Today I heard of the death of American jazz, pop, gospel (and many other genres) singer and actress Della Reese. She was 86 years old and I have been a fan for many years. The reason I became a Della Reese fan is down to my sadly departed father who as it turns out was born just three months after Della. Anyway during his years in the Royal Navy, a submariner no less, my Dad collected quite a few records mostly Elvis Presley, Brenda Lee and Della Reese. I no longer have any of the original vinyl that he had but in recent years I have managed to get hold of a few rather excellent Della Reese vinyl albums.
At 13 she became a backing singer for legendary gospel singer Mahalia Jackson and her first tour was with Nat King Cole. She worked with many jazz legends including Ella Fitzgerald, Miles Davis and Duke Ellington. She made a staggering 17 appearances on the Ed Sullivan Show, her first was in 1957. She had her own American TV show ‘Della’ which aired from 1969 to 1970. As an actress she starred in US TV series ‘Touched By An Angel’, she also made an appearance in the Eddie Murphy film ‘Harlem Nights’. In the 1980s she became an ordained minister. She will, I am sure be very sadly missed. My thoughts are with Della’s family, friends and fans. Della Reese RIP.
It’s already December 5th, just less than three weeks before the bearded weirdie arrives on his sleigh, and those little cardboards doors on my UK Christmas Number Ones Advent Calendar a falling like dominoes. Today brings you a veritable treat from the 80s and regular readers will know that’s a decade that is my least favourite in musical terms!
Ladies and gentlemen and those gender or species uncertains amongst you I give you the Pet Shop Boys. Their cover of the classic “Always On My Mind” was number one at Christmas 1987 where it stayed for four weeks. Incidentally my daughter Lauren was born that year so that was her first Christmas and just like then she is always on my mind now, even though she may not think so.
The duo first played the song earlier in the year as part of a TV show to commemorate the 10th anniversary of the death of Elvis Presley. It was so well liked that they decided to record it and release it as a single and the rest as they say, is history! Elvis recorded his version in 1972 shortly after the song had been released as an US single by Brenda Lee. She was one of my Dad’s all time favourite singers. It is believed that the song has been recorded by at least 300 different acts. In addition to Elvis, Brenda Lee and the Pet Shop Boys, my favourite version is probably that by Willie Nelson. His cover was released in 1982 and reached the top spot on the US Country Chart that year.
The Pet Shop Boys version was the third of their four UK number ones, they only reached number one in the US chart once. That was with “West End Girls” which was their first UK number one. They did however reach the summit of the US Dance Charts some nine times between 1984 and 2009. Finally, for the record, the group’s name has absolutely nothing to do with hamsters, guinea pigs, cardboard tubes and insertion into bodily orifices. They were originally known as West End and Chris and Neil felt that the nickname of their two friends who worked in a pet shop would work better than that!
Enjoy the Pet Shop Boys video for the song from 1987 below