Record setting Records and Artists: R&B Charts

Record Breaking Records: R&B Charts

I have touched on the R&B charts many times throughout my posts, however today I would like to lay out the history as well as point out some of the many milestones achieved by both songs and artists. Charts in the music business are very much about sales and making money. As interesting as we find them, they do not always represent the truly great artists and songs. Sometimes it takes time and reflection to arrive at not only the lasting opinions but the evidence to establish what was overlooked. Read More »

Classic R&B Songs

Classic R&B Songs

Well it’s time to explore the genre of R&B. For me that means the older traditional stuff, so if you are looking for Drake or Bieber, Beyonce or Rihanna you’ve come to the wrong place. I’ve discussed Rhythm and Blues music in my past posts, particularly the ones on Rock and Roll History and the Delta Blues. So where did the the term come from? Jerry (Gerald) Wexler was a music Journalist working for Billboard Magazine in 1947 and the current terminology being used to describe the music coming from the African American community was racist and demeaning. “Race Music” was perhaps the biggest offender, aslo ‘Harlem Hit Parade” and other terms such as “Sepia” although I found an Atlanta based African American publication still using that term. So Wexler was tasked with coming up with a new term and he landed on ‘Rhythm and Blues’. Now just referred to as R&B, and as a genre is the most popular music in the world. Of course it has long outgrown the tradition definition and styles of music using the then new title, which first officially charted in 1949. Rhythm & Blues charts would last from June 25, 1949 to November 30, 1963. Later R&B would fall under many different chart names including “Hot R&B” to what is now “Hot R&B/Hip-Hop Songs”.Read More »

Rock Artists Sing Soul

 Rock Artists Sing Soul

I’ve blogged about Soul and there are dozens’ of songs sprinkled throughout my posts, but I want to focus on covers by Rock artists. While R&B was the main inspiration of most Rock musicians, Soul music is not far behind. Most of the biggest names in Rock history covered Soul songs and the influence can often be heard in their original material. Most notably this was a trend in the 1960’s and there are plenty to choose. As with the Blues, bands from the UK were all over the Soul music scene. While I’ve dedicated some writing to Soul icons such as Ray Charles, James Brown and the legendary Aretha Franklin, I wanted to feature other artists today.

Some Other Guy” by Richie Barrett (who discover discovered artists such as Frankie Lymon & the Teenagers, the Chantels, Little Anthony & the Imperials, the Valentines, and the Three Degrees) co-wrote this with the famous duo of Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, released in April 1962. Not the typical ‘Blues’ song that was being listened to “across the pond” but more soul oriented and it was not a chart topper in the US. The British band ‘The Big Three‘ (March 1963) took a liking to it and covered it first and had a top 40 hit, in the UK. The Beatles (Live at the BBC June 23, 1963) included it in their early repertoire but their version was not released until 1994. Not quite a “Louie Louie” for unintelligible words but the lyrics are hard to make out hence the difference from record to record.Read More »

Sweet Soul Music

Sweet Soul Music

Sam Cooke

Arthur Conley co-wrote this song with Otis Redding and it’s a tribute to some of the early greats of Soul Music. The song’s melody (and words for that matter) borrowed heavily from the Sam Cooke song “Yeah Man” and a subsequent lawsuit brought by A.W. Alexander who managed Cooke’s songs after his untimely death added his name to the song credits. The resulting song however was a huge hit for Conley and it reached #2 on Billboard’s Hot 100 and R&B Chart in 1967 and #7 in the UK where Soul Music was gaining popularity particularly amongst a subset of British youth. The lyrics reference the co-writer Otis Redding, James Brown and songs by The Miracles, Lou Rawls, Sam & Dave and Wilson Pickett, some of the key figures in early Soul Music. “Sweet Soul Music” covered 30 times, The Jam (1977).Read More »

Nina Simone

Central Park Blues” (1958) written by Nina Simone. From her debut album ‘Little Girl Blue’. While best remembered for her vocal talents, Nina shows off her considerable chops at the piano.

On the same album her cover of  “I Loves You Porgy” from the opera ‘Porgy and Bess’ (George Gershwin and Ira Gershwin). This would be her highest ranking hit on Billboard at #18 on the Pop chart and #5 on the R&B. The video clip shows how brilliant she was and how effortless her piano playing appears, she was quite remarkable.

