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August 01, 2020

Song of the Day #1801

Song of the Day: The Time is Now [YouTube link] was composed by jazz pianist David Hazeltine, who performs it with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Al Foster as the title track to his 2019 album. Enjoy this trio of ol' pros; they are so in sync with one another.

July 25, 2020

Song of the Day #1800

Song of the Day: Oleo is a hard bop composition by tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, written over the chord progressions employed by George Gershwin in "I Got Rhythm". Our 1,800th Song of the Day was first recorded by Miles Davis, with Rollins, pianist Horace Silver, bassist Percy Heath, and drummer Kenny Clarke, for the 1954 album "Bags' Groove." Check it out here [YouTube link]. Another notable Miles recording is featured on his compilation album, "1958 Miles," with the band that made "Kind of Blue," the best-selling jazz album of all time. This live performance features tenor saxophonist John Coltrane, alto saxophonist Julian "Cannonball" Adderly, pianist Bill Evans, bassist Paul Chambers, and drummer Jimmy Cobb. Check out that live version here as well as renditions by pianists Bill Evans, Keith Jarrett, and Herbie Hancock, tenor saxophonist Michael Brecker, saxophonist Eric Dolphy with pianist McCoy Tyner, and jazz guitarists Wes Montgomery, Pat Martino, George Benson, and Joe Pass.

July 18, 2020

Song of the Day #1799

Song of the Day: Waiting to Dance [YouTube link], composed by guitarist Jim Hall, is featured on a spectacular guitar duet album with Hall and guitarist Pat Metheny. The 1999 album, "Jim Hall & Pat Metheny," features an intimate musical dialogue between two jazz guitar giants.

July 11, 2020

Song of the Day #1798

Song of the Day: Afternoon [mp3 link], words and music by Philip Verdi and Joanne Barry, is featured on the album "Holding On," with Carl Barry on guitar, Steve LaSpina on bass, and Eliot Zigmund on drums. The fact that Joanne is my sister-in-law and Carl is my brother [YouTube channel link] has nothing to do with it! Nepotism aside, they're great! And I can't think of a lovelier way to spend a summer's afternoon than to take in the sounds of their love for the music and each other. (And while you're at it, check out a few of their other recorded tracks, including "My Favorite Things," "Rollercoaster" (an original), "Embraceable You," "Empty Faces," "Autumn Leaves," and Carl's trio on "Footprints" [site links].)

July 06, 2020

Song of the Day #1797

Song of the Day: The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly (Main Theme) was composed by the legendary Ennio Morricone for the Sergio Leone-directed 1966 epic Spaghetti Western film. Today, Ennio Morricone, one of the most prolific film score composers of his generation, died at the age of 91. Check out the original soundtrack version and the 1968 Hugo Montenegro hit version [YouTube links]. Then, in keeping with our Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), check out, from the 2007 tribute album, "We All Love Ennio Morricione" this Quincy Jones-Herbie Hancock collaboration, and a truly superb live jazz interpretation featuring Herbie, Steve Woods, and Patti Austin [YouTube links].

July 05, 2020

Song of the Day #1796

Song of the Day: Prelude No. 2 in C-Sharp Minor (from "Three Preludes"), composed by Brooklyn-born George Gershwin, is illustrative of the uniquely American integration of classical and jazz idioms in a superb instrumental setting. The composer himself premiered the work at the Roosevelt Hotel in New York City in 1926. Check out recordings of this piece by Gershwin himself [YouTube link] and as later interpreted in 1959 (on the album "Brazilliance, Volume 3") by guitarist Laurindo Almeida and alto saxophonist Bud Shank, who, on this track plays the flute [YouTube link]. It was also given a fabulous treatment by Dave Grusin on his #1 Grammy-winnning Billboard Jazz Album, "The Gershwin Connection", featuring an all-star band, including Chick Corea (keyboards), Lee Ritenour (guitar), John Pattitucci (bass), Gary Burton (vibes), Dave Weckl and Harvey Mason (drums), and Eddie Daniels (clarinet). Check out this wonderful rendition [YouTube link].

