Tag Archives: Song of the Day

Song of the Day: “Rockit” by Herbie Hancock

Today’s Song of the Day is Herbie Hancock’s innovated “Rockit”. This instrumental was written by Herbie Hancock, Bill Laswell and Michael Beinhorn, and the video was created by Godley & Creme. The single was released off of Hancock’s 1983 album, Future Shock – Hancock’s 35th album.

Herbie Hancock is a renown jazz musician who joined Miles Davis’ band in 1963. Davis taught Hancock the importance of experimentation, and about how you can achieve excellent results by letting the people working with you experiment as well. And while jazz purists wanted no part of this electro classic, it created a fresh new sound thanks to the production of Bill Laswell and the turntable work of GrandMixer D.ST, who each got the green light from Hancock to do their thing.

Not only was the song itself innovated, but so was the music video. It features a host of animated mannequins, was one of the most innovative of the era. It was very popular on MTV, winning five video music awards in 1984: Best Art Direction, Best Concept, Best Editing, Best Special Effects, and Most Experimental Video. Along with Michael Jackson and Prince, Hancock was one of the first black artists to get significant airplay on MTV, but he barely appears in the video (he is shown in a few shots of the television sets), which was by design. The video was directed by Kevin Godley and Lol Creme, who also make the Police video for “Every Breath You Take.” Their directive was to get Hancock played on MTV, a daunting task considering the network’s reluctance to play black artists. Keeping the artist out of the video was a way to take the race factor out of it, and it worked. In addition to the MTV awards (which were overshadowed by Madonna’s “Like a Virgin” performance at the awards show, BTW), “Rockit” won a Grammy Award for Best R&B Instrumental Performance.

A jazz musician in his 40s, Herbie Hancock was an outlier on MTV, where young pop stars were the norm. This song incorporated very modern sounds though, including elements of hip-hop. Combined with the eye-catching video, it fit in surprisingly well on the network.

Song of the Day: “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson

Michael_Jackson_-_ThrillerToday’s Song of the Day is “Billie Jean” by Michael Jackson. On this day in 1983, with this song, Michael Jackson became the first Black artist to get heavy rotation on MTV. After launching on August 1, 1981, MTV was reluctant to play music videos by Black artists. MTV denied accusations of racism as they insisted that their format was rock music. MTV was programmed by guys with radio backgrounds who tried to program it like a radio station with a rock format, something that proved impossible because they didn’t have enough videos by rock artists. What they did have were lots of European acts, who had been making videos for years, and were overwhelmingly white. Record companies wouldn’t budget for videos by their black artists since they didn’t think MTV would play them, so the network could make the argument that they simply didn’t have any good videos by black artists that were worthy. That argument went out the window when Jackson made the “Billie Jean” video, which was startlingly innovative.

“Billie Jean” was the second single (after “The Girl is Mine“) from Jackson’s legendary Thriller album. It reached number one on the Billboard Hot 100, topped the Billboard Hot Black Singles chart within three weeks, and became Jackson’s fastest-rising number one single as a solo artist.

Jackson’s performance of “Billie Jean” on the TV special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever won acclaim and was nominated for an Emmy Award. It introduced a number of Jackson’s signatures, including his version of the moonwalk, black sequined jacket, and high-water pants.

“Billie Jean” has been recognized with numerous awards and honors. At the 1984 Grammy Awards the song earned Jackson two of a record eight awards; Best R&B Song and Best R&B Male Vocal Performance. It won the Billboard Music Award for favorite dance / disco 12″ LP, and the magazine’s 1980’s poll named “Billie Jean” as the “Black Single of the Decade”. The American Music Awards recognized the track as the Favorite Pop/Rock Single, while Cash Box honored the song with the awards for Top Pop Single and Top Black Single.

Song of the Day: “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon

71JDhptOCwL._SL1000_Today’s Song of the Day is “Can’t Fight This Feeling” by REO Speedwagon, which hit #1 on this day in 1985. The song remained in the top spot for three weeks. It was the group’s second number-one hit on the U.S. charts (the first being 1981’s “Keep on Loving You”, also written by Kevin Cronin). “I Can’t Fight This Feeling” was the second single released off of 1984’s Wheels Are Turning album, following the song “I Do’ Wanna Know”. REO Speedwagon played this at Live Aid in 1985. They followed Rick Springfield on the US stage.

Two videos were made for this song: one that shows them goofing around in a rehearsal space before performing it, and another far more elaborate video directed by Kevin Dole that shows a baby going through different life stages from birth to death. Heavy on compositing and special effects, it was cutting edge for 1984.

