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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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A Hint Of Mint – Volume 61: Black Lives Matter

With unity, change can occur.


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Throwback Thursday – 1962

Some time in my teen years I feel in love with the girl group sound. My favorite was The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel.” The music and the vocals hooked me. The singer tells of how others don’t approve of the boy she loves as he’s a non-conformist, but he treats her well and that’s all that matters.

The story behind the record is as interesting as the record itself. The song was written by Gene Pitney, who had several hits of his own, including “Town Without Pity” and “(The Man Who Shot) Liberty Valence.” “He’s a Rebel” was slated to be the debut single for Vikki Carr, but when Spector heard Pitney’s demo he knew he wanted it for one of his acts, The Crystals.

He needed to record it quickly in order to challenge Carr’s version at the stores. The Crystals, however, were on the road in New York and unable to make the recording sessions in Los Angeles. No problem. Spector hired a local group called The Blossoms, led by Darlene Wright, to record the song. Wright was paid $3000 for the session. Spector released the record under the name The Crystals, as his label owned the name. The actual Crystals first learned of their new hit song when they heard it on the radio. It became their first #1 single, meaning The Crystals had to learn this song so they could perform it at their shows. The group’s lead singer, Barbara Alston, could not match Wright’s vocal performance, so fellow Crystal LaLa Brooks moved into the lead vocalist slot. Coincidentally, the week The Crystals’ “He’s a Rebel” was #1, Gene Pitney was #2 as a singer with “Only Love Can Break a Heart,” a song he didn’t write.

As “He’s a Rebel” was so successful, Spector needed to get a follow-up single out quickly. Again, he turned to The Blossoms to record “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” Wright, however, was angry that her name was not on “He’s a Rebel” and told Spector she would only do this song if she were singed to a recording agreement and was properly credited for her vocals on the track. Spector agreed, changing her name in the agreement to Darlene Love. He released “He’s Sure the Boy I Love.” It was credited to The Crystals.

Spector used the money he made from “He’s a Rebel” to buy out his business partners in the Philles Records label. In addition to the financial settlement, Spector had to give his two ex-partners a share of the royalties of the next Philles single release, so Spector got the real Crystals into the studio and recorded “(Let’s Dance) The Screw,” a silly number clearly not intended to be a hit. A copy was sent to one of the ex-partners. No royalties were generated.

Tunes du Jour celebrates Throwback Thursday with twenty great hits from 1962, kicking off with “He’s a Rebel” by “The Crystals.”


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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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Throwback Thursday – 1957

Nineteen fifty-seven was a banner year in the nascent days of rock and roll.

Buddy Holly and the Crickets had their first chart hit with “That’ll be the Day,” which hit #1 in September. “Peggy Sue” became their second top ten single before the year was out.

Sun Records, the label that brought us Elvis Presley (among others), released “Whole Lotta Shakin’ Going On,” performed by Jerry Lee Lewis. It became Lewis’ first hit single, peaking at #3.

Gospel singer Sam Cooke released his first secular recording on Keen Records. The song was “You Send Me,” and it spent three weeks at #1 in December. Cooke would go on to score 28 more top 40 pop hits.

The Everly Brothers cracked the pop chart for the first time with “Bye Bye Love,” which peaked at #2. Their follow-up single, “Wake Up Little Susie,” went to #1 and stayed there for four weeks.

Chuck Berry, who cracked the pop top ten in 1955 with “Maybellene,” had two more top ten hits in 1957 – “School Day” and “Rock & Roll Music.” He wouldn’t have a #1 single until 1972.

Elvis Presley was at #1 on the pop singles chart for exactly half the year with “All Shook Up,” “Jailhouse Rock,” “(Let Me Be Your) Teddy Bear,” and “Too Much.” So his increasing amount of fans wouldn’t be bothersome to his neighbors and to have more security, in 1957 Presley purchased the Graceland mansion in Memphis for $102,500.

Jackie Wilson, formerly a member of Billy Ward and His Dominoes, released his first solo single, “Reet Petite (The Finest Girl You Ever Want to Meet),” co-written by an up-and-coming songwriter named Berry Gordy, Jr. Though the song only reached #62 on the US pop chart, it went top ten in the UK, earning Gordy enough money to fund the launch of Motown Records. Ultimately, Wilson would have 24 top 40 hits on the US pop chart.

Little Richard, who first cracked the pop chart in 1956 with “Tutti-Frutti,” had three more top 40 hits in 1957 – “Keep a Knockin’,” “Jenny, Jenny” and “Lucille.” The latter hit #1 on the r&b chart, while the other two titles peaked at #2 r&b.

The Coasters teamed up with the production/songwriting team of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller and in doing so, scored with the double-sided hit single “Searchin’” (#3 pop / #1 r&b) and “Young Blood” (#8 pop / #1 r&b). With Lieber and Stoller The Coasters would score several more top ten hits over the next few years.

Also, in 1957, the television program American Bandstand was syndicated nationally. It would air for the next 32 years.

Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist this week focuses on the great music of 1957.


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Ruth Brown And 1950s Rhythm And Blues

So successful was Ruth Brown in the 1950s that her label, Atlantic Records, which started in 1947, was nicknamed The House the Ruth Built.

Her first single for the label, “So Long,” reached #4 on the Rhythm & Blues chart in 1949. Her next hit, “Teardrops from My Eyes,” spent 11 weeks at #1 on that chart. She earned the nickname the Queen of R&B, and over the next ten years scored an additional nineteen r&b top ten singles, including four more number ones. In total she spent thirty-two weeks at #1 on the r&b singles chart. In 1953, Brown crossed over to the pop top 40 with “(Mama) He Treats Your Daughter Mean.”

