Category: adult contemporary

On this day in music history: May 20, 1978 – &…

On this day in music history: May 20, 1978 – “With A Little Luck” by Wings hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written and produced by Paul McCartney, it is the sixth solo chart topper for the former Beatle. In early 1977, Linda McCartney finds out that she is expecting her and Paul’s third child together (a son, named James Louis McCartney born on September 12, 1977). Inspired by the good news, McCartney writes “With A Little Luck” based on his feelings of happiness and optimism about the impending birth and their future. Deciding that a change of scenery is necessary when recording the follow up to their previous studio album “Wings At The Speed Of Sound”, the band take a working vacation, by living and recording on a yacht called the “Fair Carol” (equipped with a twenty-four track recording studio) moored off of the Virgin Islands in the Spring of 1977. Final overdubbing and mixing for the track is completed in London at Abbey Road and AIR Studios. Released as the first single from “London Town” (original working title “Water Wings”), it quickly becomes a hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #70 on March 25, 1978, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. Commercially sold copies of the 45 contain the full album version clocking in at 5:45, while promotional copies serviced to radio stations feature an edited version running 3:13. The short version is not issued on a commercial album, until the release of the compilation albums “All The Best!” in 1987 (US Version only) and “Wingspan” in 2001. “With A Little Luck” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 19, 1973 – &…

On this day in music history: May 19, 1973 – “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on April 28, 1973, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on May 5, 1973. Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, it is the third pop chart topper for the Motown superstar. Issued as the follow up to the chart topping “Superstition”, it is the second single from the album “Talking Book”. The track features singers Jim Gilstrap and Gloria Barley singing the songs first chorus before Stevie sings the first verse. The original LP and hit single mixes of the song differ, as the single version adds a horn section that not present on the original album version. Entering the Hot 100 at #76 on March 17, 1973, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The song quickly becomes a pop standard, being covered by numerous artists over the years including Frank Sinatra, Tony Bennett, Tom Jones, and Johnny Mathis to name a few. “Sunshine” also wins Stevie a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, one of four Grammy Awards he picks up in 1974. When accepting his award for the single, Wonder thanks the audience by saying “I would like to thank all of you for making this night the sunshine of my life!” Stevie Wonder’s version of “You Are The Sunshine Of My Life” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2002.

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On this day in music history: May 19, 1967 – &…

On this day in music history: May 19, 1967 – “Don’t Sleep In The Subway” by Petula Clark is released. Written by Jackie Trent and Tony Hatch, it is the twenty ninth single release for the pop vocalist and actress from Epsom, Surrey, UK. By 1967, Petula Clark has scored nearly a dozen top 40 pop hits in the US, since breaking through with the smash “Downtown”. With many of those songs being written by producer Tony Hatch, either alone or with his wife Jackie Trent, the prolific writing team have played a key role in Clark’s international chart success. The song that evolves into “Don’t Sleep In The Sleep In The Subway”, comes from three incomplete song fragments that Hatch has lying around. Putting the various parts together, the producer realizes he’s come up with something unique. The narrative of “Subway” follows a couple who are having difficulties and arguing frequently. The rows between the pair cause the man to retreat into his own world, while the woman urges him to make up with her, rather than taking off into the night. The chorus has been a source of mystery and confusion, with many wondering why the man would go to the subway, let alone sleep there. In the UK, the “subway” does not refer to a mode of public transportation as it does in the US. It is actually a series of underground passages in London, that allow pedestrians to avoid the traffic above ground. Though Hatch states later that he was referring to the subway in New York City. The the song title is inspired by the musical “Subways Are For Sleeping”, co-written by Broadway legend Jules Styne (“Gypsy”, “Funny Girl”, “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes”). While she too is unsure of its true meaning, Petula loves the melody, with its surprising key changes and tempo shifts. The song takes off quickly after its release. Entering the Billboard Hot 100 at #76 on June 3, 1967, it leaps up the chart, peaking at #5 five weeks later on July 8, 1967. The single also tops the Adult Contemporary chart for three weeks, beginning on July 15, 1967. It also receives a Grammy nomination for Best Contemporary Song in 1968, but loses the award to “Up, Up and Away”. Surprisingly, “Don’t Sleep In The Subway” is Petula Clark’s last top ten hit in the US, and also marks the beginning of her decline on the UK charts, when it stalls at #12. The song is widely covered by other artists including Frank Sinatra, Patti Page and Matt Monro. “Subway” also becomes the subject of a gag on Monty Python’s Flying Circus. The episode titled “Election Night Special”, features actor Michael Palin appearing as French historic figure Cardinal Richelieu, lip synching along with Clark’s version of the song. The song also later appears in an episode of the sitcom Malcolm In The Middle, when Lois (Jane Kaczmarek), blasts it out of a car radio.

