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 1982

Nineteen eighty-two was a musical kaleidoscope. New wave, punk, rap, and pop collided in glorious ways, creating a year of iconic sounds that still resonate today. Synth-pop rose to prominence, rock anthems solidified their place in our hearts, and the pulsating beats of new wave and post-disco ruled dance floors and radio waves alike.

It was the year that brought us iconic songs and sounds that still resonate today, like Soft Cell’s “Tainted Love,” a synth-pop masterpiece, and The Human League’s “Don’t You Want Me,” a song so ingrained in our collective consciousness it practically begs to be sung along to. Both are emblematic of the New Wave movement that dominated the airwaves.

New Wave wasn’t the only game in town, though. Rock received a shot of adrenaline with Joan Jett’s “I Love Rock N’ Roll,” a fist-pumping reminder of the genre’s enduring power. Queen and David Bowie delivered the masterpiece “Under Pressure” – a testament to the power of collaboration (and maybe a metaphor for the year itself!). Meanwhile, Bruce Springsteen’s “Atlantic City” offered a poignant look at the working class experience.

The year also marked a significant moment for hip-hop with Grandmaster Flash & The Furious Five’s “The Message,” a track that brought social consciousness to the forefront, laying down the reality of urban life with a beat that demanded attention.

Laurie Anderson’s “O Superman” experimented with spoken word and electronic sounds, a heady trip that felt like a message from the future. Afrika Bambaataa’s “Planet Rock” introduced audiences to the future of electro-funk. On the other end of the spectrum, “I’ve Never Been to Me” by Charlene… well, let’s just say it was a unique contribution to the musical landscape.

The Jam’s “A Town Called Malice” captured the youthful angst of British punk, while Madness’ “House of Fun” and Depeche Mode’s “Just Can’t Get Enough” offered a quirky new wave charm.

Pop had its share of fun too. Who can forget The J. Geils Band’s “Centerfold?” There was also the infectious “Jack & Diane” by John Cougar, a little ditty about young love in a small town. The Go-Go’s “We Got the Beat” declared female empowerment with a pop-rock punch, while Stray Cats’ “Rock This Town” brought rockabilly back into the mainstream. Even bubblegum pop got a look-in with Bow Wow Wow’s sugary sweet “I Want Candy.”

Nineteen eighty-two was a year where music embraced the weird, the wonderful, and everything in between. So crank up the volume, dig out your leg warmers (optional), and let this playlist take you back to a time when music wasn’t afraid to experiment and have a whole lot of fun.

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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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Tunes Du Jour Presents 1989

Although 1989 may not have been a groundbreaking year for popular music, it bestowed upon us an array of iconic hits spanning diverse genres. Take, for instance, The B-52’s infectious “Love Shack,” with its quirky lyrics and irresistible beat that whisked revelers away to a neon-lit haven of love and laughter. Meanwhile, Neneh Cherry’s “Buffalo Stance” effortlessly blended hip-hop beats and funk, showcasing Cherry’s distinct rap-singing style and exuding an aura of boldness and unapologetic confidence.

On a more introspective note, The Cure’s “Lovesong” captured the poignant ache of love’s longing through haunting melodies and Robert Smith’s plaintive vocals. In contrast, Paula Abdul’s “Straight Up” emerged as a pop gem, infusing catchy hooks with Abdul’s signature sassy charm. Public Enemy’s “Fight the Power” thundered onto the scene as a resounding anthem against social injustice, urging listeners to question authority and demand change.

Meanwhile, De La Soul’s “Me, Myself And I” provided a playful yet insightful commentary on self-identity and individuality, solidifying their status as pioneers of alternative rap. Pixies’ “Debaser” shattered musical conventions with its raw energy, while N.W.A’s “Express Yourself” defiantly resonated with those embracing authenticity. Enya’s “Orinoco Flow” whisked us away on Celtic winds, and Young M.C.’s “Bust A Move” had us grooving to its playful rap verses.

Then there were the soulful strains of Guns N’ Roses’ “Patience,” revealing a softer side to the rock rebels, and Madonna’s “Like a Prayer,” a fusion of pop sensibility with gospel-infused vocals that pushed boundaries. Fine Young Cannibals’ “She Drives Me Crazy” pulsated with infectious energy, blending pop, new wave, and soul, while Prince’s “Batdance” defied genres with its blend of funk, rock, and pop flamboyance. Meanwhile, Nirvana’s “About a Girl” hinted at the seismic shift the band would bring to the music industry.

Reflecting on the music of 1989, we’re reminded of its enduring legacy and profound impact on contemporary music. Each song in this playlist serves as a time capsule, transporting us to a moment when music had the power to unite, inspire, and ignite imaginations. So let’s press play and embark on a journey through the sonic landscape of 1989, where every note resonates with the magic of music.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 1-31-24

The first artist fan club I ever joined was that of KC and the Sunshine Band. I received a membership card and a Christmas card from the band when that holiday I don’t celebrate came around. I don’t think there was more to it. I joined Olivia Newton-John’s fan club a year or two later, and received a membership card and a folio filled with photos of Livvy pressed on cardboard of various sizes. Years later I joined the R.E.M. and Pearl Jam fan clubs, which came with 45 rpm records and stickers and a calendar and a VHS tape and some other fun stuff. 

Are any of y’alls in an artist’s fan club? Is it worth the price of entry? 

KC was born Harry Wayne Casey on this date in 1951. A handful of his group’s songs are included on today’s playlist. Also included is his first number one single – as a songwriter with fellow Sunshine Band member Rick Finch on George McCrae’s “Rock Your Baby.”

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 11-19-23

Inspired by an unhoused woman who would sing gospel songs in front of a Washington, DC hotel, the familiar refrain of “la da dee la da da” in Crystal Waters’ “Gypsy Woman (She’s Homeless)” was meant as a temporary placeholder until the real lyrics were written. Here’s to writers block!                                                                                                                                                                           Crystal Waters was born on this date in 1961. A couple of her tracks are included on today’s playlist.

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Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 11-18-23

In early 1980 newspaper The Village Voice published the results of its poll of 155 music critics. Voted the best album of 1979 was Graham Parker & The Rumour’s Squeezing Out Sparks. The rest of the top ten was:

Neil Young – Rust Never Sleeps

The Clash – The Clash

Talking Heads – Fear of Music

Elvis Costello – Armed Forces

Van Morrison – Into the Music

The B-52s – The B-52s

Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers – Damn the Torpedoes

Pere Ubu – Dub Housing

Donna Summer – Bad Girls                                                                                                                                                                  Graham Parker was born on this date in 1950. A handful of his songs are included on today’s playlist.

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