Category: soul

On this day in music history: May 21, 1988 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1988 – “Mercedes Boy” by Pebbles hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #2 on the Hot 100 on July 9, 1988. Written by Pebbles, it is the second consecutive R&B chart topper from the Oakland, CA born and raised singer (birth name: Perri Arnette McKissack). Having previously worked as a background singer (as a teenager) for Bay Area based bands Con Funk Shun and Bill Summers & Summers Heat, Pebbles gets her big break as a solo artist when KSOL program director Marvin Robinson introduces the singer to MCA Records black music executives Jheryl Busby and Louil Silas, Jr, who immediately sign her to the label. Pebbles writes the song about a guy that she meets and falls in love with while in high school. Both are dating other people at the time, and maintain only a platonic friendship. Referring to him as her “Mercedes Boy” comes from the fact that both of them own and drive the German luxury automobile. However, the two will not get together until five years after first meeting each other. Once she is signed to MCA, Gap Band lead vocalist Charlie Wilson is paired with Pebbles to produce “Mercedes Boy”. Issued as the follow up to her debut smash “Girlfriend” (#1 R&B, #5 Pop) in April of 1988, “Mercedes Boy” follows a similar trajectory up the pop and R&B singles charts. The success of the single drives her debut album “Pebbles” to Platinum status in the US.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1982 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1982 – “Jeffrey Osborne”, the debut solo album by Jeffrey Osborne is released. Produced by George Duke, it is recorded at Le Gonks West Studios in West Hollywood, CA, Westlake Audio in Los Angeles, CA, A&M Studios in Hollywood, CA, George Massenburg Studios in West Los Angeles, CA and Fantasy Studios in Berkeley, CA from November 1981 – March 1982. After spending ten years as the drummer, then lead singer of R&B/Funk band L.T.D., Jeffrey Osborne leaves the band in late 1980 for a solo career. Remaining with A&M Records, the singer takes his time selecting the right producer for his first solo album. Osborne chooses to work with musician George Duke, who surrounds the singer with an exemplary group of the best studio musicians in L.A. including Brothers Johnson bassist Louis Johnson, former Average White Band drummer Steve Ferrone, Larry Graham, Abraham Laboriel (bass), David T. Walker, Charles Fearing, Michael Sembello (guitar), George Duke, John Barnes (keyboards), Jerry Hey, Gary Grant, Lou McCreary, Larry Williams (horns), Lynn Davis (background vocals) and Paulinho Da Costa (percussion). Osborne also writes or co-writes eight of the albums ten songs. The sessions are highly productive, marking the beginning of a successful collaboration between Jeffrey Osborne and George Duke, which lasts over the course of four albums. Osborne’s debut release spins off three singles including “I Really Don’t Need No Light” (#3 R&B, #39 Pop), “On The Wings Of Love” (#13 R&B, #29 Pop) and “Eenie Meenie” (#76 Pop). “Jeffrey Osborne” peaks at number three on the Billboard R&B album chart, and number forty nine on the Top 200.

Born on this day: May 21, 1941 – Isley Brother…

Born on this day: May 21, 1941 – Isley Brothers lead vocalist Ronald Isley (born in Cincinnati, OH). Happy 78th Birthday, Ron (aka Mr. Biggs 😀 )!!