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On this day in music history: May 17, 1986 – “…

On this day in music history: May 17, 1986 – “The Greatest Love Of All” by Whitney Houston hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 5 weeks on April 26, 1986, and peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on May 10, 1986. Written by Michael Masser and Linda Creed, the song is originally recorded by George Benson in 1977 for the Muhammad Ali biopic “The Greatest”. Famed Philly Soul lyricist Creed’s inspiration for writing the lyrics in part, come from her own struggle with breast cancer which she had recently been diagnosed when commissioned to write the song. Whitney Houston personally selects the song to record for her 1985 debut album, working with co-writer Masser who also produces the single. The original LP version is actually issued as the B-side of her first single “You Give Good Love”, but is remixed for single release (as an A-side) and is issued in March of 1986, quickly becoming Houston’s third pop chart topper. Sadly, songwriter Linda Creed loses her battle with breast cancer on April 10, 1986, just five weeks before the song tops the pop charts. She is only thirty six years old at the time. “The Greatest Love Of All” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 17, 1986 – &…

On this day in music history: May 17, 1986 – “On My Own” by Patti LaBelle & Michael McDonald hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 4 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 3 weeks on June 14, 1986. Written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager, it is the second solo chart topper for the veteran Philadelphia, PA born R&B vocalist, and the second chart topping for McDonald. Issued as the first single from the album “Winner In You”, LaBelle initially cuts the track twice with producer Richard Perry. When the results are disappointing, songwriters Bacharach and Sager offer to produce the song instead. They re-cut the track with a group of crack L.A. studio musicians that include pop music producers David Foster and Peter Wolf (synthesizers), Dann Huff (guitars), Neil Stubenhaus (bass), Greg Phillinganes (Yamaha DX-7 synthesizer), Carlos Vega (drums), Paulinho DaCosta (percussion) and Burt Bacharach himself (piano). LaBelle adds her vocals, but all agree that something is still missing. LaBelle invites singer Michael McDonald to add his vocals to the song, turning it into a duet. Besides recording their vocals at separate times, the two singers are also in different cities when the music video is filmed, pairing them together in split screen. In fact, the two vocalists do not actually meet each other in person until they perform the song live on The Tonight Show. “On My Own” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 15, 1982 – &…

On this day in music history: May 15, 1982 – “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle” by Deniece Williams hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #10 on the Hot 100 on June 12, 1982. Written by Teddy Randazzo, Bobby Weinstein and Lou Stallman, it is the second R&B chart topper for the Grammy Award winning songstress from Gary, IN. Co-written by New York based songwriter Teddy Randazzo (“Goin’ Out Of My Head”, “Hurt So Bad”), the song is originally written for Little Anthony & The Imperials, but instead is recorded by the female R&B vocal group The Royalettes when Randazzo is in a financial dispute with Don Costa Productions over royalty payments for the previous hits he has penned for Little Anthony. The Royalettes, who record for MGM Records have a minor hit (#28 R&B) with “Miracle” in 1965. Producer and arranger Thom Bell suggests to Williams that she record “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle”, while they are working their second album together. The track is cut at the famed Sigma Sound Studios in Philadelphia in late 1981, with musicians such as Bob Babbitt (bass, piccolo bass), Bobby Eli (guitar), Charles Collins (drums), and Larry Washington (percussion). Issued as a single in March of 1982, it quickly becomes a hit on R&B radio, and crosses over to the pop singles chart. The success of “It’s Gonna Take A Miracle” sends Williams’ accompanying album “Niecy” into the top five on the Billboard R&B album chart and the top twenty on the Top 200 in mid 1982.

