Linda Ronstadt - billed the "First Lady of Rock" - moved to #1 on the country charts 48 years ago today
By the end of the 1970s, the decade of her greatest commercial success, Linda Ronstadt was being hailed with honors like "the First Lady of Rock" and "Top Female Pop Singer of the Decade."
But neither of those titles captured the true breadth of her musical pursuits or of her popularity.
As synonymous as she was in the late 1970s with the pop mainstream, Ronstadt began her rise to stardom working in an idiom as compatible with country-music fashions as with rock.
In fact, her first Top 10 hit was with the Hank Williams song "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)," and the biggest hit of her career was Phil Everly’s "When Will I Be Loved," which became a #1 hit on the country-music charts on this day in 1975 — 48 years ago.
"When Will I Be Loved," a Top 10 pop hit for the Everly Brothers in 1960, came from Linda Ronstadt's 1975 breakthrough album, Heart Like A Wheel, which yielded three Top 10 hits each on the pop and country-music charts.
"When Will I Be Loved" was the only hit on both. "You're No Good" was a #1 pop hit that did not make the country charts, and the aforementioned "I Can't Help It (If I'm Still In Love With You)" and Neil Young's "Love Is A Rose" were #2 and #5 country hits, respectively, but did not have an impact on the pop charts.
While Ronstadt's dabbling in new wave and disco on her subsequent albums may have seemed to mark her as a trend-follower, in fact they reflected a natural eclecticism would become even more pronounced in future stages of her career.
Over the course of 30 active years (and counting) since her 1975 breakthrough, Ronstadt recorded songs by such diverse songwriting giants as Hank Williams, Elvis Costello, Gilbert and Sullivan, Smokey Robinson, Sam and Dave and Cole Porter, as well as an entire album of traditional Spanish canciones.
Her eclectic musical journey out of youth and into middle age also included a return to her country-tinged roots with the album Trio, recorded with country superstars Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris and a #1 hit on the country-music album charts in 1987.
In total, Ronstadt released over 30 studio albums and 15 compilation or greatest hits albums. She charted 38 Billboard Hot 100 singles, with 21 reaching the Top 40, 10 in the Top 10, three at #2 and "You're No Good" at #1.
Ronstadt has now completely retired from singing and performing, due to Parkinson’s disease, which was diagnosed in 2012.
Here, Ronstadt performs “When Will I Be Loved”
Daniel Ellsberg is shown after being freed from government charges
On this day in 1971 — 52 years ago — the New York Times began publishing what’s now called “The Pentagon Papers.”
The 47-volume Pentagon analysis of how the U.S. commitment in Southeast Asia grew over a period of three decades.
Daniel Ellsberg, a former Defense Department analyst who had become an antiwar activist, had stolen the documents. After unsuccessfully offering the documents to prominent opponents of the war in the U.S. Senate, Ellsberg gave them to the New York Times.
Officially called The History of the U.S. Decision Making Process on Vietnam, the "Pentagon Papers" disclosed closely guarded communiques, recommendations and decisions concerning the U.S. military role in Vietnam during the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, along with the diplomatic phase in the Eisenhower years.
The publication of the papers created a nationwide furor, with congressional and diplomatic reverberations as all branches of the government debated over what constituted "classified" material and how much should be made public.
The publication of the documents precipitated a crucial legal battle over "the people's right to know," and led to an extraordinary session of the U.S. Supreme Court to settle the issue.
Although the documents were from the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, President Richard Nixon opposed their publication, both to protect the sources in highly classified appendices, and to prevent further erosion of public support for the war.
On June 30, the Supreme Court ruled that the Times had the right to publish the material. Government charges against Ellsberg were dismissed due to “improper government conduct.”
Today, Ellsberg is considered a hero and has praised Edward Snowden for his act of releasing government spying papers to the public.
The publication of the "Pentagon Papers," along with previous suspected disclosures of classified information to the press, led to the creation of a White House unit to plug information leaks to journalists. The illegal activities of the unit, known as the "Plumbers," and their subsequent cover-up, became known collectively as the "Watergate scandal," which resulted in President Nixon's resignation in August, 1974.
