Category: soul

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On this day in music history: December 9, 1972 – “Me And Mrs. Jones” by Billy Paul hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also topping the Hot 100 for 3 weeks on December 16, 1972. Written by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff and Cary Gilbert, it is the biggest hit for the Philadelphia, PA born R&B/Jazz singer. Gamble and Huff meet Paul at a local Philadelphia club in 1967 and begin working together shortly afterward. After several attempts to write a hit for the singer fail, they finally come up with a song that perfectly balances R&B and pop with Billy’s jazz vocal style. Recorded at Sigma Sound Studios with members of MFSB and arranged by Bobby Martin, it is the first single from Paul’s album “360 Degrees Of Billy Paul” on September 13, 1972. The song about an extramarital affair is the third R&B chart topper, and first number pop single for the fledgling Philadelphia International label. The single wins Paul a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Male in 1973. Songwriters Gamble, Huff and Gilbert also later collaborate on “Don’t Leave Me This Way”, originally writing it for Harold Melvin & The Blue Notes in 1975. A cover version by Thelma Houston becomes a worldwide hit, topping the pop and R&B singles charts in 1977. It is also covered by The Dramatics and by Michael Buble. In 2000, Billy Paul’s original recording is used in a television commercial for Nike sportswear featuring track star Marion Jones. At the time, Paul had not received any royalty payments on the song in twenty seven years. He files a lawsuit against Gamble & Huff, their publishing company Assorted Music, Inc. and Sony Music Entertainment for back royalties. He wins the lawsuit and receives a sizable settlement and future royalties generated by his version of the song. Regarded as not only one of the greatest “Philly Soul” records of all time, but one of the best singles of the 70’s, “Me And Mrs. Jones” is inducted into the Grammy Hall Of Fame in 2018. “Me And Mrs. Jones” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 9, 1962 – “Meet The Supremes”, the debut album by The Supremes is released. Produced by Berry Gordy, Smokey Robinson, Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Raynoma Liles, it is recorded at Motown Studio A in Detroit, MI from October 1960 – September 1962. It features the first four singles released by the group during 1961 and 1962, including “I Want A Guy”, “Let Me Go The Right Way”, “Buttered Popcorn”, and “Your Heart Belongs To Me”. All fare poorly on the charts which lead people around Motown to dub them the “no hit” Supremes, in spite of the labels’ best writers and producers efforts to come up with a hit single for the group. “Meet” is reissued in early 1965 (originally issued in mono only) it is remixed in true stereo with different cover artwork, after their breakthrough success with the “Where Did Our Love Go? album”. Original copies of “Meet The Supremes” are among the rarest of the early Motown LP’s and command up to $500 for a near mint copy today. In 2010, the album is remastered and reissued as a two CD edition through Hip-O Select Records, with the mono and stereo versions of the original album along with alternate versions and seven live tracks recorded in 1964.

