Sunday, April 3, 2016

Donny and Marie - Featuring Songs From Their Television Show

Today (April 3rd) marks the fortieth anniversary of Donny and Marie - Featuring Songs From Their Television Show, the third studio album from the brother and sister act of Donny and Marie Osmond. This 1976 album spent thirty-eight weeks on the US Billboard Album chart, peaking at number 60. It also went to number 48 in Canada and the UK.

The Donny & Marie hour-long variety show ran from January of 1976 through January of 1979, for a total of seventy-eight episodes. The two were 18 and 16 years old respectively when the show first aired. The idea came to ABC's president Fred Silverman after he saw the duo co-host a week on The Mike Douglas Show. As a kid of the 70's, I was all about variety shows and watched this one very faithfully every week. As the title indicates, these eleven tracks were featured on the first few months of broadcast.

Side one begins with "C'mon Marianne", a song that was originally a hit for the Four Seasons in 1967. Donny's version was this album's first single, and it reached number 25 on the US Billboard Easy Listening chart and number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100. The song is very upbeat with a quick tempo and powerful backing horns.

"Butterfly" is a country number by Marie about how people grow up and move on, much like a caterpillar grows wings and takes off on its own.

"A Little Bit Country, A Little Bit Rock 'n Roll" was a reoccurring segment on the show, and this song was the framework for it. Here Marie would celebrate her roots in the Nashville country music scene while Donny would show a more rock side (okay, his was a lighter rock or really more pop side). It was these two musical aspects that helped the show have a wider audience appeal. In a way, too, it mirrored how diverse the music charts were back in the 1970's.

"Dandelion" is a country number where Marie compares herself to a fragile flower.

"Deep Purple" started off original as a piano composition in 1933 by Peter DeRose. In 1938, Mitchell Parish added lyrics to the popular piece. Nino Temple and April Stevens had a number 1 hit with it in 1963. Donny and Marie's version went to number 39 in Australia, number 25 in the UK, number 14 on the US Billboard Hot 100, and number 8 on the US Billboard Adult Contemporary chart. The color purple would become Donny's signature color as well as he often wore purple socks on the show.

Side two opens with "'A' My Name Is Alice", a bouncy ditty that sounded like something girls would sing while jumping rope. As the third single, this solo effort by Marie stalled at number 85 on the US Billboard Country chart.

Donny takes the spotlight on "Sunshine Lady", a passionate ode to a former love.

The singing siblings come together again for "Take Me Back Again", which was featured on their first album together I'm Leaving It All Up To You in 1974.

On "Weeping Willow", Marie shares her broken heart with an understanding backyard tree.

"It Takes Two" was a big hit for Marvin Gaye and Kim Weston in 1966. Donny and Marie recorded a version back in 1974, and it was a popular number when they performed in concert with their brothers. So, naturally, it made an appearance on their variety show as well. The song has a romantic element that was casually tossed aside, much like many of the duets the brother and sister act performed.

The record closes with "May Tomorrow Be a Perfect Day", the optimistic and endearing closing number of every episode. The vocals are delivered over a simple piano accompaniment and then it ends with a big, brassy piece over which the credits would roll.

Back in 1976, I owned a copy of Donny and Marie - Featuring Songs From Their Television Show on vinyl, as did my across the street neighbor Jeannie. She and I were the same age, went to school together from elementary school through high school, and often hung out playing together. When we had been younger, we both read comic books from the Archie, Gold Key, and Harvey (Casper, Richie Rich, etc.) publishers. We both shared a following of the show, though Jeannie had a huge crush on Donny (she had many of his solo albums and his posters on her bedroom wall). Often, we'd hang out in her basement a sing along to the record, with me taking the Donny parts and her the Marie. In a lot of ways, she was very much like the sister I never had. Thus, it is no surprise that this record still brings back good memories of growing up.

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