Category: vocal

On this day in music history: June 15, 1963 …

On this day in music history: June 15, 1963 – “Sukiyaki” by Kyu Sakamoto hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks. Written by Rokusuke Ei and Hachidai Nakamura, it is the biggest hit for the pop singer and actor from Kawasaki, Japan. With lyrics composed by songwriter Rokusuke Ei, the song is inspired while Ei is attending Waseda University in Tokyo. The words come to him while walking home from a student demonstration, protesting US Army presence in Japan. After writing the lyrics, the music is written by fellow songwriter Hachidai Nakamura. The original Japanese title is “Ue o Muite Arukō” which translates to English as “I Look Up When I Walk”. The lyrics speak of a man holding his head high so that his tears won’t fall. The ambiguous tone of the lyrics have led to numerous interpretations. It has been described as everything from a story of love gone wrong, to a man on his way to his execution. “Ue o Muite Arukō” is first performed by Kyu Sakamoto on the television program Yume de Aimashō on August 16, 1961. The show generates an immediate demand for it to be released as a record. Sakamoto records the song and it is released by Toshiba-EMI Records in October of 1961, and is an instant smash in Japan. The single races to the top of the charts, and becomes the biggest selling record of the year. It is first released outside of Japan in the form of an instrumental version by UK bandleader Kenny Ball. Ball’s record label believing the original title is too difficult to pronounce, give it the generic name “sukiyaki”, a Japanese hot pot dish consisting of thinly sliced beef and vegetables. In the US, a DJ named Rich Osborne at KORD in Pasco, WA acquires a copy of Sakamoto’s version and begins playing it on his radio show. The response so overwhelmingly positive that Capitol Records picks up the US distribution rights from Toshiba-EMI, its sister label in Japan. Entering the Hot 100 at #79 on May 11, 1963, it rockets to the top of the chart five weeks later. The success of “Sukiyaki” turns Kyu Sakamoto into a worldwide star. Nearly two decades later, R&B band A Taste Of Honey scores a major hit with an English language cover, topping the Billboard R&B singles chart (on May 9, 1981), and peaking #3 on the Hot 100 on June 13, 1981, exactly eighteen years to the week that Sakamoto’s version hits #1. Tragically, Kyu Sakamoto is killed in a plane crash aboard Japan Airlines Flight 123 while flying from Tokyo to Osaka on August 12, 1985. The single deadliest air crash in aviation history, Sakamoto is among the 520 passengers and flight crew who perish in the accident. In 1993 the Kyu Sakamoto Memorial Hall opens in Kuriyama, Hokkaido, Japan, featuring memorabilia, clothing and other artifacts owned by the beloved performer. “Sukiyaki” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 11, 1991 – …

On this day in music history: June 11, 1991 – “Unforgettable… With Love”, the fourteenth album by Natalie Cole is released. Produced by David Foster, Andre Fischer and Tommy LiPuma, it is recorded at Capitol Recording Studios, Conway Studios, Group IV Recording Studios, Hollywood Sound in Hollywood, CA, Pacifique Studios, Bill Schnee Studios, Track Record Studios in North Hollywood, CA, Lighthouse Studios, Ocean Way Recording, Westlake Audio, Johnny Yuma Recording Studios in Los Angeles, CA and Twentieth Century Fox Scoring Stage in Century City, CA from November 1990 – April 1991. Having successfully restarted her stalled recording career in the late 80’s after years of drug abuse and regaining her sobriety, Natalie Cole is about to begin her third decade with another career milestone. Following the release of the album “Good To Be Back” in 1989, Cole tells executives at her label EMI Records that she wants to record an album of standards originally recorded by her legendary father Nat King Cole. The label is not receptive to the idea, feeling that it “won’t be commercial” and will potentially alienate her new younger fan base. Determined to go forth with the project, Cole negotiates her release from EMI, when her management contacts Bob Krasnow at Elektra Records, who offers to sign her to the label and make the album. Assembling a team of producers that include Natalie’s then husband former Rufus drummer Andre Fischer, Tommy LiPuma (George Benson, Diana Krall) and David Foster (Chicago, Celine Dion, Whitney Houston, Barbara Streisand), they go about the task of selecting which songs to record. They pare the list down to twenty two songs which include the standards “Paper Moon”, “Too Young”, “Mona Lisa”, “Nature Boy”, “Route 66” (featuring Natalie’s uncle Ike Cole on piano), “Smile”, “L-O-V-E” and “Darling, Je Vous Aime Beaucoup”. The albums centerpiece is the title track “Unforgettable”, which is turned into a virtual duet by lifting the vocal track from Nat King Cole’s 1961 re-recording. To add additional authenticity and reverence to the new version, they also use arranger and orchestra conductor Nelson Riddle’s original arrangement. Released in the late Spring of 1991, the album is an enormous artistic and commercial triumph, giving Natalie Cole the opportunity to honor her father’s legacy, while also becoming the most successful album of her career. “Unforgettable” sweeps the 34th Annual Grammy Awards in 1992, winning six awards including the three major prizes, Record Of The Year, Song Of The Year and Album Of The Year. “Unforgettable… With Love” spends five weeks at number one on the Billboard Top 200, peaking at number five on the R&B album chart, and is certified 7x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: June 10, 1972 – …

