Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Tuesday This And That

re:  MOTOWN:  
My Cherie Amour at #34 ... that was Motown trying to take the energy of Stevie Wonder and turn him into Perry Como. Chet Coppock  
And they had been trying for a while ... between the middle-of-the-road tracks like "A Place In The Sun" and "Blowin' In The Wind", Stevie also cut "For Once In My Life" which battled for chart space a year after the release of the Tony Bennett version!!!  Fortunately, Stevie eventually stood up for himself and took charge of his career ... and man, what a difference it made!  He became one of the most innovative artists of the early '70's, winning award after award for his revolutionary music.  EVERYBODY at Motown took notice at that point.  (kk)
Actually, "My Cherie Amour" really worked for me ... and it has sentimental value, too ... it just happens to be one of those early '60's Shop / Cherricat courting songs!  (kk)  

Hey Kent -
It's the good old "Laughlin River Rat" chiming in again, but ... surprise! I'm not here to talk about stuff happening here on the river, for a change.  This time I'm here to yack about "The Motown Sound" on the heels of the awesome countdown of the "100 Greatest Hitsville Hits" you ran last week!
You may recall that, four years ago this month, I sent you a "scoop" about my close friend of nearly four decades, former MOTOWN SOUND MAN RUSS TERRANA, who had just finished mixing a collection of previously unreleased JACKSON 5 tracks for a new compilation album ... the first to be released following Michael's tragic passing a few months earlier. You posted the story in FH on October 25, 2009 ...

There I sent a follow-up story a couple weeks later ...
What made the story so cool was that Russ had also mixed ALL the ORIGINAL Jackson 5 records 40 YEARS EARLIER ... along with HUNDREDS of other Motown hits! He was the label's chief recording engineer from 1966 until early 1968 and then from the spring of 1969 through November 1988 (when the Hollywood Hitsville studio closed down for good). In between, Russ worked for his brother, Ralph, at Detroit's storied Tera Shirma recording studio, where dozens of other hits were recorded in the waning days of Detroit's golden era.
During his stellar career, Russ mixed no less than a mind-boggling 89 #1 SINGLES (although his daughter Christie puts the number at 92), more than any other recording engineer in pop music history!
FH friend and contributor ARTIE WAYNE is a mutual friend of Russ and myself. (Artie coincidentally met Russ at Motown in the early 70's, a couple of years before I knew either of them.) When I told him about Russ mixing the newly-discovered J5 tracks back in 2009, Artie wanted to devote an entire post about Russ' significant role in the Motown Sound. When I mentioned that our friend recorded and/or mixed an unbelievable 89+ #1 hits, Artie practically jumped out of the phone. "SHIT! We need to post this ... now!" he screamed.
After calming Artie down, we tossed around a few ideas and decided on creating THE MOTOWN VIDEO JUKEBOX for Artie's blog, which would feature all of the #1 hits Russ Terrana worked on, either as a mixer or mixer / engineer of tracks and vocals.
It took me, along with Russ' daughter Christie, a few days to find and compile all the video links and provide them to Artie, but it was well-worth the trouble. The post, which included a story about how Artie met Russ, was very well-received ... and the videos are truly awesome to view!

Here's a link to the post. Unfortunately, some of videos have been removed by the various rights-holders since the post was originally published four years ago. (Also, the list of songs in the Motown Jukebox falls short of the 89 #1's, as they are only the #1 songs for the Motown labels. Not included are chart-toppers Russ worked on for other labels, with artists the likes of ISAAC HAYES, NATLIE COLE, ROBERTA FLACK, THE ISLEY BROTHERS and WHITNEY HOUSTON).
The Motown countdown was quite an impressive list to be sure ... and an impressive percentage of the hits on the list from 1966 or later (including the top 2 all-time greats) were recorded and mixed by the quiet giant of the Hitsville control rooms, RUSS TERRANA, the MOTOWN SOUND MAN.
The Forgotten Hits Motown countdown inspired me to call my old buddy Russ to catch up on what's been going on in his life lately. (He's happily retired now, thank you very much.) I asked him for a story that I could pass on to the FH family. He said he had a good one ... about his first recording session as a paid engineer and the first session he worked for Motown, both of which were back in 1966! "That'll work," I said, and clicked the "record" button on SKYPE. He then told me the cool story. The best part was when he told me the about the artists and songs that were recorded at the sessions, and who all was there!
I'm in the process of finishing the story now, and I'm sure ya' all will enjoy it. Stay tuned for this one in the days to come, exclusively, here on FORGOTTEN HITS ... where the greatest memories are NEVER forgotten! 