July 04, 2020

Song of the Day #1795

Song of the Day: When Johnny Comes Marching Home Again has a history of varied origins, but was most likely written by Irish-American bandleader Patrick Gilmore during the American Civil War. The song was sung by people North and South who yearned for the return of their friends and relatives from the field of battle (though it was later used by Ulysses S. Grant as a campaign song with lyrics promising to leave the KKK "a-tremblin' in their shoes"). This staple of the Independence Day Songbook was even resurrected by later generations and immortalized in World War II films such as "Stalag 17" [YouTube link]. In keeping with our Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), there are at least two notable renditions: a classic take by the Andrews Sisters and a swinging scorcher by jazz organist Jimmy Smith [YouTube links] (with Quentin Warren on guitar and Donald Bailey on drums). Americans mark this as the day on which the colonists---imperfect as they were---pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor in declaring their independence from the British Empire. The project of this country's founding remains incomplete, but forever emancipatory. I yearn for the day when all the Johnnies, Janes, and everyone in-between come marching home again---in a world of peace and freedom. Have a Happy and Safe Independence Day!

June 29, 2020

Celebrating the Ray Harryhausen Centenary

Today marks the centenary of the birth of master special effects wizard Ray Harryhausen---born on this date in 1920. Turner Classic Movies is celebrating tonight with a line-up of some classic films that feature his remarkable stop motion animation.

I can't even begin to put into words what Harryhausen's films meant to me growing up. So it's best to let his genius speak for itself! From the 1963 film, "Jason and the Argonauts," augmented by a superb score from Bernard Herrmann.

June 28, 2020

Song of the Day #1794

Song of the Day: You've Made Me So Very Happy features the words and music of Berry Gordy, Frank Wilson, Patrice Holloway, and Brenda Holloway, who recorded this song in 1967 [YouTube link]. The song barely cracked the Top 40 on both the Billboard Hot 100 and the R&B Singles Chart. But it was a featured selection on the jukebox of the Stonewall Inn, which, on this date, was subject to a police raid, something that was typically aimed at private establishments catering to same-sex clientele. Such bars were often denied liquor licenses or harassed simply because it was illegal for same-sex couples to hold hands, kiss, or dance together ("lewd behavior"). This particular bar was owned and "protected" by the Genovese crime family, which paid off police officers from the Sixth Precinct to look the other way. Corrupt cops would often get payola to tip off the bar if there were any impending raids. But no tip offs came on this night. The police entered the bar, roughed up employees and patrons, and even arrested people for not wearing "gender-appropriate clothing" (something that was actually against the law at the time). The patrons had had enough. They pushed back and touched off six nights of rioting, fighting for their very right to exist and to pursue their own happiness. Though there were many other precipitating events prior to 1969 involving many brave activists, Stonewall remains the singular "nodal point" that gave birth to Pride Day celebrations the world over (today, to the date, is, in fact, the fiftieth anniversary of the first Pride March in 1970 that marked the first anniversary of the Stonewall uprising). In the end, however, this date celebrates the birthright of every human being to pursue their own vision of personal happiness, without fear of state or social oppression. In keeping with our Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), we mark this occasion with several jazz-infused versions of this song, chief among them the classic Blood, Sweat, and Tears jazz-rock rendition [YouTube link], released the same year as the Stonewall Rebellion, rising to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. And check out renditions by song stylist Nancy Wilson, pianist Ramsey Lewis, clarinet legend Benny Goodman, the Lasse Lindgren Big Constellation and trumpeter Chet Baker [YouTube links] (from his very commercial album, with the clever title of "Blood, Chet and Tears").

June 27, 2020

Song of the Day #1793

Song of the Day: A Little Less Wonderful [YouTube link], words and music by my dear friend Roger Bissell, is highlighted today in honor of his birthday! This song, written in 1982, features vocals by Roger's kids (Charlie, Rebecca, Andrew, and Daniel) and gospel singer, Mike Allen. Roger provides the scat-singing, whistling, finger snaps, and "mouth percussion" (sounds perverse, I know). This is a sweet track from the 2010 album, "Reflective Trombone." And for a loving twist on the tune check out this George Smith-produced video version [YouTube link]. To my brother from another mother: Many more happy and healthy returns, with love! Keep bringing more wonderful music (and many more wonderful ideas) into our world!

June 26, 2020

Song of the Day #1792

Song of the Day: Captain Senor Mouse, composed by jazz keyboardist extraordinaire Chick Corea, made its debut on two 1973 albums: "Hymn of the Seventh Galaxy" with Return to Forever (featuring Bill Connors on guitar, Stanley Clarke on bass, and Lenny White on drums) and with vibraphonist Gary Burton on the duet album "Crystal Silence" (and in the 2008 Grammy Award-winning live set, "The New Crystal Silence"). Check out this Chick composition in all its wonderful renditions: with Return to Forever and with Gary Burton in studio and live settings, as well as covers by guitarist Al DiMeola, guitarist Martin Taylor and bassist Peter Ind, guitarist Kevin Eubanks, and Gordon Goodwin's Big Phat Band [YouTube links].

