Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Billboard Top 5 • 1974

Billboard 1974
Jackson 5 Redbone
Love Unlimited Orchestra Terry Jacks Barbra Streisand
Clockwise: the Jackson 5; Redbone; Barbra Streisand; Terry Jacks; Love Unlimited Orchestra.

When I think back to 1974, I have to admit, it is a time that is a bit of a blur for me. As everyone I knew were coming into their own, and really discovering themselves. I spent much of my teenage years running away from myself, trying to ignore what I was feeling, and what I was thinking. I turned 14 that year, and while I tried to convince myself and others that I was feeling nothing, no sexual urges or waves of attraction, we all know that was not true. But it was 1974, and there were few positive images of gay people around, and certainly none in Smyrna, Delaware. So I remained "in hiding" and surrounded myself with music. One of the things I dealt with all this was my going to things like dances at the local VFW with a group of friends. And that year, we certainly couldn't escape the wonderful sound of The Jackson 5, who had the #5 song of 1974 with Dancing Machine. The song was just about the ultimate dance song, and had great vocals by Michael and Jermaine.

The #4 song had the most interesting back story, for it was written by Lolly Vasquez, a member of the band Redbone. He was Native American, as were the other members of the band. To the best of my thinking, they were the first Native American rock band to be successful. And they most certainly were, as Come and Get Your Love was the fourth-ranked song on the Billboard charts for the year.

Love Unlimited Orchestra had an interesting story of their own. It was a 40 piece orchestra brought together to back up the R&B vocals of a trio of women, and the bandleader/frontman, Barry White. He was also responsible for writing much of the music they performed. And in 1974, the song they were playing was the #3 song of the year, Love's Theme. It was off the Rhapsody In White album, and was playing non-stop on the radio.

In what seemed to be a year rife with songs with interesting stories behind them, the next might just take the cake. This song was an adaptation of the song Le Moribond by Belgian singer-songwriter Jacques Brel, some consider the greatest troubadour of the twentieth century. With new lyrics written in English by American singer-poet Rod McKuen, it became a huge hit for Canadian Terry Jacks. Here he is performing the #2 song of 1974, Seasons In The Sun.

As one could only expect, I was, and continue to be, a huge fan of Barbra Streisand. I had fallen for her voice years before after listening to her albums with my sister Kathy. By this time, I had loved the albums Barbra Joan Streisand, Stoney End, What About Today?, and had begun collecting her early recordings as well. I also remember listen to the Live Concert At The Forum, and the thrill of hearing the live audience respond. So it was no surprise that I was all over the #1 song on the Billboard charts for 1974. The Way We Were was not only a great song, but it was the theme for a great movie, which had the iconic pairing of Barbra with the astoundingly handsome Robert Redford. The song was written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman, and Marvin Hamlisch. It won both the Academy Award and the Golden Globe for Best Song for the year. Here is Barbra singing The Way We Were.

You can find all these songs on iTunes and Amazon. And they are all well-worth the price to enrich your collection.


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