On this day in music history: December 15, 1979 – “Do You Love What You Feel” by Rufus & Chaka Khan hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, peaking at #5 on the Club Play chart, also peaking at #30 on the Hot 100 on February 2, 1980. Written by David “Hawk” Wolinski, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the Chicago, IL R&B/Funk band. Following her guest appearance on Quincy Jones’ number one R&B hit “Stuff Like That” the previous year, the producer signs on to work with Rufus on their eighth album “Masterjam”. Sessions get underway at Westlake Audio in Hollywood, CA in mid 1979 just as Jones is completing work on Michael Jackson’s “Off The Wall”. During the sessions for the song, Wolinski and Jones have a disagreement over the songs’ bridge, that nearly leads to “Hawk” withdrawing the song from the album. Eventually all is worked out in the end with the song being recorded as Wolinski intended it. Released as a single in late September of 1979, “Do You Love What You Feel” an immediate smash on R&B radio and on dance floors around the world. The song is also issued as a longer extended version (remixed by engineer Bruce Swedien) that is released in the US only as a promotional 12" to radio and club DJ’s (with original copies becoming sought after collector’s items), but is released commercially in the UK. The success of “Do You Love What You Feel” sends their album “Masterjam” to number one on the Billboard R&B album chart (#14 Pop), driving its sales to Gold status in the US. Over the years, “Do You Love What You Feel” has been sampled by rappers MC Shy D (“I Wanna Dance”), Fresh Kid Ice (“I Wanna Dance Y’All”), Poison Clan (“Some S*** I Used To Do”), Ras Kass Featuring RC (“Lapdance”) SWV Featuring Brianna Perry (“Do Ya”), and The Jacka Featuring Husalah (“Love How It Feels”). Other elements of the song are interpolated into tracks by Cam’ron (“Rockin’ And Rollin’) and Murderbot (”More Guns”).
On this day in music history: December 15, 1978 – “Here, My Dear”, the fifteenth studio album by Marvin Gaye is released. Produced by Marvin Gaye, it is recorded at Marvin’s Room in Hollywood, CA from Summer 1976 – Fall 1977. The fourteen track double LP set is a concept album, containing songs inspired by his divorce from first wife Anna Gordy Gaye (sister of Motown founder Berry Gordy, Jr.). The album is recorded with the caveat that Gaye’s ex-wife receives royalties from sales. Initially, Gaye plans to record a quick “throwaway” album, but the singer’s creative muse takes over. He crafts an intense song cycle chronicling his relationship with his former wife, and the eventual breakdown of their marriage. Initially, Motown refuses to release the album, but are forced to due to the stipulations of the divorce settlement. Anna Gaye threatens to sue her former husband, citing “invasion of privacy”, but later drops the lawsuit. Fans and critics are puzzled by the highly personal (and controversial) nature of the songs at the time of its release, and it fares poorly, winding up in record store cut out bins soon after. It spins off the lone single “A Funky Space Reincarnation” (#23 R&B, #106 Pop Bubbling Under), released in January of 1979. Motown issues it an edited two part 7" single, and a commercial 12" single, with the latter including an instrumental version. Re-evaluated years later, “Dear” is regarded as a classic and one of Marvin Gaye’s last great works. “A Funky Space Reincarnation” is later featured in a commercial for Dior J’adore perfume featuring actress Charlize Theron. In 2007, Hip-O Select Records releases a two CD expanded edition of the album featuring alternate extended mixes and instrumental versions of several tracks. Out of print on vinyl since its initial release, it is reissued as a double 180 gram LP set by Music On Vinyl in 2012. It is reissued again as part of Motown/UMe’s “Back To Black” vinyl reissue series in 2016, which includes an MP3 download of the full album. “Here, My Dear” peaks at number four on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number twenty six on the Top 200.
