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May 20, 2018

Song of the Day #1577

Song of the Day: That's the Way Love Goes features the words and music of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Charles Bobbit, and Janet Jackson, with samples credited to James Brown, Fred Wesley, and John "Jabo" Starks. This sensual Grammy-winning R&B downtempo song was the lead single from Jackson's fifth studio album, "Janet," topping the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks (the longest reign atop that chart of any Jackson family member!), and remains the only single in chart history to debut at #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Airplay Chart. Check out the music video and the soulful album version [YouTube links]. At the end of a weekend of Royal love, and with Justify now vying for a Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Royalty, tonight Janet ("Miss Jackson, If you're Nasty") will offer up a bit of American musical royalty with a medley of her hits as she receives the Icon Trophy on the Billboard Music Awards, televised on NBC.

May 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1576

Song of the Day: As Long as I'm Singin' features the words and music of Bobby Darin, who was born on this date in 1936. Recorded in 1964, it was one of those songs that went unreleased in Darin's tragically short lifetime (he died at the age of 37). The song can be heard on the soundtrack to the 2004 Kevin Spacey-biopic of Darin,"Beyond the Sea." But the original recording showcases Darin's swingin' ways. Gone but never forgotten. Check it out on YouTube.

May 13, 2018

Song of the Day #1575

Song of the Day: Mama Said, words and music by Luther Dixon and Willie Denson, was a huge hit for the Shirelles, who took the song to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart. It has been covered by many artists through the years, but the original Girl Group hit remains my favorite. What better way to wish all the mothers out there "Happy Mother's Day." Check it out on YouTube.

May 12, 2018

Song of the Day #1574

Song of the Day: How Long features the words and music of James Kasher Hindin, Justin Franks, and Charlie Puth, who recorded this song for inclusion on his long-awaited second studio album, "Voicenotes," which was released yesterday, May 11, 2018. The 26-year old Puth, a New Jersey native, is a talented artist, with perfect pitch, who graduated from Manhattan School of Music Pre-College, where he majored in jazz piano, with a classical music minor. He later earned a degree from Berklee College of Music. I first noticed this guy when he performed "Attention" on "The Tonight Show," hosted by Jimmy Fallon. He played an electric piano solo that exhibited some really nice jazz chops; the song eventually was a Top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by the equally hook-laden "How Long" [YouTube link]. As if speaking to his jazz roots, one of the lyrics to the chorus of this song is "How Long Has This Been Going On?"---a clear allusion to the great Gershwin standard. Bravo, Charlie! Great new album!

May 05, 2018

Song of the Day #1573

Song of the Day: Livin' on a Prayer, words and music by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child, went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Album Rock Track charts and became a signature song for the American rock band, Bon Jovi. Check out the hit song as well as a hilarious Karaoke version at a gas station [YouTube links]. Congratulations to the band for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14th; the ceremony is being televised tonight by HBO.

March 31, 2018

Song of the Day #1572

Song of the Day: Ciaconna (from "Partita in D-minor for Violin No. 2"), BMV 1004, is the last part of a five-movement partita (sometimes rendered in its French spelling as "Chaconne," each part corresponding to a dance of the time), written by German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was born in 1685 on this date, at least according to the Gregorian calendar. One of the greatest composers of all time, Bach wrote music that was definitive of the Baroque period. This work has a special place in my heart, and I was able to track it down with the help of my friend Roger E. Bissell. The intensity of the piece is displayed by violinists Hillary Hahn and the great Itzhak Perlman [YouTube links]. It has also been played by classical guitarists Andres Segovia and Julian Bream [YouTube links]. Ironically, however, I was first made aware of the piece due to an extraordinary video posted on YouTube in memory of jazz guitarist Joe Pass. It was recorded at the Adelaide Festival S.A. (sometime between 1-8 March 1990). It is heard during a seminar that included Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco Pena, blues guitarist Leo Kottke, classical guitarist John Williams (not the film score composer, whose birthday we celebrated last month as part of my annual Film Music February series), and jazz guitarist Joe Pass. Beginning at around 2:15 in the 5:26 minute video, we are reminded that the classical masters were basically improvisers: they came up with a main theme and then "improvised" variations on the theme, which were written down. Guitarist Williams is obviously fascinated by the spontaneous improvisation of the jazz artist, and to illustrate the spontaneity and brilliance of the process, he lays down the basic melodic structure of the Chaconne, and invites Pass to improvise simultaneously over that melody. Pass throws in a few jazz licks that get a chuckle out of the audience, but the whole video provides us with a lesson on the universality of music. Check out the video clip here [YouTube link].

March 09, 2018

Song of the Day #1571

Song of the Day: When You're Smiling/The Sheik of Araby is a Tin Pan Alley duet made famous by the rip-roaring pair of Louis Prima and Keely Smith. Keely Smith would have been 90 years old today. "When You're Smiling" was written by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher, and Joe Goodwin in 1928; "The Sheik of Araby" featured the music of Ted Snyder and the lyrics of Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler, and was a response in song to the popularity of "The Sheik," which starred the smoldering silent screen star, Rudolph Valentino. Greatly influenced by Louis Armstrong, trumpeter and vocalist Louis Prima, a native of New Orleans, brought a spicy touch of Sicily to the popular sounds of jazz and early rhythm and blues. In fact, it was in the largely Italian-owned social clubs of the city that Prima learned much of the vernacular of early jazz. But it was in the magic pairing of Prima with jazz singer Keely Smith that the two would launch one of the earliest and most successful lounge acts on the Las Vegas strip. Though the pair divorced in 1961, their studio and live recordings were legendary. Prima died in 1978 at the age of 67, and Smith died at the age of 89 in December 2017. But at their height, they were selling out five shows a night at the Sahara in Vegas. Check out their duet of this classic medley (with smokin' saxman Sam Butera) and Smith's own 1958 live recording of it as well [YouTube links].

March 05, 2018

Song of the Day #1570

Song of the Day: The Champion features the music and lyrics of Chris DeStefano, Brett James, Christopher Bridges, and Carrie Underwood, who recorded this song to open NBC's coverage of Super Bowl LII, but it was used by NBC throughout the 2018 Winter Olympics, which ended on 25 February 2018, and is an appropriate post-Oscar tribute to all those who took home statuettes last night. Check out the Champion vocal pipes of Underwood in the Super Bowl opening and in the official video, which features a rap by Bridges (aka Ludacris) [YouTube links].

March 04, 2018

Song of the Day #1569

Song of the Day: Star Wars: The Last Jedi ("A New Alliance") [YouTube link], composed by John Williams, constitutes proof that a Jedi master composer can continue to provide new thematic content to a long-time Star Wars franchise with which he has been associated since 1977. In this cue from one of this year's Oscar-nominated scores to the latest installment of the franchise, we hear a familiar theme, but The Maestro takes us in other directions, transporting us into a galaxy, far, far away, as our annual film music tribute comes to a conclusion. At 86 years old, Williams earns his 51st Oscar nomination with this score; he is only four years younger than the Academy Awards. So, until next year's Film Score February, enjoy the 90th Annual Academy Awards, hosted for the second consecutive year by Jimmy Kimmel. And May the Force Be With You!

March 03, 2018

Song of the Day #1568

Song of the Day: The Omen ("Ave Satani"), composed by Jerry Goldsmith, whose birthday we celebrated on February 10th, is the theme that opens the devilishly scary original 1976 film, "The Omen," starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. The film would spawn two sequels, and a 2006 reboot. This song actually received an Oscar nomination in the Best Original Song category, the only song sung in Latin to ever be so nominated---though it would lose to "Evergreen" from the Streisand version of "A Star is Born". Goldsmith still walked away with a well-deserved Oscar for Best Original Score, because it did everything that could ever be asked of a soundtrack: contributing to and augmenting the things we see on the screen. And that it does quite well! Now, let me be clear about one thing; I've been called many things by many folks: a Hegelian, a Marxist, even a nutjob, but one thing I am not is a "Satanist," even if I'm highlighting this song on this day. I am a fan of many film genres and their corresponding scores---horror films among them. And this is certainly one of the most eerie soundtracks to ever be honored in this category---definitely not something to listen to before you go to bed, unless you want 666 nightmares before dawn! Check it out on YouTube. Don't say I didn't warn you! Now here's a bit of ironic horror cinema trivia: On this date, March 3rd in 1692, Elizabeth Selwyn, accused of being a witch, was "Burned at the Stake in Whitewood, Massachusetts" [a metal track from "Horror Classics and Other Tributes to the Darkside" by Those Left Behind]. Before the flames consumed her, she cast a Satanic curse on the town to last for all eternity (spoiler alert: nothing lasts forever). Well, that's how the 1960 British film "City of the Dead" [YouTube film link] opens. It is known to some horror film fans as "Horror Hotel" (which was slightly edited for its American audience) and scared the daylights out of me when I first saw it as a kid. As did "The Omen" [YouTube film clip]. All the more appropriate then to feature this selection from Goldsmith's Oscar-winning score on this devilish date (called "The Witches' Sabbath" in "The City of the Dead")!

March 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1567

Song of the Day: Ferdinand ("Home") features the words and music of Justin Tranter, Nick Monson, and Nick Jonas, who sings the lead from this song, which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, but is not among the nominees for this year's "Best Original Song" Oscar category. It is, however, a highlight from the 2017 3D-animated flick, "Ferdinand." Check it out on YouTube.

March 01, 2018

Song of the Day #1566

Song of the Day: Me, Myself, & Irene ("Totalimmortal") was originally recorded by AFI, and featured on their extended play album, "All Hallow's E.P." The song was subsequently covered by The Offspring, and heard over the closing credits for this "black comedy," released in 2000, starring Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger. Check out the original and its Offspring [YouTube links].

February 28, 2018

Song of the Day #1565

Song of the Day: Batman ("Batdance"), composed by Prince, uses the Batman hook [YouTube link] from the campy 1960s TV show I grew up watching, starring the late Adam West as our Caped Crusader. This song was featured in the Tim Burton-directed 1989 Batman reboot, starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as an over-the-top off-the-wall Joker. Check out the official music video [YouTube link].

February 27, 2018

Song of the Day #1564

Song of the Day: The Dead Pool ("San Francisco Night") [YouTube link], composed by Lalo Schifrin, is featured over the end credits for the 1988 film, which was the fifth and final installment in the "Dirty Harry" series. This particular film Includes an unforgettable car chase in which Clint Eastwood's Harry Callahan, driving his unmarked Oldsmobile 98 squad car, is pursued by a bomb-loaded electric race buggy. As far as film scores go, you know you're in an Eastwood movie, because it is almost always jazzy, and Schifrin's soundtrack doesn't disappoint.


February 26, 2018

Song of the Day #1563

Song of the Day: The Giant Behemoth ("Main Title") [YouTube link at 1:15], composed by Edwin Astley (no relation to Rick), opens this Eugene Lourie-directed 1959 film, in which a prehistoric beast terrorizes London. Lourie also directed the similarly themed 1953 monster movie, "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," in which the prehistoric beast terrorizes Manhattan (even though the monster is ultimately defeated in Coney Island, Brooklyn. He obviously picked the wrong place to go on a monster rampage!). This film includes classic stop-action animation by Willis O'Brien, of "King Kong" fame (whereas the "20,000 Fathoms" film featured that same technique used by one of O'Brien's greatest students: Ray Harryhausen).

February 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1562

Song of the Day: Hollywood Canteen ("What Are You Doin' the Rest of Your Life?"), words by Ted Koehler, music by Burton Lane, can be heard in this 1944 film performed by Jack Carson and Jane Wyman (with the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra) [YouTube link]. Not to be confused with, perhaps, my favorite song of all time, the very first entry ever featured on "My Favorite Songs" (written by yesterday's birthday boy, Michel Legrand), this song, nonetheless, is a musical highlight of the Canteen film. It was also recorded in 1945 by Vaughn Monroe [YouTube link].

February 24, 2018

Song of the Day #1561

Song of the Day: Dingo ("Paris Walking II") [YouTube link] was composed by the only Michel Legrand, who turns 86 today. His jazzy score to this 1992 Australian film is all the more significant because it features the trumpet work of the only Miles Davis, who also stars in the film and received co-composing credits. Michel will be making a four-night stop at the Blue Note jazz club in NYC in April! Happy birthday, Michel!

February 23, 2018

Song of the Day #1560

Song of the Day: Imitation of Life ("Main Theme"), music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, is sung in the title sequence by Earl Grant (who has a Nat King Cole-ish delivery). It is a lovely song from one of the signature Douglas Sirk films of the 1950s. The 1959 film stars Lana Turner and John Gavin. Check out the theme over the opening credits [YouTube link].

February 22, 2018

Song of the Day #1559

Song of the Day: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar ("Turn it Out"), words and music by Shep Pettibone and Steve Feldman, is sung by Labelle, led by the soaring pipes of Patti Labelle. This dance track was featured in the 1995 comedy, which starred gender-bending Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo. Shake that booty on YouTube. And then check out "The Bomb" 12-inch remix [YouTube link].

February 21, 2018

Song of the Day #1558

Song of the Day: Courage Under Fire ("Main Title") [YouTube link] was composed by the late James Horner for this 1996 film starring Denzel Washington. The theme features certain phrases that are quintessentially Horner (such unique phrases are a hallmark of virtually all composers, whether for the concert stage or the silver screen). Gone too soon, James Horner left a body of work that has withstood the test of time.

February 20, 2018

Song of the Day #1557

Song of the Day: The Bourne Identity ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by John Powell, gives us that pulsating, suspenseful motif we've come to expect from the film franchise. Matt Damon takes on the role of Jason Bourne in this 2002 film, the first film in the Bourne film series. He would go on to star in four of the five films in the series thus far.

February 19, 2018

Song of the Day #1556

Song of the Day: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Vocal), composed by Frank DeVol and Bobby Helfer, was derived from one of the rock-oriented themes from the soundtrack to the 1962 thriller starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. This single was actually released, featuring both Debbie Burton (who dubbed the singing voice of the young Baby Jane Hudson in the film) and Bette Davis. The single can be heard here and here [YouTube links]. Susan Sarandon, playing Bette Davis, nails it in Episode 4 of the series, "Feud," a miniseries on the legendary feud between the two actresses. Check out Davis's performance of this on the Andy Williams show in 1962, as well as a "mashup" of the Davis and Sarandon versions [YouTube links].

February 18, 2018

Song of the Day #1555

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ ("Chariot Race") [YouTube film clip], music by Carl Davis (for the restored 1987 version), highlights the rousing chariot race from the 1925 epic silent version of the famous Lew Wallace novel. The film stars Ramon Navarro as Judah Ben-Hur and Francis X. Bushman as Messala; they battle it out in one of the finest silent screen action sequences ever filmed. It is noteworthy that the 1959 Oscar champ, with its glorious film score by Miklos Rozsa, has no musical accompaniment for its famed chariot race [YouTube film clip excerpt], which was staged by famed Hollywood stuntman Yakima Canutt. It was a terrific choice, artistically speaking, because the audience is engulfed by the sounds of the arena---its gruesome violence depicted by the clashing chariots, their riders and horses, and thousands of extras, none of it generated by CGI effects. A silent film, however, had no such luxury; Carl Davis's soundtrack provides the audience with a dramatic motif that augments the action we view on screen. A genuine triumph. One other piece of cinema trivia: In this 1925 silent epic, William Wyler was an uncredited Assistant Director, and A. Arnold Gillespie was an uncredited set designer for the art department. Both Wyler and Gillespie would go on to win Oscars for the 1959 version, in the categories of Directing and Visual Effects, respectively.

February 17, 2018

Song of the Day #1554

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("The Mother's Love") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, is one of the most melancholy themes from this William Wyler-directed 1959 blockbuster, which won a record 11 Oscars, including a well-deserved one for its magnificent score. Equaled but not surpassed by "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in its Oscar tally, this epic is the only film among those holding the record to have won Oscars in the acting categories---one for Charlton Heston as Best Actor (in the role of Judah Ben-Hur) and the other for Hugh Griffith as Best Supporting Actor (in the role of Sheik Ilderim). Heston has the distinction of appearing in what is considered to be the last of the "classic" costume epics ("The Ten Commandments") and this, the first of the modern intimate "thinking man's" epics ("Ben-Hur"), noted for providing deep characterization amidst grand spectacle. Ironically, in both films, actress Martha Scott played Charlton Heston's mother (and today's theme captures "the mother's love" so poignantly). It's become a tradition during my annual film music tribute, which started way back in 2005, to pick a cue on this date, my birthday, from my all-time favorite film and film score---and I have no intention of changing that tradition anytime soon. How appropriate to highlight this selection especially for "the mother's love" that gave me life and nurtured me as I grew to maturity. Today also happens to be the 32nd Annual American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Awards, in both theatrical releases and television, hosted by TCM's Ben Mankiewicz. Apropos, among the 11 Oscars received by "Ben-Hur" was one for "Best Color Cinematography" by Robert Surtees. For this year's TCM "31 Days of Oscar" celebration, films are being featured by Oscar Award category each day. "Ben-Hur" is the final film---in the climactic final category of "Best Picture"---in TCM's annual tribute, scheduled for 2:45 a.m. ET on March 4th. It's the most obvious period at the end of any cinema sentence, since it is still among the most honored films in Oscar history.

February 16, 2018

Song of the Day #1553

Song of the Day: Where Eagles Dare ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Ron Goodwin for this 1968 British World War II film. The military thematic content is accentuated here, a musical set-up for the story to come. The film starred an international cast, which included Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. From the screenplay based on the novel by Alistair Maclean to the stunt work of the legendary Yakima Cannutt (who plays no small role in tomorrow's entry in our series), this film bursts with talent. "Broadsword calling Danny Boy!" [YouTube link].

February 15, 2018

Song of the Day #1552

Song of the Day: Cinderella ("A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes"), words and music by Mack David, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston, was sung by the character Cinderalla (vocalist Ilene Woods). It was on this date in 1950 that the Disney film, "Cinderalla," was released. This is one of the loveliest songs to emerge from the Disney musical catalogue. Listen to the original animated version of this song [YouTube link] and then check out an instrumental rendition that is among my favorites; it was recorded by the Rob Mounsey Orchestra for the album, "Jazz Loves Disney" [YouTube link].

February 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1551

Song of the Day: The Thomas Crown Affair ("Chess Scene") [YouTube link], composed by Michel Legrand, is featured in the original 1968 version of the film, starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. In this particular scene, the music augments the chemistry and sensuality between the stars. After viewing this sexually charged scene, you'll never again look at the game of chess the same. It's a nice way to celebrate those loving hormones often generated by Valentine's Day. Legrand lost the Oscar for Best Original Score, but got one for Best Original Song (along with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman) for the film's classic tune, "The Windmills of Your Mind" sung by Sting in the fine 1999 remake [YouTube link]).

Postscript: On Facebook, I added two comments on Michel Legrand:

And speaking of Michel Legrand (whose birthday I'll celebrate later this month as part of the Film Music February salute): a pair of "Olympic Athletes from Russia" did a lovely figure skating routine last night to an orchestral version of the Legrand theme to "Summer of '42". Beautiful.
Legrand is one of the most brilliant composers, arrangers, and conductors of the modern age. I saw him in concert many years ago at Hunter College, and actually went back stage to shake his hands (ever so lightly, because they were numb from having played his butt off for nearly 2 hours).
In any event, for those who have fallen in love with his film scores, there is a whole other side to him, which started with "Legrand Jazz", and has gone on till this day. His album with Sarah Vaughan, for example, is outstanding---the orchestrations beyond belief.
But one of his finest compositions is a three-movement orchestral piece, "Images," with Phil Woods as the featured alto saxophonist. The unison lines that Woods and Legrand play are breathtaking, and the improvisation within the piece is just remarkable (I didn't appreciate the level of improvisational brilliance until I heard a second recorded performance of this piece, certainly wonderful, but with a French alto saxman Herve Meschinet, who, as far as I am concerned, couldn't touch the dexterity and fluidity of Woods.)
In any event, the album ("Images"), on which the Woods version appears, received a Grammy Award for "Best Jazz Ensemble Album" in 1976, and the track, "Images," received the Grammy for "Best Instrumental Composition", both well deserved. You can check out the piece, in all its virtuosity, on YouTube. It is best heard with the volume all the way up, during the day---so as not to provoke the neighbors from calling the police.

February 13, 2018

Song of the Day #1550

Song of the Day: From the Terrace ("Love Theme") [Film Score Monthly excerpt link] was composed by Elmer Bernstein for this Paul Newman-Joanne Woodward 1960 film. The theme serves as the main title and can be heard in full at the beginning of this YouTube film link. This cue provides us with an example of Bernstein's capacity to write soaring, lush, and passionate themes.

February 12, 2018

Song of the Day #1549

Song of the Day: My Fair Lady ("On the Street Where You Live"), music by Frederick Lowe, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, was a highlight in the 1956 Broadway musical (in which it was sung by John Michael King [YouTube link], and in the 1964 film version, where is was sung by Bill Shirley, dubbing for actor Jeremy Brett. Check out the film score version here [YouTube link]. But I provide this additional "Song of the Day" today because I've just learned of the death of singer Vic Damone, another singer who was deeply influenced by Ol' Blue Eyes, who said of Damone that he had "the best pipes in the business." The Brooklyn-born Damone recorded the most popular version of this song, which went to #4 on the Billboard chart. Check it out on YouTube.

Song of the Day #1548

Song of the Day: The Rat Race ("Main Title" / "Soundtrack Suite") [YouTube link] was composed by Elmer Bernstein for the 1960 film, featuring Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds. It provides yet another taste of the jazzy sounds for which the composer was well known. Curtis plays a jazz saxophonist named Pete Hammond, Jr. in the film (one year after having played another jazz saxophonist named Josephine in the gender-bending comedy classic, "Some Like It Hot"), and he gets support from real-life jazz saxmen, Sam Butera and Gerry Mulligan.

February 11, 2018

Song of the Day #1547

Song of the Day: The Man with the Golden Arm ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Elmer Bernstein for the 1955 film featuring Frank Sinatra as a struggling heroin addict. The soundtrack has been characterized by some as the #1 jazz-infused score, due to Bernstein's integration of elements of West Coast Jazz and Afro-jazz. Also check out the theme as heard in the opening credits to the film. We'll be spending a little time with Bernstein's scores [a YouTube link to one of his rejected scores] over the next few days.

February 10, 2018

Song of the Day #1546

Song of the Day: Air Force One ("Main Title/The Parachutes") [YouTube link] was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who was born on this date in 1929. This theme is featured in the Wolfgang Peterson-directed 1997 film, which stars Harrison Ford as President James Marshall, whose Air Force One plane gets hijacked by Russian nationalists, led by Egor Korshunov, played to the villainous hilt by Gary Oldman (who is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar this year for his performance as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour"). The original score by Randy Newman was rejected by the studio and Goldsmith produced this heroic soundtrack in a miraculously swift twelve days.

February 09, 2018

Song of the Day #1545

Song of the Day: Peter Rabbit ("Feel It Still") is credited to the band that recorded it, Portugal. The Man (with credit for interpolations from "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes). The song, from the band's album, "Woodstock," reached #1 on six major Billboard charts, while being featured in several commercials and the soundtrack to the 2018 animated flick that hits theaters today, "Peter Rabbit"---about the famous "rascal rebel rabbit," with featured voice roles by Sia and James Corden, the host of this year's Grammy Awards. A Grammy winner in the category of "Best Pop Duo/Group Performance," this song is a pop-oriented, funky track with a retro feel. Check out the official video, and its use in two trailers to the film [YouTube link]. "Ooh, woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks now..." Irresistible.

February 08, 2018

Song of the Day #1544

Song of the Day: The Poseidon Adventure ("Main Title"), composed by birthday boy John Williams, opens the Irwin Allen-produced 1972 film. Allen was known as the Master of Disaster, and this disaster film, featuring a stellar ensemble cast, is one of the best. For this soundtrack, Williams, who turns 86 today, received an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Original Score, one of his remarkable 51 Oscar nominations---second only to Walt Disney, with 59 Oscar nominations. Though Disney's winning percentage is greater (22 wins out of 59 nominations to Williams's 5 wins out of 51 nominations), Williams is the most nominated living person in Oscar history. And how appropriate it is to celebrate a Williams birthday as the 2018 Winter Olympics begin; after all, he even wrote one of the famed Olympic themes [YouTube link].

February 07, 2018

Song of the Day #1543

Song of the Day: The Big Country ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Jerome Moross, opens the sprawling William Wyler-directed 1958 Western, starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Carroll Baker, and Burl Ives, who won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. And if it weren't for the relationship forged between Wyler and Heston in this film, Chuck would never have gone on to Oscar glory in "Ben-Hur." The Moross score received an Oscar nomination (but it lost to Dimitri Tiomkin's score for "The Old Man and the Sea").

February 06, 2018

Song of the Day #1542

Song of the Day: Sully ("Sully Reflects") [YouTube link] is credited to a musical collaboration between director Clint Eastwood, Christian Jacob, and the Tierney Sutton Band. It has that jazzy feel that one associates with all things Eastwood. This 2016 film tells the story of the Miracle on the Hudson in very personal terms. Tom Hanks gives us a measured, steady performance in the role of pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. At a time when the sight of any plane flying low over Manhattan Island would elicit a post-9/11 traumatic reaction, this is the story of a genuinely heroic Hudson River landing in which not a single person lost their life.

February 05, 2018

Song of the Day #1541

Song of the Day: Sunflower ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, opens up the 1970 Italian film ("I Girosoli"), starring Sophia Loren. This is truly a Mancini Musical Moment, just another example of why he was one of the most melodic composers in the history of film scoring. The soundtrack received an Oscar nomination for "Best Original Score" but lost out to the score from "Love Story."

February 04, 2018

Song of the Day #1540

Song of the Day: Say Something features the words and music of Larrance Dopson, Floyd Nathaniel Hills, Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley, Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake, who recorded this duet for JT's newly released album, "Man of the Woods." We interrupt our Film Music February tribute briefly only because JT will be doing the Half-Time show for Super Bowl Sunday. There should be no "wardrobe malfunctions" [YouTube link] this time around! Check out the official video to this electro-country-rock tune. Stapleton and Timberlake are no strangers to one another, having performed a duet melody at the Country Music Awards in 2015 [YouTube link]. And then check out today's game between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. Ugh. What's a New York football fan to do with that match up?! So, go JT! [Ed.: Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles on their First Super Bowl Win and to JT for Killin' It during Half-Time!]

Song of the Day #1539

Song of the Day: Eye for an Eye ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by James Newton Howard, opens up the 1996 thriller based on Erika Holzer's suspenseful novel of the same name. The film stars Sally Field and Kiefer Sutherland, in a role that is neither Jack Bauer-like nor Presidential. He's a sleaze and, well, I won't spoil it for you. But "an eye for an eye"...

February 03, 2018

Song of the Day #1538

Song of the Day: The Ten Commandments ("Go, Proclaim Liberty!") [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, is featured in the final scene to the Cecil B. DeMille epic story of Moses (played by Charlton Heston). The 1956 film received Oscar accolades for its eye-popping special effects. Till this day, I have a tendency to call any epic visual effect a "Red Sea Moment" [YouTube link].

February 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1537

Song of the Day: Against Time ("Main Theme") [site link], composed by my colleague and friend Michael Gordon Shapiro, is a sensitive orchestral theme to a 2001 film starring Oscar-winning actor Robert Loggia, as well as Craig T. Nelson and John Amos. The film was originally titled "All Over Again," but was released in 2007 as "Against Time." Shapiro's touching score is a quintessential example of how scoring can enhance a film's emotional impact. This main theme is only one example of his many gifts (for those who own a DVD copy of the film, the "Deleted Opening Music" can be found in the "Special Features" section, but this lovely theme can be heard in variations throughout the film). Somewhat ironically, it is fitting to feature a song from a time travel movie on a day when groundhogs are telling us how much more time we have to wait for Spring!

February 01, 2018

Song of the Day #1536

Song of the Day: Speed, words and music by Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, is the title theme of a 1994 thriller, starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, and Sandra Bullock. This hard-rocking song is classic Idol, a perfect match for a hard-rocking film. Check out the official video (featuring some scenes from the film) as we kick Film Music February into high gear!

January 31, 2018

Song of the Day #1535

Song of the Day: Rosemary's Baby ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Krzysztof Komeda, features the vocals of "Rosemary Woodhouse" herself: actress Mia Farrow. This creepy, haunting theme opens the equally creepy, haunting 1968 horror film, directed by Roman Polanski and produced by William Castle. The film is based on the 1967 novel by Ira Levin, among whose influences was Ayn Rand. Rand loved his first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, but went ballistic over this horror classic, viewing it as an embodiment of the Middle Age's obscene "spirit." Rand may not have been a fan of horror movies, but this film is one of the most intense psychological thrillers of its era. "All of them witches!"

January 30, 2018

Song of the Day #1534

Song of the Day: Evita ("Don't Cry for Me Argentina") features the lyrics of Tim Rice and the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who, along with Leonard Bernstein, was honored on Sunday night, January 28, 2018, at the Grammy Awards. This song was famously delivered in the original 1979 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical production of "Evita," by Tony Award-winning Patti LuPone, who played the lead role of the Argentine political figure, Eva Peron. LuPone revisited this song at the Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday [see her brilliant Grammy performance here]. Check out LuPone's rendition from the Broadway cast album, and Madonna's performance in the 1996 film version, as well as its inevitable dance remix [YouTube links], which went to #1 on the Billboard dance chart. Even though this song is from a Broadway production, it appeared in a film, which is why it's part of our Film Music February tribute en route to the Oscars. As part of this annual series, we cover everything from songs and cues to main themes and source music.

January 29, 2018

Song of the Day #1533

Song of the Day: West Side Story ("Cool"), music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is one of the highlights to the score of the Broadway musical and 1961 Oscar-winning film version of "West Side Story." Yesterday, the Grammys celebrated the contributions of the great Leonard Bernstein, in this, the year of his centenary (I will feature some classic Bernstein around the time of his 100th birthday on August 25th). The very talented Ben Platt---who won a Tony Award for "Dear Evan Hansen" and yesterday, as part of the cast, he was a winner in the Grammy category of "Best Musical Theater Album"---sang "Somewhere" [check out his tribute here from the famed score]. Three cheers to the Grammys for featuring music not confined to the pop charts and for providing us a smooth transition (albeit an early kick-off) to Film Music February, our annual tribute to film score music as we approach the 90th Academy Awards. Check out the film version of this song [YouTube link], with the lead sung by Tucker Smith as the "Jets" character "Ice," highlighted by the brilliant choreography of Jerome Robbins. Word has it that director Steven Spielberg has acquired the rights to remake this musical classic, which won 10 Academy Awards, the most of any movie musical. Spielberg is certainly one of my all-time favorite directors. And his relationship with composer John Williams has added such depth to even his most popcorn-friendly summer blockbusters. We've been assured that the remake will retain the Bernstein score, but the only question I have is: Why would anyone want to remake "West Side Story"? (On another topic, actually a postscript to our Bruno-fest, which concluded yesterday, Grammy Day: Mars won everything for which he was nominated in a clean sweep! Six Grammys, including "Song," "Record," and "Album" of the Year! Can I pick 'em, or what?)

January 28, 2018

Song of the Day #1532

Song of the Day: That's What I Like, credited to an ensemble of writers, including Philip Lawrence, Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, and Bruno Mars, is nominated for "Song of the Year," "Best R&B Song," and "Best R&B Performance," at this year's 60th Annual Grammy Awards, which will be televised tonight on CBS. Bruno is scheduled to perform on the show; whether he wins or not, he's obviously got a fan in me! Check out the album version, the video single, a remix featuring Ludacris and Gucci Mane, and a house remix by Lightstruck and Sir Eri.

January 27, 2018

Song of the Day #1531

Song of the Day: Calling All My Lovelies, words and music by the Bruno Mars crew, is one of those soulful "molasses-slow" grooves from "24K Magic," the Grammy-nominated "Best R&B Album of the Year" by Bruno Mars. On this track, even Oscar-award winning actress Halle Berry makes a cameo appearance. Check out the album version [YouTube link] and a live performance at the Apollo [DailyMotion link, around the 16-minute mark].

January 26, 2018

Song of the Day #1530

Song of the Day: Perm, words and music by Bruno Mars and his group of writers, is one of the highlights from "24K Magic," nominated in the Grammy category of "Album of the Year." This track definitely channels James Brown. It is an infectious, playful throwback, like the album from which it comes. Check out the album version [YouTube link], a live performance at the Apollo [DailyMotion link, around the 10-minute mark], where Bruno shows off a few Brown moves, and a Car Pool Karaoke version with James Corden [YouTube links], who will host this year's Grammy Awards. "Throw some Perm on your attitude ... you gotta relax!"

January 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1529

Song of the Day: Versace on the Floor, words and music by an ensemble of writers (including some of the Hooligans), led by Bruno Mars, is a slow, sensuous gem from "24K Magic," which has garnered six Grammy nominations in various categories for the 60th Annual Grammy Awards, to be broadcast this Sunday, January 28th, from Madison Square Garden in New York City. This artist has consciously integrated the diverse sounds of everything from doo wop to classic rock to hip hop in his music, richly influenced by an eclectic group of musical heroes, including Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, Prince (check out last year's Prince tribute with The Time at the Grammys on VIMEO), James Brown, Bob Marley, Jimi Hendrix, Little Richard, and Elvis Presley, whom he impersonated as a child. It is reflected in his compositions, singing, dancing, and live performances. I'll be featuring a few more tracks from this 2017 album, one of my favorites of the year, from one of my favorite artists and concert performers, leading up to the Grammys. Let's call it a mini-Bruno-fest to follow our mini-Django-fest. (And to answer those who asked the tacky question: No, this is not the "Main Title" to the new Ryan Murphy-produced series, "The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.") Check out the album version, the video version, a live performance at the 2017 Billboard Music Awards, and a David Guetta remix [YouTube links].

January 24, 2018

Song of the Day #1528

Song of the Day: Bossa Dorado, composed by French guitarist and violinist Dorado Schmitt, is a fitting exploration of "gypsy jazz," which owes its origins to the great jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt, whose birthday we celebrated yesterday. It shows the remarkable range of Django's influence on jazz. Accordian player Ludovic Beier delivers a wonderful live take on this Schmitt composition [YouTube link], which fuses gypsy jazz with a Latin feel. Beier has been influenced by everyone from Django to Toots Thielemans and Chick Corea.

January 23, 2018

Song of the Day #1527

Song of the Day: Djangology [YouTube link] was composed by the legendary gypsy jazz guitarist, Django Reinhardt, who was born on this date in 1910. He was one of the first Europeans to contribute significantly to an American musical idiom, especially with his initial work as a member of the Quintet of the Hot Club of France (which featured another immortal musician: jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli). And for a man who suffered with two paralyzed fingers on his left hand, Django played more notes with a thumb and two fingers than most others with full-functioning digits! He would have been perfect for an interview in Folks! Django influenced artists from many genres, including Les Paul, Jeff Beck, Chet Atkins, Joe Pass, and countless others. Tomorrow, we'll feature another instrumentalist greatly influenced by the Master.

January 20, 2018

Folks Interview: "How the Queen of Selfishness Taught Me to Accept My Disability"

Freelance writer Robert Lerose recently interviewed me for Folks, an online magazine "dedicated to telling the stories of remarkable people who refuse to be defined by their health issues." The interview is featured in this week's edition and can be read here---though for some reason, it also appears here. (Disclaimer: I am not responsible for the title of the essay or the accompanying links provided at either site.)

The piece focuses on my lifelong medical adventures with the congenital gastro-vascular disorder, Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome (SMAS); an intestinal by-pass (known as a duodenojejunostomy), performed by the gifted surgeon, Dr. Bochetto, saved my life at the age of 14.

I was diagnosed with this extremely rare condition when I was literally near death. It was my family physician, Dr. Karounos, who did a GI Series in his office (they did that back then!), and who suggested after years of misdiagnosis, that I might have SMAS. It was the great Japanese doctor, Hiromi Shinya, who nailed the diagnosis with an upper tract endoscopic procedure known as an esaphagogastroduodenoscopy. As the pioneer of gastrointestinal endoscopic and colonoscopic techniques, Dr. Shinya developed and taught its most fundamental principles to a whole generation of doctors who, to this day, stand on his "Atlas"-like shoulders (including the utterly brilliant, affable, terrific, musical[!], Dr. Mark Cwern, one of Dr. Shinya's proteges, who has supervised so much of my quality healthcare for nearly three decades now).

There have been severe complications caused by this condition and the body's manner of coping with the surgical changes that were necessary to my survival. Today, on the eve of my 58th birthday, with 60+ surgical procedures since that 1974 surgery, I am alive and kickin', thanks to the efforts of so many wonderful physicians and the love and support of family and friends.

Interestingly, in all my years on this planet, I have never heard this condition mentioned anywhere. It was only recently that I saw its potentially devastating effects dramatized in Episode 2 of the first season of "The Good Doctor," starring Freddie Highmore as Dr. Shaun Murphy, a brilliant surgical resident at San Jose St. Bonaventure Hospital, who just so happens to have autism and savant syndrome. In the episode, Murphy is able to visualize in his mind certain troubling symptoms present in one of his young patients. It sends him running to the child’s house, banging on the door in the middle of the night to the consternation of the child’s parents. He refuses to leave unless he can see the child to make sure she is okay. As it turns out, he saves the child’s life because he correctly diagnoses her as having a terminal condition in which the small intestine is twisted around the Superior Mesenteric Artery.

