Merle Haggard, RIP [With Comment By John]

Featured image I’ve celebrated the life and work of Merle Haggard here several times over the years. Today I write in sadness to note his passing at the age of 79 — to be exact, on his seventy-ninth birthday. The Los Angeles Times marks his passing here. The Times also compiles reactions to his death here. Like Elvis Presley and Ray Charles, Hag was a singer in whose voice one could hear »

Justice Scalia will be missed at the Birchmere

Featured image The Birchmere is a legendary music hall in Alexandria, Virginia. It presents top-notch bluegrass, country, folk, and jazz performers. In honor of its 50th anniversary, the Washington Post asked some of the artists who know the club best to share their recollections. All of the responses are worth checking out, but Power Line readers may be most interested in that of 14-time Grammy Award winner Ricky Skaggs. He says, in »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Oh, man, we loved Laura Nyro. She seemed to have an aversion to the limelight and she never quite achieved the recognition she deserved, but she made an impact on a lot of us who loved pop music in the sixties and seventies. She was an incredibly precocious songwriter and singer. Her songwriting took up several threads in popular music and made it new in her own unmistakable voice. I »

Shawn Colvin (very) live

Featured image I attended the first two nights of the great Shawn Colvin at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis on Thursday and Friday. I’ll be back when she winds up her three-night run tonight. Having taken five or six months off from performing live, Shawn is at the top of her form. She is relaxed, engaging, warm, funny, emotional and utterly riveting. The layoff seems to have refreshed »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Shawn Colvin settles in for three nights at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in Minneapolis this coming Thursday. Shawn is touring in support of her second all-cover recording, Uncovered. I’m attending in support of my anger management therapy; I bought tickets for all three nights. Here I want to draw on my previous comments about her. Shawn is a brilliant singer/songwriter/interpreter who achieved stardom with the Grammy-winning pop hit »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Last week I paid brief tribute to the late Jesse Winchester. His song “Evil Angel” had been going around in my head. When I finally figured out what song it was, I wanted to share it with readers who might be unfamiliar with Jesse’s work or remind fans of it. He was a gifted singer and songwriter deep in the American grain. This past Thursday I was delighted to hear »

An Overdue Prog Rock Post

Featured image Okay, this is a post about two of my favorite things: Prog rock and Hitler parody videos! I wish I had done this one, but I didn’t, and it is genius. But only if you know your 70s prog rock scene really well. Otherwise it will be a complete bore, and you should move on now. But for the rest of us. . . (It’s worth it for the “Olias »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I saw singer-songwriter Jesse Winchester perform on the St. Paul campus of the University of Minnesota more than 25 years ago and he just bowled me over. There couldn’t have been more than a hundred people in the audience. Accompanying himself on guitar, he turned in a beautiful performance concluding with “Yankee Lady.” Although Winchester had famously evaded the draft by decamping to Canada in 1967, returning to perform only »

Over the Rainbow

Featured image Today is the anniversary of the birth of Harold Arlen in 1905. Harold Arlen may be the most underrated and innovative of the composers at the heart of the canon of American popular song. He is surely one of the greatest if least known. I want to take a brief timeout to observe his birthday in the interest of anger management. Working with a variety of lyricists, from those in »

Damn, it feels good to be a Clinton

Featured image Ted Cruz’s campaign has produced this ad called “Damn, it feels good to be Clinton.” The ad is based on a famous scene from the movie “Office Space.” It combines the scene with lyrics based on the song “Damn, it feels good to be a gangsta.” I was unfamiliar with both the movie and the song. Even so, I found the ad hilarious. Tevi Troy has written that Republican candidates »

Pop culture and the GOP field

Featured image Tevi Troy has two excellent posts about the Republican presidential field’s pop culture interests. This one focuses on music. It finds that Donald Trump has “broken the GOP’s music curse.” This one focuses on pop culture in general. It finds that Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio have displayed a “facility to invoke images and references that go beyond politics.” Unlike Barack Obama, Cruz eschews upper-middle-brow references (e.g. to shows like »

The circle game

Featured image Tom Rush made his name in the sixties folk revival; he is a peer of Joan Baez, Bob Dylan, Eric Andersen, and Judy Collins. Tomorrow he turns 75. I’ve loved his music for a long time and want to take the occasion to celebrate his birthday with previously posted notes from my 2011 interview with him. I hope readers who may have missed the interview might find the notes of »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Daryl Hall made a house call on Darius Rucker in Charleston for an episode of his Live From Daryl’s House series a few years ago. By my lights there isn’t a bad song or a dull moment in the episode. The whole episode is posted here and it’s all highlights. Darius’s number 1 country hit “Wagon Wheel” was a revelation to me (video below). I was unfamiliar with the song. »

A personal look back

Featured image This past December brought to mind some of the happiest parts of my life. John Hinderaker’s retirement party accounted for a good share. Working with John turned into a friendship that has changed my life for the better. The party took me back to our professional relationship. We started writing columns and articles together on the side of our law practice at the end of 1991. In his usual style, »

From this moment on

Featured image Today is the centennial anniversary of the birth of Frank Sinatra. William Ruhlman provides an excellent overview of Sinatra’s long career. According to William Butler Yeats, “The intellect of man is forced to choose/perfection of the life, or of the work…” If there is such a choice, there aren’t many artists to whom it is available, but Sinatra would be one, wouldn’t he?Omniscient Twin Cities deejay Pete Lee calls Sinatra »

Time Between

Featured image Chris Hillman was a teenage bluegrass star on the Los Angeles music scene in the early ’60s. Within a few years he had moved from mandolin to bass and become one of the founding members of the Byrds together with Roger (then Jim) McGuinn, David Crosby and Gene Clark. The Byrds brought McGuinn’s jangly 12-string guitar and their brilliant Beatles harmonies to the music of Bob Dylan, turning both themselves »

Bon Jovi to Waters: Drop Dead!

Featured image Some years ago, I was in the office of a straitlaced, middle-aged lady who was in charge of my law firm’s support staff. I noticed a photograph on her desk of herself with a long-haired guy who looked like a rock musician. It seemed incongruous, so I asked about the picture, and she told me this story. She and her husband had a boat in a marina on the St. »