On June 15, 2014, Casey Kasem, host of the longtime countdown program, AMERICAN TOP 40, passed away at the age of 82. From my first blog post (and prolly some more inbetween then and now), I explained how, in 1979, I was a geeky, lanky and somewhat lost 12-year-old living in Central Maine, had a few friends and not a lot of interest in much of anything, but at some point early that year, I discovered AMERICAN TOP 40, and was glued to it every weekend. Not only could I hear the 40 biggest songs in the country every week, but also Casey’s cool trivia and facts about the songs and the artists, a trait I treasure to this day. For me, the show was No. 1 with a bullet. And still is (thanks to the re-airing of broadcasts of AT40 on iHeart Radio).
In honor of my radio hero, Casey Kasem, for the entire month of June (and now through July), I will be highlighting a song each day (some days will have two songs!) that peaked in the Top 40 of the BILLBOARD Hot 100 (including five (real) one-hit wonders of the 80s), and with every blog post, just like on AMERICAN TOP 40, the hits will get bigger with each post. On June 1, 2017, I featured a song that peaked at No. 40. Sometime here in July, I’ll feature a “song of the day” that went all the way to No. 1.
As Casey used to say on AT40, “And on we go!”
Unlike the songs that peaked at No. 9, for the more than 70 songs that reached No. 8 between 1979 and 1989, there were no specific themes among them, but I found some similarities. There were a couple of clubs (and (real) one-hit wonders) – Timex Social Club (“Rumors”) and Boys Club (“I Remember Holding You,” though I’m betting you prolly don’t remember the song very well).
Neil Diamond’s patriotic immigration gem, “America,” reached No. 8, and the band America reached the Top 10 one more time, with “You Can Do Magic.” There was also a surge in new R&B female singers near the end of the decade, and three of them reached No. 8 – Vanessa Williams (“Dreamin’”), Karyn White (“Superwoman”) and the sweet, Soulful sounds of Anita Baker (“Sweet Love”).
Multiple artists had multiple No. 8 hits – Eagles, Electric Light Orchestra, John Mellencamp and ZZ Top each had two, as did Sting, one with The Police (the gorgeous “Wrapped Around Your Finger”) and solo (the sexy “Fortress Around Your Heart”), and Prince reached that position three times (with “Delirious,” “I Would Die 4 U” and “Alphabet St.”).
One song that reached No. 8 and stood out for me was “Let The Music Play,” by Shannon, born Shannon Brenda Greene in Washington D.C., who was 25 years old in 1983 and enrolled at the University of New York’s York College. At that time, she also toured with the New York Jazz Ensemble.
Away from the Ensemble, someone from a production team heard Shannon sing, and she auditioned for them. They gave her what would become “Let The Music Play,” and ultimately Shannon had her own music style named after her (“the Shannon sound”). “The Shannon Sound” would eventually be known as Freestyle – an early form of Electronic Dance Music (or Electro-Funk), and some examples of 80s Freestyle artists include Exposé, Lisa Lisa And Cult Jam and Pretty Poison – all of whom had No. 8 hits in the 80s as well.
“Let The Music Play” was released in September 1983, and would become the title track of her debut album, released in early February 1984. I fell in love with it from the first time I heard it. “Let The Music Play” debuted on the BILLBOARD Hot 100 in mid-November 1983 at No. 91.
Making a slow but steady climb up the chart, “Let The Music Play” found its way to the Top 40 in early January 1984. It had already spent six weeks at No. 1 on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart back in 1983, and was still No. 1 there when it debuted on the Hot 100.
Once it reached the Top 40, “Let The Music Play” continued a steady climb up the survey, reaching its peak position of No. 8 in late February 1984, after nearly four months on the chart. “Let The Music Play” would go on to spend 24 weeks on the chart, leaving the Hot 100 in late April 1984.
Around the globe, “Let The Music Play” reached No. 2 in New Zealand, No. 5 in Germany, No. 13 in Canada and Italy, No. 14 in the U.K., No. 17 in the Netherlands, and the Top 40 in Belgium and Switzerland. It also reached No. 2 on BILLBOARD’s R&B chart.
Both the single and album, LET THE MUSIC PLAY, brought Gold certifications in the U.S., and though she had two more No. 1 hits on BILLBOARD’s Dance chart, and just missed the Top 40 with follow-up single “Give Me Tonight” (No. 46) and “Do You Wanna Get Away” (No. 49, 1985), Shannon continued to make music through 2006. Today, Shannon still performs around the globe and is a voting member for the Grammy Awards.
Freelance music journalist, Peter Shapiro, once referred to “Let The Music Play” as a cross between Gary Numan and Tito Puente. I can’t say I really agree with that, but I can say that I’ve always felt the infectious “Let The Music Play” brought Disco back (like Lisa Stansfield after her in 1989) for four-and-a-half minutes, and I agree with many others that Shannon and this song did start the Dance-Pop movement in the 80s.
So, what are you waiting for? Let the music play!