Bring it on, Joe ... we'd love to feature that as a follow-up piece!  (kk)  

Hey Kent,  
I don't know the name of the cave I've been hiding in, but I just found out about these guys from this video that a good friend sent me.  Since your theme this week is about R&B Motown hits, I thought it would be an appropriate time to send it to you.
- John LaPuzza

They've been around for a few years now ... some good friends of ours went to see them a couple of years ago and were absolutely blown away by their on-stage talent.  There are a few of these acts out there now that make ALL of the magic happen with their voices ... and these guys are amongst the best.  (kk)  

Well Done Kent,
Once again you provide proof (the Motown Top 100 of the 60's) that our generation enjoyed the Golden Age of musical entertainment, I have often had friendly arguments that 'country' was / is part of our musical memories ... some would exclude it from the 'popular' oldies songs, but it is undeniable that all the great Country tunes added another facet to our musical entertainment.
Am I getting ahead of myself? Are you readying a similar Top 100 countdown of those songs from the 60's?
The leading hits these past couple of years (my limited exposure through the kids) seem to be peppered with country themed songs. I've heard it said that Country is the New Rock 'N Roll for the younger generation, so a compilation of the top country hits of the sixties would confirm that Country holds its own place in our musical fabric.
Have a great Holiday weekend,
I hadn't really planned on a Country Cross-Over Countdown ... but there is no question that this music was more easily embraced back then before musical segregation took its hold on radio.  It wasn't at all uncommon to hear artists like Glen Campbell or Roger Miller or Johnny Cash on The Top 40 stations back in the '60's ... and all of them scored MAJOR pop hits.  "Borderline" tracks like "Ode To Billie Joe" or some of the Kenny Rogers and the First Edition stuff wouldn't have a CHANCE of getting airplay today on the pop stations ... yet it sounded perfectly in-sync with what we were listening to at the time.  (How about a track like "Skip A Rope" by Henson Cargill, a one-hit wonder that was one of my absolute favorites when it hit the charts in 1967!)  kk

Motown: The Musical is coming to Chicago ... official ticket information wasn't on the website yet ... but this is supposed to be a GREAT show.  More details as they become available.  (kk)

Great Motown countdown.  Congrats. 
Here's the original band track to the # 1 song "I Heard It Through The Grapevine", as recorded by The Funk Brothers WITHOUT Marvin Gaye's lead vocal but with the background singers.
It's from a series of stereo CDs that Motown licensed to the Singing Machine Company for Karaoke fans.
Everybody sing along now ... and uh one-and uh two ...
Doug Thompson in Toronto

Thanks, Doug, awesome track!  (I kept waiting for The California Raisins to come in!  lol)  Think about it ... a smash for Gladys Knight AND Marvin Gaye ... a Classic Rock staple for Creedence Clearwater Revival (heard it earlier today in fact) ... a VERY successful ad campaign (and minor hit record) for The California Raisins ... guess you could say this song had "legs" ... and to think that Berry Gordy, Jr. originally didn't want to release Marvin's version ... it sat in the can for a couple of years!  Shows you that even an absolute musical genius gets it wrong every now and then.  (kk)  

Hey Kent,
Here are a couple more Motown rarities for Forgotten Hits that I think your readers will enjoy.  
From your Motown Countdown, the # 5 song: "I Can't Help Myself", sung in Italian by The Four Tops ... as well as the # 4 song: "Where Did Our Love Go", sung in German by Diana Ross & The Supremes.  
Doug Thompson in Toronto

In hindsight, it's pretty amazing that these foreign-language recordings were as common place as they were in the '60's.  Even the BIGGEST name acts (right on up to The Beatles) recorded special versions of their songs in other native tongues for marketing in other countries.  Nearly as quickly as it started, it was over ... and the hit version became the INTERNATIONAL hit version ... so it's cool to hear artists like The Supremes, The Four Tops, Gene Pitney, Lesley Gore, Neil Sedaka and others phonetically make their way through their latest hit in an effort to capture an even larger worldwide audience!  (kk)

I stumbled upon your blog recently while searching for a label scan. Just what I needed, an addition to the thousands of other music blogs in my bookmarks. :D
I'm a retired, old school radio jock that started working on AM back in the late 70's. I left radio in 1998 after the "Let's Ruin Radio Act of 1996" went into effect. Born in 1962, my love for radio and music was something I was born with. I can remember the radio from when I must have been an infant in diapers. I remember songs from the pre-Beatles invasion when they were new. My mom said my first word was MOTOWN and I self-taught myself to read record labels by the time I was three. I was literally collecting records by the time I started kintergarden! I knew when I was four that I wanted to be a DJ.
I now run a part 15 FM station as a hobby. You can't take radio out of your blood. Twenty years of being a DJ and engineer just doesn't go away because you're no longer working in radio. I love these oldies blogs because sometimes I find songs that I totally forgot about, hunt them down and add them to my rotation. I'm at over 9000 songs now, from the 40's to currents. Most of my tracks are ripped from my vinyl collection. I have turntables all over the house. Thankfully, my wife loves music too and doesn't mind that there occasionally will be old records soaking in the bathroom sink.
I had my first shortwave radio when I was six, thus I have a ton of international hits that never made it to the US radio dial. 
I just looked over your top 100 Motown songs and thought where's "Up the Ladder to the Roof" on this list. Then, I remembered ... "DUH that was 1970 ya idjit!" I look forward to a Top 100 Motown hits of the 70's very much.
Well, thank you for giving me still another timesink to keep up with! Great blog! 
Eddie Husak
LOL ... welcome aboard, Eddie!  Being new, you're not aware that this Motown Countdown was part of our 60 Day Salute to the '60's ... so there are no plans (right now anyway) to do a Top 100 Motown Hits of the '70's Countdown ... although you MIGHT be able to persuade me!  (lol)  The label gave us some GREAT music from that decade as well.
Browse around a bit ... you'll find ALL kinds of great memories here.  And, if you've got a "Listen Live" link you'd like us to pass along, please send that as well.  Our readers are ALWAYS looking for more variety during their listening day.  (kk)  

