Don’t Leave Me This Way – Thelma Houston – 1976

October 26, 2017

thelma-houston-dont-leave-me-this-way-1976Singer, actress, Grammy Award winner – Thelma Houston had a 1976 #1 hit with Don’t Leave Me This Way.

thelma houston fax

  • Born Thelma Jackson in Leland, Mississippi, by the time she was 23, Thelma Houston was married, had two children, and was signed to Dunhill Records.
  • Her first album, released in 1969, was produced by Jimmy Webb.
  • In 1971, she signed with Motown Records with little success.
  • As well as singing, Thelma loved acting. In 1974 she featured in The Marty Feldman Comedy Machine, playing various characters during the show’s skits.  When the show was cancelled she worked on producing demo recordings and performing at small venues.
  • She also took acting lessons while working on her musical career. It was a slow climb for her: she recorded Do You Know Where You’re Going To which was set for single release when it was pulled and the song given to Diana Ross to serve as the theme song for the movie Mahogany.  She sang backing vocals for Jermaine Jackson on his album My Name Is Jermaine.
  • Then in 1976, Thelma Houston released her third album, Any Way You Like It. The first single from that album, Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes’ 1975 song Don’t Leave Me This Way, went straight to #1.  It won Thelma a Grammy for Best Female R&B Performance in 1977.  She never had another top ten single.
  • Thelma still performs, however. She recently toured with Nile Rodgers and Chic.
  • She has appeared in half a dozen films and a number of television programmes, along with being featured on a number of movie soundtracks.

don’t leave me this way fax

  • Don’t Leave Me This Way was written by Kenneth Gamble, Leon Huff and Cary Gilbert.
  • The song has charted three times, first in 1975 as a hit for Harold Melvin & the Blue Notes featuring Teddy Pendergrass – #3 in the US and #5 in the UK. Next in 1977 as a #1 US hit for Motown artist Thelma Houston in 1977 (peaked at #13 in the UK. Then a third time for British group the Communards in 1986 (#1 in the UK and #40 in the US).
  • Thelma Houston’s version was originally to be recorded by Diana Ross as a follow-up to Love Hangover. It was handed onto Thelma – some justice after she’d lost Do You Know Where You’re Going To to Diana.
  • Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, Thelma’s version became an unofficial theme song for the AIDS epidemic in gay male communities of the west.
  • The song appeared in the stage show, Priscilla Queen of the Desert, and in the movie, The Martian (2015).
  • Cher has also covered the song in her live shows.
  • Don’t Leave Me This Way lyrics.

don’t leave me this way – thelma houston – 1976 – video

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Tell Me Something Good – Rufus (featuring Chaka Khan) – 1974

June 22, 2017

Rufus - Tell me something good 1974A band packed with great musicians, Chicago band Rufus is best known for launching the career of lead singer Chaka Khan.

rufus fax

  • Starting life as “Ask Rufus,” the band Rufus had their beginnings in pop band, The American Breed. Ask Rufus formed in 1970 and, by 1972 Chaka Khan had joined.
  • 1972 saw the band sign with manager Bob Monaco (Minnie Riperton was signed with him also).
  • Bob persuaded ABC Dunhill records to stump up some cash to pay for a demo record. In two days, the band had recorded 11 songs and signed a long-term recording contract.
  • With their first album receiving moderate success, Rufus hit the studio again to record their follow-up album Rags to Rufus which included the Stevie Wonder song, Tell Me Something Good, and a song by Ray Parker Jr. and Chaka, You Got The Love – both songs became smash hits.
  • Rufus was a band blighted by in-fighting and inner-tension, partly because of the rise in fame of Chaka ahead of the rest of the band. Such was the power of Chaka’s performing that the record company began billing the band as, Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan.  Often, at photo shoots and the like, only Chaka was photographed and her image alone was used in magazine articles and stories.
  • It wasn’t long before Chaka was releasing solo albums and finding great success; Rufus released an album without Chaka and it bombed.
  • By 1983, Rufus band members sensed that their tenure was over. They agreed to split on the terms they release one last live album to commemorate the occasion.  Chaka agreed to appear at their final concert performance which was filmed by Warner Bros.  The band then went their separate ways for good with Chaka becoming one of the most revered R&B artists of her generation with the release of the single I Feel for You cementing her reputation.
  • In all, Rufus released 11 albums and 30 singles in the time they were together.
  • The band won two Grammy awards: 1974: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Tell Me Something Good, and 1983: Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals: Ain’t Nobody.

