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, 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 12, 1983 – “All Night Long (All Night)” by Lionel Richie hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 7 weeks on October 22, 1983, and also tops the Adult Contemporary chart for 4 weeks on November 12, 1983. Written by Lionel Richie, it is the third solo number one single for the former member of The Commodores. While writing songs for his second solo album, Lionel Richie pulls the material from a variety of sources. Some songs like the chart topping “Hello”, is written during the recording of his first album in 1982, but is set aside. The idea for what becomes “All Night Long” starts off quickly, before hitting a roadblock. The verses, bridge and melody come to him while on trips that he takes to the Caribbean. The song’s chorus and title take much longer to develop. In all, Lionel spends over two months working on the song before its complete. Adding to the song’s multicultural vibe, are the words “Karamu”, a Swahili word for a party that is usually accompanied by a feast. “Liming”, a word originating in the Caribbean meaning “to get together” and “Fiesta”, the Spanish word for “party” or “celebration”. Another one of the songs hooks “Tambo liteh sette mo-jah! Yo! Jambo jambo”, comes after Richie contacts an African delegate at UN, asking them for an African phrase that is in spirit of the other words he’s used. The delegate gives him those words. Then finally before going into the studio to record the song, Lionel consults his wife Brenda’s gynecologist who is Jamaican, to ask him if he is pronouncing the Caribbean words correctly. When the doctor gives him the thumbs up on his pronunciation, Richie goes ahead and completes his vocals on the track. Issued as the first single from “Can’t Slow Down” in early September of 1983, the song is one of the last tracks completed for the album. The music video is directed by Bob Rafelson (The Monkees TV series, Head, Five Easy Pieces) and is produced by former Monkee Mike Nesmith’s production company Pacific Arts. Entering the Hot 100 at #62 on September 17, 1983, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. In the Summer of 1984, Richie performs a specially re-written version of “All Night Long” during the closing ceremonies of the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, CA. Richie re-records “All Night Long” with Jimmy Buffett And The Coral Reefer Band for his covers album “Tuskegee” released in March of 2012. “All Night Long (All Night)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 12, 1966 – “Poor Side Of Town” by Johnny Rivers hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Johnny Rivers and Lou Adler, it is the biggest hit for the New York born singer, songwriter and producer. Recorded at Western Recorders in Hollywood, CA with members of The Wrecking Crew, the track is arranged by Marty Paich (father of Toto keyboardist David Paich), and features background vocals by Darlene Love & The Blossoms. Known for mostly covering songs by other artists, it is both Rivers’ biggest hit (also his fifth Top 10 pop single) and the only major hit he has that is written by him. Initially nervous about releasing the song, Rivers fears are unfounded when it quickly becomes a hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #90 on September 17, 1966, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “Poor Side Of Town” also tops the pop singles chart in Canada on November 21, 1966. “Poor Side Of Town” marks a major shift in musical styles for Johnny Rivers, changing up from the more uptempo “go-go beat” feel of his past hits like “Memphis”, “Mountain Of Love” and “Secret Agent Man”, toward more soulful and mellower fare like his covers of the Motown classics “Baby I Need Your Lovin’”, “The Tracks Of My Tears” and “Summer Rain”.
On this day in music history: November 10, 1980 – “The Jazz Singer – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released. Produced by Bob Gaudio, it is recorded at Arch Angel Studios, The Record Plant Mobile 3, Dawnbreaker Studios in Los Angeles, CA, Sunset Sound and Cherokee Studios in Hollywood, CA from Mid 1979 – Early 1980. Issued as the soundtrack to the film starring Neil Diamond and Laurence Olivier, it is a contemporary remake of the 1927 film starring Al Jolson, the first motion picture to feature a synchronized soundtrack. While the film receives mixed reviews and tepid box office returns, like Diamond’s soundtrack for the ill-fated “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”, the album is a huge success. It spins off three singles including “Love On The Rocks” (#2 Pop), “America” (#8 Pop) and “Hello Again” (#6 Pop), becoming Neil Diamond’s biggest selling album. Originally released by Capitol Records in 1980, the rights to the soundtrack album revert to Diamond’s long time record label Columbia Records in 1996, when it is remastered and reissued on CD. Out of print on vinyl since the late 80’s, it is remastered and reissued as a limited 180 gram LP by Capitol Records in 2017, both to commemorate Neil Diamond’s 50th anniversary as a recording artist, and the 75th anniversary of Capitol Records. “The Jazz Singer – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” peaks at number three on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 5x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 8, 1986 – “Amanda” by Boston hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written and produced by Tom Scholz, it is the biggest hit for the rock band from Boston, MA. Following the release of Boston’s multi-Platinum selling sophomore album “Don’t Look Back” in 1978, little does anyone realize that it is the last time fans see any new music from the band for nearly a decade. Having been pressured by Epic Records to deliver that second album before it was technically finished, band leader Tom Scholz vows to never allow that to happen again. So when he begins work on the third Boston album, Scholz decides that it will not be handed into the record label until it meets his standards of perfection. When Epic becomes aware of this, they respond by cutting off royalty payments for Boston’s two albums and file a breach of contract suit against the band. CBS believes this will make Scholz capitulate, and finish the album quickly. Instead, he counter sues CBS/Epic and with the income he earns, from having invented The Rockman headphone amplifier and other guitar amp devices. It gives him the income to fight the label in court, and continue to write and record new music. Among the first songs written for what becomes the album “Third Stage” is the power ballad “Amanda”. Written circa 1980 and featuring lead singer Brad Delp’s powerful vocals, the song from the outset is a major contender for the album. In 1984, an early demo of the song is somehow leaked from Scholz’s home studio and makes its way on to radio. It quickly becomes a top request on the stations that air it, but is off the radio just as fast when Tom Scholz issues cease and desist letters. Once “Third Stage” is completed in early 1986, “Amanda” is chosen as the first single from the album, after the band are signed to MCA Records. Released in early September of 1986, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #51 on September 27, 1986, even without the benefit of a music video to promote it, the single rockets to the top of the chart six weeks later. The huge success of “Amanda” helps to propel “Third Stage” right to number one on the Billboard Top 200, eventually being certified 4x Platinum in the US.