On this day in music history: December 15, 1975 – “Mothership Connection”, the fourth album by Parliament is released. Produced by George Clinton, it is recorded at United Sound Studios in Detroit, MI and Hollywood Sound in Hollywood, CA from Mid – Late 1975. Following the release of Parliament’s second Casablanca release “Chocolate City”, former JB’s members Fred Wesley and Maceo Parker joins the band. Much like the previous album, “Mothership” follows a concept of placing “black people in situations nobody ever thought they would be in”. Bandleader George Clinton, a major science fiction fan, comes up with the idea of representing black people in outer space through several of the songs on the album. This concept also carries over to the albums’ now iconic cover artwork features Clinton in a spaceship on the front and back. The album marks a major turning point in Parliament’s career, being regarded as one of their best and is their most commercially successful to date. It spins off three singles including “Give Up The Funk (Tear The Roof Off The Sucker)” (#2 R&B, #15 Pop), “P-Funk (Wants To Get Funked Up)” (#33 R&B), and the title track “Mothership Connection (Star Child)” (#26 R&B). The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 2003 with the promo 45 edit of “Star Child (Mothership Connection)” added as a bonus track. It is also remastered and reissued on vinyl in 2015 as part of the “Respect The Classics” reissue series, with 3D lenticular cover artwork. “Mothership” is added to the National Recording Registry by The Library Of Congress in 2011, being acknowledged for its status as a seminal R&B/Funk recording, and for its ongoing influence on popular music. “Mothership Connection” peaks at number four on the Billboard R&B album chart, number thirteen on the Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 15, 1973 – “The Most Beautiful Girl” by Charlie Rich hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also topping the Country singles chart for 3 weeks on November 24, 1973, and the Adult Contemporary chart for 3 weeks on November 10, 1973. Written by Billy Sherrill, Norris Wilson and Rory Michael Bourke, the song is the biggest hit for the legendary country music performer nicknamed “The Silver Fox”. Having started his career out as a session musician at Sam Phillips’ legendary Sun Records in the late 50’s, Rich carves out a recording career for himself during the 60’s, recording singles for RCA and Smash Records. One of which, titled “Mohair Sam” is a sizable hit for him in 1965. In the late 60’s, Rich signs with Epic Records and is paired with producer Billy Sherrill (Tammy Wynette, George Jones). Together with fellow songwriter Norris “Norro” Wilson, the trio pens what becomes Rich’s biggest hit, and one of his signature songs. Entering the Hot 100 at #83 on September 29, 1973, it climbs to the top of the chart eleven weeks later. The success of “Girl” and his previous hit “Behind Closed Doors”, wins Rich a number of honors including Male Vocalist Of The Year awards from both the Academy Of Country Music and the Country Music Association. “The Most Beautiful Girl” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1979 – “London Calling” the third album by The Clash is released in the UK (US release is in January 1980). Produced by Guy Stevens and Mick Jones, it is recorded at Wessex Sound Studios in London from August – September and November 1979. The album demonstrates the bands’ ever widening musical influences and touch on numerous social issues affecting the UK at the time including unemployment, racial conflict and class inequality. The albums’ iconic cover artwork features a photo (taken by photographer Pennie Smith) of bassist Paul Simonon smashing his Fender Precision bass on stage at The Palladium in New York City. The title graphics on the cover pay homage to Elvis Presley’s 1956 debut album which also features the same typography design. The remnants of Simonon’s smashed bass are on display at the Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame in Cleveland, OH. It spins off three singles including the classics “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” (#23 Pop) and the title track. With “Train” being a last minute addition, initial pressings do not list the track on the back of the album or on the labels. Subsequent re-pressings correct this oversight. The album is remastered and reissued on CD in 1999, with original double LP being reissued on 180 gram vinyl in 2013. “London Calling” peaks at number nine on the UK album chart, number twenty seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1977 – “Saturday Night Fever” opens in theaters across the US. Released by Paramount Pictures, it stars John Travolta and is directed by John Badham. The low budget film about a young working class man spending his weekends dancing in a Brooklyn discotheque becomes a pop cultural phenomenon, grossing over $237 million at the box office, and is the breakthrough film role for Travolta. Initially Paramount has very low expectations, with some studio executives referring to it as “a vulgar little movie”. Their minds are changed when theater audiences respond enthusiastically to the first teaser trailer, which features John Travolta strutting down the street to the Bee Gees “Stayin’ Alive”. The actor also receives an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor in 1978. The soundtrack album featuring five tracks by the Bee Gees goes on to sell more than thirty million copies worldwide. The R-rated film’s popularity is so great, that Paramount re-edits the film and resubmits it to the MPAA for a PG rating so Travolta’s younger fans can see it with out being accompanied by an adult. This version of the film is the one that is aired on television, when it makes its network debut on ABC on November 16, 1980 (with further alterations), and is briefly issued on home video along with the original theatrical cut. Due to legal complications regarding clearances for the all of the music featured in the film, “Saturday Night Fever” does not make its debut on DVD until 2002, just in time for the twenty fifth anniversary of its original release. Since then, it has been reissued again on DVD for its thirtieth anniversary in 2007 and on Blu-ray disc in 2009. The iconic white three piece suit worn by John Travolta in the film is purchased at auction in 1979 by film critic Gene Siskel, whose inner lining includes an inscription to the critic from Travolta himself. After Siskel’s death in 1999, the suit is auctioned again by Christie’s to an anonymous buyer in the UK.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1974 – “You Got The Love” by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #11 on the Hot 100 on the same date. Written by Ray Parker, Jr. and Chaka Khan, it is the first R&B chart topper for the Chicago based R&B band fronted by singer Chaka Khan. The song is originally written for Barry White for whom Parker is then working as a sideman in the Love Unlimited Orchestra, following his tenure with Stevie Wonder. When White passes on recording it, he shows the song to Chaka Khan, having met a few years before. Khan completes the lyrics and comes up with the title. Parker also joins the band in the studio and the play the songs’ signature rhythm guitar hook, when the band’s own guitarist Al Ciner isn’t able to nail the part. “You Got The Love” is released as the follow up to the band’s Grammy winning breakthrough hit “Tell Me Something Good” (#3 Pop & R&B) in September of 1974. “You Got The Love” is the first of five number one R&B singles the band has over the next nine years, propelling their second album “Rags To Rufus” to Gold and eventually Platinum status in the US.
