On this day in music history: November 20, 1984 – Pop superstar Michael Jackson is awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk Of Fame. Presented by then Hollywood, CA mayor Johnny Grant and Hollywood Chamber Of Commerce President Bill Welsh, Michael Jackson receives the 1793rd star on the walk of fame. The star is located at 6927 Hollywood Blvd in front of the historic Grauman’s Chinese Theater. The singer is able to stay at the ceremony for only three minutes. With members of his family and more than 6,000 fans in attendance, it is one the largest crowds to show up for a star unveiling. Jackson’s safety becomes a major concern when the crowd begins to get out of hand after his arrival. It is actually the second time Jackson receives the honor, having been awarded a star as a member of The Jacksons in 1979. The event caps off an incredible year that seed Jackson sweep the 26th Annual Grammy Awards and earn a place in the Guinness World Book Of Records for having the largest selling album of all time for “Thriller”. After Jackson’s death in 2009, his star becomes one of the most visited by tourists and fans.
On this day in music history: November 20, 1976 – “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” by Marilyn McCoo & Billy Davis, Jr hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also topping the Hot 100 for 1 week on January 8, 1977. Written by James Dean and John Glover, it is the biggest hit for the husband and wife duo. Having left The 5th Dimension in 1975, the duo are signed to their own deal with ABC Records. Paired with producer Don Davis (Johnnie Taylor), they begin work on their debut album “I Hope We Get to Love In Time”. The track is cut at ABC Studios in Los Angeles, and features a rhythm section that includes drummer James Gadson, and legendary Motown bassist James Jamerson playing on what is the final number one single of his career. Surprisingly, ABC decides to release the title track as the couple’s initial single in March of 1976. “I Hope We Get To Love In Time” though cracking the top ten on the Adult Contemporary chart (#9 AC), it stalls at #37 on the R&B chart and just scrapes the bottom of the pop chart at #91. “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” released as the second single from the album in September of 1976. It proves to be a shrewd move, becoming an across the board smash on the R&B, pop and AC charts, as well as receiving significant play in discos at the time. The song is also a major hit internationally, hitting the top ten in Canada, the UK, Ireland and New Zealand. “You Don’t Have To Be A Star” wins McCoo & Davis a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance By A Duo Or Group in 1977. McCoo and Davis’ newly found success leads to them being offered their own Summer variety series by CBS. Premiering on June 15, 1977, the show also features comedian Jay Leno, and actors Tim Reid and Lewis Arquette as series regulars. Though it lasts for only six episodes, the duo make television history as the first African-American couple to host a series on a major network. “You Don’t Have To Be A Star (To Be In My Show)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 20, 1971 – “There’s A Riot Goin’ On”, the fifth studio album by Sly & The Family Stone is released. Produced by Sly Stone, it is recorded at The Record Plant in Sausalito, CA, Winnebago Mobile Studio and Home Studio – 783 Bel Air Road, Los Angeles, CA from Spring 1970 – Fall 1971. With Sly & The Family Stone’s enormous success during the previous two years, mounting pressure from their record company, along with drug abuse and deteriorating relationships within the band make the recording process a long and hard one. Amid the tense and acrimonious atmosphere surrounding them, bassist Larry Graham and drummer Greg Errico both leave the band during the sessions, leaving Sly to fill in their parts by playing bass himself on many tracks, and employing the use of the then new Maestro Rhythm King drum machine. The resulting album is darker, stripped down, and funkier than previous efforts. It spins off three singles including the chart topping “Family Affair”. It goes on to become one of the most influential R&B albums of all time, also being inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999. The album receives a long overdue remastering on CD in 2007 with four additional bonus tracks, noticeably improving upon the muddy and often noisy sounding original CD release of the album. Though with the better audio quality, the aural shortcomings of many tracks are the result of the original multi-track master tapes being repeatedly overdubbed on and erased, until the oxide has worn off. The reissue also restores the original “flag” cover artwork and photo collage on the back of the original release. Later issues of the album do away with the orginal cover artwork, instead using a cropped version of the live concert shot of Sly used on the inside of the LP gatefold. It is also reissued as a 180 gram vinyl LP by Sundazed Music, also replicating the the “newspaper headline” hype sticker found on the first pressing. “Riot” is also released a high definition hybrid SACD (Super Audio Compact Disc) by ORG Music in tandem with Sony Legacy in 2013. ORG also issues a limited edition double vinyl LP set, mastered at 45 RPM. Also in 2013, reissue label Get On Down Records releases the album as a limited edition gold CD boxed edition, featuring a hardbound book with rare photos, and an extended essay by A Scott Galloway. “There’s A Riot Goin’ On” spends two weeks at number one on both the Billboard Top 200 and the R&B album chart, and is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.
