Tuesday, January 29, 2019

"On My Own" by Patti LaBelle and Michael McDonald

#1 Alert!
Gold Record Alert1
Rated 10 Alert!
Song#:  2663
Date:  03/22/1986
Debut:  88
Peak:  1 (3 weeks)
Weeks:  23
Genre:  Pop, Adult Contemporary, R&B

Pop Bits:  Since going solo in 1977, LaBelle's chart career was a bit spotty. She would grab a few minor Top 40 entries at R&B, but was never able to chart at Pop. Things started to change when she scored her first R&B #1 in 1983 with "If You Only Knew." She'd follow that hit up with a couple more Top 10's but nothing really clicked at Pop. She finally made a more mainstream breakthrough with "New Attitude," a song from the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. It got to #3 at R&B while becoming her first significant hit at Pop (#17). This helped to set her up for even better success and with her new label, MCA, she set out to record her eighth studio album Winner in You. This duet with former Doobie Brother Michael McDonald was the first single lifted from the album and after a slow start, the song suddenly caught fire and bolted to #1 at R&B and Pop while hitting #2 at AC. It was a major victory for LaBelle returning to the #1 spot twelve years after her first chart topper in 1974 with "Lady Marmalade" (as part of the trio known as Labelle). The song would help take her album to #1 and it would turn into a platinum seller. It would also earn LaBelle and McDonald a Grammy nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Duo or Group. The hit cemented her superstar status, but unfortunately it would be her last one to reach the Pop Top 10. She'd gather up seven more R&B Top 10's after this, but nothing would every really click again at Pop.

ReduxReview:  What I love about this song is it just breathes. Bacharach's signature extra measures help give the melody space and nothing is rushed. And then the amazing voices of LaBelle and McDonald tell the story. They both keep it simple and understated until near the end when the emotions take over. They really sell the song at the end without going overboard. The pair were the perfect artists for this tune. It's easily one of the best duets of the decade and even beyond.


Trivia:  This song was written and produced by Burt Bacharach and Carole Bayer Sager. It was initially given to Dionne Warwick to use for her Friends album. She did record the song, but in the end it was set aside and not used. Bacharach and Sager then took it over to LaBelle for her album. LaBelle recorded the song as a solo piece, but she felt that it just wasn't working out. Then it was suggested that the song might work better as a duet. LaBelle wanted to give it a go and when asked who her #1 choice as a duet partner would be, she answered Michael McDonald. Luckily, McDonald accepted the invitation to do the song. However, they did not meet up in the studio for the recording. Each recorded their part separately (on different coasts) and their performances were then spliced together. The accompanying video for the song was then done in a similar fashion with McDonald filmed on the west coast and LaBelle back east. The video used a split screen effect to show them singing together during their duet parts. This seemed like a surefire Grammy winner for Pop Vocal Performance, but they got aced out by another Bacharach/Sager composition, "That's What Friends Are For," by Dionne & Friends (as in Dionne Warwick who decided not to use this song).


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