Inspired by the November 24 birthdays of The Association’s Jim Yester, Lee Michaels and Don & Juan’s Claude Johnson; and the November 23 birthdays of Miley Cyrus, The Kills’ Alison Mosshart, Betty Everett, Marcia Griffiths, Manhattan Transfer’s Alan Paul, Bruce Hornsby and Jack Marshall.
Inspired by Black Music Month, LGBTQ Pride Month, and the June 12 birthdays of Robyn, They Might Be Giants’ John Linnell, The Troggs’ Reg Presley, Silversun Pickups’ Brian Auger, Boston’s Brad Delp, Rocky Burnette, Lyn Collins, Meredith Brooks, Vic Damone, Scott Thompson, Harvey Danger’s Sean Nelson, and Bounty Killer.
Inspired by the April 20 birthdays of Luther Vandross, Hot Chip’s Alexis Taylor, Ecstasy Passion & Pain’s Barbara Roy, Johnny Tillotson and 420; the April 19 birthdays of Dickie Goodman, The Turtles’ Mark Volman, Tim Curry and New Seekers’ Eve Graham; and the April 18 birthdays of Onyx’s Fredro Starr and Aminé.
I recently attended a conference where I was asked to fill in a questionnaire. Amongst the questions about my favorite television program and favorite beverage, I was asked to name a person who inspires me. My answer was chocolate malt. For favorite beverage, that is. All in the Family is my favorite TV show. My inspiration? Kanye West a/k/a Yeezy a/k/a Ye a/k/a Yeezus.
I have much admiration for Mr. West. People mock his ego, but I think the world would be a better place if more people believed in themselves the way Kanye does himself.
I admire that he pursues his dreams, including those outside his music. He may not be the best fashion designer, but he goes after it instead of staying in a rapper/producer box.
I admire that he pursued the woman he believes to be the world’s most beautiful and married her.
I admire him because he says what he thinks and what he believes. I find his honesty and candor refreshing.
And then there’s the music. His body of work holds its own against any artist working today. He continually challenges himself musically. After issuing three fine albums of his rapping, he surprised us with an album of singing, and while he’s no Marvin Gaye, that album turned out to be damn good. I like that he’s equally comfortable and innovative using classic soul samples and using obscure rock samples.
Lyrically he explores love, racism, art, sex, religion, drugs, self-destruction, and redemption. He can be thought-provoking; he can be funny.
He aims high and more often than not delivers.
He has a vision and is not afraid to execute on it. He won’t settle for just okay in his pursuit of perfection.
I’ll let the man himself sum up what I admire most about him: “If everything I did failed — which it doesn’t, it actually succeeds — just the fact that I’m willing to fail is an inspiration. People are so scared to lose that they don’t even try. Like, one thing people can’t say is that I’m not trying, and not I’m not trying my hardest, and I’m not trying to do the best way I know how.” (May, 2012)
Music is better with artists who consistently aim high and try to expand their boundaries. Such creative types are what keeps me passionate about new music year after year. The way Kathie Lee needed Regis is the way I need Yeezus.
Today is Kanye West’s 38th birthday. In a career full of high points, here are twenty of my favorites.
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Ironically, this is not a happy song.
Written by Gary Bonner and Alan Gordon, the song is about a one-way love affair. The singer imagines being with the girl to whom he’s singing. He’s in love with her and thinks if they were to be together the skies would be blue. He imagines how the world would be – so very fine – if they were a couple.
She doesn’t feel the same way. When this sinks in to our narrator, he makes small talk. “So how is the weather?” he asks, alternating that line with his repeated sentiment that they would be so happy together.
The song opens on a minor chord, which has a more melancholy sound than a major chord. The chorus – “I can’t see me loving nobody but you for all my life” – opens with a major chord, and the instrumentation is appropriately louder and joyous, the celebratory sound matching his feelings of ecstasy as he imagines his fantasy life with this woman.
For younger folks reading this, there used to exist public phones where one could insert a dime to make a three-minute long local call, hence the lyric “If I should call you up, invest a dime.” If the song were written today, this verse may go “If I should call you up, use up minutes from my cell phone plan / And you say you belong to me, I am your man / Imagine how the world could be, I’m hungry for flan.” Not as strong. Now I’m hungry for flan.
The Turtles recorded “Happy Together” in January 1967. Two months later it knocked The Beatles’ “Penny Lane” out of the #1 spot on the Billboard Hot 100. It stayed on top for three weeks.
Enjoy your Day of Happiness. May all your loves be requited loves.
Britney Spears was the first recording artist to thank me in her CD booklet liner notes. The album was 2000’s Oops!…I Did It Again, which set a record when it sold over 1.3 million copies in the US its first week. At the time I was running the licensing department at Zomba Recording Corporation, parent company of Jive Records, to which Britney was signed. It was a great time to be at that company. I worked with smart, creative people, and I got to apply my skills to our superstar roster (Britney, Backstreet Boys, R. Kelly, NSYNC), enabling us to increase licensing revenue four-fold during my four years of employment there.
When I started at Zomba, Britney was 17 years old and was on her second hit single, “Sometimes.” Today she turns 32. To date she has had 23 top forty hits in the US. Her latest album, Britney Jean, was released last week.
Enjoy today’s Britney-inspired playlist.