“He’s had one of the most perfect lives of anybody I know.” That was filmmaker Jim Brown’s response when asked why he profiled Pete Seeger in a PBS “American Masters” documentary. Few would disagree with Brown’s assessment. In a career that’s spanned over 70 years, the 94-year-old Seeger has embodied the idealism that once defined [...]
It absorbs you for the first few minutes you see him. Framed by a thick shock of long red hair and a thatch of beard, Willie Nelson’s face is that of a lifelong storyteller. More specifically, it’s the face of a life lived long … and hard. It is weathered, tracked with troubles and adventures [...]
Over four decades and 25 albums, Richie Havens has used his music to convey messages of brotherhood and personal freedom. Cutting his teeth on the fertile ’60s music scene of Greenwich Village and interpreting tunes by Bob Dylan, he gained even more notoriety after opening the Woodstock festival on August 15, 1969. The festival was [...]
In 1939 celebrated African-American contralto Marian Anderson was denied rental of Washington, D.C.’s Constitutional Hall because of a segregation clause that only allowed concerts by white artists. Once this news circulated there was public outrage over the discrimination, and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt—among thousands of others—resigned membership from the Daughters of the American Revolution, which [...]
The countless accomplishments spread across Phil Ramone’s five decades in the world of music production all spring from one vital principle: He wanted you to hear what he heard. That notion guided him through career-defining collaborations with Paul Simon and Billy Joel, and was his aim when recording the voices of Frank Sinatra, Bob Dylan, [...]
Forty-eight years ago this month Herb Alpert’s landmark Whipped Cream & Other Delights was released and went on to sell over six million copies—and its playful erotic cover with the whipped cream-covered Dolores Erickson launched as many male fantasies. A fashion model from the age of 14, Erickson appeared in magazines such as Vogue and [...]
As the definitive snapshot of ‘60s pop culture, artist Peter Blake’s Sgt. Pepper cover was unlike anything the world had ever seen—and almost half a century later it’s still iconic Beatles.
From the moment she and older sister Ann saw the Beatles performing on The Ed Sullivan Show in 1964, Nancy Wilson knew the guitar was the key to her future. Responding to her pleas, her parents gave her a three-quarter-size Stella. “It had a pipe-shaped neck and a movable bridge—which was good, because as it [...]
Gazing up at the tall, lean, balding man with the angular planes of his face as familiar as those of a family member, it’s almost impossible to equate this James Taylor with the long-haired ’70s pop icon who lived a very public life of hits, misses, marriages, divorces, addiction, recovery, births, deaths, depression and celebration. [...]
Seventy years ago today George Harrison, the youngest of the four Beatles, was born in Liverpool, England. As a boy, George became friends with Paul McCartney, an older student at the Liverpool Institute who was also an aspiring guitarist. It was then that McCartney introduced him to his Quarrymen bandmate, John Lennon, and—after much persistence [...]
In Feb. 1967 the Beatles released a double-A side single of “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane” which opened the doors to the wonders of Sgt. Pepper. Here’s the story.
A little James Taylor to celebrate Valentine’s Day: “Beneath the tide the fishes glide, fin to fin and side to side. For fishy love has now begun, fishy love, finny fun.”
Ah, Fat Tuesday. A day of indulgence on every level. Celebrated the day before Ash Wednesday, it’s the last big blowout before Lent kicks in and fasting begins. And of course, Mardi Gras and music go together like floats and parades, jazz bands and beads, purple, gold and green. Songs get stirred up in the [...]
“Every time I put the radio on, it’s ‘Oh My Lord,’” John Lennon said in December 1970. “I’m beginning to think there must be a God.” Lennon wasn’t alone. As his former bandmate George Harrison’s debut single blanketed the airwaves, a struggling New York publisher, Bright Tunes Music, must’ve heard divine intervention in the melody [...]
Born Feb. 9, 1942, in Brooklyn, N.Y., Carole King (née Klein) started playing piano when she was four years old. By high school, she was writing her first songs and leading a vocal quartet called the Co-Sines. At 17, she was singing demos for publishers along with her childhood friend Paul Simon. This led to [...]
Here is the story—in Graham Nash’s own words—behind the classic “Our House,” one of the sweetest love songs ever written while he was living with Joni Mitchell.
On the morning of Dec. 18, 1966, John Lennon read an article about Tara Browne, a 21-year old millionaire playboy—and friend of Paul McCartney’s—who had been killed in a car crash in London. Lennon started to tinker with chords, singing lines about “the lucky man who made the grade” who “blew his mind out in [...]
David Bowie shares the stories behind his songs “Space Oddity,” “Heroes,” “Rebel Rebel” and “Fame” in this interview with Performing Songwriter.
My takeaway from the music of 2012? Indies rule. In a major way. Great music and original sounds are what happen when the confines of the corporate world fall away, and last year was a shining example of that. From artists who have lived their creative lives in the independent realm, to major label artists [...]
“I’m one of the laziest people I know,” declares Stephen Stills. “But when I catch on fire, I get obsessive.” That obsessiveness shows up in his intense passion and restless curiosity about the creation of music, helping sustain a career that now stretches back more than four decades. The Texas native made his name in [...]
When Francis Albert Sinatra was born on December 12, 1915, the world was given the greatest friend a song and songwriter would ever know. Starting out as a saloon singer in musty little dives (he carried his own P.A. system), he eventually got work as a band singer, first with The Hoboken Four then with [...]
On December 9, 1965, A Charlie Brown Christmas first aired on CBS, preempting The Munsters and following the Gilligan’s Island episode “Don’t Bug the Mosquitos.” It became one of the network’s most successful specials, airing more times than even The Wizard of Oz, and has been honored with both an Emmy and Peabody Award. The [...]
Tom Waits is as much of a character as any of the hundreds of freaks, carnies and people waiting for salvation at the bottom of a glass that he creates in his songs. It was in 1973 that Waits launched his whiskey-soaked persona with the release of Closing Time, an album of bluesy ballads of [...]
Dancing bears, racist rednecks, junkies in love, prodigal sons, chauvinists, homophobes, theologians, politicians, little criminals, good old boys and God. These are just of few of the fascinating characters in Randy Newman’s richly populated musical world. His songs can be frightening or funny, absurd or heartfelt. But his characters always present some flash of surprising, [...]