Monday, May 21, 2018

Dionne Warwick's 1966 R&B song "Message To Michael", and Michael Jackson's 1975 R&B song "Dear Michael" (information, lyrics, and YouTube examples)

Edited by Azizi Powell

This is Part IV of a five part pancocojams series about the name "Michael".

Part IV showcases Dionne Warwick's 1966 R&B song "Message To Michael", and Michael Jackson's 1975 R&B song "Dear Michael".

Click for Part I of this series. Part I presents etymological information about the name "Michael" as well as information about that name's declining popularity.

Click for Part II of this series. Part II showcases the African American Spiritual/work song "Michael Row The Boat Ashore" (also given as "Michael Rowed The Boat Ashore").

Click for Part III of this series. Part III showcases C.O.D.'s 1965 R&B song "Michael The Lover" and The Mad Lads' 1966 cover of that song.

Click for Part V of this pancocojams series. Part V showcases the 1991 song "Be Like Mike" and the original Gatorade "Be like Mike" commercial. That song and commercial refers to professional basketball player Michael Jordan.

It's my positions that these songs and that commercial reinforced the popularity of the name "Michael".

The content of this post is presented for cultural, entertainment, and aesthetic purposes.

Thanks to the composers of these songs and thanks to Dionne Warwick and Michael Jackson for their musical legacies. Thanks also to all those who are quoted in this post, and thanks to the publishers of these examples on YouTube.

SHOWCASE EXAMPLE: Dionne Warwick Message To Michael 1966 Stereo

Edward Kemp, Published on Oct 8, 2013

"Message to Michael" is a song written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David, that has been a hit for several different artists under several different titles. The song was first recorded as "Message to Martha" by Jerry Butler in 1962. In 1964, singer Lou Johnson had a minor US hit with the song, with the title "Kentucky Bluebird". UK singer Adam Faith also recorded the song as "Kentucky Bluebird" in 1965, and had a substantial hit with it in the UK, reaching #12. Exactly the same recording was issued in Australia as "Message to Martha", where it was a #15 hit for Faith. Americans are probably most familiar with the 1966 Top Ten version by Dionne Warwick, which was titled "Message To Michael".

In all versions of the song, the lyrics are addressed to a bluebird by the singer. The singer is in Kentucky, and his/her sweetheart is vainly pursuing musical stardom in New Orleans. The singer asks the bluebird to take a message to Martha/Michael, asking for the sweetheart to return.


Dionne Warwick version
Warwick's association with the song began when she recommended it as a concert number to Sacha Distel, with whom she was headlining at the Paris Olympia Theatre in 1966. Jacques Denjean prepped a backing track to which Distel was to sing the song in concert; when Distel decided against performing the song, Warwick considered availing herself of the prepped instrumental track to record the song herself. Both Burt Bacharach and Hal David, when contacted by Warwick, were opposed to her singing what they maintained (in its English version) was a man's song. David also mentioned to Warwick that the only male name that could be subbed for "Martha" was "Michael", a name David disliked. Warwick took David's comment as a suggestion, recorded "Message to Michael" in a Paris recording studio, and added her vocals to the track prepped for Distel. Warwick would say that the most difficult part of the recording session was getting the French background vocalists to pronounce 'Michael' correctly.[1]

Scepter Records a&r man Steve Tyrell recalls "getting in [a Brill Building] elevator with Burt and Hal and following them down into Times Square, begging them to let me put ["Message to Michael"] out. The next day they called [Scepter Records owner] Florence Greenberg and said 'Look, Steve is so into this tune – tell him he can put it on the B-side but he shouldn't promote it'". When "Message to Michael" was issued on a single backed with "Here Where There Is Love" Tyrell states "I got right on a plane [for] New Orleans and I went to WTIX [Radio]" and played "Message to Michael" for disc jockey Buzz Bennett who then "walked right into the control room and put it on the radio. Because it opened, 'Fly Away to New Orleans...' And in one week it was a smash!" In fact even prior to the single's release Warwick had performed "Message to Michael" on the NBC Pop music TV program Hullabaloo in an episode broadcast 9 March 1966.

