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Category Archives: music legends

“Let ‘er goooo, boys”…

The King of Blue Grass, Bill Monroe, would be 100 years old today. Probably no other artist in the 20th century impacted Country and Blue Grass than mandolinist supreme, William Smith Monroe. His love of music was evident in his performances and in his impact on other artists. Consider “Blue Moon of Kentucky“, likely his most recognizable hit.

And, renditions by some folks you may be more familiar with:

The King of Rock & Roll

The Queen of Country Music

A Few Lads

While they all went up tempo, I still prefer Bill’s original version. Bluegrass is such a guttural genre. It is hurtful, introspective and joyous, all at the same time. Bill Monroe almost single-handedly brought Bluegrass out of the mountain hamlets to the masses. Other “disciples”, like Barbara Mandrell, would continue the message through the years but perhaps the best known is a young boy who first got to play with Monroe on stage at age six:


While this performance is with Flatt & Scruggs (part of Monroe’s original “Bluegrass Boys”), Ricky talks about his first experience of playing with “the man” hisself here:

Likely my favorite, Bill Monroe tune in Uncle Pen, a song, that ironically, became a #1 hit for Ricky Skaggs many years later:

Bill Monroe. A true American icon, lover of music and consemate mentor. Happy Birthday, old boy.

 
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Posted by on September 13, 2011 in birthdays, Country, Influences, music legends

 

A Moment of Silence

9/11.

Synonymous with tragedy, evil, sacrifice, loss, love and hope.

10 years ago, I was working at a large bank in Memphis and driving into the parking lot when I first “heard”. Never thought that we’d have that Pearl Harbor “moment” in my lifetime, but here it was and of course, I remember.

I actually spent my Sunday on the water in the boat with my husband and it was a glorious day. I just couldn’t watch the whole funeral again. However, this morning I saw this…

For me, THIS was the PERFECT tribute. Funny how a song written nearly 50 years ago in the wake of a different tragedy could so amply provide comfort all these years later and be so relevant. That’s what music is, no? A talisman that provides clarity of the emotion that allows people from all walks of life to experience the intention of the writer at the moment of hearing it.

Extrememly fitting that New Yorker Paul Simon delivered the most inspiring moment of “The Rememberance.” Carrie Fisher must be proud.

 
 

Otis at 70!

The great “Love Man”, Otis Redding would have been 70 yesterday. Killed in a plane crash in December of 1967 at the age of 26, Otis left a relatively small but extremely powerful portfolio of work. His mercuric, yet oh so abbreviated three year run shaped music for the next 40 years. Just recently, Kanye West and Jay-Z collaborated on Otis:

As for me, I’ll stick with the REAL Otis…

Just goes to show that extreme talent and passion endures…

 
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Posted by on September 10, 2011 in birthdays, music legends, Otis Redding

 

What’s Wrong With This Picture?

Jazz Fest 2011 - Jimmy Buffett by Gordon Robinette

So, this week the came the official and announcement of the 2011 Jazz Fest poster. The poster is a highly sought after commodity for many music consessieurs and collectors. Both the subjects and the artists vary through the years since the poster advertising the New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival in 1975. The great Louis Prima was immortalized by the great Tony Bennett last year — a true collectors’ item on several levels.

Louis Prima 2010 - Tony Bennett

Probably the most identifiable and beloved Jazz Fest posters were done by James Michalopoulos. He uses the splendid French Quarter architecture as a backdrop for several New Orleans legends who have been mainstays of Jazz Fest and of New Orleans music. The series of Dr. John, Louis Armstrong, Fats Domino and Allen Toussaint all convey exactly what Jazz Fest is about and the greats that have made IT great.

Dr. John, Louis "Satchemo" Armstrong, Fats Domino, Allen Touissaint

And then there’s the great Cajun artist, George Rodrigue, of Blue Dog fame — and recent savior of the Youngsville Heritage Oak. Rodrigue combines his iconical dark oak tree and ever-popular blue dog to immortalize Louis Armstrong (once again), Pete Fountain and the great Al Hirt.

Satchemo, Pete Fountain & Al Hirt

Again, these images capture the essence of these great talents and their impact on Jazz music and making New Orleans its “Mecca”.

