The Latest Battle In the Statue Wars: Stephen Foster

Featured image A famous statue of Stephen Foster, often referred to as the father of American music, has stood in Pittsburgh for more than 100 years. (Foster was a native of Pennsylvania.) It was sculpted by Italian emigre Giuseppe Moretti: Today Moretti’s statue of Foster was carted away by Pittsburgh authorities: A 118-year-old statue of the “Oh! Susanna” songwriter was removed from a Pittsburgh park Thursday after criticism that the work is »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I’ve written about Chris Hillman several times over the years. He has a new disc out with his long-time friend and musical partner Herb Pedersen (Bidin’ My Time, produced by Tom Petty and Herb). Chris and Herb came through town this past Thursday to play at the Dakota Jazz Club and Restaurant in downtown Minneapolis, where we saw them up close. I snapped the photo at right from our table. »

Prog Rock Vindicated!

Featured image It’s been a while since I indulged here my deplorable taste for prog rock, but as I’ve been inhaling second-hand pot smoke for the last two days in Boulder, CO, I think I have a legitimate excuse. Also, because it allows me to employ some perfect social science confirmation bias. The Economist this week includes a story about a pair of social psychologists who have attempted an empirical study of »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image The mind-numbing stupidity of the news of the day prompts me this morning to take a look back at Mel Tormé. I think Tormé was simply one of the all-time great American artists, too little known and vastly underappreciated. Permit me this salute in the interest of frolic and detour for a few hours and in the hope that I might interest you in deepening your familiarity with his work. »

Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most

Featured image In the interest of anger management therapy on a day that calls for it, I’m taking the liberty of reposting this tribute to a great song with an unusual story behind it. From Ella Fitzgerald to Fran Landesman to T.S. Eliot and Geoffrey Chaucer, here we go: There are a few torch songs that lament the coming of Spring. This time of year, if you’re tuned to one of the »

Stormy…Monday, that is

Featured image They don’t call her Stormy Monday, but come on. If she’s going to pick a stage name beginning with Stormy, I would like to express my preference for “Monday” rather than “Daniels” as the last name. “Stormy Monday” is one of the great blues songs of all time. Composed by Aaron Thibeaux “T-Bone” Walker, the song was released as a single b/w “I Know Your Wig Is Gone” (or vice »

Try to Remember

Featured image The composer Harvey Schmidt died last week in Houston at the age of 88. Richard Sandomir captures the drama of his professional life in the excellent New York Times obituary. Most notably, Schmidt wrote the music for The Fantasticks. I learn from Sandomir that Schmidt said he wrote the melody to “Try to Remember,” the signature song of the show, in a rehearsal hall in five minutes. Even though I »

Et Tu, Country Music?

Featured image If there is any place in America where one might have expected a conservative to feel at home, it would be country music. Or would have been, anyway, until the Country Music Association chased Mike Huckabee off the board of its charitable foundation: On Wednesday, the Country Music Association announced the newest members of the board of its charitable foundation: singer Chris Young and former Arkansas governor Mike Huckabee (R). »

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 »

Who You Callin’ Eccentric?

Featured image I really like Joseph Bottum (Jody to his friends), the literary editor of the Weekly Standard back at its launch, author of a terrific book (An Anxious Age) and nowadays head of the CLASSICS Institute at Dakota State University in his home state of South Dakota. (Which makes him some kind of 8th cousin of Hinderaker, doesn’t it?) He’s quite the polymath as well as an extraordinary dinner host, as »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I saw Loggins and Messina perform live for the first time in the summer of 1972 on the Boston Common. Kenny Loggins seemed too happy to convey the gravity I was looking for. He jumped enthusiastically around the stage. I resisted. I hated the lightweight songs like “Your Mama Don’t Dance.” I couldn’t wait for him/them to get off. I had come to hear John McLaughlin and the Mahavishnu Orchestra, »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I’ve wanted to see vocalist extraordinaire Tracy Nelson sing since I was a college freshman, and I came close. Having bought tickets to see her perform with her group Mother Earth in Boston, I waited patiently in the theater for her to take the stage. Some time after the appointed hour, Tracy came out to announce that the band’s instruments hadn’t made it from San Francisco. I was incredibly disappointed, »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Last year I compiled performances of the traditional African-American spiritual “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” in observance of the day. I chose videos featuring performances by the Fairfield Four, Hall and Oates, and Odetta. Having had a year to reflect, I stand by my choices. I’ve posted the link above in case you want to revisit them today. This year I thought I would pick a few secular pop »

Fanfare for Manny Laureano

Featured image Manny Laureano is the founder of the Minnesota Youth Symphonies and the principal trumpet in the Minnesota Orchestra. We got to know him when our number two daughter played under Manny’s direction for five or six years in the MYS. He is a gentleman and a scholar as well as an American patriot whose political views were altered by 9/11. Do you need to be a conservative to be disturbed »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Folk singer Tom Rush performed at the Dakota this past Thursday evening. He brought his young sidekick Matt Nakoa along to accompany him on piano and spell him briefly during the two sets he performed over more than two hours. My cousin DeeDee and our friend Mike Frost joined us for a trip down memory lane with the sempiternal Mr. Rush. We sat next to my old Faegre partner Jim »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image With the coming of Halloween on Tuesday, it may be an opportune moment for a diversion. If you listen to the right radio stations at this time of the year, you will hear a few songs associated with the holiday. Probably foremost among them is “I Put a Spell on You” by the artist known as Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. I’d like to take the liberty of revisiting the song this »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Paul Simon turned 76 this past Friday. Simon has taken his place in the roster of songwriters in the pantheon of the Cosmic American Music. I’ve been a fan for a long time. Simon of course made up one-half of Simon & Garfunkel, the duo that became famous overnight when producer Tom Wilson grafted electric guitar, bass and drums onto “The Sound of Silence” and rereleased it as a single. »