Today's a big one for synthesizer fans. You know partly what I'm talking about if you've visited Google today (see below). But today also marks the 30th anniversary of a drastic and controversial move by the UK Musicians' Union. The union proposed a ban on synthesizers and drum machines because, to quote South Park, "Thur takin' our jaabs!" This is 1982, mind you, when Synth Pop and New Wave were huge and Hip Hop was beginning to find its legs in the mainstream. Musician unions worldwide struggled to come to peace with the existence of electronic instruments, many proposing tax hikes on the instruments to discourage use (like the U.S. does with cigarettes now).
The UK union's support of a ban caused a splinter group to form — the Union of Sound Synthesists was created to protect Electronic musicians' rights (or anyone else who wanted to use a "non-traditional" electronic instrument).
The attacks on synthesizers and drum machines due to a fear that one day a computer will be able to make ENTIRE SONGS seems a little funny given today's electro-heavy musical landscape.
On this date in 1977, there was another attack on "electronic" (or perhaps more appropriately "electric") instruments. Jefferson Starship's planned concert at San Francisco's Golden Gate Park was cancelled by the city because it violated a ban on electric instruments being used in the public park. The greatest tragedy of the incident was that it partially inspired one of the worst songs ever made, Starship's "We Built This City" (the song was not written by the band, as many have cited; Elton John songwriting partner Bernie Taupin, J. Geils Band singer not-the-J.-Geils-Band's Peter Wolf, Martin Page and Dennis Lambert are to be credited/blamed for the tune).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 23 birthday include regional native and legendary vocalist Rosemary Clooney (1928); singer for ’80s Pop band Baltimora ("Tarzan Boy"), Jimmy McShane (1957); former MTV VJ Karen Duffy (1961); Radiohead drummer Phil Selway (1967); Maroon 5 drummer Matt Flynn (1970); modern Soul singer Maxwell (1973); singer/songwriter Jewel (1974); original blink-182 drummer Scott Raynor (1978); singer for Indie Pop girl group The Pipettes, Gwenno Saunders (1981); singer/songwriter Tristan Prettyman (1982); and Electronic music pioneer Robert Moog (1934).
First things first — it's pronounced "Mogue" (rhymes with "vogue"), not "Mooo-g."
After manufacturing theremins, Mr. Moog (who passed away in 2005) founded Moog Music and invented the Moog synth, one of the first widely used, commercially available synthesizers. Early Moog users like Wendy Carlos (who did the soundtrack to A Clockwork Orange with Moogs and helped Bob design the machines), Keith Emerson, John Cage and Rick Wakeman helped popularize the instruments.
The instrument can be heard on hundreds of thousands of popular tracks since Moog first showed off his concept in 1964 at the Audio Engineering Society's annual convention. Paste magazine picked its Top 10 "quintessential" Moog moments last year, which included tracks by Kraftwerk, Rush's "Closer to the Heart" and this one from the late Donna Summer.
Paste also made a cool list of the best of today's Moog boosters, including St. Vincent, Wilco and Mastodon.
Google today has one of its best "Google Doodles" yet. In honor of Bob Moog's 78th birthday, the search site features a fully playable Moog synth on its front page; you can even record your Moog squiggles!
Today Moog Music Inc. is donating 50 percent of all clothing and merchandise (though not instruments) sales proceeds to the Bob Moog Foundation. The online shop has some very cool new T-shirts and other goodies.
"Moog Music and our customers celebrate Bob’s pioneering legacy. In a time when science achievement is declining in this country, we are proud to support the Bob Moog Foundation in their efforts to bring science alive through electronic music. We invite all of our customers to make a purchase online on May 23rd and support the Foundation’s important work,” said Mike Adams, Moog Music President & CEO, in a press release.
This particular version of "Many Rivers to Cross," featuring Greater Cincinnati greats Kelly Thomas and The Mudpies, has been haunting me all week (in a great way). It was recorded as the third episode in a brilliantly conceived yearlong project by Thomas and several of her creative pals, The Sacred Harp Sessions, in which she documents her musical inspirations in monthly installments.
