Leave it to Adam Lambert to take one of the most recognizable and frequently spun hits of the disco era and make it his own. When the front-running "American Idol" musical-theater howler announced his decision to resurrect the 1976 disco funk hit "Play That Funky Music" by [artist id="19029"]Wild Cherry[/artist] on Tuesday night, judge Randy Jackson said he was a bit concerned given the song's long history and ubiquity.
But, much like he did with [article id="1607780"]Smokey Robinson's "Tracks of My Tears"[/article] the week before and the [article id="1607195"]Johnny Cash classic "Ring of Fire"[/article] the week before that, Lambert put his unique spin on the tune by the Pittsburgh band, who hit #1 with the song in 1976 and garnered a pair of Grammy nominations for Best New Vocal Group and Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group.
One-hit wonders Wild Cherry was led by singer-guitarist-songwriter Rob Parissi, who formed the original group in 1970, cribbing the name from a brand of cough drops he was taking while battling illness. The first lineup split in 1975 before releasing any music, and Parissi threw in the towel for a while and began managing a local steak house.
But he soon formed a new lineup with more of a rock edge during the era when disco was blooming, and after legendarily being shouted down by fans at shows to "play that funky music," he wrote a song inspired by the taunts and was repaid with a massive hit that reached #1 on the Billboard R&B and pop charts. The group never reached those heights again and split up in 1979 after releasing a fourth album.
And much as he did with "Tracks of My Tears" last week, [article id="1608238"]Lambert proved his innate artistry[/article] by taking the disco chestnut and making it his own on Tuesday night, adding in a rock edge and inserting some of his signature falsetto howls, much to the delight of the judges and audience.