Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The Lady is a Tramp

The music for this song was written by composer Richard Rodgers and the lyrics by Lorenz Hart for the 1937 Broadway musical "Babes In Arms." The song was first recorded by Tommy Dorsey and His Orchestra with Edythe Wright on vocals. It has been recorded by Lena Horne, Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald (duet), Shirley Bassey, The Supremes, Alice Cooper among others.

This YouTube video clip features a live performance by Frank Sinatra and Ella Fitzgerald.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

Gino Vanelli - I just wanna stop

Canadian born Gino Vanelli had a number 1 hit in his native country with this song. It was a number 4 hit across the border in the U.S.A. This all happened in 1978. In this YouTube clip he sings with his back up vocalist Maxayne Lewis in a 1991 Montreal performance. Gino still records albums and performs to sold-out audiences.

Monday, March 29, 2010

At last

This classic love song "At Last" was written by Mack Gordon and Harry Warren for the musical film "Orchestra Wives" in 1941. It was performed by Glen Miller and his orchestra with Ray Eberle and Pat Friday on vocals.

It was also done by the legendary Nat King Cole in 1957.

The most famous version was done by Etta James in 1960.

Celine Dion covered it 2002. In this YouTube clip she performs the song with violinist Roddy Chong.

Saturday, March 27, 2010

Blue Riddim Band

Before I heard the Blue Riddim Band, I didn't think that any non-Jamaican band could play hard-core reggae music. This band out of Kansas, Missouri, U.S.A. proved me wrong. The YouTube video clip above is taken from their 1982 performance of their hit "Nancy Reagan" at the now defunct annual reggae music festival "Reggae Sunsplash" in Montego Bay, Jamaica. They were nominated for a Reggae Grammy in 1985 for their album "Alive in Jamaica."

In this video clip the band is playing Burning Spear's "Tradition."

Friday, March 26, 2010

Take Five - Dave Brubeck Quartet

Featured players: Joe Morello (drums), Eugene Wright (bass), Paul Desmond (saxophone), Dave Brubeck (piano)

This jazz classic "Take 5" was recorded by the Dave Brubeck Quartet in 1959. It was composed by group saxophonist Paul Desmond.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

TV theme songs from the 1960s

"The Munsters" theme music was composed by Jack Marshall. The series ran from 1964 to 1966.

The theme song for the TV series "Batman" was written by U.S.A. jazz trumpeter Neal Hefti. The series ran from 1966 to 1968.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Congratulations to Tamyra Gray

Congratulations to American Idol season 1 alum Tamyra Gray who is expecting a baby in July with her husband Sam Watters, formerly of the group Color Me Badd. Tamyra was a strong favorite on that first season in 2002. She finished in 4th place. In this YouTube video clip, she performs the Burt Bacharach/Hal David classic "A House Is Not A Home." Many regard this as one of the best ever performances on American Idol.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Reggae Symphony

Chalice was one of the most entertaining and innovative reggae bands of the 1980s. Here they perform "Reggae Symphony", a fusion of dancehall and classical music!!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Old skool rapper: Kurtis Blow

This 1980 rap hit "The Breaks" by Kurtis Blow (born Kurtis Walker) takes us back to a time when rap music was clean and fun party music. No cursing, degrading women or glorifying violence like today's rap music. Kurtis is a true pioneer, being the first rapper to be signed to a major label (Mercury). "The Breaks" is the first rap single to be certified gold.

Kurtis has remained active in the entertainment industry. He has acted in and produced music for motion pictures. He also co-produced with Dexter King and performed on the single "King Holiday" to celebrate Dexter's father Martin Luther King's birthday becoming a U.S. public holiday for the first time in 1986. This single featured Whitney Houston, New Edition, El Debarge, Teena Marie to name a few.

Social problems like drug abuse have gotten Kurtis' attention. He has supported organizations trying to stem this problem. He is the founder of the Hip Hop Church and is an ordained minister

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Music and social activism: Miriam Makeba and Hugh Masekela

Today marks 50 years since the Sharpeville massacre in apartheid South Africa when police opened fire on a group of people peacefully protesting the country's dreaded pass laws. 69 people were killed. This incident was a major turning point in the fight against apartheid. Today this blog wants to salute the above named performers who were an integral part of the struggle to end this system.

