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9 Songs Written By Prince Covered By Other Artists

My biggest Prince memory is of a college friend that was madly in love with him. So much so, that she invited me and other friends to her...

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Monday, May 02, 2016

Well, I had a feeling a lot of fellow kitty lovers read Go Retro, because the votes from the charity poll are in and the winner is the Ellen Gifford Cat Shelter! There's going to be a lot of happy aristocrats!

I'll be donating the ad revenue I make during this month from the Blogger Network and Google AdSense to the cat shelter. So for the next few weeks, I'll be tweeting and posting content to Facebook as much as I can, including some older posts. How can you help? You can simply share (or, as I like to say, Cher and Cher alike) my blog posts...share them on your own social networks...help drive extra traffic and readership. Every little bit helps!

Next month I'll post how much was made and will donate it to the shelter. This was fun, and I look forward to doing this again around the holiday season, perhaps with some more national charities. Thanks to everyone that voted! 

Saturday, April 30, 2016

A month or so ago I was watching The Flight of the Phoenix (the original; not the remake) when I found myself quite taken with James Stewart's co-star in the film, a handsome German actor with blonde hair, blue eyes, and full lips named Hardy Kruger. In the 1965 adventure classic, Kruger's character -- Heinrich Dorfmann -- informs the crew after their plane crashes in the Sahara desert that he knows how to build airplanes and can create a new working one by salvaging parts from the damaged aircraft. Little do they know that Dorfmann's airplane engineering experience is limited to model airplanes -- the punchline moment of the film.

It's a great movie, and I don't know if I can ever bring myself to watch the 2004 remake (which starred Dennis Quaid in Stewart's role and the squirrely Giovanni Ribisi in Kruger's.) I'm a sucker for German guys, and after watching The Flight of the Phoenix I had to Google up Kruger to see what else he had been in. Turns out one of the things he has been in is the Adolf Hitler School at the Ordensburg Sonthofen in Bavaria! He was also in the German army during WWII, specifically the SS.

Now, it wasn't his fault -- according to Wikipedia and a website dedicated to his career, it was pretty typical for German boys in the 1930s to be drafted into Nazi youth organizations. In Kruger's case, he was recruited to join the Deutsches Jungvolk at the age of 10 in 1938. In the Jungvolk, students participated in physical activities such as sports, hiking, and camping -- and were also required to attend Nazi rallies and parades, and given military training. They were encouraged to inform the authorities if their parents were against Nazi doctrine. Luckily this wasn't a problem for Kruger; his parents were great admirers of Hitler. Years later Kruger told a Swiss newspaper, "The memory of Hitler's bust on my mother's piano stands for a wasted childhood, a stolen youth, and a painful passage into the state of being human."

By 1941, Kruger was apparently making a great impression on his teachers, because they selected him to next attend the Adolf Hitler School. Two years later, Kruger earned his first acting role for a German film called Junge Adler (Young Eagles.) He was 15 at the time, and the film's director secured the paperwork to have him leave the school to work in the movie. At the studio, he was taken under the wings of a veteran actor named Hans Söhnker, one of Germany's leading actors at the time. Söhnker developed a close relationship with Kruger. He also knew what was going on with the Holocaust, and the concentration camps, and over time informed Kruger of what the Nazis were up to.

When filming ended, Kruger was heartbroken to learn he had been ordered to return to the school. In 1945, towards the end of the war, he was recruited yet again to join the SS Division Nibelungen, a last-ditch effort by Hitler to fight the allies that was made up of mostly 16 year-old boys. Kruger and his group were ordered to eliminate a group of American soldiers, but upon seeing the men's faces up close he could not do it. He was supposed to be executed by firing squad for cowardice, but another SS officer stopped the order. He then was made a messenger, but deserted his squadron and hid out in the mountains and abandoned farms until the war was over.

