Welcome to part three of the Johnny Mathis story… Born in Gilmer in East Texas in 1935, Johnny Mathis, with his distinctive voice would become one of the most popular and enduring singers of the last 60 years.
Johnny Mathis has been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame for three separate recordings – in 1998 for “Chances Are”, in 2002 for “Misty”, and in 2008 for “It’s Not for Me to Say.”
On June 21, 2014, Mathis was inducted into the Great American Songbook Hall Of Fame along with Linda Ronstadt, Shirley Jones, and Nat King Cole (his daughter Natalie Cole accepting the award on his behalf). The awards were presented by the Center for the Performing Arts artistic director Michael Feinstein. Defined on their website, “Conceived as an enduring testament to the Great American Songbook, the Hall of Fame honors performers and composers responsible for creating America’s soundtrack.”
He was awarded the Society of Singers Lifetime Achievement Award in 2006 and he was inducted into the Hit Parade Hall of Fame.
I will now hand over to William Price King to bring the Johnny Mathis story up to the present day.
The end of the 1970s was a productive and successful period for Johnny Mathis. In 1978, his hit duet “The Last Time I Felt Like This” from the film “Same Time, Next Year” was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Original Song. Mathis and Jane Olivor sang the song at the Academy Awards ceremony, in his second performance at the Oscars.
“Too Much, Too Little, Too late” was penned by songwriters Nat Kipner and John Vallins. Johnny Mathis struck gold when he teamed up with R&B songbird Deniece Williams for this 1978 chart-topper. The song is about a couple who finally realize that there’s no spark left in their relationship and decide to go their separate ways. Mathis and Williams’ voices complement one another nicely on this bittersweet break-up ballad. The duet was born out of Mathis’ desire to take his music in a new direction. The single was a comeback of sorts for Mathis, as it was his first chart-topping hit in the US since 1957’s “Chances Are.” Released as a single in 1978, it reached #1 on the US Billboard Hot 100 pop chart, Adult Contemporary chart, and R&B chart. Outside the US, the song peaked at # 9 on the Canadian Singles Chart and #3 on the UK Singles Chart and was certified gold and silver in the US and in the UK.
The duo released a follow-up duet, “You’re All I Need to Get By,” peaking at number 47 on the Hot 100. The success of the duets with Williams prompted Mathis to record duets with a variety of partners, including Dionne Warwick, Natalie Cole, Gladys Knight, Jane Olivor, Stephanie Lawrence, and Nana Mouskouri. A compilation album also called “Too Much, Too Little, Too Late” released by Sony Music in 1995, featured the title track among other songs by Mathis and Williams.
“Friends in Love” was released in April 1982 by Columbia Records and included six original songs, two of which were duets with Dionne Warwick. The album made its first appearance on Billboard magazine’s Top LPs & Tapes chart in May, 1982, and remained there for nine weeks, peaking at #147. It also made it to #34 during a seven-week run on the UK album chart that began the following week.
The title track from the album entered the Billboard Hot 100 in April, 1982, and eventually got as high as #38 over the course of 13 weeks. That same issue included its debut on the magazine’s list of the 100 most popular R&B songs in the US, where it also spent 13 weeks and peaked at #22. The next issue, in April 24, marked its first appearance on the
Adult Contemporary chart, and during its 17-week run there it rose to #5.
This was the first Mathis album whose initial release included the compact disc (CD) format.
Mathis continued to release and sell albums throughout the ’90s — his fifth decade of recording for Columbia. He was nominated for a Grammy Award in 1991 for Best Traditional Pop Performance for the album “In A Sentimental Mood: Mathis Sings Ellington.”
“Unbreak my Heart” is the from 1998 album “Because You Love Me: The Songs of Diane Warren” on which he covers 10 of the songwriter’s hits. This song was also chosen for the compilation of Mathis’ hits on his 2004 album “The Essential Johnny Mathis.” Diane Warren wrote “Un-Break My Heart” in 1995. When asked about her songwriting process, she said that songs usually come to her from a title, a chorus, or a drum beat. “Un-Break My Heart” was conceived from its title, and, according to Warren, “it popped into my head, and I thought, ‘I don’t think I’ve heard that before, that’s kind of interesting. I started playing around on the piano with these chords and did a key change, and then I knew, ‘OK, this is magic.’ Warren further explained that she wrote “Un-Break My Heart” as a ballad and dance song, because that was the way she heard it.
“Over the Rainbow,” the tenth song from the album, “Isn’t It Romantic: The Standards Album,” is a duet with Ray Charles that originally appeared on the late musician’s final release, “Genius Loves Company” in 2004, and won the Grammy Award for “Best Instrumental Arrangement Accompanying Vocalists” for its arranger Victor Vanacore. Mathis received a Grammy nomination for this album in the category of Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album. In an interview that year with National Public Radio’s Ed Gordon, Mathis describes a conversation he had with record company executives: “They said, ‘We want you to sing the most popular songs from the American musical theater that you haven’t sung in the past.”… I sat down and finally came up with a list of nine songs that I hadn’t recorded that were very familiar to the public.”
John Bush of “AllMusic” noted that “singers from a variety of genres had jumped on the standards bandwagon” around this time due in large part to the success that Rod Stewart was having with his series of “Great American Songbook” albums. “There are a few qualities, however, that separate Mathis from the competition. His long mastery of singing love songs is one, and his comprehensive knowledge of the pop canon is another (the last would be, of course, that wonderful voice).” He also wrote, “His choices for the material on “Isn’t It Romantic” are excellent, all of them natural fits for both his voice and his persona.”
