Category: soft rock

On this day in music history: July 10, 1976 – …

On this day in music history: July 10, 1976 – “Afternoon Delight” by Starland Vocal Band hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks. Written by Bill Danoff, it is the biggest hit for the Washington D.C. based pop vocal quartet. The group consists of two couples led by husband and wife Bill and Kathy “Taffy” Danoff, who had previously sung background vocals and co-wrote (as “Fat City”) John Denver’s “Take Me Home Country Roads” in 1971. In early 1976, Starland Vocal Band are signed to Denver and producer Milt Okun’s newly established label Windsong Records (distributed by RCA). The song is inspired while Bill Danoff is eating at a restaurant called Clyde’s in Washington DC, when he sees a section of the menu called “afternoon delight”. Taking that for a title, Danoff goes home and write it later that day. The songs mildly provocative lyrics (with the title being a double entendre for mid afternoon sex), anchored by the groups immaculate four part harmonies, it becomes a solid hit in short order. Entering the Hot 100 at #87 on May 8, 1976, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. The single wins the group two Grammy Awards including Best New Artist of 1976. The success of “Afternoon Delight” leads to CBS giving the group their own mid-Summer variety series, “The Starland Vocal Band Show”. The series only runs six weeks before it’s canceled, but is noteworthy as it features a then unknown David Letterman as a series regular and writer on the show. “Afternoon Delight” is also featured in numerous films including “Good Will Hunting”, “Boogie Nights”, “Anchorman: The Legend Of Ron Burgundy”, and on the TV series “Glee”. “Afternoon Delight” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: July 1, 1972 – &…

On this day in music history: July 1, 1972 – “Song Sung Blue” by Neil Diamond hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 7 weeks on June 3. 1972. Written by Neil Diamond, it is the second chart topping single for the Brooklyn, NY born singer, songwriter and musician. and one of his signature songs, and one the highlights of his live performances over the years. Issued as the first single from his eighth studio album “Moods”, the song quickly becomes a hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #67 on May 6, 1972, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The song is nominated for two Grammy Awards including Record and Song Of The Year (losing to Roberta Flack’s “The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face”). “Song Sung Blue” is also the last major hit single Diamond has on Uni Records, before signing with Columbia Records in 1973. “Song Sung Blue” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 29, 1974 – …

On this day in music history: June 29, 1974 – “Sundown” by Gordon Lightfoot hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on June 8, 1974. Written by Gordon Lightfoot, it is the biggest hit for the Canadian born folk rock singer, songwriter and musician. The title track of his tenth album, the song is written about Lightfoot’s painful break up from former girlfriend Cathy Evelyn Smith, who later becomes infamous as the woman who kills comedian John Belushi in March of 1982, by injecting him with and accidentally overdosing him with a speed ball (a combination of heroin and cocaine). “Sundown” re-establishes Lightfoot in the US charts some three years after he scored his first hit with “If You Could Read My Mind”, having been sidelined in 1972 by a bout of Bell’s Palsy, partially paralyzing part of his face. Released as a single in late February of 1974, it becomes a hit on AC radio before crossing over to the pop Top 40. Entering the Hot 100 at #83 on April 13, 1974, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. The huge success of “Sundown”, also propels the accompanying album (of the same name) to the top of the Billboard Top 200 for two weeks beginning on June 22, 1974. “Sundown” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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Born on this day: June 25, 1945 – Singer, song…

Born on this day: June 25, 1945 – Singer, songwriter and musician Carly Simon (born Carly Elisabeth Simon in New York City, NY). Happy 74th Birthday, Carly!!

