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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Watermelon Man – Herbie Hancock – 1973

March 19, 2016

Herbie Hancock watermelon man 1973It’s a tune everybody’s heard but many people don’t know the name of—Herbie Hancock’s, Watermelon Man.  First released in 1962 then reworked and re-released a little over a decade later.

Herbie Hancock 2hancock fax

  • Born in Chicago in 1940, Herbie Hancock was named after a favourite singer of the time, Herb Jeffries
  • Herbie was considered a child musical prodigy commencing classical piano lessons at seven years of age.  At 11 years old, he played the first movement of Mozart’s Piano Concerto No. 26 in D Major, K. 537 (Coronation) at a young people’s concert with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra.
  • Herbie Hancock 3He studied at Grinnell College and graduated with degrees in electrical engineering and music—the latter being his real love.
  • After working with jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd, Herbie joined the Miles Davis Quintet where he is credited with being one of the primary architects of the post-bop sound—he was one of the first jazz musicians to embrace synthesizers and funk music.
  • Herbie’s best-known compositions include Cantaloupe Island and Watermelon Man.
  • Herbie’s awards include: the 1986 Original Soundtrack Oscar, for Round Midnight and 14 Grammy Awards including 2008’s Album of the Year for River: The Joni Letters – one of only two jazz albums to ever win the Album of the Year Grammy.
  • Herbie has released over 50 albums and, at 75 years old, continues to perform today.

watermelon man fax

  • Herbie Hancock 1Watermelon Man was written by Herbie Hancock and first released on his 1962 debut album, Takin’ Off.  He then radically re-worked the tune releasing a funked-up version on his 1973 album, Head Hunters.
  • In the meantime, in 1963, Cuban percussionist Mongo Santamaría released the tune as a Latin pop single.  It reached #10 on the US single charts and was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 1998.
  • Watermelon Man is said to have been covered by over 200 artists including: The tune is a jazz standard and has been recorded over two hundred times.
  • Jazz lyricist Jon Hendricks set words to Watermelon Man, releasing his version in 1963.  That version has been covered by Stevie Wonder, Manfred Mann, Bill Haley & His Comets, and The J.B.’s, James Brown’s backing band.
  • Herbie’s Head Hunters recording has been sampled in a number of tunes including: LL-Cool-J’s, 1-900-LL-Cool-J; and Madonna’s, Sanctuary.
  • Watermelon Man is also a popular tune amongst ska bands.
  • Watermelon Man lyrics (not written by Herbie Hancock).

watermelon man – herbie hancock – 1973

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This Masquerade – George Benson – 1976

March 19, 2015

George BEnson This Masquerade 1976Back in 1976, jazz guitarist George Benson had a top 10 US single with Leon Russell’s fabulous, This Masquerade.

George Benson 1george benson fax

  • George began playing at age 6.  He was performing in a local nightclub by age eight.  And by ten years old, he’d released his first record.  By age 21 George was an accomplished jazz guitarist.  Fifty years later, he’s still going strong.
  • On the way, he’s won ten Grammy Awards and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
  • George BEnson 2George’s breakthrough album, Breezin’, was released in 1976 and was certified triple-platinum on the Billboard 200 chart.

this masquerade fax

  • This Masquerade was written by Leon Russell – it first appeared on the B-side of Leon’s 1972 single Tight Rope.
  • George Benson included it on his iconic (I reckon anyway!) 1976 album (his debut album with Warner Bros), Breezin’.
  • George’s version peaked at #10 on the US singles chart and #3 on the US soul charts.
  • George Benson 3In 1977, George won the Grammy for Record of the Year with This Masquerade (it had been nominated in two other categories).
  • This Masquerade has been covered by a number of artists including: Helen Reddy (1972), The Carpenters (1973), Shirley Bassey (1982), Willie Nelson, Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’77, and Kenny Rogers.
  • Leon Russell’s version appears in at least two movies; The Exorcist and The Pursuit of Happyness.
  • This Masquerade lyrics.

this masquerade – george benson – 1976 – video

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Peg – Steely Dan – 1978.

September 7, 2011

Steely Dan is a jazz-rock band from the USA.  Essentially a duet, they’ve used over 100 musicians to produce the ten studio albums they’ve turned out since 1972.

steely dan – not really a band at all

When I purchased Steely Dan’s album Aja back in 1979 I discovered a whole new blend of music and I’ve loved this band ever since.

Steely Dan is essentially a duet supplemented by various musicians, many of whom are of great standing in the world of popular music. The core pair within Steely Dan, Donald Fagen and Walter Becker, are well-known to be musical perfectionists. In fact, for a lengthy period they ceased performing live because they were so disappointed in their inability to recreate live the deep of sound they were able to create in the studio.

I wonder how they would have got on in the old days…

in the old days… confessions of a childhood misconception

When I was a kid, back in the old days, I lived under a misconception. It seems crazy now but I clearly recall listening to music on the radio and firmly believing that those playing the instruments and singing were actually in the studio playing live.

