March 1976: George Benson Releases BREEZIN'

Monday, February 1, 2021
George Benson, Breezin

While Breezin' might have been legendary guitarist George Benson's fifteenth studio effort, it was Benson's first full-length for Warner Bros. Records. He announced his arrival to the new label with a decided splash, as the record was a smash that rocked the radio and charts across multiple genres. It was America's bicentennial, and the country was in a celebratory mood; the most popular album of the year was Peter Frampton's pioneering Frampton Comes Alive!

George Benson's cool jazz-fusion sound crossed over pretty much everywhere, so much so that Breezin--released March 19, 1976--had enough muscle to wrestle away the #1 spot on the Billboard album chart from Frampton Comes Alive! for two weeks during the summer. The weeks of July 31 and August 7, to be exact.

The album's centerpiece single, a cover of Leon Russell's "This Masquerade," powered the album, soaring all the way to #10 on the Hot 100 for the week of August 28, 1976. It's a tune that's also been recorded by Helen Reddy (1972) and the Carpenters (1973). Of the various versions of the song that exist, only Benson's take hit the charts. The week "This Masquerade" reached #10, the #1 song in America was Elton John and Kiki Dee's "Don't Go Breakin' My Heart."

Breezin' is marked by another significant cover: the title track, written by none less than R&B legend, Bobby Womack. Womack worked with Hungarian jazz artist Gabor Szabo, who released the original version in 1971. Benson's version of the laid back classic climbed to #13 on the Adult Contemporary chart for the week of November 19, 1976.

The album was a huge hit at the 19th annual Grammys, scoring nominations for a slew of awards, including Album of the Year. Benson took home the prizes for Best Pop Instrumental Performance and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. "This Masquerade" won the Grammy for Record of the Year. It also earned a nomination in the Song of the Year category.