On this day in music history: May 20, 1967 – “Groovin’” by The Young Rascals hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks (non-consecutive), also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Felix Cavaliere and Eddie Brigati, it is the second chart topping single for the New York City based blue eyed soul/pop rock quartet. For the bands sixth single release, they venture into new musical territory. Taking an interest in Afro-Cuban music, keyboardist and lead vocalist Felix Cavaliere along with percussionist Eddie Brigati come up with a leisurely paced groove with that sound in mind, and begin crafting a song around it. Lyrically, it is about how the only time the two busy musicians could spend with their respective girlfriends were on Sundays. When they get into the studio to cut the track, they enlist the assistance of veteran studio bassist Chuck Rainey to play on the song. Once it’s completed, the band present the song to Atlantic Records, who at first are unsure of the songs commercial potential. Famed New York DJ Murray “The K”, convinces the label to release song after he expresses his enthusiasm for it. Released on April 10, 1967, it is an instant smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #79 on April 22, 1967, it rockets to the top of the chart just four weeks later. “Groovin’” proves to have major staying power once it reaches the summit. After two weeks at the top, it is bumped from the number one spot by Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” for two weeks, then it returns to the top for an additional two weeks. The B-side of “Groovin” titled “Sueño”, is later sampled by A Tribe Called Quest, on the intro of their single ‘I Left My Wallet In El Segundo" in 1990. “Groovin’” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 19, 1992 – “Revenge”, the sixteenth studio album by KISS is released. Producer by Bob Ezrin, it is recorded at Rumbo Recorders in Canoga Park, CA, Track Records in North Hollywood, CA, Cornerstone Recorders in Chatsworth, CA, The Enterprise Studios in Burbank, CA, Acme Recording Studios in New York City, Ocean Way Recording and A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from February 1991 – March 1992. Reuniting with veteran producer Bob Ezrin for the first time in ten years (since “Music From The Elder”), the first track KISS record with him is a cover of Argent’s “God Gave Rock & Roll To You” for the soundtrack of the film “Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey”. The album also introduces new drummer Eric Singer to the band, replacing Eric Carr who passes away in November of 1991. It spins off five rock radio hits including “Unholy” and “Domino”, becoming the bands’ first US top 10 album since “Dynasty” thirteen years before. Issued briefly on vinyl during its initial release in 1992, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP in 2014. “Revenge” peaks at number six on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 19, 1990 – “Vogue” by Madonna hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on the same date. Written and produced by Madonna and Shep Pettibone, it is the eighth chart topping single for the pop music superstar born Madonna Louise Veronica Ciccone. Collaborating with club DJ, remixer, and producer Shep Pettibone, Madonna decide to come up with a non-album B-side for the “Like A Prayer” albums’ fifth single “Keep It Together”. The singer is inspired by dancers she sees at the New York City club The Sound Factory doing a stylized dance called “voguing”. Originating in New York’s black and latino underground gay clubs and drag balls as early as the 1960’s, the dance takes its name from the fashion magazine “Vogue”, with the dance being a series of “angular, rigid hand, arm, leg and body movements” designed to look like the person is posing like a model while they are moving. When Madonna lets Warner Bros. know of her original intent to the use the song as a B-side, their great enthusiasm for the track persuade her to release it an A-side instead. “Vogue” is also added to the album “I’m Breathless” which includes songs from the film “Dick Tracy” in which she plays the character Breathless Mahoney. The songs popularity is further heightened by a memorable and striking black and white video directed by David Fincher (“Fight Club”, “Se7en”), featuring several of the dancers Madonna originally sees performing the dance, becoming dancers on the “Blonde Ambition Tour” in 1990. Entering the Hot 100 at #39 on April 14, 1990, it leaps to the top of the chart five weeks later. In 2010, “Vogue” is featured in “The Power Of Madonna” episode of the television show “Glee”, when the song is used in a spoof of the music video performed by actress Jane Lynch. The same year, Madonna and co-writer/producer Shep Pettibone are sued by Salsoul Records, claiming that “Vogue” samples a portion of The Salsoul Orchestra’s disco classic “Love Break”. The court eventually settles the lawsuit in Madonna’s favor. As a result of the suit, Warner Bros stops publishing royalty payments to Pettibone, who files suit against WB Music and Warner/Chappell Music in April of 2017, claiming that he is owed more than $500,000 in back royalties. To date, the suit is still pending. “Vogue” is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
Muhammad Ali and Malcolm X at the United Nations on March 4, 1964.
Malcolm X arranged for Ali (then Cassius X) to meet with diplomats from Africa and Asia at the United Nations.
Sports writer Murray Robinson noted in the New York Journal American that Malcolm X intended to “make the heavyweight champion an international political figure.” Malcolm and Ali made plans to tour Africa together. Days later on March 6, Elijah Muhammad gave Cassius the name Muhammad Ali and forbade all members to communicate with Malcolm after he was ostracized from the Nation of Islam.
A few months later in May 1964, Muhammad Ali had a chance meeting in Ghana, with his former friend and mentor Malcolm X but he turned his back on him.
“Turning my back on Malcolm,” wrote Ali in his 2004 autobiography The Soul of a Butterfly, “was one of the mistakes that I regret most in my life. I wish I’d been able to tell Malcolm I was sorry, that he was right about so many things. But he was killed before I got the chance… Malcolm was the first to discover the truth, that color doesn’t make you a devil. It is the heart, soul, and mind that define a person. Malcolm was a great thinker and an even greater friend. I might never have become a Muslim if it hadn’t been for Malcolm. If I could go back and do it over again, I would never have turned my back on him.”
