Saturday, January 11, 2020

Alicia Keys, The #90 Artist of the Rock Era

"Alicia Keys has always been such a great person, it shows through her content and what she sings about. In a sea of manufactured sex appeal, Alicia shines through with her genuine and classical approach to writing."

"Her voice is so amazing."

"She is a one in a million talent."

"One of the most powerful voices I've ever heard."

"Alicia Keys is Perfection."

"She has recorded some of the best songs in music history."

"A timeless talent."

"She's so beautiful... so talented... and so relevant."

"Pure talent, one of the best to come out in years."

"A talented and strong woman with incredible lyrics and beautiful music."

When this artist debuted in 2001, it was a breath of fresh air to an industry which had taken the easy road paved with bubblegum and musicians with precious little artistic talent.  A classically-trained pianist, she didn't settle for mediocrity but instead came up with thought-provoking songs that made a difference.

Alicia Cook was born January 25, 1981 in Manhattan, New York.  Her parents separated when she was two and was raised by her mother.  At the age of four, Alicia appeared on The Cosby Show in the episode "Slumber Party" and enrolled in music and dance classes throughout her childhood.  She played compositions by Mozart, Beethoven and Chopin on the piano beginning when she turned seven.  When she was 12, Alicia enrolled in the Professional Performing Arts School and she began writing songs at age 14.  Alicia graduated as the school valedictorian at the age of 16.

In 1994, Alicia met Jeff Robinson, who became her manager and introduced her to A&R man Peter Edge at Arista Records.  Edge later described his initial impressions to HitQuarters:

I had never met a young R&B artist with that level of musicianship. So many people were just singing on top of loops and tracks, but she had the ability, not only to be part of hip-hop, but also to go way beyond that.

As Edge was about to move to Columbia Records, Alicia signed with Columbia.  Keys signed a separate deal with So So Def Recordings and co-wrote and recorded a song for the 1997 movie Men in Black.  

But after two years, Alicia's career was yet to get off the ground with Columbia, so she called Clive Davis at Arista Records, who signed her to a contract.  At this time, Alicia chose Keys as her stage name.  
Alas, Arista records folded, so Keys followed Davis to his new J Records and recorded songs for the movies Shaft in 2000 and Dr. Dolittle 2 in 2001.  Alicia released her debut album Songs in A Minor in 2001.  

Thanks to the hit single "Fallin'", Songs in A Minor debuted at #1, a remarkable achievement for a new artist.  "Fallin'" took the world by storm, catapulting to #1 for six weeks in the U.S., also hitting the top in New Zealand and the Netherlands, #2 in Germany and Switzerland, #3 in the U.K. and Ireland and #7 in Austria.  Alicia also won an MTV Video Music Award for Best New Artist in a Video.

The landmark album has now sold over six million copies in the United States and 12 million throughout the world.  Keys' second single, "A Woman's Worth", was highly underrated even at #5 in New Zealand and #7 in the United States and was nominated for Best R&B Video at the MTV Video Music Awards
Keys was the big winner at the Grammy Awards as her peers awarded Song of the Year, Best R&B Song and Best R&B Vocal Performance (all for "Fallin'"), Best New Artist and Best R&B Album and to the bright new talent.  Keys was also nominated for Record of the Year for the million-seller "Fallin'".

She scored seven American Music Award nominations and took home trophies for Favorite Female Soul/R&B Artist, Favorite New Artist, Pop/Rock and Favorite New Artist, Soul/R&B and earned an ASCAP Pop Award for Most Performed Song for "Fallin'".  

The Billboard Music Awards joined the chorus to celebrate this new amazing talent with eight nominations for Keys and two wins.  "Fallin'" was nominated for Hot 100 Single of the Year, Songs in A Minor was nominated for R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year and Keys was nominated for New Artist of the Year, Female Albums Artist of the Year, Female Hot 100 Singles Artist of the Year, Female R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year, and won for Female Artist of the Year and New R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year.

Alicia won Best-Selling R&B/Hip-Hop Artist at the World Music Awards.  She combined with Eve for the hit "Gangsta' Lovin'", a #2 smash on both the Popular and R&B charts in the U.S. that also reached #4 in Austria, #6 in the U.K. and Switzerland, #7 in New Zealand and #8 in the Netherlands.

Alicia co-wrote, co-produced and sang on the song "Impossible" for Christina Aguilera's album Stripped and appeared in the television series Charmed and American Dreams.

In 2003, Alicia followed her debut with another strong album, The Diary of Alicia Keys, which debuted at #1.  "You Don't Know My Name" led things off at #1 R&B and #3 Popular in the United States.

Keys' great work garnered 14 Billboard Music Awards, including Artist of the Year, Hot 100 Artist of the Year, Billboard 200 Album of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Album of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay Single of the Year (for "Diary").  She won seven trophies for Female Artist of the Year, Hot 100 Songwriter of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Artist of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Albums Artist of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Singles Artist of the Year, R&B/Hip-Hop Single of the Year and R&B/Hip-Hop Airplay Single of the Year for "If I Ain't Got You".   

"If I Ain't Got You" became a #1 R&B song and #4 overall in the U.S. and also was certified Gold.  Keys also earned Best R&B Video at the MTV Video Music Awards, with the video also nominated for Best Female Video.

Each of the first two singles earned Most Performed Song status at the ASCAP Awards.  The Diary of Alicia Keys sold another eight million copies globally.  "Diary" (with Tony! Toni! Toné!) peaked at #2 on the R&B chart and #8 Popular.

