Friday, January 15, 2016

David Bowie’s final album, Blackstar, hit #1


David Bowie

Released: January 15, 2016

Peak: 11 US, 13 UK, 11 CN, 11 AU

Sales (in millions): 0.5 US, 0.45 UK, 1.9 world (includes US and UK)

Genre: rock


Song Title (date of single release, chart peaks) Click for codes to singles charts.

  1. Blackstar (11/19/15, 78 US, 61 UK)
  2. Tis a Pity She Was a Whore
  3. Lazarus (12/17/15, 40 US, 17 AA, 45 UK, 72 AU)
  4. Sue (Or in a Season of Crime) (Bowie, Maria Schneider, Paul Bateman, Bob Bhamra) (10/12/14, 81 UK)
  5. Girl Loves Me
  6. Dollar Days
  7. I Can’t Give Everything Away (4/6/16, --)

All songs written by David Bowie unless noted otherwise.

Total Running Time: 41:14


3.967 out of 5.00 (average of 20 ratings)

Quotable: “The final breath of one of the world’s greatest artists.” – Far Out magazine

Awards: (Click on award to learn more).

About the Album:

David Bowie released his 25th album, Blackstar on his 69th birthday – and then died two days later, leaving “one of his most daring collections of music.” UD “The album is challenging, thrilling, and very much a testament to Bowie’s visceral creative life.” AV “Rock’s original chameleon” UD remained “adventurous to the end, eschewing his rock roots and delivering an exploratory jazz-fusion record that became the perfect farewell to five decades’ worth of history-making music.” UD

He wrote and recorded the album after finding out he had liver cancer AMG so it is “a brutal reflection of a life we will all eventually lose.” FO “It’s a confessional record that sees Bowie open up about death, the fear of it and the idea of rebirth.” FO His producer, “long-time collaborator and creative foil Tony Visconti,” AV said “He made Blackstar for us, his parting gift…His death was no different from his life – a work of art.” RS’19 “From its daring music to its perfect title, from its stunning artwork to its startling videos, Blackstar was a magnificent farewell to his audience.” PF “It is a courageous piece of artistry and one that confirmed Bowie’s ultra-legendary status like no other disc before it.” FO

“In keeping with his celebrated practice of blending self-commentary, cerebral philosophizing, and ribald showmanship, Blackstar coalesces as a commentary on the artist’s impending death while also covering a wide variety of other topics.” SL “Bowie’s remarkable achievement with Blackstar is how it’s an album about mortality that is utterly alive, even playful.” AMG It “never feels remotely gloomy or grave.” SL “An essential sense of hope is ingrained in the album’s tone, which manages to sound both apocalyptic and optimistic, a final vanishing act which allows music’s most famous extraterrestrial to disappear with his dignity, mystery, and panache all intact.” SL “Bowie felt free of obligations, able to explore and experiment to his art’s content.” PF This “is the sound of a restless artist feeling utterly at ease not only within his own skin and fate but within his own time.” AMG

“Bowie pour[s] everything left of him into his best album since his 70s hot streak.” GU “The album was recorded with a quartet of jazz musicians: saxophonist Donny McCaslin, bassist Tim Lefebvre, drummer Mark Guiliana, and pianist/keyboardist Jason Lindner. As a result, Blackstar sounds like little else in Bowie’s extensive catalog. (he one major exception might be 1977’s Heroes, which shares a similar penchant for moody textures and leisurely experimentation.” AV

“The music – which gently veers from warm synths to skittering percussion to avant-jazz cacophony – is as chameleonic as ever.” BB “The album mostly unfolds like it’s shrouded in chilly, gray fog: Ruminative elegies peppered with mournful saxophone give way to spurts of frantic percussion, midnight-dark keyboards, and contorted vocals, with a few electrified bursts.” AV It sometimes recalls “the hard urban gloss of ‘70s prog – Bowie’s work, yes, but also Roxy Music and, especially, the Scott Walker of Nite Flights – and sometimes evoking the drum ‘n’ bass dabbling of the ‘90s incarnation of the Thin White Duke.” AMG

“Cannily front-loaded with its complicated cuts (songs that were not coincidentally also released as teaser singles), Blackstar starts at the fringe and works its way back toward familiar ground, ending with a trio of pop songs dressed in fancy electronics. This progression brings Blackstar to a close on a contemplative note, a sentiment that when combined with Bowie’s passing lends the album a suggestion of finality that’s peaceful, not haunting.” AMG


