Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Ten Great Songs From One Great Week
The songs the radio played this week in history

June 7-13, 1998

The Jasper, Texas Murder -- James Byrd, Jr. was an African-American who was murdered by three white men, asserted to be white supremacists, in Jasper, Texas, on June 7, 1998. Shawn Berry, Lawrence Brewer, and John King dragged Byrd behind a pick-up truck along an asphalt road.  Byrd's lynching-by-dragging gave impetus to passage of a Texas hate crimes law. It later led to the federal October 22, 2009 Matthew Shepard and James Byrd, Jr. Hate Crimes Prevention Act (Shepard was was a student at the University of Wyoming who was tortured and murdered near Laramie, WY, in October 1998, in a horrible anti-homosexual bias attack), commonly known as the Matthew Shepard Act. President Barack Obama signed the bill into law on October 28, 2009.

On that fateful day, Byrd, age 49, accepted a ride from Shawn Berry (age 24), Lawrence Brewer (age 31) and John King (age 23). Berry, who was driving, was acquainted with Byrd from around town. Instead of taking Byrd home, the three men took Byrd to a remote county road out of town, beat him severely, urinated on him and chained him by his ankles to their pickup truck before dragging him for three miles. Brewer later claimed that Byrd's throat had been slashed by Berry before he was dragged. However, forensic evidence suggests that Byrd had been attempting to keep his head up while being dragged, and an autopsy suggested that Byrd was alive during much of the dragging. Byrd died after his right arm and head were severed after his body hit a culvert. His body had caught the culvert on the side of the road, resulting in Byrd's decapitation. Byrd's brain and skull were found intact, further suggesting he maintained consciousness while being dragged

Berry, Brewer and King dumped their victim's mutilated remains in front of an African-American church on Huff Creek Road; the three men then went to a barbecue. Along the area where Byrd was dragged, authorities found a wrench with "Berry" written on it. They also found a lighter that was inscribed with "Possum", which was King's prison nickname. The following morning, Byrd's limbs were found scattered across a seldom-used road. The police found 81 places that were littered with Byrd's remains. State law enforcement officials, along with Jasper's District Attorney, determined that since Brewer and King were well-known white supremacists, the murder was a hate crime. They decided to call upon the Federal Bureau of Investigation less than 24 hours after the discovery of Byrd's remains.

King had several racist tattoos: a black man hanging from a tree, Nazi symbols, the words "Aryan Pride," and the patch for a gang of white supremacist inmates known as the Confederate Knights of America. In a jailhouse letter to Brewer that was intercepted by jail officials, King expressed pride in the crime and said he realized in committing the murder he might have to die. "Regardless of the outcome of this, we have made history. Death before dishonor. Sieg Heil!" King wrote. An officer investigating the case also testified that witnesses said King had referenced The Turner Diaries - which depicts a violent revolution in the United States and leads to the overthrow of the U.S. government, nuclear war, and, ultimately to a race war leading to the extermination of all Jews and non-whites - after beating Byrd.

Berry, Brewer and King were tried and convicted for Byrd's murder. Brewer and King received the death penalty, while Berry was sentenced to life in prison. Brewer was executed by lethal injection on September 21, 2011 while King remains on Texas' death row.

Music Charts:

#1 Single -- "The Boy Is Mine" by Brandy and Monica
#1 Album -- "It's Dark And Hell Is Hot" by DMX

Other Events:

1099 – The First Crusade: The Siege of Jerusalem begins.
1862 – The United States and the United Kingdom agree to suppress the slave trade.
1892 – Benjamin Harrison becomes the first President of the United States to attend a baseball game.
1929 – The Lateran Treaty is ratified, bringing Vatican City into existence.
1965 – The Supreme Court of the United States hands down its decision in Griswold v. Connecticut, effectively legalizing the use of contraception by married couples.
1967 – Israeli forces enter Jerusalem during the Six-Day War.
1975 – Sony introduces the Betamax videocassette recorder for sale to the public.
1981 – The Israeli Air Force destroys Iraq's Osiraq nuclear reactor during Operation Opera. The facility could have been used to make nuclear weapons.
2006 – Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the leader of Al-Qaeda in Iraq, is killed in an airstrike by the United States Air Force.