He got a job as an extra in a movie, honed his acting skills, and then traveled to France in search of more work where he was met with distaste: "Look at you! Blonde hair! Blue eyes! We had people that looked like you all over France -- for years. Their arrogance is not forgotten. Nor are their crimes. Show us a grey uniform and we're scared."

Kruger felt ashamed, and guilty. But he eventually settled in London (where he was reminded again by an actress that everyone she knew had lost someone in the war.) He learned how to speak English and improve his accent, and six months later a British movie director named Roy Baker offered him the lead role of a German pilot in the movie The One That Got Away -- ironically, playing a German WWII pilot on the run after being shot down. The 1957 motion picture was a big hit, and more studios started to take notice of Kruger.

After several British and German films, Hollywood came calling when Kruger was cast alongside John Wayne in the 1962 African safari film Hatari!. During filming Kruger fell in love with Africa, and purchased the farm near Mount Kilimanjaro which served as the setting for the movie.

I find it interesting that Kruger was embraced by Hollywood given his controversial younger years -- but he has adamantly denounced his involvement with the Third Reich several times in interviews and he was forced to join it pretty much against his will, after all.

Other notable projects that Kruger has been in include The Wild Geese, A Bridge Too Far, and the TV miniseries War and Remembrance. He's also a pilot, having learned to fly at a young age, and the author of over a dozen books including his own autobiography. For over 30 years he's been married to a beautiful American woman, and his son -- Hardy Kruger, Jr. -- is also an actor. He's currently 88 years old, so here's a toast to those Teutonic genes!

I have a bit of catching up to do with the other films in Kruger's resume. He's a fine actor -- and darn fine to look at!

Saturday, April 23, 2016

It was a week ago that an article called "It's 2016. Why are men still paying for women on dates?" appeared in the Boston Globe, and it really put my knickers in a twist. The completely clueless author (Afie Kohn) had been married for a few decades, got a divorce, and re-entered the world of dating expecting to get a free ride (and meal.) Namely, he was shocked to discover that women still expect him to pay for dates, given that we're holding positions in professions that would have been unheard of at the time he got married.

"Men paying for meals may have made more sense when fewer women worked outside the home -- and those who did faced a much bigger gender wage gap," he argues. "But today, unmarried women earn, on average, almost as much as single men. Yet traditional roles have persisted. Besides, what matters are the two specific people having dinner. If both make a good living, then the man’s paying for her makes precisely as much sense as the woman’s paying for him."

The thing that surprised me most about this editorial is that the author is not in his 20s or 30s, but appears (from his public website) to be older than me. He should know better.

This dude seems to be spewing his rhetoric coming from the perspective that he's all about women's rights, feminism, and that women should be HAPPY to pay for the food on a first date. But, my personal perspective on it goes hand-in-hand with something I said in the post I wrote a few weeks ago about men holding doors open for women. It doesn't matter what title a woman holds or how powerful she is in her job. At the end of the day, most of us still want to let our hair down and be treated like a lady. And a man can help her feel like a lady by paying for her meal.

I have had some lousy dates in my life, but I can honestly say there is one thing I have never encountered, and that is having to pay for even part of a meal bill. Even guys I went out with that made less money than me always paid for everything. And frankly, if I were out on a first date and the man didn't pay, it would be game over for me.

I may get some disagreement from some of my readers, but here's my opinion on the whole paying-for-meals-thing: I have no problem with couples taking turns with paying or splitting the bill once they're in an established relationship. But when a couple is just starting to get to know each other, and they're dating, that to me is courtship. And frankly, paying for the meal is part of that courting period.

That's right, it's called courtship -- something that I hear is falling by the wayside, especially as people find dates via Tinder and other ridiculous dating apps that are really meant for emotionally disconnected people that just want to have one-night stands.

However, if you're genuinely interested in a woman and want to show her you care and are interested in getting to know her, you court her by paying for meals.

I also don't understand how a man could let a woman pay for a meal on the first date, and somehow still feel like a man. Wouldn't you feel emasculated in some way?