Keys also worked with Usher on the smash "My Boo", which rose to #1 for six weeks and reached #3 in Switzerland, #4 in Germany, #5 in the U.K., #6 in the Netherlands and #7 in Ireland.

Eight more Grammy nominations came flying in with Keys winning for Best R&B Album, Best R&B Song (for "You Don't Know My Name"), Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (for "If I Ain't Got You" and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals (for "My Boo").  Keys won four more Grammys, Best R&B Song ("You Don't Know My Name", Best Female R&B Vocal Performance ("If I Ain't Got You", Best R&B Album and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals ("My Boo" with Usher).  She also won the People's Choice Award for Favorite Female Musical Performer.

Alica also won Best-Selling R&B Artist at the World Music Awards.  She pulled another hit from her album with "Karma", which peaked at #20 and earned her a second successive Best R&B Video trophy at the MTV Video Music Awards, outdualing "My Boo", which was also nominated.

Alicia released a collection of unreleased poems from her journals called Tears for Water:  Songbook of Poems and Lyrics.  Keys explained that the title is the basis for her songwriting because "everything I have ever written has stemmed from my tears of joy, of pain, of sorrow, of depression, even of question".  The book was one of the best-sellers of 2005 according to the newspaper The New York Times.

Keys recorded her contribution to the MTV Unplugged series at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2005.  Unplugged debuted at #1 and has now sold over two million units worldwide.  The single "Unbreakable" climbed to #4 on the R&B chart.
"Unbreakable" earned Grammy nominations for Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance.  Alicia also received nominations for Best R&B Album, Best R&B Performance (for "If This World Were Mine", a duet with Jermaine Paul) and Best Traditional R&B Vocal Performance (for "If I Was Your Woman").  Keys started her own recording studio in Manhattan called The Oven Studios, which she co-owns with Kerry Brothers, her songwriting and production partner. 

In 2006, the Songwriters Hall of Fame honored Alicia with its Starlight Award.   The following year, Keys starred in the movie Smokin' Aces and earned further accolades for her role in The Nanny Diaries.

In 2007, Keys released the album As I Am, which achieved another #1 debut to tie her with Britney Spears for the most consecutive #1 debuts on the Album chart by a female artist.  The big hit "No One" locked on to #1 for five weeks on the Popular chart and 10 weeks on the R&B chart and gave Alicia her biggest international hit since "Fallin'"--#1 in Switzerland, #2 in Canada and New Zealand, #3 in Germany and Austria, #4 in the Netherlands, #6 in the U.K. and #8 in Ireland.  

The following year, Keys was awarded with Best Female R&B Artist, Best R&B Song and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards and another nod for Most Performed Song at the ASCAP Pop Awards.

As I Am has sold over three million units in the U.S. and over five million around the world.  The single "Like You'll Never See Me Again" stalled at #12 overall but reached #1 for seven weeks on the R&B chart.

The album earned Best Album, Pop/Rock and Best Album, Soul/R&B at the American Music Awards--that's mass appeal at its finest that is difficult to achieve.  Keys was also nominated for AMA's for Artist of the Year, Favorite Female Artist, Pop/Rock and Favorite Female Artist, Soul/R&B.  Alicia won Best Female R&B Vocal Performance for "Superwoman" (a #12 hit on the R&B chart) at the Grammy Awards.

Alicia and Jack White recorded the theme song to the movie Quantum of Solace ("Another Way To Die"), the first duet in the history of the James Bond series, which reached #4 in Switzerland, #8 in Germany and #9 in the U.K.

Keys won a People's Choice Award for Favorite R&B Song (for "No One", and was nominated in three other categories:  Favorite Female Musical Performer, Favorite Song form a Soundtrack (for the song above) and Favorite Star 35 & Under.
In 2008, Alicia starred in the movie The Secret Life of Bees.  The following year she co-wrote and produced "Million Dollar Bill" for Whitney Houston and collaborated with Jay-Z on the song "Empire State Of Mind".  The duet rose to #1 on both the Popular and R&B charts in the United States, #4 in Australia, #6 in the U.K. and Switzerland, #7 in New Zealand and #8 in the Netherlands. 

Keys earned a World Music Award for Best-Selling R&B Female, Grammy Awards for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration and an MTV Video Music Award for Best Collaboration.  She also won the Golden Note Award, given to artists "who have achieved extraordinary career milestones", from the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers.

In 2009, Alicia released the album The Element of Freedom, which debuted at #2.  "Try Sleeping With A Broken Heart" was her biggest hit on the album, reaching #2 on the R&B chart and #27 overall in the U.S. and #7 in the U.K.

Alicia was nominated for Favorite Female Artist, Soul/R&B and Best Album, Soul/R&B at the American Music Awards and for Top R&B Artist and Top R&B Song (for "Un-thinkable (I'm Ready)" at the Billboard Music Awards.  She also was nominated for Best R&B Artist and Favorite Online Sensation at the People's Choice Awards.
Keys performed at the Cayman Islands Jazz Festival and at the end of the year, Billboard ranked Alicia as the #5 artist of the decade and the #1 R&B artist, while Keys was nominated for Best R&B Artist at the World Music Awards.

In 2010, Keys and Swizz Beatz were married on the island of Corsica and in October of that year, Alicia gave berth to a son.  She recorded the song "Speechless" with Eve, which is dedicated to that son.

