“Grease” by Frankie Valli (1978)

“Grease” topped the pop charts because it had just about everything going for it. It was the theme song to one of the hottest movies of 1978; a throwback classic starring John Travolta and Bolivia Neutron-Bomb Olivia Newton-John. It was written and produced by Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees, who wrote and produced literally half the songs that hit #1 in 1978 (this is not an exaggeration). And it was sung by Frankie Valli, a popular singer of the ’50s and early ’60s who was in the midst of a career resurgence in the late ’70s. Everything was in place for a huge record–and to top it off, “Grease” is actually a really good song. It’s the one contemporary-sounding song on the whole soundtrack, and Barry (who totally could’ve coasted) was on his songwriting “A” game. There’s also a really tough sounding breakdown/breakbeat at the bridge that I’m surprised more people didn’t sample during hip-hop looping’s heyday¹.

During my 7th grade year (1987-1988), my class had a period that was designated to “music”. We had no damn instruments (we were poor Black kids in deep Brooklyn), so the class was altered slightly to become a “music appreciation” class. For a solid semester, we alternated between watching “Grease” and the 1988 American Music Awards on VHS. It was probably my favorite class of the semester, but also probably highlights what is/was wrong with the NYC public school system, especially in poorer neighborhoods. Also, having watched “Grease” at least 15 times in that period alone, I never want to see that movie ever again.

¹-IIRC, Pras (from The Fugees) sampled it on his first post-“Ghetto Supastar” solo single, “Blue Angels”. The song flopped. Maybe that’s why no one else looped it?

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