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – “Sir Duke” by Stevie Wonder hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 3 weeks, also topping the R&B singles chart for 1 week on May 28, 1977. Written and produced by Stevie Wonder, it is fifth pop and thirteenth R&B chart topper for the twenty two time Grammy award winning singer, songwriter and musician. The song is written in tribute to legendary composer, arranger and bandleader Duke Ellington. Having been an influence on Wonder as a musician, he feels compelled to acknowledge Ellington who had passed away in May of 1974 at the age of 75. Stevie also name checks many other important jazz and swing music pioneers in the song including Count Basie, Glenn Miller, Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald. The track features Wonder (keyboards) with members of his band Wonderlove including Nathan Watts (bass), Michael Sembello and Ben Bridges (lead and rhythm guitars), Hank Redd (alto sax), Trevor Laurence (tenor sax), Raymond Maldonado, Steve Madaio (trumpets) and Raymond Pounds (drums). Issued as the second single from the landmark “Songs In The Key of Life” album on March 22, 1977, “Sir Duke” follows its predecessor “I Wish” to the top of the pop and R&B singles charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #74 on April 2, 1977, it  climbs to the top of the chart seven weeks later. The success of “Sir Duke” propels “Songs In The Key Of Life” to 10x Platinum status in the US.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – “…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1977 – “Whodunit” by Tavares hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #22 on the Hot 100 on June 4, 1977. Written by Keni St. Lewis and Freddie Perren, it is the third and final R&B chart topper for the family vocal quintet from New Bedford, MA. Former Motown staff songwriter St. Lewis (also co-writer of “Boogie Fever” and “Farewell My Summer Love”), both fans of detective stories comes up with the concept for the song, name checking famous private eyes such as Charlie Chan, Sherlock Holmes, Ironside and Ellery Queen to name a few. The track features such top flight studio musicians as James Gadson (drums), Scott Edwards (bass), Bob Bowles (guitar), John Barnes and Sonny Burke (keyboards) and Paulinho DaCosta (congas). Released as the first single from Tavares’ fifth album “Love Storm” in March of 1977, it quickly becomes an R&B smash. Though the group continues to have regular chart success on the R&B charts, “Whodunit” is one of the last three Top 40 pop hits Tavares has. They are only able place in the upper half of the Hot 100 with “More Than A Woman” (#32 Pop, #36 R&B) also included on the “Saturday Night Fever” soundtrack and “Penny For Your Thoughts” (#33 Pop, #16 R&B) after moving to RCA Records in 1982.

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On this day in music history: May 21, 1971 – &…

On this day in music history: May 21, 1971 – “What’s Going On”, the eleventh studio album by Marvin Gaye is released. Produced by Marvin Gaye, it is recorded at Motown Studio A, Golden World Studios (Motown Studio B), United Sound Studios in Detroit, MI and the Sound Factory in Hollywood, CA from June 1970, March – May 1971. A concept album focusing on the subjects of poverty, drug abuse, and war, its messages immediately resonate with the public. Following the huge success of the title track as a single, Motown demands a full album to go with it ASAP. Recording with Motown’s studio band The Funk Brothers, the basic tracks and vocals for the album is recorded in only ten days of studio time. The initial version of the album, now known as the “Detroit Mix” is mixed by Motown engineers while Gaye is off in California filming a movie. After hearing the initial mix, Gaye orders them shelved and send for the tapes while in California. He adds additional overdubs to several tracks, and completely remixes and re-sequences the album with engineer Lawrence Miles. The album is immediately recognized by critics and the public as an important artistic musical statement upon its release, as well as being a major commercial success. It spins off three singles including “Mercy Mercy Me” (#1 R&B, #4 Pop), “Inner City Blues” (#1 R&B, #9 Pop) and the title track (#1 R&B, #2 Pop). Regarded as a landmark album of its era, is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. Reissued numerous times since making its CD debut in 1986, it is released as a two disc Deluxe Edition in 2001. The first disc contains the original nine song album, as well as the initial but previously unreleased “Detroit Mix”, plus an instrumental mix of the title track. The second disc features a live concert recorded in Washington DC in January of 1972, with Gaye performing the album in its entirety live. It also contains the original mono single mixes of “What’s Going On”, and the B-sides “God Is Love”, “Sad Tomorrows” and an early demo recording of “Distant Lover”. This edition is also released as a four LP set in 2016, to commemorate the forty fifth anniversary of the albums’ release. Also a favorite of audiophiles, it is remastered and reissued by Mobile Fidelity Sound Lab twice. The first time as an SACD and as a half speed mastered LP (in 2008 and 2009), and as a One Step 45 RPM double LP set in 2019. “What’s Going On” spends nine weeks at number one on the Billboard R&B album chart, peaking at number six on the Top 200, is certified 6x Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 20, 1974 – &…