This was the first time in my entire life that I ever saw anyone in any medium—be it film, television, radio, or literature—even mention or suggest the condition known as Superior Mesenteric Artery Syndrome. The disorder is that rare. It is my hope that the mere mention of SMAS on national television might bring more attention to its causes, treatment, and perhaps, someday, to its complete eradication from the human condition.

My deepest appreciation to Robert Lerose for making "folks" aware of this medical problem---and of the possibility that individuals can survive and flourish despite the limitations that they may face from health issues. Again, check out the interview at Folks.

I'd also like to express my gratitude to my friend Don Hauptman, who thought my story was worth telling, and who put Robert Lerose in touch with me. (Only once before this interview, back in 2005, had I discussed the impact of Ayn Rand on my capacity to deal with---and transcend some of the limitations of---a lifelong disability. See here.)

Postscript: Various folks shared my Facebook post of this interview, and there have been so many wonderful comments from so many caring people. Some of the comments have been hilarious. My friend Steve Horwitz, for example, picked up on one of the phrases in my interview and said: "I am amused that Chris Matthew Sciabarra chose this turn of phrase to describe his inner life: 'I am constitutionally incapable of keeping anything in.'" As I remarked in my reply to Steve, I chose that phrase quite consciously. I guess my inner life or my way of dealing with things emotionally is a reflection, in part, of, uh, the nature of my physical disability.

But one comment that I found interesting came from a discussion with regard to an individual who, like Dr. Shaun Murphy in "The Good Doctor" (mentioned above) is on the autism spectrum. Some folks think there is just no comparison between a person suffering a neurological disorder versus a person like myself, who has had 60+ surgeries for a congenital gastro-vascular condition. I responded:

I've learned one thing about the nature of disability, and perhaps it is a lesson that comes from economics: one cannot make interpersonal comparisons of utility or disutility. If you have a disability, the nature of that disability is almost irrelevant, from the perspective of "Mine is worse than yours." If it is your disability, it is something you must come to terms with, and it is as much a 'burden' for a person who has a gastro-vascular disorder as it is for a person who has a neurological one.
I would like to think that my interview has a more universal message: that it is possible to accept oneself as a bundle of possibilities, regardless of the limitations that one faces, and to make the most of them.

I emphasized that point of "interpersonal comparisons of utility" in another comment in the same Facebook thread, where I declared that there was no room for shame in thinking that one's problems seem to be minute in comparison to the problems faced by others:

We all can be Stoic in the face of life's difficulties, but no amount of pretending can cover the real pain each of us feels carrying the burdens of health and other problems that are unique to each of us in our own lives. To use an old metaphor, we all seem to have some cross that we are carrying---the trick is not to allow yourself to be crucified on it. But as long as it is your cross that you're carrying, it is still your cross---and each person knows how heavy the burdens can be. Economists are correct: No room for interpersonal comparisons of utility or disutility; let us just be happy that we can have friends and build a community around the idea that there is something heroic about celebrating that which is good, creative, and productive inside each of us. That's one of the gifts I got from Rand's work.
As I said in another thread, I'm, uh, constitutionally incapable of keeping anything in, including the words that come flowing out of my own mouth! Best to get it off your chest, your gut, your mind, whatever! It's positively unhealthy to hold back, especially with those who can be empathetic and supportive.

The Facebook post has been shared by quite a few people, and the Folks story has over 150 shares already. My friend David Boaz remarked: "I am amused to discover that my good friend Chris Sciabarra first encountered the work of Ayn Rand in his days at John Dewey High School. This is an interesting interview about how Rand and Nathaniel Branden helped him deal with a congenital illness that has plagued him throughout his very productive life." I replied:

I chuckled at your opening remark. :)
Regarding having discovered Rand at John Dewey High School (and we all know how much Rand loved Dewey as a pragmatist philosopher), I do have to say that the school was truly the embodiment of individualism in education---we were able to construct our major around five 6-week cycle semesters, which were specialized courses in virtually every discipline, with vigorous independent study. Back then, it was truly one of the gems of the NYC public school system!

January 13, 2018

Song of the Day #1526

Song of the Day: They All Laughed, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, was first heard in the 1937 film "Shall We Dance," where Ginger Rogers introduced it before joining her legendary dance partner Fred Astaire in a classic routine [YouTube links]. This standard from the Great American Songbook has been recorded by many wonderful jazz artists from Ella to Sassy [YouTube links]. In last night's PBS broadcast of "Tony Bennett: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song," a wealth of talent performed to honor Tony as the newest recipient of the award. As the first "interpretive singer" to be so honored, Tony opened up his own set with this standard. His rendition last night swung hard, but YouTube has a few versions at more moderate swing tempos, from "The Essential George Gershwin," a 1999 live version with Tony's long-time pianist Ralph Sharon, and in a peppy duet with Lady Gaga from their album, "Cheek to Cheek" [YouTube links].

January 08, 2018

Golden Globes and Golden Memories

I watched the 75th annual Golden Globe Awards last night, and enjoyed the festivities; as most folks know, we are fast approaching that time of the year when I begin my annual tribute to film music (dubbed "Film Music February", which, this year, will run from February 1 till March 4, the date of the 90th Annual Academy Awards). In any event, I posted this comment on the site of the Miklos Rozsa Society today; we were asked: "Can You Remember the Moment You Discovered Rozsa and His Music," and I replied:

I don't remember the first date exactly, but my mother had the collectible soundtrack with accompanying book [to "Ben-Hur"], having seen the film around Christmas 1959 in New York City at the Loew's State Theatre (where the film debuted in November of that year). I was born in February 1960, so I was most likely serenaded by Rozsa while still awaiting my entrance into this world. Later on, maybe when I was around 5 years old, I had manifested a real love for music, listening to everything from Chubby Checker and Joey Dee to Ahmad Jahmal, Joe Pass, and the soundtrack to "Ben-Hur." Indeed, by the time I saw the film in its re-release at the Palace Theatre in NYC in 1969, I knew virtually every note of the soundtrack, and had fallen in love with it. It only predisposed me to utterly fall in love with the film, which remains my all-time favorite till this day.
I tell the story of my first encounter with that epic film, my all-time favorite, here and explain why it's my all-time favorite, here.

I look forward to this year's Film Music February, as my entries are already locked and loaded, awaiting release on Notablog. It should be fun.

I also hope to publish my long-awaited comparative review of the 2016 version of "Ben-Hur" with its predecessors sometime later in the spring--when the snow has disappeared from the streets of Brooklyn, and Easter is in the air!

Postscript [9 January 2018]: My pal, Michael Shapiro, says that Rozsa's film score to "El Cid kicks Ben-Hur's butt, musically speaking," and I replied:

Well, it's hard to argue with Rozsa versus Rozsa; I love the score to "El Cid" too much to say anything negative about it. I suspect it's just a personal thing... how I connected with "Ben-Hur" as a child (maybe even before being born!), and how it made such a huge impression on me before even seeing the film. (I think I can say, however, that "Ben-Hur" is the superior film; but there's no doubt that "El Cid" is beautiful to look at---Sophia Loren alone is beautiful to look at!---and a heroic tale.)

Michael raised the "deus ex machina problem" of the film, and I responded:

I deal with that "deus ex machina" problem in my essay on the subject. At least I think I do. I think that Wyler loads the 1959 film with remarkable symbolism every step of the way, which can be viewed in strictly secular terms, especially in the manner in which he uses water, blood, stone, light, and darkness. The Biblical "miracle" in the film is depicted by the cleansing of leprosy. But that can be viewed as a metaphor for the real "miracle" that takes place in Judah Ben-Hur's soul, his tale one that mirrors the "Tale of the Christ," which bookends the film.
It's truly an amazing and intimate epic that uses the Biblical subtext to show the transformation of an individual, as he goes from a prince among his people to an unjustly condemned man who eventually vanquishes his enemy in an empty victory, which embitters him and consumes him with hatred and vengeance. By film's end, the events he witnesses remove "the sword" from his hand and spirit, as he finds a road to individual redemption.
I find the film very uplifting on so many levels. A really excellent book on the subject, edited by Barbara Ryan and Milette Shamir is Bigger than Ben-Hur: The Book, Its Adaptations, & Their Audiences. I don't agree with every essay, but I think it clearly shows that, as my own essay suggests, even "atheists" can appreciate this very earthly tale of struggle and triumph.

I added:

Wyler once said that it took a Jew to make a really good film about Christ. Considering his resume, he also said he took on the film because he wanted to have the experience of making a "Cecil B. DeMille" film. The irony is that in many ways, he retains the spectacle of a DeMille film, but ushers in the first "intimate epic" of its time, which would change the nature of epics thereafter (witness "Spartacus", for example, released in 1960).
A little bit of trivia: Wyler was an uncredited assistant on the 1925 silent version of "Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ."

Still...

There could have been no Wyler, no "Spartacus", and so forth, without a DeMille. (For that matter, DeMille had a soft spot in his heart for a young woman named Ayn Rand; and Rand and her husband-to-be, Frank O'Connor, were extras in, of all DeMille films, the silent version of "The King of Kings.")
DeMille often said that the key to success in his Biblical costume dramas was to have just the right mixture of scripture... and sex---and you'll find that on display in everything from "Sign of the Cross" to "Samson and Delilah," and the two versions (silent and sound) of "The Ten Commandments."

January 05, 2018

Song of the Day #1525

Song of the Day: Finesse has quite a few contributors to its words and music, including Philip Lawrence, Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, and Bruno Mars, who recorded this song for his superb third solo album, "24K Magic" (and I've got a few more fav tracks I'll be featuring soon). He kills it in concert (he certainly did at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn and Live at the Apollo in Harlem [DailyMotion link; can be viewed about 7 minutes in]). The song, like the album on which it is featured, is an exercise in throwback; this one harks back to the New Jack Swing sound of the late 1980s and early 1990s. Check out the album version and a new remix [YouTube links] just released yesterday, featuring rapper Cardi B, in a video tribute to "In Living Color." Jennifer Lopez, one of the original "Fly Girls," responded to the homage with a clip from the famed Wayans-produced TV show.

January 01, 2018

Song of the Day #1524

Song of the Day: My Dear Acquaintance (A Happy New Year) features the music of Paul Horner and the lyrics of Peggy Lee, who recorded this song for a Christmas album. There are few songs that express as many good wishes for the new year as this one. Check out the recordings by Peggy Lee and a cover by Regina Spektor [YouTube links]. A Happy and Healthy New Year to All!

December 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1523

Song of the Day: The Christmas Blues, words and music by David Holt and Sammy Cahn, is, yes, a bluesy song for this Christmas, recorded most famously by Dean Martin [YouTube link] and heard on the "L.A. Confidential" soundtrack. It was later recorded by Jo Stafford [YouTube link]. Don't let the blues get you down [link to "A Charlie Brown Christmas" Medley by jazz pianist David Benoit; hat tip to Alexandra York]! A very Merry Christmas with peace on earth and goodwill to one and all!

December 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1522

Song of the Day: Snow, words and music by Irving Berlin, was originally written for the Broadway musical, "Call Me Madam," with the title "Free," but it was eventually dropped, and resurrected with some new lyrics for the 1954 film, "White Christmas." In the film, it is sung by Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, and Vera-Ellen [YouTube link]. My gut instincts tell me that New York City is going to have a lot of that white stuff this winter. But nothing warms the heart more than a little dusting on Christmas Eve, the silence of the night brightened with twinkling Christmas decorations. Right now, it looks like New York City is going to have a mixture of a Wet and slightly White Christmas this year; but that doesn't mean we can't track Santa on NORAD in his global travels!

December 13, 2017

Song of the Day #1521

Song of the Day: Night Fever is a song written and recorded by the Brothers Gibb (or as they are more famously referred to as "The Bee Gees"). It made its first appearance on the mega-soundtrack to the 1977 hit movie, "Saturday Night Fever," a film that was released forty years ago this week. I did a 30th anniversary salute to the soundtrack, so there weren't many other tunes to choose from---but there is no better one to feature than the one that seems to have inspired the very title of the pathbreaking film, which brought international fame to John Travolta who, as Tony Manero, hustled his way onto the dance floor of Brooklyn's 2001 Odyssey disco (which later became a gay dance club named Spectrum and today is a Chinese restaurant). Check out the classic original recording by the Bee Gees and then the scene in which it is heard in the film [YouTube links].

December 12, 2017

Song of the Day #1520

Song of the Day: The Birth of the Blues, music by Ray Henderson, lyrics by Buddy G. DeSylva and Lew Brown, was incorporated into the 1926 Broadway revue, "George White's Sandals." It has been recorded by many artists throughout the years, including the 1926 version by Paul Whiteman and His Orchestra [YouTube link]. But today is the birthday of Ol' Blue Eyes, who himself was deeply influenced by jazz and the blues. And what better way to celebrate it than with one of Frank Sinatra's hits (it spent five weeks on the Billboard charts). Take a listen to Sinatra's solo recording from 1952 [YouTube link] and then, watch a very special live TV rendition on "The Edsel Show," with Louis Armstrong [YouTube link].

November 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1519

Song of the Day: It's a Charlie Brown Thanksgiving ("Thanksgiving Theme") [YouTube link], music composed and performed by the Vince Guaraldi Trio for this 1973 animated feature, is one of those recognizable jazz themes long associated with all things "Peanuts." Thanksgiving is often viewed as the kick-off to the holiday season (though nowadays, stores seem to be putting up holiday decorations before Labor Day!). Despite much heartache over the past year, I never fail to count the many blessings for which I am thankful---loving family and friends, warm memories, passionate work, the wonderful food on this holiday that only a loving home can provide--and, of course, the sweetness of all the music I have celebrated in "My Favorite Songs." A Happy Thanksgiving to All!

October 31, 2017

Song of the Day #1518

Song of the Day: Ghosts, words and music by Michael Jackson and Teddy Riley, was first featured on Jackson's album, "HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I," but can also be found on a newly released album, "Scream," just in time for Halloween. In fact, many of the songs from this new compilation album could be heard in the most recent MJ animated special, "Michael Jackson's Halloween," seen on CBS last week. It was also the basis of an ambitious video written by MJ and Stephen King, and directed by Stan Winston. A short form of the video can be found on YouTube. Also check out Mousse T's Club Mix, the DJ Rmx extended version, and the Stepper's Mix. And for old time's sake, check out the King of All King of Pop Videos, the John Landis-directed short film for "Thriller" [YouTube link], featuring the great Vincent Price, and recently named by Billboard magazine as the #1 Halloween-themed recording. Check out the video version prepared for "This is It" and the Steve Aoki Remix too! And have a Happy Halloween!

October 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1517

Song of the Day: Blueberry Hill, music by Vincent Rose, lyrics by Larry Stock and Al Lewis, was a big hit for the Big Man: Fats Domino, who died yesterday at the age of 89. This song was a staple of the 1940s swing era, but became an early rock and roll classic when Domino recorded it in 1956. The song went to #2 on the Top 40, and was at #1 on the R&B chart for 11 weeks, selling an estimated 5 million copies worldwide. Check out the original Domino single [YouTube link].

October 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1516

Song of the Day: Jazz Samba [YouTube link], composed by one of the best, the arranger and composer, Claus Ogerman, can be heard on "Intermodulation" (1966), one of the finest duet albums ever recorded, featuring the incomparable Bill Evans on piano and the equally incomparable Jim Hall on guitar. Perhaps my favorite track on this album is "All Across the City," a lovely Hall composition [YouTube link], but this one, in which the great guitarist provides comp support for Evans's swinging ways, is, to my knowledge, probably the only samba that Evans ever recorded. I'm sure this piece would have been on any playlist of my dear friend, the late Michael Southern, given his passion for the great Evans.

September 29, 2017

Michael Southern: Triumphs and Tragedy

In May 1981, I had earned my undergraduate degree magna cum laude from New York University, with a triple major in politics, economics, and history (with honors). To say I was stoked to have been accepted to the NYU doctoral program in politics, where I would go on in 1983, to earn a master's degree in political theory, and in 1988, a Ph.D. with distinction in political theory, philosophy, and methodology, is an understatement. I was positively ecstatic.

I had, by this time, laid out a path of professional goals that merged my passionate libertarian political convictions with a rigorous course of study that would include seminars and colloquia with scholars that only New York University could offer. I would study with such Austrian-school economists as Israel Kirzner, Mario Rizzo, Don Lavoie, and others, as well as leftist political and social theorists such as Bertell Ollman and Wolf Heydebrand. In this combustible intersection of ideas, there would emerge the seeds of what would become a life-long commitment to the development of a "dialectical libertarianism", and a trilogy of books---Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism---that would articulate the foundations of that approach.

Alas, these scholarly goals were made all the more joyful to achieve because of so many individuals whose lives touched mine in ways that were fundamental both to my intellectual and personal growth as a human being.

One of these individuals was a guy named Michael Southern. It was September 1981, my first day as an NYU graduate student, when I walked into Professor Israel Kirzner's seminar on the "History of Economic Thought." Looking around the room, few seats were available, so I found myself sitting next to Michael. When Kirzner finished his first lecture, logically structured as one would expect from any esteemed student of the great Ludwig von Mises, I introduced myself to Michael. He seemed a little shy at first, but I think he was genuinely surprised by my friendliness and that unmistakable Brooklyn accent. We went to a local cafe and talked for a very long time. I got to know a lot about him in that first encounter.

I learned, for example, that he was two years older than me, almost to the day: I was born on February 17, 1960; he was born on February 23, 1958. I also learned that he hailed from Massachusetts, and was a rabid Boston Red Sox fan. Back then, that was almost a non-starter for me.

After all, I was and remain a New York Yankees fanatic. We jousted and dueled over the Curse of the Bambino, and argued about who really deserved the American League MVP for the 1978 baseball season: the Red Sox hot-hitting outfielder Jim Rice or the Yankee pitching ace, and Cy Young Award winner, Ron Guidry, who went 25-3, with a 1.74 ERA. In 1978, the Yankees were 14 1/2 games behind the Red Sox in July, and on the last day of the season, they found themselves in a tie for first place. And, I argued, no man was more valuable to that team than Guidry, who had pitched back-to-back two-hit shutouts against Boston down the stretch, and won the deciding extra 163rd game of the season, enabling the Yanks to advance to the AL Championship series against the Kansas City Royals, and ultimately to win their second straight World Series over the Los Angeles Dodgers. Michael was going on and on about Rice's hitting. Blah, blah, blah.

In any event, it wasn't Guidry's victory that was the most memorable aspect of that deciding game; it was a miraculous 3-run homer hit over Fenway Park's Green Monster by the Yankee shortstop Bucky "F*&%ing" Dent, as Michael put it, who had hit a measly four homers prior to this game throughout the entire season. But that homer lifted the Yanks ahead for good. I guess Michael was still a little bitter. For Dent, apparently, was as beloved by Boston fans as Bill "F*&%ing" Buckner, whose fielding error in Game Six of the 1986 World Series, ultimately allowed the New York Mets to win the trophy in Game Seven. Even this diehard Yankees fan reveled in Boston's loss that year! Oh was it fun locking horns with Michael on these issues.

Animated baseball disagreements aside, it was clear that Michael and I had a lot in common; we were both avid fans of Ayn Rand, devoted readers of Nathaniel Branden, extremely interested in politics and culture, lovers of film and of music from jazz to progressive rock. All he had to say was that he had seen my favorite jazz pianist Bill Evans perform live, and that he had fallen in love with the emotional depth of his music, and I just knew that there was something very special about this man.

Over time, our friendship deepened; he'd tell me about some trouble he was having with a girl he was dating, I'd tell him about my own dating woes; we talked about our families, our friends, our goals, our triumphs, and our tragedies. He had extraordinary qualities about him; he was perceptive, intelligent, gentle, kind, compassionate, and had a great sense of humor.

By holiday time in December, that sense of humor manifested itself on both sides of the baseball divide. Michael gifted me a Jim Rice T-shirt, which I own till this day, and I gifted him a Ron Guidry T-shirt. Such was the nature of our developing affection for one another.

He had taken a waiter's job at the Cheese Cellar on East 54th Street in Manhattan, which became a regular stop for me and my family. The waiter's service was terrific, I might add. As he got to know my jazz guitarist brother Carl and jazz vocalist sister-in-law Joanne, and saw them perform at so many jazz clubs in Manhattan, loving their music, he eventually offered to do a website for them (as he would eventually develop my own website---all for free).

But something was troubling him deeply, early in that first semester, as the class with Kirzner continued. I'm paraphrasing the conversation from memory, but it went something like this. He said to me: "I can see you coming from blocks away. You just have a way about you. It's in your walk. Your step. It's never timid, but it's not overbearing. It's just the walk of a man comfortable in his own body, walking purposefully to his destination, wherever that might be. The way you walk is a bit of an inspiration to me. I just don't walk that way. I don't feel that way inside."

My walk? Lord . . . I'd never even given a second thought to the way I walked. And here, my friend was telling me that there was something in my walk that inspired him, and that made him focus on the things that he felt he lacked. He had attended weekend Intensives in New York run by Nathaniel Branden and his wife Devers Branden, and felt that they had tapped into something that needed greater attention.

I was no professional, but I was becoming a very dear and trusted friend. I tried to help him through it, with long phone conversations into the wee hours, but he seemed stuck, unable to get through a term paper for Kirzner's class. It was then that he made a momentous decision that I figured spelled the end of a friendship; he decided he was too overwhelmed by the course, that something deeper was at work, and that he needed help. As he put it later in "My Years with Nathaniel Branden," a deeply personal essay written for The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposium, "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy":

For the third time, I'd finished reading The Psychology of Self-Esteem, Breaking Free, and The Disowned Self, all books by Nathaniel Branden. I placed my meager belongings in a backpack, went to the Registrar's Office at New York University's Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, officially withdrew from Graduate School, booked a flight, and in two days landed at Los Angeles International airport; I had come to be a client of Nathaniel Branden.
Prior to my time at NYU, I had finished an undergraduate degree with honors. I was thrilled when I got accepted to NYU, to study the history of economic thought under Israel Kirzner, who had been a student of Ludwig von Mises­---both being giants in the field to me. And as it all nicely fell into place, I froze.
I don't ever remember this happening to me before. While Kirzner's class was better than even I had anticipated, I couldn't write the paper for the course. I sat at home, or at the library with ten and twelve books piled up in front of me, but I couldn't begin. Anything I thought about writing seemed trivial after a little research. I began to panic so that the more I tried to push myself, the greater the feeling that whatever I produced wouldn't be enough. I tried everything I knew to get myself "back on track." I believed I had something to offer, but I was paralyzed, much like an actor might experience stage fright. I spoke with Kirzner, and he was kind and logical and gave me some suggestions, but I was too in awe of him to show just how lost I was in terms of generating a paper. It seemed an emotional block, not an intellectual one; how could I ask for his help for an emotional problem? I understood the coursework, and the books on his reading list. I just couldn't seem to create.
...
Sitting in an outdoor cafe in the Village I reached in my backpack for The Disowned Self. I ordered coffee, threw the waiter a gigantic tip so he'd leave me alone, lit a cigarette (you could do that back then), and read the entire book, slowly, making notes; the lights and noise of the West Village turned on around me as night fell.
The next day I headed for Los Angeles, wanting to resolve, heal, and grow. I was beginning to suspect that I had had a particularly difficult childhood, and had responded to it by shutting down huge parts of myself.

To my surprise, Michael and I never lost touch. He was in therapy with Nathaniel Branden, and making strides. Every so often, we'd speak, not so much about the details of his therapy, but more about how he was challenging himself to keep moving . . . forward. Sometimes a month would pass, or two, and he'd call, and it was as if the last conversation had occurred only an hour ago; we picked up where we left off, never missing a beat. And during this period, as I faced my own trials and tribulations---with everything from relationships to my health problems (an outgrowth of a congenital intestinal condition)---he was as present and tuned-in to me, as I was to him. This was never a one-way street; the friendship that I thought would be lost by distance, had intensified. And the feeling that he was a "brotha from another mutha" only deepened. It was clear that we loved one another as only brothers could---something that geographic distance did nothing to alter.

As Michael explained in that wonderful essay of his, he was able to work through so many of his problems; he credited Nathaniel Branden and Devers Branden with saving years of his life. He would become an intern for Branden and then an office manager at Branden's Biocentric Institute in Beverly Hills, California. He'd go back to school to earn a master of science in management from Lesley College and a master of science in information systems from Boston University. As a technology specialist, he did wonderful work for Fortune 500 companies.

Through all the years, our friendship only grew. He would go on to develop my website, and the original website of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. In fact, he was a member of the JARS family from its beginnings in 1999, as we unveiled the website on the day that our first issue was published. While I remained with NYU as a Visiting Scholar for twenty years (I guess you could say I bleed "violet"), he would travel the world. He was never so far away, however, that he didn't participate once or twice in my cyberseminars on "Dialectics and Liberty." Eventually he married, and even moved back to New York City for a while, living in the Bay Ridge section of Brooklyn.

There were bumps along the way---though never between us. His marriage didn't work out, his work took him out of New York again, and his interests, especially in the history of the Holocaust, took him to other countries. But again, geographic distance never seemed to interfere with our friendship. Eventually, he came back to the states, and his software expertise gave him many job opportunities, including business with a company in Detroit, Michigan, where he worked for several years.

Indeed, his software expertise was certainly highly valued by JARS; the two of us worked hard in 2015-2016 as he created a brand spanking-new website for the journal, which made its debut with the Nathaniel Branden symposium, to which he contributed that enormously revealing and enlightening essay.

In many ways, writing that essay was, for Michael, a catharsis of sorts; while it served the greater symposium's purpose of understanding the work and legacy of Branden, it also served as a profoundly personal statement of how Michael stood up courageously to the challenges he faced. It was a commitment to a life of promise, of so much more to come.

Immediately after the debut of the new JARS site and the publication of our Branden symposium, Michael began working on a prototype to finally revamp my website, which, he said, "embarrassed" him because he'd become so much more sophisticated in his software development. We had so many plans for so many projects.

But, of course, life always seemed to get in the way of smooth transitions. As my own health problems became more difficult to bear, he spent as many hours on the phone with me in 2016, as I had spent on the phone with him in 1981, except that now, we both knew each other so well that we could complete each other's sentences, anticipate each other's thoughts. Thirty-five-plus years will do that.

We last spoke in early September about the website and a few other issues; Lord knows, we still had our differences with regard to sports teams (though I was enough of a good sport to congratulate him back in 2004, when his Red Sox finally beat the Yankees, and went on to win their first World Series since 1918). We even had developed a few political differences. But nothing ever affected our mutual love, admiration, and respect for one another. When I'd call him on the phone, he'd answer "Chris!"---as if with an exclamation point. There was always joy in his voice when he heard mine on the other end of the phone. And if I needed to cry because of a slew of unending medical or personal problems, the gentility with which he treated me was just the medicine I needed.

We last corresponded on September 11th. A few days passed by, and I hadn't heard back from him, so I wrote him again. Still, no reply.

I figured he was busy or traveling, but it was unlike him not to reply to an email. So on the weekend of September 23rd, I called him on both his personal and business lines and left voice mail. It was comforting to hear his voice, even if it was automated, telling callers to leave a message. So I left messages. And still, no reply.

On Tuesday, September 26th, I got an email from his cousin, who lived in Waco, Texas, where Michael had been staying. She told me to give her a call. My heart dropped. I knew that this meant something had happened to Michael; maybe he was in a hospital. Maybe something worse. I called her immediately.

She told me that Michael had been pursuing new business in Detroit, a city where he had once worked for so many years.

And then she told me that his body was found at 8:30 a.m. on Tuesday, September 19th; he had been killed by gunshots. Police are investigating the crime as a homicide.

I have suffered many losses in my life. I lost my father suddenly to a massive coronary, when I was 12 years old. I lost my Uncle Sam, who was like a second father to me, in 1994, to prostate cancer. I lost my mother in 1995, before my first two books were published, after five years of being one of her primary care-givers, as she struggled with the ravages of lung cancer and the effects of chemotherapy and radiation. I've lost many loving friends and relatives over the years, in circumstances that were painful and difficult.

But absolutely nothing could have possibly prepared me for the grief that I felt upon hearing that one of my best friends in the whole wide world had just lost his life by a wanton act of brutality. I had the phone in my hands, tears streaming down my face, stunned, shocked, horrified, feeling literally destroyed. My heart had not been broken; it had felt as if it had been completely shattered. I still can't quite wrap my mind around this event.

Michael's funeral is scheduled for Monday, October 2, 2017 in Waco, Texas. My health issues prevent me from attending his funeral. But my heart goes out to his family and friends, who so loved him, and who suffer with unimaginable grief.

I pray that justice will be done, and that the murderer will be apprehended.

But nothing will bring Michael back.

The December 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be dedicated to Murray Franck (1946-2017), who died this past July, and to Michael Southern (1958-2017). Both of these men were part of the JARS family from the very beginning, and deserve to be so honored. But they were both among the dearest human beings and friends I've ever known. To have lost both of them within two months of one another is unbelievable. But to have lost Michael in such a violent manner is just beyond tragic. He didn't deserve this ending. The pain of this loss is almost unbearable.

Rest in peace, dear friend. You made such a difference in the lives of so many people. And you made a difference in my life. I will honor you and remember you for the rest of my days. And I will miss you until the day I die.

Postscript (October 2, 2017): I posted a link to this tribute to Facebook, and was comforted by how many folks have shared the post and shared their condolences with me, both publicly and privately; I added this to my own Facebook thread:

Thanks to everyone who shared my post and who have expressed their condolences to me, both privately and publicly, here and elsewhere. Anyone who was fortunate to know Michael was blessed by his presence in their lives. And I express my condolences to all of you for this loss.
Today is Michael's funeral in Waco, Texas. It's also a day that I awake to hear that this country has just experienced the worst mass shooting in its history, this time in Las Vegas, with over 50 people shot to death and over 200 injured. Not counting the folks I knew who were murdered on 9/11, I have never had the experience of having lost a loved one to a shooting. This morning, I send my empathy and condolences to those who are mourning the deaths of their own loved ones who have died in this massacre.
.
Savagery and brutality have always been a part of the human condition; that is not a comforting thought, however. What is comforting is that there are still far more people in this world who care and who will not give into the fear of such carnage, even when it hits so close to home.

September 22, 2017

Song of the Day #1515

Song of the Day: Disturbia, words and music by Brian Kennedy, Chris Brown, Robert Allen, and Andrew Merritt, is featured on Rihanna's 2008 album "Good Girl Gone Bad: Reloaded." This song went to #1 on four Billboard charts, including the Hot 100 and the Hot Dance Club Songs (almost 9 years ago to the day!). Check out the original video, the 12" remix, the Magnifikate Remix, the Daniel Brown remix, the Techno Remix, and finally, the DONK Remix, which makes the Techno Remix sound chill by comparison! Our Second Annual Summer Dance Series concludes today, since the season ends with the Autumnal Equinox at 4:02 p.m. But we ain't disturbia-ed... we're going out dancing!

September 21, 2017

Song of the Day #1514

Song of the Day: Make Me, words and music by Rodney Jerkins, Thomas Lumpkins, Michaela Shilo, Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers and Janet Jackson, was the 19th #1 Hot Dance Club single of Janet's career. The song appears on Janet's 2009 album, "Number Ones." Check out the video version (where Miss Jackson, if your Nasty, shows us she can still move and groove!). And her paean to her late brother Michael is clear; when she says "Don't stop til you get it up," she is, no doubt, tipping her hat to "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" [YouTube link]. Check out a few other remixes: the Moto Blanco Video Remix, DJ Dan Audio Remix, Dave Aude Club Mix, and Ralphi's Martini Mix. The Autumnal Equinox (for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere) doesn't arrive in NYC till 4:02 p.m. tomorrow, so expect one final song as our Second Annual Summer Dance Series concludes.

September 20, 2017

Song of the Day #1513

Song of the Day: Turn Up the Music has ten credited writers, but the one I'll focus on is the man who recorded this super dance single: Chris Brown. It appears on Brown's 2012 album, "Fortune." Check out the video single, the Roc Hound Club Mix, the Miami Life Remix. and the remix version with Rihanna (yes, Rihanna!).

September 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1512

Song of the Day: Fantastic Voyage features words and music credited to the 9-member band that recorded it: Lakeside. This was the title song to the band's 1980 SOLAR-label album. This #1 R&B dance track offers us some early hip hop touches steeped in a deep bass line. Indeed, it makes you want to "come along, pack your bags, get on up and jam y'all," as we take that "fantastic voyage . . . to the land of funk." Check out the original extended mix [YouTube link].

September 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1511

Song of the Day: Diggy [YouTube link with lyrics], by Spencer Ludwig, is featured on the "Target" commercial "Vibes" [YouTube link] focusing on "Leggie Moves." Having just watched the Emmy Awards, honoring excellence in television, I figured it would be nice to note some danceable music on TV commercials! Check out the full video version as well, in keeping with the Summer Dance Party theme that started way back in June. We're in the final few days of the season, and promise to go out dancing every day until summer ends!

September 17, 2017

Song of the Day #1510

Song of the Day: Feud ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Mac Quayle, is heard in the title sequence to one of the best of this past season's TV minseries (as is another one of my favorites: "The Night Of"), focusing on the "feud" between legendary actresses Bette Davis and Joan Crawford, which reached its climax in the production of the classic horror-fest "What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?" Susan Sarandon (as Bette) and Jessica Lange (as Joan) deliver fine performances, and both are nominated in the category of Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Television Movie. And Quayle has earned nominations for "Outstanding Original Dramatic Score" and for "Outstanding Original Main Title Theme Music"; in fact, the opening credits have been nominated for "Outstanding Main Title Design," giving "Feud" a total of 18 Emmy Award Nominations. Check out the Emmy Awards tonight on CBS.

September 16, 2017

Song of the Day #1509

Song of the Day: Jealous features the words and music of Nolan Lambroza, Simon Wilcox, and Nick Jonas, who was born on this date in 1992. God, they're getting younger and younger in this survey of dance music, aren't they? The 25-year old scored a #1 Hot Dance Club Hit in January 2015 with this song. Check out the video, the version featuring Tinashe (along with the E-man and Ikon remix of it), a gospel rendition, the Anda Remix, the hot Rooftop Boys Remix, House Remix, Club Killers Deep House Mix, Ugo Remix, and the DYAGO remix.

September 15, 2017

Song of the Day #1508

Song of the Day: Look What You Made Me Do features the words and lyrics of Jack Antonoff, Fred Fairbass, Richard Fairbass, Rob Manzoli, and Taylor Swift, whose video of this song made its debut on the MTV Video Music Awards on August 27th. The lead single from Swift's forthcoming "Reputation" album is already #1 on the Hot 100. Check out the killer video [YouTube link] to this infectious song, which broke the all-time record for views within a 24-hour period. And then listen to a few remixes by Vylet, Vincy, and Tom Damage [YouTube links]. Even young Andrew Foy is fingerpickin' this one already [YouTube link]. And Look What Taylor Made Me Do: Expect a song a day right up until the last hours of summer!!!

September 09, 2017

Song of the Day #1507

Song of the Day: No Frills Love, words and music by Arthur Baker, Gary Henry, and Tina B., was recorded by "Dreamgirls" Broadway star, Jennifer Holliday. The recording went to #1 on the Billboard Dance chart in 1986 and hit #1 again a decade later with the 1996 Anthem Mix [YouTube link]. Check out the original 12" remix, the Love to Infinity Mix, and even one that is dedicated to Channing Tatum [YouTube links].

September 08, 2017

Song of the Day #1506

Song of the Day: Places features the words and music of Greek DJ Xenia Ghali and singer-songwriter Raquel Castro, who recorded this song and hit the #1 position on the Billboard Dance Club chart on May 6, 2017. Check out the official video, the Extended Mix, and Lynn Wood 'We Love the '90s' Club Mix.

September 05, 2017

Song of the Day #1505

Song of the Day: The Fugitive ("Judgment Day, Part 2, Finale") [YouTube TV clip, Spoiler Alert!], composed by Dominic Frontiere, is the music that highlights the climax of the 120 episodes of one of the most iconic "TV Noir" shows in the history of the medium: "The Fugitive," which ended its four-season run on Tuesday, August 29, 1967, in front of over 78 million viewers. It was the largest audience to watch any show in TV history up to that date [YouTube, Leonard Goldberg interview]. But in the "Epilog" of that famed Quinn Martin production, narrator William Conrad tells us that it was "Tuesday, September 5th, the Day the Running Stopped" [YouTube TV clip]. And in those closing moments, the haunting theme of the show, composed by Pete Rugolo, re-emerges, as it must. Frontiere, who was a great fan of Rugolo from the days when he arranged and composed for the Stan Kenton Orchestra, got the chance to complete the score to the climactic finale. Cheers to a great series, its great score, and its unforgettable finale [YouTube link to the final two episodes in their entirety], which concluded, in narrative legend, fifty years ago, on this date.