So, imagine my surprise at this year’s poster. First, the artist is Gordon Robinette. Robinette IS well known in New Orleans, but not as an artist. He is best known as a talking head/talk show host at WJBO radio station. I must say that as an artist, he is quite accomplished. I do like how he borrowed from the much beloved concept of Michalopoulos’ use of French Quarter architecture and I am impressed that he includes a future Jimmy Buffett looking over his shoulder at the young, broke street performer behind a Falcon, no less. (Which reminds me…I have a long, lost story about a Falcon. But I digress…that’s for another day.)

However, I am perplexed at just why Jimmy Buffett is featured on a JAZZ FEST poster? Now, don’t get me wrong. My Jimmy love is strong. See here, here & here. But this choice seems a bit indulgent. Is it a payback for Jimmy’s fantastic support during last year’s oil spill crisis and his wonderful free concert that many homies considered his “homecoming” to the Gulf Coast?

Or, perhaps it was meant to bolster Jimmy’s spirits after his recent dive off the stage in Australia? A pat on the back for investing in the coast by expanding his Magaritaville franchise in Pensacola, FL and Biloxi, MS? Dunno. But one thing I DO know is that Jimmy Buffett is not the impactful son of the South that the other icons that graced Jazz Fest posters before him.

I DO love Jimmy…but I’m conflicted. He is from Mobile, AL…where I live. He has played here ZERO times since he graduated from McGill Institute back in 1966 (He was a cheerleader, for Christ’s sake). His concert at the Gulf was the first time he’s played there in forever, even though his sister, Lulu, has a VERY popular bar/restaurant on the Intercoastal Canal in Gulf Shores. Jimmy is more a child of Key West and the Carribean. A few years ago, he started playing Jazz Fest, but he has NEVER been a staple there. While Robinette’s portrait refers to Jimmy’s street performing in the late ’60s, the fact is that Jimmy Buffett spent a relatively short period of time on the gummy, stinky streets of the French Quarter before heading out to Californina and ultimately, grounding himself in South Florida.

So, to wrap this all up…I am pumped up about the Jimmy poster because of the awesomeness that is Jimmy Buffett and all he stands for. But in true Libra fashion, I am disappointed that something that has generally been pure and true to its’ core concerning subjects chosen to promote one of the most fantastic musical experiences on Earth has chosen a subject that is, well, not exactly true to itself.

And, just to quench that burning question of MY favorite Jazz Fest poster EVAH?

Because, IT’S IRMA, baby!!

 

Charlie Louvin – Harmonizing in Heaven

1927 - 2011

Country Music Hall of Famer, Charlie Louvin, passed away yesterday at the age of 83 of pancreatic cancer.

While you may not recognize his name or that of his brother, Ira, as the Louvin Brothers, they brought close harmony into the mainstream in 1950s, subsequently influencing groups like The Everly Brothers, The Beach Boys and Gram Parsons/The Byrds. These groups, of course, have been sited influences to modern harmonic groups like Boyz 2 Men, The Backstreet Boys, Brandi Carlile and The Secret Sisters (one of my new favorites — but that’s another post). As a pioneer of harmony, Charlie Louvin stands as one of those who quietly make a lasting impact on music. While he and his brother may have been largely forgotten by the larger music industry, their impact is deep and lasting.

My professed love of harmony is well documented here, and I still love it so. So, thank you Charlie Louvin. Thank you for your talent and your influence on generations of musicians and singers. The thread of harmony through generations…

If I Could Only Win Your Love, The Louvin Brothers

All I Have to Do is Dream/Cathy’s Clown, The Everly Brothers

Don’t Worry Baby, The Beach Boys

Turn, Turn, Turn, The Byrds (Gram Parsons)

I Want it That Way, The BackStreet Boys

Have You Ever, Brandi Carlile

Tennessee Me, The Secret Sisters

 

Happy 80th Birthday, Sam Cooke!

Mold-breaker. Extreme talent. Pioneer. Soul Stirrer.

 
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Posted by on January 22, 2011 in birthdays, dudes, inspiration, music legends, Soul

 

2010 Kennedy Center Honors

Aw, yeah!  Last week, CBS aired the Kennedy Center Honors that featured two of my all time favorite musical artists — Sir Paul McCartney and the fantabulous Merle Haggard.

Broadway composer Jerry Herman and dancer-choreographer Bill T. Jones were also honored, in addition to Oprah Winfrey. 