The following year, J Records was disbanded and Alicia was assigned to parent label RCA.  Keys released her fifth studio album Girl on Fire in 2012, a winner at the Grammys for Best R&B Album.  The title song became another worldwide hit, #2 on the R&B chart and #11 overall in the U.S., #4 in Germany, #5 in the U.K., the Netherlands and Switzerland, #6 in Canada and #7 in New Zealand.

Keys was nominated for Favorite Female Artist at the American Music Awards and she earned three Billboard Music Award nominations for Top R&B Artist, Top R&B Album and Top R&B Song.  Alicia was nominated for Favorite R&B Artist in both 2012 and 2013 at the People's Choice Awards. 

In 2013, Alicia's VH1 Storytellers special was released on CD and DVD.  The following year, Keys released her first children's book, Blue Moon:  From the Journals of MaMa Mae and LeeLee.  She also gave birth to another son late in the year.  Alicia was nominated for World's Best Live Act at the World Music Awards.

In 2016, Keys became a new judge on the television show The Voice and released the song "In Common", her first single in four years.

Alicia has charted 24 hits, with nine landing in the Top 10 and four #1 songs.  All of Alicia's studio albums have gone Gold with the exception of her newest released two months ago, and she has two Platinum and three Multi-Platinum albums.  She has three Gold, three Platinum and three Multi-Platinum singles to her credit.  
Alicia has won a Songwriter's Hall of Fame Award, 15 Grammy Awards out of a total of 29 nominations, three World Music Awards from five nominations, five American Music Awards among 16 nominations, nine Billboard Music Awards from 27 nominations, four ASCAP Pop Awards, two People's Choice Awards from nine nominations and four MTV Video Music Awards from 12 nominations.

That's considerable success for an artist around barely over 15 years.  If she can continue to record gems, she'll stay in The Top 100*.  Alicia Keys has definitely earned it to this point.

Friday, January 10, 2020

Beyonce, The #91 Artist of the Rock Era2

"Beyoncé  is pure gold."

"She is one of the best singers in the world."

"Her songs just instantly make me feel better. She's amazing."

"Her voice is sublime."

"One of the best female and best overall artists of all-time.  That voice is pure magic."

"She's flawless."

"She makes songs that will live forever." (Bono)

"She's one of the best singers ever."

"Beyoncé  is such a great performer.  She's an inspiration."

"Amazing voice...Great."

Like Diana Ross before her, she left a top-flight girl group to strike it big on her own.  From her first solo album, she's been influential, with star power that goes across the globe, a strong woman with an outstanding voice who is one of the best live performers.

Beyoncé  Knowles was born in Houston, Texas and, while attending St. Mary's Montessori School, she took dance lessons.  She sang "Imagine" by John Lennon to win a school talent show at the age of seven.   

Beyoncé  performed in the school's choir at Parker Elementary School before going to the High School for the Performing and Visual Arts and later Alief Elsik High School.   Beyoncé  also was a soloist at St. John's United Methodist Church for two years.

When she was nine,  Beyoncé  and friend Kelly Rowland met LaTavia Roberson and with three other girls formed the group Girl's Tyme.  Knowles' father Mathew became manager of the group and after cutting it to four members, the group landed a recording contract and eventually changed their name to Destiny's Child.  

As lead singer of Destiny's Child, The #92 Artist of the Rock Era* received tremendous exposure and helped the group sell over 60 million records worldwide.  When Destiny's Child went on hiatus in 2002, 
Beyoncé recorded her debut solo album, Dangerously in Love.

The album debuted at #1 and has now sold over 11 million albums.

Beyoncé won a then record-tying five Grammy Awards:  Best R&B Album, Best Contemporary R&B Album, Best R&B Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration (for "Crazy In Love"), Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "Dangerously In Love 2" and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals for "The Closer I Get To You" with Luther Vandross.

Beyoncé also starred in the movie Austin Powers in Goldmember, which grossed $73 million.  In 2003, Beyoncé starred in the movie The Fighting Temptations.

Beyoncé toured to support the album and sang the U.S. national anthem at the Super Bowl in 2004.

Beyoncé teamed up with Destiny's Child for their final studio album Destiny Fulfilled.  After the group broke up in 2005, Beyoncé released the album B'Day, which also debuted at #1

After Hurricane Katrina ravaged the South in 2005, Beyonce founded the Survivor Foundation with Kelly Rowland of Destiny's Child to provide transitional housing for victims in Houston, Texas.  Beyoncé contributed $250,000 to the foundation, which also provided relief after Hurricane Ike three years later.

Beyoncé starred in the remake of The Pink Panther in 2006 with Steve Martin.  Her next movie, Dreamgirls, grossed over $154 million around the world.

Beyoncé's 2007 tour in which she visited 97 cities grossed over $24 million.  She conducted pre-concert food donation drives in association with St. John's Church and America's Second Harvest.

Beyonce received the Legend Award at the World Music Awards.

In 2008, Beyoncé married Jay-Z.  Later in the year, she released the album I Am...Sasha Fierce.  Beyoncé described Sasha Fierce as her alter ego, and the album also debuted at #1.

Beyonce received 10 Grammy nominations, including three big ones--Album of the Year, Record of the Year for "Halo" and Song of the Year for "Single Ladies".  She was nominated for Best Pop Collaboration with Vocals for "Telephone".  Beyonce tied Lauryn Hill for the Grammy record for nominations in a year.

"Single Ladies" was nominated for nine awards including Video of the Year at the MTV Video Music Awards.  

Beyonce went on another worldwide tour which grossed $119.5 million.  She also played the role of Etta James in the musical Cadillac Records.  In January of 2009, Beyonce sang James' famous "At Last" at an inaugural ball for U.S. President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle.

