Artist: Alicia Keys
Album: Songs In A Minor (2001)
You know I’m old, when I struggle accepting the fact that I now have to label an artist such as Alicia Keys as “old school” now. Darn it! I just can’t believe it is now 20 years since this album came out? Twenty years! Time really moves fast, which is one of the many factors as to why we’re losing our music history. I really love Alicia Keys music because; she was one of the few (then) young female artist that performed hip hop/R&B blends that I felt truly had talent. I really love the fact that although she sang a lot of love songs, she didn’t do a lot of that moaning and begging “come back to me baby” kind of music.
Her First Album Hit Big! And Was A Force To Be Reckoned With!
Keys’ song called “Fallin’,” from her album “Song In A Minor,” was her money maker. On Spotify alone, the song reached almost 275M plays. This was significant, as music streaming just started to become popular. The song hit number one in many places around the world, including the UK and Netherlands. Because of the fast pace of music streaming, I really think a lot of people forgot about this gem. But, forgot about it not in a sense that we wouldn’t remember it if we heard it, but in a sense if we were looking for her music, I’m sure most likely people would be looking for her newer music. It’s a shame that a song that literally became not only her signature song, but an anthem in many of our Black communities has been forgotten. 🙄
Keys Is Very Musically Diverse, I Like That!
Alicia is very diverse with her music. I don’t think any of her music sounds the same. That’s a true artist! She really wasn’t trying to be like anybody else but her! Not that many artist has the balls to do that! Kudos girl! 🤣 I also love the fact that she’s one of the few artist that has an old school sound to many of her music. And I think that her songs “A Woman’s Worth,” “If I Ain’t Got You,” and “You Don’t Know My Name,” really showcased this. Not only did she bring back the art of old school song writing, she showed us her power to command an audience. There are many new artist who perform new classic sounds, but very few have become international in the way Alicia Keys did. By the way, check out her cover “Every Little Bit Hurts,” from her “Unplugged” 2005 album. Unfortunately, I could only find the live performance on Spotify. I could have sworn she had a studio version. Anyway, she did this one really nice too. I love Alicia, her music is one of the very few new ones that I consider timeless.
Song: End Of The Road
Group: Boyz II Men
Album: Cooley High Harmony (1991)
Genre: Slow Jams
Wow.. Talk about forgotten talent. In my opinion, arguably Boyz II Men were one of the biggest and most talented male groups of the nineties! I mean, in terms of male groups of color, the only other group I loved equally as much was Dru-Hill (who also fell off the face of the earth). Now again….. I know I’ve said the same thing multiple times about quite a few artist I write about, but it’s true…. Back in the day, you could not turn on the radio without first hearing at least one of Boyz II Men’s music first! And if you didn’t hear their music first, guaranteed it will be heard no more than three songs later 🤣. That was how popular Boyz II Men were.
To Date: 173.5M Plays, Yet The Song Was Released Before The Popularity Of Streaming!
Now, today, I would imagine it would be a little difficult to understand the magnitude of a classic group’s popularity if we look at streaming numbers. Why? Because when it comes to streaming, we have more than quadrupled our music consumption. So, relatively speaking, Boyz II Men’s biggest hit was “End Of The Road (1991)” received well over 173M plays on Spotify alone. If we take in to account when the song was released, and the fact that streaming wasn’t even a thing yet back then, those numbers are a huge accomplishment. However, by today’s standards, you don’t have a hit song unless your song is streaming by the billions of plays.
Michael McCary, Single Handedly Brought Young Romance To The Group’s Music
Michael McCary was like the equivalent of a young 20’s version of an older Barry White. I mean, he had such a strong bass in his voice, that when we heard it on radio, or on a record, the speakers just vibrated. Just made you feel like OMG! Take me! Just take me now! 🤣 Unfortunately, McCary had to eventually leave his very famous group due to early stages of MS. Check out some of my other favorite hits by them, such as “One Sweet Day,” “I’ll Make Love To You,” “Motownphilly,” and “Water Runs Dry.”
