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Sunday, January 22, 2012

Spotlight On Basia

One of the most frustrating moments that I can think of is when you hear a song playing somewhere that you have heard several times before in a specific place, but you can't place who sang the song or what the song title is.

It happens to me more times than I can count.

I'm sure we've all been in a situation where we're maybe in a car, and you have the radio going when suddenly a song comes on that you feel is familiar, but aren't sure as to what the song is, or even who sings it. Because you're driving the car, you can't really go onto your iPhone, click on whatever app you use to access the Internet, and look up the answer, because you and I both know that using an iPhone while driving a car at the same time is illegal and dangerous, not to mention stupid.

I've been in many situations where I have heard songs that I thought that I had heard before at some point, and couldn't figure out anything about who sang it, what the song was about, what album I heard it from. Even more frustrating is the fact I don't always remember to look up the information about the song once I get home and forget all about it until the next time I hear it again.

This happens all too often at my current workplace (the one I spend time at when I'm NOT working on this side project). The songs that play at work are at least five years or more old. On top of that, there's a good possibility that on any given shift, you can hear the same songs being played EVERY SINGLE DAY, due to the fact that the playlist that my workplace uses selects songs from the random pool of one thousand in any random order selected. I've been told that our playlist is really a bunch of CD's on the randomizer setting, but I wonder if the system that controls our music is really done by computer. I suppose that's a topic for another day.

Would you like to hear a story regarding one of these songs? It's linked to today's Sunday Jukebox spotlight.

A lot of people at my workplace usually tune out the music that plays throughout the store, but over the last couple of weeks, I admit that I have tuned in more than I really should. As much as it pains me to say this, I think I've got it down to a science as to when certain songs are likely to be played at my workplace, and quite possibly what order they might appear.

I know, it sounds bad, doesn't it? It's just a good thing that some of the music that the store does play, I actually don't mind too much.

Now, here's where my frustrations begin. Over the last couple of weeks, it seemed as though that every time I came in for a shift, there was one song that kept playing each one of my shifts. And, for the life of me, I could not figure out who it was that sang the song, nor did I know the artist.

It also proved problematic at first in regards to finding out this information. For one, I work in a grocery store setting, where depending on the day and time, the general noise level can range from extremely quiet to absolute chaos. And just my luck, each time the song usually came on, it was played on those absolute chaos days. Further complicating things was the fact that the singer of the song had a bit of an accent, so trying to figure out exact lyrics to enter into a search engine afterwards proved difficult, since I didn't know what the exact words were.

At first thought, the female's voice sounded as if it were British.  Initially, my thoughts were steering towards Kim Wilde or Samantha Fox, but neither one of them had songs that even remotely resembled the one I kept hearing day after day.

It wasn't until about five days ago or so that I finally got enough information to go on to perform a search. As luck would have it, I was on my fifteen minute break and was about ready to go back when the song that had drove me crazy for the last couple of weeks started to play, and I finally had enough lyrics to do an adequate search.

Once I got home, I typed in the first four words that were sang in the song. “Hello again, it's me.” Once I entered those lyrics into Google and clicked on the search button, I finally had the answer.

SONG: New Day For You
ALBUM: Time And Tide
DATE RELEASED: October 20, 1987

The song was called “New Day For You”, released in 1987 (as if the hairstyle of the male lead of the video didn't give it away).

And the artist of the song isn't British. She's Polish singer, Basia (pronounced BASHA).

Of course, Basia is just her stage name. Her real name is Barbara Trzetrzelewska. Do NOT even attempt to ask me to pronounce her last name because I know I'd butcher it if I tried.

At any rate, Basia is the subject for today, and just looking through her official website and other places, she has had one heck of a career. And, just looking at her discography and playing back some of the songs that she has recorded over her career, it almost seems as if my workplace plays a large selection of Basia songs.

But who exactly is Basia?

Basia was born in Poland in September 1954, making her fifty-seven years of age today. When she was just fifteen years old, she got her first big break in performance arts by performing alongside an amateur rock band known as Astry at a Polish rock festival. There was a judging panel at the festival, and thanks to Basia's help, the group ended up winning the contest, and Basia ended up singing with a couple of bands throughout the 1970s.

By 1979, Basia had made the decision to try and branch out in the world of music, and one of the first things she did was move out of her native Poland abroad. After a brief stay in the United States, Basia ended up settling in London, England by 1981. During this time, she met a couple of musicians named Mark Reilly and Danny White, and Basia joined the two of them to form a jazz trio. Initially called 'Bronze', the name of the band changed to 'Matt Bianco'. They released an album together in 1984, and had a couple of hits in the United Kingdom. If you'd like an example of Matt Bianco in action, you can just take a look at the video below.

