Music provides the soundtracks to our lives. Songs can trigger memories of events, era-specific fashions or important dates, among other things. It can be surprising to find out which songs topped the charts when we were born, as our earliest memories of pop hits don’t come until a few years later, but those songs can tell us a lot about the way the world was when we entered it.
It can say a lot about the artists that embrace those hits as well. With Pop Music Chart Day falling on Jan. 4 – Adele’s inescapable “Hello” is currently in it’s ninth week at No. 1 – it’s an appropriate time to see how we relate to hits on a personal level, and how The Smith Center relates to both popular music and pop standards.
Susan Anton, who plays Cabaret Jazz this weekend, has a set studded with songs that were popular, but maybe not as singles. Anton’s preferred set closer is Bob Dylan’s “Forever Young” from his 1974 album with The Band, Planet Waves. Surprisingly, it was Dylan’s first No. 1 album in a recording career that started when Anton was 11. Anton was 15 when The Beatles’ Rubber Soul went to No. 1 in 1966, a year she would have likely heard that album’s “In My Life,” which would later become a staple in her set along with more contemporary pop songs from John Mayer to India Arie.
The following year The Beatles released Strawberry Field Forever/Penny Lane, a double-A side single, which was kept from the No. 1 spot in the U.K. by Engelbert Humperdinck’s “Release Me.” That song would reach No. 4 in the U.S., followed by a string of chart appearances that would culminate in Humperdinck’s 1977 Top Ten hit “After the Lovin’.” Humperdinck will likely include both signature songs at his March 19 appearance at Reynolds Hall, while The Tenors’ Feb. 8 concert could include operatic pop versions of songs such as “Bésame Mucho” (No. 1 for Jimmy Dorsey in 1944) to ’70s hits “You Are So Beautiful” (No. 5, Joe Cocker, 1975) and “Sorry Seems to Be the Hardest Word” (No. 6, Elton John, 1976).
The Tenors have their own version of “Forever Young” as well, but you’ll have to judge for yourself in person at The Smith Center whether you prefer the Canadian quartet’s version or Anton’s.
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