Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 4-20-24

If you’re looking for a smooth soundtrack to unwind with, Luther Vandross has you covered. His smooth vocals and captivating stage presence made him a beloved and influential figure in R&B and soul music.

Early in his career, Vandross honed his skills not just as a singer, but as a songwriter and producer. He penned the uplifting “Everybody Rejoice/A Brand New Day” for the Broadway musical The Wiz, showcasing his talent for crafting memorable melodies. This period also saw him become a sought-after background vocalist, lending his voice to the recordings of icons like David Bowie, Stevie Wonder, Donna Summer, Todd Rundgren, Diana Ross, Ben E. King, Sister Sledge, Roberta Flack, Chaka Khan, Judy Collins, the J. Geils Band, Irene Cara, and Bette Midler. Not only did Vandross sing on Bowie’s “Fascination,” but they wrote the song together. This experience further solidified Vandross’ own artistic vision, which he would soon unleash on the world.

Before embarking on his solo journey, Vandross dipped his toes into the world of lead vocals. He fronted the disco group Change, belting out their hit “The Glow of Love.” He also sang lead for Bionic Boogie on their track “Hot Butterfly,” and even fronted a short-lived band simply called Luther.

Quincy Jones’ “Takin’ It To the Streets,” featuring Vandross as a lead vocalist alongside Gwen Guthrie, demonstrated his ability to shine even before his solo breakout. Later in his career, Vandross would seamlessly slip back into the role of collaborator, creating magic on duets with artists like Janet Jackson (“The Best Things in Life Are Free”) and Dionne Warwick (“How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye”).

The 1980s marked Vandross’ rise to stardom as a solo artist. Tracks like “Never Too Much” and “Here and Now” became instant classics, showcasing his ability to blend vulnerability with pure soulful power.

Throughout his career, Vandross racked up accolades. He’s a Grammy Award winner with eight statues to his name, and countless other awards solidify his place as a musical giant. But beyond the trophies, his true impact lies in the way his music continues to connect with listeners. Whether it’s a slow dance ballad or a roof-raising anthem, Vandross’ music offers a timeless blend of emotion and artistry. So next time you hear that velvety voice, take a moment to appreciate the work of a true musical great, who not only delivered unforgettable solo performances but also left his mark through songwriting, production, and collaborations across genres. Today’s playlist isn’t just a collection of Luther Vandross’ greatest hits – it’s a mix of some of those tracks alongside other gems that reveal the breadth of Vandross’ musical contributions. Prepare to be surprised at where he turns up. For example, those unforgettable “ba ba”s that open Stevie Wonder’s “Part-Time Lover?” That’s Luther!

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Tunes Du Jour Presents Marvin Gaye

Marvin Gaye wasn’t just a singer; he was a cultural touchstone. His music transcended genres and generations, leaving an indelible mark on the soundtrack of our lives.

Today’s playlist delves into the multifaceted artistry of this musical giant. We hear the early days of Gaye, the prince of Motown, with classics like “Ain’t That Peculiar” and “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You).” These tracks showcase Gaye’s undeniable charisma and his ability to deliver a love song that could melt glaciers.

But Gaye wasn’t content to simply be a love ballad specialist. One can’t ignore the social and political commentary woven into Gaye’s later works, particularly What’s Going On, which topped Rolling Stone’s 2020 survey of the greatest albums of all time. That record tackled war, poverty, and environmental concerns with a raw honesty that resonated deeply. Tracks like “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” tackled environmental degradation, while the title track became an anthem for a generation yearning for peace and a response to society’s ills. This willingness to confront social issues set Gaye apart, making him a voice for the voiceless.

Gaye’s influence on music is undeniable. His use of layered instrumentation paved the way for future generations of artists. More importantly, his vocal prowess – the raspy vulnerability, the effortless power – became a benchmark for countless singers across genres. From R&B to soul to pop, Gaye’s influence can be felt in the music we listen to today.

Beyond the music, Gaye’s personal struggles became part of his narrative. His tempestuous relationships and inner demons fueled the emotional intensity of his music, adding a layer of authenticity that resonated with listeners. But it’s important to remember the man behind the music, not just the turmoil. Gaye’s collaborations with Tammi Terrell, Kim Weston, Mary Wells, and Diana Ross produced some of the most beloved soul duets ever recorded, showcasing a tenderness and vulnerability that balanced his more confrontational moments.