June 25, 2020

Song of the Day #1791

Song of the Day: ABC is credited to "The Corporation"---that Motown group of musical creators who included Berry Gordy, Freddie Perren, Alphonzo Mizell, and Deke Richards. This song was the second of four consecutive Jackson Five songs to hit #1, and alphabetically, it is at the beginning of Billboard's all-time #1 hits. Eleven years ago today, Michael Jackson died tragically. Last year, I wrote an essay addressing his legacy and controversial life; this year, I mark this anniversary with memories of a happier time. Check out the original J5 single and the Jackson Five appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on 10 May 1970. But in keeping with the theme of our Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), check out this big band arrangement by Jim McMillen from the album, "Swingin' to Michael Jackson: A Tribute".

June 20, 2020

Song of the Day #1790

Song of the Day: What is this Thing Called Love?, words and music by the great Cole Porter, was featured in the 1929 Broadway musical "Wake Up and Dream," where it was introduced by Elsie Carlisle [YouTube link]. At 5:44 pm, today, the Northern hemisphere enters the Summer Solstice. And so begins the Fifth Annual Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition). This entire summer, I'll be spotlighting jazz recordings---from artists past and present. Ironically, long after my playlist was set in stone for the festival, I discovered that TCM has been running a wonderful series of "Jazz in Film" (Mondays and Thursdays in June). This festival was also planned long before recent events, but it is a celebration of a genre that owes so much to the African American experience---while transcending the divisions of social life through the universality of music. Fortunately, for today, I get to highlight one of the great contributions to the Great American Songbook. Though this is going to be a Jazz Summer, I won't be posting many jazz standards, since my ever-growing list of "Favorite Songs" has been featuring such standards for sixteen years! But today's song asks one of the most enduring questions of the human condition. Musicians from every walk of life---every race, every ethnicity, every gender---have explored their answers to that question in a variety of ways over the years, including stride pianist James P. Johnson, Fred Rich and his Orchestra (featuring jazz violinist Joe Venuti and both Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey), twice by jazz guitar giant Django Reinhardt and legendary jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli, the Artie Shaw Big Band, guitarist Les Paul, pianist Dave Brubeck and alto saxophonist Paul Desmond, alto saxophonist Cannonball Adderly, soprano saxophonist Sidney Bechet and trumpeter Charlie Shavers, jazz guitarist Joe Pass, tenor saxophonist Stan Getz and pianist Kenny Barron, trumpeter Clifford Brown, tenor saxophonist Sonny Rollins, and drummer Max Roach, jazz violinist Thomas Fraioli, New York Swing (with guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli, pianist John Bunch, bassist Jay Leonhart, and drummer Joe Cocuzzo), the McCoy Tyner Quartet (with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Al Foster), and pianist Danny Zeitlin [YouTube links]. One of my favorite instrumental renditions comes from jazz pianist Bill Evans [YouTube link] from his 1960 album "Portrait in Jazz"---with its trailblazing interplay between a trio of co-equal improvisers, which included bassist Scott LaFaro and drummer Paul Motian. The album was recorded eight months after Evans's collaboration with Miles Davis in creating the best-selling jazz album of all time, "Kind of Blue." That revolutionary album was largely based on the pianist's impressionistic, harmonic conceptions and modal approach, which led many to view Evans as "the principal creator of [the] album." There have also been some wonderful vocal renditions of this Porter classic by such artists as Sarah Vaughan, Billie Holiday, Frank Sinatra, Ella Fitzgerald, Anita O'Day, Keely Smith, and Bobby McFerrin (with Herbie Hancock on piano) [YouTube link].