Beyonce also starred in the movie Obsessed.  To maintain her inspiration, she took a nine-month break from music and also fired her father as business manager.  Beyonce vacationed in Europe and also visited the Egyptian pyramids and the Great Wall of China.

At the end of the decade, Billboard named Beyoncé  as the Top Female Artist of the 2000's and #15 in their list of the Top 50 R&B/Hip-Hop Artists of the Past 25 Years.  Beyonce received the Millennium Award at the Billboard Music Awards.

In 2011, Beyoncé released the album 4, which debuted at #1 on the Album chart.

In 2012, Beyoncé  gave birth to Blue Ivy.

In 2013, Beyoncé sang the U.S. national anthem at President Obama's second inauguration.  The next month, she performed at halftime of the Super Bowl in New Orleans, Louisiana.

Beyoncé won a Grammy Award for Best Traditional R&B Performance for "Love On Top".  The HBO documentary Life Is But a Dream aired in 2013.

Beyoncé's tour featured 132 dates and was the most successful tour of her career.  She voiced the character of Queen Tara in the animated movie Epic.

In 2013, Beyoncé  released her self-titled album, which also debuted at #1, making her the first female in history to debut at #1 with each of her first five studio albums.

Beyoncé  and Jay-Z went on their first co-headlining tour together.  In 2013 and again in 2014, Beyoncé  made the Time 100 list.

In 2014, Beyoncé received the Video Vanguard Award at the MTV Video Music Awards.  Forbes magazine announced that Beyoncé  was the top-earning female performer for the second year in a row, with earnings topping $115 million.

Beyoncé  was nominated for six Grammy Awards (including Album of the Year), taking home trophies for Best R&B Song and Best R&B Performance for "Drunk In Love" and Best Surround Sound Album.  

In 2016, Beyonce released the single "Formation", and performed the song at halftime of the Super Bowl.  The album Lemonade made Beyoncé the first act in history to debut at #1 with each of her first six solo studio albums.

Beyoncé has won 20 Grammy Awards, including her work with Destiny's Child, and is the most-nominated female performer in history with 52 nominations.  She has sold over 16 million albums in the U.S. alone.  

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Dionne Warwick, The #92 Artist of the Rock Era

"The power of beautiful music."

"Mrs. Warwick voice is so beautiful.  It is a voice that touches your soul.  She developed her natural talent  to its fullest potential!"

"Dionne's music has been a treasure."

"Warwick is easily beheld as one of 'the voices' of the Sixties, second perhaps only to Aretha."

"The strange osmosis when music and singer and production blend and create something new and unique within us. She delivers the goods every time."

"Dionne Warwick is timeless."

"Awesome and classy."

"Cannot sing her praises enough."

"Her beautiful songs will always live on."

Part of an amazing partnership with songwriters Hal David and Burt Bacharach, this amazing talent was one of the top acts of the 1960's.  But she extended her career by continuing to find songwriters she could work with, carrying her music into a new generation.
Marie Warrick was born December 12, 1940 in East Orange, New Jersey.  Dionne began singing gospel at age six while at the New Hope Baptist Church in Newark, New Jersey.  Many of Warrick's family were members of the Drinkard Singers, a recording group managed by her mother which performed throughout the New York area.   Dionne formed the Gospelaires with sister Dee Dee, cousin Cissy Houston and friend Doris Troy and landed some work singing backing vocals for recording sessions in New York City for artists such as the Drifters, Ben E. King, Dinah Washington, Solomon Burke and others.  

After finishing high school in 1959, Warwick pursued her passion at the Hartt College of Music in Hartford, Connecticut while continuing to record backing vocals at a New York studio.  During one session for the Drifters, composer Burt Bacharach noticed Warrick's talent and later, while Dionne as on break from college, she contacted Burt, who was now writing with lyricist Hal David.  Bacharach invited her to sing on demos that he and David were making of some of their songs for the purpose of promoting them to record labels.  One of the songs Dionne recorded, "It's Love That Really Counts", attracted the attention of Florence Greenberg, President of Sceptor Records.  Greenberg told Bacharach, "Forget the song, get the girl!"

Warwick signed a contract with Bacharach's and David's production company, which in turn signed a recording contract with Scepter.  In 1962, Warwick released her first single, "Don't Make Me Over", the title coming from a phrase that Dionne yelled to Bacharach and David in anger.  Dionne's last name was misspelled as Warwick on the 45, but she decided to keep it as a stage name.  Although it stalled at #21, the song remains as a fan favorite.  She released her debut album, Presenting Dionne Warwick, in 1963.

After the success of "Don't Make Me Over", Warwick left school and toured France, where critics called her "Paris' Black Pearl".  French critic Jean Monteaux, writing in the magazine Arts, noted, "The play of this voice makes you think of an eel, of a storm, of a cradle, a knot of seaweed, a dagger.  It is not so much a voice as an organ.  You could write fugues for Warwick's voice." 

Warwick returned to the United States to find equal praise, signing at nightclubs and on popular television shows.

Dionne enjoyed her first career Top 10 hit with the title song from her 1964 album Anyone Who Had A Heart, a #2 smash of three weeks on the Adult chart.

She followed that up with the album Make Way for Dionne Warwick and one of her best-known songs, "Walk On By", which reached #6 overall and #7 on the Easy Listening chart.  Dionne's star was spreading across the globe, and "Walk On By" became her U.K. breakthrough at #9.  
In Cash Box's 1964 poll, Warwick was named Best-Selling Female Vocalist, and she was named Top Female Vocalist by Cash Box in 1969, 1970 and 1971.  

