song of the day – “Think” | ARETHA FRANKLIN | 1968 / 1980.

It’s March 25, 2019, and today I’m remembering the Queen of Soul, Aretha Franklin, who would have been 77 years old today.

aretha 60s

Regardless of what kind of music you listen to, it’s hard to imagine a time when Aretha and her music wasn’t a part of your life.  When I really started getting into music back in 1979, my knowledge of Aretha, as well as interest in her music, was embarrassingly limited.  It took me about six years to climb on board the Aretha train, but after I did, there was no turning back.


After Aretha passed away on August 16, 2018, BILLBOARD published a list of Aretha’s 20 biggest Hot 100 hits.  Overall, she made 73 appearances on the Hot 100 between 1961 and 1998, the most Hot 100 hits for women and a record she held onto until 2017.  Out of her Top 20, nine of those hits, not surprisingly, were from the 60s, including her first No. 1, “Respect,” at No. 2 on the list, “Chain Of Fools” at No. 5, “Think” at No. 12, “A Natural Woman (You Make Me Feel Like)” at No. 14, and “I Say A Little Prayer” at No. 16.

i knew you were waiting

Out of her Top 20 hits, four of them were from the 80s, including her biggest hit ever, 1987’s No. 1 duet with George Michael, “I Knew You Were Waiting (For Me),” “Freeway Of Love” at No. 4, “Who’s Zoomin’ Who” at No. 10, and her collaboration with Eurythmics, “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” at No. 20.

eurythmics aretha

Aretha Franklin and Eurythmics’ David Stewart and Annie Lennox, hamming it up during 1985’s “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”

One thing I noticed about Aretha’s singles chart history is that she went 12 years without a Top 10 hit here in America.  1985’s “Freeway Of Love” returned her to the Top 10 (and Top 5) in high fashion.  Her 1985 WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO album was her biggest-selling album ever.  But, as awesome as “Freeway Of Love” is, it’s not what really started her comeback.  That happened years before.


When film director John Landis was putting together a movie version of the SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE skit for The Blues Brothers, Dan Aykroyd, who co-wrote the film with John Landis, lobbied, and in fact insisted, that Aretha and other R&B superstars James Brown, Cab Calloway, Ray Charles would appear in the film, replete with speaking parts that worked around the songs each of them performed in the film.  Other Blues legends like John Lee Hooker and Pinetop Perkins appear in the movie too.  The casting for this film, which also includes the wonderful talents of Carrie Fisher and John Candy, was absolutely brilliant.

BB poster

The casting of Aretha was absolutely brilliant as well.  She had gone through a rough time in the second half of the 70s, and several of her albums on Atlantic Records did not do well.  In 1979, after 12 years, she left the label for which she had much of her greatest success.

matt n aretha

Matt “Guitar” Murphy and Aretha Franklin in THE BLUES BROTHERS.

In THE BLUES BROTHERS, Aretha plays the owner of a soul food restaurant, and the wife of Matt “Guitar” Murphy, who works in the restaurant as a cook.  After John Belushi and Dan Aykroyd’s attempt (as Jake and Elwood Blues) to get Matt  (lead guitarist) and “Blue Lou” Marini (saxophonist; who also works at the restaurant) back into The Blues Brothers Band, Aretha memorably bursts into song and dance to try and get Matt to stay.  That song is her 1968 Top 10 hit, “Think.”  When Aretha (as Mrs. Murphy) is unsuccessful at her attempt to keep Matt (and subsequently, “Blue Lou”) from leaving with Jake and Elwood, she ends her scene with one very convincing and hilarious word: “Shit.”  Fucking brilliant.

aretha shit

Aretha Franklin at the end of her hilarious and memorable scene in THE BLUES BROTHERS. “Shit.”

And, I contend it was Aretha’s performance in THE BLUES BROTHERS that reignited her success in the 1980s, five years before “Freeway Of Love.”  (NERDY SIDE NOTE: Even though Aretha had left Atlantic in 1979, “Think” was featured on THE BLUES BROTHERS soundtrack, which was on the label of The Blues Brothers — Atlantic Records.)


Also in 1980, the founder and president of Arista Records, Clive Davis, signed Aretha to Arista, a label she would remain with until 2007.  Her first two albums with Arista saw her biggest album success since 1974, but it was 1982’s JUMP TO IT album that brought Aretha her first gold album in 10 years, and her first Top 40 hit on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in six years — the album’s title cut.

jump to it

The song “Jump To It” (co-written by then-up-and-coming R&B recording artist Luther Vandross) reached No. 24 on the Hot 100, No. 4 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and spent four weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart. 