The band's success together would prove to be short-lived, as Basia left the band just one year later to pursue a solo career. And in 1987, her first solo album, 'Time And Tide' was released, which contained the hit singles 'New Day For You', 'Prime Time TV', and the title track, which became Basia's first Top 30 hit on the Billboard Charts. Basia's success in the United States was especially noticed, and her debut solo album had sales of almost two million copies since its debut.

I can definitely see why Basia was so popular. Back in 1987, there were more or less three different kinds of music that dominated pop charts. Heavy Metal, Pop, and Rock. Basia's music was something was was quite different given the time that it was released. It was almost as if someone took an album of jazz classics and blended them together with contemporary Latin melodies to create a mix that was soulful, yet romantic. If you really listen closely to the lyrics of a lot of Basia's songs, they're quite deep. When you consider that English was Basia's second language, it was quite amazing that Basia could create such wonderful albums.

'Time and Tide' was merely the beginning though.

Her next solo project came about in late 1989. The album was called 'London Warsaw New York', a title that was almost autobiographical, as it represented three cities in the three countries that Basia once called home (England, Poland, The United States). The album also did very well, selling just as many copies as her first one. On the album were hits like 'Copernicus', 'Baby Be Mine', and the below, 'Cruising For Bruising', which peaked at #29 in early 1990.

(TRIVIA: 'Cruising For Bruising' is my favourite Basia song.)

Basia's second album proved to be even more successful than her first, with the album being named one of Billboard's Top Contemporary Jazz Albums of the Year, and her popularity grew in other countries including Japan, France, and the Philippines. She would release another album in 1994, “The Sweetest Illusion”, which continued her worldwide success. Two years later, she released a live album which was recorded during a concert set in New York City, entitled “Basia On Broadway.”

By 1998, however, Basia had decided that she needed a break from performing, and opted to take a sabbatical from music, despite the fact that she had earned a huge fan following, and had massive sales of her albums in various parts of the world. The truth was that 1998 was the beginning of a really rocky road for Basia's personal life, as it was right around that time that she had lost quite a few people who were very close to her.

One of those people happened to be her mother...a loss that Basia especially took hard, as I'm sure most people who have lost a parent can surely attest to. Although she did make a guest appearance on a 1999 single by Taro Hasake, she more or less remained out of the music scene for the next six years of her life.

That was until 2004, when her former 'Matt Bianco' bandmates approached her to reform the band. By this time, Basia was starting to get back into the music scene, and she agreed to rejoin her former bandmates to release another 'Matt Bianco' album, which garnered immediate critical success internationally. This was just the push Basia needed to go back to doing what she loved doing, which was making music, and in 2009, she released her first album of original material in fifteen years, entitled “It's That Girl Again”, which became a commercial success in the United Kingdom, and did fairly well on jazz charts in the United States.

What's funny is that Basia has had so much success in the world of music, yet it seems as though nobody that I've talked to even knew who she was. It's almost kind of a shame that she didn't have more of an impact in popular music, because I really think that her voice and talent far outweighs what currently passes as music these days. At the same time though, my own personal tastes in music seem to deviate from what is considered popular. I like music that can really touch your soul and make you feel something deep inside. I think Basia's music certainly qualifies, and I'm sure that she'll just get better and better as the years progress.

There's a couple of life lessons that Basia can teach us about ourselves as well. One lesson is that no matter what happens in someone's life and times, they should never forget where they came from, or what made them feel their best. And despite the fact that Basia took a little bit of a break to cope with the stress of her personal life, she still managed to hold her musical career close to her heart, and released a comeback album that was well received.

The more important lesson that she showed me especially is that if you want something bad enough, it can be just might have to make a lot of changes to make it so. Certainly leaving Poland and moving to two different countries would be a culture shock for most, but Basia knew that if she wanted to become a musical success, she would have to take that chance and move somewhere where she would have the best chance to succeed.

She never gave up on her dream, and took chances. It ended up paying off for her in a big way.

And in a way, this blog entry would have never been possible had one of her songs not played at work, and had me curious over who sang it.

1 comment:

  1. Welcome to world of loving Basia! I've been a Basiaphile since her first American hit "Time and Tide" - which I heard during a down time of my life in 1988. I went directly to the radio station and had to KNOW who that was - then I ran to the (last) record store in town and bought the CD - hooked from there on out. With her re-emergence in 2004 (which I had dubbed the Matt Bianco 20th Anniversary Reunion Tour LOL)she saw we were here and waiting for her. Thankfully we the internet to keep us connected to her - and MANY Basia fans also connect on facebook. So - hope to see you there - many of us post concert pics and videos we have from the shows we've attended. Best! -- Bev Okin-Larkin (webmistress of the Basia: International Discography website)