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Not In The Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame: Chaka Khan

“I don’t care to belong to any club that will have Bon Jovi as a member.”
– Groucho Marx

On April 14, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame will induct several worthwhile acts and Bon Jovi. Over the coming weeks, Tunes du Jour will spotlight artists that are eligible for induction (i.e. they commercially released their debut recording at least 25 years ago), but have not been inducted as they are not as talented, innovative or influential as Bon Jovi.

Today we look at and listen to Chaka Khan. Though on the short list of artists being considered for induction this year, she was passed over by the nominating committee, the same committee that approved for inclusion Bon Jovi.

A listen to the Khan’s catalogue, a sample of which is presented below, reveals an extraordinary singer who masters rhythm and blues, funk, dance, soul, jazz, uptempo tracks and slow burners. Elsewhere in her catalogue one finds her taking on gospel, Broadway tunes and the great American songbook, excelling at everything she to which she lend her voice. Jon Bon Jovi has mastered all of these genres as well, except for rhythm and blues, funk, dance, soul, jazz, gospel, Broadway tunes and the great American songbook.

Chaka Khan is a trailblazer. She was the first r&b artist to have a hit song that featured a rapper (her 1984 cover of Prince’s “I Feel for You,” performed with Melle Mel), a blend which became increasingly popular and is prevalent on today’s pop charts. Still, she never sang “With an iron-clad fist I wake up to French kiss the morning.” Do you know who did? Bon Jovi.

Here are twenty of Chaka Khan’s finest tunes.


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Throwback Thursday – 1983

Winston + MJ
MTV debuted on August 1, 1981. Back then it was a music video network. It positioned itself as a rock station. Most of the videos shown were of songs made by Caucasian performers, though rock-leaning black acts such as Joan Armatrading and the Bus Boys got some play.

Then came “Billie Jean.” The second single from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, “Billie Jean” was accompanied by a stylish video featuring a mesmerizing performance from Jackson. However, it wasn’t a rock song. It didn’t fit the format of rock radio stations, and it didn’t fit the format of MTV either.

But there is a big difference between radio and music television. There were plenty of radio stations and many different formats. You may not hear “Billie Jean” on the rock stations, but you could hear it on r&b stations and pop stations and dance-leaning stations. However, there was only one music television – MTV.

In his autobiography, Howling at the Moon, Walter Yetnikoff, head of CBS Records, for whom Jackson recorded (and where I worked in my first music business job), wrote “I screamed bloody murder when MTV refused to air [Jackson’s] videos. They argued that their format, white rock, excluded Michael’s music. I argued they were racist assholes – and I’d trumpet it to the world if they didn’t relent. I’ve never been more forceful or obnoxious. I’ve also never been as effective, threatening to pull all our videos. With added pressure from [Thriller producer] Quincy Jones, they caved in, and in doing so the MTV color line came crashing down.”

Jackson’s video for “Billie Jean” aired on MTV, followed just weeks later by his video for “Beat It,” a song whose guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen helped make it a hit on rock radio. These two videos made Jackson, already a superstar, a worldwide phenomenon with a humongous fan base that transcended race, age and location in a way never seen before. These two videos made MTV, a year and a half old and fairly popular in white suburban areas, a cultural institution. These two videos made the music video, then not something done for many singles, particularly those performed by artists of color, an art form and a necessary marketing tool.

Some people tuned in to MTV to see the Michael Jackson videos, and while watching the channel, discovered other acts. Some people tuned in to MTV to watch “white rock” videos, and while watching the channel, discovered Michael Jackson.

MTV went to showcase more “non-rock” videos. In 1988, they launched their hugely popular program Yo! MTV Raps, something that would have been completely unexpected just five years earlier, pre-“Billie Jean.”

While MTV deserves credit for making “Billie Jean” and Thriller successful, the person most responsible is Jackson himself. He wrote the song. He sang the song. He danced the song. Quincy Jones did not want “Billie Jean” to appear on Thriller. He didn’t like the title. He didn’t like the bassline. He felt the song’s introduction was too long. Jackson argued “But that’s the jelly!…That’s what makes me want to dance.” Jones wasn’t ready for this jelly, but Jackson stood his ground.

