CLASSICS: RE-INTERPRETATIONS (SINGLES)
So, in 1986, the madly popular group New Edition, recorded a 50s/60s album called “Under The Blue Moon.” I have to be honest, although I loved New Edition back in the day, I hated this album. I didn’t like it because most of the songs on this album sounded very karaoke(ish). I really do hate albums that sound like that, especially from groups like New Edition, simply because they were very talented young men. But then again, these guys were young, and probably really didn’t know how to sing these types of songs. However, one song they’ve re-interpreted called “Tears On My Pillow,” which was first recorded (I think) by Little Anthony & The Imperials in 1978, was done quite well. They should’ve left out that little rap session out of the song, but it was kind of their trademark back then. Oh yeah, I forgot to mention, this was shortly after Bobby Brown left the group to go solo.
I have to tell you, I was very disappointing to discover that Patti Drew’s version of “Hard To Handle,” released in 1968, only reached 93 on the Hot Billboard Charts. In my opinion, this was a badass song! How could people not like it. This was a soul sister that not only meant business when she sang the song, her vocals took this song to the next level. Who the hell knows why it wasn’t a hit? Another sad interesting fact, the late Otis Redding, Al Bell, & Allen Jones, all came together to write this awesome song. I think Otis recorded “Hard To Handle” first that same year, and the song only peaked at 51. Over 22 years later, it was reinterpreted again by a rock group called “The Black Crowes.” Not only did the song hit #1, it stayed number one for two weeks! WTF??
How many of you classic music fans knew that, in 1959, the legendary late Dinah Washington recorded the unforgettable song, “Unforgettable?” This is why I love blogging; because sometimes while researching, we come across interesting things we never knew! The song was written by Irving Gordon in 1951. The song peaked at #17 and stayed on the charts for about 13 weeks. I really love Dinah’s version of the song, although she sang almost every song as if she was on a Broadway stage. But that’s not a bad thing.
Now the interesting part of this is, originally Nat King Cole recorded Unforgettable in 1951, the song hit #12 on the billboard. Dinah’s recording did very well, she was only 5 positions shy of Nat’s, yet I don’t recall ever hearing Dinah sing this song on the radio. Now granted, it’s impossible to remember everything, but at the same time, this is considered a “song standard.”
In 1991, through the magic of audio technology Natalie Cole was able to sing with her late father again. Natalie paid a touching tribute to her father by recording “Unforgettable.” In 1992, she gave a stunning performance on the Grammy awards, with coordinated video of her late father. It was beautifully done. Surprisingly, her reinterpretation of the song didn’t do as well on the charts as I thought it would have. However, interesting enough, in terms of album sales, the album “Unforgettable: With Love” hit #1. I have a feeling the reason the song didn’t do well had to do with the fact, the song was a personal tribute (in comparison to her other work).
In 1991, three of the biggest legendary female artists (Gladys Knight, Patti Labelle, & Dionne Warwick) came together to record a new interpretation of a then popular song. The song was called “Super Woman,” and I first saw them perform the song on the Oprah show, and it was an awesome performance I’ve never forgotten. I was in awe watching the three on TV, I could only imagine what the audience was feeling watching them live. There voices are so completely different, the genres they sang were different, yet the harmonized together is if they’ve practiced the song a million times. Not only that, do you realize just how hard it is to get 3 huge celebrities to sing on one stage? It was almost impossible with the kinds of work schedule most of them had. The song was originally sung by Karyn White in 1988 for her self-titled album, which peaked #8 on the R&B Charts. This song became just about every Black woman’s anthem.
You know, ever since I was a child, I’ve always been aware of remakes. However, it wasn’t until I became a serious blogger and started researching, I would come to understand just how many songs have been redone, and redone multiple times! So, that ol’ saying “nothing new under the sun,” is literally true. In fact, some of these songs, such as a song called “Our Day Will Come,” have been redone by so many people, if it were not for the internet, it would have been impossible to know who were the original artists. Now, as a kid, I’ve only heard the song sung by the original performers, Ruby And The Romantics, because that’s all I remembered hearing on the radio as a kid (and mind you, I’ve listened to just about all the stations). The song was number one on the Hot 100 and R&B charts; it had also risen to #11 in Australia.
