On this day in music history: December 12, 1992 – “The Bodyguard – Original Soundtrack Album” hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 20 weeks (non-consecutive), also topping the R&B album chart for eight weeks on the same date. Produced by David Foster, L.A. Reid, Babyface, Daryl Simmons, Robert Clivilles, David Cole, Narada Michael Walden, Danny Kortchmar, Charlie Midnight, BeBe Winans, Walter Afanasieff, Ian Devaney and Andy Morris, it is recorded at Various Locations circa 1987, 1991 – 1992. The soundtrack to the film starring Whitney Houston and Kevin Costner, features six tracks by Houston as well songs by Lisa Stansfield, Curtis Stigers, Joe Cocker, Kenny G. & Aaron Neville. Spinning off seven singles including the chart topping “I Will Always Love You”, it goes on to be the biggest selling film soundtrack of all time, selling over forty four million copies worldwide. The soundtrack also wins three Grammy Awards including Record Of The Year and Album Of The Year in 1994. “The Bodyguard” is certified 17x Platinum in the US by the RIAA, receiving a Diamond Certification.
On this day in music history: December 12, 1987 – “System Of Survival” by Earth, Wind & Fire hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, topping the Club Play chart for 3 weeks on November 21, 1987, topping the 12" singles sales chart for 3 weeks on December 19, 1987, also peaking at #60 on the Hot 100 on December 19, 1987. Written by Skylark, it is the eighth and final R&B chart topper for the veteran R&B band. Following a nearly four year hiatus, the core members of Earth, Wind & Fire which at the time includes founder and drummer Maurice White, bassist Verdine White, singer Philip Bailey, saxophonist Andrew Woolfolk, and new guitarist Sheldon Reynolds reunite and begin recording a new album. Working in the San Francisco Bay Area at The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA. An unknown songwriter named Skylark finds out that the band is recording there, and with no other way to contact them, attaches a demo cassette of his song “System Of Survival” to Maurice White’s car with “Maurice” written on it. Upon seeing the cassette box taped to his vehicle, White thinks that someone has attached a bomb to it. However, when he realizes that the package does not pose a threat, he pops the tape in the cassette deck to listen. White likes what he hears so much that he contacts the novice songwriter and musician, and invites him to come to the studio. Skylark plays keyboards and provides drum programming on the track. Lyrically, “System” touches on the recession, the general atmosphere of unchecked greed and excess, the ever widening gap of economic disparity during the Reagan administration, and seeking escape through music and dance to cope. The song is accompanied by a music video directed by Bob Giraldi (“Beat It”, “Say Say Say”). Issued as the first single from Earth, Wind & Fire’s fourteenth album in October of 1987, the sleek, modern and funky song becomes an R&B radio and club smash. The extended 12" mixes by Steve Thompson and Michael Barbiero add a harder edged groove, synth bass line and house inspired piano groove to the track, that is instrumental in it becoming a hit on the dance floor. The keyboards on the remix are played by musician David Cole, who later becomes a successful producer in his own right along with musical partner Robert Clivilles, for artists such as Seduction, Mariah Carey and Whitney Houston, as well as with their own group C+C Music Factory. The success of “System Of Survival” gives Earth, Wind & Fire their first major hit since “Fall In Love With Me”, and propels the accompanying album “Touch The World” to Gold status in the US.
