Tag: Luther Vandross

MUSIC MONDAY: That’s What Friends Are For: Stevie Wonder Duets (LISTEN)

As Good Black News continues its month-long tribute to Stevie Wonder in his 70th year on planet Earth, Marlon West has compiled a new Spotify playlist celebrating the times Wonder has graciously and successfully shared the spotlight with other artists.

Although Wonder’s collaborative skills are most famously remembered from the 1986 Grammy-winning chart topper “That’s What Friends Are For” with Dionne Warwick, Elton John and Gladys Knight that raised over $3 million dollars for AIDS research and prevention, he’s been at it for decades with a wide variety of artists and in the name of so many worthy causes and ideas.

Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney (photo via libraryofcongress.gov)

This playlist ranges from Stevie’s work with the Queen of the Beyhive (Beyoncé) on a heartfelt Luther Vandross tribute, to his duet with a former Beatle (Paul McCartney) to confront racism, a reworking one of his best-loved love songs with a Canadian diva (Celine Dion), to a loving back-and-forth with his first-born daughter (Aisha Morris, who famously made her debut on 1976’s “Isn’t She Lovely” when still a baby).

In Marlon’s words:

Hello and Happy Monday, you all! Stevie Wonder is one if the most distinctive and prolific voices in popular music. He is a singer, composer, and multi-instrumentalist.

The brotha is one of greatest solo artists and bandleaders of our times. That said, Stevie Wonder has made many collaborations with other artists. He’s done duets, been a guest artist, and even a session musician one dozens of records. This playlist is devoted to Stevie Wonder’s duets. Do enjoy!

And as always, stay safe, sane, and kind!

Open in Spotify

(FB: marlon.west1 Twitter: @marlonw IG: stlmarlonwest Spotify: marlonwest)

Marlon West (photo courtesy Marlon West)

GBN’s MERRY MONTH OF STEVIE: Cover Songs In The Key Of Life (LISTEN)

by Jeff Meier (FB: Jeff.Meier.90)

Ever since this writer was elementary school age and first becoming aware of music, I’ve been obsessed with the artistic connections created by “cover” versions (“remakes,” in layman’s terms).

My father and I would routinely spend a Saturday night pairing together interesting playlists for each other comprised of original versions and their remakes, usually trying to find versions as far apart musically from the originals as possible.

Several decades ago, this was very labor intensive – we had to go ‘digging in the crates’ through our own vinyl, and we had to actually know and remember that the cover version had been done. Piecing it all together was half the fun.

Today, with Spotify and the internet, it’s much much easier to uncover covers. Just type in the song name and often you’ll find hundreds of options to pick from, especially when we’re talking about Stevie Wonder, who has literally had thousands of remakes done of his songs.

So many versions, in fact, that it’s impossible to weed through them all. (According to SecondHandSongs.com, a website devoted to ‘cover’ songs, Stevie is the most covered R&B artist of all time.)

So with today’s Stevie Wonder playlist from GBN, I’ve limited myself to covers of songs from his landmark 1976 double album “Songs in the Key of Life.” “Songs in the Key of Life” capped a prolific mid-1970s golden era for Stevie Wonder, winning him a remarkable third Grammy for Album of the Year – all three of his wins coming in just four years!  Many lists feature “Songs” as one of the best albums of all-time.

You may ask – why should I listen to cover versions when the originals are so perfect? I certainly won’t argue with the originals’ perfection. And I don’t think that any of the artists here would argue either that their version supersedes Stevie’s own.

What I would say is that cover versions can do several things.  First, they evoke the true songwriting abilities underlying the original song – a great ‘song’ should be able to stand up to multiple interpretations.

Second, when the cover version is in a different genre (and these are the most interesting ones, usually) – they can bring the listener to new places musically that they may not have ventured before. Third, after hearing an iconic album so many times that it becomes almost second nature, it can be refreshing to hear it again in a new way.

In this playlist, we’ve got the entire ‘Songs in the Key of Life’ song list, in the same order as the original – with the four ‘bonus tracks’ from the extra single included in the original release added to the end.

Each song has only one extra version – and each covering artist is limited to just one track. The mix spans jazz, folk, rock, Latin, soul, dance music and many more, including Luther Vandross, Thelma Houston, Najee, Mary J. Blige and James Taylor‘s brother Livingston Taylor. There’s even a Spice Girl in there if you look for her!

We hope you enjoy it.

R.I.P. Grammy Award-Winning Legend David Bowie, Global Icon and Innovator in Music, Art and Fashion

David Bowie with Supermodel wife Iman (photo via popsugar.com)
David Bowie with Supermodel wife Iman (photo via popsugar.com)

As Stevie Wonder so aptly put it in his 1976 tribute to the 20th-century pioneers of sound, “Sir Duke”: “Music is a world within itself / With a language we all understand / With an equal opportunity / For all to sing, dance and clap their hands.”

Sir David Robert Jones, aka “Ziggy Stardust”, aka “The Thin White Duke”, but most commonly known around the world as David Bowie, fully understood and embodied the language of this universality, and connected with audiences around the world, no matter what genre he chose to explore. Some of his greatest commercial success came from his exploration of R&B music (“Young Americans”, “Fame”, “Golden Years”,  “Under Pressure,” “Let’s Dance”), but his musical life was one of constant change and innovation, which made this unique singer, songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, record producer, arranger, painter and actor a prominent, global figure in popular music for over four decades.

According to the New York Times, Bowie’s last album, “Blackstar,” a collaboration with a jazz quartet that was typically enigmatic and exploratory, was released on Friday — his birthday.  He had also collaborated on an Off Broadway musical, “Lazarus,” which was a surreal sequel to the 1976 film that featured his definitive screen role, “The Man Who Fell to Earth.”

Bowie wrote songs, above all, about being an outsider: an alien, a misfit, a sexual adventurer, a faraway astronaut. His music was always a mutable blend — rock, cabaret, jazz and what he called “plastic soul” — but it was suffused with genuine soul.  Bowie, in turn, influenced many of today’s prominent R&B, soul, pop/rock and hip-hop artists, (remember Queen Latifah’s collab on the “Fame ’90” redux?) many of whom are already honoring him:

https://twitter.com/kanyewest/status/686449257767776256?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw

Bowie is to be honored with a concert at Carnegie Hall on March 31 featuring the Roots, Cyndi Lauper and the Mountain Goats.

Bowie lost his 18-month battle with cancer on Sunday night, and is survived by his son, director Duncan Jones, wife Iman and their daughter Alexandria.

To read more about Bowie, his life and career, click here.  To see him perform live in 1974 on “The Dick Cavett Show” with Luther Vandross on background vocals, check out the video below:

article by Lori Lakin Hutcherson (follow @lakinhutcherson)