“The luxurious ten-minute sprawl of Blackstar,” AMG “stitched together by string feints and ominous saxophone,” AMG “extends the exoticized mysticism of Lodger.” SL The song is marked by “a tender joy in the latter half.” BB It also sets the tone for the album, suggesting “Bowie isn’t encumbered with commercial aspirations, but Blackstar neither alienates nor does it wander into uncharted territory.” AMG

“Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)” / “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore”

“Unlike its predecessor, 2013’s The Next Day, Blackstar doesn’t carry the burden of ushering a new era in Bowie’s career. Occasionally, the record contains a nod to his past – two of its key songs” AMG the “stormy, prog-tinted Sue (Or in a Season of Crime)AV and “’Tis a Pity She Was a Whore, were even aired in 2014 as a supporting single for the Nothing Has Changed compilation (both are revamped for this album) – but Bowie and…Visconti are unconcerned with weaving winking postmodern tapestries; now that they’ve shaken free their creative cobwebs, they’re ready to explore.” AMG


With its appropriate allusion to rising from the dead, “Lazarus” served as Bowie’s final top-40 hit. The accompanying video sent chills up anyone’s spine who’d heard the album before he died and couldn’t believe they’d missed the references to his impending death. The song included what New Musical Express referred to as a “goosebump moment” in which Bowie offers his “devastating farewell with a wink as he sighs: ‘Look up here, I’m in heaven/I’ve got scars that can’t be seen/I’ve got drama, can’t be stolen/Everybody knows me now.’” NME

“Girl Loves Me”

Throughout the album, Bowie “spliced the itchy drum’n’bass and industrial moods that fascinated him in the 90s with terrifically freaky jazz, symphonic balladry and – on Girl Loves Me – authentically heavy rap. ‘I’m dying to push their backs against the grain / and fool them all again,’ he sang. And he did.” GU

“I Can’t Give Everything Away”

The album “concludes with a note of acceptance” AMG and “unusually sweet candor” BB on I Can’t Give Everything Away. The song “samples one of Low’s more upbeat transitional tracks,” SL with “the harmonica texture from…’A New Career in a New Town.’” PF

“Yes, there are better Bowie albums but none are so arresting or painful for a Bowie fan.” FO

Resources and Related Links:

Other Related DMDB Pages:

First posted 12/18/2020; last updated 5/1/2022.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

Hit Parade Hall of Fame

Hit Parade Hall of Fame:


The Hit Parade Hall of Fame website neither indicates how the Hall came about nor what the criteria are for induction. The Wikipedia page describes the Hall as “an association which highlights musical performers who have been responsible for big hit records over the years.” It also suggests artists, such as Bing Crosby and Frank Sinatra, are ignored by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but honored by the Hit Parade Hall of Fame. A nominating committee selects acts which have at least two top ten records, in any genre, according to Billboard or Cashbox. After nominations are unveiled, the public is allowed to vote. There have been no new inductees since 2015.

See other Hall of Fame awards.













Resources/Related Links:
  • The Inductees (links to bios about each act)
  • Hit Parade Hall of Fame

    First posted 1/14/2016; last updated 1/19/2022.
  • Wednesday, January 13, 2016

    1/13/1923: Van & Schenck chart with “Carolina in the Morning”

    image from

    Van & Schenck “Carolina in the Morning”

    Writer(s): Gus Kahn/ Walter Donaldson (see lyrics here)

    First charted: 1/13/1923

    Peak: 13 US, 12 GA (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Sales (in millions): 1.0 (sheet music sales)

    Radio Airplay (in millions): -- Video Airplay (in millions): --

    Review: The song was introduced by Vaudeville performer William Frawley and then quickly added to the musical revue The Passing Show of 1922, RCG where it was sung by Willie and Eugene Howard. JA-33 The show opened on September 20, 1922 at the Winter Garden Theater and closed on December 2, 1922 after 85 performances. SB

    In addition to Van & Schenck’s #1 recording of the song, three other versions charted in 1923 – Marion Harris (#4), Paul Whiteman (#5), and the American Quartet (#8). Al Jolson revived it in the movie The Jolson Story (1946) RCG with a version which outsold the original. WK It emerged again in the 1951 Gus Kahn biopic I’ll See You in My Dreams. JA-33 Danny Winchell charted with it in 1952, making it to #30. Bing Crosby, Jimmy Durante, Benny Goodman, Judy Garland, Bill Haley & His Comets, Danny Kaye, Dean Martin, and Dinah Shore have all recorded it. SB Frawley himself sang the song on two different television shows on which he was a star – I Love Lucy and My Three Sons WK and Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore performed it on The Dick Van Dyke Show. WK The song has also been used frequently for Warner Brothers’ Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes cartoons. WK

