On this day in music history: November 17, 1979 – “Still” by The Commodores hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on November 24, 1979. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the second chart topping single for the R&B band from Tuskegee, AL. Riding a huge wave of success after scoring their first number one pop single with “Three Times A Lady” the year before, The Commodores re-enter the studio in the early part of 1979 to begin recording their seventh studio album. Once again, showing his gift for writing heartfelt and emotional ballads, Richie writes “Still” as a companion piece to “Sail On”, the first single from the bands’ “Midnight Magic” album. Just as “Sail On” is inspired by the break up of a close childhood friends’ marriage, “Still” deals the aftermath of that break up. The songs’ narrative finds the couple realizing that even though their romantic relationship has ended, that they remain bonded to each other as friends. It becomes an instant favorite at radio when stations begin playing the nearly six minute long album cut, with some making their own edits. Its popularity grows so quickly that Motown is forced to rush release it in mid September of 1979, as “Sail On” is still rising up the pop and R&B charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #68 on September 29, 1979, it races to the top of the chart seven weeks later. Both “Still” and “Sail On” both briefly reside in the Top 10 at the same time, with “Sail On” holding at its peak position of number four for a second week on October 20, 1979, while “Still” pole vaults from #38 to #10 that same week. “Still” is The Commodores fourth million selling single in the US.
On this day in music history: November 16, 1963 – “Deep Purple” by Nino Tempo & April Stevens hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Peter DeRose and Mitchell Parish, it is the biggest hit for the brother and sister vocal duo. Originally written as an instrumental in 1934 by DeRose, songwriter Mitchell Parish pens the lyrics for the song in 1938. Tempo & Stevens record it at the end of a recording session with just fourteen minutes of studio left in just two takes. When “Deep Purple” is handed into Atlantic Records, label co-founder Ahmet Ertegun refuses to release the track as a single, calling it “embarrassing”. The label puts out the duos’ song “Paradise” instead which immediately flops. After releasing the novelty tune “Baby Weemus” as its follow up, it also fails to chart. Tempo believes in the other songs’ hit potential so much, that he tells Atlantic if they don’t release “Deep Purple”, to let them out of their contract. Ertegun relents, and the song is issued Nino and April’s next single. Released on Atlantic’s Atco Records imprint in August of 1963, it takes off very quickly. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on September 14, 1963, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Deep Purple” wins the duo a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance in 1964. The hard rock band Deep Purple actually takes their name from the song, due in part to it being the favorite song of guitarist Ritchie Blackmore’s grandmother.
On this day in music history: November 15, 1980 – “Lady” by Kenny Rogers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 3 weeks on the same date, topping the Country singles chart for 1 week on November 22, 1980, and peaking at #42 on the R&B singles chart on December 20, 1980. Written and produced by Lionel Richie, is the first pop and eighth country chart topper for the country superstar. After a steady stream of hits on the country music charts, from 1977 to 1979, Kenny Rogers scores a string major crossover hits on the pop charts with “Lucille” (#5 Pop), “The Gambler” (#3 Pop), “She Believes In Me” (#5 Pop), and “You Decorated My Life” (#7 Pop). By the turn of the decade, he is a bonafide crossover star. His label Liberty Records will decide to compile a new hits compilation featuring three new songs in addition to nine previous hits. A fan of The Commodores recent hit “Sail On”, Rogers contacts Jobete Music, the publishing arm of Motown Records who put him in contact with Lionel Richie. Kenny asks Lionel if he will write and produce some new material for him, and Richie agrees to the project while The Commodores are on a brief hiatus from touring. Lionel presents the song “Lady”, which Rogers immediately loves. The pair go into the studio and cut “Lady” (arranged by Gene Page) and “Goin’ Back To Alabama” (the latter is featured on Rogers next studio album “Share Your Love” (featuring Michael Jackson on background vocals) in 1981) in one eight and a half hour session. Released as the first