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]
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.
"After a day of barbering, Rodolfo Gregorio went to his neighborhood karaoke bar still smelling of talcum powder. Putting aside his glass of Red Horse Extra Strong beer, he grasped a microphone with a habitué’s self-assuredness and [...] belted out crowd-pleasers by Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck. But Mr. Gregorio, 63, a witness to countless fistfights and occasional stabbings erupting from disputes over karaoke singing, did not dare choose one beloved classic: Frank Sinatra’s version of “My Way.” “I used to like ‘My Way,’ but after all the trouble, I stopped singing it,” he said. “You can get killed." [more inside]
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.
Timi Yuro, an Italian-American singer born in Chicago (where, the story goes, her nanny snuck her into clubs to watch singers like Dinah Washington and Mildred Bailey), was arguable the greatest blue-eyed soul artist of the '60s. [more inside]
Amusing NPR interview with Ms. Case From the NPR show "Not My Job", a rambling and entertaining interview with alt-country, loud singing, red-haired songstress Neko Case. On an unrelated note, I know she's American, but we Canucks like to claim her as our own, what with her Canadian Bachelor of Fine Arts degree and her collaborations with Canadian bands.
Melody Gardot was a New York fashion student, until a hit-and-run driver left her disabled and in need of therapy—musical therapy. [more inside]
"The ability to convey the depths of despair, the heights of jubilation and the serenity of an abiding faith are all that is required to be known as “The Voice.” Unfortunately, very few possess the ability to do all that and what’s more unfortunate, we lost one of those few–possibly the best of those few–with the death of Vern Gosdin at the age of 74." [more inside]
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]
Adam & Eve recorded live during a radio performance. Of course, all singer/songwriters have a first song, and a latest offering. In the not-quite-eighteen months that have passed between her first and latest posts, seventeen-year-old One Trick Pony has offered her unique musings on cannibalism, an American ex-president, infanticide?, human beings, and original sin (original version). She has also written over 20 other songs, received third place in a national youth talent competition, and begun getting some press. There are free downloads of some of her songs on last.fm. Blog in English. [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]
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.
Henri Salvador died yesterday, age 90. "In his 70-year career, Henri Salvador also gained popularity as a dancer, pantomime artist and TV personality. His musical range included prewar chansons, whispery bossa nova, children's favorites and rock 'n' roll." And his English wasn't bad.
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]
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]
This post isn't about the great Belgian guitarist Philip Catherine - too many guitar posts recently - it isn't about the Belgian singer Katerine (nothing to say). It is about the French singer Philippe Katerine, who has been changing the way lyrics are written, as well as giving a whole range of new topics to French song. With Je vous emmerde (F*** you) he explains what's on a loser's mind. Excuse-moi is about the things a man focuses on during sexual intercourse in order to avoid early ejaculation. The individual struggling with an meaningless society is always present : Borderline (warcraft version with English subtitles). His lists and his humor clearly link his work with the texts of Poets like Raymond Queneau, Boris Vian (and Serge Gainsbourg), or the prose of Georges Perec. He can be Elegiac, Paradoxical, Funky, prosaic, he's always twofold.
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.
We've previously agreed that Dr. Nina Simone created some amazing music. As a person, she was openly angry and, yes, a smidgen nuts. Big surprise... she was also not the easiest interview. (Big understatement.)
I contend this house-swaying performace at the Apollo Theater earlier this year, purporting to feature soulful everyman Brad Prowley ("real life homeless man . . . who makes a living singing classic R&B songs on the streets of major cities not just to get by, but out of a true, life-long passion for music"), actually showcases this man in disguise. You be the judge.
Lately I've been grooving to Hmong karaoke videos. Maybe it's the lovely, understated singing style, or those charming young ladies doing backup dance, smiling so beatifically as they do their minimal, bouncy step. Maybe it's the slinky pentatonic sax riffs, or those percussive, insistent strings plucking away over the hypnotically loping beats. Maybe it's the hats. Maybe it's the way some of them incorporate traditional instruments and costumes. Or maybe it's the sheer unlikeliness of lyrics like "tuaj nriav tus neeg zoo nraug" or "yuav mus nrog koj nyob." Everybody, sing along!
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.
Two divas with tall, I mean tall platinum blond
hair wigs at the height of their fame and vocal prowess sing the songs that made them legends. Ladies and gentlemen, blue-eyed soul queen Dusty Springfield, and the pride of Nashville, Tammy Wynette. And honorable mention to another top-heavy musical blond, purveyor of perky pedal-steel perfection Barbara Mandrell.
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!
In April of 1966, there emerged onto the American pop music scene a singer like no other. Off-pitch and off-tempo, a 59 year-old grandmother would perform rock standards such as A Hard Days Night and Downtown [link to audio] in a bizarre operatic style. Often considered the worst pop star of all time, she rode the line between farce and reality, as the reputable Capitol Records promoted the so-called "new sound" without cracking a smile. Her name was Elva Connes Miller, but on stage she was known simply as Mrs. Miller. Was her recording career one of the cruelest practical jokes ever devised by the record industry?
You can keep your Simon, Randy and Paula, I'll take Barbara Cook any day. Here is the Broadway legend's two hour master class (it's a REALTIME video from The New York Public Library) and it'll teach you more about singing, phrasing and music than every moment of American Idol combined. At least watch the first 20 minutes, you'll be amazed.