Category: funk

On this day in music history: December 15, 197…

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, 197…

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 14, 197…

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.

Born on this day: December 13, 1957 – Morris D…

Born on this day: December 13, 1957 – Morris Day, lead singer of The Time (born Morris E. Day in Minneapolis, MN). Happy 61st Birthday, Morris!!

Born on this day: December 12, 1957 – Drummer …

Born on this day: December 12, 1957 – Drummer and Percussionist Sheila E. (born Sheila Escovedo in Oakland, CA). Happy 61st Birthday, Sheila!!

On this day in music history: December 5, 1984…

On this day in music history: December 5, 1984 – “Sugar Walls” by Sheena Easton is released. Written by Alexander Nevermind (aka Prince), it is the thirteenth US (sixteenth UK) single release for the pop vocalist from Bellshill, North Lanarkshire, Scotland. Making a conscious effort to shed the “sweet and innocent good girl” image cultivated by her record company and the press, Sheena Easton looks to shake things up with her sixth album “A Private Heaven”. While working on the album with her producer Greg Mathieson, Easton receives an unexpected message from Prince. At the time, he is Los Angeles putting the final touches on the “Purple Rain” soundtrack and film. On January 20, 1984, Prince records the basic track for a new song he has written titled “Sugar Walls” at Sunset Sound in Hollywood, CA. The track is originally intended for singer Jill Jones, but the musician changes his mind when he sees Sheena Easton that same night on television, performing on The Tonight Show. Impressed by her performance on the show, the musician will say to himself, “Ya, I gotta write something for that girl”. The next day, Prince contacts Easton through recording engineer David Leonard, whom both are working with at the time. Sheena likes the track immediately, and agrees to work with Prince on the song. Easton records her vocals at Sunset Sound’s sister studio The Sound Factory on January 22, 1984. Getting on well immediately, Easton and Prince finish recording the vocals in one session. Following up the sexy first single “Strut” (#7 Pop), the even more provocative “Sugar Walls” is issued as the follow up. The poppy and undeniably funky track, laced with Sheena’s equally sexy vocals, draws immediate attention from fans and radio. Credited to the pseudonym “Alexander Nevermind”, it doesn’t take long for the public to realize that Prince, is the one behind this sexy musical confection. It also doesn’t take long for listeners to figure out the title is a euphemism for a woman’s privates. However, it doesn’t stop the record from becoming an across the board smash on pop and R&B radio, as well on club dance floors. “Sugar Walls” enters the Billboard Hot 100 at #60 on December 22, 1984, peaking ten weeks later at #9 on March 2, 1985. It’s an even bigger hit on R&B stations, peaking at #3 on the R&B chart on March 9, 1985, and topping the Club Play chart for one week on February 23, 1985. After the song peaks on the charts, “Sugar Walls” is the subject of further controversy and infamy, when it is singled out by the PMRC (Parents Music Research Center), as one of its “Filthy Fifteen” along side Prince’s “Darling Nikki”. The success of the collaboration between Sheena Easton and Prince, leads to future musical collaborations. Easton later appears on the hit “U Got The Look” (#2 Pop, #11 R&B), co-writing the “Sign ‘O’ The Times” B-side “La, La, La, He, He, Hee”, and “The Arms Of Orion” on the “Batman Soundtrack”.

On this day in music history: December 5, 1980…

On this day in music history: December 5, 1980 – “Trombipulation”, the ninth studio album (tenth overall) by Parliament is released. Produced by George Clinton, William “Bootsy” Collins, Ron Dunbar and Ron Ford, it is recorded at United Sound Studios and Super Disc, Inc. in Detroit, MI, The Power Station and Sigma Sound Studios in New York City from Late 1979 – Mid 1980. After more than a decade, it is clear that the mothership is rapidly running out of gas at the turn of the decade. In spite of achieving major success during the 70’s, the P-Funk Thang is dogged by various legal issues and disputes over money. Numerous key members including Fuzzy Haskins, Calvin Simon, Grady Thomas, Eddie Hazel, Jerome “Bigfoot” Brailey, Glenn Goins, DeWayne “Blackbird” McKnight and Walter “Junie” Morrison have all left. Adding to the chaos, Casablanca Records is in also flux as their greatest ally, founder Neil Bogart is ousted from the company for his reckless spending and management. With Clinton still at the helm, he comes to rely more on Bootsy Collins who plays nearly all of the instruments on several tracks. Ron Dunbar and Ron Ford also co-write songs and co-produce. Musically, “Trombipulation” breaks no new ground, feeling in many ways like a rehash of Parliament’s past glory, though there are bright spots. The first single, the punning “Agony Of Defeet” (#7 R&B) musically recalls Funkadelic’s classic “One Nation Under A Groove”. Clocking in at six and a half minutes on the album, is also released in its full uncut version (running 9:05) as a promo only 12" single in the US. “New Doo Review” also features new P-Funk recruit Lige Curry on bass. It spins off a second single with “Crush It” in early 1981. Originally packaged in a gatefold LP sleeve, the front and back covers feature photos of George Clinton, hair styled in a pompadour and wearing an elephant trunk. Past elaborate extras like posters or comic books are eliminated for this release. Instead, the inner sleeve features illustrations by artist Overton Loyd. Though it gets off to a decent start, interest tapers off quickly and becomes the first Parliament album not to go Gold in the US since “Chocolate City” five years before. Not surprisingly, it is the band’s final release before finally parting ways. Several years later, “Trombipulation” is rediscovered when its grooves are sampled by numerous Hip-Hop artists, most notably Digital Underground. The Oakland, CA based group use the track “Let’s Play House” as the basis for their smash “The Humpty Dance”, and “Agony Of Defeet” on “Doowutchyalike”. “Defeet” is also sampled by Ice Cube on “How To Survive In South Central”, “Step Daddy” by Too Short" and “Buss ‘N Rocks” by Snoop Dogg. First reissued on CD in 1990, the album is remastered and released as a SHM-CD by Universal Music Japan in 2015. “Trombipulation” peaks at number six on the Billboard R&B album chart and number sixty one on the Top 200.

