Music Monday: May 16, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

This week is a Motown Music Monday because we have three powerhouses from that genre with birthdays this month. I discovered this polarizing style of singing as a young child thanks to my parents. They bought a K-Tel compilation of this remarkable sound and that four album set changed me in a profound way. The voices from the Motor City became my first great musical love.

Songwriter & producer Norman Whitfield was born in Harlem, NY on May 12, 1940. He co-wrote & produced my favorite Motown song of all time, “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” along with other tracks recorded by Marvin Gaye including “That’s The Way Love Is” and “Too Busy Thinking About My Baby”. Whitfield was also one of the writers behind Edwin Starr’s “War” and several hits by The Temptations including “I Wish It would Rain”, “I Could Never Love Another (After Loving You)”, “I Can’t Get Next to You”, “I Know) I’m Losing You” as well as one of today’s featured songs.

After Whitfield left Motown in 1970 when the label relocated to California, he started his own eponymous recording company. His success as a songwriter continued with hits like “Smiling Faces Sometimes” for The Undisputed Truth and the theme song from the 1976 movie, “Car Wash” by Rose Royce. The mark Whitfield left on music, Motown & the industry is indelible. We lost this prolific artist in 2008.

Whitfield

Norman Whitfield circa 1975. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.).

What is left to say about “The Eighth Wonder Of The World”, Stevie Wonder, who turned 72 last week? The child prodigy born Stevland Hardaway Morris on May 13, 1950 in Saginaw, MI began his career in The Motor City at age 11 as Little Stevie Wonder. His career grew even bigger as an adult in the 1970’s with three Album Of The Year Grammy awards for Innervisions (1973), FulfillingnessFirst Finale (1974) and Songs in the Key of Life (1976). His career grew from there and today, with over six decades of musical brilliance under his belt, Wonder continues to show us all how talent is defined.

Stevie wonder

Stevie Wonder circa 1974. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

“The Empress Of Soul” Gladys Knight will celebrate birthday number 78 on May 28. She was born that day in 1944 in Atlanta, GA & began singing in the church by age five. Three years later, she won an amateur hour contest on a local TV show, then joined her brother (future Pip Merald “Bubba” Knight, Jr.) and a few other relatives to form a group, By the late 1950’s, they were signed to Brunswick Records and were opening shows for Jackie Wilson & Sam Cooke. In 1966 Knight & her revised group, The Pips, signed with Motown. But their real success came with their next label, Buddah Records, in the early 1970’s. Knight became a solo act in the following decade & collaborated with the likes of Elton John, Ray Charles, Patti LaBelle and others. She also became part of the James Bond movie music legacy when she recorded “License To Kill” in 1989. She remains one of the greatest female singers of all time.

Gladys 1

Gladys Knight circa 1972. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.).

NOTE: Both Wonder & Knight appear in the stunning Oscar-winning 2021 documentary, “Summer Of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)”. If you have not seen it yet, PLEASE stop reading now (you can come back later) and head over to Hulu NOW to watch it. You cannot go another day without the music & performances from this film in your life. You’re welcome.

The Temptations: “Ain’t Too Proud To Beg” (1966, written by Norman Whitfield and Edward Holland Jr.).

Stevie Wonder: “I Was Made To Love Her” (1967, written by Stevie Wonder, Lula Mae Hardaway, Sylvia Moy and Henry Cosby).

Gladys Knight & The Pips: “Midnight Train To Georgia” (1973, written by Jim Weatherly).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: April 4, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Saturday marked the 83rd birth anniversary for one of the great musical loves of my life. Marvin Gaye was born April 2, 1939 in Washington, D.C. and became one of the most definitive soul voices in music history. Below is the tribute post I wrote for him on my blog from April 2, 2020.

Today’s marks what would have been Marvin Gaye’s birthday.  He sang some of the greatest songs to come out of the Motor City including today’s pick.  It was his first career number one record, and for a while it was the best selling hit on the Motown label, spending seven weeks in the top spot.