Side rant:  Can I just say that I am SO sick of Oprah?  When will we be freed from her excessive exposure and self-promotion?  I find her so insincere and disengenuous.  She sucks people in like she’s the “every woman” and “just like you” when she’s a kabillionaire who certainly doesn’t have to worry about college tuition or paying the mortgage.  Besides, anyone who needs a TV show, radio network, magazine and now a TV network, has got to be filling some kind of hole in self-agrandizement.  And people just continue to fawn all over her….blech!

For the Kennedy Honors, you’d swear that it was the Oprah Honors and “the others” were just there to bask in her glory.  She cannot help but to usurp everyone else’s attention….but I digress.

I’ve chronicled my Beatles love many times on this blog (see Beatles tags), but don’t know if I’ve ever delved into my Merle-adoration.  Merle Haggard is one of the legends of music — not just Country music — and is one of the good guys who has made things better for those around him.  And, his music is just, well…good.

Vince Gill gives a great retrospective of Merle’s career at the Kennedy Honors ceremony:

and performances of Merle tunes by Kris Kristoffersen, Sherly Crow, Brad Paisley, Vince Gill and pal, Willie Nelson.  Note:  it’s a little long, but well worth it.  Also, notice Oprah trying to sing along.  Really?!?  You think she’s got a bunch of Merle CDs at home?

It’s no coincidence that Merle Haggard is such a friend of new artists and is so loved by his fellow performers since he decided to pursue music after hearing Johnny Cash at San Quentin when Cash was trying to bring a little joy to those less fortunate.  Just goes to show that paying it forward has ever-implacating rewards.  Personally, I’m torn between these two as my favorite Merle tunes:

That’s The Way Love Goes

My Favorite Memory

….Merle.  A TRUEadour.

Finally, I can’t overlook Sir Paul.  Perhaps the greatest tribute to Paul is this medley featuring Apple Records recording artist, James Taylor, the irrepresible Mavis Staples and rock legend, Steven Tyler.

Note:  Check out Oprah (AGAIN) trying to hog the limelight.  GAH!

I couldn’t help but think that Paul was thinking about John Lennon with this program being so close to the 30th anniversary of John’s death.  Must have been surreal….and lonely.

 

The Original Guitar Hero

les%20paul

Les Paul, 1915 - 2009

A real revoluntionary of the music business is gone.

Les Paul, inventor of the electric, amplified guitar and picker extraordinnaire passed away today from complications of pneumonia at the age of 94.  Born in 1915 with a love of music, Les Paul began playing harmonica and guitar on the street, while still in his childhood.  When a listener critiqued the volume of his guitar playing, Les was determined to find a way to increase the sound.  While gainfully employed as a musician throughout his teens and early adulthood, Les continued to tinker until he created “The Log” — a 4″ X 4″ with amplified strings with a guitar body attached for asthetics.  

As early as 1939, Les Paul brought his “invention” to Gibson Guitar company where he was summarily laughed off the property.  However, they eventually worked with Paul to create the legendary solid-body design that caries his signature and name.  Probably one of the most famous Les Paul models is “Lucille”, B.B. King’s infamous instrument.

bb king lucille 

Generations of guitarists have chosen the signature Les Paul Gibson as their axe of choice, including guitar greats Eric Clapton, Jimi Hendrix, Elvis Presley, Keith Richards, Pete Townsend, Jeff Beck, Jimmy Page, John Mayer, Mark Knopfler and Les Paul’s close buddy, the late, great Chet Atkins.  Chet’s half-brother, Jim, was a member of the Les Paul Trio, who famously played throughout the 50s and 60s.  Both Les and Chet have been major influences in the evolution of the guitar as a forefront instrument.  They were good friends with a strong, mutual respect for each other.

  The Birth of the Blues, Les Paul & Chet Atkins

Amazingly, Les Paul could not read music.  However, his superb ear and creativity provided ingenuity in playing that basically made the guitar speak.  He brought personality to guitar.  He also brought it to the recording studio.  Using his wife, Mary Ford’s pure voice, Les Paul began over-dubbing and multi-track recording, revolutionizing how recordings were made and producing rich sound that resonates deeply within.

There are so many facets to Les Paul and the genius of his 94 years.  I strongly encourage you to look him up on YouTube and Google and watch the documentaries and performances about this icon who literally changed the face of modern music. 

Perhaps Guitar Hero will add a Les Paul version to honor the Original Guitar Hero.  (They may need to add a looping accessory….)

 

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Colette’s Corner: The Beatles LIVE, via Sir Paul

Deja Vu

Deja Vu

Colette checks in from Summer with a terrific tribute to those fabulous lads from Liverpool, with a focus on the irrepresible Macca at the fore. 

