Elton John, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra & More: Stories From Adult Contemporary's Biggest Stars & Songs
Elton John, Whitney Houston, Frank Sinatra & More: Stories From Adult Contemporary's Biggest Stars & Songs

Frank SinatraFrank Sinatra

With 48 songs, Sinatra has the sixth-most AC chart hits.

Charlie Pignone, senior VP, Frank Sinatra Enterprises. Pignone has worked with the Sinatra family for more than 25 years and traveled with the singer during his last 10 years on the road (1985-1995).

"The first session I attended with Frank was "L.A. Is My Lady" and, of course, the 1993 "Duets" project. We were in Las Vegas at the Convention Center and he came in with the first mix from the album, the Frank and Luther Vandross track ["The Lady Is a Tramp"]. During rehearsal they played it for everyone and Frank was pretty thrilled. He was astonished that [the albums] did so well. The one partner he asked for was Ella Fitzgerald, and when he was working on the project we had to tell him she was not well enough to record.

"'Strangers in the Night' [No. 1 for seven weeks on the AC chart in 1966] was a song he didn't like. From the conversations I had with him, he saw the success [producer/executive] Jimmy Bowen was having with Dean Martin ["You're Nobody Till Somebody Loves You"] and he wound up cutting ["Strangers"], getting dubs made and out to DJs before Jack Jones' version of the song was released a couple of weeks later. He got it to key DJs and it became such a hit that they did an album really quick that sounds nothing like the title song. Frank did not like to sing the song but he did it because the audience liked it so much.

"With "New York, New York," to him and everybody else, it was a personal connection. He was very happy when "New York" became a hit. His friend in music publishing, Frank Military [of Warner/Chappell] had been pushing him to record the song ever since the movie ["New York, New York"] had come out. The first time he played it was at a benefit for the New York governor, Hugh Carey.

"'L.A. Is My Lady' [his 48th and final AC hit in 1984] was done because of the Los Angeles Olympics. The project was developed in 1982 and '83 as a duets album with Lena Horne. One side had Frank doing her songs, the second side was her doing his songs, the third side was duets of new songs, and the fourth side was duets of old songs. "Stormy Weather" was the one song that made it to the record, and "Mack the Knife," which he started doing in 1984, stayed in his concert up until the end.

"'It Was a Very Good Year' and 'That's Life' (both No. 1 AC hits) stayed in the book for a long time, though "That's Life" was not played as often and not in the last five years [of his performing career]. "Very Good Year," he always said, he heard on the car radio as a folk song, probably by the Kingston Trio. He called [arranger] Gordon Jenkins and had him put together a pop version that he decided to put on his next album."

As told to Phil Gallo.

The 5th DimensionThe 5th Dimension

The five member group has had 22 AC hits, including 15 top 10s--five of which reached No. 1.

5th Dimension member Florence LaRue: "Marc Gordon, who became our manager, guided the 5th Dimension so we weren't just another black R&B group. He was a genius, had been a producer at Motown and was managing a young, unknown songwriter named Jimmy Webb. Marc thought the 5th Dimension and Webb would be a good marriage. He was right.

"The group had five very different voices. That accounted for some of our success-although our recordings were pop, our show was diverse: from almost light opera to R&B to pop. The original group was only together for 10 wonderful years. I'm the only original left, celebrating 45 years. Ron Townson passed away [in 2001], but I'm still in contact with the three other original members: Billy Davis Jr., Marilyn McCoo and Lamonte [McLemore].

"'Aquarius/Let the Sunshine In'? We were in New York City and one of the members lost his wallet. It was returned by a gentleman who was a producer of the play "Hair." We invited him to our show; he invited us to his show. We were in the audience and heard Ronnie Dyson sing "Aquarius." We took the idea to Bones. He said, "It's a good song but the cast album is not selling much." But he came back with the idea of putting "Aquarius" with "Let the Sunshine In." They're actually two songs. That song took us the least time to record and it was one of our biggest hits. They're still playing it."

As told to Gail Mitchell

Michael BoltonMichael Bolton

He has nine AC No. 1s, placing him in a tie for eighth-most in the chart's history.

Bolton: "My secret? Remaining open to recording great songs whether written by my friend and genius songwriter Diane Warren, or a classic delivered by legends like Otis Redding, Steve Cropper, Percy Sledge . . . I'm grateful that AC radio has delivered my music for so long around the world."

As told to Leila Cobo.

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