I didn’t get to pay tribute to Aretha last year, but on her birthday, I didn’t want to miss the opportunity (same goes for Matt “Guitar” Murphy, who sadly passed away a couple of months before Aretha).

aretha by andy

The poster for Aretha’s self-titled 1986 album, with album cover art designed by Andy Warhol.

You are definitely missed, and though it took awhile for me to jump on the Aretha train, I’m so glad I did.  I’ve always had a special amount of R-E-S-P-E-C-T for you, and your scene-stealing performance in THE BLUES BROTHERS will always make me laugh and make me THINK! about your incredible contribution to music in the 80s and for all time…

aretha n BB

A great shot of John Belushi, Aretha Franklin and Dan Aykroyd, 1980.


song of the day – “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” | EURYTHMICS AND ARETHA FRANKLIN | 1985.


Happy International Women’s Day!  So many great anthems for women released in the 80s to choose from, but I went with a kick-ass 1985 gem that called to me today and which united – for one time – a woman from Aberdeen, Scotland (Annie Lennox), a man from Sunderland, England (David A. Stewart) and another woman from Memphis, Tennessee by way of Detroit, Michigan (Aretha Franklin) – “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves.”

be yourself tonight

When Annie Lennox and Dave Stewart were putting together their fifth studio album as Eurythmics, BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, they wrote what turned out to be an 80s (and beyond) feminist anthem called “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” and had intended on doing a duet with Tina Turner, who in 1984 had the biggest comeback of the year, perhaps of the entire decade.


However, Tina Turner was not available to record the duet, so Annie and Dave asked Aretha if she’d sing it, and luckily for us, she agreed.  “Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves” was the third single released from BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, the biggest-selling album to date for Eurythmics.  It was also included on Aretha’s 1985 album, WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO?, which oddly enough was Aretha’s first Platinum-selling album here in America.

“Sisters Are Doin’ It For Themselves,” which additionally features three members of Tom Petty’s Heartbreakers (including Mike Campbell on guitar), debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in the latter half of October 1985, and spent a quick week at their peak position of No. 18 in early December 1985, a week after Aretha Franklin peaked at No. 7 with the title song from her own album, WHO’S ZOOMIN’ WHO?

The feminist anthem was also well-received around the globe, reaching No. 5 in Ireland, No. 6 in New Zealand, No. 9 in the U.K., No. 10 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and the Top 20 in Australia, Belgium, Holland and Switzerland.

arm wrestle

I think Dave Stewart is gonna lose this one…

A number of cover versions of “Sisters” have been released over the years, including one from Lisa Simpson (voiced by Yeardley Smith), Ann and Nancy Wilson of Heart and Lisa’s aunts, Patty and Selma Bouvier on The Simpsons’ 1998 album, THE YELLOW ALBUM, a play on The Beatles’ WHITE ALBUM from 1968, with its cover as a parody of 1967’s SGT. PEPPER’S LONELY HEARTS CLUB BAND.  It’s also been covered by The Pointer Sisters, The Spice Girls and even Lucy Lawless covered it on her popular TV show, XENA: WARRIOR PRINCESS.

Earlier on this special day, I saw an amazing and beautiful Facebook post from one of my best friends, Shawn in NYC, a post in which he’s kind enough to allow me to share here, and a sentiment I wish to echo:

“Happy Women’s Day to all of you strong, intelligent, and beautiful women.  I have nothing but love, respect, and appreciation for who you are, what you do, and all you have to put up with.” 

That’s damn right.  Thank you Shawn.  And thank you, girls, ladies, women.  With women equalling about half of the population of the world, it still bugs me that folks continue to call the human race “mankind.”  Hell, “mankind” wouldn’t exist without women.  Just sayin’ it like it is…


“Now there was a time when they used to say / That behind every great man there had to be a great woman / But in these times of change you know it’s no longer true / So we’re comin’ out of the kitchen / ‘Cause there’s something we forgot to say to you / We say: Sisters are doin’ it for themselves…”

eurythmics aretha 1

(real) one-hit wonder of the week – “I Only Want To Be With You” | THE TOURISTS | 1980.

Between late 1979 and the end of 1989, there were nearly 500 (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s that reached the BILLBOARD Hot 100 just one time, a list that includes Soft Cell, Gary Numan, Timbuk 3, The Church, Bronski Beat, Nik Kershaw, The Buggles, The Waitresses, Ultravox and two different bands named The Silencers.  Once a week, I’ll highlight a (real) one-hit wonder for you.

