On this day in music history: June 17, 1978 – “Shadow Dancing” by Andy Gibb hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks, also peaking at #11 on the R&B singles chart on July 15, 1978. Written by Barry, Robin, Maurice and Andy Gibb, it is the third consecutive chart topper for the singer and songwriter from The Isle Of Man, UK. While his debut single “I Just Want To Be Your Everything” and the accompanying album “Flowing Rivers” are steadily climbing the charts in the US and abroad, singer Andy Gibb, with the assistance of his older brothers the Bee Gees begin work on his second album. All four brothers collaborate on “Shadow Dancing” while the Bee Gees are filming “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band in L.A. in mid 1977. Recording begins at Wally Heider Studios in Los Angeles, CA, with overdubs and final mixing completed at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL. Released as a single in April 1978, it becomes another smash for the youngest Gibb brother. Entering the Hot 100 at #69 on April 15, 1978, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. At only twenty years old, Andy Gibb becomes the first solo artist in history to have his first three singles reach number one in the US, achieving this feat in just eleven months. The song is ranked the top single of 1978 by Billboard Magazine. "Shadow Dancing” is later used on the long running animated series “South Park”, in the episode “Tom’s Rhinoplasty” originally airing on February 11, 1998. The song humorously underscores a scene where the boys teacher Mr. Garrison is strutting down the street after having cosmetic surgery, that makes him look like actor David Hasselhoff. “Shadow Dancing” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 16, 1979 – “Ring My Bell” by Anita Ward hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on June 30, 1979. Written and produced by Frederick Knight, it is the biggest hit for the former school teacher turned singer from Memphis, TN. The song is originally written and intended for then thirteen year old singer Stacy Lattisaw. When Lattisaw does not end up signing with Knight’s production company (signing with Atlantic Records instead), Knight re-writes the lyrics, originally about kids talking on the telephone, to something more suited for an adult singer. Anita Ward, a twenty two year old former school teacher from Memphis, TN discovered by Knight is given the song for her debut album. The track is cut at Malaco Studios in Jackson, MS and released on Knight’s Juana Records (distributed by Miami, FL based TK Records) in April of 1979. “Bell” is remixed by famed New York club DJ Richie Rivera, who helps turn it into a massive worldwide hit. “Ring My Bell” sells over 2.5 million copies in the US alone. “Bell” is later sampled and interpolated by DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince on their hit of the same name in 1991.
On this day in music history: June 11, 1977 – “I’m Your Boogie Man” by KC & The Sunshine Band hits # 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 1 week, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on June 4, 1977. Written and produced by Harry Wayne Casey and Richard Finch, it is the fourth chart topping single for the R&B/Disco band from Hialeah, FL led by keyboardist and lead singer Harry Wayne “KC” Casey. Casey and Finch write the song as a tribute to a Miami radio DJ named Robert W. Walker who was instrumental in helping break the bands first chart topping single “Get Down Tonight”. On the LP, “Boogie” is paired together with “Keep It Comin’ Love” (#2 Pop, #1 R&B), with the two songs edited so that they segue into each and play as one long continuous song. “I’m Your Boogie Man” is issued as the second single from the bands fourth studio album “Part 3”. Entering the Hot 100 at #84 on February 26, 1977, it climbs to the top of the chart fourteen weeks later. “I’m Your Boogie Man” is also covered by White Zombie in 1996 for the soundtrack to “The Crow – City Of Angels”. The original version is featured in the film “Scary Movie” and its sequels, the comedy “Superbad”, as well as the 2011 action adventure film “Watchmen”.
