Posts Tagged ‘My World Is Empty Without You’

It’s odd the way the mind’s turntable works. 

Earlier this week, singer-songwriter Courtney Marie Andrews posted to her Instagram account that she “can’t wait to sing with humans in a room, that’s what I miss most.” For reasons only a mystic may know, that simple admission caused my inner turntable to queue up the “Someday We’ll Be Together” 45 by Diana Ross & the Supremes.

The song was written by Johnny Bristol, Jackey Beavers and Harvey Fuqua in 1961, and was first recorded and released that same year by Bristol and Beavers (as Johnny and Jackey) on the Tri-Phi label. That version, however, features little of the magic heard in Diana’s rendition…

… which, though billed as a “Diana Ross & the Supremes” song, was recorded with Merry Clayton, Patrice Holloway, Maxine Waters and Julia Waters on backing vocals, not Mary Wilson and Cindy Birdsong. Johnny Bristol, who joined the Motown fold in the mid-1960s, had worked up the track for Jr. Walker and the All-Stars, but Berry Gordy decided it was better suited for Diana; at that stage, he earmarked it as her solo debut. He changed his mind after it was completed, however, and issued it instead as the final single from Diana Ross & the Supremes in order to help promote Diana’s departure from the group. Bristol’s vocal contributions, by the way, came about by accident: In an early take, the engineer accidentally recorded him while he was positioned off-mic singing along and offering words of encouragement to Diana. They liked the result, so kept it.

Released on October 14, 1969, it peaked at No. 1 on the pop charts for the week of December 27th, so is technically both the final No. 1 of the 1960s and first No. 1 of the 1970s. 

What’s wild about the song: Although written 59 years ago about love and regret (“Long time ago my, my sweet thing, I made a big mistake, honey/I say, I said goodbye”), it remains as relevant as ever – no more so than today, given that the pandemic is keeping loved ones apart: “I wanna say, I wanna say, I wanna say some day we’ll be together/Yes we will, yes we will say some day we’ll be together/Some day, some sweet day, we will be together…” 

The first song released under the Diana Ross & the Supremes moniker, “Reflections,” is a Holland-Dozier-Holland gem that, though about love, is also applicable to these times: “Through the mirror of my mind/Time after time/I see reflections of you and me/Reflections of/The way life used to be…”

Released on July 24th, 1967 (aka the Summer of Love), it rose to No. 2 on the charts by September 9th – and sports a soft (and somewhat dated) psychedelic sound due to the use of a test oscillator as part of its sonic makeup. Yet, it remains a great song – one of my favorites by Diana & Company.

(Both have been added to my list of songs Courtney Marie should cover – though I doubt she ever will.)

A year later, Diana and the Supremes released the Diana Ross & the Supremes Sing and Perform “Funny Girl,” a sales misstep – it peaked at No. 150 – that, yet, is eminently enjoyable. One highlight – and another song that could have been written about life during the COVID-19 pandemic – is “People.”

If you listened, you heard Diana’s heartfelt plea, which could well be spoken today: “People, God’s children, were born to be free, to love/All the people have a dream/for peace, for security/let the world fall in love again/please, please, let our lives not be in vain…”

Another H-D-H classic, “My World Is Empty Without You,” released by the Supremes at the tail end of 1965, echoes modern life, as well:

Incidentally, its album home – I Hear a Symphony, which was released in early 1966 – is well worth many spins. The title cut is a classic, of course…

…and there’s also a touching cover of the Beatles’ “Yesterday.” Another highlight is their rendition of “Unchained Melody,” which had been a hit for the Righteous Brothers the year before:

Too often, songs of yesteryear are dismissed as relics from a bygone age – as if love, heartache and regret are modern conceits. Yeah, sure, the albums by the Supremes often include covers of then-popular hits, as well as Broadway favorites, but – to me, at least – that’s part of their charm. At their best, which is often, Diana Ross and the Supremes (both pre- and post-ampersand) simultaneously reflect and transcend their times, and remain as relevant and wonderful as ever.

