Friday, May 29, 2015

The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*: #420-411

Welcome to the ninth day of this monumental music special, saluting the greatest 500 songs of the last 60 years.  We have already presented 80 songs, and if you have missed a segment, go back and listen to all the songs prior to this one.

The comments in italics are selected thoughts from random YouTube viewers.


My Cherie Amour 
Stevie Wonder

"So beautiful..."
"Beautiful beyond earthly words."
"Timeless classic--puts a smile on my face".

"One of the most lovely and beautiful songs of all times!!  Golden times of popular music."


The Rock Era's #420 song* was co-written by Stevie Wonder, Sylvia Moy, and Henry Cosby; Cosby also produced the song for the album My Cherie Amour.  "My Cherie Amour", which Wonder wrote for his girlfriend at the time, Marcia, is French for my dearest love.

At the time, Wonder was at the Michigan School for the Blind.  All of the instruments except the horns and strings were recorded on November 8, 1967 then those instruments were added November 17 at Golden World Records.  Wonder recorded his vocals on January 15, 1968, but the song was not released until a year later.  At that time, Wonder had some vocal problems, so Motown Records released some songs that Wonder had already recorded, "My Cherie Amour" being one of them.   Wonder also released Spanish- and Italian-language versions entitled "Mi Querido Amor" and "My Cherie Amor", respectively.

The song was originally the B-side of "I Don't Know Why (I Love You", but within a few months, disc jockeys flipped the 45 over and played "My Cherie Amour", and it became the big hit.

"My Cherie Amour" was out at one of the strongest times in music history, and that is a major reason it cracked The Top 500*.  "Aquarius", "Get Back", "Honky Tonk Women", "In The Year 2525", "Time Of The Season", "Sugar, Sugar", "The Boxer", "Get Together", "Dizzy", "Crystal Blue Persuasion", "Bad Moon Rising", "Spinning Wheel", "In The Ghetto", and "Everybody's Talkin'".

"My Cherie Amour" reached #4 for two weeks, was #3 on the Adult chart, and #4 on the R&B chart in the United States, plus it hit #4 in U.K. and #9 in Ireland.

The song has gone over four million in radio airplay.  Wonder has won the Billboard Century Award, the World Music Legend Award and the Soul Train Heritage Award for Career Achievement.




You're So Vain 
Carly Simon

"Cool song yeahh!!"

"Brilliant.  Carly's song is amazing."

"What a beautiful lady and beautiful voice!  One of my favorites growing up!"

"One of the best songs of all-time.."

Carly Simon wrote "You're So Vain".  That much we know.  What we don't know, and what has been speculated for over 40 years now, is who Simon is referring to.
The memorable "clouds in my coffee" line in the song came while Simon was flying across the United States.  Friend and musical collaborator Billy Mernit, who was sitting next to Carly, thought of the phrase.  Carly explained what it means:
Clouds In My Coffee are the confusing aspects of life and love.  That which you can't see through, and yet seems alluring... until.  Like a mirage that turns into a dry patch. Perhaps there is something in the bottom of the coffee cup that you could read if you could (like tea leaves or coffee grinds). 