June 18, 2020

Song of the Day #1789

Song of the Day: Scoob! ("Summer Feelings"), words and music by Lennon Stella, Charlie Puth, Invincible (Producer), Alexander Izquierdo, Charles Brown, Simon Wilcox and Lowell, can be found on the soundtrack to the 2020 animated flick "Scoob!" (short for Scooby Doo). This duet, featuring Lennon Stella and the deeply jazz-influenced Charlie Puth, is a precursor to our Fifth Annual Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition). This year has been a transformative one in so many ways and on so many levels; I've seen things that I could never have even remotely predicted when I toasted the New Year as the ball dropped in Times Square. I have refused to stay silent and have spoken out about so many issues over these many months; so I don't want to be accused of being a modern-day Nero, fiddling while our own Rome burned. This song has little to do with jazz, but everything to do with those "summer feelings"---and I can think of fewer ways to express such feelings than by celebrating one of the most significant cultural gifts bestowed upon world music, emergent from the African American experience, and taking a distinctive form through the blending of African and European idioms. This was something I planned long before the events of the day. But before we start the newest installment in our annual Summer Music Festival, on June 20th, indulge those "summer feelings": check out the original studio recording of this song, the official video, the Quarantine Video Version, the Bassboosted Remix, and the Nightcore Whore Remix [YouTube links].

June 06, 2020

Lists, Lists, and More Lists

Back on May 5, 2020, I was first tagged by my friend Daniel Bastiat (on Facebook) to engage in a book challenge: To post the covers of seven books over a seven-day period that had an effect on you, with no explanation. I listed the following seven books (and tagged other people with this, and subsequent challenges):

1. "Dialectical Investigations", by Bertell Ollman
2. "A New History of Leviathan: Essays on the Rise of the American Corporate State", edited by Ronald Radosh and Murray Rothbard
3. "Capitalism: The Unknown Ideal", by Ayn Rand
4. "National Economic Planning: What is Left?", by Don Lavoie
5. "The Disowned Self", by Nathaniel Branden
6. "Nationalism and Culture", by Rudolf Rocker
7. "The Libertarian Alternative", edited by Tibor Machan.

This was followed by a ten-day "Album Challenge", posting key albums that affected you throughout your life:

1. "Ben Hur" (1959 soundtrack)
2. "Concierto de Aranjuez" (Julian Bream)
3. "Concierto" (Jim Hall)
4. "Intuition" (Bill Evans)
5. "The Mad Hatter" (Chick Corea)
6. "Thriller" (Michael Jackson)
7. "Ultimate Sinatra" (Frank Sinatra)
8. "At the Close of a Century" (Stevie Wonder)
9. "I Wanna Be Around" (Tony Bennett)
10. "Getz/Gilberto" (Stan Getz/Joao Gilberto/Astrid Gilberto/Antonio Carlos Jobim)

And that was followed by the final challenge: List ten films and ten TV shows that had an impact on your life or tastes or that loom large in your memory (they need not even be ranked among your all-time "favorites", though clearly they may very well be). So here were my choices for that challenge:

Day 1:
Film: "King Kong" (1933)
TV: "Looney Tunes Cartoons" (1930-1969)

Day 2:
Film: "The Wizard of Oz" (1939)
TV: "The Honeymooners" (1956)

Day 3:
Film: "North By Northwest" (1959)
TV: "The Twilight Zone" (1959)

Day 4:
Film: "Ben-Hur" (1959)
TV: "The Fugitive" (1963)

Day 5:
Film: "Inherit the Wind" (1960)
TV: "I, Claudius" (1976)

Day 6:
Film: "Planet of the Apes" (1968)
TV: "Jesus of Nazareth" (1977)

Day 7:
Film: "The Exorcist" (1973)
TV: "The Winds of War" / "War and Remembrance" (1983/1989)

Day 8:
Film: "The Godfather: The Complete Epic, 1901-1959" (1977)
TV: "The X-Files" (1993)

Day 9:
Film: "The Deer Hunter" (1978)
TV: "The West Wing" (1999)

Day 10:
Film: "Alien" (1979) / "Aliens" (1986) - I know, it’s cheating, but I can’t pick one without the other!
TV: "24" (2001)

And that's all folks! Next up will be the Fifth Annual Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition), which will begin when summer arrives in the Northern hemisphere and conclude on the day of the autumnal equinox.

May 28, 2020

"Music is God": Alice Herz-Sommer, Beethoven, and the Power of Music

For those who have never heard of Alice Herz-Sommer (26 November 1903-23 February 2014), she was a Prague-born Jewish pianist who survived Theresienstadt concentration camp (the conditions of which were starkly dramatized in the grand miniseries "War and Remembrance," 1988-1989).

She died at the age of 110, one of the world's oldest known Holocaust survivors, one year after having been featured in the 2013 Academy Award-winning "Best Short Documentary" film: "The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life."

For a glimpse of that film, check out the clip below on YouTube (the full film is available here), which ends with several glorious quotes from figures as varied as Plato ("Music is a moral law. It gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and charm and gaiety to life and to everything") and Ludwig van Beethoven ("Music is a higher revelation than all wisdom and philosophy").