single from “Greatest Hits” in September of 1980, it is an immediate across the board smash, becoming the first single of the new decade to chart on the pop, country, AC and R&B charts simultaneously. On the US release of the single, some copies come with a picture sleeve featuring the same photo of Rogers used on the cover of his greatest hits album, with a smaller inset photo of his then wife Marianne. Entering the Hot 100 at #39 on October 4, 1980, it rockets to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Lady" also marks the beginning of Lionel Richie’s exodus from The Commodores into a hugely successful solo career. The huge success of the single drives sales of Rogers’ “Greatest Hits” album to 12x Platinum status in the US alone. “Lady” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 14, 1960 – “Georgia On My Mind” by Ray Charles hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Hoagy Carmichael and Stuart Gorrell, it is the first number one pop single for the musician dubbed “The Genius”. Famed musician and songwriter Carmichael writes “Georgia” in 1930, which becomes one of his best known and loved songs. Recorded at Capitol Studios in New York City on March 25, 1960, Charles’ version is released from his album “Genius Hits The Road” (his first for new label ABC-Paramount) in late August of 1960. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on October 3, 1960, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. In 1979, Charles’ version of the pop standard is declared the official song for the state of Georgia. Charles also receives a public apology from Georgia state officials after having been banned from performing in the state when he refused to perform to segregated audiences in 1964. Ray Charles’ recording of “Georgia On My Mind” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1993.
On this day in music history: November 13, 2000 – “Lovers Rock”, the fifth album by Sade is released. Produced by Sade and Mike Pela, it is recorded at Deliverance Studios, Sarm Hook End Studios in London and El Cortijo Studios in San Pedro de Alcántara, Spain from September 1999 – August 2000. Despite scoring yet another multi-Platinum selling album with “Love Deluxe” in 1992, it is one of only two times that Sade are heard from during the 90’s. After releasing their first greatest hits package in 1994, the band begin their longest hiatus from the public eye yet. After a turbulent marriage to Spanish director Carlos Pliego which ends in divorce in 1995, Sade Adu begins another relationship with music producer Bob Morgan, giving birth to a daughter named Mickailia (aka “IIa”) in 1996. Taking time off to raise her child, the band do not begin work on a new album until the Fall of 1999. Refreshed from their extended time apart, band members Stuart Matthewman, Paul Spencer Denman and Andrew Hale have been active in the interim, recording an album under the moniker Sweetback, and Matthewman co-producing R&B singer Maxwell’s first two albums. Once back together in the studio, the band decide to try a different creative approach from their signature sound. Sade move away from the full band arrangements of their previous albums, toward more spare and acoustic guitar driven tracks. Having spent much of the 90’s living in Jamaica to escape the European tabloid press, Adu is inspired and influenced by the sounds of the Caribbean. The title “Lovers Rock” comes from the sub genre of reggae music that is notable for its romantic and sensual vibe, that Sade listened to growing up. Her ups and downs relationship wise also figure significantly in the overall mood and feeling of the album, most notably on the first single “By Your Side” (#75 Pop, #18 AC), the follow up “King Of Sorrow” (#101 R&B) and “Somebody Already Broke My Heart”. Like their previous work, “Lovers Rock” receives a rapturous reception from fans when it is released in the Fall of the new millennium. In the US, the album is also issued with a bonus CD through big box chain store Target, featuring four previously unreleased live versions of “The Sweetest Taboo”, “Smooth Operator”, “Nothing Can Come Between Us” and “No Ordinary Love”, recorded during the Love Deluxe Tour. Sade also follow it with a world tour in 2001, which is then followed by a live concert video and album both titled “Lovers Live” released in 2002. “Lover’s Live” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200 and R&B album chart, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 13, 1971 – “Stones”, the seventh studio album by Neil Diamond is released. Produced by Tom Catalano, it is recorded at Sound Recorders in Los Angeles, CA from Spring – Summer 1971. The album features arrangements