In May 1966 "Message to Michael" became Warwick's first Top 20 hit since "Reach Out for Me" 16 months previously; also in May 1966 "Message to Michael" became a Top Ten hit, Warwick's third after "Anyone Who Had a Heart" and "Walk on By". The Billboard Hot 100 peak of "Message to Michael" was #8 and Easy Listening #12; Billboard's R&B chart would afford "Message to Michael" a #5 peak, which remains Dionne Warwick's alltime best R&B chart showing for a solo recording: she'd previously hit #5 R&B with her first release "Don't Make Me Over" and after "Message to Michael" would reach #5 R&B as a soloist with both "Alfie" and "Once You Hit the Road".

As Burt Bacharach and Hal David were not involved in the recording of "Message to Michael" – the team being in fact opposed to Dionne Warwick recording their song – the producers' credit on the track reads "a Blue Jac Production", Blue Jac Productions being the name Bacharach/David and Warwick had incorporated under in 1962 (officially Blue Jac Productions, rather than Warwick personally, were signed to Scepter Records; the same production credit would be employed for Warwick's 1970 single "Make It Easy on Yourself", which was a recording from a live performance.)

In his 1968 book: What the World Needs Now and Other Love Lyrics, Hal David emphatically admitted his misgivings over Warwick recording "Message to Michael" proved ill-founded, indeed stating "Dionne's vocal was so brilliant that it was obvious we had subconsciously written the song for her even while we thought we were writing it for a man".[1]"...

(written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David; Dionne Warwick version)

Spread your wings for New Orleans
Kentucky bluebird, fly away
And take a message to Michael
Message to Michael
He sings each night in some cafe
In his search to find wealth and fame
I hear Michael has gone and changed his name

It's a year since he wasn't here
Kentucky blue bird, fly away
And take a message to Michael
Message to Michael
Tell him I miss him more each day
As his train pulled out down the track
Michael promised he'd soon be coming back

Oh tell him how my heart just breaks in two
Since he journeyed far
And even though his dream of fame
Fell through
To me he will always be a star

Spread your wings for New Orleans
Kentucky bluebird, fly away
And take a message to Michael
Message to Michael
Ask him to start for home today
When you find him please let him know
Rich or poor
I will always love him so


Album "Forever, Michael" (1975)

SHOWCASE EXAMPLE: Michael Jackson - Dear Michael

orlandomagic654, Published on Feb 6, 2008

From the album "Forever Michael"
Here are two comments from this sound file's discussion thread, with numbers assigned for referencing purposes only:
1. Michael, 2012
"Hello to all the Michael's like me out there"

2. HardyGirl66, 2016
"This is one of my favorite solo albums from Michael. And I had the 45 of "Dear Michael" before I had the album. I played this song endlessly, 'cos every word of it was true. From 1978 to 1981 I wrote to Michael once a month, every month, using the fan club address on the Destiny album. I knew he got a ton of mail, but I figured he had to get one of them. I don't know if he ever did, but you know what? I know that he now knows every word of every letter I ever sent to him back then. He knows all of the messages his fans send here on YouTube, and he is happy. His physical presence may no longer be with us, but his spirit lives on, and he knows how much we all love him. I miss you Michael!"

(written by Hal Davis, Elliot Willensky, performed by Michael Jackson)

She wrote "Dear Michael
You'll probably never get this letter
Michael, I wrote you a hundred times before
Knowing how I feel
I'll write a hundred more"

"Dear Michael, every time your record's on
(Michael Michael)
Michael, I close my eyes and sing along
Dreaming you're singing to me."


And then she wrote:
"Michael, I love you
I held the tears back long as I can
I'm sealing my feelings in this envelope
'Cause I wanna be more than just your number one fan"

I'm gonna answer your letter
(Michael Michael)
I'll start beginning with the ABC's of loving you
(I love ya)
(She wrote)
(Michael Michael)
(I love ya)
Your letter really touched my heart
(She wrote)
I've been dreaming of meeting the picture
That you send along, signed with all your love
(Michael Michael)
(I wrote ya)
(She wrote)

I'm gonna write you back, ouuh, i promess you that
(Won't you write me back?, please write me back)

Girl, i think i love you
(Michael Michael)
Hurry, hurry mister postman, take my letter, tell her i love her
(She wrote)
(Won't you write me back, please write me back)
(Michael Michael)
(She wrote)

Hurry, hurry mister postman, take my letter tell her i love her
(Won't you write me back, please write me back)

(Michael Michael)
(I wrote you)
(She wrote)
I'm gonna write you back
I promess [sic] you that...


This concludes Part IV of this series.

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