"Many Rivers" is such a great song, with its uplifting and optimistic Gospel vibe shining through the lyrical desperation. Thomas and The ’Pies version might just be the best I've heard outside of Jimmy Cliff's original version (sorry, UB40). And I thought it kind of fitting for New Year's Eve (or, perhaps more fittingly, New Year's Day morning) because, although there is a bittersweet aura, Cliff wrote and sang about overcoming his heartbreak and moving on to cross many more rivers in his future. Though he's devastated that his "woman left … and … didn't say why," he knows he'll live through it thanks to his strong will and pride. If you had a tough 2012, make this your theme song on your way to a better 2013.
The Sacred Harp Sessions (produced, on the video end, by Alex and Tiffany Luscht of Mind Igniton) is an engaging passion project, with Thomas choosing songs, area musicians and even local studios she admires and appreciates. Ultimately, it's a tribute to the things that have made Thomas who she is today as an artist (and person).
In the accompanying videos, Thomas talks about what the songs mean to her, but the short films are not purely autobiographical — they can also be educational. The first episode, for example, discussed Cincinnati's King Records and the city's Hank Williams connection; Kelly recorded Williams' "Lost Highway" with Arlo McKinley at the location of downtown's former Herzog recording studio, believed to be the last standing building in which Williams recorded.
Episode 2 of The Sacred Harp Sessions found Thomas teaming up with Cincinnati Blues piano legend Ricky Nye at downtown studio Sound Images for a great take on Robert Johnson's "Come On In My Kitchen."
Click here to subscribe to Thomas' YouTube channel so you know when the latest installments drop and can watch and re-watch your favorites. And keep an eye on Thomas' website for any updates and for limited-edition free downloads of the latest tracks recorded for the project ("Many Rivers" is currently available).
Thomas is currently singing in three bands — her longtime Kelly Thomas and the Fabulous Pickups crew, the classic Country outfit The Tammy WhyNots and The Lonesome Sound (which formed recently after the aforementioned Hank Williams sessions). She'll be starting off 2013 with free shows with all three acts — The Fabulous Pickups join Sassy Molasses at Northside Tavern Jan. 4, on Jan. 5 The Tammy WhyNots play with Tex Schramm and The Radio King Cowboys and Doctor Bombay and The Atomic Bachelor Pad at Over-the-Rhine's MOTR Pub and The Lonesome Sound has a gig on Jan. 12 at downtown's Taqueria Mercado.
On this day in 1964, The Beatles had the top five singles on the Billboard Hot 100 chart. It's been said that it's an unrivaled feat that will likely never be duplicated but those sorts of records always seem to eventually be broken (especially in the the ever-evolving music biz). The kids on Glee will probably occupy the entire Top 20 this year sometime or Vanilla Ice will die and spark a massive revival, smashing any and all previous chart records.
Until then, here are those Beatles singles in their chart positions the week of April 4, 1964:
1) "Can't Buy Me Love"
2) "Twist and Shout"
3) "She Loves You"
4) "I Want to Hold Your Hand"
5) "Please Please Me"
The group had a remarkable 12 songs on the chart that week. The other songs in the Top 100 were "I Saw Her Standing There" (No. 31), "From Me To You" (No. 41), "Do You Want to Know a Secret" (No. 46), "All My Loving" (No. 58), "You Can't Do That" (No. 65), "Roll Over Beethoven" (No. 68) and "Thank You Girl" (No. 79).
The chart even contained two Beatles-inspired novelty ditties — "A Letter to The Beatles" by The Four Preps (No. 85) and The Carefrees' "We Love You Beatles" (No. 42).
Curren$y and Jill Scott.
Thirty five years ago today, the original Apple Computer — now called Apple I — was introduced. This week it was revealed that Apple's market value hit $600 billion. Only one other company — Microsoft — has ever reached that value level (it's now back down to a paltry $255 billion, according to the Associated Press).
Not even its creator could have known that the little box designed and hand-built by Steve Wozniak (with entrepreneurial spiritual guidance by Steve Jobs) would lead to multiple revolutions, including in the worlds of technology, telecommunications, media, music and likely hundreds of other fields.