Song: Back Together Again
I’m pretty sure I remember writing extensively about the late Donny Hathaway on my old blog. However, I don’t believe I shared one of my biggest favorites by him. His amazing duet with Roberta Flack “Back Together Again,” was a megaton hit as far as the Black community growing up. This song was “Black barbecue” worthy music! Released in 1980, the song reached #8 on the Top 100 Charts. Interesting that (according to the billboard chart) the song also reached #8 on the R&B charts as well. I thought this should have been number one, as the song practically became an anthem in the Black community.
Duets Seemed To Have Been Her Specialty!
You know, in my opinion Roberta Flack is amazingly talented (at least in the studio, I’ve heard quite a few of her live performances and they were boring as hell (sorry to say)). However, I couldn’t help but to notice that about after her third album, a lot of her well known hits seem to have been duets. And she’s done quite a few of them! I find that interesting as well, because she must have had good professional relationships with people in the industry. Artists normally don’t get to do duets with huge names unless you’ve been in the industry for decades (with more than one or two major hits under your belt). I guess her three #1 singles “The First Time I Ever Saw Your Face (1969),” “Killing Me Softly (1973),” and “Feel Like Makin’ Love (1975)” were big enough to make everybody want to work with her! LOL Although, it doesn’t appear she’s written any of those 3 songs.
I’d Say, Roberta Has Sung Some Of The Most Romantic Music Of Her Time! Without Any Exaggeration!
You know…. Even today, when I listen to Donny’s old music, I’m still in complete shock that he lived with mental illness all those years! Performed for millions and millions of people, yet he was mentally impaired. In someways it’s fascinating to me how as an artist he was able to access the creative side of his brain, yet separate the mental illness (or at least kept it at bay for as long as he could). We truly lost a phenomenally talented man in my opinion. Imagine if medicine knew then what it knows now, I think he’d still be a live. No reason he wouldn’t be.
Sooooo Many Covers Of This Great Song Was Done!
“Back Together Again,” was such a great song, unless you had absolutely no talent, there was no way you could have messed up this song! 😜 So many covers by so many different artists it was not funny. Check out some of my favorite cover versions by Maxi Priest, Tony Mombrelle & Chantae Cann, Tony’s house remix of this song is hot too! Also check out the legendary Freddie Jackson, and finally, listen to this smooth jazz cover by Gordon James.
Song: It’s Mashed Potato Time
Artist: Dee Dee Sharp
Genre: Dance Grooves
Shamefully, although I remember this artist as though her music was out yesterday, however in the music world today, she has drifted towards the vacuum of obscurity. This woman was once one of the hottest acts of the 60s! She could have easily been another Mary Wells as far as I’m concerned! Her biggest hit came during the 50s-60s dance craze era. The song was called “It’s Mashed Potato Time!” The song was released in 1962, and became an instant hit! It reached #2 on the Top 100, and #1 on the R&B charts, making it the biggest song of her career! This song was so popular, she had the nerve to come out with another song called “Gravy (For My Mashed Potatoes).” Now that I think about it, it was completely hilarious.
Mashed Potato Time, Was The Biggest Hit Of Her Career!
Now, just think about it for a minute. This song was released more than 5 years before I was born, and remembering hearing this song even as a very young boy, tells me just how majorly popular this song was! Come to think of it, I never did learn how to do “The Mashed Potato.” Even if I wanted to, there were just too many dances goin’ on to keep up with all of them anyway. These dance crazes were so important for the Black community back then. It was one of the very few things that helped us deal with the massive racism.
I Never Did Learn How To Mash Potato! 😜
Despite her big dance hit, I think she was also extremely underrated as far as her other music. Dee Dee had an incredible voice! I am just dumbfounded that (at least when I examine the music charts) music lovers only responded to her dance music and not her ballads. I guess it is possible that fans were so moved (hard) by her dance music, they really didn’t want to hear any other type of music by her. However, I highly recommend that you check out some of her ballads. She’s made some incredible covers too!
I Highly Recommend That You Check Out Her Ballads!
