Way Back 2019

March 18, 2019 - American Idol Embellishes Soundtrack with Oldies, Brenton Wood Peddles Kinder Joy Candy

Over the course of five episodes of auditions for this year's cast of American Idol hopefuls, several original recordings of '50s and '60s material have underscored various moments in the ten-hour presentation. Talent judges Lionel Richie, Katy Perry and Luke Bryan flew into Coeur d'Alene, Idaho to the sound of The 4 Seasons' lesser-known but worthy-of-exposure 1969 single "Idaho." Another half-dozen selections were major hits, spread throughout the twice-weekly segments: The Spaniels' 1954 hit "Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite" became exit music for a rejected auditioner, while "Tears on My Pillow," the 1958 breakthrough for Little Anthony and the Imperials, echoed similar sentiments. The late '60s were represented by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell's romance classic "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" and gospel standard "Oh Happy Day" by The Edwin Hawkins Singers. When the celeb judges needed caffeine, "Take Five" by the Dave Brubeck Quartet became a coffee-drinking song. Hank Snow's 1962 country chart-topper "I've Been Everywhere" set the tone for one of the more well-traveled entrants.

"The Ooogum Boogum Song," Brenton Wood's 1967 career-starter, is getting lots of 21st century coverage. After its resurgence in an Apple Watch commercial a few years ago and Lyft reprise just over a year ago, it's now being used in ads for Kinder Joy, the controversial toy-inside-a-chocolate-egg candy that is sold in the U.S. without the potentially dangerous toy "surprise."

February 10, 2019 - Grammy Content and Commercials Crawl With Classics

Alicia Keys, hostess of the 61st Grammy Awards, demonstrated a rare skill, giving credit to her influence: "Shout out to Hazel Scott, 'cause I always wanted to play two pianos!" (just like Trinidadian prodigy Scott did in the 1943 musical The Heat's On, on one white and one black piano); her medley of songs "I wish I'd written" spanned the decades and included Irving Gordon's song "Unforgettable," made famous by Nat "King" Cole in 1951.

Diana Ross appeared, looking splendid just prior to her 75th birthday, singing "Reach Out and Touch (Somebody's Hand)," her first solo hit after splitting from The Supremes 49 years ago. Then a tribute to Motown Records (leading up to its 60th anniversary) got under way with impressive showmanship by Jennifer Lopez on a medley of "Dancing in the Street" (Martha and the Vandellas' biggest), "Please Mr. Postman" (The Marvelettes' chart-topping debut), "Money (That's What I Want)" (first done by Barrett Strong), Contours dance-attack "Do You Love Me" and Edwin Starr protest hit "War," plus duets on two Temptations tunes ("My Girl" with the song's composer, Smokey Robinson, and "Papa Was a Rollin' Stone" with Keys) in addition to Stevie Wonder's "Another Star" (with Ne-Yo joining J-Lo). Later, a tribute to Aretha Franklin was short and sweet: Yolanda Adams, Fantasia and Andra Day each took a verse of "(You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman."

One of the better segments wasn't actually part of the show. A 60-second automobile ad premiered on the broadcast depicting Serena Williams relaxing in a new Lincoln Navigator while a storm develops and Sarah Vaughan's 1955 hit "Make Yourself Comfortable" plays to beautifully-filmed sprinkles-to-downpour visuals. Afterwards, a promo for the new film Isn't it Romantic starring Rebel Wilson alluded to its rom-com theme with "Oh Pretty Woman," the number one smash from 1964 by Roy Orbison.

February 3, 2019 - Two Words Sum Up Standout Super Bowl LIII Ad Songs: Dylan and Who

Super Bowl commercials have given short shrift to memorable hit songs these past few years. During the 53rd installment, just two vintage 60-second classics came up, each so beautifully produced as to compensate for the absence of more. In a "spot" premiered several days before the game, Budweiser, continuing the product's long series of ads featuring their signature dogs and horses, depicts one of the iconic Dalmatians enjoying "Blowin' in the Wind" - literally - atop a Clydesdale-drawn Bud truck traveling across the open plains while the famous 1963 recording of that title by Bob Dylan supplies the soundtrack and the point is made about "wind power for a better tomorrow." Moving from a natural setting to a technological one, The Who's '69 hit "Pinball Wizard" plays while a professional driver takes a Toyota Supra speeding through a giant pinball machine - which turns out to be one wild, thrilling obstacle course.

January 14, 2019 - Examining the Music in Cuarón's Roma Yields Several Non-Spanish Results

Roma, the latest from director (and writer, cinematographer and editor) Alfonso Cuarón, is the season's most critically acclaimed and heavily awarded film, certainly one of the all-time greatest from Mexico. Despite the lack of a formal music score, it contains around 40 excerpts of popular songs, mostly from the 1960s and '70s and mostly sung in Spanish! As the story progresses, many of them fly by quickly, stimulating curiosities and whetting appetites for answers. After watching the movie twice and listening to nearly every song in its entirety, I've pinpointed several that are are linked to cultures outside the Latin music world. Two big English-language hits are represented: "Yellow River" by British band Christie and "I Don't Know How to Love Him" by Hawaiian hitmaker Yvonne Elliman, introduced in the 1970 Andrew Lloyd Webber-Tim Rice rock opera Jesus Christ Superstar. One more in English, Gene Raskin's "Those Were the Days" (a folk song with roots in Russia), is aurally represented by Ray Conniff and the Singers' 1969 recording (instead of the version by Mary Hopkin that made the song a standard).

A French song worked its way into the background of the film: "Mamy Blue" (in the U.S. it's called "Mammy Blue"), penned by Hubert Giraud, is sung in its original language by Englishman Roger Whittaker. An Italian standard, "Quando M'innamoro" (written by Daniele Pace, Roberto Livraghi and Mario Panzeri) is performed in Spanish, translated as "Cuanda Me Enamoro," by Louisiana-born Latin singer Angélica María; north of the border (and in other global locations) the song is known by British composer Barry Mason's title "A Man Without Love," made famous by singer Engelbert Humperdinck. Finally, if you were unaware of the TV cartoon series El Festival de Porky (as I was), you know about it now! During the '60s and '70s, Warner Brothers' "Th-th-th-That's all, folks!" superstar, Porky Pig, had his own series of vintage shorts (with some new footage) dubbed for Mexican viewers and Roma points it out!


Goodnite, Sweetheart, Goodnite Tears on My Pillow Take Five Unforgettable Dancing in the Street Please Mr. Postman Money (That's What I Want) Do You Love Me My Girl