Who knows where those fields would be today were it not for Apple. One thing that certainly would not exist today is the following song tribute to Jobs by New York City-based progressive House DJ/producer AzR featuring only sounds and tones from an Apple computer (aside from some Jobs quotes). Every time I hear that "chirp," I think my iPod connector cable is going haywire.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 11 birthday include early Jazz musician Nick LaRocca (1889); Pop and Jazz music's first African-American personal manager (and also a noted Jazz bassist) John Levy (1912); composer of Rock classic "Louie Louie," Richard Berry (1935); original member of The Specials (and singer in Special Beat with The English Beat's Ranking Roger) Neville Staple (1955); late singer/guitarist for one hit wonders Big Country ("In a Big Country") Stuart Adamson (1958); co-founder of Gin Blossoms (who later committed suicide after leaving the band) Doug Hopkins (1961); British Soul/Pop vocalist Joss Stone (1987); and singular actor/musician Vincent Gallo (1962).
Gallo is best known as an indie film actor with a public persona so over the top, many find him obnoxious. Though he's never had a mainstream breakthrough (in part thanks to his refusal to go the Nic Cage route and make shitty, big-budget craptaculars just for the paycheck), he remains one of America's great underrated actors. And his stellar feature Buffalo ’66 (in which he starred and directed and wrote) is one of the best twisted RomComs of all time, second perhaps only to Billy Wilder's The Apartment. Hopefully he'll make another masterpiece at some point. But his experimental streak seems pretty domineering.
Gallo has been as adventurous in his musical work as he has in celluloid. When Gallo moved to NYC in the ’70s, he played in a band with art legend Jean Michel Basquiat and later performed in other groups and as a solo artist. He continued to write music for his films (notably Brown Bunny and Buffalo) and has put out a few releases on U.K. electronic/experimental label, Warp Records.
Gallo has directed music videos (including John Frusciante's "Going Inside") and appeared in several clips as well, the most famous being Jay-Z's "99 Problems."
In 2005, Gallo curated a weekend of show at the All Tomorrow's Parties festival in the U.K., booking Yoko Ono, Frusciante (Gallo, coincidentally, toured in 2001 with a band that included Frusciante's Chili Peppers replacement, Josh Klinghoffer) and Yoko Ono (Gallo and Ono's son Sean Lennon also made an album around that time that has yet to be released).
Here's the first song on his 2001 solo album When, "I Wrote This Song For the Girl Paris Hilton" (for no clear reason).
On this date in 1967, Floridian Psychedelic Folk band Pearls Before Swine (a precursor to contemporary so-called "Freak Folk") began the three-day sessions for its debut album, One Nation Underground. The album would become a moderate success, selling nearly a quarter of a million copies.
One of the album's tracks, "(Oh Dear) Miss Morse," was the source of some controversy. The subversive chorus of the weird little song (essentially a banjo riff with some organ blips) consists of vocalist/songwriter Tom Rapp (and that organ) "singing" in Morse code the letters "F," "U," "C" and "K" (Dit Dit Dah Dit/Dit Dit Dah/Dah Dit Dah Dit/Dah Dit Dah).
And they would have gotten away with it, too, if it weren't for some meddling kids! Famous New York DJ Murray the K was busted after playing the song on the air when a few smarty-pants Boy Scouts reportedly recognized the code and called in to complain about the veiled obscenity (or maybe brag that they figured it out).
It's not the only song to feature secret Morse code messaging. Mike Oldfield's album Amarok (featuring, essentially, one hour-long track) came towards the end of his contract with Virgin Records in 1990. Oldfield sent a little note to his boss on the album; towards the end, there's a Morse code message that spells out "Fuck Off RB," referring to Virgin label chief Richard Branson.
The Rush song "YYZ" from the 1981 album Moving Pictures also features Morse coding, in a pretty ingenious manner. Drummer Neil Pert's rhythm on the song is based on Morse for "YYZ." The letters weren't especially controversial, though — they were simply the code for Toronto's airport (Rush is from the area).
Other instances of Morse code in popular music: Roger Waters' album Radio KAOS features several Morse messages; Kraftwerk used it throughout their 1975 track "Radioactivity" (it simply spells out the title); and The Clash's "London Calling" has choppy guitar feedback at the end of the song that spells out "S.O.S."
Here's the Pearls Before Swing tune. NSFW (if you work for a former Boy Scout or telegraph expert).
