Chart divergence

Roger’s Music Throwback Saturday this past week was devoted to the late Tyrone Davis, who got two big hits on the subject of Second Chances: “Can I Change My Mind” and “Turn Back the Hands of Time.” Davis died in 2005, and his obituary in the Guardian contained this line: “He commanded a large, loyal black following, but was denied a mass audience.”

Which, as Roger points out, is nothing new:

[T]his phenomenon is hardly specific to Davis. James Brown, e.g., had 17 soul #1s, and over 110 top 100 soul tunes. He had zero #1 pop tunes and about 95 top 100 pop hits.

And about twelve more that Bubbled Under. But still, it’s rather startling that The Hardest-Working Man In Show Business never had a #1 pop hit, or even a #2. The best he could manage was #3:

I mention purely for amusement value that in the poster for Ski Party, the film whence this clip cometh, Brown and his Famous Flames are billed above Lesley Gore, but below Robert Q. Lewis.

Still, Davis seems to have been shafted in a particularly harsh manner: “Turning Point,” which hit #1 on the Billboard R&B chart, never even got within bubbling distance of the Hot 100, though I remember it reasonably well, which suggests it got airplay somewhere within hearing distance.

Then again, anomalies of this sort are practically de rigueur at Billboard, which once decided it didn’t need a black-music chart at all:

From November 30, 1963, to January 23, 1965, there were no Billboard R&B singles charts. The chart was discontinued in late 1963 when Billboard determined it unnecessary because that there was so much crossover of titles between the R&B and pop charts in light of the rise of Motown. The chart was reinstated with the issue dated January 30, 1965, as “Hot Rhythm and Blues Singles” when differences in musical tastes of the two audiences, caused in part by the British Invasion in 1964, were deemed sufficient to revive it.

For this and other reasons, I found it sort of risible that “Straight Outta Compton,” the title song from the justly famed N.W.A album, climbed all the way to #38 on the pop chart — this past week, a by-product of the release of the biopic of the same name. It had never been there before.



  1. Roger Green »

    30 August 2015 · 5:52 pm

    WHOA – your NWA fact just blows my mind. Seriously, thought not literally.

  2. Chuck »

    31 August 2015 · 2:13 pm

    Boss Hoss did a version of Hey Ya. Finally found out where it came from. Don’t much care for either version, though I have to give the performers credit for enthusiasm.

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