by Marty Paich and Lee Holdridge. Initial pressings of the LP feature custom picture labels on the record and a jacket with the artist’s name embossed on the front, and a button-string style closure on the back. Later pressings have a standard LP jacket with either regular Uni or MCA labels. It spins off two singles including “I Am… I Said” (#4 Pop), and the title track b/w “Crunchy Granola Suite” (#14 Pop). The album also wins a Grammy Award for Best Engineered Recording for Recording engineer Armin Steiner in 1973. “Stones” peaks at number eleven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 8, 1989 – “Back On The Block”, the twenty ninth album by Quincy Jones is released. Produced by Quincy Jones, it is recorded at Oceanway Record One, Lighthouse Studios and Westlake Audio in Los Angeles, CA, Digital Recorders in Nashville, TN and Tarpan Studios in San Rafael, CA from Early – Mid 1989. After spending much of the 80’s producing hit albums for Michael Jackson, Patti Austin and James Ingram as well as co-producing and writing the score for the Oscar nominated film “The Color Purple”, Quincy Jones sets his sights on delivering his first album for Warner Bros. Having established his own Qwest Records imprint through the label in 1980, owes his former label A&M Records one more album before his contract is fulfilled. That album is multi Grammy winner “The Dude”, released in March of 1981. However, the multitude of other projects Jones is busy with following it, keep him from recording another new album himself for many years. By 1988, Quincy begins pre-production on his long awaited studio album, also having formed a multi-media alliance with Warner Communications, which also includes developing film and television projects under Quincy Jones Productions. For his album, Jones enlists the assistance of songwriters Rod Temperton, Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard to write material for the project. “Back On The Block” also features a who’s who of musical talent including Ray Charles, Chaka Khan, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughn, Barry White, Grandmaster Melle Mel, Ice-T, Big Daddy Kane, James Ingram, El DeBarge and Take 6 are among the artists featured. The resulting album is an artistic and commercial triumph, spinning off three chart topping R&B singles including “I’ll Be Good To You”, “The Secret Garden” and “Tomorrow (A Better You, Better Me)”. The album sweeps the 33rd Annual Grammy Awards in 1991 winning in seven categories including Album Of The Year. Footage from the recording sessions is included in the documentary film “Listen Up: The Lives Of Quincy Jones”, released in 1990. “Back On The Block” spends twelve weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number nine on the Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 8, 1969 – “Wedding Bell Blues” by The 5th Dimension hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on November 1, 1969, and peaking at #23 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Laura Nyro, it is the second chart topping single for the pop and R&B vocal quintet from Los Angeles, CA. Having had hits previously with singer and songwriter Laura Nyro’s songs “Stoned Soul Picnic” and “Sweet Blindness”, producer Bones Howe selects another Nyro song for The 5th Dimension’s fourth album. “Wedding Bell Blues” is about a woman romantically involved with a man named Bill, who she is very much in love with, and trying to get to him to commit to marrying her. Laura Nyro writes the song in 1965 when she is only eighteen years old, recording it for her “More Than a New Discovery” album in 1966. Her version is issued as a single but is not a hit, Bubbling Under the Hot 100 at #103. When The 5th Dimension record their version, group members Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. are engaged to be married, but haven’t set a wedding date. Howe has them record the song as an in joke, but initially have no plans to release it as a single. The producer also has Marilyn McCoo sing lead for the first time on the song. With McCoo being very tentative and nervous, it takes numerous passes at the song to get the final performance down on tape. Once “The Age Of Aquarius” album is released in May of 1969, the title track (#1 Pop) and “Workin’ On A Groovy Thing” (#20 Pop) are the first two singles issued. It is only after a DJ in San Diego, CA gives “Wedding Bell Blues” heavy airplay as an album cut, that Liberty Records (the parent company of Soul City Records) is convinced to release it as a single in September of 1969. Entering the Hot 100 at #67 on September 27, 1969, it rockets to the top of the chart six weeks later. The huge popularity of “Wedding Bell Blues” seed Marilyn McCoo moving more to the forefront of the group, and later sings lead on other major hits including “One Less Bell To Answer” and “Last Night I Didn’t Get To Sleep At All”. Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis, Jr. are married on July 26, 1969, and almost fifty years later are still very happily married. “Wedding Bell Blues” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 6, 1982 – “Up Where We Belong” by Joe Cocker & Jennifer Warnes hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Adult Contemporary chart on October 30, 1982. Written by Jack Nitszche, Buffy Saint-Marie and Will Jennings, it is the biggest hit for the British born rock vocalist and American born pop vocalist. While director Taylor Hackford is working on his film “An Officer And A Gentleman”, he decides that it needs a song for the final scene when Richard Gere walks into the factory where his co-star (and love interest) Debra Winger is working, sweeping her off of her feet and carrying her out the door as the factory workers cheer them on. With the soundtrack consisting of pre existing songs by artists including Pat Benatar, Van Morrison and ZZ Top, there is little budget or time to come up with an original song to fit the bill. Lyricist Will Jennings is shown a rough cut of the end sequence on a Friday afternoon, inspiring him to begin writing lyrics. He uses parts of two instrumental pieces from composer and arranger Jack Nitszche’s and folk singer Buffy Sainte-Marie’s film score as the music to his words. By Monday, it is completed, and the search for a singer is on. The manager of pop singer Jennifer Warnes (“The Right Time Of The Night”, “It Goes Like It Goes”), suggests her to sing the song. Initially, the director rejects the idea, feeling that Warnes’ voice is “too sweet”. The manager also suggests the song could work as a duet, and he should ask Joe Cocker. In the interim, Hackford shows the film to Island Records founder Chris Blackwell, who agrees that Cocker is a great choice. The singer says yes to the duet, but is touring at the time. He flies to Los Angeles to record with Warnes, completing their vocals in just a few hours. Joe Cocker’s gruff rock and blue eyed soul voice combined with Warnes’ sweet and ethereal voice compliment each other perfectly, providing a brilliant musical contrast. Initially, the film’s co-producer Don Simpson, doesn’t feel that it’s a hit. He is overruled and the song it used in the film’s climactic scene. Released as a single in August of 1982, it is an instant smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on August 21, 1982, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. “Up Where We Belong” wins the Golden Globe and the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1983, with Joe Cocker And Jennifer Warnes winning a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance By Duo Or Group, also turning in a memorable performance of the song on the Grammy telecast. “Up Where We Belong” becomes an iconic song of the era, being used in several television programs including “The Simpsons” and “Family Guy”. “Up Where We Belong” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 5, 1988 – “Any Love” by Luther Vandross hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #44 on the Hot 100 on November 12, 1988. Written and produced by Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the New York City born singer, songwriter and producer. Taking brief hiatus after recording the album “Give Me The Reason”, followed by an extensive tour in support of it, Luther Vandross begins work on his sixth album in late 1987. The inspiration for what becomes the title track, is written during a period when the singer is feeling depressed about his personal life. Vandross collaborates with long time bassist Marcus Miller on the song, with Miller coming up with the chord changes and the songs distinctive rhythm pattern, to which Luther composes the melody and lyrics. Considered to be one of Vandross’ most personal and autobiographical songs, it reflects on him feeling fortunate at having achieved his dreams of fame and success, yet yearning for someone to share them with, which has proved elusive. “Any Love” quickly becomes a fan favorite and a highlight of his live concert performances. The song earns Vandross and Miller a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Song in 1989. The chart topping success of the title track helps the accompanying album to become Vandross’ first to reach the top 10 on the Billboard Top 200 (peaking at number nine), as well as sending it to the top of the Billboard R&B album chart for two weeks on November 26, 1988.