tell me something good fax

  • Tell Me Something Good was written by Stevie Wonder and recorded by Rufus Featuring Chaka Khan in 1974.
  • The song peaked at #3 on the US singles chart.
  • Tell Me Something Good is one of the first songs to use the guitar talk box effect – it was played by Tony Maiden.
  • Rufus won the 1975 Grammy Award for Best R&B Vocal Performance by a Duo, Group or Chorus for Tell Me Something Good.
  • Cover versions of Tell Me Something Good have been performed live and/or recorded by artists including Pink, Dave Matthews and Stevie Wonder.
  • The song has appeared or been referenced in the US comedy shows, Everybody Loves Raymond, Will and Grace, and That 70s Show. Note that the captioning to the Will and Grace episode incorrectly credits the song to Sly and the Family Stone.
  • Tell Me Something Good lyrics.

tell me something good – rufus featuring chaka khan – 1974 – video – slower version

tell me something good – rufus featuring chaka khan – 1974 – video – faster version

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Knock On Wood – Amii Stewart – 1979

February 9, 2017

amii_stewart_-_knock_on_woodLast Saturday I had the pleasure of enjoying two and a half hours with the incomparable James Taylor. As an encore he sang the Eddie Floyd, Steve Cropper song, Knock On Wood – a song that has been covered by many artists in a number of genres, including Amii Stewart who has a disco hit with it in 1979.

amii stewart fax

  • Amy Stewart was only four years old when her father signed her up for singing and dancing lessons. Because there was already Amy Stewart registered with Actor’s Equity, he changed the spelling of her name to Amii.
  • Amii began her show business life as a dancer – she even studied ballet and modern dance. It was while touring with the stage production Bubbling Brown Sugar in 1975, that she met Barry Leng, a record producer who signed her for Hansa records.
  • Knock On Wood was her first single and it went straight to #1 in the US and #6 in the UK – she even earned a Grammy nomination for it. Her second single was a medley that included The Doors‘ Light My Fire.  That peaked at #5 in the UK but stalled at #69 in the US.
  • Amii now lives in Italy. She still performs but, more often it is in a stage show rather than a disco.  In 2000, she toured as part of Jesus Christ Superstar, playing the part of Mary Magdalene.  Then, in 2003, she starred in the musical Lady Day, in the role of Billie Holiday; the musical was written and produced by her.
  • Amii released 17 albums, the last in 2012.

knock on wood fax

  • Written by Eddie Floyd and Steve Cropper in 1966, Knock on Wood was originally performed by Eddie. His version peaked at #28 on the US singles chart and spent a week at #1 on the US soul chart
  • The song has been covered by artists as diverse as Otis Redding and Carla Thomas in 1967, Wilson Pickett, The American Breed, David Bowie (1974), Amii Stewart (1979), Eric Clapton (1985), Michael Bolton (1992) and James Taylor (last Saturday night).
  • David Bowie’s single is lifted from his 1974 David Live album.
  • Amii Stewart’s version of the song is the most successful. It was Amii’s debut single from her album of the same name.  Recorded late-1978, it was realeased in January 1979 and reached #1 on the US charts and #6 in the UK.  A remixed version was released in the UK in 1985, peaking at #7.
  • Knock On Wood lyrics.

knock on wood – amii stewart – 1979 – video

knock on wood – eddie floyd – 1967 – original version

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September – Earth, Wind & Fire – 1978

