Neil Diamond is celebrating his 80th birthday this week.
Born in New York (as he confirms in the song I Am…I Said, ‘I was New York born and raised’), he had chart 38 songs on the American Billboard Hot 100 chart. Many believed his first single to be Solitary Man in 1966, but it was actually his second. His first was called Clown Town in 1963.
His first UK hit didn’t arrive until Cracklin’ Rosie which reached number three in 1970, a position he, surprisingly, never beaten. Even the follow-up, and the song that has become his swansong, Sweet Caroline ‘only’ peaked at number eight.
His only film role was as Jess Robin, alongside Laurence Olivier in the Jazz Singer in 1980.
In 2018, he announced that he was suffering from Parkinson’s Disease which resulted in the cancellation of the final leg of his 50 Year Anniversary World Tour in Australia and New Zealand.
During the COVID pandemic he recorded a video from his home with new appropriate lyrics to Sweet Caroline, let’s watch that as well as the 1974 release of the song Longfellow Serenade.
David Ruffin, the former lead singer with the Temptations between 1964 and 1968 would have celebrated his 80th birthday this week.
He sang lead vocals on the songs My Girl, Ain’t Too Proud to Beg and Beauty Is Only Skin Deep among others. After internal difficulties within the group, he turned to drugs and began to miss live appearances. He embarked on a solo career but unlike his brother Jimmy, David only managed one UK hit single which was a cover of a song first recorded by the Choice Four.
David died on 1st June 1991 from a drug overdose of crack cocaine. Let’s remember his only hit, Walk Away From Love live from the Soul Train show.
Madness were one of the great bands of the 1980s and never a bad song. They only ever had one UK number one hit which was House of fun in 1982 and I’ve yet to heard the correct 7″ single version on the radio. I wonder how many people will know the difference between the proper single and the version played on the radio?
Anyway, let’s remember one of their lesser heard song which radio were always a bit sceptical about playing. This song was inspired by Chas Smash’s father’s repeated heart attacks. It tells the story of a workaholic who dies of a heart attack.
This week Jenn Bostic celebrates her 35th birthday, not a name too many of you will be familiar with.
She is an American country music from Nashville and best remembered in the UK for her song Jealous of the Angels which had its first play by Simon Bates on his Our Tune slot when he was on Smooth radio.
2020 was a pretty rubbish year for many, many people and I was no exception. I lost my best friend Larry on 1st April and my lovely father on 29th November at the age of 85. I’m going to play this song for my father because the words are so appropriate and Jenn wrote and recorded it after losing her father.
The words are beautiful especially the line, ‘In a world where heroes come and go, well God just took the only one I know’ – that’s for you dad.
I can’t believe that song never made the chart- probably too good for it was it was released in 2012. I hope anyone in a similar situation finds comfort in this song.
Here’s to 2021 – it just has to be better than last year.
Chas Hodges would have celebrated his 77th birthday this week.
Chas and Dave, two of the loveliest men you could meet. I worked with them a number of times and I remember around 20 years ago we were working together for three consecutive nights and I said to Chas, ” Do you mind if I bring a single in tomorrow to get autographed,” to which he replied, “Only one? You must have more being a DJ,” when I confirmed that I had, he said, “bring the lot in and we’re scrawl all over them,” and they did.
After attending a Jerry Lee Lewis gig he was inspired to learn piano and then not too long after, was inspired again to learn guitar after seeing Lonnie Donegan perform. He turned professional at the age of 16 playing session bass in various bands and later backed Jerry Lee Lewis, Bill Haley and Gene Vincent on their UK tours. He worked with Joe Meek becoming a regular member of the Outlaws until they disbanded where he joined Cliff Bennett and the Rebel Rousers.
He and Dave Peacock met in 1963 but began their duo partnership in 1972 but had to wait seven years for their first hit, Strummin which stalled at number 52. Hits like Getcha and The Sideboard Song followed but they really hit the big time when Rabbit made the top 10 in early 1981. They had further hits with Stars Over 45, Ain’t No Pleasing You and their final top 10 hit came in 1986 when they teamed up with various professional snooker player to record Snooker Loopy.
In February 2017, Chas announced that he had been diagnosed with oesophageal cancer, but it had been caught early and the future was looking good. Optimistically, they said they would be back on the road again soon, but Chas contracted pneumonia and passed away in September 2018.
Frank Zappa would have been 80 years old this week.
He was one artist who everyone found hard to pigeonhole which is good. He composed everything from pop, jazz and rock to orchestral.
His debut album in 1966 was called Freak Out and then released a further six albums before the sixties had finished. Arguably, his best-known album is Hot Rats from 1969. In 1970, he released three albums, Burnt Weeny Sandwich, Weasels Ripped My Flesh and Chunga’s Revenge.
Throughout his early career he was back by his regular band known as the Mothers of Invention until he broke up the band in 1969.
In December 1971 whilst on stage at Casino de Montreux in Switzerland, the band’s equipment was destroyed when a flare set off by an audience member started a fire that burned down the casino. This incident was immortalised in the song Smoke on the Water by Deep Purple.
He died of prostate cancer in December 1993 shortly before his 53rd birthday.
Let’s enjoy this live performance of Dancing Fool from 1981.