Tag Archives: Otis Redding

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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Throwback Thursday – 1965 (Part II)

Winston + Dylan
No other pop song so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercials laws and artistic conventions of its time, for all time.
Rolling Stone, naming Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” the greatest song of all time

If it came out now, it would still be radical. For 1965, it was mind-blowing, as was its success. Six minutes long, sung by a guy who sounded nothing like the other singers on the radio, with confrontational often insulting lyrics. Somehow, it went all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, kept from the top spot by The Beatles’ “Help!” As Rolling Stone wrote, “Just as Dylan bent folk music’s roots and forms to his own will, he transformed popular song with the content and ambition of “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Thanks in part to “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Help!” and Motown and Stax and the Rolling Stones and other British Invasion acts, 1965 was one of the best years for pop music. Tunes du Jour celebrates Throwback Thursday with a second playlist of tracks from this stellar year (the first playlist can be found here), kicking off with a Bob Dylan record that changed the rules.


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Throwback Thursday – The Hits Of 1968

For Throwback Thursday this week, Tunes du Jour goes back to 1968. Though the year’s biggest hit, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” is not on Spotify, there are enough great smashes to make a compelling playlist.


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I Love Kanye West Almost As Much As He Loves Himself

I recently attended a conference where I was asked to fill in a questionnaire. Amongst the questions about my favorite television program and favorite beverage, I was asked to name a person who inspires me. My answer was chocolate malt. For favorite beverage, that is. All in the Family is my favorite TV show. My inspiration? Kanye West a/k/a Yeezy a/k/a Ye a/k/a Yeezus.

I have much admiration for Mr. West. People mock his ego, but I think the world would be a better place if more people believed in themselves the way Kanye does himself.

I admire that he pursues his dreams, including those outside his music. He may not be the best fashion designer, but he goes after it instead of staying in a rapper/producer box.

I admire that he pursued the woman he believes to be the world’s most beautiful and married her.

I admire him because he says what he thinks and what he believes. I find his honesty and candor refreshing.

And then there’s the music. His body of work holds its own against any artist working today. He continually challenges himself musically. After issuing three fine albums of his rapping, he surprised us with an album of singing, and while he’s no Marvin Gaye, that album turned out to be damn good. I like that he’s equally comfortable and innovative using classic soul samples and using obscure rock samples.

Lyrically he explores love, racism, art, sex, religion, drugs, self-destruction, and redemption. He can be thought-provoking; he can be funny.

He aims high and more often than not delivers.

He has a vision and is not afraid to execute on it. He won’t settle for just okay in his pursuit of perfection.

I’ll let the man himself sum up what I admire most about him: “If everything I did failed — which it doesn’t, it actually succeeds — just the fact that I’m willing to fail is an inspiration. People are so scared to lose that they don’t even try. Like, one thing people can’t say is that I’m not trying, and not I’m not trying my hardest, and I’m not trying to do the best way I know how.” (May, 2012)

Music is better with artists who consistently aim high and try to expand their boundaries. Such creative types are what keeps me passionate about new music year after year. The way Kathie Lee needed Regis is the way I need Yeezus.

Today is Kanye West’s 38th birthday. In a career full of high points, here are twenty of my favorites.


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It Really Shoulda…

Sam + Ringo
It’s that time of year when music geeks such as I think about the I.R.S. I.R.S. as in It Really Shoulda, as in it really should been a top ten hit.

Eight years ago, a colleague from my Sony Music days, Rich Appel, created the I.R.S. countdown. Music fans submitted a list of songs that didn’t make the top ten on Billboard magazine’s Hot 100 but should have, in their opinion. Rich compiled the tallies to create the overall I.R.S. top 104. He’s been compiling this survey each year since.

As for why a song should have been a top ten hit, that’s left entirely up to the list-maker. On my list, I included records that are perfect or near-perfect melodically, lyrically and/or production-wise. I included songs that have withstood the test of time and are still part of the public consciousness years later. I included records that everybody thinks were top ten hits. I included tracks that would have been top ten hits except they didn’t conform to Billboard’s rules for chart placement at their time of release (e.g. they weren’t available on commercial 7-inch singles or viral video play didn’t count in metric measurements). I included singles by artists who hit the top ten with lesser songs. I focused on tracks that have pop appeal, leaving out fantastic recordings from some of my favorite acts, such as The Replacements and The Smiths – they were called “alternative” because they weren’t pop.