On this day in music history: December 13, 1977 – “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter”, the tenth album by Joni Mitchell is released. Produced by Joni Mitchell, it is recorded at A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA, Columbia Recording Studios in New York City and Basing Street Studios in London from Mid – Late 1977. Ever evolving musically, and refusing to be creatively pigeonholed, Joni Mitchell follows the brilliant “Hejira” with another step forward. Mitchell utilizes the talents of several prominent jazz musicians including Jaco Pastorius (bass) (also featured on the previous album), Herbie Hancock (keyboards), Pastorius’ Weather Report band mates Wayne Shorter (soprano saxophone), Alejandro Acuña, Don Alias, and Manolo Badrena (percussion), as well as Larry Carlton (guitar), Michel Colombier (piano), Airto Moreira (percussion), and background vocal support from Chaka Khan, Glenn Frey and J.D. Souther. The album is more experimental in nature than her previous work, delving deeper into jazz and world music rhythms, pushing the boundaries of Joni’s pop and folk music roots, all set to her vivid stream of conscious lyrics. Though critical and fan response to the ten track double album is mixed upon its release, it performs well commercially, and in time is reassessed more favorably by the public. It spins off the single “Jericho” b/w “Dreamland”. The original vinyl LP release is packaged in a gatefold sleeve designed by graphic artist Glen Christensen (Curtis Mayfield, Gladys Knight & The Pips, Carly Simon, The Eagles), features a montage of photos taken by photographers Norman Seeff and Keith Williamson. Photos on the front cover and inner gatefold feature Mitchell made up to look like a black hipster named “Art Nouveau”. The album cover and music attracts the attention of jazz bass icon Charles Mingus who invites Mitchell to collaborate on his final musical project, resulting in the album “Mingus”, the follow up to “Don Juan” released in June of 1979. “Don Juan’s Reckless Daughter” peaks at number twenty five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: December 13, 1977 – “Live At The Bijou”, the seventh album by Grover Washington, Jr. is released. Produced by Creed Taylor, it is recorded at the Bijou Cafe in Philadelphia, PA in May 1977. Following a string of back to back successes since making his recording debut in 1972, saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr. takes a different approach when working on the follow up to “A Secret Place”. Rather than returning to the confines of the recording studio, Washington instead chooses to record in front of a live audience. Having assembled a brand new band that includes MIllard Vinson (drums), Richard Lee Steacker (guitar), James Simmons (keyboards), Leonard “Doc” Gibbs (percussion), Leslie Burrs (flute), John Blake (electric violin), and Tyrone Brown (bass), they perform a series of dates at the Bijou Cafe in Washington’s adopted hometown of Philadelphia in May of 1977. The recording made at the famed (and now defunct) jazz and rock venue in downtown Philly captures the electric atmosphere of those performances on the eight track double album set. Most unusually, rather than the band playing a familiar set of Washington’s best known material, the album features brand new previously unrecorded material penned by the members of the band. The only exception is the side long medley that includes the James Simmons composition “Days In Our Lives” with an extended funky workout of the sax master’s signature tune “Mr. Magic”. It is Washington’s last album with long time producer and label boss Creed Taylor, and final his release on Motown distributed Kudu Records. In spite of numerous best selling albums since being established in 1971, Taylor is forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 1978, leading to the dissolution of his Kudu and CTI record labels. Washington files suit to be released from his recording and publishing contracts with Taylor, releasing the last two albums he owes through Motown before signing with Elektra Records in 1979. “Bijou” spins off the double A-sided single “Summer Song” b/w “Juffure” (#57 R&B) in March 1978. Originally reissued by Motown on CD in the early 90’s from inferior quality master tapes, “Live At The Bijou” receives a much needed upgrade in 1999, when it is remastered from the original first generation master tapes, and is reissued on Universal Music Group’s Hip-O Records imprint. “Live At The Bijou” spends four weeks at number one on the Billboard Jazz album chart, peaking at number four on the R&B album chart, and number eleven on the Top 200.