Category: Music

RIP: Irene Cara

Irene Cara passed away yesterday at the age of 63.  No cause of death was given.

Irene Cara was an actress, singer and song writer.  Although her performance in Fame made her a household name, Ms. Cara had been a performer since she was a little girl.  When she was three years old she was one of five finalists for the “Little Miss America” pageant.  She studied music and dance.  While still a child she performed on The Original Amateur Hour, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson and became a regular on PBS’ The Electric Company.

Irene Cara would go on to appear on stage in Broadway productions (and some off-Broadway plays as well).  She became a regular cast member of Love of Life.  This was followed by starring roles in the feature films  Aaron Loves Angela and Sparkle.  Television called and Irene Cara made guest appearances on Kojak and What’s Happening!!.  Next came roles in Roots: The Next Generation and Guyana Tragedy: The Story of Jim Jones.

Irene Cara became an international superstar with her role in Fame.  Ms. Cara was originally cast as a dancer, but her role was re-written once producers heard her voice.  Irene Cara sang the title song, Fame as well as the movie’s other single, Out Here on My Own.  In addition to the singles and soundtrack selling in the millions, both songs were nominated for an Academy Award.  Irene Cara became one of the few singers to perform more than one song at an Oscar ceremony.

Based on her performance in Fame, Iren Cara received Grammy Award nominations for Best New Artist and Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.  She also received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Motion Picture Actress in a Musical. She was crowned Billboard’s Top New Single Artist, Cashbox Magazine’s Most Promising Female Vocalist and Top Female Vocalist.  When a Fame television show was announced, Irene Cara was offered the opportunity to reprise her role, but declined.

In 1983, she co-wrote (with Giorgio Moroder and Keith Forsey) and sang the title song for the movie Flashdance“Flashdance… What a Feeling” would go on to become another multi-million seller as well as winner of  the Academy Award for Best Song.  For her performance Irene Cara won the 1984 Grammy Award for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance, the 1984 Golden Globe Award for Best Original Song, and American Music Awards for Best R&B Female Artist and Best Pop Single of the Year.

Irene Cara would continue singing and acting for the rest of her career.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Iren Cara’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Robert Clary

Robert Clary, the actor best known as Corporal LeBeau on the popular television series, Hogan’s Heroes, has died.  Mr. Clary was 96.

Born in Paris, France, Robert Clary began singing professionally at the age of twelve!  When the Nazis invaded France, Robert Clary along with twelve other family members were sent to a concentration camp.  Mr. Clary was the only one to survive.

After the war, Robert Clary continued his singing career.  Some of his recordings were popular both in France and the U.S.  In 1949, Mr. Clary came to the United States.  He started getting roles on television and Broadway.

In 1965, Robert Clary began appearing on Hogan’s Heroes in the role that made him famous.  The series ran from 1965 – 1971.  In 1972, Mr. Clary was cast in a role on Days of Our Lives that lasted until 1987.  In 1990, he joined The Bold and the Beautiful in a part that lasted 43 episodes.

Other notable Robert  Clary appearances were in the feature film, The Hindenburg, as well as television guest spots on The High Chaparral, Love American Style. Fantasy Island and The Munsters Today,

Robert Clary always seemed to have a joy about him that made you smile.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Robert Clary’s family, friends and fans.

“Harlem on the Prairie” (1937) Starring Herb Jeffries / Z-View

Harlem on the Prairie (1937)

Director:  Sam Newfield, Jed Buell

Screenplay:  Fred Myton, F.E. Miller (additional dialogue)

Stars:  Herb Jeffries, F.E. Miller, Mantan Moreland, Consuelo Harris, Maceo Bruce Sheffield and Spencer Williams

Tagline:  KING OF THE JUKE BOX AND RADIO NOW SEEN IN FULL FEATURE!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Jeff Kincaid (Jeffries) is riding to the next town when he comes across Doc Clayburn’s (Williams) medicine show.  Kincaid joins them for dinner and a few songs.  Kincaid and Clayburn’s daughter, Connie (Harris) are obviously attracted to each other.  What no one knows is that outlaws have their eye on Clayburn.  Years ago, Clayburn ran with a group of bank robbers.  Clayburn was the only one who wasn’t killed and the outlaws want the gold he has hidden.  After some more songs and comedy from Crawfish (Miller) and Mistletoe (Moreland) things will come to gunplay when the outlaws attack.