In May of 1983, NBC aired a tribute to Motown Records. Motown: Yesterday, Today, Forever featuring many legends who recorded for the storied label performing their classics. We saw Diana Ross, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Mary Wells, Junior Walker and then some. It was a terrific show, but the talk of the town following its airing was the performance of a song not from the Motown catalogue – Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” The iconic performance, during which Jackson brought the famous moonwalk to the world at large, pushed him that much more ahead of any other performer working in music back then.

Following “Beat It,” CBS Records released four more singles from Thriller. All seven of the singles released (the album had only nine songs!) went top ten, breaking the record of most top ten hits from a single-artist album that was set a few years earlier by…Michael Jackson, whose Off the Wall gave us four. Before Thriller, four singles for one album was considered a lot. Thriller raised the bar for blockbuster albums, and subsequent releases such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Prince’s Purple Rain, Def Leppard’s Hysteria and Janet Jackson’s Control each produced more than four hits.

“Billie Jean” changed everything.

On this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, Tunes du Jour spotlights 1983, kicking off with Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1982

As a songwriter, Gloria Jones charted with Gladys Knight & the Pips’ “If I Were Your Woman,” the Four Tops’ “Just Seven Numbers (Can Straighten Out My Life),” and Marvin Gaye and Diana Ross’ “My Mistake (Was to Love You).” As a producer, Gloria Jones hit the top ten on the disco chart with Gonzalez’s “Haven’t Stopped Dancing Yet.” But as a lead singer, Jones failed to make the pop, r&b or dance charts.

In 1973, while on a trip to the United States, British DJ Richard Searling purchased a copy of a Gloria Jones single from 1965. The A-side was a song called “My Bad Boy’s Comin’ Home,” but it was the B-side that really got Searling’s attention.

Northern soul music (uptempo American soul music in a sixties Motown vein yet without commercial success) had a large cult following in the northern England at that time, and Searling played the Gloria Jones b-side during his sets.

Northern soul fan David Ball loved the song. When he and his musical partner, Mark Almond, who together comprised the duo Soft Cell, were looking for a song to cover, they went with the Jones song, thinking it would be interesting for a synth band to cover a soul tune. Their record label asked them to add guitar, bass and drums to the track, but the duo refused. Despite this, the label put out the singer. Almond told Rolling Stone magazine “We thought if we were really lucky, we’d scrape into the top 75 in Britain. We didn’t think anything would happen over here [in the US].”

Soft Cell’s recording of “Tainted Love” became a smash worldwide. In the US, it spent 43 weeks on Billboard’s Hot 100, a record at that time. Said Gloria Jones of the Soft Cell recording “Their version was far better than mine.”

Winston + Soft Cell
This week, Tunes du Jour celebrates Throwback Thursday with twenty great tunes from 1982, kicking off with Soft Cell’s version of “Tainted Love,” but first, check out Gloria Jones’ original:



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My Top 99 Songs Of 2015

Herewith, my 99 favorite tracks of this year:

