Saturday, November 28, 2009

Jay-Z hit #1 with “Empire State of Mind”

Last updated 4/22/2020.

Empire State of Mind

Jay-Z with Alicia Keys

Writer(s): Angela Hunte, Alicia Keys, Alexander Shuckburgh, Burt Keyes, Janet "Jnay" Sewell-Ulepic, Shawn Carter, Sylvia Robinson (see lyrics here)


Released: October 20, 2009


First Charted: September 19, 2009


Peak: 15 US, 5 RR, 39 A40, 13 RB, 2 UK, 3 CN, 4 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 5.51 US, 0.77 UK, 6.49 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 0.4 radio, 213.07 video, -- streaming

Awards:

About the Song:

“Empire State of Mind” was written by Angela Hunte and Jane’t Sewell Ulepic as a tribute to their hometown of New York City. They wrote it while overseas in London and feeling homesick. They submitted the song to Jay-Z’s Roc Nation label and it was initially rejected. However, EMI’s Jon Platt heard the track at a barbeque and sent it to Jay-Z again.

Jay-Z kept the singing part of the hook, but changed the verses. WK Initially Hunte was still going to sing the hook, but she suggested Alicia Keys. WK Because of the track’s piano loops, Jay-Z wanted Key’s piano and vocal talents. He called her and said, “I feel like I have this record that’s going to be the anthem of New York…and it couldn’t be the anthem of New York without you.” WK She went by the studio and listened to it and, as she said, “I really felt the energy of New York all through it…I said ‘I love it, so let’s do it.’” SF

Complex magazine agreed with Jay-Z’s assessment, saying that the song “has replaced Frank Sinatra’s ‘New York, New York’ as the city’s go-to anthem.” WK The New York Racing Association concurred when they replaced “New York, New York” with “Empire State of Mind” as the opening song at the 142nd running of the Belmont Stakes. WK The song also got attention during the New York Yankees’ World Series run and Jay-Z performed it at their victory parade. SF

The song was Jay-Z’s fourth time to reach the pinnacle of the Billboard Hot 100, but his first time as a lead artist. WK The song was a top ten hit in Australia, Canada, France, Italy, Sweden, and the United Kingdom. WK The song won Grammys for Best Rap Song and Best Rap/Sung Collaboration. Entertainment Weekly named it the best single of 2009. WK


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Monday, November 16, 2009

50 years ago: The Sound of Music opened on Broadway

The Sound of Music

Richard Rodgers (music), Oscar Hammerstein II (lyrics)

The Musical

Opened on Broadway: November 16, 1959


Number of Performances: 1443


Opened at London’s West End: May 18, 1961


Number of Performances: 2386


Movie Release: March 29, 1965

Cast Album


Charted: December 21, 1959


Peak: 116 US


Sales (in millions): 2.5 US


Genre: show tunes


Soundtrack


Charted: March 20, 1965


Peak: 12 US, 170 UK


Sales (in millions): 15.0 US, 2.44 UK, 22.0 world (includes US and UK)


Genre: show tunes


Songs on Cast Album:

  1. Preludium
  2. The Sound of Music
  3. Maria
  4. My Favorite Things
  5. Do-Re-Mi
  6. Sixteen Going on Seventeen
  7. The Lonely Goatherd
  8. How Can Love Survive?
  9. The Sound of Music (Reprise)
  10. Laendler
  11. So Long, Farewell
  12. Climb Ev’ry Mountain
  13. No Way to Stop It
  14. An Ordinary Couple
  15. Processional
  16. Sixteen Going on Seventeen (Reprise)
  17. Edelweiss
  18. Climb Ev’ry Mountain (Reprise)


Songs on Soundtrack:
  1. Prelude/The Sound of Music
  2. Overture/Preludium (Dixet Dominus)
  3. Morning Hymn/Alleluia
  4. Maria
  5. I Have Confidence
  6. Sixteen Going on Seventeen
  7. My Favorite Things
  8. Do-Re-Mi
  9. The Sound of Music
  10. The Lonely Goatherd
  11. So Long, Farewell
  12. Climb Ev’ry Mountain
  13. Something Good
  14. Processional/Maria
  15. Edelweiss
  16. Climb Ev’ry Mountain (Reprise)


Singles/Hit Songs:

As was common in the pre-rock era and early rock and roll, songs from musicals were often recorded by artists not associated with the musical and released as singles. Here are some of the most notable hit singles resulting from the show:

  • “The Sound of Music” – Patti Page (#90, 1959)
  • “My Favorite Things” – Herb Alpert (#45, 1968)
  • “Do-Re-Mi” – Mitch Miller (#70, 1959), Anita Bryant (#94, 1959)
  • “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” – Tony Bennett (#74, 1959), Hesitations (#90, 1968)

Rating:

4.439 out of 5.00 (average of 14 ratings for cast album and soundtrack combined)


Awards (Cast Album and Soundtrack): (Click on award to learn more).


Awards (Cast Album): (Click on award to learn more).


Awards (Soundtrack): (Click on award to learn more).

About the Show:

The Sound of Music was the final work for the famous musical theater team of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II. The pair previously worked on iconic musicals like South Pacific and The King and I. Like those, this was “set in a foreign locale, it starred a female lead in charge of children, it concerned an unlikely romance between an older man and a younger woman, it had a social/political element, and it featured a stirring anthem for a soprano (in this case, Climb Ev’ry Mountain).” WR-C

The plot was based on a true story about a nun (Maria) in Austria just before World War II. She becomes a governess for the seven von Trapp children, falls in love with their wealthy naval captain father, and marries him.” ET the musical sparked standards such as the title song, Edelweiss, and the aforementioned “Climb Ev’ry Mountain.” My Favorite Things has become a standard, most notably by jazz musician John Coltrane, while Do-Re-Mi has become a favorite sing-a-long for children and was the center of one of the earliest flash mob viral videos.