As Eurythmics, Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart charted 15 singles on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 between 1983’s No. 1 hit, “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” and 1989’s Top 40 hit, “Don’t Ask Me Why” (a recent “song of the day” on this very blog).  Well, would you believe they were involved with one of the (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s here in the U.S.?  It’s true.the-catch-borderline

In 1975, five years before Eurythmics was formed in 1980, Annie and Dave met in a London restaurant where Annie was working at the time.  In 1976, they played together in a Punk Rock band called The Catch, released a single in 1977, and then, later that year, the band formed into the London New Wave / Synthpop band, The Tourists.

The Tourists also featured singer / songwriter / guitarist Peet Coombes, bass guitarist Eddie Chin and drummer Jim Toomey.  Between 1977 and 1980, The Tourists released three albums and six singles, four of which were U.K. Top 40 hits.  The biggest of those hits came in the form of a cover (from their second album, REALITY EFFECT) of a popular 1963 Dusty Springfield song, “I Only Want To Be With You.”


The original version of “I Only Want To Be With You” was a big global hit, reaching No. 4 in the U.K., No. 6 in Australia and No. 12 here in America.  In 1976, the Bay City Rollers also had a big hit with their cover, which reached the Top 10 in at least seven countries, and the same No. 12 peak here in America.

Three years after the Bay City Rollers version, The Tourists would release their own version, and yet again, it became a Top 10 U.K. hit, reaching No. 4, and in the process, matching the peak of each of the previous versions.  It also reached No. 6 in Australia and No. 13 in Ireland. 


The Tourists took their time reaching the American shores, but “I Only Want To Be With You” finally landed here in the Spring of 1980.  It debuted on the Hot 100 in mid-May 1980 at No. 87, and stayed there for two weeks, before climbing to its peak position at No. 83 in its third week on the chart.  It left the Hot 100 after just four weeks.

The song has been covered many times in over 50 years.  Back in the 80s, it was also covered by the late, great Nicolette Larson (No. 53, 1982), Scottish vocalist Barbara Dickson (1982), The Flirts (1983), Southside Johnny & The Jukes (1986), and Samantha Fox even had a U.S. Top 40 hit with it in 1988.

Around the same time of its short American singles chart run, there was tension among The Tourists, and it was in an Australian hotel where Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart decided to part with the band and form as a duo.  And the rest, as they say, is history, as was The Tourists.

eurythmics_-_peacePart of the tension within the band and for Annie and Dave involved creative differences between them and Peet Coombes, who, after the breakup of The Tourists, had years of alcohol and drug problems, and died at the young age of 45 in 1997.  By that time, Annie and Dave had disbanded Eurythmics (and their friendship) for seven years, and in a way, maybe the death of their former Tourists bandmate brought Annie and Dave back together, and the result was their wonderful, critically-acclaimed and final album (so far), 1999’s PEACE.

I know, with their successful history as Eurythmics, it’s hard to think about Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart as (real) one-hit wonders, although David was actually a (real) one-hit wonder here in America in 1991, when he teamed up with Jazz saxophonist Candy Dulfer on the sweet No. 11 instrumental, “Lily Was Here” (originally released in late 1989).

But, for four (vacationing?) weeks on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in 1980, the future Eurythmics were truly American (real) one-hit wonders…as Tourists…


song of the day – “Don’t Ask Me Why” | EURYTHMICS | 1989.

This week on the blog I’ve featured songs that were overshadowed by their bigger, more popular counterparts.  I found another underrated gem from one of my all-time favorite acts for today’s “song of the day.” 

As Eurythmics, Scotland’s Annie Lennox and England’s David A. Stewart have had 24 Top 40 hits in their native U.K. between 1983 and 2005, and over here in the U.S., they’ve scored 10 Top 40 hits on the BILLBOARD Hot 100, led by “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This),” which spent a week at No. 1 in September 1983.  The last of those 10 Top 40 hits here in America debuted on the Hot 100 on this date (9.30) in 1989 – “Don’t Ask Me Why.”


From their eighth studio album, WE TOO ARE ONE (produced by David Stewart with Jimmy Iovine), “Don’t Ask Me Why” debuted on the Hot 100 on 9.30.1989 at No. 81.  It spent a lone week at No. 40 in early November 1989, and was gone from the chart after just nine weeks.  (It did fare better on BILLBOARD’s Modern Rock chart, reaching No. 12.)we-too-are-one

Around the globe, “Don’t Ask Me Why” charted much better than here in America, reaching the Top 20 in Canada, Ireland, Italy and Japan, and the Top 30 in the U.K., Belgium and Switzerland.

