Happy 100th birthday to the fabulous Bea Wain!

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Exactly to the date, five years ago – I wrote an article in honor of Bea Wains 95th birthday. You can read that one here:

https://stianeriksen.com/2012/04/30/bea-wain-happy-95th-birthday/

Most of what’s in that piece is still relevant, except that Bea herself now, today turns 100 years old. Her daughter has told me that she is in good shape and that they will actually celebrate her centennial.

Bea Wain is one of the great singers of our time, and I am sorry she did not keep on recording for a much longer time. This video of a 66-year old Bea (in 1983), clearly shows that she still had her voice, charm and looks intact:

 

The 1930’s truly was a golden decade for vocalists, and a lot of the guys & girls who started recording back then, have left us awesome legacies of great music. Not many are still around though; Vera Lynn turned 100 in March (and released a new album!), most of the others are gone by now, one of the most recent being Kay Starr who died last November at the age of 94.

I bow my head in admiration for Bea’s 100th birthday today – and I certainly bow again, for her totally wonderful contribution to the world of song. Any young singer out there who wants to learn all about phrasing, breath control, involving yourself in the lyrics you sing or how to make each performance unique; all you need to do is listen to Bea Wain – ’cause she’s the best! There will never be another one like her, and for ages to come she will stand as the perfect template to any and all singers of popular music!

Dear Bea: Wishing you the very best for your birthday and the days to come! With much love and admiration from your biggest fan in Norway. Mwah!!

 

 

Happy birthday to Vera and Jennifer!

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March is almost over, but during this month two very special musical personalities both celebrated landmark birthdays: Dame Vera Lynn turned 100 years old on March 20th, and on March 3rd the great Jennifer Warnes turned 70. As much as I would have liked to see the media flooded with tributes and congratulations, both dates were passed over sort of quietly, at least here on the north part of the globe.

Dame Vera Lynn: It somehow seems just right that Vera has gotten to celebrate her centennial – she definitely is one of the historic musical legends of our time. She made her first record “Up The Wooden Hill To Bedfordshire” in 1936 (yep, that’s 81 years ago!), and just released a new collection of music – making her the only artist ever to have a new album out at age 100. She is also just about the only person still alive, who made records back in the 1930’s. With the death of the great Kay Starr in November 2016, the only other 30’s singer I can think of who is still around, is Bea Wain, and she herself will turn 100 in April.

 

Dame Vera; assorted photos taken 1937-2017

 

Vera Lynn’s musical legacy is vast and varied, but we can safely say that she belongs in the category of classic pop singers. She started making albums way back when that format was still new, and she released new ones at least once a year up until the early 80’s. She has recorded many great songs by British composers, as well as dozens of American standards. Completely devoid of funk or rock influences, she has her own regal, British way of doing her material, all of it perfectly sung in that strong, golden alto voice. Her last albums saw her dipping her ladylike toes into more contemporary stuff, and she recorded songs made famous by Abba, Barry Manilow, Randy Crawford, John Denver and Helen Reddy. In the late 70’s she also made a country album in Nashville, which is quite enjoyable (but even then she still kept her British pronunciation, and thus words like “cahn’t” and “dahnce” jarr a little against the steel guitars and Nashville sound)

To me, Vera Lynn is a singer who has always been there. She was a favourite of my grandmother, she was still a contemporary singer when my mother was growing up, and she was often seen on TV during my youth. Her artistic achievements are too many to list, but it is still worth mentioning that she was the very first British female singer to top the US Hot 100 (in 1952 with “Auf Wiederseh’n, Sweetheart“), followed in the 60’s by Petula Clark and Lulu, and in the 70’s and 80’s also by Kiki Dee and Sheena Easton (and no; Shirley Bassey, Dusty Springfield and Cilla Black never had a US no. 1….)

With such an illustrious career to look back on, I am sure Dame Vera must be very happy when she now enters her 101st year. I certainly bow my head in honor of what she has achieved during the more than 80 years she has been active as a singer.

