Here’s the Maccabeats with “Candlelight.”
Singer Dobie Gray died yesterday 12/6. He was 71. No one is exactly sure what his given name was but he was given the nickname Dobie by Sonny Bono. Gray scored two big hits with “In With The In Crowd” (1965) and “Drift Away” (1973). He spent several years on Broadway with the Los Angeles cast of “Hair.” This is Dobie Gray singing one of my all time favorite songs, “Drift Away.”
“Hair” is one of my favorite movie musicals. I really wish I’d had the opportunity to see him performing in it. I bet he was fantastic.RIP Mr. Gray.
Q is for Queen Latifah. Her given name is Dana Owens but she was given the nickname Latifah (which is Arabic for gentle and kind) by her cousin. She started beatboxing for the hip-hop group Fresh Ladies in 1988 and by 1989, at the age of 19, she had her first recording contract. By 1991 she began making guest appearances on television and in 1993 she starred in the sitcom “Living Single.” Though her primary focus has been on acting, she has never lost sight of her musical roots. After her Academy Award nominated performance in the musical “Chicago” (2003) she shifted her focus from rap and hip-hop to jazz vocals. Since we have no women in hip-hop on the survey yet, I’m going to play Queen Latifah’s first hit “Ladies First.” This song was #35 on VH1’s greatest hip-hop songs of all time.
It blows my mind that there is such a thing as a hip-hop old fogey but there is and I am it. Well, if I’m honest, I should be a hip-hop old fogey but I was always too much of a nerd to ever really be a huge fan. Still, since I was a young person as hip hop became popular, I will claim my old lady right to declare. “These darn kids today with their Puffy Dogs and their Snoopy Daddys don’t know what good hip-hop is.”
Also, “get off my lawn!”
G is for The Go-Go’s. They started out as a punk rock band in 1978 but by 1980 they had moved toward pop music. They released their first album, “Beauty And The Beat” in 1981 and became the first all female band that wrote their own songs and played their own instruments to ever top the Billboard Charts. “Rolling Stone” magazine also listed the album at 413 on their “500 Greatest Albums Of All Time” list. Here’s “We Got The Beat” which was one of their biggest hits.
That little Go-Go’s step dance (or whatever you call it) eventually became a national joke but I can remember secretly practicing it in my room for hours. It doesn’t seem that difficult but I never could get it right. I like to think there must have been some kind of impenetrable nerd proof glamour on the dance preventing me from learning it, but the very fact that I even thought that probably gets more at the heart of my problem than a magical conspiracy theory ever could.
Rapper Dwight “Heavy D” Myers died suddenly yesterday, November 8. He was 44. In the 80s, Heavy D and the Boyz was the first group signed by the hip hop label Uptown Records. By the 90s, Mr. Myers was president of that label. In recent years he had also begun acting. His final role was in the upcoming movie “Tower Heist.” I chose the video of his final performance, a medley of his hits shown on October’s BET Hip Hop Awards. I will also post the video for one of his first hits “Mr. Big Stuff” because I suspect the BET video will be taken down.
On the day before his passing Heavy D Tweeted to his fans “Be inspired.” Thank you Dwight, I think I will. RIP Heavy D.
Former Heavyweight Champion Joe Frazier passed away from liver cancer on Nov. 7. He was the first fighter to ever defeat Ali and, from what I read, he was a generous guy. I do not follow sports so Frazier may seem like an unlikely subject for a music blog. But I decided to honor his memory here for one reason. In 1976, this otherwise talented man inexplicably recorded this:
It may not be his finest moment but it did give me a smile today. RIP Mr. Frazier.
It’s Frank’s Birthday! I knew I wasn’t going to top last year’s meat cake. But since Frank is a fan of the movie “Singin In The Rain” I thought Gene, Debbie, and Donald would make a sweet treat. I had this cake made special. Few people know this, but “Julie” was Frank’s stage name back in his Vaudeville days.
Since he is a fan of the show “Man From U.N.C.L.E,” I commissioned this special Beatles powered, Napoleon Solo groove. If you’re wondering why the lady says “Happy birthday Abbey” at the beginning, well only the Sisters at Westminster know for sure and they’re not talking because of that damned vow of silence. By “vow of silence” I mean “court mandated gag order” but you get the idea. The lesson here is, no matter how tempting the invitation, NEVER party with nuns!
Seriously though, Frank, if you’re out there reading (and even if you’re not), thank you for sharing your great taste in music and thank you for the laughter. Happy birthday sir, I hope it’s a great one!