History has proven that people should reserve judgement on the government’s claim of national security in leaks. Often the only secret is the misconduct of the government itself.
(Thanks to History.com for background information.)
“How did they ever make a movie of Lolita?” was the question posed by the posters advertising Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of Vladimir Nabokov’s famously controversial novel, released on this day in 1962 — 61 years ago.
Four years earlier, Kubrick, director of the big-budget Roman epic Spartacus (1960), and his partner, producer James B. Harris, bought the film rights to Nabokov’s masterfully crafted novel.
Its plot revolved around the middle-aged Humbert Humbert and his unseemly obsession with young girls — whom he called “nymphets” — and with one young girl in particular, Dolores Haze — or Lolita.
Nabokov received sole credit for the screenplay, which had in fact been significantly revised by Kubrick and Harris after the novelist initially submitted a 400-page draft. He later cut it down at their request, but the filmmakers still made extensive changes.
One of Kubrick’s biggest challenges was finding an actress to play the title character. Child stars Tuesday Weld and Hayley Mills were reportedly among those actresses considered for the role.
After a nationwide casting search, the filmmakers eventually settled on 14-year-old Sue Lyon, who had appeared on television, but would be making her big-screen debut. Though the character of Lolita was only 12 years old in Nabokov’s book, her age was increased to 14 or 15 in the screenplay in order to lessen the implication of pedophilia.
James Mason starred as Humbert. Noel Coward, David Niven and Rex Harrison had all been possibilities, but had declined due to fears about playing the unsympathetic character.
In supporting roles, Shelley Winters played Charlotte, Lolita’s mother, and the famed comic actor, Peter Sellers, was Quilty, a mysterious character whose role in the plot Kubrick significantly expanded from the novel.
The film’s posters played up the controversial nature of the film’s content and the book’s reputation, using the provocative tagline above a picture of Lyon-as-Lolita, wearing heart-shaped sunglasses and a seductive expression, with a lollipop in her mouth.
Lolita received mixed reviews — The New Yorker’s Pauline Kael was one critic who raved about the film — but its acting was widely praised. The film earned one Academy Award nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay.
Kubrick himself lamented that due to opposition from the film industry’s censorship group, known as the Production Code, and the Roman Catholic League of Decency, and their threats to ban the movie, he couldn’t give proper weight to Humbert’s erotic obsession with Lolita.
When interviewed by Newsweek magazine in 1972, Kubrick said that he “probably wouldn’t have made the film” if he had known how severe the censorship standards would be.
Another big-screen Lolita was released in 1997, directed by Adrian Lyne and starring Jeremy Irons and the then-unknown 15-year-old, Dominique Swain. Though it bombed at the box office, the film was seen by many as a more accurate depiction of Nabokov’s novel than Kubrick’s had been.
William Butler Yeats, 1903
Photo by Alice Boughton
William Butler Yeats was born 158 years ago today.
An Irish poet and one of the foremost figures of 20th century literature, Yeats was a pillar of both the Irish and British literary establishments, in his later years he served as an Irish Senator for two terms.
Yeats was a driving force behind the Irish Literary Revival and, along with Lady Gregory, Edward Martyn and others, founded the Abbey Theatre, where he served as its chief during its early years.
In 1923, he was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature as the first Irishman so honored for what the Nobel Committee described as "inspired poetry, which in a highly artistic form gives expression to the spirit of a whole nation."
Born in Sandymount, Ireland on this day in 1865, Yeats is generally considered one of the few writers who completed their greatest works after being awarded the Nobel Prize. Such works include The Tower (1928) and The Winding Stair and Other Poems (1929). Yeats was a close friend of Ezra Pound, the American expatriate poet and Bollingen Prize laureate.
Yeats wrote the introduction for Rabindranath Tagore's Gitanjali, which was published by the India Society.