Born in North Carolina, Eunice Kathleen Waymon (February 21, 1933 – April 21, 2003) she was a student at the Juilliard School of Music. She changed her name when she was performing in nightclubs in Atlantic City, which is when she started to add vocals to her piano playing. She was really only interested in classical music and studies, so performing using pop music and later recording (income) was used to pursue just that.

My Baby Just Cares for Me” at nearly 200 documented cover versions is a jazz standard written by Walter Donaldson with lyrics by Gus Kahn. From the film version of the musical comedy ‘Whoopee!’ (1930), the song became a signature tune for Eddie Cantor who sang it in the movie.
The first actual recording was by Ted Weems and His Orchestra1930 with vocals by Art Jarrett. Oddly in the early days of recording of just about any ‘so and so’ with his orchestra, the vocalists are rarely mentioned. Lyrics of this song seem to vary quite a bit from recording to recording.
Other notable covers include Nat King Cole and later his daughter Natalie Cole, Frank Sinatra, Florence Welch of Florence + Machine, Cyndi LauperMichael Bublé, Jeff Goldblum & The Mildred Snitzer Orchestra with amazing vocals from Haley Reinhart.

Clearly the best and most well known version of the song is by Nina Simone from 1958, this is the first recording I found where the name of Liz Taylor, Lana Turner and Liberace show up. Although I can find no reference as to who actually changed the original lyrics, it may have been Nina herself. It seems there are almost as many lyrics and names added as there are versions of the song although most newer recordings (post 1987) largely follow the Simone lyrics. As they typically do the song writing credits always remain with the original writers, and unless the owners of the rights add a name to share the credit it won’t change. It seems this song went somewhat unnoticed until used in a perfume ad in 1987 and had a huge resurgence. Unfortunately for Nina she had no rights to the song and gained little from it’s popularity apart from some increase in CD sales.

Here is Nina Simone in another video, one of the all-time great vocalists and more remarkable piano playing as well. This is an extended version of the original song and if you click on SHOW MORE there’s a short bio.
An interesting Claymation video with original Simone vocals.
Usher recorded it in 2015 for a Nina Simone tribute album, he ironically changed the lyrics in an effort I suppose to modernize the names and references. One would think in a real ‘tribute’ being true to the honoree’s original recording might be the way to go. Particularly because Nina Simone was about the 30th or so artist to record the song and it is her version of the song and new lyrics that was a turning point for the song itself. All this is lost in a so called ‘tribute’ that missed the history entirely and in the end it becomes just another version of the song.

Simone was deeply involved in the civil rights movement in the early 1960’s and beyond and she produced some powerful protest songs. “Mississippi Goddam“,
Four Women” and “To Be Young, Gifted and Black“(Weldon Irvine, Nina Simone).  Aretha Franklin recorded this last song and it was the inspiration for her Album ‘Young, Gifted and Black’ released in 1972. “To Be Young, Gifted and Black” was also covered by a young Reg Dwight (Elton John) released in 1970.

Nina Simone produced 40 albums but did not gain significant popularity until a few years just before her death giving her more well deserved (financial) security. Simone died in her sleep after suffering with Breast Cancer for several years. She did more amazing covers of songs such as “Baltimore” originally by Randy Newman, “To Love Somebody” from the Bee Gees and in 1961″The House of the Rising Sun” made famous by ‘The Animals’ in 1964. This song is classified as a ‘traditional’ American folk song and has a long and interesting history, the first persevered recording is from 1933 “Rising Sun Blues” by Ashley and Foster.

More info about Nina Simone via a biopic and also NinaThe Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, where she was inducted in 2018. Her autobiography is titled “I Put a Spell on You

References: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Main_PageSecondhandsongs.comhttp://www.ninasimone.com/
images: http://www.ninasimone.com/

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Aretha Franklin

Aretha Franklin

 Aretha Louise Franklin, March 25, 1942-August 16, 2018 (age 76),  born in Memphis, Tennessee, U.S.
 A sad day for music on the passing of the Legendary Aretha Franklin. There are plenty of tributes to this amazing singer and rightfully so and if you have been reading my blog you will know I’ve mentioned her before. You will be able to read all about her career and life story elsewhere, what you may not get is a bit of the story behind songs she gave new life too and her originals that have been remade.

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