Tag Archives: Roberta Flack

Message In Our Music: A Black Music Month Playlist

In 1979, President Jimmy Carter declared June Black Music Month. In 2016, President Barack Obama, who recognized the month as African-American Music Appreciation Month, said the music of African-American artists helped the country “to dance, to express our faith through song, to march against injustice, and to defend our country’s enduring promise of freedom and opportunity for all.” Today’s Tunes du Jour playlist embodies that sentiment.

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Luther Vandross Was Here

In 1974, David Bowie hired Luther Vandross to sing background vocals and do vocal arrangements for his Young Americans album. Bowie told the then 23-year-old singer “You’re going to make it…next year is your year!”

Bowie’s timing was a little off (depending on how you define “making it”). Luther cracked the top 40 as a solo artist for the first time with “Never Too Much” in 1981. Before then, he was a much in-demand session vocalist and arranger.

Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthday of Luther Vandross with twenty tracks on which the soul great is the lead singer, a backup singer, the arranger, the producer, the songwriter, or some combination thereof.


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Throwback Thursday – 1972

Willie Mitchell, the producer of Al Green’s string of hits in the first half of the 1970s, recalled the one time he and the singer had a fight. It was over a song the two men had written with Al Jackson, Jr. While producing that track, Mitchell told Green to sing it much more softly than he had sung his other material. Green thought that direction was wrong and the song would never become a hit.

That recording was “Let’s Stay Together,” and it became Green’s first #1 on the pop chart. It also spent nine weeks at #1 on the r&b chart.

Following the success of “Let’s Stay Together,” Mitchell said Green never again argued with him.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist focuses on the year 1972, kicking off with the song that Rolling Stone magazine named the 60th greatest of all time, Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”


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Throwback Thursday – The Hits Of 1973

Singer/Songwriter/Record producer Ed Townsend had, in his own words, “a monstrous addiction to alcohol.” While in rehab he wrote a song which he described as a message to himself “about the business of getting on with life.”

On March 13, 1973, Townsend recorded a demo of Marvin Gaye singing this composition.

Nine days later, the men were again in the studio. Visiting the two men there was Barbara Hunter, a friend of Townsend. She came with her 16-year-old daughter, Janis.

Gaye was immediately smitten with Janis. As he often did, Gaye made up new lyrics in the studio. Inspired by the presence of this beautiful teenage girl, Townsend’s song about understanding and brotherhood became a paean to enjoying sex for its own sake, particularly when it is with someone you love.

Marvin and Janis got married in 1977, four years after the song Gaye recorded the day they met, “Let’s Get It On,” hit #1.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist consists of twenty big hits from 1973, kicking off with the classic “Let’s Get It On.”


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Making Love With Roberta Flack

In the 1982 film Making Love, Michael Ontkean plays a doctor (“Zack”) who cheats on his wife (“Claire”), portrayed by Kate Jackson, with Harry Hamlin (“Bart”), one of his patients. I guess I’m straight, because between the three main characters, I had a crush on the woman. Jackson was always my favorite of Charlie’s Angels. I was more attracted to her than I was to Farrah Fawcett or Jacklyn Smith or Cheryl Ladd. On second thought, that’s pretty gay.

Back in those days, there weren’t many Hollywood movies with big-name stars that had homosexual storylines, unlike today, when the typical multiplex fare is chock-full of celebrities acting out LGBT plots, he wrote sarcastically. It was a more conservative time. Reagan was president. Most folks didn’t want to see this pic. In her review of the Making Love in The New York Times, Janet Maslin wrote that the film “isn’t for everybody. It isn’t, for instance, for those who value seriousness, quality or realism above sheer foolishness, at least where their soap operas are concerned.” I prefer sheer foolishness.

Ms. Maslin continued her rave review. “Once the cat is out of the bag, the movie turns rip-roaring awful in an entirely enjoyable way. There is, for instance, Claire’s visit to one of Zack’s male lovers, whose address she finds on a matchbook in Zack’s closet. ‘Could I ask you a stupid question?’ she says, rather unnecessarily. ‘Are you happy?’ The movie maintains this pitch right through to its ending. The ending, incidentally, is one for the record books.”

Roger Ebert was equally impressed. In his review he wrote “This movie has some of the worst dialogue one can imagine:
She: ‘What about passion?’
He: ‘What about support?’
She: ‘What about betrayal?’”

Ebert also wrote “[Ontkean’s character] visits a couple of gay bars populated exclusively by extras who look as if they should be posing for an Ah! Men! catalog.”

Why Ebert was familiar with the Ah! Men! catalog I do not know, but he sure knows how to sell me on a film.

The movie was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, though not for the actors or director. Roberta Flack’s theme song, written by Burt Bacharach, Carole Bayer Sager and Bruce Roberts, lost Best Original Song to “Up Where We Belong” from An Officer and a Gentleman. Fair enough, though the song “Making Love” is as pretty as Kate Jackson.

Ringo + Roberta
Today Roberta Flack turns 76 or 78, depending on where you read it. Here are twenty career highlights.

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The Song Retains The Name

Winston + Bobby Brown
Today is Bobby Brown’s 46th birthday. A former member of New Edition, Brown had his first solo hit in 1988 with “Don’t Be Cruel,” which reached #8 on the Hot 100. Though it shares its title with an Elvis Presley #1 hit from 1956, Brown’s “Don’t Be Cruel” is not a remake.

That brings us to today’s playlist, which I call The Song Retains the Name. It consists of different songs with the same title. I initially planned to include twenty such songs, but more kept springing to mind. Before I knew it, I passed 100 entries. There are plenty more, so I decided to open this up to my reader(s). If you have songs that share titles you’d like to add, feel free to do so.

(NOTES: I included The Jacksons’ “This Place Hotel” because when it was released in 1980 its title was “Heartbreak Hotel.” Thought he didn’t have to, Michael Jackson, the song’s writer, later changed its name to “This Place Hotel” to avoid confusion with the Elvis Presley song “Heartbreak Hotel.” Whitney Houston didn’t feel the need to make the same Hotel accommodation.

Also, though it is listed on Spotify as “The Best of My Love,” the Eagles track does not have a “The” on the 45 or the band’s On the Border album.)

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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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LGBT Pride And Black Music Month

June is LGBT Pride Month. June is Black Music Month. June is Audiobook Month. June is busting out all over.

For eleven months out of the year I stay in the closet and listen to Mantovani while reading actual books, but in June I am Marvin with a capital Gay.

Tunes du Jour will celebrate LGBT Pride and Black Music all month long (you’re on your own for Audiobooks). Here is a sampler to kick off the celebrations.

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Did You Know Sara Bareilles Released An Album This Year?

grammy plaqueI’ve worked on nearly every Grammy compilation release since the first one.

The nominees for the 56th annual Grammy Awards were announced last Friday. The nominations always elicit strong reactions from music fans. I’m pleased with many of the Academy’s selections (Go Kendrick Lamar and Daft Punk!) and puzzled by others (Ed Sheeran is nominated for Best New Artist. Last year he was nominated for Song of the Year. Was he pre-new then?).

Today’s Tunes du Jour playlist consists of some of the tracks that have won Record of the Year. I choose to focus on the positive. I refuse to bash the Grammy voters for when they got it wrong (such as, for example, when they gave Record of the Year to Bobby McFerrin for “Don’t Worry Be Happy.” What the hell was that about? That record won over Tracy Chapman’s “Fast Car.” Are you kidding me?).

Herewith are some of the better Record of the Year winners.

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