Miriam Makeba

Miriam was born on March 4, 1932 in Johannesburg, South Africa. She gave her first solo performance at the age of 13 for the visiting British monarch King George VI. She began her professional career during the 1950s in South Africa performing with groups Manhattan Brothers and The Skylarks. She also appeared in an anti-apartheid film "Come Back Africa".

At the end of the 1950s Miriam was eager to take her talents outside of South Africa because she didn't feel that she was being justly rewarded in her home country. Harry Belafonte helped her in this regard helping her to get to the United States where she recorded her famous songs "Pata Pata" and "The Click Song". Miriam recorded 30 albums from 1960 to 2006. She won a Grammy for her collaboration "An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba in 1966.

By 1960 Miriam was strongly identified with the anti-apartheid movement. That year she returned to South Africa to attend her mother's funeral only to find that the government had revoked her passport. In 1963 she testified at the United Nations against apartheid and the South African government then revoked her citizenship rights. However she gained honorary citizenship in 10 other countries.

Miriam also suffered adversity in her personal life. Losing her father when she was only 6 years old. In the 1950s she also lost her first husband whom she married in her teens. She lost her only daughter in 1985. She was married a total of 4 times including Hugh Masekela from 1966-68. Her fourth marriage to controversial civil rights activist Stokely Carmichael (later known as Kwame Ture) caused her to lose her record deal as well as concert tours. Miriam and her husband then migrated to Guinea.

Miriam was able to return to South Africa in 1990 on Nelson Mandela's invitation after his release from prison after 27 years of incarceration.

This videoclip features a guest performance by Miriam Makeba on "The Cosby Show"

On November 9, 2008 Miriam made her transition from this life doing what she had done all her life. She was performing on a concert in Italy in support of Italian writer Roberto Saviano who was fighting against organized crime in his country. She died of a heart attack while performing "Pata Pata."

Hugh Masekela

Hugh was born in Witbank, South Africa on April 4, 1939. He took up the trumpet at the age of 14 and played in his country's first youth orchestra. During the 1950s he began writing songs protesting apartheid. After the 1960 Sharpeville massacre he went into exile.

He went to England where he attended London's Guildhall School of Music and also to the United States where he studied classical trumpet at Manhattan School of Music. He had a hit record "Grazing in the Grass" in 1968 which reached the top of the U.S. charts.

Having been exiled from the country of his birth, Hugh lived in other countries in Africa such as Ghana, Liberia, Guinea. In 1980 he set up a mobile studio in Botswana
for the benefit of his fellow South African musicians who were just south of the border. However in 1985 he had to flee Botswana for England when the South African army crossed over the border into Botswana and killed 14 people accused of terrorism. 2 of these people killed were his friends.

In 1987, Hugh released his famous anthem "Mandela (Bring Him Back Home)". This anthem's call was answered when Nelson Mandela was released in 1990. Like his ex-wife Miriam Makeba, he returned to South Africa that year. He had spent a total of 30 years in exile and was able to see his mother's grave for the first time.

Hugh has released over 30 albums over the period 1964-2009. He has worked with many performers including Bob Marley, Herb Alpert, Miriam Makeba, Paul Simon, Ladysmith Black Mambazo. Today, he still keeps up a heavy touring schedule.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Musical magic: Burt Bacharach and Stevie Wonder

This YouTube video clip features Stevie Wonder showcasing his genius on the harmonica playing the classic Burt Bacharach/Hal David song "Alfie." It is from a 1970s TV show "Shindig". Burt is present and appears totally spellbound by Stevie's performance of his song. For fans of these two legends, this clip is a must watch.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Jimi Hendrix: a prolific posthumous chartmaker

This is Jimi Hendrix's legendary performance of the U.S.A.'s national anthem at the historic Woodstock Music Festival in 1969.

Guitar legend Jimi Hendrix has been dead for nearly 40 years but his music certainly is not. Since his death on September 18, 1970 he has had a staggering 34 albums reach Billboard's top 200 chart.

On the Billboard's top 200 chart for week ending March 14, 2010, the Jimi Hendrix Experience's album "Valleys Of Neptune" charted at number 4. No other performer has cracked the top 5 so long after death. Elvis Presley previously held this record. He charted at number 3 in 2003 with his album "Elvis: 2nd to none". This was 26 years after his death in 1977.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

American Idol judge Randy Jackson

Born Randall Darius Jackson in Baton Rouge, Louisana, he started playing the bass at age 13. He has recorded with Aretha Franklin, Billy Joel, Bob Dylan, Bruce Springsteen, Herbie Hancock, Madonna to name a few. It is estimated that he has played on over 1000 albums. From 1986 to 1987 he was a member of the band "Journey" touring with them extensively.

