Category: soft rock

Remembering singer, songwriter, musician, environmental activist, philanthropist and humanitarian John Denver (born Henry John Deutschendorf, Jr. in Roswell, NM) – December 31, 1943 – October 12, 1997

On this day in music history: October 10, 1970 – “Cracklin’ Rosie” by Neil Diamond hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Neil Diamond, it is the first chart topping single for the prolific Brooklyn, NY born singer, songwriter and musician. Diamond is inspired to write the song while on a trip to Toronto, Canada. A medical missionary tells him a story about a Native American tribe that had more men than women, and how the men without women would buy and drink bottles of Rosé wine in lieu of female companionship. “Cracklin Rosie” is recorded at Sound Recorders in Hollywood, CA in the Spring of 1970. Issued as the first single from the album “Tap Root Manuscript” on July 30, 1970, it quickly becomes a smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #62 on August 22, 1970, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The single is also Diamond’s breakthrough hit outside the US, peaking at #3 on the UK chart and #2 on the Australian singles chart. “Cracklin’ Rosie” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 30, 1980 – “Sailing” by Christopher Cross hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart on July 26, 1980. Written by Christopher Cross, it is the first chart topping single for the singer, songwriter, and musician from San Antonio, TX born Christopher Geppert. Issued as the second single from his multi-platinum selling debut album, the song was originally not in the running to be a single. Warner Bros originally intends “I Really Don’t Know Anymore” to be the follow up to “Ride The Like Wind” (#2 Pop), which also features Doobie Brothers lead vocalist Michael McDonald on background vocals. With a new Doobie Brothers album and single (“One Step Closer” and “Real Love” respectively) just released, McDonald’s management nix the idea, feeling that McDonald’s vocal presence is over saturated on radio. The ballad “Sailing” is chosen instead, and takes off quickly at both pop and AC radio after its release in May of 1980. Entering the Hot 100 at #77 on June 14, 1980, it reaches the top of the chart eleven weeks later. A staple of Adult Contemporary radio, surprisingly the single climbs no higher than #10 on that chart. “Sailing” wins Cross three of the five Grammy Awards he wins in 1981 for Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals. The song’s gentle soft-rock sound becomes one of the cornerstones, of the sub-genre known as “yacht rock”.

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On this day in music history: August 23, 1975 – “Fallin’ In Love” by Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Dan and Ann Hamilton, it is the biggest hit for the soft rock band from Los Angeles, CA. Band members Dan Hamilton (vocals, guitar), Joe Frank Carollo (vocals, bass) and Tommy Reynolds (vocals, keyboards, percussion, guitar) have all previously been members of the instrumental studio band The T-Bones who score a big hit with the instrumental “No Matter What Shape (Your Stomach’s In) (#3 Pop) in February of 1966. The T-Bones disband in 1967. The band reform 1970 under the name Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds signing with Dunhill Records. They score another top five hit with “Don’t Pull Your Love” (#4 Pop) in July of 1971. Original member Tommy Reynolds leaves the band in 1972 and was replaced by keyboardist Alan Dennison, though they keep the “Hamilton, Joe Frank & Reynolds” name. In late 1974 they sign with Playboy Records, a new label formed by Playboy Magazine publisher Hugh Hefner. For their first release, they choose the lush ballad “Fallin’ In Love” written by Hamilton and his wife Ann. Released as a single in late April of 1975, it is initially slow taking off, but once it takes hold it makes a quick ascent. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on June 21, 1975, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The band scores one more top 40 hit with the follow up “Winners And Losers (#21 Pop), before they break up in 1976. Years later, "Fallin’ In Love” is the subject of a lawsuit when Playboy Enterprises sues R&B singer/rapper Drake, his label Cash Money Records and distributor Universal Music Group when he samples “Fallin’ In Love” on his hit single “Best I Ever Had” without acquiring the proper copyright clearance. “Fallin’ In Love” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 22, 1970 – “Make It With You” by Bread hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the Easy Listening chart on the same date. Written and produced by David Gates, it is the biggest hit for the Los Angeles, CA based soft rock band. Bread form after Gates’ friend and fellow Oklahoma native Leon Russell introduces him to James Griffin