DENNIS COFFEY - SCORPIO
Notorious Detroit session guitarist Dennis Coffey was a member of Motown Record's studio band the Funk Brothers. Among the dozens of Motown hits featuring Coffey are Edwin Starr's War, and The Supreme's Someday We'll Be Together, as well as many Temptations hits including Ball of Confusion, Cloud Nine and Psychedelic Shack. In 1971, Coffey gained national name recognition when he recorded the instrumental funk favorite Scorpio under his own name, with his Detroit Guitar Band. The song got it's name - Scorpio - from Coffey's zodiac sign. Scorpio charted number six on the Billboard Hot 100 list, leading to his 1972 appearance on the popular television show Soul Train - he was the first white artist to be featured on the show. Scorpio would go on to be a significant influence on hip-hop music, and the song has been sampled well over one hundred times, such as on Young MC's Bust a Move, and on Public Enemy's Night of the Living Baseheads.
HERBIE HANCOCK - CHAMELEON
In 1972, jazz pianist and composer Herbie Hancock fully embraced Nichiren Buddism. The following year he was set to take his music in a new direction, and the group's name Head Hunters came to him while doing his daily buddhist chants. Hancock formed his new jazz fusion funk band The Headhunters with multireedist Bennie Maupin, drummer Harvey Mason, bassist Paul Jackson and percussionist Bill Summers. The 1973 debut of the group was the album Head Hunters - it was Herbie Hancock's twelfth studio album The album includes the over 15 minute long jazz funk standard Chameleon, which was composed by all of the groups original line-up. Until 1976, Head Hunters was the all-time top selling jazz album. The importantance of the album has been reflected in it's placement on Rolling Stone magazine's 500 Greatest Albums of All-Time list.
In 1992, the hip-hop pioneering Beastie Boys released their third full-length album Check Your Head. Track ten on the album is Something's Got To Give - an anti-war song that features Adam Horovitz on guitar, Adam Yauch on bass and Mike D on drums. Check Your Head was the first time that the trio played live instruments on an album since their early EPs, with the exception of a couple songs on their second album Pauls Boutique. Somethings Got To Give's instrumentation is an example of how Check Your Head was a return to the rap rock group's punk rock roots.
BJORK -IT'S OH SO QUIET
Icelandic avant-pop sensation Bjork hit the top of the UK charts with her bizarre 1995 song Oh It's So Quiet. Despite that the song is her biggest hit, Bjork would prefer to disown the song. In 2002, when Bjork put together her greatest hits album, she refused to include Oh It's So Quiet. The problem the Icelandic pop sensation may have with it is that unlike most of her music, she didn't write the song. It is a remake of Blow The Fuse, recorded by Betty Hutton in 1951. That was a remake itself, of the German song Und jets sit es still by Horst Winter and composer Hans Lang. What also bothered Bjork was that her unapproved trademark song was not the same inventive style of her other music. When discussing the song several years after she recorded it, Bjork said that recording it "was sort of a joke really," and she added "I almost regret doing it." Bjork has said Oh It's So Quiet was originally intended as a thank you to her roadies after the song had become a tourbus favorite on the road. The massive success of the song was also aided by the fantastic music video directed by Spike Jonze. In 1996 the music video was nominated for six MTV Music Video Awards. The music video also earned a Grammy nomination for Best Music Video - Short Form."
BRENDA RUSSELL - Piano In The Dark
In 1988, singer, songwriter and producer Brenda Russell released Piano in the Dark, it was the first single off her fourth studio album Get Here. The song became her biggest hit, and it earned her two Grammy nominations - Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance with Vocals. The album was also nominated for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. She didn't win those, but she finally won a Grammy in 2006 as co-writer of the score for the Broadway musical version of The Color Purple. Piano in The Dark has been sampled numerous times, including in 2011 by Dutch dance duo Bingo Players, the song was prominently used for their massive hit Cry (Just a Little). In 2012, rapper Flo Rida revived the hit again when he added a rap to the Bingo Players version.
MARY HOPKIN - THOSE WERE THE DAYS
In the 1920's, Russian singer Alexander Wertinsky was the first to record the traditional song Dorongo Dlinnoyu. The Russian title means "by a long road." In 1962, American musician and playwright Gene Raskin wrote English lyrics for the song and recorded it as Those Were The Days, he also illegally took full credit and registered a copyright for both the song and the new lyrics. That version was later made popular by American folk group The Limeliters. Paul McCartney had heard Raskin perform the song around 1965 and became fond of it. A few years later when McCartney was preparing to launch Apple Records, he received a call from famous British model Twiggy. She wanted to bring his attention to a young singer that had appeared on Opportunity Knocks - a UK television show that was an early version of the show Star Search. The 17-year old singer from Wales - Mary Hopkins - had been a three time winner on the show. After McCartney called her to an audition he decided to sign her for his new label. He had her record the song he had grew so fond of - Those Were The Days. McCartney produced the song, and he played acoustic guitar on the recording, and he had Hopkin record the song in English, Spanish, French, Italian and German. At the same time, The Beatles were prepared to release Hey Jude as the first single on their new label. The label was launched in 1968 with Hey Jude and Those Were The Days released at the same time - the first two singles on Apple Records. For a few weeks while Hey Jude was number one on the US charts, Those Were The Days held the #2 spot. And in the UK, Those Were The Days actually knocked Hey Jude off the top position.
