Aretha Franklin’s cover of young English power pop vocalist Adele’s “Rolling in the Deep” is No. 1 on Billboard’s dance singles chart. It’s the sixth time she has topped that chart and the first time she’s accomplished this feat since “Here We Go Again” August 1998.
Earlier in the ‘80s, Franklin topped the dance chart with “Freeway of Love” and “Who’s Zoomin’ Who,” both in 1985, “A Deeper Love” in 1994 and “A Rose is Still a Rose” in 1998.
“Rolling in the Deep” is from her latest album, “Aretha Franklin Sings the Great Diva Classics,” which is her highest charting album in nearly three decades. It was No. 1 on the R&B chart — her first in 32 years, since “Jump On IT” in 1982.
BILLY JOEL’S GERSHWIN PRIZE EVENT ON TV
Billy Joel was the sixth recipient of the Library of Congress’ prestigious Gershwin Prize for Songwriting. The ceremony and tribute concert was held at DAR Constitution Hall in Washington, D.C. before Supreme Court Justice Sonya Sotomayer and numerous members of Congress. It will air several times on PBS beginning Jan. 2 (check your listings).
Among the artists performing the 65-year-old Piano Man’s songs were Boyz II Men (“The Longest Time”), LeAnn Rimes (“Lullabye (Goodnight My Angel),” Josh Groban (“She’s Always a Woman to Me”), Natalie Maynes of The Dixie Chicks (“She’s Got a Way”), John Mellencamp (“Allentown”) and Tony Bennett (“New York State of Mind”). Joel closed the evening by performing several of his own tunes, including “Movin’ Out” and “You May be Right.”
TIMOTHY B. SCHMIDT TO REJOIN POCO FOR ONE NIGHT
Timothy B. Schmidt, bassist and singer for the Eagles since 1977, will rejoin his earlier band, country rockers Poco, for one night, reports Broadway World. Schmidt will rejoin Poco when the group is inducted into the Colorado Hall of Fame on Jan. 9.
That night, he’ll once again join Rusty Young (who still leads the band), Richie Furay, Jim Messina and George Grantham, for a reunion of the 1970s lineup.
Schmidt, 67, joined Poco in 1969, a year after it formed. He replaced Randy Meisner, who joined the Eagles. Oddly enough, in 1977, Schmidt once again replaced Meisner, this time in the Eagles.
Other honorees that night include Stephen Stills and Manassas, Firefall, and The Nitty Gritty Dirt Band.
NEIL SEDAKA HOSTS NEW YEAR’S EVE BASH AT LEGENDARY EATERY
Neil Sedaka will headline a New Year’s Eve gig at the world famous Big Apple French restaurant, le Cirque, in midtown Manhattan.
The restaurant, which was awarded the James Beard Foundation Award for Outstanding Restaurant in 1995, is only a few blocks from Times Square, where more than a million revelers will celebrate the new year at midnight when that big ball drops.
The 75-year-old Sedaka has enjoyed a nearly 60-year career. He made his first appearance on “Dick Clark’s American Bandstand” in 1958 as a 19-year-old teen idol. The following year, he scored his first Top 10 hit, “Oh! Carol,” that he wrote for and about a high school girlfriend, Carole King.
After scoring numerous hits in the late ‘50s and early ‘60s not only for himself but also for other stars such as Connie Francis (“Stupid Cupid”) and Jimmy Clanton (“Another Sleepless Night”), his career then hit the skids until 1974. That year, “Laughter in the Rain” launched a major career comeback. That song hit No. 1 and was followed by another No. 1, “Bad Blood” and “Breaking Up Is Hard to Do.” He wrote or co-wrote all three songs. Since then, he’s been a popular draw in concert.
In November, Sedaka and Frankie Avalon are expected to headline Holland-America’s Malt Shop Memories Cruise out of Ft. Lauderdale that also features Bobby Rydell, Chubby Checker, The Four Tops, Little Anthony & The Imperials, Ben E. King, Lou Christie, Darlene Love, Sha Na Na, The Coasters, and The Platters former lead singer Sonny Turner.
JIM NABORS’ INDY 500 REPLACEMENT CHOSEN
A capella vocal group Straight No Chaser has been chosen to replace the retired Jim Nabors singing the traditional “Back Home Again in Indiana” before the start of the Indy 500 auto race in May, according to Auto Week.
Nabors sang the song 35 times before the race, but at 84 years old the Hawaii resident felt he was just getting to old to make the annual trip.
Straight No Chaser formed at Indiana University in Bloomington, just south of Indianapolis. The group’s 1998 video of “The 12 Days of Christmas” has been viewed on YouTube 18 million times. Three of the group’s four albums made the Top 40.
UPDATES: LYNYRD SKYNYRD AND THE WHO
Lynyrd Skynyrd, who formed in Jacksonville in 1969 (but didn’t release their first album until 1973), will perform its first two albums in their entirety in back-to-back concerts in February, the band announced. The performances in their hometown will be filmed for release on DVR and Blu-ray.
The band will run its debut LP, “Pronounced ‘Lĕh-’nérd ‘Skin-’nérd,” on Feb. 12. That album included the classic hits, “Free Bird,” “Gimme Three Steps” and “Simple Man.” On Feb. 13, the band will perform its second album, 1974’s “Second Helping,” that delivered “Sweet Home Alabama,” which was a direct response to Neil Young’s “Southern Man” that ripped racism toward blacks in the Southern United States.
