memories of the ’80s – Diamond Life by Sade

The mid 1980s may have been dominated by wild music videos and hair bands, but the sultry vocals of a young Brit broke through to dominate charts with the album Diamond Life.

A former model, young Sade Adu started back-up singing with a band called Pride.

Adu started writing with fellow band member Stuart Mathewman, and the duo often did a side set with Pride, attracting attention for their soulful songs. Band members Paul Denman and Paul Cook decided to leave Pride with Mathewman and Adu to form the band Sade in 1983.

Attracting attention for its unique sounds, Sade was signed to Epic Records and in 1983, spent six weeks recording their debut album in London. Mixing jazz, pop and funk with Adu’s strong vocals, Diamond Life was released in February 1984.

The first single Your Love is King did well, and the second single When am I Going to Make a Living did ok, but it was the third single that captured listeners on both sides of the Atlantic.

Smooth Operator was released as a single in September 1984 and reaching top 20 in the UK and Europe and top five in the Billboard single charts in the US.

Diamond Life won the Brit Award for Best British Album and the video for Smooth Operator, directed by Julien Temple, was nominated for two MTV video awards. Six million copies of the album was sold, making it one of the bestselling albums of the 1980s and the debut of neo-soul and the distinctive voice of Sade Adu.

memories of the ’70s – Songs in the Key of Life by Stevie Wonder

In 1976, singer/songwriter/piano man Stevie Wonder released his eighteenth album, one that would become one of his best: Songs in the Key of Life.

Disillusioned with living in the US and his music career, Wonder was ready to quit the limelight when he signed a new contract with Motown Records in 1975.

He signed a seven album, seven year deal worth approximately $37 million, giving Wonder full artistic control and resulting in the biggest deal giving to a recording artist to date.

Deciding to focus on a big project, Wonder chose a double album as the first of the contract, recording it in Hollywood over the next year. Wonder worked with many significant musicians including Herbie Hancock, George Benson, Minnie Riperton, Mike Sembello and Deniece Williams.

Released in September 1976, the album debuted on the Billboard Album charts at number one, the third album to do so. Easily labelled as R&B, funk, jazz and soul, the album’s popularity led it to be 80 weeks on the Billboard charts. The album’s singles spawned just as much attention – including “Isn’t She Lovely, I Wish, Sir Duke and As”.

The album’s popularity led to seven Grammy nominations in February 1977, and Wonder won for Album of the Year, Best Male Pop Vocal Performance, Best Male R&B Vocal Performance and Producer of the Year.

And for those lucky buyers who purchased the album’s special edition upon release received an A Something Extra’s EP with four extra songs including Ebony Eyes.

Considered one of his best albums of his career, Wonder’s album has been publicly praised by many including Elton John, Mariah Carey, Whitney Houston and Will Smith.

And for fans, this album is one that always gets a thumb’s up for its unique sounds as a result of Wonder and over 130 musicians and performers who put it all into this album.

memories of the ’70s – Seasons in the Sun by Terry Jacks

This Canadian singer/songwriter had achieved fame with his work with The Poppy Family, but his single in the early 1970s focused the spotlight on him with the single Seasons in the Sun.

Born in Winnipeg, Terry Jacks moved to Vancouver in the early 1960s with his family and formed his first band The Chessmen, who did well in the burgeoning music scene of the west coast, scoring local hits on radio.

Forming a new band with his future wife Susan Pesklevits and Craig McCaw, Jacks created The Poppy Family, adding tabla player Satwant Singh as their fourth member.

Recording an album, the lead single became their biggest hit “Which way you going Billy?”, propelling the group to top number one status across Canada, and hitting the #2 spot on Billboard’s Hot 100 in the US in 1969.

Written and produced by Jacks, the song attracted the attention of fans and fellow musicians, leading Jacks to go to Los Angeles and work with The Beach Boys on a solo project in 1970.

The song “Seasons in the Sun” was result of this collaboration, but the intense spotlight of fame was too much for Jacks, who returned to Vancouver, possibly on the edge of a nervous breakdown, the project unfinished.

Three years later, Jacks released the single on his label, Goldfish Records, and the song catapulted to the top of the charts on both sides of the border, earning Jacks radio airplay worldwide, as well as two Juno Awards for the song in 1974.

Seasons in the Sun became the biggest selling international single by a Canadian artist at the time. His fame led Jacks to work with other artists including Valdy, Chilliwack and Nana Mouskouri.

But the focus of fame was of no interest by Jacks, who took himself out of the spotlight and continued his music work and became active in the environmental movement.

Yet his songs live on, as classics of the 1970s pop music scene.

memories of the ’80s – Suzanne Vega

In the face of ’80s new wave romantics and punk rock, there was a room for a folky singer/songwriter named Suzanne Vega.

Born in California, Vega moved to New York City when she was two, and attended the Highschool of the Performing Arts, where she studied modern dance.