My list for 2015 is below, followed by a Spotify playlist of those songs. Rich asks people submitting lists to put them in order, with #1 being the record one feels should have, more than any other, been a top ten hit. Ask me to do so tomorrow and my list will likely be in a different order.

For today, here is my I.R.S. 104. After the artist name I listed how high the song charted during its initial release. If the single hit the Hot 100 at a later date, I included that information as well.

You can hear the official I.R.S. 104 tally for 2015 on Rich Appel’s radio show, That Thing, this coming weekend on RewoundRadio.com. Friday at 6PM Eastern he’ll go from #104 to around #53 and Sunday starting at 6PM Eastern he’ll pick up from where he left off and go to #1.

1. Wonderful World – Sam Cooke (#12, 1960)
2. Ain’t No Mountain High Enough – Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell (#19, 1967)
3. River Deep, Mountain High – Ike and Tina Turner (#88, 1966)
4. I Only Want to Be with You – Dusty Springfield (#12, 1964)
5. Fortunate Son – Creedence Clearwater Revival (#14, 1969)
6. Cupid – Sam Cooke (#17, 1961)
7. Holiday – Madonna (#16, 1984)
8. Isn’t She Lovely – Stevie Wonder (did not chart, 1977)
9. 1999 – Prince (#44, 1982; #12, 1983; #40, 1999)
10. Born to Run – Bruce Springsteen (#23, 1975)
11. It Takes Two – Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston (#14, 1967)
12. Little Egypt (Ying Yang) – The Coasters (#23, 1961)
13. I Want to Take You Higher – Sly & the Family Stone (#60, 1969; #38, 1970)
14. Into the Groove – Madonna (did not chart, 1985)
15. We Will Rock You – Queen (did not chart, 1978; #52, 1992)
16. S.O.S. – Abba (#15, 1975)
17. You’ve Got a Friend – Carole King (did not chart, 1971)
18. Hold On! I’m Comin’ – Sam & Dave (#21, 1966)
19. Try a Little Tenderness – Otis Redding (#25, 1967)
20. The Way You Do the Things You Do – The Temptations (#11, 1964)
21. It’s a Shame – Spinners (#14, 1970)
22. It’s Gonna Work Out Fine – Ike & Tina Turner (#14, 1961)
23. Under My Thumb – the Rolling Stones (did not chart, 1966)
24. Opus 17 (Don’t You Worry ‘Bout Me) – Four Seasons (#13, 1966)
25. Me and Julio down by the School Yard – Paul Simon (#22, 1972)
26. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John & Yoko & the Plastic Ono Band with the Harlem Community Choir (did not chart, 1971)
27. I’m Every Woman – Chaka Khan (#21, 1978)
28. Viva Las Vegas – Elvis Presley (#29, 1964)
29. Do They Know It’s Christmas? – Band Aid (#13, 1984)
30. Super Freak – Rick James (#16, 1981)
31. Mighty Love – Spinners (#20, 1974)
32. Stan – Eminem featuring Dido (#51, 2000)
33. So Far Away – Carole King (#14, 1971)
34. Christmas (Baby Please Come Home) – Darlene Love (did not chart, 1963)
35. Because the Night – Patti Smith Group (#13, 1978)
36. Big Yellow Taxi – Joni Mitchell (#67, 1970)
37. Candy Girl – New Edition (#46, 1983)
38. Brass in Pocket (I’m Special) – Pretenders (#14, 1980)
39. Everybody Hurts – R.E.M. (#29, 1993)
40. It Takes Two – Rob Base & DJ E-Z Rock (#36, 1988)
41. Heartbreak Hotel – the Jacksons (#22, 1981)
42. Young Hearts Run Free – Candi Staton (#20, 1976)
43. Valerie – Mark Ronson featuring Amy Winehouse (did not chart, 2007)
44. Rock and Roll All Nite (live) – Kiss (#12, 1976)
45. You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real) – Sylvester (#36, 1979)
46. L-O-V-E (Love) – Al Green (#13, 1975)
47. It’s Raining Men – the Weather Girls (#46, 1983)
48. I’m a Slave 4 U – Britney Spears (#27, 2001)
49. You Shook Me All Night Long – AC/DC (#35, 1980)
50. Wake Up Everybody – Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes (#12, 1976)