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Newsflash: Teenagers confound adults.

fullsizeoutput_1158In 1966, however, they weren’t just confounding the older generations; they were concerning them, too, because of the largeness of their numbers. According to the unsigned editor’s note in this Newsweek issue, the “17.9 million young Americans between the ages of 13 and 17 loom like a subcontinent within U.S. society. Their numbers exceed the population of Australia and New Zealand, and at times they seem as far-off and hard to reach.” Thus, the magazine’s braintrust decided to delve deep into the world of the modern teen, to learn not just who they were but, as noted newsman Les Nessman might phrase it, what they were plotting.

That tongue-in-cheek reference to the WKRP in Cincinnati reporter serves a purpose. If you watched the show, odds are you remember the shy and sly Bailey Quarters –

Bailey was played by Jan Smithers – who, it just happens, is the 16-year-old girl riding the motorcycle on the cover. Inside, she’s afforded a mini-profile in a section titled “Six Faces of Youth”: “Beneath the Fluoristan smile, Jan worries. ‘Sometimes when I’m sitting in my room I just feel like screaming and pounding my pillow,’ she says. ‘I’m so confused about this whole world and everything that’s happening.’ But she wants to understand why.” She also observes that ‘[w]hen you’re young you might as well take advantage of it. And even if I become old and saggy, I’m still going to be young.”

As a whole, the in-depth investigation of all things teens paints kids as spoiled creatures who subscribe, more or less, to a parentally-approved lifestyle: “In contrast to the troubled minority, most teenagers seem docile indeed. They criticize themselves sternly: drinking, smoking, long hair, hot rods, eye makeup, net stockings, eccentric clothes.”

Anyway, onward to today’s Top 5: March 21, 1966 (via Newsweek).

1) The Beatles – “Nowhere Man.” There, on page 102, is an article titled “Bards of Pop.” In the last three years, we’re told, Beatle bards John Lennon and Paul McCartney “have written 88 songs that have been recorded in 2921 versions and have sold close to 200 million copies.”

fullsizeoutput_1140“Their latest album of originals, ‘Rubber Soul,’ now fourth on U.S. charts, marks a turning away from the percussive electric backgrounds of rhythm & blues to more intimate settings and subtler forms. Still simple and direct, their lyrics are no longer concerned with handholding, but with desertion, seduction and satire.”

Later, McCartney makes a cogent point: “Our best influences now are ourselves. We are so well established that we can bring fans along with us and stretch the limits of pop.” He also says this: “I wouldn’t mind being a white-haired old man writing songs, but I’d hate to be a white-haired Beatle playing at Empress Stadium.”

Anyway, according to Weekly Top 40, “Nowhere Man” was the No. 4 song of the week – and here they are in Munich performing it:

2) The Temptations – “Get Ready.” There’s also a mini-profile of 15-year-old Tommy Brewer, a black kid from Chicago, in the “Six Faces of Youth” section, that follows the peek into Jan’s life. He “travels 6 miles via two buses and an El” to attend Lindblom Technical High School because, unlike his neighborhood school, it has science labs, electronic courses, and woodworking and metalworking shops.” Out of school, he “divides his time between Look and Ebony. He listens to WVON, a Negro rock ’n’ roll station, and his favorite groups are the Temptations and the Miracles…”

“Get Ready” was one of the week’s “power play” songs, having jumped from No. 53 to 42; and here are the Temps, from an appearance on Where the Action Is

3) The Rolling Stones – “19th Nervous Breakdown.” The piece on the Beatles opens with this line: “How long can Animals, Beatles, Stones, Spoonfuls or Supremes survive in the musical jungle? The cruel laws of pop says they will die commercially before they are 30.”

Perhaps. Perhaps not.

4) The Lovin’ Spoonful – “Daydream.” And about those Spoonfuls…they had the No. 10 single of the week with this cool confection. According to John Sebastian, it was inspired by the Motown sound…

5) The Supremes – “My World Is Empty Without You.” And speaking of Motown, here’s the No. 30 single of the week…

And one bonus…

6) Stevie Wonder – “Uptight (Everything’s Alright).” In the Jan Smithers piece, there’s this: “Most of the action centers on The Trip, a vibrating folk-rock haven…” I googled that club, and found this cool flashback. It was a short-lived venture, but – by looks of the pictures – booked quite a few happenin’ acts, including Stevie.

“Uptight” was the No. 40 single this week, having fallen from No. 13 the week before. Here’s Stevie from Top of the Pops in ’66…

And, for the curious, here are a few more looks inside this edition of Newsweek:

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