August 31, 2016

EWF September 1978Originally The Salty Peppers, Maurice White’s band, Earth, Wind & Fire went on to huge success which included the 1978 hit, September

 earth, wind & fire fax

  • Rolling Stone Magazine declared Earth, Wind & Fire to have “changed the sound of black pop”.
  • Founded in Chicago in 1971 by Maurice White, Earth, Wind & Fire grew out of a previous band with the very uncool name of The Salty Peppers.
  • EWF 1aOther band members included Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Ralph Johnson, Larry Dunn, Al McKay and Andrew Woolfolk.
  • Earth, Wind & Fire has received 20 Grammy nominations, winning six awards.  Maurice and Philip have won Grammys as individuals.  The band has also been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
  • With over 100 million records sold, the band is one of the world’s best-selling bands of all time.
  • But it doesn’t stop there, incredibly, five band members, Maurice White, Philip Bailey, Verdine White, Larry Dunn and Al McKay, have been inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
  • Throughout the ‘70s and early ‘80s, Earth, Wind & Fire had a number of funk/disco hits, including: Shining Star, Devotion, Can’t Hide Love, September, Boogie Wonderland, and After the Love Has Gone.  Despite a plethora of hits, the band hit the #1 spot on the US singles charts only once – with Shining Star in 1974.  September was their highest charting UK hit (#3).
  • Earth, Wind & Fire have influence many artists with three in particular, Miles Davis, Quincy Jones, and Dionne Warwick, heaping praise on the band.
  • Maurice passed away in February 2016 but the band continues to perform with Philip Bailey still leading the vocals (which he previously shared with Maurice).EWF 2

earth, wind & fire trivia

  • Earth, Wind & Fire was the first African-American act to sell out Madison Square Garden.
  • President Barack Obama invited Earth, Wind & Fire to perform at the White House for the first social event of his administration.

september fax

  • SEWF 1eptember was released as a single by Earth, Wind & Fire on November 18, 1978. 
  • It was written by Earth, Wind & Fire members, Maurice White, Al McKay, and Allee Willis.
  • It was recorded during the I Am sessions and featured on the band’s The Best of Earth, Wind & Fire, Vol. 1.
  • September reached #1 on the US R&B chart, #8 on the US singles chart, and #3 on the UK singles chart.
  • The song was also later released as December.  Chord changes andmelody remained identical, with the lyrics re-written for the “…Twenty-fifth of December…”
  • September has been covered and sampled by numerous artists and appeared in dozens of movies and television programmes.
  • September lyrics.

september – earth, wind & fire – 1978 – video

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Celebration – Kool and the Gang – 1980

August 9, 2015

Kool and the Gang - Celebration cover - 1980Recorded in 1979, released in October 1980, Kool and the Gang’s Celebration continues to be a party dance favourite (depending on what type of parties you go to!).

kOOL AND THE GANG 1kool and the gang fax

  • Formed in 1964 as the Jazziacs, Kool and the Gang continue to perform today.
  • In the past 51 years Kool and the Gang have morphed several times; from jazz, to funk and R&B, to electro-pop.
  • The changes have worked, the band has sold over 70 million albums.
  • Kool and the Gang 2The band formed around the musical talents of brothers Robert “Kool” Bell and Ronald Bell, often known by their Arabic names, Muhammad Bayyan and Khalis Bayyan.
  • Robert’s godfather was Thelonious Monk.
  • Kool and the Gang’s hits included; Jungle Boogie, Hollywood Swinging and Get Down on It.

celebration fax

  • Celebration was written by the members of Kool and the Gang and recorded in 1979. It was released as a single in October 1980.
  • Kool and the Gang 3Celebration is Kool and the Gang’s only #1 US singles hit. It reached the top of the US charts on February 7, 1981. It peaked at #7 on the UK charts on November 29, 1980.
  • Celebration was covered by Kylie Minogue in 1992 – her version peaked at #20 on the UK singles chart. It was also covered in 1987 by New Zealand band Dragon.
  • Celebration lyrics – Kool and the Gang.

celebration – kool and the gang – 1980

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Play That Funky Music – Wild Cherry – 1976

August 14, 2014

Wild Cherry Play that funky music 1976 coverFor the second week in a row, a one-hit-wonder.  This time, American band, Wild Cherry and their 1976 #1 hit, Play That Funky Music.