51. Walk on the Wild Side – Lou Reed (#16, 1973)
52. Bring It on Home to Me – Sam Cooke (#13, 1962)
53. Pride (In the Name of Love) – U2 (#33, 1984)
54. Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now – McFadden & Whitehead (#13, 1979)
55. Move Your Feet – Junior Senior (did not chart, 2003)
56. Heroes – David Bowie (did not chart, 1977)
57. Werewolves of London – Warren Zevon (#21, 1978)
58. One Way or Another – Blondie (#24, 1979)
59. You Get What You Give – New Radicals (#36, 1999)
60. Heaven Must Be Missing an Angel – Tavares (#15, 1976)
61. Ain’t Nobody – Rufus featuring Chaka Khan (#22, 1983)
62. You Can Call Me Al – Paul Simon (#44, 1986, #23, 1987)
63. I Can’t Make You Love Me – Bonnie Raitt (#18, 1992)
64. Young Americans – David Bowie (#28, 1975)
65. A Change Is Gonna Come – Sam Cooke (#31, 1965)
66. Respect Yourself – the Staple Singers (#12, 1971)
67. Moondance – Van Morrison (did not chart, 1970; #92, 1977)
68. Where’s the Love – Hanson (did not chart, 1997)
69. Don’t You Worry ‘Bout a Thing – Stevie Wonder (#16, 1974)
70. I Want Candy – Bow Wow Wow (#62, 1982)
71. Genius of Love – Tom Tom Club (#31, 1982)
72. Beautiful Stranger – Madonna (#19, 1999)
73. Shame, Shame, Shame – Shirley (& Company) (#12, 1975)
74. The Way I Am – Eminem (#58, 2000)
75. Jungle Love – The Time (#20, 1985)
76. Gypsy – Fleetwood Mac (#12, 1982)
77. Smile – Lily Allen (#49, 2007)
78. Tear the Roof off the Sucker (Give up the Funk) – Parliament (#15, 1976)
79. Same Love – Macklemore & Ryan Lewis featuring Mary Lambert (#11, 2013)
80. Solid – Ashford & Simpson (#12, 1985)
81. Rapper’s Delight – The Sugarhill Gang (#36, 1980)
82. The Cup of Life – Ricky Martin (#60, 1998; #45, 1999)
83. Me, Myself and I – De La Soul (#34, 1989)
84. Bad Luck – Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes (#15, 1975)
85. Once in a Lifetime – Talking Heads (did not chart, 1981)
86. Fuck You – Lily Allen (#68, 2009)
87. Such Great Heights – The Postal Service (did not chart, 2003)
88. Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (movie version) – Lauryn Hill (did not chart, 1998)
89. Dedication to My Ex (Miss That) – Lloyd featuring Andre 3000 (#79, 2011)
90. Jump To It – Aretha Franklin (#24, 1982)
91. Mamma Mia – Abba (#32, 1976)
92. Space Oddity – David Bowie (did not chart, 1969; #15, 1973)
93. P Control – O{+> (Prince) (did not chart, 1995)
94. Got Your Money – Ol’ Dirty Bastard featuring Kelis (#33, 1999)
95. LDN – Lily Allen (did not chart, 2007)
96. It Doesn’t Matter Anymore – Buddy Holly (#13, 1959)
97. Does Your Mother Know – Abba (#19, 1979)
98. Up in a Puff of Smoke – Polly Brown (#16, 1975)
99. Blue Limousine – Apollonia 6 (did not chart, 1984)
100. All the Young Dudes – Mott the Hoople (#37, 1972)
101. Fight the Power – Public Enemy (did not chart, 1989)
102. Pass That Dutch – Missy Elliott (#27, 2003)
103. Stacy’s Mom – Fountains of Wayne (#21, 2003)
104. You Know I’m No Good – Amy Winehouse (#78, 2007; #77, 2008)


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A Soulful Christmas Playlist

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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The Evolution Of Jay-Z

“What people do in their own homes is their business, and you can choose to love whoever you love. That’s their business. It’s no different than discriminating against blacks. It’s discrimination, plain and simple.”

The above quote comes from Jay-Z. He was referring to gay rights in an interview with Poppy Harlow on CNN in May 2012. Referencing the lack of marriage equality nationwide, he said “I always thought it as something that is still holding the country back.”

