Your (Almost) Daily Playlist: 8-29-22

Today’s playlist celebrates the August 29 birthday of The Jackson ‘s Michael Jackson, Charlie Parker, Cocteau Twins’ Elizabeth Fraser, Dinah Washington, Johnny & the Hurricanes’ Johnny Paris, Pebbles, Fairground Attraction’s Eddi Reader, MeShell NdegeOcello, Kevie Kev, and Galantis’s Style of Eye; the August 30 birthdays of The Mamas & The Papas’ John Phillips, Kitty Wells, Hurts’s Theo Huthcraft, Paul Oakenfold, and D:Ream’s Peter Cunnah; and the August 31 birthdays of Van Morrison, Battles’ Ian Williams, Squeeze’s Glenn Tillbrook, The Vines’ Craig Nichols, Tony DeFranco, Bobby Parker, Debbie Gibson, Ivan, Bob Welch, Broadway lyricist Alan Jay Lerner, Richard Gere, and Julie Brown.

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A Prince Playlist

I missed Prince’s debut album, For You, when it was released in 1978. My first exposure to him was hearing “I Wanna Be Your Lover” on the radio. It became a hit when I was in high school. Good song. Then I saw the video. Not what I expected. Before then I thought Prince was a trio of Black women, like The Emotions. My first visual exposure to Prince and already he was throwing my expectations.

His third album, 1980’s Dirty Mind, got a fair amount of press in music magazines, and its cover art made an impression. I was interested in the guy.

“Controversy” was a single my freshman year in college. The song grabbed me, and so I bought the 45, my first Prince record.

The life-changing moment came the following year, when I heard “1999” on KISS-FM in Boston. Holy crap! It blew my mind. It sounded like nothing else on the radio at that time or any other time. At that moment I became a big fan. I got a ride into Harvard Square, went to the Harvard Coop (the university’s bookstore/ record store/ probably other things I can’t remember store) and bought the 1999 album. (The same day I bought Michael Jackson’s Thriller. Can you believe the two albums came out a month apart? What a time to be alive!)

From that point on I was a certified Prince fanatic. I bought the first four albums. I bought subsequent albums on the days of release. I bought the twelve-inch singles, and eventually the CD singles. And for quite a stretch there Prince continued to blow my mind. I’m still awed by his genius and marvel at how he thought to do unconventional things with his music, such as removing the bassline from “When Doves Cry,” the only number one on the dance chart to not have a bassline.

I’ve met many great talents over the years. Brian Wilson. Tina Turner. Smokey Robinson. Norman Fell. But nothing compared 2 meeting Prince. It was in 1988. He didn’t say a word, though he did sign my work stationery:

Putting together a Prince playlist and disciplining myself to keep it to thirty songs is a tough task, especially as a Prince fanatic, but I persevered. I’m not saying these are his thirty best songs, nor are they his thirty most popular songs, nor are they my thirty favorites of his songs. It’s a mixture of all three of those categories (which, of course, have a lot of overlap). I threw in some of the hits others had with songs he wrote. It’s by no means complete, but it’s a start.

(The Spotify embed feature is STILL broken. Here is the link: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/3TrbpWDHR6CzcYRHmvSrRA?si=4367f868ddcf4e52)

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Throwback Thursday: 1971

I recently read a book about the music of 1971. It was pretty bad. I should have been clued off seeing that the book derived its title from the name of a Rod Stewart album that came out in…1972. The author and I agree that 1971 was a great year for music, though he focused mainly on white acts. Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, recently named the number one album of all-time in Rolling Stone, was dismissed as being overrated due to white guilt, something the author clearly doesn’t feel. I humbly suggest that the playlist below shows more of the greatness (and diversity) of 1971’s music than this book.