and Robb Royer who are recording as a duo called Pleasure Faire. Russell recommends Gates as the producer for their debut album. When that project fails, the three join forces along with drummer Mike Botts, making the band a quartet. “Make It With You” is the first release from the bands’ second album “On The Waters”, and swiftly establishes the band as mainstays of the emerging soft rock singer/songwriter movement of the 70’s. Entering the Hot 100 at #96 on June 13, 1970, it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. Considered one of the quintessential soft rock songs, “Make It With You” is covered by a number of artists across various musical genres, including versions by Dusty Springfield, Aretha Franklin, The Whispers, Andy Williams, Lou Donaldson, and Teddy Pendergrass. “Make It With You” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 21, 1967 – “Never My Love” by The Association is released. Written by Donald & Richard Addrisi, it is the third top 10 hit for the Los Angeles, CA based pop/rock band. Written by The Addrisi Brothers in 1966 (later recorded by them in 1977), the song is recorded by the band providing only the vocals, backed by members of the studio collective The Wrecking Crew. The track arranged by Ray Pohlman and recorded in the Spring of 1967. “Never My Love” is issued as the follow up to their second chart topper “Windy”, and is included on The Association’s third album “Insight Out”. Featuring vocalists Terry Kirkman and Larry Ramos on dual lead vocals, “Never My Love” peaks at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 on October 7, 1967 (behind The Box Tops “The Letter”), becoming their third million selling single. By 1999, “Never My Love” becomes the second most played record on radio and television during the 20th century, only behind “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’”. Since The Association’s hit version, “Love” has been covered more than a hundred times, with versions by Johnny Mathis, The Four Tops, The Lettermen, and Barry Manilow. The song returns to the Billboard top ten, when it is covered by Blue Swede. Issued as the follow up to their number one single “Hooked On A Feeling”, their version of “Never My Love” peaks at #7 in October of 1974. “Never My Love” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 19, 1970 – “Close To You”, the second album by The Carpenters is released. Produced by Richard Carpenter and Jack Daughtery, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from March – May 1970. Following the poor response and sales of their debut album “Offering” (re-released with new cover artwork as “Ticket To Ride” in late 1970) in 1969, the brother and sister duo of Richard and Karen Carpenter return to the studio in early 1970 to record their sophomore effort. Featuring Richard on keyboards and Karen on drums, they are also backed by a group of top L.A. studio musicians including Wrecking Crew members Hal Blaine (drums) and Joe Osborn (bass). Though the albums producer credit is given to The Carpenters A&R man Jack Daugherty, the production and arranging of the material is actually handled by Richard Carpenter, with Daughtery being responsible only for contracting the musicians and booking studio time. Released right on the heels the single “(They Long To Be) Close To You” topping the pop singles chart, The Carpenters second album quickly ascends the charts and establishes them and their trademark sound. The album spins off two hit singles including “We’ve Only Just Begun” (#2 Pop) and the title track (#1 Pop). The success of the two singles and the album earn The Carpenters six Grammy nominations in 1971, winning two including  Best Contemporary Vocal Performance By A Duo, Group Or Chorus and Best New Artist.The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1999, featuring the the original stereo master tapes, using the original mixes, unlike numerous Carpenters compilations that use later remixes done by Richard Carpenter after Karen’s death in 1983. Out of print on vinyl for nearly thirty years, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2017. It is available as an individual release, and part of the box set “The Carpenters – The Vinyl Collection”. “Close To You” peaks at number two on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: August 7, 1971 – “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” by the Bee Gees hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks. Written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, it is the first US chart topper for the superstar family trio from The Isle Of Man, UK. Following the Bee Gees initial period of worldwide success in 1967 and 1968, the band implodes in 1969 when infighting and excessive drinking causes Robin to abruptly quit for a solo career, with Barry also opting for the same a short time later. After eighteen months apart, they eventually reconcile in the Summer