A Happening at Central Park

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51 Years ago today, in front of 150.000 people, Barbra Streisand performed at a free concert held in New York City’s Central Park. The entire event was recorded and later released as a CBS television special and a soundtrack album called ‘A Happening In Central Park’.

A Happening In Central Park is now available on Netflix.

 

 

 

 

Johnny Mathis, the world’s most famous balladeer

Mathis was born in Gilmer, Texas, United States, in 1935, the fourth of seven children of Clem Mathis and his wife, Mildred Boyd, The family moved to San Francisco, California, settling on 32nd Ave. in the Richmont District, where Johnny grew up. His father had worked in vaudeville, they were both professional cooks and cooked all these extraordinary things. When his father saw his son’s talent, he bought an old upright piano for $25 and encouraged him to play. Mathis began learning songs and routines from his father. He spent most of my childhood with my father. He was a singer and played the piano and Johnny was fascinated with him, whereas his brothers and sisters weren’t that interested in music. They were busy doing other things but it was very important to him, he got involved early and extensively in singing in every capacity of my daily life. His dad taught him his first songs, took him fishing, hunting, a lot of outdoor activities, free activities; that was the main thing, it didn’t cost anything. His first song was ‘My Blue Heaven’ Mathis started singing and dancing for visitors at home, at school, and at church functions.

Johnny Mathis

Johnny Mathis (Click photo to enlarge).

When he was 13, voice teacher Connie Cox accepted him as her student in exchange for work around her house. Johnny studied with Cox for six years, learning vocal scales and exercises, voice production, classical, and operatic singing. He is one of the relatively few popular singers who received years of professional voice training that included opera. The first band he sang with was formed by his high school friend Merl Saunders. Mathis eulogized him at his funeral in 2008, thanking him for giving him his first chance as a singer.

Mathis was a star athlete at George Washington High School in San Francisco. He was a high jumper and hurdler, and he played on the basketball team. In 1954, he enrolled at San Francisco State University on an athletic scholarship, intending to become an English teacher and a physical education teacher. The high jump record he set there was only two inches short of the Olympic record.

In San Francisco singing at a Sunday afternoon jam session with a friend’s jazz sextet at the Black Hawk Club, Mathis attracted the attention of the club’s co-founder, Helen Noga. She became Mathis’ music manager, and in September 1955, after Noga had found Mathis a job singing weekends at Ann Dee’s 440 Club, she learned that George Avakian, head of Popular Music A&R at Columbia Records, was on vacation near San Francisco. After repeated calls, Noga finally persuaded Avakian to come hear Mathis at the 440 Club. After hearing Mathis sing, Avakian sent his record company a telegram stating: Have found phenomenal 19-year-old boy who could go all the way. Send blank contracts.

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Johnny Mathis (Click photo to enlarge).

At San Francisco State, Mathis had become noteworthy as a high jumper, and in 1956 he was asked to try out for the U.S. Olympic Team that would travel to Melbourne, Australia, that November. Mathis had to decide whether to go to the Olympic trials or to keep his appointment in New York City to make his first recordings. On his father’s advice, Mathis opted to embark on a professional singing career. His first album was released in late 1956 instead of waiting until the first quarter of 1957.

Mathis’s first record album, Johnny Mathis: A New Sound In Popular Song, was a slow-selling jazz album, but Mathis stayed in New York City to sing in nightclubs. His second album was produced by Columbia Records vice-president and record producer Mitch Miller, who helped to define the Mathis sound. Miller preferred that Mathis sing soft, romantic ballads, pairing him up with conductor and music arranger Ray Conniff, and later Ray Ellis, Glenn Osser, and Robert Mersey. In late 1956, Mathis recorded two of his most popular songs: ‘Wonderfull Wonderfull’ and ‘It’s Not For Me To Say’

Also that year, Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, signed him up to sing the latter song in the movie Lizzie (1957). Shortly afterwards, Mathis made his second film appearance for 20th Century singing the song ‘A Certain Smile’ in the film of that title. He had small acting roles in both movies as a bar singer. This early visibility in two successful movies gave him mass exposure. His appearance on the popular TV program The Ed Sullivan Show in 1957 also helped increase his popularity. Critics called him ‘the velvet voice’. Mathis also appeared during this period on Abc’s The Pat Boone Chevy Showroom, as did fellow African-American entertainers Ella Fitzgerald and Pearl Bailey.

