One Fine Day: The Chiffons; Carole King; Bette Midler

Hello there! In this week’s blog we consider the song One Fine Day. This is a really enjoyable pop song in ‘doo-wop’ style, initially recorded in 1963. We will start with the original song by The Chiffons, and will then review covers by Carole King and by Bette Midler.

The Chiffons and One Fine Day:

One Fine Day was written by the dynamite songwriting duo (and husband/wife team) of Gerry Goffin and Carole King. In the early 60s, Goffin and King were just about the hottest songwriters in pop music, writing a slew of top 40 hits. Below is a photo of Gerry and Carole from the early days of their collaboration.

Gerry wrote the lyrics and Carole composed the music. Apparently the title for One Fine Day was inspired by the song Un Bel di Vedremo from the Puccini opera Madame Butterfly.

In any case, in early 1963 Goffin and King whipped up a demo of One Fine Day for their record company. Carole had supplied a bouncy, staccato piano part for the song. It was so catchy that King’s original piano playing from the demo was used on the final recording.

However, the song itself had some problem areas. Initially, Goffin and King had intended the song for their babysitter, the singer Little Eva. They worked on the song for some time without success.

Eventually, the song was given to a girl group from the Bronx, called The Chiffons. Below is a photo of The Chiffons circa 1963.

The Chiffons were originally a trio of high school classmates from James Monroe High School in the Bronx. Judy Craig generally sang lead while classmates Barbara Lee and Patricia Bennett chimed in on the harmony.

The group met up with songwriter Ronnie Mack, who persuaded them to add Sylvia Peterson. Mack then supplied the quartet with his doo-wop song He’s So Fine. You will remember that tune from its unforgettable girl-group opening chorus “Doo-lang, doo-lang doo-lang; doo-lang, doo-lang.

He’s So Fine was released in early 1963, and became a #1 Billboard Top 100 hit. This established the Chiffons as one of the top girl groups in the country.

It seemed ‘natural’ for Goffin and King to give their song to the Chiffons. After the Chiffons’ success with He’s So Fine, another song with “Fine” in the title seemed destined to be a hit.

The lyrics of One Fine Day are extremely straightforward. A girl is confident that the boy she loves will eventually reciprocate her attention, at which time “you’re gonna want me for your girl.”

One fine day, you’ll look at me
And you will know our love was, meant to be
One fine day, you’re gonna want me for your girl.

The arms I long for, will open wide
And you’ll be proud to have me, right by your side
One fine day, you’re gonna want me for your girl.

Though I know you’re the kind of boy
Who only wants to run around.
I’ll keep waiting and someday darling
You’ll come to me when you want to settle down, oh!

The song He’s So Fine had been produced by The Tokens. This was the group who had a gigantic hit with The Lion Sleeps Tonight in 1961.

The Lion Sleeps Tonight became the Tokens’ one and only hit. However, the group had significantly greater success producing pop records. In addition to The Chiffons, The Tokens scored big hits producing songs by Tony Orlando and Dawn. In addition, The Tokens produced hits by lesser groups such as Randy and the Rainbows (Denise) and The Happenings (Go Away, Little Girl).

Since The Tokens had been so successful with He’s So Fine, in May 1963 they went into the studio to record One Fine Day with the Chiffons. Apparently the Tokens made significant changes to the demo that had been produced by Goffin and King.

One Fine Day was released in May 1963, and made it to #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. So here is the audio of the Chiffons’ record One Fine Day.

What a great, peppy, feel-good record! Carole King’s piano opening immediately grabs your attention. I can vouch for the fact that this song will get your feet tapping, even if you are feeling depressed.

In addition to Carole King’s terrific piano lines, One Fine Day has several other memorable features. First, Judy Craig’s lead vocals are really stellar. The girl-group backing is also extremely bouncy (Shooby dooby dooby dooby doo wop, wop). Finally, there is a terrific saxophone solo at about the 1:40 mark.

I must apologize for some of the photos included with this YouTube video. I’m not sure why the song One Fine Day would inspire someone to paste in photos of Patsy Cline and JFK, both of whom died in 1963.

For a few more years, the Chiffons continued their reign as queens of the girl groups. In 1966, they had another hit with their single Sweet Talkin’ Guy – of course, another Goffin and King song — which made it to #10 on the Billboard pop charts.

The Chiffons tried to strike gold a third time with A Love So Fine, in late 1963. However, this time a song with “Fine” in the title made it only to #40.

