Tag Archives: Burt Bacharach

Twenty Songs You Should Hear (1-14-20)

Foo Fighters – “Learn to Fly”
Today is Foo Fighter Dave Grohl’s birthday. This is easily my favorite song from the group’s album There Is Nothing Left to Lose. Grohl said it’s one of his least favorites on the album. What does he know?

Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire”
Today is the birthday of Kings of Leon’s lead singer Caleb Followill. About this song, Caleb’s brother and fellow bandmate Nathan said in an interview “Sex On Fire was just kind of a little lyric just to fill in to kill some time until we could actually write something that wasn’t about sex and fire.”

Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody”
Grammy Award winner for Record of the Year.

Foo Fighters – “Everlong”
David Letterman introduced a performance of this song on his talk show as “my favorite band playing my favorite song.”

Bobby “Blue” Bland – “I’ll Take Care of You”
Written by Brook Benton and originally recorded by Bobby “Blue Bland,” this song was covered by Gil Scott-Heron, whose version was remixed by Jamie xx. That remix was sampled in the Drake/Rihanna hit “Take Care.”

James Brown – “King Heroin”
This song is a poem written by New York City Stage Delicatessen worker Manny Rosen set to music.

Barbara Lewis – “Baby I’m Yours”
This song was written by Van McCoy, who hit #1 with his classic disco recording “The Hustle.”

Mary Wells – “Two Lovers”
This song was written by Smokey Robinson, who was inspired by a movie he was watching on television in which a woman had two lovers. Imagine the song we would have gotten had Smokey been watching The Thing With Two Heads.

Oasis – “Slide Away”
Oasis member Noel Gallagher, who write this song, says it contains his brother Liam’s best vocals ever.

Foo Fighters – “I’ll Stick Around”
This song’s music video was directed by Jerry Casale of Devo, who is coming up later on this playlist.

Dionne Warwick – “Promises, Promises”
Like most of Dionne Warwick’s sixties hits, this one was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

LL Cool J – “I’m That Type of Guy”
Today James Todd Smith turns 52 years old. He’s cool and the ladies love him, hence his rap moniker LL Cool J.

Run-D.M.C. – “Run’s House”
Run-D.M.C. sampled this in their final top 40 pop hit, “Down with the King.”

Clarence Carter – “Strokin”
Today is the 84th birthday of Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Ooh Shit Clarence Carter.

The Smashing Pumpkins – “Landslide”
In 1994, Smashing Pumpkins’ version of this Fleetwood Mac song hit #3 on the US Modern Rock chart, becoming the first version of this song to chart.

Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”
The title track from the 2011 Album of the Year Grammy winner.

Jack Jones – “Wives and Lovers”
Another Grammy Award winner, this one for Best Vocal Performance, Male. As with the Dionne Warwick song earlier in this playlist, this was written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The lyrics, which may have already seemed backwards when they wrote it in 1963, come across as downright anachronistic today, telling women they need to stay attractive and attend to their husbands if they want them to remain faithful. Today is Jack Jones’ birthday.

Clarence Carter – “Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street)”
Another classic performance from Carter, referenced in “Strokin.”

Devo – “Working in the Coal Mine”
A cover of the Lee Dorsey classic, written by the late Alan Toussaint, whose birthday is today.

The Pointer Sisters – “Yes We Can Can”
Alan Toussaint write this song also. He wrote a lot of great songs. He also co-produced the Labelle classic “Lady Marmalade.” Respect.

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Throwback Thursday – 1970

me - 1970The blogger in 1970

Today Tunes du Jour introduces Throwback Thursday playlists, in which we go back to hear some of the biggest hits from a particular year. We start with 1970, when you could hear Led Zeppelin and the Carpenters played back-to-back on your favorite AM Top 40 station..


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I Say A Little Prayer On Burt Bacharach’s Birthday

Songwriters/Producers Burt Bacharach and Hal David had a string of hits with Dionne Warwick in the 1960s. They usually got the master they wanted after just one take; however, on “I Say a Little Prayer,” they did ten takes with Warwick, not liking any of the end results. They felt the tempo was too rushed. They gave up on the recording and into the vault it went, until October 1967, when the head of Warwick’s record label slated it to be the b-side of the new single “(Theme from) Valley of the Dolls.” While “Dolls” eventually became a hit, it was “I Say a Little Prayer” that raced up the chart first, becoming Warwick’s first gold record.

Against the advice of Jerry Wexler, the head of her record label, Aretha Franklin recorded a cover of “I Say a Little Prayer” just weeks after Warwick’s record peaked. Wexler thought it was too soon to remake the song, not to mention that he felt the song was far better suited to Warwick’s voice. Franklin came up with a new arrangement for the tune and used the same backup singers that sang on Warwick’s version. Though he loved what she did with the song, Wexler still didn’t think it was a hit, and scheduled it as the b-side to Aretha’s July 1968 single “The House That Jack Built.” As with Dionne’s record, both sides of Aretha’s single hit the top ten and the record went gold.