During the summer of 1958, Mathis left San Francisco with the Nogas, who sold their interest in the Black Hawk club that year, and moved to Beverly Hills, California, where the Nogas bought a house.

Johnny Mathis judges a San Francisco State beauty contest in 1958.

Johnny Mathis, back at San Francisco State Collegee to help pick ‘Most Beautiful Girl on Campus’.
Finalists are front (l-r) Sheila Shelly, and Diane Delgado; rear Carol Jean Childers, Mary Lou Ciranson and Judy Massie (March 1958)(Click photo to enlarge).

He was the first artist to release a ‘greatest hits’ album, Johnny’s Greatest Hits, pioneering the concept in 1958. The album spent an unprecedented 491 consecutive weeks through 1967 (nine and a half years) on the Billboard top 100 album charts, earning him a mention in the Guinness Book of World Records.

Mathis had two of his biggest hits in 1962 and 1963, with ‘Gina’ (#6) and ‘What Will My Mary Say’ (#9).

In October 1964, Mathis sued Noga to void their management arrangement, which Noga fought with a counterclaim in December 1964. Mathis purchased a mansion in Hollywood Hills, which was originally built by billionaire Howard Hughes in 1946, where he still maintains a residence.

After splitting from Noga, Mathis established Jon Mat Records, Inc., incorporated in California May 11, 1967, to produce his recordings (previously, he founded Global Records, Inc. to produce his Mercury albums), and Rojon Productions, Inc., incorporated in California September 30, 1964, to handle all of his concert, theater, showroom, and television appearances, and all promotional and charitable activities. His new manager and business partner was Ray Haughn, who, until his death in September 1984, helped guide Mathis’s career. Since that time, Mathis has taken sole responsibility for it.

JOHNNY MATHIS 1984

While Mathis continued to make music, the ascent of the Beatles and early 1970s album rock kept his adult contemporary recordings out of the pop singles charts, until he experienced a career renaissance in the late 1970s.

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Johnny Mathis (Click photo to enlarge).

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Johnny Mathis ‘Love Story’ (backside), 1971 (Click photo to enlarge).

1973 Johnny Mathis I'm Comming Home

Johnny Mathis ‘I’m Comming Home’, 1973 (Click photo to enlarge).

1974 Johnny Mathis - The Heart of a Woman - Front Cover Reconstruction

Johnny Mathis ‘The Heart of a Woman’, 1974 (Click photo to enlarge).

Mathis has released eight Christmas albums and his single ‘When A Child Is Born’ has been a hardy Christmas perennial ever since it went to No 1 in 1976.

Johnny Mathis & Diahann Carroll duet the song “You Are So Beautiful” on her show, July 1976

In 1978, Mathis recorded ‘Too Much, Too Little, Too Late’ with singer and good friend Deniece Williams. The lyrics and music were arranged by Nat Kipner and John McIntyre Vallins. Released as a single in 1978, it reached number one on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 pop chart, number nine on the Canadian Singles Chart and number three on the UK Singles Chart. It also topped the US R&B and adult contemporary charts. ‘Too Much, Too Little, Too Late’ was certified gold and silver in the US and in the UK by the RIAA and the British Phonographic Industry respectively. It was his first number one hit since his 1957 chart-topping ‘Chances Are’.

1978 Johnny Mathis & Denise Williams - That's What Friends Are For

Johnny Mathis & Deniece Williams with their monsterhit album ‘That’s What Friends Are For’ (Click photo to enlarge).

In 1978, his hit duet ‘The Last Time I Felt Like This’ from the film Same Time, Next Year was nominated for an Acadamy Award for Best Original Song. Mathis and Jane Olivor sang the song at the Academy Awards ceremony, in his second performance at the Oscars.

Johnny Mathis and Deniece Williams released a follow-up duet, ‘You’re All I Need to Get By’, peaking at number 47 on the Hot 100. The success of the duets with Williams prompted Mathis to record duets with a variety of partners, including  Barbra Streisand, Natalie Cole, Dionne Warwick, Gladys Knight, Patti Austin, Josh Groban, Jane Oliver, Angela Bofill, Regina Belle, Stephanie Lawrence, Engelbert Humperdinck, Elaine Paige, Nana Mouskouri and his heroine Lena Horne, “She was the most gorgeous, enigmatic, provocative woman I’ve ever seen. I used to hang around at her concerts when I was a kid and after a while her husband started inviting me to her dressing room. I was probably bothersome to her but her husband was kind. He could see I was infatuated.” A compilation album also called ‘Too Much, Too Little, Too Late’, released by Sony Music in 1995, featured the title track among other songs by Mathis and Williams.