September 04, 2017

Song of the Day #1504

Song of the Day: Crazy in Love features the words and music of Rich Harrison, Eugene Record, Shawn Carter (aka Jay Z), and Beyonce Knowles, who was born on this date in 1981. This was the lead single from Beyonce's 2003 debut solo album, "Dangerously in Love," and it is highlighted by a guest rap from the man she'd marry in 2008, Jay Z. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and reached the peak of the Dance Club chart on September 13, 2003 due to a few stylish dance remixes. Check out the original video single, the Pat.No. 2K13 Mix, the Fare Soldi Remix, and the DJ Stylezz Mix, and for those who want to slow it up a bit, there's the "Fifty Shades of Grey" rendition (re-recorded in 2015 for the soundtrack to that hit film) [YouTube links]. Happy birthday, Queen Bee!

September 03, 2017

Song of the Day #1503

Song of the Day: Let Me Love You features the words and music of Andrew Watt, Ali Tamposi, Brian Lee, Louis Bell, and William Grigahcine, aka DJ Snake, on whose 2016 album, "Encore" this song appears. The song, written in C-minor, hit the Top 5 on five Billboard charts, while also breaking the Top 20 on two additional charts, including the Hot Dance Club Songs chart. It features vocalist Justin Bieber and can be heard in a plethora of mixes. Check out the official video and a video with Bieber and Selena Gomez, as well as the remix featuring Sean Paul and R. Kelly. And then the DJs Take Over the World with: the Marshmello Remix, Tom Westy Remix, R3hab Remix, Don Diablo Remix, Slander & B-Sides Remix, Danny Dove vs. Offset Remix, Audio/Zedd Remix, Murper Future House Remix, Faruk Sabanci Remix, Tom Budin Remix, Albert Yam C.B. Remix, JustinTechN9 Deep House Mix, DJ Kavesh Latin House Remix, and finally, the Andry J Future House Remix.

September 02, 2017

Song of the Day #1502

Song of the Day: Fine China, words and music by Eric Bellinger, Leon "Roccstar" Youngblood, Sevyn Streeter, and Chris Brown, whose throwback sound on this lead single from the album "X" is inspired by the likes of Michael Jackson, Stevie Wonder, and Sam Cooke. Check out the official video with its storyline, and then listen to the bluesy dance single, with its sensual sleaze beat, a version featuring the rapper, Common with its "Rock with You" and "Billie Jean" MJ samples), and the Chris Madem Disco Remix. For some, this is "Atlas Shrugged Day"; but it's also the birthday of someone I love very dearly... and you know who you are. Just like "fine china."

September 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1501

Song of the Day: I Specialize in Love words and music by Lotti Golden and Richard Scher, was an international dance hit by Sharon Brown. In 1982, it peaked at #2 on the Billboard Dance Club chart. Check out the classic 12" remix and a later "Dirty House" remix [YouTube links]. In 1995, the girl group Expose released a rendition of the song that hit the Top Ten of the Hot Dance Club Play chart. Check out the album version and the dance remix [YouTube links]. Today, we kick off an extended Labor Day Summer Dance weekend.

August 29, 2017

Song of the Day #1500

Song of the Day: They Don't Care About Us features the words and music of Michael Jackson who was born on this date in 1958. The song was a Top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Maxi-Singles Sales Chart in 1996, and was the fifth single from MJ's album, "HIStory: Past, Present, and Future, Book I." This is the 1500th "Song of the Day" I have posted, in the wake of a Texas-sized catastrophe at home and continuing problems abroad. My heart goes out to all who are suffering. Though some of the lyrics from this twenty-plus year-old song come from mixed premises, MJ's message is certainly prescient: "They Don't Really Care About Us." Check out the video version, the more chill Love to Infinity's Walk in the Park Mix, and the house-heavy Love to Infinity Classic Paradise Remix. There is also a wonderful instrumental version by the 2Cellos [YouTube links]. Finally, check out this tribute and that one by Ricardo Walker's crew to MJ's dancing. [YouTube link].

August 28, 2017

Song of the Day #1499

Song of the Day: Long Live Love features the words and music of Darrell Brown, Mark Batson, and LeAnn Rimes, who was born on this date in 1982. The song by this country-crossover artist is featured on the 2016 album, "Remnants," and hit the summit of the Billboard Dance Chart on March 4, 2017. Check out the original single, a live "Today" performance, and then dance your butt off to the Dave Aude Club Remix, the Deville Remix, and the Drew G Remix.

August 27, 2017

Song of the Day #1498

Song of the Day: Wild Thoughts is credited to nearly a dozen musicians, chief among them DJ Kaled, on whose 2017 album, "Grateful," it appears. The song features vocals by Rihanna and Bryson Tiller, with some heavy sampling from the legendary Santana's guitar riffs from the song "Maria Maria." Check out the official video, which is nominated for "Video of the Year" on tonight's MTV Video Music Awards. Also check out the Marco Tolo Remix, the Dancehall Remix, and the Deep House Remix.

August 26, 2017

Song of the Day #1497

Song of the Day: Dancer, words and music by Gino Soccio, appeared on his 1979 debut album, "Outline." The song quickly climbed the Billboard Dance Club chart, peaking at #1 for six weeks. In all my years of being an on-again, off-again mobile DJ (1979 till the late 1980s, and Gema LaBoccetta ought to know since she was one of my DJ partners back in the day!), I can say that the 1977-1984 period was undoubtedly my favorite (and most of these songs already grace "My Favorite Songs" since I started the list back in 2004). 1979 was one of the greatest years of the Disco Era (check out this famous Disconet 1979 Medley [YouTube link], where Soccio's tune gets a hat tip at 05:18). And the 1982-1983 period brought back much excitement to the dance floor, due especially to the 11 weeks that all of Michael Jackson's "Thriller" dance cuts held the top spot on the Billboard Dance Club chart. It is simply not true that all disco/dance music was mind-numbing in its beats and oblivious to the social problems of the day (some of it was actually remarkably prescient in its social commentary, like, for example, Machine's terrific "There But For the Grace of God Go I" [YouTube link]). But the Disco era sported a variety of creative tempos and rhythms, which have influenced all dance music since, from hip hop to house to techno. This track, however, dispenses with social commentary, and is unapologetically propulsive in its beat and simple in its "message": "Let your body free now . . . Try to take it higher." Check out the original 12" remix [YouTube links].

August 20, 2017

Song of the Day #1496

Song of the Day: Make That Move, words and music by Kevin Spencer, William Shelby, and Ricky Smith, was recorded by Shalamar for their 1980 album, "Three For Love." This Shalamar song, with its irresistible hook, truly embodies the quintessential soulful "SOLAR" ("Sounds of Los Angeles") sound. Check out the original extended Top Ten R&B Dance mix [YouTube link]. I was asked what inspired this mini-SOLAR tribute within our Summer Dance Party, and the full truth finally comes out, for it concludes, as it should, on the eve of tomorrow's Solar Eclipse, which will be visible across the United States.

August 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1495

Song of the Day: I Owe You One, words and music by Joey Gallo and Leon Sylvers III, appears on "Big Fun," the 1979 album that first featured the "classic" Shalamar line-up of Howard Hewett, Jeffrey Daniel, and Jody Watley. The album also included hits that have made "My Favorite Songs" previously, such as "Right in the Socket" and "The Second Time Around." Check out the sweet original extended mix of this R&B Dance track [YouTube link].

August 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1494

On Facebook, I opened this weekend's Summer Dance Party with the following preface: This weekend we take a trip down memory lane to celebrate one of the best groups and record labels of the Disco Era. The group: Shalamar. The label: SOLAR. The Music: Divine.

Song of the Day: Take That To the Bank, words and music by Kevin Spencer and Leon Sylvers III, was recorded by the SOLAR-label supergroup Shalamar, which originally featured Gerald Brown, Jeffrey Daniel, and Jody Watley. This song has been sampled many times in dance music history, and appeared on Shalamar's second album, "Disco Gardens" (1978). For a group that released two of its first three albums in August of their respective years, it's all the more apropos to celebrate a Shalamar disco weekend in August. We kick off a three-song arc with this Old School dance club gem on YouTube.

August 16, 2017

Song of the Day #1493

Song of the Day: Everybody features the words and music of today's birthday girl, Madonna. Released in 1982, it was included on her 1983 eponymous debut album. With 45 number one songs on the Billboard Dance Club chart, she is the artist with the most #1 singles on that chart. She also holds the record for 157 number one singles on all Billboard charts combined. So for her 59th birthday, it's nice to go back to her first bona fide dance hit (it peaked at #3 on the Dance chart). Check out the original video, the 12" remix, and the "You Can Dance" Remix.

August 15, 2017

Song of the Day #1492

Song of the Day: Body Moves features the words and music of Rami Yacoub, Albin Nedler, Kristoffer Fogelmark, and Joe Jonas, who was born on this date in 1989. Yes, he's a tot! This song by DNCE, the band that brought us "Cake By the Ocean," went to #2 on the Billboard Dance Club Singles Chart in January 2017. Check out the video single and the Victoria's Secret video version; and then we've got a host of remixes by Alex Shik, Kay Stafford at the Ibiza Beach Club, Eric Kupper and the Damien Hall Dub Mix.

August 12, 2017

Song of the Day #1491

Song of the Day: Falling in Love, words and music by J. Bratton and D. Drewry, was a top 30 Dance and R&B hit for Sybil in 1986. As her debut single, it had a slick sound and a lot of soul. Check out the remix and the more extended Club Mix.

August 11, 2017

Song of the Day #1490

Song of the Day: Despacito, words and music by Luis ("Fonsi") Rodriguez, Erika Ender, and Ramon Ayala, is the song of the 2017 summer, indeed maybe for the year as a whole, given that it is the first song to reach 3.058 billion views on YouTube (surpassing the Wiz Khalifa-Charlie Puth "See You Again" video, at 3.003 billion views, which was a tribute to the late Paul Walker from "Furious 7" [YouTube link]). The song, aided by the addition of Bieber's vocals, has also spent 13 weeks at the summit of the Billboard Hot 100, just surpassing Ed Sheeran's "Shape of You" for the most weeks at #1 in 2017, and sets a new record of 14 weeks atop the Digital Song Sales Chart. Check out the original Luis Fonsi video, the one featuring Justin Bieber and Daddy Yankee, a Salsa version featuring Victor Manuelle, as well as these remixes: Jeydee Club, Gelo Remix, Major Lazer and Moska Remix, Prince LJ Remix, Muffin Remix, Exitos Remix (with the Lobato Brothers), and the Marnage Bootleg Remix. There's even a Portuguese version featuring Luisa Sonza.

August 09, 2017

Song of the Day #1489

Song of the Day: It's Better with a Band, music by Wally Harper, lyrics by David Zippel, is the title track of the live album recorded by musical legend Barbara Cook, who died yesterday at the age of 89. Cook was born in Atlanta, Georgia but she became a New York institution, as she conquered the Broadway theater, concert halls and cabarets of the Big Apple. She achieved global recognition for her intepretation of the Great American Songbook. Check out the live album rendition of this light-hearted song recorded in 1980 at Carnegie Hall and a later 1997 rendition with the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra.

August 08, 2017

Song of the Day #1488

Song of the Day: By the Time I Get to Phoenix, words and music by Jimmy Webb, was first recorded by Johnny Rivers in 1965 [YouTube link]. It was later recorded by American country music singer Glen Campbell as the title track to his 1967 album. Campbell's version reached #2 on the Billboard Hot Country Singles Chart, earning him a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Male and Best Contemporary Male Solo Vocal Performance. Campbell would go on to amass awards across the spectrum of American music, while also appearing in a dozen films. Today, he died at the age of 81, following a long battle with Alzheimer's Disease. This song was #20 on the Top 100 songs of the twentieth century by BMI, ranked according to the number of times they were played on television and radio. Even Ol' Blue Eyes called this the "greatest torch song ever written." In remembrance of Glen, check out his studio recording of this timeless song [YouTube link].

August 06, 2017

Song of the Day #1487

Song of the Day: Super Freak features the words and music of Alonzo Miller and Rick James, who brought this song to the top of the Dance chart on this weekend in 1981 (along with "Give it To Me Baby"). The song, from the James album, "Street Songs," features background vocals by the great Motown group,The Temptations. On this date in 2004, Rick James passed away. We remember him with the epic 12" extended remix of this dance classic. The song is also famous for having been sampled by M.C. Hammer in his hit, "U Can't Touch This" [YouTube link].

August 05, 2017

Song of the Day #1486

Song of the Day: Give it to Me Baby, words and music by Rick James, topped the Billboard Black Singles chart for 5 weeks and the Dance Club chart for 3 weeks in the summer of 1981. In fact, this track was in the midst of its #1 reign this very weekend in 1981, along with a song that we will feature tomorrow, the date on which James passed away in 2004. The King of "Punk-Funk" led a troubled life, but it's memorable tunes like this that remind us about the importance of appreciating art of any kind, whatever one might think of the person who originated it. Too many tortured souls in the world of music especially have given us joy on the dance floor. Check out the original 12" remix, the DJ "S" Mix, and the 1981 extended Rework Feeler Baku Remix.

August 04, 2017

Song of the Day #1485

Song of the Day: Automatic, words and music by Brock Walsh and Mark Goldenberg, was released in 1984 and went to the Top 5 of the Hot 100, R&B, and Dance charts (where it peaked at #2), for the Pointer Sisters, from their album, "Break Out." With Ruth Pointer's contralto lead, this song has that distinctive soulful "sleaze beat" feel at 111 BPM. Listen to the original extended mix [YouTube link] (remixed by John "Jellybean" Benitez), and then check out a HiNRG 128 BPM 2007 cover version by Ultra Nate, accompanied by an uncensored steamy video "I'm So Excited" shout-out to the Pointer Sisters [YouTube link], which shot up to #1 on the Dance Club chart.

July 30, 2017

Song of the Day #1484

Song of the Day: There's Nothing Holdin' Me Back features the words and music of John T. Geiger II, Geoff Warburton, Scott Harris, and Shawn Mendes, whose 2017 recording of this song is included on the reissued version of his album, "Illuminate." It's already his third Top Ten hit on the Hot 100. Check out the single, the video single, and a few nice remixes: Friash Trap, NOTD, and for those who can't get enough of it, there's a one-hour version! [YouTube links].

July 29, 2017

Song of the Day #1483

Song of the Day: Give Me Your Love, words and music by Bruce Fielder, John Newman, and Steve Manovski, was released in 2016 by British DJ Sigala, featuring the vocals of John Newman and some added production by Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee Nile Rodgers. The song, which was a Top Five hit on the UK Dance chart, was showcased in several routines of this week's episode of "So You Think You Can Dance" (my favorite dance competition show, the first to give Mandy Moore a platform for her choreography, before she went off to "La La Land"). Check out the song's official video and these remixes: Cedric Gervais, Andy C, Alex B-Cube & Michael Klash, Jacob Doehner, Kasmet Bootleg, MZT, Tough Love, Cliak, PBH and Jack Shizzle, DJ eMa, Viduta, Shimron Elit, and the Rap Remix.

July 28, 2017

Song of the Day #1482

Song of the Day: On the Beat, words and music by M. Malavadi and P. Slade, was the hit lead single from the debut self-titled album of the BB&Q Band (standing for "Brooklyn, Bronx, and Queens"). This 1981 song went to #3 on the Billboard Dance Club chart and #8 on the Black Singles chart. It has that classic R&B/dance throwback sound that I utterly and absolutely adore. It's the kind of thing we'd hear "back in the day" in NYC on classic FM radio stations like KISS-FM and the still vigilant WBLS-FM. Check out the original extended single, as well as the DMC Remix and the DJ Stefano Luzi Remix.

July 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1481

Song of the Day: On the Floor includes composing credits for RedOne, Kinnda Hamid, A. J. Junior, Teddy Sky, Bilal "The Chef", Armando Perez, Gonzolo and Ulises Gonzalez. But the song is well known because it was recorded by Jennifer Lopez, for her 2011 album, "Love?", with a little help from Pitbull. Today, is J-Lo's 48th birthday, and this is not only her most commercially successful single, but one of the best selling singles of all time. Check out the original video single, and a few remixes as well: Low Sunday Radio Edit, CCW Club Mix, Ralphi Rosario Extended Mix, and the Mixin Marc and Tony Svejda LA to Ibiza Mix [YouTube links]. Happy birthday, Jenny from the Bronx!

July 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1480

Song of the Day: Feels, words and music by Adam Wiles, Pharrell Williams, Brittany Hazzard, Katy Perry, and Sean Anderson, is featured on Calvin Harris's album, "Funk Wav Bounces, Volume 1." The Old School-style vocals are provided by Pharrell and Katy, with Big Sean providing the rap. Check out the fun video single and the playful instrumental version for this track, released in June 2017, and already in the top five on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Songs chart.

July 22, 2017

Song of the Day #1479

Song of the Day: Lost Love [YouTube lyrics link], words and music by Stonebridge, Aubrey Logan, and Lisa Cole, who sings this 2017 dance hit with a throwback sound. Check out the official music video and the extended mix. And for those who doubt that a remix can change the whole feel of a song, I provide links to a host of other remixes, among the most I've ever seen for a single dance hit in my entire life, going all the way back to my days as a college mobile DJ: the Archie Remix, AstraeusMusic Remix, Robert Eibach Club Mix, Rob Hayes Remix, Junotrix Remix, Alex Lo Remix, ALX Remix, Andre Sebastian Remix, BigBadBoy Remix, chemical solution remix, Chirurgicals Waveforms Remix, Chris Woodland Remix, G-Pizzy Remix, Harvey Nash Remix, Henrique Pirai Remix, Hindu White Remix, iBug Remix, Jagwyrd Remix, Jesus Velazquez Remix, Joel Smith Remix, Jose Baptista Ferreira Dos Remix, Lolo Remix, Mark Wampfler Mix, M3 Roadworx Remix, Moodyboy Remix, NVNTS Remix, Pump Remix, Rick Cross Remix, Rivermint Remix, Russelldeejay Remix, Sam David Remix, Serkan Demirel Remix, SKALP Remix, Tamas Klein Remix, Timechaser Remix, Trappify Remix, tronicsoul remix, Twisted Dee Remix, DrewG Remix, DJ Ryan Harvey Mix, djadtoliveira Remix, Mr. Fahrenheit Remix, Osi Bahti Remix, Benny Dawson Remix, Almost Done Remix, Timmy Loop Future House Remix, ZU78 aka casseta Remix, Junotrix Dub and the IdeaL & J. Break Dub. And if I missed any, you can find them here, because it was a remix competition that led to this avalanche of renditions. If you have just listened to all these remixes, and haven't either (a) lost your love for this song or (b) lost your mind, you are a real Dance Club Freak! So for a change of pace, listen to this Donna Summer-Yaz Mashup of "I Feel Love" and "Situation", because you need a break!

July 16, 2017

Song of the Day #1478

Song of the Day: I Don't Want to Talk About It features the words and music of James Lee Stanley, the brother of recording artist Pamala Stanley, who was born on this date in 1952. Check out the video single, the 12" remix, and the Disconet versions of this 1983 dance hit. And happy birthday, Pamala!

July 15, 2017

Song of the Day #1477

Song of the Day: Tearin' Up My Heart, words and music by Max Martin and Kristian Lundin, was a 1998 Top 40 hit from the debut album of NSYNC, with lead vocals by J. C. Chasez and a young Justin Timberlake. It has the distinction of being among the Top 30 Hits of the 1990s, according to VH1. What's a summer dance tribute without at least one Boy Band hit? Check out the single version and the official video, before listening to the Hot Tracks Remix, Riprock and Alex G's Heart and Key Club Mix, the J.J. Flores Club Mix, Stone's Phat Swede Club Mix, and the Pentatonix NYSNC Medley. (And while you're at it, check out Pentatonix's really cool "Daft Punk" tribute.)

July 09, 2017

Song of the Day #1476

Song of the Day: Shape of You, with words and music by Steve Mac, Johnny McDaid, Kandi Burruss, Tameka Cottle, Kevin Briggs, and Ed Sheeran, who released this as the first song off his 2017 album, "Divide." This song, with its super sensuous lyrics, was #1 for 12 weeks on the Billboard Hot 100, but also reached #1 on 5 other Billboard charts, including its Dance/Club Songs and its Dance/Mix Show Airplay Charts. I've loved this guy's music since the very beginning. But he really impressed me at the Stevie Wonder Tribute Grammy Salute to "Songs in the Key of Life" [YouTube Full Show Clip]. Sheeran did a wonderful take on Stevie's "I Was Made to Love Her" [YouTube link]. And he follows in Stevie's footsteps; he's a talented artist who has mastered the musical technology of the day all in service to the art form. This song starts with the lyric: "The club isn't the best place to find a lover." But club remixers sure have fallen in love with this song, as surely as Sheeran as "fallen in love with your body." Listen to the Galantis Remix, Major Lazer Remix, Decoy! Remix, Joe Maz Remix, DJ Asher Remix, BKAYE remix, Latin Remix (featuring Zion y Lennox), and bvd kult remix. And don't forget the official video, the version featuring Stormzy, the Jimmy Fallon Classroom Instruments Version (with Sheeran and the Roots), and the bare basic crystal-clear acoustic version.

July 08, 2017

Song of the Day #1475

On Facebook, I posted this preface to today's Song of the Day:

On July 6th, I posted a Notablog tribute to a dear friend, Murray Franck, who passed away on the 2nd. And I want to thank all of those who posted or reacted on list or off to the sad news.
But Murray always got a kick out of the fact that I had this penchant for launching Notablog "Song of the Day" entries to celebrate genres as diverse as jazz, film scores, classical, rock, disco, and today's pop music. Nothing would have bothered him more than my ceasing such tributes in the wake of his death. He would chuckle when I'd talk to him about my days as a mobile DJ, playing everything from Bar Mitzvahs to weddings, reunions, and proms. So I won't miss a beat from this year's annual Summer Dance Series, and will continue with the first of two songs planned for this weekend: "Bang Bang" by three women named Jessie, Ariana, and Nicki:

Song of the Day: Bang Bang, words and music by Max Martin, Savan Kotecha, Rikard Goransson, Oniqa Maraj, charted on no fewer than six Billboard charts, reaching #3 on the Hot 100 and #22 on the Hot Dance Club chart. As the lead single from Jessie J's 2014 album, "Sweet Talker," the song was a huge hit for Jessie J, Ariana Grande, and Nicki Minaj. Check out the music video, the Bassel Remix, 3LAU Remix, the Kevin-Dave Remix, and their hot performance of the song on the 2014 American Music Awards.

July 04, 2017

Song of the Day #1474

On Facebook, I prefaced my "Song of the Day" with the following comment:

I know some of my anarchist friends might think that today is a day that some people celebrate the establishment of yet another state. :)
For me, the 4th of July is a celebration of the idea of America, for which the founders, whatever their flaws, on this Independence Day, pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor. "Only in America":

Song of the Day: Only in America, words and music by Kix Brooks, Don Cook, and Ronnie Rogers, went to #1 on the Hot Country Songs chart. It was a huge hit by Brooks & Dunn, suitable for a Red-White-and-Blue Indpendence Day. Whatever the realities in today's America, it is almost a truism that a song, like any work of art, can project an ideal; in this instance, it is the ideal of America. And truth be told, I can't help but embrace a tune that begins with the lyric, "Sun Comin' Up Over New York City," in a country where "Everybody Gets to Dance." In keeping with our Summer Dance theme, check it out on YouTube and in this 2001 video single as well, which includes a paean to the Twin Towers.

July 03, 2017

Song of the Day #1473

Song of the Day: You're My Magician, words and music by Denis and Denyse LePage, went to #1 of a double-sided #1 Dance Club Single (with "Your Love" [YouTube link]) by Lime in April 1981. This group bridged the years of the classic disco of the 1970s and the electronic dance music of the 1980s. Check out the original 12" remix and then see what happens to the track in the French Club Remix.

July 02, 2017

Song of the Day #1472

Song of the Day: Attention, words and music by Jacob Kasher and Charlie Puth, the young man with a "Vanilla Ice" eyebrow and impressive vocal beat-box skills [YouTube link], was released in April 2017, and has since climbed into the Top 20 in more than 20 countries. The song has touches of funk and soul; as a video single [YouTube link], I had hardly noticed it. And then, I saw Puth perform it on Jimmy Fallon's "Tonight Show" and said, "Nice!" Check out especially Puth's jazz-infused chops when he solos on electric piano [YouTube link]. He also performd the song on "The Voice" and at the Wind Music Awards in Italy (where he also takes a nice solo) [YouTube links], but my favorite version remains the one on Fallon's show with The Roots. It's a summer dance track with a really cool vibe [YouTube link].

July 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1471

Song of the Day: Dance (Disco Heat), words and music by Eric Robinson and Victor Osborn, was a #1 dance hit for Sylvester, appearing on his album "Step II." Check out the album version and the extended version, which was released as part of a double-sided 12" with his Patrick Cowley remixed-iconic disco classic, "You Make Me Feel (Mighty Real)" [YouTube link]. The double-sided hits held the #1 spot on the Billboard Dance Disco Chart for six weeks in the summer of 1978. We're partying straight through to the 4th of July, so don't you even think of leaving the dance floor!

June 30, 2017

Song of the Day #1470

Song of the Day: Stormy Weather, words and music by Harold Arlen and Ted Koehler debuted in 1933 at the Cotton Club in Harlem by Ethel Waters [YouTube link]. But one of its most famous versions was recorded by the Tony- and Grammy-award winning singer and actress Lena Horne, who died on 9 May 2010, at the age of 92. Lena sang this timeless tune in the 1943 movie of the same name. Check out Lena's film rendition and her 1943 single, which went to #21 on the U.S. Pop chart [YouTube links]. In honor of the centenary of her birth on 30 June 1917, I celebrate the gift that was Lena.

June 28, 2017

Song of the Day #1469

On Facebook, I prefaced this "Song of the Day" entry with this comment: It is officially June 28, 2017; on this date in 1969, in the wee small hours of the morning, the NYPD raided the Stonewall Inn on Christopher Street in Greenwich Village. With all the hoopla of this past weekend’s “Pride” events nationwide, some folks seem to forget that the parades emerged initially to commemorate what happened in the early morning hours of June 28, 1969. For despite the ritual nature of these police raids, it was on this night that the patrons fought back on the basis of a crucially important libertarian premise; they rioted and rebelled in defense of their individual rights to live their own lives and to pursue their own happiness in private, safe havens, away from the brutality and harassment they faced on an almost daily basis. It is in this spirit that I add another song to my Summer Dance series. From “To Wong Foo…”, it’s Chaka Khan blowing a hole through the roof with "Free Yourself":

Song of the Day: Free Yourself, words and music by Sami McKinney, Denise Rich, and Warren McRae, is given a scaldingly hot treatment by Chaka Khan, whose pipes tear the roof off the motha'. The song is featured on the soundtrack to the 1995 comedy, "To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar" (and is also played over the end credits). I dedicate it today to those who participated in the Stonewall Rebellion, which began in the wee hours of June 28, 1969, in response to yet another regular police raid on a gay bar, this one in NYC. It remains a symbolic event for those who have sought equality before the law and the right to live their lives and to pursue their own happiness, without the interference of government. It began on this date as a quintessentially libertarian reaction against state repression of establishments that catered to a clientele of gays, lesbians and even their straight friends, who in their consensual social interactions just wanted to enjoy themselves at a Christopher Street bar in Greenwich Village, a safe haven away from police and social brutality (though it should be noted that such bars were typically "protected" by Mafioso who traded in under-the-table police payoffs). This track from the 1990s wasn't on the Stonewall Inn's famed 1969 jukebox, but it is an appropriate dance burner to mark the day, in keeping with our Summer Dance Party. Check it out on on YouTube.

June 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1468

Song of the Day: Hard Day, with words and music by George Michael, is posted on a day on which we honor the memory of the late Michael Jackson, while also celebrating the birthday of the late George Michael. This song can be found on the singer's 1987 first solo album, "Faith"; it went to the top 5 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs Chart. Check out the funky single and the Shep Pettibone 12" remix.

Song of the Day #1467

Song of the Day: Jam features the words and music of Rene Moore, Bruce Swedien, Teddy Riley, and Michael Jackson, who died on this date in 2009. The song, from Jackson's 1991 album "Dangerous," features a rap by the late Heavy D (who died in 2011). Take a look at the official video [YouTube link], which features the immortal Michael Jordan. Also check out the Silky 12" Remix, Space Vibes Mix, and a live version with a sweet dance segment by MJ. And check out a great mash-up of "Uptown Funk" and "Jam," featuring Mark Ronson, Bruno Mars, and MJ, as well as this one, this 24K one, and that one; and another mash-up with MJ and Bruno of "Beat It" and "Beating on Heaven's Gate." And for another visit down memory lane, check out a 2017 remix of MJ's "Smooth Criminal" [all YouTube links].

June 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1466

Song of the Day: Shake it Off features the words and music of Max Martin, Shellback, and Taylor Swift, who recorded this song for her critically acclaimed 2014 best-selling album, "1989." Check out the official video single, the Crysis Remix, Baasik Remix, ARVFZ Remix, Neon NiteClub Remix, and the Electro Remix. What's a Prideful Dance Weekend without a little throwdown between Katy Perry and Taylor Swift? Especially since these two may have finally buried the hatchet---and not in each other's heads!

Song of the Day #1465

Song of the Day: Chained to the Rhythm features the words and music of Skip Marley (grandson of Bob, and featured on the track), Max Martin, Sia Furler, Ali Payami, and Katy Perry, who released this recording as the first single from her fifth studio album, "Witness" (2017). This rhythmic track went Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Dance Club Songs chart. In fact, it was the seventeenth consecutive #1 Dance Club single for Perry, the longest unbroken streak of #1 dance club hits in the history of the Billboard Dance charts. Check out the chill original video single, and then explore the Lil Yachty Trap Remix, Cristian Poow Remix, and Fomichev Remix, before kickin' it into high gear with the Jerome Price Remix, Syn Cole Remix, Andy Fasa Remix, Ray Rhodes Remix, Oliver Heldens Remix, and the Deep House Mix.

June 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1464

Song of the Day: Fun credits nine writers, including the two guys who recorded it as a duet for the 2015 album, "Globalization": Pitbull and Chris Brown. Check out the video single, audio single, Damaged Goods Remix, and the Jump Smokers Remix. We're dancing all weekend in NYC, so stay tuned!

June 21, 2017

Song of the Day #1463

Song of the Day: I Feel it Coming features the words and music of Thomas Bangalter, Guy-Manuel de Homem-Christo, Martin McKinney, Henry Walter, Eric Chedeville, and Abel Tesfaye, aka The Weeknd. This recording features the electronic duo known as Daft Punk, and can be found on the third studio album of The Weeknd, "Starboy." The song rose to #4 on the Hot 100 chart and #12 on the Billboard Dance Club Songs chart. The Weeknd's vocals sound like he is channeling Michael Jackson. It's just got that danceable, but breezy summer feel, a perfect way to officially kick off my second annual Saturday Night Summer Dance Party, where I will be posting a danceable track every Saturday (and even throughout some weeks) from now until the last day of Summer. Check this track out on YouTube: the single (actually the official video too), the Mert Altin Remix, the Nathan C Remix, Jako Diaz Remix, and the TOFU Remix. It's 12:24 a.m. in NYC and the Summer Solstice has come to the Northern Hemisphere; let the dancing begin!

June 17, 2017

Song of the Day #1462

Song of the Day: Copacabana (At the Copa) features the words and music of Jack Feldman, Joseph Thornton, and Barry Manilow, who was born on this date in 1943. This coming week, I will begin what has now become an annual Summer series: my Saturday Night Dance Party, though there will be many days during the week when we will be partying with dance music from today and yesterday. There was a time when if I heard Barry Manilow's name announced on the radio, I'd roll my eyes; that changed as the years went by, especially when I discovered his superb jazz-infused album, "2:00 A.M. Paradise Cafe," which featured the wonderful Johnny Mercer lyrics to "When October Goes," for which Manilow composed the music [YouTube link]. But for our Brooklyn birthday boy, I figured in keeping with the coming Dance Party entries, I'd feature the song that won Manilow a Grammy for Best Performance, Pop Male. So check out Lola at the Copa on this Dance Remix, the 2012 Remix, Lola Goes Wild Remix, Maxi Dance Mix and of course, the original single [YouTube links].

June 11, 2017

Song of the Day #1461

Song of the Day: Hello, Dolly! ("Before the Parade Passes By"), music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, was featured in the 1964 Broadway musical that clobbered yesterday's "Funny Girl" at the Tony Awards that year. It won a then-record 10 Tony Awards, including Best Musical, and Best Performance by an Actress in a Leading Role (Carol Channing). Ironically, Streisand, who lost the Tony to Channing, would go on to star in the 1969 film version of the musical. In any event, this year, it is nominated in the Best Musical Revival category, with Bette Midler receiving a nomination for "Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical." Check out the original Carol Channing rendition and Bette Midler's rendition. And so concludes our mini-Tony tribute; check out the Awards tonight.

June 10, 2017

Song of the Day #1460

Song of the Day: Funny Girl ("You are Woman, I am Man"), music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Bob Merrill, was featured in the 1964 Broadway musical that made Barbra Streisand a star. Streisand would go on to sing this duet with Omar Sharif in the 1968 film version of the musical about the life of Fanny Brice. Check out the Broadway musical version [YouTube link], which featured the Tony-nominated Sydney Chaplin, son of Charlie, as Nicky Arnstein. And then check out the charming 1968 film version [YouTube film clip], the one in which Babs got her Best Actress Oscar, tying with the Great Kate, who won for "The Lion in Winter." This was only one of six ties in Oscar history and both actresses were certainly equally superb in their roles.

June 09, 2017

Song of the Day #1459

Song of the Day: Show Girl ("Liza, All the Clouds'll Roll Away"), music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin and Gus Kahn, debuted in the 1929 Ziegfeld musical by Ruby Keeler (of later "42nd Street" fame), with stage accompaniment provided by the Duke Ellington Orchestra. Keeler's husband, Al Jolson [YouTube link] recorded the song, and is said to have freqently serenaded Ruby with it. And for a trip down memory lane, check out this wonderful instrumental version [YouTube link] by the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, featuring the great jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and the legendary gyspy jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt.

June 08, 2017

Song of the Day #1458

Song of the Day: You Never Know ("At Long Last Love") words and music by Cole Porter, written for the 1938 Broadway musical, where it was sung by Clifton Webb (yes, he of "Laura" fame!). It was also featured in the 1975 film, "At Long Last Love." It's become a standard of the Great American Songbook, and has been covered notably by Ella Fitzgerald, Frank Sinatra, Lena Horne (who provides the lovely introduction), Nancy Wilson, Jack Jones, and Carmen McRae (a lively live recording featuring Jimmy Rowles on piano and Joe Pass on guitar) [YouTube links]. Today begins my mini-Tony Awards tribute to music from the Broadway stage. The Tonys air on CBS this Sunday, June 11, 2017.

June 07, 2017

Song of the Day #1457

Song of the Day: Raspberry Beret features the words and music of our birthday boy, Prince, who would have turned 59 today, were it not for his untimely death in April 2016. This song went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1985, the first release off of "Around the World in a Day," by Prince and the Revolution. The song was considered "neo-psychedelic pop" but the funk is always detectable. Check out a clip of the original single (alas, the Estate of Prince Rogers Nelson has restricted access to his music).

May 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1456

Song of the Day: Star Wars: A New Hope ("Throne Room / End Title") [YouTube link], composed by the legendary John Williams, was part of the Oscar-winning soundtrack to the 1977 first installment (later known as "Episode #4") in the "Star Wars" franchise. On this date, forty years ago, the film made its debut, and the most epic space opera in cinema history was born. It is no secret that Williams's "Star Wars" scores have been among the most majestic achievements in his repertoire and so important to the success of this franchise. So Happy 40th Birthday to the first film. And May the Force Be With You!

May 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1455

Song of the Day: Moonraker ("Main Title"), lyrics by Hal David, music by John Barry, was the theme to the 1979 James Bond film, starring Roger Moore, who passed away today at the age of 89. Sean Connery remains my favorite Bond, but Moore had his moments. This song was the third Bond theme sung by Shirley Bassey, who had previously recorded the vocal themes to "Diamonds are Forever" and, most famously, "Goldfinger" [YouTube links]. Bassey provides different renditions of the song at the film's opening and the more upbeat end credits [YouTube links]. RIP, Roger Moore; and my deepest condolences to those of his fellow Brits, who are mourning today the deaths of those attending an Ariana Grande concert in Manchester, England, victims of a shameful act of terror.

May 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1454

Song of the Day: Casino Royale ("You Know My Name") features the words and music of David Arnold and Chris Cornell, who died yesterday at the age of 52. This 2006 song features Cornell's lead vocals, from the first 007 film starring Daniel Craig as Bond, James Bond. Actually, Craig's "Skyfall" (2012) is one of my favorite Bond flicks). But today's tribute goes to Cornell, another talent gone too soon. Check out the opening credits [YouTube link], and while you're at it, check out Cornell's transformative version of the Michael Jackson hit, "Billie Jean" [YouTube link]. RIP, Chris Cornell.