1. Can’t Feel My Face – The Weeknd
2. Sugah Daddy – D’Angelo & the Vanguard
3. Peanut Butter Jelly – Galantis
4. Downtown – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Eric Nally, Melle Mel, Kool Moe Dee & Grandmaster Kaz
5. Fuck It All – Elle Varner
6. Therapy – Mary J. Blige
7. Coffee (Fucking) – Miguel
8. What Do You Mean? – Justin Bieber
9. Close Your Eyes (And Count to Fuck) – Run the Jewels featuring Zack De La Rocha
10. Hello – Adele
11. Only One – Kanye West featuring Paul McCartney
12. Depreston – Courtney Barnett
13. On the Regular – Shamir
14. Lampshades on Fire – Modest Mouse
15. Shine – Years & Years
16. Hotline Bling – Drake
17. Truffle Butter – Nicki Minaj featuring Drake and Lil Wayne
18. The Blacker the Berry – Kendrick Lamar
19. Dead Fox – Courtney Barnett
20. The Ground Walks, with Time in a Box – Modest Mouse
21. Uptown Funk – Mark Ronson featuring Bruno Mars
22. FourFiveSeconds – Rihanna featuring Kanye West and Paul McCartney
23. Teenage Talk – St. Vincent
24. Alright – Kendrick Lamar
25. Who U? – Dynas featuring Slick Rick
26. Friday I’m in Love – Yo La Tengo
27. Queen – Perfume Genius
28. King Kunta – Kendrick Lamar
29. Yoga – Janelle Monae featuring Jidenna
30. Dreams – Beck
31. Return to the Moon (Political Song for Didi Bloome to Sing, with Crescendo) – EL VY
32. The Love Within – Bloc Party
33. The Night Josh Tillman Came to Our Apt. – Father John Misty
34. Huarache Lights – Hot Chip
35. Dancing in the Dark – Hot Chip
36. B.O.B. – Macy Gray
37. Break the Rules – Charli XCX
38. Ex’s & Oh’s – Elle King
39. Stay Gold – First Aid Kit
40. Cool for the Summer – Demi Lovato
41. Girl Crush – Little Big Town
42. Nobody Really Cares if You Don’t Go to the Party – Courtney Barnett
43. Little Red Wagon – Miranda Lambert
44. Cedar Lane – First Aid Kit
45. Jonathan – Christine and the Queens featuring Perfume Genius
46. Boxing Day Blues (Revisited) – Courtney Barnett
47. In for the Kill – Shamir
48. Biscuits – Kacey Musgraves
49. Can’t Get Enough of Myself – Santigold featuring BC
50. You’re So Beautiful – Empire Cast featuring Jussie Smollett
51. Ugly Cherries – PWR BTTM
52. Earned It (Fifty Shades of Grey) – The Weeknd
53. Leave a Trace – CHVRCHES
54. Freedom – Pharrell Williams
55. Betray My Heart – D’Angelo & the Vanguard
56. Snakeskin – Deerhunter
57. Really Love – D’Angelo & the Vanguard
58. I Can’t Lose – Mark Ronson featuring Keyone Starr
59. Outta My Mind – the Arcs
60. Happy Idiot – TV on the Radio
61. Bad Blood – Ryan Adams
62. Nobody’s Empire – Belle & Sebastian
63. Come – Jain
64. Stonemilker – Björk
65. Holding On – Julio Bashmore featuring Sam Dew
66. Go Out – Blur
67. Weight in Gold – Gallant
68. Chateau Lobby #4 (in C for Two Virgins) – Father John Misty
69. Coming Home – Leon Bridges
70. All Day – Kanye West featuring Theophilus London, Allan Kingdom and Paul McCartney
71. Glory – Common and John Legend
72. Need You Now – Hot Chip
73. Sausage – Lil Mama
74. Déjà Vu – Giorgio Moroder featuring Sia
75. Alone on Christmas Day – Phoenix featuring Bill Murray, Jason Schwartzmann, Buster Poindexter and Paul Shaffer
76. Smokin’ & Drinkin’ – Miranda Lambert featuring Little Big Town
77. She’s Not Me – Jenny Lewis
78. Omen – Disclosure featuring Sam Smith
79. For Sale – Kendrick Lamar
80. NWA – Miguel featuring Kurupt
81. Times Square – Destroyer
82. I Put a Spell on You – Annie Lennox
83. 4 Degrees – ANOHNI
84. Go – The Chemical Brothers featuring Q-Tip
85. Sometimes – Heems
86. Bitch Better Have My Money – Rihanna
87. Runnin’ (Lose It All) – Naughty Boy featuring Beyoncé and Arrow Benjamin
88. Smooth Sailin’ – Leon Bridges
89. Hell – The Pains of Being Pure at Heart
90. Simple Things – Miguel
91. Shivers – Courtney Barnett
92. Tom’s Diner – Giorgio Moroder featuring Britney Spears
93. Trap Queen – Fetty Wap
94. Tell Your Friends – The Weeknd
95. L$D – A$AP Rocky
96. These Walls – Kendrick Lamar featuring Bilal, Anna Wise and Thundercat
97. Love is Free – Robyn & La Bagatelle Magique
98. Country Down – Beck
99. Better in the Morning – Little Boots


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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance! – College Reunion Edition

Brandeis ID
On the Facebook page for my thirty-year college reunion, which is coming up this June, someone brought up the music that reminds them of our college days. Many posts followed, naming songs that remind us of shared experiences at Brandeis University in the first half of the 1980s.

