Tag Archives: The Isley Brothers

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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Disco 1975

If you see Patti LaBelle today, wish her a happy birthday.

Nineteen seventy-five was a pivotal year for disco music. The genre was still very young; the name “disco” as a reference to the music genre was coined just two years earlier by journalist Vince Aletti. Disco music crossed over into the mainstream with more frequency, yet was not as ubiquitous a presence on the pop charts as it would become in the ensuing years of that decade. Artists who had their first top 40 singles in 1975 include Gloria Gaynor and KC and the Sunshine Band. In December of 1975, Donna Summer made her first appearance on the Hot 100 when “Love to Love You Baby” made its debut, having already been a smash in the clubs. The Bee Gees updated their sound in 1975 with “Jive Talkin’,” which became their first top ten single since 1971. Ben E. King, who had hits in the early 1960s as a solo artist and as the lead singer of The Drifters scored his first top ten pop hit since 1961’s “Stand By Me” with the funky “Supernatural Thing.” As the lead singer of the trio named after her, Patti LaBelle scored her first top ten hit in over a decade with “Lady Marmalade.” Veteran acts such as Frankie Valli, The Temptations, The Miracles, The Isley Brothers and Esther Phillips filled the dance floors. And it was in 1975 that the world was doing the hustle.

Today’s playlist is made up of forty disco gems from 1975.

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It’s African American Music Appreciation Month And I Need To Dance!

On May 31, President Obama issued a proclamation declaring June 2016 as African American Music Appreciation Month. The designation has actually been around since 1979, when President Carter commemorated the cultural and financial contributions of music made by African Americans at a reception at the White House. Back then it was Black Music Month, an idea conceived by music industry executive and radio personality Dyana Williams and her husband, Kenny Gamble.

You may not know Gamble’s name, but you know his music. The co-founder of Philadelphia International Records with Leon Huff, Gamble and his music partner have written and produced hits for Diana Ross & the Supremes and the Temptations, Dusty Springfield, the Jacksons, the O’Jays, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes, Jerry Butler, Archie Bell and the Drells, the Three Degrees, Joe Simon, MFSB, Billy Paul, the Soul Survivors, Teddy Pendergrass, the Intruders, Lou Rawls, People’s Choice and the Jones Girls.

Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party celebrates African American Music Appreciation Month with twenty dance floor packers, kicking off with a few of Gamble and Huff’s gems.


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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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It’s Rudy Isley’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Ringo + Isleys
The Isley Brothers first hit the pop chart in 1959 with the classic “Shout,” later popularized in the 1978 movie National Lampoon’s Animal House. The brothers first hit the r&b chart in 1962 with “Twist & Shout,” a cover of the Top Notes single that later was a hit for The Beatles. The Isleys’ version went to #2 r&b and #17 pop, becoming the group’s first top twenty hit on both charts.

In 1975, the Isley Brothers scored their first single to go top twenty on the pop, r&b and dance charts. “Fight the Power” reached #4 pop, #1 r&b, and #13 dance. It kicks off Tunes du Jour’s weekly dance party, as we celebrate Rudy Isley’s 77th birthday.


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Throwback Thursday – 1969

In 1968, songwriter Mark James, whose hit compositions include “Hooked on a Feeling” and “Always on My Mind,” was married to his first wife, but he still had feelings for his childhood sweetheart, who also was married. Said James, “My wife suspected I had those feelings, so it was a confusing time for me. I felt as though all three of us were all caught in this trap that we couldn’t walk out of.”

He recorded and released a song he wrote based on his situation, but it flopped.

A year later, producer Chips Moman brought the song to Elvis Presley. Elvis loved it and was confident he could make it a hit.

Elvis was acknowledged as the King of Rock and Roll. During the ten years from 1956 through 1965 he scored 33 top ten singles, including 17 #1s. Then he hit a relative dry spell, with no top tens in 1966, 1967 or 1968.

The King recorded Mark James’ song. It became Elvis’ first #1 single since “Good Luck Charm” in 1962. The song, “Suspicious Minds,” was Presley’s final #1 in the US. Between 1956 and 1969, Elvis spent 79 weeks at #1, more than any other act.

In 2004, Rolling Stone magazine ranked “Suspicious Minds” at no. 91 on their list of the 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.

Ringo + Elvis
This week, Tunes du Jour’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights twenty of the best singles of 1969, kicking off with Elvis Presley’s “Suspicious Minds.”


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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.

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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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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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It’s T.I.’s Birthday And I Need To Dance!

Last night I debuted a new speech about diversity and inclusion in corporate America. It was the first time I tackled the subject in a presentation and I’m pleased to say it went very well.

I’m working on a series of speeches about what makes good leaders. It’s a departure from my usual speeches, which lean toward storytelling or purely humorous. Last night’s speech had plenty of humor (and all the jokes hit!), but it had a message and action steps as well. I delivered the twenty minute version. I’m working on a thirty minute and hour-long version as well.

Comments I received afterwards included “Great style – loved every moment,” “enjoyed all aspects,” “good mix of information and humor,” “very interesting,” “very creative,” and “I don’t like your shirt.” For the record, my shirt was a crisp, white Surface To Air button-down with a grey stripe down the center. What’s not to like?

I look forward to the next presentation.

Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. We kick off this week’s party playlist with “Blurred Lines,” which features a guest spot from Clifford Harris, Jr., better known by his initials, T.I., who turns 35 today.


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Throwback Thursday – 1959

Today’s playlist consists of twenty hits from 1959, when the pop charts were one big sausage fest.


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