Tag Archives: Luther Vandross

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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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 74: LGBTQ Music From 1981 To 1982

The British are coming! Not that they ever left, but the early eighties brought the U.S. pop charts another British invasion, this one queerer than the previous ones. Half of the twenty songs on this playlist come from UK artists, including new acts such as Soft Cell and Depeche Mode, plus some folks we’ve heard from on previous playlists in this series.

Also debuting in this edition is Luther Vandross. He didn’t come out publicly during his lifetime, but that doesn’t mean his place in queer music history should be left out.


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It’s National Teachers Day And I Need To Dance!

On the off-chance I don’t win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay, which, seeing as I have yet to write a single scene, is a remote possibility, I’d like to present the text of my acceptance speech here and now.

“Thank you! Thank you so much! Thank you! (wink at Meryl) Wow! I wasn’t expecting to win. This is such a surprise. Let me read you the speech I wrote for this occasion.

I’d like to thank the Academy, specifically the members who voted for me. I’d like to thank everyone who bought a ticket to see my movie. I’d like to thank the cast and crew. It takes a village! Am I right? Of course I’m right! I’m a right-er! (smile, acknowledge the laughter in the audience)

Mostly, I’d like to thank all those who taught me about writing and provided encouragement. I’d like to thank all of my English teachers, my writing teachers, my stand-up comedy teachers and my improvisation teachers. I’d like to thank my fellow classmates, workshops and meetup members and the friends and family members who provided feedback and support. In particular, I’d like to…oh, they’re playing the music, indicating it’s time for me to leave. Until next year, remember I love you all, except those who voted for my competitors.”
Winston + Hall-Oates
Today is National Teachers Day. Our weekly dance party kicks off with Daryl Hall and John Oates’ “Adult Education.”


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Luther Vandross Was Here

In 1974, David Bowie hired Luther Vandross to sing background vocals and do vocal arrangements for his Young Americans album. Bowie told the then 23-year-old singer “You’re going to make it…next year is your year!”

Bowie’s timing was a little off (depending on how you define “making it”). Luther cracked the top 40 as a solo artist for the first time with “Never Too Much” in 1981. Before then, he was a much in-demand session vocalist and arranger.

Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthday of Luther Vandross with twenty tracks on which the soul great is the lead singer, a backup singer, the arranger, the producer, the songwriter, or some combination thereof.


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It’s Irene Cara’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Winston + Irene Cara

Fame! I’m gonna live forever! Baby, remember my name!

Though she hasn’t had a hit song in more than thirty years, people still remember Irene Cara’s name. Between 1980 and 1984, she had more hit songs than the two you can name off the top of your head.

First came the song “Fame,” taken from the movie Fame, in which Cara played Coco Hernandez. “Fame,” written by Dean Pitchford and Michael Gore and featuring backing vocals from Luther Vandross and Vicki Sue Robinson, hit #4, and won the Academy Award and Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song. In addition, Cara’s performance in the film earned her a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actress.

Also vying for the Academy Award for Best Original Song that year was “Out Here on My Own,” written by Michael Gore and his sister Lesley. Also performed by Cara in the film, it became her second consecutive top 40 single.

She didn’t appear in the movie Flashdance, but her theme song, “Flashdance…What a Feeling!,” was #1 in the US for six weeks, and won Cara, one of its writers, the Oscar for Best Original Song. “What a Feeling” also won Cara the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance – Female and a nomination for Record of the Year, which she lost to Michael Jackson’s “Beat It” (fair enough!). The single topped charts around the world.

Given the song’s massive success, Cara found it odd that per her record label, her royalties from sales of the record amounted to $183. In 1985, following a few more hit songs (“The Dream,” from the movie D.C. Cab, in which she played Irene Cara; “Why Me?,” and “”Breakdance”), she sued the head of that label (which had since gone under) for $10 million for breach of contract. Eight years later, a jury awarded her $1.5 million. By then, her time in the spotlight was long over. She never hit the charts again after filing her lawsuit.

Take your passion and make it happen, but make sure you have people you trust looking after your affairs.

Today, Irene Cara turns 57 years old. Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party kicks off with “Flashdance…What a Feeling!”


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It’s Umberto Tozzi’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Who is Umberto Tozzi? Is that what you just asked?

Born in Italy in 1952, Umberto Tozzi is a singer-songwriter who has sold over 70 million records throughout the world. In 1979 he released a single of his composition “Gloria,” which became a big hit in his home country, remaining in the top ten for 16 weeks, six of those at #2. The song also went top ten in Germany, France, Switzerland, Austria, Belgium, South Africa and Spain.

Ringo + Umberto
In 1982, singer Laura Branigan collaborated with Trevor Veitch on English-language lyrics set to the original’s melody. Her recording of “Gloria,” co-produced by Greg Mathieson, arranger and keyboardist on the Tozzi version, reached #2 on the Billboard Hot 100.

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Our weekly party kicks off with the track for which Umberto Tozzi is best-known in the United States.