EDITH PIAF - LA VIE EN ROSE
In 1945, as World War II came to to an end in Europe, French singer Edith Piaf wrote the lyrics to her signature song La Vie En Rose, she introduced the song in 1946, and first recorded it in 1947. The melody was composed by Louis Guglielmi and Marguerite Monnet, and the song's title means "life is pink" - meaning something to the effect of "looking through rose-colored glasses." Piaf recorded La Vie En Rose in French and in English, and it was the song that brought her international recognition. In the 1950's, covers of this song earned Grammys for seven artists, including Bing Crosby, Dean Martin and Louis Armstrong. In 1977, Jamaican model and singer Grace Jones recorded a bossa nova version of this song on her debut album Portfolio - it was the song that brought her international recognition as well. In 1988 La Vie En Rose appropriately won a Grammy Hall of Fame award.
PHIL COLLINS - IN THE AIR TONIGHT
In 1981, British musician and songwriter Phil Collins released his first solo album - Face Value, featuring his blockbuster downtempo hit In The Air Tonight, the first single released off the album. The vocoded vocal and drum machine driven song was about the pain, anger and despair Collins felt after divorcing his first wife - this song and the songs follow-up hit I Missed Again were written in hope of luring his ex-wife back after she left him. Collins later re-married and divorced again, and then again, inspiring a vast amount of new songs. He has said that he originally wanted to record In The Air Tonight with his band Genesis, but his bandmates didn't like the song because it was "too simple." The Face Value album was more successful then any of the Genesis albums, and after this record the band adopted more of a pop sound. The song's popularity really soared after it appeared in the first episode of Miami Vice, and later was featured on the hugely successful Miami Vice Soundtrack. Phil Collins even appeared in a cameo role as a bad guy on the second season of the show, on an episode titled "Phil the Shill."
BRENDA LEE - SWEET NOTHIN'S
In 1959, 14-year old Brenda Lee recorded her first major hit record - Sweet Nothin's. The song was written by Ronnie Self, who wrote several hits for Lee including I'm Sorry and Everybody Loves Me But You. Lee began performing when she was 5 years old, and when she was 11 an unplanned television appearance landed her a first contract on a regular TV show. In 1958, when she was 13 she recorded Rockin' Around The Christmas Tree. And in 1960 she recorded the chart-topper I'm Sorry - her signature song. In the 1960's Lee had 47 charting hits - the only performers to surpass that were Elvis Presley, The Beatles and Ray Charles. Her record of nine consecutive top ten Billboard hits remained unbroken until Madonna topped it in 1986. Lee was one of the first pop singers to gain a major international following. In 1986, when Producer David Z arranged Prince's worldwide number one hit Kiss, he crafted the sound of the song inspired by the vocals from Brenda Lee's Sweet Nothin's. David Z adapted Lee's vocals to create the distinctive "ah-wah-ah" in the background vocals in Kiss. In 1994, Sweet Nothin's was sampled by The Beatnuts on the track titled Intro, the first track off their debut album Street Level. The song was sampled numerous other times since then, such as in 2013 when it was prominently sampled in Kanye West's Bound 2.
T-BONE WALKER - STORMY MONDAY
In 1947, T-Bone Walker recorded the blues standard Call It Stormy Monday (But Tuesday Is Just as Bad). The song would become his signature song, and it later became known simply as Stormy Monday. The song is about a broken-hearted man who longs for his love to return day after day. T-Bone Walker was one of the early pioneers of the electric guitar, and this west coast style blues song is considered one of the most influential songs in guitar history. B.B. King has said that this song inspired him to play the guitar, and the song is included on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's list of the 500 Songs That Shaped Rock and Roll. Stormy Monday was popularized in 1961 by Bobby "Blue" Bland, who released the song under the title Stormy Monday Blues. As a result of the improper title, the song's royalties were not paid to T-Bone Walker, but rather to Earl Hines - who had recorded a different song titled Stormy Monday Blues. By 1942, Walker has gained the attention of Capitol Records with his extraordinary showmanship, such was playing the guitar behind his neck or while he was doing the splits. He was one of the first artists signed by the label. According to Walker, Call It Stormy Monday was originally recorded in 1940, or in 1942, but the release was delayed due material shortages brought on by the US entering into World War II on December 7, 1941.
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