I can still remember the first time I heard this song.  I was sitting in the back seat of my parent’s car and from the second it came on the radio, I felt something inside of me tremble.  Like a part of me I did not even know I had suddenly woke up and made its presence known.  It was strong, and steady and felt so familiar yet so new at the same time.  It was as if I suddenly had an internal voice that was singing all on its own without any help from my real voice. Years later I would hear the phrase “soul music” and I realized that is why they call it that-because it is music that hits you in the deepest place.  And that is what I felt in the car that day.

marvin-gaye-1964

Marvin Gaye circa 1964. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Gaye had one of the greatest voices ever, not just in the soul genre.  He was also a talented musician playing piano, synthesizers and drums.  Despite being a solo artist he performed several duets during his career, most notably with Tammi Terrell.  He also wrote and/or co-wrote several hits for other artists including Martha & the Vandellas (“Dancing In The Street”), the Marvelettes (“Beechwood 4-5789″) and the Originals (“Baby, I’m For Real”).  He wrote many of his own songs as well, and as the turbulence of the 1960’s became too hard for him to ignore, he channeled his feelings into songs about the war (“What’s Going On”), social injustice (“Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)”) and the state of the environment (“Mercy Mercy Me”), amongst others.  

Gaye took some time off in the late 1970’s for personal reasons including his exit from the Motown label.  He signed with CBS Records and came back stronger than ever in 1982 with his album “Midnight Love” which included another number one hit, “Sexual Healing”.  That song earned him his first two Grammy Awards after over 20 years as a recording artist.  Also in 1983, he sang an incredibly soulful rendition of “The Star Spangled Banner” at the NBA All Star Game.  While he was in the middle of his enormous comeback tour, I was lucky enough to see him give a magnetic performance at Radio City Music Hall.  It was one of the greatest nights of my life.

So many singers have died tragically young either by drugs, plane crashes, car accidents or suicide.  But Gaye was the third of my musical heroes to be shot to death-first Sam Cooke (one of Gaye’s idols) in 1964 and then John Lennon in 1980.  In those two tragedies both men died by a stranger’s hand.  Gaye was killed by his own father on April 1, 1984. I have never fully recovered from the senselessness of that act.  I wonder almost daily what else this unbelievably talented man would have accomplished in his career.

People say believe half of what you see, son
And none of what you hear
But I can’t help bein’ confused
If it’s true please tell me dear
“.

Marvin

Gaye circa 1971. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Marvin Gaye: “I Heard It Through The Grapevine” (1968, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong).

Stay safe & well.

Music Monday: January 17, 2022

Hi, everyone. Welcome to this week’s edition of Music Monday.

Music Monday

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Temptations’ David Ruffin was born January 18, 1941 in Mississippi. He had one of the best voices in Motown, right on par with Levi Stubbs and Marvin Gaye who was a huge fan of Ruffin’s as well. His group member Eddie Kendricks did a great job on his falsetto led songs. But to me, the achingly impassioned vocal Ruffin delivered on each of his tracks got me. Every. Single. Time. And the strings on this song elevate it to a level of perfection that just makes me swoon.

Girl, I can’t believe my ears
Are you really telling my goodbye?
See, you’ve taken away my reason for livin’
And you won’t even tell me why
“.

Temps

The Temptations circa 1965 (L-R): David Ruffin, Melvin Franklin, Paul Williams, Otis Williams and Eddie Kendricks. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

The Temptations: “I Could Never Love Another (After Lovin’ You)” (1968, written by Norman Whitfield, Barrett Strong and Rodger Penzabene).

Stay well.

25 Days Of Christmas Music 2021: Day 11

Hello, everyone. Welcome back to the countdown.

day 11

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Sam Cooke is considered to be one of the preeminent soul artists in music history. During his career as a singer, songwriter, arranger & business man, Cooke was successful in nearly everything he did. He started performing as a gospel singer with The Soul Stirrers, then embraced secular music as the original soul crooner before playing a significant role in the civil rights movement. His influence was worldwide and inspired many artists, including Motown legend Marvin Gaye.

He was devastated by Cooke’s untimely death in 1964 but Gaye continued Cooke’s legacy of making stunning music with a social conscience. That extended to today’s holiday song which Gaye co-wrote in 1972 to express what his brother & others in service to our country in Vietnam were longing for every day, especially during the Christmas season.

I’d give anything to see
A little Christmas tree
And to hear the laughter
Of children playing in the snow
To kiss my baby under the mistletoe
“.