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On this day in music history: December 8, 1990 – “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” by Stevie B. hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 4 weeks, also topping the Adult Contemporary chart for 2 weeks on January 19, 1991. Written by Warren Allen Brooks, it is the biggest hit for the singer, songwriter and producer from Ft. Lauderdale, FL. Born Steven Bernard Hill, Stevie B. is involved in music from an early age, forming the band LUV in high school with friend and future R&B star Howard Johnson (“So Fine”, “Keepin’ Love New”). After the band splits following Johnson’s departure to join Niteflyte (“If You Want It”), Stevie continues to make music on his his own, starting his own label Midtown Records and releasing the singles “Sending Out For Love” under his own name, and “Boy Toy” under moniker Friday Friday Featuring Stevie B.. Then in 1987, he records and releases the song “Party Your Body”, an uptempo dance track that becomes a huge hit in Miami and several other cities where Freestyle is popular like New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco. The record attracts the attention of New York based dance label LMR Records who signs Stevie, and re-releases the single early in 1988. A string of other hits follow including “Dreamin’ Of Love”, “Spring Love” and “I Wanna Be The One”. By 1990, LMR has aligned itself with major label RCA Records as the singer is working on his third album “Love & Emotion”. Looking for a change of pace from his dance oriented material, Stevie records the ballad “Because I Love You”, written by co-collaborator Warren Allen Brooks who has also penned four other songs on the album including the title track. Issued as the second single from the album in September of 1990, the song is an across the board smash, hitting the pop and AC charts. Entering the Hot 100 at #80 on October 6, 1990, it climbs to the top of the chart nine weeks later. After spending a month at the top of the US singles chart, “Because I Love You” is also a hit internationally, hitting the top ten in ten foreign countries including the UK, France, Germany, Sweden, The Netherlands, Australia and New Zealand. Stevie B. scores another top 40 hit with the follow up “I’ll Be By Your Side” (#12 Pop), he is unable to match the success of his chart topping hit. Still a popular concert draw, Stevie is still recording, having released his most recent album “The King Of Hearts” in 2014. “Because I Love You (The Postman Song)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 8, 1973 – “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” by The Staple Singers hits #1 on the Billboard R&B singles chart for 3 weeks, also peaking at #9 on the Hot 100 on December 22, 1973. Written by Homer Banks, Raymond Jackson and Carl Hampton, it is the second R&B chart topper for the Chicago, IL based family group fronted by lead singer Mavis Staples. The song is inspired when Banks, Jackson and Hampton are hanging out at Stax Studios in Memphis when they decide to go to lunch at a local restaurant. Before heading over, Raymond Jackson blurts out the line “If you’re ready, come go with me”. Carl Hampton hears him say it and then reply that it sounds like a potential song title. The trio return to the studio and quickly write the song, recording a demo within a day of completing it. Issued as the first single from the groups’ seventeenth album “Be What You Are”, the track features members of the Muscle Shoals Rhythm Section including Jimmy Johnson (guitar), David Hood (bass), Roger Hawkins (drums) and Barry Beckett (keyboards). The group record their vocals with the band live at FAME Studios in Muscle Shoals, AL in mid 1973. “If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me)” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 7, 1991 – “Black Or White” by Michael Jackson hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 7 weeks, also peaking at #3 on the R&B singles chart on the same date. Written by Michael Jackson and Bill Bottrell, it is the twelfth solo chart topper (sixteenth overall) for “The King Of Pop”. Issued as the first single from Jackson’s eighth album “Dangerous” on November 11, 1991, the single is premiered on radio just days before its arrival in stores. The track is supported by an elaborate eleven minute long short film directed by John Landis (“Thriller”), also starring actors Macaulay Culkin (“Home Alone”), George Wendt (“Cheers”) and Tess Harper (“Tender Mercies”, “Breaking Bad”). The video also breaks new ground visually for the face morphing sequence created by Pacific Data Images, digitally morphing the actors lip synching the song seamlessly into each other. Among the people seen during the sequence include model Tyra Banks and actors Khrystyne Haje, Cree Summer and Jeffrey Anderson-Gunter. The clip has its broadcast debut simultaneously on MTV, BET, VH1, and the Fox television network on November 14, 1991, drawing a record breaking viewing audience. However, the extended dance sequence of the film draws controversy due to several scenes of Jackson rubbing and grabbing his crotch as well as destroying a car and breaking windows. The singer issues a statement the next day apologizing, stating that “the violent and suggestive behavior was an interpretation of the black panther’s animal instincts”. The controversy does not hurt the songs’ airplay or sales. It becomes the fastest rising single on the Hot 100 since The Beatles “Get Back” in 1969. Entering the Hot 100 at #35 on November 23, 1991, it pole vaults to the top of the chart two weeks later. Jackson also becomes the first artist in history to have number one singles in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. On the UK singles chart, it is the first single to enter the chart at number one since Elvis Presley’s “It’s Now Or Never” in 1960. “Black Or White” also tops the charts in seventeen other countries, and is ranked the top single of 1991 by Billboard Magazine. “Black Or White” is certified Platinum in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 7, 1974 – “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas hits #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 for 2 weeks, also hitting #1 on the R&B singles chart for 1 week on January 11, 1975. Written by Carl Douglas, it is the biggest hit for the Jamaican born singer. He is inspired to write the song when he sees young kids in a pinball arcade in Soho, London “mock fighting” in time with music playing in the background. “Kung Fu Fighting is initially intended to be the B-side of the song "I Want To Give You My Everything” and is recorded very quickly during the last ten minutes of a recording session with Indian born/British based producer Biddu (born Biddu Appaiah). First released through Pye Records in the UK, there is no airplay on the record at all for the first five weeks after its release. It suddenly reaches critical mass when it begins being played in dance clubs. From there radio picks up on it, setting it on the course to number one. The single is licensed to 20th Century Records for release in the US where it immediately follows its UK chart success. Entering the Hot 100 at #94 on October 12, 1974, it climbs to the top of the chart eight weeks later. The song is used in numerous films in later years including “Wayne’s World 2”, “Beverly Hills Ninja”, “Daddy Day Care”, “Bowfinger” and “Rumble In The Bronx”. A cover version of the song sung by Cee-Lo Green and Jack Black is recorded for the animated film “Kung Fu Panda” in 2008. “Kung Fu Fighting” is certified Gold in the US by the RIAA.