WE TOO ARE ONE, an album that debuted at No. 1 and went double-platinum in the U.K.,  would be the last album the Eurythmics would release before splitting up, though not formally.  Annie (one of the greatest voices in music ever) and Dave (an amazing musician, songwriter and producer) released eight albums in as many years, not to mention their extensive touring around the world, and basically needed a break. eurythmics_-_peace

That break lasted 10 years, and in October 1999, the Eurythmics released their comeback album, the brilliant PEACE, which was certified Gold in the U.S. (their first Gold record here since 1986), Canada and throughout Europe. 

They got together briefly again in 2005 and recorded the song “I’ve Got A Life” for their ULTIMATE COLLECTION, and in 2014 for THE NIGHT THAT CHANGED AMERICA: A GRAMMY SALUTE TO THE BEATLES, where, backed with a full orchestra, they performed “The Fool On The Hill,” much to the delight of Paul McCartney and Ringo Starr.  They got a standing ovation from everyone in attendance, and rightfully so.


Annie Lennox and David A. Stewart, January 2014, getting a deserved standing ovation.

As for the last hit in America for the Eurythmics, don’t ask me why “Don’t Ask Me Why” didn’t chart better than it did.  To this day, I’m not sure why this gorgeous song wasn’t well-received here.  Yeah, okay, “Don’t Ask Me Why” is about the end of a relationship and the song’s lyrics do have a bitter feel to them (“Don’t ask me why / I don’t love you anymore / I don’t think I ever did / And if you ever had / Any kind of love for me / You kept it all so well hid…”), but honestly, how many songs about the end of relationships have done well?  Maybe a post for another time.  None come to mind that are as lush as “Don’t Ask Me Why,” though.  Honestly, I think it’s one of the strongest songs Annie and Dave ever released. 

Don’t worry guys – I’ll never keep my love for this song ever hid…


song of the day – “Would I Lie To You?” | EURYTHMICS | 1985.

For the fifth studio album by London’s Eurythmics, 1985’s BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, Scotland’s Annie Lennox and England’s David A. Stewart were sounding less like the New Wave / Dance sound they had on the first four albums (including their soundtrack to the film, 1984), and more like a Pop / Rock band.  For this album, they meshed the Motown sound into their “newly-found” Rock sound, and with the help of Aretha Franklin, Stevie Wonder and Elvis Costello, the new sound worked.  BE YOURSELF TONIGHT remains as their biggest-selling album yourself tonight

“Would I Lie To You?” was the first single released from BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, which debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late April 1985, the same week the album was released.  “Would I Lie To You?” (an MTV favorite) had a steady climb up the chart, and reached No. 5 (their last U.S. Top 10 hit to date) on July 13, 1985 – the day of Live Aid.  (SIDE  NOTE: Annie and David weren’t able to perform at Live Aid because Annie was recovering from vocal fold nodules, which prevented her from singing.)

The Hot 100 wasn’t the only BILLBOARD chart to see “Would I Lie To You?” in the upper echelon of the charts: It reached No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s Rock chart, and No. 5 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart – no easy feat.

would i lie to you

Around the globe, “Would I Lie To You?” didn’t lie to fans, and it spent 2 weeks at No. 1 in Australia, plus Top 10 rankings in Belgium, Canada, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland and Sweden.  In their U.K. homeland, it reached No. 17.

Annie Lennox and David Stewart have released four more Eurythmics studio  albums since BE YOURSELF TONIGHT, the most recent of which was 1999’s excellent comeback album, PEACE.  The pair last performed on 2014’s “The Night That Changed America: A Grammy Salute to The Beatles” in Los Angeles, the day after the Grammy Awards, with an amazing version of “The Fool On The Hill.”

In 2007, Annie Lennox announced that she didn’t foresee any future Eurythmics projects in the works, and while that remains true to this day, David A. Stewart, in 2012, remained hopeful: “We’re not talking about a [new album] right now, but never say never.”

I have loved this band from the moment I heard “Sweet Dreams (Are Made Of This)” blaring from my Panasonic boombox.  Of course, I would absolutely LOVE to see the Eurythmics get back together and work on a new album (and tour again).  Would I lie to you?


song of the day – “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” | THE CLASH | 1979 / 1980.

