memories of the ’80s – Graceland by Paul Simon

Graceland_cover_-_Paul_Simon.jpgOver 30 years ago, Paul Simon went deep into the heart of South Africa to make the album Graceland.

His seventh studio album, Simon was dealing with the end of his marriage and depression, as well as a previous album that hadn’t done well. He was given a bootleg cassette of some South African folk music.

Travelling to South Africa, Simon spent two weeks recording with local musicians, working with local producer Hilton Rosenthal.

Many vocalists and musicians came into the garage/studio to collaborate with Simon, such as Ladysmith Black Mambazo and Boyoyo Boys Band.

Although there was a cultural ban against South Africa, Simon decided to pursue working with musicians. The resulting album was Graceland, his first attempt at mixing his style of music with South African rhythms into the emerging category of worldbeat.

Simon then brought back many tracks and worked with a variety of musicians in the US including Los Lobos, Good Rockin’ Dopsie and the Twisters, Linda Ronstadt and The Everly Brothers.

Warner Bros. was uninterested in the Simon project, more focused on their hot pop artists Madonna and Prince, and Simon spent a year from from October 1985 until June 1986 perfecting the album.

The first single, You Can Call Me Al, was released at the same time as the album, and controversy hit immediately with Artists  United Against Apartheid, South Africa’s ANC and other groups calling out Simon for breaking the cultural ban on South Africa because of apartheid, the government’s racist law. Simon was placed on the UN blacklist because of the album, but was removed in January 1987.

Receiving excellent reviews from critics despite little support from Warner Bros., Graceland soared up the charts, sold 16 million copies worldwide at the time and gained Simon the 1987 Grammy Award for Album of the Year.

Simon would receive praise from the South African musicians, especially Hugh Masekela, for focusing on them, and ignoring the government in his creation of this collaborative album. Masekela and Miriam Makeba travelled with Simon on tour, and led to multiple documentaries about the music and musicians.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Three ladies

A sculpture in Old Montreal….

three-ladies

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memories of the ’70s – ABBA The Album

ABBA_-_The_Album_(Polar)In December 1977, Swedish pop group ABBA released its fifth album and its first film, showcasing their style in ABBA The Album.

Recording from May until November, this studio album included songs from the mini-musical The Girl with the Golden Hair as well as new songs that would become pop classics.

After the success of the previous album Arrival, ABBA decided to slightly alter their style, with longer songs yet still keeping those distinctly ABBA hooks and also including only nine songs, the least amount on any of their albums to date, all written by Benny Andersson and Bjorn Ulvaeus.

Included on this album are the Take a Chance on Me and the Name of the Game, both of which would become top 10 songs worldwide, and the popular European hit Thank You for the Music. The Name of the Game would be the album’s first single, released in October 1977.

Officially released by Polar on December 12, 1977, on EPIC in the UK and Atlantic in North America, ABBA The Album soared to the top of the charts in many countries, including debuting at number one in the UK and became the band’s bestselling album in the US.

Despite the Cold War and the discouragement of Eastern bloc nations to support western music, this album sold 1 million copies in Poland and millions more in the USSR despite the official release of 200,000 copies. The album was certified platinum in Canada, US, UK Germany, Finland and Hong Kong.

At the same time, the band released its first film/documentary: ABBA The Movie, which showcased their tour of Australia, directed by Lasse Hallestrom, who directed all the band’s music videos. Songs featured include Waterloo, Money Money Money, Mamma Mia, Dancing Queen and Fernando.

And just another bestselling album and a movie in the stream of ABBA’s domination of the pop charts for their devoted fans.

 

 

 

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MIMA style

Street art in the MIMA Museum in Brussels:

mima-a

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Wynwood blues

Spotting BB King in Miami’s Wynwood Arts District:

miami-bb

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Miami love

Love in Wynwood:

i-love-miami

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memories of the ’80s – Rage of Angels by Sidney Sheldon

download-2In 1980, Sidney Sheldon wrote a best-selling novel that would also become a popular mini-series: Rage of Angels.

Focusing on lead character Jennifer Parker, a young assistant district attorney, Sheldon shows a naive woman who as her office is investigating Mafia boss Michel Moretti, makes a mistake to allow him to escape the net of the police.

Parker gets fired and is soon grilled by lawyer Adam Warner, who not only realizes she is innocent of helping Moretti, but that he is attracted to her. Meanwhile Moretti wants to make Parker a mob lawyer and also finds himself attracted to her.

Parker begins an affair with Warner, who is unhappily married, and finds out his wife Mary Beth wants him to run for the Senate. She confronts Jennifer, convincing her that she would harm his career as a politician and tells Warner she is pregnant. Meanwhile Parker breaks it off with Warner and finds out she is pregnant with Warner’s child.

Vulnerable to Moretti, Parker raises her son without Warner’s knowledge and is soon dragged into Moretti’s world, and becomes his lover. But Moretti’s distrust of her despite her use of him to help retrieve her son after a kidnapping leads to the love triangle once again of Moretti, Parker and Warner.

Published by William Morrow, the book’s success and the established career of Sheldon lead to the book becoming a television mini-series in  February 1983, starring Jaclyn Smith, Ken Howard and Armand Assante.

Although highly-rated, the mini-series was high drama and cliffhangers, and ended with the protagonist not getting the good guy in the end.

As the King of the Potboiler, Sheldon’s atypical style to focus on a strong female character, her relationships and a healthy dose of drama made for a popular book and mini-series.

 

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