Mary J Blige: Regan Cameron/Corbis Outline
March 27, 2002 at 05:00 AM EST

When Mary J. Blige stepped on stage at the Grammys to perform ”No More Drama,” featuring a sample of the unmistakable ”Young and the Restless” theme, a murmur rose from those who hadn’t heard the radio hit. Few notes evoke overwrought drama like those maudlin piano chords. Without a troupe of dancers or a Vegas set, Blige’s performance was more theatrical than all the Marmaladies and ‘N Syncers combined. By the end, Blige seemed close to tears, and the audience was on its feet.

So what genius thought to sample a 31-year-old soap tune in an R&B song about finding inner peace? Actually, it was daytime TV fan Jimmy Jam, tunesmith for Janet Jackson and Mariah Carey, who produced and wrote ”Drama” with his partner, Terry Lewis. ”My favorite soap is ‘The Young and the Restless,”’ Jam says. ”I always thought it would be cool to sample that intro and use it with the idea of no more drama…. Mary said, ‘Have y’all been following me around? It’s perfect.”’

Perry Botkin and Barry DeVorzon originally wrote the mawkish tune for Stanley Kramer’s 1971 drama ”Bless the Beasts & Children.” In 1973, ”Y&R”’s producers chose the music to run behind its opening credits. And in 1976, it was reincarnated as ”Nadia’s Theme” when it was used as accompaniment to Romanian gymnast Nadia Comaneci’s gold-medal-winning routines. Thanks to Blige, it’s now jerking tears from R&B fans.

”Somebody said, ‘Hey, your song is on MTV!”’ says Botkin. ”I said, ‘Huh?”’ Although he’d never heard of Blige, the composer, 68, was delighted to get a writing credit. ”I woke up one morning and I’m on the cutting edge of R&B,” says the composer, who now specializes in electronic music. ”These days, I’m completely removed from pop music — except when [royalty] checks arrive.”

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