Herb Jeffries was a popular singing radio star who decided to try acting.  Jeffries wanted to play a black singing cowboy leading man along the lines of Roy Rogers and Gene Autry.  Harlem on the Prairie is played straight (with some comedic moments) just like a Rogers or Autry film.  Jeffries riding a beautiful white stallion makes a serviceable lead.  Spencer Williams has great facial expressions telling more of his story without a word.  Mantan Moreland and F.E. (Flournoy Eakin) Miller provide comedy relief.  If you’re a fan of singing cowboy films, then give Harlem on the Prairie a shot.

Harlem on the Prairie earns 3 of 5 stars.

“Black and Tan” Starring Duke Ellington and Fredi Washington / Z-View

Black and Tan (1929)

Director:  Dudley Murphy

Screenplay:  Dudley Murphy

Stars: Duke Ellington and his Duke Ellington Orchestra, Fredi Washington, Edgar Connor, Alec Lovejoy and Arthur Whetsol

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Duke (Ellington) is an out of work jazz musician struggling to make ends meet.  When his girlfriend, Fredi (Washington) tells Duke that she’s scored them a job – her dancing and him with his orchestra, Duke reminds her that the doctor said she shouldn’t exert herself  because of her heart condition.  Despite the doctor’s warnings, Fredi is determined to perform since they need the money…

For a short, the film employs creative camera work.  We see many of the dances from the view of a mirrored floor.  As Fredi waits to perform and is feeling ill, we see the performers from her perspective.  Black and Tan was the film debut of both Duke Ellington and Fredi Washington.  Black and Tan was inducted to the National Film Registry in 2015.

Black and Tan earns 4 of 5 stars.

“Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues” – The Poster and Trailer are Here!

I’m diggin’ that poster and the trailer has me looking forward to checking out Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues.

You’ve heard his influential music, now hear his incredible story. Get to know Louis Armstrong through never-before-heard home recordings, archival footage, and personal conversations when Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues premieres October 28 on Apple TV+ https://apple.co/_BlackAndBlues_

This definitive documentary, directed by Sacha Jenkins, honors Armstrong’s legacy as a founding father of jazz, one of the first internationally known and beloved stars, and a cultural ambassador of the United States. The film shows how Armstrong’s own life spans the shift from the Civil War to the Civil Rights movement, and how he became a lightning rod figure in that turbulent era. With the full support of the Louis Armstrong Educational Foundation, the filmmakers have access to a treasure trove of rare archival materials, including hundreds of hours of audio recordings, film footage, photographs, personal diaries, and a life’s worth of ephemera for exclusive use in the first significant documentary dedicated entirely to his life.

Song: “Black and Blue” by The Wonderful World of Louis Armstrong All Stars, Nicholas Payton, Common https://apple.co/_BlackandBlue

Song: “(What Did I Do To Be So) Black & Blue” by Louis Armstrong https://apple.co/WhatDidIDo_Armstrong

RIP: Angela Lansbury

Angela Lansbury, star of stage and screen died on October 11, 2022.  She was 96.  Angela Lansbury was born in London.  Her father was a politician (who died when Angela was nine) and her mother was an actress.

Angela Lansbury became interested in performing while in high school.  Upon graduation she attended  the Webber Douglas School of Singing and Dramatic Art.  When Germany began bombing England in World War II, her family moved to the United States.  Ms. Lansbury continued her education at the Feagin School of Dramatic Art in New York City.

When her mother got a part in a theater group, the family moved to Canada. That’s where Angela Lansbury got her first professional performing job.  She was just 16 years old when she began performing professionally as a nightclub singer at the Samovar Club in Montreal.  She lied about her age to get the job.  When Angela’s mother decided to try to get into American motion pictures, the family moved to Hollywood.  It was there, through her mother that Angela met John Van Druten who had just completed a script called Gaslight.  Van Druten thought Angela would be perfect as the opportunistic maid.  He helped get Angela the role.  This led to a seven year contract with MGM.  Angela Lansbury was just 17.

Angela Lansbury would go on to have a career that spanned over 70 years.  She would appear on stage, television and feature films.   Her accolades include six Tony Awards, a Laurence Olivier Award. eighteen Primetime Emmy Awards, the Academy of Motion Pictures and Sciences Honorary Award, six Golden Globe Awards, three Academy Awards, and a Grammy Award.

Some of Angela Lansbury’s television appearances include:  Four Star Playhouse; Celebrity Playhouse; Studio 57; Climax; Playhouse 90; The Man from UNCLE; Magnum PI; Newhart; Murder She Wrote (264 episodes); Murder, She Wrote: South by Southwest (TV Movie); Murder, She Wrote: A Story to Die For (TV Movie); Murder, She Wrote: The Last Free Man (TV Movie); Murder, She Wrote: The Celtic Riddle (TV Movie); Law & Order: Trial by Jury; Law & and Order: Special Victims Unit.