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On this day in music history: December 6, 1982 – “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” by Indeep is released. Written by Mike Cleveland, it is the debut single release and biggest hit for the dance music group from New York City. Formed in 1980 by musician Mike Cleveland, Indeep also features lead vocalists Réjane “Reggie” Magloire and Rose Marie Ramsey. In the post-disco era, the group create a unique musical hybrid that include sung vocal hooks, rap lyrics and built on a foundation of minimalist, but highly funky instrumentation. For their first single, Cleveland writes “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life”. Its narrative describes a woman who’s home alone, and is upset and frustrated that she can’t reach her man. On the verge of leaving him, she changes her mind when she hears a song on the radio that makes her reconsider, proclaiming in the chorus “Last night a DJ saved my life from a broken heart… Last night a DJ saved my life with a song…”. The track is recorded at Eastern Artists Recording Studio in East Orange, NJ, with Ramsey on lead vocals, Cleveland on guitar, bass, and rap vocals, and drummer Dave Reyes (Young & Company, Aurra). “DJ” is recorded by a young engineer named Andy Wallace, who goes on to greater fame later on working with Run DMC, Nirvana, Sheryl Crow and many others. It is mixed by Club DJ legend, remixer and producer Tony Humphries. Co-produced by Reggie Thompson (Mtume, Philip Bailey, Stanley Clarke), the single is released on the Sound Of New York Records label, founded by executive producer Gene Griffin (Guy, Wrecks-N-Effects). “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” quickly becomes a dance floor smash, entering the Billboard Club Play chart at #60 on December 25, 1982. It enters the Billboard R&B singles chart at #83 on the R&B singles chart on January 8, 1983. It peaks at #2 on the Club Play chart five weeks later on January 29, 1983. The record holds for six weeks in the runner spot, unable to budge Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” album from the top spot. “DJ” peaks at #10 on the R&B singles chart nine weeks later on March 12, 1983, holding for three consecutive weeks. Though it doesn’t make the US pop chart, bubbling under at #103, Indeep’s record is a big hit across Europe, in the UK (#13), Spain (#7), The Netherlands (#2). Belgium (#2) and Germany (#10). The group follow up their breakthrough with “When Boys Talk” (#32 R&B, #16 Club Play), “Buffalo Bill” (#81 R&B) and “The Record Keeps Spinning” (#45 R&B). Though regarded as a one hit wonder, Indeep’s “Last Night A DJ Saved My Life” has enjoyed enduring popularity, being covered most notably by Mariah Carey on the “Glitter” Soundtrack in 2001. The song has also been sampled numerous times, also being featured on the video game Grand Theft Auto: Vice City, and the television mini series The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.

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Born on this day: December 6, 1946 – Maze lead singer, songwriter and producer Frankie Beverly (born Howard Beverly in Philadelphia, PA). Happy 73rd Birthday, Frankie!!

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