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The Unsung Genius Of Billy Preston

Ringo + Billy Preston
Today is the birthday of the late, great Billy Preston. You may be familiar with his #1 hits “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing from Nothing.” Preston has many more accomplishments on his resume. Here are ten things you may not know about him:

1. He is the only person to be given a featuring credit on a Beatles single. The #1 smash “Get Back” and its b-side, “Don’t Let Me Down,” also a top 40 hit, were credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston. He also played on the band’s Abbey Road, Let It Be and self-titled albums (the latter often referred to as The White Album) and in their famous final rooftop concert. At one point John Lennon suggested having Preston become one of The Beatles.
2. He played on several albums by The Rolling Stones, including Exile on Main Street, Sticky Fingers, Tattoo You, It’s Only Rock‘n Roll and Goats Head Soup.
3. In 1958, twelve-year-old Preston played “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy as a child in the Handy biopic St. Louis Blues.
4. At age 15 Preston joined Little Richard’s band.
5. In 1967 Preston joined Ray Charles’ band.
6. He played on Sam Cooke’s final studio album, the critically-acclaimed Night Beat. Preston was 16 years old at the time.
7. Other artists on whose records Preston played include Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton, MeShell NdegéOcello, Joni Mitchell, Jet, Neil Diamond, Sly & the Family Stone, Aretha Franklin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Luther Vandross, the Everly Brothers, and Johnny Cash.
8. Preston co-wrote “You Are So Beautiful,” a top five single for Joe Cocker in 1975.
9. It has been written that Stephen Stills got the expression “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” from Preston. (Some reports say it was Doris Troy who gave Stills that phrase.)
10. George Harrison wrote and co-produced “My Sweet Lord” for Preston. It appeared on Billy’s 1970 Encouraging Words album, released on The Beatles’ Apple Records. Harrison went on to record his own version of the song for his All Things Must Pass album, on which Preston played. Perhaps you’ve heard the Harrison version.
11. Preston introduced George Harrison to a woman named Olivia Arias, who worked at A&M Records, for whom Billy recorded after he left Apple. Arias soon became Olivia Harrison.
12. So impressed by Preston’s music was Miles Davis that the jazz legend recorded a song called “Billy Preston” for his 1974 album Get Up With It.
13. Preston’s primary instrument was the organ. The first time he played the clavinet was on his hit “Outa-Space,” which reached #2 on the pop charts. The first time he played the Arp synthesizer was on his hit “Space Race,” which reached #4 on the pop chart.
14. Preston’s singles “Will It Go Round in Circles,” “Nothing from Nothing,” “Outa-Space” and “Space Race” each sold over one million copies in the United States alone.
15. As a solo artist Preston had ten top 40 hits on Billboard’s R&B chart.
16. Preston played Sgt. Pepper in the ill begotten film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of my favorite bad movies. In the film he sings “Get Back” to Billy Shears, played by Peter Frampton, just after Shears jumped off of a roof to kill himself. Perhaps I should have written SPOILER ALERT, but you can’t spoil something that stinks to begin with.
17. In 1972 Preston became the first rock performer to headline at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
18. Preston was a musical guest on the first episode of Saturday Night Live.
19. Preston started playing piano and singing church. About being gay in the church, Preston told writer David Ritz “In the community outside the church, gay men were called sissies. There was zero tolerance. But inside the church, a lot of music was created by gay men. It was almost a tradition. Everyone knew that my mentor James Cleveland, who became the King of Gospel, was gay….So many of the other major figures – like Professor J. Earle Hines out of Los Angeles and Professor Alex Bradford out of Chicago – were gay. Mahalia [Jackson] surrounded herself with gay men her entire life. In the neighborhood they made you ashamed of being gay, but in the church you were almost proud to be part of the gay elite of musicians.”
20. Preston died on June 6, 2006, from complications from malignant hypertension. He was 59 years old.

Here are twenty of the many highlights of Billy Preston’s recording career:


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Twenty Facts About And Thirty Songs Produced By Quincy Jones