On 17 December 2020, we will mark the 250th anniversary of the great German composer's birth. He was one of Alice's personal heroes. She once said: "Music saved my life and music saves me still ... I am Jewish, but Beethoven is my religion."

May 20, 2020

Song of the Day #1788

Song of the Day: Stuck with U features the words and music of a host of writers, including the two who duet on this tune: Ariana Grande and Justin Bieber. The song debuts at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 singles chart this week. It's got a retro doo-wop feel, and an adorable video that is a sign of the times [YouTube link]. All the proceeds from the song are being donated to the First Responders Children's Foundation.

May 14, 2020

Song of the Day #1787

Song of the Day: Elegy for Barbara [YouTube link], composed by Roger E. Bissell, was written in memory of writer and lecturer Barbara Branden. Today is the 91st anniversary of Barbara's birth [YouTube link]. Having passed away on 11 December 2013, she left behind a wonderful personal and intellectual legacy. I was proud to have written the Foreword to her posthumously published book, Think as If Your Life Depends On It: Principles of Efficient Thinking and Other Lectures. You remain deep in my heart, dear friend.

May 10, 2020

Song of the Day #1786

Song of the Day: Mother features the words and music of Billy Walsh, Ryan Tedder, Louis Bell, Andrew Watt, and Charlie Puth, who released this song in September 2019 [YouTube link]. Check out the video single [YouTube link], with its shuffle beat, and then check out a host of remixes by Fedde Le Grand, Codeko, CPEN and Meridian [YouTube links]. This song has absolutely nothing to do with Mother's Day, but it gives me an opportunity to say Happy Mother's Day to all the mothers out there!

May 09, 2020

Song of the Day #1785

Song of the Day: Tutti Fruiti features the words and music of Dorothy LaBostrie and Little Richard (aka Richard Wayne Penniman), who died today at the age of 87. His flamboyant, charismatic showmanship combined the "sacred" shouts of gospel the "profane" sounds of the blues. He would be dubbed "The Innovator, The Originator, and the Architect of Rock and Roll." His influence on American popular music has been felt across musical genres from rhythm and blues to rock, soul, funk, and hip hop. A Rock and Roll Hall of Famer, Little Richard opened this signature song with that classic cry of "A-wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-wop-bam-bom"---practically announcing, in 1955, that a new era had arrived. Ranked as #1 on Mojo's "Top 100 Records That Changed the World," the song was later included on the artist's 1957 debut album, "Here's Little Richard". Check out this rock and roll classic [YouTube link]. RIP, Little Richard.

April 21, 2020

Song of the Day #1784

Song of the Day: Have a Heart, music by jazz pianist Gene DiNovi, lyrics by the great Johnny Mercer, is featured on jazz vocalist Nancy Wilson's album, "A Touch of Today." This LP was regularly spinning on the Sciabarra family turntable from the time of its release in May 1966, and till this day, I could hear my mother's voice singing along to all its tracks. This was one of her favorites, and one of mine. This song and this album were also a comfort to her for the five years that she fought gallantly against small cell lung cancer, before dying, at home, in the presence of her children, at the age of 76, at 2:37 a.m. on this date back in 1995. It was, ironically, Greek Orthodox Good Friday, and given that her full name in Greek was Anastasia (everybody called her Ann or Anna), her Greek Name Day would have been Easter (derived from the Greek word for "resurrection"). Twenty-five years have come and gone since that night, but mom's voice still fills our memories: "Have a heart and when you do, have a heart! For a heart that beats for you!" She left behind family and friends whose lives have been touched forever by her strength, her support, and her love. Our hearts keep that love alive. Check out Nancy Wilson's rendition of this gentle song [YouTube link]. [As I said on YouTube: "One of my mother's all-time favorite songs from one of her all-time favorite albums. She's gone 25 years (21 April 1995), but the music and the memories never end."]

April 18, 2020

Song of the Day #1783

Song of the Day: El Cid ("Friendship") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, is featured in the 1961 epic historical drama starring Charlton Heston as the medieval Castilian knight, Rodrigo Diaz de Vivar and Sophia Loren as his wife, Jimena Diaz. The film's gorgeous score received an Oscar nomination, as did "The Falcon and the Dove" for Best Original Song. Today is the 113th anniversary of Rozsa's birth [pdf link]. He is one of my all-time favorite composers; this soundtrack is one of his finest achievements. And I can think of fewer things in these difficult times in need of greater celebration than friendship.

