Monday, January 20, 2014

Love is Strange

So, we were watching the AFC title game, innocently enough, when a commercial came on and there was a background song, "Love is Strange" and Tommy asked, "Who did that song?"

One of my current questions is, "Why did I want to answer that question?" At the time, I simply went to my phone and called up the youtube version, Mickey and Sylvia in 1956. I guessed it was late 1960's or into the 1970's, very wrong, but I may have been identifying it with the movie "Dirty Dancing" (1987) where it was one of featured songs on that great sound track.

It just seemed to have a sound that was later, and when I started to discover where that "ahead of its time" opinion came from, the story of Sylvia Robinson started to be revealed. Maybe it was original and new ground, like her solo in 1973, "Pillow Talk" that was an important precursor and influence on disco; and her record label, Sugar Hill that produced "Rappers Delight" which introduced hip-hop to America.

So, a song recording that is on a commercial nearly 60 years later, an intro to disco and the start of hip-hop, all connected to one woman, Sylvia Robinson, who I had seriously never heard of. Mickey Blake the guitarist and second member of Mickey and Sylvia tired of the music business, moved to Paris, became a studio musician and died in 2011. Sylvia died in 2012 at the age of 75 after a life of innovation.

In addition, Sylvia pioneered the music video and produced several. What a pioneer.

BTW, if all rap was as good as "Rappers Delight" I might listen once in a while.

The appealing duet harmony and the guitars were evidently influenced by Les Paul and Mary Ford...remember, this is the Fifties. "Love is Strange" has been covered by a number of artists like Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton, and that harmony has become one of my favorites.

Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin: "Two to Tango." Soul.

Kenny and Dolly: "Islands in the Stream." Don't even listen to the lyrics for meaning.

The Everly Brothers. Anything they did, takes me back to Saturday nights in college. All the way from Shenandoah, Iowa.

How about "Unchained Melody?"

The vocal duet is magic to my ears.

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