The accompanying playlist offers a glimpse into the vast and multifaceted world of Marvin Gaye. You’ll find heart-wrenching ballads like “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” alongside the dancefloor anthems like “Got to Give It Up.” There are the iconic duets with Tammi Terrell, the socially conscious anthems, and the smooth, seductive grooves that made him a legend.

Marvin Gaye’s legacy extends far beyond the number of records sold or awards won. He was a cultural icon, a voice for a generation, and an artist whose influence continues to be felt today. So put on your headphones, crank up the volume, and let the music of Marvin Gaye wash over you.

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Tunes Du Jour Presents Diana Ross

Diana Ross is a name synonymous with powerhouse vocals, unforgettable style, and a career that has spanned over six decades. But beyond the glitz and glamour, Ross’ impact on music is undeniable. As the lead singer of The Supremes, she shattered racial barriers and brought a new level of sophistication to pop music. Hits like “Baby Love,” “Where Did Our Love Go,” and “You Can’t Hurry Love” remain timeless classics, while tracks like “Love Child” subtly challenged societal norms.

Leaving The Supremes to forge a successful solo career, Ross continued to push boundaries. Songs like “Upside Down” and “Love Hangover” cemented her status as a disco queen, while the uplifting “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” became a rallying cry for overcoming obstacles, “Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To?)” displayed her versatility as a dramatic performer, and “I’m Coming Out” became a cultural touchstone, an anthem for the LGBTQ+ community. Whether intentional or not, Ross’s music consistently resonated with those seeking empowerment and self-discovery. Ross’ music wasn’t just catchy; it spoke to the aspirations and heartaches of a generation.

While the spotlight often shines on her musical achievements, Ross’s philanthropic efforts deserve equal recognition. She has championed causes that touch the lives of many. Here are some highlights:

  1. Autism Movement Therapy: Ross’s support for this organization underscores her commitment to inclusivity. By promoting movement-based therapies for individuals with autism, she advocates for a world where everyone’s unique abilities are celebrated.
  2. Elton John AIDS Foundation: Ross’s involvement in this foundation reflects her compassion. She recognizes the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS and works tirelessly to raise awareness and funds for research and support.
  3. Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center: Inspired by her dear friend Muhammad Ali, Ross contributes to this center, which provides care and resources for those battling Parkinson’s disease. Her empathy extends beyond the stage.
  4. United Service Organization (USO): Ross’s dedication to supporting military personnel and their families is unwavering. Her performances for troops stationed around the world demonstrate her gratitude and respect.

Listening to the playlist as a whole, it’s clear that Diana Ross’s legacy goes beyond just chart-topping hits. She was a pioneer for Black artists in the music industry, an artist whose music continues to inspire and uplift. By paving the way for future generations of artists, she helped diversify the soundscape of popular music. So crank up the volume, hit play, and let yourself be swept away by the timeless sounds of Diana Ross.

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Tunes Du Jour Presents Quincy Jones

Quincy Delight Jones Jr., affectionately known as “Q,” is a name that resonates across the vast landscape of music. Born on March 14, 1933, in Chicago, Illinois, Quincy Jones has left an indelible mark on the world of entertainment. His multifaceted career spans seven decades, and his contributions to music, film, and humanitarian causes are nothing short of legendary. Let’s delve into the life of this remarkable artist, exploring both his creative genius and his unwavering commitment to making the world a better place.

Quincy Jones’s musical journey began with the trumpet, but it soon expanded to embrace a universe of genres. From jazz to pop, from film scores to chart-topping hits, Jones’s versatility knows no bounds. He cut his teeth working with luminaries like Ray Charles and Dizzy Gillespie, honing his skills as an arranger and composer. His compositions, such as “Stockholm Sweetnin’” and “For Lena and Lennie,” showcased his innate ability to blend sophistication with soulful melodies.

However, it’s impossible to discuss Quincy Jones without mentioning his groundbreaking collaborations with Michael Jackson. As the producer of Jackson’s iconic albums—Off the Wall, Thriller, and Bad—Jones elevated pop music to new heights. The pulsating basslines of “Billie Jean,” the electrifying energy of “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” and the haunting introspection of “Man in the Mirror” all bear his unmistakable imprint. And let’s not forget the global anthem “We Are the World,” which Jones orchestrated to raise funds for famine relief in Ethiopia—a testament to his unwavering commitment to humanity.

