A short and sweet 10-minute documentary on musician and artist Daniel Johnston. [SLYT] [more inside]
Richard Pryor moved to New York City in 1963, where he performed regularly in clubs alongside performers such as Bob Dylan and Woody Allen. He even opened for singer and pianist Nina Simone, who talked of his early nervousness, when she put her "arms around him there in the dark and rocked him like a baby until he calmed down." You can see something of that young man in this clip of Pryor singing a bit of jazzy blues in 1966. The performance is also available on YouTube with slightly better quality, but faded in from different scene. [more inside]
Gay Talese's "Frank Sinatra Has A Cold" appeared in Esquire Magazine in April 1966. Sinatra had turned down interview requests from Esquire for years and refused to be interviewed for the profile. Rather than give up, Talese spent the three months following and observing the man and interviewing any members of his entourage who were willing to speak -- and the final story was published without Sinatra's cooperation or blessing. In 2003, editors pronounced it the best article the magazine had ever published. Nieman Storyboard interviewed Talese last month about the piece and has annotated it with his comments. [more inside]
Country crooner Slim Whitman has passed away at the grand old age of 90. His gentle, relaxed and pristine voice (featuring an effortlessly soaring falsetto and a mighty fine yodel, friends) is the kind that, well, you just don't really hear anymore on the pop music landscape. Let's take a moment to revisit a musical aesthetic that now seems a million miles away... Cattle Call, Rose Marie, North Wind, Blues Stay Away From Me and Indian Love Call. So long and happy trails, Slim.
Well, folks, Eric Burdon turned 72 today. And the man deserves some props, you know, for Please Don't Let Me Be Misunderstood and It's My Life and We Gotta Get Out of This Place and Don't Bring Me Down and a few other tunes as well. Oh, and he brought House of the Rising Sun to, yeah, a whole new generation. Happy birthday, Eric.
Hayes Carll is a Texan alt-country singer who's known, if he's known at all, for the soundtrack to Country Strong and the novelty song She Left Me For Jesus. Slate ranked his latest album, KMAG YOYO (and other American stories), as one of the best albums of 2011, partly on the strength of its poetic title-track about an Afghan war vet and partly due to the Red State/Blue State love song duet Another Like You. Other Hayes Carll hits include Drunken Poet's Dream, his duet with Ray Wylie Hubbard, and the melancholy Wish I Hadn't Stayed So Long .
On this day in 1963, in a tragic plane crash, America lost one of its finest singers: Patsy Cline. While many are familiar with her acclaimed rendition of the Willie Nelson-penned Crazy, let's pay a visit to some lesser-known but nonetheless masterfully impressive vocal performances from that sublime, transcendent voice, shall we? Here's two live TV spots: Patsy in full cowgirl regalia with a delightful performance of the Hank Williams classic Lovesick Blues and the snazzy Walking After Midnight, one of the tunes that reminds us that Patsy could've just as easily been marketed as a pop/jazzy chanteuse as the *country* artist she was presented to the world as. And here's the gorgeously smooth studio renditions of She's Got You and I Fall To Pieces, and... [more inside]
The Okeh Laughing Record, a novelty recording, was first released in 1923 and rose to #8 on the Billboard charts, becoming the highest ranking anonymous* recording ever. It's history and provenance is completely unknown**. It has since appeared as the soundtrack to cartoons, on Dr. Demento and on Jean Shepard's radio show. [more inside]
Four days after her 21st birthday, Amy Winehouse sang at the SWR3 New Pop Festival in Baden-Baden. [more inside]
On September 27, 1963, at the New Era Club in Nashville, Tennessee, Etta James rocked the house. The result was "simply one of the greatest live blues albums ever captured on tape". [more inside]
Singer Kelly Hogan has a reputation as a journeyman, someone who's worked for years to master the craft but has yet to make a mark of her own. That may change with her new album, I Like to Keep Myself in Pain. Here are some songs: 1 2 3 4 5. [more inside]
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.
Although she's not a household name, Marva Whitney is fondly remembered by funk devotees as one of the rawest, brassiest, most powerful divas the music ever produced. Along with fellow funk belters Lyn Collins and Vicki Anderson, Whitney made her name singing with the James Brown Revue for a few years, and her limited, much-sampled recordings for Brown-associated labels now fetch astronomical sums on the collector's market. - AllMusic
Baritone Dietrich Fischer-Dieskau has died (NYTimes). “Providence gives to some singers a beautiful voice, to some musical artistry, to some (let us face it) neither, but to Fischer-Dieskau Providence has given both. The result is a miracle and that is just about all there is to be said about it.” (John Amis) [more inside]
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]
"Whether writing as herself, or through one of the many voices she heard in her head, Previn's sinister riverboat chansons revealed the pain, games, lies and loneliness behind the L.A. free love myth. 1971's Mythical Kings And Iguanas was, perhaps, the peak point of Previn's eerily confessional style containing the searingly honest Lemon Haired Ladies and The Lady With The Braid, both of which recount encounters between young men and single older women in chilling detail. Her third album, Reflections In A Mud Puddle was a concept album based upon her life with her father, and contained the astonishing Doppelganger, a Weillian Sympathy For The Devil in which the world's evils are found to lurk in all of us. " Singer-Songwriter Dory Previn has died. (previously on Metafilter).