 

Jennifer Warnes: A totally different kind of singer is Jennifer Warnes. Next year will mark the 50th anniversary of her debut record, and whereas Vera Lynn has made so many albums you can’t count them, Jennifer has made just 8 (yeah, eight!). Her studio albums came out 1968, 1969, 1972, 1976, 1979, 1987, 1992 and the last one in 2001.

But it’s what on those 8 albums (and assorted singles) that really counts, and Jennifer Warnes’ career is still a great one. Jennifer reached the top of the US Charts twice in the 1980’s – both times as one part of a duo, both times with songs from a movie soundtrack, and both times with songs that are not on any of her 8 studio albums. The first one was of course the theme song from “An Officer & A Gentleman” titled “Up Where We Belong“, performed with Joe Cocker in 1982. Five years later she sang the theme from “Dirty Dancing” with Bill Medley, called “(I’ve Had) The Time Of My Life“.

 

Assorted photos of Jennifer, taken 1980’s – 2010’s

 

Despite the fact that she has been recording for almost 50 years, a lot of people don’t know who Jennifer Warnes is, which is a great pity – as she is supremely talented and her voice has a very special timbre which makes her easy to identify when you hear her sing. I would recommend any and all albums – and even the greatest hits collections that are out there. If you don’t know Jennifer Warnes, you better get acquainted very soon!

Some of her songs have become part of our musical history: “Right Time Of The Night“, “It Goes Like It Goes“, “Could It Be Love“, “First We Take Manhattan” (written especially for her by her former boss, Leonard Cohen) and her supreme cover version of the Waterboys’ “The Whole Of The Moon“.

Obviously content with not being a megastar who is always in the media, Jennifer instead has taken her time between each album, making sure that when a new one appears – it is filled with Grade A material! That said, I much prefer the Jennifer Warnes approach to a musical career, instead of all the pop tarts who are always in the media but can’t really sing, and are more famous for being famous than for any artistic qualities.

We can still hope that Jennifer will make new albums in the future – and if and when she does, you can bet it will be 100% pure pleasure to listen to!

A belated congratulation to both of these legendary Ladies of music!

 

Looking back at 2016….

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The first thing that strikes me when looking back at 2016, is that some of the stuff I said I was going to write about didn’t happen…. This is due to too much else going on, and thus some announced articles are still in the can, but will be published in due time.

The musical year 2016 has already been called the worst ever; nothing to do with records published but due to the fact that we have lost so many great talents these last 365 days.

January got off to a terrible start – when I woke up to the news that Natalie Cole has passed away last new years eve. During this year we lost musical greats such as David Bowie, Prince, Glenn Frey, Leonard Cohen and George Michael… The movie and entertainment business wasn’t spared either – during the last two weeks of December, three great ladies all left us: Zsa Zsa Gabor (at age 99), then Carrie Fisher and the next day her mother Debbie Reynolds….

 

Glenn Frey: Founding member of the Eagles and solo artist

Glenn Frey: Founding member of the Eagles and solo artist

 

I was especially heartbroken by news of Natalie, Glenn and George – they were all artists I have listened to for years, I own every record they ever made, and I am so sorry there will be no more music from any of them.

 

Gone way too early; George Michael (1963-2016)

Gone way too early; George Michael (1963-2016)

 

Despite growing up in the 1970s, I was never a big fan of sci-fi movies, and so I have actually never seen Star Wars, and my affection for Carrie Fisher is based on all other aspects of her career except Princess Leia. Her mother, Debbie Reynolds is much more up my alley – a classic pop singer who acted in movies, shows and made some really great records in the 50s and 60s.

 

Mother & daughter, they died one day apart: Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016) & Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

Mother & daughter, they died one day apart: Debbie Reynolds (1932-2016) & Carrie Fisher (1956-2016)

 

As for Zsa Zsa Gabor (1917-2016) – she’s in a league all of her own. Her beauty, quick remarks and her 9 husbands are all part of her legacy, she is a celebrity of the highest order, and known much more for being just that than for any of the many movies she appeared in.

