The American soul singer Ann Peebles is 70 years old this week.
Ann was born in St. Louis, Missouri and was the seventh of 11 children. Like a lot of soul singers of her generation, they grew up singing in church. She notched up a number of hits on the US Billboard R&B chart beginning in 1969 with Walk Away.
In 1974 she recorded the album I Can’t Stand the Rain, which contained a number of songs co-written by Peebles and the title track gave her her only UK hit which reached the dizzy heights of number 41 in May 1974. Five years later it became a big disco hit for Eruption. Tina Turner had a crack at it in 1985, but that stalled at number 57.
In 1979 Ann retired from the business to spend more times with her family, but 10 years later she was back with an album called Call Me. In the 90s she released three more album and even duetted with Cyndi Lauper on the track Rollin’ and Tumblin’ from Cyndi’s 2010 album Memphis Blues.
Ann suffered a stroke in 2012 and once again effectively retired.
Let’s enjoy her only UK hit and note the sloppy way the TV company have misspelt her name.
This week the legendary multi-talented Luther Vandross would have been 66 years old today.
Luther was born in New York in 1951 – he also has the unusual middle name, Ronzoni. His interest in music began when his sisters, Pat and Ann took him to the Apollo Theatre in the Bronx to see both Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick. Patricia had been a singer in the fifties band The Crests who had an American hit with 16 Candles.
He got his break in 1969 when he appeared in the first series of Sesame Street. His interest in music and the musician was immense, he founded the first Patti LaBelle fan club of which he later became president. His smooth voice soon made his an in-demand backing singers for many artists, initially with Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway in 1972 and then for singers like Ben E. King, Bette Midler, Diana Ross, Barbra Streisand, Donna Summer, Carly Simon, Stevie Wonder and Chaka Khan. In the mid-seventies he wrote and sang jingles for various American TV adverts including Burger King and KFC.
He began writing songs on an almost daily basis and supplied them to other artists. He wrote the song Fascination which David Bowie recorded and it appeared on his 1975 album Young Americans. Luther sang backing on both the title track and Fame, the latter was alongside John Lennon. He also toured with Bowie that same year. On returning from the tour the musicians/producers Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards employed Luther’s tones on a number of Chic and Sister Sledge songs.
His first lead vocal was on the 1978 song Hot Butterfly which was credited to Greg Diamond’s Bionic Boogie. Two years later became the lead singer with Change and can be distinctively heard on the hits The Glow of Love and Searching. In 1979 he was the musical arranger on No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) by Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand.
In 1982, Luther’s first hit as a writer came in the shape of Jump To It by Aretha Franklin and then surpassed that with his own solo hits beginning with Never Too Much, arguably one of the greatest songs – lyrically – of all time. Luther never revealed if it was autobiographical and it also doesn’t state whether it’s written about a male or a female. Luther was gay, but never openly admitted to it.
Luther’s family life was quite tragic, his father, Luther Sr., died of complications from diabetes when Luther was seven, his brother Charles and sister Patricia both died of complications from diabetes and his other sister, Ann, died of complications from asthma all before Luther.
In 2003 Luther wrote a song about his childhood memories of his father and stories his mother had relayed to him. He co-write with Richard Marx and was dedicated to Luther’s father. Sadly he never got to sing it live because just a couple of days after completing the session he suffered a stroke which left him in a coma for eight weeks. Whilst in the coma he contracted meningitis and pneumonia, when he came out of the coma he was confined to a wheelchair. He eventually died on 1st July 2005 aged just 54. His mother died three years later.
Luther’s personal favourite was The Glow of Love, “That is the most beautiful song I’ve ever sung in my life,” he said in an interview with Vibe Magazine in 2001. But for me, Never Too Much being one of the all-time soul/disco classics and a regular at all the summer weekenders especially Caister. I urge you listen closely to the lyrics and how Luther cleverly phrases them if you’re not too familiar with them. Pure magic.
Sarah Cracknell is 50 years old this week, she was the lead singer with Saint Etienne.
The band were formed in 1990 by friends, and former music journalists, Bob Stanley and Pete Wiggs. Their original plan was to make music and feature various different female singers, but once they’d heard Sarah she became their permanent member.
They amassed 21 UK hit single with their biggest being He’s On the Phone which reached number 11. Arguably their catchiest hit was the 1993 song He’s In a Bad Way which had a retro sound but was never meant to be a single. In an interview with Melody Maker Bob Stanley said, “That song was written in about 10 minutes and was a simple imitation of Herman’s Hermits.”
The single version was different from the album version even having two different producers, self-produced on the album and Alan Tarney on the single. The band haven’t split up, although nothing new has been heard from them since 2012.
In the UK, the Climax Blues Band from Stafford only had one UK hit, the 1976 number 10 hit Couldn’t Get It Right, but they had so many other good songs, this is one of my favourites, which I once used as a first dance at a wedding and how appropriate it is. It reached number 12 in America and is called I Love You. Listen and, hopefully, enjoy.
This week, the Forces Sweetheart, Vera Lynn is 100 years old, a mighty achievement especially in the music industry.
Vera Margaret Welch, as she was christened was born on 20th March 1917 in East Ham. She took the name Lynn from her grandmother’s maiden name when she began singing in 1928 at the age of 11. In the early thirties she began singing with various dance bands, but her big break came in 1935 when she did a radio broadcast with Joe Loss and his Orchestra.
She got a contract with a small record label called Crown and released her first single, Up the Wooden Hill to Bedfordshire, in 1936. The following year Crown was bought out by Decca records where she stayed for years.
The same year the War out Vera recorded, arguably, her most famous song, We’ll Meet Again, this song was constantly being sung during the War years giving hope to Servicemen and their loved ones that they would indeed meet again. In 1941, Vera began her own radio show called Sincerely Yours where she read out messages usually from wives and girlfriends to their husbands and boyfriends who were serving abroad. In 1943 she appeared on a film of the same name. There were many occasions when Vera travelled overseas to entertain the British troops.
When the UK charts began in November 1952 she appeared on that first-ever chart with three songs; Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart, Forget-Me-Not and The Homing Waltz. Although Auf Wiederseh’n Sweetheart reached number 10 in the UK, it topped the Billboard singles chart for nine weeks and gave her the distinction of being the first British artist to top the US singles chart. In 1955 she topped the UK chart with My Son My Son which was co-written by another chart-topping act, Eddie Calvert.
She has many accolades including the Burma Star, an OBE in 1969, a DBE in 1975 and in 2000 received a Spirit of the 20th Century award. She’s also had a thoroughfare named after her called Vera Lynn Close in Forest Gate, east London. She is the Patron Saint of many charities including the cerebral palsy charity known as The Dame Vera Lynn Trust for Children with Cerebral Palsy.
In 1995 she sang outside Buckingham Palace to mark the Queen’s golden jubilee of VE Day which became her last public performance. She continues to set and break records, In September 2009, her record company released a compilation album called We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn which, on its third week on the chart, made number one and thus became the oldest living artist to top the UK album chart at 92. That record could well be broken because last Friday she released a new album called Vera Lynn 100. Long may she live.
Here is a video clip of a lovely interview with the Dutch violinist and conductor Andre Rieu.