By Phill Marder
This is the 17th set of 10 selections in The Goldmine Hall of Fame.
Great Blogs Of Fire will be announcing 10 inductees approximately every two weeks until all 700-plus inductees are announced. Bios of all selections and criteria for induction can be found on our website by clicking the Goldmine Hall of Fame tab. A running list of all announced inductees will be listed, also. These also can be found under “Great Blogs Of Fire” at the bottom of the page.
161. LUTHER VANDROSS – When Luther Vandross passed away at the relatively young age of 54, he went out on top. He had just finished vocals for his LP “Dance With My Father” when he suffered a stroke and, though he survived another two years, this event marked the end of the career of one of our most beloved singers. The album went on to become his first #1 with the title song, co-written with Richard Marx, earning Vandross a 2004 Grammy for “Song Of The Year.”
Winning a Grammy was nothing new to Vandross, who was nominated for 31, with eight wins. A writer and background vocalist for many major stars, Vandross didn’t make his solo breakthrough until after his 30th birthday, when his 1981 single “Never Too Much” hit #1 on the U.S. R&B chart and just missed the top 10 in Britain. The LP of the same name also hit #1 R&B and climbed to #19 in the U.S. Once he hit pay dirt, there was no stopping the New Yorker, whose next six albums hit the top of the R&B chart, the string finally being snapped in 1993 when “Never Let Me Go” stopped at #3. Ironically, that release was Vandross’ top showing on the Billboard Top 200 to that point, hitting #6. It was eclipsed by its successor, “Songs,” which hit #5 in the U.S. and #1 in the U.K.
All told, Vandross had 12 top 20 LPs in the U.S., eight hitting the top 10, and 12 top 30 LPs in the U.K., five getting into the top 10. Five of his singles hit the U.S. top 10 and seven hit the top 20 in Britain.
162. BRENDA LEE – Just 12 years old and standing only 4’9”, Brenda Lee notched her first hit single in 1957, getting to #43 with “One Step At A Time.” She was, of course, destined to fare much better in the years to come, eventually becoming one of the most successful sellers of singles in music history.
She recorded “Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree” in 1958, but it failed to make a mark until Lee’s first huge hit, “Sweet Nothin’s,” climbed to #4 as 1960 began. Then, the earlier release turned into a major hit, becoming a Christmas standard. Lee’s success with “Sweet Nothin’s,” equaled in the U.K., led to her first #1, “I’m Sorry,” which, coupled with “That’s All You Gotta Do,” gave Lee a double-sided smash, the uptempo flip hitting #6. The follow-up, “I Want To Be Wanted,” also hit #1.
The year 1960 also saw Lee record her only two top 10 albums, “Brenda Lee” reaching #5 and “This Is…Brenda” getting to #4. But Lee’s career really was just swinging into full steam. As 1961 started, “Emotions” rose to #7 and she followed that with three more top 10 hits – #6 “You Can Depend On Me,” #4 “Dum Dum” and #3 “Fool #1” before the year closed. All but “You Can Depend On Me” had charting flip sides, too. In 1962, Lee continued her assault on the best-seller charts, posting three more top 10 singles, “Break It To Me Gently” hitting #4, “Everybody Loves Me But You” #6 and “All Alone Am I” #3, the latter getting to #7 in the U.K. in 1963. But Lee had accounted for two other top 10 releases in Britain in 1962, #3 “Speak To Me Pretty” and #5 “Here Comes That Feeling.”
Lee continued to be a major seller on both sides of the Atlantic, hitting the top 10 again with “Losing You” in 1963 and “Jingle Bell Rock” in 1964. She churned out many Country hits in the ‘70s and ‘80s, and the passing years only have increased her standing in the music world, with Chuck Berry writing about her and Golden Earring mentioning her prominently in “Radar Love.” But perhaps the most poignant tip of the cap came from Burton Cummings in his “Dream Of A Child” when Cummings sings “When I was a child, dreamed that Elvis Presley was standing on the corner kissing Brenda Lee.” Cummings dream comes true as the song ends and he sings, “I love Brenda Lee. Brenda Lee loves me.” Yeah.