 

The glamourous Gabors: Eva, Magda, mother Jolie and Zsa Zsa

The glamorous Gabors: Eva, Magda, mother Jolie and Zsa Zsa

 

She certainly has the genes of the rest of her family; her glamorous mother Jolie (1896-1997) lived to be a hundred. Her equally glamorous sisters Magda (1915-97) and Eva (1919-95) both lived long and gilded lives. These three sisters and their mother have made more headlines than any other acting family ever, and they continue to be a source of humour and joy years after their passing… They just don’t make’em like that anymore!

I hereby wish all my readers a Happy New Year – keep checking back in during 2017 also!

 

 

 

France Joli – A quick look at Canada´s premiere Disco Diva

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My last post on this site dealt with some fabulous disco records – all made in 1979. They were all more or less obscure one-off releases by some now forgotten acts and one by a never-to-be-forgotten-ex-Supremes diva, Mary Wilson.

Another great record appeared that same year, a single called “Come To Me”. I bought the single, performed by a beautiful young girl called France Joli. The song starts out with a ballad intro, then picks up steam and turns into a disco extravaganza. When I bought her debut album, “France Joli” I was happy to find a much more complete (i.e. longer) version of the song on it, lasting close to 10 minutes. Followed by the next song, “Let Go” which is almost the same length, I was dancing around the room and I was definetely an instant fan of this Canadian singer – who was all of 15 when this album was made! The album consists of only four songs, all made for dancing – and totally perfect for 1979!

F01

The first album, “France Joli” (1979)

 

Producer Tony Green (born as Antonio Di Verdis-Mazzone) had to strike while the iron was hot, and 1980 saw the release of another album, “Tonight“. Putting the ballad “This Time (I´m Giving All I Got)” out as the first single proved a wrong move, so more danceable stuff were put on the next singles; “Feel Like Dancing” and “The Heart To Break The Heart”.

Tony Green + F + Gene Leone 1979

Tony Green, France Joli and Gene Leone in 1979

 

Luckily, these last two songs confirmed that France was indeed a force to be reckoned with if you wanted to dance in the late 70´s.

F02

Her second album, “Tonight” (1980)

 

Her third album for Prelude Records, 1981´s “Now!” saw a slight shift in musical directions for France. Turning down the tempo a couple of notches, this record is a much more urban contemporary affair, and a style that suits Miss Joli´s smooth, silky, but still strong voice. My personal favourites from this album are “Gonna Get Over You” and “Can We Fall In Love Again”.

F03

Third album, “Now!” (1981)

 

When France Joli switched labels in 1983, from Prelude to Epic, I was certainly not prepared for the musical change that also took place. The album “Attitude” shows a completely new France, and even as great as she had been up to this point – she gets even better here! Ditching the disco sound completely, France works with Pete Bellotte and Giorgio Moroder and they created an absolutely stunning concoction of radio ready rock with a slice of synth pop and just a tiny bit disco. France herself sings in a new way too, showing off that she is one terrific singer – as she slides effortlessly over the fast paced rhythms, heavy drum machines and guitar solos. She also wraps her silky pipes around some really juicy lyrics, done in tongue twisting tempos.

F04

Fourth album “Attitude” (1983) – you didn´t see this one coming!

If comparable to anything else released in 1983, it has to be the albums Teri Tims and Tane Cain put out around the same time. These three albums by these three different singers form a category all their own, it might be labeled AOR – but it´s not quite that either. “Attitude” will forever stand as France Joli´s crowning achievement, and I consider it one of the best albums of the 1980s! Standout tracks are: “Nasty Love”, “Dumb Blonde”, “Girl In The 80s”, “Walking Into A Heartache” and “Standing In The Shadows Of Love”. If you want to own just one France Joli album – get this one!