On this day in music history: May 19, 1986 – “So”, the fifth studio album by Peter Gabriel is released. Produced by Daniel Lanois and Peter Gabriel, it is recorded at Ashcombe Studios, near Bath, England from May 1985 – March 1986. It is Gabriel’s second collaboration with producer Lanois (having worked together on the “Birdy” Soundtrack in 1984), the songs are a mixture of his more experimental progressive rock sounds and world music combined with more radio friendly, pop oriented material. The results will yield his biggest selling album, spinning off five singles including “Sledgehammer” (#1 US Pop, #4 UK), “Big Time” (#8 US Pop, #13 UK), and “In Your Eyes” (#26 US Pop). The albums cover artwork is designed by graphic artist Peter Saville (New Order, Factory Records), and is the first to feature a clear photo of Gabriel on the front. It is also the first of his solo albums to bear a proper title, which he comes up with off the cuff, liking its simplicity and the fact that it had no specific meaning. In 1989, “In Your Eyes” is prominently featured in the Cameron Crowe written and directed film “Say Anything”, in a highly memorable scene featuring actor John Cusack, blasting song on a boombox outside his girlfriend’s (Ione Skye) window. The songs exposure in the film and soundtrack album, leads to it being re-released and charting a second time, peaking at #41 on the Hot 100 in July of 1989. In 2012, a three CD reissue to commemorate the album’s twenty fifth anniversary is released, containing a remastered version of the original album and a live concert recorded in Athens, Greece in 1987 during the “So World Tour”. A further box set edition is also released including the aforementioned contents along with a disc of demo recordings, two DVD’s including the Athens concert, the Classic Albums documentary on the making of the album, a remastered vinyl pressing of the LP, and a vinyl 12" single including two unreleased tracks and an alternate piano version of “Don’t Give Up”. “So” hits number one on the UK album album chart, peaking at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 19, 1980 – “Fame – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released. Produced by Michael Gore, it is recorded at Media Sound Studios, C.I. Recording Studios, A&R Recording Studios and Columbia 30th Street Studios in New York City from April – May 1979. Issued as the soundtrack to the Alan Parker directed film about students attending the New York High School of Performing Arts, it stars Irene Cara, Gene Anthony Ray, Lee Curreri, Barry Miller, Maureen Teefy and Paul McCrane. Parker approaches Giorgio Moroder who had won an Oscar for composing the score to his film “Midnight Express”, to work on “Fame”. Moroder declines as he is busy working with Donna Summer. The director also asks Jeff Lynne of ELO who also busy. Ultimately musician Michael Gore is hired, who co-writes six of the soundtrack albums nine songs. The music is recorded prior to the start of filming in July of 1979. Three of the songs are performed by Irene Cara. The title track (#4 Pop, #1 Club Play) is co-written by Gore and Dean Pitchford, featuring a group of backing vocalists that includes Luther Vandross who is also credited as a vocal arranger on the track. The song is the albums’ break out single when it is released in early June of 1980, becoming a pop radio and club smash. “Fame” also earns Gore and Pitchford the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1981. The follow up single, the ballad “Out Here On My Own” (#19 Pop, #20 AC) also sung by Cara is co-written by Gore along with his sister pop vocalist Lesley Gore, also earning an Oscar nomination. It marks the first time in history that two songs from the same film are nominated in the same category. Paul McCrane (Montgomery MacNeil) performs “Dogs In The Yard” and “Is It Okay If I Call You Mine?”, the latter of which is written by him. “Red Light” (#1 Club Play, #41 Pop, #40 R&B) performed by Linda Clifford is another stand out, featured in a memorable scene early in the film. Like the film itself, the soundtrack becomes a major success, and a pop cultural phenomenon at a time when film musical are considered well past their prime. It launches Irene Cara’s career as a recording artist, having performed on the Broadway stage, on television and film since childhood. The film is spun off into the successful TV series of the same name in 1982, running for six seasons. The title track and soundtrack become belated hits in the UK two years after the films release, when both are reissued after the debut of the series. Both top the UK singles and album charts in July of 1982, with the album being succeeded at number one by “The Kids From Fame” album. Originally released on CD in 1990, the original soundtrack is remastered and reissued in 2003, including three bonus tracks not on the original album. “Fame – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” peaks at number seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 19, 1975 – “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy”, the ninth studio album by Elton John is released. Produced by Gus Dudgeon, it is recorded at the Caribou Ranch in Nederland, CO from June – July 1974. After the successful “Caribou” album, the prolific musician returns to the Caribou Ranch recording studio in the Colorado Rockies to record his next release. The concept album is an autobiographical account of Elton John and Bernie Taupin and the struggles they faced at the beginning of their musical careers. The single “Someone Saved My Life Tonight” (#4 Pop), is about John’s half hearted suicide attempt while he’s engaged to a woman, faced with choosing her over his music career (and still struggling with his sexual orientation at the time). His friend and former band mate Long John Baldry convinces him to break off the engagement (whom John’s refers to in the song as “Sugar Bear”). The album also marks the last time that John records with drummer Nigel Olsson and bassist Dee Murray until the “Too Low For Zero” album in 1983. “Captain Fantastic makes history when it becomes the first album to ever enter the Billboard Top 200 at number one. For the original LP release, a limited number of promotional copies are pressed on translucent brown vinyl, with each album jacket autographed by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1995 with the stand alone singles “Philadelphia Freedom” (#1 Pop), “Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds” (#1 Pop), and Elton’s cover of the John Lennon penned “One Day A Time” (B-side of “Lucy”), added as bonus tracks. Out of print on vinyl since 1989, the album is remastered and reissued in 2017. “Captain Fantastic And The Brown Dirt Cowboy” spends seven weeks (non-consecutive) at number one on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.