He became a record executive in the 1990s serving as vice-president of Artist and Repertoire(A&R) at Columbia Records. He was there for 8 years before moving on to MCA Records where he served as senior vice-president in the same category for 4 years.

In 2002 he was chosen to be a judge along with Simon Cowell and Paula Abdul on Fox's phenomenal hit series "American Idol".

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Congratulations to Jimmy Cliff

My heartiest congratulations to my fellow Jamaican Jimmy Cliff for being one of 5 acts inducted into the Rock and Roll of Fame on Monday night. This is a fitting tribute to one of the pioneering voices of reggae music. He was presented with his award by Wyclef Jean.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Mission: Impossible theme song - tribute to Peter Graves

From left: Phil Morris, Leonard Nimoy, Peter Lupus.
In front: Peter Graves

Peter Graves died suddenly of a heart attack yesterday March 14, 2010 just 4 days short of his 84th birthday. He was best known for his role as Jim Phelps in the series "Mission: Impossible." This show ran for from 1966-73, Graves appearing in season 2 and remaining with the show until its end.

The theme song was composed by Argentine Lalo Schifrin who is also a pianist and conductor.

"Mission Impossible is is one of my favorite TV theme songs. As a teenager I learned how to play it on the piano.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Who is Georg Solti?

When most people think about Grammy Award winners, the name Georg Solti would probably not ring a bell. However, he has the most wins with 31 out of a total of 74 nominations for classical music. He was born György Stern in Budapest, Hungary in 1912 and started playing the piano at an early age and became a conductor in 1935. His father changed his name to conceal the family's Jewish ancestry because of anti-semitism. Solti and his family fled from Hungary to Switzerland in 1939 to escape the Nazis.

Solti's career really took off in the 1960s winning Grammy Awards conducting recordings with Vienna Philharmonic, Los Angeles Philharmonic, London Philharmonic and finally the Chicago Philharmonic. He won his first Grammy in 1962 and his last in 1997.

For all his achievemts, he was given an honorary knighthood by the British in 1971 but was only able to use the title "Sir" in 1972 when he became a naturalized citizen.

He was scheduled to conduct his 1,000th performance with the Chicago Philharmonic in October 1997 to celebrate his 85th birthday but died suddenly in September of that year of a heart attack. He was buried in his homeland of Hungary.

Friday, March 12, 2010

Tessanne Chin

Jamaican Tessanne Chin first came to musical prominence when she won an open audition and was picked to open for a Gladys Knight/Patti Labelle concert staged in Jamaica in 2000. She went on to tour as a back up singer for Jimmy Cliff and was also a member of Jamaican rock band "Mile High". She branched out on her own. Her music can be described as a fusion of reggae and rock music.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Who is Lori Lieberman?

Lori Lieberman was watching singer Don McLean in concert and was inspired to write a poem "Killing Me Softly With His Blues". The poem with some rewrites from Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox became her 1972 original recording "Killing Me Softly With His Song." Of course this song has been more famously identified with Roberta Flack who made it a Grammy Award winning Billboard number 1 hit in 1973. The Fugees also had a hit with this song in 1996.

Lori remained active in the recording industry during the 70s through the 90s, releasing her music on independent labels. The video clip above features Lori in a 2009 performance of the song.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Jorge Ben Jor - Mas que nada

The song "Mas que nada" is mostly identifiable with Sergio Mendes who made it one of Brazil's biggest ever international hits in 1966. However what is less known is that this song was written and previously recorded by Jorge Ben Jor in 1963. He was born Jorge Duilio Lima Menezes and took his stage name from his Ethiopian mother's last name Ben. In 1989 he added "Jor". He is still active having performed on the Brazilian leg of the Live Earth concerts held in 2007.

This is a clip from 1969 of a performance by Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66 with Tom Jones.

Sergio Mendes performing with the Black Eyed Peas in this 2006 music video.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Who is Hal David?

Hal David is the lesser known lyrical partner of composer Burt Bacharach. He was born in New York City on May 25, 1921 and started his songwriting career in the 1940s. He teamed up with Bacharach in 1957 and together they wrote all the famous "Bacharach" songs like "I say a Little Prayer","Do You Know the Way to San Jose", "What the World Needs Now Is Love", "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head", to name a few.

