Chuck Berry -curating sounds and memories

Update: (okay, it took less than a couple of hours to get to this, but you knew I would). I have to include this wonderful retrospective by Peter Guralnick about his interview with Berry, Little Richard, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Fats Domino in New Orleans in 2011. (You think of trying to interview them as a group!).


I started doing this last year with a post on the impact of David Bowie. Far too many artists – musical artists (hey I’m a musician and music scholar – I have preferences and this is my blog) left us last year and the loss of Mr. Berry is yet another hit. While he was 90 at the time of his death this past Saturday, nonetheless it’s a shock to this girl from Detroit to lose a living piece of pop culture history.

My goal with this post is to honor his legacy. I’ll be adding recordings and articles to it over the coming weeks – please do feel free to respond and share items you’ve been particularly moved by.

A couple of posts to start off with:

    • The New York Times obit has a nice brief video retrospective by Jon Pareles, as well as a slideshow touching on some iconic images across his career (this one’s not comprehensive)
    • CNN’s coverage of his death

That’s enough reading. Let’s get on to some music. One recording from his prime, and one that’s just a master presenting his craft. These sort of tell the tale. I had to choose from all sorts of options to display all the folks who played with him, but – I want to honor him on his own today.


Live in Concert: 1972


The AVO sessions in 2007



Total randomness – how else to deal with this year’s Oscars?

I’m a fairly rabid reader of The New Yorker, for what it’s worth. And today’s article on the glitch in the Best Picture Awards at the Oscars this year struck me as one of those moments where we create our own soundtrack.

Since I’ve been posting on this blog more regularly lately, I thought I’d share this slightly surreal experience. Maybe I only go there because I’m a popular culture/ethnomusicology/performance studies scholar? I don’t know. But it seems the thing to do today.

So, read the article. And while you’re doing that, hit “play” below.

RIP Clyde Stubblefield

There are far too many losses to the music world, this year, and every year – maybe last year just sensitized me to it or maybe we’re getting to that generational shift?

Either way, today I’m sharing the soundtrack that’s guiding my morning and a brief obit from Digital Music News.

Let the Funky Drummer drive your morning!

Remembering Al Jarreau

Just a quick post today. Al Jarreau was one of the voices of my childhood and teen years – one of the happy, beautiful voices that countermanded all the emotional art rock I consumed at the same time.

This tribute was put together by Wisconsin Public Radio – there’s a request by his family to contribute to the Wisconsin Foundation for School Music – you can see the details here on his obit from Digital Music News.

Al, you are missed. Rest in peace.

Thinking about protest music, the Women’s March, and Joan Baez

Rolling Stone published an interview with Joan Baez yesterday about the Women’s March and protest music. While I strongly recommend reading it, there are a couple of highlights I’m thinking about.

  1. There’s a lack of music as a positive, uplifting (Baez’s word) force right now – protests are focused on anger. This movement needs an anthem.
  2. Protesters right now are being reactive, not proactive (me interpreting her words). I’ll quote her here, because she says this so succinctly: “You know, their strategy’ s working when they have us spinnming so fast we don’t know which thing to latch onto… I’d say just keep your eyes on the prize.”

That’s it for the moment, but I want to leave you with some music because that’s just who I am.

On protest music in the current age 1.28.17

I’ve renewed an old research interest – protest music. Not terribly a shocking interest for an ethnomusicologist in the crazy times we’re seeing, but it’s been a recurring theme in my toolkit of research subjects.

John Mellencamp (whose work I don’t normally look at) just released a really interesting song that takes on inequality, protest movements, oppression (and, interestingly, it was released the day before the new POTUS was sworn in).

I hear him, vocally, channeling a Tom Waits-like raspiness in his delivery. I’m waiting to see how my own read on this song evolves, but Rolling Stone has an interesting piece on it here.

I do see a resurgence in protest musics (I’m not special here) and talk about dystopian futures. Uncertainty does breed this, yes?

One thought: a brief conversation I had this morning got me doing some research online – I spoke who a colleague who referenced an old quote with the words (I’m paraphrasing here) that “uncertainty breeds fear.” Doing a little research (as in, I googled it) I found consistent references to this idea. It’s not something new.

What struck me as I looked to make lemonades out of lemons was the additional idea I came across, that uncertainty also creates conditions for creativity.

Let’s all work to make that constructive creativity.

In the meantime, I’ll keep investigating what happens as music intersects with protest movements.

Mourning 2016 Musicians – Glenn Frey

This is just a brief post but I anticipate more of these to follow – every one of the artists I miss deserves a post of his/her own.

So I’m still not over last year’s losses. And by that I mean the musicians lost to the world when they died last year. For me this is about musicians and performers from all genres, but today I’m talking about a musician from my hometown, Detroit. I wanted to share Bob Seger’s tribute to Glenn Frey and the write-up in Rolling Stone about it.