When Staple Singers hits like I’ll Take You There and If You’re Ready (Come Go With Me) came on the radio, it was easy to get lost in Mavis Staples’ raspy, soulful lead vocals. But if you listened closer, a key element in the Chicago gospel-soul group’s warmly distinctive sound was the deft soprano harmony of Mavis’ sister Cleotha Staples, who died on Feb. 21 at age 78 in Chicago. RIP Cleotha Staples.
On this day in 1988, just three months shy of what would have been her 50th birthday, Christa Päffgen, better known as Nico, died. Her stark, no-frills delivery conveyed a kind of guilelessness and honesty that many listeners continue to find refreshing. These Days. I'll Keep It With Mine. Chelsea Girls. Femme Fatale. All Tomorrow's Parties. My Funny Valentine. The Fairest of the Seasons.
The Band singer and drummer Levon Helm is in the final stages of cancer, according to a note posted on his website Tuesday by his wife, Sandy, and daughter, Amy. [more inside]
The man who lent his wonderfully warm and soaring voice to the rolling soul ballad Get It While You Can, the limber southern funk of Eight Days on the Road, the coolly driving How Come My Bulldog Don't Bark, the mellow soul lilt (with breathtaking falsetto interjections!) of I Learned It All the Hard Way and so many other delightful soul numbers has died. Farewell Howard Tate. [more inside]
Lana del Rey sings "Video Games" and "Blue Jeans" and just got signed to Interscope. But she's also known as "failed mainstream artist" Lizzy Grant, a "gangster Nancy Sinatra," and "the lie we like to tell ourselves." Here she is at the 2011 Q Awards.
Garry Shider, singer, guitarist and musical director of George Clinton's P-Funk All-Stars for much of their history, has passed on at age 56. Shider (the man in the diaper for so many P-Funk performances) was co-author of One Nation Under a Groove and many other masterpieces of the funk. RIP, Garry Shider.
Have you heard of Washington Phillips? He was possessed of a wonderful voice, and delivered his simple but gorgeous gospel tunes in an easy and utterly unprepossessing style. He accompanied himself not on guitar or piano, as might be expected, but rather on a chiming, delicately ethereal zither, lending a curiously timeless air to his recordings from the 1920s. An altogether unique performer, his music is a real treat for the soul: Take Your Burden To the Lord, What Are They Doing in Heaven Today, Denomination Blues, I Had a Good Father and Mother, Lift Him Up, Paul and Silas in Jail, Mother's Last Word To Her Son and Train Your Children. [more inside]
I hear babies cry and I watch them grow. They'll learn much more than we'll know. And I think to myself: What a Wonderful World
You may not know who Israel "Brudda Iz" Kamakawiwoʻole was, but you're probably familiar with his medley of "Over the Rainbow / What a Wonderful World," which has been included on several movie soundtracks and used on television shows & commercials throughout the world.... [more inside]
With a surprisingly low voice and the composure of an R&B singer many years older, Helen Shapiro toured with The Beatles in 1963; inspired Lennon and McCartney to compose for her the song “Misery” (which they intended for her vocal style); wrote her own B-sides; starred in ("A Hard Day's Night" director Richard Lester's) 1962 movie; and recorded an album of songs in Nashville with (Patsy Cline producer) Owen Bradley. All before her 17th birthday. [more inside]
Ladies and Gentlemen, the amazing voice of Luc Arbogast. Here's another video of his impressive singing, if you can manage to ignore the dodgy camera work and annoying tourists. [more inside]
In case you've never heard him, I'd like to introduce you to the sublimely soulful music of Kazuhira Takeshita, from Amami. [more inside]
Though Bessie Smith is regarded as the queen of the early blues singers, Martha Copeland was singing the blues and its variants (and doing a fine job of it) back in the 20s as well. Head over to Internet Archive to hear Martha sing her versions of two of the tunes that made Bessie so famous: I Ain't Got Nobody and St. Louis Blues, the latter with backing vocal chorus from the Hall Johnson Choir. Check out her Dying Crap Shooter's Blues and Sorrow Valley Blues. And there's plenty of Martha Copeland goodness for your ears (RealPlayer) here and here. [more inside]
Dee Dee Warwick, sister of Dionne and a fine soul singer in her own right, recently passed on to that other shore. This blog entry on Dee Dee features mp3 links to her wonderful cover of the Elvis Presley hit Suspicious Minds and the heartrending She Didn't Know. More: I'm Gonna Make You Love Me, Monday Monday and Foolish Fool.
