Category: r&b

On this day in music history: May 21, 1983 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1983 – “Let’s Dance” by David Bowie hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on April 30, 1983, and peaking at #14 on the R&B singles chart on May 28, 1983. Written by David Bowie, it is the second US chart topper for the British rock icon. Newly signed to a worldwide record deal with EMI Records in 1982 worth over $10 million, David Bowie collaborates with musician Nile Rodgers of Chic on his first album with the label. Before the recording sessions begin, Bowie plays Rodgers a number of new songs he has written including one titled “Let’s Dance”. Originally written on a 12-string acoustic guitar, Bowie’s original arrangement bares almost no resemblance to what it becomes. Rodgers takes the folk-rock acoustic based song, and transforms it into a funky, uptempo dance rock song. Recorded at The Power Station in New York City in December of 1982, “Let’s Dance” along with the rest of the accompanying album is recorded in under three weeks. “Dance” features most of the core rhythm section of Chic including Tony Thompson (drums), Rob Sabino (keyboards), Sammy Figueroa (percussion) and Rodgers himself (guitar) as well as Carmine Rojas (bass), and a then little known blues guitarist named Stevie Ray Vaughan providing the stinging lead guitar on the track. The title track from David Bowie’s fifteenth studio album, it is released in March of 1983 and is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #59 on March 26, 1983, it  climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The single also tops the chart in the UK, becoming his third chart topper in his home country. “Dance” not only become Bowie’s biggest single and album, but also introduces him to a new audience, winning him a new generation of fans. The song is accompanied by a music video directed by long time collaborator David Mallet, shot in Sydney, Australia in early 1983. To commemorate the thirty fifth anniversary, the original demo recording of “Let’s Dance” is released digitally on January 8, 2018, Bowie’s 71st birthday. The complete version along with a live recording from the “Serious Moonlight Tour”, is released as a limited edition 12" single for Record Store Day on April 21, 2018. “Let’s Dance” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1982 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1982 – “Jeffrey Osborne”, the debut solo album by Jeffrey Osborne is released. Produced by George Duke, it is recorded at Le Gonks West Studios in West Hollywood, CA, Westlake Audio in Los Angeles, CA, A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA, George Massenburg Studios in West Los Angeles, CA and Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA from November 1981 – March 1982. After spending ten years as the drummer, then lead singer of R&B/Funk band L.T.D., Jeffrey Osborne leaves the band in late 1980 for a solo career. Remaining with A&M Records, the singer takes his time selecting the right producer for his first solo album. Osborne chooses to work with musician George Duke, who surrounds the singer with an exemplary group of the best studio musicians in L.A. including Brothers Johnson bassist Louis Johnson, former Average White Band drummer Steve Ferrone, Larry Graham, Abraham Laboriel (bass), David T. Walker, Charles Fearing, Michael Sembello (guitar), George Duke, John Barnes (keyboards), Jerry Hey, Gary Grant, Lou McCreary, Larry Williams (horns), Lynn Davis (background vocals) and Paulinho Da Costa (percussion). Osborne also writes or co-writes eight of the albums ten songs. The sessions are highly productive, marking the beginning of a successful collaboration between Jeffrey Osborne and George Duke, which lasts over the course of four albums. Osborne’s debut release spins off three singles including “I Really Don’t Need No Light” (#3 R&B, #39 Pop), “On The Wings Of Love” (#13 R&B, #29 Pop) and “Eenie Meenie” (#76 Pop). “Jeffrey Osborne” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number forty nine on the Top 200.

Born on this day: May 21, 1941 – Isley Brother…

Born on this day: May 21, 1941 – Isley Brothers lead vocalist Ronald Isley (born in Cincinnati, OH). Happy 78th Birthday, Ron (aka Mr. Biggs 😀 )!!

