Inspired by the April 11 birthdays of The Specials’ Neville Staple, Lisa Stansfield, Joel Grey, Big Country’s Stuart Adamson, Richard Berry, Catatonia’s Cerys Matthews and The Originals’ Freddie Gorman.
Tag Archives: Lou Rawls
You may not know their names, but you know many of their songs. Individually, but more often as a team, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff wrote and/or produced a lot of timeless classic songs in the soul music genre. They were the pre-eminent rhythm and blues architects of the first half of the 1970s, and their production style paved the way for disco, before that genre got watered down. Plenty of their records found their way to the top of the pop charts as well.
Today is Kenny Gamble’s 75th birthday. To celebrate, Tunes du Jour presents a playlist of twenty great Gamble and Huff sides.
In October of 1975, the band Queen played for their manager, John Reid, a song they recently finished recording that they wanted to release as their next single. Reid told them the track would not get any airplay. He played it for another artist he managed, Elton John, who reportedly said “Are you mad? You’ll never get that on the radio!”
Queen stayed firm, not relenting when their record company begged them to at least edit the song down from its nearly six-minute duration.
To promote the song, the band was invited to play on England’s hugely successful Top of the Pops television program. They were unable to appear due to tour commitments, so they did something that wasn’t very common in 1975 – they filmed a videoclip. Top of the Pops aired the clip. As the song rose up the charts, the video was shown repeatedly. Soon other artists in the UK made videos for their records, which is why when MTV launched in the United States in 1981, many of the clips they aired were of UK acts.
The single, “Bohemian Rhapsody,” went to #1 in England in December of that year, where it stayed for nine weeks. It got knocked from the top spot by a song whose title consisted of a phrase used in “Bohemian Rhapsody” – ABBA’s “Mamma Mia.” “Bohemian Rhapsody” hit #1 again there in December of 1991, a few weeks after the death of the band’s lead singer and the song’s composer, Freddie Mercury.
In the United States, the song didn’t go to #1, but it did hit the top ten in 1976 and 1992.
For this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, Tunes du Jour revisits 1976 (part I can be found here), kicking off with the Queen classic “Bohemian Rhapsody.”
On May 31, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring June 2016 as African American Music Appreciation Month. The designation has actually been around since 1979, when President Carter commemorated the cultural and financial contributions of music made by African Americans at a reception at the White House. Back then it was Black Music Month, an idea conceived by music industry executive and radio personality Dyana Williams and her husband, Kenny Gamble.
You may not know Gamble’s name, but you know his music. The co-founder of Philadelphia International Records with Leon Huff, Gamble and his music partner have written and produced hits for Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations, Dusty Springfield, the Jacksons, the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Jerry Butler, Archie Bell and the Drells, the Three Degrees, Joe Simon, MFSB, Billy Paul, the Soul Survivors, Teddy Pendergrass, the Intruders, Lou Rawls, People’s Choice and the Jones Girls.
Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party celebrates African American Music Appreciation Month with twenty dance floor packers, kicking off with a few of Gamble and Huff’s gems.
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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Today’s dance party kicks off with Lisa Stansfield’s “All Around the World,” a 1989 record that was a big hit all around the world, going to #1 in the U.K., Canada, Holland, Spain, Norway, Austria, and Belgium. It topped the U.S. Dance chart and R&B chart and reached #3 on the pop chart.
Lisa Stansfield turns 48 today. Her new album is entitled Seven.
I started getting into Sam Cooke in 1978. That year, Art Garfunkel had a hit with his version of “Wonderful World,” while Sam Cooke’s original version appeared on the soundtrack to the movie National Lampoon’s Animal House. I was familiar with Cat Stevens’ hit version of “Another Saturday Night” and Dr. Hook’s hit version of “Only Sixteen.” I bought Sam Cooke’s Greatest Hits to hear the original versions of these songs.
Starting his career by singing gospel music, Cooke moved into the secular market in 1956. The Soul Stirrers, the gospel group for which Cooke was singing lead, were signed to Specialty Records. The label’s head, Art Rupe, didn’t like the secular music Cooke was recording, so in 1957 Cooke left for Keen Records, where his first single was the classic “You Send Me.” It went to #1 on the pop and r&b charts. Cashing in on this success, Specialty released a single of one of the Cooke recordings they had in their vault, “I’ll Come Running Back to You.” It also went to #1 on the r&b chart and went top 20 pop.
In 1960 Cooke moved to RCA Records. As Specialty did before them, Keen looked through their vaults to find a Cooke recording to release as a single. They found “Wonderful World.” Like many of his hits, Cooke wrote the song, this one with Lou Adler and Herb Alpert. The composition initially was credited to Barbara Campbell, Cooke’s fiancée, as Cooke was engaged in a dispute with Art Rupe about publishing royalties.
The song wasn’t recorded to be a single. It was done at an impromptu session. Cooke’s regular drummer wasn’t there, so he recruited the sixteen year-old nephew of one of the other musicians to play on the track. Lou Rawls was in the studio with Sam, singing the last word of each line with Cooke in the same mic.
“Wonderful World” became another hit for Cooke on the pop and r&b charts. In all, he had 29 top 40 pop hits and 34 top 40 r&b hits. In addition to singing and writing hit songs, he started SAR Records in 1960, producing recordings for Billy Preston, Bobby Womack and Johnny Taylor, in the process becoming one of the first African-American entrepreneurs in the music business.
Sam Cooke died on December 11, 1964, from a gunshot wound. He was 33.
Today Tunes du Jour remembers the great Sam Cooke on what would have been his 83rd birthday.