On this day in music history: November 20, 1971 – “Theme From Shaft” by Isaac Hayes hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on November 6, 1971. Written and produced by Isaac Hayes, it is the biggest hit for the Covington, TN born singer, songwriter and producer. Composed for the Gordon Parks directed film starring Richard Roundtree in the title role, the track features musical backing by The Movement, which feature Bar-Kays members James Alexander (bass) and Michael Toles (guitar), and female background vocalists Telma Hopkins, Pat Lewis, Rose Williams. The main rhythmic pulse of the song is held down by drummer Willie “Too Big” Hall and guitarist Charles “Skip” Pitts. The single and its accompanying soundtrack are huge critical and commercial successes, paving the way for the “blaxploitation” film phenomenon of the 70’s. “Theme From Shaft” wins Hayes two Grammy Awards, and becomes the first African American composer in history to win the Academy Award for “Best Original Song” in 1972. Held at the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles, CA on April 10, 1972, one of the highlights 44th Annual Academy Awards ceremony is Isaac Hayes’ performance of the song on the live telecast. Wheeled out on stage behind the piano, the singer is an immediately striking presence, draped in thick gold chains, wearing dark shades and a vest made of gold chain mail. The performance becomes iconic, and lauded as one of the most memorable in Oscar history. When he graciously accepts his award, Hayes dedicates it his grandmother, the woman who raised him after the death of his mother and his father abandoned the family while he was still a child. The song as well as Hayes himself become 70’s icons in the wake of the soundtrack albums’ success. “Shaft is covered by a wide variety of artists including Sammy Davis, Jr., Maynard Ferguson, to UK modern rock bands Cabaret Voltaire and The Wedding Present. It is also sampled by Young MC on the track "Know How” in 1988 and by Jay-Z on “Reservoir Dogs” in 1998. It is also parodied numerous television shows including The Wire, Sesame Street, Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air, and in films including UHF and I’m Gonna Git You Sucka. “Theme From Shaft” is also inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 1999.
On this day in music history: November 20, 1971 – “Have You Seen Her” by The Chi-Lites hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 2 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the Hot 100 on December 11, 1971. Written by Eugene Record and Barbara Acklin, it is the biggest hit for the Chicago, IL based R&B vocal group led by lead singer Eugene Record. The track is recorded at South Market Recording in Chicago and is engineered by Bruce Swedien (Michael Jackson, Quincy Jones). The song is initially overlooked by the group and their label Brunswick Records, while three other singles are released in the interim. Its release finally comes after DJ’s at several radio stations begin spinning the five minute plus cut off of the album. To everyone’s great surprise and delight, the single takes off immediately after its release in October of 1971, climbing the R&B and pop singles chart simultaneously. “Have You Seen Her” also becomes a big hit internationally, reaching #3 on the UK singles chart shortly after its success in the US. The song is also revived by rapper MC Hammer when his cover version peaks at #4 on the both the Hot 100 and R&B singles charts in September of 1990.
On this day in music history: November 20, 1970 – “Come To My Garden”, the debut solo album by Minnie Riperton is released. Produced by Charles Stepney, it is recorded at Ter Mar Studios in Chicago, IL from November 24 – 26, 1969. Following her departure from the psychedelic soul/jazz fusion band The Rotary Connection, singer Minnie Riperton begins work on her solo debut in late 1969. It features all original material written by Stepney and Riperton’s husband Richard Rudolph as well as musical backing by Maurice White (drums), Phil Upchurch (guitar) and Ramsey Lewis (keyboards).It is released in the Fall following the financial collapse of Chess Records and issued on GRT Records (who acquires Chess), after being originally scheduled for release in the Spring of 1970. The album receives virtually no promotion from the label and quickly disappears from public notice. A few years after its release, it attracts the attention of Stevie Wonder, who finds Minnie living in Clearwater, FL with her husband and two children. He convinces her to come out of “retirement” from the music business to join his band Wonderlove. After joining up with Wonder and then recording the album “Perfect Angel”, it revives interest in her long dormant debut release. Though it does not fare much better commercially on the second go around in the mid 70’s, it is widely praised by music critics and Riperton’s fans as “a masterpiece”. “Come To My Garden” belatedly charts in 1974, peaking at number one hundred sixty on the Billboard Top 200.
