Category: soul

On this day in music history: September 6, 198…

On this day in music history: September 6, 1986 – “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent” by Gwen Guthrie hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Club Play chart for 2 weeks on August 23, 1986. Written by Gwen Guthrie, it is the biggest hit for the R&B singer and songwriter from Newark, NJ. Born in small town in rural Oklahoma, Gwen Guthrie’s family will relocate to Newark, NJ while she is a child. Coming from a musical household, she’ll learn piano from her father and study classical music in school, and sing in various vocal groups. Guthrie attends college and train to become a schoolteacher, but fate will intervene, and she gets her big break in the music business. In 1974, Gwen is asked to sing background vocals for Aretha Franklin on the song “I’m In Love” (#1 R&B, #19 Pop). Singing along side established veterans including Cissy Houston, Guthrie makes an immediate impression, leading to more lucrative work as a background vocalist and commercial jingle singer. During this time, she co-writes Ben E. King’s comeback hit “Supernatural Thing” (#1 R&B, #5 Pop) and “This Time I’ll Be Sweeter” (#23 R&B, #104 Pop), becoming the first hit for singer Angela Bofill. Guthrie’s work with innovative producer/musicians Sly Dunbar and Robbie Shakespeare in the early 80’s puts her on the map as a solo vocal star while signed to Island Records, as will her collaborations with club DJ icon Larry Levan, who remixes the classic “Padlock”. Signed to Polydor Records in early 1986, Gwen Guthrie begins work on her first album for the label with David “Pic” Conley of the R&B group Surface. The inspiration for her biggest hit comes from Guthrie’s grandfather, who would often reply with the phrase “ain’t nothin’ goin’ on but the rent” when someone would ask him what was going on with him. That hook along with the lyric “no romance without finance” makes the song an anthem for many women, though many men misconstrue the lyrics as women “being materialistic”, instead of the actual message of both parties being on equal footing  in a relationship. Regardless, the song becomes an instant club classic, rising up the R&B and dance charts simultaneously. Larry Levan also remixes the 7" and 12" versions of “Ain’t Nothin’ Goin’ On But The Rent”. “Rent” attains further pop cultural status when comedian Eddie Murphy quotes lyrics from the song in his 1987 concert film “Raw”.

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Born on this day: September 6, 1947 – Disco an…

Born on this day: September 6, 1947 – Disco and Hi-NRG music icon Sylvester (born Sylvester James in Los Angeles, CA). Happy Birthday to this one of a kind vocalist on what would have been his 72nd Birthday.

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On this day in music history: September 6, 198…

On this day in music history: September 6, 1980 – “Upside Down” by Diana Ross hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 4 weeks on August 16, 1980. Written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is the fifth solo chart topper for the Motown superstar. When producers Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers sign on to work with Diana Ross, they meet the singer at her apartment in New York City. During the several hours they talk to her, she speaks of wanting her record to sound like nothing she’s done before, wanting to make a break with her past both musically and personally. Edwards and Rodgers leave the meeting inspired, and quickly write an entire albums’ worth of material for Ross. Originally titled “The Work Song”, “Upside Down” is inspired by their conversation, being about a woman who is deeply in love with a man who she’s aware isn’t faithful to her, but can’t let go of him. The song is rumored to be about either actor Ryan O’Neal or musician Gene Simmons of the band KISS, both of whom Ross had dated during this period. One of the first tracks recorded for the “diana” album, the basic track and vocals for “Upside Down” are recorded in November of 1979. When the album is released in May of 1980, initially “I’m Coming Out” (#5 Pop, #6 R&B) is chosen to be the first single, but Motown abruptly cancels its release (issuing it as the second single on August 22, 1980) and issues “Upside Down” instead on June 25, 1980. Entering the Hot 100 at #82 on July 12, 1980, the record at first struggles up the chart, taking a month to crack the Top 50. Then on August 9, 1980, the record suddenly pole vaults from #49 to #10 in a single week. Four weeks after that, it makes its final ascent to the top the chart. The funky, groove laden “Upside Down” becomes one of Diana Ross’ biggest and most enduring hits, earning her a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female in 1981. In 1997, the song is sampled as the basis for the remix version of MC Lyte’s hit “Cold Rock A Party”. “Upside Down” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: September 6, 1…

