Tag Archives: Quincy Jones

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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Try A Little Kindness: The Ashford & Simpson Songbook

Try a little kindness and you’ll see it’s something that comes very naturally

I have a neighbor down the hall who has never said hello to me. He has never acknowledged my existence. We’ve been neighbors for twelve years. Until recently, that rankled me. Is it so difficult to say hello? To smile? To half-smile?

There is a couple who live on the floor beneath mine. A couple of years ago, after our morning walk, I got on the elevator with my dogs. One of the guys got on as well and said, unsolicited, “I hate your dogs.” That’s a terrible thing to say under any circumstances, but you should know, my dogs don’t bark. They don’t jump up on people they don’t know. They were standing in the corner of the elevator next to me when this man shared his opinion, an opinion that could not have any positive effect on the environment. Recently that same guy and his partner were on the elevator. The vocal dog hater saw me approaching (sans pets) and held the door open for me. I said thank you. When they exited on their floor, the partner of the vocal dog hater admonished the vocal dog hater. “See what happens when you hold the door for people!” They get on the elevator? They say “Thank you?” I’m not sure what his beef was, but again, what positive effect does such an attitude encourage? If those are your thoughts, why share them?

It still bothers me a little to encounter such uninvited nastiness, but I’ve come to realize it’s not me. It’s them. I’m nice. I say thank you. I adopted two rescue dogs, one of which was abandoned by his previous owners, and nurtured them. That someone can’t appreciate who I am, that someone can’t appreciate what I do, that someone can’t bring themselves to be courteous or half-smile is a sign of their damaged psyche.

Once I fully realized this I decided to make a concerted effort to display more acts of kindness. I say hello to people I pass on the sidewalk, which, as a native New Yorker, took some getting used to. I smile at store clerks, not just the ones I want to date. I “like” more posts on Facebook and LinkedIn.

The more kindness we put out into the world, the kinder the world will be.

The lyric at the top of this post comes from Diana Ross’s first post-Supremes solo hit, 1970’s “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The song was written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, the married couple who wrote so many great songs for Miss Ross, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, and others, including themselves.

Today Valerie Simson turns 69 years old. Our playlist consists of twenty of Ashford & Simpson’s finest.


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It’s Amelia Earhart’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Today is Amelia Earhart’s birthday. She was born on July 24, 1897, and for all we know she is celebrating her 118th birthday with a glass of Chardonnay and a cannoli.

During a 1937 attempt to fly around the world, aviator Earhart disappeared over the Pacific Ocean. Women. Am I right, fellas? Of course not.

Earhart went off the grid before “going off the grid” became part of our everyday vernacular. Maybe not everyday, but our at-least-twice-a-year vernacular.

Sometimes I contemplate going off the grid, but it seems the rewards of doing so are not worth the efforts.

This would have been a good week for me to be off the grid. It started out good. Sunday morning was the fourth and final day of an entrepreneur conference I attended whereat I got educated and motivated and met many cool people with inspiring stories. On my way home I got into a car accident. I’m fortunate I came out unscathed. My car? Not so much.

When I arrived at home I called my insurance company, then set about to make some lunch. I put my food in the microwave and set it on high for six minutes. When the machine beeped the food was still frozen. I know I’m fortunate in that I had a microwave that served me for 17 years, but did it have to die at that moment?

My car got towed to a body shop. They emailed me forms to sign and return. I couldn’t print them, however, as it turns out my printer and microwave were having an affair and the printer decided she could not go on without the microwave in her life. Women. Am I right, fellas?

Feeling a bit depressed about the turn my week/life had taken, I found it difficult to focus on the tasks at hand. Then I saw a videoclip of a colorblind young man who, thanks to new technology, experienced vibrant colors for the first time. His joy in seeing a patch of grass or a container of Clorox put things in perspective.

There is so much beauty in the mundane, and so much that I take for granted for which I should be grateful. My toaster oven, for example.

I have a music consulting business. I love my clients. I love that I can choose with whom I wish to work. I love the projects I’m handling.

I think I’ll stay on the grid for a while.

Steph and Ringo
Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. Kicking off this week’s playlist is Stephanie Mills with “Pilot Error.”


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It’s Lesley Gore’s Birthday And I’ll Party If I Want To

