Category Archives: Aretha Franklin

Today’s Top 5: 50 Years Ago Today (4/2/1967)

Fifty years ago today the fabled Summer of Love was still months away, but make no mistake: Life was groovy. Unemployment clocked in at 3.8 percent; inflation at just under three percent; and the median income per household was $7200 ($52,513 in 2017 dollars, or about $6K less than it is now). The average house cost homebuyers $14,250 ($104K in 2017 dollars, which is about $80K less than the present average). Gas cost 33 cents a gallon.

Lyndon B. Johnson was president; and, although his approval ratings weren’t super high, common wisdom held that he’d run for re-election in 1968 and win. What few foresaw: that the opposition to the Vietnam War, which at this stage was supported by most Americans, would grow as more and more soldiers were sent to fight in Southeast Asia and more and more died. As a result, almost a year later to the day – March 31st, 1968, to be specific – LBJ announced that he would not seek, nor would he accept, the Democratic Party’s nomination for president.

At the local cinemas, Thoroughly Modern Millie and In Like Flint were attracting eyeballs; and, on TV, The Andy Griffith Show and Bonanza were tied at the top of the TV ratings chart, followed by The Red Skelton Hour, Dean Martin Show and Lucy Show. On the nightstand: Elia Kazan’s The Arrangement, a novel about a Greek-American WWII veteran who has a nervous breakdown and Ira Levin’s Rosemary Baby, which inspired the classic movie.

The hippie scene was beginning to flower, too.

The generation of teenagers featured in Newsweek the year before was another year older, after all – and, if we believe the popular press, pushing even more boundaries than before. (See the above report.) And while that was true, to an extent, another generation of kids was leading a much more traditional life.

Valerie S. of South Pasadena, for instance, was all of 13 and change on this Sunday. She woke late – 10:30am! – as she did most weekends, ate breakfast, read the comics in the Sunday paper and, along with her brother, picked up fallen oranges from the backyard. She and her family then spent the afternoon and evening with friends, where they had dinner and played games. All in all, it was a good day. Her father even mowed then lawn! (Side note: It’s amazing what one can find on Ebay.)

Anyway, enough of my lead-in – onward to today’s Top 5: 50 Years Ago Today (4/2/1967) via my favorite chart site, Weekly Top 40. One note: the chart actually ended the day before.

1) The Turtles – “Happy Together.” Holding at No. 1 for the second week in a row is this feel-good song that’s never gotten old.

2) The Mamas and the Papas – “Dedicated to the One I Love.” Holding strong at No. 2, also for a second week in a row, is this cover of the classic Shirelles song.

3) The Beatles – “Penny Lane.” The Fabs have two songs in the Top 10: This at No. 3 and its flip side, “Strawberry Fields Forever,” at No. 8.

4) Petula Clark – “This Is My Song.” The No. 6 song this week was penned by Charlie Chaplin (yes, that Charlie Chaplin), who gave it to Petula to sing. It went on to top the charts in the U.K. and hit No. 3 in the U.S. She’s since said it’s one of the least-favorite of her hits.

5) Buffalo Springfield – “For What It’s Worth (Stop, Hey, What’s That Sound).” The first Buffalo Springfield single, “Nowadays Clancy Can’t Even Sing” in 1966, went nowhere fast, as did its album home, the Springfield’s self-titled debut. Then the infamous Sunset Strip riots in L.A. inspired Stephen Stills to write this song, which went onto hit No. 7 in the charts – exactly where it is this week. (The track was then added to their album, fueling its rise into the Top 100, where it peaked at No. 80.)

And four bonuses:

6) Harpers Bizarre – “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy).” The No. 13 song is this, the first single from this odd duck of a group. One of its members, Ted Templeton, would go onto become a major music producer. Among his credits: the Doobie Brothers’ self-titled debut; Van Morrison’s Tupelo Honey and Saint Dominic’s Preview; and six albums by Van Halen.

7) Aretha Franklin – “I Never Loved a Man (The Way I Love You).” The No. 14 song is this, Aretha’s first big hit.

8) Martha and the Vandellas – “Jimmy Mack.” There’s so much good music on this week’s chart that it’s kind of ridiculous. This is No. 18.

9) Arthur Conley – “Sweet Soul Music.” Jumping from No. 45 to 30: This classic homage to soul music, which was written by Conley and Otis Redding and based on Sam Cooke’s “Yeah Man.”

Today’s Top 5: Good Girls Revolt, Take 2 – March 23, 1970

Earlier today, I watched (for the umpteenth time) one of my favorite films: Breakfast at Tiffany’s, which was released in 1962. It’s a whimsical love letter to eccentricity, escape and the human-feline bond, and Holly Golightly may well be Audrey Hepburn’s most iconic role. The movie is also notable, of course, for introducing the Henry Mancini-Johnny Mercer song “Moon River” to the world.

