The electrifying Aretha Franklin (“The ’59”) #030

“The ’59” 2018 #030: 180130

The Electrifying Aretha Franklin (1962)

Aretha Franklin’s third studio album, was released on March 19, 1962 by Columbia Records. It’s also known under its working title The Incomparable Aretha Franklin and was recorded at Columbia Recording Studios, 799 Seventh Avenue, New York. It was produced by John Hammond and arranged by Richard Wess.


Ben E King – Don’t play that song (“The ’59”) #028

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Ben E King – Don’t Play that Song (1962)

Don’t Play That Song! was the third studio album from Ben E. King. It was released by Atlantic Records as an LP in 1962 and was home to five notable singles: “Stand by Me”, “Ecstasy”, “First Taste of Love”, “Here Comes the Night”, and the title track, “Don’t Play That Song (You Lied)”

The Staple Singers – Swing Low (“The ’59”) #021

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The Staple Singers – Swing Low (1961)

“Swing Low” was the second album by The Staple Singers, released on VeeJay Records in 1961.

The Staple Singers were an American gospel, soul and R&B singing group. Roebuck “Pops” Staples (1914–2000), the patriarch of the family, formed the group with his children Cleotha (1934–2013), Pervis (b. 1935), and Mavis (b. 1939). Yvonne (b. 1936) replaced her brother when he was drafted into the U.S. Army, and again in 1970. They are best known for their 1970s hits “Respect Yourself”, “I’ll Take You There”, “If You’re Ready (Come Go with Me)”, and “Let’s Do It Again”, which with one exception (“I’ll Take You There”) peaked on the Hot 100 within a week from Christmas Day. While the family name is Staples, the group used “Staple” commercially.

Roebuck Staples moved from Mississippi to Chicago after his marriage, and worked in steel mills and meat packing plants while his family of four children grew up. The family began appearing in Chicago-area churches in 1948, their first public singing appearance being at the Mount Zion Church, Chicago, where Roebuck’s brother, the Rev. Chester Staples, was pastor.

They signed their first professional contract in 1952. During their early career, they recorded in an acoustic gospel-folk style with various labels: United Records, Vee-Jay Records (their “Uncloudy Day” and “Will the Circle Be Unbroken?” were best sellers), Checker Records, Riverside Records, and then Epic Records in 1965. “Uncloudy Day” was an early influence on Bob Dylan, who said of it in 2015…

It was the most mysterious thing I’d ever heard… I’d think about them even at my school desk…Mavis looked to be about the same age as me in her picture (on the cover of “Uncloudy Day”)…Her singing just knocked me out…And Mavis was a great singer—deep and mysterious. And even at the young age, I felt that life itself was a mystery.

The wonderful world of Sam Cooke (“The ’59”) #011

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The wonderful world of Sam Cooke (1960)

Influential as both a singer and composer, Sam Cooke is commonly known as the King of Soul for his distinctive vocals and importance within popular music. He began singing as a child and joined The Soul Stirrers before moving to a solo career where he scored a string of hit songs like “You Send Me”, “Wonderful World”, “Chain Gang”, and “Twistin’ the Night Away”.

The wonderful world of Sam Cooke was his fourth studio album, released in 1960.

His pioneering contributions to soul music contributed to the rise of Aretha Franklin, Bobby Womack, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, and Billy Preston, and popularized the likes of Otis Redding and James Brown. AllMusic biographer Bruce Eder wrote that Cooke was “the inventor of soul music”, and possessed “an incredible natural singing voice and a smooth, effortless delivery that has never been surpassed”.

Tragically, on December 11, 1964, at the age of 33, Cooke was shot and killed by Bertha Franklin, the manager of the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles, California.

James Brown – Please, Please, Please (“The ’59” #004)

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James Brown – Please, Please, Please (1959)

Please Please Please is the debut studio album by The Famous Flames under the billing “James Brown and His Famous Flames”, featuring the first album of recordings during Brown’s long career. It was first released in December 1958 stateside, and January 1959 in the UK.

It includes the group’s first two hit singles, the title track and “Try Me”, along with all the non-charting singles and b-sides he had recorded up to the time of the album’s release. The album was reissued in 2003 by Polydor on a Japanese 24-bit remastered import CD packaged in a miniature LP sleeve.

Ray Charles – What’d I say (“The ’59” #003)

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Ray Charles – What’d I say (1959)

“The ’59” isn’t all about albums; sometimes it’ll feature a significant single instead. Today’s the first – Ray Charles’ “What’d I Say”, released in June 1959, the month and year of my birth.

As a single divided into two parts, it was one of the first soul songs. The composition was improvised one evening late in 1958 when Charles, his orchestra, and backup singers had played their entire set list at a show and still had time left; the response from many audiences was so enthusiastic that Charles announced to his producer that he was going to record it.

After his run of R&B hits, this song finally broke Charles into mainstream pop music and itself sparked a new subgenre of R&B titled soul, finally putting together all the elements that Charles had been creating since he recorded “I Got a Woman” in 1954. The gospel and rhumba influences combined with the sexual innuendo in the song made it not only widely popular but very controversial to both white and black audiences. It earned Ray Charles his first gold record and has been one of the most influential songs in R&B and rock and roll history. For the rest of his career, Charles closed every concert with the song. It was added to the National Recording Registry in 2002 and ranked at number 10 in Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time”

Stevie Wonder – Inner Visions (Epic #351)

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Stevie Wonder – Inner Visions (1973)

Innervisions was Stevie Wonder’s 16th studio album, released on 3rd August, 1973, on the Tamla label for Motown Records, a landmark recording of his “classic period”. The nine tracks of Innervisions encompass a wide range of themes and issues: from drug abuse in “Too High”, through inequality and systemic racism in “Living for the City”, to love in the ballads “All in Love Is Fair” and “Golden Lady”. The album’s closer, “He’s Misstra Know-It-All”, is a scathing attack on then-US President Richard Nixon, similar to Wonder’s song a year later, “You Haven’t Done Nothin'”.

As with many of Stevie Wonder’s albums, the lyrics, composition and production are almost entirely his own work, with the ARP synthesizer used prominently throughout the album. The instrument was a common motif among musicians of the time because of its ability to construct a complete sound environment. Wonder was the first black artist to experiment with this technology on a mass scale, and Innervisions was hugely influential on the subsequent future of commercial black music. He also played all or virtually all instruments on six of the album’s nine tracks, making most of Innervisions a representative one-man band.