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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.
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