Today in history was not kind to some major Pop Culture icons. Today we lost the Master of Muppets, Jim Henson (in 1990), Andy Kaufman (1984) and lead "Untouchable" Eliot Ness (1957). On the musical tip, we lost masterful, hugely influential Hot Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt (1953), Rat Pack singer/performer/actor Sammy Davis, Jr. (1990) and, just two years ago, Metal superstar Ronnie James Dio.
Fun fact: Tony Iommi of Black Sabbath, which featured Dio on the mic after Ozzy left, was hugely inspired by Django; both had finger injuries that forced them to adapt — and redefine — their playing styles. Things didn't turn out too badly for either.
Rest in peace, all!
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).
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.
Today is the 46th anniversary of one of the most memorable "heckles" in entertainment history. And the response was pretty classic, too.
In July of 1965, Bob Dylan shocked the audience at the Newport Folk Festival (where he was virtually a god after performing the previous two years) by performing "electric" and with his full band. Those who wanted to hear solo, acoustic Dylan booed as the group launched into "Maggie's Farm," though some in the audience cheered the bold move. He finished the set with a solo, acoustic encore. Lore has it that the boos were from those upset Dylan was playing electric, though his organist Al Kooper said it was because the sound sucked.
Still, Dylan would deal with such polarized reactions for the next year or so as he continued to rock electrically (the sound couldn't have been bad everywhere, right?) for part of his sets. On May 17, 1966, Dylan played the Free Trade Hall in Manchester, England. As documented on bootlegs, film and the official release, The Bootleg Series Vol. 4: Bob Dylan Live 1966, The "Royal Albert Hall" Concert, which came out in 1998 (the "Royal Albert Hall" referring to the common misconception that the notorious show was in London), one disapproving fan shouted "Judas!" Dylan responded to the reference to the New Testament tale of Jesus betrayer Judas Iscariot by saying, "I don't believe you, you're a liar." The strange yet perfect response may have been a come-back to the "Judas" yelp, but some believe he was responding to another less audible heckle: "I'm never listening to you again, ever!" Which makes more sense. Sorta.
The young man who shouted the heckle broke his silence after three decades and did a few interviews, calling the moment "embarrassing" for himself. The man, Keith Butler, was also interviewed right after the concert, footage of which popped up in the Eat the Document documentary. The then 21-year-old told an interviewer, "Any pop group could produce better rubbish than that! It was a bloody disgrace! He's a traitor!"
Video of the "Judas" moment was discovered and featured in the biographical documentary film, No Direction Home. Go to the 56-second mark of the clip to hear it.
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 17 birthday include original bass singer for The Spinners, Pervis Jackson (1938); eclectic Blues legend Taj Mahal (1942); drummer for Prog heroes King Crimson and Yes, Bill Bruford (1949); Irish New Age goddess Enya (1961); keyboardist/songwriter for Phish, Page McConnell (1963); hunky New Kids of the Block star Jordan Knight (1970); former Stoner Rock pioneer with Kyuss turned Hard Rock star with Queens of the Stone Age, Josh Homme (1973); original vocalist for Florida Metalcore band Underoath and current frontman for "Southern Metal" crew Maylene and the Sons of Disaster, Dallas Taylor (1980); and Nine Inch Nails founder Trent Reznor (1965).
Reznor — an Ohio native — was awarded the ASCAP Golden Note Award last month for his work in music over the past 25 years. Presumably not including his time with the early ’80s Cleveland Synth Pop acts Exotic Birds (which opened for Culture Club!) and Slam Bamboo, which sounds nearly identical to Howard Jones.
Pretty fun stuff, actually. The haircuts … not so much.
Since this date only occurs every four years, there are fewer birthdays and notable happenings in the history books. But things have indeed occurred on Feb. 29 throughout time — even a few related to music. Here's a quick roundup:
• Buddy Holly's famous glasses were found at the Mason City Sheriff's office in Iowa, buried in old files. They also found Big Bopper's watch. Both items were believed to have been worn by the pair when they died together in a plane crash in 1959. Holly's glasses are on display at the Buddy Holly Center in his hometown of Lubbock, Texas.
