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Truth To Power

the strong do as they wish, and the weak suffer as they must

Archive for the 'Tunes' Category

Where’s the CNN funeral for Michael Davis?

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Michael Davis, MC5 bassist, dies at 68

Michael Davis, the bassist of influential late 1960s rock band MC5, has died of liver failure, his wife said Saturday. He was 68.

Kick out the jams, motherfucker!

Whitney Houston never said such a meaningful phrase in her life. She never challenged authority. She never once used her gift for anything beyond a paycheck.

Which is why her grotesque funeral was broadcast live on CNN, and most of you are wondering who in the hell MC5 were. The “Motor City 5” were a groudbreaking punk band, before we had such a phrase. Their debut album, recorded live at Detroit’s Grande Ballroom in 1969, is a legendary, influential blast to your frontal lobes that set the stage for the punk rock of the late ’70s.

Whitney Houston made songs that your mother enjoys. She happened to do so in the early days of MTV, which accounts for why her death seems so natural running non-stop on cable news and the internet. I was in the Atlanta airport, forced to listen to CNN’s coverage of her memorial service, and half-way watched as Jesse Jackson and others got their mugs in front of the camera, all crocodile tears over “our loss”.

Funny, I don’t lose anything when an over-rated pop singer gets to The Dead Pool. Michael Davis was one of the last of the MC5 remaining. Rob Tyner, vocalist, died in 1991, Fred “Sonic” Smith, guitarist and husband of Patti Smith, passed away in 1994. Don’t remember any big gala on those sad days, although the legacy of what the MC5 gave us grows stronger every year, while Houston’s claim to fame is a pretty, saccharin voice bleating out covers of Dolly Parton songs. I’m pretty sure Kevin Costner didn’t speak at Michael Davis’s funeral, in fact, I’m pretty sure he wouldn’t know the MC5 from the Stooges.

The MC5 made their statement in a time when you could be arrested and sent to jail for a joint, as their manager John Sinclair learned. The band played protests at the Democratic National Convention in 1968, drawing the watchful eye of the FBI. Their refusal to edit “kick out the jams, motherfucker” got them dropped from their record label. The MC5 stood for something; they actually walked the walk and paid for it. Whitney Houston squandered her talents singing future karaoke favorites- no one marches in protest singing “I Will Always Love You”. In fact, along with other celebrity deaths such as Amy Winehouse, nobody is going to remember Whitney Houston in ten years. Because she’s a product- nothing more, nothing less. Sure, she had a pretty voice, but I suspect there are 1000 equally pretty voices working at Waffle Houses across this country, and maybe we’ll hear them, or not. But in the end, who cares?

Because of people like Michael Davis and the MC5, our country evolved. Their no holds barred take on rock and roll, their protests on the Vietnam war and the entrenched power structure of the Nixon era, that meant something. There isn’t a single Occupy camper that isn’t in their debt, even though they might not know it, because what is the “99%” movement but “Kick Out The Jams, Motherfucker” writ large.

So Michael Davis dies, and outside of a few diehard fans, nobody cares. Whitney Houston dies, and Sony and Apple jacks the price of her albums to cash in. Because in the end, thats all she was, a product. And nobody marches to a product.

R.E.M. and a better time

Wednesday, September 28th, 2011

R.E.M. had been a part of my musical world since I graduated high school in 1980, yet their demise was clearly a non-event in my life. I hadn’t listened to any new music by them in years; while I still enjoy Chronic Town and Murmur, after that they seemed to be more obvious, less mysterious. But their breakup made me realize something about myself, and the world around me.

They came along when I, and most of my generation were shrugging off the ways of adolescence and the enforced conformity of high school and going out in the world. No longer would we be riding in the same cars to the same parties with the same friends listening to either Pink Floyd’s The Wall or the vapid Hotel California by The Eagles. For us, facing life on our own via college or work, meant discovery and the shock of something new. To some this was a heady sensation. I remember discovering a new band every week, from punk to blues to country. I recall hearing Texas Flood by Stevie Ray Vaughan and early Jason and the Nashville Scorchers during one month in the early ’80s- and remember, at the time, no one played the blues and certainly didn’t combine Hank Williams and AC/DC the way the Scorchers did. It was grand. About the same time I drove my roommates crazy with a pair of singles- “Too Drunk To Fuck” by the Dead Kennedys and “Love Will Tear Us Apart” by Joy Division. To most of them music was a mindless supplement to whatever else you were doing, and it certainly wasn’t supposed to be as grating and angry as punk.

For those people, R.E.M. was perfect. While they didn’t sound like what you had just spend five years in high school listening to, you could still dance to them, and since Michael Stipe’s lyrics were impossible to fathom, you could safely ignore them. Couldn’t do that listening to Johnny Rotten’s acerbic “Anarchy in the UK”- I am an anti-Christ– or Black Flag. But for 20-somethings in a brave new world- even if that meant the community college down the road- R.E.M. was the soundtrack. And by the reaction that their breakup garnered in the online community, you’d think the last 25 years didn’t happen and “Don’t Go Back To Rockville” had just been released.