Hi Kent,
Noticed on your Motown Countdown that the Supremes were like the "Beatles of Motown" as they had 6 songs in the Top Ten and 10 songs in the Top Twenty!
Tim Kiley
I think some people forget just how enormously popular The Supremes were.  (Hard to believe that their labelmates ever referred to them as "The No-Hit Supremes"!!!)  Because once they started charting, they put together an AMAZING run ... five straight #1 Records ("Where Did Our Love Go", "Baby Love", "Come See About Me", "Stop! In The Name Of Love" and "Back In My Arms Again") plus eight more after that ("I Hear A Symphony", "You Can't Hurry Love", "You Keep Me Hangin' On", "Love Is Here And Now You're Gone", "The Happening", "Love Child" and "Someday We'll Be Together"), giving them THIRTEEN Pop Chart toppers overall.
And it wasn't just the kids who were buying these records ... The Supremes were packing the seats at clubs like the Copa during this era, too!  It seemed like a week didn't go by when you wouldn't catch them on some tv show singing their latest hit, modeling the latest fashions and hair styles.  They totally RULED the charts in the '60's.
For an even clearer picture of just how dominating The Sounds Of Motown were, check out this next observation!  (kk)

We all know that the Beatles held the top five spots on the Billboard Hot 100 the first week of April, 1964.  But how many of us know of Motown's achievement at the end of 1968 when three of its hits topped the chart four weeks running. 
"Love Child" bumped the Beatles and "Hey Jude" from the No. 1 position the last week of November.  Incredibly Motown's #2 song of the '60s stayed at that lofty peak for just two weeks.  That was because it was, in turn, bumped from No. 1 to No. 2 by Motown's #1 song of the decade, Marvin Gaye's "I Heard it Through the Grapevine." 
For three weeks in December, Motown records claimed the top three spots on the Hot 100 with those two songs plus "For Once in My Life" by Stevie Wonder.  Then as the new year dawned and "Love Child" dropped from the top 3, the Supremes with the Temptations stepped right up with "I'm Gonna Make You Love Me." 
What's interesting to me is that all four songs finished among the top 20 Motown hits of the '60s, reflecting a show of strength at a specific time of year similar to what the Beatles accomplished in April 1964. 

There were a couple of Motown tracks that we DIDN'T feature last week that I thought I'd throw into the mix today.  One of my favorite tracks is the original version of "Devil With A Blue Dress On" by Shorty Long.  We featured his goofy novelty track but Long did a REALLY nice, bluesy version of this song ... which is most likely where Mitch Ryder first heard it, growing up on the streets of Detroit.  It never made the national charts ... but is now one of my "undiscovered" Motown favorites.

And then I want to feature "Every Little Bit Hurts" by Brenda Holloway, the song that came in at #100 on our special Motown Countdown.  This was probably the most-requested song that we didn't feature according to our readers.  Brenda cut the early version of "You've Made Me So Very Happy" that would later top the charts for Blood, Sweat And Tears a few years later.

And finally, here's that great Gladys Knight and the Pips' version of "Tracks Of My Tears" that MF Ping raved about a few days ago in FH.

