Birthday Week Part 2: Rosemary Clooney, Maxwell, and Robert Moog

Posted by Billyjam, May 23, 2017 10:38pm | Post a Comment

In continuation of yesterday's Amoeblog tribute to Morrissey's 58th birthday and the Amoeba Music one-day storewide 20% off sale on all Morrissey and The Smiths product to celebrate the date, we continue the birthday theme today by honoring three diverse artists whose birthday fell on this date of May 23rd: Rosemary Clooney, Maxwell, and Robert Moog. In the case of the latter artist/creator, whose legacy was celebrated over this past weekend with the annual MoogFest in North Carolina, select music artists whose careers were influenced by the moog synth creator will also be celebrated in this second birthday week Amoeblog installment.   Note tomorrow Wednesday, May 24th, Bob Dylan's 76th birthday will be celebrated with both a tribute Amoeblog as well as  one-day 20% off instore sale on the artist's releases And then on Friday this week, May 26th: birth date of the late Miles Davis,  the jazz great's legacy will similarly be celebrated in this one-week series.
Born on this date in 1934 and died in August 2005 at age 75,  Robert Moog was the inventor of the Moog synthesizer five and a half decades ago and, as such, widely credited with being a pioneer of electronic music.  It was in 1965 when the Moog company rolled out the commercially available modular voltage-controlled analog synthesizer systems. The radical musical creation would alter and help shape the course of popular music over the next half century. His electronic synthesizer keyboard instrument, that originally cost $11,000, counted among its earliest owners The Beatles, Sun Ra, and Mick Jagger after its introduction at the Monterey Pop Festival in 1967. As noted by such academics as Cornell University professor of Science and Technology Studies, Trevor Pinch Moog's creation and his name are often mispronounced. Moog rhymes with "rogue" not with "fugue" as it has repeatedly been mispronounced dating back to its earliest usage.

Among the earliest artists associated with the history of the Moog synth included Walter Carlos (later Wendy Carlos), Diana Ross & The Supremes, The Doors, and The Byrds followed by such others as  Rick Wakeman of Yes, Keith Emerson, Kraftwerk, and Gary Numan. Another fan of using the Moog synth, although not often associated with the instrument, was Bob Marley, But it was the aforementioned Walter / Wendy Carlos provided many music fans first introduction to the Moog with 1968 release of the crossover classical album Switched-On Bach which reworked Bach's pieces on this then new instrument. But in terms of the first big pop hit for the Moog as the main instrumentation, that occurred a few years later with the 1972 international pop hit single "Popcorn" by Hot Butter (song below) which was actually a cover of the song Gershon Kingsley wrote and first recorded in 1969 for his album Music to Moog By and done by numerous other artists including Jean-Michel Jarre who was recently featured on the Amoeblog for his WIMB? appearance.

Hot Butter "Popcorn" [Audio Only] (1972)

Filed under jazz or jazz vocals, easy listening, and pop vocals singer and actress (and aunt of George Clooney) Rosemary Clooney who was born on May 23rd, 1928, was a most prolific artist and active most of her adult life spanning a 50 year recording career. For a good sample of her music the 2CD Greatest Hits is a good place to start. Clooney began recording (with her sisters at first) in the 1940's but came to fame as a solo artist from the early 1950's with a string of hits starting with the Mitch Miller produced "Come On-a My House" and including such others as "Mambo Italiano," (video below) "Tenderly," "Botch-a-Me," and "This Ole House." She performed and recorded duets with Marlene Dietrich and with Arthur Godfrey on his Lipton Tea sponsored radio show, and starred in her own syndicated musical-variety TV program The Rosemary Clooney Show.

Rosemary Clooney's lengthy back catalog includes such albums as County Rose, Jazz Singer, Tenderly, and Girl Singer.  Among the highlights of her career as a movie actress included famously appearing with Bing Crosby among others in the movie White Christmas in 1954. A decade later she recorded and toured with Bing Crosby, releasing the 1965 duet album with Bing, That Travelin' Two Beat. Also released as an album was Bing & Rosie: The Crosby Clooney Radio Sessions. In 1996 she released her own album, White Christmas (also avail on LP/vinyl), for Concord Records to whom she was signed for the latter decades of her life and whom would release her final album The Last Concert, recorded in November 2001 and released in 2002 five months after her death up until her death from lung cancer.

Rosemary Clooney "Mambo Italiano" (1954)

Brooklyn born Gerald Maxwell Rivera today celebrates his 44th birthday. The singer/songwriter, producer, multi-instrumentalist (and sometime rapper) may likely be forever associated with the mid 90's "neo soul" movement that, along with such other artists as Erykah Badu, and D'Angelo he is credited with creating as captured on such singles off his 1996 debut album Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (also avail on LP/vinyl) as "Sumthin' Sumthin'," "Ascension (Don't Ever Wonder)," "Suitelady (The Proposal Jam)," and "…Til the Cops Come Knockin.'" And even though for 1998's follow-up studio album Embrya (there was an MTV Unplugged release in 1997), Maxwell abandoned the proven formula of his debut hit with his more challenging, esoteric production that got panned by critics (some dismissing it as "indulgent" or "pretentious") and didn't spawn any hit singles, the album by no means put an end to his career. In fact it actually ended up charting higher than his debut both in the US and internationally.  Maxwell's next/third studio album, Now released in 2001 and featuring such singles as "Get To Know Ya" and "Lifetime," would become the artist's first number one charting album on Billboard's pop and RnB charts. Then following a self-imposed seven year hiatus from performing and visibility in the music world, Maxwell returned with a new look (most notably the hair) and the launch of a new album trilogy beginning with 2009's BLACKsummers'night (also avail on LP/vinyl). Taking his time, he followed it up with last year's (a confusingly similar title) blackSUMMERS'night (also avail on LP/vinyl) as the second of three in this series. Happy birthday Maxwell.

Maxwell "…Til the Cops Come Knockin'" from Maxwell's Urban Hang Suite (also avail on LP/vinyl)

Relevant Tags

D'angelo (6), Bing Crosby (12), Rick Wakeman (1), Wendy Carlos (4), Robert Moog (4), Maxwell (2), Rosemary Clooney (3), Easy Listening (6), Jazz (150), Neo Soul (1)