The mention of a total eclipse of the Sun most likely resulted from the solar event that occurred on July 10, 1972.  Nova Scotia would have been one of the best places to observe that eclipse.  The line "I hear you went up to Saratoga and your horse naturally won," refers to the summer horse racing season at Saratoga Springs, New York, frequented by the rich and famous up and down the East Coast.
Carly recorded "You're So Vain" at Trident Studios in London, and released the single in November of 1972 from her album No Secrets.  Klaus Voormann played the bass line in the song, and Mick Jagger, lead singer of the Rolling Stones, sang uncredited backing vocals. 
"You're So Vain" faced a formidable lineup of other songs out at the time:  "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John, "Nights In White Satin" by the Moody Blues, Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song", "The Night The Lights Went Out In Georgia" by Vicki Lawrence, "Tie A Yellow Ribbon 'Round The Ole Oak Tree" by Tony Orlando & Dawn, "I Can See Clearly Now" by Johnny Nash, and "Superstition" and "You Are The Sunshine Of My Life" by Stevie Wonder.
"You're So Vain" became one of the great songs of 1973, a #1 song in the U.S. with 3 weeks at the top and 11 in the Top 10, and a #1 song for 2 weeks on the Adult chart.  Simon also elevated to #1 in Canada and Australia, #3 in the U.K., and #4 in Ireland. 
The song was nominated for three prestigious honors at the Grammy Awards:  Song of the Year, Record of the Year, and Best Pop Vocal Performance Female.  The single went Gold and has helped sell 4.5 million albums for Carly. 
Now, as to the subject of the song referred to earlier.  There was immediately speculation that Carly was writing about Mick Jagger, and that thought remains to this day.  In 1983, Simon told the newspaper The Washington Post that "You're So Vain" is not about Jagger.  In 1993, however, Angela Bowie said in the book Backstage Passes, that she was the "wife of a close friend" in the song, and that Jagger, for a while, had been "obsessed" with Carly.
In 1989, Carly revealed more than she ever has about the identity of the man in the song.  She said, and it is quoted now on her official website, "The song is a little bit about Warren Beatty, but the subject is a composite of three men from her days in Los Angeles."  Warren Beatty, for his part, said "Let's be honest.  That song was about me." 
While Simon has continued to be secretive about the identities of the three men, Carly has divulged "letter clues", saying that the subject's name contains the letters "A", "E", and "R".
At the time she wrote the song, Simon was married to James Taylor; Carly has said that he was "definitely not" the subject of the song.  Other possible candidates are David Bowie, David Cassidy and Cat Stevens. 
In 2003, Simon agreed to reveal the subject's name to the highest bidder of the Possible Dreams charity auction at Martha's Vineyard, a popular destination island south of Cape Cod in Massachusetts.  Dick Ebersol, president of NBC Sports and a friend of Carly's, won the top bid of $50,000. 
As part of the package, Simon gave a private performance of "You're So Vain" for Ebersol at her home, and told him the name.  One of the conditions of the bidding was that he wasn't to reveal the name of the person to anyone.  Ebersol also was given permission by Simon to reveal a clue of what she would tell him at the private performance:  "Carly told me that I could reveal what she said, and the clue is:  the letter "E" is in the person's name.
This would seem to conflict Carly's statement that the subject is a composite of three people.  The clue she gave Ebersol would seem to imply that the subject is one person. 

"You're So Vain" was voted #216 in the Recording Industry Association of America's Songs of the Century, and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2004.



You Decorated My Life 
Kenny Rogers

"Love this song!"
"This song decorated my youth."
"I don't know what more I like in this song....voice, music, lyrics, or the video :) all is perfect..."

We hope you are enjoying this monumental music production, brand new in 2015.  We are showcasing 10 songs per day to give them their proper due, for to say that an artist has a song in The Top 500 Songs* of the last 60 years is a monumental achievement.  We began the countdown on May 21, and have timed it to end on July 9, which will be 60 years to the day that Bill Haley & the Comets' "Rock Around The Clock" became the first Rock song to reach #1 (the beginning of the Rock Era).
The year 1979 was one of the most productive of the Rock Era, generating 14 songs in The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.  This next classic is one of seven that Kenny Rogers places in the elite list, and one of 18 songs that the great state of Texas contributes to The Top 500*.  Kenny isn't the only artist from Houston in the special; you will hear another one in two more songs.
When the group the First Edition broke up, this artist was $65,000 in debt.  He signed a solo recording contract with United Artists the following year, and he is no longer in debt.

#418* is a song written by Debbie Hupp and Bob Morrison, and recorded by Kenny Rogers for his 1979 album Kenny.  It is one of 14 songs in The Top 500* from 1979.
The song first charted in September, 1979, and reached #7 for 2 weeks overall, #2 on Adult chart, and #1 on the Country chart for two weeks.  A Top 10 hit on the three major formats is a great achievement--obviously millions of people love this song.