From 1900, Yeats's poetry grew more physical and realistic. He largely renounced the transcendental beliefs of his youth, though he remained preoccupied with physical and spiritual masks, as well as with cyclical theories of life.
Doc Cheatham was born 118 years ago today.
Cheatham was a jazz trumpeter, singer and bandleader. After having played in some of the leading jazz groups beginning in the 1920s, Cheatham enjoyed renewed acclaim in later decades of his career. He agreed with the critical assessment that he was probably the only jazz musician to create his best work after the age of 70.
Cheatham was born in Nashville. Since there was no jazz there in his youth, he was introduced to the music by early recordings and touring groups at the end of the 1910s. He abandoned his family's plans for him to be a pharmacist (although retaining the medically inspired nickname "Doc") to play music. He initially played soprano and tenor saxophone in addition to trumpet in Nashville's African American Vaudeville theater.
Cheatham later toured in band accompanying blues singers on the Theater Owners Booking Association circuit. His early jazz influences included Henry Busse and Johnny Dunn.
When Cheatham moved to Chicago in 1924, he first heard King Oliver. Oliver's playing was a revelation to Cheatham, who followed him. Cheatham received a mute from Oliver. He treasured and performed with the mute with for the rest of his career.
When Louis Armstrong returned to Chicago, he also became a lifelong influence on Cheatham. Playing in Albert Wynn's band, Cheatham occasionally substituted for Armstrong at the Vendome Theater.
Cheatham recorded on sax with Ma Rainey before moving to Philadelphia in 1927, where he worked with the bands of Bobby Lee and Wilber de Paris before moving to New York City the following year. After a short stint with Chick Webb, he left to tour Europe with Sam Wooding's band.
Cheatham returned to the United States in 1930, playing with Marion Handy and McKinney's Cotton Pickers before landing a job with Cab Calloway. He was Calloway's lead trumpeter from 1932 through 1939.
Cheatham performed with Benny Carter, Teddy Wilson, Fletcher Henderson and Claude Hopkins in the 1940s. After World War II, he started working regularly with Latin bands in New York City, including the bands of Perez Prado, Marcelino Guerra, Ricardo Ray and Machito. The first time Cheatham joined Machito's band, he was fired because he couldn't cope with clave rhythm. He eventually got the hang of it though.
In addition to continuing Latin gigs, he played again with Wilbur de Paris and Sammy Price. He led his own band on Broadway for five years starting in 1960, after which he toured with Benny Goodman.
In the 1970s, Cheatham made a vigorous self-assessment to improve his playing, including taping himself and critically listening to the recordings. He made an effort to eliminate all clichés from his playing. The discipline paid off, and Cheatham received ever-improving critical attention.
His singing career began almost by accident in a Paris recording studio on May 2, 1977. At a microphone check at the start of a recording session with Sammy Price's band, Cheatham sang and scatted his way through a couple of choruses of "What Can I Say Dear After I Say I'm Sorry."
The miking happened to be good from the start and the tape machine was already rolling, and the track was issued on the LP Doc Cheatham: Good for What Ails You. His singing was well received and Cheatham continued to sing in addition to play music for the rest of his career.
Cheatham toured widely in addition to his regular Sunday gig leading the band at Sweet Basil in Manhattan's Greenwich Village in his final decade.
During one of his frequent trips to New Orleans, he met and befriended young trumpet virtuoso, Nicholas Payton. In 1996, the two trumpeters and pianist Butch Thompson recorded a CD for Verve Records.
Doc Cheatham continued playing until June 11, 1997, two days before his death, eleven days shy of his 92nd birthday.
Here, Cheatham performs “I Want a Little Girl”
Uriel Jones at B.B. King’s Club, New York City, with the Funk Brothers, 2005
Photo by Frank Beacham
Uriel Jones, one of Motown’s Funk Brothers, was born 89 years ago today.
Jones was a recording session drummer for Motown's in-house studio band, the Funk Brothers, during the 1960s and early 1970s. He was first hired by Motown as a fill-in for principal drummer, Benny Benjamin, along with Richard "Pistol" Allen. He moved up the line as recordings increased and Benjamin's health deteriorated.