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on May 28, 1977. Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, it is fifth pop and thirteenth R&B chart topper for the twenty two time Grammy award winning singer, songwriter and musician. The song is written in tribute to legendary composer, arranger and bandleader Duke Ellington. Having been an influence on Wonder as a musician, he feels compelled to acknowledge Ellington who had passed away in May of 1974 at the age of 75. Stevie also name checks many other important jazz and swing music pioneers in the song including Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. The track features Wonder (keyboards) with members of his band Wonderlove including Nathan Watts (bass), Michael Sembello and Ben Bridges (lead and rhythm guitars), Hank Redd (alto sax), Trevor Laurence (tenor sax), Raymond Maldonado, Steve Madaio (trumpets) and Raymond Pounds (drums). Issued as the second single from the landmark “Songs In The Key of Life” album on March 22, 1977, “Sir Duke” follows its predecessor “I Wish” to the top of the pop and R&B singles charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #74 on April 2, 1977, it  climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The success of “Sir Duke” propels “Songs In The Key Of Life” to 10x Platinum status in the US.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – “…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – “Whodunit” by Tavares hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #22 on the Hot 100 on June 4, 1977. Written by Keni St. Lewis and Freddie Perren, it is the third and final R&B chart topper for the family vocal quintet from New Bedford, MA. Former Motown staff songwriter St. Lewis (also co-writer of “Boogie Fever” and “Farewell My Summer Love”), both fans of detective stories comes up with the concept for the song, name checking famous private eyes such as Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, Ironside and Ellery Queen to name a few. The track features such top flight studio musicians as James Gadson (drums), Scott Edwards (bass), Bob Bowles (guitar), John Barnes and Sonny Burke (keyboards) and Paulinho DaCosta (congas). Released as the first single from Tavares’ fifth album “Love Storm” in March of 1977, it quickly becomes an R&B smash. Though the group continues to have regular chart success on the R&B charts, “Whodunit” is one of the last three Top 40 pop hits Tavares has. They are only able place in the upper half of the Hot 100 with “More Than A Woman” (#32 Pop, #36 R&B) also included on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack and “Penny For Your Thoughts” (#33 Pop, #16 R&B) after moving to RCA Records in 1982.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1971 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1971 – “What’s Going On”, the eleventh studio album by Marvin Gaye is released. Produced by Marvin Gaye, it is recorded at Motown Studio A, Golden World Studios (Motown Studio B), United Sound Studios in Detroit, MI and the Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA from June 1970, March – May 1971. A concept album focusing on the subjects of poverty, drug abuse, and war, its messages immediately resonate with the public. Following the huge success of the title track as a single, Motown demands a full album to go with it ASAP. Recording with Motown’s studio band The Funk Brothers, the basic tracks and vocals for the album is recorded in only ten days of studio time. The initial version of the album, now known as the “Detroit Mix” is mixed by Motown engineers while Gaye is off in California filming a movie. After hearing the initial mix, Gaye orders them shelved and send for the tapes while in California. He adds additional overdubs to several tracks, and completely remixes and re-sequences the album with engineer Lawrence Miles. The album is immediately recognized by critics and the public as an important artistic musical statement upon its release, as well as being a major commercial success. It spins off three singles including “Mercy Mercy Me” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop), “Inner City Blues” (#1 R&B, #9 Pop) and the title track (#1 R&B, #2 Pop). Regarded as a landmark album of its era, is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. Reissued numerous times since making its CD debut in 1986, it is released as a two disc Deluxe Edition in 2001. The first disc contains the original nine song album, as well as the initial but previously unreleased “Detroit Mix”, plus an instrumental mix of the title track. The second disc features a live concert recorded in Washington DC in January of 1972, with Gaye performing the album in its entirety live. It also contains the original mono single mixes of “What’s Going On”, and the B-sides “God Is Love”, “Sad Tomorrows” and an early demo recording of “Distant Lover”. This edition is also released as a four LP set in 2016, to commemorate the forty fifth anniversary of the albums’ release. Also a favorite of audiophiles, it is remastered and reissued by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab twice. The first time as an SACD and as a half speed mastered LP (in 2008 and 2009), and as a One Step 45 RPM double LP set in 2019. “What’s Going On” spends nine weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number six on the Top 200, is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1964 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1964 – “Under The Boardwalk” by The Drifters is recorded. Written by Kenny Young and Arthur Resnick, the song is written as a sequel to the groups’ hit “Up On The Roof” (#5 Pop, #4 R&B in February 1963) making reference to the previous song in its lyrics. Rudy Lewis, The Drifters lead singer at the time dies unexpectedly the night before the recording session (of a drug overdose) in his Harlem hotel room. Instead of rescheduling the session, producer Bert Berns has group member Johnny Moore handle lead vocals on the song. Released by Atlantic Records as a single in June, the song becomes an instant classic, peaking at number four on the Billboard Hot 100 on August 22, 1964, selling over a million copies. Also noteworthy about the song are that the original mono 45 and stereo LP versions of Under The Boardwalk contain alternate vocal performances. The 45 version contains the vocal refrain “we’ll be falling in love, under the boardwalk” in the choruses. While the stereo LP version also contains the line “we’ll be making love, under the boardwalk”. “Under The Boardwalk” is also the last major hit for the pioneering R&B vocal group.

