It's The Girls
As most of you know, I have an absolute mania for harmony and vocal groups – I'm mad for the melodies, I’m cuckoo for the chords! I have been a rabid fan of these groups since I was a mere sprout, (which was so long ago I’m practically a beanstalk now!) and although I have jumped feet first into this kind of music many times, I decided to devote an entire record to some of the girl group music that I have loved since I was a kid. Yes, Virginia, I MADE A NEW ALBUM!! It’s my 25th album, which I really can’t believe. How did I manage that? Have I been recording albums I didn’t know about in my sleep?
My old friend Marc Shaiman and I went into the studio last spring. We started out by choosing nearly 50 of our favorite songs and then went through the agonizing process of editing the list down to only 17; I swear, making some of those decisions, I felt like Meryl in Sophie’s Choice! We then invited some of our favorite people in to play. A great album is like a fine wine, it’s not half as good unless you're sharing it with good friends. While I did a lot of the background chores myself, we also had some great backing singers in as well. It’s always been a particular thrill for me to watch and listen to background singers work their magic; the great ones are great artists. The experience was a thrill and the result is overwhelmingly happy, except for a couple of ballad surprises, because what’s a Bette Midler record without little kleenex, right? Hey! It worked for Piaf! We’ve stuffed so many glorious girl groups into this album - it’s an exquisite explosion of estrogen! You’ll croon, you’ll cry, and you’ll walk away craving more.
Yes, I love the music these women made, but I also love the world of the groups themselves. The legends, the rumors, the hair!! How many movies and books have come out of that world? Not enough, if you ask me!! Some of the groups were formed and trained at home, like the Boswells and the Andrews Sisters, some were put together by the labels themselves, and some met on street corners or subway staircases, looking for an echo. But whether they were sister acts or musical arranged marriages, they all had one thing in common – that SOUND! Well, the fantastic outfits didn’t hurt either. Or the synchronized dances. Okay, so maybe three things in common.
The 50s and 60’s were their heyday, when girl groups really came into their own, putting their stamp on pop music, and having a huge influence on the music that came long after they had left the stage, especially in Great Britain, where they were lionized, imitated and covered to death...
Some girl groups survived, some didn’t; some were taken advantage of, some wrote their own rules, many went through fire just for the chance to sing. There is no denying that much of what they went through, just as women, was difficult, but there is also no denying that what they gave to the world is still relevant, and still necessary; joy, attitude, and the golden dream of a youth that will never fade.
They say behind every great man, there’s a great woman. Well I think that behind every great woman, there should be at least two other women singing and dancing in perfect unison. I hope “It’s The Girls” gives you the impulse to dig deeper into the music and the lives of the women who made it. You won’t regret a moment…
From the very beginning of my recording career I insisted on pretending that I was a girl group. I often sang all the background parts as well as the leads, just for the fun of it, as I did on "Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy". On my first album, The Divine Miss M I covered the Dixie Cups “Chapel Of Love”, although I didn't sing those harmonies myself. I thought it was the silliest, most charming song, and when I pictured myself sashaying down the aisle with my singing bridesmaids in tow, I always fell out. The Dixie Cups were out of New Orleans, and their seminal hit “Iko Iko” is still played everywhere all the time. Jolly, good-natured, except for the part where the singer threatens to set the listener on fire, it is infectious as only nursery rhymes can be. The girls learned it from one of their grandmothers, and it is irresistible.
On that same album, we recorded “The Leader Of The Pack”, which also lent itself to ridiculous staging, which of course, I loved, although I’ll never forget the time my choreographer took a pair of scissors to my black leather jacket because she didn’t think it was authentic enough. People, what I have endured for my art.
Still, the Shangri-Las, even though I sent them up, were the real thing, and had a major effect on the pop music of the day. The 2-minute movie they were selling had a beginning, middle and a tragic ending, of course. Like every other teen, when I heard it, I sobbed.
On my third, ill-fated record, Songs For The New Depression I sang all the parts on “Old Cape Cod”, “Samedi et Vendredi” (Welcome to my Nightmare) and a song given me (or maybe I stole it) by Garland Jeffries called “No Jestering”, that came from Jamaica, I think.
More recently, on Bette I covered some of the great male groups, the Manhattans’ “Shining Star” and the temps’ “Just My Imagination”. Every couple has their song, and Martin’s and mine is “Have You Seen Her”, which always reduces us to tears, and I am not joking....next year, “Ooh, Child”, or maybe something by Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes...
But honestly, there are so many great songs to sing, and I always count myself lucky to find one. This year, I recorded one of the most beautiful songs I have ever heard, called “Talk To Me of Mendocino” originally written and sung by Kate and Anna McGarrigle. The first time I heard it...well, you can imagine.
So that’s a little history on my background with backgrounds and girl groups. Like they say in 20 Feet From Stardom, people usually sing along with the backgrounds, not the lead. One always suspects they are having way more fun. So….ooohhh…...waaaahhhhhh!!!!
Friday, OCTOBER 31, 2014
The Waldorf Astoria
301 Park Avenue, New York City
6:30 p.m. Cocktails sponsored by TD Bank Group
7:30 p.m. Dinner
NYRP’s annual masquerade ball, Hulaween, is always a delicious balance between raucously fun and frighteningly ghoulish. Themed Fellini Hulaweeni, this year’s gala promises to be very… Mambo Italiano. We’ll be honoring long-time environmental stewards, Shelly and Tony Malkin with the Green God Award and Sarah Nash with the “Wind Beneath My Wings” Leadership Award. Joined by Mistress of Ceremonies Judy Gold and Costume Contest Judge Michael Kors, and featuring a musical performance by none other than Earth, Wind & Fire.
Federico Fellini (January 20, 1920 – October 31, 1993) was an Italian film director and scriptwriter. Known for his distinct style that blends fantasy and baroque images with earthiness, he is considered one of the greatest and most influential filmmakers of the 20th century. Check him out on YouTube or IMDb. We are thrilled to celebrate him at Fellini Hulaweeni on the 21st anniversary of his death.
Summer is gone, and we are still busy cleaning up after a long season of letting things slide. Look again at all that stuff you have been squirreling away for years and be ruthless: make piles: keep, toss, and disown (What is this? Where did this come from? That’s not me!) Take heart, it happens to all of us. Here are some photos that I can’t toss without showing them to you first…