Competition was fierce, in the form of "Another Brick In The Wall" by Pink Floyd, Queen's "Crazy Little Thing Called Love", "My Sharona" by the Knack, "Rock With You" from Michael Jackson, "Heartache Tonight" by the Eagles", "Babe" by Styx, "Still" from the Commodores, Kennys own "Coward Of The County", "The Devil Went Down To Georgia" by the Charlie Daniels Band, "Escape" by Rupert Holmes", Dan Fogelberg's "Longer", and "Bad Girls" by Donna Summer.

"You Decorated My Life" won the Grammy Award for Best Country Song.  To date, the song has helped sell over 22 million albums.



Wake Up Little Susie
Everly Brothers

 "A great tune!"

"One of my favorite songs"

"WOW unbelievably great voices!"

"Sounds so great!"


This is the smash that catapulted the Everly Brothers to the top of the music world--the first of four #1 songs for the popular duo.  Simon and Garfunkel later played it in concerts, and in a historic moment on their reunion tours, all four members of two of The Top Duos of the Rock Era* appeared on stage to perform the song together.
The Everly Brothers' rock-a-billy style and harmonies influenced several generations of groups, including the above-mentioned Simon and Garfunkel, the Beach Boys, the Mamas and the Papas, even the Beatles.  The Everly Brothers represented the point where country music met rock & roll, and with their soaring harmonies and crisp acoustic guitars, the Everlys brought finesse to rock & roll.  Backed by excellent sessionmen in Nashville, Tennessee, most notably Chet Atkins on guitar and Floyd Cramer on piano, the duo put out some of the best music in the 50's. 
This classic classic was written by Felice and Boudleaux Bryant, who wrote most of the duo's hits in the 50's.  The song first charted in September of 1957,  a time when "Jailhouse Rock", "All Shook Up", and "Teddy Bear" by Elvis Presley, "At The Hop" by Danny & the Juniors, "You Send Me" by Sam Cooke, the Brothers' own "Bye Bye Love", "Tequila" by the Champs,  Paul Anka's "Diana", and "That'll Be The Day" by Buddy Holly & the Crickets were being played on the radio.

One of the top songs among 20 songs from the 50's to make The Top 500*, "Wake Up Little Susie" remained #1 for four weeks, and spent 26 weeks on the Popular chart, and even logged seven weeks atop the Country chart as well--pretty good for a rock & roll song.

"Wake Up Little Susie" has topped the three-million mark in radio airplay.


I Can See Clearly Now
Johnny Nash

"That tune will surely cheer a body up:-)"
"Oh yeah great song!!!"
"We need more feel good music like this."
"Can't hear Johnny's great song without smiling."


This Texas-born singer once competed in a local talent show with the grand prize being a chance to perform at the famous Apollo Theater in Harlem, New York.  He lost out to Joe Tex, but he lands a song in The Top 500 Songs* and Joe does not. 

This great song exudes optimism; the rain is gone, sunshine is here, and I can see all obstacles in my way.   

Johnny Nash recorded and produced this song in Jamaica.  He had first travelled there in 1957, filming a role Johnny had in the Burt Lancaster movie Take a Giant Step.  By the late 60's, Nash had enjoyed a few hits, such as "Hold Me Tight" in 1968.  He hired a fledgling unknown reggae singer named Bob Marley to write songs with him, and Marley contributed on the hit "Stir It Up".  

In 1972, Nash recorded "I Can See Clearly Now" with some of Marley's mates backing him up.  Robert Christgau of Newsday called the song "the kind of record that can get you through a traffic jam," "two minutes and 48 seconds of undiluted inspiration". 

Nash released the song, and it became a hit in September.  Competition included "Crocodile Rock" by Elton John, "Nights In White Satin" by the Moody Blues, "Alone Again (Naturally)" by Gilbert O'Sullivan, Roberta Flack's "Killing Me Softly With His Song", "Baby, Don't Get Hooked On Me" by Mac Davis, "You're So Vain" by Carly Simon, "Superstition" by Stevie Wonder, "Burning Love" from Elvis Presley, "Witchy Woman" by the Eagles, and "Saturday In The Park" by Chicago. 