>>>OK, so I want to know how come the top ticket price in San Francisco is only $129.50 for the best seat in the house to see The Rascals ... but here in Chicago that same seat costs $275?!?!?  Jeez, for the $300 I'd save on two tickets, it would pay for my airfare to fly to California and see the show there!!!  That hardly seems fair, does it?!?!  (kk)

I love the Rascals ... but at 275 bucks I'd feel ripped off ... jeez, Burton Cummings and the Zombies with Rod Argent were nowhere close to that #!
Chet Coppock     

I agree that The Rascals tickets prices seem outrageously high -- and I really want to go -- this is most likely the last chance we'll ever have to see them -- and maybe that is what the promoters are banking on.  How are ticket sales going?  Are there a lot of $275 seats still available?
I've actually been monitoring this very closely ('cause I REALLY want to go!!!)  I feel the same way ... this is our one and only last chance to see them ... and it's supposed to be an INCREDIBLE show.  While the expensive main floor seats were readily available a week ago, they are becoming harder and harder to find.  (Damn!  Maybe we shouldn't have talked about it as many times as we have!!! lol)  So SOMEBODY out there is shelling out big bucks to see these guys.  Somehow, someway, we WILL find a way to get to this concert ... and honestly, even a balcony seat for the multi-media show wouldn't be a bad deal.  (kk) How big is this show?  It's headed BACK to Broadway!!!  

Last week The Rascals made headlines again when they booked a return visit to Broadway (they'll be appearing at The Marriott Marquis Theatre this time around ... last year the show debuted at the Richard Rodgers in its original run.)

Rascals Headed Back to Broadway  

When Steven Van Zandt first floated the idea of a Rascals reunion that included a combination of performances and multi-media history, the members weren't sure there would be an audience. They were obviously wrong.

The reformed Rascals are coming off of a U.S. tour of that show, Once Upon a Dream, that was proceeded by a short run on Broadway, all due to the vision of Van Zandt. In an interview with Billboard, member Eddie Brigati said "He had vision. Basically the key word for Steven is management. He was the umpire, the manager. He had the intelligence, the will, the expertise and he did more in three years, in my opinion, that most professionals did in the last 40." Felix Cavaliere added "He has created a new idea, a multimedia event with a script. If we had just gone out there like a (reunited) band, we surely couldn't have done Broadway. I was impressed with how we did there and I became a believer." Not only did the band do Broadway, they are going back starting December 16 at the Marriott Marquis Theatre (it played the Richard Rodgers in its original run). Tickets will go on sale soon.  

Billboard Magazine also ran an in-depth piece on the band this past week, including recent interviews with all four band members ... Click here: The Rascals Q&A: On Returning to Broadway and the Genius of Steven Van Zandt | Billboard  

Rolling Stone ran a spotlight on The Rascals this week, too ... they're everywhere! They're everywhere!!!  http://www.rollingstone.com/music/news/steven-van-zandt-and-the-rascals-still-chasing-a-dream-20131008  

I've got to tell you ... when I see all the MAJOR press these guys are getting for this reunion ... television, radio, Billboard Magazine, Rolling Stone Magazine, newspapers from coast to coast ... I feel absolutely TRULY blessed to have been able to interview Felix Cavailere for Forgotten Hits BEFORE the group had even held their first rehearsal for these new shows.  Absolutely AMAZING!!!  If you HAVEN'T already seen it, you can catch it here:   Click here: Forgotten Hits: EXCLUSIVE: Forgotten Hits Interviews Felix Cavaliere About The Up-Coming Rascals Reunion    

Kent -    
I saw "Once Upon a Dream" on Broadway back in April, took note of the songs (all but one) and wrote a little review that I shared with some friends.  Feel free to use if so inclined.   Best,   Arnie     I'll try not to gush too much, but "The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream" was just superb. Steve and I were amazed by how well Eddie and Felix's voices have aged, Gene's guitar playing seems to have gotten better, and Dino Danelli's drumming is as rich and in the pocket as ever. The songs were always great and they've aged incredibly well, like those performing them. Solid backup musicians and interesting film interviews with the group, as well as a number of filmed vignettes with actors (Steve Van Zandt's wife, and his co-producer, Maureen among them) to fill in some of the holes. This is about the music, of course, but it's also about the soul and the heart ... the high hopes of the Sixties which we continue to pursue, and the usual sub-plots in which friends blaze a path to musical stardom and wind up losing the friendship and purpose that brought them together. At least in this case, they seem to have reclaimed it. Great line towards the end from Eddie Brigati about how the group never violated its "emotional contract" with the audience. True that, as they might say today. Below, the song list, minus one tune of a rather psychedelic vintage that I couldn't identify. Every other song? You could name that tune in one note.    

The Rascals: Once Upon a Dream    
Richard Rodgers Theatre, New York, 
April 24, 2013

