Written by Charles Chaplin and first performed (as an instrumental) in Modern Times (1936).
Hit versions by Nat “King” Cole (US #10/UK #2 1954), Sunny Gale (US #19 1954).
Also recorded by Michael Jackson (1995).
From the wiki: “‘Smile’ was first performed untitled in Charlie Chaplin’s 1936 part-talkie motion picture Modern Times as film’s ‘romance theme’. Chaplin, the composer, says he found inspiration for the song in Puccini’s ‘Tosca’. The composition was arranged for the movie by Edward Powell & David Raskin with the soundtrack orchestra conducted by Alfred Newman (one of Randy Newman’s uncles).
“John Turner and Geoffrey Parsons later added the lyrics and the ‘Smile’ title in 1954. The lyrics were based on lines and themes from the motion picture, telling the listener to cheer up and that there is always a bright tomorrow, ‘just as long as you smile.’
First recorded by “The Wiz” original cast (1975).
Hit versions by Consumer Rapport (US #42/R&B #19/Dance #1 1975), Diana Ross & Michael Jackson (US #41/R&B #17/UK #45 1978).
From the wiki: “‘Ease On Down the Road’ isthe 1975 Broadway musical The Wiz, an R&B re-interpretation of L. Frank Baum’s ‘The Wonderful Wizard of Oz’. The Charlie Smalls–composed tune is the show’s version of both ‘Follow the Yellow Brick Road’ and ‘We’re Off to See the Wizard’ from the 1939 movie version of The Wizard of Oz. In the song, performed three times during the show, Dorothy and her friends the Scarecrow, the Tin Man, and the Cowardly Lion dance their way down the Yellow Brick Road and give each other words of encouragement.
“‘Ease On Down the Road’ was performed in the original Broadway production by Stephanie Mills (Dorothy), Hinton Battle (Scarecrow), Tiger Haynes (Tin Man), and Ted Ross (Cowardly Lion), who also performed the song on the original 1975 cast album for The Wiz. Released as a single in 1975 by the studio group Consumer Rapport, the song became a #1 Disco hit for five non-consecutive weeks.
“A second cover of the song was recorded by Diana Ross and Michael Jackson, for the 1978 feature-film adaptation of The Wiz. It charted #41 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Top-20 on the R&B chart.”
Written and first recorded (as a demo) by Steve Porcaro (1983).
Hit version by Michael Jackson (US #7/MOR #2/R&B #27/CAN #11/BEL #12/NETH #11 1984).
Also recorded by Miles Davis (1985), Mike Porcaro (2017).
From the wiki: “‘Human Nature’ was written by Toto band member Steve Porcaro about a playground incident his daughter had at school earlier in the day. (A boy had hit her after she fell off the slide – Porcaro said ‘she asked [me] why?’ and he replied ‘it was human nature.’) Procaro wrote the song that night in a studio while the band was mixing their single, ‘Africa’, in another studio.
“Soon after, bandmate David Paich called Procaro one day to make a cassette tape of 2 songs David had written for Michael Jackson’s new Thriller album project, for someone to pick up for delivery. Procaro happened to use the cassette he recorded ‘Human Nature’ on, putting Paich’s songs on the opposite side and switching the labels to read Side-A. In a happy accident, the deck’s auto-playback kicked in while Jackson producer Quincy Jones was in his car listening to Porcaro’s cassette demo. Jones got to hear ‘Human Nature’ on Side B, and loved it.
Written and first recorded by Yellow Magic Orchestra (1979).
Hit versions by Greg Phillinganes (R&B #77/DANCE #4 1985), Eric Clapton (UK #15 1987).
Also recorded by Michael Jackson (1982, released 2010), Ryuichi Sakamoto & Bernard Fowler (1987), The Human League & Yellow Magic Orchestra (1993).
From the wiki: “‘Behind the Mask’ is a Synth-Pop song by electronic band Yellow Magic Orchestra, written by member Ryuichi Sakamoto and first produced as an instrumental in 1978 for a Seiko watch commercial. It was later released in 1979 as part of the band’s Solid State Survivor album with English lyrics added by Chris Mosdell. Sakamoto already had the melody line when he asked poet and lyricist Mosdell to write lyrics, which Mosdell based on the imagery of a Japanese traditional Noh mask, combined with a poem by Irish poet W.B. Yeats called, ‘The Mask’.
First recorded (as a demo) by Tom Bahler (c. 1979)
First recorded (as a demo) by Michael Jackson (1979).
Hit versions by Michael Jackson (US #10/R&B #43/UK #3 1979), Johnny Duncan & Janie Fricke (C&W #17 1980).
From the wiki: “She’s Out of My Life’ was written by Tom Bahler. Although it has been claimed that Bahler wrote the song about his relationship with the late Karen Carpenter, Bahler has stated ‘The fact is, I had already written that song by the time Karen and I became romantic. That song was written more about [my then-girlfriend] Rhonda Rivera … it was after we broke up that I started dating Karen.’ The song became famous when recorded by Michael Jackson and released as the fourth single from his album, Off the Wall, in 1979. Producer Quincy Jones’ first idea was to record ‘She’s Out of My Life’ with Frank Sinatra. Michael’s demo (only him and an acoustic guitar) convinced Jones otherwise. (Demo was released as part of the This Is It bonus disc.)”
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