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 7 birthday include late drummer for influential Rock bands New York Dolls and Johnny Thunders and the Heartbreakers, Jerry Nolan (1946); Disco diva ("Don't Leave Me This Way"), singer/songwriter and actress Thelma Houston (1946); masterful German Boogie Woogie pianist Axel Zwingenberger (1955); Motorhead guitarist Phil Campbell (1961); Swedish one-hit-wonder, son of Jazz legend Don Cherry and half-brother to Neneh Cherry, Eagle-Eye Cherry (1971); drummer for British Pop/Rock stars Arctic Monkeys, Matt Helders (1986); and British singer Martina Topley-Bird (1975).
Topley-Bird is probably best known as a crucial part of Trip Hop pioneer Tricky's early (and biggest) success as vocalist on his classic album, 1995's Maxinquaye. The album made Tricky a Pop star, something that he admittedly was not prepared for and which drove him a little nuts. He recently told U.K.'s The Guardian that, going into the album's release, "I thought I'd be an underground artist. I had no idea it was going to do that and I was not ready for it." He says he spent much of the rest of his career trying to become more of a cult artist than a superstar. And he succeeded.
Topley-Bird parted ways with Tricky in 1998 and has made a trio of solo album (and worked with Gorillaz and Massive Attack). But late last month, she rejoined Tricky in England to perform Maxinquaye in its entirety. Well, that was the plan, anyway. Tricky reportedly disappeared during parts of the performances, which didn't exactly live up the "play the full album" billing. In a review of the performance in Manchester, ClashMusic.com wrote that the Tricky concert ultimately became "the Martina Topley-Bird show, with the singer providing the only reliable musical seam throughout, in contrast to an erratic and seemingly disengaged Tricky."
Here's Martina Topley-Bird's "Anything" from her acclaimed debut solo album, Quixotic.
Though today he is known as one of the strangest characters on "celebreality" TV, Gary Busey was once thought to have the potential to be one of the greatest actors of his generation. On this date in 1978, The Buddy Holly Story — featuring Busey in the title role — premiered. The film covered Rock legend Buddy Holly's all-too-short life, up through when he died in a plane crash in 1959 at the age of 22. Busey was 34 when the film came out, but his portrayal was very strong. In fact, it earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.
Busey never quite had that kind of critical reception again, going on to appear in such films as D.C. Cab, Predator 2, Point Break and the upcoming Piranha 3DD. Busey is known to younger generations as the "out there" guy from Celebrity Rehab, Celebrity Fit Club and Celebrity Apprentice. Is there a Celebrity Mental Institution yet?
There is allegedly a "Buddy Holly Curse" that may explain Busey's jagged career path since starring as the singer. This site details some "proof" of the curse, including the deaths of many artists who had some connection with Holly (Eddie Cochran, Gene Vincent, Ronnie Smith, Cowboy Copas, David Box, Joe Meek and many others.)
Busey was involved in a serious, near-fatal motorcycle accident after he completed filming on the Buddy Holly movie. The film's screenwriter Robert Gittler committed suicide just prior to the movie's release. (The Who's Keith Moon made his last public appearance at a preview screening of The Buddy Holly Story; he was found dead the next day.)
Luckily, only Busey's career has suffered since the film and his close-call wreck. Here he is in his greatest role doing "Oh, Boy!" Busey was praised for singing his own parts instead of lip-syncing over Holly's originals. I have to agree with that praise. Maybe Gary needs to make a Rock & Roll album?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 18 birthday include one of the men most responsible for Rock & Roll ("Shake, Rattle and Roll"), Blues shouter Big Joe Turner (1911); founding guitarist with Art Punk greats Wire, Bruce Gilbert (1946); singer/songwriter/producer and pops of The Strokes' guitarist, Albert Hammond (1944); keyboard wizard for Prog kings Yes, Rick Wakeman (1949); cofounder of New Wave renegades Devo, Mark Mothersbaugh (1950); Country legend George Strait (1952); Power Pop/New Wave rocker "(I'd Go the) Whole Wide World") Wreckless Eric Goulden (1954); singer with Christian Rock band dc Talk, Michael Tait (1966); Hip Hop artist ("It Takes Two") Rob Base (1967); and two Easy Listening giants of two very different eras — Perry Como (1912) and Jack Johnson (1975).
Como and Johnson both had/have a very easy-going way about themselves, musically and personally. That opened them up for a pair of pretty funny parodies on television.