Song of the Day #1782

Song of the Day: You Say You Care, music by Jule Styne, lyrics by Leo Robin, was featured in the 1949 Broadway musical, "Gentleman Prefer Blondes," that introduced Carol Channing to the world. It was sung in the musical as a duet by Yvonne Adair and Eric Brotherson [YouTube link]. It is also one of the highlights on a lovely duet album, "One on One," with jazz violinist Stephane Grappelli and jazz pianist McCoy Tyner. This marks the thirtieth anniversary of the release date of this classic album by two legendary jazz instrumentalists---no longer with us, but still very much alive in their recorded performances. Check out their inspired duet here [YouTube link].

April 15, 2020

From The Warren Five to Fox Five!

I've been singing the praises of my Long Island cousins, The Warren Five (in alphabetical order: Andrew, Ariana, Dana, Marie, and Zoe), who have been serenading us for 33 days now as part of their #QWARRENtine performances, every night at 8 pm, with matinees on Wednesday and Saturday---just like they do on the Great White Way!

Well, tonight, they were featured on our local Fox affiliate, Channel 5 News, and provided us with a nice backstage look at all the work they do to bring music and love to the hearts of everybody who has heard them. Check out the Fox story as presented on television here.

And keep on keepin' on, cousins! Love you all!

April 13, 2020

What's In a Number? (Part Two)

On 26 July 2002, the New York Daily News published "New Yorkers of the American Imagination: From The Fountainhead: Howard Roark"---which I'd written for their series, "Big Town Classic Characters." It was later republished on the site of the Atlas Society here.

On that same day, I began blogging on what I would call "Notablog." It started as a page on my home site, until "October 1, 2004," the title of my first post to the new interface with which New York University provided me. Through the years, I have written on subjects as diverse as economics (especially Austrian economics), culture, dialectical method, education and pedagogy, film, TV, and theater, fiscal policy, food, foreign policy, frivolity, music (including a "Song of the Day" feature now up to #1781 and counting), politics (not just elections, but a focus on theory, history, and current events), Ayn Rand studies (including the "Journal of..."), religion, remembrance, sexuality, and sports.

Earlier today, I posted a somber update on the Coronavirus pandemic, asking "What's in a Number?" Tonight, I ask that same question, with a far less somber tone. For with this entry, I have reached the 3,000th post in the history of Notablog over these last eighteen years. In many respects, it seems like a relatively small output, when you consider that there have been nearly 6,500 days since that very first post. But I'm very happy to have reached this milestone, if, for nothing else, to count my blessings that I'm still here and that I've been around long enough to keep writing---shedding some light and, on occasion, some heat, but always doing my best to tell it the way I see it.

To 3,000 more! Or 30,000! Nothing will shut me up after all this time!

April 06, 2020

Song of the Day #1781

Song of the Day: In the Heights ("96,000"), music and lyrics by Lin-Manuel Miranda, is a highlight of the 2008 Tony-Award winning Browdway musical, which offers a snapshot over three days of the largely Dominican American neighborhood of Washington Heights, a community that, today, has the most reported Coronavirus cases in the borough of Manhattan. This rousing production also won Tony Awards for Best Original Score, Best Choreography, and Best Orchestrations (four awards out of a total of thirteen nominations!). Check out the recording from the original Broadway cast production as well as a performance of it on the 2008 Tony Awards [YouTube links]. And finally, check out the Warren Five, my cousins on Long Island, who, after having performed this song live for their growing Facebook Audience [Facebook link] during the #QWARRENtine, have just produced a music video for their own terrific rendition [YouTube link]. Love 'em all!

Coronavirus (13): New York State of Mind

The news isn't pretty; the United States now has 356,007 Coronavirus cases, with 10,467 deaths. Of these, 130,589 come from New York state, and of these, 67,820 come from New York City. My own area in Brooklyn, New York (Gravesend) has been hit particularly hard, with several neighbors hospitalized and in Intensive Care Units. And then came the upsetting news from the Bronx Zoo, that a Tiger was infected with COVID-19 from an asymptomatic human---and other tigers and lions have also manifested symptoms of the virus. This means that while animals cannot transfer the virus to humans, infected humans can potentially infect their own pets, cats especially. I know that if I ever became infected with the virus and got over it, as most do, I don't think I could bear the possibility of infecting my beloved Cali and seeing her sick or worse as collateral damage.