• The Beatles' Sgt. Peppers wins Album of the Year at the 1968 Grammys.
• In 1996, musician/songwriter Wes Farrell, who wrote and co-wrote songs performed by The Beatles and The Animals, many hits by The Partridge Family and Ohio State anthem "Hang on Sloopy," died on this day in 1996 from cancer.
• Don't feel so bad, Sammy Hagar. Eric Clapton can't drive 55, either! The guitar god's license was suspended on this day in 2000 after he was busted speeding.
• Guitarist for Punk pioneers Social Distortion, Dennis Danell, died at the age of 36 on this day in 2000, reportedly from a brain aneurysm (though Mike Ness claims it was a heart problem).
And here's your song for today: a slanted Jazz freakout called "Leap Year Day" by Chicago Lounge music revivalists (they called it "Garage Jazz") The Coctails, taken from the group's Popcorn retrospective box set.
Born This Day: A few psychopaths were born today — like Richard "Night Stalker" Ramirez, Aileen Wuornos (played by Charlize Theron in the film Monster) and Tony Robbins (OK, maybe the motivational-speaking superstar's just a little weird) — but there have been a few musical types born on Leap Day as well.
Big Band Jazz superstar Jimmy Dorsey was born Leap Day, 1904.
Rap star Ja Rule — who released a new album yesterday — turns 36 today and will celebrate in a New York state prison, where he's serving time for gun possession charges (TMZ reports he will party in jail with special meals throughout the day — corn flakes, Jamaican "patties" and "turkey stew").
Chris Conley of Emo favorites Saves the Day was born Leap Day 1980.
Mark Foster, frontman for breakout stars Foster the People (if you haven't heard their hit "Pumped Up Kicks," please tell us where your bunker is located), was born today in 1984.
And poet, activist, spoken word star and inventive recording artist Saul Williams was a Leap Newborn on this day in 1972. In honor of Saul's 40th b-day, here's a video for a track off of his amazing Trent Renzor-produced album The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of NiggyTardust!
On this day in 2005, two young musicians died well before their time.
After reportedly battling a bipolar disorder and drug addiction, SoCal Punk drummer Derrick Plourde — who had played with bands like The Ataris, Lagwagon (the band that gave him his start), The Mad Caddies and others — killed himself with a gun. He was 33.
Lagwagon's seventh studio album, Resolve, released later in 2005, was inspired by and dedicated to Plourde. The album became Lagwagon's first to break the Billboard 200, notching a peak position of 172. Here's the single (used on a Tony Hawk video game soundtrack … as Plourde would have wanted?), "Heartbreaking Music."
Also today in 2005, Hideaki Sekiguchi of the Japanese Garage Punk trio Guitar Wolf (known simply as Billy or Bass Wolf) had a fatal heart attack in Tokyo, just after completing a successful tour of America. Sekiguchi was 38 and left behind a wife and two kids. Guitar Wolf — which has put out albums on indie labels like Matador and Narnack in the States — carried on with a new bassist and has released three albums since Sekiguchi's death.
Here's Guitar Wolf's "UFO Romantics" from the band's album of the same name (Sekiguchi's last with the group):
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a March 30 birthday include legendary Blues singer/harmonica player Sonny Boy Williamson (1914); drummer/poet/songwriter with The Moody Blues, Graeme Edge (1941); drummer for The Surfaris and Love, Ken Forssi (1943); revered Rock/Blues guitarist Eric Clapton (1945); singer/songwriter ("Fast Car") Tracy Chapman (1964); schmaltzy Canadian chanteuse Celine Dion (1968); singer/songwriter Norah Jones (1979) and onetime Rap star MC Hammer (1962).
