Tag Archives: LL Cool J

Twenty Songs You Should Hear (1-14-20)

Foo Fighters – “Learn to Fly”
Today is Foo Fighter Dave Grohl’s birthday. This is easily my favorite song from the group’s album There Is Nothing Left to Lose. Grohl said it’s one of his least favorites on the album. What does he know?

Kings of Leon – “Sex on Fire”
Today is the birthday of Kings of Leon’s lead singer Caleb Followill. About this song, Caleb’s brother and fellow bandmate Nathan said in an interview “Sex On Fire was just kind of a little lyric just to fill in to kill some time until we could actually write something that wasn’t about sex and fire.”

Kings of Leon – “Use Somebody”
Grammy Award winner for Record of the Year.

Foo Fighters – “Everlong”
David Letterman introduced a performance of this song on his talk show as “my favorite band playing my favorite song.”

Bobby “Blue” Bland – “I’ll Take Care of You”
Written by Brook Benton and originally recorded by Bobby “Blue Bland,” this song was covered by Gil Scott-Heron, whose version was remixed by Jamie xx. That remix was sampled in the Drake/Rihanna hit “Take Care.”

James Brown – “King Heroin”
This song is a poem written by New York City Stage Delicatessen worker Manny Rosen set to music.

Barbara Lewis – “Baby I’m Yours”
This song was written by Van McCoy, who hit #1 with his classic disco recording “The Hustle.”

Mary Wells – “Two Lovers”
This song was written by Smokey Robinson, who was inspired by a movie he was watching on television in which a woman had two lovers. Imagine the song we would have gotten had Smokey been watching The Thing With Two Heads.

Oasis – “Slide Away”
Oasis member Noel Gallagher, who write this song, says it contains his brother Liam’s best vocals ever.

Foo Fighters – “I’ll Stick Around”
This song’s music video was directed by Jerry Casale of Devo, who is coming up later on this playlist.

Dionne Warwick – “Promises, Promises”
Like most of Dionne Warwick’s sixties hits, this one was written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

LL Cool J – “I’m That Type of Guy”
Today James Todd Smith turns 52 years old. He’s cool and the ladies love him, hence his rap moniker LL Cool J.

Run-D.M.C. – “Run’s House”
Run-D.M.C. sampled this in their final top 40 pop hit, “Down with the King.”

Clarence Carter – “Strokin”
Today is the 84th birthday of Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Clarence Carter Ooh Shit Clarence Carter.

The Smashing Pumpkins – “Landslide”
In 1994, Smashing Pumpkins’ version of this Fleetwood Mac song hit #3 on the US Modern Rock chart, becoming the first version of this song to chart.

Arcade Fire – “The Suburbs”
The title track from the 2011 Album of the Year Grammy winner.

Jack Jones – “Wives and Lovers”
Another Grammy Award winner, this one for Best Vocal Performance, Male. As with the Dionne Warwick song earlier in this playlist, this was written by the team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David. The lyrics, which may have already seemed backwards when they wrote it in 1963, come across as downright anachronistic today, telling women they need to stay attractive and attend to their husbands if they want them to remain faithful. Today is Jack Jones’ birthday.

Clarence Carter – “Making Love (At the Dark End of the Street)”
Another classic performance from Carter, referenced in “Strokin.”

Devo – “Working in the Coal Mine”
A cover of the Lee Dorsey classic, written by the late Alan Toussaint, whose birthday is today.

The Pointer Sisters – “Yes We Can Can”
Alan Toussaint write this song also. He wrote a lot of great songs. He also co-produced the Labelle classic “Lady Marmalade.” Respect.

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Throwback Thursday – 1987 (Part II)

One of 1987’s most popular and critically-acclaimed hits began its life as a demo recording named after the duo who sang “It’s Raining Men.”

It’s by the band U2, who referred to the track as “The Weather Girls” or “Under the Weather.” Their guitarist, The Edge, told Rolling Stone magazine that the song sounded like a reggae band’s version of Survivor’s “Eye of the Tiger.” Over time they developed the song. Instruments were added to the initial drum pattern. When it came time to come up with lyrics, The Edge gave singer Bono a piece of paper on which he had written a phrase that came to him earlier that day – “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For.”

That became the song’s title, with lyrics inspired by the gospel music Bono was listening to at the time. “I Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For” was U2’s second consecutive #1 single, following “With or Without You,” which was included on part 1 of Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday – 1987 playlist.

Here are twenty of 1987’s best, kicking off not with The Weather Girls, but with U2.


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Throwback Thursday – 1991

“It was a 5-minute song with no chorus and a mandolin as the lead instrument. So for us to hold that as the bar we have to jump over every time we write a song would be ridiculous.”