In the 1960s Brown focused on her family life. She returned to music the following decade, and added acting gigs to her resume. In 1979 she was a regular character on the sitcom Hello, Larry, and she famously portrayed Motormouth Maybelle in the original 1988 movie version of Hairspray, a role which had echoes of her life performing at segregated dances in the sixties. She won the 1989 Tony Award for Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical for her performance in the Broadway show Black and Blue. Her companion album, Blues on Broadway, won Brown the Grammy Award for Best Jazz Performance, Female.

Ruth Brown 327410_1258221698098_full
Brown was also influential in the creation of the Rhythm and Blues Foundation, founded in 1988. Per the nonprofit’s mission statement, the Rhythm and Blues Foundation is “dedicated to the historical and cultural preservation of Rhythm & Blues music and recognition of participants in its community by providing services and programs to Rhythm & Blues artists and their fans.”

In 1993, Ruth Brown was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

She died in 2006 from complications resulting from a heart attack and stroke.

Inspired by Ruth Brown, who was born on January 12*, 1928, today’s playlist presents twenty of the best rhythm and blues recordings from the 1950s.


(*I initially prepared this entry to be posted on January 12. However, once I was about to post it, I read in a few places that the information I had was incorrect, and that Brown’s birth date was January 30, so I saved it for today. Just after I finished re-editing it this afternoon, I looked on Wikipedia and see they (now) list her birthday as January 12, which some other sites confirmed.)

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The Unsung Genius Of Billy Preston

Ringo + Billy Preston
Today is the birthday of the late, great Billy Preston. You may be familiar with his #1 hits “Will It Go Round in Circles” and “Nothing from Nothing.” Preston has many more accomplishments on his resume. Here are ten things you may not know about him:

1. He is the only person to be given a featuring credit on a Beatles single. The #1 smash “Get Back” and its b-side, “Don’t Let Me Down,” also a top 40 hit, were credited to The Beatles with Billy Preston. He also played on the band’s Abbey Road, Let It Be and self-titled albums (the latter often referred to as The White Album) and in their famous final rooftop concert. At one point John Lennon suggested having Preston become one of The Beatles.
2. He played on several albums by The Rolling Stones, including Exile on Main Street, Sticky Fingers, Tattoo You, It’s Only Rock‘n Roll and Goats Head Soup.
3. In 1958, twelve-year-old Preston played “Father of the Blues” W.C. Handy as a child in the Handy biopic St. Louis Blues.
4. At age 15 Preston joined Little Richard’s band.
5. In 1967 Preston joined Ray Charles’ band.
6. He played on Sam Cooke’s final studio album, the critically-acclaimed Night Beat. Preston was 16 years old at the time.
7. Other artists on whose records Preston played include Barbra Streisand, Elton John, Peter Frampton, Eric Clapton, MeShell NdegéOcello, Joni Mitchell, Jet, Neil Diamond, Sly & the Family Stone, Aretha Franklin, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Luther Vandross, the Everly Brothers, and Johnny Cash.
8. Preston co-wrote “You Are So Beautiful,” a top five single for Joe Cocker in 1975.
9. It has been written that Stephen Stills got the expression “If you can’t be with the one you love, love the one you’re with” from Preston. (Some reports say it was Doris Troy who gave Stills that phrase.)
10. George Harrison wrote and co-produced “My Sweet Lord” for Preston. It appeared on Billy’s 1970 Encouraging Words album, released on The Beatles’ Apple Records. Harrison went on to record his own version of the song for his All Things Must Pass album, on which Preston played. Perhaps you’ve heard the Harrison version.
11. Preston introduced George Harrison to a woman named Olivia Arias, who worked at A&M Records, for whom Billy recorded after he left Apple. Arias soon became Olivia Harrison.
12. So impressed by Preston’s music was Miles Davis that the jazz legend recorded a song called “Billy Preston” for his 1974 album Get Up With It.
13. Preston’s primary instrument was the organ. The first time he played the clavinet was on his hit “Outa-Space,” which reached #2 on the pop charts. The first time he played the Arp synthesizer was on his hit “Space Race,” which reached #4 on the pop chart.
14. Preston’s singles “Will It Go Round in Circles,” “Nothing from Nothing,” “Outa-Space” and “Space Race” each sold over one million copies in the United States alone.
15. As a solo artist Preston had ten top 40 hits on Billboard’s R&B chart.
16. Preston played Sgt. Pepper in the ill begotten film Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, one of my favorite bad movies. In the film he sings “Get Back” to Billy Shears, played by Peter Frampton, just after Shears jumped off of a roof to kill himself. Perhaps I should have written SPOILER ALERT, but you can’t spoil something that stinks to begin with.
17. In 1972 Preston became the first rock performer to headline at New York’s Radio City Music Hall.
18. Preston was a musical guest on the first episode of Saturday Night Live.
19. Preston started playing piano and singing church. About being gay in the church, Preston told writer David Ritz “In the community outside the church, gay men were called sissies. There was zero tolerance. But inside the church, a lot of music was created by gay men. It was almost a tradition. Everyone knew that my mentor James Cleveland, who became the King of Gospel, was gay….So many of the other major figures – like Professor J. Earle Hines out of Los Angeles and Professor Alex Bradford out of Chicago – were gay. Mahalia [Jackson] surrounded herself with gay men her entire life. In the neighborhood they made you ashamed of being gay, but in the church you were almost proud to be part of the gay elite of musicians.”
20. Preston died on June 6, 2006, from complications from malignant hypertension. He was 59 years old.

Here are twenty of the many highlights of Billy Preston’s recording career:


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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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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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