Outside of his partnership with Bacharach, David wrote the lyrics for the theme song "We Have All the Time in the World" for the 1969 James Bond movie "On Her Majesty's Secret Service". He also has written many country music hits including the 1984 hit "To all the girls I've loved before" sung by Willie Nelson and Julio Iglesias.

Hal David has received many honors. He has 20 gold records, is a member of The Songwriters Hall of Fame and The Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. He is also a recipient of the Grammys Trustees Award.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Etana - I am not afraid

One of Jamaica's leading performers is Etana. Her name means the strong one. Her birth name is Shauna McKenzie. She migrated to the U.S.A. when she was 9 years old. her music career began when she dropped out of college to sign with Universal Records as a member of a group Gift. She eventually left because she was not comfortable with the sex symbol image of the group. She returned to Jamaica in 2002. Etana released her debut album "The Strong One" in 2008. She has toured U.S.A., Europe, Africa and the Caribbean.

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Academy award original song winners from the past

Today the 82nd annual Academy Awards are being given out. Among the categories is an award for best original song which was first given out in 1934.

"The Way you look tonight" won for the movie "Swing Time" in 1936. The lyrics were written by Dorothy Fields and the music composed by Jerome Kerns. It was performed by Fred Astaire who is featured in the video clip.

"When you wish upon a star" won for the movie "Pinocchio" in 1940. The lyrics were written by Ned Washington and the music composed by Leigh Harline. The original performance was by Cliff Edwards.

"Zip-A-Dee-Doo-Dah" won for the movie "Song of the South" in 1947. Lyrics were written by Ray Gilbert and the music composed by Allie Wrubel. It was sung by James Baskett(featured in clip).

"Mona Lisa" won for the movie "Captain Corey" in 1950. Music and Lyrics were done by Ray Evans and Jay Livingston. Performance by the legendary Nat King Cole.

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Clive Davis - Rock and Roll Hall of famer

On March 6, 2000 exactly 10 years ago today, Clive Davis a lawyer turned music executive was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

He became president of CBS Records in 1967. During his tenure he signed artists like Janice Joplin, Santana, Bruce Springsteen, Chicago, Billy Joel, Blood, Sweat & Tears, Pink Floyd, Earth, Wind & Fire.

In 1974 he became president of Arista where he signed artists like Barry Manilow,Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick and Whitney Houston. He left Arista in 2000. At present he is chief creative officer at Sony BMG.

Friday, March 5, 2010

Stage names versus real names

Many performers use stage names instead of their birth names. The following are a few examples.

Tony Bennett (born Anthony Dominick Benedetto)

Chubby Checker (born Ernest Evans)

Patsy Cline (born Virginia Patterson Hensley)

Chaka Khan (born Yvette Marie Stephens)

David Bowie (born David Robert Jones)

Charo (María Rosario Pilar Martínez Molina Moquiere de les Esperades Santa Ana Romanguera y de la Najosa Rasten)

Crystal Gayle (born Brenda Gail Webb)

Jimmy Cliff (born James Chambers)

Boy George (born George Alan O'Dowd)

Bono (born Paul David Hewson)

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Hot Hot Hot

Arrow (Alphonsus Celestine Edmund Cassell) was born in the Caribbean island of Monserrat. His recording of "Hot hot hot" was a massive hit selling an estimated 7 million copies worldwide. The song has been covered by other performers and has appeared on movie soundtracks like "Bend it like Beckham" and "Beverley Hills Chihuahua.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Northern Lights - Tears are not enough

"Tears are not enough" was released in 1985 around the same time as the original "We are the world" to raise funds for starving Ethiopians. It was a Canadian production featuring vocalists Paula Anka, Joni Mitchell, Anne Murray among others. The song was written by Bryan Adams, Jim Vallance and David Foster. Even though it was not as popular as "We are the world", many critics thought it was a better song.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Soul Makossa

"Soul Makossa" was released in 1972 and hit no. 35 on the Billboard charts in 1972. The composer is saxophonist and vibraphone player Manu Dibango (born Emmanuel Dibango N'Djoké)in Cameroon. This tune is a unique mix of traditional Cameroonian music with jazz and funk. "Makossa" means dance in Duala which is a Cameroonian language. Parts of "Soul Makossa" have been sampled in "You wanna be starting something" by the late Michael Jackson and "Don't stop the music" by Rihanna.