On this day in music history: September 6, 1979 – “Ladies’ Night”, the eleventh album by Kool & The Gang is released. Produced by Eumir Deodato, it is recorded at House Of Music in West Orange, NJ and Media Sound Studios in New York City from Early – Mid 1979. A consistent presence on the charts throughout much of the 70’s, by the later part of the decade, Kool & The Gang find themselves at a major career crossroads. The New Jersey based R&B/Funk band’s unique sound begins to fall out of favor, when the Disco phenomenon sweeps the musical landscape. And without a regular lead singer to hold the public’s focus, they realize that they need to reinvent themselves. Kool & The Gang hire South Carolina born James “J.T.” Taylor, to become their front man. A few other things take place during this time that change the course of the band’s career. Their single “Open Sesame” is featured on the Grammy winning mega soundtrack to “Saturday Night Fever”, helps keep them in the public eye. Also, their label De-Lite Records changes distribution from independent Pickwick International, to Polygram. With the backing of a major behind them, Kool & The Gang also understand they have to evolve their sound as well. They are paired with Brazilian born jazz musician and arranger Eumir Deodato to produce them. Famed for his Grammy winning jazz/funk classic “Also Sprach Zarathustra (2001)”, Deodato helps the band re-tool their sound. It marks the beginning of a highly successful collaboration, that lasts over the course of four Gold and Platinum selling albums. Kool & The Gang hit pay dirt immediately with the album “Ladies’ Night”. The title track (#1 R&B, #8 Pop, #5 Club Play) issued as the first single in August of 1979, is a perfect hybrid of R&B, pop and disco that proves to be irresistible to a wide mainstream audience. It is followed up by “Too Hot” (#3 R&B, #5 Pop, #5 Club Play, #11 AC) in January 1980. Initially issued as the B-side of “Ladies’ Night”, “Too Hot” is reissued as an A-side. The single is another across the board, multi-format smash. The album spins off a third and final single with “Hangin’ Out” (#36 R&B, #103 Pop). Though there is some grumbling from the band’s original fans that they have “sold out to disco and commerciality”, “Ladies’ Night” sets the template for massive success the band enjoy for the next eight years. Originally released on CD in 1986, it is reissued numerous times over the years. Most recently, it is remastered and reissued by Big Break Records in 2013. The expanded reissue contains the original six track album, with six additional bonus tracks, including the original 12" and single edits of the singles. “Ladies’ Night” spends two weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number thirteen on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: September 6, 197…

On this day in music history: September 6, 1975 – “How Long (Betcha’ Got A Chick On The Side)” by The Pointer Sisters hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #20 on the Hot 100 on October 4, 1975. Written by Anita Pointer, Bonnie Pointer, June Pointer, Ruth Pointer and David Rubinson, it is the lone R&B chart topper for the family vocal quartet from Oakland, CA. The daughters of a pastor, sisters Anita, Bonnie, June and Ruth Pointer grow up singing gospel in their father’s church in West Oakland. They were discouraged from listening to or singing rock & roll or R&B music, being told that it was “the devil’s music” by their strict parents. However, the pull of secular music proves to be too strong, and the girls become fixtures on the San Francisco Bay Area music scene by the early 1970’s, singing background vocals for prominent artists including Elvin Bishop and Boz Scaggs. The group land a deal with Atlantic Records in 1971, but their tenure with the label is short lived, and are dropped soon after. The Pointers connect producer David Rubinson, helping the sisters get back home when they are stranded in Austin, TX after another record deal goes terribly wrong. Rubinson becomes their manager, securing them a record deal with Blue Thumb Records in 1973. Their self-titled debut album is a solid hit, spinning off their first major hit with “Yes We Can Can” (#12 R&B, #11 Pop). The Pointer Sisters third album “Steppin’” in 1975 yields their biggest R&B chart hit. The idea for what becomes “How Long (Betcha’ Got A Chick On The Side)” comes from a few different sources. Anita had written the beginnings of a country song called “How Long”, when Rubinson comes up with the counter hook “betcha got a chick on the side”, with its signature syncopated rhythm being inspired by blues musician Taj Mahal’s distinctive vocal style. A song by John Lee Hooker titled “Homework”. Released as a single in May of 1975, “How Long” quickly rises up the R&B and pop charts, becoming one of The Pointer Sisters’ signature hits, as well as one of their most covered songs. Various artists including drummer Buddy Rich, rappers Salt ‘N’ Pepa, and Queen Latifah record versions of the song. Comedian Bill Cosby records an answer parody titled “Chick On The Side” on his album “Bill Cosby Is Not Himself These Days Rat Own, Rat Own, Rat Own” in 1976.

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On this day in music history: September 5, 197…

On this day in music history: September 5, 1974 – “Dancing Machine”, the eighth album by The Jackson 5ive is released. Produced by Hal Davis, it is recorded at Motown Recording Studios in Hollywood, CA from April – May 1973, June 1973 – July 1974. The album includes the smash title track (#1 R&B, #2 Pop), and spins off two other singles, including “Whatever You Got, I Want” (#38 Pop, #3 R&B) and “I Am Love” (#5 R&B, #15 Pop). The title track “Dancing Machine” originates on the groups previous album “Get It Together” but is remixed and edited when it becomes a popular LP cut, and is later released as a single. The albums third single “I Am Love” also receives significant play in clubs at the time of its release. The simmering seven and a half minute long track features a slow almost ballad like intro for the first half of the song, before exploding into an uptempo funk/rock groove, which creates a sensation on the dance floor. In time, “Love” is regarded as a seminal track in the genre of what becomes known as “proto-disco”. The success of the album pulls the group out of the slump they experienced during the previous two years, though it makes them hungry to take more creative control of their music and career, resulting in their exit from Motown in 1975 for Epic Records.“Dancing Machine” peaks at number sixteen on the Billboard Top 200, though oddly does not chart on the R&B album chart.