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Johnny Mathis ‘The Best Days Of My Life’, 1979 (Click photo to enlarge).

Johnny Mathis Singles 1980

Johnny Mathis ‘The Best Of’, 1980 (Click photo to enlarge).

During 1980-81, Mathis recorded an album with Chic’s Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers, ‘I Love My Lady’, which remains unreleased in its entirety, though three tracks appeared on a Chic box set in 2010 and a fourth, the title track, on Mathis’ Ultimate Collection in 2011 and the Chic Organization’s ‘Up All Night’ in 2013

1983 Johnny Mathis With Special Guest Natalie Cole Unforgettable A Musical Tribute To Nat King Cole

1983 Johnny Mathis With Special Guest  Natalie Cole Unforgettable A Musical Tribute To Nat King Cole (Click photo to enlarge).

1984 Johnny Mathis - A Special Part Of Me

Johnny Mathis ‘A Special Part Of Me’, 1984 (Click photo to enlarge).

1985 Johnny Mathis Right From The Heart

Johnny Mathis ‘Right From The Heart’, 1985 (Click photo to enlarge).

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Johnny Mathis ‘Christmas eve with Johnny Mathis’, 1986 (Click photo to enlarge).

1991 Johnny Mathis Better Together - The Duet Album

Johnny Mathis ‘Better Together’ The Duet Album, 1991 (Click photo to enlarge).

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Johnny Mathis ‘Because You Loved Me’, 1998 (Click photo to enlarge).

Johnny Mathis has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame Grammy Hall of Fame for three separate recordings, in 1998 for ; Chances Are’ in 2002 for ‘Misty’ and in 2008 for ‘It’s Not For Me To Say’

In 2003, the Academy of Recording Arts and Sciences awarded Mathis the Lifetime Archievement Award. This Special Merit Award is presented by vote of the Recording Academy’s National Trustees to performers who, during their lifetimes, have made creative contributions of outstanding artist significance to the field of recording

Mathis returned to the British Top 30 album chart in 2007 with the Sony BMG release The Very Best of Johnny Mathis in 2008 with the CD “A Night to Remember” and again in 2011 with “The Ultimate Collection.

He doesn’t set out to just sing ballads or romantic songs. He was thrilled when his country album ‘Let It Be Me, Mathis In Nashville’ was nominated for a Grammy in 2011.

Singing isn’t work it’s part of me. I don’t do it for any reason other than that I love it. How lucky does that make me?

Johnny Mathis

On June 21, 2014 Johnny Mathis was inducted into the Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame along with Linda Rontadt, Shirley Jones and Nat King Cole (his daughter Natalie Cole accepting the award on his behalf). The awards were presented by The Center for the Performing Arts Artistic Director Michael Feinstein. Defined on their website, “Conceived as an enduring testament to the Great American Songbook, the Hall of Fame honors performers and composers responsible for creating America’s soundtrack.

He has sung for presidents (Bill Clinton, Ronald Reagan) and royalty (Prince Charles, Princess Diana and HH The Begum Om Habibeh Aga Khan who was vèry fond of his voice and music). His CV is undeniably illustrious. He should be cock-of-the-walk confi-dent but he does not come across that way. “As a child all I knew was that people kept asking me to sing and because I liked to please I would sing. It wasn’t until my dad told me that my singing made him happy that I began to think my voice might be good.” When was that? “When I was about 23”.

Johnny Mathis

 Nobody can deliver a romantic line quite like the silken-voiced Mathis as his record sales of more than 350 million will attest. When he sings Misty he could melt an Iceberg (Click photo to enlarge).

In an interview in The Guardian (2014) he said: “I think I am as close to some friends as I am to my brothers and sisters. And they are my family. I think it’s important to cultivate as many people as you can to see which ones you jive with. And it makes you happy. If one dies you have another one. So living is a process that you have to do by yourself, and if you can learn a few little goodies along the way that might make it easier for you, so much the better. I’ve found that the more friends I have, the luckier I am!”