One badass song I think you should check out, is a song called “I really Love You (1965),” the musical arrangements for this song was perfect! As far as I’m concerned, this was an ignored gem, barely reaching #78 on top 100. Also listen to her cover of Jerry Butler’s 1958 hit “For Your Precious Love (c.’60s),” a lot of people refuse to believe we are losing our culture; her cover of this song doesn’t appear to be listed anywhere on Wikipedia. Even on discogs I had trouble finding (had to use advanced search! WTF?). So sad, it’s an amazing song. Listen to her cover of 10CC’s 1974 hit “I’m Not In Love (1975),” you know the way she sings this song, she reminds me a lot of the late Nancy Wilson. Lastly, check out her cover of Jackie Wilson’s 1958 hit song “To Be Loved (1963).” At the age of 74, she is still performing!
Song: Sexy Eyes
Artist: Dr. Hook
Genre: Soft Rock
To my small young readers, I know that today’s group is most likely waaaaay before your time, and perhaps out of your league. 🤣🤣 I know these guys probably look like a bunch of winos by today’s standards. However, don’t let looks fool you! These men where very talented, and produced quite a bit of hits under their belt. You know, it was kind of confusing…. Growing up, I’ve always assumed that the lead singer at the time, Ray Sawyer (the one with the eye patch), was Doctor Hook. Turns out I was wrong. The band’s name was actually “Dr. Hook & the Medicine Show,” but it was later shortened to just Dr. Hook.
This Group Had Natural Soul!
This band had a natural soulful sound that I really liked. By looking at how they looked, I would have never pictured in my mind how good they sounded. They produced several of my favorites for the 70’s/80s era. One of those biggest favorites is “Sexy Eyes (1980).” I still love to play this song on occasion. The song did very well on the charts. Canada & New Zealand had this song at #1, U.K. was at #4, and in the U.S. it reached #5. It’s such a great song. If you meet someone new, and you needed a song to try and court that person, this song would be perfect I think 😄. You know, despite this song being fully obscure, I mean, I haven’t heard any radio station play them in about the last 10-15 years. The song managed to racked up almost 19M streams on Spotify alone (perhaps more). That’s pretty damn good for an artist that’s been forgotten by many music fans.
Sadly, The Group Only Stayed Together For Barely 16 Years!
Unfortunately, for various reasons, the group did not stay together long. Although, I guess some people would say 16-17 years is still a long time to have enjoyed their music. By the time 2010 rolled along, two members have died from complications of their illnesses. Even Dennis Locorriere had his own battles with cancer before he eventually left the group (if I understand correctly). Update: Just saw an article that Ray Sawyer just past-away last year. Now, according to WIKI, the band discontinued some time in ’85. However, I found Dr. Hook’s website that kind of looks like their still active, practically made up of entirely new people (with the exception of Dennis Locorriere).
Two More Great Songs!
I would like to end my blog post with two more great songs. I think “When You’re In Love With A Beautiful Woman (1979),” was their biggest and most memorable hit in my opinion. It received even more streams, over 28M plays! The song did very well around the world, ending with the U.S. on the top 10 charts! Another huge favorite of mine, and was also hugely popular “Sharing The Night Together (1978),” with 28M streams under their belt. This is the kind of great music I grew up with as a child.
Artist: Carla Thomas
Album: Gee Whiz (1961)
Genre: True R&B Music
Oh my goodness. Today’s artist appeared to be sooooooooo underrated. Well…… Maybe underrated isn’t the word I’m looking for. Perhaps the word I’m looking for is unacknowledged. Carla definitely had the gift of voice in my opinion. She appears to have a tenor voice with a wide key range. The beautiful thing I loved about Carla’s voice was that, she simply sang. She wasn’t one of those artists that tried to do a bunch of acrobatics with her vocal chords. She just simply sang, and her soul poured out.
She Has Phenomenal Tenor Range!
Her hit song “Gee Whiz (Look At His Eyes) (1961),” was her biggest hit of her career. This was such an amazing song. Although she had other songs that did well on the Billboard Charts, this was her most notable, ever. The song shot up to #10 on the Top 100. She sang the shit out of this song, and I really think it should have been #1 instead! But, in the end it doesn’t matter, because that song still immortalized her forever (among my generation). If I am not mistaken, this was actually from her first album. She was signed to Atlantic Records, which was just as an important label for Black artists as Motown was back in the day.