In the midst of all this, I have seen an outpouring of love and support from friends and family all over this country, and from abroad as well. We are home, doing our work, listening to the news, but keeping ourselves busy with music, movie, and Cali mayhem! And every night, my cousins in Long Island, "The Warren Five", uplift us with their love and their music. I've already posted on my own Facebook Timeline, three of their ongoing #QWARRENtine selections: "Seasons of Love" (from "Rent"), "96,000" (from "In the Heights"), and "Telephone Hour" (from "Bye Bye Birdie").

And this morning, I came upon a piece written by Brian Kerrigan, a guest columnist for Michael Levin, entitled "A Lament for Gotham," which was very moving. I recommend the essay to your attention. Here are a few takeaway passages:

My beloved New York City, my adopted home for the last twenty-five years is at war again. This time though, none of us, not a single one of us can see the enemy coming. It’s the same all over the world, I know. In this city though, nine million of us inhabit just three-hundred square miles. That’s thirty-thousand people per square mile and a recipe for human tragedy on a grand scale. And it’s deafening my ears all day, every day. That’s the other ‘context’. There is an eerie quiet on the streets particularly evident right after the sun goes down. Then it screams again and I remember its 8 pm, not 3 am. The ambulances mostly turn their sirens off, except at intersections, but the sight of the flashing light and idling engine down a city street are equally, if not more haunting. ...
And so it was, at 7 pm last night that I heard a strange and unfamiliar sound outside. I couldn’t for the life of me figure out what it was. Curious, I opened my window and gasped when I saw dozens of people leaning out their windows clapping hands and tooting air horns, blowing whistles. I looked down onto the street and saw whole families with young kids standing there cheering and clapping at nothing and at everything. Neighbors who pass each other all year long always too busy to stop and chat were standing together, at six or more feet apart, waving across the street to other random people, hands raised in the air, banging them together like flamenco dancers. I was stunned into silence, mouth agape. I noticed my neighbor Martin, a very reserved English fellow whooping and cheering like a high school cheerleader. “Martin, what the hell is going on?” I shouted. Beaming, he hollered up that this was a huge citywide demonstration of gratitude and appreciation for the men and women on the front lines of the war against the invisible enemy. I looked around and I saw no fear, just joy. I was completely overcome by a wave of emotion that swallowed me whole in its crest of humanity. The tears streamed down my cheeks, just as they are this very second as I write. I guess I’m no longer working on it. I love being a man because when we succumb to the tears and triumph over our inner voice of criticism, we are reborn. We are reborn not as infants, but as men. I gathered myself, returned to my window and they were gone. The street was quiet. Windows shut, whistles stopped.
And here lies the greatest of all ironies. Almost ninety-nine out of every one hundred of us is strong enough, brave enough and tough enough to beat this enemy on our own. The beast can be beaten if we employ the oldest method of attack known to us --- divide and conquer. Separate and win. Isolate and overcome. Armies, tanks and sophisticated weaponry are useless.

There is good news today, believe it or not: It does appear that the number of cases in New York state seems to be flattening over the last two days. We hope that this just might be the "apex" or the "plateau" we've all been waiting for. When this whole thing is over, have no fear: the people of New York and everybody else who has survived this pandemic---which constitutes the vast majority of folks who become infected with the virus---will come roaring back...

Postscript (7 April 2020): I added a few comments on Facebook for the benefit of some "conservatives" and "libertarians" who continue to debate the extent of the virus or to label the whole thing a "hoax":

I invite everybody who thinks it is a hoax to go into a hospital anywhere here in the Tri-State area and, pick a dozen or so really beautiful-looking COVID-19 patients that they can find---the ones not on ventilators of course, and depending on their own affectational preferences---and, if you'll pardon the expression, French-kiss each of them, and then, let's use them as a laboratory to see if this is truly a hoax.
Just a thought....
You have to keep a sense of humor, even a sense of gallows humor... when you have to deal with this sort of nonsense with each passing day. Yeah, I'm hoping that the virus is hitting an apex or a "plateau" here in NY state, for example, but the fact is that the deaths are still going up on a daily basis, going from 500+ yesterday to 731 deaths just in NY state over the last 24 hours, for a total of 5,489 deaths since March 1 just in NY. The funeral homes and morgues are so overloaded that they are putting bodies in makeshift freezers outside the hospitals (Maimonides is an epicenter here in Brooklyn; Bellevue has practically established a 'cemetery' wing, outside the hospital, for such freezers). They have even discussed digging up portions of Hart Island as a temporary grave site for the growing numbers of dead people.
I don't mind discussing alternative approaches on how to respond to the virus---politically, economically, etc.---but the folks who continue to deny the science are simply mastering the art of sticking their heads in the sand, and, quite frankly, are making it an embarrassment to those of us who are, indeed, libertarians... even "dialectical" ones at that.