While on tour in Glasgow, Scotland, Warwick was injured in an auto accident, forcing her to cancel several dates.  When she recovered, she recorded the album The Sensitive Sound Of Dionne Warwick at Pye Studios in London and also released the album Here I Am in 1965.

In 1966, Dionne released the single "Message To Michael", a gender-switched remake of Bacharach and David's hit by both Lou Johnson and Adam Faith as "A Message To Martha".  Warwick's version rose to #8.

Dionne began a four-month European tour in January of 1967, helping her album Here, Where There Is Love become her first Gold LP.

Warwick released the album On Stage and in the Movies and found herself among the heavyweights at the two-day Fantasy Fair and Magic Mountain Music Fest in California.  Billed alongside the Doors, Jefferson Airplane and the Miracles, Dionne sang before 15,000.

Warwick released the single "The Beginning Of Loneliness", with "Alfie", a solid track on the album as the "B" side.  Disc jockeys flipped the 45 over and made "Alfie" the bigger hit at #16.  Dionne was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Later in the year, Dionne released the album The Windows of the World.  Warwick scored her first Gold record for "I Say A Little Prayer", a #4 smash in 1967.  She was nominated for Best Contemporary Female Solo Vocal Performance at the Grammy Awards.

Now an established star, Warwick released the compilation album Dionne Warwick's Golden Hits, Part One, which gave her a Top 10 U.S. album.

Dionne's follow-up hit, "(Theme From) Valley Of The Dolls", was one of few songs early in her career that weren't written by Bacharach and David.  While the movie was being filmed, actress Barbara Parkins suggested that Dionne sing the movie's theme song.  Judy Garland was tabbed instead but subsequently fired, and producers turned to Warwick at that time.  When the movie became successful in 1968, DJ's flipped the single over and made the single one of The Top Double-Sided 45's of the Rock Era*. "Valley Of The Dolls" hit #2 for four weeks on both the Popular and Easy Listening charts, quite an achievement. 

"Do You Know The Way To San Jose?" became one of Dionne's signature songs, a worldwide smash that reached the Top 10 in the United States, the U.K., Canada, Australia, Japan, South Africa and Mexico.  It reached #4 on the Easy Listening chart.  

Later in the year, Warwick scored this hit from the musical Promises, Promises, the title song from her 1968 album.  The single was underrated at #19 overall but reached #7 among adults.  Dionne was on quite a roll with adult fans by this time.

Dionne released this female version of Herb Alpert's classic "This Guy's In Love With You" from the year before.  It reached #7 on the Popular chart in 1969 but was a #2 song for four weeks among adults.  "This Girl's In Love With You" earned Dionne another Grammy nomination for best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

Warwick won her first Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for the smash hit.  She released the album Soulful, which was recorded with producer Chips Moman in Memphis, Tennessee.  In 1969, "The Dionne Warwick Chevy Special" aired on CBS Television and Warwick made her film debut in Slaves.  At the end of the year, Dionne released Dionne Warwick's Golden Hits, Part 2.

Warwick won the award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance for another of her most memorable songs, "I'll Never Fall In Love Again", the title song from her album in 1970.  It rose to #6 overall and gave Dionne one of her biggest career hits among adults, a #1 smash of three weeks.

She appeared at the Royal Albert Hall in London in April and scored another #2 Easy Listening hit later that year with "Make It Easy On Yourself" from her album Very Dionne.  The single was one of five Top 10 songs on the Adult chart in 1970 and part of an amazing string of 14 consecutive Top 10's.
By 1971, Dionne had sold an estimated 35 million singles and albums worldwide.  At that juncture, Warwick left Scepter for a $5 million offer with Warner Brothers, the biggest recording contract ever for a female artist to that time, according to Variety magazine.  Dionne began recording her first album for Warner Brothers at A&R Studios in New York City.  But due to a rift between Bacharach and David in 1972, the prominent songwriters terminated their working relationship, so Warwick had to look elsewhere for her material.

The Bacharach/David/Warwick partnership was pure golden, and without it, Dionne struggled from 1972-1977.  But in 1974, after the Spinners opened for her on a five-week summer tour, producer Thom Bell suggested that Dionne's voice would blend in well with the group.  Warwick and the Spinners went into the recording studio and came up with this #1 song that sold over one million copies.  Dionne and the group were nominated for Best Pop Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals and Dionne won a People's Choice award for Favorite Female Singer.  

In 1979, Dionne moved to Arista Records and also completed work on her master's degree in music.  At Arista, she received the help of labelmate Barry Manilow, who produced her first album Dionne for the label.  "I'll Never Love This Way Again" spurred her comeback, going Gold and reaching #5 on both the Popular and Adult Contemporary charts.  She captured the Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female.

"Deja Vu" was co-written by Isaac Hayes, and gave Dionne a #15 Popular hit and another #1 AC smash.  The song earned a Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance, Female.  Warwick scored two Grammy Awards, Best Female Pop Vocal Performance (for "I'll Never Love This Way Again") and Best Female R&B Vocal Performance (for "Deja Vu"). 
In 1980, Warwick hosted the television special Solid Gold '79, which was so successful that it was adapted into a weekly show called Solid Gold, which Dionne hosted in 1980 and 1981 and again in 1985-86.

