Tag Archives: Roy Orbison

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 – 1964

Between the British invasion, the growth of Motown, and the girl group sound, many arguments could be made as to why 1964 was the best year for pop music. Here are twenty:


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Throwback Thursday – 1961

From 1958 to 1960, Ben E. King was the lead singer of The Drifters, scoring hits with “There Goes My Baby,” “Save the Last Dance for Me,” “This Magic Moment” and “I Count the Tears.” He suggested to the group’s manager, George Treadwell, that they record the spiritual tune “Stand by Me Father,” but Treadwell turned him down. King also asked Treadwell for a greater share of the group’s royalties. Again, Treadwell turned him down. King said goodbye.

King left the group after recording just thirteen songs with them. He soon made the top ten as a solo act with 1961’s “Spanish Harlem.”

Around that time, King was working on a song based on “Stand by Me Father.” He had some lyrics and a melody. He finished the lyrics with his producer, Jerry Leiber. Leiber’s songwriting/production partner, Mike Stoller, added some chords behind the melody, as well as a bass line.

Per Leiber, it’s that last addition that makes Ben E. King’s “Stand By Me” a classic. “The lyrics are good, King’s vocal is great. But Mike’s bass line pushed the song into the land of immortality. Believe me – it’s the bass line.”

“Stand By Me” kicks off this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, spotlighting hits from 1961.


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Throwback Thursday – 1960

“I’ve always been very content when I wrote all those songs. By this I’m saying that a lot of people think you have to live through something before you can write it, and that’s true in some cases, but I remember the times that I was unhappy or discontent, and I couldn’t eat, I couldn’t sleep, I couldn’t communicate, and I certainly couldn’t write a song, no way. All the songs I wrote that were successful were written when I was in a contented state of mind.”
– Roy Orbison, NME, 1980

From its title, you’d never know that the guy who wrote “Only the Lonely (Know How I Feel),” was content. Orbison wrote the lyrics to this song while sitting in his car outside his house. Being there by himself inspired the sentiment expressed in the song’s title.

As he had yet to have any hits as a performer, Orbison offered “Only the Lonely” to the Everly Brothers, who by that time (1960) had many hits, including “Claudette,” written by Orbison. Don Everly told Orbison he should record “Only the Lonely” himself.

“Only the Lonely,” written with Joe Melson, became Orbison’s first top 40 single as a performer, reaching #2 on the pop charts in the summer of 1960. He’d go on to have 22 more top 40 singles.

On this Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour presents twenty great tracks from 1960, kicking off with Roy Orbison’s “Only the Lonely (Know How I Feel),” one of three hits about loneliness to impact the charts that year.


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Old Time Rock & Roll Xmas, With Jews!

In 1958, 13-year-old Brenda Mae Tarpley went into a recording studio with famed producer Owen Bradley and cut “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree,” written by Johnny Marks (Jew!). Released as a single for that year’s holiday season, it bombed. That really isn’t surprising. Tarpley, better known by her stage name, Brenda Lee, was virtually unknown at the time.

In 1959, her record label reissued the single. It bombed. That really isn’t surprising. Lee hadn’t dented Billboard’s Hot 100 all year.

In 1960, her record company released it yet again. Third time lucky. Coming off two #1 singles, “I’m Sorry” and “I Want to Be Wanted,” plus two other top ten hits, “Sweet Nothin’s” and “That’s All You Gotta Do,” Lee’s Christmas record peaked at #14.

Winston + Brenda Lee
For years the hits kept coming for Lee. She placed 55 songs on Billboard’s Hot 100, including twelve top tens. These days she is perhaps best-remembered for “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree,” a holiday staple.

Johnny Marks, the Jew who wrote the song, also wrote “Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “Holly Jolly Christmas,” and “Run Rudolph Run.”

He’s not the only Jew to have written Christmas standards. Also written by chosen people? “White Christmas,” “Silver Bells,” “Winter Wonderland,” “Santa Baby,” “Sleigh Ride,” “I’ll Be Home for Christmas,” Let It Snow Let It Snow Let It Snow,” “The Christmas Song (Chestnuts Roasting on an Open Fire),” “You’re a Mean One, Mr. Grinch,” “It’s the Most Wonderful Time of the Year,” and “Give the Jew Girl Toys.” Oy gevalt!

Today Brenda Lee turns 70 years old. Our playlist today includes her classic version of “Rockin’ around the Christmas Tree” as well as nineteen other holiday tunes from the early days of rock and roll, before The Beatles took over the United States in 1964. Some were written by Jews, some were not. Some get a lot of radio airplay this time of year, some deserve more (specifically “Christmas in Jail” and “Trim Your Tree.”). All put me in the mood to rock around my menorah.

More holiday music can be found here, here, here, here, and here.

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Garfunkel, lang, Frey And Diddy

One day in the late 1990s, while in my office at Sony Music, I received a call from the security desk in the lobby. “Art Garfunkel is here to see you.”