On this day in music history: June 9, 1979 – “We Are Family” by Sister Sledge hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 on June 16, 1979. Written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is the second consecutive chart topper and title track from the groups third album. Following the success of Chic’s self-titled debut album and the singles “Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah)” and “Everybody Dance”, Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers are offered the opportunity to work with any artist they choose on the Atlantic Records roster. Instead of opting to produce one of the labels established stars like The Rolling Stones or Bette Midler, they ask who has sold the fewest records. The Atlantic executive mentions Sister Sledge, a family vocal quartet from Philadelphia who have been with the label since 1975, but have only had minimal sales and chart success. In spite of this, the label is very fond of the group saying that “they’re good girls and feel like family to us”. That conversation provides the inspiration for what becomes Sister Sledge’s biggest hit. The main riff of “We Are Family” is inspired by a song called “Do What You Wanna Do” by Puerto Rican singer Martha Veléz. Recorded at The Power Station in New York City, lead singer Kathy Sledge delivers her lead vocal on the song in just one take, with Bernard Edwards feeding her the lyrics through her headphones one line at a time while tracking her vocals. A huge crossover smash, “We Are Family” is adopted as an anthem for various sports organizations including the Pittsburgh Pirates, and is featured in numerous films and television shows. Songwriter, producer, and musician Nile Rodgers also forms the non profit “We Are Family Foundation” in 2001 to create programs to educate and inspire people to solve problems affecting the world. “We Are Family” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 8, 1979 – “Discovery”, the eighth studio album by the Electric Light Orchestra is released. Produced by Jeff Lynne, it is recorded at Musicland Studios in Munich, W. Germany from March – April 1979. By the end of 1978, the Electric Light Orchestra are one of the biggest rock bands in the world, following the success of the albums “Eldorado”, “Face The Music”, “A New World Record” and “Out Of The Blue”. Responding to criticism that “Blue” was “over produced”, bandleader Jeff Lynne decides to alter the heavily orchestrated sound that has become ELO’s trademark, by all but eschewing the string section on the bands’ next album. Returning to their home base studio Musicland Studios in Munich, ELO is pared down to the basic quartet of Lynne (vocals, guitars); Bev Bevan (drums), Richard Tandy (keyboards) and Kelly Groucutt (bass). Continuing his prolific streak of creativity, Lynne writes all of the material on the new album. With disco reaching the peak of its popularity, he writes several of the songs marrying poppy hook laden melodies to the four on the floor back beat. Titling the album “Discovery”, keyboardist Tandy jokingly refers to it as “disco-very”, wryly making reference to the influence of disco on the project. This new sound is most overt on the up tempo first single “Shine A Little Love” (#8 Pop) which is an immediate hit. In spite of some grousing and backlash from some critics and fans over the musical shift, “Discovery” becomes one of the ELO’s biggest selling albums. It spins off two more singles including “Last Train To London” (#39 Pop) and “Don’t Bring Me Down” (#4 Pop). The now iconic cover artwork for “Discovery” designed by art directors Norman Moore and Paul Gross of the famed graphic design firm Gribbitt! (cover photos by Jim Shea), features an actor as Aladdin holding ELO’s neon art deco spaceship on the front cover, and running from sword wielding arabian guards on the inner spread of the gatefold sleeve. The arab guard on the back cover is actor and comedian Brad Garrett (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) in one of his first professional acting jobs. Some copies of the UK LP come packaged with a poster of the band. To promote the album, ELO make music videos for all of the songs in lieu of a tour. These are released as one of the first commercially available video albums on VHS tape in 1979. It is reissued on DVD and laserdisc as a bonus feature on the “Out Of The Blue Tour” concert video in 1998. One of the first albums to be issued on CD by CBS/Sony in late 1982, it is remastered and reissued in 2001 with three additional bonus tracks. It is remastered and reissued as a limited edition 180 gram LP, individually numbered and pressed on clear vinyl by Sony Legacy in 2016. This version is available exclusively through retailer Barnes & Noble. “Discovery” peaks at number five on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified 2x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 5, 1976 – “Young Hearts Run Free” by Candi Staton hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #20 on the Hot 100 on August 21, 1976. Written and produced by Dave Crawford, it is the biggest hit for the Alabama born and raised R&B vocalist. Considered one of the quintessential Southern Soul artists, singer Candi Staton records her most successful record not in her native south, but in Southern California. Paired with producer Dave Crawford, best known for his work with The Mighty Clouds Of Joy and B.B. King, they cut the track for “Young Hearts Run Free” at Sound City Studios in Van Nuys, CA. The single features musicians such as Ray Parker, Jr. and Jay Graydon on guitars, Ollie Brown on drums, Scott Edwards (Stuff) on bass, Funk Brothers percussionist Jack Ashford, Sylvester Rivers, Sonny Burke and Michael Boddicker on keyboards, and also features Rochelle Runnells of Stargard and Deniece Williams on background vocals. Regarded as a seminal R&B/Disco classic, “Young Hearts Run Free” has been covered numerous times over the years, most notably by Kym Mazelle on the soundtrack to Baz Luhrmann’s film “Romeo + Juliet” and by Gloria Estefan for the “Desperate Housewifes” TV series.