Carla is also known for her many hit duets with the late Otis Redding. Songs like “Tramp (1967).” By the way, I don’t know how many remember, but Salt -N- Pepa sampled “Tramp” on their 1986 album called “Hot, Cool & Vicious.” She had another hit duet with Otis, it’s actually a cover of Eddie Floyd’s “Knock On Wood,” which they’ve recorded in 1967. I was delighted to discover that her music has not been forgotten. Her 1966 hit song B-A-B-Y was included in the soundtrack for the movie “The Baby Driver (2017),” co-starring Jamie Foxx. By the way, did you know that the late Isaac Hayes written “B-A-B-Y?” Yup, he sure did. He was truly a hit maker.
Song: When You Are Who You Are
Artist: Gil Scott-Heron
Another forgotten phenomenal musician! Well, perhaps forgotten in the mainstream world, but in the world of Funk and Jazz, I think he’s well remembered. In my opinion, in terms of musical status (or popularity if you will), I considered him among the same ranks as Jimmy Hendrix. Keep in mind, I mentioned “popularity,” not meaning to infer that their music are similar. I think their paths were obviously very different.
Gil Scott Was Very Politically Conscious!
The late Mr. Gil was very politically conscious. Growing up, none of my family (that I can recall) had any of his music. However, if I heard him on the radio or on TV I savored the moment and just enjoyed what I heard. I was too young to fully understand half the sh*t he said, but some how I knew there was some serious messages in his music. I admired him so much because he wasn’t just a politically conscious Black musician, he was one of the few well known music figures that actually went in to the communities and literally showed you the challenges of the Black communities. Very few musicians I can think of right now that were that passionate about educating the Black community. The only person that comes to mind at this moment is James Brown. And even then I wonder? Mind you, not saying James did nothing for the community, but there’s a difference between showering the Black community with money, and actually being in the Black community. Not to disrespect the late entertainer, but the more I reflect as I get older, I felt that James was motivated by pure fear (after the assassination of MLK) rather than “helping the community.” Fear in a selfish way. After the assassination of MLK, I felt that he was more concerned that it would have effected his ability to perform in the Black neighborhoods. I could be completely wrong about that, but….. Just my opinion.
Well, enough of my soapbox. During America’s political climax of the 60s-70s in regards to Black Americans, probably (I think) the most well known song (or perhaps technically not really a song) was called “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised (1971).” I know some of my young readers may not like to pay attention to lyrics, but I do recommend that you take the time to listen to that song. It is a true direct representation of what Blacks were going through in the seventies, and in many ways still going through. Shifting the topic a little, there’s a song Gil did that became one of my favorites, and it’s called “When You Are Who You Are.” I think what attracted me to this song was, lyrically speaking, it was one of the very few songs I’ve heard where the male artist sings loving someone for who they are, and not having the need to try so hard to impress him. The lyrics are just beautiful, as well as the music being nice and funky!
Song: Take A Message
Artist: Remy Shand
Album: The Way I Feel (2002)
Genre: Neo Soul
As I sift through my collection, my eyes pop wide open. I completely forgot about Remy Shand! Actually, I’m sure a lot of people forgot about him too. It’s such a wonderful thing to have a way to save our memories in digital form, otherwise we’d forget about all this shit. No matter how good of a memory we have. As far as I’m concerned, Remy was one of those explosive one hit wonders, then we never hear from them again. You know, sometimes I think when these guys get too famous, the attention is too much for them. Next thing you know, they’re “low key,” like writing songs in the background, or specializing on the mixing board.
Remy’s Music Is An Acquired Taste Tho!
I have to say that a lot of Remy’s music is an acquired taste. In fact, to be honest, I haven’t met too many people who are genuinely into Neo-Soul, unless you’ve been exposed to different music growing up. The one and only song that hit the American Billboard charts was “Take A Message.” Unfortunately, my favorite song out of the whole album only reached #89th position. However, in Canada, the album itself did very well, it actually reached #1. Go figure?
Remy Won For Best Album Of The Year In Canada 2003!
I really love his almost Curtis Mayfield & Marvin Gaye style in his music. Personally speaking, I think he should have stayed along those lines. To my understanding he’s still actively performing, but hasn’t really made a good album in a really long time. A couple of songs I want you to checkout. Listen to “Rocksteady,” and I also like “The Mind’s Eye,” which is a relaxing instrumental piece.