When The Clash debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in late March 1980 with their first U.S. hit, “Train In Vain,” it was like it didn’t quite fit in with other debut songs that week: “The Rose” by Bette Midler, “Wondering Where The Lions Are” by Bruce Cockburn, and “Heart Hotels” by Dan Fogelberg.  But, that didn’t stop the London Punk Rock quartet (Joe Strummer, Mick Jones, Paul Simonon and Nicky “Topper” Headon) from taking on America and beyond.

Everyone and their mother knows about the history of The Clash, oft-labeled as “The Only Band That Matters,” but for those who don’t, this post will fill in (at least) some of the gaps.  The Clash formed in London in 1976, and were, like The Sex Pistols and The Damned, among the first batch of British Punk bands.  But The Clash truly had some depth to their music that went beyond Punk, throwing in elements of Reggae, Funk and Ska, among other genres. 

The Clash released their self-titled debut album in the U.K. this week in April 1977.  It gave them their first Gold record in Britain.  Their second album, 1978’s GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE, was their first album released in the U.S., earning them another Gold record in the U.K., reaching No. 2 there and No. 128 on the BILLBOARD album chart. 

The American recognition of GIVE ‘EM ENOUGH ROPE warranted a U.S. edition of The Clash’s debut album, which was released in the Summer of 1979, and gave them their first Gold record in America.  Fast forward to the end of that year.  The Clash’s third album was released, and the dynamic of The Clash (and that of Rock and Roll and music altogether) would change calling

LONDON CALLING is The Clash’s third album, a 2-album, late-1979 Post-Punk masterpiece that not only goes all over the music map, it also tackles subject matter in their songs such as unemployment, drug use, challenging the status quo, commercialization and consumerism, and…a brand new Cadillac. 

In 2003, ROLLING STONE magazine ranked LONDON CALLING at No. 8 on its list of The 500 Greatest Albums of All Time, a ranking that would echo publications around the globe.  The double album was certified Platinum in both the U.K. and the U.S., and it has sold over 5 million copies worldwide.  I’m sure I’ll devote a deserved entire post to LONDON CALLING one day, but for now, I’ll concentrate on the band’s third single from the album, “Train In Vain.”

Hard to believe I almost didn’t purchase LONDON CALLING at first, because “Train In Vain” wasn’t listed.  But, when I learned “Train In Vain” was on the album as a hidden track, I was amused.  I mean, what band doesn’t put the album’s hit on the record sleeve?  Honestly?!  In the end, I thought it was kinda cool and later found out that “Train In Vain” wasn’t on the album sleeve initially because it was added to LONDON CALLING at the last minute.

the clash stand by me

The “Train In Vain” single away from the U.S…

Away from the U.S., the emphasis on the title was “Stand By Me,” but with the 1961 Ben E. King classic of the same name, “Train In Vain” was listed as “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” here in America to avoid any confusion.  (Country singer Mickey Gilley had a hit crossover cover of “Stand By Me” later in 1980, featured on the soundtrack to URBAN COWBOY.)

On the BILLBOARD Hot 100, “Train In Vain (Stand By Me)” found its way to a No. 23 peak for a couple of weeks in May 1980.  It was also a No. 30 hit on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart and a No. 9 hit in Canada, but oddly enough, it never was a U.K. hit, though then again, it didn’t have to be a hit to be beloved.

Over the years, “Train In Vain” has been covered by the likes of Country music superstar (and part-time actor) Dwight Yoakam, and a wonderful, soulful version by Eurythmics’ Annie Lennox from her second solo album, 1995’s MEDUSA.  It was also sampled on “Stupid Girl,” a worldwide hit in 1996 for the American-Scottish Alt-Rock band, Garbage.

train in vain promo

The 10″ U.S. promo single for “Train In Vain.”

The song’s meaning has sparked conversations for more than 35 years, especially since the words “Train In Vain” aren’t even mentioned in the song.  A 1995 GUITAR WORLD interview with “Train In Vain” singer and songwriter Mick Jones revealed that “Train” was actually a love song.  According to a 2007 BLENDER magazine article on “The Greatest Songs Ever,” Mick Jones commented further on “Train In Vain”: “The track was like a train rhythm, and there was, once again, that feeling of being lost.”

In more than 36 years, I confess I never learned the actual meaning of “Train In Vain (Stand By Me).”  All I can say is that I love dancing to this song any chance I get (though as of late, it’s mostly in the car than on a dance floor), and it is one of prolly 20 songs I would want to be marooned with for all-time.  Hmmm, maybe it is a love song after all…


The Clash in 1979…