Ten facts about Lesley Gore:
1. Today is her birthday. Like me, she was born in Brooklyn, New York. Back then she was Lesley Sue Goldstein. Like me, she was raised in Bergen County, New Jersey – she in Tenafly, me in Englewood Cliffs. Like me, she went to high school in Englewood, New Jersey – she at the Dwight School for Girls, me at Dwight Morrow High, which was not a school for girls.
2. Quincy Jones produced all of Gore’s charted singles between 1963 and 1965, including the top ten hits “It’s My Party,” “Judy’s Turn to Cry,” “She’s a Fool” and “You Don’t Own Me.”
3. Jones recorded Gore performing a song written by his dentist’s nephew. The song is “Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows;” the nephew is Marvin Hamlisch. The record reached #13 on the pop charts, becoming the first hit for songwriter Hamlisch, who also composed Gore’s “California Nights,” a top twenty single in 1967.
4. “California Nights” is one of the songs Gore performed in 1967 on the television series Batman, on which she portrayed Pussycat, one of Catwoman’s minions.
5. She was given first dibs at recording “A Groovy Kind of Love,” but an executive at her record company turned it down, as he didn’t want Gore to sing the word “groovy.” The song became a #2 smash for The Mindbenders in 1966 and a #1 for Phil Collins in 1988.
6. While having hit records, Lesley stayed in school. She earned a Bachelor’s degree in American Literature from Sarah Lawrence College.
7. In a conversation with k.d. lang published in Ms. magazine, Gore said she never received a gold record for “You Don’t Own Me,” though the song’s two male writers, John Madara and Dave White, did. That shit ain’t right.
8. She received an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song for “Out Here on My Own,” which she wrote with her brother Michael. She considered the song a sequel to “You Don’t Own Me.” “Out Here on My Own” was written for the movie Fame, whose theme song won the Oscar. “Fame” was written by Michael Gore and Dean Pitchford.
9. Lesley co-wrote a song for the 1996 film Grace of My Heart. In the movie, the song, “My Secret Love,” is performed a closeted young lesbian singer character with a flip, portrayed by Bridget Fonda. Gore was not invited to the film’s premiere. That shit ain’t right.
10. Gore came out as a lesbian in 2005, the year she released Ever Since, her first album in thirty years and her final album release. She was with her partner, Lois Sasson, from 1982 until Gore’s death in February of this year.

Here are Lesley Gore’s nineteen charted singles, plus her rendition of her Oscar-nominated tune.


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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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Who Is Barry Mann?

Ringo + Righteous
During yesterday’s Grammy Awards, the songwriting team of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil received the Trustees Award, whatever that is. The honor was introduced by Tom Jones and Jessie J, who performed the most godawful rendition of “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” that has ever been foisted upon an unsuspecting world. Lost that loving feeling? More like lost their hearing, based on the way Jones and J yelled and screamed at each other. Do they not understand the concept of microphones? No need to shout, people.

To unwrong this heinous assault on the ears of the show’s viewers, Tunes du Jour presents to you a collection of twenty tunes co-written by Mann, most with his wife of 54 years, Weil. Along with the husband-wife songwriting team of Carole King and Gerry Goffin, Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil helped shape the sound of American pop music beginning in the early 1960s. Coincidentally, both Mann and King celebrate their birthdays today. For more on King, click here.

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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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Ray Charles And The Birth Of A Classic

In 1927, Howard Hoagland Carmichael was working at a law firm in his native Indiana. He befriended cornet player Bix Beiderbecke, who introduced Hoagland to trumpet player Louis Armstrong. Smitten by the jazz music his friends played, Hoagy, as he was known, quit the law firm and moved to New York, attempting to make it in the music business as a composer.

Another friend of Hoagy, saxophone player and bandleader Frankie Trumbauer, suggested to the former attorney “Why don’t you write a song called ‘Georgia?’” and helped get the lyrics started by adding “It ought to go ‘Georgia, Georgia’.” Big help that Frankie was.

At a party one night, Hoagy sat at the piano and began to bang out a tune based on Trumbauer’s suggestion. His college roommate, Stu Gorrell, who moved to New York to make a name for himself in banking, was with him, and suggested a song title – “Georgia on My Mind.”

Neither Carmichael nor Gorrell had ever been to Georgia. In fact, it has been suggested that Gorrell, who wrote the lyrics to “Georgia on My Mind,” was not writing about the state at all. He wrote the song’s words about Carmichael’s sister, who at that time was going through a messy divorce. Her name? Georgia.

On September 15, 1930, Hoagy Carmichael and His Orchestra made the first recording of “Georgia on My Mind.” Bix Beiderbecke played cornet in what turned out to be his last recording session. He died from pneumonia less than a year later at age 28.

That record wasn’t a big seller, but one year later, on September 24, 1931, Frankie Trumbauer, the man who suggested Carmichael write a song about Georgia, recorded the tune and had a #10 hit with it.

In the years that followed other jazz greats recorded renditions of “Georgia on My Mind,” including Louis Armstrong, Fats Waller, Django Reinhardt, Glenn Miller, Artie Shaw, and Gene Krupa with Anita O’Day.

Prior to “Georgia on My Mind,” Stu Gorrell had never written a song. The closest he came to doing so was suggesting that Carmichael name a tune he wrote “Star Dust.” Subsequent to “Georgia on My Mind,” Gorrell never wrote another song. He went on to become a Vice President at Chase Bank.

doggies + Ray 2014-09-24 11.53
Ray Charles was born in Albany, Georgia on September 23, 1930, eight days after Carmichael first recorded “Georgia on My Mind.” Charles became familiar with the tune from all the versions of it performed over the years. He would hum the tune in his car on the way to gigs. He would hum the tune in his car on the way home from gigs. His driver, Tommy Brown, had an idea. Said Charles, “Cat said, ‘You hum it so much, why don’t you record it?’”

Charles took Brown’s advice. In 1960, “Georgia on My Mind” became Ray Charles’ first #1 pop hit.

On April 24, 1979, “Georgia on My Mind,” written by two men who had never been to Georgia, and possibly about the sister of one of those men, was adopted by the Georgia General Assembly as Georgia’s state song.

Today’s playlist is made up of twenty classic Ray Charles’ recordings, including the sublime “Georgia on My Mind.”

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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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