Today Ray Parker Jr. turns 55 years old, and many happy returns to the man. Likely the only thing most of us know about him is that he penned the ever-catchy theme to Ghostbusters... though Huey Lewis claims Parker just ripped off "I Want a New Drug" with the tune. You can certainly hear the similarities, and the two parties settled out of court on the matter.
Parker isn't just a one-trick pony, though. He's had a very nice career penning Top 10 hits, playing with legends like Stevie Wonder and The Spinners, and just all-around living the good life of a working musician who knows his way around a good line.
So for those of you that may only associate him with paranormal '80s comedies (Or to a lesser extent a pretty silly cartoon) I thought I'd introduce some of his other work. Happy birthday, Mr. Parker. You bring good things to life.
7. "A Woman Needs Love (Just Like You Do)" Parker scored his first major hit in 1981 with his band Raydio in the form of this soul ballad. "A Woman Needs Love" has a wonderfully message to the men of the world... if you're a cheating dick don't be surprised if your woman doesn't seek solace in the arms of, say, a smooth singer with a snappy sense of dress. Seriously, I bet Parker could have made a whole new wardrobe out of recycled panties after this song came out.
6. "The Other Woman" One of the things that made Parker such a star was the way he embraced the world of the music video. Indeed, he was one of the first black artists to really do so. He made two music videos for "The Other Woman" in 1982, and I decided to go with the one full of vampires and dancing skeletons because why the hell would anyone go with anything else?
You also have to admire the bravery of Parker going with sexy Caucasian vampires as his playmates at a time when interracial marriage in America had only been legal for about 15 years. Of course, that interracial aspect is also why MTV wouldn't play it.
5. "The Right Key" Yes, that is indeed Jack Wagner of freakin' General Hospital, and he is absolutely nailing that track. Wagner and Parker worked together on an album in the late '80s that remains sadly unreleased. Wagner performed some of the songs, such as "The Right Key," in venues like The Pat Sajak Show, and of course many of the tracks have leaked out into the Internet. C'mon, MCA, just put the damned thing on iTunes, will ya?
4. "Jack and Jill" Parker's first big hit with Raydio was 1978's "Jack and Jill." It's part of his beat-you-in-the-head-with-a-synth-line period, but it's also part of a wonderful series of songs that looked at how America was changing as women began to enter corporate America and the dynamic of the family was changing.
3. "Mr. Telephone Man" Fond as I am of Mr. Parker, here's a little roasting for him. Without his writing "Mr. Telephone Man" for New Edition, they never would have been a success. Without New Edition the New Kids on the Block wouldn't have had anyone to copy, and then neither would have Backstreet Boys or N*Sync.
Without N*Sync's success I wouldn't have read around Lance Bass' earnest and inspirational, but ultimately heartbreaking space-flight dreams, and I might be so sad all the time. All because Parker re-wrote the words of "The Other Woman" for some crappy boy band.
"Christmas Time is Here" With another death ray of a summer staring us in the face, let's remember Parker's contribution to the world of holiday music. Yeah, it's still pretty much all about booty because that's Parker for you, but it's also about, I dunno, trees and snow and stuff.
1. "Mismayola Beach" So what is Parker up to these days? Mostly smooth jazz on his guitar. He released I'm Free in 2006 and "Mismayola Beach" did a fair shake on the jazz charts. It's a far cry from novelty songs about ghosts, and a perfectly fine place for the man to spend the later parts of his career. Lay back and have a drink while he kills that line.
We like to spend rock stars' birthdays showing off their lesser known works. Check out five songs from The Proclaimers that aren't "500 Miles" or seven songs about Bela Lugosi that Bauhaus didn't write.
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