Let’s Take A Moment Day 319

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?

Shakespeare music

(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.

When Fiorello La Guardia became NYC’s mayor in 1933, one of his first acts was to ban burlesque shows in the city. This caused Hurtig and Seamon’s New Burlesque Theater to close its doors after nearly twenty years in business. While this was obviously a bad thing for that show, it turned out to be one of the greatest blessings in musical history. A year later, on January 26, 1934, that venue was reborn as The Apollo Theatre.

From its first amateur night to the features of major musical performers, The Apollo stage has hosted the best artists in swing, bebop, jazz, gospel, blues, R&B and soul. In the 1930’s Billie Holiday, Lena Horne & the Count Basie Orchestra made their debuts there. The next decade featured Amateur Night winners like Sarah Vaughn and Ruth Brown. In the 1950’s James Brown was discovered the same way and “Showtime At The Apollo” began. That decade also saw the premiers of jazz greats Miles Davis, John Coltrane and Thelonius Monk.

The 1960’s featured numerous shows by Stax & Motown artists. In 1972 John Lennon & Yoko Ono took part in a benefit concert there to help families of the inmates who were shot during the Attica Prison riots in 1971 (Admit it-now you hear Al Pacino in your head screaming “Attica!” “Attica!” from the movie, “Dog Day Afternoon”, right?)

The Apollo closed briefly in the late 1970’s but reopened in 1981. That decade brought about the debut of the television show, “Showtime at the Apollo”. For 87 years the theater located on W 125th Street in Harlem has been a beacon for legendary music & comedians. My parents are part of that history as they were there at a show in the 1960’s to see one of my mother’s favorite singers, Jackie Wilson. Today’s song is one of the biggest hits of his career and always reminds me of how lucky my parents were to see this man live during the height of his fame.

And in a great example of symmetry, I saw my own musical hero Bruce Springsteen play this song in concert several times (one of his best versions was with an all star band at The Rock & Roll Hall Of Fame’s 25th anniversary concert in 2009). Dolly Parton did a gospel inspired country version of it as well in 1977. But today’s track features an electrifying horn arrangement & music by The Funk Brothers so that makes it the premiere version of this incredible song.

Now once I was downhearted
Disappointment was my closest friend
But then you came and he soon departed
And you know he never showed his face again
“.

Jackie Wilson

“Mr. Excitement” Jackie Wilson circa 1960. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Aretha at Apollo

The marquee’s announcement of The Queen Of Soul’s return to The Apollo Theater in New York City on June 3, 1971. (Tyrone Dukes/The New York Times).  (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Jackie Wilson: “(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher & Higher” (1967, written by Gary Jackson, Raynard Miner, and Carl Smith).

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 273

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?

Dec 14

(Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

I know we are in a serious situation, but I need a break from the gloom, doom and bullying by way of hoarding. Music has always been my refuge and watching those beautiful Italians singing to each other from their balconies reaffirmed my belief that music is the answer. So until the old normal 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.

On this day 52 years ago-December 14, 1968-Marvin Gaye hit the #1 spot in the country with one of his career defining tracks (and one of my favorite songs of all time), “I Heard It Through The Grapevine”. That record was featured on Day 17 so I will use another song from Gaye’s catalog to celebrate this milestone. Today’s pick was recorded live at New York’s acclaimed Apollo Theater in 1963 and remained unreleased for nearly four decades until it was part of the 2001 compilation, “A Motown Christmas, Volume 2”. It is a smooth soulful slightly jazz infused track sung in a way only Gaye could. It is a song that defines the season and until I hear the most famous version of it by Nat King Cole each year, it does not feel like Christmas at all. But now Gaye’s is a must for me as well because one, it is Marvin Gaye and two, it is fabulous. But also, to have something new from a man who died nearly 20 years before this version was released is a gift in and of itself. And for that endowment to be one from the beginning of his career before life, loss & a decade of turmoil took its toll on him is just too momentous for words.

Holiday music contains a core amount of songs, but you can listen to one of them a dozen different ways from the plethora of covers that are out there and it is like hearing a different tune each time. Today’s song has been covered hundreds of times and many artists did it justice. But Gaye’s version is right up there with Cole’s for me and that speaks volume.

And so I’m offering this simple phrase
To kids from one to ninety-two
Although it’s been said many times, many ways
Merry Christmas to you
“.

Marvin-Gaye

Marvin Gaye circa 1978. (Image found online.  Original source unknown.)

Marvin Gaye: “The Christmas Song” (Live performance at The Apollo Theatre in 1963. Written by Mel Tormé and Bob Wells).

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

Stay well.