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On this day in music history: May 15, 1982 – &…

On this day in music history: May 15, 1982 – “Ebony And Ivory” by Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Hot 100 for 7 weeks, topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 5 weeks on the same date, and peaking at #8 on the R&B singles chart on May 8, 1982. Written by Paul McCartney, it is the eighth solo chart topper for McCartney and the seventh for Wonder. Comedian Spike Milligan provides McCartney with the initial inspiration to write the song when he hears him say, “black notes, white notes, and you need to play the two to make harmony, folks!”. Taking the quote to heart, McCartney writes the song as a positive message of unity among all people. The first version of the song is a solo demo version, recorded by Paul alone in 1980. Feeling that it will work better as a duet, he immediately thinks of Stevie Wonder. A short time later, Stevie runs into Paul’s father in law Lee Eastman, who tells Stevie about the song Paul has written. Wonder asks that a copy of the demo be forwarded to him. He agrees to do the song, and the two superstar musicians meet in the studio in late February of 1981. Recording at AIR Studios on the Caribbean island of Montserrat, the pair record the basic tracks and vocals within a few days (February 26 – March 1, 1981) along with a second duet titled “What’s That You’re Doing?”. Released on March 29, 1982 as the first single from Paul McCartney’s “Tug Of War” album, the single is an immediate smash. The success of the song is additionally supported by a video (directed by longtime collaborator Keith McMillan) that features the pair playing and singing together, though due to scheduling conflicts, McCartney films his parts in London, while Wonder films his in Los Angeles, being brought seamlessly together through the then groundbreaking chroma-key video editing. Entering the Hot 100 at #29 on April 10, 1982, it rockets to the top of the chart five weeks later. The single receives three Grammy nominations including Record and Song Of The Year in 1983. The record marks the first time that any member of The Beatles appears on the Billboard R&B singles chart. At the time it is still on the charts, “Ebony And Ivory” is parodied in a Saturday Night Live sketch with Eddie Murphy as Stevie Wonder, performing the duet opposite Joe Piscopo as Frank Sinatra. Paul McCartney & Stevie Wonder perform the song live together in 2011 at the White House when McCartney receives the Gershwin Prize for his lifetime contributions to popular music from President Barack Obama. “Ebony And Ivory” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 14, 1990 – &…

On this day in music history: May 14, 1990 – “Circle Of One”, the third album by Oleta Adams is released. Produced by Roland Orzabal and David Bascombe, it is recorded at Real World Studios in Box, Wiltshire, UK from Late 1989 – Early 1990. It is the major label debut for the Seattle, WA born singer, songwriter and musician. Adams is discovered by Roland Orzabal and Curt Smith of Tears For Fears in 1985 while touring the US in support of their album “Songs From The Big Chair. On a tour stop in Kansas City, MO, they see her performing in the piano bar of the hotel they are staying at. Two years after they first meet, they invite her to participate in the sessions for their third album "The Seeds Of Love”, on which she sings co-lead vocals on the track “Woman In Chains”. The duo also help Adams secure a contract with their label Fontana Records. With Orzabal co-producing David Bascombe, they record Adams’ album at musician Peter Gabriel’s recording studio near Bath, UK. After getting off to a slow start, it eventually spins off three hit singles including her cover of Brenda Russell’s song “Get Here” (#5 US Pop, #8 R&B, #4 UK), which becomes hugely popular during the Gulf War crisis. “Circle Of One” hits number one on the UK album chart, peaking at number twenty on the Billboard Top 200, number eleven on the R&B album chart, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 14, 1987…

