memories of the ’70s – Tony Orlando and Dawn

From a solo artist, to becoming a group act to starring in their own variety show, Tony Orlando and Dawn were an essential part of the sounds of the 1970s.

Orlando had made his name in the 1960s as a solo artist, but by the end of the decade, he was a demo singer, and falling far from the spotlight he used to command.

Approached by producers with the song, Candida, Orlando couldn’t record under his own name because of contractual obligations, so he recorded the song under the name “Dawn”, with four backup singers and studio musicians.

The song shot to the top of the Billboard charts, hitting number three in Fall 1970 after being released in July 1970. Orlando followed up Candida with the song Knock Three Times in November 1970, recorded with co-writer/singer Toni Wine.

The song hit number one in January 1971 on Billboard Hot 100, and Orlando asked Motown/Stax backup singers Telma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson to permanantly become Dawn.

The trio toured Europe and then went into the studio to record, with Wilson’s sister Pamela Vincent joining them on vocals. Now billed as Dawn featuring Tony Orlando, the group released their third single “Tie a Yellow Ribbon ‘Round the Ole Oak Tree” in 1973, garnering their third Billboard Hot 100 hit.

The group kept recording and garnering hits, adding disco-influences to their songs with tracks like Who’s in the Strawberry Patch with Sally and Steppin’ Out (Who’s Gonna Boogie Tonight”.

In 1974, the group was given its own variety show on CBS, filling the gap left by The Sonny and Cher Show when it ended. Like its predecessor, the show as a mix of comedy sketches, music and silly banter between the band mates.

In the next two years, the show furthered the band’s success and more hot singles were released including He Don’t Love You (Like I Do) and Cupid, gaining radio airplay and support on the adult contemporary charts. The show ended in 1976.

In 1977, the group split, after a six year run of hot singles, television performances and touring, having become a favourite of viewing and listening audiences.

memories of the ’80s – Money for Nothing by Dire Straits

In the mid ’80s, Brit rock band Dire Straits gained a new group of fans with its blues/pop song that was all about music videos with the single Money for Nothing.

Written by Dire Straits singer Mark Knopfler, the song refers to a not-so-smart working class guy, who watches the newfangled music videos and comments on the images portrayal of apparently idyllic lives of these fictional characters.

Released as the second single from their album Brother in Arms in May 1985, the song gained radio airplay on rock and contemporary radio stations because of the lyrics as much as the addition of Sting from The Police as a co-vocalist on the track.

Knopfler had to be convinced to do a video, which he thought would destroy music, and the concept was to animate the title character of the song. This unique concept convinced Knopfler and the video was released to MTV in the US for heavy rotation and became the first video shown on MTV Europe when it debuted in 1987.

The video was my lure to the music – with its cool animation and the haunting voice of Sting on the chorus, I was hooked on this song and played it endlessly.

The single hit the Billboard Hot 100 number one spot in mid September 1985, staying at the top for three weeks. The album Brothers in Arms sold one million copies and was one of the first albums of the era that was focused on the new format compact disc.

The album has become the eighth bestselling album in UK history, certified nine times platinum in the US and won two Grammy Awards in 1986. The album sold 30 million copies and would become the band’s last album of the decade, before reuniting in 1991.

memories of the ’70s – Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell

For a songwriter of the mid 70s it took a major recording star’s interest in his song to get to the top of the Billboard charts: Rhinestone Cowboy by Glen Campbell.

Written by Larry Weiss in 1974, the song appeared on his album Black and Blue Suite, but had no impact on radio or the music charts. Meanwhile Campbell was touring through Australia when he heard the song.

Returning to the US, he went to his label, Capitol Records, to ask to record the song. He identified with the song’s themes of pursuing his dream for the brass ring reward.

Recorded in February and March 1975, the single Rhinestone Cowboy was released by Capitol in May, charting from its release on both the country and pop charts throughout the summer.

In mid September 1975, Campbell’s Rhinestone Cowboy was the first song since 1961 to hit both number on on the Hot 100 pop and the Hot 100 Country Billboard charts. The song also hit number one on the Hot 100 Adult Contemporary charts, and hit number one in Canada and Ireland.

The single was certified gold and silver and became a popular addition to Campbell’s catalogue of music. In recent years, the song has been covered by Radiohead, Soul Asylum, Belle and Sebastian, Charley Pride, Loretta Lynn and David Hasselhoff.


memories of the ’80s – St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) by John Parr

In the mid 1980s, a soundtrack’s title song that was also inspired by one man’s challenge became the number one song on Billboard: St. Elmo’s Fire (Man in Motion) by John Parr.