Dionne released another big hit in 1980, "No Night So Long".  Although it stopped at #23 with teenagers, it became one of the biggest Adult hits of the year, #1 for three weeks.

Warwick recorded "Friends In Love" with Johnny Mathis, another of The Top 100 Artists of the Rock Era*.  The two superstars took it to #5 on the AC chart.

In 1982, Arista head Clive Davis was attending a wedding on Orlando, Florida when he spoke with Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees.  Barry told Davis that he had always been a fan of Warwick's and after Clive set up a meeting between the two superstars, Barry was set to produce her next album.
Heartbreaker sold over three million copies worldwide and included the highly underrated title song.  With it by far being the best song on the album and the album selling three million copies, the #10 peak that Billboard placed on the song seems foolish.  That's an obvious problem when your methodology does not include album sales.  By this time, the Adult Contemporary chart was much more reflective of music tastes, since more Rock Era listeners were adults, and on that chart, "Heartbreaker" went to #1.

Warwick and Luther Vandross teamed up for this #4 Adult hit in 1983--"How Many Times Can We Say Goodbye".  

In 1984, the album Finder of Lost Loves reunited Dionne with both Barry Manilow and Bacharach, who was by now writing songs with his wife, Carole Bayer Sager.  

In 1985, Warwick contributed to the blockbuster hit "We Are The World", a #1 smash and eight-million seller in the U.S. alone. 

Dionne received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in December of 1985.  "That's What Friends Are For", written by Bacharach and Sager, was originally recorded by Rod Stewart for the great movie Night Shift.  Warwick decided to raise money for AIDS research and invited Elton John, Stevie Wonder and Gladys Knight to sing it with her.  It went to #1 for four weeks and sold over one million records and won Grammy Awards for Song of the Year and Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal.

Warwick and her friends received a Grammy Award for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal and the song was nominated for Record of the Year.  
Dionne earned a Grammy nomination for the album Friends.

In 1987, Warwick and Luther Vandross co-hosted the initial Soul Train Music Awards at the Hollywood Center in California.  While working on her album Reservations For Two, Dionne recorded "Love Power" with Jeffrey Osborne, taking the single to #7 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #12 on the Popular chart.

In September, Dionne and the Warwick Foundation was honored for raising $1 million for AIDS research.  In 1990, Dionne released the compilation Greatest Hits 1979-1990.

"Superwoman", Dionne's 1991 collaboration with Gladys Knight & Patti LaBelle, landed a Grammy nomination for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo or Group.

Dionne has released 12 studio albums since, with her latest being Feels So Good in 2014.

Dionne received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the ASCAP Awards in 1998 and a Heroes Award in 2002.  In 1999, Warwick's hits "Walk On By" and "That's What Friends Are For" were both named as Songs of the Century by the Recording Industry Association of America.
In 2002, Dionne was nominated to be the Goodwill Ambassador of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations.

In 2014, Warwick was nominated for a Grammy for Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album for Now.

Warwick has won five Grammy Awards out of 13 nominations, one American Music Award, one Billboard Music Award, one People's Choice Award and two ASCAP Awards.

Dionne is second only to Aretha Franklin as the most-charted female artist of all-time with 69 Hot 100 hits.  Of those, 13 reached the Top 10 and four rose to #1.  An incredible 29 out of 45 Adult hits landed in the Top 10, including a magical 14 in a row from 1967 to 1971, and six of those went to #1.  "Alfie", "Don't Make Me Over" and "Walk On By" have all been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.

While Bacharach and David launched the magically melodic voice of Warwick, she proved to the world her star had staying power, continuing to thrill audiences and record beautiful music to this day.

Wednesday, January 8, 2020

The Four Tops, The #93 Artist of the Rock Era

"Soul magic!"

"I love this group--great singers...just fantastic."

"Shivers down my spine.  Soul shakin', what a group."

"Music to the ears, soul words we can relate to.:

"Amazingly great songs that span generations and musical preferences.

"Awessome....never can be equalled....totally magical."

"Pure talent. Class act."

"One of the great groups from an amazing time in music."

"Their music is pure bliss."

"Great for the soul!"

The four members of this group formed when Levi Stubbs and Abdul Faki of Pershing High School in Detroit, Michigan performed together with Reanldo "Obie" Benson and Lawrence Payton from Northern High at a local birthday party.  Liking their sound, they named themselves the Four Aims.  Payton's cousin, Roquel Davis, was a songwriter and helped the Aims sign a recording contract with Chess Records in 1956.  To avoid people confusing them with the Ames Brothers, they renamed themselves the Four Tops.

The group recorded, unsuccessfully, at Chess, Red Top, Riverside and Columbia Records.  Nevertheless, they had an impressive stage show and continued to tour.  In 1963, Berry Gordy, Jr., who had worked with Davis as a songwriter before, talked the group into signing with Motown.

The Tops recorded jazz-based material and sang backing vocals for other Motown acts such as the Supremes ("Run, Run, Run" and Martha and the Vandellas ("My Baby Loves Me").

When the lead songwriting production team of Holland-Dozier-Holland wrote an instrumental track that they didn't complete, the trio decided to write the song for the Four Tops.  The group recorded it and "Baby I Need Your Loving" became their first big hit at a very underrated #11 in the U.S. and #4 in Canada.

In 1965, the group released their self-titled album, which generated another hit, the #9 "Ask The Lonely", another underrated popular song at #24.

Later in the year, they released The Four Tops Second Album, which contained one of the all-time classics of the last 60 years, the #1 smash "I Can't Help Myself (Sugar Pie Honey Bunch)".