 1.  It’s Wonderful

 2.  I’ve Been Lonely Too Long

 3.  What Is the Reason

 4.  You Better Run

 5.  Carry Me Back

 6.  Slow Down

 7.  Mickey’s Monkey / Love Light

 8.  Come On Up

 9.  Baby Let’s Wait

10.   Too Many Fish in the Sea

11.  If You Knew

12.  Hold On

13.   I Ain’t Gonna Eat Out My Heart Anymore

14.   Good Lovin'

15.   Love Is a Beautiful Thing

16.   Groovin’

17.   Do You Feel It

18.   Unknown (but quite good!)

19.   A Beautiful Morning

20.   Sueno

21.   Find Somebody

22.   A Girl Like You

23.   It’s Love

24.   How Can I Be Sure

25.   People Got to Be Free

26.   Heaven

27.   A Ray of Hope

28.   See (encore)  

Because of the multi-media aspect of the show, The Rascals can't really alter the set list at all ... as such, I can pretty much assure you that song #18 was "Away, Away", which comes from their "See" album ... and was quite possibly a request from Steven Van Zandt, who has made no secret of the fact that "See" is his all-time favorite Rascals track!
Seems that some of the best musicals of late are coming from the pop and rock charts.  There's been a big push here in Chicago for the new "We Will Rock You" musical, featuring the Queen catalog.  Of course we've also got The Motown Musical headed our way.  And here's a mini-review of the new Carole King musical playing in San Francisco.  (kk)    
Beautiful, the Carole King Musical, is terrific. Now playing at the Curran in SF.  Jessie Mueller is perfect as Carole. Goffin & King, Mann and Weil:  what great songs.  It is a juke box musical with very short exposition and it's off to another hit.  Book written by Douglas McGrath.  He's no slouch.  Jessie and girls sing Natural Woman and I swear it's an equal to Aretha.  Not like hers, not surpassing hers, but equal (I think).
Charlie Miller  
KPOO Autumn King

Imagine my shock when I went to your website this morning to view The Sunday Comments and instead found naked boobs in their place!  Of course then I realized that those boobs belonged to Iz Kamakawiwo'ole and that you had substituted your usual weekly feature for a look at "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" instead.  Interesting observation and, while I hadn't noticed it before, you DO seem to be correct ... I can't think of the last time I've heard this song sung with the original melody.    
It DOES seems to have been permanently changed, doesn't it?  I tried to think of another song that perhaps went through a similar reinvention and I think I found one.  
YEARS ago we covered the evolution of "Unchained Melody" in Forgotten Hits. A hit several times in 1955 after a short snippet was featured in the unremarkable film "Unchained", the melody itself is unchanged (unchanged / unchained ... cool!)  But the pacing was radically altered when The Righteous Brothers cut their version ... and thanks to that INCREDIBLE interpretation by The Righteous Brothers in 1965, this song, too, has been completely and forever changed ... and (probably because it's what we're all most familiar with) seemingly for the better.  But I can't help but wonder if, at the time, there wasn't perhaps some similar outrage that "Hey, dude ... you're messin' with my melody!!!"   Meanwhile "Rainbow" has successfully charted seven times during the Rock Era (1955 - 2012), most recently for The Cast of "Glee" (#44, 2010) and Katherine McPhee (#12, 2006).  The Demensions did a nice doo-wop version in 1960 that reached #16.   On the other hand, "Unchained Melody" has made no less than FOURTEEN chart appearances during this same timeframe, including Top Ten charters for Les Baxter (as an instrumental, #1, 1955), Al Hibbler (#3, 1955), Roy Hamilton (#6, 1955) and The Righteous Brothers (#4, 1965 ... and part of our recent "May The 4's Be With You" Countdown that we put together for the Sirius / XM '60's Channel.)  The Righteous Brothers own THREE of those fourteen chart appearances, thanks to the song's use in the film "Ghost", which inspired a re-release of the original version (#13, 1990) as well as a newly recorded version that peaked at #19, 1990.  Other notable versions include those recorded by Elvis Presley (1977), Heart (1981) and LeAnn Rimes (1996) as well as the God-Awful up-tempo doo-wop version by Vito and the Salutations that is guaranteed to make you cringe every time you hear it.  (Which, thankfully, isn't very often ... since they seem content to play The Righteous Brothers' 1965 version eight times a day instead!)  kk

'60's FLASHBACK:   Way back in 2007, shortly after our Phil Spector Series (put together by FH Reader Steve Knuettel) ran, a bit of a controversy erupted regarding who actually produced The Righteous Brothers' hit version of "Unchained Melody" in 1965.   Often regarded as one of Phil Spector's greatest productions, there is a VERY distinct possibility that this track was, in fact, produced by Bill Medley!  See, back then Spector was only interested in producing the A-Sides of his records ... and he was absolutely CONVINCED that "Hung On You" would be a major hit.  So, in what amounted to not much more than "throwing his artists a bone", he allowed Medley to produce the B-Sides of all of The Righteous Brothers' records.   But "Unchained Melody" became a surprise hit.  The intended B-Side quickly surpassed the intended A-Side, rising to #4 on the Billboard Chart (while "Hung On You" never climbed any higher than #47!)   Finally, to set the record straight, we went right to the source himself ... and Bill Medley exclusively told Forgotten Hits:    
Hi Kent, 
You have the story right. Phil would produce the singles and I would produce the album material.  "Unchained Melody" was never intended to be a single. As such, I produced it.
You have to remember that I was producing our stuff before Phil Spector ... I mean I produced "Little Latin Lupe Lu", "My Babe" and all that stuff. Then when we went with Phil, Phil asked me if I would produce the albums because it was too time consuming for him to produce the entire albums. So he was gonna do the singles and I would do the album. And so that's how that happened and that's how I produced "Unchained Melody," which Phil Spector apparently now takes credit for. He can have the credit. And I'm not a producer. I know how to produce. But it's obviously not a Spector production.  "Unchained Melody" was never intended to be the single ... it was produced to be on the album. It was put on the B side of a Phil Spector single "Hung On You" and the minute it was released "Unchained Melody" just went through the roof. 
--Bill Medley  

