Song of the Day: Last Christmas, written by George Michael, has been recorded by so many artists, but it was first released by Wham. Listen to audio clips of renditions by the Cheetah Girls and Hilary Duff (the clip is actually available on the link labeled "Same Old Christmas"), and take a look on YouTube for a sweet ballad-to-dance version by Ashley Tisdale, a nice house-inflected version by Cascada, and the original Wham video.
Song of the Day: Carol for Another Christmas, composed by Henry Mancini, was the title track of a classic 1964 Rod Serling-scripted TV take on "A Christmas Carol," directed by Joseph Mankiewicz. I was first exposed to this beautiful instrumental as a child, watching the great Yule Log on WPIX-TV. It's one of those sensitively performed compositions, which has had a tendency to bring a bit of a puddle to my tear ducts. Listen to an audio clip of Henry Mancini (here too).
Song of the Day: Coventry Carol is a traditional English carol from the sixteenth century whose words are attributed to Robert Croo. I always associated this gorgeous, haunting carol with the alternate version of "Away in a Manger," because it was recorded in a medley by the Living Strings (featured on an album, "The Spirit of Christmas," which I finally got after about 35 years of searching for it!). Listen to audio clips of versions by The King's Sisters, the Mediaeval Baebes, and the Swingle Sisters.
Song of the Day: A Holly Jolly Christmas, music and lyrics by Johnny Marks, has been recorded by several artists, including Burl Ives and Alan Jackson (audio clips at those links). I was first introduced to this song as a kid, in my annual viewing of one of my favorite animated Christmas tales of all time: "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer."
Song of the Day: A Child is Born, words and music by Alec Wilder and Thad Jones, is a song that has come to be identified with this day, but it has also become a jazz standard. Listen to audio clips of renditions by Thad Jones and Mel Lewis, Diane Reeves, Bill Evans, Bill Evans and Tony Bennett, and, finally, Oscar Peterson, who passed away on Sunday, December 23, 2007. A sad loss for lovers of music to contemplate on this Christmas Day. Rest in peace.
Song of the Day: It Came Upon a Midnight Clear, words by Edmund Hamilton Sears, music by Richard Storrs Willis, is one of those Christmas songs that has been recorded by many artists. Listen to audio clips of renditions by Josh Grobin, Mannheim Steamroller, and guitar greats Joe Pass and Jack Wilkins, each of whom casts his own magic on this classic carol. Meanwhile, it's Christmas Eve: Don't forget to Track Santa!
Song of the Day: Frosty the Snowman, words and music by Steve "Jack" Rollins and Steve Nelson, is the perfect song for the Winter Solstice, which arrives at 1:08 a.m., Eastern time. And now begins the march back toward the light! Listen to an audio clip of the famous Gene Autry and the Cass Country Boys version of this seasonal favorite. And check out a YouTube video clip of the Rankin-Bass animated classic, with Jimmy Durante singing the title track.
Song of the Day: It's Impossible is the English language version by Sid Wayne of a Spanish standard "Somos Novios" by Armando Manzanero. Listen to audio clips of Spanish-language renditions by Manzanero himself, Luis Miguel, and, in a YouTube clip, Andrea Boccelli and Christina Aguilera. Then check out audio clips of English-language renditions by Elvis Presley, and, my favorite, Perry Como (check out a YouTube full-length version of the Como classic).
Song of the Day: That's All, words and music by Alan Brandt and Bob Haymes, is a standard of the Great American Songbook (and I especially love a version recorded by my sister-in-law, jazz singer Joanne Barry). Listen to audio clips of renditions—some sweet, some swing—by Nat King Cole, Michael Buble, and Bobby Darin.
Song of the Day: A Song for You, words and music by Leon Russell, has been recorded by countless artists. Listen to audio clips from renditions by Leon Russell himself, Carmen McRae, the Carpenters, Dusty Springfield, Andy Williams, Ray Charles, Natalie Cole, the Temptations, Donny Hathaway (Elliot Yamin sure was influenced by him), and, my favorite recent recording, by Christina Aguilera and Herbie Hancock.
Song of the Day: Proud Mary, written by John Fogerty, has been recorded by many artists. Though I do enjoy the original Creedence Clearwater version, my favorite version remains that of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue. Ike Turner, who passed away on December 12, 2007, provided the deep vocal counterpoint to Tina Turner's "nice and rough" vocals on their classic take of this song. They won a 1971 Grammy award for Best R&B Performance by a Group. Listen to audio clips of the original Creedence Clearwater Revival version and the scalding rendition of the Ike and Tina Turner Revue.
