Tag Archives: The Emotions

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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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance – Maurice White Edition

Winston + EWF
The world lost another great music artist this week when Maurice White, founder of Earth, Wind & Fire, passed away from the effects of Parkinson ’s disease at age 74.

Formed in 1969, Earth, Wind & Fire have sold over 90 million records; been nominated for 17 Grammy Awards, winning six; been nominated for 12 American Music Awards, winning Favorite Soul, R&B Band, Duo or Group in 1975, 1976, 1977, 1978 and 1980; were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame; won the Rhythm & Soul Heritage Award from the American Society of Composers and Publishers; won a Lifetime Achievement Awards from the BET Awards; received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame; were inducted into the NAACP Hall of Fame; won the Soul Train Music Awards’ Legend Award; became the first African-American performers to receive the Columbia Records Crystal Globe Award for selling more than five million albums outside the United States; and became the first African-American act to sell out Madison Square Garden.

Outside of Earth, Wind & Fire’s nominations, Maurice White received an additional four Grammy nominations, winning one. He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame. As a producer, songwriter, vocalist or musician, he has worked on records by Weather Report, Barbra Streisand, Cher, Neil Diamond, Minnie Riperton, The Emotions, Ramsey Lewis, The Tubes, Barry Manilow, Deniece Williams, Atlantic Starr and Jennifer Holliday.

Earth, Wind & Fire scored seven platinum-certified albums, with 16 top 40 albums on the pop chart and 23 top 40 albums on the r&b chart. They’ve had 16 top 40 pop singles and 38 top 40 r&b singles. Many of their best-known songs are ballads – “That’s the Way of the World,” “After the Love Has Gone,” and “Reasons” among them – but Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour, so today’s playlist will focus on the group’s uptempo work, with tracks co-produced by White for The Emotions and Deniece Williams thrown in.


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Throwback Thursday – The Hits Of 1977

An instrumental performed by then new Eagles member Don Felder was submitted to his bandmates Glenn Frey and Don Henley to add lyrics. The first working title the guys gave the song was “Mexican Reggae.”

Henley was determined to create the perfect song, spending eight months in the studio working on “Mexican Reggae,” which came to be called “Hotel California.” A lyric referring to the band Steely Dan was added (“They stab it with their steely knives but they just can’t kill the beast”) after Steely Dan included the lyric “Turn up the Eagles, the neighbors are listening” on their song “Everything You Did.”

In 2009, music critic John Soeder asked Don Henley about the lyric “So I called up the Captain / ‘Please bring me my wine’ / He said, ‘We haven’t had that spirit here since 1969’,” pointing out that wine isn’t a spirit, as wine is fermented whereas spirits are distilled. Soeder asked the singer/composer “Do you regret that lyric?” Henley replied “Believe me, I’ve consumed enough alcoholic beverages in my time to know how they are made and what the proper nomenclature is….My only regret would be having to explain it in detail to you, which would defeat the purpose of using literary devices in songwriting and lower the discussion to some silly and irrelevant argument about chemical processes.” Insert steely knife here!

This week for Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour listens to the hits of 1977, kicking off with Eagles’ “Hotel California.”


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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. This week’s dance playlist kicks off with a song that, per its writer, is “about someone on the brink of self destruction who goes to these [dance] clubs to try and find more, but is at least aware of the fact that if there’s something like true love, that is something that could kind of drag them out of the abyss.” Allee Willis, who wrote the song with Jon Lind, told songfacts.com that the song was inspired by the film Looking for Mr. Goodbar. “I got kind of fascinated with people who did go to clubs every night, whose life was kind of falling apart, but they lived for the night life, though it didn’t seem to be advancing them as humans in the end.”

The song’s first verse is “Midnight creeps so slowly into hearts of men who need more than they get. Daylight deals a bad hand to a woman who has laid too many bets. The mirror stares you in the face and says, ‘Baby, uh-uh, it don’t work.’ You say your prayers though you don’t care; you dance and shake the hurt.”

The chorus expresses the hope that “All the love in the world can’t be gone, all the need to be loved can’t be wrong, all the records are playing and my heart keeps saying ‘Boogie Wonderland.’” Per Willis, Boogie Wonderland “was this state of mind that you entered when you were around music and when you danced, but hopefully it was an aware enough state of mind that you would want to feel as good during the day as you did at night.”

EWF + Ringo

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Billboard magazine’s first disco chart was published in October of 1974. Its #1 song was “Never Can Say Goodbye” performed by Gloria Gaynor. That record stayed on top for four weeks, soon crossing over to the pop chart, where it peaked at #9.