In the summer of 1990, R.E.M. demoed a song in the studio with the working title of “Sugar Cane.” The band’s guitarist, Peter Buck, had recently purchased a mandolin and while learning how to play it, came up with the song’s main riff and chorus.

Lyrics about obsession and unrequited love were added, including an expression from the southern part of the United States that means “being at the end of one’s rope.” That expression became the song’s new title. The band’s singer, Michael Stipe, recorded his vocals in one take.

Though in the liner notes the R.E.M.’s career retrospective, Part Lies, Part Heart, Part Truth, Part Garbage 1982-2011, Stipe wrote “I don’t think any of us had any idea it would ever be … anything,” the group wanted it to be the first single released from their album Out of Time. Their record label, Warner Bros., didn’t think that was a good idea, as it was, in the words of one of the company’s executives, an “unconventional track.” After much discussion, Warner relented.

That record, with the title “Losing My Religion,” went to #4 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and became a smash worldwide. The album from which it was taken, Out of Time, sold over 18 million copies, far more than any of their previous releases.

Out of Time won the Grammy Award for Best Alternative Music Album and was nominated for Album of the Year. “Losing My Religion” won Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and Best Short Form Music Video and was nominated for Record of the Year and Song of the Year, which it lost to “Unforgettable,” which was written in 1951.

When asked at the time if he was worried that the song’s success might alienate older fans, Peter Buck told Rolling Stone, “The people that changed their minds because of ‘Losing My Religion’ can just kiss my ass.”

“Losing My Religion” made Rolling Stone’s list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time, VH1’s list of the 100 Greatest Songs of the 90s, Blender’s list of The 500 Greatest Songs Since You Were Born, and The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame’s list of 500 Songs that Shaped Rock and Roll. On their annual music critics poll, the Village Voice had “Losing My Religion” as the #2 single of 1991, just behind Nirvana’s “Smells Like Teen Spirit.”

For this Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour presents twenty of the best tracks from 1991. (I didn’t include “Smells Like Teen Spirit” because I base this not on year of release, but on the year a song peaked in popularity. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the top ten on the Hot 100 in 1992.)


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50 Songs Named After Real People

Today is the birthday of two music icons – Jam-Master Jay of rap pioneers Run-D.M.C. and disc jockey Wolfman Jack. Besides their place in their history of rock and roll, both men have another thing in common – they were the subjects of songs. That inspired me to put together today’s playlist – songs named after real people.

I found fifty songs whose titles are actual people. Actually I found more than fifty, but I didn’t want to subject you to Chiddy Bang or Mac Miller. I made a few rules for myself:
1) The title can’t have words besides the person’s name, hence no Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes” or Sleater-Kinney’s “I Wanna Be Your Joey Ramone.”
2) The title has to be the full name the person is known by, so no “Springsteen” by Eric Church or “Jessica” (about Jessica Simpson) by Adam Green. Allowed are “Galileo,” “Joan of Arc” and “King Tut,” as that is how most people identify Galileo Galilei, Joan d’Arc and Tutankhamun.
3) The song doesn’t have to be about the person after whom it is titled, so “Jack the Ripper” and “Rosa Parks” are in.
4) The track has to be on Spotify. This means I left out Bob Dylan’s “George Jackson” and Hoodie Allen’s “James Franco.”

Amazingly for a playlist based on such a goofy concept, it holds together quite well, if I say so myself.

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

There was an article on the site Gawker yesterday about a woman named Zoe Fennessy who, when she hears the music of Ne-Yo, “freezes up and begins vomiting uncontrollably.” You may say the same thing happens to you when you listen to Nickelback, but Ms. Fennessy’s reaction to Ne-Yo’s music is due to a rare medical condition called musicogenic epilepsy.

Some of you may be saying “Who’s Ne-Yo? Is he/she/they someone whose music gets played a lot?” The answer is, apparently. Since his first hit in 2006 (“So Sick,” which went to #1 on the US and UK pop charts), Ne-Yo has had 17 top forty hits on the US pop chart and a half-dozen more on the r&b chart. He has had just as many hits in the UK, where Fennessy lives.

Ne-Yo isn’t the only artist to cause seizures in people with this condition. Around ten years ago there was a report of a six-month-old who had seizures when she heard The Beatles. The Beatles! That shit ain’t right, yo. One may get a reaction from all classical music, another from the lower notes played on a brass instrument.

The reactions people with the condition have vary as well. Some have convulsions, others become incontinent, and others become incredibly sleepy.

Ms. Fennessy had part of her brain removed to try and cure the problem, but the operation was not a success. She still needs to steer clear of Ne-Yo’s music.