I’ve had the privilege to meet Mr. Mathis a couple of times. Not only his beautiful voice impressed me, but certainly his humor, and his kindness. September 30, and over 60 years after winning his first recording contract he is still selling out concert venu, Johnny Mathis has his 80 birthday today, …

May all optimistic things will be yours!

by Jean Amr

Paul Jabara: Last Dance

 

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Today, twentythree years ago, Paul Jabara died. A name that doesn’t say anything maybe to our youngsters, but hearing songs as ‘It’s Raining Men’ ‘Last Dance’ and ‘No More Tear’s (Enough is Enough)’ would ring a bell…

He Paul Frederick Jabara, was born in Brooklyn, New York on Januari 31, 1948. He was an American actor, singer, and songwriter of Lebanese ancestry, born in Brooklyn, New York City.  – Jabara’s cousin and close friend Jad Azkoul is also a Lebanese-American musician specialising in classical guitar.

Paul Jabara was the only son of Olga and Sam Jabara and was the youngest of three children and had two older sisters, Delores and Claudette. His love of music originated almost from birth, and he entertained his family and their friends as soon as he learned to talk. This multi-talented phenomenon began his career a teenager modeling for magazines and appearing in television commercials. As a teenager, he also auditioned for The Sound of Music and was offered a part in the road company, but his parents wouldn’t allow him to go. His first big break came when he was offered a feature role in the original cast of Hair.

 

Paul Jabara in 'The Day Of The Locust',

Impressionist Paul Jabara cuddles Donald Sutherland as Karen Black and William Atherton are amused in a scene from the film ‘The Day Of The Locust’, 1974. (Photo by Paramount/Getty Images)

In the 1970’s, Jabara was in the Original cast of the stage musicals ‘Hair’ and ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’. He took over the role of Frank-N-Furter in the Los Angeles Production of ‘The Rocky Horror Show’ when Tim Curry left the production to film the movie version in England. He appeard in John Schlesinger’s 1969 film ‘Midnight Cowboy’, as one of the attendees at the counterculture party, and in Schlesinger’s 1975 film ‘The Day of The Locust, where he sang the song ‘Hot Voo-Doo’.

But it wasn’t only acting he did. Jabara released his first album, ‘Shut Out’ in 1977. Jabara’s solo albums on the legendary disco label Casablance Records include three duets with Donna Summer;  ‘Shut Out’ (1977), ‘Something’s Missing (In My Life)’ (1978) and ‘Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor’ (1979).

 

Paul Jabara and Donna Summer ‘Something’s Missing (In My Life)’ This power ballad has also been recorded by Karen Carpenter, Freda Payne and Australian pop royalty Marcia Hines… It’s recorded in several versions, one of them with Summer is featured on Jabara’s CD ‘Greatest Hits and Misses’.

In the 1978 film ‘Thank God It’s Friday’ he played the role of Carl, the lovelorn and nearsighted disco goer, and he also contributed as a singer on two tracks on the original soundtrack album, with the songs ‘Disco Queen’ and ‘Trapped In A Stairway’.

 

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Thank God It’s Friday album cover.

 

Donna Summer Last Dance Thank God It's Friday

Donna Summer in ‘Thank God It’s Friday’.

Paul Jabara wrote Donna Summer’s ‘Last Dance’ from ‘Thank God It’s Friday'(1978) and Barbra Streisand’s song ‘The Main Event/Fight’ from the album ‘The Main Event’ (1979).

‘Last Dance’, featured in the film ‘Thank God Its Friday’, earned Jabara a Grammy Award and the 1978 Academy Award for Best Song. Clearly, his music defined an era and continues to keep us all dancing.

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In 1979, Jabara won both Grammy Award for Best R&B Song and the Academy Award for Best Original Song for the song performed by Donna Summer, ‘Last Dance’.

 

Paul Jabara The Third Album

Paul Jabara ‘The Third’ album contains the duet with Donna Summer ‘Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor’, a great song with the typical Jabara/Summer sound!

 

Paul Jabara Donna Summer Never Lose Your Sense Of Humor

Paul Jabara and Donna Summer ‘Never Lose Your Sense of Humor’.

