When Elvis met Nixon

Featured image With his superb two-volume biography of Elvis — Last Train to Memphis and Careless Love — Peter Guralnick has made himself the essential chronicler of Elvis’s story. Guralnick of course tells the true story of the day in December 1970 when Elvis met Nixon in the White House. The story of the visit provides insight into Elvis’s patriotism as well as comic relief in the denouement of Elvis’s life. The »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Having signed up to see Manhattan Transfer on Monday and Judy Collins on Wednesday, both at the Dakota in downtown Minneapolis, we were counting on a double dose of much needed anger management therapy. However, Judy Collins had to postpone her show at the last minute on account of laryngitis. Drat! (The show is rescheduled to June 23.) As it turned out, however, we were able to stay for both »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image We’re going to see Judy Collins at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis this week. We’re pretty excited about it. The last time she came through I missed her, and Dakota proprietor Lowell Pickett made a point of letting me know I should have been there. We’re not making the same mistake twice. Judy’s In My Life, Wildflowers and Who Knows Where the Time Goes represent a »

Prince’s case

Featured image Writing about Prince last night, I mentioned his omnivorous musical tastes. I barely scratched the surface, but wanted to suggest one of his most striking qualities. I had wanted to include Prince’s version of Joni Mitchell’s “A Case of You” to illustrate my point, but couldn’t find a video with it posted on YouTube. Now we have this, rendered by Prince as “A Case of U,” of course: Something in »

Prince dead at 57

Featured image Prince was a prodigiously gifted multi instrumental musician, performer and songwriter of omnivorous musical tastes. He took it all in, from Little Richard and James Brown and Stevie Wonder and Sly Stone to Bob Dylan and the Beatles and Jimi Hendrix and Santana and Fleetwood Mac. He was without any doubt a one of a kind genius. Today he died way before his time at the age of 57. Prince »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Steve Katz came to town this past Thursday for an appearance at the St. Paul Jewish Community Center. Katz was a founding member of the Blues Project and of Blood, Sweat & Tears. I loved the Blues Project and the first, least commercial Blood, Sweat & Tears album. The world would be a better place without the last two BS&T albums, but all together they sold something like 30 million »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image With his passing on his seventy-ninth birthday last week, Merle Haggard allows us to begin to take the measure of his contribution to American popular music. He was a giant as a writer, singer and performer. Full of comforts, joys, sorrows and surprises, his art is inexhaustibly interesting. Listen up as he performs one of the lesser known treasure “If I Could Only Fly” (written by Michael David Foley a/k/a »

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 »