Saturday, November 14, 2009

FSOTD #51/If I Can't Have You (1977)

FSOTD #50 gave us "Native New Yorker", an almost forgotten hit from the disco era.  Delayed a few days by the blogger blues, FSOTD #51 features an (forgive me for using the term) iconic song from the same year...a true disco staple.  "If I Can't Have You" by Yvonne Elliman was one of four #1 hits from the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.  The other three were recorded by the Bee Gees: "Stayin' Alive", "Night Fever", and "How Deep Is Your Love".  But what you may not know or remember is that "If I Can't Have You" was actually written and recorded by the Gibbs as part of the album that evolved into the Saturday Night Fever soundtrack.  Not included on the album, it was still released coincident with the movie (Dec. '77) as the B-side of the single "Stayin' Alive".  Who remembers that the movie was actually released twice?  It came out initially with an R rating, but was re-cut to take out all the "fucks" and returned to the theaters in 1978 with a PG tag.  A sound business decision.

But I digress; this is Yvonne Elliman's FSOTD.  Perhaps not quite as triumphant as the Bee Gees, the Honolulu-born Elliman nonetheless had quite a ride through the 70's.  While thought of mostly as a disco diva for her SNF participation, there are those -including this writer- who first remember her as Mary Magdalene from the rock opera album Jesus Christ Superstar.   Topping out at #28, Elliman's song "I Don't Know How To Love Him" was a modest pop hit but almost a footnote in light of this trifecta: Elliman sang on the 1971 original JCS album and then went on to play the role of Mary Magdalene on Broadway and in the subsequent film version (earning a 1974 Golden Globe Best Actress nomination).

The notoriety from her stem to stern participation in the Lloyd-Webber classic led to an association with none other than Eric Clapton, for whom she sang backing vocals on many songs including "I Shot The Sheriff" (1974) and "Lay Down Sally"(1977).  Then came Saturday Night Fever.  By 1978, the young woman who started the decade singing in London clubs sat atop the world of showbiz, having been on the radio, the stage, screen, and even on tour with Eric Clapton. She actually did a five year stint singing for Eric, which includes work on both 461 Ocean Boulevard and Slow Hand.

So how do you conclude a decade like that?  You get married, of course.  To Bill Oakes, the president of RSO, the group that managed her career, also Clapton's label at the time, and same for the Bee Gees. RSO Records was also the label for both Grease and Saturday Night Fever.  Wow.  The couple had two children, daughter Sage in 1982 and son Ben in 1985.    The '80's saw her devoting time to her family as her singing career took a backseat, eventually fading out almost completely.  But these days, she's singing again, living in her home state of Hawai'i.  Check out the official Yvonne Elliman site.

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