Music Maven commentary at the conclusion.

Last week was great for Beatle fans.  Paul McCartney was on the Letterman show for the first time, and insisted on performing on the roof of the Broadway theater that used to be The Ed Sullivan Theatre – where (inside) the Beatles made their US debut, 40-plus years ago.  Then he played at the opening of CITI Field in New York, which replaced the old Shea Stadium where the Beatles performed, on the their final US tour.

The rooftop concert on Broadway was also nostalgic because it included Get Back, which the Beatles sung on the roof of a London building in 1969 while doing an amazing, impromptu set during the filming of Let It Be.  They didn’t know it would be their final performance together, ever.  On the “unplugged” album of Let It Be, you hear them chatting about how great it would be to do a tour again.

Alas, it was never to be. 

John and Yoko moved to NYC, and created such amazing tunes as Imagine and Woman, before he was gunned down so tragically in 1980.  George turned out some fine music too (My Sweet Lord, etc.) on disc, and branched out into producing movies (including Monty Python flicks).  Ringo kept drumming, and touring, but low-key as always.

Paul McCartney was the one who kept doing what the  Beatles spent their teens and twenties doing together —  being a working rocker — and staying remarkably youthful, positive and productive, despite losing his wife and his longtime musical partner, both too young.

After John’s death, McCartney gradually dusted off the amazing Lennon-McCartney songbook — which is simply unmatched by any other pop band.  And what a gift it’s been to hear these songs again, by one of the guys who made them, mostly in their grand original arrangements, with Paul keeping the flame going for a new generation of fans and admiring musicians — including Beatles-lovers like American Idol’s Kris Allen (who does Hey Jude on the Idol tour),  Dave Grohl (of the Foo Fighters) and  Eddie Vedder.

Here are some of Paul’s finest post- Beatle live performances of the Beatles catalogue, culled from the last 20 years — with an emphasis on splendid songs that haven’t been covered extensively by others.

I just want to add for people younger than this Baby Boomer:  you can’t imagine how much the Beatles mattered to us.  They emerged right after the death of JFK, which was deeply traumatic for the whole nation, but especially us children, and they brought with them freshness, cheekiness and a musical magic that helped us heal.

Paul at the Citi Stadium concert, with Billy Joel (a huge Beatles fan and NY hometown hero) chiming in, on a rousing early  hit — the “B” side of I Want to Hold Your Hand.

  –  I Saw Her Standing There

Sir Paul gave us Beatlemaniacs a treat with his “unplugged” concert in 1991, where he played acoustic instruments and revived  gorgeous Beatles harmonies with his new band mates, on fab songs like this  from Rubber Soul.  Note that he let the gray show in a mullet “do” — now he dyes it, but who cares?  The man is ageless:

 – I’ve Just Seen a Face (Unplugged)

On this exquisite ballad from Revolver, Paul’s beautiful falsetto gives me shivers …..and, he added accordion!

   — Here, There and Everywhere   (Unplugged) 

Thanks to this timeless ballad, The Beatles eventually started to get serious props from older musicians and “serious” critics, who assumed they were just a pop craze and would fizzle out.   I remember my own snobby, jazz musician brother saying, “Well, maybe they’re better than I thought….”   Here, Paul is singing it at a charity concert, just him and a guitar, in 1997:

 – Yesterday

I adore everything on Meet the Beatles, their first American LP.   This was their first big hit in England, and it still pleases.   I have no idea where this clip originated, but Paul is performing it in a big stadium somewhere with mobs of people groovin’:

Please, Please Me

John’s death hit Paul very hard.   He’s paid homage in several ways, but I love this remarkable medley that begins with A Day in the Life from Sergeant Pepper and ends with Give Peace a Chance, best.   Filmed during a big concert in the Beatles’ hometown of Liverpool, in 2008:

 –  A Day in the Life

 Two from the early 1960s, not often covered, but played by McCartney in the last decade at concerts which always drew in several generations,  all getting high together on the music….

