Tag Archives: Roberta Flack

Dates and Jams

3 Sep

My friend over at Serendipity created a great post, and I, like any good blogger, am going to copy it. She found a site called Birthday Jams that will tell you what was at the top of the charts on the day that you were born.

On my day of birth, The Supremes had “You Keep Me Hangin’ On” hanging out in the Number One spot. However, it gets better. In the United Kingdom, Hugo Montenegro and His Orchestra hit big with the theme from The Good, the Bad and the Ugly. I knew I liked that movie for some reason.

As I fiddled with the site, I started to wonder about what people were jamming to when big events happened. For example, Neil Armstrong stepped onto the moon on July 20, 1969. Do you know what song was tops in the land on that day? “In the Year 2525” by Zager and Evans

On August 9, 1974, Richard Nixon became the first president to resign from office. As he flew off in his helicopter, somebody was listening to “Feel Like Makin’ Love” by Roberta Flack. Nixon also posed in one of the greatest photographs of all time with Elvis Presley.Elvis Nixon

A few years later, the nation was saddened by the death of Elvis, who had a ton of Number One hits. On August 16, 1977, the day he passed away, “Best of My Love” by The Emotions was playing on radios everywhere.

Elvis’ career began when he walked into Sun Studios. He struggled for a while but finally got into a groove on July 5, 1954 when he recorded “That’s All Right.” The nation did not know what was about to hit them. All they knew was that Kitty Kallen had a huge hit with “Little Things Mean a Lot.”

Obviously, December 7, 1941 is a huge date in American history. The Japanese attacked the island of Oahu and our base at Pearl Harbor. The nation was about to enter a war that had been raging for a couple of years. It was also the day that people were listening to “Chattanooga Choo Choo” by Glenn Miller.

On December 15, 1944, Miller’s plane disappeared somewhere over the English Channel. On that day, Ella Fitzgerald and the Ink Spots hit with “I’m Making Believe.”

On September 10 1993, a television show debuted that asked us to believe. As The X-Files started its rise to popularity, “Dreamlover” by Mariah Carey hit the peak of the charts.

Of course, that was a few years after Larry Hagman first dreamed of Jeannie. That show went on the air on September 18, 1965, which was the same time that The Beatles did not need any “Help!”

Of course, The Beatles would break up and go on to solo careers. Tragically, John Lennon’s life was cut short on December 8, 1980. On that day, “Lady” by Kenny Rogers was sitting at Number One.

Rogers used his popularity to transition into movies. None of them were very good, but Six Pack was one of the worst. It hit the screens on July 16, 1982. Listening to “Don’t You Want Me” by The Human League had to be better than watching that film.

I reckon this exercise needs to eventually come to an end, and that will happen with one more date.

I am not going to release the date of my wife’s birth, but that event turned out to be important in my life. In other words, it needs to be recognized. One way to do that is to tell you that Neil Diamond’s “Cracklin’ Rosie” was the big hit of the day. By the way, her name is not Rosie.

Love, Peace and Soul

2 Feb

This morning the internet was covered with reports of the death of Don Cornelius, creator/host/conductor of “Soul Train”. Because this is the first day of Black History Month, I decided to begin my history classes with the news and a short talk on his influence on music and culture. Some of the students had heard of “Soul Train”, but they really didn’t know anything about it. I hope they do now.

During my younger years, I watched “Soul Train” every chance I could, and I am sure that I was not the only white kid to do that. I think the first attraction was the opening. The animated train chugged across the screen in bright colors while the high-pitched Sooouuulll Traaaiiinn came out of the speakers.

However, once the show started the real action hit the screen. Don Cornelius introduced the performers with a rich, deep voice. Dancers wore funky clothes and made funky moves on the dance floor and down the “Soul Train Line”. I was mesmerized by the people, the music, and the action. Being a red-blooded American male, I paid special attention to the female dancers. I never tried any of the moves because I didn’t want to bust my butt, but I wished I could wear the clothes and be absorbed by the music. I didn’t really understand the impact that “Soul Train” had on society. I only knew that it was having an impact on me and what I thought was cool entertainment.

As a historian, I have a deeper understanding of the times I grew up in and Don Cornelius’ role during that time. He brought the soul genre to a wider audience and introduced many Americans to a vibrant African-American culture. He provided a stage for young African-Americans to express their talents and beauty. There was more to people than what white America portrayed and/or believed. Some say that “Soul Train” was simply a black version of “American Bandstand”. True, there were similarities in show design and cultural impact. But, in my opinion, “Soul Train” was a lot more fun.

In coming days, there will be many tributes to Don Cornelius, and this post will pale in comparison. There are several playlists on my iPod with titles that only I understand. When I put together a soul playlist, there was only one thing to call it – “Soul Train”. As a small tribute, these are a few of the artists and songs included on that list. If I could organize an intergalactic concert in Cornelius’ honor, then this is the lineup of performers that I would choose.

The Love Unlimited Orchestra – “Love’s Theme”

The Temptations – “Papa Was a Rollin’ Stone”

Curtis Mayfield – “Freddie’s Dead”

Marvin Gaye – “Let’s Get it On”

Barry White – “I’ve Got So Much to Give”

Edwin Starr – “War”

The Five Stairsteps – “O-O-H Child”

Stevie Wonder – “Superstition”

Billy Paul – “Me and Mrs. Jones”

Kool and the Gang – “Summer Madness”

Isaac Hayes – “Soulsville”

Roberta Flack – “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face”

James Brown – “Down and Out in New York City”

The Isley Brothers – “That Lady”

The Commodores – “Brick House”

Bobby Womack – “Across 110th Street”

Sly and the Family Stone – “Everyday People”

Hues Corporation – “I’m Gonna Catch You”

Aretha Franklin – “Chain of Fools”

Chic – “Good Times”

The Staple Singers – “I’ll Take You There”

War – “All Day Music”

Bill Withers – “Ain’t No Sunshine”

The Brothers Johnson – “Strawberry Letter 23”

Gladys Knight and the Pips – “Midnight Train to Georgia”

Jackson 5 – “I Want You Back”

Lakeside – “Fantastic Voyage”

G.C. Cameron – “It’s So Hard to Say Goodbye to Yesterday”

Of course, Don Cornelius would come out at the end and sign off with his signature line, “I’m Don Cornelius, and as always in parting, we wish you love, peace and soul.”