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On this day in music history: September 4, 198…

On this day in music history: September 4, 1985 – “Party All The Time” by Eddie Murphy is released. Written and produced by Rick James, it is the third single release and biggest hit for the comedian and actor from New York City. By 1985, comedian Eddie Murphy has become a huge star. First conquering the small screen on Saturday Night Live, he rescues it from cancellation at the beginning of the 80’s. Murphy then tapes the iconic HBO comedy concert “Delirious” in 1983, and the album “Eddie Murphy: Comedian”, earning him a Grammy Award for Best Comedy Recording. At the same time, his film career explodes with the huge box office hits “48 Hours”, “Trading Places” and “Beverly Hills Cop”. Though renowned for his impressions of music icons like Stevie Wonder, James Brown and Elvis Presley, people are taken aback when Eddie decides to record a non-comedy music album. Though many actors have tried and failed to make music, Murphy’s label Columbia Records give the thumbs up to make an album. Eddie calls out to several high profile musical friends including Lionel Richie and Prince. When both are too busy to participate, Murphy calls Stevie Wonder and Rick James, who both help with the album. Eddie and his crew (including older brother Charlie Murphy), fly out to Rick’s hometown of Buffalo, NY, recording in his studio dubbed “The Joint”. Rick comes up with the up tempo “Party All The Time” for Eddie. Initially, the comedian is only supposed to be in Buffalo for one day. However fate has other plans, when a late winter blizzard snows them in for a week. When the album titled “How Could It Be” is released, critics are harsh in their assessment Murphy’s attempts at singing. Though much of the snark and cynicism falls away, when “Party All The Time” becomes a legitimate hit. Entering the Billboard R&B singles chart at #90 on September 14, 1985 and at #82 on the Hot 100 on October 5, 1985, “Party” races up the charts. The single peaks at #8 on the R&B singles chart on November 23, 1985, #19 on the Club Play chart, and #2 on the Hot 100 on December 28, 1985. “Party” holds the runner up position on the pop singles chart for three weeks, but is unable to dislodge Lionel Richie’s monster hit “Say You, Say Me” from the top spot. The success of the million selling single also propels the album to Gold status Eddie Murphy’s later vocal albums “So Happy” (1989) and “Love’s Alright” (1992), are much less successful. In later years, “Party All The Time” makes the infamous Blender Magazine list of the “50 Worst Songs of All-Time”, coming in at number seven. Murphy last resurfaced on the music front in 2013, with the reggae flavored single “Red Light” featuring Snoop Dogg (digital release only). He is also working on a new album, though it has yet to be released. “Party All The Time” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: September 4, 198…

On this day in music history: September 4, 1982 – “Jump To It” by Aretha Franklin hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 4 weeks, also peaking at #24 on the Hot 100 on October 9, 1982. Written by Luther Vandross and Marcus Miller, it is the eighteenth R&B chart topper for legendary “Queen Of Soul”. After a landmark stint at Atlantic Records which results in seventeen number one singles on the R&B chart, six chart topping albums and ten Grammy Awards, Aretha Franklin leaves the label in late 1979 when Clive Davis of Arista Records approaches her, wanting to restore the R&B icon to commercial prominence. Franklin’s first two albums for her new label, “Aretha” (1980) and “Love All The Hurt Away” (1981) both perform decently on the R&B charts, but are sales disappointments (in spite of the latter winning a Grammy Award in early 1982), moving between 300-350,000 copies each. During this time, Luther Vandross ascends to the top of the R&B charts with his debut album “Never Too Much”. In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Vandross is asked what he wants to do next after his initial success. Luther replies, “I’d wrestle Bruno Sammartino for a chance to produce Aretha Franklin.” Clive Davis reads this, and phone Vandross, asking him if he’s serious about what he said. A huge fan of Aretha’s since his teenage years, Luther emphatically confirms his statement to Davis. Soon after, Franklin and Vandross talk on the phone, and agree to work together. While appearing as the musical guest on “Saturday Night Live” in February of 1982, Luther comes up with the idea for “Jump To It” with bassist Marcus Miller, with the pair writing the song quickly. Recorded with same musicians featured on “Never Too Much”, “Jump To It” also features a chorus of backing vocalists including Cissy Houston, Brenda White, Fonzi Thornton, Michelle Cobbs, Phillip Ballou, Tawatha Agee and Luther himself. Released in late June of 1982, “Jump To It” is an immediate hit on R&B radio, on club dance floors, and a solid hit on top 40 pop radio. The success of “Jump To It” gives Aretha Franklin her first number one R&B single and album in over six years, with the album achieving Gold status and earning a Grammy nomination.