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On this day in music history: May 20, 1974 – &…

On this day in music history: May 20, 1974 – “Rags To Rufus”, the second album by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan is released. Produced by Bob Monaco, it is recorded at Quantum Recording Studios in Torrance, CA from December 1973 – February 1974. Originally known as Ask Rufus when they form in 1971, the band originally consists of former American Breed (“Bend Me, Shape Me”) members Kevin Murphy (keyboards), Chuck Colbert Jr., Willie Weeks (bass), Lee Graziano (drums), Al Ciner (guitar), James Stella and Paulette McWilliams (vocals). They’re signed to Epic Records and record an album, which is shelved and they are dropped. Manager and producer Bob Monaco helps them to land another contract, this time with ABC/Dunhill Records. Before it’s recorded, Weeks is replaced by Dennis Belfield, Stella is replaced by Ron Stockert, and Graziano by Andre Fischer. During this time McWilliams becomes close friends with a young Chicago based singer named Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens), who initially joins as a background singer. Paulette eventually decides to leave, grooming Khan to replace her. Shortening their name to Rufus, they release their debut album in July of 1973 (#44 R&B, #174 Pop), then quickly beginning work on the follow up. In spite of being very pregnant with her first child Indira Milini (born December 21, 1973), Chaka delivers powerful vocals throughout. During the sessions, Rufus receive a visit in the studio by R&B and pop superstar Stevie Wonder, who had become aware of them through their cover of his song “Maybe Your Baby” on their first album. Wonder offers to write the band a song for them, initially coming up with one titled “Come and Get This Stuff”. Chaka tells Stevie bluntly that she doesn’t like it. Stunned at the rejection, Wonder asks Khan what her birth sign is, to which she replies “Aries-Pisces”. Stevie comes back with another song titled “Tell Me Something Good” (#3 R&B and Pop). It also features future members Tony Maiden (talk box, guitar), and Nate Morgan (keyboards), though both are uncredited. Putting her unique vocal stamp on the unusually structured but ultra funky song, “Tell Me” becomes a crossover smash. The single wins Rufus and Chaka Khan their first Grammy Award For Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group in 1975. It is followed by the equally funky “You Got The Love” (#1 R&B, #14 Pop), co-written by Khan and former Stevie Wonder guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., pushing the album past the million mark in sales. First released on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued by Geffen/Universal Japan in 2004, packaged in a mini-LP sleeve. “Rags To Rufus” peaks at number four on the Billboard R&B album chart and Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 20, 1967 – &…

On this day in music history: May 20, 1967 – “Respect” by Aretha Franklin hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 8 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on June 3, 1967. Written by Otis Redding, it is the second consecutive R&B chart topper for “The Queen Of Soul”. Written and originally recorded by R&B legend Otis Redding in 1965, Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” features members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. It is one of the tracks cut during the week long sessions that produce Franklin’s debut album for Atlantic. Aretha’s version receives a dramatic rearrangement when it is recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City on February 14, 1967. One of the significant changes made on Franklin’s version is in the songs instrumental break. Saxophonist King Curtis plays the solo using the chord changes from Sam & Dave’s hit “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”. Aretha, along with her sisters Erma and Carolyn (also singing background vocals) come up with the signature “sock it to me” line as well as the refrain of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and the lines that follow including “take care, T-C-B” (street slang for “taking care of business”). Upon hearing Aretha’s version, Otis Redding is quoted as jokingly saying “That little girl done stole my song!”, recognizing that she had just recorded the definitive version of his song. The response to “Respect” is immediate when it begins receiving radio play as soon as the album “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You” is released on March 10, 1967. With the title track holding down the top spot on the R&B singles chart for eight weeks and reaching the top 10 on the pop chart, Atlantic holds off just long enough for the other single to have its moment to unleash the follow up. Entering the Billboard R&B singles chart at #19 on May 6, 1967, it pole vaults up the chart to #5 then #1, just narrowly succeeding herself in the top spot by one week. “Respect” takes a similar ascent up the Hot 100, entering the chart at #50 on April 29, 1967, it rockets to the top five weeks later. Its upward chart movement is so strong, that it temporarily bumps The Young Rascals’ “Groovin’” from the number one spot for two weeks. “Respect” earns Aretha Franklin the first Grammy Award given for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female in 1968. It is the first of eleven times Franklin wins the award over the years, receiving it eight years in a row consecutively, making her the undisputed champ in that category. In the wake of the records huge success, it not only is adapted as a feminist anthem, but also as a rallying cry for the Civil Rights Movement. Regarded as Franklin’s signature song, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. “Respect” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 20, 1967 – &…

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 also sampled and interpolated by A Lighter Shade Of Brown on their single “On A Sunday Afternoon” in 1991. “Groovin’” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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