May 03, 2017

Song of the Day #1453

Song of the Day: The Every Thought of You, words and music by Reid Hall and Chuck Moore, was, for years, the theme song of "Private Screenings," hosted by the late TCM pioneer, Robert Osborne, who was born on this date in 1932. The version performed on the show is by jazz vocalist Rene Marie, in a smoky jazz room sort of way. Listen to this lovely song at 6:26 in the closing credits of a show [YouTube link] in which Osborne interviewed Liza Minnelli. Osborne was always at the top of his game; as a film historian, he participated in a "Buy the Book" program designed for educators and students, introducing viewers to "The Fountainhead." Check that out here [YouTube link]. In the meanwhile, do check out Rene Marie; finding her music has been a real eye- and ear-opener. Just wonderful.

April 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1452

Song of the Day: Too Darn Hot, words and music by Cole Porter, was written for the 1948 musical, "Kiss Me, Kate." It's another one of those songs from Ella's Porter Songbook album, and is an appropriate conclusion to our Centenary Tribute to the Great Ella Fitzgerald, who will always be Too Darn Hot [YouTube link]. Happy 100th, Ella!

April 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1451

Song of the Day: I Can See It, music by Harvey Schmidt, lyrics by Tom Jones, is a highlight from "The Fantasticks," the original production of which ran for 42 years Off-Broadway. It is also a highlight of "My Name is Barbra," the first of two studio albums that were tied-in to Barbra Streisand's television special of the same name, which won five Emmy Awards and Streisand's first of four Peabody Awards. For this album, Streisand won her third consecutive Grammy for Best Vocal Performance, Female. I was almost three years old when my mother returned from a Broadway show called "I Can Get it For You Wholesale," having enjoyed the production, but telling us that this one performer, "no beauty," had such a voice that she stole the show. "This girl is going places," Mom said. And boy has she. Streisand has collected ten Grammy Awards, along with a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award and a Grammy Legend Award, a Special Tony Award, nine Golden Globe Awards, two Oscars, a Presidential Medal of Freedom, an AFI Life Achievement Award, and a Kennedy Center Honor. Even though we are in the middle of an Ella Fitzgerald Centenary Salute, which concludes tomorrow, I don't think Ella would have minded one bit giving a "shout-out" to Brooklyn Babs, who today celebrates her 75th birthday. This is one of my all-time favorite early Streisand recordings. Check out the song, arranged and conducted by Peter Matz, on YouTube.

Song of the Day #1450

Song of the Day: There's No You, music by Hal Hopper, lyrics by Tom Adair, was first published in 1944, but was covered on "Speak Love," the third of a series of albums that Ella recorded with jazz guitar great Joe Pass. There is a poignant rapport to the two artists as they "speak" to one another in this tender ballad. Check it out on YouTube.

April 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1449

Song of the Day: A Felicidade, music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, is featured on the album Ella Abraca Jobim, and is the only song in our tribute not sung in English! The album features so many of the very famous and melodic Jobim songs, but this is one of those rarely heard gems, with the same wonderful Brazilian flavor one would expect from the great composer, and that touch of swing one would expect from Ella. Check it out on YouTube.

April 22, 2017

Song of the Day #1448

Song of the Day: Just One of Those Things, words and music by Cole Porter, was written for the 1935 musical "Jubilee." The song is featured on the first of Ella's great songbook albums, released in 1956 as the first album for a new label: Verve Records. The album was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2000 and one of fifty recordings selected by the Library of Congress to be added to the National Recording Registry. Check out Ella's rendition on YouTube.

April 21, 2017

Song of the Day #1447

Song of the Day: Love is Here To Stay, music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, was written for the 1938 film, "The Goldwyn Follies." This jazz standard has been recorded by so many artists through the years, and is another one of those that can be heard in two versions, like yesterday's featured entry: one, a solo version by Ella, the other a duet with Louis Armstrong [YouTube links], heard in the 1989 film "When Harry Met Sally."

Ha Ha "Hail, Caesar!"

A Facebook friend, Joel Schlosberg, has been asking me to watch the 2016 film [YouTube link] "Hail, Caesar!," produced, edited, and directed by Joel and Ethan Coen. Well, Joel, I've finally seen it and it was utterly hilarious. You know they are poking fun at the era of 1950s big budget epics and musicals (the subtitle of the film the characters are working on is "A Tale of the Christ," an obvious allusion to "Ben-Hur.") But in poking fun, they are also doing a loving homage to a bygone Hollywood era, and they do it with one hilariously over-the-top scene after another.

I had to stop and rewind a couple of times because I was laughing so hard. One of my absolutely favorite scenes was, as Joel suggested, the Channing Tatum tap dance number, which readers can see on YouTube. Tatum is a talented guy, and the scene just plays with its audience with a few "wink-winks" that invite more than a few chuckle-chuckles.

In any event, I highly recommend the film; it's entertaining, off-center, and sometimes on-target. After all, it's the Coen brothers! So, thanks Joel!

Next up, and soon, maybe next month, I'll drag myself to watch the 2016 version of "Ben-Hur": I don't anticipate having as nice a reaction, but I'll try to do my best impression of "being objective" (given that the 1959 version remains my all-time favorite!) I've been holding off watching it precisely because I am anticipating a train wreck (and the reviews of the film were pretty awful). CGI might be able to give us some great dinosaurs and fantastic epic space odysseys, but there were no CGI tricks in the 1959 chariot race. Those guys (the actors themselves, with a little help from the great Yakima Cannutt) rode the chariots and when they said there was a cast of thousands, they meant it! But I'll give the 2016 version a whirl. Stay tuned.

For now, I'm still laughing. Hail, Caesar indeed! In this arena, it gets Two Thumbs Up!

April 20, 2017

Song of the Day #1446

Song of the Day: I Won't Dance, music by Jerome Kern, has two sets of lyrics: the first (in 1934 for the London Musical "Three Sisters") by Oscar Hammerstein II and Otto Harbach, the second (in 1935, for the film version of the Kern-Harbach musical "Roberta") by Dorothy Fields and Jimmy McHugh. It is the latter version that remains the most recorded, and Ella's Grammy-Award winning rendition with Nelson Riddle (from "Ella Swings Brightly with Nelson") is one of the best. Check it out on YouTube. And also check out another recording of the song that Ella performed with Louis Armstrong [YouTube link].

April 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1445

Song of the Day: A-Tisket A-Tasket, a traditional nursery rhyme first recorded in the late nineteenth century, was the basis for the million-selling hit by Ella Fitzgerald with the Chick Webb Orchestra [YouTube link] in 1938. Lyrically embellished by Al Feldman and Ella herself, this is the song that got our Centenary songstress off to a swinging start. Today we begin our mini-tribute to the First Lady of Song, as we move toward the 100th anniversary of her birth on April 25th.

Ella 100: Celebrating the Ella Fitzgerald Centenary

Introduction

On April 25, 1917, Ella Jane Fitzgerald was born in Newport News, Virginia. As we approach April 25, 2017, I will be celebrating the contributions of one of the greatest jazz singers in music history in commemoration of the centenary of her birth. Back in November 2015, when Notablog celebrated the Frank Sinatra Centenary, I took note of the fact that Sinatra himself referred to Ella as "The First Lady of Song." She brought to jazz many of the things that Ol' Blue Eyes emulated: impeccable diction, wonderful intonation, and an almost innate ability never to sing the same song the same way twice. Her improvisational gifts extended not only to her vocal phrasing but to her achievements in that unique art of jazz singing known as scatting.

Ella was raised on a steady diet of music from the likes of Louis Armstrong, Bing Crosby, and the Boswell Sisters; in fact, it was largely in her embrace of Connee Boswell's style that she got her big breakthrough in 1934, when she competed in Amateur Night at the Apollo Theater. An enthusiastic response from the typically critical audience and from the musicians themselves launched what would become one of the most extraordinary careers of any singer in American popular culture.

Through Benny Carter, a saxophonist in the house band at the Apollo that fateful night, Ella was introduced to many of Harlem's premier musicians; she eventually joined the Chick Webb band, with whom, in 1938, she scored a #1 hit, "A-Tisket A-Tasket," which sold one million copies--not bad for an ol' nursery rhyme. Over time, she recorded with bands led by the musicians who exemplified the changing sounds of the era, from the King of Swing, clarinetist extraordinarie Benny Goodman to Dizzy Gillespie, a trumpeter charging into a new era with the sounds of be bop. Ella's style, emergent in the Swing era, slowly incorporated the idioms of bop, which contributed to her mastery of the art of scat singing, a form of wordless, improvisational vocalizing that allowed the singer to use the voice as if it were another instrument in the band. She actually married the bassist in Dizzy's band, Ray Brown, with whom she adopted a son, Ray, Jr. It was through Ray's producer and manager, Norman Granz, that Ella began appearing in his Jazz at the Philharmonic series, eventually recording a series of "Songbook" albums in the 1950s and 1960s devoted to the works of Cole Porter, Rodgers and Hart, Duke Ellington, Irving Berlin, George and Ira Gershwin, Harold Arlen, Jerome Kern, Johnny Mercer, and, later, in 1981, Antonio Carlos Jobim. This critically acclaimed work brought her international recognition as one of the foremost intepreters of the Great American Songbook.

Such acclaim manifested in fourteen Grammy Awards, a National Medal of the Arts, and the Presidential Medal of Freedom. By the 1990s, Ella had recorded over 200 albums, giving her final concert at Carnegie Hall in 1991, the 26th time she had appeared at that iconic venue. She passed away at the age of 79 on June 15, 1996.

Ella's global impact makes it a difficult task to do a Centenary Tribute. Indeed, for years, I've been tributing this truly great singer with links to over seventy entries in "My Favorite Songs." I've cited Ella's renditions of the following songs, listed alphabetically--only, in this instance, I link not to my entries, but to YouTube presentations of her recordings, which means, you're a swinging click away from a touch of class. Prepare to be entertained: All of Me; All of You; All the Things You Are; All Right, Okay, You Win; Begin the Beguine; Bewitched, Bothered, and Bewildered; Bill Bailey (Won't You Please Come Home); Blue Moon; Blues in the Night; But Not for Me; Cheek to Cheek; Don't Be That Way; Don't Get Around Much Anymore; Early Autumn; Easy Living (with guitarist Joe Pass); (I Love You) for Sentimental Reasons; Give Me the Simple Life; Goody, Goody; Got to Get You Into My Life; The Glory of Love (with Peggy Lee and Benny Goodman; Goodnight My Love (with Benny Goodman); Have You Met Miss Jones?; Here's That Rainy Day; How Deep is the Ocean; How High the Moon; I Can't Give You Anything But Love; I Could Write a Book; I Got it Bad (and That Ain't Good); I'm Beginning to See the Light; I'm Confessin' (That I Love You); I'm Getting Sentimental Over You; In a Mellow Tone; It Don't Mean a Thing (If It Ain't Got That Swing); It's All Right With Me; It's Only a Paper Moon; I've Got a Crush on You; Jersey Bounce; Jingle Bells; Joy to the World; The Lady is a Tramp (and check out her duet with The Chairman of the Board); Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!; Love for Sale; Mack the Knife; The Man that Got Away; My One and Only Love; My Romance; My Shining Hour; O Little Town of Bethlehem; Once I Loved (with guitarist Joe Pass); Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone; 'Round Midnight (live with Oscar Peterson and Ray Brown); Runnin' Wild; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; Solitude; Sophisticated Lady; Spring Can Really Hang You Up The Most; Stairway to the Stars; Stella By Starlight; Sunshine of Your Love; Sweet Georgia Brown (live with the Duke Ellington Orchestra); Take the A Train; Tenderly (with Louis Armstrong); That Old Black Magic; That's Jazz (scatting with Mel Torme); These Foolish Things (Remind Me of You); This Can't Be Love; This Could Be the Start of Something Big; Too Close for Comfort; What Are You Doing New Year's Eve?; Whatever Lola Wants; With a Song in My Heart; and (If You Can't Sing It) You'll Have to Swing It (Mr. Paganini) [again: all YouTube links to enjoy!]

This list doesn't come close to the breadth of Ella's discography. Over the next week, leading up to April 25th, I'll feature just a few more gems from the Songbook of its First Lady.

And now the inevitable question: Can I give you a Top Ten list of Favorite Fitzgerald Recordings? Well, to paraphrase one of the classic lines from a Jerome Kern song I will highlight this week: I can't say... don't ask me! That's not a dismissal; it's just a reality. The woman recorded and performed so many songs in so many different arrangements throughout the years, that I would be hard pressed to pick ten specific recordings or performances. So let me just say: I love Ella. Start here and spend the next week with me, and you'll understand why.

April 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1444

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Suite") [YouTube link], composed by today's birthday boy, Miklos Rozsa, includes all of the sweeping themes for the grand 1959 epic "Tale of the Christ," starring Charlton Heston as Judah Ben-Hur [YouTube documentary on Chuck]. This is, to my knowledge, the only suite I have heard that is different from any other pieces I have already highlighted from the soundtrack of my all-time favorite film. But what makes it so very special is that it features the composer himself conducting the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra (in 1979). It is a special treat to see this man so alive with the music of the score that remains his crowning achievement. It is a true genius that we honor today [pdf link to my Rozsa essay] on the 110th anniversary of his birth [YouTube documentary on Rozsa]. Tomorrow, we begin a week-long Centenary Tribute to another musical legend from an entirely different genre. Just don't drop your brown and yellow basket because within a week, it'll be filled with the glory of Ella.

April 17, 2017

Song of the Day #1443

Song of the Day: Eye of the Needle ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Miklos Rozsa for this 1981 film based on the Ken Follett spy novel. This lush romanticism shows us another side to the man who composed scores for fantasy films, film noir, historical and Biblical epics, not to mention magnificent orchestral concert works.

April 16, 2017

Song of the Day #1442

Song of the Day: Quo Vadis? ("Overture") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa for the 1951 MGM film adaptation of the Henryk Sienkiewicz novel, helps us to mark Easter, which is celebrated today by both Western and Eastern Orthodox Christians. The phrase "Quo Vadis?" ("Where Are You Going?") appears in the Latin Bible in both the Old Testament (based on the Tanakh) and the New Testament (including an apocryphal book). It is said to have been asked to the risen Christ by Peter as he hurried along the Appian Way, away from Rome, where he would face certain execution under Emperor Nero. This musical overture is quintessential epic Rozsa, whose music I will feature for the next three days, as we celebrate the 110th anniversary of his birth. A Happy Easter to all my Christian friends! Christos Anesti! And to all my Jewish friends who have been celebrating Passover this past week: a Zesan Pesach [that's a special link to the entire Elmer Bernstein score for "The Ten Commandments", given that Bernstein himself celebrated Rozsa by recording so many of his compositions over the years!]

April 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1441

Song of the Day: I Was a Fool to Care, words and music by James Taylor, is a melancholy song to note on what is an otherwise whimsical day: April Fools' Day. But this song from Taylor's 1975 album, "Gorilla" is a standout selection. Check out the song on YouTube. Also check out a faithful rendition by Mac DeMarco and Jon Lent [YouTube link] (which includes a little snippet from "The Simpsons").

March 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1440

Song of the Day: Johnny B. Goode features the words and music of Chuck Berry, who died today at the age of 90. A genuine rock and roll pioneer, Berry brought a wonderful R&B sensibility to his music.  This 1958 song [YouTube link] is one of his best, ranked in the Top Ten of Rolling Stone's 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. It was also a comedic-musical highlight of the 1985 film "Back to the Future" [YouTube link] with Michael J. Fox. RIP, Chuck!

March 06, 2017

Robert Osborne, RIP

I was sad to learn today about the death of Robert Osborne, aged 84, who was selected as the host of the nightly broadcasts of Turner Classic Movies, when it opened up shop in 1994. He had been absent from this year's TCM annual "31 Days of Oscar" salute (which coincides with my own "Film Music February"), and viewers knew that he had not been well.

TCM has set up an Osborne Tribute page, which provides valuable information about the Peabody Award-winner's life and work. He was a warm and classy presence on a network dedicated to showing a broad range of cinema classics, uncut and typically, in their original theatrical format, from the silents to the contemporary era. His knowledge of film was astounding. I very much valued his presence on "The Essentials" (and his foreword to the book version, celebrating "52 Must-See Movies and Why They Matter.") But more importantly, I valued his wonderful way of introducing a film, with poignancy, with wit, and always with respect for the craft of the cinema. There's a really wonderful TCM tribute that was aired on Osborne's 20th anniversary with the network; "Ben-Hur" was one of his favorites, but seeing the multiple takes of him trying to pronounce "La Cienega Boulevard" are a hoot!

I had written to him with regard to the two vastly different film versions (one flat-screen, the other becoming the first "CinemaScope" film release) of the 1953 Biblical epic, "The Robe," which is, ironically, being broadcast tonight, the first night of a month-long tribute to TCM's Star of the Month, Richard Burton. But I'd received no reply; I knew he was ill, and doubted I'd hear back from him.

He was a massive presence to lovers of the cinema as a beloved host, and he will be missed by loyal viewers of TCM. RIP, Robert.

Ed: TCM has announced that it will devote 48 hours of its broadcast schedule (the weekend of March 18-19, 2017) to tributing Robert Osborne.

February 26, 2017

Song of the Day #1439

Song of the Day: That's Dancing! ("Invitation to Dance") features the words and music of Brian Fairweather, Dave Ellingson, Martin Page, and Kim Carnes, who sings the song over the closing credits to this wonderful choreographical retrospective, following in the footsteps of the MGM film-clip franchise "That's Entertainment," which recaptures the glory days of Hollywood musicals. The 1985 film focuses on the art of dance; it takes us from the silent era thru Busby Berkeley, Bill "Bojangles" Robinson, Fred Astaire, and Gene Kelly, from "42nd Street" (1933) and "West Side Story" (1961) to Travolta's "Saturday Night Fever" strut (1977) and the ensemble dance steps created by Michael Jackson and Michael Peters for "Beat It" (1983) [YouTube link], marking a definitive moment in the evolution of the music video. Given the reemergence of the classic Hollywood musical, in "La La Land," a 2016 film that could conceivably become the all-time Oscar champ tonight, with 14 Academy Award nominations, including Best Picture, it's fitting not to forget the significance of choreographer Mandy Moore, a favorite from television's "So You Think You Can Dance," for her contribution to the success of this film. Hence, it's all the more appropriate to highlight a selection from this 1985 cinematic celebration of dancers and choreographers throughout film history. Whoever takes home the Oscars, one thing is clear: Tonight, there should be lots of Oscar winners dancing in the aisles with their golden statuettes in hand. So, we conclude our annual Film Music February tribute with today's song [YouTube link] and with a reminder to watch the Oscar broadcast this evening! Till next year . . .

February 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1438

Song of the Day: Hacksaw Ridge ("One at a Time") [YouTube link], composed by Rupert Gregson-Williams, encapsulates an extraordinary motif in this shattering 2016 film, which tells the story of Desmond Doss, who served as a conscientious objector during World War II, receiving the Medal of Honor for saving the lives of an estimated 75 infantrymen in the Battle of Okinawa, one man at a time. Andrew Garfield, who played Spiderman in two films, plays real-life superhero Doss, who refused to even hold a gun or to kill another human being in military engagement, but vowed to save human life as a medic on the battlefield. It is a role for which Garfield has earned a well-deserved 2016 Best Actor Oscar nomination. I have seen many films concerning "war and peace" in my life, and this Mel Gibson-directed Oscar-nominated Best Picture, which depicts all of the unspeakable horrors and miraculous heroism of battle, easily makes my Top Ten-ish list in that cinematic genre. [Ed: See also Lawrence Read's FEE essay, "Hacksaw Ridge Deserves an Oscar for Redefining Heroism."]

February 24, 2017

Song of the Day #1437

Song of the Day: Cinq Jours en Juin (Five Days in June: "Love Makes the Changes") [YouTube link] features the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and the music of Michel Legrand, who was born on this date in 1932. Legrand also directed this 1989 film, and in case you were wondering, the song is delivered with soul and grace by the only Ray Charles, accompanied by the greatest jazz harmonica player to have ever graced this earth, Toots Thielemans, both men no longer with us. The soundtrack is pure Legrand, but boasts a few pieces by some lightweight composers, folks like Frederic Chopin and Johann Sebastian Bach. In any event, Happy 85th Birthday to one of my all-time favorite musical innovators, a brilliant and legendary composer who also happens to be a remarkable jazz musician.

February 23, 2017

Song of the Day #1436

As I stated on Facebook:

Today, as our Film Music February series moves toward its final weekend, I tribute Manton Moreland---one of the greatest and most talented African American comic actors, a trailblazer who broke through the walls of the cinema with his remarkable timing and often improvised use of the double entendre. It's exhibited in today's featured music from Kay's soundtrack to this 1941 film.

Song of the Day: King of the Zombies ("Main Title") [YouTube link, full movie, check the first minute), composed by Edward J. Kay, is from one of those classic comedy/horror hybrids. The 1941 film opens with music over ominous drumming. Remember that drumming, because it is key to one of the most memorable lines in the movie (at 1:00:52). With "voodoo" drums playing in the distance, Bill Summers, played by John Archer, asks his valet, Jefferson Jackson, played by the utterly hilarious Manton Moreland: "What does that sound like to you?" Moreland replies: "I don't know, but it ain't Gene Krupa."

February 22, 2017

Song of the Day #1435

Song of the Day: The Women ("Please Don't Talk About Me When I'm Gone"), words and music by Sam H. Stept, Sidney Clare, and Bee Palmer, was actually written in 1930, but it first made its way into film in this 1939 version of the Clare Booth Luce play, where its first line was sung by Norma Shearer (playing the character Mary Haines) to her lady friends at 00:19:08 into the movie [MovieZoot link]. The film sported an all-star cast, which included among others, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Paulette Goddard, and Joan Fontaine. It can also be heard in the 1949 film "House of Strangers," the 1951 film "Lullaby of Broadway" [check out the YouTube discussion], and the 1955 animated short "One Froggy Evening." The song became a jazz standard, and has been recorded by so many wonderful artists through the years, including Billie Holiday, Rat Packers Sammy Davis, Jr., Frank Sinatra, and Dean Martin, as well as Ella Fitzgerald with the Count Basie Orchestra [YouTube links].

February 21, 2017

Song of the Day #1434

Song of the Day: The Help ("Swingin' on a Rainbow"), words and music by Peter De Angelis and Robert Marcucci, was recorded originally by Frankie Avalon as the title track of his 1959 album. Anything with Frankie Avalon's name attached to it brings to mind films with beaches, blankets, and bingo. But this swingin' song was among the "source music" used in this critically acclaimed 2011 period film set in the Civil Rights era of the early 1960s. Source music can play a crucial role in the cinema, providing an aural authenticity to films with an historical setting. Check out the teen idol's swingin' song on YouTube.

February 20, 2017

Song of the Day #1433

Song of the Day: I Want to Live! ("Main Title" / "Poker Game") [YouTube link to the entire soundtrack album; these tracks encompass the first 6:50] was composed by the ever-jazzy and wonderfully prolific Johnny Mandel. It provides a superb backdrop for this Robert Wise-directed 1958 tale based on the harrowing true story of Barbara Graham, who went to the gas chamber for murder. Susan Hayward gave an Oscar-winning performance as Best Actress, playing the "brazen bad girl . . . implicated in murder and sentenced to death row." Two scores for the film were actually released---"Johnny Mandel's Great Jazz Score" and "The Jazz Combo from 'I Want to Live!'"---the former received a Grammy nomination for Best Soundtrack Album (losing out to Andre Previn for "Gigi"). The film's soundtracks feature such jazz luminaries as Gerry Mulligan, Frank Rosolino, Jack Sheldon (the trumpeter who delivered Mandel's haunting 1965 "Sandpiper" score with such passion), Art Farmer, and Shelly Manne (who was also featured on Previn's "Gigi").

February 19, 2017

Song of the Day #1432

Song of the Day: Hell to Eternity ("Main Title") [YouTube link], music by Leith Stevens (who provided that great score for the splendid 1953 George Pal production of "War of the Worlds"), is an appropriate theme to highlight on this day of remembrance, a day we forget at our peril, when the United States government opened internment camps during World War II for Japanese Americans. The 1960 film stars Jeffrey Hunter, along with David Janssen (who played Dr. Richard Kimble in the trailblazing TV series, "The Fugitive"). It is a biopic about Marine hero Guy Gabaldon Pfc. (played by Hunter), who went on to fight in the Pacific theater of the war, using his considerable Japanese language skills in the Battle of Saipan, where he persuaded the Japanese commander to order the surrender of about 1000 troops and 500 civilians.

February 18, 2017

Song of the Day #1431

Song of the Day: Son of Frankenstein ("Main Title"), composed by Frank Skinner, is from the third film in the Universal Studios Series of Frankenstein films. The first two, "Frankenstein" (1931) and "Bride of Frankenstein" (1935), directed by James Whale, were followed by this 1939 film, the last in which Boris Karloff played the role of the Monster---and the first to feature the character Ygor, played by Bela Lugosi (famous, of course, for his "Dracula" role in both the 1927 Broadway adaptation and 1931 film versions of the Bram Stoker novel). Skinner had a wide range of scores to his credit, from "Saboteur" to the Douglas Sirk classics, "All that Heaven Allows" and "Imitation of Life," but he is especially noted for contributing to the definitive soundtracks for several Universal Monster Movies, including "The Wolf Man," "The Invisible Man Returns," and that ultimate horror-comedic hybrid, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein."

February 17, 2017

Song of the Day #1430

On Facebook, I wrote the following preface:

Today’s entry in my film music series comes from an epic story of struggle and redemption with which I’ve always identified. And it’s a custom I’ve developed, every February 17th since 2005, to choose a cue from the glorious Miklos Rozsa score to my all-time favorite film, “Ben-Hur,” which made its debut at the Loew’s State Theatre in New York City on November 18, 1959, just a day over 3 months before my birth in 1960. Perhaps I fell in love with the film before I was even born, since Mom saw it around the 1959 Christmas holidays, but one thing is certain: I actually first fell in love with the soundtrack to this film, playing it over and over on the ol’ Victrola for a good 5 or 6 years prior to seeing the MGM Oscar champ for the first time on its tenth anniversary re-release, which began its run on June 18, 1969 at the Palace Theatre in NYC, the Overture, Intermission, and Entr’ Acte still intact. I should add that the re-release ran in 70 mm through November 5, 1969, in preparation for the 70 mm showing of "Goodbye, Mr. Chips." My family and I saw the film in the late summer of 1969. The lobby of the Palace was already adorned with Roberto Gari's famous portrait of Judy Garland, in the wake of Garland's death on June 22, 1969---Garland having given a series of legendary performances at the theatre.

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Valley of the Lepers" / "The Search") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, is one of the more mournful themes from his majestic soundtrack for this 1959 film, winner of 11 Academy Awards, including one for Rozsa's score (a record tied by "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King," but never surpassed). It's a tradition during Film Music February to pick a cue from my all-time favorite film, on this particular day because it's my birthday! This ain't birthday party music---no victory parade or parade of the charioteers! [YouTube links]. But it shows another thematic side of the grandest symphonic film score ever written by one of my all-time favorite composers. And while you're at it, check out 10 Famous Lines from this Oscar champ [YouTube link]---though at least four classic lines are missing: "Bravely Spoken," "Down Eros, Up Mars" [TCM link], "Ramming Speed" and "We keep you alive to serve this ship: So row well and live!" [YouTube links]. That last one is a line I've used in some of my more whimsical moments with contributors to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies. It's very effective!

February 16, 2017

Song of the Day #1429

Song of the Day: The Godfather, Part II ("Immigrant Theme") [YouTube link] is a superb Nino Rota composition, conducted by Carmine Coppola, father of Francis Ford Coppola, the director of "The Godfather" (1972) and its two sequels (1974 and 1990), adapted from Mario Puzo's original 1969 novel. But nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing beats the re-edited version of the first two "Godfather" films known as "The Godfather Epic" (a later collection, "The Godfather Trilogy," incorporates "Godfather III"). The original re-edited epic (now playing regularly on premium cable channels, though originally broadcast on NBC in 1977, with a bit of language-scrubbing, as "A Novel for Television") provides us with the whole Corleone family history arranged chronologically (with many scenes not shown in the original theatrical film releases seamlessly integrated). Here, the Family history begins with the tragic youth of Vito Andolini of Corleone, Sicily, fatefully renamed as a child upon his arrival at Ellis Island, as Vito Corleone. Coming to maturity, Vito (superbly played by Robert DeNiro) settles in the Little Italy section of Manhattan. We then move on to the mature Mafia Don of the Corleone syndicate (played brilliantly by Marlon Brando) with special attention focused on one of his American-born sons, Michael Corleone (played by Al Pacino, who gives us a master class on evolutionary character development). Michael is an idealistic World War II hero who eventually becomes the family's chieftan, wielding his power with shocking precision. Overall, seeing this brilliant epic, a masterpiece of direction, writing (and improvisation), acting, cinematography, and the use of symbolism, in this chronological reconfiguration provides us with one of the most fascinating cinematic portraits of the power of values in human life---by showing what happens when they are gradually inverted and corrupted. (And for cinemaphiles, check out the the uh, shooting locations that were used in the original film, including Clemenza's house, only ten blocks from where I live!) This particular Rota theme (featured originally on the soundtrack to "Godfather II," for which both Rota and Carmine Coppola shared a much-deserved Oscar in the category of "Best Original Score") is one of my all-time favorites. It expresses the yearning of those who emigrated to this country in search of the American Dream, even as it provides us with a sense of a tragic, underlying American nightmare.

February 15, 2017

Song of the Day #1428

Song of the Day: Now, Voyager ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], was composed by Max Steiner, who won the Academy Award for Best Music Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture for this 1942 film, starring the great Bette Davis, along with such acting luminaries as Claude Rains and Paul Henreid. Steiner's music rises to a crescendo when Davis turns to Jerry (played by Henreid) and utters, "Oh, Jerry, don't let's ask for the moon. We have the stars." It's a line that was ranked #46 by the American Film Institute's list of the Top 100 Cinema Quotes. Check out the last scene on YouTube and also a lovely musical tribute by composer and former Boston Pops conductor John Williams, featuring violinist Itzhak Perlman.

February 14, 2017

Song of the Day #1427

Song of the Day: Brooklyn ("End Credits") [YouTube link], composed by Michael Brook, is from the 2015 film of the Colm Toibin novel about Ellis Lacey, an Irish woman (played by Oscar-nominated Saiorse Ronan) who settles in Brooklyn, and who develops a relationship with Anthony "Tony" Fiorello, a man of Italian descent (played by Emory Cohen). This is just one of those love stories that tugs at the heart strings, perhaps because in the end [semi-spoiler alert!], the woman realizes where her real home is. It's a romantic story about the power of love and the power of home. Fuhgedaboudit [YouTube link to a classic exchange in the 1997 film "Donnie Brasco"!]. The film is practically a Valentine's Day card to Brooklyn, New York. Just the greatest borough in the greatest city on earth (in this regard, "IMHO" is not part of my acronymic vocabulary)! But love is universal, so Happy Valentine's Day to all!

February 13, 2017

Song of the Day #1426

Song of the Day: In the Line of Fire ("Taking the Bullet") [YouTube link], music by Ennio Morricone, exhibits one side of perhaps the most versatile film score composer of his generation. This cue from the 1993 film, starring Clint Eastwood, Rene Russo, and an utterly maniacal John Malkovich (who received a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination), encapsulates all the tension and suspense of an unsettling political thriller.

February 12, 2017

Song of the Day #1425

Song of the Day: Trolls ("What U Workin' With?") features the words and music of Max Martin, Ilya, and Justin Timberlake, who joins Gwen Stefani in a duet from the soundtrack to this 2016 animated flick (which my pal Jeffrey Tucker likens to Atlas Shrugged in some of its basic themes). The soundtrack yielded a #1 single for Justin, whose "Can't Stop the Feeling!" received the People's Choice Award and has been nominated for a Best Original Song Oscar this year. It has also received a Grammy nomination for "Best Song Written for Visual Media." [Ed: He won!] Given that the Grammy Awards are being broadcast tonight, I think it's only fitting to highlight another song from the Justin-produced soundtrack, which also includes Justin's homage to "Earth, Wind & Fire" in a terrific rendition of their 1978 hit, "September" [YouTube link]. Justin and Gwen also provide the voices for two of the characters in the flick (Branch and DJ Suki, respectively). Check out the song on YouTube. And check out the Grammy Awards tonight on CBS television, hosted by James Corden, noted for his hilarious Carpool Karaoke stunts on his Late, Late Show!

February 11, 2017

Song of the Day #1424

Song of the Day: Ocean's 11 ("Ain't That a Kick in the Head"), music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, was first recorded by Dean Martin in a swingin' Nelson Riddle arrangement in May 1960; it is performed by Martin in an alternative arrangement with the Red Norvo Quartet, in this wonderful 1960 Rat Pack heist film. What better way to mark the 11th with Danny Ocean played by Frank Sinatra) and his up-to-no-good gang of 11! Check out this song's original arrangement and its film rendition [YouTube links].

February 10, 2017

Song of the Day #1423

Song of the Day: Hoosiers ("Best Shot") [YouTube link], composed by Jerry Goldsmith, expresses the thrilling athletic adventures of a small-town Indiana high school basketball team, coached by Norman Dale (played by Gene Hackman, who delivers one of his best performances). This 1986 film provides many "feel-good" moments, and few composers could express this with more majesty. On this date in 1929, Goldsmith was born, and his music graced some of greatest films of his time. This humble little tale is embodied in Goldsmith's score, which expresses all the excitement, passion, and poignancy that were endemic to his artistry.

February 09, 2017

Song of the Day #1422

Song of the Day: The Magnificent Seven ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, is just one of the most memorable title themes of any western---indeed, any film---in cinema history. A 2016 remake was good, and both the remake and the rousing 1960 original film (inspired by the great 1954 Japanese film, "Seven Samurai") had terrific ensemble casts, but, for me, nothing beats the title theme of the 1960 film.

February 08, 2017

Song of the Day #1421

Song of the Day: Close Encounters of the Third Kind ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], music by John Williams, is featured today, for it was on this date that the great composer was born in 1932. The Oscar-nominated score for this wonderful 1977 sci-fi film shows us, in five simple notes, that music really is the universal language. Alas, Williams lost the Oscar for this film that year to another film score of his: a little movie called "Star Wars." This score features a clever reference to the composer's famous "Jaws" theme (from his Oscar-winning score to that summer blockbuster). I'll give you a hint: it's near the two-minute mark in this YouTube clip. (And in the "Main Theme" of today's selection, there is an homage to "When You Wish Upon a Star," from Disney's "Pinocchio", at around 4:30.) See if you can catch it, uh, while you can. And Happy Birthday, Maestro!

February 07, 2017

Song of the Day #1420

Song of the Day: Batman ("Trust"), composed by Prince, features sampled horn parts from jazz trumpeters Eric Leeds and Atlanta Bliss. This Prince soundtrack album to the 1989 film, directed by Tim Burton, stars Michael Keaton as our Caped Crusader. The film also boasts an utterly off the wall, over-the-top, but still classically Jack Nicholson performance in the villainous role of the Joker (formerly played in the 1960s campy TV series by Cesar Romero, and later played much more darkly by the posthumously awarded Best Supporting Actor Oscar-winner Heath Ledger in the 1998 film, "The Dark Knight"). Check out this song and the scene in which it unfolds as well as a rockin' Shep Pettibone 12" dance remix [YouTube]. And so concludes our mini-tribute to Prince's film music repertoire.

February 06, 2017

Song of the Day #1419

Song of the Day: Under the Cherry Moon ("Kiss"), words and music by Prince, is heard in the 1986 film, which featured the first of many collaborations between the artist and jazz pianist Clare Fischer. The soundtrack to the film was marketed under the title of "Parade." This song was a huge hit; it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot 12" Singles Sales, Hot US Club Play, and Hot Black Singles. Check out the single (it's #11 at this link). The song has been covered by many artists, but among the most fun-filled recordings is the one by Tom Jones. And it's not unusual! [YouTube links]. I'm sure that today Gisele Bundchen is not the only person wanting to Kiss Tom Brady, for leading the New England Patriots to an epic, comeback, overtime 34-28 victory over the Atlanta Falcons in Super Bowl LI.

February 05, 2017

Song of the Day #1418

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("When Doves Cry"), words and music by Prince, is featured in the 1984 film and was the biggest hit single from the soundtrack album. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Black Singles chart, and Dance/Disco chart. It is one of those notable R&B-inspired tracks lacking a bass line, but certainly not lacking in soul. On the soundtrack album, Prince plays all the instruments in addition to providing the vocals. Check out the music video [video link]. Some football fans are going to be crying at the end of Super Bowl Sunday; maybe this song will ease the agony of de-feet. If not, then watch the commercials for a laugh or embrace Lady Gaga's halftime show for a little shock and awe.

February 04, 2017

Song of the Day #1417

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("Darling Nikki"), words and music by Prince, hit the Top Ten of the Billboard Hot Rock Songs chart. It's a raw, sexually charged track from the 1984 film that prompted the use of "Parental Advisory" stickers on the soundtrack album, despite never having been released as a single. It has been covered by many artists, but there is only one Prince. Check out the film version [YouTube link].

February 03, 2017

Song of the Day #1416

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("Purple Rain"), words and music by Prince, is the title track to the artist's quasi-autobiographical 1984 film. In 2016, I paid tribute to Prince on the occasion of his untimely death in a week-long celebration of his birthday in June. This week, as part of my annual celebration of film music, I feature a few classic songs from Prince's cinema repertoire. This iconic signature tune is one of his best. Check out the soundtrack album rendition on YouTube.