of 1970, making a vow to each other never to part again. Inspiration comes quickly with the brothers writing numerous new songs together. Among them is the ballad “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart”. The track is recorded at IBC Studios in London on January 28, 1971, and is the first single from the bands ninth album “Trafalgar”. Surprisingly, the song fails to chart in the Bee Gees home country of the UK. But with the recent top five success of their comeback smash “Lonely Days” (#3 Pop), “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” is an even bigger hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #73 on June 26, 1971, it rises to the top of the chart six weeks later. The single also earns the Bee Gees their first Grammy nomination for Best Pop Performance By A Duo Or Group with Vocals in 1972. In 2001, a previously unreleased alternate version of the classic song surfaces. This version features different piano and bass tracks, and with Barry singing the first verse instead of Robin. This version appears on first run UK pressings of the hits compilation “Their Greatest Hits: The Record”. This was the result of a filing error in Universal’s tape archive in London, with the wrong master being pulled from the vault. The CD is quickly withdrawn and replaced with the correct version. One the most popular and frequently covered songs by the Bee Gees, the song is also recorded by Al Green, Johnny Mathis, Cher, Teddy Pendergrass, Diana Krall, Rod Stewart, Ruben Studdard, and Michael Buble. Green’s 1971 recording of the song is made over into duet for the soundtrack of the romantic comedy “Notting Hill”, with singer Joss Stone adding her vocals to the track. The Bee Gees original version is also included on the soundtrack to the film “American Hustle” in 2013. “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 31, 1971 – “You’ve Got A Friend” by James Taylor hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Carole King, it is the biggest hit for the Boston, MA born singer, songwriter and musician. After the major breakthrough success James Taylor has with his second studio album “Sweet Baby James” in 1970, he and producer Peter Asher (Peter & Gordon) return to the studio in January of 1971 to begin recording the follow up. While working on his third album, Taylor contributes background vocals and guitar to his friend Carole King’s album “Tapestry”, which she is working on at the same time. King records the song “You’ve Got A Friend” on her album first, and after hearing it, James asks if he can record it for his album and King says “yes”. Issued as the first single from Taylor’s third album “Mud Slide Slim And The Blue Horizon” in May of 1971, it quickly becomes an instant classic and a mainstay on top 40 pop radio. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on June 5, 1971, it reaches the top of the chart eight weeks later. “You’ve Got A Friend” also wins Taylor his first Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male, as well as winning songwriter Carole King the Grammy Award for Song Of The Year in 1972. “You’ve Got A Friend” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 29, 1972 – “Alone Again (Naturally)” by Gilbert O’Sullivan hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks (non-consecutive), also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 6 weeks on the same date. Written by Gilbert O’Sullivan, it is the biggest hit for the Irish born pop singer and songwriter. Discovered by Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck’s manager Gordon Mills, the singer is signed to Mills’ label MAM Records (distributed by Decca/London Records) after hearing demo tapes of songs that O’Sullivan (real name Raymond Edward O’Sullivan) has composed. Released in February of 1972, the song about a man being stood up at the altar at his wedding, death of his parents and feelings of abandonment that they bring becomes a huge worldwide hit (also reaching #3 on the UK singles chart). Entering the Hot 100 at #88 on June 17, 1972, it swiftly rises to the top of the chart six weeks later. After four consecutive weeks on top, O’Sullivan’s run at the top is temporarily interrupted by Looking Glass’ “Brandy (You’re A Fine Girl)” for two weeks, before retaking the number one spot for two additional weeks beginning on September 2, 1972. Years later, “Alone Again (Naturally)” is the subject of a major lawsuit (Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records Inc.) involving rapper Biz Markie who samples the track without receiving clearance from O’Sullivan’s record company or publisher. It leads to his album “I Need A Haircut” being pulled off record store shelves, marking the beginning of dramatic changes to the legal policies regarding sampling. “Alone Again (Naturally)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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