Tuesday, May 22, 2012
Another great loss in the world of music as Robin Gibb, one third of the pop/rock act, The Bee Gees, has passed away on May 20th at the age of sixty-two. He had been struggling with colon and liver cancer over the past few years and died from complications.
Much like Donna Summer, Robin, with his brothers, Barry and his late twin, Maurice achieved their greatest success during the disco era as their music helped shape and define the sound. Their contributions to the soundtrack of the 1977 film, "Saturday Night Fever" created a frenzy that put people on the dance floor with such songs as "Stayin' Alive", "You Should be Dancing" and "Night Fever" The album would stay at number one on the U.S. chart for twenty-four straight weeks, five hit singles were released (with four making it to number one) and the soundtrack ultimately sold well over fifteen million copies across the globe.
Robin Gibb also released seven solo albums during his career and had several hit singles in Europe and Asia with his first in 1969, "Saved By The Bell" making it to number two on the U.K. pop chart. My thoughts and prayers go out to his family.
Here are two classic Bee Gees songs which featured Robin singing lead vocals:
"I Gotta Get A Message To You" - Bee Gees (1968)
"I Started A Joke" - Bee Gees (1968)
This a video clip of the brothers performing one of favorite songs from the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, "How Deep Is Your Love":
Saturday, May 19, 2012
The best way, I think, to remember and celebrate the life of Donna Summer is to enjoy a collection of some of her number one hits on the U.S. dance chart.
So, get up and dance:
"Love To Love You Baby" - Donna Summer (1975)
"MacArthur Park" - Donna Summer (1978)
"No More Tears (Enough is Enough)" - Donna Summer & Barbra Streisand (1979)
"Stamp Your Feet" - Donna Summer (2008)
"To Paris With Love" - Donna Summer (2010)
Thursday, May 17, 2012
It has been shaping up to be a terribly sad year for music as too many important and influential figures have passed away and today, we lost another great artist, the Queen of Disco, Donna Summer as she had been privately battling cancer.
Although she became best known as the face of disco music, Donna Summer had no interest in being boxed in that genre as she actively branched out to other musical styles such as rock, new-wave, inspirational and pop and with great success. The Queen won five Grammy Awards, had twenty singles reach the Billboard top-forty chart with an impressive fourteen reaching the top-ten and four making it to number one, an amazing sixteen number one songs on the U.S. Dance chart and she is ranked at number eight as one of the most successful female recording artists in history.
I am one of her biggest fans and I think she was an extraordinary talent who will always remain in our thoughts as her music will continue to live on.
Here are a few of my favorite songs by Donna Summer:
"I Feel Love" - Donna Summer (1977)
"Love Is In Control (Finger On The Trigger)" - Donna Summer (1982)
"If It Hurts Just A Little" - Donna Summer (1982)
"Melody Of Love (Wanna Be Loved)" - Donna Summer (1994)
This is a clip from her 1979 television special made during the height of her fame which features a creative take of her great song about L.A., "Sunset People":
Best known as a successful jazz guitarist at the beginning of his career, George Benson moved in to the spotlight in the mid-seventies after he signed with Warner Bros. Records. He released the album, "Breezin' " in 1976 that featured the single, "This Masquerade" with him providing vocals and it became his first commercial hit. The song reached number ten on the pop charts and won Benson the Grammy Award for Record Of The Year.
His biggest breakthrough came with the Quincy Jones produced 1980 album, "Give Me The Night". The title track became his highest charting single with it peaking at number four on the pop chart and number one on the r&b chart. The album sold over a million copies and won Benson three more Grammy Awards.
George Benson has recorded thirty-five studio albums to date, won a total of ten Grammy Awards and at the age of sixty-nine, still records and performs around the world.
Enjoy two of my favorite George Benson songs:
"Give Me The Night" - George Benson (1980)
"Turn Your Love Around" - George Benson (1981)
Monday, May 7, 2012
Cheryl "Coko" Clemons, Tamara "Taj" Johnson-George and Leanne "Leelee" Lyons were three friends who made up the r&b group, "Sisters With Voices" or as they were better known, SWV.
This trio was a fixture on the pop and r&b charts during the 1990's with such songs as "You're The One", "I'm So Into You", "Right Here (Human Nature)" and the number one smash, "Weak". By 1998, SWV decided to disband and pursue solo projects. The ladies came back together in 2005 but only to tour witn their greatest hits.
SWV has now finally released new music with a hot single, "Co-Sign" from their fourth studio album, "I Miss Us" out right now. I'm really digging this tune and I'm sure it will return the group to their rightful place back on the charts.
Have a listen:
"Co-Sign" - SWV (2012)
Here are the ladies performing in the music video for the classic tune, "I'm So Into You":
Thursday, May 3, 2012
I was very surprised to learn that one of the greatest soul vocalists of our time, Marvin Gaye had originally wanted to be a pop singer in the vein of Nat "King" Cole. Now, I don't doubt that he would have been brilliant but it would have been such a tragic loss. R&B was where his powerful talent was best served. The strikingly handsome Gaye brought his unique sense of style, class and sensuality to music that was exhilarating and impassioned. Marvin Gaye was an exceptionally gifted musician and entertainer that we lost much too soon
He was born Marvin Pentz Gay, Jr. in 1939 in the Washington D.C. area. He was the eldest child of four born to Marvin Gay Sr., a minister at the House Of God, a Hebrew-Pentecostal sect and Alberta Gay, a schoolteacher. Marvin's father was very strict, physically abusive and did not allow his children to listen to anything but gospel music.
