Tag Archives: Bill Withers

Presidents Day Top 40

Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson – they’re here. This Presidents Day playlist kicks off with one of the Bushes. Kate.


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Throwback Thursday – 1972

Willie Mitchell, the producer of Al Green’s string of hits in the first half of the 1970s, recalled the one time he and the singer had a fight. It was over a song the two men had written with Al Jackson, Jr. While producing that track, Mitchell told Green to sing it much more softly than he had sung his other material. Green thought that direction was wrong and the song would never become a hit.

That recording was “Let’s Stay Together,” and it became Green’s first #1 on the pop chart. It also spent nine weeks at #1 on the r&b chart.

Following the success of “Let’s Stay Together,” Mitchell said Green never again argued with him.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist focuses on the year 1972, kicking off with the song that Rolling Stone magazine named the 60th greatest of all time, Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1971

At the end of the 1960s, Marvin Gaye was a huge star, having had more than two dozen top 40 hits before 1970. However, the singer was having a crisis of conscience, wanting to sing about the ills of the world he saw around him as opposed to perform nothing but love songs.

Inspired by the horrific stories told to him by his brother of what he witnessed serving three years in Viet Nam, Gaye, who hadn’t a hand in writing most of his hits up to this point, added lyrics to an unreleased song written by Obie Benson of the Four Tops and Al Cleveland.

He presented the song to Motown head Berry Gordy, who supposedly called it “the worst thing I ever heard in my life.” Gaye’s response? “Basically, I said ‘Put it out or I’ll never record for you again.’ That was my ace in the hole, and I had to play it.”

“What’s Going On” became the fastest-selling single in the history of Motown Records. Rolling Stone magazine has since placed it at #4 on their ranking of the greatest songs of all-time.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist consists of twenty hits from 1971, kicking off with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1981

me before promThe blogger in 1981, before heading to the senior prom

For this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, we revisit 1981. The 1981 Grammy Award for Album of the Year went to John Lennon and Yoko Ono’s Double Fantasy. The Best New Artist was Shena Easton. Record of the Year and Song of the Year went to “Bette Davis Eyes,” performed by Kim Carnes. Both Carnes and Easton were nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, along with Olivia Newton-John for “Physical” and Juice Newton for “Angel of the Morning,” but those ladies lost to Lena Horne for “WTF?”. Rick Springfield won Best Rock Performance, Male (naturally) for “Jessie’s Girl.” “Just the Two of Us,” the Grover Washington, Jr./Bill Withers hit, took home the trophy for Best Rhythm & Blues Song.

Here are some of 1981’s biggest hits:

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“Lean On Me” – Bill Withers

In 1967 Bill Withers moved to Los Angeles to try to make it as a songwriter. While pursuing this dream he worked at Lockheed Aircraft, making around $3.50/hour. He spent $2500 of his own money to record some demo tracks. Not one record company or publisher expressed interest.

While working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s, he formed friendships with his co-workers and appreciated how they would help each other out. The mutual support this group of workers offered inspired him to compose a song. He titled it “Lean on Me.”

His upbringing played a large part in the song’s sentiment. “Being from a rural, West Virginia setting, that kind of circumstance would be more accessible to me than it would be to a guy living in New York where people step over you if you’re passed out on the sidewalk, or Los Angeles, where you could die on the side of the freeway and it would probably be 8 days before anyone noticed you were dead. Coming from a place where people were a little more attentive to each other, less afraid, that would cue me to have those considerations.”

He recorded the track for his album Still Bill. The single went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1972. He left his factory job, but retained a good perspective, telling the L.A. Times: “Even when I was working on bathroom seats, this was at least constructive. I challenge anybody: I won’t sing for a month and you don’t go to the bathroom for a month and let’s see who comes off with less misery.”

“Lean On Me” won Withers a Grammy award for Best R&B Song … in 1987. On March 21 of that year Club Nouveau took their rendition of the song to #1, only the fifth time in the rock era that two different versions of the same song hit #1. (The first four? “Go Away Little Girl” – Steve Lawrence/Donny Osmond, “The Loco-Motion” – Little Eva/Grand Funk, “Please Mr. Postman” – The Marvelettes/The Carpenters, and “Venus” – The Shocking Blue/Bananarama.)

Bill Withers turns 77 years old today. Being he is an American institution, federal offices and banks are closed today. Many parts of the country are celebrating his birthday with fireworks displays, as they should. Here are twenty Withers tracks worth hearing, starting with the classic “Lean on Me.”


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It’s Ray Parker, Jr.’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

“Which song is better – ‘Ghostbusters’ or ‘Total Eclipse of the Heart?’”

That question was posed by a co-worker. Are you fudgetown kidding me? It’s like asking “Which movie is better – The Godfather or Paul Blart-Mall Cop 2?”

Okay. That comparison is unfair. “Total Eclipse of the Heart” is far more enjoyable than Paul Blart-Mall Cop 2. I haven’t seen Paul Blart-Mall Cop 2, but I’m confident that “Total Eclipse…” is funnier. “I don’t know what to do, I’m always in the dark / We’re living in a powder keg and giving off sparks.” Ha! And how ‘bout dem sleigh bells?!? How many other summer hits employed sleigh bells?