In 1981, the brilliant late-night sketch comedy show SCTV ran the skit "Perry Como: Still Alive," which presented the way laid-back host making a Disco comeback. Eugene Levy — known today as "the dad from American Pie" — does a brilliant borderline comatose Como.
Former surfer (because what else could he be?) and smooth Pop singer/songwriter Jack Johnson has gotten the business from another late-night NBC program. (Cargo shorts) Saturday Night Live's (soon to be gone?) Andy Samberg has played the super-mellow Johnson in a few sketches, notably as the host of his own talk-fest The Mellow Show. (Flip flops.) Here, "Jack" interviews fellow mellow yellows Dave Matthews and Jason Mraz, as well as Ozzy Obsourne (played pretty well by Mr. Matthews himself). (Vegan cookies.)
On this date in 2006, Taylor Hicks won that year's American Idol karaoke contest, laying waste to runner-up Katharine McPhee. Soul Patrol!!!
McPhee would bounce back and is currently starring in the hit network TV show Smash. Hicks, of course, went on to superstardom, scoring major hits with songs like … oh, wait. What ever did happen to that guy? Best guess: manager of a suburban Applebee's somewhere?
Post-Idol, Hicks did score a role in the traveling production of Grease and his self-titled album went platinum, but Hicks was dropped from his label in 2008 and hasn't been heard from much since.
Last night, a fella named Phillip Phillips (no lie! that's his name!) won this year's American Idol, beating a lady named Jessica Sanchez. I must confess I've not watch one second of American Idol this year (or the year before, or the year before, etc.), but reading The New York Times story on him from today, it appears Phillips actually can play guitar pretty well and covered songs by Damien Rice and The Box Tops when he was allowed to chose his own material to perform.
Will Philly Phillips be a star, post-Idol? These things are hard to predict (ask Taylor Hicks), but it seems — from my admittedly peripheral view — that Phillips is more David Gray or Dave Matthews than Clay Aiken or Adam Lambert.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 24 birthday include creative Jazz saxman Archie Shepp (1937); American music icon Robert Allen Zimmerman, better known as Bob Dylan (1941); big-voiced and bigger-haired R&B diva Ms. Patti LaBelle (1944); producer and guitarist (with Stevie Nicks, Linda Ronstadt, Warren Zevon and others) Waddy Wachtel (1947); singer/songwriter and eldest daughter of Johnny Cash's, Rosanne Cash (1955); frontman for Soul/Funk group Cameo ("Word Up"), Larry Blackmon (1956); former keyboardist for Beastie Boys pals Luscious Jackson, Vivian Trimble (1963); bassist for Redd Kross and current member of old-school Punk supergroup OFF!, Steve McDonald (1967); guitarist for rockers The Black Crowes, Rich Robinson (1969); and singer/songwriter and Country artist Mike Reid (1947).
Born in Altoona, Penn., Reid attended Penn State, where he excelled on the football field. The tackle finished fifth in Heisman Trophy voting his senior year (1969) and earned a Bachelor's degree in music.
In the 1970 NFL draft, Reid was the Cincinnati Bengals' top first-round selection (seventh overall). Known for his pass-rushing, Reid was a dominant defensive player selected All-Pro at his position in 1972 and 1973 (both years he made the Pro Bowl, as well). In ’74, an injured Reid posted lower numbers and retired at the end of the season as the Bengals all-time leader in sacks with 49. (Remember, the Bengals had only been a team since 1968.)
During the off-season, Reid played piano with orchestras in Utah and Dallas, as well as the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. With some help from Larry Gatlin, he was ready to go into music full-time after retiring from professional football. Focused on songwriter, Reid won his first Grammy in 1984 for writing Ronnie Milsap's "Stranger in My House." We would go on to write several songs that hit No. 1 on the Country charts, including "Walk On Faith," the only No. 1 he also performed.
Reid's songs were recorded by the likes of Etta James, Conway Twitty, Willie Nelson, Alabama, George Jones, Wynonna, Lee Greenwood, Kenny Rogers, Shelby Lynne, Shania Twain, Oak Ridge Boys, Collin Raye, Alabama and Tim McGraw over the years. But his "time capsule" tune has to be his 1992 hit with Bonnie Raitt, "I Can't Make You Love Me," his biggest Pop chart success.