When I read “R.E.M.: America’s Greatest Band” in The Atlantic, it gave me pause. To me, R.E.M. had long since faded into the past, kept on a shelf along with Led Zeppelin or Aerosmith; i.e., music that once meant something to me at one time, but that time was past. I wasn’t the same person, and I had no desire to be that person again. But for some, R.E.M. reminds them of a charmed time in their lives when they were young, with the world in front of them. And not the world of mindless work and foreclosed houses, but rather a perhaps the last time you thought of yourself as able to do anything, the skies the limit. After a few margaritas and a spin of “Stand!” these people are able to escape back to a more hopeful time, free of the challenges of adulthood. Some people on Facebook remarked that the breakup meant “The 80s just died“- and for them, it probably has. To spend your life looking backwards at what used to be seems to me a life just waiting out the years, with no joy left to anticipate. And to me, that is inexcusable. I relish the thought of a lifetime yet to come, with new books to read, new musical journeys to follow. It’s what makes life worth doing. I don’t chide my friends for their nostalgia, but I don’t look at life that way. To each his own, I suppose.

And anyway, R.E.M. as America’s greatest band? Good grief, that’s silly. That would be Pere Ubu.

Keith Richards Life

Friday, October 29th, 2010

Yeah, I’m a big fanboy for things Keef, but Life, his autobiography, is one of the best rock books I’ve ever encountered. Full review to come!


“Girl from Ipanema” writer gets his due

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

Brazil honors ‘Girl from Ipanema’ writer

Brazil has posthumously given the rank of ambassador to a poet and songwriter who penned the famous Bossa Nova anthem, “Girl from Ipanema.”

The Foreign Ministry bestowed the honor on Vinicius de Moraes, a one-time diplomat who was the poetic force behind Bossa Nova in the 1960s.

What a landmark song. Here’s a nice version with Stan Getz and Astrud Gilberto:

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RIP Richie Hayward

Friday, August 13th, 2010

Little Feat’s Richie Hayward: 1946-2010

Little Feat co-founder Richie Hayward has died after a long battle with liver disease. He was 64.

Hayward played drums in the seminal band throughout its entire career. In the late 1960s, he played with original Little Feat frontman Lowell George in the band’s precursor The Factory. George and Hayward co-founded Little Feat in 1969 along with Bill Payne and Roy Estrada. They established a distinctive style of improvisational southern rock that mixed elements of blues, rock boogie and funk. Little Feat went on hiatus in 1978 and officially parted ways a year later after George died of an accidental overdose. Hayward helped reform the band in 1987 and continued to play with the group until last year when health concerns prevented him touring. Hayward lived in British Columbia until his death.

What a great band, and such an incredible talent. I reviewed their boxset Hotcakes and Outtakes here.

RIP Busi Mhlongo

Thursday, June 17th, 2010

Busi Mhlongo, queen of modern Zulu music, dead at 62

KwaZulu-Natal arts and culture minister Weziwe Thusi said she had visited Mhlongo a few weeks ago and “hoped and prayed” she would pull through.

She was 62.

“I am really sad but she is in a better place now,” said Thusi.

“Mhlongo will be remembered for her historic contribution to music in South Africa and abroad. Her sharing the stage with international greats including Hugh Masekela, Dorothy Masuka, Salif
Keita, Manu Dibango and many others speaks to her own greatness,” he said in a statement.

She achieved the feat of being the first female Maskandi artist to be recorded and left a legacy South Africa could be proud of.

Costello says no to Israel

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Elvis Costello cancels Israel concerts

Singer Elvis Costello has pulled out of two gigs in Israel due to concerns over the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

The musician, who was due to perform later this summer, said: “Having your name added to a concert schedule may be interpreted as a political act.”

Costello said his decision was “a matter of instinct and conscience” and “too grave and complex” to be addressed at a concert.

In a statement on his website, Costello explained: “I must believe that the audience for the coming concerts would have contained many people who question the policies of their government on settlement and deplore conditions that visit intimidation, humiliation or much worse on Palestinian civilians in the name of national security.

“I am also keenly aware of the sensitivity of these themes in the wake of so many despicable acts of violence perpetrated in the name of liberation.”

Hank Jones RIP

Wednesday, May 19th, 2010

Bad week for musicians…

Hank Jones Dead: Grammy-Winning Pianist Dies At 91

NEW YORK — Jazz pianist and composer Hank Jones, whose 70-year career included a stint as Ella Fitzgerald’s pianist and Marilyn Monroe’s accompanist when she sang “Happy Birthday” to President John F. Kennedy, has died, his manager said Monday. He was 91.

A tireless musician who performed his blend of swing and bebop until the end, Jones came from a family of jazz musicians who included brothers Thad, a trumpeter, composer and arranger, and Elvin, a drummer known for the polyrhythmic beat that propelled John Coltrane’s classic quartet.

RIP Ronnie James Dio

Monday, May 17th, 2010

Ronnie James Dio dies at 67; legendary heavy metal singer

Ronnie James Dio, a legendary heavy metal singer who replaced Ozzy Osbourne in Black Sabbath and also was lead singer for the bands Rainbow and Dio, has died. He was 67.

Dio died Sunday, according to a statement on his website by Wendy Dio, his wife and manager. Maureen O’Connor, a Los Angeles publicist, said Dio died in Los Angeles. No cause was given, but Dio had said last summer that he was suffering from stomach cancer.

Saw Dio with Rainbow in 1977, at a show that ended up on the Final Vinyl lp. What a performer.

Here he is with Ritchie Blackmore and Rainbow, 1977:

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Big Chief

Friday, April 30th, 2010

Just watched episode 2 of “Treme”, so how’s about a bit of New Orleans?

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The Meters, Dr. John, Earl King and Fess, Professor Longhair.