On this day in music history: December 15, 1980 – “Three For Love”, the fourth album by Shalamar is released. Produced by Leon Sylvers III, it is recorded at Studio Masters, Larrabee Sound Studios in Los Angeles, CA and Aura Sound Studios in Orlando, FL from Mid – Late 1980. Having finally solidified their line up with singer Howard Hewitt, and scoring a Gold album with “Big Fun”, Shalamar return to the studio to record the follow up. With producer Leon Sylvers III again at the helm, he utilizes members of Solar Records studio band as well as Stephen Shockley, Fred Alexander, Jr. of Lakeside, and brothers Ricky, James and Foster. Howard Hewitt, Jody Watley and Jeffrey Daniel all take a more proactive role in the creative process, with each of them writing songs for the new album. One of Watley’s two contributions “Full Of Fire” (#24 R&B, #55 Pop) is issued as the first single in the Fall Of 1980. With the full album hitting stores at nearly the same time, it is met with enthusiasm by the group’s core fan base. Though it doesn’t spin off a big crossover hit like “The Second Time Around” on the previous album, the support from R&B radio is strong as stations and fans dig deep into “Three For Love”, discovering that it is Shalamar’s most solid and polished release to date. Issued in March of 1981, “Make That Move” (#6 R&B, #60 Pop), co-written by Dynasty members Kevin Spencer, William Shelby and keyboardist Ricky Smith, becomes its highest charting single. However it is “This Is For The Lover In You” (#17 R&B) that makes the most lasting impact. Co-written and sung by Howard Hewett, it becomes an instant classic, and a staple on mainstream R&B and Quiet Storm radio for many years to come. Surprisingly, it does not chart higher in spite of a strong reaction from fans. It is issued just as Solar is ending their distribution agreement with RCA Records, and moving to Elektra/Asylum by late 1981. As a result, RCA puts little promotional support behind it. It is later covered by Babyface on his fourth solo album “The Day” in 1996, and features Hewitt, Watley and Daniel along with rapper LL Cool J. Face’s version hits #2 on the R&B chart and #6 on the Hot 100. Deep cuts on “Love” including “Pop Along Kid” (also the B-side of “Make That Move”) and “Somewhere There’s A Love” become fan favorites and receive significant radio play. “Somewhere” is also featured on an episode of the sitcom “Diff’rent Strokes” during a romantic scene between Willis (Todd Bridges) and Charlene (Janet Jackson). “Love” makes its CD debut in 1996 on UK reissue label Sequel Records, including edited versions of the three singles as bonus tracks. It is remastered and reissued by The Right Stuff/EMI Records in 1997, but without the added bonus tracks of the import release. “Three For Love” peaks at number eight on the Billboard R&B album chart, number forty on the Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
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, 1958 – “Lonely Teardrops” by Jackie Wilson hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 5 weeks, also peaking at #7 on the Hot 100 on February 9, 1959. Written by Berry Gordy, Jr., Tyran Carlo and Gwen Gordy, it is the first chart topping single for the R&B vocal icon from Detroit, MI. Having first established himself as the lead singer of Billy Ward & The Dominoes following the departure of Clyde McPhatter to join The Drifters in 1953, Jackie Wilson enjoys some success with the group before leaving for a solo career in 1957. Signing with Chicago based Brunswick Records, Wilson has hits right out of the box with the single “Reet Petite” and the follow up “To Be Loved”, both written by fellow Detroit natives Berry Gordy, Jr. and Roquel Billy Davis (aka “Tyran Carlo”). Friends since childhood, Gordy and Davis write “Lonely Teardrops” with Berry’s older sister Gwen. While coming up with song ideas for Wilson, Berry writes down the phrase “my eyes are crying”. Feeling that the line is “too common”, he changes it to “my heart is crying…”, after that, the rest of the song quickly falls into place. Recording a demo of the finished song, Gordy flies to New York City, and plays it for Jackie’s producer and arranger Dick Jacobs, who senses it’s a hit immediately. The track is cut live in the studio with Wilson singing with the orchestra, and is completed in a few takes. Released as a single on November 17, 1958, “Lonely Teardrops” is an instant smash, racing to the top of the R&B singles chart within a months time, then crossing over and hitting the top ten on the pop chart shortly after. “Teardrops” gives Jackie Wilson his first million selling single, becoming his signature song. Berry Gordy takes part of his earnings from the song to start his own label Motown Records in January of 1959. “Lonely Teardrops” also entails some sad irony, when it becomes the last song Wilson ever performs on stage. While performing on Dick Clark’s “Good Ol’ Rock and Roll Revue” at The Latin Casino in Cherry Hill, NJ on September 29, 1975, the singer suffers a heart attack and collapses after singing the lyric “my heart is crying”. People initially think it is part of the act until the band leader notices Wilson is not breathing. Paramedics are able to revive him, but the singer slips into a coma, and remains in a semi comatose state for the last nine years of his life. Committed to a nursing home full time, Dick Clark pays for Wilson’s medical care until the singer’s passing in January of 1984. A month later at the 26th Annual Grammy Awards, pop music superstar Michael Jackson acknowledges Jackie Wilson as a major influence, and dedicates one of his Grammy wins that evening to the late singer. Wilson’s original recording of “Lonely Teardrops” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