On this day in music history: June 10, 1972 – “The Candy Man” by Sammy Davis, Jr. hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on May 20, 1972. Written by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, it is the biggest hit for the Harlem, NY born singer, actor and entertainer. Songwriters Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse whose credits singularly and collectively include classics such as “Goldfinger”, “What Kind Of Fool Am I”, “Talk To The Animals”, and Tony winning musical “Stop The World –  I Want To Get Off”, are hired by film producers Stan Margulies and David L. Wolper to write songs and the score for the film “Willy Wonka And The Chocolate Factory”. Among the eight songs Newley and Bricusse write, the first heard in the film is “The Candy Man”. The original version of the song is sung by actor Aubrey Woods, as the candy shop owner. After a brief stint signed to Motown Records which yields one album produced by Jimmy Bowen (Frank Sinatra), entertainer Sammy Davis, Jr., leaves Motown in 1971 and signs with MGM Records. MGM Records president Mike Curb suggests to Sammy that he record “The Candy Man”. At first Davis is not receptive to the idea, telling Curb he hates the song, feeling that it’s “too saccharine”. Though ten years before, Davis had scored a major hit with Newley and Bricusse’s “What Kind Of Fool Am I”, and decides to give “The Candy Man” a shot. Curb co-produces the session along with legendary producer and arranger Don Costa, and Michael Viner (Incredible Bongo Band). The track also features background vocals by The Mike Curb Congregation who had previously recorded it before Davis, but their fails to chart. Released as a single in November of 1971, “The Candy Man” is not an immediate hit. It is only after it begins receiving airplay on AC radio stations, that the record takes off. At the time, many Top 40 pop stations refuse to play the record. The exposure from Adult Contemporary radio gives it the momentum it needs to propel it on to and up the charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #97 on March 11, 1972, it climbs to the top of the chart thirteen weeks later. The single earns Davis a Grammy nomination for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance in 1973. “The Candy Man” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 9, 1964 – &l…

On this day in music history: May 9, 1964 – “Hello Dolly” by Louis Armstrong hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 9 weeks on March 28, 1964. Written by Jerry Herman, it is the biggest hit for the legendary New Orleans born jazz musician. The title song to the Broadway musical starring Carol Channing in the title role, Armstrong records his version on December 3, 1963 originally as a demo recording for the song publisher’s use in promoting the show. Kapp Records releases it as a single and it becomes an unexpected hit, temporarily ending The Beatles fourteen week long hammer lock on the top of the pop singles chart. Entering the Hot 100 at #76 on February 15, 1964, it climbs to the top of the chart twelve weeks later. Sixty two years old at the time, it makes Armstrong the oldest artist in history to top the pop singles chart. “Hello Dolly” also wins Grammy Awards for Song Of The Year and Best Vocal Performance, Male in 1965. Armstrong also performs the song with Barbra Streisand in the 1969 film adaptation of the hit musical. Louis Armstrong’s version of “Hello Dolly” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2001.

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On this day in music history: May 4, 1963 – &l…

On this day in music history: May 4, 1963 – “Days Of Wine And Roses And Other TV Requests” by Andy Williams hits #1 on the Billboard Top 200 for 16 weeks. Produced by Robert Mersey, it is recorded at Columbia Recording Studios in New York City in January 1963. Riding a wave of success powered by his popular variety series “The Andy Williams Show”, and as a frequent talk show guest, the pop singer reaches the apex of his popularity during this period. His rendition of the Henry Mancini standard “Moon River” (from the film “Breakfast At Tiffany’s”), recorded the previous year, becomes his signature song, and Williams scores yet another hit with a Mancini composition. Williams sings “Days Of Wine And Roses” on his variety show, and shortly afterward record an albums worth of songs performed on the program. Released in April of 1963, the album becomes a runaway success, spinning off his biggest hit with the Doc Pomus and Mort Shuman (“Save The Last Dance For Me”) penned “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” (#2 Pop, #1 Adult Contemporary for 4 weeks) with the title track on B-side also charting (#26 Pop, #9 Adult Contemporary). In 1980, the UK ska band The (English) Beat cover “Can’t Get Used To Losing You” on their first album “I Just Can’t Stop It”, peaking at #3 on the UK singles chart. It is also sampled on Beyonce’s single “Hold Up” in 2016. Williams’ album spends a total of 107 weeks on the Billboard album chart, and receives a pair of Grammy Award nominations including Album Of The Year. “Days Of Wine And Roses And Other TV Requests” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 2, 1938 – &l…

On this day in music history: May 2, 1938 – “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” by Chick Webb & His Orchestra Featuring Ella Fitzgerald is recorded at Decca Recording Studios in New York City. Written by Al Feldman and Ella Fitzgerald, it is the first chart topper for the Newport News, VA born jazz icon. The song is based on the children’s nursery rhyme written and published in 1879. It is the breakthrough hit for the then twenty one year old jazz singer. Quickly becoming a jazz standard, it tops the American Hit Parade (existing prior to the Billboard Best Sellers chart), selling over a million copies. Fitzgerald also performs the song (also playing a small role in the film) in the Abbott & Costello comedy “Ride ‘Em Cowboy” in 1942. “A-Tisket, A-Tasket” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1986.