For The Who Hits 50 Tour farewell go-round of North America next year, the legendary British band has selected upcoming Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductees Joan Jett & The Blackhearts as the opening act.
“We’ve been very close friends with Joan Jett for a long time. She is the real deal. This will be a great night of rock and roll for everyone,” said Who leader Pete Townshend.
Jett recalls The Who was a major contributor to the success of her early career after her first band, The Runaways, disbanded.
“After The Runaways ended, The Who stepped up and let me use their studio, Ramport (in South London). That gave me the freedom to start my own label, Blackheart Records,” she said. “I’ve modeled my career and my company after their amazing organization. I’m so happy to be a part of their 50th anniversary tour. No one personifies rock ‘n’ roll royalty more than The Who.”
The tour plays the 14,800-seat Valley View Casino Center in San Diego on Sept. 16 and the 18,000-seat Staples Center on Sept. 21.
KISS TO PLAY FIFTH ON CRUISE
The upcoming Kiss cruise will see the band perform it’s smash 1975 LP, “Alive!” in its entirety during the band’s “KISS Kruise V” from Oct. 30-Nov. 3. The cruise on the Norwegian Pearl is the fifth time Kiss has hosted a cruise. It sets sail out of Miami and stops Jamaica.
“Alive!,” a double-album, was the first live album by the band. It was comprised of recordings from four concerts, including in Detroit and Cleveland, and peaked at No. 9 on Billboard’s Top 200 album chart. It was the band’s first gold album.
The album generated controversy when famed engineer Eddie Kramer said that the only live instruments on the album were Peter Criss’ drums (a claim backed by Criss in his 2012 autobiography); everything else was overdubbed in the studio. Singer-guitarist Paul Stanley has denied this claim.
RINGO FINISHES NEW ALBUM
In a posting of his holiday greeting video on his website, Ringo Starr announced that he has finished his latest album. The 74-year-old Beatle says the new record, his 18th solo studio effort, will be released next year. He neglected to say what he’s calling the album and did not specify when it would be released.
Ringo’s last album was “Ringo 2012.” It didn’t sell well, hitting only No. 80 on Billboard’s Top 200 pop album chart.
NILE RODGERS NEW SONG TRIBUTE TO CHIC PARTNER
On March 20, singer/guitarist/producer Nile Rodgers plans to release a new single, “I’ll Be There,” a tribute to Bernard Edwards, his partner in the disco-funk band Chic. Rodgers got the idea for the single that he recorded with Chic after listening to some old analog demos from Chic’s earliest days.
Listening to those old tapes gave him the chance to remember and reflect back on Edwards, who was found dead in a Tokyo hotel room in 1996 at age 43, Rodgers said. Edwards’ cause of death was listed as pneumonia.
Rodgers recalled that the last time he heard Edwards’ voice was after the Tokyo concert, a show that saw him fall ill beforehand and one where he required help several times during the show. Rodgers said he pleaded with Edwards not to perform and seek medical assistance instead, but his pleas were ignored and Edwards went onstage.
“I called his room and our short call ended with me asking, ‘Are you sure you don’t need anything?’ He replied, ‘Everything’s alright. I just have to rest,’” Rodgers recalled.
OBIT: JAZZ CLARINETIST BUDDY DEFRANCO
Jazz clarinetist Buddy DeFranco, who morphed from swing music to become upbeat improvisational bebop jazz’s leading practitioner on his instrument, died at age 91 in Panama City, Fla., according to the BBC. His wife said he’d been in poor health for several years.
Beginning in the 1940s, DeFranco played in jazz outfits led by Gene Krupa, Charlie Barnett, Tommy Dorsey, Benny Goodman, Artie Shaw and Count Basie. In the ‘50s he collaborated with George Shearing, Art Tatum and Oscar Peterson and drummer Art Blakey.
From 1966-74, he served as bandleader for “The World Famous Glenn Miller Orchestra, Directed by Buddy DeFranco.” He won Down Beat magazine’s annual poll naming him Best Clarinetist 20 times.
Among the recently released albums, digital reissues, MP3 downloads and box sets are “Duke’s on Sunday 2,” a live album featuring covers of The Eagles’ “Hotel California,” Jimmy Buffett’s “Margaritaville,” Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven” and “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” from Hawaiian musician Henry Kopono, who was half of the pop music duo Cecilio and Kapono that formed in 1973; and import reissues of the entire catalog by The Beatles, The Band and English progressive rock band Greenslade.
Import reissues of many ‘70s and ‘80s albums from such iconic Jamaican artists as Rastafarian reggae icon Burning Spear’s 1977 LP, “Dry & Heavy” as well as LPs by Black Uhuru, Lee “Scratch” Perry, Sly & Robbie, Bunny Wailer, Toots & The Maytals, Jimmy Cliff and Steel Pulse; and an import reissue of “Carmel,” the 1979 LP from Jazz Crusaders’ founding pianist Joe Sample, who died in September at age 75.
Steve Smith writes a new classic pop, rock and country music news column every week. Contact him by email at Classicpopmusicnews@gmail.com.