On this day in music history: December 4, 1971…

On this day in music history: December 4, 1971 – “Family Affair” by Sly & The Family Stone hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 5 weeks on the same date. Written and produced by Sly Stone, it is the third and final chart topping single for the San Francisco, CA based R&B/Funk band. Recorded at a time of much turmoil and upheaval in the once harmonious band, “Family Affair” expresses the ups and downs that one often has with their family. The breakdown of relationships within the band brought on clashing egos, money, drug abuse, and pressure to maintain their success exacts a heavy toll on all concerned. It takes Sly nearly a year and a half to complete “There’s A Riot Goin’ On”, working mostly on his own, with an ever rotating cast of musician friends as well as some contributions from the other band members. On “Family Affair”, Sly and his sister Rosie are the only members of the band to appear on the single. Billy Preston (keyboards) and Bobby Womack (guitar) provide additional instrumental support. “Family Affair” (like much of the album) utilizes the Maestro Rhythm King, one of the earliest drum machines to come on the market. The single is an immediate smash upon its release on October 15, 1971. Entering the Hot 100 at #50 on November 6, 1971, it leaps to the top of the chart just four weeks later. Over the years, “Family Affair” is covered by numerous artists including Tyrone Davis, Bunny Wailer, Shabba Ranks featuring Patra and Terri & Monica and Roachford. Another cover by John Legend, Joss Stone and Van Hunt recorded for the Sly & The Family Stone tribute/remix album “Different Strokes By Different Folks” wins a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance By A Duo Or Group With Vocals in 2007. Sly & Family Stone’s original recording is also sampled by Janet Jackson, Black Eyed Peas, Ghostface Killah, Raekwon, Trife & Cappadonna Featuring Sun God, Kid Frost, N’Sync, Angie Stone, Pizzicato Five, Digital Underground and Chaka Demus & Pliers. The original recording is also remixed by Mark Brydon, and later by Tom Moulton. “Family Affair” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

On this day in music history: December 4, 1965…

On this day in music history: December 4, 1965 – “I Got You (I Feel Good)” by James Brown hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 6 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on December 18, 1965. Written and produced by James Brown, it is the third R&B chart topper for the artist known as “The Hardest Working Man In Show Business”. The “hit” version of the song is recorded by Brown on May 6, 1965 at Criteria Studios in Miami, FL. He had previously recorded the song in September 1964 for release on Smash Records. Brown’s label King Records blocks the release of the earlier version, though that does not stop the momentum of the record. Alan Leeds, then a disc jockey at WANT-AM in Richmond, VA (later James Browns’ road manager and also later works in the same capacity for Prince), dubs the song off of TV when Brown performs the song on the variety show “Where The Action Is”. Demand for the record  skyrockets, forcing King Records to rush out the newly recorded second version of the song as a single. Released in October of 1965 on the heels of his breakout crossover smash “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, “I Got You” quickly races up the R&B and pop charts simultaneously. Brown also performs the earlier version in the Frankie Avalon film “Ski Party” released earlier in 1965, which is recreated in the James Brown biopic “Get On Up”. In later years, The song is featured in the films “Good Morning Vietnam”, “The Nutty Professor” and quoted by actor Chris Rock (as Rodney the Guinea Pig) in “Dr. Dolittle”. James Brown’s recording of “I Got You (I Feel Good)” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2013.

On this day in music history: December 2, 1978…

On this day in music history: December 2, 1978 – “Le Freak” by Chic hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also hitting #1 on the Hot 100 for 6 weeks (non-consecutive) on December 9, 1978. Written and produced by Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, it is the first number one single for the New York City based R&B/Funk band. The song is inspired by an incident when Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgersm are denied entry into Studio 54 on New Year’s Eve 1977, after being invited by Grace Jones. The duo encounter the discos’ notoriously brash doorman Marc Benecke, who brusquely tells them that they are not on the guest list. Upset at the rebuff, the pair go back to Rodgers apartment around the corner and jam, coming up with the song, which is initially titled “F*** Off”. Realizing that they’re on to something, the lyric is changed, from “f*** off” to “freak out”. Taking into mind the current popular dance “the freak”, they re-title the song “Le Freak”. Released in late September of 1978 as the first single from the bands’ second album “C’est Chic”, it becomes the largest selling single in the history of Atlantic Records, shifting an astounding six million copies in the US alone. The single is such a massive seller, eventually it is taken out of print for a time, with Atlantic and Chic fearing that it will impede on sales of “C’est Chic”, which sells nearly two million copies. “Le Freak” makes further history on the Hot 100 when the record hits number one three times during its run on the charts. After it hits the top of the pop chart on December 9, 1978 it is bumped from the top by “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” by Barbra Streisand and Neil Diamond returning to the top (on December 16, 1978) after being displaced by “Le Freak”. It holds on to the top spot for two more weeks over the Christmas holiday before being bumped from the top by the Bee Gees’ “Too Much Heaven” on January 6, 1979. Startlingly, two weeks later, Chic return to the top for the third and final time on January 20, 1979 for three more weeks. Regarded as a definitive recording not just of the Disco Era, but of 70’s music period, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2015. “Le Freak” is certified 3x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.