On this day in music history: June 4, 1979 – “Good Times” by Chic is released. Written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, It is the second R&B and Pop chart topper for the New York City based R&B/Funk/Disco band led by musicians Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers. The track is recorded The Power Station in New York City in March 1979, during sessions for Chic’s third album “Risque”. Edwards and Rodgers develop the concept of the song from 1930’s Depression era “Tin Pan Alley” pop songs such as “Happy Days Are Here Again” and “About A Quarter To Nine”, juxtaposing them with then current state of the economy in America along with the celebratory hedonism of the Disco Era in the late 70’s. “Good Times” is an instant smash upon its release, quickly racing up the charts, hitting number one on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks on July 28, 1979, and number one on the Hot 100 for 1 week on August 18, 1979. The songs popularity and influence spreads even further when it becomes the basis of The Sugarhill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight”, giving rise to the rap music phenomenon. “Good Times” becomes one of the most important, influential, and widely sampled records of the late twentieth century and beyond. “Good Times” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 2, 1979 – “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” by McFadden & Whitehead hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, and #13 on the Hot 100 on July 21, 1979. Written by Gene McFadden, John Whitehead and Jerry Cohen, it is the biggest hit for the Philadelphia, PA based R&B vocal, songwriting and production duo. McFadden and Whitehead are intially discovered by R&B legend Otis Redding in 1967 before becoming staff writers and producers for Philadelphia International Records, co-writing such classics as “Back Stabbers” for The O’Jays, “I’ll Always Love My Mama” for The Intruders, and “Bad Luck” and “Wake Up Everybody” for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes”. After years of watching other artists have hits with their songs, the duo decide to once again chase their dream of being a successful recording act. In late 1978, McFadden & Whitehead begin work on their self-titled debut album. The duo write the music for what becomes “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” with keyboardist Jerry Cohen. Not having written the lyrics ahead of time, John and Gene literally improvise them on mic while tracking their vocals, capturing their lead vocals in a single take. Released in March of 1979, the single is an immediate smash on the radio and on the dance floor. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” is also adopted as an anthem for civil rights, and the theme song for the Philadelphia Phillies, The 76’ers, and the Eagles. The duo record a special version of the song with altered lyrics (referring to the Phillies and the Eagles) that is released as a limited edition 12” in 1980. The complete original version of the track (clocking in at over ten and a half minutes) is also released as 12” single during the songs original run on the charts. A Philly Soul classic and regarded as one of the greatest songs of the Disco Era, the song is covered several times, with versions by Luther Vandross, Kate Pierson and Cindy Wilson (of The B-52’s), and Wayman Tisdale. McFadden & Whitehead’s original recording is featured in the film “Boogie Nights” in 1997. “Ain’t No Stoppin’ Us Now” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: June 2, 1979 – “Hot Stuff” by Donna Summer hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks (non-consecutive), topping the Club Play chart for 7 weeks on May 26, 1979, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Pete Bellotte, Harold Faltermeyer and Keith Forsey, it is the second chart topping single for the Boston, MA born singer and songwriter (birth name LaDonna Adrian Gaines). Issued as the first single from Summer’s magnum opus “Bad Girls” on April 16, 1979, the track features a blistering guitar solo by Doobie Brothers guitarist Jeff “Skunk” Baxter played on a vintage 50’s Danelectro guitar. Entering the Hot 100 at #79 on April 21, 1979, it climbs to the top of the chart six weeks later. “Hot Stuff” spends one week at the top of the pop singles chart, yielding to the Bee Gees “Love You Inside Out” for one week, then regaining the top spot for an additional two weeks on June 16, 1979. “Hot Stuff” wins Summer a Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance, Female in 1980, making history as being the first African American artist as well as the first woman to ever win in the rock category. The song is later featured in the films “The Full Monty” and “The Martian”. “Hot Stuff” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: May 31, 1980 – “Funkytown” by Lipps Inc. hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, topping the Club Play for 4 weeks (non-consecutive) on March 8, 1980, also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on June 14, 1980. Written and produced by Steven Greenberg, it is the biggest hit, and lone Top 40 pop hit for the duo from Minneapolis, MN. The group consists of vocalist Cynthia Johnson and musician Steven Greenberg with Greenberg playing nearly all of the instruments on their debut album. Guitarist David Rivkin (aka producer David Z.) is also featured on the record and is the recording engineer on the track. Prior to joining Lipps Inc., lead singer Cynthia Johnson works as a secretary for the Minneapolis Police Department, while singing and playing saxophone nights and weekends in an early incarnation of the band Flyte Tyme, featuring future Time band members Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, Jellybean Johnson and Monte Moir. When she leaves the band, her place is taken by Alexander O’Neal. Once Lipps Inc. has completed recording their first album independently, Steve Greenberg shops it around to various record labels. After receiving numerous rejections, Casablanca Records signs the group in mid 1979. Lipps Inc’s first single “Rock It” (#20 Club Play) previously issued as a 12" single on Greenberg’s own label Flight Records (limited to only 500 copies), is reissued in July of 1979 by Casablanca. Though it makes some waves on club dance floors, radio completely ignores it. Not willing to give up on the group, the label releases “Funkytown” in January of 1980, in spite of the massive backlash against disco at the time. The songs’ huge infectious mind imprinting hooks, along with Johnson’s hot vocals won’t allow it to be denied. Entering the Hot 100 at #89 on March 29, 1980, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. It also becomes a huge hit worldwide, topping the charts in nine other countries. Selling nearly three million copies in the US alone, the smash single propels the accompanying album “Mouth To Mouth” to number five on the Billboard Top 200 (number five R&B), and is certified Platinum. Though the huge success of “Funkytown” coincides with the end of the Disco Era, its place in popular culture has not been diminished. Regarded as one of the greatest dance records of all time, the song has been featured in numerous films including “History Of The World Pt. I”, “Revenge Of The Nerds II”, “Shrek 2”, “Contact” and “Hollywood Suicide”. It is also been featured in several television shows including “Malcolm In The Middle”, “Friends”, “South Park” and “Gotham”. Australian pop band Pseudo Echo covers “Funkytown”, peaking at #6 on the Billboard Hot 100 in July of 1987. “Funkytown” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.