On my last birthday, my lovely daughter gifted me Bruce Springsteen’s autobiography, Born to Run. For any Springsteen fan, it’s an absorbing read and even though I had already consumed Peter Ames Carlin’s biography Bruce, I learned much about the man’s early life and family, and the grind of his early music-making days with his first bands playing along the Jersey shore – many details that only the man himself could know. Though the reviews focussed on the book’s revelations about the periods during which he has suffered from depression, for me the most enthralling sections were those where Springsteen describes a couple of hair-raising and eventful road trips across America.
I was reminded that I’d never got round to writing about Springsteen’s book when I read a report about President Obama bestowing the Presidential Medal of Freedom (America’s highest civilian honour) on Springsteen yesterday in a ceremony at the White House. Springsteen’s book is over 500 pages long. Here’s the concise version, courtesy of Barack Obama. It’s rather good: Continue reading “Barack on Bruce: ‘sprung from a cage out on Highway 9’”
Back when the 50s had just turned into the 60s, in the days of listening to Radio Luxembourg at night on a valve radio that glowed in the dark; in my early teenage days, before the beat from out of Liverpool had shaken things up – in those days, one of my favourite singles was ‘Blue Moon’ by the Marcels. I was just a kid and with the innocence and ignorance of youth I had no idea that I was listening to a Rogers and Hart show tune from the thirties: what I heard in the animated nonsense ‘bomp-baba-bomp’ of the bass man’s intro and the unrestrained wails and chants of the rest of the group was teenage magic.
So it was with great pleasure that I read this post by Thom Hickey on his always enjoyable Immortal Jukebox blog. It’s such a wonderful piece of writing that I felt compelled to share it here. Continue reading “Blue Moon: not once but four times (a teenage dream re-blogged)”
2016 has scythed down yet another musician. This time it’s Sharon Jones, at the end of a week in which we have already lost Leonard Cohen, Mose Allison and Leon Russell.
A powerhouse of a soul singer in the great tradition of the sixties, Sharon Jones breakthrough only came later in her life. She didn’t release her first album until 1996, when she was 40, and it was only in this century that she started to receive serious attention, fronting Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings. Continue reading “Sharon Jones: 2016 takes yet another musician. Let’s celebrate her version of ‘This Land Is Your Land’”
Sometime in the late 1990s or early 2000s, on a trip to London, we were lucky to see Mose Allison perform a set at the Pizza Express which included such characteristically witty and sardonic songs, rooted in the blues, as Everybody’s Cryin’ Mercy, I Love The Life I Live (I Live The Life I Love), Gettin’ There, Tell Me Somethin’, and Your Mind Is On Vacation.
Today, in his Guardian obituary of Mose Allison, who has died aged 89, John Fordham writes:
At the PizzaExpress jazz club in London, which he took to visiting twice a year in the 90s and early 2000s, Allison would sometimes seem to be in a fascinating private reverie, in which stomping bluesy figures would wrestle with swirling, wind-in-trees melodies, or turn into a jerky clatter like a silent-movie soundtrack. Ain’t Got Nothing But the Blues, Trouble in Mind and Knock on Wood might hurtle by in a blur.
‘Pizza Express has been a real godsend for me,’ Allison once said. ‘I’ve been working there for several years, six weeks a year. You can go to work every night and play. It’s a nice little club. It’s just about the right size for me, about 150 people.’ Continue reading “Mose Allison, the William Faulkner of jazz, dies aged 89”
Once again, we made the journey down to the capital to sample three events during the opening weekend of the London Jazz Festival. The music began with what was, for me, a welcome second helping of Tord Gustavsen’s collaboration with the German-Afghan vocalist Simin Tander on songs from their ECM album, What Was Said. The weekend concluded with a strong set but not totally convincing set from the Jan Garbarek Quartet at the Royal Festival Hall. But the outstanding event was a masterclass of breathtaking jazz improvisation by pianist Brad Mehldau and saxophonist Joshua Redman. That alone was worth the journey. Continue reading “At the London Jazz Festival: Mehldau and Redman deliver a jazz masterclass, but the Garbarek quartet disappoints”
Last night, before the news came of Leonard Cohen’s departure from this life, I was privileged to see an outstanding show by another great poet of song, Paul Simon.
On our way into Manchester I said to my travelling companions, ‘He must, surely, do An American Tune.’ He hadn’t the previous night in London, but I prayed that in Manchester he would sing what is truly a song for these times.
And he did! Continue reading “Paul Simon: a joyous celebration the night after a dream was shattered and driven to its knees”
Not for the first time this year, a musician has departed this life, but not before leaving us with a final album whose words have a decidedly premonitory aura – as if, first David Bowie and now Leonard Cohen, sensed that they were, in Cohen’s words ‘out of the game’.
For the 50 years of my adult life the songs of Leonard Cohen, who has died at the age of 82, have been a source of insight, inspiration and healing. He has been, in the words of Rolling Stone today, ‘the dark eminence among a small pantheon of extremely influential singer-songwriters to emerge in the Sixties and early Seventies. Only Bob Dylan exerted a more profound influence upon his generation, and perhaps only Paul Simon and fellow Canadian Joni Mitchell equalled him as a song poet.’ Continue reading “Goodbye Leonard: You let in the light for us all”