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On this day in music history: September 4, 197…

On this day in music history: September 4, 1976 – “You Should Be Dancing” by the Bee Gees hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #4 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb, it is the third US chart topper for the trio of brothers from the Isle Of Man, UK. Issued as the first single from the bands fourteenth album “Children Of The World”, the single and album mark a major turning point in the Bee Gees career. Having previously worked successfully with producer Arif Mardin on their comeback release “Main Course”, Mardin is not able to work with the group on the follow up, when the Bee Gees label RSO Records changes distribution from Atlantic Records to Polydor in 1976. Mardin is an Atlantic staff producer exclusively at the time and isn’t permitted to work with artists not on the label. Having gained experience from all they have learned about producing records from their mentor, the Bee Gees take over the production duties themselves with assistance from engineers Albhy Galuten and Karl Richardson who become their co-producers. “You Should Be Dancing” is recorded at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL in early 1976 with the Bee Gees band including Alan Kendall (lead guitar), Blue Weaver (keyboards), Dennis Bryon (drums), Joe Lala (percussion) along with Barry Gibb (rhythm guitar) and Maurice Gibb (bass). Stephen Stills of Crosby, Stills & Nash happens to recording his album “Illegal Stills” in adjoining studio, also sits in on a session playing percussion. Entering the Hot 100 at #67 on July 4, 1976, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. A little more than a year after its release, “You Should Be Dancing” is featured prominently in the film “Saturday Night Fever” when it is used in an electrifying dance sequence featuring John Travolta, that is one of the films highlights. At the time of the singles original release, a slightly longer version of “Dancing” is issued as a promotional 12" single. Also featured on another promo 12" single issued to promote the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack in 1977, this mix finally sees its first commercial release in 1990 on the box set “Tales From The Brothers Gibb – A History In Song – 1967 – 1990”. The extended mix is also reissued on vinyl for Record Store Day in April of 2015, on a limited edition 12" single titled  "Bee Gees: Extended EP".  "You Should Be Dancing" is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: September 4, 197…

On this day in music history: September 4, 1974 – “When Will I See You Again” by The Three Degrees is released. Written and produced by Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff, it is the twenty eighth single release, and biggest hit for the R&B vocal trio from Philadelphia, PA. Originally formed in 1963, the first line up of The Three Degrees consists of Fayette Pinkney, Shirley Porter and Linda Turner. With Pinkney remaining the mainstay of the group, a number of personnel changes occur before additions of Valerie Holiday and Sheila Ferguson by 1967. The group record for several different labels including Swan, Warner Bros, Metromedia and Roulette. The Three Degrees first connect with songwriter and producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff in 1970 when they record the single “What I See” on the duos label Neptune Records. The record fails to chart, and the girls return to Roulette later that year, scoring their first major hit with a cover of The Chantels’ classic “Maybe” (#4 R&B, #29 Pop). During this period, they make a brief appearance appearance in the film “The French Connection”, and continue to record with Roulette through 1972. Now running their label Philadelphia International Records through CBS, Gamble and Huff sign The Three Degrees in 1973. The groups first single for the label “Dirty ‘Ol Man” (#58 R&B), though only a minor hit, becomes a favorite in clubs as the Disco movement begins in major cities around the US and internationally. Among the songs Gamble & Huff write for The Three Degrees first album is “When Will I See You Again”. After Kenny Gamble plays the song for the group, lead singer Sheila Ferguson immediately voices her disapproval of it, calling it “simple” and that it took “no talent to sing it”. The producers insist they do it anyway, the group record it, feeling that it’s just an album track, and was unlikely to do anything. At first, they seem to be correct as the follow up “Year Of Decision” (#74 R&B) also fails to make any major waves. The Three Degrees luck changes in a major way in the Spring of 1974 when “TSOP (The Sound Of Philadelphia)” by PIR house band MFSB and featuring them on background vocals, becomes an across the board smash, topping the R&B, Pop and AC charts and winning a Grammy Award. It is followed by the club classic “Love Is The Message” (#42 R&B, #85 Pop) in June of 1974. Now a year after their self-titled debut album, “When Will Will I See You Again” is released as a single, in the UK first, racing to number one on August 17, 1974. It is issued in the US three weeks later, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 on December 14, 1974, topping the AC chart on the same date, and peaking at #4 on the R&B chart on December 28, 1974. The song is later featured in the film “Kill Bill: Volume 2” in 2004. “When Will I See You Again” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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