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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Shining Star

You know something?  Even though the third anniversary of the blog was yesterday, I still feel like celebrating all weekend long! 

I never thought that three years ago when I started "A POP CULTURE ADDICT'S GUIDE TO LIFE", that I would still be writing this blog three years later.  I guess there was a part of me that wondered if I could continue to find relevant topics to sustain a blog for even twelve months.  Three years is fantastic!  And, of course, there's more to come, so stay tuned for more!

I think that there's one great thing about anniversaries, be it a wedding anniversary, the anniversary of the day that a business was established, or, if you will, the anniversary of a blog.  In the case of a wedding anniversary, it allows a husband and wife (or husband/husband or wife/wife) to reflect back on the days in which they fell in love, and pledged to be together forever.  And how they've managed to stay together for ten, twenty, even fifty years despite anything that was thrown their way.  Whenever I hear stories about a couple celebrating a huge milestone anniversary, I can't help but smile.  In a world in which a little more than half of all new marriages end in divorce, these people have found a way to continue being devoted to the ones they love.  That's something to celebrate.

Or, how about people who started up a restuarant from scratch and now have one of the most successful places to eat in the entire city some ten years later?  I love hearing stories in which people who start out with absolutely nothing but a dream, and using hard work and dedication to make those dreams come true.  That's something to celebrate.

And, you know something?  As self-serving as this paragraph will likely make me out to be, I'm really proud of the fact that in a quiet little nook in cyberspace, I've managed to keep a blog going for three years straight.  It might not be exactly the way that I wanted my dream of being a professional writer to go down, but I am certainly enjoying the ride and am looking forward to what the next year brings.  To me, that's something to celebrate.

In case you haven't figured it out already, today's Sunday Jukebox entry is all about celebrating and happiness and milestones, and warm fuzzies!

Of course, the one song that would be perfect for this discussion (Kool and the Gang's "Celebration") is one that I can't use, because the rule that I had decided on for 2014 (at least until we get to the Advent Calendar in December) is that every Sunday Jukebox entry has to be a #1 hit from the week that I type up this blog.  And, well..."Celebration" was a #1 hit in early 1981.

But, that's cool.  I'm sure that if I look hard enough I can find another song that would fit the theme of celebration and happiness,  Let's just open up the database on #1 songs of all time and see what I can dig up.

Hmmm..."Rolling In The Deep" by Adele?  Hardly appropriate.  Besides, it's been done...

"Hollaback Girl"?  I don't think that works...

"Mmmbop" by Hanson?  Hmmm...maybe I'd better stick to songs written in 100% English...

"Everything She Wants".  It'd be fine if I was doing a blog on women trapping their men into marriage via pregnancy.  Besides, I've done that one before.

A-HA!  I knew that the decade known as the 1970s was my friend in this topic.  For some reason, a lot of music from the 1970s was happy, carefree, feel good music!  Why, you could do the hustle with a dancing queen while getting bitten by the night fever bug!

Okay, I'll stop now.

So, put on your bell-bottomed pants, mood rings, and platform shoes as we take our time machine back in time to the year 1975, where pet rocks, "Good Times" and "Jaws" dominated the pop culture scene.

And today's band is one that is still performing today, some thirty-nine years after this song hit the top of the charts!

ARTIST:  Earth, Wind & Fire
SONG:  Shining Star
ALBUM:  That's the Way of the World
DATE RELEASED:  January 21, 1975

Ah, yes.  The vocal stylings of Earth, Wind & Fire.  They were one of the hottest acts to dominate the charts of the 1970s and early 1980s with hits such as "September", "Boogie Wonderland", "After The Love Has Gone", and "Let's Groove".

But "Shining Star" was a very special hit for the Chicago based band.  It was the band's very first #1 single, staying at the top of the charts from May 24-30, 1975.  The song itself was written by three of the many members of Earth, Wind, & Fire, Maurice White, Larry Dunn, and Philip Bailey.