Hey Kent, 
It's just not the same, when I watch "The Wizard of OZ", these days. I can't get out of my mind a couple things that happened during the making of the most watched movie of all time. For one, my love of the Scarecrow character has changed when I read that Ray Bolger, who was originally cast as the Tin Man, pulled a power play with MGM, and pushed Buddy Ebsen from his role as the Scarecrow, to the Tin Man. Later Ebsen had to drop out, as he had a terrible reaction to the silver makeup. Talk about getting the shaft, twice.  Another thing I read was that when Judy Garland sang "Over the Rainbow", she had to deal with the rancid smell of Toto's fur and breath. Garland said that she had the really concentrate to keep from vomiting during the filming of the song. I also read that the nicest person on the set was Margaret Hamilton, who played the Wicked Witch of the West! 
- John LaPuzza
LOL ... holding her breath to avoid the Toto stench while trying to sing a moving version of "Over The Rainbow" was only HALF the battle ... her boobs were also heavily taped down to her chest so as to make her appear more "15-year-old looking" on camera!  Yet she STILL managed to pull off an incredible, landmark rendition!  (kk)   

Hi Kent,   
Well I hope the authors still get their cut since folks are destroying the melody IMO. I think I was one of the few that didn't care for the Uke version in the first place. Neat Idea, but why change the melody? I have seen that a lot on tribute albums too. You can't pay tribute if you change the melody folks. Change the arrangement, style, do some improv, but the melody is sacred.  That Bridge section is very very melodic, and the one used these days is a dummied down version and not nearly as pretty.  OK I'll stop now. <grin>     

I liked your words about "Over the Rainbow". It does seem to me that no matter who sang it or how they did it ... it still conveys that haunting, what if feel. Based on the samplings that you provided I would have to say that Judy's is still and always will be my favorite. It is pure and simple and she was sweet and vulnerable. My second favorite would have to be Katherine's. Beautiful woman, beautiful voice and for me somewhat similar to Judy's version with a little more power and range. Then I would have to go with Iz's. Just a cool refreshing twist on the song. I like Jason's but he changed the order of the lyrics and you just don't mess with that ... which leaves the last guy. I have to admit ... I have no idea who he is but not to worry ... I didn't like his version anyway.   Also ... I enjoyed the Motown Top 100 

Hi Kent - 
Regarding Over The Rainbow, may I submit the version that our band did in late 1967: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bezeZPGUqrE   
Regarding the Iz version: It certainly has character & style but for me, when someone never bothers to learn the right words & the right chords to a song, I wonder how much time they ever really spent on their music. 
Gary E. Myers / MusicGem   

Of course Judy Garland's version will always be the one that lives on! But I must say when I first heard Izzie's version, and I think it was in the movie 50 First Dates, I was totally blown away! Then when Jason Castro sang it on Idol, I remembered how much I loved it with the pop / hip hop infusion. Neil Diamond actually said when he heard UB40's version of his song Red Red Wine, he liked it much better than his own version. Why can't there be remakes that are equally as good as the originals? And why can't I love them equally as much??
I loved Iz's version, too, the first time I heard it ... still do ... and was TOTALLY blown away by such a unique and moving rendition ... but, as I said in my article, that should have stood alone as such ... why has every artist since felt the need to cut a cookie-cutter, carbon copy of Iz's masterful interpretation?  Why couldn't his simply stand alone for what it was?  (kk) 
Oh my!  After a day at work; and now it is Sunday night before I go back to the schoolroom, and you are making me think!  (brain burn)  Well, Kent, I would love to throw this one to the kids.  When you perform any song, you are instructed / expected to put yourself into that song and make it yours.  So, when does the individual artists' tastes and style become more important than the original words and music?  Or does it ever?  How about all the other remakes of songs through the years?  There are people who will latch onto a song in its fifth or sixth reincarnations.  Maybe they never heard it before or maybe they never liked it previously.  Does it even matter to anyone but the songwriters?  Does it even matter to them?  Did anyone ever ask Lennon & McCartney, Rogers and Hammerstein, Boyce and Hart, Carole King, etc. ...  
At this point in my life, as I present music through the ages in all its developmental stages, I feel that the version that grabs you and pulls at your heart makes it the one that can change your life to the better.  And changing your life to the better is what I dearly want for all those I teach.  
Shelley J. Sweet-Tufano