Ringo + Quincy 001

1) He’s had a record 79 Grammy Award nominations. He’s won 27.
2) He arranged the Frank Sinatra/Count Basie version of “Fly Me to the Moon,” which astronaut Neil Armstrong played when he first landed on the moon.
3) Jones produced the soundtrack of the motion picture The Wiz. He later said he hated working on it, as he didn’t like most of the songs nor did he like the film’s script. However, on the set on The Wiz he got to know the singer who played the scarecrow, Michael Jackson. Jackson asked him to recommend a producer for his next album. Jones threw out a few names and also offered to produce it himself. Jackson took him up on his offer, though his record label thought it was a bad idea. The album, 1979’s Off the Wall, went on to sell 20 million copies and won Jackson his first Grammy Award.
4) While widely known as the producer of Michael Jackson’s Thriller, Bad and Off the Wall albums, Jones is also the producer of the hit records “We Are the World” by USA for Africa; “It’s My Party,” “You Don’t Own Me” and “Judy’s Turn to Cry” by Lesley Gore; “Angel” by Aretha Franklin; “I’ll By Good to You,” “Stomp” and “Strawberry Letter 23” by The Brothers Johnson; “One Mint Julep” by Ray Charles; and “Love is in Control (Finger on the Trigger)” by Donna Summer, among others. He also worked with Bono, Stevie Wonder, Miles Davis, Little Richard, Paul Simon, Duke Ellington, Ella Fitzgerald, Herbie Hancock, Billie Holiday, B.B. King, Louis Armstrong, Dizzie Gillespie, Sarah Vaughan, Diana Ross, Dinah Washington, Peggy Lee, Chaka Khan, Tony Bennett, George Benson, Luther Vandross, Sammy Davis Jr., Johnny Mathis, James Ingram and Patti Austin, plus plenty more.
5) “Quincy Jones is one of the most versatile and potent figures of popular culture….When you listen to his impressive and monumental body of work, it’s easy to understand how and why he’s touched such a broad audience of music lovers. He’s done it all.” – Michael Jackson
6) Time magazine named him one of the most influential jazz musicians of the 20th century.
7) In the early 1960s he became the Vice President of Mercury Records, the first African-American at a major record company to reach that executive level.
8) His middle name is Delight.
9) Along with Bob Russell, he became the first African-American to be nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Song for “The Eyes of Love” from Banning.
10) With seven Oscar nominations, he is tied with sound designer Willie Burton as the African-American with the most Oscar nominations.
11) Jones produced the film The Color Purple, his first foray into film production. He asked Steven Spielberg to direct it, which he did. It was nominated for eleven Academy Awards.
12) Among his 33 movie scores are the ones for The Color Purple, In the Heat of the Night, In Cold Blood, and Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice.
13) He has a daughter with actress Nastassja Kinski as well as six other children.
14) He’s the father of actress Rashida Jones. She’s pretty.
15) In 1988 he formed Quincy Jones Entertainment, who produced the television program The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
16) He never learned how to drive.
17) Among the charities Jones supports are American Foundation for AIDS Research (AmfAR), Global Down Syndrome Foundation, Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation (GLAAD), MusiCares, Elton John AIDS Foundation, Rape Foundation, UNICEF, NAACP, Nelson Mandela Centre of Memory, and Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes.
18) In 1974 Jones suffered a brain aneurysm. He was given a 1 in 100 chance of surviving. Family and friends, including Richard Pryor, Marvin Gaye and Sidney Poitier, planned a memorial service for him, which he got to attend.
19) Today he turns 82 years old.
20) “The thing is to find your lightning – and ride your lightning.” – Quincy Jones

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Trivia Question – Who is the only male solo artist whose first eight singles all went top ten in the UK?

Elton John? No. Elvis Presley? No. Cliff Richard? No. It was Rick Astley. In the US many people remember Rick as a one-hit wonder, but that is incorrect. Rick had seven top 40 singles stateside, including five top tens, two of which, “Never Gonna Give You Up” and “Together Forever,” went to #1. He retired from recording in 1993, by which time he had sold around forty million records.

Winston + Rick A
Today Rick turns 49 years old. We kick off our weekly dance party with a largely-forgotten tune of his that went top ten on both sides of the Atlantic.

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25 Things You Don’t Know About Me (+ It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!)

25 Things You Don’t Know About Me:
1. I never wear flip-flops in public, except on the beach.
2. The first time I met Chaka Khan, I said to her “You are the ultimate sex goddess of life.” Her mouth said “Thanks.” Her eyes said “SECURITY!!!”
3. I have two eyes and two ears, but only one nose.
4. I can name every letter of the alphabet.
5. I sleep in a bed.
6. I can bench press over 18 pounds.
7. I eat solid food.
8. I’m an American citizen.
9. I know every word to the theme from S.W.A.T.
10. I celebrate my birthday once a year.
11. I’m always listening to music, except when I’m not.
12. I can recite the Pledge of Allegiance by heart.
13. Some of my best friends are gay.
14. I know how to say hello in English.
15. Everyone in my family is a homo sapien.
16. I’ve never met Barack Obama or Millard Fillmore; however, I did meet Jermaine Stewart, the guy who sang “We Don’t Have to Take Our Clothes Off.”
17. I’ll often wear the same jeans two or three times in a given month.
18. I’ve never gotten high, drunk, or a legendary engram.
19. I have no idea what a legendary engram is.
20. I am 5’9½” tall, though I was shorter at the time of my birth.
21. If I’m outside in the rain and I don’t have an umbrella, I usually end up getting wet.
22. I’ve never been pregnant.
23. I’m unable to leap tall buildings in a single bound.
24. I was not in the movies Star Wars, Rear Window or Beethoven 2.
25. I don’t know what a slide rule is for.

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Our party kicks off with Sade. Sade, the lead singer of Sade, turns 56 today, which reminds me: 26. I once rode in an elevator with Sade, the lead singer of Sade.

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