Though he didn’t produce Franklin’s recording, Bacharach has called it “the definitive version.”

Today Burt Bacharach turns 87 years old. Here are twenty classic songs from his songwriting catalogue.


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Making Love With Roberta Flack

In the 1982 film Making Love, Michael Ontkean plays a doctor (“Zack”) who cheats on his wife (“Claire”), portrayed by Kate Jackson, with Harry Hamlin (“Bart”), one of his patients. I guess I’m straight, because between the three main characters, I had a crush on the woman. Jackson was always my favorite of Charlie’s Angels. I was more attracted to her than I was to Farrah Fawcett or Jacklyn Smith or Cheryl Ladd. On second thought, that’s pretty gay.

Back in those days, there weren’t many Hollywood movies with big-name stars that had homosexual storylines, unlike today, when the typical multiplex fare is chock-full of celebrities acting out LGBT plots, he wrote sarcastically. It was a more conservative time. Reagan was president. Most folks didn’t want to see this pic. In her review of the Making Love in The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote that the film “isn’t for everybody. It isn’t, for instance, for those who value seriousness, quality or realism above sheer foolishness, at least where their soap operas are concerned.” I prefer sheer foolishness.

Ms. Maslin continued her rave review. “Once the cat is out of the bag, the movie turns rip-roaring awful in an entirely enjoyable way. There is, for instance, Claire’s visit to one of Zack’s male lovers, whose address she finds on a matchbook in Zack’s closet. ‘Could I ask you a stupid question?’ she says, rather unnecessarily. ‘Are you happy?’ The movie maintains this pitch right through to its ending. The ending, incidentally, is one for the record books.”

Roger Ebert was equally impressed. In his review he wrote “This movie has some of the worst dialogue one can imagine:
She: ‘What about passion?’
He: ‘What about support?’
She: ‘What about betrayal?’”

Ebert also wrote “[Ontkean’s character] visits a couple of gay bars populated exclusively by extras who look as if they should be posing for an Ah! Men! catalog.”

Why Ebert was familiar with the Ah! Men! catalog I do not know, but he sure knows how to sell me on a film.

The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, though not for the actors or director. Roberta Flack’s theme song, written by Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Bruce Roberts, lost Best Original Song to “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman. Fair enough, though the song “Making Love” is as pretty as Kate Jackson.

Ringo + Roberta
Today Roberta Flack turns 76 or 78, depending on where you read it. Here are twenty career highlights.

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Elvis Costello Helps Me With Geography

History was not my strongest subject at school. Nor was Geography. I’ve always been good with things that incorporate logic. Memorizing facts? Not so much.

Music was the exception. Because music was my primary passion, stories and trivia about my favorite artists and songs tended to get lodged in my brain, never to escape.

Sometimes I came across songs that taught me facts and concepts more effectively than any teacher. Thanks to Kate and Anna McGarrigle’s “NaCl,” I got an A in Chemistry. The song explains the ionization process, wherein atoms gain or lose electrons to become positively or negatively charged, by detailing a budding romance between Sodium (Na) and Chlorine (Cl). I can tell you when Louis XVI assumed the monarchy in France, thanks to Allan Sherman’s “You Went the Wrong Way, Old King Louis.” Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” educated me on the sinking of that ship and, more importantly, gave me a way to recall the names of the five Great Lakes, thanks to a gratuitous verse that names all of them.

Elvis Costello’s “Oliver’s Army” helped me with crossword puzzle clues such as “River in England.” The song’s reference to “the boys from the Mersey and the Thames and the Tyne” gives me three options for that answer. The Oliver of the song’s title is Oliver Cromwell, an English military and parliamentary leader in the 17th century. I don’t remember learning about him in school but maybe I did.

Ringo + Elvis C 2014-08-25 13.48
Today is Elvis Costello’s 60th birthday. Kicking off our playlist is “Oliver’s Army,” a song that wasn’t destined to make Costello’s Armed Forces album until Steve Nieve, Elvis’ keyboard player, suggested adding a piano riff based on Abba’s “Dancing Queen” to the track. That brought the track to life, giving Costello his first UK top ten single, reaching #2 in 1979.

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Dionne Warwick And The Extra E – A Cautionary Tale

In 1971 an astrologer told Dionne Warwick to append an “e” to her last name. “It will bring you luck,” she was told. At that point in her career Warwick was a multi-Grammy Award winner with more than twenty US top forty pop hits, collaborations with the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, to her name. But who can’t use more luck?

Following the astrologer’s advice, Warwick became Warwicke, and besides a guest co-lead vocal on a Spinners record (the sublime “Then Came You”), Warwicke didn’t have any hits. Warwicke didn’t win any Grammys. The songwriting partnership of Bacharach and David split apart. Warwicke separated from and divorced her husband.

Dionne dropped the “e” and became Warwick again. Warwick returned to the top ten with “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” which won her the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, with its follow-up single, “Déjà Vu,” winning her the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.

The lesson? Stay away from “e.” It’ll ruin your life.

Here is a playlist inspired by Warwick, who turns 73 today.

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