As part of the Rock Hall's Celebration Day, the Museum will screen the Bill Withers documentary, Still Bill, at 5pm ET. In this post, the film's co-director (along with Damani Baker) Alex Vlack, shares how he found Bill Withers, his hero, and transformed the experience into a movie.
Everyone who's ever turned on the radio, walked into a restaurant, been in a bar, lived in this country for more than a few days knows Bill Withers' biggest songs. But most people don't know his name, and most people don't know most of his music.
I didn't really discover it until college, when my friend Jon Fine turned me on to Still Bill, Withers' second record. We listened to it on cassette over and over and over. I'd grown up on blues and jazz and rock, and thought I was pretty well-versed – when you're 18 years old, you can think of yourself as a lot of things! – so how could an album like this have slipped past me? It was, simply, the best album I'd ever heard. Fine and I started a band, and one of the first things we did was ...
“Ain’t No Sunshine”
The song that set the framework for the Bill Withers sound with its sparse arrangement, direct, no-frills lyric and in-the-pocket groove.
“I was one of those kids who was smaller than all the girls. I stuttered. I had asthma. So I had some issues," recalled Bill Withers. "My grandmother was that one person who would always say that I was going to be OK. … When you're a weaker kid, whoever champions you becomes very important to you."
“Who Is He(and What is He to You?)”
Just the right undertone of menace and an unrelenting repeated funky riff drives this testament of a jealous lover home.
“Lean on Me”
Bill Withers’ first Number One hit took us to church. "It's a rural song that translates across demographic lines,” Withers recalled. “My experience was, there were people who were that way. They would help you out. Even in the rural South, there were people who would help you out even across racial lines. Somebody who would probably stand in a mob that might lynch you if you pissed them off, would help you out in another way."
“I Can’t Write ...
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrates gospel music every day at the Museum as one of the essential musical roots of rock and roll. Three gospel performers who have had a profound influence on popular music have been inducted into the Hall of Fame: Mahalia Jackson (pictured above), whose fervent contralto was one of the great voices of the 20th century; The Soul Stirrers, who brought gospel out of local churches to a national audience, setting the pace for gospel and pop vocal groups; and The Staple Singers, who landed gospel on the pop charts with songs that advanced the Civil Rights movement.
Gospel echoes throughout the history of rock and roll. We hear it in the early vocal groups like The Drifters and this year’s inductees The “5” Royales (who started out in North Carolina singing gospel as the Royal Sons Quartet); the Motown sounds of the Temptations, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas; the soul music of legends like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Darlene Love, Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Wilson Pickett; and in the message and spirit of The Isley Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire in the 70s; as well as the extraordinary music ...
This week, millions of music fans, pop culture mavens and dedicated viewers tuned in to the star-studded 2015 Grammy Awards. Over the course of more than three hours, the ceremony offered up a whirlwind of performances – nearly two dozen, in fact – and there were a handful of awards presented, some to Kanye West's chagrin. Throughout it all, there were many Rock and Roll Hall of Fame connections. Did you catch them all?
AC/DC Goes Down a "Highway to Hell"
Although Aussie rockers AC/DC have taken their unmistakable, hard-charging, loud and fiery brand of music-making around the world for more than 40 years, it was the 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees first time on the Grammy stage. The group opened with new track "Rock or Bust" before segueing into classic rock anthem "Highway to Hell" – the same song they played at their 2003 Hall of Fame Induction. Other familiar nods? Angus Young's signature school boy outfit, one of which is also featured in the Rock Hall's heavy metal exhibit alongside the handwritten lyrics to "Highway to Hell."
Hozier and Annie Lennox cover Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You"
Irish songwriter ...
Last night, two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Paul McCartney appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he talked about former Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr. This week Starr learned he was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the 2015 class.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Starr told the story of how McCartney called to break the big news. "He said he'd been talking to Dave Grohl and other people and they were stunned that I wasn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he needed something to do that night, and he's going to give me the award," said Starr of McCartney's phone call. "I didn't know that George [Harrison] and John [Lennon] were in it," Starr added. "I'm not keeping up with it all the time. We'll have a very nice evening and it'll be my pleasure to receive the award… And it means, finally, the four of us are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame even though we were the biggest pop group in the land."
Although she was already queen of the clubs, Madonna didn't swim in the mainstream until "Like A Virgin," the 1984 title track from her second album, became her first million-selling single. Produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers in a bouncy, vaguely retro girl-group mode, the song established one of Madonna's most enduring personas: the good bad girl capable of being "touched for the very first time."
Though Madonna was 26, this witty send-up of innocence and experience made the former cult star a teen idol: the song's video featured Madonna flouncing around Venice in bustier, lace, multiple crosses and a wedding dress that inspired her first legions of wannabes. Along with its equally chirpy follow-up, "Material Girl," "Like A Virgin" might not present Madonna at her vocal best. It did, however, mark her early on as an exceptionally shrewd performer who created and manipulated controversy, changed her image to suit the moment, and prospered through a combination of talent and will.
Madonna, a 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, is among the many artists from rock and roll history featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Ahmet Ertegun Main Exhibition ...
"Bye Bye Love" galvanized not one but three creative teams. Don and Phil Everly were floundering prior to this first hit single. "Bye Bye Love" was also the biggest hit to date for husband-and- wife songwriters Boudleaux and Felice Bryant. Last but not least, the pairing of the Bryants with the Everlys yielded a string of rock and roll pearls. The record's enormous success-Top Five on Billboard's country, pop, and R&B charts-followed a series of hurdles. Cadence, the Everlys' label, had rejected them once before but was giving the brothers a second chance. The Bryants' tune had been rejected by numerous artists before the Everlys got hold of it. Perhaps Don Everly's own guitar introduction made a difference; the brothers' close vocal harmonies were certainly new to a non-country audience. Not even a cover version by Webb Pierce-at that time the kiss of death for a country song's original recording-could slow the Everlys' million sales, as "Bye Bye Love" leapt across musical borderlines. The brothers went from tent shows to The Ed Sullivan Show; the era's top vocal duo was off and running.
The Everlys' third hit was their first ballad single. If their ...
Daryl Hall and John Oates created an original mix of soul and rock that made them the most successful pop duo in history. As songwriters, singers and producers, they embraced the pop mainstream, bringing passion and creativity back to the 3-minute single. Over the course of their career, they have recorded six Number One hits and put 34 songs in the Billboard Top 100.
Deeply rooted in lush Philly soul, Hall and Oates mixed smooth vocal harmonies and the romantic vulnerability of soul with edgy hard rock and new wave riffs to create some of the finest pop music of the 1980s. They teamed up in the early 1970s in Philadelphia, and landed a deal with Atlantic. On their first three albums, they searched for the right style for their talents as they experimented with soul, folk and hard rock.
After their subsequent string of hits in the 1970s, including "She's Gone"and "Rich Girl", they were energized by new wave and dance music. The result was an incredible run of original songs that topped the pop and R&B charts throughout the 1980s. Combining the best of both rock and R&B, Hall and Oates set the stage ...