Song of the Day: “That Was Then, This Is Now” by The Monkees

Then_&_Now_-_The_MonkeesAs Mickey Dolenz celebrates his 77th birthday, today’s Song of the Day is “That Was Then, This Is Now” by The Monkees. Throughout the ’80s, there was a lot of nostalgia for the ’50s and ’60s (Back to the Future, Stand By Me, Peggy Sue Got Married), and The Monkees were a big part of that. A Monkees TV show marathon was broadcast on MTV on February 23, 1986. Then in May, Mickey Dolenz, Davy Jones, and Peter Tork announced a “20th Anniversary Tour”. While Michael Nesmith did have a falling out years earlier, he was all for the reunion. However, he was forced to sit out most projects because of prior commitments to his Pacific Arts video production company. In addition to the MTV special, and the tour, the original ’60s episodes of the Monkees television show daily on Nickelodeon. This sudden revival of the Monkees helped move the first official Monkees single since 1971, “That Was Then, This Is Now”, to the No. 20 position on the Billboard charts.

There was controversy. Davy Jones had declined to sing on the track, recorded along with two other new songs included in a compilation album, Then & Now… The Best of The Monkees (“Anytime, Anyplace, Anywhere” and “Kicks“). Some copies of the single and album credit the new songs to “the Monkees”, others as “Micky Dolenz and Peter Tork (of the Monkees)”. Reportedly, these recordings were the source of some personal friction between Jones and the others during the 1986 tour; Jones typically left the stage when the new songs were performed.
Davy Jones passed away on February 29, 2012 at the age of 66, Peter Tork passed away on February 21, 2019 at the age of 77, and Michael Nesmith passed away on December 10, 2021 at the age of 78. Mickey Dolenz is still around and touring.

Song of the Day: “Tell It To My Heart” by Taylor Dayne

In honor of her 60th birthday, today’s Song of the Day is Taylor Dayne’s download (2)“Tell It To My Heart”. This title track was the first single released from her debut album. The week of January 23, 1988, the single peaked in the number seven spot. It was on the Hot 100 for 25 weeks. Dayne was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Pop Vocal, Female for her performance on “Tell It to My Heart” in 1988.

Taylor Dayne was born Leslie Wunderman on March 7, 1962. The New Yorker hit it big with this huge debut single, followed by six additional U.S. top-10 singles, including  “Prove Your Love“, and “I’ll Always Love You“. She had further hits with “Don’t Rush Me” (1988) and “With Every Beat Of My Heart” (1989) as well as the Diane Warren penned “Love Will Lead You Back” which hit #1 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the Hot Adult Contemporary Tracks chart.

This is the song that launched Taylor Dayne’s career. It was written by Seth Swirsky and Ernie Gold. While writing the song, Swirsky had Madonna in mind, but when he heard Dayne sing it, he knew she was the right choice.

Song of the Day: “Lost in Your Eyes” by Debbie Gibson

Debbie_gibson_electric_youthToday’s Song of the Day is Debbie Gibson’s “Lost In Your Eyes,” which hit #1 on the Billboard charts on this day in 1989. The song was released on January 6, 1989 as the lead single released from Gibson’s sophomore album, Electric Youth.

Debbie burst onto the scene, as a teenager in 1987, with her massive debut album, Out of the Blue. One of the singles from that album, “Foolish Beat“, made Gibson the youngest female artist to write, produce, and perform a Billboard Hot 100 number-one single. She is the sole songwriter on all of her singles to reach the top 20 of the Billboard Hot 100. She was recognized by ASCAP as Songwriter of the Year, along with Bruce Springsteen, in 1989. Not bad company!

On March 4, 1989, “Lost In Your Eyes” reached number one and remained there for three weeks, becoming her most successful single. She would follow up with Electric Youth’s title track and “No More Rhyme“. She had some moderate hits throughout the ’90s as well as some theatre tours with shows such as Les Miserables, Grease, and Beauty and the Beast. She is still releasing music today – most recently 2021’s The Body Remembers.

Song of the Day: “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram

Today’s Song of the Day is “Somewhere Out There” by Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram. It was on this day, March 2, 1988, that this won Song of the Year at the 30th Grammy Awards. It was also nominated for Best Pop Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocal, but lost to the Dirty Dancing hit “(I’ve Had) The Time of My Life.”

This was written for the Steven Spielberg-produced animated film An American Tail. In the movie, a family of mice from the Ukraine immigrates to the United States, but loses young Fievel along the way. One lonely night, Fievel (Phillip Glasser) and his sister Tanya (Betsy Cathcart), separated by a long distance, sing “Somewhere Out There” in the hopes of reuniting. Linda Ronstadt and James Ingram were enlisted to sing the pop version, a romantic ballad about two separated lovers who take comfort in the fact they are looking out at the same starry sky.

The song was written by James Horner (best known for writing the Titanic score), and Songwriter Hall of Famers the husband/wife team of Barry Mann, and Cynthia Weil (“You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’“, “Christmas Vacation“). It reached number eight in the United Kingdom, number six in Ireland, and number two in both the United States and Canada.

Ronstadt’s regular producer Peter Asher also produced the duet, which proved to be a challenge. Asher explained in a 2018 Songfacts interview: “She and James Ingram, when we did ‘Somewhere Out There,’ never actually were in the studio at the same time, which is more common now but was a bit less common then. And getting it all to fit together, matching their vibratos and the last note and stuff like that, which again in Pro Tools would be two seconds, took quite a while because I had two separate takes of each of them separately. But, for reasons I can’t quite remember, they weren’t in town at the same time.