Reid is a member of the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame. In honor of his 65th birthday, here's Reid's biggest song sung by himself, followed by a pretty chilling more recent version by Justin Vernon of Bon Iver.
On this day in 1943, chemist Albert Hofmann embarked on the first LSD "trip." As a Swiss chemist working in the lab of Sandoz pharmaceutical company in Switzerland five years earlier, Hofmann was the first to create the psychedelic drug. But the psychedelic aspect of wasn't discovered until April 19, 1943.
On that day 69 years ago, Hofmann took .25 milligrams of lysergic acid diethylamide and not long after asked a coworker to take him home. He did, on a bike, and Hofmann kind of freaked out before he was able to reel in the anxiety and enjoy the "colors and plays of shapes that persisted … Kaleidoscopic, fantastic images surged in on me," as he later wrote.
Today is known as "Bicycle Day" because of the historic trip. Fans of psychoactive drugs have celebrated today by indulging in the chemical. (I sprinkled eight microdots into my morning coffee today, for example.) Tomorrow, of course, is 4/20, the pot-smokers celebration of … an established excuse to smoke pot all day. Saturday (April 21) is Record Store Day. That's quite a three-day holiday for the counterculture!
LSD has inspired a lot of music. It famously influenced The Beatles' mid-’60s musical expansion; their song "Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds" is widely considered an acid tribute, though John Lennon said it wasn't, the "L," "S" and "D" in the title merely a coincidence. The songs "She Said She Said" and "Tomorrow Never Knows" from Revolver were confirmed to be about the drug, though. The Jefferson Airplane's "White Rabbit" was another huge LSD song, and bands like Pink Floyd and The Grateful Dead became forever associated with the drug thanks to their trippy sounds.
There are, of course, as many songs about doing acid as their our Country tunes about lovin' America and drinking beer. More than anyone could ever listen to, in fact — from Syd Barrett's entire solo discography to some of today's top Dance music makers.
WHOA! Does everyone else see that? Please tell me everyone else sees that.
Here's a short film documenting (allegedly) Syd Barrett's first acid experience (NSFW, I suppose, but only for druggy silliness).
Happy birthday, tripping balls!
On this date in 2004, modern "jam band" kings Phish announced on their website that they would be breaking up after a short summer tour. The group's "final" tour included a seven-song set on the Ed Sullivan Theater marquee for a swarm of fans on the street and a final show in Coventry, Ver., that attracted around 65,000 fans. That final show would have drawn more but the deluge of rain had organizers concerned that the stage would sink and cars were cut off from entering the site at one point, causing thousands of fans to leave their vehicles on the side of the road and walk to the grounds, Woodstock style.
Maybe God sent the rain because he's a huge Phish fan? What was he going to hippie dance to in heaven?!
In 2006, guitarist Trey Anastasio was pulled over and arrested for suspicion of drug possession (including hydrocodone, Percocet and Xanax), driving on a suspended license and driving under the influence. Though he had continued to be active musically, perhaps that was a "devil makes work for idle hands" kind of thing.
In 2009, the four band members decided that it was time to bring Phish back from the dead. Anastasio told The New York Times that it was because of the recession. Not that the members needed money — they wanted to provide an escape for fans hurting from the tough economic climate.
"For people in hard times, we can play long shows of pure physical pleasure,” he said. “They come to dance and forget their troubles. It’s like a service commitment.”
Alas, all concerts since the comeback have not been free.
This summer, Phish plays Riverbend on June 22. They're also a headlining act at Bonnaroo, coming up June 7-10. CityBeat is helping Phish fans who want to escape their money woes AND not spend lots of money doing it. Click here to sign up for a chance to win tickets to Phish's Riverbend show and here for a chance to score Bonnaroo tickets.
Here's the band performing "Maze" almost a year ago in New Jersey.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 25 birthday include Country music singer/songwriter Tom T. Hall (1936); American singer and songwriter; Country singer Jessi Colter (1943), frontman for German Metal giants The Scorpions, Klaus Meine (1948); Jamaican Reggae singer Sugar Minott (1956); still rocking former frontman for The Jam and Style Council, Paul Weller (1958); too-quiet-these-days Soul/Hip Hop genius Lauryn Hill (1975); guitarist for Pop/Rock band The Fray, Joe King (1980); and legendary lyricist Hal David (1921).