February 02, 2017

Song of the Day #1415

Song of the Day: King Kong ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by John Barry, has all those Barry signature touches of intrigue and mystery, which could be found in every one of the eleven James Bond film soundtracks he scored (and we shall not forget Ayn Rand, who was born on this date in 1905, was a fan of the early Bond films, especially "Dr. No," for which Barry was the uncredited arranger of the famous Monty Norman Bond motif, though there is lots of controversy surrounding who actually composed that theme). Sadly, this 1976 remake of the classic 1933 film doesn't quite live up to the majesty of the subject matter or the score, but the movie did introduce to the world of cinema, a wonderful actress in her first film role, Jessica Lange. The ending, like all the "King Kong" remakes does feel a bit like Groundhog Day (because the fate of our famous ape is sealed the moment he is brought to New York City). But this particular film features an ending that fans of the Twin Towers will never forget.

February 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1414

Song of the Day: The Gauntlet ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Jerry Fielding, opens this 1977 film, in which Clint Eastwood has to deliver an escort (played by Sondra Locke) from Las Vegas to Phoenix to be a witness in a mob trial. As is the case with so many Eastwood vehicles, this one offers a genuinely jazzy score. The soundtrack features trumpeter Jon Faddis and saxman Art Pepper. Today we throw down the gauntlet to start what has become, since 2005, an annual feature of Notablog: Our tribute to music featured in film, hence, Film Music February, beginning on this first day of the month (like TCM's 31 Days of Oscar, which begins at 6 a.m., tributing films with Oscar winners and nominees, this year, in alphabetical order!). The only difference is that our tribute, which exhibits a reverence for the art of the score, concludes on February 26th, the date on which the 89th Academy Awards will air. Within this month, I'll be showcasing songs, famous themes, terrific cues, and other "source" music that have been featured in films throughout the years. And we'll also devote time throughout the tribute to some folks who get special recognition, for one reason or another. So sit back, get out the popcorn, and enjoy 26 Days of Cinema Music.

January 25, 2017

Song of the Day #1413

Song of the Day: Mary Tyler Moore Show ("Love is All Around"), composed and performed by Sonny Curtis, was the opening theme of an iconic TV show from the 1970s, which spawned a few spin-off shows as well ("Rhoda," "Phyllis," and "Lou Grant"). Sadly, today, Mary Tyler Moore passed away at the age of 80. This was one of those series that was part of my youth and gave me plenty of laughs (who can forget the death of Chuckles the Clown [YouTube link to full episode]?). Then again, I liked her going all the way back to the "Dick Van Dyke Show." Check out the theme song on YouTube, which includes variations of the theme as it evolved over the seasons during which it was on broadcast television (especially with that Cute Kitten Meow at the End Credits). RIP, Mary!

January 20, 2017

Song of the Day #1412

Song of the Day: Got a Match? [YouTube link], composed by Chick Corea, appears on the 1986 album, "The Chick Corea Elektric Band", featuring Chick on keyboards, drummer Dave Weckl, bassist John Patitucci, and guitarists Scott Henderson and Carlos Rios. The track is expressive of its title: it just burns. Hot as hell, with a tempo to match. Whew. (And check out this nice Jazz Violin Band version of the track [YouTube link].) When is Chick going to get his place among the honorees at the Kennedy Center? And while we're on the subject of this stupendous musician, check out how, over the years, he has reinterpreted his own composition, a modern jazz standard if ever there was one: "Spain," which opens with a paean to Rodrigo's "Concierto de Aranjuez." Here it is in three different settings: the classic "Return to Forever" 1973 original, from "Light as a Feather" [YouTube link]; a 1999 version recorded for Sextet with the London Philharmonic Orchestra, in three movements: Part One, Part Two, and Part Three [YouTube links]; and this 1989 Akoustic Band album version [YouTube link], which changes time signature and tempos (the group includes the drummer and bassist featured on today's Song of the Day). Just marvelous. While you're at it, check out Stevie Wonder's live-in-concert take on that Corea Classic and Stevie and Chick playing it live, together [YouTube link].

January 01, 2017

Song of the Day #1411

Song of the Day: Funky New Year, words and music by Glenn Frey, Don Henley, Bob Seger and J. D. Souther, was recorded by the Eagles, among the newest Kennedy Center Honorees, as the B-side to "Please Come Home For Christmas" [YouTube link], first made famous by Charles Brown. Check out the Funky single and a Funky live version too [YouTube links]. A happy, healthy, and very funky 2017 to all!

December 28, 2016

Song of the Day #1410

Song of the Day: Singin' in the Rain ("Good Morning"), music by Nacio Herb Brown, lyrics by Arthur Freed, made its debut in the 1939 film "Babes in Arms." But it was made super-famous by the wonderful singing-and-dancing trio of Donald O'Connor, Gene Kelly, and Debbie Reynolds in the great 1952 movie musical "Singin' in the Rain" (and while you're at it, check out the original Garland-Rooney "Babes in Arms" performance) [YouTube links]. Yesterday, I posted a tribute to Carrie Fisher, who died at the age of 60. I have just learned of the death of her 84-year old mom. To have to post, a day later, a tribute to Reynolds, whose many movies and television appearances I so loved (from "The Debbie Reynolds Show" to "Will and Grace," where Reynolds debuted the "Told Ya So" dance [YouTube link]), just goes beyond tragedy. It is almost literally unbelievable to see within a few days, the deaths of celebrities such as Zsa Zsa Gabor, George Michael, Carrie Fisher, and now, Debbie Reynolds. I am greatly saddened. For me, Debbie Reynolds was as "unsinkable" as Molly Brown. RIP, Debbie.

December 27, 2016

Song of the Day #1409

Song of the Day: Star Wars: A New Hope ("Princess Leia's Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the great John Williams, was first heard in "Episode Four," which for those who have been living under a galactic rock for 40 years, is actually the first film in the "Star Wars" franchise, which began in 1977. It is fitting to feature this theme in remembrance of the sad passing of the woman who first brought Princess Leia to life: Carrie Fisher, who died today at the age of 60. Daughter of singer Eddie Fisher and actress Debbie Reynolds, she was a gifted talent, who achieved many wonderful accomplishments in her life. But she will forever be identified with this role, which she also played in "The Empire Strikes Back" (Episode Five, 1980), "Return of the Jedi" (Episode Six, 1983), and "The Force Awakens" (Episode Seven, 2015). The setting of this epic space opera may have begun "a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," but Fisher's force will be with us for light years to come. RIP, Carrie Fisher.

December 26, 2016

Song of the Day #1408

Song of the Day: Monkey features the words and music of George Michael, who, sadly, passed away at the age of 53 on Christmas Day 2016. Originally part of the duo Wham!, giving us a memorable song of the season ("Last Christmas"), Michael recorded a number of songs that have been among my favorites ("Feeling Good," "Kissing a Fool," "My Baby Just Cares for Me," and "If I Told You That," a duet with the late Whitney Houston). This track was a Top Ten R&B track that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Dance Club Singles charts. A Jimmy Jam-Terry Lewis production, it was the fourth consecutive #1 hit from Michael's solo album, "Faith." It sported a deep bass line and a great sleaze dance beat. Check out the official video and the extended remix (with a few samples from "Hard Day" [YouTube links], another of Michael's adventures in funk). Back in 1987, when I was still doing the occasional mobile DJ gig, I'd have a ball with those two turn tables remixing the 12" vinyl records (remember those?) to packed dance floors. RIP, George. He'll be missed.

December 25, 2016

Song of the Day #1407

Song of the Day: That's What Christmas Means To Me, words and music by Harry Revel, is heard in the heart-warming 1947 film, "It Happened on Fifth Avenue." The title of this tune might pertain to at least four different songs, but this rare soundtrack gem can be heard in a TCM film clip. The film received an Oscar nomination for "Best Original Story", but it actually lost out to another wonderful Christmas film: "Miracle on 34th Street." For an extra dose of good cheer and good will, check out another holiday classic by the wonderful USAF Band playing "Jingle Bells/Auld Lang Syne" [YouTube link]. It may have you dancing right into the New Year (a tip of the Santa hat to Roger Bissell for that wonderful video!). And a Happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends!

December 24, 2016

Song of the Day #1406

Song of the Day: Boogie Woogie Santa Claus, words and music by Leon Rene, went to #12 on what in late 1947 was called the Billboard Race Records chart. That original version was recorded by Mabel Scott [YouTube link]. But there are also versions by the Brian Setzer Orchestra (single and live rendition [YouTube links]). Don't forget to track Santa's travels on NORAD! Have a safe and Merry Christmas Eve!

December 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1405

Song of the Day: With Plenty of Money and You features the words and music of Harry Warren and Alexander "Al" Dubin. Back in the sizzling summer, we celebrated a week-long tribute to the great Tony Bennett, who turned 90 on August 3rd. On that date, the singer was honored with an Empire State Building Light Show [YouTube link] and an all-star tribute concert that was recorded for a 2-hour primetime special to be broadcast tonight on NBC. This "song of the day" comes from an album originally titled "Basie Swings, Bennett Sings" but was also marketed as "Strike Up the Band." Either way, this song cooks. For music afficionados, see if you can hear a tiny lick of "Sweet Georgia Brown" in that burnin' Basie big band chart. Check out the swinging tune on YouTube.

December 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1404

Song of the Day: This Happy Madness (Estrada Branca), music by Antonio Carlos Jobim, lyrics by Vinicius de Moraes, with English lyrics by Gene Lees, was recorded by Jobim and Francis Albert Sinatra, who was born on this date 101 years ago today. Readers might recall that last year I did a three-week tribute in song on the occasion of the Sinatra Centenary. But December 12th never ceases to be a day to honor Ol' Blue Eyes. This particular song was recorded for the album, "Sinatra & Company," released in 1971, but is also to be found on the wonderful "Complete Reprise Recordings" of Sinatra and Jobim. A wonderful day to celebrate the talents of two of the finest artists to have ever graced this planet. Check out this lovely song on YouTube.

December 09, 2016

Song of the Day #1403

Song of the Day: Spartacus ("Overture"), composed by Alex North, is featured on this day, the 100th birthday of the very much alive actor, Kirk Douglas. From his starring roles in such movies as "Champion," "Lust for Life," and "The Bad and the Beautiful" (all for which he received Oscar nominations in the category of Best Actor) to "Paths of Glory" and his seven films with Burt Lancaster (including "Seven Days in May"), Douglas has been Hollywood royalty for decades. He was awarded an Oscar for Lifetime Achievement [YouTube link]. But there are few films that capture his grit at its most heroic than the Stanley Kubrick-directed 1960 blockbuster, "Spartacus." Happy birthday to the "Young Man with a Horn." And instead of singing Happy Birthday, I'd like to stand up and say: "I'm Spartacus."

December 07, 2016

Song of the Day #1402

Song of the Day: Chunky features the words and music of Philip Lawrence, Christopher Brody Brown, James Fauntleroy, and Bruno Mars, who performed this on both "Saturday Night Live (@ 3:39 in the YouTube video of his performances on the October 15, 2016 show) and the "Victoria's Secret Fashion Show" [YouTube link] last night. I don't how those razor-thin models reacted to a song extolling the virtues of "girls with the big old hoops," but Bruno was #1 on the runway for me. His new album, "24K Magic" (whose title track, with a spotlight-solo dance segment on November 20th's American Music Awards [YouTube link]) was a pure MJ throwback), has a touch of James Brown, Prince, and Michael Jackson, on whose shoulders he proudly stands (see his "60 Minutes" interview [CBS News link]). Pure Magic. 24K. (Oh, and check out this great cinema montage set to the Mars-Ronson hit, "Uptown Funk".)

November 13, 2016

Song of the Day #1401

Song of the Day: This Masquerade features the words and music of Leon Russell, who passed away today at the age of 74. Like "A Song for You," this song is one of my favorite Russell compositions. It first appeared on his 1972 "Carney" album, but became a Top Ten Billboard Hot 100 and R&B hit for jazz guitarist and vocalist George Benson. The recording was Benson's first single release, appearing on his signature 1976 album, "Breezin'" and it went on to receive the Grammy Award for Record of the Year. Check out the Russell original and Benson's recording as well [YouTube links]. And check out a more recent version by the son of Barbra Streisand: Jason Gould. RIP, Leon Russell.

November 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1400

Song of the Day: Hallelujah features the words and music of Leonard Cohen, who passed away on Monday, November 7th, at the age of 82. Featured on his 1984 album, "Various Positions," the song would go on to much fame in film ("Shrek"), and in renditions by John Cale, Jeff Buckley, Rufus Wainwright, k.d. lang, the jazz-infused Lon Hope, the "Gentle" alto Sax, Justin Timberlake and Matt Morris and our newest Nobel laureate for literature, poet-folk-rocker Bob Dylan [YouTube links]. But in remembrance of the remarkable songbook he left behind, it's fitting to return to the Cohen original [YouTube link]. RIP, Leonard.

November 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1399

Song of the Day: The Man from U.N.C.L.E. ("Main Themes"), composed by the great Jerry Goldsmith, graced the original TV show in various iterations for its mid-1960s small-screen run. It led to a series of spin-offs and film adaptations, including a 2015 movie version. The show was inspired by Ian Fleming's James Bond series; indeed, Fleming contributed to the development of the original show, which featured two characters, one Soviet and one American, who join forces in a secret international counter-espionage agency called U.N.C.L.E. (United Network Command for Law Enforcement). The Soviet agent, Illya Kuryakin, was played by the handsome, blond David McCallum and the American agent, Napoleon Solo, was played by cleft-chinned Robert Vaughn. It was a fun show that I'll always remember from my childhood. I post this theme in remembrance of Robert Vaughn, who passed away today at the age of 83.

November 03, 2016

Song of the Day #1398

Song of the Day: Go, Cubs, Go!, words and music by Steve Goodman, is the song of the day for the baseball team that has broken the 108-year World Series victory drought for the fans who will soon see a banner rise over Wrigley Field, now home to the 2016 World Champion Chicago Cubs. I'd never thought I'd see, in my lifetime, the Boston Red Sox end an 86-year World Series victory drought (a consequence of the so-called "Curse of the Bambino") or the Chicago White Sox end an 88-year World Series victory drought (a consequence of the curse of the "Black Sox Scandal"), but the Cubbies have achieved something that is the stuff of legend, vanquishing the so-called Curse of the Billy Goat! With guys like Anthony Rizzo and Kris Bryant, they have a winning future ahead of them. Now I know that the Cleveland Indians have their own "curse" to conquer (the so-called "Curse of Rocky Colavito" that has prevented them from winning a World Series since 1948, though this Colavito "curse" traces to 1960). But this big New York Yankees fan congratulates the Chicago Cubs and their fans for a tenth-inning Game 7 victory and a World Series title! Anyway, check out the Cubbies' song [YouTube].

October 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1397

Song of the Day: Nasty, words and lyrics by Jimmy "Jam" Harris III, Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson, went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop Singles charts. This 1986 Janet Jackson signature tune, from her #1 album, "Control," is a particularly appropriate "song of the day" today; last night in the final face-off between Benito and Evita, "Nasty Boy" Trumpster called Hillary a "Nasty Woman," and the phrase has now gone viral. Only the future of the republic is on the line, but I'm still chuckling over a comment made by my long-time colleague and friend, David Boaz, who, when asked, "If somebody held a gun to your head, and gave you the choice of The Don or Hillary?" replied: "Take the bullet." Whatever your political persuasion, most of us will look back on this 2016 Presidential campaign as having provided us with some "nasty" entertainment for months. There's only one thing left to do: "Gimme a Beat" (and you thought I was going to say: "Rock the Vote!"). Check out the video to this iconic Janet song [YouTube link] (and yes, in the video, you'll find a young Paula Abdul, who did the choreography).

October 16, 2016

Song of the Day #1396

Song of the Day: 24K Magic, words and music by Bruno Mars, Christopher "Brody" Brown, and Philip Lawrence, is the title track of Mars's third studio album, and a bona fide hit out of the box. Part retro funk, disco and R&B, with a dollop of "Rapper's Delight" thrown in for good measure, this one is the kind of throwback that Mars delivers effortlessly (like he did with "Uptown Funk"). Great beat to start a new week. Check out the official video and his performance of it on last night's "Saturday Night Live," where he killed it [YouTube links]! [Ed: And if he killed it on SNL, he absolutely slaughtered it on the 2016 American Music Awards (YouTube link).]

October 01, 2016

Russian Radical 2.0: The Rand-Marx Parallels

The second edition of Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical has continued to spur discussion in print media and online. I will be responding to many of the commentators in a forthcoming essay, "Reply to Critics: The Dialectical Rand," which will be published in the July 2017 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies.

Today, I wanted to provide a link to an interesting discussion that has been provoked by writer Anoop Verma, on the blog, The Verma Report (formerly "For the New Intellectual"). His discussion and many responses can also be found among those who have access to Facebook. I've added an excerpt from his blog post, which is not a formal review, but a few provocative thoughts about one particular aspect of the book highlighting some of the parallels between Karl Marx and Ayn Rand: "Is There a Connection Between Ayn Rand and Karl Marx?"

Readers can find an excerpt from the blog post here. Also, check out my index of Russian Radical reviews here, as well as an index to all of the blog posts on "Russian Radical 2.0" here.

Enjoy!

Postscript: As one would expect, the discussion on Russian Radical on the Rand-Marx parallels brings out of the woodwork some people who have, for 20+ years, enjoyed crapping on my achievements in that book. I won't let stand some of the wild misinterpretations of the theses presented in that book. Here are some of the comments I made in follow-up on Facebook:

In response to a comment on my understanding of Marx, I wrote:

. . . the picture of Marx that I got was through my NYU Marxist mentor, Bertell Ollman, who wrote THE book on "Alienation" and THE book on the nature of dialectical inquiry, "Dialectical Investigations"; as well as fine works by Scott Meikle ("Essentialism in the Thought of Karl Marx") and Carol Gould ("Marx's Social Ontology: Individuality and Community in Marx's Theory of Social Reality"). I strongly recommend these works to those interested in a more nuanced picture of Marx. My own book, "Marx; Hayek; And Utopia," is actually the first book in my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy." The second book is "Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical," and the finale is "Total freedom : toward a dialectical libertarianism."

In continued discussion, I mention the case of Edward Snowden, I remarked:

BTW, there is a scene apparently in the beginning of Oliver Stone's new movie on Edward Snowden, where Snowden admits his admiration for Atlas Shrugged and Ayn Rand; read Jeffrey Tucker's piece on it.

And in response to an individual who has been using various Internet forums to dump on Russian Radical for 20+ years, I wrote:

Let me make one extended comment about Mr. A IS A. He has been calling this book intellectual claptrap for 20+ years. And yet, at the time, he confided that the entire section on "The Radical Rand" was a remarkable way of integrating a massive amount of material to show just how radical Rand was in her social analysis. He falls into line though with an entire orthodoxy that came down so hard on the book that they made it among the most successful scholarly studies of Rand ever published, having gone through seven printings, and into a second edition, which, btw, includes two "largely biographical" appendices that are the only sources available of the actual courses Ayn Rand took, the professors with whom she most likely studied, and the texts she most likely read. There are no other places in the literature where this information is available.
Moreover, it is the only book in the nearly 50 years since the 1968 break that reintegrates the canoncial essays and lectures of Nathaniel Btanden and Barbara Branden, the works that Rand herself said were still part of the only "authentic" sources on Objectivism even after her acrimonious break with them. One will strain oneself to find a single reference to any canoncical Branden work anywhere among orthodox thinkers who have airbrushed their contribtuions out of the historical record.
Finally, there is nothing "inessential" about calling Rand a dialectical thinker if one defines dialectics as an essentially Aristotelian tool fundamentally concerned with the "art of context-keeping." To hold context and to ~understand~ that context on multiple levels of generality and from a variety of vantage points is a way of providing us with an enriched view of the problems being analyzed. This is the only way to get to the "root" of those problems, which is why Rand is essentially and always a "radical" (to be "radical" is to go to the "root"). The only thing I can say is that this book has withstood the test of time; for after nearly 20 years of being ignored, it is finally being grappled with in orthodox circles by scholars such as Shoshana Milgram and Gregory Salmieri in the recent "Blackwell Companion to Ayn Rand". [I say in an additional post with regard to this book: It is useful, and it is the first book that begins to grapple not only with Russian Radical, but actually includes critical discussions for the first time in orthodox circles (post-1968) of the contributions of the Brandens to Objectivism. This is a giant step forward in Rand scholarship, and I applaud it.] Milgram actually indicts Rand's recollections of Lossky as her professor, but completely confirms the facts that I unveiled with regard to her college education and her education at the gymnasium of Lossky's in-laws; Salmieri disagrees with characterizing Rand's system as dialectical, but he himself spells out one of the most important characteristics of that which I call dialectical, in his words, her ability to engage in "grand-scale integration across time and across fields in [her] interpretation of the events of her time," something that requires context-holding, an understanding of the facts of reality, and of the law of noncontradiction. On these issues and on others, I have written extensively for years. But I am not going to let Mr. A is A to try to crap all over my achievements and get with away it. Adios!

In a further response to the critic above, I wrote:

I would like to clear the record with regard to my comment above that the critic above "confided that the entire section on 'The Radical Rand' was a remarkable way of integrating a massive amount of material to show just how radical Rand was in her social analysis." I was going on memory. So I just did a search of my archives and wish to post them here, especially since Mr. Aisa has dismissed the book today as "100% wrong." He admits that he found the first "biographical" section of the book as "interesting," though he largely dismissed it in a post to alt.philosophy.objectivism on Sun. 14 Jan 1996, saying he was "quite perplexed reading the entire first section of the book."
But he admits back in 1996, that "Sciabarra's regard for Rand is obvious, and there is no evidence he is trying to smear or attack her.." And he even had a couple of kind things to say about the middle section that he now dismisses as claptrap: "The middle section of Sciabarra's book seemed to me to be an honest thinker's attempt to summarize Objectivism and relate it to Rand's fiction." But here's the part I was referring to; his evaluation of Part 3 of the book, back in 1996:
"The final section [that would be Part 3, "The Radical Rand"] was the only really valuable part of the book, in my view -- an attempt to show the relationship between philosophic ideas and culture, using Objectivism as the subject. I think that many Objectivists could greatly benefit from studying what Sciabarra points out in this section. Philosophic ideas do not exist in a vacuum, and there is a profound interrelationship between culture and philosophic ideas, which is NOT one way. For example, statist political regimes have a very demonstrable effect on what kinds of ideas are taught and promulgated, and free societies likewise. The notions in this section are not absent from Objectivist writings -- for example see: Ayn Rand's essay "Our Cultural Value-Deprivation" (_The Objectivist_, Apr 66) wherein she discusses the relationship between cultural and individual development; and Edith Packer's essay "The Psychological Requirements of a Free Society" (_The Objectivist Forum_, Feb 84), wherein she explains the interrelationship between free thinking people and a free culture -- but some Objectivists seem to latch onto the notion of "philosophy determines history", and not realize the context of that idea, and the profound interrelationships between the spread of ideas, the content of ideas, and individual and cultural practice."
So said Mr. Aisa in January of 1996; I could not have said it better myself. How all of this morphed into a growing, and hostile dismissal of my work as "100% wrong" is anyone's guess, but that's how it has been for the last 20 years since Mr. Aisa made these statements. I guess we are all entitled to change our minds. If Mr. Aisa felt personally insulted by my comments, after he joined in on a discussion that included character assassinations of me as a loon and a liar [comments since deleted, apparently], followed by his dismissal of my work as "claptrap", all I can say is, I agree with some of what Mr. Aisa said... WAY BACK IN 1996.
If folks want to get back to discussing the ideas that Anoop raised at the start of this thread, that would be cool. As for me, I've been through these discusssions as to the value of my work and the value of my character for well over two decades now. It's really starting to get old.

In response to the charge that there is no "orthodoxy" to speak of in the philosophy of Objectivism, I wrote:

The orthodoxy is defined primarily by those who have been affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute and who have had privileged access to the Ayn Rand archives. They have had a history of not citing any Rand scholarship outside of those sources that have been approved by Rand and / or Peikoff and company. They have had a history of not citing any sources outside of the circle of writers who are affiliated with the Ayn Rand Institute. And I am NOT referring to Dr. Branden's works after 1968. I am referring to this statement made by Ayn Rand after her break with Barbara Branden and Nathaniel Branden, in her "Statement of Policy" (June 1968):
"My role in regard to Objectivism is that of a theoretician. Since Objectivism is not a loose body of ideas, but a philosophical system originated by me and publicly associated with my name, it is my right and my responsibility to protect its intellectual integrity. I want, therefore, formally to state that the only authentic sources of information on Objectivism are: my own works (books, articles, lectures), the articles appearing in and the pamphlets reprinted by this magazine (The Objectivist as well as The Objectivist Newsletter), books by other authors which will be endorsed in this magazine as specifically Objectivist literature, and such individual lectures or lecture courses as may be so endorsed. (This list includes also the book Who is Ayn Rand? by Nathaniel Branden and Barbara Branden, as well as the articles by these two authors which have appeared in this magazine in the past, but does not include their future works.)"
Let's make one thing clear: Nathaniel Branden presented the first systematized and authorized course on Objectivism in the history of the movement, way back in 1958, a 20-lecture course on the "Basic Principles of Objectivism." Those lectures influenced thousands of people worldwide, and propelled Rand into the role of public philosopher. The Nathaniel Branden Institute presented many additional courses, including Barbara Branden's "Principles of Efficient Thinking" which was a virtual primer on Objectivist psycho-epistemology. These courses were recorded and distributed throughout the world by NBI, and heard by thousands of people throughout the 1960s. Nathaniel Branden wrote the first authorized essays on concepts that became part of the entire Objectivist vernacular: "the stolen concept," "psycho-epistemology," and all his work on self-esteem, psychological visibility, and romantic love. All of these essays appeared in The Objectivist Newsletter and The Objectivist and they were considered even by Rand after her break with Branden in 1968 as part of the only "authentic" sources on Objectivism.
And yet, a fine scholar such as Tara Smith, author of Ayn Rand's Normative Ethics devotes 28 pages to the issue of self-esteem and does not mention a single essay written by Branden during his years of association with Rand, and still a part of the Objectivist canon, according to Rand. She refers to Peikoff. I am not referring to anything written by Branden after 1968 here. I'm talking about his pre-1968 writings. This is the kind of "scholarship" that went on for years, where nobody inside of ARI referred to anybody outside of ARI. That's not objectivity; it's partisanship, and it's disgraceful.
P.S. - The Branden statements on "homosexuality" were in his very early essays; they were deplorable, but no worse than Rand's statements that homosexuality was "disgusting", which she said live in a Ford Hall Forum Q&A session. (I have discussed this in a study of attitudes toward homosexuality in the early Objectivist movement in my monograph, "Ayn Rand, Homosexuality, and Human Liberation".)
At least Branden's views on homosexuality evolved over time, and he ultimately accepted gay relationships as mature expressions of human sexuality.
For those who are interested, The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will be presenting a book-length symposium called "Nathaniel Branden: His Work and Legacy" in December 2016, a double-issue, published by Pennsylvania State University Press, that will also be available in a Kindle edition. It features contributions from nearly 20 authors in disciplines as diverse as cognitive and academic psychology, anthropology, literature, history, political theory, film, and more, discussing everything from the Rand years to the scientific and empirical status and usefulness of Branden's work as the so-called "father" of the self-esteem movement in psychology.

September 21, 2016

Song of the Day #1395

Song of the Day: Dance, Dance, Dance (Yowsah, Yowsah, Yowsah), words and music by Bernard Edwards, Nile Rodgers, and Kenny Lehman, was the first single and #1 hit on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart for the dance/disco group Chic. They dominated that chart with this song and its companion tracks ("Everybody Dance" and "You Can Get By") for 8 weeks in the fall of 1977. Check it out on YouTube. We are on the precipice of another Autumnal Equinox, which doesn't arrive until 10:21 a.m Eastern time tomorrow, so we're hanging onto the last hours of summer, on the last full day of summer, with a song that tells us to go on ... and "dance, dance, dance." So ends our Summer "Saturday Night Dance Party," until next year.

September 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1394

Song of the Day: Velas, composed by Ivan Lins and Vitor Martins, is played with lilting beauty by Toots Thielemans on this standout Quincy Jones-Johnny Mandel-arranged track from the 1981 Quincy Jones album, "The Dude." The album itself received twelve Grammy Award nominations, and this track won in the category of "Best Arrangement of an Instrumental Recording" (though losing in the category of "Best Pop Instrumental Recording"). Quincy went on to take top honors as Producer of the Year, for this utterly superb album, one of my all-time favorites. The Toots track only provides another touch of class to an already classy album. Check out the original album cut, and while you're at it, check out his rendition of another famous Q track, "Killer Joe" [YouTube link] (written by Benny Golson). RIP, dear Toots.

September 19, 2016

Song of the Day #1393

Song of the Day: Sesame Street ("Can You Tell Me How to Get to Sesame Street"), composed by Joe Raposo, originally featured the ever-recognizable harmonica of the late, great jazz musician Toots Thielemans [YouTube link]. A vocal version often opened the series (and check out the Jimmy Fallon-Roots version as well) [YouTube links], while Thielemans closed it out in a strictly instrumental rendering. I just learned of the death of this jazz giant, who passed away at the age of 94 on August 22, 2016. He was one of my all-time favorite musicians. Now, while this theme closes our mini-tribute to TV themes for 2016, it also opens a two-day tribute to Toots. I first heard his talents on display when he whistled in unison with his melodic and inventive improvisational guitar playing, so deeply influenced by Django Reinhardt, on an original Toots composition [a .pdf file], which became his signature tune: "Bluesette" [YouTube link]. So when I was later introduced to his harmonica playing, I was utterly floored by what I heard. (In fact, he played a harmonica rendition of that classic composition in a live harmonica duet with Stevie Wonder [YouTube link].) Whether he was enriching the sounds of a film score ("Midnight Cowboy," "Sugarland Express" [YouTube links]), accompanying such artists as Vanessa Williams and Sting on "Sister Moon" [YouTube link], or conjoining his musical talents with the incomparable Michel Legrand for a lovely rendition of the main theme from the Oscar-winning 1971 Legrand film score for "The Summer of '42" [YouTube link], Toots could play that small instrument with all the dexterity of a jazz saxophonist. Check out his jazz work on such tunes as "Au Privave" [YouTube link] (a live recording with guitarist Joe Pass and pianist Oscar Peterson), "The Days of Wine and Roses" [YouTube link] (with jazz pianist Bill Evans), and "Manha de Carnaval" [YouTube link], from the first of a two-volume collection of melodic, lyrical Brazilian classics.

September 18, 2016

Song of the Day #1392

Song of the Day: Batman ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the celebrated jazz trumpeter, composer, songwriter, and arranger, Neil Hefti, opened every episode of the campy 1960s series starring Adam West as Bruce Wayne / Batman, and Burt Ward as Robin facing off against a host of villains played by an evolving all-star cast, including The Joker (Cesar Romero), The Riddler (Frank Gorshin and John Astin), The Penguin (Burgess Meredith), and Catwoman (Julie Newmar and Eartha Kitt), among them. The cartoon graphics at the beginning of the show inspired a hilarious SNL parody, called "The Ambiguously Gay Duo" [YouTube link]. I was so swept away by the series as a kid that I went out to my Aunt Joan's house in Bellmore, Long Island, just so I could see Adam West and Burt Ward pass by in a Long Island bus tour! And my sister, my cousins, and I made the cover of Long Island's Newsday in a photo showing me holding up a sign of greeting as high as any 7-year old kid could. Tonight, they'll be lots of people holding up Emmy Awards in the Primetime broadcast. Tomorrow, I'll have one more encore TV theme, in honor of one of the greatest musicians who ever lived, now gone. But tonight, check out the Emmys.

September 17, 2016

Song of the Day #1391

Song of the Day: Queer as Folk ("Sanctuary"), words and music by Brian Canham and Ben Grayson (both formerly of Pseudo Echo), was recorded by Origene and featured prominently in Season 4 of the pathbreaking Showtime series. "There is a place within all of us, it is sacred, so free of judgment, and this is yours to share with who you wish. . . this is your sanctuary . . ." It is a lyric so in sync with the individualist ethos of the series in which it was heard. Moreover, the song's dance rhythm meshes well not only with our TV-themed week, but also as a contribution to the final weekend of our Summer Saturday Night Dance Party, which ends officially on the last full day of Summer (September 21st). Check out the original telescore single mix, the extended Harry Lemon remix, and the Ivan Gough remix.

September 16, 2016

Song of the Day #1390

Song of the Day: The Passion of Ayn Rand ("Love Is, Love is Not"), words and music by Jeff Beal, is sung by Shirley Eikhard over the closing credits of the 1999 Showtime film, based on Barbara Branden's 1986 Rand biography of the same name. The film earned awards for some of its stellar acting performances: an Emmy Award for Helen Mirren in the lead role of the novelist-philosopher Ayn Rand ("Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie") and a Golden Globe Award for Peter Fonda in the role of Rand's husband, Frank O'Connor ("Best Performance by an Actor in a Supporting Role in a Series, Miniseries, or Motion Picture Made for TV"). Check out the sensitive jazz-infused song on YouTube.

September 15, 2016

Song of the Day #1389

Song of the Day: I Love Bosco, words and music by John Edwards and Lyn Duddy, featuring the adorable Bosco bear, was a commercial staple during the children's TV shows of the 1950s and 1960s. (Though, in truth, I was an even bigger fan of Farfel from Nestle's!) Check out the jingle on YouTube.

September 14, 2016

Song of the Day #1388

Song of the Day: Winston Tastes Good Like a Cigarette Should, ghost written by Margaret Johnson and her husband Travis Johnson, was performed by their Song Spinners group for one of the most recognizable cigarette commercials in TV history. You don't see these commercials anymore, but the jingles stay in your head, if you were among those situated in front of the TV from the 1950s through the 1970s. Our Emmy mini-tribute this year includes a couple of those jingles, as memorable as many of the TV show themes we all grew up listening to. Check out this unforgettable commercial jingle on YouTube.

September 13, 2016

Song of the Day #1387

Song of the Day: TCM Feature Presentation Theme [YouTube link], is a familiar and friendly instrumental, featuring a lovely clarinet, and an uncredited composer. For regular fans of Turner Classic Movies, it's just an indication that another genuinely classic movie is about to grace our television screens.

September 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1386

Song of the Day: Land of the Giants ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by the great John Williams for the Irwin Allen-created sci-fi TV series. As an eight-year old kid, I enjoyed this TV series when it premiered in 1968. The show lasted two seasons on the ABC network.

September 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1385

Song of the Day: The Night Of [YouTube link], music by Jeff Russo, opens each episode of the tense HBO miniseries that recently concluded its summer run. The show was to star the late James Gandolfini, who retains a posthumous executive producer credit; his role was subsequently offered to Robert DeNiro, but due to scheduling conflicts, it was ultimately played superbly by John Turturro. And so begins our annual-ish tribute to television themes en route to the Emmy Awards, which will be broadcast on Sunday, September 18th. Though seemingly simple in its composition, this show's theme seems to take its 'cue' from "Psycho" and "Jaws," warning us of the ominous things to come. After viewing hours of touching tributes today, we have come to the night of September 11th. The twin beams of light from downtown Manhattan can be seen clearly from my apartment in Brooklyn, in tribute to the shattering events that occurred on 9/11/2001, destroying the WTC Twin Towers. There is a bit of irony to commence a mini-tribute to television themes with a show centered on a murder mystery in a post-9/11 America. Indeed, over the years, not even television series have been able to sidestep the ultimate "reality show" that took place on this day, fifteen years ago.

WTC Remembrance: Fifteen Years Ago - Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine

My annual series, "Remembering the World Trade Center," turns this year to my own personal reflections on the fifteenth anniversary of the day that my hometown was attacked in 2001, a day that changed our lives forever. These reflections emerge from my viewing of a series of VHS tapes that I used to record the tragic events of that day and the days, weeks, and months that followed. My focus for this essay is exclusively on the unfolding minute-by-minute television coverage from 8:46 a.m. to midnight on the day of terror that we commemorate today.

I have to admit that this essay was one of the most difficult, and yet cathartic, pieces I've ever written in my entire life. I invite readers to view the newest addition to my annual series here.

I also provide this index for those readers who would like easy access to the previous entries in this series:

2001: As It Happened . . .

2002: New York, New York

2003: Remembering the World Trade Center: A Tribute

2004: My Friend Ray

2005: Patrick Burke, Educator

2006: Cousin Scott

2007: Charlie: To Build and Rebuild

2008: Eddie Mecner, Firefighter

2009: Lenny: Losses and Loves

2010: Tim Drinan, Student

2011: Ten Years Later

2012: A Memorial for the Ages: A Pictorial

2013: My Friend Matthew: A 9/11 Baby of a Different Stripe

2014: A Museum for the Ages: A Pictorial

2015: A New One World Trade Center Rises From the Ashes: A Pictorial

2016: Fifteen Years Ago: Through the Looking Glass of a Video Time Machine


Never forget.