    Both North and South Carolina lay claim to this tune which deals with longing to “return home where ‘The dew is pearly kinda early in the morning’.” RCG “The southern drawl is alluded to by rhyming ‘Carolina’ with ‘finer.’” RCG

    Amusingly, the song was written by a New Yorker (Walter Donaldson, born in Brooklyn in 1893) and a German (Gus Kahn, born in Coblenz in 1886). Donaldson wrote more than 600 songs; his best known came in the years between World War I and II. PS Kahn’s family came to the United States in 1891 and settled in Chicago. He had his first song published in 1907 and then wrote lyrics for vaudeville performers in Chicago and New York before moving to California in 1933 to write for movies. Some of his best-known songs are “Pretty Baby” (1916), “Makin’ Whoopee” (1928), and “Liza” (1928). PS

    Resources and Related Links:

    Note: Footnotes (raised letter codes) refer to sources frequently cited on the blog. Numbers following the letter code indicate page numbers. If the raised letter code is a link, it will go directly to the correct page instead of the home page of a website. You can find the sources and corresponding footnotes on the “Lists” page in the “Song Resources” section.


    Monday, January 11, 2016

    David Bowie: In Memory of the Chameleon

    This is a revised version of a post from on January 8, 2012 in honor of David Bowie's birthday. It has been repurposed to honor Bowie after his death on January 10, 2016.

    Rock’s most celebrated chameleon, David Bowie, is dead at 69 after an 18-month battle with cancer. Born on January 8, 1947 in Brixton, London, England, Bowie left one of the most indelible stamps on rock history as he traversed a variety of personas from Ziggy Stardust to the Thin White Duke. Rather than rehash the same biographical information which can be found at any news outlet, I'll reflect on how this musician has heavily shaped my personal tastes.

    According to, some of Bowie’s closest musical relatives are contemporaries like Lou Reed and Iggy Pop and their bands Velvet Underground and The Stooges respectively. However, Bowie’s reach in shaping the music of the late ‘70s and early ‘80s shows up quickly with the who’s who list of punk and alternative rock bands like Roxy Music, The Ramones, The Clash, Kraftwerk, Talking Heads, Bauhaus, Joy Division, The Cure, The Smiths, Depeche Mode, and The Pixies.

    I didn’t “discover” David Bowie until the early ‘80s. I was in high school when “Let’s Dance” hit #1 and presented Bowie as another pop icon who looked good on MTV. I didn’t think that song was all that special, but still enjoyed it and most of the top 40 hits that followed that decade, including “China Girl,” “Modern Love,” “Blue Jean,” his cover of “Dancing in the Street” with Mick Jagger, “”Day-In, Day-Out,” and “Never Let Me Down.”

    As I’ve often argued, though, sometimes it’s the most commercial and least-interesting stuff from an artist’s catalog which proves to be the springboard for discovering that artist at his or her best. I moved from Bowie’s ‘80s pop output to classic rock staples like “Changes,” “Fame,” “Space Oddity,” “Rebel Rebel,” “Ziggy Stardust,” “The Jean Genie,” “Young Americans,” and “Golden Years.” Eventually, though, I dipped further into Bowie’s '70s albums and became enthralled with the man who perpetually reinvented his musical identity, working his way through roles as diverse as British folk troubadour, alien rocker, robotic soul singer, and German electronica maven.

    Now I can proudly boast to owning all of Bowie’s official studio releases (25+) as well as a slew of live albums and other rarities. I seem to be one of the few who loved his late ‘80s/early ‘90s foray into noise rock with Tin Machine and I thought his 1995 Outside album deserved to be touted as one of those albums which ranked up there with Nine Inch Nails for shaping industrial rock.

    Like many Bowie fans, I mourn a world where one can never again say, “Have you heard the new Bowie album?” R.I.P. to rock’s greatest chameleon.

    Spotify Podcast:

    Check out the two-part Dave’s Music Database podcast The Best of David Bowie, 1964-1979, debuting January 11, 2022, at 7pm CST, and The Best of David Bowie, 1980-2016, debuting January 18, 2022, at 7pm CST. Both are based on this list. Tune in every Tuesday at 7pm for a new episode based on the lists at Dave’s Music Database.