 – I’ll Get You

 – I’ll Follow the Sun

The  Beatles proved they could ROCK like nobody’s business!   They wrote all those pretty love songs, but they loved doing rave-ups too, like this classic, encored by Paul in that Liverpool concert.  Note the trademark McCartney Scream!  It’s still fearsome –

 — Can’t Buy Me Love

At this point, I need to bring The Beatles in on this set.  Paul does a tremendous job keeping their sound alive,  but it’s wonderful to hear the Real Thing too.  They didn’t have decent amplification or recording technology back then.   And as Garth Brooks once noted, it’s astonishing they stayed in tune and together despite the dinky speakers, crappy mikes and orgiastic screaming of fangirls!   They’d just played together so long in so many little divey clubs in England and Germany, that they were TIGHT:

  — Can’t Buy Me Love  (the Beatles version, live in 1964)

Here’s Paul dusting off a rock-out crowd pleaser from the 1960s, in the CITI Field concert — at which he played 30 SONGS! 

  — I’m Down

And The Beatles version at Shea Stadium more than four decades ago…

    — I’m Down,  Beatles at Shea, 1965   

 I adore this clip because it shows both their musicianship and great their love and delight in making music together.  John is cutting up, George is breaking up, Paul is trying to keep it together, and Ringo is bashing away happily behind them.    Pure joy. 

Finally, here’s Paul doing Get Back on the Sullivan theatre’s roof   — and kidding around with the crowd while they were waiting to start.  This is a fan’s video, and expresses the excitement on the street where a lucky 4,000 people were allowed to congregate and watch.   (Sir Paul sang several songs they didn’t show on TV, but they’re all posted on YouTube now).  So here it is:

 – Get Back,  July 19, 2009

 And here are The Beatles singing it in 1969, on a London rooftop — where the cops broke up their final concert!  Well, at least we have this wonderful clip — the good sound makes you pine for what might have been if they’d gotten back on the road.  

 –  Get Back,  1969

 

BEATLES FOREVER!

 

 

Another great contribution from Colette!

I just wanted to interject one small point about the most under-appreciated Beatle of all, Ringo.  While he was never the at the forefront of The Beatles and is sometimes forgotten due to his unassuming, laid back style, Ringo is quite a force himself.

After The Beatles breakup, Ringo rivaled Sir Paul in hits in the early 70s.  First came It Don’t Come Easy in ’71:

He followed up with one of my personal favorites, Back Off Bugaloo in ’72, Photograph in ’73 and You’re Sixteen  in ’74.  While lesser recognized, these hits were certainly on par with McCartney’s Band on the Run and Jet and Hell on Wheels, yet Ringo gets the least love of all The Beatles.  I recognize that many only associate Ringo with the dreadful 1981 film, The Caveman, but Ringo is a solid one-quarter of The Beatles and is as accomplished as John, Paul, and George. 

Lastly, Ringo paid special tribute to John in singing the Lennon-esque I Call Your Name on the 1oth anniversary of John’s death with special help from Joe Walsh and Jim Keltner along with Jeff Lynne and Tom Petty of  Traveling Wilbury fame.

While Sir Paul is definitely the Beatles’ standard bearer, even he recognizes the force that is Ringo.  I’ll close with Sir Paul getting by with a little help from his friend:

 

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The Circus That Wasn’t

It had all the makings of a cheap, promotional opportunity at the expense of a tragic, much aligned icon, but…the Michael Jackson memorial was actually very well thought out and done.  Word is that his baby brother, Randy, took the reins and finalized the plans and format for the memorial.  Hat’s off, Randy.

mjmemorial

 While there were awkward moments, like John Mayer’s instrumental Human Nature, Brooke Shields’ obvious out-of-placeness, and Al Sharpton’s declaration that “there was nothing strange about your Daddy”, all in all the memorial was in good taste and an appropriate send-off for the King of Pop.

Queen Latifah was eloquent, Jennifer Hudson was once again, brilliant and the great Smokey Robinson was touching, but the speaker who captured Michael Jackson the best, was the one and only founder of Motown, Berry Gordy:

Berry’s declaration that Jackson was “the greatest entertainer that ever lived” is difficult to dispute, even though you have to throw up an asterick to ackowledge that he was also the weirdest entertainer that ever lived. 

I’m very conflicted on the whole Michael Jackson over exposure and pedestal topping, in light of the very serious questions around his behavior and thoughts around sharing his love with young boys and the questions around drug use, appearance alterations, and just generally abnormal life — even for a celebrity.  However, one moment put into perspective that this odd, lonely, questionable character was a beloved Daddy who is no longer there.

In the end…the very end, the “event” was brought into stark perspective….by a grieving eleven-year old daughter.

R.I.P.

 

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