 

Donna Summer Barbra Streisand No More Tears Enough Is Enough Paul Jabara Francesco Scavullo

Donna Summer and Barbra Streisand ‘No More Tears Enough Is Enough’ another monster hit for Paul Jabara (Photo’s by Francesco Scavullo).

1979 was an amazing year for Jabara and Summer. Disco’s big finish in 1979, who could ask for a bigger finish of the greatest era of dance music? The ‘Disco Queen’ and Barbara Streisand together working Paul Jabara’s magic together. This cut was a power house, anyone who experienced the energy that this cut created when it was released will never question it’s reign. Casablanca Records has definitely made a place in music history with this on. The song was a hùge Platinum-certified, #1 Billboard hit.

 

At right, songwriter Paul Jabara (1948-1992), at the premiere of Bette Midler's movie, THE ROSE, 1979

At right, songwriter Paul Jabara, at the premiere of Bette Midler’s movie, ‘The Rose’, 1979 

1981 Jabara starred in yet another John Schlesinger film, the comedy ‘Honky Tonky Freeway’ as truck driver/songwriter T. J. Tupus, hauling lions and a rhino.

Composing myriad hit songs, his credits include many platinum and gold records. He is also known for: ‘Jinxed’ (1981), written for Bette Midler and her movie of the same name, but it was never commercially released. ‘Work That Body’ (1982) a modest hit for Diana Ross. The hit single is included on her Platinum album ‘Why Do Fools Fall In Love’.

He co-wrote The Weather Girls (Sylvester’s former background girls, the Two Tons of Fun: Martha Wash and Izora Rhodes) monster hit ‘It’s Raining Men’ together with Paul Shaffer, which was also recorded by Geri Halliwell and a worldwide hit for the second time in 2001.

The former Two Tons of Fun: The Weather Girls (Matha Wash and Izora Rhodes) with their monster hit ‘It’s Raining Men’ (1984).

Jabara’s album ‘Paul Jabara & Friends’, released in 1983, features guest vocals by a then 20-year-old Whitney Houston on Eternal Love. It also includes the song ‘It’s Raining Men’. An other song Jabara wrote to perform include ‘  Two Lovers’ for Julio Iglesias (1984).

Jabara received many awards for his work throughout his lifetime. Jabara had been honored for creativity and excellence winning numerous awards including The Oscar; Grammy; Golden Globe; People’s Choice Award; Your Choice for the Oscar and many others giving him global recognition.

It has been reported that Jabara co-founded the Red Ribbon Project in 1991, and was credited with conceiving and distributing the first AIDS Red Ribbons. This highly recognized symbol spawned the use of different colored ribbons to quickly raise awareness to other causes and is widely used today.

Paul Jabara died of complications from Aids at the age of 44 in Los Angeles on September 29, 1992. He is buried at Greenwood Cemetery in Brooklyn, New York. As a tribute at his memorial service, his friends and collaborators got together and performed a song he wrote entitled, We’re Gonna Win. Later recorded by long-time friend Donna Summer.

Martha Wash, one of the original members of The Weather Girls, re-recorded several years later, together with drag supermodel RuPaul the It’s Raining Men. Again, it became a huge hit! Like it also was for ex-Spice Girl, Geri Halliwell.

 

A Hot Jabara Night 2012 Paul Donna Summer

‘A Hot Jabara Summer Night’ 2012

In 2005, a workshop of a musical entitled Last Dance played New York City. It was a musical assembled from Jabara’s well known disco songs and told the story of a modern day teenager who goes back in time to spend one night at Studio 54.

Paul Jabara’s music lives on. Not only ‘the big names’ in the industry still performing his songs. Every season of Idols or .. Got Talent, we can here some of his songs performed by the ‘new’ artist. We hear his music still in films, and in clubs, and sometimes in the most fantastic long versions or remixes. Yes, it’s still a Hot Jabara Summer Night then. And it will always be……

by Jean Amr

 

 

 

 

Barbra at Coco

Babra Streisand Marlene Dietrich

Barbra Streisand and others, Marlene Dietrich, Elsa Martinelli at Chanel fashion show 1966 (Photo by Bill Eppridge).

Barbra Streisand stands out at a Chanel fashion show by not wearing a suit by Coco Chanel. What the other women, like Marlene Dietrich, where thinking of her outfit…