“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” singer B.J. Thomas has been diagnosed with stage 4 lung cancer. The 70-year-old legendary singer said he is receiving treatment in a Texas health care facility.
“I just wanted to take this unique opportunity to share my gratitude to Gloria, my wonderful wife and my rock for over 53 years, my family, friends, and fans,” Thomas said. “I’m so blessed to have had the opportunity to record and perform beautiful songs in pop, country, and gospel music, and to share those wonderful songs and memories around the world with millions of you. I ask all of you for your prayers during this time and that my music can live on with you.”
“Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” was written for the film Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid starring Paul Newman and Robert Redford. Dionne Warwick convinced Bacharach to consider Thomas to sing the song. No one knew that the song had already been turned down by Bob Dylan and Ray Stevens.
The day before he was to record the song, Thomas was warned by his doctor not to sing. “I had come off a two-week tour and had laryngitis and was barely able to eke out the thing for the soundtrack,” Thomas recalls. He struggled through five takes before Bacharach was satisfied. An exec from 20th Century Fox at the recording session congratulated Thomas on how much his raspy voice sounded like Paul Newman’s.
Thomas says, “There’s maybe only two or three times in my career when I felt like I’d recorded a hit record, no doubt, and that was one of them.”
This won the Oscar for Best Song From A Motion Picture at the 1970 awards.
Two weeks after soundtrack was recorded a single version of the song for radio was recut at A&R Studios in New York, this one with a healthier performance from Thomas. Released in October 1969 to coincide with the movie, “Raindrops” climbed to No. 1 on January 3, 1970, and stayed there for four straight weeks.
At the 1969 Grammy Awards “Raindrops” was nominated for BEST CONTEMPORARY VOCAL PERFORMANCE, MALE. It lost to “Everybody’s Talkin'” by Harry Nilsson, who also beat out “Games People Play” by Joe South, “Gitarzan” by Ray Stevens, and get this, “My Way” by Frank Sinatra.
To celebrate Diva Week Carey reminisced about being invited onstage by Franklin for a duet of “Chain of Fools” during her performance on “VH1 Divas Live” in 1998.
“She told the audience that she and ‘my newest girlfriend’ didn’t get to rehearse. ‘But she’s going to come out and join me.’ The band began ‘Chain of Fools,’ and I walked out on the stage. Her energy was so powerful. I just kept my focus on her and sang when she told me to sing. And we did the song. I ended with a bow and an ‘All hail the queen!’ How else do you exit a moment like that?”
Rufus and Diva Chaka Khan accompanied by the horn section of Tower of Power.
What is probably the movie’s most memorable moment is “the outdoor air raid scene when Miller and his band continued to play ‘In the Mood’ during their BBC radio program for injured US soldiers in Britain – in the midst of a German V-2 rocket bombing, while everyone was ducking for cover in the audience and the band played on.”
That could never happen in the real world, right?
The Good News Network reports:
“A World War II recording that had been lost for nearly a half-century was discovered in an attic—and it’s believed to be the only known recording by a frontline military band stationed with troops near a battlefield.”
Laura Nyro, one of the most important female singer/songwriters of the ’60s and ’70s, died in 1997 at the age of 49 due to complications from ovarian cancer. Among her classic compositions: “Stoned Soul Picnic,” “And When I Die,” “Eli’s Comin,” and…”Wedding Bell Blues.”
The Fifth Dimension had a string of hits in 1969 including “Wedding Bell Blues” that went to #1 and stayed there for three straight weeks. When the group appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, ironically Marilyn McCoo and Billy Davis Jr. were love interests. But a wedding date? None was set.
The wedding did take place on July 26, 1969. The couple has been married ever since.
This week our blog is reminiscent of the The Friday Night Fights on TV sponsored by the Gillette Razor Company from 1948-1960.
AND NOW WHAT YOU HAVE ALL BEEN WAITING FOR.
THIS IS THE MAIN EVENT OF THE EVENING.
LET’S MEET THE OPPONENTS.
IN THIS CORNER, WEARING LEATHER, BLACK AND WHITE MAKE-UP, AND A DARK RED TOUNGUE, FROM THE ROCK GROUP, “KISS,” GENE SIMMONS!
AND IN THE OPPOSITE CORNER, WEARING RUNNY BLACK MASCARA, LEATHER GLOVES, A CROSS, AND VERY LARGE OMINOUS SNAKE…THE ONE AND ONLY, ALICE COOPER!