After 1966 the hits dried up for The Chiffons. In 1970, Judy Craig retired from the group and went to work in a bank. For a while, Sylvia Peterson took over the lead vocal duties, but then she quit the group.

The Chiffons continued on through a number of personnel changes, but never really struck paydirt again.

I was unable to find live video of the Chiffons performing One Fine Day live in 1963. However, I did find a clip of members of the group performing the song at an “oldies” concert from 2000.

This video was accompanied by the statement, “Proving that some things get even better with age, here are Judy Craig and The Chiffons.” And here they are, live in concert.

I must admit, my first thought was “Golly, this might not be very good.” My experience is that many of these “oldies” groups are way past their prime, and occasionally their performances are painfully weak.

But amazingly enough, I thought that Judy Craig and The Chiffons were terrific. Both the lead singer and the harmony parts were extremely enjoyable. This is from the PBS special Doo Wop 51 that aired in 2000.

The announcer remarks that this is the final TV performance by the group. Well, they went out with a bang – good for them.

Carole King and One Fine Day:

Carole King is one of the greatest singer-songwriters of all time. In earlier blog posts, we have reviewed her songs Will You Love Me Tomorrow, and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman, and also The Loco-Motion.

All of these songs were written with Gerry Goffin, Carole’s husband at the time. Carole King’s song-writing partnership with Gerry Goffin was quite incredible. The pair were mainstays of the great Brill Building stable of pop music writers and performers in the early 60s.

Below is a recent photo of Carole King, performing live in London’s Hyde Park in July, 2016.

Carole had a terrific musical pedigree – even in high school she was dating Neil Sedaka and producing demo records with Paul Simon.

Following her breakup with Goffin in the late 60s, Carole King moved to Laurel Canyon in California and made friends with many of the talented musicians living there at the time.  In particular, Carole became good friends with Joni Mitchell and James Taylor. Hooking up with lyricist Toni Stern, King embarked upon a solo career, singing and playing piano.

On King’s first album, Writer in 1970, James Taylor played acoustic guitar and sang backing vocals. The album got some attention but otherwise was somewhat disappointing. However, everything turned around with King’s second album, Tapestry, in 1971.

Tapestry became one of the seminal albums of the 70s – it was the best-selling album of all time from a female artist until surpassed by Whitney Houston’s The Bodyguard. With Taylor and Joni Mitchell providing backup vocals, Tapestry has sold 25 million copies worldwide, and earned King a Grammy for Album of the Year in 1971.

Tapestry received four Grammys, including Song of the Year. This award was particularly noteworthy as Carole King was the first woman ever to win the Song of the Year Grammy. Carole’s bio in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame describes Tapestry as
A tour de force of confessional songwriting and understated performances.

Over her career, Carole King has turned out to be a songwriting whiz. Over 100 of her songs charted in the Billboard Hot 100.

King was not only a superstar musician, but she is also recognized as a feminist pioneer. In particular, the earlier Goffin-King songs like Will You Love Me Tomorrow and (You Make Me Feel Like) A Natural Woman are now appreciated for their contributions to the growth of feminism during this period.

The song One Fine Day appeared on Carole King’s 1980 album Pearls. This album featured Carole providing her personal take on a number of the classic Goffin-King songs. As it happened, One Fine Day was the last song of Carole’s to chart in the Billboard Top 40.

So here is Carole King in a live performance of One Fine Day.

Isn’t this great? It is a real thrill to see Carole banging out the wonderful piano lick that she invented. She is clearly enjoying herself immensely on this song. The tune also includes a terrific saxophone solo by Richard Hardy that appears at the 1:50 mark. And finally, drummer Steve Meador finishes off this feel-good song with a tasty drum lick.

In recent years, Carole King has been the recipient of a number of lifetime-achievement awards. In 1998, the TV channel VH1 sponsored a concert called Divas Live 1998. They assembled a dynamite cast of female singers – Aretha Franklin, Mariah Carey, Celine Dion, Gloria Estefan and Shania Twain. That event celebrated the songs of Carole King, so Ms. King was included as an honored guest.

In 2013 Carole King became the first woman to receive the Library of Congress’ Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Then in 2015, Ms. King was one of the recipients of a Kennedy Center Honors award. What great honors, and all of them richly deserved.

Bette Midler and One Fine Day:

Bette Midler is a superstar pop singer, who has also achieved great success as a songwriter and an actress. Ms. Midler was born in Honolulu, Hawaii. In 1966, the aspiring actress was cast as an extra in the movie Hawaii.