This song was so popular that, coming to find out, this song has been done by more than 40+ artists, and that includes the late Amy Winehouse (which I LOVE the deep reggae overtones). But the group I wanted to write about today, is a group called Spiral Starecase. This particular album should have been named the remake album, because there are several of them. The Spiral Starecase’s version of “Our Day Will Come,” is a smooth pop song with the typical sound that many of the male groups in the 60s. I felt they’ve recreated a danceable love song (in essence), and it was well done. The lead singer at the time, I think it was Pat Upton, always reminded me of the group Air Supply. The biggest hit from this album was a song called “More Today Than Yesterday,” which I like very much.
Hi classic fans! How many of you were aware that the legendary Aretha Franklin had a sister? Yes she did! Google it!! Actually, she had 2 sisters. One named Carolyn Franklin, and other who is the focus of today’s article, is named Erma Franklin. She was an amazing performer in my opinion. Although Erma had been performing for more than 50 years, it appears she had very little albums to show for it. I discovered that Erma’s career was plagued by continued throat problems. Long story short, Erma was diagnosed with a form of throat cancer, and succumbed to her illness in 2002. During Erma’s brief album history, there were a couple of songs she did I really liked. One of them was called “Piece Of My Heart,” released in 1967, recorded under Sony Records. I don’t have enough fingers to count how many versions of this song I’ve heard. However, this song is not an easy song to sing; it’s almost as though the song belongs to someone with a “rock voice,” such as the late legendary Janis Joplin. Erma’s version of this song hit #10 on the R&B charts, and stayed relevant for about 14 weeks. You know, it’s interesting, I naturally thought that since Erma was Aretha’s sister that she would somewhat sound like Aretha? But she does not at all. However, when she sings certain vowels, like her A’s you can hear some Aretha. She actually sounds more like a young Cissy Houston in my opinion. Another Awesome song she sung was “Never Again.”
Ok, ok. I know I’ve posted a song from Nancy almost two months ago, but I love this song so much, plus Nancy is such an awesome singer I just had to post it. It was released in 1970, and it was from her album called “Now I’m A Woman.” The song is called “Make It With You.” The song was written by a guy named David Gates, who has been lead singer on a few occasions, for one of my favorite bands called “Bread.” Nancy’s version is so different, it took me a few seconds to realize it was a remake. Like I’ve said before, I am extremely picky when it comes to remakes; especially when it comes to women singing very famous male songs; or men singing very famous female songs. In my opinion, it’s kind of like singing “standards.” When you’re performing someone else work, you’re either going to singing it really really good, or really really bad. I can’t seem to find any chart information for this song, which more likely means it simply wasn’t promoted. But I absolutely loved her version. This is a kind of song you’d enjoy listening to on a very sunny morning, looking outside your window, and drinking coffee.
Wow, another great group forgotten about. In 1967, Ritchie Cordell written a song called “I Think We’re Alone Now” for the group Tommy James & The Shondells. The song was an instant hit, reaching #4 on the Top 100 chart! But then, a 16 year old Tiffany reinterpreted their song “I Think We’re Alone Now” in 1987, and it shot to #1 and stayed on the Top 100 for 24 weeks. Now, believe it or not, I really liked Tiffany’s version a lot. It’s one of those “innocent, teenage love songs.” However, one pattern I’ve seen time and time again with music labels. It seemed as though, each time they wanted to “promote new talent,” they often have them sing songs that were already hits! I always have to question myself, if you always have to sing someone else’s hits (as a new up and coming artist), are you really talented? Fortunately for Tiffany I think she was. But at the same time, this is why parents should get involved and expose their children to different music. ‘Cause while they think they’re listening to “new stuff,” in reality much of them are recycled. Tommy James & The Shondells also has a few more favorites of mine you may remember, “Crimson and Clover,” and “Crystal Blue Persuasion.”