That post inspired today’s playlist. Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour, and today I present 50 songs we danced to in the Usdan Ballroom at Brandeis University between the fall of 1981 and the spring of 1985. It was a great time for popular music. These songs have stood the test of time.

Have a great weekend!

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The Song Retains The Name

Winston + Bobby Brown
Today is Bobby Brown’s 46th birthday. A former member of New Edition, Brown had his first solo hit in 1988 with “Don’t Be Cruel,” which reached #8 on the Hot 100. Though it shares its title with an Elvis Presley #1 hit from 1956, Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is not a remake.

That brings us to today’s playlist, which I call The Song Retains the Name. It consists of different songs with the same title. I initially planned to include twenty such songs, but more kept springing to mind. Before I knew it, I passed 100 entries. There are plenty more, so I decided to open this up to my reader(s). If you have songs that share titles you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

(NOTES: I included The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” because when it was released in 1980 its title was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Thought he didn’t have to, Michael Jackson, the song’s writer, later changed its name to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel.” Whitney Houston didn’t feel the need to make the same Hotel accommodation.

Also, though it is listed on Spotify as “The Best of My Love,” the Eagles track does not have a “The” on the 45 or the band’s On the Border album.)

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King Holiday

Winston + King

There was a trend in eighties pop music of superstars banding together for a cause. As trends go, it was certainly better than the medley craze of that same decade. Its high points included “We Are the World,” “Do They Know It’s Christmas?,” “Sun City” and “King Holiday.”

“King Holiday” was the result of a conversation rapper Kurtis Blow had with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s son Dexter. The civil rights leader’s birthday was celebrated as a national holiday for the first time on January 20, 1986. To commemorate the occasion, Blow, along with Grandmaster Melle Mel, Bill Adler and Phillip Jones, composed “King Holiday,” which Blow and Jones produced.

To perform the song, they gathered an impressive list of crossover stars of the day. Joining Kurtis Blow and Melle Mel on the record were Run-D.M.C., Whitney Houston, Lisa Lisa, Full Force, James “JT” Taylor (of Kool & the Gang), Teena Marie, Whodini, Fat Boys, El DeBarge, Stephanie Mills, New Edition, Stacy Lattisaw and Menudo (featuring Ricky Martin). The single made the top 30 on Billboard’s Black Music chart. All proceeds from its sale were donated to the Martin Luther King Jr. Center for Nonviolent Social Change.

Today Tunes du Jour jumps back in time to sing celebrate sing sing celebrate the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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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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King Holiday

Kings 003

Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s birthday was first celebrated as a national holiday in the United States on January 20, 1986. To commemorate this, a group of popular urban music acts of that time collaborated on a single entitled “King Holiday.” The song was written by Kurtis Blow, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Phillip Jones and Bill Adler. Appearing with Blow and Melle Mel on the record are Run-D.M.C., Whitney Houston, Lisa Lisa, Full Force, James “JT” Taylor (of Kool & the Gang), Teena Marie, Whodini, Fat Boys, El DeBarge, Stephanie Mills, New Edition, Stacy Lattisaw and Menudo.

A bill to turn King’s birthday into a national holiday was first introduced to the House of Representatives in 1979, but it didn’t receive enough votes to pass. The following year Stevie Wonder released “Happy Birthday,” a song calling for the holiday, and organized a rally in Washington DC for the cause. Soon, a petition was circulated calling for the same. Six million signatures were collected. Though President Reagan was initially against the holiday, he later signed the bill authorizing it.

Senator John McCain of Arizona was against the holiday, as was that state’s governor, Evan Meacham. New Hampshire didn’t acknowledge Martin Luther King Day until 1999. South Carolina made King Day a paid holiday for state employees in 2000. Prior to then, employees could choose between observing King’s birthday or one of three Confederate holidays.

Today Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthday and the legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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