The best concert venue in Washington, D.C., may well be the White House. Hal David was recently honored there as part of a tribute concert to him and songwriting partner Burt Bacharach.
The pair was the latest recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. (David could not attend because he's recovering from a stroke; his wife gracefully and graciously accepted on his behalf.) The first winner of the prize — honoring great Americans' contributions to the world songbook — was Paul Simon in 2007. Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney have also received it. And received tribute concerts at the Prez's pad.
Obama's White House has also feted Motown, Country, Blues, Broadway and music from the Civil Rights movement; each celebratory concert was filmed and aired on PBS as part of its In Performance at the White House series.
"This is a pair that combined, like the Gershwins did, a very gifted lyricist (David) and a very gifted composer (Bacharach)," the librarian of Congress James H. Billington, told the Washington Post. "It's taken so long for a major national prize like this to be conferred on them, so we're very happy about it."
Bacharach & David's greatest hits include modern standards like "Do You Know The Way To San Jose," "What The World Needs Now Is Love," "Alfie," "I Just Don't Know What Do To With Myself," "I Say A Little Prayer," "Walk on By," "The Look Of Love" and "Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head." The White House tribute — filmed in early May and aired this past Monday night on PBS — featured performances by Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett, Arturo Sandoval, Michael Feinstein and, um, comedian Mike Myers (he cast Bacharach in Austin Powers and, at the White House, did a funny version of "What's New Pussycat?").
Watch (or skim through) the whole broadcast below:
Watch Burt Bacharach and Hal David: The Library of Congress Gershwin Prize on PBS. See more from In Performance at The White House.
On this date in 1942 — months away from Christmas 1941 and Christmas 1942 — classic crooner Bing Crosby recorded what remains the best-selling single of all time, "White Christmas." Crosby first performed Irving Berlin's classic for radio on Christmas Day, 1941. On May 29, 1942, Crosby reportedly recorded the song — with the John Scott Trotter Orchestra and Ken Darby Singers — in 18 minutes. It was released on July 30 that year as part of a collection of platters from the film Holiday Inn. The song caught on and hit the top of the charts in October of ’42, where it stayed through Christmas. The single was re-released and hit the chart-tops again in ’45 and ’46.
The single has sold over 50 million copies worldwide. The
closest runner-up in the all-time biggest selling singles race is Elton
John's tribute to Princess Diana, the re-recording of his "Candle in
the Wind" from 1997, which has sold around 33 million.
That original version is not the one we hear endlessly to this day around the holiday season. After the original master recording was damaged, Crosby and the same crew of musicians re-recorded "White Christmas." That's the version you know/love today. Here's the original version of "White Christmas." Happy holidays!
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 29 birthday include keyboardist and founder of progressive German "Kraut Rock" kings Can, Irmin Schmidt (1937); Jackson sibling and singer Rebbie Jackson (1950); former New Wave pioneer-turned-legendary-film composer Danny Elfman (1953); Jackson sibling and Playboy model (and singer?) La Toya Jackson (1956); singer for British Metal band Wolfsbane and temporary Iron Maiden vocalist Blaze Bayley (1963); former Oasis guitarist/songwriter/occasional singer Noel Gallagher (1967); bassist for modern British Rock legends The Verve, Simon Jones (1972); singer/dancer with Pop group Spice Girls, Melanie "Mel B" Brown (1975); co-founder of Hard Rock hitmakers Papa Roach, David Buckner (1976); and frontman for Swedish Garage Rock superstars The Hives, Howlin' Pelle Almqvist (1978).
With his ceaseless energy and hilarious, sometimes nonsensical between-song bantering, Almqvist is the reason Spin magazine once called The Hives "the best live band in the world." (The mag also called him one of the "50 Greatest Frontmen of All Time.")
The Swedes have a new album due out a week from today (June 5) called Lex Hives. According to a press release, the title comes from "the ancient Roman practice of enacting a system or body of laws and accepting them as a standard. Thus, the 12 songs on Lex Hives make up the holy laws after which all life from now on must be lived." Obey!
Here's a video clip of the band performing the new album's first single, "Go Right Ahead." Click here for a preview stream of the full album courtesy of The Guardian.