, 1980)
50. Wake Up Everybody – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (#12, 1976)
51. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (#16, 1973)
52. Bring It on Home to Me – Sam Cooke (#13, 1962)
53. Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2 (#33, 1984)
54. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead (#13, 1979)
55. Move Your Feet – Junior Senior (did not chart, 2003)
56. Heroes – David Bowie (did not chart, 1977)
57. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (#21, 1978)
58. One Way or Another – Blondie (#24, 1979)
59. You Get What You Give – New Radicals (#36, 1999)
60. Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel – Tavares (#15, 1976)
61. Ain’t Nobody – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan (#22, 1983)
62. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon (#44, 1986, #23, 1987)
63. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt (#18, 1992)
64. Young Americans – David Bowie (#28, 1975)
65. A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke (#31, 1965)
66. Respect Yourself – the Staple Singers (#12, 1971)
67. Moondance – Van Morrison (did not chart, 1970; #92, 1977)
68. Where’s the Love – Hanson (did not chart, 1997)
69. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing – Stevie Wonder (#16, 1974)
70. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow (#62, 1982)
71. Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club (#31, 1982)
72. Beautiful Stranger – Madonna (#19, 1999)
73. Shame, Shame, Shame – Shirley (& Company) (#12, 1975)
74. The Way I Am – Eminem (#58, 2000)
75. Jungle Love – The Time (#20, 1985)
76. Gypsy – Fleetwood Mac (#12, 1982)
77. Smile – Lily Allen (#49, 2007)
78. Tear the Roof off the Sucker (Give up the Funk) – Parliament (#15, 1976)
79. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert (#11, 2013)
80. Solid – Ashford & Simpson (#12, 1985)
81. Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang (#36, 1980)
82. The Cup of Life – Ricky Martin (#60, 1998; #45, 1999)
83. Me, Myself and I – De La Soul (#34, 1989)
84. Bad Luck – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (#15, 1975)
85. Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads (did not chart, 1981)
86. Fuck You – Lily Allen (#68, 2009)
87. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service (did not chart, 2003)
88. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (movie version) – Lauryn Hill (did not chart, 1998)
89. Dedication to My Ex (Miss That) – Lloyd featuring Andre 3000 (#79, 2011)
90. Jump To It – Aretha Franklin (#24, 1982)
91. Mamma Mia – Abba (#32, 1976)
92. Space Oddity – David Bowie (did not chart, 1969; #15, 1973)
93. P Control – O{+> (Prince) (did not chart, 1995)
94. Got Your Money – Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis (#33, 1999)
95. LDN – Lily Allen (did not chart, 2007)
96. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Buddy Holly (#13, 1959)
97. Does Your Mother Know – Abba (#19, 1979)
98. Up in a Puff of Smoke – Polly Brown (#16, 1975)
99. Blue Limousine – Apollonia 6 (did not chart, 1984)
100. All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople (#37, 1972)
101. Fight the Power – Public Enemy (did not chart, 1989)
102. Pass That Dutch – Missy Elliott (#27, 2003)
103. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne (#21, 2003)
104. You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse (#78, 2007; #77, 2008)


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Twenty Facts About And Thirty Songs Produced By Quincy Jones

Ringo + Quincy 001

1) He’s had a record 79 Grammy Award nominations. He’s won 27.
2) He arranged the Frank Sinatra/Count Basie version of “Fly Me to the Moon,” which astronaut Neil Armstrong played when he first landed on the moon.
3) Jones produced the soundtrack of the motion picture The Wiz. He later said he hated working on it, as he didn’t like most of the songs nor did he like the film’s script. However, on the set on The Wiz he got to know the singer who played the scarecrow, Michael Jackson. Jackson asked him to recommend a producer for his next album. Jones threw out a few names and also offered to produce it himself. Jackson took him up on his offer, though his record label thought it was a bad idea. The album, 1979’s Off the Wall, went on to sell 20 million copies and won Jackson his first Grammy Award.
4) While widely known as the producer of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Bad and Off the Wall albums, Jones is also the producer of the hit records “We Are the World” by USA for Africa; “It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” by Lesley Gore; “Angel” by Aretha Franklin; “I’ll By Good to You,” “Stomp” and “Strawberry Letter 23” by The Brothers Johnson; “One Mint Julep” by Ray Charles; and “Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)” by Donna Summer, among others. He also worked with Bono, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Little Richard, Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Chaka Khan, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Mathis, James Ingram and Patti Austin, plus plenty more.
5) “Quincy Jones is one of the most versatile and potent figures of popular culture….When you listen to his impressive and monumental body of work, it’s easy to understand how and why he’s touched such a broad audience of music lovers. He’s done it all.” – Michael Jackson
6) Time magazine named him one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century.
7) In the early 1960s he became the Vice President of Mercury Records, the first African-American at a major record company to reach that executive level.
8) His middle name is Delight.
9) Along with Bob Russell, he became the first African-American to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song for “The Eyes of Love” from Banning.
10) With seven Oscar nominations, he is tied with sound designer Willie Burton as the African-American with the most Oscar nominations.
11) Jones produced the film The Color Purple, his first foray into film production. He asked Steven Spielberg to direct it, which he did. It was nominated for eleven Academy Awards.
12) Among his 33 movie scores are the ones for The Color Purple, In the Heat of the Night, In Cold Blood, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
13) He has a daughter with actress Nastassja Kinski as well as six other children.
14) He’s the father of actress Rashida Jones. She’s pretty.
15) In 1988 he formed Quincy Jones Entertainment, who produced the television program The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
16) He never learned how to drive.
17) Among the charities Jones supports are American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR), Global Down Syndrome Foundation, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), MusiCares, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Rape Foundation, UNICEF, NAACP, Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, and Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes.
18) In 1974 Jones suffered a brain aneurysm. He was given a 1 in 100 chance of surviving. Family and friends, including Richard Pryor, Marvin Gaye and Sidney Poitier, planned a memorial service for him, which he got to attend.
19) Today he turns 82 years old.
20) “The thing is to find your lightning – and ride your lightning.” – Quincy Jones

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Trivia Question – Who is the only male solo artist whose first eight singles all went top ten in the UK?