"It's The Same Old Song" proved to be a strong follow-up, climbing to #2 R&B and #5 overall in the United States and 33 in Canada.

The following year, the group was On Top with a new release but it failed to generate much airplay outside of R&B.

In 1967, the Four Tops released On Broadway and Reach Out, the latter their biggest career album at #11.  "Reach Out I'll Be There" became the group's biggest international hit, going to #1 in the U.S. and the U.K., #4 in Ireland and #6 in Canada and the Netherlands.

The Tops released the single "Standing In The Shadows Of Love", a #6 song in both the United States and the U.K.

"Bernadette" became another of the group's strongest songs, rising to #4 in the U.S. and #8 in the U.K.

The group scored two more minor hits from Reach Out.  Both were bigger hits by other artists--"Walk Away Renee" became the only big hit by the Left Banke.

"If I Were A Carpenter" reached #8 for Bobby Darin.

The group released their Greatest Hits album, which went Gold.  

But shortly after one of their biggest hits, the go-to team of Holland-Dozier-Holland left Motown and the Four Tops were forced to look elsewhere for material.  They tried Nickolas Ashford & Valerie Simpson, Norman Whitfield, Johnny Bristol and Ivory Hunter, with little success.  The group's next three albums failed to generate significant interest.

In 1970, the Four Tops landed a minor hit with Still Water (Love)" at #11.

Later in the year, two superstars combined for a great song that was underrated at #14.  The Tops joined the Supremes for "River Deep - Mountain High".
When Gordy decided to move the Motown offices from Detroit to Los Angeles to move into movies and television as well, he required his artists to move there as well.  The Four Tops were one of the groups which refused, so they signed with ABC-Dunhill Records.  At Motown, the label was beginning to focus on new acts such as the Jackson Five and Diana Ross's solo career, but at ABC, they worked with Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter.

With Keeper of the Castle in 1972, the Four Tops were able to regain momentum, and the title song climbed to #7 on the R&B chart and #10 overall.   

The single "Ain't No Woman (Like The One I Got)", a #4 smash, gave the group their first Gold record since "Reach Out I'll Be There".

It seemed the group was back, but they still missed the golden team of Holland-Dozier-Holland, and as a result, missed with 13 consecutive singles.  Their time at ABC was over.

In 1981, the Four Tops signed with Casablanca Records, which had suddenly become hot with Donna Summer and KISS.  The Tops released the album Tonight! and lead single "When She Was My Girl", which led the way on the R&B chart and made it to #11 overall.

That was the last major hit for the group, however, as five more releases at Casablanca, a return to Motown for four more singles and four with Arista Records all failed to generate interest.
The Four Tops continued to tour with their lineup intact until Payton died of liver cancer in 1997.  Former Temptation Theo Peoples took his place, and when Stubbs too found out he had cancer, Ronnie McNeir filled in.  Stubbs died in 2008.

The Tops collected 43 career hits, with seven going Top 10 and two huge #1 songs.  According to Ebony magazine, they have sold over 20 million records worldwide.

The Four Tops were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1990 and the Vocal Group Hall of Fame in 1999.  They received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1997.

The group received a Lifetime Achievement Award from the Grammy Awards in 2009.  The Grammys also inducted the big hit "Reach Out I'll Be There" into their Hall of Fame.

The group sang the U.S. national anthem prior to game 5 of the 2011 American League Championship Series in Detroit.

Tuesday, January 7, 2020

Kool & the Gang, The #94 Artist of the Rock Era

"Music that makes you want to dance."

"What a fantastic group. I could listen to them all day and night."

"Kool & The Gang are what really good vocals and musicianship sound like- tight and flowing at the same time. Great sound and great band!"

"Timeless music."

"It can't get any cooler than this."

"K & G best soul/dance band ever."

"Their melody and rhythms moved people's inner souls in joyful, uplifting harmony."

"These guys have real talent--exciting music!"

"Kool and the Gang is one of the best groups of all-time."

"They are so awesome."

In 1964, thirteen-year-old bassist Robert Bell and his brother Khalis Bayyan, who went by the name Ronald Bell (tenor and soprano sax), grew up in Jersey City, New Jersey.  Their father was a professional boxer who loved jazz and was friends with Thelonius Monk, and the boys picked up their love of music from him.  The Bells and friends George Brown (drums), trumpeter Robert "Spike" Mickens, Charles Smith (drums), alto saxophonist Dennis Thomas and Ricky West formed a jazz ensemble called the Jazziacs.  

Gradually, the band began mixing in R&B sounds and after renaming themselves the Soul Town Band, they began playing in clubs in Greenwich Village in Manhattan, new York.  Over the years, they went through several names, including the New Dimensions and Kool & the Flames, before deciding upon Kool & the Gang.  

They supported acts such as Bill Cosby, Richard Pryor and Ritchie Havens along the East Coast.  In 1969, Kool and the Gang signed a recording contract with De-Lite Records and released their self-titled instrumental debut album.  The song "Kool And The Gang" became a moderate R&B hit. 
In 1971, the group released the albums Live at the Sex Machine, which earned them considerable R&B airplay, The Best of Kool & the Gang and Live at PJ's.  The group released Music Is The Message and Good Times in 1972.  These albums served to introduce their unique blend of jazz, Funk, R&B and Pop and build a base of fans, but 12 straight singles failed to catch on.  