2006 was a very busy year for Johnny, marking his impressive 50th anniversary as a recording star. “Johnny Mathis – Gold: A 50th Anniversary Celebration” and “A 50th Christmas Celebration” were both released and PBS taped a special called “Wonderful, Wonderful”. 2006 also marked the year that he was honored with receiving the Society of Singers coveted Ella Award.
Mathis returned to the British Top 30 album chart in 2007 with the Sony BMG release “The Very Best of Johnny Mathis” in 2008 with the CD “A Night to Remember” and again in 2011 with “The Ultimate Collection.”
“Let It Be Me: Mathis in Nashville” was released in 2010, by Columbia Records and focused upon popular country songs. With the exceptions of the traditional folk song “Shenandoah” and George Strait’s “We Must Be Lovin’ Right” from 1993, the heyday of the selections that Mathis is covering coincided approximately with the first 20 years of his career, starting with Elvis Presley’s “Love Me Tender” from 1956.
The album earned Mathis a Grammy Award nomination for “Best Traditional Pop Vocal Album.
“Location matters little to Johnny Mathis,” writes Stephen Thomas Erlewine of “Allmusic” — “wherever he goes, there he is, sounding as smooth as ever. That’s quite an accomplishment for a singer of 74, to still make it all seem effortless.” He also notes that, with a few exceptions, the album “sounds as if it could have easily been released in the early ‘60s when Mathis was a regular fixture in the charts…, and that’s its strength.” He concludes that “Mathis sounds as silky as his surroundings,” and asserts that “that may be because he wound up having Nashville accept his terms instead of bending to the rules of the Music City.”
“Once Before I Go,” featured on “Johnny Mathis Sings the Great New American Songbook” is from the “Boy from Oz” – a jukebox musical based on the life of singer/songwriter Peter Allen highlighting songs written by him. The book is by Nick Enright. Premiering in Australia in 1998 starring Todd McKenney, the musical opened in a revised version on Broadway in 2003 with Hugh Jackman in the title role and co-starring Isabel Keating.
Jackman won the 2004 Tony Award for Best Leading Actor in a Musical and the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Actor in a Musical, and Keating won the Drama Desk Award for Outstanding Featured Actress in a Musical. The show also received nominations for four other Tony Awards, including Best Musical.
Buy the music of Johnny Mathis: https://www.amazon.com/Johnny-Mathis/e/B000APEDOO
Find out more about Johnny Mathis and current news: http://www.johnnymathis.com/news.html
Additional sources: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Johnny_Mathis
My thanks to William Price King for another wonderful series that shares the music of artists whose music has usually accompanied most of the major events in our lives.
William Price King is an American jazz singer, crooner, and composer.
His interest in music began at an early age when he studied piano and clarinet in high school. At Morehouse College in Atlanta where he grew up, he sang in the Glee Club and studied classical music. After graduation he went off to the Yale School of Music where he earned a Masters degree. From there he journeyed to New York where he created a jazz trio ‘Au Naturel’ which performed in some of the hottest venues in Manhattan including gigs on Broadway and the famous ‘Rainbow Room.’ These gigs opened doors for performances in Montreal and a European tour.
While touring Europe he met a lovely French lady, Jeanne Maïstre, who, a year later became his wife. King left the group ‘Au Naturel’ and settled in the south of France where he started a new life on the French Riviera, opening his own music school – the “Price King Ecole Internationale de Chant.” He has had the pleasure over the years of seeing many of his students excel as singers on a professional level, and some going on to become national celebrities. He continues to coach young singers today, in his spare time.
His debut jazz album was entitled “Home,” and was a collection of contemporary compositions he composed, with lyrics written by his wife Jeanne King. His second album was a Duo (Voice and Guitar) with Eric Sempé on the guitar. This album included original songs as well as well known standards from contemporary jazz and pop artists. The “King-Sempé” duo toured France and thrilled audiences for more than three years before going their separate ways. King has formed a new duo called “Clear Cut,” and is now exploring new ideas, in a smooth jazz/soul/folk direction.
In addition to singing and composing, King has been collaborating with author Sally Cronin over the past few years on her blog “Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life,” with the series “A Man And His Music – Jazz, Contemporary, Classical, and Legends” and now, the “William Price King Music Column.” Working with author Sally Cronin has been an exhilarating experience in many ways and has brought a new dimension to King’s creative life. King has also created a micro blog, “Improvisation,” which features and introduces mostly jazz artists from across the jazz spectrum who have made considerable contributions in the world of jazz; and also artwork from painters who have made their mark in the world of art. This micro blog can be found on Tumblr.
His vocal mentors are two of the greatest giants in jazz, Nat King Cole and Mel Tormé. King has a distinctive wide-ranging voice which displays a remarkable technical facility and emotional depth.
William Price King on Tumblr – IMPROVISATION – https://williampriceking.tumblr.com
Connect with William
Website – http://www.williampriceking.com/
Facebook – https://www.facebook.com/WilliamPriceKing
Twitter – https://twitter.com/wpkofficial
Regular Venue – http://cave-wilson.com/
You can find previous artists featured in these two links
Jazz, Classical and Contemporary: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-a-man-and-his-music-jazz-contemporary-classical-and-legends/
And the Music Column: https://smorgasbordinvitation.wordpress.com/william-price-king-music-column/
Thank you for dropping in today and hope you have enjoyed the music… thanks Sally