Today’s playlist is made up of thirty songs that define 1977. More of 1977’s music can be heard here.
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Chaka Khan was born Yvette Marie Stevens on this date in 1953. At age 13 Yvette was given the name Chaka Adunne Aduffe Yemoja Hodarhi Karifi Khan by an African priest. Though there was no Chaka Khan character in the movie Judas and the Black Messiah, she did befriend Fred Hampton in 1967 and joined the Black Panthers. She left the group two years later. Below are thirty things she’s done since then.
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Inspired by the season and the December 1 birthdays of Bette Midler, Janelle Monae, Basement Jaxx’s Simon Ratcliff, Lou Rawls, Richard Pryor, Billy Paul, Gilbert O’Sullivan, Mary Martin, Woody Allen, Treat Williams, Sarah Silverman, Julee Cruise, Jonathan Coulton and Matt Monro.
Inspired by the January 18 birthdays of The Temptations’ David Ruffin, Thompson Twins’ Tom Bailey, The Ting Tings’ Katie White, Bobby Goldsboro, Frankie Knuckles, Estelle, Hard-Fi’s Richard Archer and Kula Shaker’s Crispian Mills.
Per the email I received from Spotify in mid-December, my most-streamed track of 2016 was Blue Oyster Cult’s “(Don’t Fear) The Reaper.” While that is a great song, I don’t recall playing it more than once or twice this year. However, I did spend hours listening to music by those taken from us by the Grim Reaper. I’m not the only person to feel incredible sadness at the seemingly non-stop loss of great talents, which started on New Year’s Day when we heard the report that Natalie Cole died the day before.
With this playlist I want to celebrate the contributions these folks made to our lives and our culture. If I missed someone, forgive me. There were a lot of folks to remember.
Before we get to the Spotify playlist, videos from two whose music is not on Spotify.
Thank you for enriching my life:
Glenn Frey (of Eagles)
Muhammad Ali (nee Cassius Clay)
Maurice White (of Earth, Wind and Fire)
Carrie Fisher (actress best known for Star Wars)
Paul Kantner (of Jefferson Airplane)
Signe Toly Anderson (of Jefferson Airplane)
Sir George Martin (record producer best known for his work with The Beatles)
Attrell “Prince Be” Cordes (of P.M. Dawn)
Garry Marshall (television/film director/producer/writer, creator of Happy Days)
Pete Burns (of Dead or Alive)
Alan Vega (of Suicide)
Don Ciccone (of The Four Seasons)
Keith Emerson (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer)
Greg Lake (of Emerson, Lake and Palmer)
Steven Young (of M/A/R/R/S)
Joan Marie Johnson (of The Dixie Cups)
Malik “Phife Dawg” Taylor (of A Tribe Called Quest)
Bernie Worrell (of Parliament)
Gary Paxton (of The Hollywood Argyles)
Rick Parfitt (of Status Quo)
Mack Rice (songwriter whose credits include “Respect Yourself”)
Milt Okun (record producer best known for his work with John Denver)
Marni Nixon (singer/actress best known for dubbing the singing voices of Natalie Wood in West Side Story and Audrey Hepburn in My Fair Lady)
Rod Temperton (of Heatwave)
John Chelew (record producer best known for his work with John Hiatt)
Nicholas Caldwell (of The Whispers)
Trisco Pearson (of Force MDs)
Gayle McCormick (of Smith)
Gary Loizzo (of American Breed)
Paul Upton (of The Spiral Starecase)
Carlo Mastrangelo (of The Belmonts)
Fred Tomlinson (co-writer of “Lumberjack Song”)
John D. Loudermilk
Zsa Zsa Gabor
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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“I just know that the Grammys, if they want real artists, to keep coming back, they need to stop playing with us. We ain’t gonna play with them no more. And Beck needs to respect artistry and he should’ve given his award to Beyoncé. Because when you keep on diminishing art and not respecting the craft and smacking people in their face after they deliver monumental feats of music, you’re disrespectful to inspiration. And we as musicians have to inspire people who go to work every day, and they listen to that Beyoncé album and they feel like it takes them to another place.” – Kanye West on the Grammy Award for Album of the Year going to Beck’s Morning Phase rather than Beyoncé’s self-titled release
“I thought she was going to win. Come on, she’s Beyoncé! You can’t please everybody, man. I still love [West] and think he’s genius. I aspire to do what he does.” – Beck
“I wasn’t saying Beck; I said the Grammys. Beck knows that Beyoncé should have won; you know that. Come on, man. I love Beck! But he didn’t have the Album of the Year.” – Kanye West
Kanye West, official spokesperson for the Bey Nation, gave his opinion and the Internet blew up! It was a repeat of 2009, when West announced that Taylor Swift stole the MTV Best Female Video Award that should have gone to Beyoncé. The American people were up in arms! So much vitriol was sent West-ward and his detractors found plenty of reasons to go after him the ensuing years. As the wise trophy thief said, “the haters gonna hate hate hate hate hate.”