Elton John? No. Elvis Presley? No. Cliff Richard? No. It was Rick Astley. In the US many people remember Rick as a one-hit wonder, but that is incorrect. Rick had seven top 40 singles stateside, including five top tens, two of which, “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Together Forever,” went to #1. He retired from recording in 1993, by which time he had sold around forty million records.

Winston + Rick A
Today Rick turns 49 years old. We kick off our weekly dance party with a largely-forgotten tune of his that went top ten on both sides of the Atlantic.

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25 Things You Don’t Know About Me (+ It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!)

25 Things You Don’t Know About Me:
1. I never wear flip-flops in public, except on the beach.
2. The first time I met Chaka Khan, I said to her “You are the ultimate sex goddess of life.” Her mouth said “Thanks.” Her eyes said “SECURITY!!!”
3. I have two eyes and two ears, but only one nose.
4. I can name every letter of the alphabet.
5. I sleep in a bed.
6. I can bench press over 18 pounds.
7. I eat solid food.
8. I’m an American citizen.
9. I know every word to the theme from S.W.A.T.
10. I celebrate my birthday once a year.
11. I’m always listening to music, except when I’m not.
12. I can recite the Pledge of Allegiance by heart.
13. Some of my best friends are gay.
14. I know how to say hello in English.
15. Everyone in my family is a homo sapien.
16. I’ve never met Barack Obama or Millard Fillmore; however, I did meet Jermaine Stewart, the guy who sang “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off.”
17. I’ll often wear the same jeans two or three times in a given month.
18. I’ve never gotten high, drunk, or a legendary engram.
19. I have no idea what a legendary engram is.
20. I am 5’9½” tall, though I was shorter at the time of my birth.
21. If I’m outside in the rain and I don’t have an umbrella, I usually end up getting wet.
22. I’ve never been pregnant.
23. I’m unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
24. I was not in the movies Star Wars, Rear Window or Beethoven 2.
25. I don’t know what a slide rule is for.

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Our party kicks off with Sade. Sade, the lead singer of Sade, turns 56 today, which reminds me: 26. I once rode in an elevator with Sade, the lead singer of Sade.

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It’s Jellybean’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

John “Jellybean” Benitez, along with Arthur Baker, was the pre-eminent remixer of the 1980s. If I saw his name on a 12-inch single, I knew I was going to get something good. He worked with many big names in that decade and beyond. Artists whose work he remixed include Talking Heads, Michael Jackson, Fleetwood Mac, Paul McCartney, Donna Summer, Santana, ZZ Top, Billy Joel, Afrika Bambaataa, Whitney Houston, Daryl Hall & John Oates, Sting, Bangles, A-ha, Cher, Shakira, Bonnie Tyler, The Romantics and, most famously, Madonna.

These days Jellybean deejays parties around the world and is the Executive Producer of Sirius XM’s disco/dance station, Studio 54 radio. A couple of years ago, while I was working at Warner Music, Jellybean and I were discussing a project he wanted to do. I was very into the idea and told him I was confident I could get the big names he wanted on board. We also talked about a radio show he conceived for the Sirius XM channel in which new mixes of classic dance songs were played. To help him with that show I sent him a package with some modern mixes we had done of disco classics by Chic, Ashford & Simpson and others.

He never said thank you. I sent him a follow-up email to be sure he received the package, but he didn’t reply. Oh, well. So he is lacking manners. That doesn’t affect the joy I get listening to his classic remix work. (By the by, he never got around to launching the project he wanted to do about which I was excited.)

Today is Jellybean’s 57th birthday. Many of his mixes are not on Spotify, so today’s dance playlist consists of some of his mixes that are, of Madonna, David Bowie, Irene Cara, The Pointer Sisters, Shalamar and Whitney Houston, alongside other records I love to dance to.

You’re welcome.

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It’s My Birthday And I Need To Dance!

doggies + New Edition
Every April, to coincide with Tax Day, my former Sony colleague Rich Appel creates the IRS countdown. In this case, IRS stands for It Really Shoulda, as in It Really Shoulda been a top ten hit. People vote for songs that they feel should have but didn’t make the top ten of Billboard’s Hot 100. Rich collates all of the entries and comes out with the Top 100 IRS songs.

Today is my birthday. Usually on birthdays, Tunes du Jour creates a playlist around the music of the birthday boy or girl. As Friday is dance day in these parts, I decided I would take inspiration from Rich’s IRS countdown and present to you a playlist of songs that I love to dance to that didn’t crack the pop top ten. Here are fifty such IRS tracks. (Actually, fifty-one, not because that’s how old I am but because the Diana Ross entry is two songs.) It’s my birthday and I need to dance!

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