Sam

Marvin

Top: Sam Cooke circa 1960. Bottom: Marvin Gaye circa 1971. (Images found online.  Original sources unknown.)

Marvin Gaye: “I Want To Come Home For Christmas” (1990, written in 1972 by Marvin Gaye and Forest Hairston).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing some things that I love with you  

What are some of your favorite Christmas songs?

Until next time, happy listening!!!

Let’s Take A Moment Day 516

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Aug 2021 blog

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

One of my favorite movies of all time made its debut 30 years ago today. “The Commitments” opened in limited release on August 14, 1991. To see a film about a group of young singers and musicians coming together to celebrate the miracle that is the soul genre absolutely spoke to me. And one of the legendary singers the group admired? None other than the King Of Soul himself, Otis Redding.

The fact that he died in 1967 used to make me believe it was one of the worst years in music history. Ironically, it was probably one of the best. Why? Because it was the only one in which three of the greatest voices of all time were making music in the universe at the same time: Redding, Marvin Gaye & Jim Morrison. That year also had The Summer Of Love. I can’t call it complete paradise as there was a war going on at the time as well. But my God, was it close.

My life is such a weary thing
But in my ears, oh, this prayer just rang & rang
You keep wanting, waiting and wishing
When I know deep down that I’m not to blame
“.

Otis_Redding_low_res356

Otis Redding on stage during the Monterey Pop Festival in June 1967. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Otis Redding: “My Lover’s Prayer” (1966, written by Otis Redding).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 513

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Aug 2021 blog

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Time for a mid-week Motown break. James Taylor had a Top 5 hit with today’s song in 1975. As much as I love him, in my heart, there is only one version of this song and it is by the beautiful unbelievably talented man that is my soul.

I close my eyes at night
And wonder what would I be without you in my life
Everything was just a bore
All the things I did seems I’d done them before
“.

mm_Marvin-Gaye-1024x725

Marvin Gaye circa 1965. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Marvin Gaye: “How Sweet It Is (To Be Loved by You)” (1966, written by Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier and Eddie Holland).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 485

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

Tom Petty music quote

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Time for another mid-week Motown break. Today’s song was released on July 9, 1968. It was written by the husband & wife songwriting team of Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson. They started writing for the label two years earlier and wrote several other songs recorded by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell including “Ain’t’ No Mountain High Enough”, “Your Precious Love” and “Ain’t Nothing Like The Real Thing”. Today’s pick was a Top Ten hit on the main chart & #1 on the R&B chart in 1968. It was also the last song the beautiful Terrell ever sang in public due to her illness & subsequent death in 1970.

Darling in you I found
Strength where I was torn down
Don’t know what’s in store but
Together we can open any door
“.

marvin-gaye-tammi-terrell

Tammi Terrell (L) and Marvin Gaye (R) circa 1967. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell: “You’re All I Need To Get By” (1968, written by Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 471

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

June 2021 blog

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Time for a mid-week Motown break. Last month marked the 50th anniversary of Marvin Gaye’s landmark album What’s Going On (Day 431), which showcased his intelligent socially conscious mind. Two years later, he released another record that revealed an additional side of this brilliant multi-dimensional artist: his romantic sensual side. Today’s song, the album’s title track, was released June 15, 1973. By September of that year, it was a #1 song for two non-consecutive weeks. It became his most successful record with the Motown label.

It turned Gaye into a sex symbol, as did another track from the album, “Distant Lover”. He continued in that role nine years later on his 1982 release, Midnight Love. That record’s first single, “Sexual Healing” was a massive hit & earned him the only two Grammy Awards of his career. It was also the last studio album he ever made.

His life was short and his death was a Shakespearean tragedy. But his years in music were epic as he defined the sound of Motown for an entire generation. Many great singers came out of The Motor City, but to me Marvin Gaye was The Monarch of that label. Nobody grabbed my soul the way he did & continues to do. My heart aches every day over his loss.