Sadly, Ingram died in Los Angeles of brain cancer on January 29, 2019, at the age of 66. And Ronstadt can no longer perform due to progressive supranuclear palsy (which is a brain disease which can be mistaken for Parkinson’s or Alzheimer’s.

But they left us a gem of a duet. And it helped An American Tail become a smash success in an age when animated movies were not doing to well at the box office (grossing $84 million making it the highest-grossing non-Disney animated film at the time).

Song of the Day: “Candy Girl” by New Edition

Today’s Song of the Day is “Candy Girl” by New Edition. The album Candy Girl was released on this day in 1983. This title track is New Edition’s first single off of that debut album. If this sounds eerily like The Jackson 5’s “ABC”, it is by design. Their name is taken to mean a ‘new edition’ of the Jackson 5. New Edition was first discovered and mentored by their manager Brooke Payne. He entered them in a local talent show where they met songwriter/producer Maurice Starr who wrote “Candy Girl” for the group, envisioning them as a 1980s answer to the Jackson 5. Ralph Tresvant was positioned as the lead singer, because Starr considered his high tenor as reminiscent of a younger Michael Jackson, while having members Ricky Bell and Bobby Brown sharing alternate leads. The other members were Michael Bivins and Ronnie DeVoe.

In addition to “Candy Girl“, New Edition would go on to have hits with “Cool It Now,” and “Mr. Telephone Man“. Bobby Brown left in 1985 to go on to a solo career. In 1987, Johnny Gill was added to the lineup. In 1990, both Gill and Tresvant released their own solo albums, while the remaining three members formed the trio Bell Biv Devoe. All six members of New Edition reunited in 1996 to record the group’s sixth studio album Home Again. They had hits with “Hit Me Off” and “I’m Still In Love With You” off of that album. The group has had a few stops and starts since then.

They just embarked a new tour in 2022, called The Culture Tour.
“Candy Girl” would go on to top the U.K. charts. MTV controversially wasn’t playing videos by Black artists at the time, but the American network Black Entertainment Television (BET) gave it plenty of airtime, giving New Edition a big boost in the Black community. So the song only peaked at #46 on the Billboard Hot 100, but topped the US Hot Black Singles chart.

Song of the Day: “I Love a Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt

Today’s song of the day is the country-crossover hit, “I Love a Rainy Night” by Eddie Rabbitt. It hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 on this day in 1981. It replaced Dolly Parton’s “9 to 5” at the top spot. Parton’s song returned to the top spot—the last time, to date, that the pop chart featured back-to-back “country” singles in the top position.
According to The Billboard Book of #1 Hits, Rabbitt first got the idea for the song in the ’60s when he was sitting in his small apartment on a rainy night. He sang, “I love a rainy night, I love a rainy night” into a tape recorder, but didn’t complete the song until 1980, when he discovered the tape in his basement. He finished the song with the help of fellow songwriters Even Stevens and David Malloy.
“I Love a Rainy Night” came during Rabbitt’s peak popularity as a crossover artist. The follow-up to “Drivin’ My Life Away” (number one country, number five Hot 100), the song was Rabbitt’s only Hot 100 number one. But his crossover success continued with the follow-ups “Step by Step” and “You and I” (the latter a duet with Crystal Gayle).

Song of the Day: “Jump” by Van Halen

In celebration for topping the charts on this day in 1984, today’s Song of the Day is “Jump” by Van Halen. The single was released on December 21, 1983 as the lead single from the 1984 album. s early as 1981, Eddie Van Halen had written the keyboard part that would eventually become this song. It led to contention within the group as David Lee Roth thought it would look like they were selling out to get more radio play. Well it became their first and only #1 with Roth, and everybody loved it. Damn Eddie for making one of the most successful rock bands even more successful! But, using a synthesizer instead of a guitar as the lead instrument was a huge departure for Van Halen. When this first came out, and we heard those keyboards, many people felt Eddie was about a good a keyboard player as guitarist. However, halfway through the song, Van Halen reminds us that they had one of the greatest guitarists in rock as he played an incredible guitar solo.

Here are a few other fun facts:

  • 1984 was the first album recorded at Eddie Van Halen’s 5150 studio.
  • Eddie used the outro guitar solo at the very end of this song to come up with the idea for the intro guitar riff to Van Halen’s later hit, “Standing On Top (Of The World).”
  • In an interview with Mix magazine, Daryl Hall said that the Hall & Oates song “Kiss On My List” was an influence on this one. Said Hall: “[Eddie] Van Halen told me that he copied the synth part from ‘Kiss on My List’ and used it in ‘Jump.’ I don’t have a problem with that at all.”

The music video was nominated for three MTV Video Music Awards, and won “Best Stage Performance” for the video.