They never had a radio hit, they never made the cover of the Rolling Stone, they've somehow eluded the Rock 'n' Roll Hall of Fame (though I'd argue that several inductees in recent years are just as lame, if not worse).
But since the mid 1960s, the traveling musical troupe known as Up With People has traveled the world, including, probably, a high school auditorium near you spreading their weird, clean-cut cheer and saccharine platitudes. They played not one, not two but five goddamn Super Bowl halftime shows between the mid '70s and mid '80s. They've performed for presidents and foreign leaders.
There have been more than 22,000 members from more than a hundred countries.
And yet some people -- including former member, actress Glenn Close -- have compared Up With People with religious cults. And in fact, the group sprang from an "alternative" religious movement called Moral Rearmament. (Close's parents belonged to that group, and Glenn spent her teenage years and early 20s under its spell.)
Up With People was started by a Moral Rearmament member from Arizona named J. Blanton Belk, According to a 2012 story from Inside Tucson Business:
During the turbulent 1960s, a prevalent scene in the U.S. was one of hippies occupying university presidents offices. It was a time of demonstrations, around the world from the University of California in Berkeley to the Sorbonne in Paris, and to San Marcus University in Lima, Peru.
Belk was at a point in his life when he was ready to take on a big challenge. He gathered student leaders from half a dozen universities challenging them to find a “positive voice” as an alternative to what he regarded as the negativism of the times.
Chances are you've probably heard Up With People's self-titled theme song, the one that goes "Up up with people, you meet 'em wherever you go ..." -- and possibly you even agree with the song's sentiment "If more people were for people" the world would be a better place. And maybe you remember one of their better known songs, "What Color is God's Skin?"
But I'd be willing to be bet that you probably haven't heard many of the other 300 songs or so written for Up With People over the past 50-whatever years. Well, that's what this blog is for.
Let's start with one written and sung by a young Glenn Close, "Run and Catch the Wind" (no relation to the similarly-titled Donovan song from that era.) And check out the endorsements from John Wayne, Pat Boone and Walt Disney on the album cover!
Here's one from Up With People's snazzy orange sweater period, "Where the Roads Come Together":
Up With People Get funky with this 1970 tune called "Man's Gotta Go Somewhere":
Finally, here's "Stand Up Now," a fairly recent one (2012) that has an anti-bullying message:
So I hope you agree with me that UP WITH PEOPLE KICKS ASS!
Yesterday, February 16, 2022, would have been the 106th birthday of R&B keyboard great Bill Doggett, whose 1956 hit "Honky Tonk" remains a major R&B and rock 'n' roll instrumental from the '50s, covered by James Brown, Buddy Holly, The Beach Boys, Bill Haley & The Comets, George Clinton Roy Clark and more.
Doggett was born in Philadelphia in 1916. A master of the piano and organ who played with several bands, Doggett got his first big break in 1942 when he was hired by The Ink Spots as their pianist and arranger. He'd later work as an arranger for the like of Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, and Lionel Hampton.
He formed his own band and started recording for Cincinnati's King Records in 1951. Doggett worked up to the age of 80. He died in New York in 1996.
In honor of his birthday, here are some of his songs. Let's start with "Night Train":
This one's called "Big Boy":
I don't know about Part 1, but here's "Smokey (Part 2)":
Finally, here's a live version of Doggett's greatest hit, live on French TV
Rosie Hamlin was born in Oregon and was living near San Diego when in the
early '60s she recorded the haunting doo-wop ballad "Angel Baby" with her
group Rosie & The Originals.
But New Mexico also has a claim to Rosie. For one thing, some locals have
called her most famous song "the national anthem of the South Valley." And in
fact, Rosie was living in Belen at the time of her death in 2017. (I don't
know how long she lived there). Years before her death, Rosie she'd stopped performing for health
Here's the original by Rosie & The Originals:
Bluesman Charles Brown also cut a version in 1961:
John Lennon reportedly has called this tune "one of my all-time favourite
songs.” He recorded it in 1973 for his covers album Rock 'n' Roll, but
somehow "Angel Baby" didn't make the final cut. It wasn't released until the
mid 1980s, several years after Lennon's death.
The 1995 movie "My Family" had a scene featuring Jeanette Jurado as Rosie Hamlin singing ... you guessed it!
Back around the turn of the century, an Angel from Northern New Mexico, Angel
Espinoza did an updated, Spanish language version of Rosie's original, which
she called "Mi Angelito 2000."
Finally, here's my favorite version of "Angel Baby." It was recorded nine
years ago by Alice Bag (Alicia Armendariz) of the L.A. punk group The Bags.
Alice dedicated the song to her older sister Yolanda, who died of cancer a few
years before. And Yolanda actually had a boyfriend -- who later became her
husband -- named Angel, Angel Lujan. (Read Alice's harrowing account of her
HERE.) "This song will always remind me of you, Sis."