Posts Tagged ‘RIP’

RIP Chuck Berry

March 21, 2017

Another year, another rock legend passes away.  While not quite as shocking as some of the losses in 2016, this is a loss of one of true pioneers of what we know today as rock n’ roll. He’s got to be on the Mount Rushmore of Rock.  That doesn’t mean he was a saint. I’ll leave those less savory aspects of his life to the NY Post, though combining those things with his stage theatrics and style contributed to his other enduring legacy, the creation of the rock star.

You know all the hits the man put out so there’s not a lot more I can say about songs like Johnny B. Goode or Roll Over Beethoven.  I was listening to some live albums of his today and what struck me was how easy it is to draw the straight line from him to some of the Sixties’ biggest bands like the Beatles and Beach Boys.  Go listen to early records of those bands, particularly their live sessions and they were jocking Berry hardcore.  Several years ago I even did a post comparing Berry’s Back in the U.S.A. against the Beatles Back in the U.S.S.R.

The other thing that I noticed is how on those live recordings is a rawer and looser approach to both his singing and the music than in his studio recordings.  After hitting his height of fame, he started touring solo and would just pick up backing bands when he rolled into town, famously proclaiming that every band should already know how to play his songs.  Apparently that led to live performances that were a little too loose, but damn if that isn’t rock n’ roll, even punk.

One of my biggest concert regrets is never getting to see him live.  I thought I was going to get my chance in 2008 when he was scheduled to play the Virgin Fest festival in Maryland.  Sadly, he canceled for unknown reasons on the day of the show.  Luckily there’s plenty of live performances to find out there on the web of him to keep you happy.

And god bless him, his only number one song was “My Ding-A-Ling”.

I’ll leave you with a live version from a 1969 concert in Toronto of one of my personal favorites of his, Reelin’ and Rockin’.  There’s a boatload of different versions out there, but I think this one is pretty representative:



Death (of) Stars

November 30, 2016


Twofold purpose to this post.  First, this week there was an article on The Ringer today lamenting the current and pending future state of the star rating system in iTunes.  I join Clair McNear as one of the “dozens” of music nerds that uses iTunes’ five star system to rate each of your songs in your iTunes library.  The entire reason this blog exists is because I decided I wanted to write about songs I had rated 5 stars in my library.

Well, if you hadn’t noticed, in the iOS 10 release you can no longer see or assign stars to songs.  You can like or dislike a song.  This is something I probably should have been seeing and agree with McNear’s thoughts that this is a continuation of efforts to move people to Apple Music.  It’s binary nature makes it nice as a tool to feed more data to music matching algorithms, but it certainly is not useful in any meaningful way to those who want to easily visual their thoughts on particular songs, albums or artists.  I’m not an engineer or software designer, but it seems like Apple certainly could have incorporated the star system into its algorithms.  My only guess is that 2 choices is either to program than 5?

The silver lining in McNear’s article was a comment indicating that the star ratings were coming back to iOS in the next release, though it would be an option that would have to be turned on.  Hope that is the case!

The second reason for this post is that we recently had two more musician deaths.  One, Leonard Cohen died at the age of 82, having put out music as recently as last month and a career spanning six decades.  That’s an impressive career.  I’ll admit I’m not really qualified to say much about his music, he’s just a musician that got missed by me over the years.  To the extent that I have listened to him, I’ve almost always liked it even though it often seems to be more on the melancholy side.

The second recent death is Sharon Jones. This was hits a little harder for me. Since first seeing them in an early afternoon slot on a side stage at VirginFest in 2008(?), I have been telling people to check out both her albums and live shows. After going to enough shows you can usually tell when an act has got that ephemeral “it” and she and her band, the Dap Kings, owned the stage that day and had everyone dancing. I saw her at a NYE concert at the 930 Club which was a blast and once in LA after she had seemingly beaten the cancer she was fighting.

Like her label mate Charles Bradley, she has a irrepressible energy and a genuine appreciation for her fans that you can feel when you saw her live. She had the pipes to go with it, and a tight band that matched her energy.  I have all of her albums except 2005’s Naturally, and here are her songs I rate 5 stars if you want to start to dig into her music or get a nice playlist of some of solid soul/funk songs:

  • I Learned The Hard Way from I Learned The Hard Way
  • Money from I Learned The Hard Way (I’ve written about this song before)
  • I’ll Still be True from I Learned The Hard Way
  • Got A Thing On My Mind from Dap-Dippin’ With…
  • Pick It Up, Lay It In The Cut from Dap-Dippin’ With…
  • Now I See from Give The People What They Want
  • 100 Days, 100 Nights from 100 Days, 100 Nights
  • How Long Do I Have To Wait from Daptone 7 Inch Singles Collection, Vol. 2 (an instrumental but too damn good to ignore)

It will certainly be a bummer not to see “Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings” come up on a list of local shows and get excited.  But, I’ll have a lot of good memories and good music to remember her by.

RIP Prince

April 21, 2016

Man, 2016 has been a rough year for musical legends from rock (Bowie), hip hop (Phife Dawg), country (Merle Haggard) and now pop and funk with Prince’s death today. As I’m writing this, I’m watching Purple Rain on MTV, who decided to scrap its regular (and terrible) programming and run videos and movies from one of MTV’s early stars.  The videos and songs from albums like Purple Rain, Around the World in a Day, Parade, and Sign O’ The Times were part of the soundtrack of my life as a youngster where radio and MTV still were the main ways to consume music for a kid.