Feature film appearances include: Gaslight; National Velvet; The Three Musketeers, Samson and Delilah, The Court Jester; The Long Hot Summer; Blue Hawaii; The Manchurian Candidate; The Greatest Story Ever Told; Bedknobs and Broomsticks; Death on the Nile and Mary Poppins Returns,

I first took notice of Angela Lansbury when I saw The Court Jester as a kid.  Another favorite role was when she Lawrence Harvey’s mother in The Manchurian Candidate.  She was just three years older than him!  Angela Lansbury’s talent knew know bounds.  She could sing as well as act in a career that lasted longer than most people live!

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Angela Lansburry’s family, friends and fans.

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The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie (2022) / Z-View

The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie (2022)

Director: Mark Moormann

Starring: Don McLean, Peter Gallagher, ‘Weird Al’ Yankovic, Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens, Jiles Perry “J.P.” Richardson Jr. aka The Big Bopper, Garth Brooks, Brian Wilson  and Tyson Fury

Tagline:  None.

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

In December 1971, Don McLean’s American Pie single was released.  It went to #1 and held that position for four weeks.  At the time it was the longest song (8 minutes and 42 seconds) to enter the Billboard charts.  At the time a single of that length was unheard of.  American Pie was a worldwide hit topping the charts in the UK, Australia, Canada, and New Zealand.  Fifty years later and people of all ages know the words to the song, but speculation runs rampant about their meaning.

Don McLean wrote the song as a musical poem open to interpretation.  While McLean admitted that “the day the music died” referred to the plane crash that killed Buddy Holly, Ritchie Valens and the Big Bopper, speculation was that the song also referenced the assassination of John F. Kennedy, the Beatles, the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Bob Dylan, political protests and more.  McLean would never confirm or deny the meaning of his lyrics.  He was quoted as saying, “You will find many interpretations of my lyrics but none of them by me … Sorry to leave you all on your own like this but long ago I realized that songwriters should make their statements and move on.”

The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie looks at the genesis of the song, it’s impact on the world and Don McLean shares the meaning of the lyrics.  I was in 7th grade when American Pie was released.  Everyone, including adults, were talking about the song and it’s meaning.

I enjoyed this documentary.  It was cool to see the struggle McLean had in getting the lyrics just right.  Then to learn (and see) that the producer and musicians knew that they had something special, but the recording session wasn’t working until.. (I won’t give it away),  While I’m glad that Don McLean has confirmed the things that inspired his lyrics, I’m taking the perspective that like all poetry, once it’s released, it is up to each individual to determine what the poem means to him/her.

The Day the Music Died: The Story of Don McLean’s American Pie earns 4 of 5 stars.

Michael Bublé’s Higher Concert at the Amway Center on August 10, 2022 / Z-View

Last night my wife and I attended Michael Bublé’s concert at the Amway Center in Orlando.  It was the second stop on his Higher tour.  I knew Bublé was an exceptional singer/song writer who specialized not only in classic songs by Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, the Bee Gees, and others, but also hits of his own creation.  Last night we got a great mix of both.

Yes, I knew MIchael Bublé could sing, but I didn’t know he was such a great showman.  Bublé was backed by an exceptionally talented big band orchestra and three amazing back-up singers.  Add to this a multi-media show (big screens projecting Bublé, the band/singers, and audience members – as well as video backgrounds), and a large walkway so he could come way out into the audience to perform.  Michael Bublé is at ease on stage whether he’s singing, dancing, telling jokes or a story.  He’s great at getting the audience to sing along and he loves to interact with fans.

I expected a fun night of great songs, but we ended up getting so much more.  If you’re a fan of this genre of music, then Michael Bublé is not to be missed.

Michael Bublé’s Higher concert at the Amway Center on August 10th earned 5 of 5 stars!

RIP: Olivia Newton-John

Olivia Newton-John, singer and actress, passed away yesterday after a long battle with cancer.  Ms. Newton-John was 73.

When she was just 14, Olivia Newton-John began singing professionally in small coffee shops.  Not long after she began  appearing on Australian television shows.  In 1965 she won a talent contest and the following year traveled to Great Britain where she recorded her first single, “Till You Say You’ll Be Mine”.  In 1971, Ms. Newton-John’s first solo album, If Not For You was released.  This was the first of 26 albums she would release over the course of her long career.