On this day in music history: December 11, 1961 – “Please Mr. Postman” by The Marvelettes hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the R&B singles chart for 7 weeks on November 13, 1961. Written by Georgia Dobbins, William Garrett, Brian Holland, Robert Bateman and Freddie Gorman, it is the biggest hit for the female R&B vocal group from Inkster, MI. Originally known as The Casinyets, the group begin singing together in high school. They enter a talent contest in which the first prize is an audition with Motown Records. Though they come in fourth place, their music teacher is so impressed with their performance that she petitions for them to also audition. Motown also like what they hear and encourage the group to work up some original material. Georgia Dobbins asks her friend, songwriter William Garrett if he has any songs, and he offers them a blues song he has written called “Please Mr. Postman”. Dobbins completely re-writes the lyrics overnight, keeping only the title. Taking the song back to Motown, staff writers Brian Holland, Robert Bateman and Freddie Gorman also makes some changes to the lyrics and add some other chord changes. Before the single is recorded in April 1961, Dobbins (The Marvelettes original lead singer) leaves the group and is replaced by Wanda Young. The lead vocals on “Postman” are sung by Gladys Horton, and also features a then twenty two year old Marvin Gaye on drums. The single is released on August 21, 1961, but is not an immediate out of the box hit. Entering the Hot 100 at #95 on September 4, 1961, it slowly makes its way up the charts, reaching the top fourteen weeks later. “Please Mr. Postman” is the first number one pop single for Motown Records and second million seller (after The Miracles “Shop Around”). Becoming a standard in the Motown catalog, it is covered numerous times, most notably by The Beatles and The Carpenters. The latter also take the song to number one on the Hot 100 in January of 1975, making it the third time in the rock era that same song has topped the pop chart by two different artists. When The Marvelettes first album is released, it contains a version of “Postman” featuring Gladys Horton singing the alternate lyric “don’t pass me by, you see the tears in my eyes”, instead of the signature line “deliver de letter, the sooner de better” included on the hit single version. Over the years, the latter version is substituted for the first version until the correct hit version is reinstated on reissues. The song is also remixed into true stereo in 2005 from the original three track multi-track tape, appearing on “The Motown Box”, with the correct lead vocal on the end. “Please Mr. Postman” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 10, 1983 – “Time Will Reveal” by DeBarge hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also peaking at #18 on the Hot 100 on January 18, 1984. Written by Etterlene “Bunny” DeBarge and Eldra DeBarge, it is first chart topping single for the family R&B vocal group from Grand Rapids, MI. Fresh off of the success of their breakthrough second album “All This Love”, the group take more creative control on their third release “In A Special Way”. With primary lead vocalist El DeBarge in the producer’s chair, all five members contribute material to the new album. “Time Will Reveal” is a song started by El during the sessions for the groups’ previous album but is unable to complete it in time to be recorded and included on that album. El’s sister Bunny helps him finish it. Once in the studio, DeBarge works slowly and methodically on the song, with the singer taking nearly two weeks to capture his final lead vocal on the track. DeBarge’s intense perfectionism pays off when it soars to the top of the R&B singles chart and also becomes their highest charting pop single to date. “Time Will Reveal” has been covered by a number of artists over the years including versions by Blackstreet, Boyz II Men, and Janelle Monáe. In 2011, the previously unreleased complete version of “Time” appears on the three CD compilation set “Time Will Reveal: The Complete Motown Albums” running 5:02 with a full cold ending rather than fading at the 4:12 mark on the original album version.
On this day in music history: December 10, 1983 – “Say Say Say” by Paul McCartney & Michael Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks, also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Paul McCartney and Michael Jackson, it is the ninth solo chart topper for McCartney and the sixth chart topper for Jackson. The collaboration between the duo takes place when Michael Jackson calls Paul McCartney on Christmas Day of 1981, and suggests that they try writing some songs together. Jackson flies over to England and spends time at McCartney’s home in Peasmarsh, East Sussex where they write the songs “Say Say Say” and “The Man”. Working with producer George Martin, they begin recording the songs at Abbey Road Studios in London, then later completing them at Cherokee Studios in Los Angeles. The musicians featured on the track include McCartney (guitar, keyboards, percussion), Jackson (percussion), Nathan Watts (bass), Ricky Lawson (drums), Bill Wolfer (keyboards), Chris Hammer Smith (harmonica), Linda McCartney, Eric Stewart (backing vocals), Jerry Hey, Ernie Watts, Gary E. Grant and Gary Herbig (horns). Issued as the first single from McCartney’s album “Pipes Of Peace” on October 3, 1983, the single is an immediate smash. Entering the Hot 100 at #26 on October 15, 1983, it climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. “Say” is the highest chart debut for a single on the Billboard pop chart since John Lennon’s “Imagine” (entering at #20) twelve years before, though though it holds at #2 for three weeks on the pop singles chart before finally overtaking Lionel Richie’s “All Night Long (All Night)”. The songs’ music video directed by Bob Giraldi (“Beat It”, “Running With The Night”) is filmed in Santa Ynez Valley, CA at the Sycamore Ranch, which Jackson later buys in 1988 and re-names “Neverland Ranch”. “Say Say Say” makes Michael Jackson the only other artist in history besides Elvis Presley and The Beatles to have seven top ten singles in one calendar year. In October of 2015, a remixed version of the song featuring alternate lead vocals by McCartney and Jackson is released as a bonus track on the newly remastered reissue of the “Pipes Of Peace” album. “Say Say Say” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.