And, believe me...I'm not kidding about the group having many members.  When the band was founded in 1969, the original members of the group were Maurice White, Wade Flemons, and Don Whitehead.  But over the next forty-five years, a total of FIFTY-SIX people could make the claim that at some point, they were a member of Earth, Wind & Fire.  That's absolutely incredible.

Of course, the most prolific members to this day are White, White's brother Verdine, and Bailey.

TRIVIA:  Would you like to know how the name Earth, Wind & Fire was chosen?  You can thank Maurice White for the inspiration!  Initially, when White, Flemons, and Whitehead were starting up the group, they went by a different name - "The Salty Peppers".  Yeah, can't imagine why they wanted to get rid of that name.  Anyway, Maurice White's birthday is December 19, making him a Sagittarius on the astrological chart.  The sign of Sagittarius is a fire sign, and the sign has seasonal qualities of earth and air.  Hence the name, Earth, Wind & Fire.  Pretty cool, huh?

(For what it's worth, my sign is Taurus, which is an earth sign.  Not that you really should care.  I just wanted to add to the trivia.), should we talk about "Shining Star"?  Yeah, I think that's a great idea.

Having been on the music scene for a few years prior to recording "Shining Star", Earth, Wind & Fire were already starting to develop a fan base, and word was getting out about just how talented of a band they were.  One man, movie producer Sig Shore was very impressed by the band.  So impressed was Sig that Sig signed the group to a soundtrack deal for his next silver screen project, which would include the song "Shining Star".

(Bet you can't say that last sentence seven times.)

So,  Certainly, the band was up for the chance for more exposure.  After all, at this point in their careers, the band didn't really have that one defining hit, and they saw the opportunity of contributing music for a film soundtrack as a positive one. 

At least, that's what they thought at the time.

The movie was entitled "That's the Way of the World", and its star was Harvey Keitel, playing the role of a record producer named Coleman Buckmaster working his fingers to the bone to produce the debut album of an up and coming band known as..."The Group".  Wow, that name has about as much appeal as a bowl of cold oatmeal, doesn't it?

And, here's a shocker.  The group that played "The Group"?  Earth, Wind & Fire.  Bet you didn't see that one coming!  Maurice White even had a few speaking lines in the movie. 

The movie itself was released in the summer of 1975, and unfortunately for all parties involved, the film was a gigantic box office bomb.  The movie was savaged by critics, didn't even make a whole lot of profit (if any were made), and I honestly don't even know if you can even buy the movie on VHS, let alone DVD or Blu-Ray.

But here's where the message of "celebrating successes" comes into play.  You see, the members of Earth, Wind & Fire weren't new kids trying to adapt to a whole new school.  They had been in the music business long enough to know when something was too good to be true.  And immediately after seeing a sneak preview of the movie prior to its release, they all had the prediction that the movie was going to be a complete disaster - a prediction that as we all know by now came true.  So, they decided to take a little bit of a risk with their career, hoping that it would pay off.

The risk?  Release "Shining Star" as a single during the first month of 1975, and then release the rest of the soundtrack album a full three months ahead of the film's release date.  Their idea was to get people excited about the music that they created while simultaneously downplaying their roles in the movie "That's the Way of the World".  After all, the members of Earth, Wind & Fire weren't trying to become Hollywood "it" people.  They were only interested in spreading the joy of music to the world.

Interestingly enough, that gamble worked.  The movie did bomb, but the Earth, Wind & Fire album "That's the Way of the World" would later come to be known as the band's breakthrough album.  It was the album which helped catapult Earth, Wind & Fire from relative obscurity to the top of the pops. 

And, you know something?  "Shining Star" is a brilliant song to link to Earth, Wind & Fire.  They took a potentially career damaging decision such as appearing in a box office turkey and transformed it into absolute success.  And, success should be celebrated!

And just how successful a single was "Shining Star"?  Well, it became a gold single, selling over one million copies worldwide.  The song helped the group win a Grammy Award for Best R&B Blues Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals.  And, the album the song appeared on was ranked #486 on Rolling Stone Magazine's list of the Top 500 Albums of All-Time.

Now that's definitely a shining star moment right there, folks!

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