Here’s some food for thought, though: In 1962, Holly’s opportunities were extremely limited because of her gender. She would have been disqualified from many jobs; and, even if an employer made an exception and hired her, she could expect to be paid much less than a guy doing the same work. She also wouldn’t be able to get a prescription for the birth-control pill, as it was only given to married women (and only in some states); and, regardless of her marriage status, she could be fired if she became pregnant. And if a male colleague or superior grabbed her ass? She had no recourse. Sexual harassment, as a concept, didn’t exist. Oh, and even if she had graduated as the valedictorian of her high school, she couldn’t apply to Harvard, Yale or Princeton, as women weren’t accepted as students. She’d also have difficulty getting a credit card.

fullsizeoutput_10a5Which is why Good Girls Revolt, a fictionalized account of the experiences of women at Newsweek during late 1969 and early 1970, is such an important series. On the surface, of course, it’s about women fighting for the right to pursue their dreams – in this case, reporting and writing. But it’s more than that. It’s about an era when change was spreading through society writ large. And while the America of 1969-70 was different than it was in 1962, it was not as different as, at first blush, it may seem – within the counterculture? Yes. Within the wider culture? Not so much. In 1970, for instance, CBS nixed the idea that Mary Tyler Moore would portray a divorcée in her eponymous sitcom because executives feared it would offend viewers. Instead, her character (Mary Richards) moved to Minneapolis after breaking off a long engagement.

Good Girls Revolt, for those who’ve yet to see it, opens after the concert fiasco at Altamont Speedway near San Francisco in December 1969. As I said here, the dialogue’s occasionally clunky in the first few episodes and the characters sometimes teeter near stereotypical – but it’s well-acted. Let me add an adverb: It’s extremely well-acted. (Genevieve Angelson, who plays lead character Patti, deserves an Emmy Award.) While glimpses of greatness are seen in the early going, it’s not until midway through the 10-episode run – the New Year’s Eve episode, to be specific – that the series hits its stride. (That’s not a criticism; most new shows take a while to find their groove.) By the last episode, when the employees take a public stand, you’ll be left wanting more. Much more.

However, last week, Amazon nixed a second season despite the show doing well in every available metric. According to Hollywood Reporter, Sony Pictures Television, which produces the show, is currently shopping it to other networks – ABC, Freeform, USA Network, Bravo and Hulu are all said to be interested – but they won’t take it on if they don’t think there’s an audience. So head over to Care2 and sign the petition.

The women themselves let their voices be heard on March 16, 1970, the same day that Newsweek published a cover story on the nascent women’s movement. The issue is actually dated March 23rd; like most magazines, then and now, Newsweek pre-dated its issues so that it retained newsstand appeal. For the purposes of today’s Top 5, I’m sticking to the 23rd – well, actually the 21st. The charts over at Weekly Top 40 are two days off.

Anyway, here’s today’s Top 5: Good Girls Revolt, Take 2 – March 23, 1970. These are the songs by female artists that, according to Weekly Top 40, were in the Top 40 that week.

1) Aretha Franklin – “Call Me.” The top 18 hits this week are by men; the highest-charting 45 by a woman is this, at No. 19. It was the lead single from Aretha’s 1970 This Girl’s in Love With You album.

2) The Supremes – “Up the Ladder to the Roof.” The next female act, the Supremes, comes in at No. 25. It’s notable as the first post-Diana Ross single by the Motown stalwarts; Jean Terrell handles lead vocals.

3) Lulu – “Oh Me, Oh My (I’m a Fool for You Baby).” This gem from Lulu (one of my favorites by her) ranks at No. 31.

4) Bobbie Gentry and Glen Campbell – “All I Have to Do Is Dream.” Of this week’s Top 40, exactly three and a half songs are by women. (Let that sink in for a moment.) This, a cover of the Everly Brothers’ classic, ranks No. 34.

5) The Five Stairsteps – “O-o-h Child.” This was a newly ranked single within the Top 100; along with its flipside, “Dear Prudence,” it was No. 85. (The Stairsteps were five siblings – four brothers and one sister – and they all take a turn singing lead here.)

And one bonus…

6) Gladys Knight & the Pips – “You Need Love Like I Do (Don’t You).” Another new entry this week, coming in at No. 87.

And that, believe it or not, is the extent of women in the chart, which covers Numbers 1 through 50 and adds 14 additional “new this week” entries for the Top 100 as a whole.