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Born on this day: April 25, 1917 – Jazz vocal …

Born on this day: April 25, 1917 – Jazz vocal icon Ella Fitzgerald (born Ella Jane Fitzgerald in Newport News, VA. Happy Birthday to the “Queen Of Jazz” on what would have been her 102nd Birthday.

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On this day in music history: April 21, 1958 -…

On this day in music history: April 21, 1958 – “Twilight Time” by The Platters hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers chart for 1 week, also topping the R&B Best Sellers chart for 3 weeks on April 28, 1958. Written by Buck Ram, Al Nevins, Morton Nevins and Artie Dunn, it is the third pop and fourth R&B chart topper for the Los Angeles, CA based vocal group. The song is originally recorded in 1944 by The Three Suns and by big band leader Les Brown. When The Platters record it in early 1958, it is initially be regulated to the B-side of “Out Of My Mind”. American Bandstand host Dick Clark prefers “Twilight” and begins heavily plugging it on the show, making it the A-side by default. Entering the Best Sellers chart at #7 on April 14, 1958, it leaps to the top of the chart the following week. The single sells over 1.5 million copies by the time it tops the charts, The success of the record is significant as more than 90% of its sales on the 7 inch 45 RPM format, leading The Platters label Mercury Records to phase out the manufacturing of the 10 inch 78 RPM record, the format that had dominated the music industry for the first half century of its existence. “Twilight Time” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: April 21, 1951 -…

On this day in music history: April 21, 1951 – “How High The Moon” by Les Paul & Mary Ford hits #1 on the Billboard Best Sellers Chart for 9 weeks, also peaking at #2 on the Rhythm & Blues Best Sellers Chart. Written by Morgan Lewis and Nancy Hamilton, it is the biggest hit for the husband and wife instrumental and vocal duo. The song was originally written for and appears in the Broadway revue “Two For The Show” in 1940. Guitarist Les Paul and his wife Mary Ford cut the song on January 4, 1951. Paul has developed groundbreaking use of the magnetic tape machines by co-founding Ampex Electronics, and creating the ability to overdub multiple voices and instruments on tape. These innovations lead to the development of multi-track recording. The record revolutionizes the music industry, and has a great influence on how records are made in the years that follow. The single sells over two million copies in the US alone, becoming one the largest selling singles for Capitol Records at that time. “How High The Moon” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1979.

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On this day in music history: April 15, 1967 -…

On this day in music history: April 15, 1967 – “Somethin’ Stupid” by Nancy Sinatra & Frank Sinatra hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 9 weeks on April 1, 1967. Written by C. Carson Parks, it is the biggest hit for the father and daughter vocal duo. With pop vocal legend Frank Sinatra and his daughter Nancy Sandra Sinatra both having scored number one singles during the previous year, naturally the idea for them to record together is proposed. Nancy’s producer Lee Hazelwood finds the song “Somethin’ Stupid” written by singer and songwriter C. Carson Parks (the older brother of musician and songwriter Van Dyke Parks). Parks originally records the song in 1966 with his wife Gaile Foote under the name Carson & Gaile, but their version is not a hit. After playing the original version for Nancy, she let’s her father hear it, who also immediately loves the song. A session is quickly organized with Hazelwood and Frank’s producer Jimmy Bowen both working on the record. The track is recorded at Western Recorders in Hollywood, CA on February 1, 1967, completely live with an orchestra and members of The Wrecking Crew backing the singers. Guitarist Billy Strange is credited with writing the arrangement for “Somethin’ Stupid”. Fellow Wrecking Crew guitarist Tommy Tedesco, plays the distinctive latin flavored acoustic guitar parts on the song. Completed in only four takes, all agree that the record will be a hit. Any apprehension about a father and daughter singing a love song to each other go out the window immediately, when it is released as a single in early March of 1967. Entering the Hot 100 at #50 on March 18, 1967, it races to the top of the chart four weeks later, becoming the only father-daughter duet to top the US singles chart. The single also receives a Grammy nomination for Record Of The Year in 1968 (though loses to The 5th Dimension’s “Up Up And Away”). “Somethin’ Stupid” is later revived by singer Robbie Williams and actress Nicole Kidman with their version hitting number one on the UK singles chart in December of 2001. “Somethin’ Stupid” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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