This Kiss -- Faith Hill

After a three-year break from recording to give herself a rest from four years of touring and to begin a family with her husband, Tim McGraw, Hill reentered the music business in 1998 with the album Faith. The LP showcased her progression toward a more mainstream, pop-oriented sound, although it retained some country sound. "This Kiss" became a number one country hit, and was the first of her singles to place on the pop charts, peaking at number seven and more than six million copies of the album were sold. A highly advanced (at the time) video was shot to accompany the song, featuring Hill in a colorful fantasy-like sequence. She was featured swinging on a nectarine, jumping from flower to flower, and riding flying bees and butterflies. In her CMT Video Bio, Faith revealed that clothing she tried on and approved for the video just days prior to the shoot, was already too small because of her pregnancy when she arrived on set.

Adia -- Sarah McLachlan

Sarah describes this as being about "My problems in dealing with feeling responsible for everyone else." In a radio interview, she stated that it was inspired by the way her father always felt responsible for making sure everyone was happy. Although she later admitted in an interview that one of several inspirations behind this song is her relationship with her best friend. Their relationship was rocky for a period of time after Sarah started seeing her current husband, who her best friend had dated in the past.   In a 1999 interview on The Rosie O'Donnell Show, McLachlan explained that this song was originally called "Emily," but she picked another name because of the Simon and Garfunkel song "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her." McLachlan added that the Kenny Rogers song "You Picked A Fine Time To Leave Me Lucille" was also an inspiration.

You're Still The One -- Shania Twain

The album, Come On Over, spent a record 50 weeks at #1 on Billboard country album charts, selling 22 million in the USA and in total worldwide over 39 million, which makes it the the best selling album by a female solo artist in the US and the biggest selling country LP in both the UK and US. When Twain and Robert "Mutt" Lange, who co-wrote this song together, had become romantically involved in the mid 1990s, there was criticism of their relationship: claims that the age difference was extreme, and that Twain was solely using him to further her career. In essence, the critics did not expect their relationship to last. Twain disagreed with these criticisms and wanted to address them in public and this led to her writing "You're Still the One". In this ode to the union between her and Lange, Twain explains how she is glad they did not listen to the critics, as if they had done, look at what they could have been missing. Sadly, Twain and Lange divorced ten years later in 2008 after 14 years of marriage.

Sex And Candy -- Marcy Playground

With images of "Disco Lemonade" and "Double Cherry Pie," this is one of the more puzzling songs of the '90s, and according to Marcy Playground songwriter/lead singer John Wozniak, the song pulls many things from many places. In an interview with Wozniak, he explained: "Where did I get the 'sex and candy' part from? Well, I was dating a girl and she was going to Bryn Mawr College and it's where my dad teaches. And I was probably 17 or something like that and she was like 18. I always liked the older girls. (laughs) But we were in her dorm room, and her roommate came in and she saw us there, and she was like, 'Oh, it smells like sex and candy in here.' And I always remembered that...I'm telling you, when I was very young I experimented with drugs, but when I was writing these songs, I wasn't high. But it sounds like I was high." According to Wozniak, even though there's a lot going on in this song, it took him only an hour to write.

Iris -- Goo Goo Dolls

This is about a person with an invisible identity who no one understands. Then, he finds true love and  wants his true love to know that he exists and that she is the only person in the world who can understand and love him - hence the last line, "I just want you to know who I am." Lead Goo Johnny Rzeznik wrote this song. He had a terrible case of writer's block before coming up with it, and even went to a psychiatrist for help. According to Goo's bass player Robbie Takac, the name "Iris" was inspired by a Country singer named Iris DeMent, whose name Rzeznik came across while reading a magazine.

The Way -- Fastball

This song is based on the true story of Lela and Raymond Howard, an elderly couple from Salado, Texas, who drove to a nearby festival and kept going. She had Alzheimer's disease and he was recovering from brain surgery. When they disappeared, a reporter from the Austin American-Statesman wrote a series of articles about the missing couple. Fastball bassist Tony Scalzo came up with the idea for the song after reading the articles (the band is from Austin). He says, "It's a romanticized take on what happened" - he "pictured them taking off to have fun, like they did when they first met." However, he found out after writing the song that the couple had died. They were found at the bottom of a canyon in Buffalo Gap, Texas (near Abilene), about a 3 hour drive from their destination. How depressing.

