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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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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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Grammy Nominations!

It seems that last week I was busy doing something close to nothing, so I didn’t get a chance to tell you who was nominated for Grammys this year. Here is the list, with my random thoughts thrown in:

Record of the Year
“Really Love” — D’Angelo and the Vanguard
“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran
“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

I’d give it to The Weeknd, but I wouldn’t mind if Mark Ronson or D’Angelo won. I’ve never heard this Taylor Swift fella so I can’t vote for him. I have heard Ed Sheeran so I can’t vote for him.

Song of the Year
“Alright” — Kendrick Lamar (written by Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams)
“Blank Space” — Taylor Swift (written by Max Martin, Shellback and Taylor Swift)
“Girl Crush” — Little Big Town (written by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose)
“See You Again” — Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth (written by Andrew Cedar, Justin Franks, Charles Puth and Cameron Thomaz)
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran (written by Ed Sheeran and Amy Wadge)

Kendrick’s “Alright” is more than alright and I have a boy crush on Little Big Town’s “Girl Crush.” As for “See You Again,” I hope I never hear it again. I’m not going to say what I think of Ed Sheeran out loud. This Taylor Swift fella’s songs are not on Spotify, which is why nobody knows who he is.

Album of the Year
Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes
To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar
Traveller — Chris Stapleton
1989 — Taylor Swift
Beauty Behind the Madness — The Weeknd

To Pimp a Butterfly is the best album of 2015, but the category is called Album of the Year, not Best Album of the Year. The Weeknd’s album had its moments, and I have no beef with Alabama Shakes. I wouldn’t know a Chris Stapleton song if it hit me in the ears, but I loved Jean Stapleton on All in the Family. And there’s that Taylor Swift fella again, who will probably win Album of the Year as he named his album after a year, the sneaky devil. Maybe then he’ll finally start getting some press.

Best New Artist
Courtney Barnett
James Bay
Sam Hunt
Tori Kelly
Meghan Trainor

Last year Meghan Trainor was nominated for Record of the Year for “All About That Bass.” However, per the Recording Academy, to be eligible for a Best New Artist nomination “a person or band must have or have not released an album, song, or spoken a single word any time during their life, after their life, or never.” I’m voting for Courtney Barnett, who has been putting out music since 2012, for Best New Artist of 2015. Regarding the others up for this award, I’ve heard of Sam Hunt but haven’t heard any of his or her music, and James Bay and Tori Kelly are names the Academy made up so there would be five nominees.

Best Pop Duo/Group Performance
“Ship to Wreck” — Florence + The Machine
“Sugar” — Maroon 5
“Uptown Funk” — Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
“Bad Blood” — Taylor Swift featuring Kendrick Lamar
“See You Again” — Wiz Khalifa featuring Charlie Puth

Are they going to have this Taylor Swift fella perform on the Grammy Awards telecast so the world can see what he looks like? I’d give this award to Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars. If Maroon 5 or Wiz Khalifa/Charlie Puth win, somebody’s going to get hurt.

Best Pop Solo Performance
“Heartbeat Song” — Kelly Clarkson
“Love Me Like You Do” — Ellie Goulding
“Thinking Out Loud” — Ed Sheeran
“Blank Space”— Taylor Swift
“Can’t Feel My Face” — The Weeknd

Is Taylor Swift that guy from the Twilight movies?

Best Pop Vocal Album
Piece By Piece — Kelly Clarkson
How Big, How Blue, How Beautiful — Florence + The Machine
Uptown Special — Mark Ronson
1989 — Taylor Swift
Before This World — James Taylor

James Taylor? What just happened? Is Taylor Swift the guy who wrote Gulliver’s Travels back in the 1700s?

Best Rap Collaboration
“One Man Can Change The World” — Big Sean featuring Kanye West and John Legend
“Glory” — Common and John Legend
“Classic Man” — Jidenna featuring Roman GianArthur
“These Walls” — Kendrick Lamar featuring Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat
“Only” — Nicki Minaj featuring Drake, Lil Wayne and Chris Brown

Where’s Taylor Swift’s nomination?

Best Rap Song
“All Day” — Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney (written by Kanye West, Paul McCartney, Tyler Bryant, Kendrick Duckworth, Karim Kharbouch, Ernest Brown, Cydel Young, Victor Mensah, Allan Kyariga, Mike Dean, Che Pope, Noah Goldstein, Allen Ritter, Mario Winans, Charles Njapa, Malik Yusef Jones, Patrick Reynolds, Rennard East and Noel Ellis)
“Alright — Kendrick Lamar (written by Kendrick Duckworth, Mark Anthony Spears and Pharrell Williams)
“Energy” — Drake (written by Richard Dorfmeister, A. Graham, Markus Kienzl, M. O’Brien, M. Samuels and Phillip Thomas)
“Glory” — Common and John Legend (written by Lonnie Lynn, Che Smith and John Stephens)
“Trap Queen” — Fetty Wap (written by Tony Fadd & Willie J. Maxwell)

It’s about time Grandmaster Paul McCartney was nominated for Best Rap Song, though the fact that it took 19 people to write it diminishes what is otherwise a perfectly so-so track. MC Paul McC is up against some heavyweights, so he’ll need to keep trying for the rap trophy because this won’t be his year.