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 14, 1969 – The Jackson 5 make their first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on the CBS television network. The family group perform three songs including the A and B-sides of their debut single “I Want You Back”, “Who’s Lovin’ You” and “Stand”, all included on their debut album “Diana Ross Presents The Jackson 5” released on December 18, 1969. With an estimated audience of more than 50,000,000, the studio audience and viewers at home owed by their polished and electrifying set, the J5 make a major impression, with Sullivan praising the young Motown stars. The normally staid host makes the statement “the little fella in front is incredible", of the then eleven year old Michael Jackson. The performance has an immediate impact, with The Jackson 5 becoming the talk of the town and receiving widespread media coverage. “I Want You Back” which had been steadily climbing the charts since debuting on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles in mid November, is given a virtual rocket boost two weeks after Sullivan show appearance. The week of December 27, 1969, the single leaps from #17 to #8 on the Hot 100, and holds at #2 on the R&B chart before finally unseating label mates Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Someday We’ll Be Together” on January 10, 1970, settling in for a four week stay at the top. Three weeks later on January 31, 1970, the single tops the Hot 100, and shifting more than two million copies in the US alone.
On this day in music history: December 14, 1968 – “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” by Marvin Gaye hits #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B singles charts for 7 weeks. Written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, it is the first number one pop single for the Motown superstar. Gaye is the third artist on the label to record the song in April of 1967, with previously recorded versions by The Miracles and The Isley Brothers but are shelved. Motown founder Berry Gordy initially believes Gaye’s version it isn’t a hit either so it is also shelved. In the interim, Whitfield cuts the song on Gladys Knight & The Pips who have a runaway smash with it in December of 1967 (#1 R&B, #2 Pop). Marvin Gaye’s version remains in the Motown vault until September 1968, when it is finally issued on the album “In The Groove”. DJ’s begin playing it as a LP cut, eventually pushing Motown to release it as a single on October 30, 1968. Entering the Hot 100 at #34 on November 23, 1968, it leaps to the top of the chart only three weeks later, unseating Motown label mates Diana Ross & The Supremes’ “Love Child” from the top spot. Two weeks after “Grapevine” hits number one on the Hot 100, it resides over a unique Top 10 in which Motown Records holds down five of the top ten chart positions including the top three positions on the chart for four consecutive weeks. “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” sells over four million copies in the US, at the time becoming Motown’s largest selling single to date. One of the most frequently covered songs in Motown’s catalog, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Roger Troutman score hit with their versions of the song. Marvin Gaye’s recording is used in the film “The Big Chill” in 1983, helping propel its soundtrack album to multi-Platinum status. Musician Buddy Miles sings it as the voice of the animated claymation group The California Raisins, and hits the charts in 1986. A re-recorded version is also used in a UK commercial for Levi’s 501 jeans in 1985, featuring model and singer Nick Kamen, The commercial prompts Motown to reissue Gaye’s version as a single, and it peaks at #8 on the UK singles chart. Marvin Gaye’s recording of “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998.
On this day in music history: December 13, 1986 – “Love You Down” by Ready For The World hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on February 21, 1987. Written by Melvin Riley, Jr., it is the second R&B chart topper for the R&B/Funk band from Flint, MI. Following the Platinum selling success of their self-titled debut album, and the chart topping single “Oh Sheila”, Ready For The World return to the recording studio in early 1986 to work on their sophomore release. Having had hits earlier on with the ballads “Tonight” and “Deep Inside Your Love”, the other band members aren’t enthusiastic when Riley brings in the slow tempo groove “Love You Down”, preferring their more uptempo funk tracks. Though Riley and producer Gary Spaniola like the song, and insist that it be recorded. Their decision is reaffirmed when the song is chosen as the first single from Ready For The World’s second album “Long Time Coming” by MCA Records black music A&R exec Louil Silas, Jr.. After RFTW’s success with the song, “Love You Down” is later covered by INOJ and Me’shell Ndegeocello.