Tag Archives: The Temptations

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 – 1983

Winston + MJ
MTV debuted on August 1, 1981. Back then it was a music video network. It positioned itself as a rock station. Most of the videos shown were of songs made by Caucasian performers, though rock-leaning black acts such as Joan Armatrading and the Bus Boys got some play.

Then came “Billie Jean.” The second single from Michael Jackson’s Thriller, “Billie Jean” was accompanied by a stylish video featuring a mesmerizing performance from Jackson. However, it wasn’t a rock song. It didn’t fit the format of rock radio stations, and it didn’t fit the format of MTV either.

But there is a big difference between radio and music television. There were plenty of radio stations and many different formats. You may not hear “Billie Jean” on the rock stations, but you could hear it on r&b stations and pop stations and dance-leaning stations. However, there was only one music television – MTV.

In his autobiography, Howling at the Moon, Walter Yetnikoff, head of CBS Records, for whom Jackson recorded (and where I worked in my first music business job), wrote “I screamed bloody murder when MTV refused to air [Jackson’s] videos. They argued that their format, white rock, excluded Michael’s music. I argued they were racist assholes – and I’d trumpet it to the world if they didn’t relent. I’ve never been more forceful or obnoxious. I’ve also never been as effective, threatening to pull all our videos. With added pressure from [Thriller producer] Quincy Jones, they caved in, and in doing so the MTV color line came crashing down.”

Jackson’s video for “Billie Jean” aired on MTV, followed just weeks later by his video for “Beat It,” a song whose guitar solo from Eddie Van Halen helped make it a hit on rock radio. These two videos made Jackson, already a superstar, a worldwide phenomenon with a humongous fan base that transcended race, age and location in a way never seen before. These two videos made MTV, a year and a half old and fairly popular in white suburban areas, a cultural institution. These two videos made the music video, then not something done for many singles, particularly those performed by artists of color, an art form and a necessary marketing tool.

Some people tuned in to MTV to see the Michael Jackson videos, and while watching the channel, discovered other acts. Some people tuned in to MTV to watch “white rock” videos, and while watching the channel, discovered Michael Jackson.

MTV went to showcase more “non-rock” videos. In 1988, they launched their hugely popular program Yo! MTV Raps, something that would have been completely unexpected just five years earlier, pre-“Billie Jean.”

While MTV deserves credit for making “Billie Jean” and Thriller successful, the person most responsible is Jackson himself. He wrote the song. He sang the song. He danced the song. Quincy Jones did not want “Billie Jean” to appear on Thriller. He didn’t like the title. He didn’t like the bassline. He felt the song’s introduction was too long. Jackson argued “But that’s the jelly!…That’s what makes me want to dance.” Jones wasn’t ready for this jelly, but Jackson stood his ground.

In May of 1983, NBC aired a tribute to Motown Records. Motown: Yesterday, Today, Forever featuring many legends who recorded for the storied label performing their classics. We saw Diana Ross, the Temptations, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Stevie Wonder, the Four Tops, Martha Reeves, Lionel Richie and the Commodores, Mary Wells, Junior Walker and then some. It was a terrific show, but the talk of the town following its airing was the performance of a song not from the Motown catalogue – Michael Jackson’s “Billie Jean.” The iconic performance, during which Jackson brought the famous moonwalk to the world at large, pushed him that much more ahead of any other performer working in music back then.

Following “Beat It,” CBS Records released four more singles from Thriller. All seven of the singles released (the album had only nine songs!) went top ten, breaking the record of most top ten hits from a single-artist album that was set a few years earlier by…Michael Jackson, whose Off the Wall gave us four. Before Thriller, four singles for one album was considered a lot. Thriller raised the bar for blockbuster albums, and subsequent releases such as Bruce Springsteen’s Born in the U.S.A., Prince’s Purple Rain, Def Leppard’s Hysteria and Janet Jackson’s Control each produced more than four hits.

“Billie Jean” changed everything.

On this week’s Throwback Thursday playlist, Tunes du Jour spotlights 1983, kicking off with Michael Jackson’s classic “Billie Jean.”


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Throwback Thursday – 1972

Willie Mitchell, the producer of Al Green’s string of hits in the first half of the 1970s, recalled the one time he and the singer had a fight. It was over a song the two men had written with Al Jackson, Jr. While producing that track, Mitchell told Green to sing it much more softly than he had sung his other material. Green thought that direction was wrong and the song would never become a hit.

That recording was “Let’s Stay Together,” and it became Green’s first #1 on the pop chart. It also spent nine weeks at #1 on the r&b chart.

Following the success of “Let’s Stay Together,” Mitchell said Green never again argued with him.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist focuses on the year 1972, kicking off with the song that Rolling Stone magazine named the 60th greatest of all time, Al Green’s “Let’s Stay Together.”


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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 – 1971

At the end of the 1960s, Marvin Gaye was a huge star, having had more than two dozen top 40 hits before 1970. However, the singer was having a crisis of conscience, wanting to sing about the ills of the world he saw around him as opposed to perform nothing but love songs.

Inspired by the horrific stories told to him by his brother of what he witnessed serving three years in Viet Nam, Gaye, who hadn’t a hand in writing most of his hits up to this point, added lyrics to an unreleased song written by Obie Benson of the Four Tops and Al Cleveland.

He presented the song to Motown head Berry Gordy, who supposedly called it “the worst thing I ever heard in my life.” Gaye’s response? “Basically, I said ‘Put it out or I’ll never record for you again.’ That was my ace in the hole, and I had to play it.”

“What’s Going On” became the fastest-selling single in the history of Motown Records. Rolling Stone magazine has since placed it at #4 on their ranking of the greatest songs of all-time.

This week’s Throwback Thursday playlist consists of twenty hits from 1971, kicking off with Marvin Gaye’s “What’s Going On.”


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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 – 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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My Birthday Advice: Don’t!

doggies + Elvis
Today is my birthday. Over my 25+ years on earth, I’ve learned many life lessons. Most of them came from songs. My birthday gift to you is a playlist of 100 songs offering advice as to what not to do.


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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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Throwback Thursday – 1970

me - 1970The blogger in 1970

Today Tunes du Jour introduces Throwback Thursday playlists, in which we go back to hear some of the biggest hits from a particular year. We start with 1970, when you could hear Led Zeppelin and the Carpenters played back-to-back on your favorite AM Top 40 station..


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