With the money she earned from that film, she traveled to New York where she gained experience as an actress. Her first big break was as a singer in the Continental Baths, a gay bathhouse in the Ansonia Hotel.

Below is a picture of a poster for a Bette Midler concert at Carnegie Hall. I thought this was a really cool graphic.

At the Continental Baths, Ms. Midler gained a cult following as “Bathhouse Betty.” She was known for her singing talent and versatility, but also for her witty repartee.

Another notable feature of her work at Continental Baths was the collaboration with her piano accompanist, Barry Manilow. Manilow became Midler’s conductor and arranger.

Here we have some “bonus video.” This is Bette Midler live at the Continental Baths round about 1970. She performs a song, and then engages in banter with the patrons of this establishment.

I apologize for the rough quality of both the audio and video in the clip above.  I have had difficulty embedding this clip; you may have to rewind it to the beginning. My intention is that you just watch the first few minutes of this performance.

The footage is notable as it marked the beginning of Midler’s spectacular career. Note Barry Manilow in the background, accompanying Miss M. on piano.

In 1972, Barry Manilow co-produced Bette Midler’s first album, The Divine Miss M. The album became a blockbuster hit, reaching the top 10 in the Billboard Top 200 album charts, and gaining platinum status.

In addition, The Divine Miss M contained three big single hits, including her cover of the Andrews Sisters’ 1941 hit Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy. A year later, Midler’s eponymous second album, also co-produced by Barry Manilow, also charted in the Billboard Top 10.

Success and stardom followed immediately afterwards. Ms. Midler won Tony Awards, an Emmy, and starred in her own TV special. Then in 1979, Bette Midler had the starring role in the movie drama The Rose. She played a doomed pop singer, a part closely modeled on the life of Janis Joplin.

The title song of that movie won a Grammy for Ms. Midler, and she won a Golden Globe award as best actress of the year for that part. Later, she starred in a number of comedy movie roles, including Down and Out in Beverly Hills, Outrageous Fortune and Ruthless People.  She has proven to be an extremely talented actress, with the ability to excel in both dramatic and comedy parts.

I was unable to find a live performance of One Fine Day by Bette Midler; so here is the audio of her record of this song.

This is from Midler’s 2014 album It’s The Girls. This was an entire album of covers of girl-group songs from the 40s onward. The album made it to #3 on the Billboard Hot 200 album charts.

This was significant in that the Divine Miss M has had an album chart in the top 10 in five successive decades. This is a mark matched only by one other female singer — Barbra Streisand.

I find this an extremely enjoyable cover of the Chiffons’ classic hit. Of course, the song contains a piano part modeled closely on Carole King’s unforgettable contribution.

Ms. Midler is in good voice and she has assembled a terrific group of girl backup singers. In addition, the song features very peppy licks by the drummer.

Bette Midler has continued her stellar career as both a singer and actress.
Midler has won 3 Grammy Awards, 4 Golden Globes, 3 Emmy Awards, and a special Tony Award. She has sold over 35 million records worldwide, and has received 4 Gold, 3 Platinum, and 3 Multiplatinum albums from RIAA.

In 2000, she starred in a TV sitcom, Bette, that ran for a little over a year. She has appeared in several highly-acclaimed movies, although she has also been involved with a few less successful efforts. For example, Ms. Midler has been nominated for two Golden Raspberry Awards for a couple of critically-panned movies; and she was nominated once for a Razzie Award for Worst Actress.

However, overall Bette Midler has carried on a amazing career in both singing and acting, through a period of nearly 50 years. So, let’s hear it for “The Divine Miss M.”

Source Material:

Wikipedia, One Fine Day (song)
Wikipedia, The Chiffons
Wikipedia, Carole King
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: Gerry Goffin and Carole King bio
Wikipedia, Bette Midler

About Tim Londergan

Tim Londergan is professor emeritus of theoretical physics at Indiana University-Bloomington. He studies the properties of the quarks and gluons that form the internal structure of protons and neutrons. He also writes a blog "Tim's Cover Story" that compares covers of important songs in rock music history. He and his wife share their college-town life with two delightful cats, Lewis and Clark. His hobbies include tennis and ornithology, and he is a life-long fan of the St. Louis Cardinals baseball team.
This entry was posted in Doo-Wop, Pop Music, Rock and roll and tagged , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to One Fine Day: The Chiffons; Carole King; Bette Midler

  1. My friend Peter Chen pointed out that there is an energetic cover of One Fine Day by John Darnielle from the group Mountain Goats. You can find that live performance here:

    Like

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