Every Friday night we smooth our way into the weekend with music, the universal language. These selections demonstrate that despite what is being passed off as art today, there is plenty of really good music available. Come along and enjoy.
March is an incredibly busy month. Madness (in a good way) galore.
And that includes “Women’s History Month,” a celebration of the contributions women have made to the United States, a recognition of the specific achievements women have made over the course of American history in a variety of fields, like music.
That’s our focus this week. Let’s get rolling.
Elaborately gowned, The Supremes were the all-female group that was the leading act of Motown Records during the 1960’s, and boy could they sing.
You want history? The Supremes were the first Black female performers of their generation to embrace a more feminine image, appearing on stage in detailed makeup and high-fashion dresses and wigs. They were extremely popular on television, especially The Ed Sullivan Show, where they made 16 appearances.
Led by Diana Ross, the Supremes achieved 12 number one singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart and were almost as popular worldwide as the Beatles.
You’ve got to be pretty special to earn the titles “First Lady of Rock” and “Queen of Rock.” From her own website:
Linda Ronstadt is arguably the most versatile vocalist of the modern era, having forged a four-decade career which established her as one of the very important artists in one of the most creative periods in the history of modern music. She has broadened the latitudes of the pop singer, expanding the vocalist’s canvas to include country, rock and roll, big band, jazz, opera, Broadway standards, Mexican and Afro-Cuban influences, leaving no stone unturned in the pursuit of the ultimate song. With worldwide album sales of over 50 million, at least 31 gold and platinum records, 10 Grammy Awards, the National Medal of Arts, and membership in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to her credit, Linda is the consummate American artist.
Ronstadt sang her last concert in 2009, and shortly thereafter announced her retirement. In 2013 it was revealed Parkinson’s disease had rendered her unable to sing.
“Well, I lie down a lot, because I’m disabled,” Ronstadt told the New Yorker about her daily routine.
“I do a lot of reading, but I’m starting to have trouble with my eyes, so that’s kind of a problem. It’s called getting old.
“It’s hard for me to get out. It’s hard for me to sit in a restaurant or sit up in a chair. It’s hard for me to stand around, so if there’s a situation where I’m liable to be caught in a doorway talking to somebody for five minutes, I tend to avoid that.
“I mostly listen to NPR. I don’t listen to mainstream radio anymore. I don’t know the acts and I don’t know the music. It doesn’t interest me, particularly.
“I’ve just accepted it. There’s absolutely nothing I can do. I have a form of Parkinsonism that doesn’t respond to standard Parkinson’s meds, so there’s no treatment for what I have. It’s called P.S.P.—Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. I just have to stay home a lot.”
Eilleen Regina Edwards was in 1965 in Windsor, Ontario, Canada.
By the age of eight she had an incredible voice and began performing in clubs to help supplement her parents’ irregular income. When she was 21 she moved to Toronto and worked during the day while singing in clubs at night. Less than a year later, however, her parents were killed in a traffic accident, and she returned home to raise her sister and two brothers.
A record producer saw her in clubs who took her to Nashville to make her first album that only sold 100,000 copies. But she and another producer immediately began writing songs together, also became romantically involved and married in 1993.
Edwards changed her name to Shania, meaning “I’m on my way,” a nod to her stepfather’s Ojibwa heritage.
Her second album was a smash. It sold more than 18 million copies and won a Grammy for country album of the year. With her mix of country melodies and pop vocals she became one of the most popular crossover artists of the mid-1990s.
The Hollywood Reporter wrote an interesting story about the alum in January 2004:
Bette Midler considered withdrawing herself from this year’s Grammy competition because her tribute album “Bette Midler Sings the Rosemary Clooney Songbook” is nominated for best traditional pop vocal album against Clooney’s live album “The Last Concert.”
For Midler, who is not only a fan of Clooney’s but also was her friend, there is no contest. “Why would you give (an award) to a tribute when you have the original?” she asks.
Midler talked it over with Barry Manilow, who collaborated with her on the album and, upon his suggestion, decided that if she does win, she will give the award to Clooney’s family. “In her entire career, Rosemary never won a Grammy,” says Midler, whose three career Grammys include the 1974 trophy for best new artist. “I would want her family to have it.”
The two Clooney albums will face tough competition from Tony Bennett and k.d. lang’s “A Wonderful World,” Rod Stewart’s “As Time Goes By … The Great American Songbook: Volume II” and Barbra Streisand’s “The Movie Album.” All the nominees in the category represent a renewed interest in standard songs geared to a 40-plus record-buying demographic. Stewart’s release has already sold more than 1.6 million copies, and Midler’s tribute debuted at No. 14 on the Billboard 200 albums chart on about 71,000 copies sold, according to Nielsen SoundScan, making it the biggest opening week of her career.
Midler didn’t win the Grammy. Neither did Clooney.
It went to Tony Bennett and k.d. lang.
That’s it for this week.
Have a great weekend.
1980. The Carpenters starred in a TV Special called “Music, Music, Music.” Karen Carpenter performed a duet with America’s First Lady of Song, Miss Ella Fitzgerald you’ll see below.
Carpenter died just a few years later of anorexia nervosa in 1983. Fitzgerald died in 1996.