The bell sounds and we’re underway!
A fiery Simmons comes out swinging.
Jab, jab. Jab. Furious rights and lefts. Simmons is relentless!
“Rock is dead. And that’s because new bands haven’t taken the time to create glamor, excitement and epic stuff,” Simmons said. “I mean, Foo Fighters is a terrific band, but that’s a 20-year-old band. So you can go back to 1958 until 1988. That’s 30 years. During that time, we had Elvis, The Beatles, Jimi Hendrix, Rolling Stones, on and on.
“In disco, you had Madonna, and then you had your hard rock, you had AC/DC, maybe us, a few others. Motown, all that great music. From 1988, until today, that’s more than 30 years. Tell me who the new Beatles is. You can’t. There are popular bands. All kinds of bands are very popular. That doesn’t mean iconic and legacy and for all time. It’s different.”
“I doubt it (if time will tell if some acts are going to be iconic in another 30 years). Because the singularity that was The Beatles is a band that wrote their own songs, arranged it themselves, produced it themselves, mostly played all their own instruments. No backing tracks. No digital enhancement. No vocal correctness. Yeah, not gonna happen again.
“You know, the modern artists rely so much on technology. You may not be able to recognize the artist if they record themselves singing in the shower. You’d be shocked. And none of the rappers play instruments. Don’t write songs. They write words. But chords, melodies, harmonies and stuff. It doesn’t mean that rap isn’t important. It’s very important. But it ain’t The Beatles.
“I think Billie Eilish is fantastic. She’s interesting because she and her brother actually write the material and are unique to themselves. Lady Gaga is fantastic in the female category. She writes her own material, she can sing like nobody’s business. But she actually is a musician, writes her own songs, plays piano, she can actually do that. The rest of the world reacts to a lot of the pop divas, although mostly they don’t write their own songs and can’t play an instrument. And by the way, that’s okay, too. It doesn’t matter what you like. But it ain’t The Beatles.”
Cooper was momentarily dazed and stunned by Simmons, but now is responding with his own attack!
“Gene Simmons – I would like him to do my taxes because he’s a businessman and that’s valid, but I guarantee you right now that in London somewhere, in garages, they’re learning Aerosmith and Guns ‘N’ Roses.
“There’s a bunch of 18-year-kids in there with guitars and drums and they’re learning hard rock. It’s the same with the United States: there’s all these young bands that want to resurge that whole area of hard rock.
(Rock is) “where it should be right now. We’re not at the Grammys; we’re not in the mainstream. Rock’n’roll is outside looking in right now, and that gives us that outlaw attitude.” (Rock will still exist) “some thirty or forty years from now. The one kind of music that started and never ended was hard rock. It went to punk, it went to disco, it went to hip-hop, it went to grunge, but the one thing that went through the middle of it was hard rock.”
Maybe it’s because I’m old school and nostalgic. But if I was a judge scoring this fight, I’d give the decision to Simmons.
Time now for a talented act of two brothers.
Johnny Winter was a leading American blues performer. As a child he played the clarinet, but switched to guitar. Good move.
When Winter broke into the national spotlight in 1968 he was a commanding figure onstage. He was tall with pale blond hair and light eyes, features from albinism.
In 1969 Winter played the famous Woodstock festival and released his debut album on Columbia records.
His younger brother was also an albino.
“People have always stared at me,” said Edgar Winter in a 1974 interview. “They still do, but now they have a better reason.”
Edgar Winter is legally blind, more than 85% due to his albinism. As a youngster he couldn’t play sports or sight-read music.
“I didn’t have many friends. You know the way kids naturally are if you’re fat, crippled or in any way defective. They tend to leave you out. So music became my identity and replaced the normal activities that otherwise would have filled my life.”
Winter’s blindness allowed him to develop an ear where he could listen just one time to almost any tune and then play it. He’s a talented keyboardist, saxophone player, drummer, and singer.
“Being albino always gave me a very real sense of individuality” he said in 1974. “Today, in music, a lot of people will do anything to themselves just to set them apart. I guess I’ve had a natural edge on them.”
In 1976 Johnny and Edgar released “Together,” a live album recorded at The Swing Auditorium, San Diego Sports Arena, in San Diego, CA, that included this exciting medley (listen for the Little Richard woooooos).