"I Can See Clearly Now" found a path to #1 for four weeks, and also reached #1 on the Adult chart for the same amount of time.  It sold over one million singles and helped sell a million albums. 



"Still Jammin' after all these years..."
"Classic--brings back many great memories."
"What a beat!"
"This is the bomb."

Here is one of 59 songs from the 1990's to make the prestigious list.
This group of Tionna "T-Boz" Watkins, Lisa "Left Eye" Lopes, and Rozanda "Chilli" Thomas  were a force to be reckoned with in the 90's, ringing up 10 Top 10 hits over a 12-year period with their infectious new jack swing.  They signed a recording contract with LaFace Records in 1991. 

At #415*, one of two great songs that the Atlanta, Georgia trio TLC lands in The Top 500 Songs of the Rock Era*.  It hit the airwaves in January, and was included on TLC's monumental album CrazySexyCool.

TLC faced off against songs such as "I'll Make Love To You" and "On Bended Knee" by Boyz II Men, "Take A Bow" by Madonna, and "All I Wanna' Do" from Sheryl Crow.  Unfortunately, those are the only other top-notch songs that "Creep" had to deal with. 

Still, the song reached #1 for 4 weeks and 20 weeks in the Top 10.  Those figures are tempered because they are fairly normal anymore, due to lack of quality competition, as alluded to above.  "Creep" also dominated R&B charts with nine weeks at #1. 

"Creep" sold over one million singles, and helped CrazySexyCool sell 11 million units.  TLC Won Grammies for Best R & B Performance by a Duo or Group With Vocal and Best R & B Album.


Christopher Cross

"When you've had a bad day, this song makes you better."
"This song is so beautiful it brings tears to my eyes."
"So romantic."
"When I hear this song, I feel like I'm sooo free and can fly.  I'm at peace:)"


Even if you never have sailed before, listening to this song makes one want to.
You would probably never guess from the song, but this artist was once in a hard rock group in San Antonio, Texas called Flash, which opened for acts such as Led Zeppelin, Jefferson Airplane and Deep Purple.  Cross had sent audition tapes to Warner Brothers Records as early as 1975, and finally, a live audition in Texas in 1978 won them over.  Little did we know when we heard "Ride Like The Wind" in 1980 that this artist saved his best song for second.  Christopher Cross enjoyed a big hit with the former, but he makes The Top 500* with this one. 
Cross wrote the song just sitting at the table of his "cheap apartment".  He came up with the beginning, "It's not far down to paradise"...and wrote the chorus.  Christopher realized he still had to come up with the rest of the song, but he was pretty pleased with what he had.
But it took nearly two years to write the bridge to the song.  He didn't want to be predictable as a songwriter, so he wanted to lift the song up and make key changes in the bridge.  
Cross released the single on Warner Brothers Records, and it was perfectly timed to chart in June.  Along the way, "Sailing" was rocked by competitors like Queen's "Another One Bites The Dust", "Another Brick In The Wall" from Pink Floyd, "Lady" by Kenny Rogers, "It's Still Rock & Roll To Me" by Billy Joel, Blondie's "Call Me", "Woman In Love" from Barbra Streisand, "All Out Of Love" and "Lost In Love" by Air Supply, "Upside Down" by Diana Ross, and "Magic" from Olivia Newton-John.
The song made it to #1 overall and #10 on the Adult Contemporary chart in the U.S. and also took off to #1 in Canada and #8 in New Zealand.    
"Sailing" helped sell five million albums and Cross won major Grammy Awards for Record of the Year, Song of the Year, Album of the Year, Best New Artist, and Best Arrangement Accompanying Vocals.


Material Girl

"The rhythm section MAKES this song......pure tight funk. Tony Thompson.  Bernard Edwards.  I'll never forget it."
"I just love it!"