1984 saw France participating at the Yamaha Music Festival in Japan, and she won the Grand Prix for her song “Party Lights”. That is no surprise as the George Duke-produced track is a stunner. He also produced her fifth and final album, “Witch Of Love” (1985). In addition to her Japanese winning entry, the albums opening track “Does He Dance” was put out on a single and gained some attention in the clubs. On this album France does one of her very few ballad performances, a beautiful version of Snow/Weils “Love Always Finds A Way”.

F05

The fifth of France, “Witch Of Love” (1985)

 

During the last 30 years, France Joli has done very little recording but a lot of live performing. She is an ever popular singer, appearing at festivals and disco shows to an always appreciative audience.

Her career may be based on her 1979 hit “Come To Me” – but the few years she spent making albums has left us with a portrait of an artist who deserves to be considered as much more than a “70s Disco Diva”. Personally, I am sorry she didn´t make more albums, as she had potential to be something much greater, judging from her 80s albums. One can always hope that some producer will re-discover her, and get her back into the studios! Talent always wills out in the end….

My personal thanks to the “tres jolie” Miss Joli, vive la France!

 

F 2015

France in the 2010s, on stage doing a fabulous show for the audience

 

 

 

Lesley Gore (is) “Someplace Else Now”

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Since her untimely death in February this year, a lot of stuff has been written and said about this truly magnificent 60´s pop icon. Much of it is praise for the fabulous singer she was, but she also gets much kudos for her songwriting and also her later engagement in the LGBT movement.

The title of her 1972 album pictured below has taken on another meaning now that Lesley is no longer on this earth….

 

Her 1972 album, "Someplace Else Now"

Her 1972 album, “Someplace Else Now”

 

When the album came out in 1972, the title had another meaning of course; it was a signal that Lesley had put her sunny girl-group style of pop behind her, and was heading in a new direction….

Artistically, it bears little resemble to her sixties material, but it more than shows that she had artistically grown! If the pop singer she was in the 60s was a girl, this album showed off Lesley – the grown woman.

Coming a year after Carole King´s “Tapestry” – the ALL-encompassing charter on how to create a very good singer-songwriter album, Lesley´s 1972 output is of course touched by the influence of Queen Carole The King….

Throwing away any and all of the themes that her 60´s output dealt with (boys, lollipops, rainbows, kisses, Judy, young love, love gone bad, hoping to be loved by “him” etc) – “Someplace Else Now” contains a Lesley hitherto unknown to the public: the socially aware woman who damn well knows rainbows and kisses are of no use in every day life in 1972 America.

Getting to show off several new aspects of her voice while handling some really demanding lyrics, this album should maybe be heralded as the birth of Lesley Gore – the singer (as opposed to pop singer, 60´s style!)

Songs like “She Said That” (the albums lead-off single) and the heart wrenching “Out Of Love” (study those lyrics will you….) are maybe the two best songs here, but the other ten are great also. Lesley made a fabulous record at the right time, but tough competition from La King herself, and the fact that not many of Lesley´s fans from the previous decade understood what she was about at this point all contributed to the fact that the album soon fell into obscurity….

So, you may wonder, why am I writing about this long forgotten 70´s album now…?

It´s out on CD now! For the first time in 43 years, you can buy this album again! And it is certainly one that is long overdue for re-release too!

Whenever a popular singer dies, record companies usually mine their vaults to get a “new” album out. Thankfully, after Lesley´s passing they chose to haul this one up from the basement instead of making yet another “best of” collection. I certainly hope this will lead to a new release also for her “Love Me By Name” album that came out some years later….

Lesley Gore´s music is too good and too valuable to be kept from the public – and I am all too happy to finally have this one out on CD! That view is shared by millions of Lesley-fans around the world, and I know you will treat yourself to this one – now you better be “Off & Running” (pardon the pun – I couldn´t resist!) to the nearest record store. This re-release is not to be missed!