Enjoyed your Sunday Comments as usual. As far as the four artists whose you tubes you posted of their version of OVER THE RAINBOW, as well as Judy Garland's, one might say that each individual artist took their version to another DEMENSION. 
Larry Neal

Just my thoughts on Words and Music, Kent - 
Enjoyed your “What’s The Deal” / “Over The Rainbow” posting. I agree with much of what you said but I’m trying to be fair with the opinion of a 65 year old man and that of  The Younger Generations.  Trying also to separate the words from the music is a very hard task in determining what really gives a song it’s staying power and makes it a song for all times. I guess the fact that it has been revisited for so many years as in the case of “Over The Rainbow” makes it even harder to identify the importance of the melody versus the lyrics. 
After watching the videos I must admit that the intro by American Idol’s Jason Castro says he had the original intent of the lyric in mind. In the case of Cliff Richard’s, I'm sure that at his present age this is the only rendition he could handle. If someone should be ticked off, it should be the lady or gentlemen who wrote the beautiful melody to “What A Wonderful World”. Richard’s made it sound like just an additional verses of “Over The Rainbow”.  
It took me many years to appreciate listening to Fred Astaire singing The Great American Songbook. For years I never knew why The Gershwin's, Cole Porter & Irving Berlin favored many of the renditions Astaire did to their classic words & music. I always thought he couldn't hold a candle to Sinatra, Crosby & Como when it came to interpreting a great song. I now admit I was wrong and that there was always room for many great renditions. 
If I had to pick what primarily makes “Over The Rainbow” such a classic I don’t feel I could put more importance on the lyrics or the melody. I must admit that I’ve never been one who could read poetry but I’ll take an Ira Gershwin or Oscar Hammerstein written words over any book of poetry. I’m just not sure if it’s the written word has as much to do with  a songs shelf life.  
I agree with your take on this subject, Kent, and I’m sure the Arlen family would and should be pissed. If it were another song which was given new life, I’m sure it would be not as significant as someone altering “Over The Rainbow”.   It’s ironic that a 16 year old Dorothy Gale (Judy Garland), who was displeased over an argument she had with a nasty old neighbor lady, could take a song and interpret a lyric which could be felt by people of all ages till the end of time. For Garland’s efforts she received a juvenile Oscar and her signature song till the day that she died.  The song had much more significant meaning as her life’s ups and downs went on.  
In closing, I feel that no matter how “Over The Rainbow” is altered as long as you have Kathleen McPhee’s, Willie Nelson’s, Tony Bennett's and many other great artists to  offset the likes of the Glee cast, Cliff Richards & Israel Komakowiwo’ole. In defense of Israel, I doubt if he could have done it any other way. Give a listen to Rod Stewart, Sting & even Family Guy’s Seth MacFarlane’s take on The Great American Songbook and you’ve got to feel that Harold Arlen’s original indent and interpretations will stand the test of time.  