163. THE GRATEFUL DEAD – It took them 20 years to achieve their first, and only, top 10 single in “Touch Of Grey” and they rarely made a sales impact on the singles or album charts outside of the United States. But few names are as familiar to the public as that of The Grateful Dead, a band that became almost a nation in itself, one member, Jerry Garcia, even having a Ben & Jerry’s ice cream – Cherry Garcia – named in his honor.
The group’s followers – “Deadheads” – were rarely equaled when it came to loyalty, some traveling the States from concert to concert as the Dead toured relentlessly. It never became redundant for the fans or the band as each night’s set varied in selections played, and most selections varied in the way they were played. Most live performances were recorded and many make up the Dead’s album output, estimated at more than 130 releases.
From 1967 until 2000, the Billboard top album charts list 35 Grateful Dead LPs to hit the top 200, many on their own label, some on Warner Brothers, some on Arista and one, done with Bob Dylan, on Dylan’s label, Columbia. Just one, 1987’s “In The Dark,” reached the top 10, but most landed in the upper echelon of the chart, 13 making the top 30. But the importance of the Grateful Dead was not measured in record sales alone, their frequent concert appearances selling out constantly. And they became – and remain – critics’ darlings.
The lineup, which even included Bruce Hornsby for a spell, remained remarkably stable for a group whose life span lasted over 30 years. The inductees are: Jerry Garcia & Bob Weir (guitar & vocals), Phil Lesh (bass & vocals), Bill Kreutzmann & Mickey Hart (drums), Ron McKernan & Brent Mydland (keyboards & vocals) & Keith Godchaux (keyboards) & Donna Godchaux (vocals).
164. THE BEASTIE BOYS – Adam “Ad-Rock” Horovitz (guitar), Michael “Mike D” Diamond (drums) and Adam “MCA” Yauch (bass) blew right out of the box to become the first rap artists to hit #1 on the Billboard album chart, and the trio never let up until Yauch died of cancer May 4, 2012.
Released in 1986, the original LP, “Licensed To Ill,” also reached #5 in Canada and #7 in the U.K., thanks largely to the single “(You Gotta) Fight For Your Right (To Party),” which exploded into a worldwide smash, combining rap with a hard rock background. While the Beasties never had another single of that magnitude – 1998’s “Intergalactic” and 2004’s “Ch-Check It Out” were top 10 in several nations – the trio could do little wrong on the album charts.
After 1989’s “Paul’s Boutique” peaked at #14 U.S. and 1992’s “Check Your Head” hit #10, the Beasties issued three straight U.S. #1s between 1994 and 2004, “Ill Communication,” “Hello Nasty” and “To The 5 Boroughs.” Success was worldwide, the first of the three reaching the top 10 in six countries, while “Hello Nasty” climbed to #1 in Australia, Germany, New Zealand, Switzerland & the U.K. as well as the States and hit #2 in Canada, the Netherlands and Sweden. “To the 5 Boroughs” hit #1 in Canada and #2 in Australia and the U.K.
The group’s most recent offering, 2011’s “Hot Sauce Committee Part 2,” showed no sign of a diminishing popularity, soaring to #2 in the U.S. and going top 10 in most other nations. Unfortunately, the passing of Yauch has, most likely, spelled the finish for The Beastie Boys, though it is possible Horovitz and Diamond will work together again.
165. HANK WILLIAMS (& The Drifting Cowboys) – Only 29, Hank Williams passed away in 1953, two years before the cutoff date for the Goldmine Hall of Fame, which begins tabulations in 1955. Still, this Country superstar garnered enough posthumous record sales and critical acclaim to finish in this lofty position.
Simply put, Williams was without equal as a lyricist and few could come close to the number of great melodies he composed, leading to years of cover versions that continue today. “Cold, Cold Heart,” “Hey, Good Lookin’,” “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You),” “I Saw The Light,” “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry,” “Jambalaya (On The Bayou),” “Move It On Over,” “You Win Again,” “Kaw-Liga,” and “Your Cheatin’ Heart” are just a handful of great standards written and performed by this Alabama-born great.