"I just LOOOOVE this song :)"

Peter Brown and Robert Rans wrote this next song, which Madonna considered "provocative", and she was attracted to it.  The song talked about a woman who aspired to have a rich and affluent life, rather than romance and relationships. 
If you know of a woman or women who are bent on requiring money and material things, you most likely have Madonna to thank for that.  The influence of the song and Madonna herself is irrefutable in the dress, culture, and thoughts of women in the last 30 years.  Madonna told Company magazine in 1986:
I'm very career-oriented.  You are attracted to people who are ambitious that way, too, like in the song 'Material Girl'. You are attracted to men who have material things because that's what pays the rents and buys you furs. That's the security. That lasts longer than emotions.
And there you have it, straight from the horse's mouth.
Madonna obviously liked the sound of Chic ("Le Freak" and "Good Times", among others), for she selected bassist Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, who played guitar and synthesizers, and drummer Tony Thompson to play on the track.  Rodgers also produced "Material Girl", which Madonna recorded in April and May of 1984.
Madonna released the single November 30, 1984 on Warner Brothers affiliate Sire Records from her album Like a Virgin.  The accompanying video showed Madonna as a Marilyn Monroe wanna-be, mimicking Monroe's performance in the song "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" in the 1953 movie Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.
Madonna's own "Like A Virgin" and "Crazy For You", "We Are The World" by USA for Africa, "Everybody Wants To Rule The World" by Tears for Fears, "Careless Whisper" by Wham!, "Can't Fight This Feeling" by REO Speedwagon, "I Want To Know What Love Is" from Foreigner, "You're The Inspiration" by Chicago, and "One More Night" by Phil Collins.

"Material Girl" achieved two weeks at #2 in the U.S., and also received airplay on the R&B and Adult charts.  It was a bigger deal in the United States, which makes sense given the materialistic leanings of the country that were born in the 1980s, but it did reach #3 in the U.K. and Ireland, #4 in Australia, #5 in New Zealand, #7 in the Netherlands, and #8 in Austria.

"Material Girl" did not go Gold, but it has helped sell over 20 million albums in the U.S. alone.  It has not yet topped one million in radio airplay.  Madonna won Billboard Awards for Top Pop Sales Artist, Top Pop Album Artist--Female, Top Pop Artist (Combined), Top Dance Sales Artist, Top Pop Singles Artist--Female and Top Dance Club Play Artist.
The disease was passed on by Madonna, as in 2010, she and her 13-year-old daughter Lourdes launched their "Material Girl" juniors clothing line at Macy's.  Many of the looks of the clothing line were inspired by the outfits Madonna wore in the '80s.


Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds
Elton John

"Nigel Olsson's drumming, as always, is amazing."
"Best cover of all-time."
"Awesomeness. Has. Just. Been. Realized."
"My favorite version of a great tune."