Jones had a hard-hitting, funky sound, best heard on the tracks for the hits "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" — both versions, by Marvin Gaye & Tammi Terrell in 1967.
He played on the 1970 remake by Diana Ross, "I Heard It Through the Grapevine,” “Ain't That Peculiar” by Marvin Gaye, "Cloud Nine" by the Temptations (in which he was augmented by Spider Webb), "Home Cookin’’ by Junior Walker, "I Second That Emotion" by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles and ”For Once In My Life" by Stevie Wonder. His influences included Art Blakey, the jazz drummer .
Jones became better known to music fans through his appearance in the feature documentary film, Standing In The Shadows Of Motown. Motown arranger Paul Riser said of Jones that "Uriel's drum sound was the most open and laid-back, and he was the funkiest of the three guys we had...He had a mixed feel and did a lot of different things well."
Jones died at aged 74 at Oakwood Hospital & Medical Center in Dearborn, Michigan, after suffering complications from a heart attack.
James Carr was born 81 years ago today.
A rhythm and blues and soul singer, Carr was described as "one of the greatest pure vocalists that deep Southern soul ever produced."
Born to a Baptist preacher's family in Como, Mississippi, Carr moved with his parents to Memphis at the age of three. He began singing in church, and performed in gospel groups including the Harmony Echoes, at the same time as making tables on an assembly line in Memphis.
After being turned down by Stax in 1964, he made his first recordings for Goldwax Records, a small Memphis-based independent record label. He released several singles for the label before achieving his first success in 1966, when "You've Got My Mind Messed Up" reached #7 on the Billboard R&B chart and #63 on the pop chart. He also released the successful and critically acclaimed album, You Got My Mind Messed Up.
Carr’s greatest success and most critically acclaimed performance came in 1967 with his original recording of "The Dark End of the Street," written by Dan Penn and Chips Moman. The song reached #10 on the R&B chart and #77 on the pop chart.
Carr suffered from bipolar disorder for most of his life. This frequently found him unable to deal with the stress of performing and touring, and became most evident during a tour of Japan in 1979 when he froze in front of an audience following an overdose of antidepressants. However he completed the Japan tour before returning to Memphis.
Thereafter, he lived with his sister but was frequently hospitalized. A resurgence in interest in his music, spurred by his portrayal in Peter Guralnick's 1986 book, Sweet Soul Music, helped return Carr to the recording studio. He was able to complete another album, Take Me to the Limit, for a revived Goldwax label in 1991. He also performed at festivals in the U.S. and Europe, and released another album, Soul Survivor, in 1994.
Carr was diagnosed with lung cancer in the mid-1990s, and died in a Memphis nursing home in 2001 at age 58.
Here Carr performs “The Dark End of the Street”
Bobby Freeman was born 83 years ago today.
A soul singer and songwriter from San Francisco, Freeman was best known for his two Top Ten hits — the first in 1958 on Josie Records, "Do You Want To Dance?," and the second in 1964 for Autumn Records label, "C'mon and Swim."
"Do You Want To Dance?" was covered later (as "Do You Wanna Dance") by Del Shannon, The Beach Boys, Bette Midler, John Lennon, Cliff Richard, The Mamas & The Papas and the Ramones. "C'mon and Swim" was written and produced by 20-year-old Sylvester Stewart, later known as Sly Stone.
Freeman began his recording career at age 14 with the Romancers, who recorded briefly on the Dootone label. At 17, he scored a hit with "Do You Want To Dance?" and appeared on the pop charts with various follow-ups through 1961.
In 1964, he was back in the Top Ten with the dance-craze hit, "C'mon and Swim."
That year, Freeman played nightly at the Condor Night Club in San Francisco where Carol Doda performed her topless Go-Go dancing shows. He mainly supported himself through the years as a singer in clubs.
Freeman died of natural causes on January 23, 2017 at age 76.
Here, Freeman performs “C’mon and Swim”
Photo by Marc Apers