Beyond the studio, Quincy Jones’s heart beats for social causes. In the 1970s, he stood shoulder-to-shoulder with Martin Luther King Jr. as a founding member of Jesse Jackson’s Operation PUSH. His belief in the transformative power of music led him to create the Quincy Jones Listen Up Foundation. Through this nonprofit, he connects underserved youth with technology and music education. From South Central Los Angeles to South Africa, Jones’s foundation builds bridges, providing instruments and broadening music curricula to include American jazz greats alongside European classics.

But his philanthropic endeavors extend beyond borders. In partnership with Emirati social entrepreneur Badr Jafar, Jones launched the Global Gumbo Group. Their charity single “Tomorrow/Bokra,” featuring Middle Eastern singers, raised funds for children’s charities. This No. 1 hit in the Middle East garnered over 7 million views on YouTube, proving that music can heal and uplift even in the most challenging times.

And let’s not forget Hurricane Katrina. Jones stepped in to save the homes and properties of elderly jazz musicians affected by the devastating storm. His magic touch—what some call the “Quincy dust”—transforms lives, one act of kindness at a time.

Quincy Jones, now in his 90s, remains an unstoppable force. Whether he’s conducting an orchestra, mentoring young artists, or advocating for social justice, his legacy reverberates across generations. As we listen to the soulful strains of “Soul Bossa Nova” or groove to “Razzamatazz,” let’s remember that behind every note lies a man who believes in the power of love, music, and compassion. Quincy Jones—the maestro, the philanthropist, and the eternal groove-maker—continues to inspire us all.

Q produced all of the recordings on today’s playlist except the ones performed by Ray Charles, Frank Sinatra and Big Maybelle; on those he’s credited as the arranger.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 12-10-23

“Nightshift” was Commodores’ biggest hit following the departure of usual lead singer Lionel Richie. The group’s Walter Orange, a co-writer of the song, sings lead on verse one. Orange also sang lead on Commodores’ hits “Brick House” and “Too Hot Ta Trot.” So there. 

Commodores’ Walter Orange was born on this date (or maybe yesterday’s date) in 1946. Two of the group’s songs on which he sang lead are included on today’s playlist.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 9-2-23

“Will It Go Round In Circles,” Billy Preston’s second US number one single, was borne from a comment Preston made to his songwriting partner, Bruce Fisher, about having a song but no melody. From there the pair came up with lyrics about having a dance with no steps and added to those words a very catchy melody. A session that included pre-stardom guitar and bass players The Brothers Johnson brought the groove and the funk.

Billy Preston’s first time having his name appear at the top spot of the Hot 100 was in 1969 with “Get Back,” credited to The Beatles With Billy Preston. Following The Beatles’ breakup, Preston continued working with its members, including playing with George Harrison at the Concert for Bangladesh. Preston was the first artist to record Harrison’s My Sweet Lord,” which Harrison co-produced and later recorded himself.

“Will It Go Round In Circles” entered the Hot 100 at number 99. It reached the top ten eleven weeks later, at which time the number one song was Paul McCartney and Wings’ “My Love.” “My Love” was knocked from the top spot by George Harrison’s “Give Me Love (Give Me Peace On Earth),” which was knocked from the top spot by “Will it Go Round In Circles.” The b-side of the Preston single was his cover of The Beatles’ song “Blackbird.”

The late Billy Preston was born on this date in 1946. A handful of his songs feature on today’s playlist.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 7-15-23

Norma Jean Wright, who sang lead vocals on Chic’s first smash single “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah),” was born on this date in 1956 in Ripley, Tennessee, which is not far from the town of Nutbush, from where Tina Turner hails. Wright’s dad attended the same church as Tina. Besides her work with Chic, most notably on the aforementioned single and its follow-up, “Everybody Dance,” Wright has released solo records and sang backup on albums by Aretha Franklin, Madonna, Luther Vandross (who sings backup on “Dance, Dance, Dance”) and Sister Sledge.

Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthday of Norma Jean Wright with a playlist that includes her two biggest hits with Chic.

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