Tag Archives: Donny Hathaway

The Ultimate Christmas Playlist

Today is the day after Thanksgiving here in the United States of America. You’re officially allowed to start listening to holiday music now. To get you started, I compiled a playlist of what I consider to be 100 of the best Christmas songs. Okay, 98 songs, a stand-up routine and a skit. It’s a mix of standards, versions of standards with which you may not be familiar, and obscure but delightful tunes.

Enjoy!

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Luther Vandross Was Here

In 1974, David Bowie hired Luther Vandross to sing background vocals and do vocal arrangements for his Young Americans album. Bowie told the then 23-year-old singer “You’re going to make it…next year is your year!”

Bowie’s timing was a little off (depending on how you define “making it”). Luther cracked the top 40 as a solo artist for the first time with “Never Too Much” in 1981. Before then, he was a much in-demand session vocalist and arranger.

Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthday of Luther Vandross with twenty tracks on which the soul great is the lead singer, a backup singer, the arranger, the producer, the songwriter, or some combination thereof.


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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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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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A Soulful Christmas Playlist

TRIVIA QUESTION: Who was the first woman to hit the top ten on the Billboard Hot 100 with a song she wrote herself?

ANSWER: Carla Thomas. She was 16 years old when she wrote “Gee Whiz (Look at His Eyes),” which hit #10 in 1961. Today she turns 72.

In 1963, Thomas incorporated the title of her first hit into a seasonal offering, “Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas.”

“Gee Whiz, It’s Christmas” inspires today’s playlist – fifty great soul and r&b Christmas jams, with some fun extra treats thrown in.

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An Atheist Jew’s Guide To Christmas Music, Part 2

xmas cds 002

Today Tunes du Jour presents more Christmas music. As with Part 1, I mixed standards with lesser-known songs. In the Comments section let me know what songs you discovered.

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