My parents would listen to 1ZB and between the soap operas and the news and the copious number of advertisements, there would be songs by artists like The Seekers, Trini Lopez and The Statler Brothers (who can forget Flowers on the Wall – “Smoking cigarettes and watching Captain Kangaroo…”).  And I really believed it – I truly believed that when the announcer said, “Here they are, The Fabulous Seekers,” the fabulous Seekers were actually there with him!

I visualised a band performing and then having to vacate the studio before the next performer set up for their turn. I imagined the pandemonium that must have existed as two bands crossed paths in those few moments between songs.  I even contemplated going into the city and waiting for my favourite bands to emerge!

I remember also the moment I became aware of my mistake. I can’t say how old I was or where I was, but I clearly remember it dawning on me one day that maybe, just maybe, the DJ’s were actually playing records. I recall it as being one of those “aha” moments when a small, unexplained part of my universe drifted moved into focus and made sense.

steely dan.

As I mentioned, Becker and Fagan are known for being close to obsessive perfectionists. For instance, Gaucho, an album of just seven tracks, took over a year to record. At least 42 different studio musicians and eleven engineers were involved in the project.

Their obsession looking for the perfect sound led them to become purely a studio band for much of their career. In fact, after touring early in their career – from 1972 to 1974 – they ten retreated to the studio and produced albums but never performed live until 1981. Later that year they broke up before reuniting in 1993 and recommencing their touring. They still tour spasmodically claiming that they can now, with the improvement of music-technology, reproduce their studio sound on stage.

peg fax

  • Peg was one of three successful singles from Aja, Steely Dan’s sixth and most successful album.  The other singles off Aja were Deacon Blues (fabulous!) and Josie.
  • Peg peaked at #11 on the US singles charts.
  • The guitar solo in Peg was attempted by seven top session guitarists. Becker and Fagan eventually chose Jay Graydon’s version but then called him back to the studio and had him work on it for six hours non-stop before they were satisfied.
  • The backing vocals on Peg were provided by Michael McDonald.
  • Samples from Peg are featured in the 1989 De La Soul song Eye Know.
  • Nerina Pallot covered Peg in 2007 and Jason Mraz often performs Peg in concert.
  • Peg lyrics.

This Masquerade – 1976 – George Benson

May 26, 2011

This Masquerade - George BensonGeorge Benson and his 16th album, Breezin’, put guitar jazz onto the charts – well, it put jazz guitar onto my charts anyway!

discovering jazz

So, it’s 1976.  I’m in my last year of high school and diggin’ all things musical – well, most things.  To this point, I’ve never really cottoned onto jazz.  Not that real improvised-type jazz, that’s for sure, but things can change.

George Benson Breezin'I’m not sure who introduced me to the album but the second I heard it, I wanted it!  George Benson’s Breezin’.  Breezin’ was not, by the way, George’s first album.  Sure, it began his period of greatest commercial success but, believe it or not, it was his 16th album.  (And, I know that for purists George isn’t real jazz, but it opened my ears to this genre and I discovered some good stuff).

upsetting grannie

So, like I said, it’s 1976.  My old Gran hates popular music and she makes sure we know it.  “Yowlers,” is how she refers to anyone born after 1850 who even attempts to sing.  I reckon I might have something that will change her mind, however.  Breezin’ and the title track, This Masquerade, are so smooth and laidback, I’m convinced she’ll have to admit they’re not too bad.

Wrong!  I’m at Gran’s place.  I’ve got my new Breezin’ album and I’m putting it on her old radiogram.

“Listen to this, Gran,” I say, being careful to have it not too loud.

Gran explodes, “Yowlers!  Can’t understand a word they’re saying.”

“That’s ‘cause they’re not saying anything, Gran.  Breezin’ is an instrumental.”

But it’s too late, Gran’s gone already.  If she’d stayed for the next track she would have heard This Masquerade, and I’m pretty sure she’d have understood the lyrics – hmmm, maybe not.

this masquerade fax

  • This Masquerade - George bensonLeon Russell wrote This Masquerade.  Leon’s version of the song has featured on the soundtrack of two movies; The Pursuit of Happyness (2006) and The Bug (2007).
  • The song’s album version was over eight minutes long.  George Benson’s single version was cut down to 3 minutes 18 seconds.
  • This became George’s first big hit.  He was, by this time, a widely respected jazz guitarist but this was his first visit to the singles charts.
  • This Masquerade reached number ten on the Billboard Hot 100 and number three on the Hot Soul Singles chart.
  • In 1977 George won the Grammy Award for Record of the Year with his version of This Masquerade.
  • In addition to Leon and George, This Masquerade has been recorded by many artists including, Helen Reddy, The Carpenters, Shirley Bassey, Willie Nelson, Sérgio Mendes & Brasil ’77, No Mercy, and Kenny Rogers.
  • This Masquerade lyrics.