In 1969, Elton John played piano on the Hollies' classic "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" at Abbey Road Studios in London.  Although he had recorded albums on both Phillips and DJM Records early in his career, when Elton signed a major recording contract with MCA affiliate Uni Records in 1970, he added the final piece of the puzzle that would result in him becoming one of the biggest superstars the world has ever known.  It would not take long for parent company MCA to claim Elton for themselves, beginning with the 1973 album Don't Shoot Me, I'm Only the Piano Player.
Although his early material is highly recommended, and many Elton John fans today continue to assert some of his best songs come from the period, Elton John definitely had his heyday in the mid-'70s, when he reeled off a sensational 14 Top 10 songs out of 16 released.  That torrid streak included the #1 songs "Crocodile Rock", "Bennie And The Jets", "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", "Philadelphia Freedom", "Island Girl", and "Don't Go Breaking My Heart".  We should also mention that many radio stations also placed "Daniel", "Goodbye Yellow Brick Road", "Don't Let The Sun Go Down On Me", "The Bitch Is Back", and "Someone Saved My Life Tonight" at #1.
At #412*, one of a handful of remakes of the quality necessary to capture the attention of the public to the point where it could make The Top 500 Songs*, and a rare song that the Beatles allowed to be remade by another artist.  The song was inspired by a nursery school drawing that John Lennon's son Julian had done that he called "Lucy--in the sky with diamonds".  Julian made the drawing of his school friend Lucy and had drawn stars in the sky, hence the title.
When the Beatles first recorded the song, speculation began immediately that the first letter of each of the title nouns intentionally spelled LSD.  Lennon denied this consistently until his death in 1981, saying the lyrics of the song were inspired by the imagery in the Alice In Wonderland books of Lewis Caroll.  John said in an interview:  "It was purely unconscious that the initials of the song came out to be LSD.  Until somebody pointed it out, I never even thought of it.  It's not an acid song," a claim that bandmate Paul McCartney has repeatedly confirmed. 
In 1974, Lennon saw Elton getting off the SS France in New York City, and asked him to come to his recording sessions.  John did, and ended up singing on Lennon's single "Whatever Gets You Thru The Night".  Elton asked Lennon and McCartney for permission to record a cover version of "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds", and the two Beatles gave a rare "O.K.".  Elton recorded the song at Caribou Ranch in Colorado, with guitar and backing vocals from Lennon under the pseudonym Dr. Winston O'Boogie.  "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was released as a stand-alone single, although it later appeared on Elton's compilation album Elton John's Greatest Hits Volume 2
By November, "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" was receiving enough airplay to debut on the Singles chart.  Among the other songs that Rock Era fans could hear at the time:  "Best Of My Love" by the Eagles, "I Honestly Love You" and "Have You Never Been Mellow" by Olivia Newton-John, Barry Manilow's "Mandy", "Cat's In The Cradle" by Harry Chapin, "You're No Good" from Linda Ronstadt, "Black Water" by the Doobie Brothers, and "My Eyes Adored You" by Frankie Valli. 
Elton scored a #1 smash of two weeks with it in the U.S., and it went to #1 in Canada for four weeks.  "Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds" sold over one million copies and helped sell over five million albums for John in the U.S. alone.  Elton's version has now been played over one million times.




Take On Me

"Yessssssss! Awesome!"
"Essa música é demais!"
"This song is awesome!"

This song was written by Magne Furuholmen, Morten Harket, and  Pål Waaktaar for the album Hunting High and Low.  The group's name was chosen because it was such a common expression across several languages. 

In 1983, the group moved to London and began calling record companies and publishing houses.  After a few meetings, the band signed with Lionheart publishing company.  Contract in hand, the group then returned to Norway to earn money.  When they returned to London, they became disenchanted with Lionheart and left.  The group recorded new demos with producer John Ratcliff, who introduced them to his manager, Terry Slater.  Slater became their manager and helped them secure a contract with Warner Brothers Records later that year.   

"Take On Me" was released in 1985, and A-ha became the first Norwegian group to have a #1 song  in the United States (it also rose to #4 on the Adult Contemporary chart.)  It also reached #1 in Germany, Australia, Austria, Sweden, Norway, Switzerland, Belgium, Italy, and the Netherlands, and was #2 in the U.K., Canada, and Ireland, #3 in France, #4 AC, and #7 in New Zealand. 

The song had good competition from "Money For Nothing" by Dire Straits, "How Will I Know" from Whitney Houston, "We Are The World" by USA for Africa, "Crazy For You" by Madonna, "Shout" by Tears for Fears, and "That's What Friends Are For" by Dionne Warwick & Friends. 

The song received great exposure on MTV with its innovative video featuring a pencil-sketch animation method called rotoscoping combined with live action.  The video to "Take On Me" captured six awards (including Best New Artist in a Video and Viewer's Choice) and was nominated for two more at the MTV Video Music Awards.   

A-ha won the Grammy Award for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals.  "Take On Me" has already logged over four million airplays.

The Top 500* continues tomorrow with 10 more classics.  Don't miss a day or a song!

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