Monday, July 15, 2019

1960's Favorite Female Singers and Songs

1965 Santa Maria, CA 
It's November 1964 and Petula Clark releases her single Downtown and by January, 1965 it is #1 on the U.S. Billboard charts.

A couple of years ago, I was talking to my mom who recalled 1965 and how she would pile my younger siblings- sister Stephanie, brother Steve, and myself into the car (no seat belts) and drive downtown. During this time, my mom was pregnant with our soon to be little sister Susan, born in May of that year. I loved going downtown with my mom as she would take us in different shops on Broadway or Main Street in Santa Maria, CA. Other times she would just leave us in the car to play while she did an errand, like run into the old W.A. Haslam department store. We would jump from the front seat to the back seat and back and forth, windows down and the car unlocked. It was a different time back then.

My mother would often take us into the Blue Chip Stamps store where she (and sometimes me) had licked and pasted the stamps into paper books, that were saved and accumulated to be later redeemed for merchandise at that store. I remember combing the store and making suggestions to mom for what I would like her to buy. She was way ahead of me as she would save for weeks or months to get that item she had in mind.

What struck me about this conversation so many years later was her fondness for the Petula Clark song Downtown and how it would be playing on the car radio or in the stores as she was shopping. It's a great memory for her to share with me, and last week our family celebrated her 84th birthday in Arroyo Grande, CA after a little shopping there. Mom, here's to you and your lifetime love for shopping in many different downtowns across the United States.

My love for music started around 1964 at age nine with the English invasion of pop, and American radio and television. 1964 is just one year after John F. Kennedy's assassination as our nation was ready for some new positive energy and rock 'n' roll surely delivered that year!

It is during this wave of male dominated bands, that women singers start to shine too. More songs were starting to be written for women. Songs featuring solo female singers, mixed duos, mixed groups featuring a female lead singer, mixed groups, and all female groups were popping up everywhere.

Warwick and Bacharach
One such writing pair that literally created a gateway for women in song were Burt Bacharach and his collaboration with lyricist Hal David. These two composed some of the most beautiful pop songs of the 1960's that most often featured a woman's voice.

His music is characterized by unusual chord progressions, influenced by his background in jazz harmony, and uncommon selections of instruments for small orchestras. Most of Bacharach & David's hits were written specifically for and performed by Dionne Warwick, but earlier associations (from 1957 to 1963) saw the composing duo work with Marty Robbins, Perry Como, Gene McDaniels, and Jerry Butler. Following the initial success of these collaborations, Bacharach went on to write hits for Gene Pitney, Cilla Black, Dusty Springfield, Jackie DeShannon, Bobbie Gentry, Tom Jones, Herb Alpert, B. J. Thomas, the Carpenters, among numerous other artists. He arranged, conducted, and produced much of his recorded output. Wikipedia

I then started thinking about another song writing pair Carole King and then husband, Gerry Goffin that delivered so many hits for many groups in the early-mid 1960's and before King became a superstar singer-songwriter herself in the 1970's. 

Ellie Greenwich
My friend, Paul Hobbs last week was telling me on a run at the beach how much he admired Ellie Greenwich as an all around singer-songwriter for many women singers in the 1960's. I then looked her up and dived into her collaboration with her then husband, Jeff BerryShe wrote or co-wrote "Be My Baby", "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)", "Da Doo Ron Ron", "Leader of the Pack", "Do Wah Diddy Diddy", and "River Deep – Mountain High", among others. Wikipedia

I then discovered that many of these talented writers worked around Bacharach and David with a host of other songwriting teams at the Brill Building in New York City during this magical time of music.

The Brill Building (built in1931) is an office building located at 1619 Broadway on 49th Street in the New York City borough of Manhattan, just north of Times Square and further uptown from the historic musical Tin Pan Alley neighborhood. It is famous for housing music industry offices and studios where some of the most popular American songs were written. It is considered to have been the center of the American music industry that dominated the pop charts in the early 1960s. Wikipedia

Laura Nyro
When I started this week's playlist, one of the first woman singer-songwriters that came to mind was Laura Nyro. She's one of those artists where her music is all over 60's radio whether sung by her or groups like The 5th DimensionBlood, Sweat and TearsThree Dog Night or Barbara Streisand. And, guess who also worked at the Brill Building, yes Laura Nyro was right there too!

I assume most of us have a great long-term radio memory as we listened and soaked up songs like a sponge. It's amazing when you hear a song after a long absence, the emotions of the past associated with the song comes pouring out. That is how I felt in putting this 60's women's playlist together and I'm thinking there's several here that will do the same for you.

One song that just rings a sponge of tears for me is Bacharach & David's Alfie. I don't know why this song effects me so, but I first heard the Dionne Warwick version on radio that just calls to me from my youth. I read that it's Bacharach's favorite song of all his songs. Alfie has a perfect blending of masterful lyrics and melody that simply pulls the emotions right out of your soul.

What's it all about, Alfie?
Is it just for the moment we live?
What's it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?
Are we meant to take more than we give
Or are we meant to be kind?

And if only fools are kind, Alfie
Then I guess it's wise to be cruel
And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie
What will you lend on an old golden rule?
As sure as I believe there's a heaven above, Alfie
I know there's something much more
Something even non-believers can believe in

I believe in love, Alfie
Without true love we just exist, Alfie
Until you find the love you've missed you're nothing, Alfie
When you walk let your heart lead the way
And you'll find love any day, Alfie
Alfie ...

Enjoy the women and their songs my friends in this exceptional period of songwriting and singing.


1 comment:

  1. Doug:
    You do such a nice job of making it personal and providing good background information. Your blog is evocative of what many of us lived. I remember shopping downtown Santa Maria in the old J.C. Penny store with wooden floors until it move South of town to the first mall that I remember. Bill

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