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Archive for the ‘Popular Music’ Category

jazz band“Long before we debated what real punk-rock was, what true hip-hop was, or what made indie-rock authentic, jazz heads grappled with what is and isn’t jazz music. Now, the debate is whether jazz is dying off or not.

“Not long ago Jae Sinnett, a jazz drummer, composer, educator and radio personality, told NPR that jazz is dying because people are falling out of love with it. Hip-hop, Sinnet says, stole jazz’s thunder. He also blamed club owners for removing pianos from their venues to save space over the years.

“Sinnet’s claims are not unfounded. The Wall Street Journal‘s Terry Teachout reported in August that the audience for America’s great art form was withering away, based on data in the latest survey of public participation in the arts. According to the report, America’s jazz audience is not only shrinking, it’s aging. Attendance at jazz performances has dropped 30% since 2002. The median age of concert patrons in 2008 was 46; in 1982 it was 29. . . .

“Teachout said the problem is that most Americans see jazz as a form of high art. Sinnet confirmed that ‘the masses don’t understand the music,’ largely because there are fewer places to hear it. Getting ‘these kids’ to ‘realise [jazz] is something worth their time is difficult because they don’t hear it on TV or MTV.’ The word ‘jazz’ itself has even become sandbagged with lofty associations (Time Out London goes so far as to call it the ‘J Bomb’).” (more @ Intelligent Life)

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Robert Johnson“The mystery surrounding bluesman Robert Johnson‘s life and death feeds the lingering fascination with his work.

“There’s the myth he sold his soul to the devil to create his haunting guitar intonations. There’s the dispute over where he died after his alleged poisoning by a jealous man in 1938. Three different markers claim to be the site of his demise.

“His birthplace, however, has been verified. The seminal bluesman came into the world in 1911 in a well-crafted home built by his stepfather in the Mississippi town of Hazlehurst.

“Now, 71 years after his death, local officials want to restore the home in hopes of drawing Johnson fans and their tourism dollars to Copiah County, about 100 miles from the Delta region that most bluesmen called home.” (cont’d @ Variety)

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D'Lugoff“Art D’Lugoff, who was widely regarded as the dean of New York nightclub impresarios and whose storied spot, the Village Gate, was for more than 30 years home to performers as celebrated, and diverse, as Duke Ellington, Allen Ginsberg and John Belushi, died on Wednesday in Manhattan. He was 85 and lived in the Riverdale section of the Bronx. . . .

“Opened in 1958, the Village Gate was on the corner of Bleecker and Thompson Streets. The cavernous basement space it occupied — the building’s upper floors were then a flophouse — had once been a laundry. . . .

“The club closed its doors in 1994, amid rising rents, a changing market for live music and the aftermath of some unsuccessful investments by Mr. D’Lugoff. It briefly reappeared on West 52nd Street in 1996 but sputtered out after less than a year. . . .

“The Gate may have lacked the cachet of the Village Vanguard, a more intimate West Village club, but it was a bright star in the city’s cultural firmament for decades. A young Woody Allen did stand-up comedy there. The playwright-to-be Sam Shepard bused tables there. A waiter named Dustin Hoffman was fired there for being so engrossed in the performances that he neglected his customers, though service was by all accounts never the club’s strength. Dozens of albums were recorded there, by musicians like Pete Seeger and Nina Simone and by comics like Dick Gregory.

“Though most often thought of as a jazz space — among the eminences heard there over the years were John Coltrane, Miles Davis and Thelonious Monk — the Gate offered nearly every type of performance imaginable. There were blues artists like B. B. King; soul singers like Aretha Franklin; rockers like Jimi Hendrix; comics like Mort Sahl and Richard Pryor; and Beat poets.” (more @ NY Times)

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SgtPepperLucy O'Donnell“Lucy O’Donnell, the woman who inspired the classic Beatles song Lucy In The Sky With Diamonds, has died aged 46.

“The song [was] featured on the ground-breaking 1967 album Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.

“John Lennon’s elder son Julian said it was inspired by a picture he drew of his classmate Lucy O’Donnell when they were at a nursery school in Weybridge, Surrey, in 1966.