Kanye’s point was about creating art and reaching new heights in one’s craft. The only intelligent responses to further this discourse, per the many comments I saw on Facebook and Twitter, are “You’re classless” and “You’re garbage.” One person who didn’t call Kanye garbage was Shirley Manson, the lead singer of the band Garbage. She called him “a complete twat.”
At least all of us can sleep better knowing that Kanye loves Beck. They are two of my favorite all-time artists for many of the same reasons. They seldom repeat themselves, making each album they release different than the previous one. Neither follows trends. Both challenge themselves. Both are masters of their craft. Both can be sincere. Both can be funny. Neither has released a bad record.
Beyoncé should have gotten the Album of the Year Grammy. Her self-titled album was a revelation. Following up her uneven 4, she took a giant leap forward and strived to make something more artistic than what we were used to from her. She succeeded. The Beck record, Morning Phase, sounds beautiful, but there were no surprises. It was announced early in 2014 that Beck would be releasing a new album that was in a mellow vein. I got what I expected. It was as fine as I thought it would be, and stronger than his last couple of releases. I like Morning Phase very much, more than the other nominated Albums of the Year performed by Ed Sheeran, Sam Smith and Pharrell Williams, but it’s nothing we haven’t heard Beck do before. Ironically, in Beyoncé’s quest to be more artistic, her album outsold its predecessor. Like Kanye said, she had the Album of the Year.
Enough of the Grammy voters felt otherwise and awarded Beck. That’s fine. There have been worse slights in the Grammy Album of the Year category than Beyoncé losing to Beck. What about the 1996 awards, when Beck’s Odelay lost to Celine Dion’s Falling into You? Or in 2000, when Beck’s Midnight Vultures lost to Steely Dan’s Two Against Nature? Or in 2005, when U2’s Hot to Dismantle an Atomic Bomb beat Kanye’s Late Registration and in 2004, when Ray Charles & Friends’ Genius Loves Company beat Kanye’s The College Dropout and Green Day’s American Idiot? Steely Dan, U2 and Ray Charles have released many albums deserving of Album of the Year. These weren’t them. U2 should have won 1992’s Album of the Year for Achtung Baby. They lost to Eric Clapton Unplugged. In 2007, Kanye’s Graduation and Amy Winehouse’s Back to Black both lost Album of the Year to Herbie Hancock’s River: The Joni Letters, a record that literally nobody has ever heard. In 1980, Christopher Cross’ self-titled debut beat Pink Floyd’s The Wall. In 1966, The Beatles’ Revolver lost to Frank Sinatra’s A Man and His Music. In 2012, Mumford & Sons’ Babel beat albums by Frank Ocean, Jack White and The Black Keys. The nominees for 1984’s Album of the Year Grammy were Prince’s Purple Rain, Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the USA, Tina Turner’s Private Dancer, Cyndi Lauper’s She’s So Unusual, and Lionel Richie’s Can’t Slow Down. Four classic albums plus one by Lionel Richie. The winner? Lionel Richie! WTF on a stick?!?! In 1991 the Album of the Year Grammy didn’t go to R.E.M., nominated for Out of Time. It went to Natalie Cole’s Unforgettable…with Love. Eligible but not nominated that year? A little album called Nevermind by a band named Nirvana. Oh well, whatever. In 1982, Toto IV beat…it doesn’t matter who else was nominated. It’s Toto Fuckin’ IV, people.
It looks like Beyoncé will have to wait longer before she is in the same hallowed company as Toto.
In less contentious news this week, ISIS killed U.S. hostage Kayla Mueller, Boko Haram killed thirteen soldiers and 81 civilians in Chad, and the Chief Justice of Alabama’s Supreme Court forbade probate judges in that state to issue marriage license to same-sex couples, despite a judge’s ruling that such unions are legal and the U.S. Supreme Court refusing to issue a stay on that ruling.
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