I still listen to those classic albums and I’ve picked up a few more of his albums over the years, but I couldn’t keep up with his prolific output.  In 38 years, he put out 39 albums!  Part of that was a rush of albums in the mid-90s to get out of his contractual obligations to Warner Brothers. He also penned songs that became famous for other artists, like I Feel For You by Chaka Khan and Nothing Compares to U by Sinead O’Connor.  Like David Bowie, he also was involved in film, acting in and directing several movies, most famously the aforementioned Purple Rain.

A few other numbers.  1 Academy Award.  7 Grammys (same as Madonna).  4 MTV Music Awards (when that meant something).  5 number 1 singles.  1 of only a handful of Super Bowl halftime performances that people remember. Gaudy numbers for sure that would make most musicians not named MJ jealous.

The man matched his stamina in recording songs with mammoth sets in live shows.  He was at the top of my list of “must-sees” live and I thought I’d have several more times as he’d been touring extensively over the past few years.  From the remembrances of people today who saw him live, the words “special”, “memorable” and “amazing” were common.    He could pull off doing a cover of Radiohead’s Creep like it was nothing (thanks for sharing that Bryan!):

The last thing I’d like to mention is that because he’s so associated with pop music and R&B that it sometimes gets lost that the man was a wizard with the guitar.  Another video that’s been going around today is the 2004 Rock n Roll Hall Fame performance of While My Guitar Gently Weeps, featuring some other dudes and Prince.

I’d like to think that guitar disappeared to wherever Prince ended up today, waiting for him to pick it up and keep doing his thing.

RIP Phife Dawg

March 27, 2016

It’s been a busy week, but wanted to put down a few words in memory of Malik Taylor, better known to fans of A Tribe Called Quest as Phife Dawg.  Or the Five Foot Assassin. Or spitter of rhymes like “i never half step, cuz I’m not a half stepper/drink a lotta soda so they call me Dr. Pepper” and “Hey yo Bo know this and Bo knows that / But Bo don’t know Jack / cause Bo can’t rap.”

ATCQ, probably more than any other hip hop group, drew me full bore into hip hop as a teenager.  As a “rock n roll” kid, my exposure to hip hop was quite limited and I was drawn to the more rock beats of Beastie Boys and some Run DMC.  The debut from De La Soul was too foreign for me at the time.  I missed ATCQ’s debut in 1990, but for reasons I can’t remember now I bought their second album The Low End Theory.  CDs were new to me as my family had only recently gotten a CD player, and I had only a handful.  So, by default the discs I had got a lot of airplay.

But this disc got the most airplay (even more than Nirvana’s Nevermind).  The beats, influenced by jazz, were amazing.  But, more than anything, it was the rhymes.  There was a youthful exuberance, wit, and humor (even when tackling serious subjects) that just speaks to a young person.  And Phife Dawg’s verses were all of those things.  For a nice list of some of his verses, look at this piece.  And a lot of those I can just hear him rapping them as soon as I saw them on the written page.

The wave of pieces and tributes that have come out in the past week is testament to Phife’s place in the canon of hip hop greats.  And for me personally, the fact that he, as an integral part of ATCQ, made me, and no doubt many others, love hip hop is a great legacy for any artist.  RIP.

RIP David Bowie

January 11, 2016

The passing of David Bowie has been all over the news today.  Not just music sites, but major media outlets, which is a testament to the global star that he was.  You can find plenty of good summaries today of his varied and multi-faceted career in music (both as a musician and producer), film and fashion.  I’ll just add a couple of thoughts I’ve had today.

His death today hasn’t hit me in quite the same way that Adam Yauch’s did because I haven’t spent as much time with Bowie’s music and so there’s not all the personal memories I have associated with his music.  Part of what I’ve felt today is regret for not having done so, which I know is a little bit weird given his music is and will still be available.  I don’t really know why I never did; growing up there was never a song of his I heard on the radio that I didn’t like and I still remember young me enjoying my cassette of Let’s Dance.  A few other of his albums have made their way into my library over the years; I think I just have taken for granted how good he was.  Probably for similar reasons, I never got to see him play live which is another regret.

I’ve also been feeling admiration for the man.  The fact that Bowie didn’t allow his illness to stop him from recording another album, Backstar, which was just released, as well as an off-Broadway musical. With over 20 albums to his credit and his illness, he certainly could have decided that he was done making music.  But, I have a feeling that thought never seriously crossed his mind.  I certainly plan to listen to Blackstar soon, which will now be listened to in a new context.

I’ve been enjoying seeing everyone listing their favorite songs and the breadth of the favorites is a microcosm of the variety of musical styles he dabbled in over the years.  My favorite song is from 1971’s Hunky Dory, Queen Bitch.  I wrote briefly about it five year ago here.  Often cited as a tribute to the Velvet Underground, I think he made a song that out-Velveted Lou Reed.  The guitar riff is an all-timer that still gives me chills and I love the conversational way Bowie sings this song (a nod to Lou Reed’s style for sure).  The ability to take a song that on its face seems so simple and generate such a powerful energy with it is an amazing thing.  While his body is gone, that energy will live on.