“Julian said he took the picture home and showed it to his father, explaining, ‘It’s Lucy in the sky with diamonds.'” (more @ Daily Telegraph)

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wolcott-0908-01Pity the culture snob, as Kindles, iPods, and flash drives swallow up the visible markers of superior taste and intelligence. With the digitization of books, music, and movies, how will the highbrow distinguish him- or herself from the masses?” (James Wolcott, via Vanity Fair)

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Peter & Gordon“Gordon Waller, who formed half of Peter and Gordon, a successful pop duo that followed the Beatles to America as part of the British Invasion of the 1960s and that scored a No. 1 hit with ‘A World Without Love,’ died on Friday in Norwich, Conn. He was 64 and lived in Ledyard, Conn. . . .

“The song, a lilting, plaintive ballad, opens with the lyrics, ‘Please lock me away/And don’t allow the day/Here inside, where I hide with my loneliness/I don’t care what they say, I won’t stay/In a world without love.’

“Peter and Gordon toured the United States and appeared on ‘The Ed Sullivan Show‘ and other network variety shows — part of a wave of British groups that swept the United States, among them Chad and Jeremy, the Dave Clark Five and Herman’s Hermits.” (more @ NY Times)

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Tom WilkesTom Wilkes, an art director, photographer and designer whose posters for the Monterey Pop Festival and album covers for the Rolling Stones, Janis Joplin, Joe Cocker, George Harrison and others helped illustrate the age of rock ’n’ roll, died on June 28 in Pioneertown, Calif., in the high desert east of Los Angeles. He was 69. . . .

“For the Rolling Stones, he created a controversial cover for the album ‘Beggars Banquet,’ using a photograph of a toilet stall with the name of the band prominent on a wall filled with graffiti. The record label initially refused to release the cover, and replaced it with a fake invitation to a dinner. Mr. Wilkes’s version was released later.

“For Dave Mason’s ‘Alone Together,’ Mr. Wilkes photographed Mr. Mason wearing a top hat and a long-tailed coat against a backdrop of canyon rocks. For Joe Cocker’s ‘Mad Dogs & Englishmen,’ he placed a photograph of the long-haired Mr. Cocker flexing his right bicep within an illustration of a mirror frame. For George Harrison’s ‘All Things Must Pass,’ he depicted the former Beatle as if he were a woodsman in a fairy tale, surrounded by reclining trolls.

“Only hours before Janis Joplin’s fatal drug overdose in 1970, Mr. Wilkes photographed her for the album ‘Pearl,’ colorfully dressed and coiffed and looking remarkably relaxed and happy. He photographed Eric Clapton, sitting in a chair in a white suit, for his first solo album, and for Neil Young’s ‘Harvest,’ he created the typescript title over a red sun set against a wheat-colored background.” (more @ NY Times)

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12petr600.1“John Heneghan tugged a large shellac disc from its brown paper sleeve, placed it on a turntable and gently nudged a needle into place. Behind him, in the corner of his East Village apartment, sat 16 wooden crates, each filled with meticulously cataloged 78-r.p.m. records. The coarse, crackling voice of the blues singer Charley Patton, performing ‘High Water Everywhere Part 1,’ his startling account of the 1927 Mississippi River flood, rose from the speakers, raw and unruly. The record is worth about $8,000.

“Mr. Heneghan, 41, is part of a small but fervent community of record collectors who for decades have hunted, compulsively and competitively, for 78s: the extraordinarily fragile 10-inch discs, introduced near the turn of the 20th century and made predominantly of shellac, that contain one two- to three-minute performance per side. At a time when music fans expect songs to be delivered instantaneously (and often at zero cost) online, scouring the globe for a rare record — and paying thousands of dollars for it — might seem ludicrous.” (cont’d @ NY Times)

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Woodstock Poster“MICHAEL Lang and Joel Rosenman were two of the producers of the original Woodstock festival 40 summers ago. Lately, they have been trying to pull together an anniversary concert this year, they really have, but you have to understand, man, it’s complex. . . .

“While the partners’ most promising idea — a one-day mini-Woodstock in Prospect Park in Brooklyn this August — fizzled when they could not find sponsors, that doesn’t mean others haven’t coaxed a few more marketing miles from the creaky Woodstock bus.

“Dozens of projects are planned to commemorate the August 1969 concert, including an Ang Lee movie called ‘Taking Woodstock,’ a Heroes of Woodstock concert tour (with Jefferson Starship and Melanie) and at least 13 books, including one for children co-authored by a second cousin of Max Yasgur, the farmer who lent his land in Bethel, N.Y., for the original event. Target is set to run a ‘Summer of Love’ promotion featuring licensed Woodstock merchandise, like beach towels with the symbolic white dove perched on a guitar neck.