I wasn’t expecting Art Garfunkel. I’d never met Art Garfunkel, though we spoke on the phone a few times. I worked in the International Licensing department and received a fair number of requests to have Simon & Garfunkel and Art Garfunkel solo tracks included on compilations. “Send him up, please.”

A few minutes later, Art Garfunkel walked into my office. We shook hands and then both sat down and chatted. I don’t recall our entire conversation, though I do remember him telling me that he is particular about the artists with whom he is to be coupled on compilations, saying he wouldn’t want a track of his to be next to one performed by Iggy Pop. It wasn’t meant as a slight to Iggy; he meant the transition from one of his ballads to a heavy rocker would be jarring to the listener. He said he and Paul Simon used to argue about the running order of the tracks on their albums.

He hung out in my office for around fifteen minutes, during which time I got him to laugh more than once (about what I have no recollection). When he got up to leave he shook my hand again and told me “You are my favorite person at Sony Music.”

A decade later I met k.d. lang at a small party meant to celebrate her latest release. I’ve seen many concerts over the years; only twice has a singer so thrilled me that the hair on my arms stood up. The first time was when I attended the original Broadway production of Dreamgirls and Jennifer Holliday sang “And I Am Telling You I’m Not Going.” The other time was when I saw k.d. lang at Radio City Music Hall and she covered Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” Spectacular!

My interaction with k.d. at this party was very brief. A hello and a handshake. My only memory of this encounter is that she had the firmest handshake of anybody with whom I’ve ever shaken hands, including my step-uncle Steve. Damn, girl!

In 2012 I attended Warner Music Group’s pre-Grammy bash. Sean Combs a/k/a Puff Daddy a/k/a Puffy a/k/a P. Diddy a/k/a Diddy…now I forgot what I was going to write. Oh, yeah – he was at that party. I didn’t chat with him or shake his hand.

I’ve never chatted with Glenn Frey of Eagles nor have we both attended the same party, though I occasionally licensed his music while working at Warner.

k.d. lang’s birthday was this past Sunday, Diddy/Puffy/whatever’s birthday is today, Art Garfunkel’s is tomorrow and Glenn Frey’s is Thursday. Unlike Garfunkel I like compilations with jarring transitions. As such Tunes du Jour celebrates the birthdays of these four folks in today’s playlist.

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The Big O

Ringo + Roy
Beginning the week of August 8, 1963, and continuing for the proceeding 68 weeks, only one American artist hit #1 on the UK singles chart. The man was Roy Orbison, who accomplished the feat twice – first with “It’s Over” in June 1964 and then with “Oh, Pretty Woman” in October 1964.

The late great Roy Orbison was born on April 23, 1936. Here is a small sampling of some of his best work.

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#1 In Glenn’s Ten On This Day Throughout History

dogs + stuff 005
Today’s playlist consists of songs that were #1 in Glenn’s Ten, the weekly tally of my favorite current songs, on this date going back to 1981, the year I started tracking such things (click here for more background).

My #1 on March 3, 1981 was Don McLean’s cover of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.” My #1 this week is Pharrell Williams’ “Happy.” It took me thirty-three years to go from “Crying” to “Happy.”

In 1981 I was a shy, skinny high school student who felt like he didn’t belong. I wished I was more popular but hard as I tried, I just wasn’t cool.

I worked to better myself. Gaining weight was a challenge, as was overcoming my shyness. To achieve the latter I ultimately turned to stand-up comedy. Getting up on stage in front of a group of strangers to express my thoughts was what I needed. It gave me confidence and got me an agent and positive reviews in publications including Backstage.

To gain weight I ate a banana split every night right before bed. I didn’t put on any pounds, but I did develop lactose-intolerance.

Eventually my metabolism slowed down and I filled out.

I also became successful in corporate America, most recently as the Vice President of Licensing at Warner Music Group. That shy, introverted kid made something of himself.

In retrospect, I’ve been cool this whole time. Perhaps my fellow high school students didn’t think so, but what did they know? I’m going to rely on the impressions of 16 year-olds as to my coolness? It takes more guts to be a non-conformist. I learned to love myself as I am.

Loving yourself is the subject of a few #1 songs of this date. There’s 1991’s “I Touch Myself” by Divinyls, but that’s not the self-love to which I refer. Lady Gaga’s self-empowerment anthem “Born This Way” topped my chart for several weeks n 2011. Madonna, Gaga’s spiritual predecessor, sang “You’re frozen when your heart’s not open” in 1998.

It’s now 2014. I’m unemployed for the first time since graduating college. I’m also the happiest I’ve ever been. I am confident. I feel positive and energized about my future. If I have to, I can do anything. I am strong. I am invincible. I am…happy.

Here is the chronological soundtrack of my March 3 journey from “Crying” to “Happy,” with videoclips for the two entries not available on Spotify.


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An Atheist Jew’s Guide To Christmas Music, Part 2

xmas cds 002

Today Tunes du Jour presents more Christmas music. As with Part 1, I mixed standards with lesser-known songs. In the Comments section let me know what songs you discovered.

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Ten Facts About Little Richard

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.

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