Best Rap Album
2014 Forest Hills Drive — J. Cole
Compton — Dr. Dre
If You’re Reading This It’s Too Late — Drake
To Pimp a Butterfly — Kendrick Lamar
The Pinkprint — Nicki Minaj

Kendrick. Anna Kendrick.

Best Rap Performance
“Apparently” — J. Cole
“Back to Back” — Drake
“Trap Queen” — Fetty Wap
“Alright” — Kendrick Lamar
“Truffle Butter” — Nicki Minaj featuring Drake and Lil Wayne
“All Day” – Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney

Eddie Kendricks.

Best Country Album
Montevallo — Sam Hunt
Pain Killer — Little Big Town
The Blade — Ashley Monroe
Pageant Material — Kacey Musgraves
Traveller — Chris Stapleton

Kendrick Lamar or Taylor Swift.

Best Country Solo Performance
“Burning House” — Cam
“Traveller” — Chris Stapleton
“Little Toy Guns” — Carrie Underwood
“John Cougar, John Deere, John 3:16″ — Keith Urban
“Chances Are” — Lee Ann Womack

Hedy Lamarr or Elizabeth Taylor.

Best Country Duo/Group Performance
“Stay a Little Longer” — Brothers Osborne
“If I Needed You” — Joey + Rory
“The Driver” — Charles Kelley, Dierks Bentley, Eric Paslay
“Girl Crush” — Little Big Town
“Lonely Tonight” — Blake Shelton featuring Ashley Monroe

Hedley Lamarr or Motel the Tailor.

Best Country Song
“Chances Are” — Lee Ann Womack (written by Hayes Carll)
“Diamond Rings and Old Barstools” — Tim McGraw (written by Barry Dean, Luke Laird and Jonathan Singleton)
“Girl Crush” — Little Big Town (written by Hillary Lindsey, Lori McKenna and Liz Rose)
“Hold My Hand” — Brandy Clark (written by Brandy Clark and Mark Stephen Jones)
“Traveller” — Chris Stapleton (written by Chris Stapleton)

Swifty Lazar or Lord and Taylor.

Best Rock Album
Chaos and the Calm — James Bay
Kintsugi — Death Cab for Cutie
Mister Asylum — Highly Suspect
Drones — Muse
.5: The Gray Chapter — Slipknot

Laser Hair Removal or Tailor On Premises.

Best Dance Recording
“We’re All We Need” — Above and Beyond featuring Zoë Johnston
“Go” — The Chemical Brothers
“Never Catch Me” — Flying Lotus featuring Kendrick Lamar
“Runaway (U & I)” — Galantis
“Where Are Ü Now” — Skrillex and Diplo with Justin Bieber

Laser Beams – oh, wait. Kendrick Lamar really is nominated in this category.

Best Rock Performance
“Don’t Wanna Fight” — Alabama Shakes
“What Kind of Man” — Florence + The Machine
“Something From Nothing” — Foo Fighters
“Ex’s & Oh’s” — Elle King
“Moaning Lisa Smile” — Wolf Alice

What happened to that Taylor Swift fella? He hasn’t been nominated in the last few categories. The Academy built him up and then knocked him right back down.

Best Rock Song
“Don’t Wanna Fight” — Alabama Shakes (written by Alabama Shakes)
“Ex’s & Oh’s” — Elle King (written by Dave Bassett and Elle King)
“Hold Back the River” — James Bay (written by Iain Archer and James Bay)
“Lydia” — Highly Suspect (written by Richard Meyer, Ryan Meyer and Johnny Stevens)
“What Kind of Man” — Florence + The Machine (written John Hill, Tom Hull and Florence Welch)

I find these nominees highly suspect. Who is Highly Suspect? Isn’t James Bay the guy who directed Avatar and Transformers? I like the Elle King song, but she’s Rob Schneider’s daughter (seriously!), so give the award to Alabama Shakes or Florence.

Best Dance/Electronic Album
Our Love — Caribou
Born in the Echoes — The Chemical Brothers
Caracal — Disclosure
In Colour — Jamie XX
Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack Ü — Skrillex And Diplo

I’m rooting for – hold on, the phone is ringing.

