James Brown died on Christmas day, a typically dramatic move for the 73-year-old, self-described â€œGodfather of Soul,â€ who was known for dramatic endings in concert.
The news of his death caught me off guard, because I hadnâ€™t heard much about the performer in years. Although Brownâ€™s music career was in its sunset years, he was still touring and singing regularly. He was hospitalized with pneumonia just a couple days before, and died of heart failure not long after telling a friend he would perform in Times Square for New Yearâ€™s Eve.
The man earned another of his many nicknames, â€œThe hardest working man in show business,â€ to the very end. Continue reading →
It took the urging of Cirque du Soleil, the acrobatic dance performance group, to bring the music of the Beatles â€“ the most iconic of 1960s baby boomer musical catalogs — into the 21st century.
The bulk of the project is a mashup, the digital-era, technology-enabled ability of taking two different kinds of data and â€œmashingâ€ them together to make something new. Mashups can be a newsworthy online database of crime statistics overlaid onto a Google map, for instance, or it can be cool cultural commentary, like overdubbing Nirvana’s â€œSmells Like Teen Spiritâ€ onto the Destiny’s Child hit, â€œBootyliciousâ€ (they fit so perfectly, it’s spooky).
Or, mashups can be the melding of two generations of music, like producer Danger Mouse’s weaving of Jay-Z’s â€œThe Black Albumâ€ with the Beatles’ own â€œWhite Album.â€
This time, though, the work of reconstructing and reassembling the Beatles’ recordings was a sanctioned deal. Continue reading →
Audrey Hepburn, one of the great, classic actresses of Hollywood of the ’50s and ’60s, may have died in 1993, but she’s alive and well in American pop culture. Her name, and the 1961 film with which her face is most associated, “Breakfast at Tiffany’s,” came up in conversation a couple of weeks ago, and coincidentally, a TV series’ plot later that week involved three women dressed as Hepburn’s character from “Tiffany’s,” Holly Golightly, robbing a bank with her trademark sunglasses hiding their identity.
This week, The Gap began airing a pretty cool TV commercial that takes a Hepburn dance sequence from her 1957 musical co-starring Fred Astaire, “Funny Face,” and sets her moves to AC-DC’s “Back in Black.” The commercial is pushing the retailer’s new line of skinny black pants. Hepburn’s character, a Greenwich Village beatnik who becomes a Paris model, is wearing hip skinny black pants in the dance scene. Continue reading →
Pitchfork has published a rambling list of the “200 Greatest Songs of the 1960s,” beginning with the Kinks’ “Sunny Afternoon” at 200 and ands with the Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows” at #1 (presumably — the final 20 aren’t numbered). It’s an interesting list because it’s in a British publication, and these songs were chosen (and reviewed very earnestly) by young rock critics, most if not all I bet who weren’t even born when the ’60s closed out with Altamont and a few months later, Kent State. Continue reading →
I grew up â€“ like all baby boomers â€“ during an era of radio when the Top 40 format was perfected during the first two decade of rock and roll, and genres didnâ€™t divide up into separate formats. An entire generation of pop music fans pretty much grew up listening to a wild mix of rock, soul, country â€“ white and black â€“ with a lot of novelty songs thrown in for good measure.
This was true through the 1960s, certainly and also up through the mid-â€˜70s. But two things happened to radio between, say 1969 and 1974. First, the FM progressive or freeform format that had emerged in 1967 began attracting the older rock music fans, and for the first time, after 1969, there was a defined generation gap. If you were in college and protesting the Vietnam war, chances were the Archiesâ€™ â€œSugar Sugarâ€ wasnâ€™t as relevant to you as, say, Ten Years Afterâ€™s â€œIâ€™d Love to Change the World.â€ For me, being just 11 during the summer of 1969, bubblegum rock was a sweet and welcome part of my musical diet.
There was a lot of crossover between FM and AM, especially during the early â€˜70s. For instance songs like Crosby, Stills, Nash and Youngâ€™s â€œOhioâ€ was a hit on AM as well as FM stations. Continue reading →