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On this day in music history: June 22, 1971 – …

On this day in music history: June 22, 1971 – “Blue”, the fourth studio album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA from January – March 1971. Issued as the follow up to ‘Ladies Of The Canyon", the deeply introspective album features songs reflecting on relationships, and comes in the wake of Mitchell’s painful break up from longtime boyfriend Graham Nash. Nash had proposed marriage to Mitchell in 1970, and she declines the proposal fearing the constraints that it will put on her personal and artistic freedom, after what she had experienced in her brief first marriage to musician Chuck Mitchell in 1965. Following her split with Nash, she flies off to Europe on vacation and writes many of the songs that turn up on the finished album. One earlier song titled “Little Green” (written in 1967) is a last minute addition. It is about the daughter she had given up for adoption, a fact that is not revealed publicly until they are reunited in 1993. The album is a major critical and commercial success upon its release, and is widely regarded as one of Joni Mitchell’s greatest artistic achievements. Due to its lasting popularity and influence, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1997 (with HDCD encoding), restoring the original cover artwork and lyric sheet. It is also being reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Rhino Records in 2009. It is reissued again on vinyl by Rhino in January of 2019, as part of their Start Your Ear Off Right series. The limited edition pressing is pressed on translucent blue vinyl, replicating the original tip on gatefold sleeve and blue inner sleeve. “Blue” peaks at number fifteen on the Billboard Top 200, is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 19, 1977 – …

On this day in music history: June 19, 1977 – “JT”, the eighth album by James Taylor is released. Produced by Peter Asher, it is recorded at The Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA from March 15 – April 24, 1977. Having found major critical and commercial success since releasing his second album “Sweet Baby James” in 1970, James Taylor leaves Warner Bros Records, his label the previous seven years, after his contract expires at the end of 1976. The decision is not an easy one for Taylor, feeling a sense of loyalty to his former label and its chief Mo Ostin. However, numerous overtures from CBS Records prove hard to resist, when they offer the musician an exceptionally lucrative long term contract. Finally signing the deal in early 1977 with Columbia Records, Taylor goes right to work on his first album for his new label. Working with long time producer Peter Asher, the album features usual core group of musicians Taylor has previously worked with, including Russ Kunkel (drums), Leland Sklar (bass), Clarence McDonald (keyboards) and Danny Kortchmar (guitar). It also includes guest appearances by saxophonist David Sanborn, singer Linda Ronstadt, and Taylor’s then wife singer and musician Carly Simon. With James writing or co-writing ten of the albums twelve songs, the sessions are completed in a relatively brief six weeks. Released to a rapturous response, the album is lauded as one of the best of James Taylor’s career, finding the musician relaxed and confident, which shines through on the finished result. It spins off three singles including a cover of the Jimmy Jones classic “Handy Man” (#4 Pop, #1 AC), “Your Smiling Face” (#20 Pop, #6 AC) and “Honey Don’t Leave L.A.” (#61 Pop). A number of other songs on the album including “Terra Nova”, “Bartender’s Blues” and “Secret O’ Life” also become fan favorites. Years later, “Your Smiling Face” is spoofed outrageously on the animated series “South Park”. Isaac Hayes’ character Chef sings it as “The Prostitute Song”, explaining to the kids about how prostitution works, and turning it into an impromptu duet with James Taylor (performed by Trey Parker). “JT” receives three Grammy nominations including Album Of The Year in 1978, with Taylor winning the award for Best Pop Male Vocal Performance for “Handy Man” and Asher winning Producer Of The Year. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2000. Long a favorite of audiophiles for its exceptionally clean production and excellent mix (by engineer and future producer Val Garay), it is released as a hybrid SACD and 180 gram vinyl LP by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab in 2011. The album is also reissued on vinyl by Culture Factory and Music On Vinyl in 2013. “JT” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200 and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 19, 1971 – …

On this day in music history: June 19, 1971 – “It’s Too Late” / “I Feel The Earth Move” by Carole King hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 5 weeks. Written by Toni Stern and Carole King, it is biggest hit for the New York City born and raised singer, songwriter and musician. Recorded in January of 1971 at A&M Studios, King collaborates with lyricist Toni Stern who tells her about a brief affair she has with fellow singer/songwriter James Taylor. Stern uses their conversation to write the lyrics for “It’s Too Late”. After the affair ends, Taylor begins dating singer/songwriter Carly Simon, who he would marry in 1972. During this same period, Taylor records Carole King’s song “You’ve Got A Friend” which is his only number one pop single and wins King a Grammy for Song Of The Year. Issued as the first single from King’s landmark “Tapestry” album in April of 1971, “It’s Too Late” and “I Feel The Earth Move” both receive heavy airplay. Entering the Hot 100 at #84 on May 8, 1971, the single swiftly rises to the top of the chart six weeks later. “It’s Too Late” wins two Grammy Awards for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance and Record Of The Year in 1972. “It’s Too Late” / “I Feel The Earth Move” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 19, 1971 – …