    Resources and Related Links:

    First posted 1/8/2012; last updated 1/11/2022.

    Friday, January 1, 2016

    50 years ago: Simon & Garfunkel hit #1 with “The Sound of Silence”

    The Sound of Silence (aka “The Sounds of Silence”)

    Simon & Garfunkel

    Writer(s): Paul Simon (see lyrics here)

    First Charted: November 20, 1965

    Peak: 12 US, 11 CB, 12 HR, 50 AC, 1 CL, 7 UK, 2 CN, 2 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

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

    Airplay/Streaming (in millions): 7.0 radio, 193.0 video, 337.15 streaming

    Awards (Simon & Garfunkel):

    Click on award for more details.

    The Sounds of Silence


    Released: December 7, 2015

    First Charted: February 6, 2016

    Peak: 42 US, 17 AR, 22, 29 UK, 40 CN, 4 AU, 1 DF (Click for codes to singles charts.)

    Sales (in millions): 1.5 US, 0.6 UK, 3.45 world (includes US + UK)

    Airplay/Streaming (in millions): -- radio, 846.0 video, -- streaming

    Awards (Disturbed):

    Click on award for more details.

    About the Song:

    Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel started working together as teenagers in 1955, writing “The Girl for Me.” Two years, later, they recorded “Hey, Schoolgirl” as Tom and Jerry and took it to #49 on the Billboard Hot 100. They continued to work under different aliases, with minimal success. By 1964, they were performing on the Greenwich Village coffee house circuit, FB but still struggling for their break.

    Early that year, Columbia Records’ Tom Wilson signed the duo and they recorded Wednesday Morning, 3 A.M. The album included the single “The Sounds of Silence,” a ballad which featured only vocals and an acoustic guitar. Simon said it took him six months to write the song, one line per day. DT He completed it in February 1964 – in the bathroom TB hence the line “hello darkness, my old friend.” TC Simon said the tiles produced an echo chamber and he found it soothing to work in there with the lights off and the water running. TB

    Unfortunately, the single and album failed. Simon returned to England where he’d moved in 1964, and Art Garfunkel went back to graduate school. FB Folk music, however, was big in the Boston area, from where Joan Baez and other folkies hailed SJ and a local station started playing “The Sounds of Silence.” Columbia was convinced they’d have a hit if they reworked the song with new electric instrumentation. Wilson, who was producing Bob Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone,” asked the session’s musicians to add electric guitar, bass, and drums to the song.

    The “amplified ‘Silence’…became a hit before Simon and Garfunkel had even heard it.” RS500 In fact, Simon didn’t even know it had been re-recorded until he picked up a copy of Billboard in the Netherlands. TC Simon said, “It had some level of truth to it and it resonated with millions of people.” DT He told NPR he thought the success of the song was due to “the simplicity of the melody and the words, which are youthful alienation.” DL

    In 2015, Disturbed recorded a cover of the song. While the original was perfect for the radio playlists of middle-of-the-road, adult contemporary stations, this was a cover by a heavy metal band that turned the song into a menancing anthem as singer David Draiman’s voice builds throughout the song. Paul Simon himself endorsed the cover, calling it a “really powerful performance” WK after seeing the band on Conan.


    • DMDB encyclopedia entry for Disturbed
    • FB Fred Bronson (2003). The Billboard Book of Number One Hits (5th edition). Billboard Books: New York, NY. Page 190.
    • TC Toby Creswell (2005). 1001 Songs: The Great Songs of All Time. Thunder’s Mouth Press: New York, NY. Pages 603-4.
    • DL (6/26/2019). “The Best Songs of All Time – According to Critics and Fans” by Claire Gillespie
    • RS500 Rolling Stone (4/7/2011). “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time
    • SJ Bob Shannon and John Javna (1986). Behind the Hits: Inside Stories of Classic Pop and Rock and Roll. New York, NY; Warner Brothers, Inc. Pages 12-13.
    • DT Dave Thompson (2011). 1000 Songs That Rock Your World. Krause Publications: Iola, WI. Page 122.
    • TB Thunder Bay Press (2006). Singles: Six Decades of Hot Hits & Classic Cuts. Outline Press Ltd.: San Diego, CA. Page 74.

    Related Links:

    First posted 4/19/2020; last updated 8/16/2022.