About the Cast Album:

The cast album went to #1 and sold more than 2 million copies in the United States, but “has been so overshadowed by the spectacularly popular film soundtrack album that it’s difficult to judge it on its own merits. Mary Martin is in good voice as Maria and seems perfectly matched to the material, yet her interpretation of the character differs greatly from that offered by Julie Andrews; Martin is more wistful, delivering the title song with a deeper, plaintive quality. As conducted by Frederick Dvonch, the score in general has a more legit tone here than it does on the soundtrack recording, and Patricia Neway brings full operatic beauty and power to the role of the Mother Abbess.” CA

Theodore Bikel is a strong presence as Captain Von Trapp. Kurt Kasznar and Marion Marlowe as Max Detweiler and Elsa Schraeder are also standouts; they perform How Can Love Survive? and No Way to Stop It delightfully. The children, including Lauri Peters as Liesl, exude warmth. From a technical and musical standpoint, this Sound of Music album is highly commendable, and as a record of the final Rodgers and Hammerstein score, it’s a must for serious collectors of transcendent musical theater.” CA

About the Soundtrack:

The movie version of The Sound of Music came six years after the original stage musical. It became the highest-grossing movie of all-time up to that point and won the Oscar for Best Picture. The soundtrack was a #1 in the United States and United Kingdom, spending a whopping 70 weeks at the pinnacle in the UK. It also sold more than 22 million copies worldwide, making it one of the top 100 best-sellers of all time.

“One of the principal reasons for the enduring appeal…is the fresh approach given to the material.” CA The star, Julie Andrews, had starred in the musical My Fair Lady and was fresh from an Academy Award for her title role in Mary Poppins, another story about a children’s nanny. She “brings wit, spirit, and buoyancy to the role of Maria. Perfectly sung and brilliantly acted, Andrews’ great performance is also notable for her clear but unaffected diction, and she knows exactly which lines to sing, which ones to exclaim.” CA

“The songs of the Captain and the Mother Abbess are very well sung by Bill Lee and Margery McKay, respectively, dubbing for Christopher Plummer and Peggy Wood. McKay’s rendition of ‘Climb Every Mountain’ is notably stirring. Charmian Carr does her own singing as Liesl; she’s charming in Sixteen Going on Seventeen with Dan Truhitte as Rolf, and in all of her tracks with the children…The arrangements and orchestrations of the film’s music overall are bright, uplifting, and thoroughly delightful from beginning to end.” CA

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First posted 11/13/2011; last updated 12/23/2021.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

40 Years Ago: Led Zeppelin chart with “Whole Lotta Love”

Last updated 3/7/2021.

Whole Lotta Love

Led Zeppelin

Writer(s): John Bonham, Willie Dixon, John Paul Jones, Jimmy Page, Robert Plant (see lyrics here)


Released: November 7, 1969


First Charted: November 15, 1969


Peak: 4 US, 2 CB, 4 HR, 1 CL, 21 UK, 2 CN, 12 AU (Click for codes to singles charts.)


Sales (in millions): 1.0 US, 0.4 UK, 1.4 world (includes US + UK)


Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 169.25 video, -- streaming

Awards: (Click on award for more details).

About the Song:

“Whole Lotta Love” can be traced back to a 1962 Willie Dixon song, although he wasn’t credited until 1985. Dixon was a Chicago blues songwriter who penned the song “You Need Love” in 1962 for Muddy Waters. The Small Faces, a British rock band, covered the song as “You Need Loving” on their debut album in 1966. According to Steve Marriott, the band’s singer and guitarist, future Led Zeppelin members Jimmy Page and Robert Plant came to some of their gigs and expressed interest in the song. WK

Jimmy Page was the guitarist in the Yardbirds in the late 1960s. When the group folded, Page set about creating a group originally dubbed “The New Yardbirds” which included Plant on vocals. The group eventually settled on the monker “Led Zeppelin” and set about “jamming on the blues standards they loved, stretching them out into psychedelic orgies.” RS500 On its first two albums, Led Zeppelin covered “You Shook Me,” “I Can’t Quit You, Baby,” and “Bring It on Home” – all by Willie Dixon. RS500

The band’s reworking of “You Need Love” bore similarities to the Small Faces’ version. Marriott pointed out that Plant “sang it the same, phrased it the same, even the stops at the end were the same.” WK However, it wasn’t until Dixon brought legal action in 1985 that he got a rightful share of the credit. RS500 The band settled out of court for an undisclosed amount and, on subsequent releases, included Dixon’s name in the credits. WK Dixon used the money to set up a program which provided instruments for schools. SF

Plant also tossed in lines from “Shake for Me” and “Back Door Man,” a pair of Dixon songs written for Howlin’ Wolf. RS500 The band also borrows a phrase from Blind Lemon Jefferson and Robert Johnson, in asking to have one’s lemon squeezed “till the juice runs down my leg.” RP-124

Page developed the riff in the summer of 1968 on his houseboat on the River Thames in England, although bassist John Paul Jones said it came out of improvisation on stage during their song “Dazed and Confused.” WK In 2014, a BBC radio listeners’ poll rated “Whole Lotta Love” as having the greatest guitar riff of all time. WK The song was also rated in the top 5 on similar lists from Q magazine and VH1. WK


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