We’re all sensitive people
With so much to give
Understand me, sugar
Since we’ve got to be here
Let’s live I love you
“.

the-rake-marvin-gaye-04

Marvin Gaye circa 1973. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Marvin Gaye: “Let’s Get It On” (1973, written by Marvin Gaye and Ed Townsend).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 448

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

June 2021 blog

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

All the music released in 1971 is turning 50 this year. Along with powerhouse albums like Carole King’s Tapestry (released February 10, 1971 Day 331), Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On (released May 21, 1971 Day 431) and John Lennon’s Imagine (released September 9, 1971), Don McLean’s American Pie (Day 107) was released October 24, 1971. In addition to the exquisite title track, the record included the heartbreakingly beautiful “Crossroads” (Day 43) and today’s gorgeous track recorded earlier that year on June 7,

It is another example of McLean’s wonderful gift of intricate storytelling combined with a sparse yet undeniably elegant and stunning arrangement. He holds his audience captive hanging on every word, every note, every breath. His voice has a calm & soothing quality with a subtle use of range and power in just the right places.

As one artist telling the story of another, he holds the subject of the song in the highest regard. And the introduction of the strings in the last minute of the track brings even more elegance to an already opulent piece of music. Even without the story about “the day the music died”, Don McLean’s talent & place in music history is undeniable.

Starry, starry night
Portraits hung in empty halls
Frameless heads on nameless walls
With eyes that watch the world and can’t forget
“.

McLean 1971

Don McLean circa 1971. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Don McLean: “Vincent” (1971, written by Don McLean).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.

Let’s Take A Moment Day 431

Hi everyone.  Hope you are all well and continue to stay that way during this global health crisis we are facing.  But in addition to protecting your physical wellness, what are you doing to stay mentally healthy today?

May blog 2021

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are still facing a serious situation but a new year gives us hope for the new days, seasons, opportunities & moments ahead. Still, music is something that will never change for me. It is my refuge, the most comforting part of my life & the one thing I consistently count on. So until a more normal semblance of life returns, I am going to share a song I listen to that helps me escape the current state of things, if only for a few minutes each day. And if this helps anyone else, even better.

Fifty years ago today-May 21, 1971-Marvin Gaye released his masterpiece, What’s Going On. This album was an expression of the angst he was feeling between 1969 & 1970 due to the state of the world-the Vietnam War, the effect of pollution on the environment, racial injustice, poverty-and what was happening in his own world: the break-up of his first marriage, the death of his friend, Tammi Terrell, the trials his brother, Frankie, faced in service to our country & as a veteran returning home from the war to little support in how to rejoin society; Gaye’s inability to break free of the confines of his Motown contract to make the music he wanted to make, his strained relationship with label owner Berry Gordy and Gaye’s money troubles with the IRS due in part to his cocaine addiction.

He co-wrote all nine songs on the album & produced it as well, his first time in that role. Motown’s house band, The Funk Brothers, helped Gaye find the perfect sound for each song. Upon its release, it was hailed as a landmark album not only for the singer but for music as well. It was critically acclaimed as a concept record, a first for Motown, and was considered an important statement for black music, too. The album had three Top Ten hits: “What’s Going On” (Day 76) hit #2 on the main chart, #1 on the R&B chart, “Mercy Mercy Me (The Ecology)” (Day 380) hit #4 on the main chart, #1 on the R&B chart and today’s song, which was the third single. It hit #9 on the main chart & was another #1 song on the R&B chart.

If Marvin Gaye only gave us his recording of “Grapevine” what a contribution that would have been all by itself. But the legacy of What’s Going On defines not only his talent but his heart, soul, intellect, empathy, strength & compassion for the world around him as well. His was one of the first voices I remember hearing and I have absolutely adored it ever since. The soulfulness, the passion, the intensity & the four octave range of his deep rich baritone to tenor voice, it is a truly beautiful & remarkable instrument. I miss him every single day. Happy anniversary to one of the greatest records ever made by one of the greatest artists who ever lived.

Hang-ups, let downs
Bad breaks, set backs
Natural fact is
Oh honey that I can’t pay my taxes
“.

Marvin 1971

Marvin Gaye circa 1970. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Marvin Gaye: “Inner City Blues (Make Me Wanna Holler)” (1971, written by Marvin Gaye and James Nyx Jr.).

I do not own the rights to anything.  I am just sharing what I love and how I am coping with you.

Stay well.