Song of the Day: You Should Be Dancing, written and performed by the Bee Gees, features that soaring Barry Gibb falsetto. This song famously framed John Travolta's classic disco dance sequence (YouTube clip at that link) on the flashing floor of Brooklyn's 2001 Odyssey (which later became a famous gay dance club known as Spectrum). Yes, I'd been to that club, and had danced on that floor, long before the establishment closed for good. Ah, memories ... Listen to an audio clip of this track here. And so concludes our 9-day tribute to "Saturday Night Fever," which debuted on this date, 30 years ago. I'm goin' dancin'...
Song of the Day: Disco Inferno, music and lyrics by L. Green and R. Kersey, was one of the hottest dance cuts featured on the soundtrack of "Saturday Night Fever" (nice Travolta interview at that link). A #1 dance hit by the Philly dance band, The Trammps, this one still sizzles ("Burn Baby, Burn!"). And it also reminds us that the soundtrack brought together not only music from the Bee Gees, but music from an era. The soundtrack may not have even been nominated for an Oscar, but it took the 1978 Grammy for "Album of the Year." Take a look at the original Trammps video, and then check out alternative YouTube moments, renditions by Cyndi Lauper (another Cyndi audio mix here), Tina Turner, and Madonna (in an "Inferno"-laced remix of "Music," that is a tribute to the "Saturday Night Fever" disco era).
Song of the Day: Manhattan Skyline (a poignant YouTube clip at that link) was written and performed by David Shire. Featured on the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack, it is a lyrical disco paean to a skyline of hope for the young Brooklynite, Tony Manero, played by John Travolta. Also listen to an audio clip of this track here.
Song of the Day: More Than a Woman, music and lyrics by the Bee Gees, was featured in two versions on the "Saturday Night Fever" soundtrack. Listen to audio clips of renditions by the famously falsetto Bee Gees and a group of five brothers, who formed a super R&B, disco, and soul band named Tavares.
Song of the Day: Stayin' Alive, written by Barry, Robin, and Maurice Gibb, was a huge #1 hit for them, as the Bee Gees. It was the opening theme of a movie that encapsulated so much about the disco era: "Saturday Night Fever." When I first saw the film on the big screen in 1977, I found it a bit depressing in its depiction of the tragic lives of so many of its characters. The film and even its Broadway incarnation provided more than a few moments of both reflection ... and entertainment. And while I've mentioned other cuts from the famous soundtrack, including "Open Sesame," "Night on Disco Mountain," and "A Fifth of Beethoven," none is more identified with the film than this one. It even shows up again in the film's sequel of the same title. And it has been spoofed countless times ("Now you can tell by the way I wear my pants / that I'm a man / Can't take no chance"...). Today begins a 9-day tribute to the soundtrack of "Saturday Night Fever," still one of the biggest-selling, and most influential, albums of all time. The film celebrates the 30th anniversary of its debut on December 14, 2007. Many covers of this song have been recorded, but it's always best to begin at the beginning. Listen to an audio clip of this track by the Bee Gees.
Song of the Day: All Across the City was composed by Jim Hall, the great jazz guitarist, who was born on this date in 1930. Listen to various audio clips of this haunting jazz classic: the brilliant Jim Hall-Bill Evans duet; a lush Jim Hall version; and sensitive collaborations of Jim Hall with Paul Desmond and with the great Pat Metheny too. Happy birthday, Mr. Hall!
Back in October, I reported that Laissez Faire Books was closing its doors after 36 years of business. I've recently learned that LFB will live on, thanks to the efforts of the International Society for Individual Liberty. Taking "over the reins" of this "truly iconic institution," ISIL "will continue to offer a wide selection of books of special interest to libertarians," while "publishing new books as well as reprinting classics from the past."
Mucho congratulations to all those who worked hard to save this institution.
Song of the Day: Beat It, words, music, and performance by Michael Jackson, was one of the biggest hits from the album, "Thriller," which was released twenty-five years ago today. Jim Farber's recollection gets it right; this brilliant Quincy Jones-produced album defined a remarkable moment in pop cultural history on so many levels. Listen here to an audio clip of this classic track, with its scintillating Eddie van Halen electric guitar solo, and watch the video that had a huge impact on pop music.