While Hammer (born Stanley Burrell) did much to popularize Hip Hop, becoming one of its first superstars, he remains one of Pop music's greatest punching bags. Some might say it was his money issues; many had a hard time feeling sympathy as they saw or read about some of the gaudy "luxury items" Hammer had to give up. But, mostly, Hammer was a victim of his music (and videos) just not standing the test of time even slightly.
Spin magazine recently ran its list of The 30 Biggest Punching Bags in History and somehow, despite his running partner Vanilla Ice coming in at No. 6, Hammer was nowhere to be found (nor was, miraculously, fellow birthday celebrator Celine Dion). Click here to read Spin's rundown, here to read it without having to click to the next page 400 times or just look below for the straight-up list. I say take Duran Duran or Lawrence Welk (?!) off and put Hammer in. Justice for Hammer!
1 Milli Vanilli
2 Limp Bizkit
3 Kenny G
5 Insane Clown Posse
6 Vanilla Ice
7 Emerson, Lake & Palmer
8 Matchbox 20
9 Pat Boone
10 Yoko Ono
12 Michael Bolton
14 Billy Ray Cyrus
15 Puff Daddy
17 Barry Manilow
18 KC and the Sunshine Band
19 Lawrence Welk
20 The Osmonds
21 Duran Duran
22 Christopher Cross
23 Smash Mouth
24 Black Eyed Peas
25 Lana Del Rey
27 John Mayer
28 New Kids on the Block
29 Phil Collins
30 The Monkees
And here's the "full version" of one of Hammer's greatest hits (he had to drag down James Brown with him?). Happy 50th, Stanley! No gasface for you this year, you loveable ol' pants wrangler.
Australian Pop/Rock band Men At Work hit me — and many other music fans around the world — at just the right time. I was 12 when the single “Who Can It Be Now?” exploded onto the charts. I was intrigued by the group’s quirkiness, but it was singer/guitarist Colin Hay’s voice that initially drew me in. As a huge fan of The Police, I found Hay’s effortlessly high-pitched vocals highly appealing.
In the summer of 1983, Men at Work’s Cargo came out and instantly became my favorite album. I got to see the band perform live on that tour — at Kings Island’s Timberwolf Amphitheater with a new, unknown Australian band called INXS opening — and I spent that summer in France as an exchange student with Cargo (and The Police’s Synchronicity) at my side.
Though I didn’t fully yet understand the emotions being expressed on Cargo’s first single, “Overkill,” they still hit me like a ton of bricks and the song was played on my Walkman (for younger readers, that was akin to a wooden MP3 player with various levers and pulleys) more than any other that summer. Just the sound of it (as well as the visuals in the accompanying video) matched up perfectly with my bouts of homesickness.
To this day, when I hear “Overkill” — no matter if it’s the original, a great cover version (the band that did the theme song to the TV show Scrubs, Lazlo Bane, did a fantastic version with Hay and Dashboard Confessional’s version was also pretty strong) or Hay singing it solo acoustic — it sends shivers, particularly when it hits the intense release of the last verse. I remember that ancient sense of loneliness and isolation, but also various heartbreaks I’ve suffered — as a young adult, I finally got the “ghosts appear and fade away” bit and it made the song resonate within me even more.
“Down Under” might be Men At Work’s most known song, but “Overkill” is the tune that will stand the test of time for eternity.
Hay is far removed from his Men at Work days now. The band broke up in 1986 (though they reunited for concerts in the late ’90s) and Hay has managed to have a modestly successful solo career, still touring the world and releasing strong solo efforts, including his most recent (and 11th overall), Gathering Mercury, perhaps Hay’s finest solo moment yet.
Hay's songwriting still has emotional weight and substance (as well as great hooks) and if you catch his local show tonight at the 20th Century Theater in Oakley, he’ll definitely play some old favorites, will surely says some words about his recently deceased fellow Man At Work, Greg Ham, and undoubtedly charm the pants off the whole crowd with his legendary sharp wit.