On this day in music history: May 14, 1987 – “Moonlighting (Theme)” by Al Jarreau is released. Written by Al Jarreau and Lee Holdridge, it is the twenty seventh single release for the jazz and pop vocalist from Milwaukee, WI. By the mid 80’s, singer Al Jarreau is the at the pinnacle of his career, successfully bridging the worlds of jazz, and expanding his reach to include R&B and pop music. In 1984, the singer is asked to co-write and sing the theme song for a new series, set to debut on ABC in early 1985. The series is the ground breaking comedy-drama “Moonlighting”, starring Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis as private detectives. Jarreau accepts the offer, writing the lyrics and melody for the theme song with veteran film score composer and arranger Lee Holdridge (Neil Diamond). When “Moonlighting” quickly becomes a hit, fans also become enamored of its theme song. Though at the time, no effort is made to release a longer version of Al Jarreau’s song, which is originally only one minute long. With “Miami Vice” reviving the long dormant genre of television soundtrack albums in late 1985, others begin to follow suit. With music being an integral part of its appeal, the producers of “Moonlighting” decide to also create a spin off soundtrack album. Needing to re-record the theme, Al Jarreau calls on one of the top producers in the business to assist him. Having produced Jarreau’s 1986 album “L Is For Lover”, former Chic guitarist Nile Rodgers produces the expanded version of the theme. The “Moonlighting (Theme)” peaks at #23 on the Billboard Hot 100 on July 18, 1987, at #32 on the R&B singles chart on August 1, 1986, and spending one week at #1 on the Adult Contemporary chart on July 25, 1987. It’s an even bigger hit overseas, peaking at #8 on the UK singles chart, becoming Jarreau’s third highest charting single in that country. The UK release is accompanied by an extended 12" single. The original version which includes a sax solo during the break, is later replaced on compilations by a mix that features a harmonica solo in its place. The singer receives a pair of Grammy nominations in 1988, for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Best Song Written Specifically For A Motion Picture or Television Program. However, the chart success of “Moonlighting” can’t prevent the show from going into a major decline. The downward slope is caused in part by squabbles between Cybill Shepherd and Bruce Willis, and by the sexual and romantic tension between the pairs on screen characters, being broken when they finally consummate their relationship. “Moonlighting (Theme)” marks the beginning of the end of Al Jarreau’s pop chart success, though he continues to enjoy a successful string of Grammy winning jazz vocal albums, until his passing in February of 2017.

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On this day in music history: May 14, 1984 – &…

On this day in music history: May 14, 1984 – “Chicago 17”, the seventeenth album by Chicago is released. Produced by David Foster, it is recorded at The Lighthouse in North Hollywood, CA, The Record Plant in Los Angeles, CA and Sunset Sound Studios in Hollywood, CA from Mid 1983 – Early 1984. Hitting the reset button on their career with “Chicago 16”, Chicago look to continue their new found success. Though the other band members are pleased with their renewed popularity, there also comes a dramatic shift in Chicago’s creative dynamic. With producer David Foster at the helm, greater focus is put on bassist and vocalist Peter Cetera and keyboardist and vocalist Bill Champlin. In their first era, Robert Lamm and James Pankow had a more dominant creative presence. They find their roles diminished further as Foster brings in additional musicians including Jeff Porcaro (Toto), John Robinson (Rufus), Carlos Vega (James Taylor) (drums), Paul Jackson, Jr., Michael Landau (guitars), and Paulinho Da Costa (percussion). Cetera dominates the album, vocally as well as co-writing five songs, with Lamm and Pankow co-writing one and two songs respectively. Though some long time fans are not happy with the decidedly slicker, more polished sound, it wins them a whole new fan base. “17” spins off four singles including “Stay The Night” (#16 Pop), “Hard Habit To Break” (#3 Pop and AC), “You’re The Inspiration” (#3 Pop, #1 AC) and “Along Comes A Woman” (#14 Pop, #25 AC). It is also released as a video album on laserdisc (two music videos, w/ the audio of the full album). Though it earns a pair of Grammy nominations and becomes Chicago’s biggest selling album, it also marks the end of Peter Cetera’s tenure in the band. The animosity created by Cetera becoming the public’s focus point, as well as taking more creative control, comes to a head in the Summer of 1985. He tells his band mates that he is not interesting in touring, but wants to record as a solo artist, and remain a member of Chicago. The other members flatly refuse, leading to Peter Cetera to quit after nearly eighteen years in the band. Sadly, the bad feelings between Cetera and his former band mates last to this day. The bassist refusing to perform at or attend the ceremony, when Chicago are finally inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in 2016. Their first album to be simultaneously released on CD along with the vinyl and cassette formats, it is remastered and reissued in 2006, with one additional bonus track. It is also released as a high resolution SHM-CD by WMG Japan in 2010, with Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab reissuing it as a 24K gold CD in 2011. Out of print on vinyl since 1989, it is reissued as a 180 gram LP by Friday Music. “Chicago 17” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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