Lesley, going somewhere - in the late 1960´s

Lesley, going somewhere – in the late 1960´s

 

 

A personal tribute – Goodbye, Jackie Trent

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When Colin Gregory emailed me yesterday, to tell me his wife of the last ten years – Jackie Trent (1940-2015) – had died on March 21st, I couldn’t really believe what I was reading…..

I had a kind of “special” relationship with Jackie, and we kept in touch by email (at infrequent intervals) during many years. So even though we have never met in person, getting an email from Jackie always felt like hearing from a dear old friend. Whether she did this with all of her fans or just me, I don’t know. But she was thrilled to bits the first time I wrote her, and she immediately proclaimed me to be her No 1 Fan in Norway!

 

Jackie used to sign all her mails to me with "Love from Jackie - Big voice, big hair"! This photo shows the latter...

Jackie used to sign all her mails to me with “Love from Jackie – Big voice, big hair”! This photo shows the latter…

 

I guess some of you now wonder – who IS Jackie Trent? Even if the name might not be familiar, her music no doubt will be. As a songwriter Jackie collaborated with her then-husband Tony Hatch, and together they wrote a long list of songs that are now classics. Petula Clark had several hits in the 1960s that were written by Jackie and Tony. There can’t be anyone alive on planet Earth who hasn’t heard songs like “Downtown”, “I Know A Place”, “I Couldn’t Live Without  Your Love”….. In addition, they also wrote the theme song to the Australian TV-series “Neighbours” and the British football team Stoke City got the song “We’ll Be With You” written especially for them – and 40 years on it is still the teams personal anthem, being sung at each and every game. Tony & Jackie wrote more than 400 songs together.

 

Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent - what a team!

Tony Hatch and Jackie Trent – what a team!

 

Jackie the singer is another chapter in the musical life and career of the great Miss Trent. Jackie might joke about her “big voice, big hair” and while the hairdos changed through the years, the voice never did. Jackie was a tremendously gifted singer as well. The girl born as Yvonne Burgess in 1940, made her first record in 1962 – a single called “Pick Up The Pieces”. Renamed Jackie Trent, she was another one of the British big-voiced girls. I don’t know why, but a whole lot of the great caucasian and really soulful girl singers come from Great Britain: Dusty Springfield, Lulu, Cilla Black, Kiki Dee, Sheena Easton, Amy Winehouse, Adele etc., etc. And Jackie is right up there with the rest of them….

By 1963, Jackie was signed to the PYE label, and stayed with them for the next 11 years. And during this era, she made the bulk of her recorded legacy. While she (of course!) recorded her own songs, she also had a great eye for picking winners from other sources and her years on PYE is chock-full of vocal delights.

 

This is the one to get! 50 great recording by Jackie 1963-75

This is the one to get! 50 great recording by Jackie 1963-75

 

The PYE years provided Jackie with many musical highlights, and the collection pictured above is really the one to get. It proves once and for all that as a singer Jackie is just marvelous, and each of the 50 tracks proves it! Whether doing soft ballads or something powerful and up-tempo, Jackie is right on target. Her spectoresque treatment of Edith Piafs classic “If You Love Me, Really Love Me” sounds like it’s produced by the man himself. And while the music also here is indeed a wall of sound, Jackie cuts right through and delivers a truly powerful vocal. “Time After Time” is an old evergreen that has been done by hundreds of singers through the years. Jackies version is an updated one, making it sound like a completely new song, and another stunning vocal performance.

