1959 begins with Communism taking over Cuba, so we make Alaska and (then later) Hawaii states. The Big Bopper, Ritchie Valens, and Buddy Holly go down in flames, so we launch the first successful ICBM. This is the year of the first Barbie doll, the first plain paper (Xerox) copier, the first man-made object landing (crashing) on the moon, the first living things returning from space alive (monkeys), and pantyhose. The biggest hits in music are ‘Mack the Knife,’ ‘The Battle of New Orleans,’ and ‘Personality.’ As busy as the world is getting with progress, the music is all over the place. It’s a madhouse.
R&B almost legend Jesse Blevins cowrote ‘Earth Angel’ (shh, it’s a lawsuit!). His gentle ballad “I Want You with Me, Christmas” comes from his only album Guess Who? as he was killed in a car wreck shortly after. The day lots of the music died, i guess.
Give the ladies a chance. And, i mean, Lady. All around icon, Pearl Bailey, strutted her stuff radio, stage, screen, TV, and record album from the ’30s into the 70’s gracefully. Her wow-factor is never more apparent than in “Five Pound Box of Money:” a fine gift no matter how you wrap it.
The Anita Kerr Singers’ “Christmas is the Day” is a little tiajuana brassy, but even more a snoozey stew of lazy harmony. We will have easy listening with us always.
Dinah Washington makes the story of “Ole Santa” a sad ole ‘cuz-Mama-sez lecture to dumb kids who don’t know what’s coming Christmas Eve. It’s scary how square she is.
Gracie Fields sings “Little Donkey” like she’s pep-talking those dumb manger mutts into getting into character for their screen test with the Savior Bairn. So kinda funny.
Yet another Bing Crosby musical for the holidays (‘Say One for Me’) dropped “The Secret of Christmas” without making the splash past numbers had–it sounds like your square dad so much that square dads didn’t buy it. Check out Mina’s version with the cool jazz combo behind her faux Judy Garland sirening. Oh yeah, and there’s Ella Fitzgerald adding a shivering amount of soul to her rendition.
Ray Conniff made the glee sound out of the big band sound. His first album (this year) went platinum and earned him a grammy. So, out pops a Christmas disk by The Ray Conniff Singers with this creepy, stalker-y bit of whimsy: “Christmas Bride.” Please, don’t play this at your wedding.
Brooke Benton, another Nat King Cole clone, hit hard on the R&B chart with ‘It’s Just a Matter of time’ (last year) and ‘Baby(You’ve got what It Takes)’ (this year). “This Time of the Year” showcases his elegant, non-threatening pretty vocals, allowing black men to sing the soundtrack of romance.
Adult music this year is starting to get good and weird. So check out the early electronica lounge music of Esquivel! and his “Jingle Bells.” The future is here and it’s STRANGE!