Brazil's Gilberto Gil, now 66 years of age, is stepping down from his position as Minister of Culture to concentrate, once again, on his music career. That's good news for his fans, and here's some more good news: a huge chunk of his recorded work is available as streaming audio for your listening pleasure. [more inside]
Sammy Davis Jr—entertainer , photographer... camwhore... SATANIST!!!??? Did hanging out with this guy make Sammy bad? Or was he just selling his soul to be groovy? [more inside]
This is just too charming and endearingly goofy to miss: Renato Carosone's Tu Vuo' Fa' L'Americano (You're Acting All American). See also: O Sarracino, Torero and Maruzella.
Singer/songwriter and guitarist extraordinaire Richard Thompson: songs of bittersweet longing, sublime eloquence, dark exuberance and ominous allusion. [more inside]
Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha. Aretha.
Ever heard of Barbara Lynn? She was a rarity in the world of R&B in the early 60's: a black female songwriter, guitarist and singer. After a couple of decades out of the spotlight, she returned in 1999 with a new album. [more inside]
Legendary tremolo guitar king Link Wray discovered him singing gospel with the Mighty Clouds of Joy, and figured he might be the kind of rock'n'roll screamer he was looking for. If he was gonna sing the devil's music, though, he'd need another name, so they came up with a rather unlikely moniker: Bunker Hill. Just listen. [more inside]
Let's pay a visit to Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi, or Tuku, as he's affectionately known to his fans. His voice has a touch of that sweet soul gravel reminiscent of Georgia's Otis Redding, or Jamaica's Toots Hibberts, but his mellow fingerpicking guitar style and relaxed, loping grooves are African all the way. His earlier stuff is certainly worth going back to as well! And, hey, it's unlikely you'll hear too many other pop stars who sing lines like "Call the mother of my childfren. I am hurt. I was injured while training the ox." [more inside]
The Muse's Muse Songwriting Resource is the place for songwriting tips, tools, interactivities and connecting with other songwriters around the world. See the section about musical instruments or get into the guitar player's guide. Start communicating with other musicians and songwriters in the forums and check out the music reviews. Lots to do, see, hear, learn, and most of all, enjoy.
I thought I'd seen pretty much every bit of performance footage (whether live or lip-synched) featuring the Beatles, but lately I discovered some clips on YouKnowWhere that I hadn't seen before, and I'd wager there's more than a few folks out in MefiLand who've also missed these: a proto-psychedelic promo clip for Rain, and another promo clip for Hey Bulldog, and finally, this rarity, an alternate take of the promo clip for Hello Goodbye. Just for good measure, here's the more familiar (but still somewhat obscure) version.
Somewhere along the line you've probably heard Bobbie Gentry's brilliant signature tune, Ode To Billy Joe, but unlike previously, now you can see a sad-eyed Bobbie perform it live, displaying the understated Southern soul delivery that, in addition to the delicious lyrics, lazy tempo and no-drums arrangement, made the tune such a milestone in US pop music history. But there was another side to Bobbie: down-home sex kitten! The gal could work a fire-engine red catsuit. Check her out! Go Bobbie!
Luther Vandross is gone. The great R&B balladeer died today, apparently due to complications from a stroke he suffered two years ago. Believers in an afterlife can hope he's enjoying a dance with his father. After all, he did believe in the "Power of Love". RIP.