Postscript: Much appreciation to Ilana Mercer, who has noted the newest essay on her blog here. She writes:

I recall calling Chris Matthew Sciabarra around the time September 11 happened. Like the best of New York, Chris was hyper, in fight-but-never-flight mode. That’s my Chris. And he has commemorated the attack on the greatest city in the world—was I overcome by patriotism when I visited New York!—his hometown, in the most personal way each year.

Postscript 2: Much appreciation to Rational Review News Digest for making this the lead commentary in their September 11th edition. See here. Special thanks to long-time colleague and friend Thomas L. Knapp for noticing.

September 10, 2016

Song of the Day #1384

Song of the Day: Where are U Now? features the words and music of a host of artists, including Skrillex (Sonny Moore), Diplo (Thomas Wesley Pentz), and Justin Bieber, who easily navigates the vocals on this 2015 electronic dance music (EDM) hit. The song topped the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Chart, a product of the Skrillex-Diplo electronic duo, Jack U. It won the 2016 Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording and the album on which it was first featured ("Skrillex and Diplo Present Jack U") went on to win the Grammy Award for Best Dance/Electronic Album. The song also apppears on Bieber's album, "Purpose." Check out the official video and the Marshmello remix.

September 03, 2016

Song of the Day #1383

Song of the Day: My Heart's Divided, words and music by Ann Godwin and Chris Barbosa, was recorded by Shannon for her debut album, "Let the Music Play," and followed the #1 Dance title track and its #1 Dance Club follow-up, "Give Me Tonight," into the Top 3 of the Billboard Hot Dance Music/Club Play chart. This was a huge freestyle hit, and Shannon made a distinctive mark on the birth of the freestyle era of the 1980s (and having seen her in person, I can say she gave a great show). Check out the 12" vinyl club remix (which I played at many a party back in the day, as a mobile DJ), and while you're enjoying that, revisit two, rare Disconet megamixes of her biggest freestyle classics: "Let the Music Play" and "Give Me Tonight" [YouTube links].

August 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1382

Song of the Day: Say, Say, Say, words and music by Michael Jackson and Paul McCartney, appears on McCartney's "Pipes of Peace" album, and spent six weeks at number 1, stretching from 1983 to 1984. Produced by long-time Beatles producer, George Martin, it was the seventh top ten hit for MJ within the "Thriller"-dominated year of 1983. Check out the Bob Giraldi-directed video, the 12" Jellybean Benitez remix, and a 2015 re-release by McCartney, in which the vocal roles of the duet partners are reversed [YouTube links]. (And speaking of collaborations, check out this really rare video of a spontaneous "collaboration" with James Brown, Michael Jackson, and Prince on the same stage!). Today, would have been Michael Jackson's 58th birthday. Though he is no longer with us, we can still "remember the time." [YouTube video flashback]. And we can also revel in the fact that he has left us with music open to such diverse interpretation--from the rock sounds of Chris Cornell and the jazz tribute album, "Swingin' to Michael Jackson," to a wonderful "Latin Tribute to Michael Jackson," and the classically-trained "2 Cellos" and Hungarian pianist Bence Peter [YouTube links].

August 27, 2016

Song of the Day #1381b

Song of the Day: The Pleasure Principle, words and music by Monte Moir, was recorded by Janet Jackson for her #1 album "Control," and it went on to #1 in June 1997 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart and by August of that year, it hit the summit of the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip Hop singles chart. Barry Lather won an MTV "Best Choreography in a Video" Award and Janet made dancing with a chair look easy. Check out the original video, the Shep Pettibone Remix, the Classixx Recovery Mix, the Cajoline Remix, the GARREN remix, the David Morales Legendary Club Mix, and the Danny Tenaglia/Todd Terry remix. In two days, we'll extend our "Saturday Night Dance Party" into Monday, in a birthday tribute to Janet's late brother, Michael.

August 21, 2016

Song of the Day #1381a

Song of the Day: Summer Samba ("So Nice"), music by Brazilian composer Marcos Valle, with Portuguese lyrics by Paulo Sergio Valle, and English lyrics by Norman Gimbel, has been recorded by so many artists through the years, second, perhaps, only to the bossa nova anthem "Girl from Ipanema," to which Gisele Bundchen [video link] strutted her stuff in the Opening Ceremonies [video link] of the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics. We heard this song too during the Opening Ceremonies, and we have been treated throughout these last two weeks to so many entertaining musical interludes featuring this lyrical Brazilian bossa nova fusion of samba rhythms and jazz, each derived from both African and (North and South) American roots. But tonight the Torch is extinguished as the Summer Olympics come to a close. The games were "So Nice" to see and to root for some of our favorite international athletes. Check out renditions by the Walter Wanderly Trio, Sergio Mendes and Brasil 66, Nancy Ames, organist Walter Wanderly with vocalist Astrud Gilberto (who sang that great "Girl from Ipanema" [YouTube links] rendition on the Grammy-award winning album featuring Antonio Carlos Jobim and Stan Getz, called "Getz/Gilberto". Check out a TV performance of the Ipanema classic with Astrud Gilberto and Stan Getz [YouTube link]). And yes, this repeats another song from my long list, so I've called it "Song of the Day #1381a."

August 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1380

Song of the Day: Rather Be, words and music by Jack Patterson, James Napier, and Grace Chatto, Nicole Marshall, won the 2015 Grammy Award for Best Dance Recording, for the British group Clean Bandit, featuring Jess Glynne. The track hit the #1 spot in November 2014 as a Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Song, and made its way onto a total of seven of Billboard's prominent charts. Check out the single, official video, Lash Remix, Elephante Remix, LiTech Trap Remix, the Magician Remix, and Merk & Kremont Remix. And for a different take on the song, check out the Pentatonix cover version.

August 17, 2016

Song of the Day #1379

Song of the Day: The McLaughlin Group ("Main Theme") [Television Tunes link] opened up this show every week, where viewers have been treated since 1982 to shouting matches between the discussants, among them, regulars such as Patrick Buchanan and Brooklyn-born Eleanor Clift. I often thought that only New Yorkers could really appreciate the ability of the discussants to speak louder and louder over each other, but the show has always been syndicated and appreciated nationally. Sadly, the host of the show, John McClaughlin, missed his first show in the entire run of the series last weekend [YouTube link] (though he still provided the voiceovers for the opening and the "Issue 1," "Issue 2" and so forth announcements). He passed away yesterday at the age of 89. I don't know how or if the show will continue, but it certainly provided this political junkie with a half hour of entertaining discussion of current events every Sunday morning. Check out also an alternative rendering of the theme, an orchestral version of the theme, a YouTube remembrance, his appearance in the film "Independence Day," and his famous "Bye Bye" [YouTube links].

August 16, 2016

Song of the Day #1378

Song of the Day: Holiday, words and music by Curtis Hudson and Lisa Stevens, spent five weeks as the #1 Billboard Dance Club Song for Madonna from her 1983 self-titled debut album. The song was produced by the famous South Bronx DJ John "Jellybean" Benitez. We post it today as part of our Summer "Saturday Night Dance Party," extended into a Tuesday, in celebration of Madonna's birthday. Like Prince and Michael Jackson, she was a 1958 baby. Unlike them, she is still with us. As an honored member of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, she has carved a remarkable career. And having seen her in concert, I can say she gives a great show and honors all of those, including her fallen comrades, who have had an impact on her music. Check out the original album track and her original video (made with considerably less production value than the videos to come!) [YouTube links]. Then check out this massive mash-up [YouTube link] with the classic R&B hit, "And the Beat Goes On," by The Whispers (one of my all-time favorite SOLAR groups).

August 13, 2016

Song of the Day #1377

Song of the Day: Latch features the words and music of James Napier, Howard Lawrence, Guy Lawrence, and featured vocalist Sam Smith, who infuses this track by the garage house duo Disclosure with his own distinctive soulful delivery. The song, with its 6/8 time signature, went to #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance/Electronic Song chart. Check out the steamy video on YouTube. The talented a cappella group, Pentatonix, also provides a cover medley [YouTube link] of this song and "La La La" that's worth checking out.

August 09, 2016

Rio, Remixes and the Ridiculous

While sitting here watching Michael Phelps, Katie Ledecky, and Simone Biles and the US Women's Gymnastics Team kick ass, at the 2016 Rio Summer Olympics, I have been answering two-month old emails (that's what happens when you spend so much time working with a couple of dozen people on a pathbreaking double-issue of JARS... you fall behind in too many other things!!!). I have also updated my entry for "Song of the Day #1343," "Can't Stop the Feeling!," by Justin Timberlake, which went to #1 on the Billboard charts for the Hot 100, Digital Songs Sales, Adult Contemporary, Adult Top 40, Dance Club, and Mainstream Top 40, as well as hitting the Top 5 on both the Dance/Mix Show Airplay and Rhythmic charts. And that's just in the U.S.; Timberlake hit #1 in 22 other countries as well. I picked the song way back on May 20th. Can I pick 'em, or what?

In the meanwhile, do check out the updated links to my Song of the Day #1343 Timberlake entry, which now includes many diverse remixes of the song and a few hilarious "Storm Trooper" videos. No, I can't explain them; they are whacked out!

August 08, 2016

Song of the Day #1376

Song of the Day: Basin Street Blues, music by Spencer Williams, lyrics by trombonists Jack Teagarden and Glenn Miller, has been recorded by so many great jazz artists through the years. But today, we highlight a classic version by the late great Dixieland trumpeter Al Hirt and the late, great Dixieland clarinetist Pete Fountain. Fountain passed away on Saturday, August 6, 2016; he was a spirited player who was greatly influenced by the King of Swing, Benny Goodman, and New Orleans clarinetist Irving Fazola. Check out the Hirt-Fountain rendition of this classic Dixie-jazz tune on YouTube.

August 07, 2016

Song of the Day #1375

Song of the Day: The King and I ("Hello, Young Lovers"), music by Richard Rodgers, lyrics by Oscar Hammerstein II, is one of the highlights from the 1956 film score of this classic Broadway musical. I highlight the film version, which starred the Oscar-winning Yul Brynner as the King of Siam (a role he immortalized on the Broadway stage, and for which he won the 1952 Tony Award as "Best Featured Actor in a Musical"), in the same year that he played the Egyptian Pharaoh Ramesses II in the DeMille epic, "The Ten Commandments." Brynner starred opposite the lovely Deborah Kerr, who lost the Best Actress Oscar, but won the Golden Globe for her role as Anna Leonewens. In the film, her singing voice was dubbed by one of the greatest invisible talents of the silver screen: Marni Nixon, who just passed away on July 24, 2016. Dubbed the "American cinema's most unsung singers," she was the singing voice of Natalie Wood in "West Side Story" and the singing voice of Audrey Hepburn in "My Fair Lady." Check out her rendition of this unforgettable song from the film version of "The King and I" [YouTube link].

August 06, 2016

Song of the Day #1374

Song of the Day: He's a Pretender, words and music by G. Goetzman and M. Piccirillo, was the lead 1983 single of the Motown group High Inergy, from their final album "Groove Patrol." This song was a Top 30 Dance Hit on the Billboard Dance Chart. And it was performed with high energy in a "Can't Stop" medley with DeBarge on the classic special "Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever." It was a performance, no doubt, a little vague in the minds of many, because it was on that special that Michael Jackson performed with the Jackson Five, before showing the world how to moonwalk in an unforgettable solo rendition of "Billie Jean" [YouTube link]. Speaking of Jackson, his sister Latoya did a version of this song as well, as did Jennifer Holliday [YouTube links]. Nevertheless, check out the original High Inergy single and their Motown performance with DeBarge of this rhythmic track, part of our Saturday Night Dance Party [YouTube links] and perfect for the political season, full of those "pretenders" seeking election or re-election.

August 05, 2016

Song of the Day #1373

Song of the Day: Taking a Chance on Love, music by Vernon Duke, lyrics by John La Touche and Ted Fetter, is a popular standard first published in 1940 and featured in the 1940 musical, "Cabin in the Sky," with an all-black cast, where it was sung by Ethel Waters and Dooley Wilson [YouTube link] and in the 1943 film version, featuring Waters with Eddie "Rochester" Anderson [YouTube links]. It has been recorded by countless artists, but it is an especially poignant way of noting how much Bennett credits the African-American contributions to his own exploration of the jazz idiom. So, we end our tribute on an upnote with an uptune, from a magical 1959 Bennett album: "In Person!," featuring a very jazzy Bennett with the ever-jazzy Count Basie and His Orchestra; check it out on YouTube, and take it from one who knows: Always take a chance on love! For love, love of his music, his art, his fans, the special people in his life, is the driving force of Bennett's career. This may conclude our mini-tribute, but there's no doubt he'll appear again on my ever-expanding "favorite song" list.

August 04, 2016

Song of the Day #1372

Song of the Day: Yesterday I Heard the Rain, words and music by Gene Lees and Armando Manzanero, is the title song of Bennet's 1968 album, but can also be heard in a live version with Count Basie and a duet with Alejandro Sanz [YouTube links; this last from Bennett's 2012 "Duets II" album]. Like Sinatra, Bennett could deliver a ballad and infuse it with the heartache he most certainly experienced at points in his life. That he has triumped over this heartache and remains with us, still performing at 90, is a milestone worth celebrating. Last night, the Empire State Building provided the native New Yorker with a lovely light show in honor of his 90th birthday. Check it out on YouTube. Tomorrow, we conclude our mini-tribute; after all--where there is heartache in losing a love (and Bennett felt that heartache), there is always the need to take a chance on love, no matter how young or old you may be.

August 03, 2016

Song of the Day #1371

Song of the Day: This is All I Ask, words and music by Gordon Jenkins, is an appropriate way to say "Happy Birthday, Tony Bennett," for on this day in 1926, he was born. From Nat King Cole to Frank Sinatra [YouTube links], this standard has been recorded by many artists. And yet, there is a special resonance in the lyric, on this day more than any other, as Bennett sings: "As I approach the prime of my life, I find I have the time of my life, Learning to enjoy at my leisure all the simple pleasures. And so I happily concede, That this is all I ask, This is all I need . . . Take me to that strange, enchanted land grown-ups seldom understand. . . . And let the music play as long as there's a song to sing. And I will stay younger than Spring." For fans, Tony will always be "younger than Spring." This was the title track from Bennett's 1963 album, but first appeared in a different arrangement on his 1961 album, "Alone Together." Check out the 1961 version and the more intimate 1963 version [YouTube links], with the opening accompaniment of his pianist and long-time musical director, Ralph Sharon. He also recorded it in a duet with Josh Grobon [YouTube link] for his 2012 album, "Duets II," released in conjunction with his 85th birthday. Well, Tony is still going strong at 90, the "prime" of his life has been given a long extended remix for the benefit of generations of fans who still appreciate his boundless talent and energy. Happy birthday to a fellow New Yorker of Italian descent. Stick with us through Friday, when we conclude our mini-tribute to an American treasure.

August 02, 2016

Song of the Day #1370

Song of the Day: The Touch of Your Lips, words and music by Ray Noble, who wrote the song in 1936, has been recorded by many artists through the years, most notably and sensitively by jazz trumpeter/vocalist Chet Baker (with some nice guitar work by Doug Raney) [YouTube link]. It was the title track from his 1979 album. But our birthday boy of the week also provides us with an unforgettable rendition, a magnificent collaboration with the immortal pianist Bill Evans, from their 1975 album "The Tony Bennett - Bill Evans Album." Check out the two lyrical masters on YouTube.

August 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1369

Song of the Day: Skyscraper Blues, music by Gordon Jenkins, lyrics by Tom Adair, is from the 1959 Bennett album, "Hometown, My Town," featuring reflections in song on the city of his birth. The orchestrations of Ralph Burns are wonderful; the big band featuring such jazz artists as tenor saxman Al Cohn, guitarist Al Caiola, and trombonist Billy Byers.This more than 7-minute track plays almost like a symphony of changing sounds, moods, and hues, encapsulating the lonely blues and swinging ways that Bennett's New York City can evoke in any individual who might become almost overwhelmed by the greatest skyline, the greatest sights, and the greatest sounds of the greatest city on earth. Check it out on YouTube.

July 31, 2016

Song of the Day #1368

Song of the Day: Last Night When We Were Young, music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Yip Harburg, has been recorded by many artists through the years, but it was a highlight from Frank Sinatra's classic 1955 album, "In the Wee Small Hours." It is among the songs that appears on Tony Bennett's 1992 album, a tribute album, "Perfectly Frank," to the man who called Bennett "the best singer in the business," as I point out in my kick-off essay, "A Tribute to an American Treasure: Tony Bennett at 90." Bennett had recorded this song on his 1960 album "To My Wonderful One" [YouTube link]. But there is something about this loving, whispery version [YouTube link] on the Sinatra tribute album that drives home the fact that theirs was a mutual admiration society. Today kicks off our six-day tribute to Bennett, whose 90th birthday is on Wednesday, August 3rd.

Celebrating an American Treasure: Tony Bennett at 90

A "Song of the Day" Tribute to Tony Bennett

For the next six days, I will be featuring a Notablog tribute in honor of a great American artist as part of my "Song of the Day" series: "Celebrating an American Treasure: Tony Bennett at 90."

Introduction

Today, Sunday, July 31, 2016, I begin a mini-tribute to Tony Bennett (a Wikipedia link that provided me with the basic information herein). Born Anthony Dominick Benedetto, this man would become one of the greatest vocal interpreters of The Great American Songbook. On Wednesday, August 3rd, he will celebrate his 90th birthday. Like Frank Sinatra, whose centenary we celebrated last year, Bennett recorded so many albums that I grew up listening to in my home, which was always alive with music, seemingly every waking hour of every day. Like Sinatra, Bennett was a talented Italian American singer nourished on a diet of swing and jazz. But unlike Hoboken's best, Bennett was a native New Yorker, a child of Astoria, Queens (indeed, one of his finest gifts to those who live in Astoria, was his founding of the Frank Sinatra School for the Arts, for high school students). He is a man who, like Sinatra, saw his ups and his downs, but who grew to embrace, without compromise, the music that inspired him and even the painting that he embraced as a creative product of his boundless imagination.

Favorite Songs

It is almost impossible to come up with enough songs in tribute to the great entertainer, because anyone looking at "My Favorite Songs" would find him among my most cited singers: "A Child is Born," "Darn that Dream," "The Days of Wine and Roses," "Falling in Love with Love," "For Once in My Life," "Give Me the Simple Life," "The Good Life," "Have You Met Miss Jones?," "I Could Write a Book," "I Didn't Know What Time it Was," "I Fall in Love Too Easily," "If I Love Again," "If You Were Mine," "I Left My Heart in San Francisco," "I'll Be Seeing You," "I'm Confessin' (That I Love You)," "In a Mellow Tone," "It Was Me," "I've Got Your Number," "I Wanna Be Around," "Just in Time," "The Lady is a Tramp," "Let's Face the Music" (also check out a sweet duet version with Lady Gaga [YouTube link]), "Let the Good Times Roll," "The Moment of Truth," "My Baby Just Cares For Me," "Nuages," "Once Upon a Summertime," "Polovetsian Dance No. 2," "Put on a Happy Face," "The Shadow of Your Smile," "Street of Dreams," "There'll Be Some Changes Made," "Thou Swell," "Until I Met You," "We'll Be Together Again," "Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me)?," "You Don't Know What Love Is," and "You Must Believe in Spring." Without a doubt, my all-time favorite album of Tony's is and remains: "I Wanna Be Around," and nearly all of the songs from that album are on the list above.

My Top Ten (in alphabetical order)

I could easily give you a Top Ten list of my favorite Bennett recordings, not in any particular order except alphabetical (and all the titles below are hyperlinks to their original Bennett recordings, as featured on YouTube):

1. "For Once in My Life" [YouTube link]. Stevie Wonder may have had the bigger chart hit, but he's always said, "This is Tony's song." Appropriately, Tony did a version of this song in a tribute to Wonder in the TV special celebrating "Songs in the Key of Life" [YouTube link]. And the two also did a ballad duet rendition of the song on Bennett's "Duets" album [YouTube link].

2. "The Good Life" [YouTube link]. The lead-off track on Bennet's great "I Wanna Be Around" album, this one rose to #18 on the Billboard Hot 100 chart in 1962.

3. "If I Love Again" [YouTube link]. This one also appears on "I Wanna Be Around," and it is one of the most sensitive, heart-breaking renditions of this song ever recorded.

4. "If You Were Mine" [YouTube link]. Obviously, a champion of communicating heartbreak, Bennett recorded this one for the "I Wanna Be Around" album as well.

5. "I Left My Heart in San Francisco" [YouTube link]. Written by two Brooklynites (George Cory and Douglass Cross), this one became a signature tune sung by the boy from Queens, one of two officially recognized anthems for the city of San Francisco (joining the song "San Francisco," title theme from the 1936 film). It peaked at #19 on the Billboard Hot 100.

6. "I Wanna Be Around" [YouTube link]. This one still remains one of the great, bitter "screw you" songs in the history of lost love. It is the title song from my all-time favorite Bennett album, released in 1963.

7. "Just in Time" [YouTube link] . Introduced in the 1956 musical, "Bells are Ringing," Tony scored a big 1960 hit with this one.

8. "The Moment of Truth" [YouTube link]. From his album, "This is All I Ask" and as a bonus track on the CD release of the album "I Wanna Be Around," this one swings hard.

9. "Put on a Happy Face" [YouTube link]. So good, I picked it TWICE (by accident) for "My Favorite Songs."

10. "The Shadow of Your Smile" [YouTube link]. Bennett delivers the utterly definitive version of a classic Oscar-winning "Best Original Song" from the Richard Burton-Elizabeth Taylor 1965 film, "The Sandpiper" (and this song has been recorded umpteen times by artists as varied as jazz pianist Bill Evans and dance group D Train! [YouTube links]). Bennett's recording actually won the 1966 Grammy for "Song of the Year." His rendition, with its introductory lyrics intact (not heard on the original score), was arranged and conducted by the man who composed and arranged the original film score: Johnny Mandel, who also collected a Grammy for "Best Score Soundtrack for Visual Media," a perfect match for the shatteringly beautiful backdrop of Big Sur, featured in the film. The lyrics were written by Paul Francis Webster. And the score itself features the achingly beautiful trumpet work of Jack Sheldon.

So those are my Top Ten Bennett songs, alphabetically arranged; as for my Number One Bennett impersonator, there is only one: Alec Baldwin [among these "Saturday Night Live" skits, check out, especially, the Baldwin "Tony" interview with "Phony Bennett" played by the real one!].

Bennett's Career

Bennett emerged on the music scene in the early 1950s, a child of the Sinatra generation, who would go on to sell over 50 million albums worldwide. Bennett was impacted by many of the same artists that Sinatra listened to, from Bing Crosby to Louis Armstrong (and one of my favorite jazz violinists, the great Joe Venuti). He served in World War II, and didn't get his first musical break until 1949, when Pearl Bailey asked him to open for her in Greenwich Village. Signed to Columbia Records, he was warned by Mitch Miller not to sound like an imitation of Sinatra, though it was impossible for anyone in that era not to have been touched by the greatness of Ol' Blue Eyes. His artistry deepened with his collaborations with the great jazz guitarist Chuck Wayne (a man whose "consecutive-picking technique" greatly influenced the approach of my own brother, jazz guitarist Carl Barry, to whom Wayne was a dear friend). Wayne became Bennett's musical director for his first LP, "Cloud 7" in 1954, but by 1957, Bennett began his long musical relationship with pianist Ralph Sharon, with whom Bennett embraced an even deeper jazz idiom, resulting in albums featuring Herbie Mann, Nat Adderly, Art Blakey, and several with the Count Basie Orchestra. For me, the heights of his intepretive jazz work can be found on two magical sessions with the immortal pianist Bill Evans.

Yet the times they were a changin', musically speaking, and as the rock era came to dominate the music scene, Bennett fell into a great depression, his art form seemingly lost. He had no recording contract, no concerts outside of Las Vegas, a failing marriage, and increasingly severe tax problems with the IRS. He suffered a near fatal cocaine overdose in 1979. But with the help of his son Danny, he began to turn his life around. Stressing the music that made him grand in the eyes of generations of fans, he reached the MTV Generation, winning a 1995 Grammy for Album of the Year for his "MTV Unplugged" concert. Recognized for his achievements, he was inducted into the Big Band and Jazz Hall of Fame. He has won 2 Emmy Awards, and 19 Grammy Awards (mostly in the category of "Best Traditional Pop Vocal Performance"). In 2001, he became a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner." In 2005, he was inducted as an honoree of the Kennedy Center, and in 2006, he was honored with the National Endowment of the Arts Jazz Masters Award.

It is no coincidence that Frank Sinatra, the singer whose centenary I marked with a three-week tribute in November-December 2015, called Tony Bennett "the best singer in the business." Over the next week, we'll have a chance to hear a few of the reasons why Sinatra was so moved. Our tribute starts today with a beautifully appropriate "Song of the Day," a sign of their personal, mutual admiration society: "Last Night When We Were Young," a track from the 1992 album, "Perfectly Frank," Bennett's tribute to one of his musical heroes.

When our celebration is complete, I will list all the songs of the tribute here, with their accompanying links.

July 30, 2016

Song of the Day #1367

Song of the Day: La La La features words and music credited to a host of writers, chief among them being Shahid "Naughty Boy" Khan, James Napier, Jonny Cofler, and Sam Smith, who provides the central vocals for this 2013 "Naughty Boy" production. The track charted on no fewer than five Billboard charts and went to #1 in 26 countries. It also served as the theme song for the 2013 film, "The Internship." Check out its steaming beats and infectious vocals on the White Panda X Gazzo Remix, James Egbert Remix, and DEvolution Remix.

July 26, 2016

Song of the Day #1366

Song of the Day: Motownphilly, words and music by Dallas Austin, Michael Bivins, Nathan Morris, and Shawn Stockman, was the debut single from the Boyz II Men debut album, "Cooleyhighharmony," and it was featured yesterday afternoon in the opening gala of the 2016 Democratic National Convention taking place in the City of Brotherly Love. It went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100, and remains my favorite single from that Philly-based Motown-produced group, for its rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic sense. If nothing else, I will admit only to my partiality to the music featured at Democratic Party events versus Republican events. I guess it's due to my urban, gritty "New York values," the ones that Ted Cruz never tired of condemning during the GOP primaries. Well, it looks like two New Yawkers, one a native, the other one viewed by some as an interloper, are going to fight it out for the Presidency, and one of them is going to sit in the White House in 2017. A friend of mine has suggested that the televised debates between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton should be made into "pay-per view" events... you know, like Wrestlemania and such, for there is little doubt that the U.S. would be able to achieve a balanced budget, while paying off the national debt. Hmm... well, if we end up with two New Yawkers shouting over one another, I'll just turn up the volume on this song, and dance away from the TV. In the meanwhile, check out the original video for this wonderful 1991 R&B single [YouTube link] from the guys who came from the Philadelphia High School for the Creative and Performing Arts, as well as their performance on yesterday's DNC opening [YouTube link], probably the most melodic thing we'll hear from that stage this week.

July 25, 2016

Song of the Day #1365

Song of the Day: FUM [YouTube link], composed by grand Brooklyn-born jazz guitarist Jack Wilkins (and long-time family friend; he and my brother Carl Barry [a YouTube link that features a few duets with Jack] have done many gigs together through the years), appears on his 5-star 1977 album, "Merge," which featured an all-star cast of wonderful jazz artists: Randy Brecker on fluegelhorn, the late, great Michael Brecker on tenor saxophone, Eddie Gomez on bass, and Jack DeJohnette on drums. I saw this wonderful group perform this tune at Sweet Basil back in the day, and it brought down the house. With a flying tempo, and fluid soloing, this one burns. And, in truth, I just had to step out of the Disco DJ Booth for one day. Next week, I'll be stepping out of the DJ Booth for a full six days. Watch this space for a tribute to an American treasure as he turns 90.

July 23, 2016

Song of the Day #1364b

Song of the Day: What Do You Mean? features the words and music of Jason "Poo Bear" Boyd, Mason Levy and Justin Bieber, who recorded this smash dance hit that reached the Billboard Dance Single Summit at #1 on Halloween in October 2015. No, I haven't quite become a Bieleber, but this song is featured on a really fine Bieber album, "Purpose." Check out the original Bieber video, the official remix video with Ariana Grande (there's also a Grande solo edit), ELIAS Remix, the Jerome Price Remix, and the Alison Wonderland Remix.

July 17, 2016

A Duplicate Favorite Song Discovered: Horrors!!!

For the first time in the history of "My Favorite Songs," I have discovered with profound grief that there is a duplicate song; recently, in my Tony Awards tribute back in June, I highlighted "Put on a Happy Face" from the musical "Bye Bye Birdie." Alas, back in 2006, I listed it under its song title, rather than the musical from which it emerged, as "Song of the Day #696. I've only discovered this because I'm preparing to do another mini-tribute in a couple of weeks to one of the giants of the music industry and the Great American Songbook, on the occasion of his 90th birthday, another Tony, if you will: Tony Bennett, and I note his version of that favorite song twice! HORRORS!

So, the last "Song of the Day #1364" has been renamed "Song of the Day #1364a" and the next song (on the occasion of the next Saturday Night Dance Party series) will be renamed "Song of the Day #1364b." And we will resume our numbering sequence at #1365 right after that!

Hanging my head in shame, I am simply going to "Put on a Happy Face," and keep singing and dancing...
With a smile,
Chris Matthew Sciabarra
Brooklyn, New York

July 16, 2016

Song of the Day #1364a

Song of the Day: This is What You Came For, words and music by Calvin Harris and Nils Sjobera (aka Taylor Swift) is the #1 Dance single right now (a 2-week run that will be eclipsed next week by JT's "Can't Stop the Feeling"). Recorded by Harris, with featured vocalist Rihanna, the song has a great beat for a very Sweaty Summer Saturday Night Dance Party (and we are, right now, The Big Baked Apple in NYC). Check out a variety of great mixes on YouTube: the official video, the Crystal Knives and Heuse Remix, the R3Hab and Henry Fong Remix, and the really scalding summery Dillon Francis Remix (only an audio clip, darn!).

July 09, 2016

Song of the Day #1363

Song of the Day: Love Hangover, words and music by Marilyn McLeod and Pam Sawyer, was released in March 1976 and went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, Hot Soul Singles, and Hot Dance Club Play charts for Diana Ross. If you wanna talk about retro 70s disco classics, this is it. It begins with that slow soulful prelude to an utterly unforgettable riff, sampled the world over. It was released at the same time by the 5th Dimension [YouTube link], but their single version stood no chance on the charts competing with what was, perhaps, the definitive Ross Disco Diva Dance Song of all time. It gained Ross a Grammy for Best R&B Female Vocal Performance. Ross's ad libs, telling the world that she "don't need no cure" for the sweetest hangover had clubgoers dancing into the wee hours. Check out one of the grandest of 12" vinyl remix singles of the era on YouTube. These were the years that disco remixers began wild experimentation with recorded singles, providing alternate takes for diverse audiences. So check out the Tom Moulton 17-minute mix, the Frankie Knuckles Mix, and the Joey Negro Hangover Symphony Mix as well.

July 04, 2016

Song of the Day #1362

Song of the Day: America, words and music by Prince, extends our Saturday Night Dance Party to a Monday in celebration of Independence Day. It is from the album "Around the World in a Day," issued by Prince and the Revolution. The lyrics are of what one philosopher may have called "mixed premises," but any song that includes stanzas like "Communism is just a word, But if the government turn over, It'll be the only word that's heard," and in a paean to "America the Beautiful," tells us, "America, America, God shed his grace on thee, America, America, keep the children free," can't be all that bad. Check it out in a live version on YouTube and a rare 12" extended mix and dance your way through a wonderful and safe Independence Day.

July 02, 2016

Song of the Day #1361

Song of the Day: How Deep is Your Love (not that one) is a Calvin Harris and Disciples song, with words and music by Calvin Harris, Nathan Duvall, Gavin Koolmon, Luke McDermott, Marvin White, and Ina Wroldsen, who has uncredited vocals on the 2015 single. This one starts off the Independence Day weekend with a sweet dance beat. Check out the original single, the Harris & 3Hab Remix, and the Disciples & Unorthodox Remix. Every Saturday Night, we'll be featuring a dance track till the end of Summer, but expect one more in honor of July 4th on Monday.

July 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1360

Song of the Day: To Each His Own ("Main Title"), composed by Victor Young, is from the 1946 film that won Olivia de Havilland her Academy Award for Best Actress, and today, on July 1st, we celebrate her 100th birthday. (She and her sister Joan Fontaine, with whom she had an estranged relationship, are the only sisters to share the distinction of having won a Best Actress Oscar each.) Ironically, there was a popular Livingston-Evans song released in that same year, but it is unrelated to the film. How can one go wrong, then, picking the main theme from the film that brought Olivia her Oscar, when the music was composed by the great Victor Young, in fine melodic form. Check out the lush opening credits on YouTube.

June 28, 2016

Song of the Day #1359

Song of the Day: Put a Little Love in Your Heart, words and music by Jackie DeShannon, Randy Myers, and Jimmy Holiday, was a top 5 DeShannon hit on the Billboard Hot 100, and was also one of the songs found on the jukebox of the Stonewall Inn, the bar and its surrounding area now a National Monument. But back in 1969, it was a virtual war zone, when just another routine police raid sparked a riot, whose effects have continued to reverberate throughout our culture. I have always seen this day as an essentially libertarian achievement, one that ultimately aimed for the recognition of the rights of individuals, who felt the sting of social and political policies designed to oppress, to humiliate, to dehumanize, and to marginalize people because of who and how they love. So "Put a Little Love in Your Heart," and celebrate that date in 1969, when men and women of difference stood up and said: "I'm as mad as hell, and I'm not going to take it anymore" [YouTube links]. We've come a long way since then; "don't ask, don't tell," which made a whole class of people dishonest by definition, is no longer our military policy, and same-sex marriage has recognition across the country in our civil laws. But in a world that fears difference, a backlash is not hard to fathom (Orlando is only the tip of the unimaginable). It has been said that "the price of liberty is eternal vigilance," and whoever said it (there have been historical debates) uttered a truth that our culture forgets at its peril. For the whole point of liberty is not to create a society of homogenization, hypocrisy, and conformity; it is to provide a safe haven for difference.

June 25, 2016

Song of the Day #1358

Song of the Day: Hollywood Tonight features the words and music of Brad Buxer, Teddy Riley, and Michael Jackson, who, on this date in 2009, passed away at the age of 50. This was the second single released from the 2011 posthumous album, "Michael." The video is a paean to Jackson in every way, and the lead dancer, Sofia Botella knocks it out of the park in getting down some of MJ's classic dance moves. The track went to #1 on the Billboard Dance Chart, and it's not hard to see why. Check out the original mix (and video), the Throwback Mix, and DJ Chuckie Mix [YouTube links]. This is the official start of our "Saturday Night Dance Party," where every Saturday from now until the end of summer, a dance floor staple from the 1970s to today will be the featured "song of the day." What better way to kick off our celebration of the dance floor (and many New Yorkers will be dancing at the weekend's Gay Pride Events) than to remember the King of Pop whose music and talent as the quintessential "song and dance" man of his generation still uplifts the spirit, even on a sad June day of remembrance.

June 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1357

Song of the Day: Back to Life (However Do You Want Me), music and lyrics written by Jazzie B, Carol Wheeler, Nellee Hooper, and Simon Law, who constituted the British R&B group Soul II Soul, took this 1989 song to #1 on the Billboard Dance Chart. It's Monday, but the summer solstice arrives in Brooklyn at 6:34 p.m, and for the first time in nearly 70 years it syncs with a full moon (a so-called "strawberry moon"). What truth in that title, for summer brings us all "back to life." This summer on Notablog, every Saturday, we'll have our own little "Saturday Night Dance Party," and feature a classic dance song, running from the 1970s to today's contemporary dance hits. But it's always nice to start with a so-called "sleaze beat" dance track, that sensual R&B pulse that New York beachgoers could hear blaring out of many a "boom box" every summer, from Coney Island to Brighton Beach to Manhattan Beach. This party will continue until the Saturday before the Autumnal Equinox on September 22nd. I'm doing this because I still have a humongous vinyl collection of favorite dance hits, having been a mobile DJ in the 1980s, playing everything from senior proms to Bar Mitzvahs! Anyway, check out the original a cappella version and the utterly wonderful R&B classic hit on YouTube. And here's a special nod to the Cleveland Cavaliers, who came "back to life," down 3 games to 1, to take Game 7 and win the NBA championship!