Here's my video playlist tribute to Hay and one of his greatest songwriting achievements.
I was a few months shy of 16
when I first heard the lucidly stark voice of Lou Reed stream over the
airwaves. I was just another suburban weirdo, looking for a justified rebellion
to call his own. I had spent those “formative years” sleeping around with any
album loud enough to drown out my inner white noise, moving through a steady
stream of Hardcore, Punk, Metal — if
they were screaming it, I was buying it. As it turns out, though, what I was
really looking for was a quieter sort of revolution, and at the helm was Mr.
Lou Reed, telling me with a frank honesty that there was freedom in the
composition. It was, like any great lesson, one I’d come to learn in time.
To say I enjoyed those first striking chords of “Heroin” would be an
understatement. It was on a snowy night in 2007, crammed in the back of a
friend's Yaris Liftback, when I first heard it. I can’t remember exactly where
we were previous to that moment, when that raw melody first came in. All I can
remember is how I suddenly became more aware of myself than ever before.
Everything I knew about music, about artistry, about writing — all of it would
change with that first overlap of beautiful melody. I was mesmerized, shaken
from a stupor of conditioned knowledge and thrown into a concoction of John
Cale’s haunting strings with Lou Reed’s candid crooning. By the time Maureen
Tucker’s drumming kicked in, sparse in its reverberation, my resolve would be
just as stripped, replaced by a wily knot that would take years to untie.
Though, right then, the song was just “fucking awesome.”
It would only be years later, waking up to a chilled October morning in 2013,
that this memory would even begin to matter. As the headlines would come to
read, “Lou Reed Dead at 71,” so, too, would the horizon appear most clearly.
I’ve always been a firm believer in the crossover of influences, the
collaboration of mediums in shaping any sort of artistry. As a writer, I can
proudly say that the recorded sound has had just as much influence on me as the
written word. And when I heard the Velvet Underground for the first time, it
became clear that they believed in a similar marriage, affirmed on the morning
of Oct. 27. With the news of the passing of a legend came an onslaught of
anecdotes from around the arts world, plastered against my computer screen. Amidst
the mass of legends, one story stood out in particular.
As according to
Rolling Stone, it was
1965, and the first few months of the Velvet Underground playing under their
iconic moniker. They had began a residency playing in New York’s Café Bizarre
and in the beginning stages of developing their distorted and chaotically
composed sound. Management was set on having performers play more contemporary
numbers, and warned the band not to play their original composition “Black
Angel Death Song.” They went on to perform the number anyway, fit with all the
chilling accidentals in its string arrangements, and were fired immediately.
Though they would emerge from that loss victorious (it led to their
introduction to Andy Warhol, the man who would come to produce their record and
put them on the map of the underground art scene of ‘60s New York), there was
something bigger about that moment, something more pressing in my association
Incidentally, “Black Angel Death Song” was the first thing I clicked on Sunday
morning when I heard the news of its writer’s passing. The strings were
suddenly more haunting, and the story seemed all the more important. It was yet
another quintessential moment in the life of Lou Reed, a man who sang with
unbridled frankness, who played with unencumbered passion, and who inspired me
with the tirelessness of his dedication to honest expression. It transported me
back, seven years and a lifetime ago, to that night in December 2007, when I
first pricked my ears with another of his songs, that found, all at once, both
comfort and chaos within itself. Though I’d spend the lapsed time between 2007
and 2013 finding appreciation for the 40-plus years of Reed’s prolific career —
from “Black Angel Death Song” and “All Tomorrow’s Parties,” through “Satellite
of Love” and “Pale Blue Eyes” and even up until his
Hudson River Wind Meditations — it would always be that
compositions that would stay, forever imprinted in my mind.