The mid-70s was a sweet spot for Olivia Newton-John.  She had ten number one singles including:  “I Honestly Love You” (1974); “Have You Never Been Mellow” (1975); “Please Mr. Please” (1975); “Something Better to Do” (1975);  “Let It Shine”/”He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” (1976); “Come on Over” (1976) and “Don’t Stop Believin'” (1976) .

In 1978, Ms. Newton-John co-starred with John Travolta in Grease which became the number one movie of the year.  The Grease soundtrack also went to number one and spawned three singles.  In 1980, Olivia Newton-John co-starred in the cult favorite Xanadu with Gene Kelly and Michael Beck.  Ms. Newton-John easily transitioned to making music videos (a relatively new art form at the time) and had one of the most popular with her “Physical” release.  For the rest of her career, Ms. Newton-John easily transitioned from acting to singing as she took on projects that interested her.  She was also an activist who supported environmental and animal causes as well as cancer research.

Our thoughts and prayers are with Olivia Newton-John’s family, friends and fans.

I Dood It (1943) / Z-View

I Dood It (1943)

Director:  Vincente Minnelli

Screenplay by:  Sig Herzig, Fred Saidy

Starring:  Red Skelton, Eleanor Powell, Sam Levene, Lena Horne, Jimmy Dorsey and His Orchestra and Butterfly McQueen

Tagline HAPPY DAYS AND SWEET MUSIC WITH RED SKELTON AND ELEANOR POWELL

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

By day Joseph Rivington Renolds (Skelton) works at a hotel’s dry cleaning shop.  By night, Renolds “borrows” a tux from the shop and attends a Broadway show.  It’s the same show every night because Renolds is in love with the show’s star, Constance Shaw (Powell).  Through a misunderstanding when Renolds and Shaw meet, she thinks he’s a mining tycoon.  They end up getting married!  Things become strained when the truth comes out and the stakes are raised when Renolds discovers a bomb hidden in the basement of the theater!

Red and Eleanor make a great couple.  Lena Horne performs!  Butterfly McQueen has a small role that I wish had been expanded.  Eleanor Powell performs a memorable dance with lariats that is worth the price of admission.  I Dood It rates 3 of 5 stars.

Lovely to Look At  (1952) / Z-View

Lovely to Look At  (1952)

Director:  Mervyn LeRoy

Screenplay by:  George Wells, Harry Ruby, Andrew Solt (additional dialogue) based on Roberta by Jerome Kern, Otto Harbach

Starring:  Kathryn Grayson, Red Skelton, Howard Keel, Marge Champion, Gower Champion, Ann Miller and Zsa Zsa Gabor

Tagline: One of the Grandest Romantic Musicals in Years!

The Overview:  Beware of spoilers…

Three buddies, Al Marsh (Skelton), Tony Naylor (Keel) and Jerry Ralby (Champion) are having no luck raising money to back their musical.  Their luck seems to have changed when Al gets a letter from France informing him that his Aunt died and left him 50% ownership in dress salon.  The boys go to France to sell Marsh’s percentage and use it for their musical.  That’s the plan until they meet Stephanie (Grayson) and Clarisse (Champion) the ladies who own the other 50%.

Lovely to Look At didn’t resonate with me.  The production numbers were okay, but not great.  Even Skelton’s bits felt flat.  For these reasons Lovely to Look At rates 2 of 5 stars.

RIP: Bob Rafelson

Bob Rafelson died yesterday at the age of 89 from lung cancer.

Mr. Rafelson was best known as a writer, director and producer.  Mr. Rafelson began his career in 1959 as a story editor on the tv series Play of the Week.  In 1962, Bob Rafelson began working as an associate producer for various movie and television production companies.  In 1965, Mr. Rafelson became friends with producer Bert Schneider and they formed Raybert Productions.  The first show that they sold was The Monkees!

The Monkees became an instant hit selling millions of records and won the Emmy Award for Outstanding Comedy Series!  Mr. Rafelson wrote, directed and produced many episodes of the series.  When the show ended, Bob Rafelson wanted to make a feature film with the group.  Mr. Rafelson and his friend, Jack Nicholson, co-wrote Head which starred The Monkees with appearances from Victor Mature, Teri Garr, Annette Funicello, Frank Zappa, Sonny Liston, Ray Nitschke, and Dennis Hopper.

Bob Rafelson’s next project was to produce Easy Rider starring Jack Nicholson and Dennis Hopper.  Mr. Rafelson followed that by producing and directing Five Easy Pieces. Bob Rafelson would go on to produce and direct for the remainder of his career.  Some of the films Bob Rafelson directed include: The King of Marvin Gardens, Stay Hungry, The Postman Always Rings Twice and Black Widow.