On this day in music history: June 19, 1971 – “Tapestry”, the second album by Carole King hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 15 weeks. Produced by Lou Adler, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA in January 1971. The prolific pop singer/songwriter’s second album is not only her commercial breakthrough as an artist, it represents a watershed moment for women in pop music in the years to come. The album spins off three singles including the double A-sided hit “It’s Too Late/I Feel The Earth Move” (#1 Pop) and “So Far Away” (#14 Pop). “Tapestry” also sets records for the longest run at number one on the Top 200 by a female artist(which stands until 2011 when it is surpassed by Adele’s “21” album), and the largest selling album by a female artist (a record held until it is broken in 1996 by Alanis Morissette’s “Jagged Little Pill”). It also wins King three Grammy Awards including Record and Album Of The Year. She also wins a fourth Grammy that year for “You’ve Got A Friend”, and is the first solo female artist in Grammy history to win the Record and Song Of The Year prizes. Regarded as one of the most important and influential albums of all time, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. “Tapestry” is certified 10x Platinum in the US, receiving a Diamond certification from the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 14, 1975 – …

On this day in music history: June 14, 1975 – “Sister Golden Hair” by America hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Gerry Beckley, it is the second chart topping single for the London based American pop/rock trio. Vocalist and guitarist Gerry Beckley takes inspiration from fellow singer/songwriter Jackson Browne when he composes the song, especially in the lyrics. It is about a man explaining to the woman that he loves that he cares deeply for, but isn’t ready to commit to marriage. The title is also a reference to the mothers of all three band members, all of which have blonde hair. America record “Sister Golden Hair” at the legendary Record Plant Studios in Sausalito, CA with Martin in January 1975. Issued as the first single from the band’s fifth studio album “Hearts”, it is produced by legendary Beatles producer George Martin.Issued in mid March of 1975, it is an immediate hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #71 on April 5, 1975 it climbs to the top of the chart ten weeks later. “Sister Golden Hair” is America’s last top ten single for seven years. By 1977, founding member Dan Peek leaves the band, reducing America to a duo. Gerry Beckley and Dewey Bunnell continue, leaving Warner Bros for Capitol Records in 1979. After a half dozen singles that fail to make an impression, they hit paydirt in 1982 with “You Can Do Magic” which peaks at #8 on the Hot 100 and #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart in October of 1982. “Sister Golden Hair” continues to be one of America’s most popular singles, and is also featured in an episode of “The Sopranos” TV series in 2001.

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On this day in music history: June 13, 1972 – …

On this day in music history: June 13, 1972 – “A Song For You”, the fourth studio album by The Carpenters is released. Produced by Jack Daughtery and Richard Carpenter, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA circa Late 1971 – Early 1972. The album is originally conceived as a concept album, with two versions of the title track beginning and ending the album sides. It also is the last Carpenters album to carry a production credit for Jack Daughtery who is the brother/sister duos A&R man at their label. From The Carpenters’ debut album in 1969, Daughtery had been receiving a producers credit when in fact he had been just booking studio time for the musicians when Richard Carpenter had been doing the actual production and arranging work from the beginning. Daughtery’s firing results in a legal battle that is not settled until 1981, in The Carpenters favor. “A Song For You” spins off five hit singles in the US including “Hurting Each Other” (#2 Pop), “Goodbye To Love” (#7 Pop), and “I Won’t Last A Day Without You” (#11 Pop). It also includes The Carpenters original recording of “Top Of The World”, which is re-recorded and included on their greatest hits compilation “Carpenters – The Singles 1969 – 1973”. The album is  remastered and reissued on CD in 1999, using the original stereo master mixes. Out of print on vinyl for nearly thirty years, it is remastered and reissued as a 180 gram LP in 2017. “A Song For You” peaks at number four on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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