Edgar (L) and Johnny (R)
Johnny Winter died in July of 2014. He was 70.
That medley was phenomenal.
“Looked at my watch and much to my surprise, I was dancin’ with a woman who was twice my size.”
My favorite cartoon of all-time, hands down (sorry Superman) is The Flintstones. Second would be Jonny Quest.
One of the early episodes of The Flintstones (season opener, season two, September 15, 1961) featured Hoagy Carmichael, composer, singer, self-taught pianist, and actor who wrote several of the most highly regarded popular standards in American music.
In the episode, Fred decides to take Barney’s poems and pay someone to put them to music. Fred just assumes it’ll be a hit and they’ll be rich. At Rockwell Music Publishers they run into someone else they believe to be another get-rich quick hopeful who is really Carmichael (the first celebrity to voice themselves on The Flintstones).
The songwriters help our heroes and adapts their words to music, and introduces the new composition at the Pilton Hotel.
A member of the Songbook Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame, Carmichael wrote a slew of ‘wunnerful’ standards, the most famous being “Stardust” from 1928. Carmichael’s inspiration came from a moonlit walk where he thought about old flames.
Segue to Barry Manilow. Mom liked him, a lot. My feelings about Manilow require a bit more explanation.
Those early, syrupy, schmaltzy songs like “Mandy” I can do without. Up-tempo Manilow? Much better.
An as much fun as I poke at Manilow I’ve admitted the son of a gun always does a great and reverent job on old classics.
In 1987 he expressed a desire to record a “techno-swing album.” The result was “Swing Street,” not his most popular LP, but it still went Gold. The lite jazz band “Uncle Festive” assists.
One of the best at fusing classical-style music and rock was Louis Clark who I’ve featured many times on my blog. Clark died this week of a stroke at the age of 73.
Clark became partners with Jeff Lynne, the leader of the rock band Electric Light Orchestra (ELO) when Clark was in London, working on string arrangements for a musical about William Shakespeare. Lynne heard it, liked it, and asked Clark to arrange and conduct the orchestra and choir for what would become ELO’s 1974 album Eldorado that reached #16 in the US charts. Clark worked on the group’s next five albums that sold well all over the world.
On the Midnight Special ELO performs The El Dorado Suite and their hit single “I Can’t Get It Out Of My Head.” (NOTE: Following ELO this embedded video also includes singer Janis Ian. Her segment that I was unable to edit is unrelated to tonight’s post.)
After his years with ELO Clark was recruited by Don Reedman at K-Tel records who had an idea. Put classical themes together over a rock beat. Clark created the original Hooked on Classics album and single. The album went to #4 and the single peaked at #10 on the US charts. Multiple follow-ups were recorded.
“It appears that it has introduced a lot of people to the classics,” Clark said in 2000. “People come away and say ‘this is different, it’s OK, it’s not as stuffy as I thought’.”
“Music has charms to soothe a savage breast.” British dramatist William Congreve in 1697
A review of 26 studies involving more than 2,000 people found that music reliably reduces anxiousness among people preparing to undergo surgical operations. And the emotional benefits of music are not confined to the OR. Music therapists are now helping people manage anxiety disorders and other physical or psychological conditions from pain disorders to PTSD.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, nearly one-third of Americans experienced anxiety and depression symptoms during the month of June last year. That’s not surprising, unless you think the percentage was actually higher.
“A very large number of people use music almost as a drug,” says Daniel Levitin, PhD, a neuroscientist and author of ‘This Is Your Brain on Music.’
‘There’s a certain kind of music they’ll put on to get their day started, a certain kind while driving or walking to work, something else for exercise, something else to wind down.”
The Vera Clinic based in Istanbul provides affordable medical treatments for patients from all over the world by internationally certified surgeons for hair transplants and plastic surgeries.
The clinic conducted a survey asking 1,540 adult (ages 18-65) volunteers to undergo a series of mental stress tests, during which they listened to various Spotify playlists composed of several popular genres of music. They were fitted with heart rate and blood pressure monitors and asked to record their stats throughout the experiment. Which style of music had the most pacifying effect on participants?
Was it classical?
Techno music aggravated study volunteers most. Rounding out the bottom set above techno: ’70s rock, dubstep, the “oldies,” jazz and blues.
As for the most relaxing form of music, the winner had 96% of the group reporting a decrease in blood pressure while listening to the tunes and 36% also felt their heart rate drop.