June 13, 2016

Song of the Day #1356

Song of the Day: Stitches, words and music by Danny Parker, Teddy Geiger, and Daniel Kyriakides, was a top 5 Billboard hit for Canadian singer, Shawn Mendes, for his 2015 debut album, "Handwritten." As I watched the 70th Annual Tony Awards last night, I thought of this song [YouTube link], for the Awards show opened with a tribute to the 50 known dead, murdered in an Orlando, Florida gay dance club, Pulse, which has also left more than 50 people injured, many of them critically. I've wanted to post this song for a long time, for the young singer seems to capture the pain of someone who has lost his love; but today, when I read some of the song's lyrics, I cannot help but think of this terrible tragedy, the worst mass killing in U.S. history (not counting the obscenity of 9/11). "You watch me bleed until I can't breathe," Mendes sings. "Shaking, falling onto my knees; And now that I'm without your kisses; I'll be needing stitches; ripping over myself; Aching, begging you to come help; And now that I'm without your kisses; I'll be needing stitches..." No stitches will bring back the loved ones who were massacred in that club. For the LGBT movement, living in a country that until recently didn't even recognize their civil right to marriage--"civil right" has never implied that religious institutions be forced to perform gay marriage ceremonies--this is truly a horrific tragedy. This community opened the doors of a dance club peacefully, joyfully, welcoming people of all lifestyles, to celebrate a Gay Pride month that marks the anniversary of that day in libertarian history when the gay rights movement was born at the Stonewall Inn, when drag queens were sick and tired of being harassed and arrested, and having their clubs routinely raided by the tormenting forces of law. It took decades for that community to get certain civil rights recognized under the constitution as applicable to all people. But it wasn't just the opposition of the police and the law that the LGBT movement faced. The process of "coming out," after all, is something that is intensely personal; many gay men and women have also dealt painfully with the rejection of their parents of various faiths, who have viewed homosexuality as a sin, punishable by everything from excommunication to prison, and in some tribalist cultures, even death by stoning. They say that this terrorist act was committed by an ISIS-motivated gay-hating whackjob; but there was a time in this country that the death of 50 people, most of them probably gay, would have been a party event for those on the Christian Right, who, like Fred Phelps, showed up at the funeral of the murdered, martyred Matthew Shepard, with placards declaring "God hates fags" and that the young gay man was now condemned to eternal damnation in hell because he had not repented. And let's not let the left off the hook either, for communist societies have been known for their gay gulags, many of them adhering to the Marxist mantra that homosexuality was simply a sign of the decadence of capitalism. Let me be clear: This is not a fight simply of doctrinal religious differences or political differences. It is a fight that goes to the deepest core of a society's cultural values. Until a time comes when people can simply live their lives free of coercion or of coercing others, there is not an individual alive in this country who will be safe from the culture of hate, a culture that simmers when stoked by rejecting parents, holier-than-thou religious leaders, and prejudiced politicians. A few years ago, the U.S. government invaded a country in the Middle East, and partially justified the insanity as an exercise in "nation-building"--in a section of the world that still has no conception of what a nation is or what kinds of nonbarbaric cultural values any human society must embrace in order to sustain itself: values such as the rule of law, the sanctity of individual rights, and the pursuit of justice. The apocalypse that has resulted is the kind of blowback that people of good will warned against at the time. Today, however, this is not just a fight for your right to liberty and or your right to justly-acquired property, but a fight for your very right to life, your very right to exist, whatever sexual orientation you are. This is a country and a world that will not, and cannot, be held together in "stitches." Every person of any orientation must be able to find the courage, the "eternal vigilance" that it takes to preserve life and liberty. Those who kill in the name of a hateful God are truly of the godless; and if there is a hell, it is not the innocent dead in that club who will be consumed by its inferno, but the killers themselves who will burn on the very ninth circle they wish to create on earth.

June 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1355

Song of the Day: Bye Bye Birdie ("A Lot of Livin' to Do") is another gem from the Adams and Strouse soundtrack to the 1960 Broadway musical. Check out the original Broadway cast recording, the 1963 ensemble film version, and a few really swinging renditions by: Chita Rivera (who was in the original musical; this one is about 2 minutes into her "Great Performances" concert), Sammy Davis, Jr., Judy Garland, Jack Jones, and Nancy Wilson [YouTube links], which only goes to show how much of Broadway's music has made its way into the Great American Songbook. So we end our mini-Broadway tribute today; enjoy the Tony Awards tonight!

June 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1354

Song of the Day: Bye Bye Birdie ("Kids") is a sweet and funny song from the Adams-Strouse songbook for "Bye Bye Birdie," a 1960 musical I'm tributing for three days, since I'm a 1960 baby. Paul Lynde made a career in the center square of the old game show "Hollywood Squares" (for which he won two Daytime Emmy Awards, his answers so typically hilarious), and, of course, he was the warlock Uncle Arthur on the classic TV series, 'Bewitched." But he shines in song as well, with his duet partner Marijane Maricle (on stage) and Maureen Stapleton (in film), in both the original stage production and in the film version [YouTube links].

June 10, 2016

Song of the Day #1353

Song of the Day: Bye Bye Birdie ("Put on a Happy Face"), with lyrics by Lee Adams and music by Charles Strouse, was a memorable song from the hit Tony Award-winning "Best Musical" in 1961 (for the 1960 season). As a 1960 baby, I'm tributing three of my favorite songs from that year from this musical, also adapted for the film version. It was, of course, the 1963 screen version that I saw as a kid and loved. Check out the cast album version and the film version [YouTube links] (both performed by the ever-cheerful Dick van Dyke, joined by Janet Leigh in the film version) and then jump on over to the joyful rendition of our Queens-born neighbor, Tony Bennett [YouTube link], who turns 80 years old on August 3rd (and we'll be doing a mini-tribute to him as well).

June 09, 2016

Song of the Day #1352

Song of the Day: Hello Dolly ("Hello Dolly") is the memorable theme from the 1964 Broadway blockbuster that featured the music and lyrics of Jerry Herman. The musical faced stiff competition from Barbra Streisand's sparkling star turn in the Broadway production of "Funny Girl," but it swept the night, winning 10 Tony Awards, including one for Carol Channing over Streisand. Streisand would later win a 1970 Special Tony Award for "Star of the Decade." And it is not without some irony that she went on to play the Dolly role that Carol Channing made famous in the Gene Kelly-directed 1969 film adaptation of the musical. So here's a nice line-up for comparison: the original Channing rendition with the ensemble, the Streisand film version, which included Louis Armstrong, and, my favorite version of all time: the Louis Armstrong solo version [all YouTube links], which reached #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on May 9, 1964, ending 14 consecutive weeks at #1, dominated by various singles from an obscure British band.

June 08, 2016

Song of the Day #1351

Song of the Day: Oklahoma! ("Oklahoma!") was the first musical that teamed composer Richard Rodgers and lyricist Oscar Hammerstein II. The original Broadway hit opened on March 31, 1943, and hence, it preceded the first Tony Awards. It did, however, receive special Tony recognition on the occasion of its 50th anniversary in 1993. But that doesn't mean we can't jump from a mini-Prince tribute to a mini-Tony Award Tribute in honor of the American stage. The main title was delivered in the original production by Alfred Drake and Chorus [YouTube link] and the original album released by Decca Records on 78 r.p.m. records, was the first Broadway cast album to sell a million copies. We should also note that this musical spawned countless revivals and, of course, the wonderful 1955 film version, in which it is Gordon McRae who delivers the unforgettable theme [YouTube link].

June 07, 2016

Song of the Day #1350

Song of the Day: 1999, words and music by Prince, is one of my absolute all-time favorite tracks from The Artist (especially the extended album version) [YouTube link]. Come on now, everybody, "Don't Ya Wanna Go! . . . Everybody, everybody say 'Party'." This was the title track from that 1982 classic album, it has a wonderful groove. Like Michael Jackson, Prince was a child of 1958; today would have been his 58th birthday. Both men are gone, having never reached 58, but on this Prince birthday, we can still "party like it's 1999," in tribute to him; it is reported that he left behind enough recorded music in his vaults for albums that could be issued one per year for the next century! Tomorrow, we switch gears big time: a mini-tribute to some of the music of Broadway, in honor of the Tony Awards on June 12th.

June 06, 2016

Song of the Day #1349

Song of the Day: I Feel for You, words and music by Prince, first appeared on Prince's self-tited 1999 album. Check it out here (YouTube link). There have been other versions of this song, including one by the Pointer Sisters and the other by Rebbie Jackson (MJ's sister). But I have to admit that my favorite version is the one featuring, come on, altogether now: "Chaka Khan," Chaka Khan..." Here's the single version, the biggest hit of Chaka's career, but I love the extended version. I mean, how can you miss with Chaka's vocals, Stevie Wonder's harmonica, rapper Melle Mel, and The System's David Frank? For Chaka, it peaked at #3, but was on the Hot 100 for 26 weeks.

June 05, 2016

Song of the Day #1348

Song of the Day: Nothing Compares 2 U, words and music by Prince, for a side-project band called "The Family" from their self-titled 1985 album. Sinead O'Connor had a huge hit with this one, but I still love the original Prince version. Check out that original here, and the O'Connor version here [YouTube links]. I should note that on June 3rd, America lost one of its most controversial and entertaining cultural icons and nothing compared to him either: "The Greatest" Muhammad Ali.

June 04, 2016

Song of the Day #1347

Song of the Day: U Got the Look, words and music by Prince, was the highest charting single on the Sign O' the Times album, reaching #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It also featured singer Sheena Easton. Check out the rhythmic track on YouTube. Prince wrote for many other artists, and was never intimidated in playing with the greats whom he idolized. Ironically, it is said that he truly idolized Michael Jackson, and was deeply saddened by MJ's passing ["We're always sad when we lose someone we love," he is quoted as saying]. Both men, born in 1958, are now gone; their rivalry, sometimes intense, prevented the two of them from ever recording a duet together. But that is now an asterisk in music history (though Prince did pay tribute to MJ in concert performances of "I Want You Back," "Don't Stop Til You Get Enough," and "Shake Your Body"). Prince did have the chance to work with other musical giants; check out this wonderful collaboration between Prince and Miles Davis from a 1987 concert. Though it's not yet his birthday, Prince will be celebrated all afternoon today in Brooklyn's Bedford-Stuyvesant Restoration section, a party hosted by Spike Lee.

June 03, 2016

Song of the Day #1346

Song of the Day: Sign O' the Times, words and music by Prince, is the title track of his 1987 album.  The song sure showed that Prince had his fingers not only on the frets of the guitar, but on the fret of social ills that plague us till this day. Check out the official video on YouTube.

June 02, 2016

Song of the Day #1345

Song of the Day: Delirious, words and music by Prince, was a notable single from the 1982 Prince and the Revolution album "1999." The song was a Top Ten Hit (reaching #8 on the Hot 100) and offered a quirky, literally "delerious" rhythm. Check it out on YouTube.

June 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1344

Song of the Day: Controversy, words and music by Prince, begins our mini-birthday tribute to the Purple One, who tragically passed away last month, but whose birthday we will celebrate on June 7th. And I'll have plenty of Prince songs featured in next year's February Film Music Month (and in a special musical project I have planned for the Summer of 2016). I have already listed several Prince classics on "My Favorite Songs" list: check out "Baby I'm A Star", "I Wanna Be Your Lover," and "Let's Go Crazy.") Today, I begin with one of my favorites; it showed an edgy musician who was willing to play with his audience: "Am I black or white? Am I straight or gay?" he asks at the beginning of the song, which has a nice groove. It was the title track to his 1981 album, and though it went no higher than #70 on the Hot 100 or #3 on the R&B chart, clearly the dance club crowd was ahead of the groove, bringing the title to #1 on the Hot Dance Club chart. Prince was very protective of his recorded music, so check out the link to a live version here.

May 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1343

Song of the Day: Can't Stop the Feeling! features the words and music of Max Martin, Shellback, and Justin Timberlake, who debuts with this single from the animated film, "Trolls," due out in November 2016. This is Timberlake's fifth solo #1 Hit and, perhaps, the most retro-disco sounding recording of his career. The voice cast has fun with the song in a pre-release video, even as the official video was released this week [YouTube links]. I remain a life-long Timberlake fanatic, and disco just might usher me through the Pearly Gates or the Disco Inferno, whichever is in store for me. Ed. Note: Since posting this as Song of the Day #1343, the video community has provided us with hilarious takes on the song; check out the Storm Troopers videos, Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, and Part 4. And the DJ community has provided us with a plethora of wonderfully diverse remixes: the Chris Chrone remix, the Daniel Simon Tov Remix, the Tripping Nationz Remix, the Thascya Remix, the Fenton Gee Remix, and the PLP DJ Remix.

May 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1342

Song of the Day: Christos Anesti is a traditional hymn sung first at the midnight liturgy as the "paschal toparian" or celebratory hymn of the resurrection of Jesus Christ in the Greek (and Eastern) Orthodox churches to mark the arrival of Easter. Though its authorship is unknown, it has been attributed to Romanos the Melodist, the "Pindar of rhythmic poetry." I must say that with maternal grandparents having been born in Olympia, Greece, the home of the gods and goddesses (and the ancient site of the Olympic games), and paternal grandparents born in Porto Empedocle, Sicily, home of the godfathers, I was fortunate enough to learn all the Greek prayers (having been baptized Greek Orthodox) and all the Sicilian curse words. Growing up, this Easter hymn was, perhaps, my favorite; check out a lovely version of it on YouTube, featuring the actress Irene Papas with Vangelis. It depicts the faithful carrying lit candles, that begin to lift the darkened church at midnight into light, as a single candle is passed on to the faithful one by one until the entire church is filled with the light of rebirth and renewal. I want to wish all my orthodox family and friends a very Happy Easter! And it being the 1st of May, May it be a revolutionary one!

April 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1341

Song of the Day: The Ten Commandments ("The Red Sea") [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, provides a musical backdrop for what remains one of the greatest cinematic moments in motion picture history: Cecil B. DeMille's 1956 film's rendering of the parting of the Red Sea [YouTube link]. The Jews are liberated after ten plagues, the last brought about by Pharoah's mocking of God, resulting in the death of the first born of Egypt, including Pharoah's own son. A vengeful Pharoah (played by Yul Brynner), chases the Jews through the desert. But Moses shows the power of God; as a pillar of fire blocks the Egyptians, he lifts his arms, allowing the Jews to escape through the midst of the waters, and subsequently destroying Pharoah's chariots in their pursuit after the pillar dissipates (celebrated on the seventh day of the Passover holiday). Charlton Heston plays Moses in the way that only Heston could play it; the film's screenplay is not the most contemporary, but its reverence is genuine. It is said that Heston was in the last film of the old Bibical epics, and the first film of the modern Biblical epics, "Ben-Hur," one which did not dispense with the intimacy of characterization, while retaining the cinematic grandeur that only Hollywood could deliver. To all my Jewish friends and colleagues, celebrating the last day of Passover, I wish health and happiness.

April 27, 2016

Song of the Day #1340

Song of the Day: Me and Mrs. Jones, words and music by Kenny Gamble, Leon Huff, and Cary Gilbert, was a #1 hit for Billy Paul, and is surely one of the most memorable soul tracks of my pre-teen youth. Sadly, Paul passed away on April 24, 2016. This has been a pretty tough year for those of us who grew up in the 60s, 70s, 80s, and 90s, as the artists who provided the soundtrack of our lives have passed on. It's a reminder of our own mortality; but music lives forever. Listen to the original Paul hit and a nice cover by Michael Buble.

April 21, 2016

Song of the Day #1339

Song of the Day: Let's Go Crazy, words and music by Prince, who recorded this as Prince and the Revolution, a Minneapolis rock band formed in 1979. The song went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, a mega-hit from the 1984 soundtrack album, the Oscar-winning "Best Original Song Score" to the film, "Purple Rain." I am happy that I had the opportunity to see this Rock and Roll Hall of Fame musician perform this blazingly hot song live in concert; today, he passed away at the young age of 57. His music broke through various genres and he leaves a legacy of musical treasures released and yet-to-be-released. I will miss him. Check out the album version of this song, which tells us of an "afterworld . . . of never-ending happiness," something he has given to his fans for generations to come [YouTube links].

April 05, 2016

Song of the Day #1338

Song of the Day: Calamity Jane ("Secret Love"), music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Weber, was composed for the 1953 movie musical, where it was introduced by the incomparable Doris Day, who celebrated her 92nd birthday on April 3rd. With a melody based on the opening theme of the A-major piano Sonata D.664 [a Wilhelm Kempff version on YouTube] of Franz Schubert, this song was released before the film, and made it to #1 on both the Billboard and Cashbox charts, before going on to win the Oscar for Best Original Song. For years, fans have lobbied the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences to give Oscar recognition to Day for all of her wonderful film performances through the years, from the title role of this film to her co-starring role with Kirk Douglas in the 1950 Bix Biederbecke-inspired film, "The Young Man with a Horn" (and that was the legendary Harry James providing the trumpet work) to the 1956 Hitchcock thriller "The Man Who Knew Too Much," opposite Jimmy Stewart, where she introduced another Oscar-winning Best Song, "Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)." Check out this lovely Grammy Hall of Fame single by the lovely lady who knew how to sing it in a film clip and in the longer studio version [YouTube links]. And check out this sweet Shirley Bassey tribute to Doris as well. A belated Happy 92nd Birthday to one of the world's greatest animal lovers, who will always be an Award-winner in my songbook!

April 04, 2016

Song of the Day #1337

Song of the Day: Cake By the Ocean, words and music by Robin Fredriksson, Mattias Larsson, Justin Tranter, and Joe Jonas, is the first single from DNCE. I was a mobile DJ in college and the Dance Bug is part of my genome. I still listen to current and recent hits, and really enjoyed DNCE's live performance of this last night because they did a "Le Freak" Chic mash up with the iconic producer, composer, and musician Nile Rodgers. Check out the official video (naughty words included) and the iHeart Radio Awards version. [YouTube links].

March 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1336

Song of the Day: The Miracle Worker ("Main Title: Helen Alone") [YouTube link] was composed by Laurence Rosenthal for the brilliant 1962 film, starring Oscar-winning Best Actress, Anne Bancroft as Anne Sullivan and Oscar-winning Best Supporting Actress, Patty Duke as Helen Keller. I grew up watching "The Patty Duke Show" on television, but this was another side of Duke entirely. As Ayn Rand observed in her essay, "Kant versus Sullivan," Duke gave a "superlative performance" as the young Keller both on the Broadway stage and in the screen version of what Rand called "the only epistemological play ever written," for its depiction of the way in which human beings grow to understand words and their referents. Rand praised Bancroft as well, for illustrating a fierce "titanic" determination to transform a young girl with little sensory contact to reality into a thinking human being. Sadly, Patty Duke passed away today at the age of 69. But I'll never forget laughing to her TV show, and crying when she utters the word "water" in this film's finale. The expressive Rosenthal score puts to music the aloneness and alienation that Keller must have experienced as a child before her cognitive liberation by Sullivan.

March 28, 2016

Nucky Thompson Was Right

In the very first episode of the HBO hit series "Boardwalk Empire," Steve Buscemi, who plays the lead character Nucky Thompson — racketeer, political insider, and bootlegger — lifts his glass of liquor in a toast to "the distinguished gentlemen of our nation's Congress . . . those beautiful, ignorant bastards," who enacted the Eighteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which declared that "the manufacture, sale, or transportation of intoxicating liquors within, the importation thereof into, or the exportation thereof from the United States and all the territory subject to the jurisdiction thereof for beverage purposes is hereby prohibited."

This nightmarish "noble experiment" lasted from 1920 to 1933, until the Twenty-First Amendment repealed Prohibition (and was probably one of the most important reasons for FDR's initial first-term popularity as an advocate for its repeal). Without a doubt, the major effect of this legislation was to give a boost to organized crime. From speakeasies to mob wars, the general population of this country became part of a new culture of criminality that put the Roar in the Roaring Twenties. As an entry on Wikipedia puts it:

Organized crime received a major boost from Prohibition. Mafia groups limited their activities to prostitution, gambling, and theft until 1920, when organized bootlegging emerged in response to Prohibition. A profitable, often violent, black market for alcohol flourished. Prohibition provided a financial basis for organized crime to flourish. In a study of more than 30 major U.S. cities during the Prohibition years of 1920 and 1921, the number of crimes increased by 24%. Additionally, theft and burglaries increased by 9%, homicides by 12.7%, assaults and battery rose by 13%, drug addiction by 44.6%, and police department costs rose by 11.4%. This was largely the result of "black-market violence" and the diversion of law enforcement resources elsewhere. Despite the Prohibition movement's hope that outlawing alcohol would reduce crime, the reality was that the Volstead Act led to higher crime rates than were experienced prior to Prohibition and the establishment of a black market dominated by criminal organizations. The Saint Valentine's Day Massacre produced seven deaths, considered one of the deadliest days of mob history. Furthermore, stronger liquor surged in popularity because its potency made it more profitable to smuggle. To prevent bootleggers from using industrial ethyl alcohol to produce illegal beverages, the federal government ordered the poisoning of industrial alcohols. In response, bootleggers hired chemists who successfully renatured the alcohol to make it drinkable. As a response, the Treasury Department required manufacturers to add more deadly poisons, including the particularly deadly methyl alcohol. New York City medical examiners prominently opposed these policies because of the danger to human life. As many as 10,000 people died from drinking denatured alcohol before Prohibition ended. New York City medical examiner Charles Norris believed the government took responsibility for murder when they knew the poison was not deterring people and they continued to poison industrial alcohol (which would be used in drinking alcohol) anyway. Norris remarked: "The government knows it is not stopping drinking by putting poison in alcohol... [Y]et it continues its poisoning processes, heedless of the fact that people determined to drink are daily absorbing that poison. Knowing this to be true, the United States government must be charged with the moral responsibility for the deaths that poisoned liquor causes, although it cannot be held legally responsible."

One of the few really good things to have come out of that era has been a terrific flow of really good gangster movies, including the 1987 Grammy Award-winning Ennio Morricone-scored film, "The Untouchables," with Robert DeNiro as one terrific Al Capone, Kevin Costner as Eliot Ness, and a fine Sean Connery, who played Jimmy Malone (based on the real-life Irish American agent, Marty Lahart), who went on to win a Best Supporting Actor Oscar. In the end, Capone was brought down not by his criminal activities, per se, but by tax evasion.

With prohibition repealed, however, the model for the expansion of organized crime extended into the prohibited black markets for hard drugs, from cocaine to heroin. From Mafia chieftans to drug lords running operations across the world, from Latin America to Afghanistan, much of the profits of this business have boosted the money flow to terrorist organizations of all sorts. Crime has soared. And the prison population in the United States began to outstrip that of every modern society.

Last week, a cover story with regard to the "War on Drugs," was published by the New York Daily News stating that John Ehrlichman, who went to prison for Watergate-related crimes, and "who served as President Richard Nixon’s domestic policy chief," admitted that the ‘War on Drugs’ strategy was a "policy tool to go after anti-war protesters and ‘black people’." Apparently, these revelations were made in an interview with journalist Dan Baum, for a 1994 book, but were not revealed until the current April 2016 issue of Harper's, where the writer provides a wide-ranging discussion of how to seriously readjust drug policies in the United States. Here is an excerpt from the Daily News article:

“You want to know what this was really all about,” Ehrlichman, who died in 1999, said in the interview after Baum asked him about Nixon’s harsh anti-drug policies. “The Nixon campaign in 1968, and the Nixon White House after that, had two enemies: the antiwar left and black people. You understand what I’m saying,” Ehrlichman continued. “We knew we couldn’t make it illegal to be either against the war or black, but by getting the public to associate the hippies with marijuana and blacks with heroin, and then criminalizing both heavily, we could disrupt those communities. We could arrest their leaders, raid their homes, break up their meetings, and vilify them night after night on the evening news. Did we know we were lying about the drugs? Of course we did.” . . . By 1973, about 300,000 people were being arrested every year under the law — the majority of whom were African-American.

The following day, the News reported that Nixon's former White House counsel John Dean expressed shock over the revelations "but admitted 'it's certainly possible.' . . . If this was indeed true, it would have been the Nixon-Ehrlichman private agenda.'"

On this issue, a fine piece appears today from Mark Thornton, writing on Mises Daily (the site of the Ludwig von Mises Institute): "The Legalization Cure for the Heroin Epidemic." For years, voices on the left and on the right (from the time of William F. Buckley and Milton Friedman to Senator Rand Paul today) have been advocating a saner drug policy. Forty years after this declaration of a "War on Drugs," 1 trillion dollars in taxpayer money spent, the prisons are packed — drug use is apparently just as rampant behind bars as on the streets — but the epidemic stretches from the inner cities to suburbia.

It is clear, however, that no political change will occur if we have to depend on those "beautiful, ignorant bastards," until there is a cultural shift across this country that allows this issue to be re-examined fundamentally. The time has come.

March 23, 2016

A New "Ben-Hur" Looms... Oy Vey!

Given that this is Holy Week for Western Christians, I thought it was high time to take a look at the two trailers for a new film version of the classic story of "Ben-Hur," based on the great "Tale of the Christ" published by General Lew Wallace in 1880. The story was adapted for the stage, but saw its first cinematic expression as a 1907 one-reeler, then a 1925 silent classic, and finally, a 1959 blockbuster. (I should note that there was also a 2003 animated adaptation with the voice of Charlton Heston, who received the Best Actor Oscar for his portrayal of Judah Ben-Hur in the 1959 version [a nice documentary link at YouTube], and a very forgettable 2010 miniseries starring Klaus, from "The Vampire Diaries," as Judah.)

You can take a look at the two trailers for the 2016 film version: here and here [YouTube links].

I've actually commented on the Collider Crew review of the trailers at YouTube, where I said the following:

I must admit that this film is going to have to go a long way toward topping the 1959 version, winner of 11 Academy Awards, and perhaps the greatest "intimate" epic ever put on screen. From its larger-than-life Academy Award-winning actors to its remarkable cinematography, special effects (none of them CGI--those guys rode the chariots and there were 6000 extras in the arena, not computer-generated people), to its utterly superb score by Miklos Rozsa and its superb direction by the immortal William Wyler, whose use of symbolism throughout the film can be the subject of a book in itself, the 1959 "Ben-Hur" is still the standard by which epics are judged. Can't the folks in Hollywood leave classics alone? Is there nothing original? Must everything be reinvented? We'll see...

Apparently, the screenwriters for the new version thought the 1959 version spent too much time on revenge, rather than forgiveness. To which I can only say: Bollocks, and I'm being polite.

The 1959 film is the ultimate story of redemption, captured brilliantly by Wyler's magnificent symbolic use of the cleansing nature of water and blood (see my essay on why the Wyler version is my all-time favorite film).

So, I'll see the new one... but all I can say is, God help us. But to my Western Christian friends, I say: Have a Happy Easter this coming Sunday. My orthodox Christian upbringing will allow me to join in the festivities on May 1st (Eastern Orthodox Easter almost always arrives around the time of the Jewish Passover).

Ed.: A "hat tip" to my friend Don Hauptman for bringing the new trailers to my attention.

March 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1335

Song of the Day: Toccata [YouTube link] is an adaptaion of the fourth movement of Albert Finastera's First Piano Concerto, in this instance featured on the classic progressive rock album, "Brain Salad Surgery," arranged by Keith Emerson (Carl Palmer did the percussion movement). Emerson tragically died on March 20th of an apparent suicide. Emerson, Lake,& Palmer were perhaps among the most significant keyboard-driven rock/classical/jazz fusion groups to grace the genre. They were often dismissed by critics as "pompous" and "pretentious" like most other bands in the genre, but there was always a touch of envy in that critique, for few rock keyboardists could integrate that fusion with the effectiveness of Keith Emerson. The piece has an almost cinematic feel to it, suited for the sci-fi screen.

March 09, 2016

Song of the Day #1334

Song of the Day: Love Me Do, words and music by John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was the first single released by The Beatles in 1962 in the United Kingdom, and later, in 1964, in the United States, where it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. And the British Invasion was underway (even if the original version released in the U.S. had Andy White on drums and Ringo Starr on tamborine, though versions with Starr on drums, and Pete Best before him, were also recorded). Leading the charge of this invasion, however, was the man who worked behind the scenes as a producer, the so-called Fifth Beatle, who was no Fifth Wheel: the deeply talented and visionary George Martin, who passed away yesterday at the age of 90. Martin was an amazingly prolific producer, arranger, and composer, for both the recording studio and the cinema. He produced over 20 #1 singles in the US and 30 #1 singles in the UK. And he was responsible for the string arrangements brought to one of my all-time Beatles favorites, "Eleanor Rigby," something that was influenced, he acknowledged, by the work of the great film score composer Bernard Herrmann. But it's best to start at the beginning; check out the original UK single, with Ringo on drums, and remember the love [YouTube links].

February 29, 2016

Song of the Day #1333

Song of the Day: Alone Together, words and music by Arthur Schwartz and Howard Dietz, is featured on the Gleason production "Music for Lovers Only," and includes another sparkling Hackett solo. The 2016 88th Annual Academy Awards gave its "Best Original Song" statuette to Sam Smith and Jimmy Napes for "Writing's On the Wall" from the Bond flick, "SPECTRE," and the "Best Original Score" went to the immortal Ennio Morricone for "The Hateful Eight." Meanwhile, having closed out our Film Music February yesterday, we can now conclude our Centenary tribute to Jackie Gleason. "And Away We Go...." Check out the warmth of Hackett's trumpet in this track [YouTube Link], which could only have been produced by a warm and loving Jackie Gleason. In this cantankerous political season, I can think of nothing more triumphant than a full-hearted embrace of the cultural contributions of The Great One, who arose from the blisters of his childhood and even above the bluster of his most famous characters to Leap Up and Declare, with undiluted joy: "How Sweet It Is."

February 28, 2016

Song of the Day #1332

Song of the Day: I Cover the Waterfront ("Main Title"), music by Johnny Green, lyrics by Edward Heyman, was originally released in 1933 as a popular song, inspired by the 1932 novel of the same title, written by Max Miller. The book also inspired a 1933 film, which right before its release, was re-scored to include this song. It has been recorded by so many artists, including everybody from Billie Holiday to Sarah Vaughan [YouTube links]. In keeping with both our Film Score February music tribute, which in its final three days intersects with our mini-tribute to the Great One, Jackie Gleason, I should mention that this song was also featured as an instrumental, with a sweet solo by the great trumpet and cornet player, Bobby Hackett, on Gleason's first album, "Music for Lovers Only," which still holds the record for the album longest in the Billboard Top Ten Charts (153 weeks). And so, we end our annual Film Music February, but we're going to give one more encore to Jackie tomorrow, thus concluding our mini-Gleason tribute. In the meanwhile, enjoy the Oscars tonight, especially those competitive categories dealing with music! For now, just dim the lights, and check out the Gleason and Hackett rendition [YouTube link].

February 27, 2016

Song of the Day #1331

Song of the Day: Requiem for a Heavyweight ("Main Title"), composed by Laurence Rosenthal, is the soundtrack for the film version of this boxing drama. It was filmed initially as a 1956 installment of TV's "Playhouse 90", and Rod Serling's teleplay won a Peabody. But it was remade into a 1962 feature film. There are more than a few literal "Bang! Zooms!" in this one. Mickey Rooney and Anthony Quinn co-star; and contrary to any intuitive thoughts you might have had, it was Jackie Gleason who played the role of the manager, not the heavyweight. Quinn observed that Gleason did things just like Frank Sinatra. One take, sometimes with improvisational flair, and he was satisfied. Quinn needed a few more takes than that; but either way, it contributed greatly to a film that was a much darker movie than its small-screen counterpart.

February 26, 2016

Song of the Day #1330

Song of the Day: The Hustler ("Main Theme [Stop and Go]" and Various) [YouTube link], is a masterful soundtrack composed by Kenyon Hopkins in the kind of superb jazz idiom for which he is known. The main theme begins with the unmistakable sounds of jazz alto saxophonist Phil Woods. I can think of no better way to kick off a few days in celebration of the Jackie Gleason Centenary, than to start with the claustrophobic black and white 1961 film that netted him Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations as "Best Supporting Actor," in his role as the great pool player, Minnesota Fats (though there are questions about the authenticity of the story of Minnesota Fats). Authentic or not, there are no stunt doubles for Gleason: He plays pool authentically from beginning to end. As my Centenary tribute essay indicates, Gleason hung out in pool halls from the time he was a young teenager. Now, in some instances, there was a stunt double used for Paul Newman, who plays Fast Eddie Felson, who salivates at the prospect of competing against Fats. Newman earned an Oscar nomination too, but he's probably the only Oscar winner who received an Oscar for the same role in a sequel, entitled "The Color of Money" a 1986 film in which he co-starred with Tom Cruise (though I've always believed that the Academy awarded Newman the gold because the membership knew that he really deserved it for his shattering performance of a lifetime in "The Verdict"). Nevertheless, I'm going to echo the Gleasonian phrase here: "How Sweet it Is" with a twist; for in this movie, the tension makes you wonder "How Sweaty It Is" in the pool hall. ("How Sweet It Is" is the Welcoming Traffic Sign that graces the Brooklyn exit off the Verrazano Bridge; that's how much this man is celebrated as Brooklyn's son!)

Newman's tension rises because his respect and awe rise as he watches the artistry of his competitor. He marvels at the way Fats plays with cool confidence, with the grace of an Astaire and the grit of a Cagney. Though I highlight the Main Theme here, I've taken the liberty to add two other tracks from the score, illustrating Hopkins's terrific jazz sensibility. On the first additional track, you have entered the pool hall [YouTube link]; it sounds like a smoke-filled room, with immaculate pool tables, and the grit of a jazz score in the background just to keep the atmosphere a little naughty. And finally, the second additional track is the Suite [YouTube link], featuring some of the finest jazz players of the era, or any era, including Woods and trumpeter Doc Severinsen. In any event, take a look at this scene [YouTube link] in which Gleason doesn't just embody Fats because of the simple weight parallel. He becomes Fats, moving "like a dancer" and using a cue stick "like he's playing the violin," as Newman's Felson tells us.

February 25, 2016

Song of the Day #1329

Song of the Day: Madame X ("Main Title") [YouTube link] features music composed and adapted by Frank Skinner, who draws directly from the "Swedish Rhapsody" of the Austrian composer and conductor Willy Mattes (aka Charles Wildman). Sometimes referred to as the "Love Theme from Madame X," it has been covered in a variety of styles, including a jazz-influenced version by Sammy Kaye [YouTube link] and in a semi-classical mode by pianist George Greeley (born Georgio Guariglia, the Italian-American pianist, conductor, composer, and arranger), with the Warner Bros. Studio Orchestra for the album "The World's Ten Greatest Popular Piano Concertos." Skinner adapted the theme through a variety of cues, textures, and emotions, including those that are a pure expression of the "Depths of Despair" [YouTube link]. And despair pervades the story of this 1966 film, which stars John Forsythe and Lana Turner as "Madame X." The 1908 stage play by French playwright Alexandre Bisson upon which this film was based has spawned about a dozen other adaptations from the silent era to today. Skinner, who brought us themes for "The Wolf Man" and "Son of Frankenstein," was able to swing effortlessly from horror monsters to horror romances [YouTube links]. And with scores composed for this film, and more than 200 others, including such Douglas Sirk-directed classics of the genre such as "All That Heaven Allows" and "Imitation of Life," Skinner received only five Oscar nominations in his lifetime, the gold statuette eluding his grasp.

February 24, 2016

Song of the Day #1328

Song of the Day: Back Street ("Love Theme") [YouTube link], was composed by Frank Skinner, whose music I highight for the next two days. I have visited Skinner's music before; it is familiar to horror fans the world over for many of those great Universal monster films, from "The Wolf Man" to "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein." But he was also known for writing some of the lushest scores to some of Hollywood's famous romantic melodramas (and perhaps there are dialectical relationships between horror and romance that need to be investigated!). The lovely theme here was written for the 1961 film (based on the Fannie Hurst novel) starring Susan Hayward, and co-starring John Gavin and Vera Miles, who, just one year before this film, co-starred in Hitchcock's "Psycho."

February 23, 2016

Song of the Day #1327

Song of the Day: The Fugitive ("Stairway Chase") [YouTube link], music by James Newton Howard, is one of those truly frenetic chase scenes captured perfectly in the way it is both edited and scored.This is a fine 1993 film reboot of the absolutely magnificent original 1960s television series, which starred David Janssen as Dr. Richard Kimble, who brilliantly portrayed the painful loneliness, fear, and alienation of the innocent man on the run. For the series, composer Pete Rugolo created one of the most expressive scores, always infused with a jazz idiom, to have ever graced a television show. Howard is certainly up to the task, and someday, I'm going to reveal a few cues from the film that are homages to Rugolo's scoring. Whereas a multiyear television series provides us with an opportunity to truly develop its characters, the film provides us with a complex puzzle that must be solved if the fugitive is to find justice. All of this takes place amid a predatory chase between the hunter, portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones,who won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actor, as Lieutenant Sam Gerard (in the TV series, the character was played by Barry Morse and was named Philip Gerard, and the name change remains a mystery) and the hunted, well played by Harrison Ford, who maintains his innocence, despite being found guilty for killing his wife, and sentenced to execution by lethal injection. But, like the series, Kimble escapes and goes on a quest to find the one-armed man who murdered his wife. In the film, his search for this one-armed man takes place within the context of a larger conspiracy. I've chosen a cue that is used in a scene in which the unjustly convicted fugitive takes his chances by seeking out one potential suspect behind prison walls. Lietenant Gerard is hot on Kimble's trail and finds him at the prison. What results is a scorching chase scene, neither on motorcycles nor cars, but on foot, down a spiral staircase, through to the exit doors of the prison, with Gerard shooting to kill. It makes for rousing adventure and give us a lesson in how terrific Oscar-nominated scoring augments the excitement on screen (Howard was a casualty of another shattering John Williams score, the Oscar-winning "Schindler's List" soundtrack, which got a little help from the virtuoso violinist Itzhak Perlman; Williams, ironically, has only five Oscars, out of an amazing 50 nominations, second only to Walt Disney [pdf link]!). For a little entertainment, check out a YouTube video on the "Top Ten Movie Fugitives."

