Tag Archives: James Taylor

Presidents Day Top 40

Washington, Lincoln, Jefferson – they’re here. This Presidents Day playlist kicks off with one of the Bushes. Kate.

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20 Duets

Duets. Twenty of ’em.

Happy Valentine’s Day!

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Throwback Thursday – 1971

At the end of the 1960s, Marvin Gaye was a huge star, having had more than two dozen top 40 hits before 1970. However, the singer was having a crisis of conscience, wanting to sing about the ills of the world he saw around him as opposed to perform nothing but love songs.

Inspired by the horrific stories told to him by his brother of what he witnessed serving three years in Viet Nam, Gaye, who hadn’t a hand in writing most of his hits up to this point, added lyrics to an unreleased song written by Obie Benson of the Four Tops and Al Cleveland.

He presented the song to Motown head Berry Gordy, who supposedly called it “the worst thing I ever heard in my life.” Gaye’s response? “Basically, I said ‘Put it out or I’ll never record for you again.’ That was my ace in the hole, and I had to play it.”

“What’s Going On” became the fastest-selling single in the history of Motown Records. Rolling Stone magazine has since placed it at #4 on their ranking of the greatest songs of all-time.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist consists of twenty hits from 1971, kicking off with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going 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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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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Throwback Thursday – 1970

me - 1970The blogger in 1970

Today Tunes du Jour introduces Throwback Thursday playlists, in which we go back to hear some of the biggest hits from a particular year. We start with 1970, when you could hear Led Zeppelin and the Carpenters played back-to-back on your favorite AM Top 40 station..

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It Never Rains In Southern California

As you may have heard, our sleepy little hamlet of Los Angeles got some rain over the past week. I assume you heard this because Los Angeles is the center of the world and our weather is likely reported everywhere, especially when we get rain, which lesser cities take for granted. More rain is forecast for this week.

If you were near a radio in the United States in 1972, you heard Albert Hammond’s hit single “It Never Rains in Southern California,” and learned that while in L.A. it never rains, it pours. Man, it pours.

Today’s playlist consists of songs with word rain or some variation thereof in the title. It includes Albert Hammond’s “It Never Rains in Southern California,” one of two top forty singles Hammond had as an artist. (The other was 1974’s “I’m a Train.” Remember that one? Didn’t think so.) As a songwriter, Hammond’s hits include The Hollies’ “The Air That I Breathe,” Leo Sayer’s “When I Need You,” Starship’s “Nothing’s Gonna Stop Us Now,” Whitney Houston’s “One Moment in Time,” Chicago’s “I Don’t Wanna Live Without Your Love,” Ace of Base’s “Don’t Turn Around,” Julio Iglesias and Willie Nelson’s “To All the Girls I’ve Loved Before” and The Pipkins’ “Gimme Dat Ding.” His son is a founding member of The Strokes.

Back to the weather. Get your umbrella and enjoy today’s playlist while the sun is still shining.

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I Love You! You’re So Vain! Have A Great Day!

At Sony, Warner and Zomba, I licensed recordings for inclusion in films, television programs, commercials, videogames, on compilation albums and as samples. Around ten years ago I added greeting cards to the list.

It was then that Hallmark and American Greetings started distributing greeting cards that play a song snippet when opened. Though one may think physical greeting cards had gone out of favor, enough of them sold that we made some nice extra cash from this avenue.

One day I got an email from Carly Simon. She had heard about these musical greeting cards and asked me to explain how the economics would work. “For example, how much would I make if you licensed ‘You’re So Vain’ for a greeting card?”

The question made me chuckle. For what occasion would “You’re So Vain” be an appropriate song to have in a greeting card? I made that observation to Carly and broke down the royalties should for some crazy reason that song be used.

A week later both Hallmark and American Greetings sent me requests to license “You’re So Vain” for in-card use. I’ll never know for what holiday they found this song expressed the right sentiment as it ended up not being used.

doggies + Carly 2014-06-25 14.31
One can give Carly Simon a musical greeting card today, as it is her 69th birthday. Here are ten of her best.

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The Twelfth Best Album Of All-Time, Subject To Change

Ringo + Carole King 002

I’m creating a list of my top 100 albums of all-time. I’ve been working on it for a couple of years. I need to get it right. I’ve whittled the list down to 112 nominees, which I listen to repeatedly, moving albums around as I assess their impact on my ears and emotions. Presently sitting at #12, between The Beatles’ Rubber Soul and the Phil Spector Christmas album, is Carole King’s Tapestry.