In 1973, Kool & the Gang elevated their sound with the album Wild & Peaceful, which became their first Top 100 album.  Pure and simple, the reason for the group's success was that the album had better songs, beginning with "Funky Stuff" a #5 R&B hit.  The band enjoyed their first big hit with "Jungle Boogie", #2 on the R&B chart and #4 on the Popular chart and a million-selling single.

"Hollywood Swinging" went to #1 R&B and #6 overall and also sold one million copies. 
The album went Gold, as did Light of Worlds the following year.  Sylvester Stallone included the song "Summer Madness" on the soundtrack to his career-changing movie Rocky.  In 1975, Kool & the Gang added Larry Gittens from the Stylistics and released another solid album, Spirit of the Boogie and two more followed the next year, Love & Understanding and Open Sesame.  

The title song from the latter album was featured on the "Saturday Night Fever" Soundtrack, the #1 soundtrack of all-time.  Kool & the Gang shared in the Grammy Award when the monumental smash was named Album of the Year.  The group scored six more R&B Top 10 hits during this time but were unable to cross over into the mainstream in a meaningful way with any of them. 
West left to form his own band in 1976.  The band slipped a bit with The Force in 1977 and Everybody's Dancin' in 1978, so they worked to hone their sound.  They recruited James "J.T." Taylor as lead singer and began developing a sound closer to R&B and Pop music.  The group brought in producer Eumir Deodato, famous for the 2003 hit "Also Sprach Zarathusta", the theme to the landmark film 2001.  

The result was the album Ladies Night in 1979, which in many ways was their breakout album.  The title song landed in the Top 10 on the Popular chart and #1 R&B, and also charted at #4 in Canada, #8 in Switzerland and #9 in the U.K. and scored another Gold record.

"Too Hot" followed--it too sold over one million copies and raced to #3 on the R&B chart and became one of their biggest career hits at #5 overall.

For the first time, Kool & the Gang received a Platinum record for an album.  The group continued their winning ways with the 1980 album Celebrate.  The title song spent six weeks at #1 on the R&B chart and conquered the Popular chart as well, eventually becoming an international sensation.  It rose to #1 in the U.S., Canada and New Zealand, #2 in the Netherlands, #6 in Switzerland and #7 in the U.K. and sold over two million copies. 
The song played as American hostages returned from Iran and remains a popular song to play at joyous occasions throughout the world.  Celebrate became the group's first and only Top 10 album in the United States.  

In 1981, Kool & the Gang released the album Something Special and the group charted in the U.K. for the first time at #10.  "Celebration" had won them fans throughout the world and the band now had three consecutive Platinum albums to their credit.

After "Take My Heart (You Can Have It If You Want It)", which reached #1 on the R&B chart, and another minor R&B hit, the group released the single "Get Down On It", which brought back some of the Funk sound from their earlier days.  It peaked at #4 on the R&B chart and #10 overall in the U.S. and #3 in the U.K. and also earned a Gold record.

They continued as a strong musical force with As One in 1982, another Gold album and In The Heart matched that feat in 1983.  Kool & the Gang continued to score Top 10 R&B hits, and "Joanna" gave them their first big hit with the masses in two years, at #2 in the United States on both the Adult Contemporary and Popular charts, #4 in Ireland and #7 in New Zealand.

"Joanna" became the group's seventh Gold single.  Kool & the Gang released another strong album in 1984 with Emergency.  The single "Fresh" led off the effort, another #1 R&B hit that reached #5 on the Adult Contemporary chart and #9 overall in the U.S. and #10 in Canada. 

"Misled" was another strong song, #3 on the R&B chart and #10 on the Popular chart.

The band pulled a third big hit from an album for the first time as "Cherish" became their biggest career hit.    It hit #1 in Canada, #2 in the United States (#1 Adult Contemporary and R&B), #3 in the Netherlands, #4 in the U.K., #5 in West Germany, #6 in the Netherlands and #8 in Australia and sold over one million records.

Thanks to the hit singles, Emergency sold over two million copies.  In 1986, the group switched to Mercury Records and continued the group's streak of seven Gold albums with Forever.  "Victory" rose to #2 on the R&B chart and #10 overall in the U.S.

"Stone Love" also peaked at #10 on the Pop chart and #4 R&B.
In 1988, the band released the album Everything's Kool & the Gang:  Greatest Hits & More.

But Taylor left for a solo career, replaced by Gary Brown, Odeen Mays and Skip Martin.  Airplay and sales fells off significantly with the album Sweat in 1989.  Kool & the Gang have released six albums since, and Taylor returned for the album State of Affairs in 1996, but the group has been unable to recapture the earlier magic.  

In the '90s, however, artists unable to excite fans with their own sound, borrowed heavily from Kool & the Gang in what is now called "sampling", as music from the group was second only to James Brown in Rap songs using samples.  Rap artists copied Kool & the Gang's "Hollywood Swinging" in eight so-called "songs".

Original keyboardist  Rick West died in 1985 and when Smith died in 2006 after a long illness, the Bells' youngest brother, Amir Bayyan, replaced him.  Mickens, who retired in 1986 due to poor health, died in 2010.

Kool & the Gang continues to play before packed crowds at hundreds of shows throughout the world each year.

The group has scored 32 career hits, with 10 reaching the Top 10 and "Celebration" going to #1.  Half of the band's eight AC hits landed inside the Top 10.  They've excelled on the R&B chart with 47 career hits, 24 Top 10's and nine #1's. 

Kool & the Gang has won seven American Music Awards and two Grammy Awards.  They have achieved 31 Gold and Platinum albums.
Kool & the Gang have sold over 70 million albums across the world.