Music

La-la means I love you

Featured image Written by William Hart and Thom Bell, produced by Thom Bell and Stan Watson, “La-La (Means I Love You)” is a classic of Philly soul, vintage 1968, and a memorable hit for the Delfonics. What a beautiful pop song. I don’t think they make ’em like this anymore. Hart sang the shimmering falsetto lead on the hit single. Laura Nyro responded deeply to the song. As she did with so »

Sunday morning coming down

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 80. I’ve loved his music for a long time, Incorporating notes from my 2011 interview with him, I want to take the occasion to celebrate his birthday. I hope readers who may have missed the interview or who may have joined us since »

Remembering Gerry Marsden

Featured image Gerry Marsden died on January 3. He was the leader of “Gerry and the Pacemakers,” a prominent British band of the early to mid-1960s. I wrote at some length about Marsden in this post, called “Remembering Liverpool’s other British invasion band.” Marden’s obituaries have called Gerry and the Pacemakers the Beatles’ greatest early rivals. I don’t know whether Marsden’s band ever truly rivaled the Beatles, but the two groups were »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Watching the HBO documentary “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” (trailer below) turned me into a belated Bee Gees fan. Twin brothers Robin and Maurice are prematurely deceased, Robin at age 62 and Maurice at age 53. Youngest brother Andy (a solo artist, not a member of the Bee Gees) died way too soon as well, of an addiction-related ailment at age 30. Only oldest brother Barry Gibb, age »

Sunday morning coming down

Putting an exclamation point on the year from hell, I want to note the death of the musician Tony Rice on Christmas day. Tony was a musician’s musician. Alison Krauss testified in some detail to his impact on her last month before he died (I quote her toward the bottom of this post). She is representative of a couple generations of our best musicians. Rice struggled with health issues that »

Home for Christmas

Featured image With Christmas coming up on Friday this week, I hesitated to post these videos in a Sunday Morning Coming Down post yesterday so far in advance of the holiday. On second thought, the time has come today. I want to revisit a few of the secular pop songs that seize on Christmas in one way or another for their own artistic purposes. I’ve added one new selection to last year’s »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I’ve learned a lot listening to John Pizzarelli and Jessica Molaskey on Radio Deluxe over the past several years. The weekly show is carried locally on KBEM FM in the Twin Cities and other such stations around the country. Both John and Jessica are great musicians in their own right. We’ve seen John perform with his trio at the Dakota Jazz Club in Minneapolis several times. Some day we’ll do »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image When Time-Life Music released the new Don McLean recording Still Playin’ Favorites (read about it here) on October 23, my eyes lit up. Don’s Playin’ Favorites (1973) is one of my favorite albums. When a message from Don’s publicist turned up in our in box that morning, I asked if I could interview Don. The publicist arranged a 30-minute telephone interview for me with Don this past Thursday. It turns »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Today is the anniversary of the birth of singer/songwriter Laura Nyro. I want to take the occasion to revisit a few highlights of her songbook and perhaps acquaint some readers with the joys of her work in another extended lockdown edition of this series. 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 »

Stanley Crouch told it like it is

Featured image Stanley Crouch died yesterday at the age of 74. Crouch is best known as a great jazz critic. His biography of Charlie Parker is a classic. But Crouch was also a literary critic and a critic of our culture. Here are some gems from his criticism: On rap: It is “either infantile self-celebration or anarchic glamorization of criminal behavior.” On Toni Morrison: She has a certain skill, but she has »

Loose Ends Updates

Featured image Let’s catch up on some updates to the regular themes and stores we’re covering right now. • Here’s our feel good story of the day: Mayor Bill De Blasio Plans 22,000 Layoffs, As People Flee New York City In Droves New York City may lay off tens of thousands of municipal workers. Even with this massive downsizing, it won’t be enough to stem the financial hemorrhaging plaguing the city. The Wall »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Tomorrow Van Morrison turns 75. I have to suspend my intended vacation from this series to pay tribute in some form to this genius of what Gram Parsons called the Cosmic American Music. Van is a brilliant, eccentric, enigmatic, essential songwriter, performer, artist and multi-instrumental musician. Clinton Heylin peered into Van’s life and work in Van Morrison: Can You Feel the Silence? (2003). By contrast with his work, Van’s life »

Remembering Liverpool’s other “British Invasion” band

Featured image When I think of England in the 1950s, I think of shortages, decline, and despair. Part of that impression stems from the play “Look Back in Anger” and the movie “The Entertainer” (also a play) — both by John Osborne — so it might be an exaggeration. But certainly much of the art and literature of 1950s England reflected pure bleakness. I view the early Beatles as an answer, or »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I need to take a break from these special lockdown editions of this series. Locking down these lockdown editions, I thought I would take a slightly off-center look at the British Invasion. This is where I came in. We begin with the Beatles, but the popularity of the Beatles had the effect of uncovering incredible talent in the United Kingdom. My emphasis here with a few exceptions is on the »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Songwriter Jimmy Webb celebrated his birthday this past Friday. He turned 74. I want to take the occasion to compile my notes on Webb’s work and revisit it this morning. Webb is a winner of numerous Grammy awards and a member of the National Songwriters Hall of Fame. He first achieved fame as an incredibly precocious songwriter in the ’60s — the composer of the over the top pop epic »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I’ve written about Chris Hillman several times over the years. In 2017 he released a new disc with his long-time friend and musical partner Herb Pedersen (Bidin’ My Time, produced by the late Tom Petty and Herb). In April 2018 Chris and Herb came through town to play at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, where we saw them up close. I snapped the photo at right »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I’ve just about exhausted my knowledge of popular American music in this series. This morning I present videos featuring what I think of as Beauty and Beast pairings for the sheer pleasure of the thing. Norman Granz produced three albums on Verve that paired Ella Fitzgerald with Louis Armstrong over a few days in 1956 and 1957. They glow with a beauty-and-the-beast chemistry. Here is “Under a Blanket of Blue” »