Hi There, Kent - 
Furvus of The Fifth Estate here ... and when you are talking Wizard of Oz tunes I'm in, although we are basically a rock and roll band so go figure. 
Your question in your post is very good about the original Over The Rainbow vs. the newer versions of it and what the original composers Harold Arlen and E. Y. Harburg or their families think of it and it's effect on the credibility of the original material.  In some way I may be able to shed just a little light on this. 
As you and many of your readers probably already know, I'm the drummer on the international hit Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead from the same movie. BUT we changed that one some, too.  Our arrangement is a little different from the original and we added the Michael Praetorius solo section.  As far as I know, it is still the highest charting version of all time of ANY Wizard Of Oz tune.  That includes all the versions of Over the Rainbow you had in your post.  Katherine McPhee came somewhat close with Rainbow - but no cigar!!  Heh, Heh!!!  
As to your question about the Arlen family, etc. - well, Harold Arlen did the liner notes for our first album when it came out and he liked it VERY MUCH, in spite of the substantial changes. Probably especially the fact of all the $$ he would receive on it again!  Although seriously I'm sure if he felt it was going to hurt his legacy or diminish his work in any way, he would not have been so cooperative and probably could have even stopped us legally, as we did check with him in advance.  You see, especially in those days - as now it's just the wild West - but then there were rules which mattered and people very often enforced them.  So if the writers or their families really wanted to, they could have done something about the newer versions of the Over The Rainbow song, too, probably.  Nobody has the right to change the melody or words still without the writer's permission. 
But frankly a little change, a little modernization maybe now and then so long as the original writers get the credit and it keeps their material alive and in the mind of the public now some 80 years after it was written is not at all bad from anyone's point of view I wouldn't think.  I'll take that every time!! 
Just some news on The Fifth Estate band.  We now have been offered a release as a VINYL 12" plus big insert spread of 14 of our early pre Ding Dong period pop / rock and rock and roll tunes.  It will be called I Wanna Shout!  AND I am, because this is an album we should have had out in 1964 / 65 and we are thrilled it is now going to get a chance this way as VINYL! (We are really vinyl people.  I still have three machines up and running at my place.)  
But there is also more news.  Our Time Tunnel album, which we did with Shel Talmy and had independently released last year, has done well enough and was thought of good enough that Fuel 2000 / Universal Music Group has picked it up as a major release now. Both of these will be out ASAP and probably by the first of the year ... maybe even sooner.  Our Fifth Estate - Anthology 1 was put out last year by Fuel / UMG and is doing very well also. Watch our website for info on new releases  http://thefifthestateinfo.com/   
Also the movie The Fifth Estate will be released soon as well.  No, no that one is not about us the band. YET!!! It's about Wikileaks. 
BUT our new album is to now be retitled to TAKE THE FIFTH and will have two new tunes on it and probably feature one called Liar's Dance, which relates a lot to the current movie.  Many of our lyrics already had relation to many of these issues.  
One other note - for anyone who heard about Ding Dong! The Witch Is Dead being #1 or #2 on the British charts again this past Spring ... that one was NOT ours either.  That was the original Garland piece.  We wanted nothing to do with that as they used that song in relation to Margaret Thatcher's death.  You see to us that song really, really had nothing at all to do with death or witches, but rather it was the complete opposite.  It was about having lived through something very trying and survived and conquered that
even and was completely about then being on to a positive new day with a great positive feeling.  The people who talk about death and witches with that song just don't get it.  I wish they would stop and so does Harold Arlen, believe me!!! (Although I know there are those who love to have some fun with it in regard to past relationships, etc.!!!)  But anyway -  we look at it as a song of hope and looking to a bright new future -  it is that!
Ken Evans  
Hey Kent, 
Our group version of Rainbow at the backend of medley Heartlight / Over the Rainbow . We still use the original melody although with harmony.  Is that bad ? 
Gary Pike 

Jim Pike, Gary Pike and Ric de Azevedo sing a medley of Heartlight and Somewhere Over the Rainbow (a cappella) live in concert as a closer for their show ... Check their web site reunionthesingingroup.com (One g between singing and group)
I dunno ... sounds pretty darn good to me!  (kk) 

Hi Kent,
I'm certain I was just one of millions of kids throughout the 1960s who viewed the annual telecast of "The Wizard of Oz" as a major, major event.  As I recall, to view the entire three-hour presentation, it was the one Sunday-evening-school-night that I was allowed to stay up an hour late.  The film's brief big screen re-release in '61 or '62 was right up there with the NASA Mercury space shots for this then-four-year-old. And, of course, next to the flying monkeys (although that balance would shift over time), the scene that I lived for was Judy Garland's wistful performance of "Over the Rainbow."  In hindsight, that song and Garland's never-topped interpretation was probably a cornerstone -- maybe two -- of my ongoing love of music, and an added appreciation for compositions and performances that have that rare impact on the soul. I first heard Iz's novel re-working of the song during the episode of "E.R." that dealt with the death of the show's central character, Dr. Mark Greene.  Enormously effective in that context, I will forever associate that rendition with the TV show, and I would have been content to only hear that version of "Over the Rainbow" infrequently in the future.  A few years later, I dated a girl with a limited CD collection and she had a tendency to overplay Iz's version which, while brilliant, is a little maudlin.  And maybe it's just me, but I have trouble disassociating the recording with the demise of the fictional Mark Greene and the real tragedy of Iz's premature death. And in the years since -- like you, Kent -- I've grown tired of the endless performances of the song that reference Iz's interpretation, as opposed to new, artistic treatments of the melody or, perhaps best, a revisit of a melody that was truly perfect to begin with.  For me, it's become bad karaoke.  And aside from the liberal reinvention of Harold Arlen's tune in his medley of "Over the Rainbow" and "What a Wonderful World," Iz also messed up Yip Harburg's lyrics, something, I'm sure, that has not escaped a single one of us "old-schoolers."  I'm okay with that, it was a unique interpretation all the way around.  But it's not a mistake that should be perpetuated. In fact, I'll go as far as saying that all these boiler-plate re-creations of the re-worked "Over the Rainbow" are about as welcome as those aforementioned flying monkeys.  They truly strip the soul from the song. Don't get me wrong.  What Iz did with the song was indeed brilliant and unique.  I never would have believed that someone could so successfully re-invent "Over the Rainbow."  But that's it.  It's been done.  Just as Judy Garland, in all her subsequent re-recordings and performances of the song, never recaptured the poignancy of the original screen version of "Over the Rainbow."  And I have to agree, that surely is the Number One song of the past century.