Tag Archives: The Supremes

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 – 1965 (Part II)

Winston + Dylan
No other pop song so thoroughly challenged and transformed the commercials laws and artistic conventions of its time, for all time.
Rolling Stone, naming Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” the greatest song of all time

If it came out now, it would still be radical. For 1965, it was mind-blowing, as was its success. Six minutes long, sung by a guy who sounded nothing like the other singers on the radio, with confrontational often insulting lyrics. Somehow, it went all the way to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100, kept from the top spot by The Beatles’ “Help!” As Rolling Stone wrote, “Just as Dylan bent folk music’s roots and forms to his own will, he transformed popular song with the content and ambition of “Like a Rolling Stone.”

Thanks in part to “Like a Rolling Stone” and “Help!” and Motown and Stax and the Rolling Stones and other British Invasion acts, 1965 was one of the best years for pop music. Tunes du Jour celebrates Throwback Thursday with a second playlist of tracks from this stellar year (the first playlist can be found here), kicking off with a Bob Dylan record that changed the rules.


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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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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 – 1963

The girl group sound was hugely popular on the US pop charts in the early 1960s. The Shirelles, The Crystals, The Chiffons, The Angels, Martha and the Vandellas, The Marvelettes, The Exciters, The Orlons, The Cookies, The Murmaids, The Dixie Cups, The Supremes, The Toys, The Shangri-Las, The Jaynetts and others filled the radio with tales of teenage romance, heartbreak and occasionally social commentary. Solo acts such as Lesley Gore and Darlene Love also exemplified the girl group sound.

Described in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry as “the quintessence of the ‘girl group’ aesthetic of the early 1960s,” the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby” reached #2 in 1963. The record was produced by Phil Spector, who produced at least 15 top forty girl group songs between 1962 and 1964.

Lead vocals on “Be My Baby” were performed by Ronnie Spector. In fact, the other Ronettes aren’t even on the record. Backup singers included the girlfriend of Phil Spector’s promotion man. That man was Sonny Bono; his girlfriend was Cher. Sonny & Cher would have their first hit as a duo two years later.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist spotlights the hits of 1963. Here are twenty of that year’s best, kicking off with the record New Music Express named the second best song of the 1960s (their #1 was The Beatles’ “A Day in the Life”), the Ronettes’ “Be My Baby.”


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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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Throwback Thursday – 1966

me - 1966001The blogger in 1966

“My mother used to tell me about vibrations. I didn’t really understand too much of what she meant when I was a boy. It scared me, the word ‘vibrations’ – to think that invisible feelings existed. She also told me about dogs that would bark at some people, but wouldn’t bark at others, and so it came to pass that we talked about good vibrations.”
– The Beach Boys’ Brian Wilson, Rolling Stone magazine

“The concept of spreading goodwill, good thoughts and happiness is nothing new, but it is our hope. The ideas are there in ‘Good Vibrations,’ ‘God Only Knows,’ ‘Heroes and Villains,’ and it is why the new LP is called Smile.”
– The Beach Boys’ Carl Wilson

According to Brian Wilson, Capitol Records didn’t want to release “Good Vibrations” as a single because of its duration: three and a half minutes. Reportedly, executives at the label were also concerned about the psychedelic overtones of the lyrics. Wilson pleaded with Capitol to release the 45.

The song went to #1 and earned the Beach Boys a Grammy nomination in the category of Best Contemporary Group Performance, in which they were pitted against three fine recordings plus “Guantanamera” by the Sandpipers. The Beach Boys lost, thankfully not to the Sandpipers but to the Mamas & the Papas for “Monday, Monday.” Mojo magazine placed “Good Vibrations” at #1 on their Top 100 Records of All Time list, and Rolling Stone magazine had it at #6 on their 500 Greatest Songs of All Time survey.

The crowning achievement of “Good Vibrations” by the Beach Boys was followed by an abrupt reversal of fortune for the group. While “Vibrations” was their 14th top ten single in just over four years, they would have to wait another ten years before cracking the top ten again, with their not-that-great remake of Chuck Berry’s “Rock and Roll Music” in 1976. It would be twenty-two years after “Good Vibrations” that the group hit #1 again, with the classic bad song “Kokomo.” The Smile album Carl Wilson referred to in the quote above went unfinished. Instead, the group released an album entitled Smiley Smile in 1967. Between 1963 and 1966 the group scored nine top ten albums; Smiley Smile peaked at #41. The following year’s Friends album only got as high as #126.

On this Throwback Thursday, Tunes du Jour listens to twenty of the finest singles from 1966, kicking off with the classic “Good Vibrations.”


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Throwback Thursday – The Hits Of 1968

For Throwback Thursday this week, Tunes du Jour goes back to 1968. Though the year’s biggest hit, The Beatles’ “Hey Jude,” is not on Spotify, there are enough great smashes to make a compelling playlist.


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Throwback Thursday – 1965

me - 1966001The blogger in 1965

For this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, Tunes du Jour revisits the year 1965.


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Try A Little Kindness: The Ashford & Simpson Songbook

Try a little kindness and you’ll see it’s something that comes very naturally

I have a neighbor down the hall who has never said hello to me. He has never acknowledged my existence. We’ve been neighbors for twelve years. Until recently, that rankled me. Is it so difficult to say hello? To smile? To half-smile?

There is a couple who live on the floor beneath mine. A couple of years ago, after our morning walk, I got on the elevator with my dogs. One of the guys got on as well and said, unsolicited, “I hate your dogs.” That’s a terrible thing to say under any circumstances, but you should know, my dogs don’t bark. They don’t jump up on people they don’t know. They were standing in the corner of the elevator next to me when this man shared his opinion, an opinion that could not have any positive effect on the environment. Recently that same guy and his partner were on the elevator. The vocal dog hater saw me approaching (sans pets) and held the door open for me. I said thank you. When they exited on their floor, the partner of the vocal dog hater admonished the vocal dog hater. “See what happens when you hold the door for people!” They get on the elevator? They say “Thank you?” I’m not sure what his beef was, but again, what positive effect does such an attitude encourage? If those are your thoughts, why share them?

It still bothers me a little to encounter such uninvited nastiness, but I’ve come to realize it’s not me. It’s them. I’m nice. I say thank you. I adopted two rescue dogs, one of which was abandoned by his previous owners, and nurtured them. That someone can’t appreciate who I am, that someone can’t appreciate what I do, that someone can’t bring themselves to be courteous or half-smile is a sign of their damaged psyche.

Once I fully realized this I decided to make a concerted effort to display more acts of kindness. I say hello to people I pass on the sidewalk, which, as a native New Yorker, took some getting used to. I smile at store clerks, not just the ones I want to date. I “like” more posts on Facebook and LinkedIn.

The more kindness we put out into the world, the kinder the world will be.

The lyric at the top of this post comes from Diana Ross’s first post-Supremes solo hit, 1970’s “Reach Out and Touch (Somebody’s Hand).” The song was written by Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson, the married couple who wrote so many great songs for Miss Ross, Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, and others, including themselves.

Today Valerie Simson turns 69 years old. Our playlist consists of twenty of Ashford & Simpson’s finest.


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