Graduating in the late 1970s, Vega started performing at Greenwich Village coffee houses, taking her poetry and writing songs. Some of her early work was recorded in the Fast Folk anthology albums and the exposure led to a recording contact in 1984.

Her first album, which was self-titled, earned critical acclaim as well as sales in 1985, hitting platinum status, especially thanks to the single Marlene on the Wall, with a video getting regular play on MTV and MuchMusic.

Vega collaborated with composer Phillip Glass and with her second album, Solitude Standing in 1987, her folk rock captured critics’ positive attention and her single Luka gained international airplay.

Her next single Tom’s Diner gained notoriety within the music industry, becoming infamous as a reference used during the trials for mp3 creation.

Luka was covered by The Lemonheads in 1989 and became a college radio hit with their rock interpretation.

For folk singer Suzanne Vega it wasn’t just about fame – she took her own path in the 1980s, and gained a strong audience with her acoustic guitar, distinct lyrics and folk influences.

Vega’s second album,

memories of the ’70s – Jim Croce

This singer/songwriter started his career during the tumultuos 1960s, but it was the early 1970s when Jim Croce hit the top of the charts.

Born in Philadelphia, Croce attended Villanova University in the 1960s, where his band performed on campus. Chosen to tour Europe and the Middle East, Croce realized that he could make a living as a musician.

Meeting his wife at a concert, Croce soon become a duo with his wife, with his first album made thanks to a $500 wedding gift from his parents. Pressing 500 albums, he sold every one.

Encouraged by his producer, Croce and wife moved to New York City, and promoted their second album across the USA with endless touring of small clubs and folk festivals.

Disillusioned by touring, Croce moved back to Philadelphia and got a job with a radio station. But soon he started working with Murray Muehleisen, first working on his music and then Muehleisen returned the favour to Croce.

In 1972, Croce signed a three album deal with ABC Records, and released two albums, and garnered hits with ‘You Don’t Mess Around with Jim’, ‘Operator’, and ‘Time in a Bottle’.

In summer 1973, Croce scored his biggest hit with ‘Bad Bad Leroy Brown’, from his album Life and Times. Touring in the US and Europe, Croce was getting tired of the road, and wanted to come back to the Philadelphia to spend time with his wife and young son.

In September 1973, Croce, Muehleisen and four bandmates died in a plane crash in Louisiana, the day before his next single ‘I Got a Name’ was being released by ABC Records.

The song release was delayed until December, and in 1974 a greatest hits album was released. Several songs were used in tv series and tv movies, as well as one of his songs used as the theme for the tv series The Greatest American Hero.

Despite his death, Croce’s songs lived on – played endlessly on radio during the 1970s and 1980s, and is still a folk rock hero within the pages of pop culture history.

memories of the ’70s – Loving you ain’t easy by Michel Pagliaro

The early sounds of Canadian radio in the 1970s was happily playing all the hits, including Loving you ain’t easy by Michel Pagliaro.

Pagliario, a Montreal-based musician, performed and recorded in English and French, and had a hit with Give us one more chance in 1970.

But it was the catchy riffs of Loving you ain’t easy that got the song on English radio playlists across the country and beyond. Many critics alluded to the Brit sounds of the song.

Released in 1971 as a single, the song was a chart hit for Pagliaro, and thanks to the rules of Canadian content on air, played extensively.

The album Pagliaro, became a chart success too, with follow up singles Some Sing, Some Dance and Rainshowers. The album was partly recorded at Abbey Road Studios in England.

Pagliaro continued to record, scoring success with French songs, in 1972 established himself as a successful Quebec rock star with and by 1975 was nominated for a Juno for Male Vocalist of the Year. He was the first Canadian pop artist to score chart hits in both English and French.

But thanks to Canadian content rules still in effect on radio airwaves, this song is a perennial favourite for radio stations to play this catchy tune.

memories of the ’70s – Nick Gilder

An Englishman that grew up in Vancouver, Nick Gilder brought those Brit roots with the establishment of his first band, Sweeney Todd, a glam rock group which garnered fans and radio airplay with their hit single Roxy Roller in 1976.

The band won the best single at the annual Juno Awards. In 1977, Sweeney Todd was no longer – as Nick Gilder wanted to pursue a solo career. He and his writing partner James McCulloch signed a deal with US label Chrysalis Records, while the band struggled to continue with replacements including a 15 year old Bryan Adams.

The first album by Gilder You Know Who You Are made little impact, but it was the single from the second album City Nights that made the radio stations take notice with Hot Child in the City.

This pop song climbed to number one in the US and Canada and earned Gilder Single of the Year and Most Promising Male Vocalist of the Year from the Junos as well as a People’s Choice Award in the US.

Although Gilder was focused on his own career, his songwriting was being noticed by many other artists and Gilder was commissioned to write songs for Bette Midler, Pat Benatar and Joe Cocker.

Although his career slid out of the spotlight of the pop charts by the end of the decade, Gilder’s influence through the 1980s in songwriting was strong. But it was his early days as a glam rocker in seemingly conservative Vancouver that launched his career into the wild world of pop music.