Lastly, wouldn't it make you feel like a total cheapskate? Is that how you really want to be perceived by potential relationship partners?

What if you don't make a lot of money, or don't want to invest a lot of money when it comes to dating? No problem. If you're meeting a woman for the first time that you know little about (say you contacted her on a dating site) then meet for coffee, or for a walk around the local park followed by ice cream. Then, if you think she has potential, you can suggest dinner for the next date.

At any rate, as soon as I read the Globe editorial, I knew who to bring its attention to: James Michael Sama. He's a relationship and dating coach in the Boston area that I follow, and he advocates holding onto traditional dating values in our mobile-addicted, instant gratification, short attention span world. And while his blog declares that "the gentleman is the new bad boy", his site contains oodles of juicy advice for women as well. In fact, James reminds women to do their share of the work to make a relationship successful. One of the best quotes I saw on his site was aimed at women as well as men (I'm ad-libbing here): "A relationship is like a fire. You can't start it and then walk away; you need to stroke it and keep feeding it."

James has written many times about the whole who-should-pay-for-dates debate. Not only has he mentioned some of the points I brought up above, but he also argues that women will make the extra effort to look good for a guy; we'll do our makeup, buy a nice dress, and sometimes get a manicure. He maintains that the amount of money a woman invents in a first date is often more than the cost of a meal -- so men should take this into consideration and pay.

James thanked me on Twitter for sharing the article with him, and immediately said he was going to write a response to Kohn's article. As I rub my hands together with glee I admit that I can't wait to read it...I'll be waiting with my popcorn.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

My biggest Prince memory is of a college friend that was madly in love with him. So much so, that she invited me and other friends to her dorm one evening to watch a Prince concert event on cable. It was the early '90s, and Prince's tour at that time had a Roman theme for the set, inspired by Caligula if I remember correctly. When he looked into the camera, made a "V" shape with two of his fingers and put his tongue in between them, my friend went nuts. I wanted to throw up.

Needless to say, Prince the man didn't do a darned thing for me sexually. To be honest, at the time I thought he was a little freaky and full of himself. When he changed his name to that of a symbol in the '90s, it solidified my personal opinion that he was a kind of a weirdo.

But...that doesn't mean I couldn't -- and can't -- appreciate him as a musical artist. (And after watching several interviews with him since his death, I can see now that he really wasn't a weirdo after all, but a very deep and creative individual.)

Not long ago here on Go Retro I lamented about how homogenized pop music has become...every song and performer sounds the same to me. Not so in the '80s, which was the decade that I received a personal stereo with earphones and truly discovered the world of music for the first time. And Prince's catalog definitely was a huge part of the quirkiness that often defined the '80s sound. I would guess that "1999" was the first song I remember hearing by him, followed by "Delirious" (one of my favorites), "Let's Go Crazy", "When Doves Cry", "Raspberry Beret", "I Would Die 4 U" (I guess Prince was texting in his song titles before texting was even invented) and of course, "Little Red Corvette." It wasn't until recently that I learned that Prince's debut album, For You, pretty much consisted of only one musician: himself. And he was just barely 20 years old at the time of its release. Somewhat of a child prodigy, Prince mastered several instruments and was writing music at a very young age.

Here's a list of the instruments that are credited to Prince on that first album: all vocals, electric guitar, acoustic guitar, Orr bass, bass synth, singing bass, Fuzz bass, Fender Rhodes electric piano, acoustic piano, Mini-Moog, Poly-Moog, Arp String Ensemble, Arp Pro Soloist, Oberheim 4-voice, clavinet, drums, syndrums, water drums, slapsticks, bongos, congas, finger cymbals, wind chimes, orchestral bells, woodblocks, brush trap, tree bell, hand claps, and finger snaps.

Ah, yes. Can't forget the finger snaps.

