Sunday, December 20, 2015

Songoftheday 12/20/15 - When I find myself watching the time I never think about all the funny things you said...


"Piano In The Dark" - Brenda Russell featuring Joe Esposito
from the album Get Here (1988)
Billboard Hot 100 peak: #6 (one week)
Weeks in the Top-40: 13

Today's Song of the Day comes from singer/songwriter Brenda Russell, who was born in Brooklyn as Brenda Gordon but moved in her adolescence to Canada. Marrying singer Brian Russell and backing up Elton John, Brenda and Brian had a minor R&B hit in 1978 with "That's Alright Too" (#67). However, by the end of the decade, she found herself divorced (but with the new surname) and living in Los Angeles. There was a glimmer of hope, as her 1979 solo single "So Good, So Right", became her first big hit, reaching #8 on Billboard's Adult Contemporary chart, #30 on the pop chart and #15 R&B. Putting out two more albums in the early 80s that didn't get much notice, Russell took a five year break between her third and fourth albums, save to appear on lite-jazz singer Michael Franks' #15 AC hit "When I Give My Love To You" in 1985. One of her own songs, "Dinner With Gershwin", was released by Donna Summer, though it stalled out at #50.

In 1988, Brenda released Get Here, with the "quiet storm" ballad "Piano In The Dark" as the first single. About a woman trying to get away from a relationship but keeps getting pulled back, it features an understated backup from Joe Esposito, formerly of the vocal group Brooklyn Dreams (who sang "Heaven Knows" with Donna Summer), and who had a minor hit from the soundtrack of Flashdance with "Lady, Lady, Lady"). Add some titular piano and minor-chord strings and you've got a coffee-house classic...


"Piano In The Dark" became Brenda's sole top-40 pop hit, reaching the top ten in June of 1988. The single also climbed to #8 on Billboard's R&B chart, and spent a week at #3 on their Adult Contemporary radio list. Internationally, the record made it to #23 in the UK. At the 1989 Grammy Awards, "Piano In The Dark" was nominated for best pop duo/group performance (Manhattan Transfer's Brasil album beat them out), while Russell along with co-writers Scott Cutler and Jeff Hull, were nommed for Song of the Year (losing to the earworm "Don't Worry, Be Happy").

Russell would release a few more singles from Get Here, with the title song making it to #37 on the R&B chart. However, fellow singer/songwriter Oleta Adams would cover "Get Here" in 1991 and go to #5 on the pop chart. Two years later, she put out Kiss Me With The Wind, and the single "Stop Running Away" did pretty respectably on the adult contemporary (#13) and R&B (#34) charts. Her most recent singles success was in 1993 with the minor AC hit "No Time For Time" (#46). Fast forward a dozen years, and Russell would return to the spotlight as one of the writers of the Broadway musical adaptation of The Color Purple, which just came back on a revival to glowing reviews and big ticket sales. It also earned her yet another Grammy nomination (for score) and Tony Award.

(Click below to see the rest of the post)


an alternate version of the video had Brenda singing in a nightclub, with Esposito there singing along...



Even back in the 80s, many fans identified the song as "Cry Just A Little", the most repeated line in the chorus. In 2011, Dutch electrohouse act Bingo Players took that line and created a club track around it, with the result reaching #7 in the Netherlands, and #44 in the UK...


...and in a case of borrowing the borrowed, American rapper Flo Rida interpolated the Bingo Players track into his single "I Cry", which gave Russell even more royalties in the decade, reaching #6 in America, #3 in the UK, and top-ten all across Europe...


Finally, I'll take it back to Brenda performing the song live in Japan in 1992, with Michael McDonald and James Ingram singing backup for her...


Up tomorrow: Some Boys pay tribute to the King, eternally thoughtful, these blokes.


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