A few weeks ago, when we did a barrage of reporting about the band The National’s Obama rally/concert on Fountain Square, a commenter reacted to some comments I made about The Dixie Chicks (who I said were “virtually crucified” and "right" for criticizing the President) and other musicians whose “liberal” stances on the Bush administration were often met with a chorus of “just shut up and sing.” My point was that those kind of critiques have lessened since those liberal commie elitists turned out to be absolutely right.
Music lovers complaining about the out-of-touchness of the Grammy awards is like stand-up comedians complaining about airline food. Both are overdone and clichéd, but the frustration is a shared experience that people instantly identify with. With the Grammys, sometimes an unlikely win or loss is so infuriating and baffling, people can’t help but go ballistic. This year’s event was a rollercoaster that reflected both the Grammys’ perpetual practice of giving trophies to irrelevant and/or the “safest” artists and the program’s well-intentioned efforts of late to get with the times. I can’t remember ever describing a Grammys ceremony as “shocking,” but this year’s was full of surprises both pleasant and mind-numbingly inexplicable.
Tonight at downtown club Main Event, three of Cincinnati’s best DJs will perform at a benefit to assist the musical pioneer who made their DJ careers possible. When news hit late last month that DJ Kool Herc was in the hospital, bleeding internally and enduring massive pain, many Hip Hop lovers with an understanding of the music’s origins and originators began plotting ways to help. Tonight’s event featuring Mista Rare Groove, Apryl Reign and DJ Pillo is one of several efforts across the continent (and probably globe) organized by appreciative fans to lessen the financial burden of Herc's mounting medical bills.
There have been several Grammy Awards held on this date. Here are a few highlights from three random Feb. 24 ceremonies:
1982's 24th Grammy Awards were big for Kim Carnes' one-hit-wonderful "Bette Davis Eyes," which won the Record and Song of the Year trophies. John Lennon won Album of the Year posthumously for Double Fantasy. Fun ones: Orson Welles won the Grammy for Best Spoken Word, Documentary or Drama Recording (?) for the radio version of Curt Siodmak's novel, Donovan's Brain; Sheena Easton was Best New Artist; and former knit-capped member of The Monkees, Michael Nesmith, won Video of the Year for Michael Nesmith in Elephant Parts, a collection of music videos and comedy sketches that helped further set the table for the creation of MTV. Watch Nesmith put his madcap Monkee skills to work all those years later:
Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring George Harrison's new iPad app.
A trio of Hip Hop superstars are in town today to rally voters to get to the polls tomorrow. Jay-Z, Mary J. Blige and P Diddy Puff Daddy Bo Didley Combs (or whatever his name is today) will appear on the Xavier campus today at 3 p.m. (gates open at 2 p.m.). They'll speak on the soccer field next to the O’Connor Sports Center. The threesome are appearing on behalf of the Obama campaign.
On this day in 1940, American music icon Woody Guthrie wrote his most famous song and one that has become embedded into the DNA of American life, "This Land is You Land." The Folk music legend and notorious fighter for the social causes of the poor and working class is said to have written the song after hearing (a few too many times) Irving Berlin's "God Bless America," which he felt was too hyperbolic. Just like Roxanne Shante's "The Real Roxanne" was written as a response to U.T.F.O.'s "Roxanne Roxanne" (OK, maybe not JUST like), "This Land" was Guthrie's "answer song." Guthrie recorded the future standard five years later, but it wasn't until the ’60s Folk revival that the song really took flight, as everyone from Bob Dylan to The Kingston Trio covered the tune. Though "God Bless America" may be the song still sung at baseball games, "This Land is You Land" has endured as one of the greatest pieces of American art, a reflection of what many of us believe our country is all about — "We're all in this together and lucky to be on this wonderful little chunk of dirt, so shut up and quit being so selfish, jerk-ass!" Or something along those lines (maybe I read too much into it).
The song is still common at protests and used in political contexts. Bruce Springsteen closed his acoustic concerts in support of Barrack Obama in 2008 with a version ("Yes We Can" chants added), while Rage Against the Machine guitarist Tom Morello serenaded the mass of humanity at the Occupy Wall Street protest in NYC with the song (lost verses and all) this past October.
Here is one of the great "contemporary" versions — a rendition by Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings, who give the song a sweet vintage Soul makeover:
Click the jump for "Born This Day" featuring Aziz Ansari, the Mark Twain of Kanye West jokes.
Michael Jackson's dead — what more can we say? The response to Jackson's death has made me revisit a long-running question that's rolled around my squishy mind for a few years now: Is it possible to separate an artist's personality and deeds from his or her creative work?
I've had nearly a dozen different people ask me the same question over the last week or so: “What have you been listening to?”
Luckily, it's been a fruitful season for (relatively) new music. Here's my answer:
PJ Harvey —Let England Shake: Harvey's latest gets better and digs deeper with every spin via its textured arrangements and curious, Folk-tinged genre U-turns. I'm still not sure I like her more overtly topical lyrical bent, but her voice is as affecting as ever.