After the 1947 breakthrough of “Move It On Over,” which reached #4 on the Country chart, Williams dominated that genre with 28 top 10 hits between 1949 and 1952, including eight #1s and six #2s. His recordings were so powerful that “I Can’t Help It (If I’m Still In Love With You)” was a B-side to “Howlin’ At The Moon.” The A-side eventually charted at #3, the B-side at #2. After his passing, “Kaw-Liga” and its flip side “Your Cheatin’ Heart” each hit #1 and the follow-up, “Take These Chains From My Heart,” also topped the charts. Before 1953 ended, two more posthumous singles – “I Won’t Be Home No More” and “Weary Blues From Waitin’” – reached the top 10 and in 1954 “Please Don’t Let Me Love You” climbed to #9.
While he never had a major hit album while alive, a steady stream of compilations have scored heavily on the Country album charts, including a 2012 Time Life series of live performances, three volumes of which reached the charts’ upper regions. Many have reached gold and platinum status, making Williams one of the best album sellers of all time.
Over the years, there were many members of Williams’ backing band, but for the bulk of Williams’ recordings The Drifting Cowboys included: Don Helms (steel guitar), Hillous Butrum & Howard Watts (bass), Jerry Rivers (fiddle), and Bob McNett & Sammy Pruett (lead guitar).
166. DIRE STRAITS – Preceded by the word that lead guitarist Mark Knopfler was one to behold, Dire Straits quickly reached the top of the charts as Knopfler more than lived up to the advance billing. As the band evolved through six studio albums and three live recordings, Knopfler remained the only constant except for bassist John Illsley, who also appeared on all nine releases. Other inductees are drummer Pick Withers, who appeared on the first four studio releases and one live LP and Alan Clark, who manned keyboards for the final three studio recordings and all three live efforts, plus guitarists David Knopfler and Hal Lindes, drummer Terry Williams and Guy Fletcher on synthesizer.
The constant shuffling of band members which eventually accounted for 17 different players mattered little as far as the band’s consistency in excellence was concerned as Knopfler wrote all the material, sang lead and played that incredible and distinctive guitar. By the time their nine album run was through, Dire Straits ranked as one of the world’s all-time top 50 LP sellers.
The initial release, 1978’s eponymous LP, spurred by the success of the single “Sultans Of Swing,” which hit top 10 in the U.S., England, Ireland, Australia and Canada, hit #1 down under and went top 10 across Europe and in North America. The follow-up, 1979’s “Communique,” was almost as successful, topping the charts in Germany, New Zealand and Sweden even without a hit single to boost it. “Romeo & Juliet” was a huge smash in the U.K., and the group’s third album, “Making Movies,” again was top 10 almost everywhere, but reached just #19 in the U.S, a peak matched by 1982’s “Love Over Gold.” But that album, riding the success of the #2 U.K. single, “Private Investigations,” hit #1 in five European countries plus Australia.
That set the stage for 1985’s “Brothers In Arms,” which, lifted by the monster singles “Money For Nothing” and “Walk Of Life,” topped LP charts in just about every country that keeps such records. It took six years for the follow-up, “On Every Street,” to see the light of day, but success was no less, the U.S., where it stalled at #12, being the only country the LP didn’t hit #1. Dire Straits has won Grammy, Brit, Juno and MTV awards, among others, and Knopfler, who ceased using the group name in the mid ‘90s, has continued releasing best-selling albums to this day.
167. PAT BENATAR (with Neil Giraldo) – Another to dominate the ‘80s was classically trained Pat Benatar, one of the era’s most honored female vocalists. Out of 10 Grammy ceremonies during that decade, she was nominated eight times for Best Female Rock Performance, setting a record by winning four years straight from 1980 to 1983.
That recognition coincided with her first hit record, “Heartbreaker,” which was released as 1979 drew to a close. Though it proved a bigger hit in Canada and New Zealand, its rise to #23 in the States laid the groundwork for future success in the U.S. She followed with “We Live For Love,” which hit the top 10 in Canada. As 1980 closed, she scored her first U.S. top 10 with “Hit Me With Your Best Shot,” which eventually grew into her signature tune though many hits were to follow, beginning with 1981’s “Fire & Ice,” which reached #4 in Canada.
