Tag Archives: Dionne Warwick

20 Duets

Duets. Twenty of ’em.

Happy Valentine’s Day!


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Throwback Thursday – 1964

Between the British invasion, the growth of Motown, and the girl group sound, many arguments could be made as to why 1964 was the best year for pop music. Here are twenty:


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The Gladys Knight-Farrah Fawcett Connection

Our story begins in 1970 with a phone call placed by singer-songwriter Jim Weatherly to his friend, actor Lee Majors. Pre-The Six Million Dollar Man Majors was dating pre-Charlie’s Angels actress Farrah Fawcett. Fawcett answered the phone and while chatting with Weatherly, mentioned she was leaving that night to visit her parents in Texas. She told him she was taking the midnight plane to Houston.

That phrase stuck with Weatherly, who immediately upon hanging up the phone, turned it into a song. He recorded “Midnight Plane to Houston” for his 1972 album, Weatherly. Among the album’s other tracks was another song he wrote, entitled “Neither One of Us (Wants to Be the First to Say Goodbye).”

It was the latter song that first made its way to Gladys Knight & the Pips. Their recording of it reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, and was their biggest-selling single for Motown. It also turned out to be their last single released on Motown while still signed to the label.

The group had been with Motown since 1966. While “Neither One of Us” was on the charts, negotiations for a better deal with the label fell through, and the group was quickly scooped up by Buddah Records. As songwriter Jim Weatherly just provided them with a huge hit, they looked for more Weatherly compositions to record for their debut album for Buddah. You may see where this is going, but let’s backtrack for a moment.

“Midnight Plane to Houston” found its way to Cissy Houston, r&b/gospel singer and mother to Whitney Houston. Cissy liked the song, but asked Weatherly if she can make some changes. Specifically, her family was from Georgia, so she asked if she could switch Houston to Georgia. Also, her family didn’t fly; they rode trains. Weatherly had no objection to the requested changes, so in 1972, Cissy Houston recorded “Midnite Train to Georgia.”

It was this revised version that made its way to Gladys Knight & the Pips, who also hail from Georgia. The lyrics resonated with Knight. Like the partner about whom the song’s protagonist sings, Knight’s husband at that time was a musician. Perhaps he kept dreaming that someday he’d be a star, a superstar, but he didn’t get far. Unlike the song’s protagonist, Knight didn’t choose to live in his world than live without him in hers. The couple divorced in 1973, the same year that Gladys Knight & the Pips scored their first #1 pop single with “Midnight Train to Georgia,” which knocked the Rolling Stones’ “Angie” from the top slot. “Midnight Train” won the group the Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Group.

Ringo + Gladys
Twelve years after the group’s first top ten pop hit, 1961’s “Every Beat of My Heart,” Gladys Knight & the Pips went on hit-making roll, following up “Midnight” with three consecutive top ten hits: “I’ve Got to Use My Imagination,” “On and On,” and another Weatherly composition, “Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me.”

Today Gladys Knight turns 72 years old. Tunes du Jour celebrates the occasion with twenty of her group’s finest.


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Throwback Thursday – 1974

In 1974, my Grandpa Abe gave me a radio, thus changing my life. That radio became my best friend and music my main interest. I started buying all the 45 rpm records that made the top ten. Soon I was reading the trade magazines, as well as Rolling Stone, Circus, Creem, Song Hits, Hit Parader, Musician, and then some. Who knows what career path I would have chosen had I not latched onto popular music in my pre-teen years?

Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week focuses on the music of 1974. It includes the music I heard on the radio back then (eighteen top 40 hits) plus two I discovered later on.


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Throwback Thursday – The Hits Of 1968

For Throwback Thursday this week, Tunes du Jour goes back to 1968. Though the year’s biggest hit, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” is not on Spotify, there are enough great smashes to make a compelling playlist.


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My Birthday Advice: Don’t!

doggies + Elvis
Today is my birthday. Over my 25+ years on earth, I’ve learned many life lessons. Most of them came from songs. My birthday gift to you is a playlist of 100 songs offering advice as to what not to do.


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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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The Song Retains The Name

Winston + Bobby Brown
Today is Bobby Brown’s 46th birthday. A former member of New Edition, Brown had his first solo hit in 1988 with “Don’t Be Cruel,” which reached #8 on the Hot 100. Though it shares its title with an Elvis Presley #1 hit from 1956, Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is not a remake.