Woodstock Founders“But Mr. Lang, 64, and Mr. Rosenman, 66, who, with the family of another original partner, control Woodstock Ventures, which owns the trademarks, have so far failed to deliver a solid plan to commemorate their own historic achievement. Time, it would seem, has run out for pulling together the kind of anniversary blowouts the partners were behind in upstate New York in 1994 and 1999 — the former a three-day, mud-slathered event that attracted 300,000 fans, the latter chiefly remembered for a riot.” (more @ NY Times)

Related: Woodstock 1969-2009 (Thanks, Debbi)

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roy-rogersAn anonymous bidder acquired the ‘King of Cowboys’ Roy Rogers‘ OM-45 Deluxe Martin guitar at Christie’s on April 3. One of the rarest and considered among many collectors the most coveted Martin guitar, the 1930 instrument was put up for auction by the Roy Rogers-Dale Evans Museum in Branson, Mo., and attracted a winning bid of $554,500.” (cont’d @ Antiques & the Arts)

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hendrix“Eric Segalstad has spent the past few years researching a group of musicians who have been dubbed ‘The 27s’ — rockers who died at that age, either through tragedy, misadventure or excess. The club includes Kurt Cobain, who took his own life 15 years ago Sunday.

“The king of grunge is just one of the more than 20 musicians featured in Segalstad’s book, The 27s: The Greatest Myth of Rock & Roll. It includes artists across all genres — from Jim Morrison to Robert Johnson.

“So, what is it about the number 27?

“‘It’s a strange number,’ Segalstad tells NPR’s Robert Smith. ‘It also happens right around that time in your life where most people go from the stage of youth to the stage of maturity.'” (more @ NPR)

An excerpt from Segalstad’s book can be found here.

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bozo“Alan W. Livingston, an entertainment executive who had significant roles in bringing Bozo, the Beatles and ‘Bonanza‘ to American audiences, died Friday at home in Beverly Hills. He was 91. . . .

“In 1963, Mr. Livingston was president of Capitol Records, which had declined three different times to release singles by a British band, then little known in the United States, called the Beatles. After another Capitol executive turned down a fourth opportunity, this one to release the song ‘I Want to Hold Your Hand,’ a telephone call placed to Mr. Livingston probably changed rock ‘n roll history. . . .

“Capitol released the single and the next year brought the Beatles to the United States, unleashing the tsunami of adoration that came to be known as Beatlemania.” (more @ NY Times)

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beatles“A university in Liverpool has launched a Master of Arts degree in The Beatles, the city’s most famous sons, and called the qualification the first of its kind.

Liverpool Hope University says on its website that the course entitled ‘The Beatles, Popular Music and Society’ consists of four 12-week taught modules and a dissertation.” (via Reuters)

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record-market“So maybe it shouldn’t come as a shock that now, as we scarily slump our way into an economic downturn destined to put Carter/Reagan-era stagflation to shame, music that came out around the Great Depression is feeling curiously current. In 1998, the venerable reissue label Yazoo Records compiled 46 songs of bank failure, credit collapse, rent inflation, joblessness, and panhandling, on a two-volume set entitled Hard Times Come Again No More; five years later, the Sony/RCA imprint Bluebird Jazz gathered up 24 such performances on a disc called Poor Man’s Heaven. When these collections were released, they didn’t receive much media attention, maybe partly because their themes still seemed distant. But since then, history has flipped, and now, it’s impossible to hear these old 78s without thinking about what you read in the business section this morning.” (via GOOD)

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“Some insightful, primarily web-based record labels have found success in the rediscovering and re-issuing of lost vinyl classics, and in the process, they’ve resurrected some of the finest music ever forgotten. Forgoing major label methodology—mediocre “best of” anthologies and remastered big hits—these labels have instead done what true vinyl junkies have been doing for decades: They’ve sought out the unknowns, those songs and artists that somehow got caught and lost in the cracks.” (via GOOD)

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dewey-martin“Dewey Martin, drummer for the short-lived but long-resonating rock band Buffalo Springfield whose career after the group split never ignited like those of his former band mates Neil Young and Stephen Stills, has died. He was 68.”

(via LA Times)

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