"Birdcloud met in Murfreesboro and immediately didn’t like eachother. At a party in 2009 they had some whiskeys and became friends and started dicking around on guitar, writing their first song, a song about going down on your best friend, now lost to the sands of time. Despite a lukewarm reception at Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe, they have been sitting on eachother’s faces ever since, showing eachother their bruises and generally doing whatever they want when it works out that way." Songs on the inside NSFW if you can't tell. [more inside]
After years of rumored depression, drug and alcohol addiction, and legal issues, D'Angelo is poised to make a comeback. [more inside]
This song was recorded at home in the 1970s by German actress Sibylle Baier. Her son collected her recordings and created an album to share with family, and in 2006 the Colour Green was released by label Orange Twin. [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]
Linda Ronstadt plans to publish her autobiography (aptly titled “Heart Like a Wheel”). “Linda Ronstadt is one of the most versatile and commercially successful female singers in U.S. history, recognized for her many public stages of self-reinvention and incarnations.” [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.
Sung-bong Choi auditions for 코리아 갓 탤런트 (Korea's Got Talent.) (SLYT. The singing starts around 2:45. Video is unrestricted.)
"A ballet dancer needs a mirror to perfect her style, her technique. A singer needs the same -- an aural mirror."In 1950 and '51, Japan’s first reel-to-reel tape recorders, the "G-Type" (for gov't use) and the "H-1" (for home use) were released by a company named Tokyo Tsushin Kogyo. Music student Norio Ohga was unimpressed by the wobbly sound of "Talking Paper," so he wrote a note complaining to the firm's founders, who hired him. Mr. Ohga never achieved his original dream of becoming a baritone opera singer, but the future President of TTK, (later renamed Sony,) would still make an indelible, global impact on the world of music -- including the development and introduction of the compact disc. Mr. Ohga died on April 24, 2011. [more inside]
More, perhaps, than any other rock star of his generation, Jagger has made it his business to understand and control the mechanics of his own stardom.
"Teen rebels and bobbysoxers still heralded Johnnie Ray as their hero, but to parents across America, he was Public Enemy Number One. Five years before Elvis Presley evoked a similar kind of mass parental dread, Johnnie had all of button-down America shaking in their boots, fearing for the souls of their children." [more inside]
The original beatboxing. Sheila Chandra shows us how it's done.
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]
We were supposed to really actually forget about that lifestyle. But it'd come back to me in song.Ruby Hunter, award winning songwriter, has died.
Though she didn't enjoy the same level of fame and fortune as her younger brother Cab, singer and bandleader (said to be the first African-American woman to lead an all-male orchestra) Blanche Calloway is a musician worth remembering and checking out if you're a fan of 1920s/30s jazz stylings. It's Right Here For You, It Looks Like Susie, I Gotta Swing, Last Dollar and I Got What It Takes.
Perhaps the greatest country baritone since George Jones is confined to a wheelchair by muscular dystrophy and has a day job at a nuclear power plant. [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]
Sometimes, when you've had your fill of people basking in the golden light of their self-righteous indignation, you just wanna hear a song about somebody telling those holier-than-thou-ers where to get off. Something like, say, Harper Valley PTA. [more inside]
Queens of Carnatic singing: Nithyasree Mahadevan: 1, 2 and 3. Sudha Ragunathan: 1, 2, 3 and 4. And the legend of the legends, M.S. Subbulakshmi, in her film appearances from decades past: 1, 2 and 3, and as an elder stateswoman of Carnatic vocal artistry: 1, 2, 3 and 4.
Israeli-French singer Yael Naim, recently featured in this Macbook Air commercial, might just be the Next Big Thing. A little bit of soul and a little bit of folk have snagged her Album of the Year in World Music at the annual Les Victoires de la Musique French music awards this year. She currently only has two English songs released - one of them an absolutely lovely song entitled New Soul with an equally charming music video, and the other a slow and jazzy rendition of Britney Spears' Toxic, finally somewhat redeeming that song. Official Site.
Head over to Cheikha Rimitti's MySpace page and listen to the first tune up on her player (starts when you open the page), called Saida. Whoa! Is that badass or what? Well, there's 5 other tunes of hers there for your listening pleasure, covering a wide swath of stylistic territory within the Algerian music tradition she was such an important part of. Yet another MySpace page pays tribute (with 4 more songs!) to this powerful singer, and you can also learn more about her at the Cheikha Rimitti website, which is in French, but with links like "Musique" and "Vidéos", you shouldn't have too much trouble with it. There's an informative English-language video biography of this "Mother of Raï", not to mention this performance footage (with those fantastic flutes!) of Saida. [more inside]
While many of Cuba's top musical figures left the country to pursue their careers in the US and elsewhere, the suave, hugely popular singer Benny Moré stayed. While he is a much loved and revered figure in Cuba, this great vocalist, who died in 1963, is not nearly as widely known outside the island nation as he should be. Viva Benny Moré! [NOTE: See hover-overs for link descriptions] [more inside]
When the discussion turns to 60s-era soul divas, the name of Bettye Swann isn't likely to be first on anyone's tongue. But she was possessed of a tender, supple and seductive voice, and she deserves to be heard and reconsidered. [more inside]
A sizzling singer in crinolines and in feathers and sequins. Not just extravagant in her appearance but an extravagant voice, renowned for her joie de vivre, adored by many, known as the Queen of Salsa, Celia Cruz, "indisputably the best known and most influential female figure in the history of Cuban music."
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]
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