The most soothing style? Cheesy hits from…the 80’s.
“The results may seem surprising on first inspection, but medically they make a lot of sense. 1980s pop hits could have positive nostalgia attached to them for many people, and their upbeat, party-like sounds can induce the release of endorphins and serotonin in the brain, both increasing feelings of happiness and calm,” said Vera Clinic’s Dr. Ömer Avlanmış.
According to the study one of the most anxiety-reducing ’80s pop songs was this recording, about a prostitute:
Let’s walk down Memory Lane all the way back to 1970. The Five Stairsteps were all family members. Their biggest hit made the Top Ten.
More than 50 years later…
Frontman for the iconic rock band KISS, Paul Stanley has a new R & B band called “Soul Station.”
“SOUL STATION is 15 people, and everybody’s played with everyone from Smokey to Stevie Wonder to Natalie Cole to the Temptations, Whitney Houston, and on and on and on,” Stanley said. “And it really is like a family. We hang out at my house and have a great time. But what really bonded us together was this love of that music and wanting to recreate it accurately, respectfully. Even some of those bands, when they wound up playing live, did these uptempo, kind of soulless versions of their own songs. And we’re playing those songs the way they’re supposed to be, and it’s glorious.
“Look, I started doing it selfishly, ’cause I love that music, and to have it surrounding me, and to get to sing those songs, is crazy. And then to also write some new tunes that really marry so well to the old tunes is like writing another page.
“Will it surprise some people? Yeah. But, honestly, I’m not… Somebody said, ‘Oh, you’re reinventing yourself.’ I’m not the champion of blues rock or hard rock or metal or this. I did ‘Phantom Of The Opera’. I’m a singer, and I choose to sing whatever I choose to sing at any given time. So, really, honestly, it’s as natural for me to sing Philly soul as it is to sing rock. It’s just I haven’t done it publicly.”
Next month Stanley’s group will release its first studio record, a collection of 1960s and ’70s soul/Motown classics titled “Now and Then.”
The track listing:
1. Could It Be I’m Falling In Love 2. I Do 3. I, Oh I 4. Ooo Baby Baby 5. O-O-H Child 6. Save Me (From You) 7. Just My Imagination (Running Away With Me) 8. Whenever You’re Ready (I’m Here) 9. The Tracks Of My Tears 10. Let’s Stay Together 11. La-La – Means I Love You 12. Lorelei 13. You Are Everything 14. Baby I Need Your Loving
OK. Be honest. What’s the first thing that comes to mind when you see this woman?
Yeh. I know. Frank’s daughter.
What about the second thing?
That’s right. That big song that sold a ton of records.
Nancy Sinatra recently gave an interview to Rolling Stone magazine where she trashed President Trump and heaped praise all over BLM.
But she also talked about…that song. When her first recordings were not doing too well the record label made a decision.
“You know what? We’re gonna put you with Lee Hazlewood,” said Sinatra. “He changed everything for me. He pretended to be this country shitkicker, know-nothing kind of guy, but he was highly educated. An Army veteran. A very worldly person who knew what he was doing. He used to do what he called the ‘dumb sound’ for my records. Dumb meaning uncomplicated. It consisted mainly of rhythm section, the drummer, the bass, three guitars all kind of chugging along. And it created a whole different thing for me.”
Hazelwood wrote “that song” and was all prepared to record it himself.
“That’s true,” said Sinatra. “I just told him the truth: that I didn’t think it was good for a man to sing it, that it sounded kind of ugly, and that a girl should sing it and it would be better. And he realized I was right.
“(My) look came from a trip I made to London. I went to Carnaby Street, which was the place to shop in those days. And there was a store called Mary Quant. She had, for me, the first miniskirts. I had never seen them before. They were nowhere to be found in the United States. And I just knew the miniskirt was going to catch on. I didn’t have minidresses, so I used long sweaters instead. The ‘Boots’ video with the black-wool sweater was my first attempt at a minidress.
“The How Does That Grab You? album cover has another long sweater. And they became kind of iconic. I guess that they were different and they were daring and were on the cutting edge of what was to become the miniskirt. It’s pretty cute, but it was an accident. I guess if I had any good instinct at all, it was about the fact that miniskirts would be a smash hit and would last forever. I mean, they’ve never gone away.”
Today, February 5th, Sinatra, now 80, released a collection of her old recordings, “Start Walkin’, 1965-1976.”