I was a huge Monkee fan and although I didn’t know it at the time, without Bob Rafelson, The Monkees would have never happened.  By all accounts, Bob Rafelson was a man who did what he wanted and was willing to take risks to see things done according to his vision.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Bob Rafelson’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Sonny Barger

Sonny Barger, one of the founding members of the Hell’s Angels, died yesterday from cancer.  Sonny Barger’s notoriety as a Hell’s Angels leader (including being part of the Rolling Stones security at the Altamont concert where Marty Balin of Jefferson Airplane was knocked unconscious and audience member Meredith Hunter was stabbed to death) brought him into the public eye.  Mr. Barger appeared several documentaries about the Hell’s Angels and other motorcycle clubs, three feature films, but is probably known for his reoccurring role on Sons of Anarchy where he played Lenny ‘The Pimp’ Janowitz.  Sonny Barger also wrote or co-wrote six books.

I first became aware of Sonny Barger through his leadership of the Hell’s Angels and the wild stories and documentaries about him/them.  His addition to the cast of Sons of Anarchy added a level of authenticity to the show.  I’ve read a couple of his books.  He lived his life as he wanted.  His final message posted on his Facebook page was:

If you are reading this message, you’ll know that I’m gone. I’ve asked that this note be posted immediately after my passing. I’ve lived a long and good life filled with adventure. And I’ve had the privilege to be part of an amazing club. Although I’ve had a public persona for decades, i’ve mostly enjoyed special time with my club brothers, my family, and close friends.

Please know that I passed peacefully after a brief battle with cancer. But also know that in the end, I was surrounded by what really matters: My wife, Zorana, as well as my loved ones. Keep your head up high, stay loyal, remain free, and always value honor. – Sonny

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Sonny Barger’s family, friends and fans.

RIP: Jim Seals

Jim Seals, one half of the mega-selling recording duo, Seals & Crofts, died yesterday at the age of 80.  No cause of death was given.

Jim Seals met Dash Crofts when both were in a Texas band called Dean Beard and the Crew Cats.  They later joined Glen Campbell in his band, Glen Campbell and the GCs.  After a couple of years the band broke up and everyone went their separate ways.  Seals and Crofts met up again when both joined a band called The Dawn-Breakers.

In 1969, Seals and Crofts decided to become a duo.  They had moderate success until their fourth album, which contained the single Summer Breeze (also the name of the album).  The single shot up the charts selling over a million copies and earning Seals & Crofts their first Gold Record. Hummingbird was another hit song from the album.

Diamond Girl was Seals & Crofts follow-up album and single proving lightning could strike twice. Diamond Girl became their second Gold record.  We May Never Pass This Way Again was another chart topper from the Diamond Girl album.

Seals & Crofts had two more big hits, I’ll Play for You and Get Closer.  In 1980, Seals & Crofts decided to take a break.  In 1991, Seals & Crofts reunited for a one year tour.  In 2004, Seals & Crofts came together to create their last album, Traces.

Jim Seals’ brother, Dan was better known as England Dan of the singing duo, England Dan & John Ford Coley!  From 2000 – 2008, Jim and his brother Dan toured under the name Seals & Seals.

I am a huge fan of Seals & Crofts (and England Dan & John Ford Coley for that matter).  I remember hearing Diamond Girl when I was a little kid out to eat with my grandparents and asking for juke box money to play the song again.  We May Never Pass This Way Again was the theme for one of the graduating classes when I was in high school.  Jim Seals’ music had a positive impact on my life and the lives of millions.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Jim Seals family, friends and fans.

RIP: Ken Kelly

Ken Kelly died yesterday at the age of 76.  No cause of death was reported.

After serving four years in the marines, Ken Kelly decided on a career in art.  He studied under his uncle, the legendary artist Frank Frazetta.  Ken Kelly’s first professional assignment was for Warren’s Vampirella magazine.  That assignment led to Mr. Kelly becoming one of Warren’s most popular and used artists.  Soon other magazine and book publishers were seeking out Ken Kelly to produce covers for them.  His art was especially suited to science fiction, horror and heroic fantasy.

Then in 1975, Mr.. Kelly was commissioned to create the cover for Kiss’ Destroyer album.  The popularity of the Destroyer cover opened up new opportunities.  Soon Ken Kelly’s art was in demand for more album covers, games, calendars, book & magazine covers and books solely dedicated to his art.

I’ve always enjoyed Ken Kelly’s artwork.  My favorites were his barbarian paintings. He made warriors that didn’t look like they’d just come out of the gym, but had instead spent time on the battlefield.

Our thoughts and prayers go out to Ken Kelly’s family, friends and fans.