This didn't stop Marvin Jr.'s love of music and he began playing drums and piano as a young child. By the time he reached high school, Marvin would run off regularly so he could attend r&b and doo-wop concerts. During this time, Marvin also joined several singing groups in the D.C. area. Finally fed up with his father's rules, Marvin enlisted in the U.S. Air Force with the hope of becoming a pilot. However, this was not a great environment for him either as he was tired of dealing with authority figures and Gaye wound up faking mental illness to get discharged.
In 1958, Marvin and his childhood friend, Reese Palmer formed their own vocal group, The Marquees with Chester Simmons and James Knowland. After being discovered by Bo Diddley, The Marquees were signed to Okeh Records. Their single was not a great success but it did capture the attention of Harvey Fuqua, the founder and co-lead vocalist of The Moonglows. They were a top act with several hit singles but broke-up due to friction between Fuqua and the other members of the group. Fuqua brought in The Marquees to become "The New Moonglows" and recorded several singles including "Mama Loocie" which featured the first lead vocal by Marvin Gaye. By 1960, Fuqua decided to disband The New Moonglows but kept Gaye by his side. Fuqua had begun a relationship with Gwen Gordy, a sister of Berry who had founded Motown Records. The couple soon married and formed two record labels, Harvey Records and Tri-Phi Records with Gaye being signed to this label.
Gaye released two singles, "Let Your Conscience Be Your Guide" and "Mr. Sandman" in 1961 before his debut solo album, "The Soulful Moods of Marvin Gaye". The collection was made up of mostly jazz with a couple of r&b songs but the album failed to generate any interest in the new artist. Despite this setback, Gaye kept busy playing drums on many of the recordings for other Motown artists as well as co-writing some songs including the hits, "Beechwood 4-5789" and "Dancing In The Streets".
Inspired by an argument with his then girlfriend, Anna Gordy (another sister of Berry) who he would later wed, Marvin wrote the song, "A Stubborn Kind of Fellow" and it became his first hit reaching number eight on the r&b chart and forty-six on the pop in 1963. The follow-up, "Hitch-Hike" was also a success and Gaye was on his way to becoming a major artist at Motown. He had a long string of hits including "Pride & Joy", "Can I Get a Witness", "Ain't That Peculiar", "How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved By You)" and his first number one song, "I Heard It Through The Grapevine". However, Gaye struggled with his fame as he still wanted a career more like Frank Sinatra or Nat "King" Cole and he had difficulty performing in front of an audience as he suffered from bouts of stage fright.
Your Precious Love", "You're All I Need To Get By" and "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" but the partnership came to a tragic end when Terrell, who had been complaining of headaches for weeks, collapsed in to Gaye's arms during a concert in 1967. She was later diagnosed with a brain tumor and died in 1970. Marvin never fully recovered from the loss and sank in to a deep depression with him canceling performances.
Marvin managed to later come out of the darkness to co-write the song, "What's Going On" which was inspired by the Vietnam War and the police brutality against the anti-war protesters. The problem was that Berry Gordy had no interest in releasing such a controversial song on Motown and felt it would harm Gaye's image. The song was eventually released in 1971 with little fanfare but it became a huge hit anyway with it topping the r&b chart for five weeks. An album was put together that dealt with the themes of drug abuse, poverty and pollution with "What's Going On" becoming one of the first concept albums in soul music and crossed over to rock fans. What the album also gave Gaye was creative control of his music which most artists at Motown did not have. He took advantage of his newly earned power and recorded a jazz album, an instrumental album and the soundtrack for the film, "Trouble Man" before recording the album, "Let's Get it On" in 1973. This album included some unused tracks from the "What's Going On" sessions with the title track, which started off as a religious song but evolved in to a song about sex, that went to number one on the pop and r&b charts.
I Want You" and "Got To Give it Up, Pt. 1". After Motown released "In Our Lifetime" in 1981, Gaye claimed the album was unfinished and was remixed without his permission. He refused to ever record on the label again and signed with Columbia Records with "Midnight Love" being the first album released in 1982. The first single, "Sexual Healing" became a world-wide smash, bringing Gaye back to the top of the charts and won him a Grammy Award for Best Male R&B Vocal Performance.
After touring to support the album, Marvin went to live with his parents to try and escape some of the pressures of the business. However, his behaviour had become more erratic due to his continued drug use and depression. On April 1, 1984, after Marvin tried to intervene an argument between his parents, Marvin Sr. fatally shot his son to death. Marvin Sr.was sentenced to five years probation after pleading guilty to voluntary manslaughter with the charges of first-degree murder dropped after it was revealed that Marvin had beaten his father prior to the shooting.
Marvin Gaye was married twice; First, to Anna Gordy, who was eighteen years older when they married in 1964. The marriage ended due to Gaye's affair with Janis Hunter, the seventeen year-old daughter of jazz artist, Slim Gaillard. They married in 1976 and had two children, Frankie and Nona but the couple split by 1979. Gaye also had a son, Marvin Pentz Gaye III by Denise Gordy, the niece of Anna who secretly had a child for the couple in 1965.
Here are some classic tracks by Marvin Gaye:
"I'll Be Doggone" - Marvin Gaye (1965)
"Ain't That Peculiar" - Marvin Gaye (1965)
"I Heard It Through The Grapevine" - Marvin Gaye (1968)
"Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)" - Marvin Gaye (1971)
"Inner City Blues (Makes Me Wanna Holler)" - Marvin Gaye (1971)
This is an early live performance by Marvin of "Can I Get A Witness" from the film, "The T.A.M.I. Show":
A cute promo clip of Marvin and Tammi performing the classic "Ain't No Mountain High Enough":
Here is Marvin performing his comeback song, "Sexual Healing" live at the 1983 Grammy Awards:
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