Fred Bronson answers readers' questions about Richard Harris, the Bee Gees, Mariah Carey, Cyndi Lauper, and more.
THE LATE RICHARD HARRIS
Hello again Fred.
No obituary I have read so far of Richard Harris has focused on what to me is his greatest accomplishment -- his No. 2 recording of "MacArthur Park." To think most [obituaries] focused on "Harry Potter," a role he did not even want to take, is highly ironic.
Since the first time I heard "MacArthur Park" in 1968 on the late WABC, it has always been my all-time favorite song, and still is. After being saddened by Sen. Paul Wellstone's death around lunch time, then to hear about Richard Harris dying [the same day] was almost too much.
What a great song "MacArthur Park" was, with great lyrics by Jimmy Webb. I know many people hate the song (Dave Barry said it is the worst song of all time). But it isn't. One of my favorite things I have is autographed sheet music of "MacArthur Park" signed in front of me by both Jimmy Webb and Richard Harris.
I always felt, but have no proof, that it was held back from No. 1 by its length, and stations like WABC not wanting it to be No. 1 because it was so long, [meaning] less commercials. Maybe you could write something about Richard Harris, who indeed enjoyed life.
You weren't the only one who noticed that many obituaries of Richard Harris failed to note his musical achievement. Just a few minutes before writing this week's Chart Beat Online, Billboard's managing editor Michael Ellis stopped at my desk and made the same comment.
I'm not surprised that Harris' role in the two "Harry Potter" movies was prominently mentioned in the obituaries, because it's his most recent work, and the franchise is extremely popular. His death also brought up the issue of who would play Dumbledore in the third film. Also, Harris was mostly known for his acting, and many people apparently forgot about his achievements on the Billboard Hot 100.
THEY DON'T COME FROM A LAND DOWN UNDER
Could you please clear this up for me? I have been having an ongoing argument with a friend of mine about the chart successes of the Australian supergroup the Bee Gees (please don't dispute my "Australian" description. They grew up in Australia, are Australian citizens, and were discovered in a Brisbane pub. They were superstars on Australian television for years before the world discovered them). I merely say this because they have been described as British in this column. Something as capricious as where you were born should not be definitive.
Anyway, I am adamant that the Bee Gees had six consecutive U.S. No. 1s and also had five hits in the top-10 at the same time, a feat not even Elvis or the Beatles managed. My friend disagrees with a passion. Could you please clear this up for me?
I'm sure I'm right.
Yes, but you're sure about the Bee Gees being Australian, too.
I'm willing to let everyone decide for themselves, but for the purposes of Chart Beat, the Bee Gees are British. Their parents, Hugh and Barbara Gibb, were living on the Isle of Man in the U.K. when Barry was born on Sept. 1, 1947. Twins Maurice & Robin were born in Manchester, England, on Dec. 22, 1949. The family didn't move to Australia until after Andy was born
They did emigrate to Brisbane, as you indicate. The Bee Gees had their own TV series in Australia and were signed to Festival Records. They relocated to Sydney, and had top-10 hits. But then Barry, Maurice, and Robin decided they wanted to return home, to England. Their father booked passage for the family and sent one of the Bee Gees' albums to manager Robert Stigwood in London. Once the Gibbs were back in England, Stigwood signed the Bee Gees and the songs that became hits in the U.S. were all recorded in England. So I would suggest the Bee Gees are Brits who lived in Australia for a while, where they kicked off their career.
The Bee Gees did have six No. 1 hits in a row on the Hot 100, beginning with "How Deep Is Your Love" in 1977. But they never had five songs in the top-10 at the same time. For two weeks, beginning the week of Feb. 25, 1978, there were three Bee Gees songs in the top-10: "Stayin' Alive," "Night Fever," and "How Deep Is Your Love." The Beatles did top that, with five songs in the top five during the week of April 4, 1964.
THE TOP-40 LEADERBOARD
I love reading your weekly Chart Beat Chat and Bonus. Last week, you talked about Madonna taking over the lead as the solo female with the most top-40 hits on the Hot 100. Who leads this race on the country and R&B charts? Reba McEntire, Dolly Parton, or Loretta Lynn (country)? Aretha Franklin or Diana Ross (R&B)?
You named the three women who have the most top-40 hits on our country chart, just not in the right order. Dolly Parton has the most (87), while Reba McEntire is second (70), and Loretta Lynn is third (66).
You also ventured a good guess on the R&B side. Aretha Franklin leads with 85. While not a solo artist, Gladys Knight & the Pips have 54. Dinah Washington is close behind with 47, and Diana Ross has 40 (plus 23 more with the Supremes).
WILL SHE MAKE IT 'THROUGH THE RAIN'?
I enjoy reading Chart Beat each week online, although this is my first time writing. Your comments about the unsuccessful run of Christina Aguilera's "Dirrty" are prompting my question: what is your opinion on the likelihood that Mariah Carey will ever again dominate the charts?
It goes without saying she was unstoppable throughout the '90s, but of course that is ancient history in the world of popular music. Even though "Thank God I Found You" and "Loverboy" hit high peaks (No. 1 and 2, respectively, I believe), it seems to me she hasn't had a real radio hit since "Heartbreaker" three years ago. Do you think this is because the public has tired of her, or turned on her, or is it simply because the singles she has released haven't been very good?
"Through The Rain" seems to be going nowhere (save getting mild airplay on Adult Contemporary stations). Is Mariah doomed?
Corpus Christi, Texas
There is still airplay activity on Mariah Carey's "Through the Rain," so it's not over for this song yet. Mainstream top 40 radio is playing the song. "Rain" was played on 80 mainstream top 40 stations last week, for a total of 853 spins, up 158 over last week. For comparison, Kelly Rowland's song "Stole" was played on 122 stations, for a total of 2,868 spins, up 372 over the previous week.
On our Adult Contemporary chart, "Through the Rain" was the most-added song last week. Charting at No. 17 AC, "Rain" had 650 spins, up 158 from the previous week. That's not enough to translate into a position on the Hot 100, yet.
RADIO'S TRUE COLORS
Cyndi Lauper has been absent from radio for about a decade now. She's had some great albums like "Hat Full of Stars" and some great singles like "You Don't Know" that got critical raves but never got any airplay. Now she's opening for Cher on tour. The "Shine" EP has a good buzz, and the crowd seems to know all the songs. But it looks like radio never got the memo. Lots of people found the music online. This seems to be the case with a growing number of artists. Do you think radio is less relevant than it was 10 years ago, before the age of the Internet?
Look forward to hearing from you.
It isn't just radio. A lot of different media are only interested in what's happening right now -- this second, not last Tuesday, and not 1984, when Cyndi Lauper had her first hit. It doesn't mean that "Shine" isn't a great song; it means that Lauper may no longer fit the demographics of a station playing Christina Aguilera and Kelly Rowland.