Anyways, on the eve of his death the media has been reporting that he had a treasure trove of unreleased material tucked into his stark white mansion that has never reached the ears of the masses...hopefully in time that will be compiled and released. But something else we should remember about the prolific Prince is the enormous amount of material that he wrote that was recorded by other artists. So in honor of Prince Rogers Nelson, here's nine songs that he wrote for other performers....some of which became huge hits, as popular as if they had been recorded by Prince himself.

"Nasty Girl" by Vanity 6 (1982)

Prince seemed to take pleasure in creating musical groups long before Simon Cowell, and one of his pet projects was Vanity 6, a female trio that was originally going to be called (and probably rather appropriately) The Hookers. Sleezy, yes. Vapid, absolutely -- but I'd be lying if I said this song didn't have a spot somewhere on my list of favorite guilty pleasure tunes of the '80s. By the way, Vanity herself died earlier this year at the same age as Prince, 57. She had become a born-again Christian after Vanity 6 disbanded and quit drugs as well as the Hollywood lifestyle.

"When You Were Mine" by Cyndi Lauper (1983)

One of the tracks on Lauper's She's So Unusual album, it got overshadowed by her big hits from that record. Originally written and released in 1980, Prince was inspired by John Lennon when composing it, and it became part of his set list on many concert tours.

"Jungle Love" by Morris Day and The Time (1984)

Prince wrote several songs for Morris Day and The Time, which isn't surprising considering Day starred with him in Purple Rain and Graffiti Bridge (Prince also directed and starred in the now-forgotten Under the Cherry Moon, in which he played a gigolo hoping to swindle money from women.) The catchy song peaked at #20 on the Billboard chart, and Day would break up with The Time that same year to pursue a solo career.

"Sugar Walls" by Sheena Easton (1985)

Prince didn't shy away from writing controversial, sexually charged lyrics; he has the honor of having two songs that he wrote listed on Tipper Gore's infamous "Filthy Fifteen" list of songs she deemed too violent or sexual for children to listen to: "Darling Nikki" (a song about a girl that loved to masturbate and uh...grind) and "Sugar Walls", which was recorded by Sheila Easton. I think everyone knows by now what part of the female anatomy is being referred to in this delightful, dirty ditty. I have seen a lot of criticism about this song throughout the years -- one blogger said Prince's attitude towards sex was "juvenile" when he penned it -- but I have to beg to differ. If male singers can get away with referring to their private parts as "Mr. Jones", then why shouldn't a female singer call her va-jay-jay sugar walls? Plus it's one of my most favorite sexy songs of all time.

"The Belle of St. Mark" by Shelia E. (1985)

Even before I knew who wrote it, I knew this song had Prince's mark all over it. He also wrote her big hit, "Glamorous Life" -- but there's something about the androgynous subject of the song that makes me wonder if Prince was secretly writing about himself.

"Manic Monday" by The Bangles (1986)

This is one song that still holds up today, especially when the Sunday night blues start coming on. Prince wrote it under the pseudonym "Christopher", and had originally intended it for another girl group he had pulled together, Apollonia 6.

"Love Song" by Madonna (1989)

Prince is among Madonna's rumored suitors from the '80s, so it's possible this song was inspired directly by their relationship.

"Nothing Compares 2 U" by Sinead O'Connor (1990)

This song has its origins in 1985, when Prince was working with a side project band called The Family -- but it was Sinead O'Connor that scored a hit with it in 1990. A good one to stay away from after a break-up.

"Love... Thy Will Be Done" by Martika (1991)

In the early '90s, singer Martika (mostly known by that point for her hit "Toy Soldiers") approached Prince with help recording some new material. One story says that Prince felt Martika as a singer should have been given stronger songs to work with. "Love... Thy Will Be Done" was actually written by Martika as a prayer, and then set to music by Prince. It was a top ten hit for Martika in the U.S., the UK, France, and Australia, and Prince would perform it on tours during the late '90s.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Yesterday was payday, and since it's also the middle of the month that meant today was "pay the bills" day. When I looked at the balance online for this month for my credit card, though, I truly had a "yikes!" moment. I guess you could say it was sticker shock after the fact.