In 1983, Benatar became a true worldwide star when “Love Is A Battlefield” went to #1 in the Netherlands and Australia, #2 in Canada, #5 in the U.S. and #17 in Britain, her first record to become a hit in the U.K. The next year, “We Belong” also hit #5 in the States and went top 10 in Canada, Switzerland, Australia and New Zealand. Now well established, Benatar also had major success with “Invincible” and “All Fired Up.”
Between 1978 and 1991, Benatar posted nine top 40 LPs in the U.S., three going top 10. She also became a top album seller around the globe.
Neil Giraldo has played a major role in Benatar’s success as her husband, lead guitarist and composer of many of the songs recorded by his wife.
168. BILL HALEY & HIS COMETS – Generally recognized as the Father of Rock & Roll, this Michigan native turned out some of the “hottest” recordings of his time, or any time for that matter, and put together a band that set the bar high for what was to follow as far as musicianship and stage presence were concerned. Although Haley was the lead singer, the real show was put on by saxmen Joey D’Ambrosio then Rudy Pompilli and stand-up bassist Marshall Lytle, then Al Rex. Haley, with his band, made records that literally cracked with punch and rocked the joint thanks largely to producer Milt Gabler.
While Haley’s “Rock Around The Clock” is widely accepted as the beginning of the Rock Era, Haley had several hits before that recording, which flopped on its initial release. In 1953, “Crazy, Man, Crazy,” written by Haley and Lytle, became the first Rock record to hit the charts, climbing to #15 in Billboard. “Rock Around The Clock” followed, missing, but 1954’s “Shake, Rattle & Roll,” a cover of a Blues recording by Big Joe Turner, proved a smash, becoming the first Rock record to hit the U.K. charts, climbing all the way to #4. By this time, Haley and band had firmly established the template for Rock & Roll, a mixture of Country, Western Swing and Blues.
“Dim, Dim The Lights (I Want Some Atmosphere)” closed 1954, just missing the top 10 and 1955’s “Birth Of The Boogie” and “Mambo Rock” proved a two-sided hit. Then came the movie, “The Blackboard Jungle,” the re-release of “Rock Around The Clock,” which went #1 in the U.S. and U.K., and the generally accepted beginning of the Rock & Roll Era. Though Haley is often dismissed as an artist of limited success, this is far from accurate. In the year following “Rock Around The Clock” he notched five more top 20 entries, including #9 “Burn That Candle” and #6 “See You Later Alligator” and as late as 1958 still scored big with #22 “Skinny Minnie.”
In Europe, where Haley became the first Rock star to tour, he was even more successful, six follow-ups to his biggest hit reaching the top 10 in the U.K. and, overall, Haley and his Comets still rank as one of the world’s best-selling singles artists and, surprisingly, stand as one of the most successful LP sellers, also.
The inductees are: Bill Haley (vocals & guitar); Frank Beecher and Danny Cedrone (guitar), Joey D’Ambrose and Rudy Pompilli (sax), Johnny Grande (piano), Marshall Lytle and Al Rex (bass), Dick Richards, Ralph Jones and Billy Gussack (drums), and Billy Williamson (steel guitar).
169. THE RIGHTEOUS BROTHERS – Bill Medley and Bobby Hatfield were not brothers. But they certainly were righteous…at least on record.
As regulars on the popular weekly show “Shindig,” the duo received tremendous exposure in the midst of the British Invasion, their electrifying performances often outshining the headliners. But after their early albums on the Moonglow label failed to sell, they teamed up with Phil Spector and recorded “You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’” for Spector’s Philles label. Suddenly, Medley and Hatfield were everywhere, three of their LPs entering the charts in the first month of 1965. Two were Moonglow releases, “Right Now!” climbing to #11, “Some Blue-Eyed Soul” peaking at #14. Before the year was half over, “This Is New!,” another Moonglow release was climbing, eventually reaching #39. “Right Now” was the home of the brothers first hit single, “Little Latin Lupe Lu,” which had reached #49 in 1963. The Medley-penned tune also was a hit for the Kingsmen, getting to #46 in 1964, then again for Mitch Ryder & the Detroit Wheels, who rode it to #17 in 1966.