On this day in music history: May 20, 1974 – “Rags To Rufus”, the second album by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan is released. Produced by Bob Monaco, it is recorded at Quantum Recording Studios in Torrance, CA from December 1973 – February 1974. Originally known as Ask Rufus when they form in 1971, the band originally consists of former American Breed (“Bend Me, Shape Me”) members Kevin Murphy (keyboards), Chuck Colbert Jr., Willie Weeks (bass), Lee Graziano (drums), Al Ciner (guitar), James Stella and Paulette McWilliams (vocals). They’re signed to Epic Records and record an album, which is shelved and they are dropped. Manager and producer Bob Monaco helps them to land another contract, this time with ABC/Dunhill Records. Before it’s recorded, Weeks is replaced by Dennis Belfield, Stella is replaced by Ron Stockert, and Graziano by Andre Fischer. During this time McWilliams becomes close friends with a young Chicago based singer named Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stevens), who initially joins as a background singer. Paulette eventually decides to leave, grooming Khan to replace her. Shortening their name to Rufus, they release their debut album in July of 1973 (#44 R&B, #174 Pop), then quickly beginning work on the follow up. In spite of being very pregnant with her first child Indira Milini (born December 21, 1973), Chaka delivers powerful vocals throughout. During the sessions, Rufus receive a visit in the studio by R&B and pop superstar Stevie Wonder, who had become aware of them through their cover of his song “Maybe Your Baby” on their first album. Wonder offers to write the band a song for them, initially coming up with one titled “Come and Get This Stuff”. Chaka tells Stevie bluntly that she doesn’t like it. Stunned at the rejection, Wonder asks Khan what her birth sign is, to which she replies “Aries-Pisces”. Stevie comes back with another song titled “Tell Me Something Good” (#3 R&B and Pop). It also features future members Tony Maiden (talk box, guitar), and Nate Morgan (keyboards), though both are uncredited. Putting her unique vocal stamp on the unusually structured but ultra funky song, “Tell Me” becomes a crossover smash. The single wins Rufus and Chaka Khan their first Grammy Award For Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group in 1975. It is followed by the equally funky “You Got The Love” (#1 R&B, #14 Pop), co-written by Khan and former Stevie Wonder guitarist Ray Parker, Jr., pushing the album past the million mark in sales. First released on CD in 1990, it is remastered and reissued by Geffen/Universal Japan in 2004, packaged in a mini-LP sleeve. “Rags To Rufus” peaks at number four on the Billboard R&B album chart and Top 200, and is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 20, 1967 – &…

On this day in music history: May 20, 1967 – “Respect” by Aretha Franklin hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 8 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 2 weeks on June 3, 1967. Written by Otis Redding, it is the second consecutive R&B chart topper for “The Queen Of Soul”. Written and originally recorded by R&B legend Otis Redding in 1965, Aretha Franklin’s version of “Respect” features members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section. It is one of the tracks cut during the week long sessions that produce Franklin’s debut album for Atlantic. Aretha’s version receives a dramatic rearrangement when it is recorded at Atlantic Studios in New York City on February 14, 1967. One of the significant changes made on Franklin’s version is in the songs instrumental break. Saxophonist King Curtis plays the solo using the chord changes from Sam & Dave’s hit “When Something Is Wrong With My Baby”. Aretha, along with her sisters Erma and Carolyn (also singing background vocals) come up with the signature “sock it to me” line as well as the refrain of “R-E-S-P-E-C-T” and the lines that follow including “take care, T-C-B” (street slang for “taking care of business”). Upon hearing Aretha’s version, Otis Redding is quoted as jokingly saying “That little girl done stole my song!”, recognizing that she had just recorded the definitive version of his song. The response to “Respect” is immediate when it begins receiving radio play as soon as the album “I Never Loved A Man The Way I Love You” is released on March 10, 1967. With the title track holding down the top spot on the R&B singles chart for eight weeks and reaching the top 10 on the pop chart, Atlantic holds off just long enough for the other single to have its moment to unleash the follow up. Entering the Billboard R&B singles chart at #19 on May 6, 1967, it pole vaults up the chart to #5 then #1, just narrowly succeeding herself in the top spot by one week. “Respect” takes a similar ascent up the Hot 100, entering the chart at #50 on April 29, 1967, it rockets to the top five weeks later. Its upward chart movement is so strong, that it temporarily bumps The Young Rascals’ “Groovin’” from the number one spot for two weeks. “Respect” earns Aretha Franklin the first Grammy Award given for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female in 1968. It is the first of eleven times Franklin wins the award over the years, receiving it eight years in a row consecutively, making her the undisputed champ in that category. In the wake of the records huge success, it not only is adapted as a feminist anthem, but also as a rallying cry for the Civil Rights Movement. Regarded as Franklin’s signature song, it is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1998. “Respect” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day music history: May 19, 1990 – &ldq…