An eighteen-plus minute medley of “Honey Bee,” “Never Can Say Goodbye” and “Reach Out, I’ll Be There” reached #2 on the Disco chart in early 1975, leading to Gaynor being named “Queen of the Discos” by the National Association of Discotheque Disc Jockeys in March of that year.

Six more top ten disco hits followed in 1975 and 1976, but then her fortunes dried up. Her sole entry on the Disco chart in 1977 reached only #38. Her next charted disco single was over a year later, and peaked at #24. By this point, Donna Summer was the new Queen of Disco. Summer was also crossing over onto the pop chart, while Gaynor’s sole top 40 pop single was “Never Can Say Goodbye.” She failed to crack the Hot 100 in 1976 and 1977.

Her record company, Polydor, reached out to producer Dino Fekaris and asked him to produce for Gaynor a cover of the Righteous Brothers track “Substitute,” then a recent hit overseas for a group called Clout.

Fekaris was a staff songwriter at Motown Record for almost seven years before the company let him go. Determined not to let that career setback derail him, Fekaris got together with his songwriter and production partner Freddie Perren, who also had a stint at Motown, and wrote a song about getting over the fear of the unknown and surviving what life throws at you. They wanted a woman to record the track, but didn’t have anybody in mind. They decided to give the song to the next diva they work with. That’s when Polydor called with the Gaynor gig.

As requested by her label boss, Gaynor recorded “Substitute” to be the A-side of her next single, but the song about survival, which she recorded to be the record’s B-side, really resonated with her. Besides her career troubles, she recently lost her mother and fell on stage while performing, which required her to undergo spinal surgery and spend six months in the hospital. She recorded the tracks wearing a back brace.

“Substitute” was released in the fall of 1978. It failed to make the Hot 100.

One night around that time, Studio 54 DJ Ritchie Kaczor flipped over “Substitute” and played its B-side. The patrons ignored it that first time, but Kaczor kept playing it. Eventually, it became the club’s most popular cut. Soon, all New York City clubs were playing the track.

In November 1978 Vince Aletti wrote in Record World magazine that this song “is Gaynor’s very best work in years…delivered with such relish that one can’t help but get caught up in the emotion.”

In Boston, disco radio DJ Jack King played the single’s B-side and reported that “my listeners went nuts!” Seeing the response this song was getting, Polydor reissued the single with “Substitute” as the B-side. The A-side was now the anthem “I Will Survive.”

Winston + Gaynor
In January 1979, “I Will Survive” returned Gloria Gaynor to #1 on the Disco chart, where she remained for three weeks. In March of that year the record hit #1 on the Hot 100, where it also stayed for three weeks. It went on to become a smash around the world.

At the 22nd Annual Grammy Awards ceremony on February 27, 1980, Gloria Gaynor’s “I Will Survive” won for Best Disco Recording, the only time that award has ever been given, over Michael Jackson’s “Don’t Stop ‘Til You Get Enough,” Rod Stewart’s “Da Ya Think I’m Sexy?,” Earth Wind & Fire with The Emotions’ “Boogie Wonderland,” and then Queen of Disco Donna Summer’s Bad Girls.

“I Will Survive” kicks off Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party.

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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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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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An Atheist Jew’s Guide To Christmas Music, Part 4

In the grocery store yesterday I heard the most joyless version of “Joy to the World.” I heard a dull version of “White Christmas” that made me glad it was 77 degrees outside. I heard a rendition “Santa Claus Is Coming to Town” so lifeless it would make Kris Kringle say “Fuck this – I’m staying home.”

My fourth and final Christmas playlist for 2013 includes more festive fare. Mostly it consists of Christmas songs that have not been overplayed. Some of the holiday classics are represented – “The Little Drummer Boy” as performed by Iggy Pop and RuPaul’s twist on “I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus” in which mommy is not the parent doing the kissing.

Enjoy!

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It’s Friday And I Need To Dance!

Every Friday, Tunes du Jour’s playlist is designed to get you dancing into the weekend. Today we kick off with The Spinners’ “The Rubberband Man,” written by the songwriting team of Thom Bell and Linda Creed, as today is Creed’s birthday.

You may not know her name, but chances are you know some of her work. With Bell, she composed several hits for 70s soul group The Stylistics, including “You Make Me Feel Brand New,” “You Are Everything,” “Break Up to Make Up,” “I’m Stone in Love With You,” “Rockin’ Roll Baby” and “Betcha By Golly Wow.” If any readers plan on marrying me, note that I insist the latter be our wedding song.

With Michael Masser, Creed wrote “The Greatest Love of All” for the Muhammad Ali biopic The Greatest. George Benson took the film’s theme song to #24 in 1977. The week of May 17, 1986, Whitney Houston took her remake of the song to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. However, Creed didn’t get to see that. She died one month earlier of breast cancer at age 37.

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