My bill was a few hundred dollars more than I intended it to be -- not because of anyone stealing my card, but because of my own haphazard charging on it during the past month. Normally the minimum balance it carries is only $25, with recurring charges for my monthly Sirius and Adobe Photoshop subscriptions. This time, though, using the card so freely plus previous purchases pushed it way past that amount. A dinner with my Meetup group, a lunch from my office building's cafe, lunch out with a friend, a purchase at the supermarket, an item of clothing, etc. Not to mention a lot of meat from my company that I've been buying. Seems there were a few times I was simply too lazy to go to the ATM, so I just used my credit card for the convenience. And therein lies the danger that so many Americans have been undertaking for decades now...

Just last Sunday, I had watched a two-minute long commentary on CBS Sunday Morning by Mellody Hobson on Americans' cash-less trend and obsession with charging purchases to credit cards (or using a debit card or a mobile phone to pay.) Very little of us carry cash around in our wallets today, or write out paper checks, for that matter. (You know, money...those green slips of paper your parents and grandparents used to pay for stuff.) As a result, our credit card debt has skyrocketed -- and Hobson says the average household carries $15,000 in card debt. Holy smokes! You can watch the video clip here before I continue (it wouldn't work when I tried to embed the link.)

Well, even before seeing my latest credit card bill, I had already intended to take Hobson's advice to heart: pay for everything -- or at least as much as I can -- in cash. Most of the time, I do. I've always been a saver rather than a spender. When I was ten my mother got me a savings account at our town bank. I loved saving the allowance I earned from doing chores into the account and watching it grow, along with interest, via the little book the banks used to give everyone (today, my account's records online and I don't really like it; I still miss the little books because to me it made the money feel more "real" and I could instantly see how much was in it versus calling the bank's 1-800 number and punching in my account number to get the balance.) And if there was a special toy I wanted to buy, I'd delight in saving my money until I had earned enough to pay for it.

I was in college when I got my first credit card, and then a few cards to my favorite stores. I never had a problem with overspending or overusing them, but it did amuse me how I would get rewarded with increased credit at a young age. If I weren't so dependable, I could have purchased a car with the credit amount that was given to me.

We don't live at or below our means so much anymore. We've become a nation of shopaholics. That old saying that was prevalent during the Great Depression, "Use it up, wear it out, make it do, or do without" fell by the wayside decades ago when Diner's Club and Mastercard (then Mastercharge) were introduced to the public.

I'm not villainizing credit cards, by the way. They are a wonderful thing when you need them, especially for emergency purchases if you simply don't have the money yet, or for online purchases or traveling where cash simply isn't an option. They are necessary today for building one's credit. But they can become too much of a good thing if they're used casually for too many smaller purchases that add up.

When you carry cash, as the video points out, you're more aware of how much money you're actually spending. And you're also curbing an addiction for instant gratification -- if there's something you really want and don't have enough cash for it...well, you can always wait for the next paycheck (although most people won't -- they're going to pull out their card.)

The Germans, by the way, love paying for as much as they can with cash -- even more so than other European nations. Part of their motivation is because they simply prefer not to accumulate debt. The German word schulden, which means debt, comes from the word for guilt, which is schuld. According to this article, only about a third of Germans have a credit card.

I was surprised to learn that some stores such as T.J. Maxx and Kmart still have the layaway programs that they brought back almost a decade ago, because I don't know of anyone who actually uses them. Maybe if stores gave incentives (such as points you accumulate that earn you a discount or coupon) for those that use layaway, it might entice more people to pay for something when they can afford it.

Personally, I feel more powerful and in control having some dough on me at all times. So here's what I'm doing from here on out. I'm paying off the credit card bill, obviously, and taking out only so much cash each pay period to cover gas and needed toiletry items, plus a bit more to cover any upcoming social outing, special occasions that require a purchase, and unexpected purchases. And sticking to it. I look forward to seeing only those two recurring charges for most months on my credit card again.
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