On this day music history: May 19, 1990 – “Rub You The Right Way” by Johnny Gill hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on August 4, 1990. Written and produced by Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, it is the first chart topping single for the singer from Washington, D.C. Known primarily as a romantic balladeer from the time he begins his recording career as a teenager, Johnny Gill finds himself pigeonholed in that category. When Gill is paired with superstar producers Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, they make a consorted effort to expand the singer’s musical horizons. The duo use one of the singer’s childhood musical heroes as the template to make that happening. Noting how producers Kenny Gamble and Leon Huff would also write strong up tempo material for Teddy Pendergrass to sing, Jam and Lewis take a similar approach with Johnny. Noting the aggressive up tempo grooves like “Only You”, “You Can’t Hide From Yourself” and “Get Up, Get Down, Get Funky, Get Loose” by Pendergrass, Jimmy and Terry pen “Rub You The Right Way”. When Gill hears the track the producers have come up with, he’s all in. More adept as a live performer and never totally comfortable in the studio, it takes the singer a long time to perfect his vocals on the song. But once it’s completed, all agree that the song is a smash. The public will agree also, when “Rub You The Right Way” is issued as the first single from Johnny Gill’s third solo album on March 13, 1990. The single quickly races up the R&B chart, before crossing over and hitting the top five on the pop in late Summer. “Rub You” is also a solid hit on club dance floors, thanks to a hot dance remix by The Untouchables (DJ Pete Rock, DJ Eddie F. and Nevelle Hodge). The remix version also features additional rap verses by CL Smooth, which also receives significant radio and mix show play. “Rub You The Right Way” quickly propels the “Johnny Gill” album past the Platinum mark in the US, with the single moving more than a half million copies. The remix version is issued on a Japanese only CD compilation titled “Johnny The Remix”, released in 1991. “Rub You The Right Way” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: May 19, 1980 -…

On this day in music history: May 19, 1980 – “Fame – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” is released. Produced by Michael Gore, it is recorded at Media Sound Studios, C.I. Recording Studios, A&R Recording Studios and Columbia 30th Street Studios in New York City from April – May 1979. Issued as the soundtrack to the Alan Parker directed film about students attending the New York High School of Performing Arts, it stars Irene Cara, Gene Anthony Ray, Lee Curreri, Barry Miller, Maureen Teefy and Paul McCrane. Parker approaches Giorgio Moroder who had won an Oscar for composing the score to his film “Midnight Express”, to work on “Fame”. Moroder declines as he is busy working with Donna Summer. The director also asks Jeff Lynne of ELO who also busy. Ultimately musician Michael Gore is hired, who co-writes six of the nine songs. The music is recorded prior to the start of filming in July of 1979. Three of the songs are performed by Irene Cara. The title track (#4 Pop, #1 Club Play) is co-written by Gore and Dean Pitchford, featuring a group of backing vocalists that includes Luther Vandross who is also the vocal arranger on the track. The song is the albums’ break out single, becoming a pop radio and club smash. “Fame” also earns Gore and Pitchford the Academy Award for Best Original Song in 1981. The follow up single, the ballad “Out Here On My Own” (#19 Pop, #20 AC) also sung by Cara is co-written by Gore along with his sister pop vocalist Lesley Gore, also earning an Oscar nomination. It marks the first time in history that two songs from the same film, are nominated in the same category. Paul McCrane (Montgomery MacNeil) performs “Dogs In The Yard” and “Is It Okay If I Call You Mine?”, the latter of which is written by him. “Red Light” (#1 Club Play, #41 Pop, #40 R&B) performed by Linda Clifford is another stand out, featured in a memorable scene. Like the film itself, the soundtrack becomes a major success, and a pop cultural phenomenon at a time when film musicals are considered well past their prime. It launches Irene Cara’s career as a recording artist, having performed on Broadway, on television and in film since childhood. “Fame” is spun off into a successful TV series in 1982, running for six seasons. The title track and soundtrack become belated hits in the UK two years after the films release, when both are reissued after the debut of the series. Both top the UK singles and album charts in July of 1982, with the album being succeeded at number one by “The Kids From Fame” album. Originally released on CD in 1990, the original soundtrack is remastered and reissued in 2003, including three bonus tracks not on the original album. “Fame – Original Motion Picture Soundtrack” peaks at number seven on the Billboard Top 200, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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