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Records of the Year

The Grammy Awards are being presented tonight. Woo. It’s billed as “music’s biggest night,” just as May 7 through May 16 is billed as “the biggest week in American birding,” if only because ten days is a lot for one week. Birders. Am I right, people? Performers at this year’s Grammys include Bruno Mars and Anderson .Paak doing their new song, because what better way to celebrate the music of 2020 than with a single that was released last week? Performers I’m looking forward to include Miranda Lambert, Cardi B, HAIM, Megan Thee Stallion, Brittany Howard, Doja Cat, Dua Lipa, and Billie Eilish, whose “Everything I Wanted” is up for Record of the Year. That’s my favorite of the nominees, though I think the award will go to Beyoncé for “Black Parade,” and I have no problem with that. However, if the award goes to that record I never heard of until I started typing this sentence, sneakers will be thrown at my television (though that record may be good for all I know). For Album of the Year my vote goes to Fiona Apple’s Fetch the Bolt Cutters, as it was handily the best album of 2020. It probably won’t win, seeing as it wasn’t nominated. What was nominated over Apple’s album? That Coldplay album you forgot about and the Jacob Collier album you never heard of until you started reading this sentence (though that album may be good for all you know). Of the albums nominated, I’d pick HAIM’s. It’s very good. Not Fetch The Bolt Cutters good, but very good nonetheless. If HAIM win I hope they hand their award to Fiona Apple live on the telecast, which would be super impressive, seeing as they won’t be in the same room. I’m sure tonight’s show will include a tribute to dead people done by living people who are no match for said dead people. I’d rather want a montage of clips of the dead people performing when they were living people. <Fill in the blank> screaming is not representative of what made Aretha Franklin amazing. No disrespect to <fill in the blank>, but there’s more to being the Queen of Soul than having a mic and ovaries.

It’s easy to shit on the Grammys, as they are so shittable, but to be fair, not every Record of the Year is as terrible as 1988’s recipient, “Don’t Worry, Be Happy.” Here are thirty of the better winners:

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Throwback Thursday: 1979

Nineteen seventy-nine was a very good year in music. In compiling today’s Throwback Thursday playlist focusing on 1979 I had so many very good songs from which to choose. 208 songs, to be exact. That’s how many 1979 cuts bring me much joy. There are another 181 1979 tracks I also like. Somehow I was able to whittle it down to the 30 cuts below. Some years it’s a struggle to come up with 30!

Disco was at its commercial peak in 1979. So many of the disco songs that charted then remain popular today – “I Will Survive,” “We Are Family,” “Y.M.C.A.,” “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” “Hot Stuff,” “Good Times,” “Heart of Glass,” “Ring My Bell,” “Knock on Wood,” “Got To Be Real.” While the genre seemed omnipresent, there was more to 1979 music than clams on the half shell and roller skates roller skates. Hear what was going on below.

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Throwback Thursday: 1980

Nineteen eighty wasn’t a game changing year on the US pop chart. It wasn’t 1964. It wasn’t 1991. For the most part it was music business as usual. The death of disco was greatly exaggerated. Just ask any member of Lipps, Inc., should you have any idea what any member of Lipps, Inc. looks like. Seventies hit makers stayed on the charts. Paul McCartney. Diana Ross. Stevie Wonder. Barbra Streisand. The Captain & Tennille did it to us one more time, it meaning having a hit single. A few outsiders snuck into the top 40 with sounds unlike the rest – Devo hit with “Whip It,” Gary Numan with “Cars,” and The Vapors with “Turning Japanese.” In the coming years more such weirdos would make their presence known.

While many of 1980’s hits were great singles, many classics were born outside of the mainstream. Releases such as Bob Marley & the Wailers’ “Redemption Song,” Joy Division’s “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” Peter Gabriel’s “Biko,” Prince’s “When You Were Mine,” David Bowie’s “Ashes to Ashes,” and Funky 4 + 1’s “That’s the Joint” are often referred to as classics these days. In 1980, not a single one of them troubled the US Hot 100. Change was on its way. In 1980, rap wasn’t a fixture on the top 40, though its influence was heard in Queen’s #1 smash “Another One Bites the Dust.” The next few years saw #1 hits from Peter Gabriel, Prince, David Bowie and a rap song, plus a top ten reggae song.

Today’s Throwback Thursday playlist shines a spotlight on 1980.

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