Inspired by the passing of Kenny Rogers, the March 21 birthdays of The Stylistics’ Russell Thompkins Jr., Solomon Burke, The Prodigy’s Maxim, Eddie Money, Mungo Jerry’s Ray Dorsett, Bonzo Dog Doo-Dah Band’s Vivian Stanshall; and World Poetry Day.
Tag Archives: The Three Degrees
You may not know their names, but you know many of their songs. Individually, but more often as a team, Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff wrote and/or produced a lot of timeless classic songs in the soul music genre. They were the pre-eminent rhythm and blues architects of the first half of the 1970s, and their production style paved the way for disco, before that genre got watered down. Plenty of their records found their way to the top of the pop charts as well.
Today is Kenny Gamble’s 75th birthday. To celebrate, Tunes du Jour presents a playlist of twenty great Gamble and Huff sides.
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.
If you’re like me, you woke up at 2:17 AM last night, wondering if any animals besides humans can dance, and then you had trouble falling back asleep. If this sounds like you, I suggest you seek therapy. If you’re in L.A., please pass on to me the name of your doctor.
I Googled “Can animals dance?”. I read about a sea lion who loves to shake it to Earth, Wind & Fire’s “Boogie Wonderland.” That doesn’t prove anything. Only a corpse wouldn’t move to that song.
A neuroscientist at the Neurosciences Institute in La Jolla, California discovered that parrots and elephants can dance, but other animals cannot. He defines dance as a natural untrained reaction to music involving moving to the beat. By that definition, most humans can’t dance, either. I know. I’ve been to straight weddings.
The Week reported that scientists found that bees, cockatoos, peacock spiders, dung beetles, manikin birds and freshwater algae can dance. First off, I didn’t know algae was an animal. Secondly, doesn’t algae merely move along with the ebb and flow of the tide? By that definition, everyone’s a good dancer, even attendees at straight weddings.
Looking at dancing animals on YouTube was a depressing experience. I’m sure that sea lion at Sea World doing the “Thriller” moves would rather be in his native habitat than forced to do Michael Jackson impersonations for crowds that pay way too much money, none of which the sea lion sees. The moves probably didn’t come naturally to him. Had he been asked, I’m sure he would’ve said “No, I’m not going to be your monkey.”
Speaking of monkeys, the Daily Mail reported that bonobos like to dance to very fast music. The article was accompanied by several photos of polar bears striking Saturday Night Fever poses. Polar bears are classified as an endangered species, so I can see their concern with stayin’ alive stayin’ alive. Still, I wouldn’t confuse them for bonobos. I know a bear when I see one. I’ve been to gay weddings.
I saw a video of a cockatoo dancing to Backstreet Boys. There’s no accounting for taste, but I must admit, the moves were good. Not Michael Jackson good, but if that is the standard, then no animals can dance. By that measurement, most humans can’t dance. Most Jacksons can’t dance.
Today is the birthday of Michael Jackson’s older sisters, Rebbie and LaToya, not particularly good dancers from any video evidence I’ve seen. Rebbie had a hit song called “Centipede.” I’ve read nothing in my research about whether or not centipedes can dance, but I doubt they can, given they have fifty left feet.
Friday is dance day at Tunes du Jour. All animals are welcome to participate, whether human or centipede (though please don’t bring up The Human Centipede.)
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This week’s dance playlist kicks off with Kool & the Gang’s “Celebration,” which hit #1 on this date in 1981. The song had prominent television exposure for the couple of weeks prior, as it was played during the 1981 Super Bowl and when the American hostages returned home from Iran on January 26 after 444 days in captivity.
Kool & the Gang were a funk band whose fortunes were on the decline as the seventies progressed. They scored two top ten singles in 1974, “Jungle Boogie” and “Hollywood Swinging,” but no more until they recruited a new lead vocalist, James “JT” Taylor, and were paired with a new producer, Eumir Deodato.
Deodato’s first record with the band was 1979’s Ladies Night, whose title track returned the group to the top ten. This was quickly followed by the top ten hit “Too Hot.”
Deodato’s next record with the band was Celebrate!, from which “Celebration” was taken. To this day the song is played at a myriad of celebratory events, making it a dance classic.
A Wisconsin artist named Molly Evans started an art project in which she stitches Lionel Richie lyrics on discarded furniture. She calls the project Lionel Stitchie. You can view her tumblr here.
Today’s Friday dance party kicks off with Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night).” I want a couch that says “Tom bo li de say de moi ya,” which means exactly what you think it means. To get his Jamaican accent down, Alabama-born Richie phoned his wife’s gynecologist, who is Jamaican. The doctor asked Lionel to not interrupt his appointments.
In 1971 an astrologer told Dionne Warwick to append an “e” to her last name. “It will bring you luck,” she was told. At that point in her career Warwick was a multi-Grammy Award winner with more than twenty US top forty pop hits, collaborations with the songwriting team of Burt Bacharach and Hal David, to her name. But who can’t use more luck?
Following the astrologer’s advice, Warwick became Warwicke, and besides a guest co-lead vocal on a Spinners record (the sublime “Then Came You”), Warwicke didn’t have any hits. Warwicke didn’t win any Grammys. The songwriting partnership of Bacharach and David split apart. Warwicke separated from and divorced her husband.
Dionne dropped the “e” and became Warwick again. Warwick returned to the top ten with “I’ll Never Love This Way Again,” which won her the Grammy for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, with its follow-up single, “Déjà Vu,” winning her the Grammy for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.
The lesson? Stay away from “e.” It’ll ruin your life.
Here is a playlist inspired by Warwick, who turns 73 today.