Category Music

Happy Centennial, Frank Sinatra

Frank Sinatra turned 100 years old yesterday, and there was ballyhoo aplenty in the media and various entertainment circles taking note of the occasion.

Not that Frank was alive to hear the accolades, but as famously dismissive as he most always was of praise and the gushings of adoring fans, he surely would have been pleased that the scrawny Mama’s Boy From Hoboken that he was left a body of work behind that would be duly noted and celebrated 100 years after his birth.

And such an unscrawny body of work it was!

Just one of the notable aspects of Sirius Radio’s channel 71—aka “All Sinatra All the Time”—is that the 24/7 airing of Sinatra songs seems to repeat itself as little as it does. (A small percentage of the tunes are actually sung by “Sinatra era” compatriots such as Bobby Darin, Sammy Davis Jr...

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Crossing Over: Three Classical Music Tunes That Became Pop Hits

“Rhythm stirs our bodies. Tonality and melody stir our brains.” So writes Daniel J. Levitin in This Is Your Brain on Music.

I find myself wondering why he didn’t say “brains and hearts” about tonality and melody, given their powerful capacity to inspire, stir and deepen human emotion.

I know that rhythm goes right back to the heartbeat of the mother who begat us, and is central to our moving about in this life. Rhythm plays a key role in my own writing as well—each sentence has to match some internal hop-and-skip-along, and if it doesn’t, I discard it until the feel is right. If it feels clunky rhythmically, it goes.

That said, in music, I’m a melody man, which is why rap, with its 100 percent rhythm, and modern classical music, with its disdain for tone and melody, leave me mostly unmoved. They can be “interesting” intellectual exercises, but honing my intellect is not why I listen to music...

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Amy Winehouse’s Cry From the Depths of Creation

At one point in the current documentary (Amy) of the gifted and tortured singer Amy Winehouse, she was so deeply submerged in her partly guttural/feral, partly ravishing/seductive treatment of a song, digging into it with such resonant and startling ferocity, that I exclaimed to myself there in the dark of the theater, “My God, that voice is from the depths of creation!”

True enough, but the surpassingly sad part of that voice is all the pain and self-torture that it was built upon, quite aside from the God-given gifts of raw vocal power it had been bequeathed.

For truly, Amy Winehouse’s voice and career and downward spiral of a life stand as an unanswered cry against the multiple and relentless outrages of existence, all the forces that seem to line up with special anticipation and glee when a soul at once so sensitive, talented, raw and ultimately, fragile, presents itself to us.

There are plenty of ...

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Third Annual “Songs of Summer”

We will not be talking about drought in this post. (That word will not appear again.)

Enough of aridity and deprivation for the moment, yes? Plenty of time—it’s not even July yet!—to wring our hands and plan the choreography of our rain dances for the fall. Instead, we’re going to be all about the best of summer. And the best of summer, and every other season, actually, has to involve music.

So let’s move right into this Third Annual Songs of Summer offering, shall we? Though before you scan the trio of songs below and ask, “Whoa, how could you leave out thus & such???…” I invite you to revisit the first two volumes of this annual series here and here. And if you still don’t see a fave song or a better rendition of one already mentioned, drop it into the Comments section below and I may just get to it next year, the gods willing and the planet still spinning.

That’s what happened with our first selecti...

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Imperfect Interpretations: When the Song Sung Isn’t What the Song Said (Part 2)

Part I of this two-part post about the tremendous difference a given artist’s interpretation can make on the experience of music examined the Bob Dylan song, “One Too Many Mornings,” and how its mournful, lonely qualities were finally teased out most hauntingly and fittingly, given the lyrics, by Jerry Jeff Walker. It was as if Walker’s own history, psyche and voice quality made him the perfect purveyor of the song, kindly delivered to him by Dylan, whose own solo version was quite creditable itself, but who later veered off into rocked up, full band versions that didn’t match the song’s lonesome wail.

Here, we will examine the opposite phenomenon of an original song and artist who were interpreted, wait, let’s make that “misinterpreted,” by another (very talented) artist who, given her particular gifts and sensibilities, should probably have steered clear of this song...

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