Best R&B Song
“Coffee” — Miguel (written by Brook Davis and Miguel Pimente)
“Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey)” — The Weeknd (written by Ahmad Balshe, Stephan Moccio, Jason Quenneville and Abel Tesfaye)
“Let It Burn” — Jazmine Sullivan (written by Kenny B. Edmonds, Jazmine Sullivan and Dwane M. Weir II)
“Really Love” — D’Angelo and the Vanguard (written by D’Angelo and Kendra Foster)
“Shame” — Tyrese (written by Warryn Campbell, Tyrese Gibson and DJ Rogers Jr,)

Jazmine Sullivan put out a record this year? I don’t think so. Tyrese put out a record this year? Yeah, sure he did! I’m okay with any of the folks who actually released a record this year winning.

Best R&B Performance
“If I Don’t Have You” — Tamar Braxton
“Rise Up” — Andra Day
“Breathing Underwater” — Hiatus Kaiyote
“Planes” — Jeremih featuring J. Cole
“Earned It (Fifty Shades Of Grey)” — The Weeknd

This is The Weeknd’s to lose. I don’t know the other nominated songs, but I imagine they’re boring and Hiatus Kaiyote is not a real thing.

Best R&B Album
Coming Home — Leon Bridges
Black Messiah — D’Angelo and the Vanguard
Cheers to the Fall — Andra Day
Reality Show — Jazmine Sullivan
Forever Charlie — Charlie Wilson

If D’Angelo doesn’t win then the terrorists have won.

Best Alternative Music Album
Sound & Color — Alabama Shakes
Vulnicura — Björk
The Waterfall — My Morning Jacket
Currents — Tame Impala
Star Wars — Wilco

[Insert play on names Kendrick Lamar and Taylor Swift here.]

Best Urban Contemporary Album
Ego Death — The Internet
You Should Be Here — Kehlani
Blood — Lianne La Havas
Wildheart — Miguel
Beauty Behind the Madness — The Weeknd

You can Google Kehlani and found out who or what that is. You can Google Lianne La Havas and find out who or what that is. You can Google The Internet and NOT LEARN A GODDAMN THING ABOUT WHO OR WHAT THAT IS. When you’re done Googling, face the fact that this category is a two-person contest between Miguel and The Weeknd.

Best Spoken Word Album
Blood On Snow (Jo Nesbø) – Patti Smith
Brief Encounters: Conversations, Magic Moments, And Assorted Hijinks – Dick Cavett
A Full Life: Reflections at Ninety – Jimmy Carter
Patience And Sarah (Isabel Miller) – Janis Ian and Jean Smart
Yes Please – Amy Poehler

This is Patti Smith’s first Grammy nomination. The woman who co-wrote “Because the Night” with Bruce Springsteen and made it a top fifteen pop hit and classic rock staple has never been nominated previously for a Grammy. The woman whose 1975 release Horses consistently appears on All Time Best Albums lists receives her first Grammy nomination in 2015 for reading a book out loud, a book somebody else wrote at that! This is a real category??? Too bad Smith is going to lose this award to former president Jimmy Carter who, great man that he is, does not have a “Piss Factory” in him.

Today’s playlists is made up of twenty selections that were not nominated for Grammy Awards. Not for Song of the Year, not for Record of the year, not for vocal performance in any genre, nor were the albums on which these tracks initially appeared nominated under any genre. Listen to these losers!


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It’s Jermaine Jackson’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Winston + Jermaine J2
When his brothers/ fellow Jackson 5 members signed with Epic Records in 1975, Jermaine Jackson stayed with the quintet’s label, Motown. After all, he was married to the label head’s daughter. While The Jacksons, as the group was now known (Motown owns the name Jackson 5), racked up hits, Jermaine’s solo recording career floundered.

In 1980, his luck changed. After seven years without a top 40 solo hit, Jermaine hit the top ten with “Let’s Get Serious,” thanks in large part to fellow Motown artist Stevie Wonder, who during the 1970s scored eighteen top 40 hits on the pop chart. Wonder produced, arranged, co-wrote, sang backup, and played keyboards and drums on the track.

Besides reaching #9 on the pop chart, “Let’s Get Serious” went to #1 on the Soul chart, where it remained for six weeks. It became Billboard’s #1 soul song of 1980. At #2 was his brother Michael’s “Rock With You.”

“Let’s Get Serious” peaked at #2 on Billboard’s Dance chart. It kicks off Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party on what is Jermaine Jackson’s 61st birthday.


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My Michael Jackson Memorabilia And Collectables

MJ pin
I’m celebrating Michael Jackson’s birthday by sharing with you some of the fun stuff in my Michael Jackson collection.

MJ cereal box recordsThe youth of today hear music via inferior-sounding MP3s. When I was a kid, we cut records out of the back of cereal boxes. I miss the warm sound cardboard provides.

MJ ColorformsRub ’em here! Rub ’em there! Rub ’em EVERYWHERE! Ages 3 and Up

MJ paperweightI should have wiped the shmutz off of this promotional paperweight before I took the picture. Oh well.

