To say the news of Allen Toussaint’s death came as a shock is an understatement. Ever dapperly dressed and forever modest, he appeared to be the picture of health for a 77-year-old, still performing regularly until felled by a heart attack after a well-received show in Spain. Known more as a producer, songwriter, arranger, and pianist than a singer, Toussaint was born in Gert Town, New Orleans, on January 18, 1938, and died in a Madrid hotel on November 10, 2015.
I first met him in 1973 when I was conducting interviews for my book, Walking to New Orleans, republished in the U.S. as Rhythm and Blues in New Orleans. With partner Marshall Sehorn, Toussaint was in the process of opening the Sea-Saint Recording Studio at Clematis Avenue in the Gentilly area of New Orleans. He was never outward-going and it’s fair to say that if it hadn’t been for Sehorn, with his promotional acumen, I would never have landed the interview. To my patent surprise, even shock, Toussaint seemed to shrug aside his past, being mainly interested in the present and future. Subsequent events proved him right because for all his early success there were ...
John Lennon called "In My Life" his "first real major piece of work."
The song started as a long poem about the bus ride from his Aunt Mimi's house in suburban Liverpool, where he grew up, to the dockside area of the Mersey River. The poem listed Lennon's beloved childhood haunts, including one locale familiar to Beatles fans: Penny Lane.
"The words were almost irrelevant. 'In My Life' started out as a bus journey from my house at 250 Menlove Avenue to town, mentioning every place I could remember," said Lennon in a 1980 interview. "I wrote it all down and it was ridiculous... it was the most boring sort of 'What I Did On My Holiday's Bus Trip' song, and it wasn't working at all. But then I laid back and these lyrics started coming to me about the places I remember. Paul helped with the middle-eight."
And though Lennon variously referred to "In My Life" as his, the elegiac reverie on life and love, a poignant reflection on what matters most, the essential fragile translucence of things caught in a Beatle melody was so beautiful that neither John nor Paul would ever agree on ...
Smokey Robinson is celebrated for two great and distinct contributions: his work as producer/composer and as a performer. Put these two elements together and you have the Smokey Robinson aesthetic, one of the most lyrical in the history of American pop music.
So, what is the Smokey Robinson aesthetic?
Its salient characteristics are sensitivity, sweetness and poetic invention. Both as writer and singer, Smokey is an unapologetic romantic, a man who trades in extravagant emotional expression. The signature Smokey sound carries a mesmerizing mixture of heartache and hunger, sensual pleasure and erotic longing.
Since he burst on the scene with his Miracles in 1957, he has elevated the art of R&B with a high soaring tenor that is an instrument of rare flexibility, a delicate reed of quiet beauty.
Looking back at his pre-teen work, Michael Jackson said: “Smokey was one of the artists who influenced me most deeply. I studied his singing group, the Miracles ...
On October 17, 2015, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland opens its latest exhibit, Graham Nash: Touching the Flame. Pieces from Nash's heroes and inspirations – the Beatles, the Everly Brothers, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Buddy Holly and Duane Allman – and treasures from his time with the Hollies and Crosby, Stills and Nash come to life as the two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee reflects on the visceral and profound impact of the music and world events on him and those around him.
In this interview, Graham Nash shares the story of how he left the Hollies and followed his heart to form CSN.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: What were your feelings were about The Hollies and how you had changed over the years? What informed your decision to leave?
Graham Nash:One of them was that I didn't feel that they trusted my need for direction. Every Hollie single that we had made, apart from the first couple made it to the top 10, and that's where we were used to being. We'd bring out a single, it would go into the top 10, that's what we ...
The New York Times once declared that Darlene Love's “thunderbolt voice is as embedded in the history of rock and roll as Eric Clapton's guitar or Bob Dylan's lyrics.” A bold statement, but fitting for popular music's greatest sessions vocalist and backup singer – and among the most recognizable voices in rock and roll history. “I never pushed to be a star,” she told writer David Hinckley in 1992. “I didn’t want to. I had my home, my family. Session work let you do the music and leave.”
Among rock cognoscenti, Love is best known for “He’s a Rebel,” a song credited to the Crystals that was in actuality sung by Love and her vocal group, the Blossoms. That's a story unto itself. With the Blossoms, Love sang with the likes of Sam Cooke, Elvis Presley, the Beach Boys, Jan and Dean, the Mamas and the Papas, Duane Eddy, Sonny and Cher, Frank Sinatra, Tom Jones, Luther Vandross and Dionne Warwick. And that is just the tip of the iceberg.
“One time I had to make a list of all the people I’ve worked for,” Love recalled in a 1985 Goldmine interview. “The ...
In 2010, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame honored Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew as part of its annual Music Masters series saluting pioneering figures from the past half century. Among the many who took part in that weeklong celebration, in Cleveland, was Julian Bond.
An influential Civil Rights leader, politician, writer and professor, Bond, who passed away on August 15, 2015, provided among the more poignant remarks at the tribute to Domino and Bartholomew. He spoke of rock and roll's power to unite and the courage it required to deliver.
This is the full transcript of Bond's speech from the November 13, 2010 Music Masters tribute to Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew, including a poem he wrote when he was in college and published in first Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee newsletter.
"While [Fats Domino and Dave Bartholomew] records were storming the charts, major challenges were being mounted against the forces of racial segregation and discrimination — the segregation that kept black and white rock and roll fans from listening to music or dancing together, that kept Domino and Bartholomew and their bands from restaurants and hotels on the road, the segregation that kept African Americans from voting ...
On August 15, 1965, the Beatles performed before a crowd of more than 55,000 ecstatic fans in New York City’s Shea Stadium. That’s a lot of screaming.
The legendary performance was the first ever in a major U.S. stadium, and is known as perhaps the most famous Beatles’ concert – well, maybe that infamously cut short rooftop gig ranks higher.
The 1964 Ludwig drum kit played by Ringo Starr during that Shea Stadium gig was also used on six Beatles’ albums, as well as during their last official concert appearance in San Francisco’s Candlestick Park in 1966. Can you think of a more iconic drum set?
John Lennon’s 1964 Rickenbacker electric guitar used during the performance was one of two guitars made especially for Lennon while visiting America for the first time in 1964, and used on the Beatles second-ever Ed Sullivan appearance. It soon became his primary instrument, and still has the set list from Shea Stadium taped to the side.
Hard to believe that 2015 marks the 50th anniversary of that Beatles’ milestone – and that Beatlemania would still be alive and well! Both the Ringo Starr Ludwig drumkit and the John Lennon Rickenbacker ...
Rolling Stones’ guitarist Keith Richards recently opened up about the genre he calls “the original music form in the world.”
“I recognize power when I see it,” Richards told Esquire magazine in an interview published in August 2015. “There's something incredibly powerful about the blues — the raw blues. There isn't a piece of popular music probably that you've heard that hasn't in some weird way been influenced by the blues.”
Richards also shared that he’s been lucky enough to meet and perform with all of his blues-based heroes. “All of these guys that I used to listen to – the amazing thing is that even at my age, I'm living in a place where I know all of my heroes, warts and all, and still love 'em,” said Richards. “Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis — man, if that is not 'Mr. Rock 'n' Roll,' I don't know who is. Little Richard; I love those cats.” Chuck Berry, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard were all part of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's first class in 1986.
“It’s very difficult for me to talk about Chuck Berry, because I lifted every lick ...