Hoy es Cinco de Mayo, y yo was thinking about Spanish-language songs that crossed over onto the US pop charts. That got me thinking about hit songs that were re-recorded in Spanish by their original hitmakers in an attempt to cross over the other direction. It’s a savvy business move, no? Why limit your audience, especially once the music business became more global?
Here is your Cinco de Mayo playlist:
On this date in 1959, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and The Big Bopper died in a plane crash. In his hit “American Pie” Don McLean referred to it as “the day the music died.” A little dramatic, no? The music didn’t die, but it was a tremendous loss nonetheless.
Today Tunes du Jour pays homage to these late, great rock and roll pioneers. On our playlist:
“Chantilly Lace” – The Big Bopper – The man born Jiles Perry Richardson’s only top ten hit, from 1958.
“Think It Over” – Buddy Holly – A top forty single from 1958.
“Donna” – Ritchie Valens – Valens’ only top ten hit, peaking at #2 in early 1959.
“American Pie” – Madonna – Madonna covered Don McLean’s classic for her film The Next Best Thing at the suggestion of her co-star, Rupert Everett, who sings backing vocals on the recording.
“Oh, Boy!” – Buddy Holly – A top ten single from early 1958. I recall Olivia Newton-John performing it on one of her television specials with guest stars Andy Gibb, Elton John and Cliff Richard. If memory serves, it went on for about forty minutes.
“Heartbeat” – Buddy Holly – The Knack covered this for their breakthrough album, Get The Knack.
“It’s So Easy” – Linda Ronstadt – Ronstadt had a top five hit with her cover of this song, written by Buddy Holly and Norman Petty. Ronstadt also charted with covers of Holly’s hits “That’ll Be the Day” and “It Doesn’t Matter Anymore.”
“Not Fade Away” – The Crickets – An English quintet who went by the name The Rolling Stones charted in the US for the first time with their version of this tune. Not sure what happened to them.
“Buddy Holly” – Weezer – Buddy Holly couldn’t have predicted this song’s opening lines – “What’s with these homies dissing my girl? / Why do they gotta front?”
“Everyday” – Buddy Holly – James Taylor charted with his cover of this in 1985.
“La Bamba” – Ritchie Valens – It’s hard to believe this song only peaked at #22 upon its release in 1958. “La bamba” is Spanish for “the bamba.”
“Peggy Sue” – Lou Reed – This song was co-written by Buddy Holly, who took it to #3 in 1957.
“It Doesn’t Matter Anymore” – Buddy Holly – Holly didn’t write this posthumous hit; Paul Anka did. This and “My Way” are my two favorite Anka compositions. I also love “(You’re) Having My Baby,” but in a different way.
“Words of Love” – Patti Smith – A pop combo from England covered this Holly composition on their album that in the US was titled Beatles VI. Not sure what happened to them.
“Maybe Baby” – The Crickets – The Beatles’ name was inspired by the name of Holly’s band, The Crickets.
“I’m Gonna Love You Too” – Buddy Holly – Blondie covered this for their breakthrough album Parallel Lines.
“Come On, Let’s Go” – Los Lobos – Los Lobos performed Valen’s music for the biopic of Valen’s life, La Bamba.
“That’ll Be the Day” – Modest Mouse – Written by Buddy Holly and Jerry Allison, “That’ll Be the Day” was Holly’s first hit, going to #1 in 1957. Given his immense influence on rock and roll, it’s hard to believe he died a year and half later.
“Rave On” – Buddy Holly – One of five top forty singles Holly had in 1958.
“True Love Ways” – My Morning Jacket – Holly wrote “True Love Ways” for his wife as a wedding gift. What did your husband get you?
1) Mojo magazine’s list of “The 100 Records that Changed the World” placed Little Richard’s “Tutti-Frutti” at #1.
2) Pat Boone, who made a career of recording new tracks by African-American acts and sanitizing them for white audiences, covered Little Richard’s “Tutti-Frutti” in 1956 and had a bigger hit with it than Richard did. To avoid a repeat of this, Richard and his producer, Bumps Blackwell, rehearsed the follow-up single, “Long Tall Sally,” until Richard could sing it as fast as possible, with the thinking that Boone wouldn’t be able to sing it as fast. Little Richard’s version became his first top ten pop hit and the biggest-selling single in the history of Specialty Records. Unfortunately, Pat Boone also enjoyed a top ten hit with his version.
3) Richard wrote a song about a female impersonator from his hometown who was called Queen Sonya. He changed Sonya to Lucille, which became the song’s title. It became Richard’s longest-charting hit in 1957.
4) While on tour in 1957 Richard decided to give up rock & roll and enter the ministry. He left the tour ten days early. The original flight on which he had been scheduled to return home crashed into the Pacific Ocean.
5) In 1962 Richard returned to performing secular music while touring Europe. Sam Cooke was his opening act.
6) Later in 1962 Little Richard’s opening act was The Beatles. Richard taught Paul McCartney how to sing like he does.
7) In 1963 The Rolling Stones opened for Richard. Said Mick Jagger: “I couldn’t believe the power of Little Richard onstage. He was amazing.”
8) Members of Little Richard’s band at times include Jimi Hendrix and Billy Preston. This line-up can be heard on the track “I Don’t Know What You’ve Got (But It’s Got Me),” the last single released by Vee-Jay Records.
9) Rolling Stone magazine’s list of The Greatest Artists of All Time has Little Richard at #8.
10) Today is his 81st birthday.
Enjoy this playlist inspired by one of rock and roll’s originators, Little Richard.