Friday, July 18, 2014

Elaine Stritch: A Tribute

Elaine Stritch, 1925-2014, was a favorite of mine. Her performance in Stephen Sondheim's Company is iconic, as is her appearance in a D.A. Pennebaker documentary on recording the soundtrack of that show, my favorite musical.I recently watched Elaine Stritch: Shoot Me, a warts-and-all expose. I saw her one-woman show, Eileen Stritch: At Liberty when she was on the road more than a decade ago. I've recently been reviewing the recording of it, since I'm about to perform my own one-woman show, although unlike Elaine I plan to wear pants.

Here's my homage to Stritch (and to Sondheim), which I wrote after seeing Follies a few years back.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Cusp Song of the Day: Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)"Theme from Mahogany (Do You Know Where You’re Going To)," sung by the movie's star Diana Ross, came out at the end of 1975 and went to number 1 on the pop charts in January 1976.

It was written by the late, great Gerry Goffin (after his many previous solo hits and Carole King collaborations) along with Michael Masser; Masser also produced. It received a Best Original Song Academy Award nomination, losing to "I'm Easy" by Keith Carradine from Nashville

In Cusp, Karen and Mark go to see Mahogany together and she notes it's "pretty lame but still makes me cry." Later, on New Year's Eve at the cusp of the Bicentennial, a Diana Ross impersonator performs with two fake Supremes then, when she wants a solo spotlight, "walks toward them singing, "Do you know where you're going to?' They squeal and scurry off the stage in mock terror. She then turns back to the audience and finishes the song. They lyrics are gloomy ('How sad the answers to those questions can be') but this drag Diana turns it into a triumph for herself and sadness for her former sisters Supreme. It's a funny bit, and probably pretty accurate as well." 

I have to admit, this was never my favorite song, or movie; both are overblown and slightly ridiculous. But worst of all is the song's bad grammar. Every time it came on the radio (which was a LOT back then) I wanted to yell, "It's 'Do you know where you're going'! Not 'going to'!" I'm anal that way.

Thursday, May 15, 2014

Cusp Song of the Day: Breaking Up Is Hard to Do

Neil Sedaka's original upbeat 1962 hit "Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" was remade in 1975 as a ballad. Both versions of the song appear in Cusp on the same jukebox as ZZ Top's "Tush." And both hit the Top 10 and were completely ubiquitous in their respective years.

According to Weekly Top 40, only two other acts in the history of Billboard's Hot 100 chart have made the Top 10 with two versions of the same song. Surf icons the Ventures did it with the instrumental “Walk, Don’t Run” in 1960 and ”Walk, Don’t Run ’64″ in, duh, 1964. Elton John did it twice, with “Candle in the Wind” in 1974 and ”Candle in the Wind 1997″ in honor of Princess Diana, as well as “Don’t Let the Sun Go Down on Me,” a solo hit in 1974 and as a duet with George Michael in 1991-92. Interestingly, Elton was responsible for '60s hitmaker Sedaka's '70s comeback, as detailed here.

"Breaking Up Is Hard to Do" was written by Sedaka with Howard Greenfield. Each version spent about three months on the charts, the original version hitting number 1 and the remake, which entered the chart Christmas week 1975, peaking at number 8.

Since the Supremes feature so heavily in Cusp, here's a little Supremes-Sedaka history: A 1983 Sedaka concept album Come See About Me, redid '60s pop hits with an interesting collection of collaborators. Producer Dan Hartman brought in Edgar Winter, with whom he'd performed as a member of the Edgar Winter Group, to play sax. Ashford & Simpson, Gary U.S. Bonds, Neil's daughter Dara Sedaka, Hartman and Mary Wilson all contributed vocals - Mary Wilson reprising her Supremes-era background sound on the title track. The talented Dan Hartman died in 1995 and is missed by those who knew his kind and generous ways.