That brings us to today’s playlist, which I call The Song Retains the Name. It consists of different songs with the same title. I initially planned to include twenty such songs, but more kept springing to mind. Before I knew it, I passed 100 entries. There are plenty more, so I decided to open this up to my reader(s). If you have songs that share titles you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

(NOTES: I included The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” because when it was released in 1980 its title was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Thought he didn’t have to, Michael Jackson, the song’s writer, later changed its name to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel.” Whitney Houston didn’t feel the need to make the same Hotel accommodation.

Also, though it is listed on Spotify as “The Best of My Love,” the Eagles track does not have a “The” on the 45 or the band’s On the Border album.)

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Ten Facts About Barry Gibb

Winston + Bee Gees 2014-09-01 14.35
Ten facts about Barry Gibb:
• As a member of the Bee Gees and as a producer and writer, Barry contributed to more than half of the songs on the soundtrack to the film Saturday Night Fever. That album went on to sell 40 million copies and was the all-time best-selling album until it was outsold by Michael Jackson’s Thriller.
• The Bee Gees are the only group to have six consecutive singles go to #1, all of which were also written and produced by them – “How Deep is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Night Fever,” “Too Much Heaven,” “Tragedy” and “Love You Inside Out.”
• For twenty-seven of the thirty-seven weeks from December 24, 1977 through September 2, 1978, the #1 singles in the US featured Barry Gibb as a writer. The songs were the Bee Gees’ “How Deep Is Your Love,” “Stayin’ Alive” and “Night Fever,” Andy Gibb’s “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” and “Shadow Dancing,” Yvonne Elliman’s “If I Can’t Have You” and Frankie Valli’s “Grease.”
• Barry Gibb wrote “Grease” without his brothers. It was Frankie Valli’s only #1 single not co-written by Bob Gaudio or Bob Crewe. At the time Gibb approached Valli about recording the tune, Valli didn’t have a record deal. It was Valli’s last top 40 single.
• For three weeks beginning March 18, 1978, Barry was the lead singer, co-producer or co-writer of four of the US’ top five singles – “Night Fever,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “(Love Is) Thicker Than Water” and Samantha Sang’s “Emotion.”
• Barry and Robin Gibb wrote “Emotion” for the film Saturday Night Fever. It wasn’t used in the pic; however, it was used in the Joan Collins film The Stud the following year.
• Gibb was a co-producer and co-writer of the Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton duet “Islands in the Stream.” The record was a #1 country and pop hit, the last song to top both of those charts for 17 years. Barry Gibb said the song was written for Marvin Gaye to record.
Dionne Warwick did not care for “Heartbreaker,” written by the Bee Gees, but she recorded it anyway, as she trusted the brothers’ judgment that it would be a hit. It sailed into the top ten in 1983, her first single to do so in four years.
• The Bee Gees-penned “Chain Reaction” was one of two #1 solo singles for Diana Ross in the UK, the other being “I’m Still Waiting.” Neither are amongst her 27 post-Supremes top 40 hits in the US.
• As a songwriter Gibb has had No. 1 songs in the 1960s, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s and 2000s.

Today Barry Gibb turns 68. Here are twenty songs he sang and/or wrote and/or produced.

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Your Bastille Day Playlist

Paris001
In seventh grade we were given the option of taking Spanish or being expelled. I opted for the former. I did well in Spanish class. When I moved on to high school in ninth grade, we had a foreign language requirement, our options being Spanish, French or Swahili. I stayed with Spanish.

Through music I was able to pick up bits and pieces of other languages. I picked up some French phrases from Labelle and Talking Heads. I learned some Japanese from The Police and Robyn. The Rolling Stones and Dusty Springfield recorded Italian-language versions of a couple of their hits, and The Beatles recorded “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and “She Loves You” in German.

Limited as it was, this knowledge of foreign languages served me well when I moved into Sony Music’s International division. I could converse with our affiliates and licensees around the world. Sure, all I knew how to say to the folks in our French office was “Would you like to go to bed with me tonight?” and “What is it?,” but that’s all I needed to say. They appreciated the effort.

As today is Bastille Day and this blog has a French name, I created a playlist to help you with your French and your French kissing. Amusez-vous!

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