So yes, I love “Total Eclipse of the Heart,” because it’s so delightfully awful. “Ghostbusters,” on the other hand, is genius. If you were called to write the theme song for a Bill Murray/Ernie Hudson feature film entitled Ghostbusters, would you turn in “Ghostbusters” or “Total Eclipse of the Heart?” Exactly!

RPJ + Winston
“Ghostbusters” is so danged catchy. A lot of people thought so. Huey Lewis thought so. Lewis accused Parker, Jr. of ripping off the Huey Lewis and the News hit “I Want a New Drug” for the melody of “Ghostbusters.” I hear a similarity, but to me it’s like “Hey, Ray – there’s a shitty song called ‘I Want a New Drug.’ Can you make it better, please?” And he did.

“I Want a New Drug” isn’t even fun bad. “I want a new drug – one that won’t make me sick / One that won’t make me crash my car, or make me feel three feet thick.” Really? Did someone misplace their rhyming dictionary?

“Ghostbusters” has no clumsy lyrics. It’s all very efficient. “Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! I think you better call. Ghostbusters! Ha ha. Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! I can’t hear you. Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Louder! Ghostbusters! Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Who can you call? Ghostbusters! Who you gonna call? Ghostbusters! Ha ha ha. Uh, it likes the girls, too. Ghostbusters!” Then fade, way too soon if you ask me.

“Ghostbusters” was nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song, but it lost to Stevie Wonder’s “I Just Called to Say I Love You,” a far shittier song than “Total Eclipse of the Heart” and “I Want a New Drug.” I’m not going to quote any lyrics from “I Just Called…,” as I’m pissed off that someone wrote and recorded that atrocity and then Motown stuck Stevie Wonder’s name on it. There’s no way the man who wrote “Maybe Your Baby” also wrote “I Just Called….” By the way, who plays guitar on Stevie Wonder’s “Maybe Your Baby?” Ray Parker, Jr.

Today is Ray Parker, Jr.’s 61st birthday. His hits, solo and with his band Raydio, include “A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do),” “Jack and Jill,” “You Can’t Change That” and “The Other Woman.” He also wrote or co-wrote hits for Rufus featuring Chaka Khan and New Edition and has appeared on records by Aretha Franklin, The Carpenters, Barry White, Bill Withers, Deniece Williams, yes I said The Carpenters, The Temptations, Spinners, Boz Scaggs, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Tina Turner, Herbie Hancock, Diana Ross, Cheryl Lynn, LaToya Jackson and Jack Wagner. Jack Wagner. Hey, Jack Wagner – who you gonna call? Ray Parker, Jr.

Our weekly dance party kicks off with Parker, Jr.’s most beloved song, “Ghostbusters.” Try dancing to Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” You can’t! Another point for “Ghostbusters.” (Let’s not discuss Nicki French’s hi-NRG remake of “Eclipse” at this time.)


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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

In 1967 Bill Withers moved to Los Angeles to try to make it as a songwriter. While pursuing this dream he worked at Lockheed Aircraft, making around $3.50/hour. He spent $2500 of his own money to record some demo tracks. Not one record company or publisher expressed any interest.

While working at a factory making toilet seats for 747s, he formed friendships with his co-workers and appreciated how they would help each other out. The mutual support this group of workers offered inspired him to compose a song. He titled it “Lean on Me.”

His upbringing played a large part in the song’s sentiment. “Being from a rural, West Virginia setting, that kind of circumstance would be more accessible to me than it would be to a guy living in New York where people step over you if you’re passed out on the sidewalk, or Los Angeles, where you could die on the side of the freeway and it would probably be 8 days before anyone noticed you were dead. Coming from a place where people were a little more attentive to each other, less afraid, that would cue me to have those considerations.”

He recorded the track for his album Still Bill. The single went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July 1972. He left his factory job, but retained a good perspective, telling the L.A. Times: “Even when I was working on bathroom seats, this was at least constructive. I challenge anybody: I won’t sing for a month and you don’t go to the bathroom for a month and let’s see…who comes off with less misery.”

“Lean On Me” won Withers a Grammy award for Best R&B Song … in 1987. On March 21 of that year Club Nouveau took their rendition of the song to #1, only the fifth time in the rock era that two different versions of the same song hit #1. (The first four? “Go Away Little Girl” – Steve Lawrence/Donny Osmond, “The Loco-Motion” – Little Eva/Grand Funk, “Please Mr. Postman” – The Marvelettes/The Carpenters, and “Venus” – The Shocking Blue/Bananarama.)

Winston + Club Nouveau

This week’s dance playlist kicks off with the record that hit #1 on this day 27 years ago – Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me.”

UPDATE: For some reason, the original version of Club Nouveau’s “Lean on Me” is not on Spotify; only a cheesy re-record is there. Screw it! We’ll kick off our dance party with Aretha Franklin’s “Freeway of Love.”

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