Released in 1971, Tapestry was a huge success, staying at #1 on the album charts for 15 weeks and remaining on Billboard’s album chart for 300 weeks, the longest run of any album by a female solo act. The album won King the Grammy Award for Album of the Year, its track “It’s Too Late” was named Record of the Year, its song “You’ve Got a Friend” won Song of the Year (as well as a Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male for James Taylor for his cover version), and its title track won King the Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female award.

The album includes new songs written or co-written by King, including “I Feel the Earth Move” and “So Far Away,” as well as covers of songs she wrote or co-wrote that had already been hits for other acts, such as “(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman,” a smash for Aretha Franklin, and “Will You Love Me Tomorrow,” which The Shirelles took to #1 ten years earlier.

Other King compositions you may know are “Up on the Roof,” a hit for The Drifters, “One Fine Day,” a hit for The Chiffons, “Pleasant Valley Sunday,” a hit for The Monkees, “Go Away Little Girl” a hit for Steve Lawrence and later Donny Osmond, “I’m Into Something Good,” a hit for Herman’s Hermits, “It’s Going to Take Some Time,” a hit for The Carpenters, and “The Loco-motion,” a song which holds the distinction of going top ten in three different decades – in the sixties for Little Eva (King’s babysitter), in the seventies for Grand Funk and in the eighties for Kylie Minogue. In the forty years between 1959 and 1999 King made the Billboard Hot 100 118 times as a songwriter.

Tunes du Jour honors the classic work of Carole King, who turns 72 today.


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The Day the Music Didn’t Die But Still

Ringo + Buddy

On this date in 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash. In his hit “American Pie” Don McLean referred to it as “the day the music died.” A little dramatic, no? The music didn’t die, but it was a tremendous loss nonetheless.

Today Tunes du Jour pays homage to these late, great rock and roll pioneers. On our playlist:
“Chantilly Lace” – The Big Bopper – The man born Jiles Perry Richardson’s only top ten hit, from 1958.
“Think It Over” – Buddy Holly – A top forty single from 1958.
“Donna” – Ritchie Valens – Valens’ only top ten hit, peaking at #2 in early 1959.
“American Pie” – Madonna – Madonna covered Don McLean’s classic for her film The Next Best Thing at the suggestion of her co-star, Rupert Everett, who sings backing vocals on the recording.
“Oh, Boy!” – Buddy Holly – A top ten single from early 1958. I recall Olivia Newton-John performing it on one of her television specials with guest stars Andy Gibb, Elton John and Cliff Richard. If memory serves, it went on for about forty minutes.
“Heartbeat” – Buddy Holly – The Knack covered this for their breakthrough album, Get The Knack.
“It’s So Easy” – Linda Ronstadt – Ronstadt had a top five hit with her cover of this song, written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty. Ronstadt also charted with covers of Holly’s hits “That’ll Be the Day” and “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”
“Not Fade Away” – The Crickets – An English quintet who went by the name The Rolling Stones charted in the US for the first time with their version of this tune. Not sure what happened to them.
“Buddy Holly” – Weezer – Buddy Holly couldn’t have predicted this song’s opening lines – “What’s with these homies dissing my girl? / Why do they gotta front?”
“Everyday” – Buddy Holly – James Taylor charted with his cover of this in 1985.
“La Bamba” – Ritchie Valens – It’s hard to believe this song only peaked at #22 upon its release in 1958. “La bamba” is Spanish for “the bamba.”
“Peggy Sue” – Lou Reed – This song was co-written by Buddy Holly, who took it to #3 in 1957.
“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” – Buddy Holly – Holly didn’t write this posthumous hit; Paul Anka did. This and “My Way” are my two favorite Anka compositions. I also love “(You’re) Having My Baby,” but in a different way.
“Words of Love” – Patti Smith – A pop combo from England covered this Holly composition on their album that in the US was titled Beatles VI. Not sure what happened to them.
“Maybe Baby” – The Crickets – The Beatles’ name was inspired by the name of Holly’s band, The Crickets.
“I’m Gonna Love You Too” – Buddy Holly – Blondie covered this for their breakthrough album Parallel Lines.
“Come On, Let’s Go” – Los Lobos – Los Lobos performed Valen’s music for the biopic of Valen’s life, La Bamba.
“That’ll Be the Day” – Modest Mouse – Written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison, “That’ll Be the Day” was Holly’s first hit, going to #1 in 1957. Given his immense influence on rock and roll, it’s hard to believe he died a year and half later.
“Rave On” – Buddy Holly – One of five top forty singles Holly had in 1958.
“True Love Ways” – My Morning Jacket – Holly wrote “True Love Ways” for his wife as a wedding gift. What did your husband get you?

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