He always thought this? Even in 1996, when he rapped about “Too many faggot niggas clocking my spending?” Or the following year, when he rapped ““Hate a nigga like that faggot?” How about the lyric in which he complains about “faggots” talking to the police, which is followed by his promise to kill those faggots? Or his rap “Why is you over here lookin’ at me while all these girls up in here? What you gay?” Or the song in which he calls rapper Nas, no strange to homophobic lyrics himself, a “fag?” That’s the same song in which he mocks Mobb Deep’s Prodigy with a gay implication. Was he ruminating about how gay Americans deserve the same rights accorded to straight Americans when he rapped “Now I ain’t down with who like me or who like you. That’s gay, I ain’t into liking dudes no way?” When he said “And since you infatuated with sayin’ tha gay shit, yes you was kissin’ my dick when you was kissin’ that bitch,” was he really saying “I respect you as a man, for I am a man as well, and we are all equal?”

There are rappers, specifically Eminem, who defend the use of the word “faggot” by saying it doesn’t mean gay; it means weak. Equating a gay slur with weakness or a lesser-than status isn’t homophobic? First of all, that’s bullshit. Secondly, in the case of the Jay-Z lyrics cited above, he is referring to gay men.

Perhaps, like President Obama, who endorsed marriage equality shortly before the rapper’s CNN interview, Jay-Z has evolved. I’m skeptical that he “always” felt the lack of equality was holding the country back, but I’m glad he feels that way now. He is one of the two most-famous rap artists in the world. He is not running for office and trying to garner votes. His support means a lot. As Clinton Yates wrote in the Washington Post, “Hopefully, Jay-Z’s words can lead generations of music fans out of the fog when it comes to being an open-minded and accepting citizen of the world.”

Today Jay-Z turns 45 years old. Here are twenty of his finest raps, homophobia-free. Misogynist? That’s a discussion for another time.

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Meet Mrs. Miller!

In 2008 Rolling Stone published their list of the 100 Greatest Singers of All-Time. At #1 was Aretha Franklin. No argument here. She has a voice and she knows how to use it effectively. Her range, her passion, her vocal variety, her phrasing, her confidence and her power are what other artists should aspire to replicate. When you hear Aretha Franklin, you know it’s her, even if you’ve never heard that particular recording before.

The rest of the top ten included Ray Charles, Elvis Presley, Sam Cooke, John Lennon, Marvin Gaye, Otis Redding, Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Bob Dylan. I’ve heard people argue against that last one. They’re wrong. Dylan may not possess a stereotypically beautiful voice, but he is a great singer. Nobody else sounds like him. When you hear Bob Dylan, you know it’s him, even if you’ve never heard that particular recording before.

Missing from this 100 Greatest list is Mrs. Miller. Born Elva Connes in 1907, she became Mrs. Miller in 1934 when she married a Mr. Miller. In 1966, Capitol Records released her major label debut, Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits. Like Aretha, Mrs. displayed passion, power and confidence in her material. When you hear Mrs. Miller, you know it’s her, even if you’ve never heard that particular recording before, which chances are you haven’t.

elva
All the qualities that make Mrs. Miller unique can be heard on her first charting single, a cover of Petula Clark’s “Downtown,” which reached #82 on Billboard’s Hot 100. Her vibrato, her soaring soprano, the way she sings “always” in the song’s first line, the way she sings ahead of the beat on the line “no finer place for sure” in the first go-round of the chorus, the way she sings ahead of the beat on the first line of the second verse, the way she sings ahead of the beat on the bridge after the third verse, when she laughs while singing “waiting for you tonight” in the second go-round of the chorus. And then there’s her whistling solo. In a word, wow!

As was often the case with The Beatles, Elvis Presley and Creedence Clearwater Revival, the b-side of the “Downtown” single, Mrs.’ version of The Toys’ “A Lover’s Concerto,” also made Billboard’s Hot 100, peaking at #95. Again we’re transfixed by her vibrato, her hitting notes that had never been written and the way she sings ahead of the beat on the final verse. And then there’s her scatting like Ella Fitzgerald. Well, maybe not like Ella Fitzgerald. In a word, wow!

Her voice leant itself equally well to rock and roll, pop, country, and show tunes. She probably would have mastered rap as well. On her cover of Chuck Berry’s “Memphis,” she ditches her usual soprano to speak the words in a lower register. Her whistling solo is in its usual range, however.