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour, and if Ms. Fennessy is reading, she’ll be happy to know there is no Ne-Yo on today’s playlist, which kicks off with the Jason Nevins remix of “It’s Like That” by Run-D.M.C., whose Joseph “Run” Simmons turns 50 today.

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Ten Facts About Grandmaster & Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)” | It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Ringo + White Lines 2014-07-25 14.13Ten Facts about Grandmaster & Melle Mel’s “White Lines (Don’t Don’t Do It)”
1. Yes, the word “don’t” is repeated in the parenthetical.
2. Melle Mel was the most prominent rapper in Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five. Grandmaster Flash was the DJ, not a rapper.
3. Though credited to Grandmaster & Melle Mel, Grandmaster Flash does not appear on “White Lines,” nor did he appear on the classic “The Message” (“it’s like a jungle sometimes / It makes me wonder how I keep from going under”). Forced out of the group that bore his name, Flash sued Melle Mel and their label, Sugarhill Records, over the use of his name to sell records, the result of which was the odd artist credit on the “White Lines” single.
4. Flash heard “White lines,” about the dangers of cocaine addiction, while on his way to buy crack.
5. Grandmaster Flash and Melle Mel reunited in 1987 at a charity concert hosted by Paul Simon.
6. The bassline was lifted from Liquid Liquid’s “Cavern.”
7. The record credits Melle Mel and Sylvia Robinson as the song’s writers. Robinson was the head of Sugarhill Records. Previously, she had a hit in 1973 with “Pillow Talk,” a song she wrote for Al Green, who declined to record it, and as one-half of Mickey & Sylvia, she took the classic ”Love is Strange” to #11 in 1957.
8. The lyrics include a reference to car manufacturer John DeLorean (“A businessman is caught with 24 kilos”). In 1982 the FBI arrested DeLorean for purchasing 24 kilos of coke. The song compares his fate (“He’s out on bail and out of jail”) with that of an inner city youth (“A street kid gets arrested, gonna do some time. He got out three years from now just to commit more crime.”).
9. An unofficial music video for the song was directed by an NYU student named Spike Lee. It starred Laurence Fishburne, the actor who at that time was playing Cowboy Curtis on Pee-Wee’s Playhouse.
10. The record hit the top ten on the US dance chart in 1983. It kicks off Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party.

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The Adventures Of Grandmaster Flash On The Wheels of Steel

“Today is Grandmaster Flash’s birthday and schools are closed. Thank you, President Obama.”
– Chris Rock

My plan was to write a post about how great “The Adventures of Grandmaster Flash on the Wheels of Steel” is, but the website Songfacts expressed it perfectly, so I’ll reprint what they wrote:

Folks born after the dawn of Hip-Hop will probably read about this song, listen to it, and wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, it’s just a bunch of dance songs mixed together, and it’s kind of a harsh mix. The big deal is that it was the first song ever made by chopping up pieces of other songs and connecting them in a way to create a new track. It introduced sampling, and spotlighted the cutting and scratching techniques that were the hallmarks of early Hip Hop. Today, any kid can easily make something like this with software that probably came preloaded on his computer, but in 1981, it required 2 turntables and some serious beatmixing skills. Grandmaster Flash was a DJ, not a rapper, and he had been performing in New York city since 1976, often as the entertainment at parties. His art was in figuring out how to mix songs together using their breakbeats, so the music would keep going. He was also one of the first to do scratching, which was moving the record back and forth on the turntable, which made the transitions a lot easier.

There was no editing on this track – Grandmaster Flash did it live in the studio after mapping out his cuts. He would put marks on the labels of his records so he would know when to bring the next one in, which is something he learned playing years of parties. It took him a few takes to get all his cues in the right place, but the end result at the time sounded like perfection. In the era of remixing and editing, every beat can be scrutinized and altered, but considering what Flash accomplished with what he had to work with, it was remarkable and extraordinary. It also demonstrated what you would hear at one of his live performances.

Today’s playlist is inspired by this old school hip-hop classic.

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All the girls are on me cause I’m down with Mike D

Today Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthday of Beastie Boy Mike D. Originally a hardcore punk band, the Beastie Boys evolved into one of the most influential and longest-running hip hop groups.

Our playlist begins with “The New Style,” which hit the r&b chart a month prior to the Beasties hitting the pop chart with their breakout hit, “(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (To Party!!!).” Both tracks appear on their debut album Licensed To Ill, which the Village Voice favorably reviewed under the headline “Three Jerks Make a Masterpiece.” The album came out in 1986, the year after the group opened for Madonna on The Virgin Tour, and was practically glued to my turntable. I didn’t think they’d be able to top such a perfect record.

Through the years they continued to surprise and innovate. Enjoy this playlist consisting of a handful of Beastie Boys tracks along with other hip hop favorites.

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