Music

There’s something about Proud Mary

Featured image John Hinderaker to the contrary notwithstanding, I have long held that there’s something about “Proud Mary.” Ike and Tina Turner may have ruined the song for many, as they did for John. Marc Myers helps us return to the song with fresh ears in his wonderful Anatomy of a Song column in the Wall Street Journal a few weeks back. Myers checked in with John Fogerty, the composer of the »

Color Him Father

Featured image My father was a thoughtful man. In the last years of his life he listed the things he was most grateful for and in retrospect I can see he thought about gratitude a lot. He itemized the three things he was most grateful for in this order: 1) that his grandfather didn’t miss the boat from Russia to the United States, 2) that when his grandfather arrived in New York »

The Lowdown on Boz

Featured image Musician Boz Scaggs celebrates his sixty-ninth birthday today. You may be familiar with Boz through his string of hits in the ’70s, but the guy is still a vital artist. His new disc — Memphis — seems to me an inspired throwback. The Wall Street Journal’s Marc Myers in any event took the release of the disc as the occasion for an appreciative visit with Boz about the recording. In »

Innervisions

Featured image When Ronnie White (of Smokey Robinson and the Miracles) brought Steveland Morris over to the Motown offices in Detroit in 1961, Berry Gordy was at first unimpressed. After Morris sang the Miracles’ “Lonely Guy” and performed on piano, harmonica and bongo, Gordy signed the 11-year-old boy to his label. According to Nelson George’s Where Did Our Love Go?, “Berry, in one of his more inspired name changes, decided [Morris] would »

Live from pump 16, Burbank

Featured image I learn via Twitter that the video below featured this past Wednesday on the Tonight Show has gone viral. BuzzFeed explains: “Pumpcast News” is a Tonight Show sketch in which actor Tim Stack, posing as the anchor of a (fake) news show aired at gas station pumps, starts to talk directly to the unsuspecting gas station patrons. While usually the intention of the sketch is to frighten and shock normal »

American Music and the Music of America

Featured image   David Tucker, my sometimes colleague out at the Ashbrook Center, is one of America’s underrated writers and thinkers, chiefly because he toils away most of the time out of view on the arcana of counter-terrorism and intelligence work at the Naval Postgraduate School in Monterey, such as can be seen in his book Illuminating the Dark Arts of War: Terrorism, Sabotage, and Subversion in Homeland Security and the New »

George Jones, RIP

Featured image Country singer George Jones died this past Friday at the age of 81. I think the consensus is that Jones was the best country singer of the era. You can certainly hear his influence in just about every younger country artist worth listening to. Jon Pareles gives Jones his due in the New York Times obit “His life was a country song.” Pareles renders a fine appreciation of Jones’s life »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image In my tribute to Ella Fitzgerald on her birthday last week, I mentioned mentioned that, after he sold the Verve label, Norman Granz founded the Pablo label to continue recording Ella. To test the market for a new label, Granz put together an all-star concert featuring Ella and the Count Basie Band at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in June 1972 that was to be recorded and released (unsuccessfully, with »

How high the moon?

Featured image Today is the anniversary of the birth of Ella Fitzgerald, the First Lady of Song. The lady was a remarkable artist. Each period of her long career is rewarding, though she deepened her art as she got older. She excelled in a wide variety of material and in every musical setting. There is an emotional reserve or detachment in her singing, but there is also joy and an irrepressible sense »

Richie Havens, RIP

Featured image Singer/songwriter Richie Havens died today at the age of 72. Havens grew up in Brooklyn singing with a choir in church and with doo wop groups on street corners. He crossed the river to figure out how to make a go of it in Greenwich Village as a performer until he signed a recording contract with Verve. In 1967 Havens seemed to materialize out of nowhere with Mixed Bag, a »

La-La (means Laura Nyro)

Featured image In my high school class those of us who followed pop music obsessively knew we had discovered someone special in Laura Nyro. We prided ourselves in being able to recognize her hand in the covers of her songs on the radio. We were blown away by Eli and The Thirteenth Confession when it was released in 1968, and it’s still sounding good after all these years. We thought that, along »

Are the good times really over?

Featured image Like Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, Merle Haggard is a singer in whose voice one can hear all the strands of American popular music. Today is his birthday and we want to salute him while he is still around to win fans and influence people. A few years back the Los Angeles Times published a terrific profile of Haggard by Times music critic Robert Hilburn (the profile is no longer »

Songbird

Featured image Emmylou Harris celebrates her birthday today. I’m a latecomer to Emmylou’s artistry, having discovered her indirectly through my love for the music of the 1960′s group the Byrds. The Byrds brought brilliant Beatles-inspired vocal harmonies and jangly 12-string electric guitar to the music of Bob Dylan and their own superb compositions. In one version of the group, country-rock flameout Gram Parsons briefly took center stage and hijacked their groundbreaking 1968 »

An Overdue Prog-Rock Fix

Featured image It’s been a while since I inflicted my dubious throwback enthusiasm for progressive rock on indulgent Power Line readers, but I somehow came across the video below of Francis Dunnery, with whom I’m totally unfamiliar though I gather he has a following, performing a live cover of “Back in NYC,” a neglected tune from the B-side of the old Genesis classic album “The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway.”  (The terrific »

Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most

Featured image There are a few torch songs that lament the coming of Spring. This time of year, if you’re tuned to one of the right stations, you may well find yourself listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s unforgettable rendition of “Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most.” The song is a buried treasure on Ella’s 1961 quartet-backed jazz set Clap Hands, Here Comes Charlie! (I love the Amazon review that rates it »

Get the Story with Story Road

Featured image So this isn’t an official Power Line event, but this Wednesday I’m helping to host a concert in Paso Robles with Story Road, which is best described as an “upbeat Celtic jam band” that features two members of the better known Molly’s Revenge backing up the vocals of Colleen Raney.  Long story, but my wife knows the musicians, and when she heard they were passing our way with a night »

If these walls…

Featured image Shawn Colvin is on a sort of double dynamite tour with Mary-Chapin Carpenter, but she settles in for three nights at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant performing solo in downtown Minneapolis this Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. She is a brilliant singer/songwriter/interpreter who achieved stardom with the Grammy-winning pop hit “Sunny Came Home” on A Few Small Repairs in 1997. I don’t think anything eclipses her first three recordings beginning »