But meanwhile, “You’ve Lost Lovin’ Feelin’” was hitting #1 in the U.S. and U.K., eventually becoming, according to BMI, the radio’s most played record ever recorded. The album of the same name soared to #4 in the States, but the brothers had difficulty moving long-players outside the U.S. Even “Just Once In My Life,” the successor to “Lovin’ Feelin’” failed to connect worldwide, though the single and album of the same name each hit #9 in the U.S. Even more puzzling, the LP also contained “Unchained Melody,” which reached #4 in the U.S. and #1 in Canada and Holland. Of course, when the record was re-released in 1990 after being featured in the hit movie Ghost, it was a different story, becoming #1 in the U.K., Austria and the Pan Pacific with the original and a re-recorded version each entering the U.S. top 20.
The Righteous Brothers split with Spector and moved to Verve where Medley produced “(You’re My) Soul & Inspiration,” which held the #1 position in the U.S. for three weeks, but by this time three labels – Moonglow, Philles and Verve were releasing product simultaneously, creating havoc and over-saturation and, by 1968, the pair had split up. A reunion in 1974 yielded “Rock & Roll Heaven,” a #3 single and two other top 40 hits, but there was not much more success until “Unchained Melody” clicked the second time.
The Righteous Brothers remained a popular concert attraction until Hatfield’s death in 2003.
170. NEIL SEDAKA – While in high school, Neil Sedaka was among New York City’s outstanding classical pianists, earning a scholarship to Julliard. But he and childhood friend Howard Greenfield, who served as his lyricist, began writing pop songs and soon hit it big with “Stupid Cupid” by rock’s first female star, Connie Francis. He then tried to place “The Diary” with Little Anthony & The Imperials, but they turned it down so he did it himself. The group did record it eventually, but Sedaka’s version was superior and his career as a hitmaker was off and running. From Christmas of 1958 until Thanksgiving of 1963, it was almost impossible to turn on the radio without hearing a hit by Sedaka. Featuring sparkling production, overdubbed lead vocals and catchy background vocal phrases, Sedaka remained on top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic and many of his songs – “Stairway To Heaven,” “Calendar Girl,” “Happy Birthday, Sweet Sixteen” and “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” – have survived as classics.
“Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” was Sedaka’s first No. 1, hitting the top in 1962, but it wouldn’t be his last. Though a major star in Britain – Sedaka placed seven singles in the UK Top 10 between 1959 and 1962 – the British Invasion brought Sedaka’s career to a screeching halt and he retired from recording around 1966. But, unlike many stars who never recovered, Sedaka returned in the mid-70s with another string of hits, and, this time, also a collection of best-selling albums. The resurgence was spawned by the U.S. No. 1 success of “Laughter In The Rain” in 1974 and another No. 1, “Bad Blood,” a duet with Elton John the following year. Also a slow version of “Breaking Up Is Hard To Do” reached No. 8.
To emphasize his popularity overseas, the Brits drove his “Laughter and Tears” LP all the way to No. 2 in 1976, and in 2009 his “Music Of My Life” release ranked 15th on the British album chart.
In addition to “Stupid Cupid”, Sedaka wrote other huge hits for Francis – including “Where The Boys Are,” which peaked at No. 4 - and also penned tunes covered by Jimmy Clanton (No. 7 “Venus In Blue Jeans”), the Carpenters (“Solitaire,” No. 17), the Fifth Dimension (No. 20 “Workin’ On A Groovy Thing”), the Captain & Tennille (the No. 1 “Love Will Keep Us Together”) as well as the Searchers, Tom Jones, Skeeter Davis, the Monkees, Frank Sinatra, Clay Aiken, Elvis and many others, leading to his induction into the Songwriters Hall Of Fame in 1983. Also, he has a street in Brooklyn named in his honor and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and he continues today to be a popular concert attraction.