A lighter shade of Brown(e).
If you hear the initials J.B. nowadays, you’d probably think of pop star Justin Bieber. The pint-size Canadian singer has taken the world by storm with international hits like “As Long As You Love Me”, “Baby”, and his newest release, “Beauty And A Beat”. Although, as of late, the charts aren’t the only thing he’s been “lighting up”. However, he’s not the only J.B. to make the charts, nor is he the biggest. There’s been at least ten other acts to make it into the top 40 in the last forty years. Here they are, in chronological order from when they first debuted:
They called him the “Godfather of Soul” and the “Hardest Working Man In Show Business” for a reason. He’s a legendary and energetic performer, one of the best we’ve ever seen. The singer from South Carolina released his first single with his group, The Famous Flames, way back in 1956, “Please, Please, Please”. It just missed the Hot 100, but was reissued and remixed a number of times afterwards. In 1965, the singer had his biggest breakout, a top ten entry called “Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag”, followed by the biggest hit of his career, the #3 “I Got You (I Feel Good)”. By 1968, the Flames were dropped from the main credit when Brown reached the #10 spot with “Say It Loud – I’m Black and I’m Proud”, and despite dozens of other top-40 hits that did even better on the R&B survey, the soulful singer only scored one other top ten hit on the pop chart: “Living In America”, from the soundtrack to Rocky IV. It went to #4 in 1986. Brown died on Christmas Day in 2006, but with his nearly 100 singles to make the Hot 100 and four decades worth of charting hits on at least one genre-specific chart, he’ll always be remembered as the original J.B. to many.
German-born Browne was an original member of the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, but left after several months and pursued a solo career. His first charting single was 1972’s “Doctor My Eyes”, which hit #8, but the big singles didn’t come easy for him despite some growing numbers on the Albums Chart. It wasn’t until 1978 that he came close to the top ten again with the Classic Rock staple “Running On Empty”, which went as high as #11. By 1980, he had his first #1 album, Hold Out, and in 1982, he had his biggest single to date with “Somebody’s Baby”, featured in the movie Fast Times At Ridgemont High. It went to #7, and Browne enjoyed a few more years of charting singles before things died down. He’s released albums on and off since then, most recently in 2008 with Time The Conquerer, which received positive reviews.
This singer from Mississippi started out in the world of Country before charting with a string of more novelty-type singles. “Come Monday”, one of his more serious tunes, managed a #30 peak in 1974, but it was “Margaritaville” that everybody knows and loves. That one managed a #8 on the Hot 100 in 1977 and after a few other minor entries (1978’s “Cheeseburger In Paradise” being the biggest, at #32), he was generally off the radar, scoring a few adult contemporary and country hits here and there for the better part of 25 years. Since then, Buffett’s been featured on two #1 collaborations on the Country survey: “It’s Five O’Clock Somewhere” with Alan Jackson from 2003 and “Knee Deep” with the Zac Brown Band in 2011.
In the late 60’s and early 70’s, Bristol worked as a songwriter and producer with the biggest of Motown’s acts. His most notable successes include co-production work on “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” by Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell, as well as a full production credit and background vocals on “Someday We’ll Be Together” by Diana Ross & The Supremes. Bristol’s lone hit in the Hot 100’s top 40 was “Hang On In There Baby”, which hit #8 in 1974. He had charting songs on the R&B chart until 1980, but none of them managed to hit the top 40 nationally.
John Benitez was a disc jockey in New York City, specializing in production of the 12″ remixes that were often popular in the discotheques under the stage name Jellybean. In the mid-80’s, he linked up with superstar Madonna and the two became boyfriend and girlfriend, which last for a few years. In addition to all the other mainstream acts he was producing for, he engineered the remixes on most of Madonna‘s early singles, and she returned the favor by writing and singing on his first credited top-40 hit. That was “Sidewalk Talk”, which hit #18 in early 1986; Madonna sang the chorus, while another vocalist, Kat Buchanan, did the verses. One year later, he reached #16 with “Who Found Who?”, featuring a lead vocal by Elisa Fiorillo. It was her biggest of two top-40 hits. Jellybean worked well into the late 90’s on his remixes, though he never scored another big hit on the Hot 100.
This quintet was part American and part English, and though they did better in the United Kingdom, they managed to score one hit on the Hot 100: 1983’s “Just Got Lucky”, which peaked at #36. Just a few years ago, it was featured in The 40-Year Old Virgin, starring Steve Carrell.
South Africa native Butler managed one single on the Hot 100 in 1987: “Lies”, which peaked at #27. It was one of five songs for him that made the top ten on the R&B chart. Butler is primarily a Jazz artist today; his latest album, Grace and Mercy, debuted at #1 on the Jazz Albums chart back in October.
JIVE BUNNY (and the MIXMASTERS)
Take a cartoon rabbit and put him as the leader of a faceless group that remixes oldies but goodies into big mega mixes and, poof, instant hit. “Swing The Mood” combined early rock classics like “Hound Dog” and “Rock Around The Clock” into one song, becoming a huge #1 single in the U.K. in 1989. In the U.S., it lagged on the airplay charts, but was a huge seller in stores, reaching #11 on the Hot 100 in early 1990. Followup single “That’s What I Like” edged into the top 70, but was another easy #1 across the pond, where the group managed to place singles in the top 40 until 1991.
Former British Army member Blunt became a breakout star in 2005 when his ballad “You’re Beautiful” spent five weeks at #1 on the Singles Chart in the United Kingdom. “Beautiful” also spent a week at #1 on the Hot 100 in March 2006. Blunt managed six other top-40 hits in the U.K., most of which attracted limited airplay in the U.S. in the Hot Adult Contemporary format. His last to make the Hot 100 was “Stay The Night”, which went to #94 in 2011 after being featured in an advertising campaign for ABC.
This trio from New Jersey became Disney darlings and hit the top 40 on the Hot 100 in 2007 with “Year 3000”, a rewrite of a hit for the boy band Busted in the United Kingdom. Teen girls came out by the hundreds to buy their singles digitally, resulting in eight total top-40s, only five of which gained radio airplay. Their biggest, “Burnin’ Up”, hit #5 on the Hot 100 in 2008 while stalling in the teens at CHR radio. They haven’t had a hit since 2009, but the brothers recently reformed their group and may be releasing new material this year.
Who is your favorite J.B. act? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter: @AdamFSoybel.