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 7, 1972 – “The Divine Miss M”, the debut album by Bette Midler is released. Produced by Ahmet Ertegun, Barry Manilow, Joel Dorn and Geoffrey Haslam, it is recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City from Late 1971 – Mid 1972. Born and raised in Honolulu, HI, Bette Midler moves to New York City in 1965 to pursue an acting career. She gets her first major break, playing Tzeitel in the stage production of the musical “Fiddler On The Roof”. In 1969, she works up a cabaret act, with a then unknown Barry Manilow as her pianist and musical director. Bette performs at the Continental Baths, located in the basement of the Ansonia Hotel. While performing at the bathhouse, she builds a solid following among its mostly gay male clientele. Midler’s nightly performances become so popular, that she begins to draw celebrities to the hotel. During this time, she is seen by a talent agent and is booked to appear on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson. The talk show host is immediately taken with the brassy and charming performer. The endorsement from Carson leads to Atlantic Records signing Bette in 1971. Midler’s debut album “The Divine Miss M” features numerous songs that are staples of her live cabaret act. With Barrry Manilow handling arrangements and co-producing, Bette is backed in the studio with an ace crew of musicians and backing vocalists that include Ron Carter, Milton Hinton, David Spinozza, Ray Lucas, Dick Hyman, Ralph MacDonald, Cissy Houston and Melissa Manchester. The album’s first single is a sultry cover of Bobby Freeman’s 50’s classic “Do You Want To Dance?” (#17 Pop, #8 AC). The follow up is a cover of The Andrew Sisters’ “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy” (#8 Pop, #1 AC), which lands the singer her first top ten pop hit. The third and final single is “Friends” (#40 Pop, #9 AC), which becomes one of Bette Midler’s signature songs. The album’s now iconic cover artwork features an illustrated portrait of the singer by artist Richard Amsel. The success of “The Divine Miss M” establishes Midler as a hit recording artist, winning her a Grammy Award for Best New Artist in 1974. In later years, the deep cut “Daytime Hustler” becomes an unlikely Hip Hop crate staple. Its breakdown is sampled on Young MC’s smash “Bust A Move”. Also, Bette’s cover of “Do You Want To Dance?” becomes the subject of a lawsuit, when the Ford Motor Company uses a sound alike vocalist in a TV commercial. The suit is settled out of court for an undisclosed sum. Reissued numerous times over the years on CD and vinyl, it is most recently remastered and reissued in 2016, as a two CD deluxe edition and a limited edition vinyl LP exclusive through retailer Barnes & Noble. “The Divine Miss M” peaks at number nine on the Billboard Top 200, and 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. The duo also turn 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 – “Kokomo” by The Beach Boys hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Mike Love, Terry Melcher, John Phillips and Scott MacKenzie it is the fourth chart topping single for the legendary pop band from Hawthorne. CA. Though still drawing big crowds as a live act, by the late 80’s, many believe that The Beach Boys years as hit makers are long behind them. In 1987, The Beach Boys are working with producer Terry Melcher. The son of actress Doris Day, Melcher has produced hits for The Byrds, Paul Revere & The Raiders, and was one half of the duos Bruce & Terry and The Rip Chords, the latter scoring a top five hit with the hot rod classic “Hey Little Cobra” (#4 Pop). While working with Melcher, the band are contacted by the VP Of Music for Touchstone/Walt Disney Pictures to use some of their music for an upcoming film. The film is “Cocktail” starring Tom Cruise. The Beach Boys are commissioned to come up with a brand new song. Melcher calls his old friend, John Phillips (The Mamas & The Papas) and asks if he has any songs that might be suitable for The Beach Boys. Phillips comes up with a demo called “Kokomo” that he has co-written with his former Journeymen band mate Scott MacKenzie (“San Francisco (Be Sure To Wear Flowers In Your Hair”)). “Kokomo” is originally recorded as a duet between MacKenzie and former Mamas & Papas’ lead vocalist Denny Doherty. Their version goes unreleased (until 2010). Lead singer Mike Love and Terry re-write some of the lyrics to better suit the songs’ inclusion in the film. Recording their own demo, Touchstone gives the Beach Boys the green light to record a final version. The master version of “Kokomo” features numerous studio veterans playing on the track including Jim Keltner (drums), Jeff Foskett (acoustic guitar), Rod Clark (bass) Joel Peskin (saxophone) and slide guitar great Ry Cooder. Initially, executives at Elektra Records (the soundtrack albums’ distributor) is not keen on releasing “Kokomo” as a single, believing that Top 40 pop radio won’t play it. It’s first serviced to AC radio stations where it receives a strong positive response from listeners. From there, Elektra releases it as a single in August of 1988, and works it at CHR (Contemporary Hit Radio). Entering the Hot 100 at #96 on September 3, 1988, it races to the top of the chart nine weeks later. “Kokomo” becomes the second chart topping single from the “Cocktail” Soundtrack after Bobby McFerrin’s “Don’t Worry, Be Happy”, propelling the album to #2 on the Top 200, and to quadruple Platinum status in the US. At the time, it gives The Beach Boys the longest span between their first and last number one hits in Billboard chart history, of twenty four years and four months between “I Get Around” and “Kokomo” topping the charts. “Kokomo” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.