Mrs. Miller’s Greatest Hits sold 250,000 copies in its first three weeks of release. She made television appearances on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan. She sang at The Hollywood Bowl. She performed alongside Bob Hope for US troops in Vietnam. That she is all but forgotten today is a shonda.

Rolling Stone’s list of The 100 Greatest Singers Of All-Time is terrific, but someone should be bumped (cough cough Mariah Carey cough cough) to make room for Mrs. Miller. Her distinctive sound, her enthusiasm and her ability to transform any song into a Mrs. Miller song make her one of the greats. The fact that she didn’t have her first chart single until age 58 inspires me.

If Mrs. Miller were still alive she’d be celebrating her 107th birthday today. She isn’t so she won’t be, but Tunes du Jour celebrates her craft with ten of her finest.

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Otis!

In 2011 I chatted with Zelma Redding, widow of the great soul singer Otis Redding. I was heading up the licensing department at Warner Music Group. A request came in to license Otis Redding’s recording of “Try a Little Tenderness” as a sample in a new track by JAY Z and Kanye West, which they called “Tenderness.” Warner controlled the Redding master recording via a license with Stax Records. Stax is now owned by Concord Music, so my contact for such deals was an executive at Concord rather than the Stax recording artists. We worked out a deal. Being the Redding sample made up a huge part of the new track, we asked that Otis Redding be given a featuring credit.

Days before the new song was to hit iTunes, Island Def Jam, the label releasing the JAY Z/Kanye West collaboration, told my team they wish to change the song title from “Tenderness” to “Otis.” I liked that idea. I relayed this to Concord. Soon, my phone rang. It was Zelma Redding. More than discuss the deal points of the license, she wanted to make sure that this song named after her late husband wouldn’t defame the man. I’m happy to say we hit it off right away. She was a pleasure to work with. Though I am respectful toward all artists I represent, I am a huge Otis Redding fan, which I made clear to her. I wouldn’t do a deal that would disparage him in any way.

The JAY Z and Kanye West featuring Otis Redding track “Otis” broke the US iTunes store one-week sales record when it came out in July of 2011, selling nearly 290,000 downloads. It since has sold over 1,000,000 downloads stateside. It was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Song and won the Grammy for Best Rap Performance. Its reception brought Otis Redding to the attention of many younger listeners. Said Zelma, “We are proud that Otis’ legacy continues to inspire some of today’s popular artists. We like ‘Otis’ and thank Kanye and Jay-Z for honoring our Otis through their music.”

doggies + Otis 2014-09-09 10.59
Today is Otis Redding’s birthday. Tunes du Jour pays homage to the man who Rolling Stone named one of the ten best singers of all-time.

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A Change Is Gonna Come If You Make It So

A company I worked for – I won’t say which one – has an amazing catalogue of rhythm & blues music, arguably the best r&b catalogue of any record label. Despite possessing this goldmine, most of our catalogue releases were from white rock bands. I asked a member of senior management why we didn’t do more with our black artists, and the answer I got was “We don’t know how to sell that music.”

Is that not a stupid response? If you don’t know how to do that, hire someone who has that expertise, or learn how to do it. Why ignore a large swath of your potential market, especially when you already own the assets?

Years ago I was put in charge of licensing at a record label. I knew the music and I knew the components of licensing deals; however, I wasn’t a very good negotiator. I found the process intimidating. I could have left it at that – “I don’t know how to negotiate.” My company would have made money nonetheless, though not at its full potential. For that matter, I wouldn’t be working at full potential.

I took a course in negotiations. Six weeks, $300. Money well spent. I put what I learned in the class into action. Practice makes perfect, and I became an excellent negotiator. In my four years at that company our licensing revenue increased 400%. My skills also led to my next job as the Vice President of Licensing at another company.

Is a lack of some skill or knowledge holding you back? Fix that. Read a book, attend a seminar, take an on-line course or find a mentor. Saying “I don’t know how” won’t lead to success; learning how will.

Winston + Chuck 2014-06-30 11.25
Today is the last day of Black Music Month. It would be ludicrous to think a 40-song playlist would cover black music in any comprehensive way. Enjoy it for what it is – nearly three hours of fantastic music. Listen to it while you research how to learn a new skill.

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