Category: vocal

On this day in music history: August 18, 1958 …

On this day in music history: August 18, 1958 – “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)” by Domenico Modugno hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 6 weeks. Written by Franco Migliacci and Domenico Modugno, it is the biggest hit for the Italian born singer, songwriter and filmmaker. The idea for “Volare” comes from fellow songwriter Franco Migliacci, who is inspired by a pair of paintings by Russian-French impressionist artist Marc Chagall. The song describes an abstract dream of a man painting himself blue and flying through the air. Migliacci and Modugno write the song originally titled “Sogno in blu” (dream in blue) before changing it to “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)” with volare being the Italian word meaning “to fly”, and the latter translating to “in the sky, painted blue. The song is entered in the Sanremo Music Festival in January of 1958, with it receiving its first public performance. "Volare” wins the contest, leading to it being Italy’s entry in the Eurovision Song Contest. Though it only places third in the competition, the attention generated at Eurovision will convince Modugno to record it. Originally released on the Fonit Cetra label, the song is an instant smash, selling over a million copies in Italy alone. “Volare” is licensed to Decca Records in the US, and takes a similar trajectory. Entering the Hot 100 at #54 on August 4, 1958, it pole vaults to the top of the chart two weeks later, becoming only the second single to top the newly established chart. The only song in the Italian language to hit the top of the US charts, “Volare” is a sensation with American music fans. At the first Grammy Awards ceremony in May of 1959, “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)” wins three Grammy Awards including Best Male Vocal Performance, and the first to win Record Of The Year and Song Of The Year. A pop standard, “Volare” is covered many times, and is referenced numerous times in movies and television. Singer Sergio Franchi sings  the song in commercials for the Plymouth Volaré in the 70’s. Actor Kevin Kline sings a brief snippet of it in “A Fish Called Wanda”, and Vitamin C recording a cover for the “Lizzie McGuire Movie” soundtrack. “Volare (Nel Blu Dipinto Di Blu)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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Born on this day: August 3, 1926 – Pop and Jaz…

Born on this day: August 3, 1926 – Pop and Jazz vocal legend Tony Bennett (born Anthony Dominick Benedetto in Astoria, Queens, NY). Happy 93rd Birthday, Tony!!!

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Remembering Jazz vocal legend Billie Holiday (…

Remembering Jazz vocal legend Billie Holiday (born Eleanora Fagan in Baltimore, MD) – April 7, 1915 – July 17, 1959

On this day in music history: July 8, 1950 – &…

On this day in music history: July 8, 1950 – “Mona Lisa” by Nat King Cole hits #1 on the Billboard Pop Singles chart for 8 weeks, also topping the Rhythm & Blues charts for 4 weeks on September 2, 1950. Written by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston, it is the thirty first single release for the legendary jazz and pop vocalist from Montgomery, AL. The song is featured in the film “Captain Carey, U.S.A.” starring Alan Ladd. Arranged by Nelson Riddle and with instrumental backing by Les Baxter & His Orchestra, Cole’s version of the song is featured on the film’s soundtrack. “Mona Lisa” wins the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1951, quickly becoming a pop standard and is covered by numerous artists over the years, though Cole’s is widely regarded as the definitive version. Nat King Cole’s recording of “Mona Lisa” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1992.

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On this day in music history: July 2, 1966 – &…

On this day in music history: July 2, 1966 – “Strangers In The Night” by Frank Sinatra hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week. Written by Bert Kaempfert, Charlie Singleton and Eddie Snyder, it is the fifth solo chart topper for the “Chairman Of The Board”. The song is originally composed as an instrumental for the film “A Man Could Get Killed” by German composer and arranger Bert Kaempfert. Sinatra’s producer Jimmy Bowen hears the instrumental through the song publisher, then tells them that if lyrics can be written for it, Sinatra would record it. The lyrics for the song are then written by Charlie Singleton and Eddie Snyder. Shortly after they’re written, both Bobby Darin and Jack Jones cut their own versions of the song. Wanting to beat both artists to the punch, Bowen quickly arranges a session with Sinatra. The singer records his vocals live with the orchestra in under an hour. Within 24 hours, Reprise Records has acetates of the single rush released to radio and is on the air across the country. “Strangers” is an immediate smash, entering the Hot 100 at #90 on May 7, 1966, it rises swiftly to the top of the chart eight weeks later. “Strangers” temporarily unseats The Beatles’ “Paperback Writer” from the top spot on the Hot 100, before they return to number one for one more week on July 9, 1966. The single wins three Grammy Awards including Best Male Pop Vocal Performance and Record Of The Year in 1967. “Strangers In The Night” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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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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