Written by David Foster and John Parr as an inspirational theme song for Canadian athlete Rick Hansen, the song was originally called Man in Motion.

This was the name of Hansen’s round the world charity challenge to raise money for cancer and spinal cord injury research, inspired by fellow Canadian Terry Fox, who had tried to run across Canada to raise awareness and money, but couldn’t complete the journey when his cancer reoccurred.

Director Joel Schumacher liked the song and asked for it to be used for his film St. Elmo’s Fire, which was a coming of age film that opened in June 1985 with a star-filled cast of the brat pack: Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, Emilio Estevez, Ally Sheedy, Judd Nelson, Mare Winningham, Andrew McCarthy and Andie McDowell.

The music video for the film version of the song was shot in one day, showing Parr singing to each cast member, while the Canadian version of the music video includes images of Hansen on his round the world challenge.

The song steadily rose on the charts during the summer of 1985 and hit number on Billboard’s Hot 100 on September 7, holding the spot for two weeks.

The song did well in other countries, hitting top 10 status in Canada, Austria, Ireland, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Switzerland and the UK.


memories of the ’80s – Heaven by Bryan Adams

A top 10 hit of the early 1980s, Bryan Adams’ ballad Heaven was in heavy rotation on radio playlists across North America.

Written by Adams and Jim Vallance, the song was recorded in 1983 at the Power Station Studio in New York City, and was influenced by Journey’s popular ballad Faithfully.

Adams toured with Journey throughout 1983, as the opening act on their Frontiers tour.

It was first used for the soundtrack of the film A Night in Heaven, a romance film released in November 1983, but was a flop at the box office. The song started being played by radio stations and reached number nine on Billboard’s Top Tracks chart in 1983.

Adams decided to include the ballad on his 1984 album Reckless and was the third single released at the beginning of 1985 after Run to You and Somebody.

Hitting the Billboard charts, the song hit number on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the Billboard Hot 100 Airplay and became the highest charting song of the album.

Reckless was Adams fourth album, and thanks to the power of Heaven, sold 12 million copies.



memories of the ’80s – Don’t You (Forget About Me) by Simple Minds

The iconic song of the mid 1980s may be attributed to Simple Minds, but its also the opening and closing song of the popular film The Breakfast Club: Don’t You (Forget About Me).

Written by Keith Forsey and Steve Schiff, the song was first offered to The Fixx, then Brian Ferry and Billy Idol, who all declined to record it for the film soundtrack.

Forsey approached Simple Minds, who said no, but after speaking to their record label A&M, reworked and recorded the song in less than three hours.

The film and album was released in February 1985, and with the success of the John Hughes film, a video by Daniel Kleinman was made to support the soundtrack’s first single, Don’t You (Forget About Me).

The song became the only one of the soundtrack to hit number one on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the band’s first number one single in the US. The song hit top 10 status in over 10 countries including, Canada, New Zealand, Italy, Ireland, Germany, Belgium and Australia, and stayed on the UK charts from 1985 until 1987.

Although it wasn’t a song written by or even in the same style as most of the band’s previous and consequent songs, Don’t You (Forget About Me), is the one that is the most memorable for many fans of Simple Minds.



memories of the ’70s – Shining Star by Earth, Wind & Fire

For funk band Earth, Wind & Fire, 1975 brought them their first number one single, the memorable Shining Star.

Written by band members Maurice White, Larry Dunn and Philip Bailey, the song was written for the CBS album That’s the Way of the World, which was also a soundtrack of a film that featured several band members in cameos.

Recorded in the Fall of 1974, the song was inspired by a walk by White under the starry sky. Mixing disco, pop, funk, soul and R&B, Earth, Wind & Fire fused the popular sounds of the ’70s into a distinct dance sound with the use of horns and a capella vocals.

This song was also the first by the band to zoom up the charts and become their first number one song on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. Listen to the original version here.

Shining Star gained the band two nominations at the American Music Awards and won a Grammy as Best R&B Duo/Group Performance.

A steady seller for Earth, Wind and Fire, the song hit gold status and eventually hit platinum status, selling over three million units in the US. And for the band, it was the beginning of their classic period as a band, gaining widespread popularity in the US and Europe.