MJ trading cardsTrading cards are not for trading. They are for hoarding.

MJ Pepsi canPromoting their sponsorship of The Jacksons’ Victory tour, Pepsi issued cans of the soft drink that came with the brothers’ autographs and a dismembered hand.

MJ Dangerous pop-upWhat kid grown man doesn’t love pop-ups?

MJ duffle bagThis duffle bag comforts me as only having Michael Jackson’s eyes staring at me while in a strange hotel room can.

MJ inviteNo recuerdo nada de este.

MJ HIStory puzzleWhat kid grown man doesn’t love these slidey puzzle games?

MJ promo remixesPromotional-only remixes on vinyl, not cardboard

MJ Smile singleMichael’s cover of the classic “Smile” (not the Lily Allen song, but the one that goes “Smile though your heart is breaking”) was not released as a single, though it was pressed bearing this cover. Why is Michael dressed like Hitler?

The best part of my Michael Jackson collection is the music. Here are twenty of my favorites:


For more Michael Jackson music and photos, click here.
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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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It’s Berry Gordy’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

It’s interesting that Berry Gordy, the head of Motown Records who in 1970 told his top male vocalist Marvin Gaye that the new song Gaye had written, “What’s Going On,” was “the worst thing I ever heard in my life” and that he shouldn’t do protest songs, would five years later have Motown be the first major label to release a pro-gay anthem.

Bunny Jones, a heterosexual Christian woman, owned several beauty salons in Harlem. Most of her employees were gay. Seeing how they needed to suppress their natural selves and being aware of the issues they faced, she wrote song lyrics about a man who says he’s “happy, carefree and gay,” the way God made him.

Set to music written by Chris Spierer, also straight, Jones looked for a male vocalist to record her song. After catching a performance of Hair at the Westbury Music Fair, she approached one of the show’s actors, Charles “Valentino” Harris, and told him of the song.

In 1975, at age 22, Valentino recorded his only record, a single entitled “I Was Born This Way.” Jones released it on a label she started, named Gaiee. On her own she sold 15,000 copies of the song. This got the attention of Berry Gordy, whose Motown Records picked up the single for distribution.

Valentino’s record got some club play, particularly in the UK where it was a #1 disco hit.

Two years later Motown approached a gospel singer named Carl Bean and asked him if he would record a new version of “I Was Born This Way.” Unbeknownst to Motown, Bean was gay. In early 1978, Bean’s version of the tune reached #15 on the Billboard Disco chart.

The song has since become something of a classic. Two years after Bean’s success with “I Was Born This Way,” Motown released Diana Ross’ “I’m Coming Out.” It would hold the #1 position on the Disco chart for five weeks and have much crossover success at pop and r&b radio as well.

Today Berry Gordy celebrates his 85th birthday. Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Here are twenty of Motown’s best disco/dance tracks from the 1970s thru 1990.

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A Change Is Gonna Come If You Make It So

A company I worked for – I won’t say which one – has an amazing catalogue of rhythm & blues music, arguably the best r&b catalogue of any record label. Despite possessing this goldmine, most of our catalogue releases were from white rock bands. I asked a member of senior management why we didn’t do more with our black artists, and the answer I got was “We don’t know how to sell that music.”

Is that not a stupid response? If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who has that expertise, or learn how to do it. Why ignore a large swath of your potential market, especially when you already own the assets?

Years ago I was put in charge of licensing at a record label. I knew the music and I knew the components of licensing deals; however, I wasn’t a very good negotiator. I found the process intimidating. I could have left it at that – “I don’t know how to negotiate.” My company would have made money nonetheless, though not at its full potential. For that matter, I wouldn’t be working at full potential.

I took a course in negotiations. Six weeks, $300. Money well spent. I put what I learned in the class into action. Practice makes perfect, and I became an excellent negotiator. In my four years at that company our licensing revenue increased 400%. My skills also led to my next job as the Vice President of Licensing at another company.

Is a lack of some skill or knowledge holding you back? Fix that. Read a book, attend a seminar, take an on-line course or find a mentor. Saying “I don’t know how” won’t lead to success; learning how will.

Winston + Chuck 2014-06-30 11.25
Today is the last day of Black Music Month. It would be ludicrous to think a 40-song playlist would cover black music in any comprehensive way. Enjoy it for what it is – nearly three hours of fantastic music. Listen to it while you research how to learn a new skill.

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Tonys! Tonys! Tonys!

The Tony Awards, celebrating excellence on the Broadway stages, are being presented this evening. The Tony Awards are like the gay version of the Tony Awards. That’s how gay they are.

Last year I took second place in a speech contest where I spoke about the effect Broadway had on my life. Here is that speech, followed by a playlist consisting of cover versions of Broadway classics.

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