On this day in music history: November 20, 1965 – “I Hear A Symphony” by The Supremes hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also peaking at #2 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland, it is the sixth chart topping single for the legendary Motown vocal trio. From August of 1964 to June of 1965, The Supremes make history, becoming the first American group to score five consecutive number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100, with “Where Did Our Love Go?”, “Baby Love”, “Come See About Me”, “Stop! In The Name Of Love” and “Back In My Arms Again”. All written by the songwriting team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, they set about penning another chart topper for The Supremes. They come up with the song “Nothing But Heartaches”, which bares a great similarity to the previous single “Back In My Arms Again” (and The Four Tops’ recent smash “I Can’t Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)”. The similarity is too close for many fans and radio DJ’s, when the record performs below expectations, stalling at #11 on the Hot 100 and peaking at #6 on the R&B chart in September of 1965. HDH and Motown are shaken by the relative “failure” of the song, and immediately make plans to regroup and put The Supremes back on top. Brian Holland comes up with the initial idea, which reminds his brother Eddie of “a symphony”, developing a concept around that and penning the lyrics, with Lamont Dozier helping complete the song. The basic track for “I Hear A Symphony” is recorded at Motown’s Studio A in Detroit on September 22, 1965 with The Funk Brothers providing the musical backing. Members of The Detroit Symphony adding strings to the track on September 28 – 29, 1965, and The Supremes overdub their vocals on September 30, 1965. Rush released on October 6, 1965, any question of the girls remaining in a slump are quickly answered. Entering the Hot 100 at #39 on October 30, 1965, it zips to the top of the chart just three weeks later. Four days after “I Hear A Symphony” enters the charts, The Supremes perform the song on the syndicated talk show “The Mike Douglas Show”. The performance is later released on the DVD compilation “The Supremes – Reflections: The Definitive Performances 1964 – 1969” in 2006.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1977 – “Serpentine Fire” by Earth, Wind & Fire hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 7 weeks, also peaking at #13 on the Hot 100 on February 11, 1978. Written by Maurice White, Verdine White and Reginald “Sonny” Burke, it is the fourth R&B chart topper for the legendary R&B/Funk band led by drummer and vocalist Maurice White. Following the release of Earth, Wind & Fire’s seventh studio album “Spirit” and the extensive tour that follows, Maurice White takes a much needed vacation in early 1977. White visits Brazil during his sabbatical, soaking up the culture and the countries’ unique sounds and rhythms. Also having an avid interest in Eastern philosophy, metaphysics and all things spiritual, all of these influences make their way into the bands’ music. Collaborating with his younger brother, bassist Verdine White and musician Sonny Burke, the trio come up with “Serpentine Fire”. The song is a metaphor describing a person’s life force, primarily their sexual impulse and energy. Issued as the first single from Earth, Wind & Fire’s landmark eighth album “All ‘N All” on October 5, 1977, it hits the charts and rises to the top quickly. Like their previous R&B chart topper “Getaway” the previous year, “Serpentine Fire” is edited from its original recorded length (to fit the confines of the vinyl LP’s time limit) of 5:02 to 3:51. The full unedited version is released on a white label promotional 12" single for club and radio DJ’s at the time of its original release. It is belatedly issued commercially in 1989 as a CBS Mixed Masters 12" reissue (on the B-side of “Boogie Wonderland”). The chart topping success of “Serpentine Fire” and duration on the chart makes it top R&B single of 1978, as ranked by Billboard Magazine. It also helps to propel the accompanying album “All ‘N’ All” to the top of the Billboard R&B album chart, into the top five on the Top 200, selling over three million copies in the US alone.
On this day in music history: November 19, 1966 – “Knock On Wood” by Eddie Floyd hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 1 week, also peaking at #28 on the Hot 100 on December 10, 1966. Written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper, It is the biggest hit for Alabama born soul singer. The song is actually recorded in the Summer of 1965 (with Booker T. & The MG’s, Isaac Hayes on piano, and The Mar-Keys horn section), but is held back from release by Stax Records president Jim Stewart when he believes that it is too similar to Wilson Pickett’s “In The Midnight Hour”. The record actually experiences resistance from radio upon its release, failing to receive any airplay initially. Stax Records’ head Al Bell hits upon the idea of Floyd performing live in an area where he has a strong fan base. Washington DC is the city that is chosen. The ploy works, with the single breaking on radio stations in the DC and Baltimore area. From there, the record goes national. Over the years, “Knock On Wood” is covered by a number of artists including versions by Ike & Tina Turner, David Bowie, and Eric Clapton. Singer Amii Stewart’s disco rendering of the song becomes a worldwide hit, hitting number one on the Billboard Hot 100 in April of 1979. “Knock On Wood” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.