“Heroin” became, for me, a love song to the in between — it was everything I’d
been listening to up until that point and nothing I’d ever heard before; it was
the sentimentality of Indie Rock, the calm before the double bass in hardcore,
the simplistic, chord interplay of Punk and its cleaner cut cousin Pop. And, at
the same time, it was also the recklessness of avant-garde, the soundtrack to
the colors of an underground New York I’d only experience in preserved murals
and snapshots. It was everything I’d known, and everything I would come to know
about music, about art, about sound and about writing.
There are moments that comprise your past, songs that take you to a memory you
thought you’d left. And then there are moments that define your future, songs
that propel you forward into infinity.
Lou Reed, and what he accomplished before, with and after the Velvet
Underground, stood as a symbol for finding freedom in ones composition, and
pushing the statements made to work in a fashion of success.
It was a lesson I would learn time and time again in my own work, as I moved
through the progression of my writing and my own performance techniques. I
would come to face my own obstacles, fight my own battles against normative
expectations. And it would be in those times I fell the deepest, my resolve
threatening to falter, that this education would come back to me, mysterious in
its origins, all the while growing, like a backbone that stood rigid for honest
experimentation and freedom in the composition.
Even now, as this mystery’s been unearthed, its inductor put to rest, ahead of
me remains miles and miles of still shrouded possibility. But against that wall
of lessons I’ll stand, riveted, staring towards the looming unknown. And I’ll
try for a different kind of kingdom, if I can.
On this day in 2004, Bob Pollard announced that his Dayton, Ohio-based Indie Rock group Guided By Voices would be calling it quits. The band would cease to be after the touring duties for the Half Smiles of the Decomposed were finished.
But he must have had his fingers-crossed behind his back when he announced it.
Pollard wrote online, ""I've always said that when I make a record that I'm totally satisfied with as befitting a final album, then that will be it. And this is it. I love the guys in the band, but I'm getting too old to be a gang leader."
Fans figured Pollard was Guided By Voices, anyway (or at least the songwriting engine and the only member to be a part of every GBV lineup), so, while their was some sadness that the name was being retired, GBV-esque material would no doubt continue to flood the market in the form of Pollard's prolific output.
In 2010, Pollard must have gotten his second wind. He became a gang leader again when it was announced that the "classic" GBV lineup (with the members who played on seminal ’90s albums like Alien Lanes and Bee Thousand) would reunite. Sixteen shows turned into more shows, which turned into more shows and, early last year, a new album.
In 2007, Pollard told Magnet magazine, "If you're gonna get the band back together, it should be to support a new record, not just to play the hits. That's like doing the county-fair circuit. I don't see Guided by Voices reforming." GBV fans were mostly thrilled he changed his mind. But Lou Barlow of fellow Indie stalwarts Sebadoh was less enthused. In October of last year, Barlow told CityBeat he found it a bit tacky for GBV to reunite, but only because they had already embarked on a "farewell tour." (He's a stickler for semantics, apparently.)
The Guided By Voices post-farewell tour reunion slowed down a bit this year. Upon the release of the new album, Let's Go Eat the Factory, in January, several more tour dates were expected, but the group pulled back and cancelled most of them. GBV has only two shows on their schedule for 2012 — July 15 at Cincinnati's first Bunbury Music Festival along the riverfront (details here) and Sept. 21 at a fest in Florida. Maybe Lou's comments really hit home? Or maybe Pollard is just trying to pay tribute to his idols, The Who?
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing an April 26 birthday include the "Mother of the Blues," Gertrude Pridgett, better known as Ma Rainey (1886); twangy guitar legend ("Peter Gunn," "Rebel Rouser") Duane Eddy (1938); Italian songwriter/producer/film composer ("Love to Love You Baby," "Take My Breath Away") Giorgio Moroder (1940); Rock & Roll teen idol ("Wild One," "Volare") Bobby Rydell (1942); Soft Rock hitmaker ("Dream Weaver") Gary Wright (1943); the drumming Taylor of Duran Duran, Roger Taylor (1960); original drummer for Minneapolis rockers The Replacements, Chris Mars (1961); soap actor turned one hit wonder ("Rock On") Michael Damian (1962); singer for Pop trio TLC, Tionne "T-Boz" Watkins (1970); drummer for masked Metal marauders Slipknot, Joey Jordison (1975); Hip Hop/R&B singer/rapper Ms. Dynamite (1981); and Japanese film producer and the creator of legendary movie monster Godzilla, Tomoyuki Tanaka (1910).
