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Posts Tagged ‘Bing Crosby’

  1. Bohemian Rhapsody – Queen:  Lead singer, Freddie Mercury was an unprecedented showman, and his unique persona made its mark on all of the band’s music; but this epic recording stands alone in its innovation and originality.  Even decades later, with all of the advances in music technology, there is nothing like it.
  2. December, 1963 (Oh, What a Night) – The Four Seasons:  Also known as Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, their string of 1960s hits made them one of the most successful vocal groups of all-time, eventually propelling them into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.  And while the signature falsetto of lead singer Frankie Valli was at the forefront of almost every big hit, it was drummer Gerry Polci who sang lead on this 1975 hit, which went on to become the group’s biggest selling single.
  3. Owner of a Lonely Heart – Yes:  Through ten albums, and more than a decade, art rock band “Yes” habitually produced 8 -10 minute opuses that didn’t fit well into the pop radio format.  But all of that changed with the 1983 release of the album “90125”.  This pop music gem went on to become the band’s one and only #1 single.
  4. Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana:  In the early nineties there was nothing on pop radio that sounded remotely like Nirvana’s brand of rock, which was ultimately dubbed, “grunge”.  Even their record company was caught completely off guard by the meteoric rise of the band, their single, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, and its corresponding album, “Nevermind”.
  5. Cantaloop (Flip Fantasia) – Us3:  This Jazz/Hip-Hop fusion from 1993 was revolutionary for it’s day, and it’s mass appeal helped drive the Rap/Hip-Hop genre from the fringe of popular music to the heart of popular culture.
  6. Beth – Kiss:  By the mid-seventies, the band, “Kiss” had risen to stardom on the strength of their spectacular stage shows, and their hard rock sound.  In keeping with what had brought them success, the band released the single, “Detroit Rock City” in 1976.  But to the surprise of everyone associated with the band, it was the B-side of that record, the ballad, “Beth”, that went on to become one of the groups most successful songs.
  7. Jane – Jefferson Starship:  Founding member, Paul Kantner, and his band, had a string of soft rock hits (e.g. Miracles, With Your Love, Count on Me) following their transition from the original “Jefferson Airplane” lineup.  But with the 1978 departure of lead singers, Grace Slick, and Marty Balin, they found themselves at yet another crossroad.  Then, the addition of “Fooled Around & Fell in Love” singer, Mickey Thomas, and a new harder rock sound, propelled their surprising 1979 single, “Jane” up the charts; beginning a new chapter in the bands long and diverse history.
  8. Tusk – Fleetwood Mac:  Following up on the phenomenal success of the classic album “Rumours”, with its four top ten singles, was a daunting task.  But the 1979 album, “Tusk” provided twenty new songs to choose from.  Of those, the unusual title track seemed to be the least likely candidate for release as a single.  Nonetheless, this pop music oddity reached the top ten later that year.
  9. Because the Night – The Patti Smith Group:  Nothing in Patti Smith’s eclectic artistic history would have indicated that a Top 40 record was anywhere in her future, but her reworking of this Bruce Springsteen composition ruled the airwaves upon its 1978 release.
  10. Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy – Bing Crosby & David Bowie:  In what had to be one of the most unlikely pairings in pop music history, 1940’s crooner Bing Crosby, and 1970’s glam rocker David Bowie teamed for this Christmas medley, which was included as a part of Crosby’s 1977 television Christmas special.
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1.     Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (Gene Autry):  Even though the story had been written some years before (1939), it could be argued that Autry’s version of this song (1949) was the sleigh that launched Rudolph to a worldwide audience.  As the first #1 song of the 1950’s, it eventually went on to sell over 12 million copies.   Autry’s warm folksy rendition has never been surpassed (though the 1960’s television special made Burl Ives version of the song a holiday staple as well).

2.     The Christmas Waltz (Frank Sinatra):  While many believe that Frank also nailed the definitive version of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”, “The Christmas Waltz” manages to capture both the holiday spirit and the classic Sinatra style.  Except for the Christmas oriented lyrics, it’s not hard to imagine this song fitting nicely on any of his Nelson Riddle era albums.

3.     Let it Snow, Let it Snow, Let it Snow (Dean Martin):  This song was a perfect vehicle to combine Martin’s gifts as a crooner with his naturally playful personality.  It also served to reinforce his reputation as something of a ladies’ man, as it turns out to be one of the more romantic holiday songs of the Christmas season.

4.     Jingle Bell Rock (Bobby Helms):  At the time of this recording (1957) Bobby Helms was a rising country music star.  The song itself was meant to capture both the holiday feel of “Jingle Bells” and the emerging popularity of “rock and roll”.  With its catchy, easy-going, style, it has managed to become an enduring classic in the years since.

5.     Holly Jolly Christmas (Burl Ives):  As an accomplished actor and folk singer, Burl Ives was picked to voice the character of “Sam,” the snowman, in the 1960’s TV special, “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.”  Johnny Marks, who’d composed the original Gene Autry hit, was also brought in to do some additional music for the show.  “Holly Jolly Christmas” was one of those compositions, and it went on to become a holiday standard in its own right. 

6.     Sleigh Ride (Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops):  Although Leroy Anderson originally composed this piece and went on to have a big hit record with it in the 1950s, Arthur Fiedler & the Boston Pops have the distinction of doing the original recording in 1949.  In the years since it has become something a signature song for that revered orchestra. 

7.     Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree (Brenda Lee):  Recorded in 1958, when Lee was only thirteen years old, this song eventually became the biggest selling record of her long and illustrious career.  Like a couple of other classics on this list, it was also composed by Johnny Marks.

8.     Blue Christmas (Elvis Presley):  While this song was originally recorded in 1948, and had been remade by numerous artists, it was Presley’s decision to include it on his 1957 Christmas album that propelled it to worldwide acclaim.  Released as a single in 1964, the song has become an indelible part of the Elvis legacy.

9.     The Christmas Song (Nat King Cole):  Written by notable composer/singer Mel Torme in 1944, Cole recorded the original version of this song in 1946.  Despite its immediate success, he chose to re-record the tune on multiple occasions in order to take full advantage of the developing recording technology.  The definitive version was completed in 1961 and featured a full orchestra and “Stereophonic” sound.  It still stands as one of the highlights of Cole’s stellar career. 

10.  White Christmas (Bing Crosby):  First recorded in 1942, and featured as part of the movie “Holiday Inn,” this song is considered the best selling single (>50 million copies) and record (including various albums, >100 million copies) of all time.  Its phenomenal success eventually led to the development of the 1958 movie “White Christmas,” which went on to build a holiday legacy of its own.  Crosby originated another holiday classic the following year (1943) with the bittersweet, “I’ll be Home for Christmas.”

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