February 22, 2016

Song of the Day #1326

Song of the Day: The Great Escape ("The Chase") [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, is just a snippet of the music that captures an heroic and thrillingly suspenseful scene from this superb 1963 World War II epic, directed by John Sturges with an all-star cast. Bernstein captures the suspense perfectly as we watch Steve McQueen (who plays "Hilts," the so-called "Cooler King"), an escapee from a German POW camp, hijack a German motorcycle in an attempt to make it to freedom. We use the word "iconic" a lot, but it's unavoidable: this is one iconic scene and among the most memorable moments in cinema history. McQueen did virtually all the driving himself, except for the final jump. Check out the full scene (edited) on YouTube.

February 21, 2016

Song of the Day #1325

Song of the Day: The Thing from Another World ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Dimitri Tiomkin, opens this chilling 1951 sci-fi/horror film. There have been remakes [YouTube link], but there is just nothing like the original. In truth, I first saw this film at the Sommer Highway Theatre in Brooklyn, New York, which, sadly, no longer exists. Today, it's a Walgreen's. When I was 5 years old, I went with my Uncle Sam and my sister Elizabeth to see this film in a double feature with the 1933 classic film, "King Kong." I'd never seen either film; it was just prior to their endless appearances on classic TV movie shows like Channel 2's (WCBS) "The Late, Late, Late Show," or, perhaps, Channel 7's (WABC) "The 4:30 Movie," or Channel 9's (WOR) "Million Dollar Movie" or, Channel 11's (WPIX) "Chiller Theatre." In any event, I attempted to see "King Kong" but "The Thing" was the first feature; then came Intermission (where, maybe, they'd show a cartoon or two). The theater was dark suddenly, and Kong was finally going to begin, but the crowd of kids was chanting with a single voice, rising in decibels with each passing second: "KONG! KONG! KONG! KONG!" Well, I didn't know what to expect when that curtain rose. And my uncle and sister definitely sensed that this 5-year old was getting a bit panicked. "Are you okay?," they asked. "Well," I explained, "it's a little noisy." I would not allow my apprehension to rise up to visible fear and I would not admit it to anybody, brave young 5-year old tough Brooklynite that I was. "Very loud," I said. "Well, maybe we should come back and see this some other time. It's okay," they both assured me. Relieved, to say the least, I said, "Okay. Sounds good." And we headed for the exits. So, though I later got to see the original Kong on the big screen, it was not to be on this day; but "The Thing" [full-length feature film link] was great '50s sci-fi, and Tiomkin's music provided just the right amount of rising tension throughout the film.

February 20, 2016

Song of the Day #1324

Song of the Day: Jurassic World ("As the Jurassic World Turns") [YouTube link], is composed by Michael Giacchino, as a theme that evolves, almost organically, out of the original "Jurassic Park" theme, composed by John Williams. It is a terrific musical homage, while standing on its own, and if you're wondering: Yes, I utterly loved the 2015 film, which clearly picked up every clue and cue of the original franchise to provide us with thrilling entertainment, eye-popping special effects, and a really exciting adventure story. The great power of film is that it can move us deeply, emotionally and intellectually, and it can entertain us, and there need be no dichotomy between the two. In this case, however, let's face it: it's time to get out the popcorn and enjoy yourself. You'll find yourself rooting for Blue the Raptor and the T-Rex in their battle against the Indominous Rex [YouTube link, with SPOILER ALERT]. I especially like the way that Blue strategically jumps from the T-Rex to the Indominous Rex during the fight to the finish!

February 19, 2016

Song of the Day #1323

Song of the Day: Sophie's Choice ("Love Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Marvin Hamlisch, is a soft, loving theme that cushions the blow of an utterly devastating film. I only saw this film about a year ago, and was deeply affected by the horrors it depicts during the years of the Nazi holocaust. Without referring to the "choice" that Sophie must make in the film, I can say that it reminded me of Ayn Rand's novel, We the Living, which depicts the horrors of Soviet communism, in one important sense: the insanity of totalitarian political systems that allow no choices except among forms of death and decay. It is all the more fitting to remember that nightmare on this day, which is a "day of remembrance" for those who were the subject of Executive Order 9066, signed by Franklin D. Roosevelt, allowing the deportation of Japanese Americans to internment camps within the United States during World War II. Ironically, it was film that first made me aware of those camps, when I first saw "Hell to Eternity," as a child, a 1960 movie with Jeffrey Hunter (who played Christ in the 1961 film, "King of Kings") and David Janssen (who was "The Fugitive" in that remarkable television series of the 1960s). Those camps certainly were not extermination camps, but they are a symbol of what happens during wartime, when individual rights are abrogated both at home and abroad. In any event, the 1982 film gave Meryl Streep a much-deserved Oscar award for Best Actress, and Hamlisch received a much-deserved nomination for Best Original Score, losing out to the iconic John Williams score for "E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial." It is difficult to find a moment of joy or laughter in films of this nature, but I will never forget Sophie's admiration of Stingo's seersucker jacket [YouTube link]. The film's house was situated in Brooklyn, New York, and it stands still on Rugby Road in Flatbush.

February 18, 2016

Song of the Day #1322

Song of the Day: The Thief of Baghdad ("Suite") [YouTube link] captures some of the textures of Miklos Rozsa's soundtrack to this 1940 fantasy film with Sabu. Rozsa's compositions for film and the concert stage remain among the finest symphonic work of any twentieth-century composer. It has been said that Rozsa went through five distinct periods in his illustrious scoring career: what he characterized as the "oriental" or "exotic" period (featuring work on fantasy films with exotic locations, of which "The Thief of Baghdad" is one of the best examples); the "psychological" period (exploring complex psychological portraits, e.g., his Oscar-winning score for Hitchcock's film, "Spellbound"); the film noir period (with films such as "Double Indemnity" and his Oscar-winning score to "A Double Life"); the Historico-Biblical period (of which "Ben-Hur" yesterday is his crowning achievement); and his sci-fi phase (which includes films such as "Time After Time"). This particular suite shows the breadth of his first period, and the lovely violin interlude gives us just a hint of what he provides for the concert hall). The charming British technicolor film was a spectacle for special effects in its day, marking the first major use of film bluescreening. Produced by Alexander Korda, it won Oscars for Cinematography, Art Direction, Special Effects, and Rozsa's soundtrack was nominated for Best Original Score.

February 17, 2016

Song of the Day #1321

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Gratus' Entry To Jerusalem") [YouTube link] is a dark, imperial march composed by Miklos Rozsa that begins immediately after "Salute for Gratus" (included here as well) on a 5-disc edition of the score to my favorite film of all time: "Ben-Hur", the Best Picture of 1959, which set a winning record of 11 Oscars that has been tied, but never beaten. In a sprawling Oscar-winning soundtrack filled with grand and diverse themes, Rozsa provides a wide range of emotions, which capture the "soul" of this remarkable film. It is not without significance that the film has been called the first modern "intimate" epic, one that could stage grand-scale naval battles and real chariot races of widescreen scope without the help or need for CGI, while at the same time exploring the essential depth of its main characters and the intimacy and complexity of their relationships. Much of the credit goes to Oscar-winning director William Wyler, and the performances he elicited from his actors (two of whom brought home Oscar gold: Charlton Heston for "Best Actor" and Hugh Griffith for "Best Supporting Actor"). Rozsa's piece captures the coercive imposition of ancient Roman will on Judea, the oppressive character of imperial occupation on a section of the world that, till this day, remains in turmoil. In any event, it is in keeping with my annual practice of featuring something from "Ben-Hur" on the occasion of my birthday, which always coincides with Film Music February. So I've chosen this muscular piece from Rozsa's greatest, most triumphant symphonic film score, perhaps one of the greatest scores in cinema history.

February 16, 2016

Song of the Day #1320

Song of the Day: The Man in the Iron Mask ("Opening"; "A Boy") [TCM clip], composed by Lud Gluskin and Lucien Morawek, received an Oscar nomination for their score to the 1939 film loosely based on the last section of The Vicomte of Bragalonne: Ten Years Later, the third and final section of the third and final book of the "d'Artagnan Romances" (following : "The Three Musketeers" and "Twenty Years Later"). Even the story by Dumas is based on French legend, but this film is notable for several milestones: it was the first film to introduce us to actor Peter Cushing; it was directed by the great James Whale; and it stars Louis Hayward in a remarkable double role. Born to Louis XIII, the first son is seen as the legitimate heir of France, but a twin is born (Philippe) and the king is persuaded to send the second son to Gascony, to be raised by d'Artagnan (in this film, portrayed by Warren William). The first son grows up to be the hated monarch Louis XIV, imposing oppressive taxes and repressing the people of France. Through a series of dramatic twists, it is discovered that there is a twin, who is much more kind and compassionate, and Louis XIV imprisons him, placing an Iron Mask on his brother's face, so that no one shall ever discover his twin, hoping his brother will simply strangle as his beard crowds out the oxygen within the mask. The Three Musketeers and d'Artagnan come to the rescue, and when Philippe assumes the throne to right the wrongs of his brother, Louis XIV, he enunciates something about the laws of justice and retribution, something from which my mother always used to quote, any time news of some criminality, especially political criminality, hit the headlines: "There is one law in life, brother, that not even a king could escape: The law of retribution. The pendulum of the clock of life swings so far in one direction, then very surely swings back. The pendulum is swinging for you, brother," not so much for the injustices suffered by Philippe, but for all the injustices suffered by the people of France whose sacred trust the King had violated. This Philippe says before the Museketeers put the mask on the corrupt king. Mom didn't realize that she was providing a budding libertarian with a few maxims about the fight against tyranny! Mom is gone over twenty years, but her birthday is on February 20th, so I'm giving her a little tip of the Yankee cap (she was a Yankees fan, after all) a few days early.

February 15, 2016

Song of the Day #1319

Song of the Day: The Three Musketeers ("Themes") [TCM Trailer], music by Herbert Stothart (with some inspiration from the themes of Tchaikovsky), provides the rousing backdrop for what I believe is the best version of the Alexandre Dumas tale, starring Gene Kelly as d'Artagnan! Yes, the song and dance man had more than a few tricks up his sleeve when it came to choreographed sword play (indeed, the film's outstanding choreographed sword sequences have inspired a generation of contributors to the genre). The 1948 swashbuckling Technicolor film is just wonderful, action-packed entertainment with a score to match (and apparently almost impossible to find!). On the other hand, the Grammy Awards are easy to find on the dial. Enjoy!

February 14, 2016

Song of the Day #1318

Song of the Day: The Godfather ("I Have But One Heart") is a 1945 popular song, adapted from an 1893 Neapolitan theme "O Marenariello" (here, sung by Andrea Bocelli) with words by Gennaro Ottaviano and music by Salvatore Gambardella. The adapted English-language version features music by Johnny Farrow and lyrics by Marty Symes and was Vic Damone's debut single [YouTube link], rising to #7 on the Billboard chart. In 1972, in the film version of Mario Puzo's novel "The Godfather," it was given new life when it was sung by the character, Johnny Fontane (portrayed by Al Martino) [YouTube links to Martino's renditions in the film and on the soundtrack], at the wedding of Connie Corleone (portrayed by Talia Shire), daughter of Don Vito Corleone (portrayed by the Golden Globe-winning, Oscar-winning Best Actor Marlon Brando). A long-time family friend, long-assisted by the Don at crucial points in his career, Fontane asks the Don if he could help get him a role in a film for which, he believes, he would be pertectly cast, but the producer Jack Woltz (played by John Marley), despises Fontane and won't give him the part. The Corleones approach Woltz, offering various deals and favors, but Woltz won't budge on this issue. . . until he's given an offer he can't refuse. But Valentine's Day is not the Day to be speaking of SPOILER ALERTS [YouTube link at your own risk!]; it is to be speaking of that "One Heart" you have for your Valentine. Pulling a song from "The Godfather" songbook today gives us an opportunity to note the passing of Abe Vigoda, who portrayed the character Salvatore Tessio in the first film of Francis Ford Coppola's gangster epic. So wipe that film's imagery from your Head, and think of Hearts instead!

February 13, 2016

Song of the Day #1317

Song of the Day: Stowaway ("Goodnight My Love"), music by Mack Gordon, lyrics by Harry Revel, is a truly memorable song, performed by both the young Shirley Temple [YouTube link] and Alice Faye [YouTube link] from this 20th Century Fox 1936 film. Temple also sang it as part of a medley in the 1938 film, "Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm." The song also got the royal treatment by two of the greatest vocalists in the jazz pantheon: the 1936 classic recording with Ella Fitzgerald and the Benny Goodman Orchestra (the 80th anniversary of its recording will be marked on November 5, 2016) and Sarah Vaughan.

February 12, 2016

Song of the Day #1316

Song of the Day: High Society ("Well, Did You Evah?"), written by Cole Porter for the soundtrack to the 1956 film, but originally written for the 1939 Broadway musical, "DuBarry Was a Lady," which starred Bert Lahr, Betty Grable, and Ethel Merman. Gene Kelly, Red Skelton, and Lucille Ball starred in a film version later that year that dispensed with much of Porter's score. But those songs enjoyed a resurrection in "High Society." This particular song is a witty duet in the 1956 musical comedy, featuring Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra at their best; their ad libs kept the song fresh, playfully referring to their generational and intergenerational appeal with a series of "wink-winks" to its audience. Going full circle, we conclude our mini-Bing tribute within our ongoing film music February. Check out two pros who had an innate ability to charm the camera [YouTube link].

February 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1315

Song of the Day: Going My Way ("Title Song"), music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Johnny Burke, was sung by Bing Crosby, Rise Stevens, and the Robert Mitchell Boys Choir (one of several songs Crosby sang in this 1944 film, which won a Best Song Oscar, for "Swinging on a Star"). Overall, the fillm was nominated for ten Oscars, and was among the only films to nominate an actor, Barry Fitzgerald, for "Best Actor" and "Best Supporting Actor" for the same role, from the same film, in the same year. As it turned out Bing got the Best Actor Oscar, and Barry got the Supporting Actor Oscar (and, in 1945, Bing received another "Best Actor" nomination for the same character, Father Chuck O'Malley, for the film, "The Bells of St. Mary's"). Sounds like the makings of a Jeopardy "answer" ... Check out the title track here.

February 10, 2016

Song of the Day #1314

Song of the Day: Here Comes the Waves ("Ac-Cent-TchuAte the Positive"), music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, was written in 1944 and heard on the radio documentary, "Pop Chronicles." It was later featured in the 1944 film, "Here Comes the Waves," in a rendition by Bing Crosby and the Andrews Sisters [YouTube link].

February 09, 2016

Song of the Day #1313

Song of the Day: High Society ("Now You Has Jazz"), written by Cole Porter for this 1956 film, which was a musical version of the "The Philadelphia Story" (1939 play), subsequently made into a 1940 romantic comedy with Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn (who starred in the Broadway play), and James Stewart. The musical has an all-star cast as well: Bing Crosby, Frank Sinatra, Grace Kelly, and Louis Armstrong as himself. Check out this wonderful scene, with Pops offering his "definition" of jazz, by just blowing that great horn, playing and interplaying with Crosby at his best [YouTube link]. For the next few days, we're turning a little attention to Crosby, who contributed so much music to the film score soundtrack of our lives.

February 08, 2016

Song of the Day #1312

Song of the Day: Earthquake ("Main Title"), [YouTube link], composed by John Williams, is the classic "disaster film theme" when the genre was hot (as was this film in 1974). For a composer who has mastered virtually every genre, we celebrate his 84th birthday.

February 07, 2016

Song of the Day #1311

Song of the Day: The Monuments Men ("Opening Titles") [YouTube link]. composed by Alexandre Desplat, takes its inspiration from some of those great war films of the 1950s and 1960s. The film is an astonishing tribute to those who recovered and preserved the art looted by the Nazis during World War II. Check it out on YouTube. The big monument today, however, has little to do with such grand history; it is the Trophy that went to the Denver Broncos and their quarterback Peyton Manning, who won Super Bowl 50.

February 06, 2016

Song of the Day #1310

Song of the Day: Paris Holiday ("Nothing in Common") features the music of Jimmy Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn, and, by the title, one would think of it as something that could have been a product of one of those Hope-Crosby "Road To . . . " films. And, indeed, it was recorded and released by United Artists as a single by the pair [YouTube link] in February 1958, the same month as this film's release, and with obvious links to the film in its marketing. But this wasn't a "Road To" film and Crosby never appeared in it; the original duet was filmed for the movie by Bob Hope and Martha Hyer but was cut from the final edit. The song was also released in 1958 in a pumped-up Billy May arrangement by Frank Sinatra and Keely Smith [YouTube link]. So here we have a song from the movies that wasn't in the movies.

February 05, 2016

Song of the Day #1309

Song of the Day: Hole in the Head ("High Hopes"), music by Jimmy Van Heusen, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, became a hit for one of the stars of this 1959 Frank Capra comedy, Frank Sinatra, a singer who took up quite a bit of cyber-ink by this writer at the close of 2015. The film's score was written by Nelson Riddle, but it was Miklos Rozsa who took home the Score Gold in 1959. Nevertheless, it was Jimmy and Sammy who walked away with the Oscar for Best Original Song for this hit record. It was one of the few Oscars "Ben-Hur" didn't win that year, having walked away with 11 statuettes that till this day remains a record, tied twice thereafter, but never beaten. The song was later adapted with substitute lyrics in Sinatra's campaign for JFK. Check out the original, the song as heard and seen in the film, and the campaign rendition.

February 04, 2016

Song of the Day #1308

Song of the Day: Guess Who's Coming To Dinner ("The Glory of Love"), with words and music by Billy Hill, was recorded in May 1936, becoming a #1 pop hit by the great clarinetist Benny Goodman and his Orchestra, featuring Helen Ward on vocals [YouTube link; and check out this sweet clip of BG with Ella and Peggy Lee doing the song). Ironically, given the subject matter of our film choice today, it's worth noting that the King of Swing was one of the most heroic musicians of his era, "swinging" a bat at the notion of segregation in jazz, and in music, working with Fletcher Henderson, who wrote wonderful arrangements for BG's big band, and forming an original trio and quartet, which featured two African-Americans, respectively, pianist Teddy Wilson and vibes player Lionel Hampton (and later, the trailblazing guitarist Charlie Christian, who was a featured player in Goodman's Sextet and Big Band). On tour, Goodman refused to play in "Jim Crow" Southern states that required the exclusion of his black musicians. Years later, in 1951, the Five Keys took the song to #1 on the R&B chart [YouTube link]. And it has been recorded by countless artists since, making its way into many films as well, from the 1988 tearjerker, "Beaches" (check out Bette Midler's rendition [YouTube link]), to the 1981 film "Pennies from Heaven" and the 2009 horror film, "Orphan." But no film used this song to greater effect than this Stanley Kramer-directed 1967 movie, on our tribute list today. The film is "dated" in some respects, but it boasts a wonderful cast, headed by Spencer Tracy, in his last film role (he received a posthumous Oscar nomination in the Best Actor category), Katharine Hepburn, who won the Oscar for Best Actress (and who repeated that feat the following year for her brilliant performance in "The Lion in Winter," tying with Barbra Streisand, who received the Oscar for her terrific film debut in "Funny Girl"). In any event, the issues with which this film deals were controversial in its day, but the problems surrounding racism, integration, segregation, and the institution of marriage itself remain with us. After all, in this film, Sidney Poitier, who gives us a typically fine performance, wants to marry Tracy and Hepburn's daughter (played by her real-life niece Katharine Houghton), and when the film was released, it was only six months after the last 17 states in the United States were forced to recognize interracial marriage, because the U.S. Supreme Court had finally struck down antimiscegenation laws (with obvious parallels to the more recent debate over same-sex marriage). Sadly, Tracy had actually passed away two weeks after filming his final scene in the movie, and two days after the Court's decision. His character goes through immense pain dealing with the issue of knowing that his daughter could marry a "colored" man, and that they would be tortured by the harsh cultural forces around them, forces that exist till this day. But his character undergoes a transformation throughout the course of the film, and his final monologue [YouTube link] becomes, in essence, a paean to "The Glory of Love" [YouTube link].

February 03, 2016

Song of the Day #1307

Song of the Day: And Justice for All ("Main Title" / "There's Something Funny Going On") [YouTube link], music by Dave Grusin, lyrics by Alan and Marilyn Bergman, is heard over the closing credits of the 1979 film; it has that late '70s disco vibe, as it is performed by Zach Sanders and the NY Jailhouse Ensemble. Directed by Norman Jewison, this film is a cynical look at our judicial system (there are fewer ways to look at the structural deformities that often pass for "justice," and this motion picture captures it with touches of satire and tragedy). Al Pacino is virtually forced to defend a hated judge (played by John Forsythe of "Dynasty" fame), [SPOILER ALERT] whom he discovers to be guilty. But you've got to see the entire closing scene of the film, with Pacino at the peak of his career (and Jack Warden, who provides one of his finest turns as the wonderful character actor he is). The scene is just one of those "I'm As Mad As Hell and I'm Not Going To Take This Anymore" 'Network' moments that all of us should have more often. Check the scene out on YouTube. The film opens with an instrumental "Main Title" version [YouTube link] of the closing credits song; it features the unmistakably fine sax work and sound of Tom Scott.

February 02, 2016

Song of the Day #1306

Song of the Day: Son of Kong ("Runaway Blues"), music and orchestrations by Max Steiner, William T. Stromberg, and John Morgan, and lyrics by the uncredited Edward Eliscu, is sung by Helen Mack, in a hilarious scene in this 1933 sequel to the iconic Great Ape film, "King Kong." Carl Denam (played by Robert Armstrong) and Captain Englehorn (played by Frank Reicher) ship off from New York City to avoid the onslaught of lawsuits being readied to cash-in on the destruction wrought by King Kong, shot down from atop the Empire State Building. Denam tells Englehorn that Nils Helstrom, from whom he got the map of the prehistoric Skull Island, hinted that there was a treasure on the island. While en route, Denham and Englehorn stop off in the Dutch port of Dakang, and check out the local show, featuring performing monkeys and Hilda, who sings this song. "She's got something," Denam says to Englehorn. "Well it certainly isn't a voice." You be the judge; check it out on YouTube, along with this expanded version, which includes three variations (though the film has been colorized! For shame!). The film has an awfully unnecessarily tragic ending, but cannot be overlooked due to the superb Steiner score, which expands on many of the themes first established by Steiner in "King Kong" (and let's not forget that Steiner scored the 1949 film version of The Fountainhead). The film features great stop motion animation by the legendary Willis O'Brien. This is the only film I could think of that encapsulates two of the chief themes of the day: "Runaway Blues," the perennial song of the Groundhog who can't wait to run back into his burrow, less he face the blues of six more weeks of winter (and it's official: for Puncsutwaney Phil, "There is no shadow to be cast, an early spring is my forecast" and Staten Island Chuck, who once took a chunk out of former Mayor Bloomberg's finger, and who remains the champ of correct forecasting, agrees with Phil completely: Expect an early spring.) All the better if you want to see The City clearly from atop the Empire State Building. In that grand Art Deco masterpiece of a building, there was once housed the Nathaniel Branden Institute, which, for years, had been publishing and disseminating the philosophy of Ayn Rand, who was born on this date in 1905.

February 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1305

Song of the Day: The Music Goes 'Round ("The Music Goes Round and Round") features the music of Edward Farley and Mike Riley and the lyrics of Red Hodgson. It became a 1935 hit for the Tommy Dorsey Orchestra, with Edythe Wright on vocals [YouTube link]. In February of 1936, almost 70 years ago to this day, a film, "The Music Goes 'Round" made its debut to less-than-sparkling reviews, and used this song for its interlude, something the New York Times said was "the best thing in the new picture," and many artists through the years would agree with that. Today begins Film Music February, an annual tribute that I post every year; it gives a nod to a film score cue, a song, or even music that wasn't specifically written for a film, but whose presence in the film gives moviegoers a scent of familiarity, while embedding it in an entirely new cinematic context that evokes a fresh emotional response for those who experience it (talk about shifting dialectical applications!). We'll feature a different daily selection right up to the Oscars, and beyond, as our film tribute metaphorizes into a paean to another Centenary Saint. For me, one of the most memorable versions of this particular song was issued in 1959 by the late great Sicilian American jazz entertainer, Louis Prima, who always honored his greatest influence, Satchmo (and, for those of you following Black History Month, which begins today, take note: It was the great Louis Armstrong who did the 1936 classic rendition [YouTube link] of this song). Take a listen to Prima's version here. And check out another film in which the song is featured [YouTube link], the entertaining 1959 biopic of cornetist, Red Nichols (played by Danny Kaye), "The Five Pennies", in which Armstrong has a cameo.

January 18, 2016

Song of the Day #1304

Song of the Day: Take it Easy, words and music by Jackson Browne and Glenn Frey, a member of the Eagles, who recorded the song with that group. It's one of those Eagles Essentials, their first single (released on May Day in 1972), a part of a greatest hits collection that, at 29 million sales, remains second only to "Thriller" (30x Platinum), for having the greatest domestic sales of any album in the history of the charts. It's hard to believe, given what I said the other day, but Glenn Frey, today, joins the growing choral group in the heavens. Check the song out on YouTube; thank you for all the wonderful music you've left behind for us to enjoy.

January 14, 2016

Song of the Day #1303

Song of the Day: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 ("Snape's Demise") [YouTube link], composed by Alexandre Desplat, is an amalgam of several themes from the climactic final film of this classic fantasy series, based on the J. K. Rowling novels. Alas, today, we mourn the passing of actor Alan Rickman, who embodied the character Severus Snape in each of the eight feature films of that remarkable series. It is two weeks into the New Year, and we've already lost high profile artists Natalie Cole, David Bowie, and Alan Rickman. We mourn even for Celine Dion, whose husband, Rene Angelil, lost his long battle against cancer. There is nothing unusual about witnessing such a natural part of the life process on a daily basis, but I didn't expect Notablog to become an almost hourly obituary; we'll take it as it comes.

January 11, 2016

Song of the Day #1302

Song of the Day: Let's Dance, not to be remotely confused with the great Benny Goodman Theme Song, features the words and music of David Bowie, who tragically passed away yesterday, January 10, 2016. For some, this song, the title track from Bowie's 1983 album, was David's movement into the kind of commercial success that apparently takes the "edge" off your music--a polite way of saying "sell-out." But for me, the song brings me back to 1983, dancing in the hottest clubs on Fire Island, where DJs regularly kicked down the artificial walls that separated various genres of pop-dance music. You could hear scalding sets of remarkable mixing that brought together everyone from Bowie to Michael Jackson to the Clash; you could revel in a kaleidoscope of materials that went from disco to post-disco to new wave to early hip hop. Perhaps this mash-up was a natural by-product of bringing Bowie together with Nile Rodgers [YouTube link; some nice recollections by Rodgers of Bowie], of Chic fame. Ah, the universality of music; the power of memory. Check out the Bowie-Rodgers collaboration on YouTube.

January 02, 2016

Song of the Day #1301

Song of the Day: Unforgettable, words and music by Irving Gordon, was originally a truly unforgettable 1951 hit, arranged by the great Nelson Riddle, for Nat King Cole [YouTube link]. But those of us from a later generation, remember it for reasons that, today, are especially poignant. On New Year's Eve, Natalie Cole, daughter of the great Nat King Cole, passed away at the age of 65. Natalie was a successful singer of pop music, but it was not until her remarkable album, "Unforgettable . . . With Love," that she truly embraced the niche that was so deeply engrained in her DNA. A talented, swinging, jazz vocalist, she walked away with the 1991 Grammy for Album of the year, largely on the technological triumph of a title-track duet between Natalie and her dad. I'll never forget how, when the title song actually won a Grammy for Best Song, there being no statute of limitations for song-writing recogntion, the songwriter, Irving Gordon, still alive and kicking ass, 40 years after having written the song, took to the stage to accept the Grammy. There was no shutting up Mr. Gordon. It was just after Michael Bolton had performed his own Grammy Award-winning rendition (for Best Male Pop Vocal Performance) of "When a Man Loves a Woman", and without missing a beat, Gordon celebrated the fact that it was still possible to win awards for songs such as his, while attacking songs that "scream, yell, and have a nervous breakdown," in which the singers performing them "have a hernia" delivering the lyric. "Unforgettable" was a new beginning for Natalie. Throughout the years, I've highlighted a number of her performances on "My Favorite Songs," including "Almost
Like Being in Love
," "Avalon," "Baby It's Cold Outside," "Jingle Bells," "The Music That Makes Me Dance" (a wonderful song from the Broadway musical that never made it to the film version of "Funny Girl"), "My Baby Just Cares For Me," "A Song for You," "Thou Swell," "Too Close for Comfort," and "What You Won't Do For Love." It seems only natural, then, that I choose a genuine favorite of mine, with which Natalie will forever be associated: the Grammy-winning title track, and Best Record, and Best Song, from her Grammy-winning album, which, through the miracle of modern technology, enabled her to sing an other-worldly duet with her immortal father: "Unforgettable" [YouTube link]. Like her father, Natalie's contributions to the world of music will remain unforgettable. I will miss her.

January 01, 2016

Song of the Day #1300

Song of the Day: Feeling Good, words and music by Anthony Newley and Leslie Bricusse, has been heard every third or fourth second on American television, as Volvo has been killing us with the Avicii version of this classic jazzy standard [YouTube link]. But the song made its debut in the stage musical, "The Roar of the Greasepaint - The Smell of the Crowd," which received 6 Tony award nominations in 1965. It turned out two other fine songs, "The Joker" and "Who Can I Turn To?" But there have been some very nice renditions of this song through the years; it was performed in the 1964 UK tour by Cy Grant and the 1965 US Broadway cast recording by Gilbert Price. Among the other definitive recordings, from her album "I Put a Spell on You," Nina Simone; the English rock band Muse, Sammy Davis, Jr., Billy Paul, George Michael, and Michael Buble. I hope every one within earshot of Notablog is "feeling good" as we welcome 2016 on this New Year's Day. This is the 1300th "Song of the Day" and there ain't no luckier number than 13!! (And check out this nice Newley-Davis duet of Newley-Bricusse songs.)

December 25, 2015

Song of the Day #1299

Song of the Day: Mary, Did You Know?, music by Buddy Greene, lyrics by Mark Lowry, was originally recorded by Christian recording artist Michael English, though there have been many lovely renditions of it, including those by Kenny Rogers and Wynonna Judd, and Pentatonix [YouTube links]. It is also on Mary J. Blige's 2013 Christmas album, "A Mary Christmas." Check it out on YouTube; but the rendition that blew me away was her live take on it at this year's lighting of the Rockefeller Christmas Tree in New York City. There's a poor quality TV taping of it on YouTube, but it captures Mary's soulful delivery. Merry Christmas to all; whatever your spiritual beliefs, I wish you peace and good will, always.

December 24, 2015

Song of the Day #1298

Song of the Day: The Christmas Shoes, words and music by Eddie Carswell and Leonard Ahlstrom, was recorded by the Christian vocal group NewSong. It charted on the Country chart, but went to Number One on the Billboard Adult Contemporary chart in 2001. The song has been panned by quite a few critics, but whatever your spiritual beliefs, this is just one of those songs that tugs at your heart. Check it out on YouTube. A Merry Christmas Eve to all; and don't forget to track Santa on Norad!.

December 13, 2015

JARS: New December 2015 Issue and A Forthcoming 2016 Blockbuster

You folks didn't think that I've been listening to so much Frank Sinatra over the last 19 days, leading up to "The Frank Sinatra Centenary", that I forgot to work diligently with my colleagues toward the production of the year-end edition of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, did you?

From our home page:

Volume 15, Number 2 (Issue 30, December 2015) of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, published by Pennsylvania State University Press, is the current issue, continuing our tradition of multiperspectival, interdisciplinary studies of Ayn Rand and her times. And like every issue in the history of the publication, we always take pride in publishing the work of at least one new contributor to The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies, a further indication of just how important the study of Rand has become. The current issue is our thirtieth issue; we have published a total of 290 essays by 152 different authors (obviously, some authors have been published in JARS more than once). The bottom line is that if someone had told me in 1999 that such statistics were possible, I would not have believed them. At most, I figured there were a few dozen scholars out there who would be willing to publish in a Rand journal, but even fewer, once you consider that some authors in Rand-land would refuse to appear in a journal that would dare "sanction" the publication of essays from Slavoj Zizek, Bill Martin, and Gene Bell-Villada to George Reisman, David Kelley, and various members of our Editorial and Advisory Boards, to name but a few. But those authors outside our orbit have always had an open invitation to publish in this journal; if the Berlin Wall can fall down, anything is possible.
And so, in concluding our Fifteenth Anniversary Year, we offer another provocative issue. Eric B. Dent and new JARS contributor John A. Parnell, contribute an essay that makes the Objectivist case for reconciling economics and ethics in business ethics education. Continuing the pedagogical theme, Edward W. Younkins discusses the treatment of business and businesspeople in Rand's Atlas Shrugged, and how these paradigmatic heroic portraits have been used in college-level business courses.
We then move onto the conclusion of Roger E. Bissell's Opus (Part 1 appeared in the December 2014 issue of JARS), which rethinks issues in epistemology, logic, and "the objective," by mining the insights of Rand's unit-perspective view of concepts. The issue ends with a lively discussion between Michelle Marder Kamhi and Fred Seddon, inspired by Seddon's December 2014 review of Kamhi's book, Who Says That's Art? A Commonsense View of the Visual Arts.

NEW DECEMBER 2015 JARS

Readers can access the full abstracts and contributor biographies relevant to the contents of this year-end edition of the journal.

I'd like to continue quoting from the announcement of the new JARS, because, well, 'you ain't seen nothin' yet':

JARS readers should savor the new December 2015 issue, because we won't publish another issue until next December. 2016 is going to be a banner year in the history of this journal. The December 2016 issue will be the first double-issue in our history (Volume 16, nos. 1 & 2). Our "Call for Papers" on the topic of "Assessing the Work and Legacy of Nathaniel Branden" has resulted in a symposium of considerable size, featuring submissions from an international group of scholars, providing critical, interpretive perspectives from disciplines as varied as literature, history, politics, and, of course, psychology. In fact, a sizable proportion of our contributors have no connection to Objectivism whatsoever, but they speak as professional psychologists who learned much from the man who many consider to be the "father" of the self-esteem movement in contemporary psychology. The issue will also include the first print publication of "Objectivism: Past and Future," a 1996 transcribed Branden lecture (and Q&A session). And we will also publish the most extensive annotated bibliography ever assembled of Branden's work and the existing secondary literature. This will be such an historic issue, that Pennsylvania State University Press, which typically publishes a regular print run, and its JSTOR electronic version, has also committed to the publication of a stand-alone e-book / Kindle edition.

If you're not a subscriber now, join the excitement and subscribe today! Check out our 2016 price schedule here.

December 12, 2015

Song of the Day #1297 (The Sinatra Finale)

Song of the Day: That's Life, words and music by Dean Kay and Kelly Gordon, is one of my absolute all-time favorite Sinatra recordings, an album title track that went to the Top Five (a #4 singles hit) on the Billboard pop chart, smack in the middle of the rock-dominated Beatles era. It also hit #1 on the Easy Listening chart for three weeks (December 1966 to January 1967). It had been previously recorded by others, including O. C. Smith [YouTube link]. But unlike Smith's slower, bluesier version, Sinatra swaggers through it and makes the song his own. He first performed the song on his television special, "A Man and His Music, Part II." The TV version, however, takes a backseat to the recorded version [both YouTube links], which was produced by Jimmy Bowen and conducted by Ernie Freeman.

Uplifting a glass, Francis Albert Sinatra offered this toast on more than one occasion: "May you live to be 100, and may the last voice you hear be mine." Sinatra passed away in 1998, at the age of 82. But if I were blessed to live to 100, the loveliness of his recorded performances gives me the opportunity to hear "The Voice" on my way to the Pearly Gates... or whetever warmer climates my Maker has in store for me. But today is not about obituaries; it is about births, rebirths, resurrections. For today marks the 100th anniversary of the birth of Francis Albert Sinatra. We conclude with One Hundred toasts to a man who was indeed a poet, the so-called "poet laureate of loneliness," but no less a poet of joy. He was the recipient of Oscars, Emmys, and Grammys (and he has three stars on the "Hollywood Walk of Fame," commemorating his work in film, television, and recording, respectively). I've tried to provide this tribute with a widescreen version that encompasses all of his artistry, but ultimately, I have always returned to song, for it is here that his magic conjoins the supreme method actor to the supreme musician. He could introduce the Grammy Awards [1963 video], and haul home a wagon full of them. He was a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award Winner (1965), a Grammy Trustees Award Winner (1979), and a Grammy Living Legend Award winner (1994; presented to him with style by U2's Bono) [Grammy video link]. He has five albums and eight singles inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame. Among his "Hall of Fame" albums are: "Come Fly with Me" (1958; inducted in 2004); "Frank Sinatra Sings for Only the Lonely" (1958; inducted 1999); "In the Wee Small Hours" (1955; inducted 1984); "September of My Years" (1965; inducted 1999); and "Songs for Swingin' Lovers!" (1956; inducted 2000). Among his "Hall of Fame" singl