Tanaka — along with writer Shigeru Kayama, director Ishirō Honda and special-effects creator Eiji Tsuburaya — created Godzilla for the movies as something of a metaphor for the fear still looming over Japan after the U.S. dropped atomic bombs on Hiroshima and Nagasaki. The series of films based on the monster would go on to become huge cult classics in the U.S. and spawn not only the crappy 1998 blockbuster starring Matthew Broderick, but also a bunch of songs.
Without Tanaka, the world might not have tunes like Motorhead's "Godzilla Akimbo," Mr. Magic and Master P's "Ghetto Godzilla," The Flaming Lips' "Godzilla Flick," Siouxsie Sioux and The Creatures' "Godzilla!," jazzer Ben Allison's "Kramer Vs. Kramer Vs. Godzilla," Hardcore/Thrash band M.O.D.'s "Godzula," Metal ensemble Zebrahead's "Godzilla Vs. Tokyo," K Pop all-girl group Big Mama's "Godzilla Dub," P Diddy and Jimmy Page's "Come With Me" (the awful lead single from the ’98 Godzilla soundtrack) and, of course, Blue Oyster Cult's epic "Godzilla."
Here's the playlist:
On this day in 1939, Adolf Hitler's 50th birthday was a national holiday in Germany. It was also the day Billie Holiday recorded her version of the stirring "Strange Fruit," which some consider the first Civil Rights protest song/anthem. Originally a poem written by Abel Meeropol, a Jewish high school teacher in New York (who later adopted the children of convicted spies Julius and Ethel Rosenberg), about the lynching of black people. Some believe he was inspired to action after seeing a photo of a 1930 lynching in Marion, Ind. The poem was published in a teacher's union magazine in 1936 and Meeropol later set it to music (despite claims that it was actually Holiday and some other musicians who made it a song).
Holiday recorded the tune, despite fears of being targeted by racists, and it became the dramatic finale in her set during which Holiday performed the song with the room totally dark, save a single spotlight on her face. Holiday's label, Columbia, wouldn't release the song due to its "controversial" nature, so the company allowed Holiday to record it for the Commodore label. Time magazine dubbed in the "Song of the Century" in 1999.
"Strange Fruit" has been covered by Nina Simone, Sting, Diana Ross, Siouxsie and the Banshees, Lou Rawls, Jeff Buckley, Cocteau Twins, Tori Amos and UB40, to name a few. It has also been recorded by a pair of bands with local ties — The Twilight Singers (the post Afghan Whigs band of Hamilton native Greg Dulli) and The Sundresses.
At 7, the young prodigy was given her first guitar by her uncle, Bill Owens, and by the time she was 11, she was a regular on a pair of Tennessee radio programs. Dolly's other uncle, Henry Owens, was acquainted with the owner of Goldband, leading to her first single being released.
It was an early example of Parton's underrated talents as a songwriter (she co-wrote the tune with her uncle Bill), though she would mature lyrically from such lines as, "Pullin' my pig tails makes me mad/When you kiss me, makes me glad/You turn to leave and make me sad/Still you're the sweetest sweetheart I've ever had." (Note: A more popular song called "Puppy Love," was a hit a year later for its writer, Paul Anka, and over a decade later again for a version by Donny Osmond. Dolly's version was included on the Dolly boxset in 2009.)
Here's Ms. Parton's adorable debut (where she's already showing off her impressive pipes):