Phil Spector did produce the Ronettes version of “You, Baby” – but he and Ronnie Spector must have been tearing their (big) hair out when they heard what Jackie did with it. Her take on that song is true perfection! The title track was Jackies only charttopper, and it is still a classic 60s power ballad that has stood the test of time very well. Other highlights are “Love Is Me, Love Is You” (also recorded by Connie Francis in both English and German to great effect), “Goin’ Back” (Jackies version is in the same league as those recorded by Dusty Springfield, Eydie Gorme and Elkie Brooks – all of which are awesome!), “If You Go Away”, “Send In The Clowns”, “Corner Of The Sky” (from “Pippin”) and “Everybody Rejoice” (from “The Wiz”). If just one track has to be specially highlighted, it has to be the fabulous interpretation of Scott Walkers “Such A Small Love”. It is a perfect example on how lyrics, voice and music can perfectly melt together and create true magic. If this doesn’t give you goosepimples all over – nothing ever will!

 

Jackie on stage in 1971, no doubt flooding the audience with great singing

Jackie on stage in 1971, no doubt flooding the audience with great singing

 

After the mid-70’s, Jackie took a rather long break from recording – but she was still performing around the globe, both in concerts and in musicals. Examples of the latter being “Nell” (1969), “The Card” (1973), “Rock Nativity” (1976) and “High Society” (2004).

Jackie personally wrote me in late 2008 to tell me she was planning a new album, the first in more than 30 years. The plans came through all right, and “Trentquility” was released in 2009. It proves that Jackie had lost none of her talent, and her voice and interpretive skills are completely intact. The whole album is great, but the song that stands out is “Handbags And Gladrags”. Compare it with the more famous recordings by Chris Farlow and Rod Stewart, and you will see what dimensions Jackie brings to the intricate melody and cryptic lyrics. Another masterpiece!

 

Her 2009 album "Trentquility" turned out to be last collection of new recordings made by Jackie....

Her 2009 album “Trentquility” turned out to be last collection of new recordings made by Jackie….

 

Her legacy as a singer and composer is stunning, and new versions of Jackies songs are being made every year. She will be remembered as one of the truly great songwriters of the 21st Century, and rightfully so. She should also be remembered as the powerful but emotional singer that she was – a singing actress indeed. Jackie could go from a soft whispering to a big belting sound in a matter of just a few notes, and the kind of singer that she was is the kind you very rarely hear these days.

 

Jackie Trent - forever remembered with much love and admiration

Jackie Trent – forever remembered with much love and admiration

 

My very best to Jackies ex-husband and co-writer Tony Hatch – thanks for creating all that great music! My heart goes out to Jackies children Darren and Michelle, and her husband Colin. To you she was wife and mum, to me she was someone I admired tremendously, and it was always a thrill to get an email from Jackie. I will miss her Christmas greetings this year…..

 

 

 

 

At the end of 2014

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Here we are, the very last day of 2014.

I hope your 2014 was a good one, and that 2015 will be even better! There are 365 days to fill with music ahead of us, and as I have done for the past three years, in 2015 I will continue to bring you new musical musings and artist biographies.

Wishing you all a very, merry 2015!

Wishing you all a very, merry 2015!

 

As a last bit of “show biz update” – I will leave a small dedication:

Though she never sang much, actress Luise Rainer got her first Academy Award for a musical biography, “The Great Ziegfeld” in 1936. She was then the youngest actress to receive the Oscar, and also the first German actress to win it. When she got another Academy Award in 1937 (for “The Good Earth”), she became to first actress to win it twice. Miss Rainer made 12 movies between 1932 and 1943. After 54 years, she finally made her last movie, “The Gambler” in 1997.

Luise Rainer on her 100th birthday, pictured in her home in London with her 1936 & 1937 Oscars

Luise Rainer on her 100th birthday, pictured in her home in London with her 1936 & 1937 Oscars

 

Born on January 12, 1910 – Luise Rainer died yesterday (December 30 2014), two weeks short of her 105th birthday. She was the most senior member of the Academy, and although she may not be a  familliar name today, she certainly belongs to the true royalty of film!

Her passing now makes Olivia De Havilland (born July 1 1916) the most senior Oscar winner still alive.

Wishing all my readers a happy new year – see you around in 2015!

 

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