Torn -- Natalie Imbruglia

In 1993, Anne Previn and Scott Cutler from the group Ednaswap wrote this song along with the producer Phil Thornalley. Next year the Danish singer Lis Sorensen had a hit in Denmark with "Braendt," which was a Danish translation of the song. In 1995, Ednaswap recorded their own version of the song for the first time and in 1996, the Norwegian singer Trine Rein had a hit with it in Norway. Imbruglia is an Australian actress who launched her singing career with this hit. She was on the Australian Soap Opera Neighbours from '92-'94. Despite being a big radio hit spending 11 weeks on top of Airplay/Radio Songs the song only reached #42 on the Billboard Hot 100. The reason being it was released as a radio-only promo single, as Imbruglia's label withheld commercial availability in the hope that consumers would instead purchase her album. Thus "Torn" was ineligible to chart on the Hot 100 according to rules in place at the time. However, at of December 5, 2008 the Hot 100 policy was revised allowing songs not available at retail to appear and "Torn" was able to squeeze in a few weeks in the lower reaches of the chart at the end of its run at radio. Another song to fall victim to the same rules was No Doubt's, "Don't Speak," which failed to chart at all.

Ray Of Light -- Madonna

This groundbreaking high-energy techno song is based on the track "Sepheryn," which was originally written by Curtiss Muldoon and Dave Curtis. The British producer, dance remixer and musician William Orbit re-recorded the song with vocalist Christine Leach before he started working with Madonna. When Madonna recorded the Ray Of Light album with William Orbit at the helm, they decided to alter the song's melody and instrumentation but retain the original's lyrics, with only a few changes. The original track "Sepheryn" can be heard on Curtiss Muldoon's album, which was released in October 2000: Sepheryn: Ray Of Light. This single entered the Billboard Hot 100 at #5, which was at the time the highest new entry for a Madonna song.

Uninvited -- Alanis Morissette

Like "Iris" by the Goo Goo Dolls (above), this song was featured in the film, City of Angels. "Uninvited" was the first song Alanis released since her monster 1995 album Jagged Little Pill, which sold over 16 million copies. Although never officially released as a single to retail outlets, it became a hit for Morissette and was her fourth #1 single on the Billboard Top 40 Mainstream chart (and it reached the top 5 on the Adult Top 40 and the top 40 on the Modern Rock Tracks chart). Its success was largely because of fans who anxiously anticipated Morissette's new album, which was finally released in November '98. "Uninvited" was not included on that album, Supposed Former Infatuation Junkie, but a demo version was included on the Australian release and the UK CD single for "Thank U". However, she had performed an acoustic version of the song during her 1999 MTV Unplugged appearance, which was released on the album Alanis Unplugged.

Everybody (Backstreet's Back) -- Backstreet Boys

"Everybody (Backstreet's Back)" is the first single from the Backstreet Boys' second international album Backstreet's Back in 1997, and the third single and fourth track from their debut US album in 1997 and is one of their signature songs. The US debut was originally released without the song, which references the band's return via their second international album. However, once it was decided to release the single in the US, the album was re-released with "Everybody" included. Zomba chairman Clive Calder suggested the song as a single, but Jive president Barry Weiss thought it would be weird to have a song called "Backstreet's Back" on the band's first US album. The band suggested it could just mean that they were back home. After Canadian markets began playing the song, US markets near the border began picking the song up. The band met with Weiss and asked that the song be added to the US album after the first million units had already been produced. Written by Max Martin and Denniz PoP, "Everybody" is one of the Backstreet Boys' most successful singles to date, reaching #4 in the US Billboard Hot 100, running 22 weeks.


Zoot Suit Riot -- Cherry Poppin' Daddies

Like many bands that came to be labeled "Swing," the Cherry Poppin' Daddies were more of an Alt-Punk band with Pop sensibilities. From Portland, Oregon, they bucked the Pacific Northwest Grunge trend of the early '90s, but got their big break when labels went feverishly looking for "Swing" bands the same way they gobbled up "Alternative" acts just a few years earlier. They got a record deal and great promotion for the Swingin' Hits album, but had to stick to a pretty tight format when they had broader musical interests, including Ska. When lead singer Steve Perry (no relation to the formr Journey front man) was asked if "Zoot Suit Riot" was a blessing or a curse, he replied: "It was a blessing. I didn't have to go to get a box of food at the church poverty outreach anymore. No more blocks of government cheese."

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