wild cherry fax

  • From a small Ohio steel mill town named, Mingo Junction, comes Wild Cherry.
  • The band’s name came from the brand of a cough drop band founder, Rob Parissi had in his pocket the day he endeavoured to come up with something creative!
  • Wild Cherry were active from 1970-1973 before, disillusioned, they parted company. In 1975, Rob decided to give it another go.  With a new set of musicians, he hit the road again.
  • One night, at the 2001 Club in Pittsburgh, a group of Afro-American fans kept coming to the stage and teasing, “Are you white boys gonna play some funky music?”  Drummer Ron Beitle took up the teasing and, in a group meeting in the dressing room, said to the band, “Play That Funky Music, White Boy.”  Rob was inspired – in five minutes he’d written the song with a pen he borrowed from the bartender.
  • The band was signed to Sweet City Records (Epic/CBS) on the strength of the song’s potential.
  • Over the next few years the band changed line-up a number of times before disbanding in 1979.

play that funky music fax

  • Play That Funky Music was written by Rob Parissi and recorded by his band Wild Cherry. Recorded in 1975, it was released in 1976.
  • Play That Funky Music hit #1 on the US singles chart on September 18, 1976.  It eventually sold over 2.5 million copies in the US alone.
  • The song listed at no. 73 on Billboard’s Greatest Songs of All Time.
  • In 1990, Vanilla Ice released a song that included an interpretation of Play That Funky Music.  He didn’t credit Rob as the songwriter and was later forced to pay $500,000 in a copyright infringement lawsuit.  Vanilla’s version didn’t initially catch on, but the B-side did.  On re-release, Play That Funky Music peaked at #4 on the US charts and #10 in the UK.

Play That Funky Music lyrics.

play that funky music – wild cherry – 1976 – video

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A Fifth of Beethoven – Walter Murphy and The Big Apple Band – 1974

October 10, 2013

 Walter Murphy 2  One of the best known pieces of music from the disco era – Walter Murphy’s adaption of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony – 1974’s, A Fifth of Beethoven.

Walter murphy 3flying under the radar

Walter Murphy is one of those guys who’s been around the music industry forever, but tends to get very little attention.

Walter was just 20 years old, when a friend introduced him to Doc Severinsen who was musical director of Johnny Carson’s, Tonight Show. He showed Doc some of the jazz arrangements he’d been working on. Doc liked them enough to have The Tonight Show Band play them.

Walter Murphy 4Walter made an early living out of writing advertising jingles (e.g. Revlon and Woolworths) and the occasional television series.


In 1974 (still only 22 years old), Walter was writing a disco song for a commercial. The commercial’s producer mentioned to Walter that it would be great for someone to update some popular classical music.

Walter grabbed hold of Beethoven’s Fifth Symphony and, being the height of the disco era, gave it a disco beat. And, the rest as they say…

An album under the same name featured a rendition of Rimsky-Korsakov’s Flight of the Bumblebee which peaked at #44 on the US singles chart. Three other albums followed. In 1982 a medley of Themes From E.T. (The Extra-Terrestrial) reached #47 on the US singles chart, and then, Walter’s hit career was over.

where’s walter?

Walter now writes music for television and movies (and the occasional jingle). His music has been included in, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Family Guy, American Dad, and the 2012 movie Ted.


Walter won Outstanding Music and Lyrics at the 2002 Emmy Awards for You’ve Got A Lot To See from Family Guy.

In 2012, he received an Academy Award for Best Original Song nomination for Everybody Needs a Best Friend, from Ted.

a fifth of beethoven fax

  • A Fifth of Beethoven was written by Walter Murphy and recorded by Walter Murphy and the Big Apple Band. Just before release, however, it was discovered that their already existed a Big Apple Band and so the artist name was changed to The Walter Murphy Band. The record company believed it had a better chance of being a hit if people thought it was by a band – despite the fact that Walter played almost every instrument. Eventually, they changed yet again, crediting the song solely to Walter.
  • Entering the US top 100 at #80, on May 29, 1976, A Fifth of Beethoven took 19 weeks to reach #1.
  • A Fifth of Beethoven appeared in the movie Saturday Night Fever and the movie The Stepford Wives.
  • A snippet of A Fifth of Beethoven is played during Chicago Bulls games, whenever the opposing team loses possession of the ball.
  • Robin Thicke’s 2002 song, When I Get You Alone, is based on A Fifth of Beethoven.

a fifth of beethoven – walter murphy – 1974 – video

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