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Joanna by Kool & the Gang

Album: In the HeartReleased: 1983Charted:
  • This was a huge hit for Kool & the Gang, and their second most successful song after "Celebration." It's a love song for a particular woman. In the video, Joanna is a well-liked waitress in a popular local diner who was once quite the glamor girl. >>
    Suggestion credit:
    Mike - Santa Barbara, CA
  • Just a few days before the album's release, Kool & the Gang performed this at New York's Radio City Music Hall, never imagining it would become the first single. The band's longtime associate Cleveland Brown recalled to Billboard: "Well the Radio City crowd got so frenzied by the chorus and horn break - people jumping up and down as if it were a hit anthem - that the group was taken by surprise. They were looking at each other, wondering what was up. But they tried it again the next night, and the next. And I remember Khalis [Bayyan aka Ronald Bell] came backstage and said, 'They went berserk! I guess it's the first single.'"
  • Guitarist Claydes Charles Smith brought the tune to the Gang under the title "Dear Mom." Ronald Bell suggested a few changes, including a new title that would capitalize on the "name" song trend, like Toto's hit "Rosanna" the year before.
  • Tenor sax solos are frequently used in the group's songs, but this one features a trombone solo from Clifford Adams.
  • In the Heart brought its challenges, namely the absence of producer Eumir Deodato, who helped pull the band out of a career slump with classic albums like Ladies Night and Celebrate! "We worked by a committee this time," group founder Robert "Kool" Bell told Billboard. "It's hard for 10 people to come to a decision together, but we managed remarkably well. My brother, Ronald Bell, headed the committee and he helped us come to a sound we were all happy with."
  • This was featured in the 2009 Judd Apatow film Funny People, starring Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen.
  • The Gang scored a #5 hit with the romantic number "Too Hot" in 1979, but this song proves it wasn't just a one-off. With smooth lead vocals from J.T. Taylor, "Joanna" marked yet another transition for the funk-turned-dance pop band, proving they had the chops to turn out romantic R&B ballads that would become a staple of their later releases like "Cherish."
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Comments: 6

On February 25th 1984, Kool and the Gang performed "Joanna" on the NBC-TV program 'Saturday Night Live'...
Four months earlier on October 30th, 1983 it entered Billboard's Hot Top 100 chart at position #90; and on February 5th, 1984 it peaked at #2 (for 1 week) and spent 21 weeks on the Top 100 (and for 6 of those 21 weeks it was on the Top 10)...
And on January 8th, 1984 it reached #1 (for 2 weeks) on Billboard's R&B Singles chart...
The week is was at #2 on the Top 100 chart, the #1 record was "Karma Chameleon" by Culture Club...
On the same 'SNL' program they also performed "Celebration"; which reached #1 in 1981 on both the Top 100 and the R&B Singles charts.
Barry - Sauquoit, Ny
I don't think The White Stripes did a cover of "Joanna", as far as I know, Michaela. You may be thinking of "Jolene", the Dolly Parton cover released by The Stripes as a single in 2000 on the B-side of "Hello, Operator".Duffy - Sparks, Ga
My mom had told me one day that this song was written for her by a guy that came to see her about everyday when she was a waitress/manager at the Copper Penny. She had told me this when I was about 10 year old. She had told me how the song-writer had told her how he needed to change the name of the song to Joanna so that the song can have a good rythm. My mom's name is Jo ANN. I believed her some. When I was doing some research today about this song, I was shocked when I saw that the music video was filmed at a diner and indeed is about a waitress and written for a waitress and that indeed there was a song name change. Maybe my mom was telling me the absolute truth. Ha!Bert - Glendale, Ca
You are correct. Actually, the first lyrics were: "Dear mom, you know my heart is true. That's why I wrote this song especially for you". Thank you J.T. for coming up with the change to "Joanna". This song was almost not included on the album.Rick - Toms River, Nj
The White Stripes have done a cover of this song.Michaela - Houston, Tx
According to All Music Guide this was originally titled "Dear Mom."Edward Pearce - Ashford, Kent, England
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