April 04, 2020

Song of the Day #1780

Song of the Day: Just the Two of Us features the words and music of William Salter, Ralph MacDonald, and Bill Withers, who passed away on Monday, March 30th. This song was recorded by Withers and saxophonist Grover Washington, Jr., on whose 1980 album, "Winelight" it first appeared. It went to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #3 on the Hot Soul Singles chart. This R&B and smooth jazz staple was one of my all-time favorite Withers (and Washington) tracks, earning Withers a Grammy for Best R&B Song---one of three Grammys that he won in his lifetime. Check out the full album version of this classic and the single version as well [YouTube links]. RIP, Bill.

April 03, 2020

Coronavirus (12): The Trials and Tribulations of Grocery Shopping ... and Living in NYC

The numbers continue to startle for those of us living through this Coronavirus pandemic: The world now has 1,095,968 confirmed cases, with 58,817 recorded deaths. The United States leads all countries with 275,802 confirmed cases of the virus (with 7,087 deaths---1,094 deaths today alone). The US is ahead of Italy, Spain, Germany, and China (though the skeptic in me actually believes that the US intelligence community just might be right that the numbers in China have been profoundly under-reported by its government).

To bring these numbers even closer to home, New York state now has a total of 102,863 confirmed cases of the virus, with 57,159 of these in New York City. The state reports 2,935 deaths, 1,562 of these in New York City. In fact, in the last 24 hours, the highest single-day increase in both deaths and hospitalizations were recorded in this state.

I have already experienced more grim news than I can bear with regard to friends and neighbors who are dealing with this virus in very personal terms. And all one need do is turn on the television to hear about the growing list of famous folks who have died from this virus over the past week alone, including jazz pianist Ellis Marsalis (father to both Wynton and Branford) and Paterson, New Jersey-born jazz guitarist Bucky Pizzarelli (father of John), who I had the pleasure of seeing many times in New York jazz clubs and concerts throughout the years. And the passing of Bill Withers, from a non-COVID-19-related illness, is just as tragic. Indeed, "we all need somebody to lean on..." [YouTube link].

And yet, with all this sickness and death around us, even with calls for greater social distancing and the omnipresent mantra of "Stay Healthy, Stay Home", you gotta do whatcha gotta do. This morning, I got up at 5 am, did an hour workout, cleaned up, and walked a block and a half to my local supermarket, which opened its doors at 7 am. Determined to shop when the place was relatively less populated, and knowing that we'd earned a 20% discount off our groceries just from our shopping there over the past month, I ventured out and purchased enough food and necessities that could fit into our kitchen cabinets, refrigerator and freezer, in the chance that we have yet to see an apex of this virus that will dwarf the number of people lost on September 11, 2001.

This had to be done with the utmost preparation. I went out, dressed in shorts and a light jacket, carrying an umbrella because of the light mist that was keeping down the tree pollen (which is my nemesis at this time of year) and quickly ran through my shopping list and my checklist:

- Vinyl Gloves: Check
- Facial Mask: Check
- Shopping Bags: Check (except I had all the groceries delivered to our apartment 2 hours after I was done shopping...)

Once I got into the supermarket, the scene was surreal. Everybody was like a mirror image of me. There wasn't a person in there who wasn't wearing gloves or some sort of facial covering. And everybody was keeping a safe distance from everybody else---and if they weren't, you could be sure that some New Yorker would speak up and simply say: "Hey, buddy, back up!"

But despite all the coverings, you could still see people's eyes. And if "the eyes are the mirror to the soul," one could see deep into the soul of almost every person in there. I'd like to say it was pure projection, but somehow, I didn't think so. Not when I could hear the hushed tones of folks saying: "I just want to get these fu@&ing groceries as quickly as possible and get the hell out of here!" Especially heartbreaking was seeing elderly shoppers, walking slowly, and backing up, in fear, as you approached them. Heck, I know, I turned 60 in February, but I was practically a kid next to the husband and wife who were surely in their mid-80s, or the one guy, walking slowly with a cane, who was probably in his late 80s. Most people are wanting to be kind and courteous, but some don't even want you to hold a door for them or to even grab the paper towels that are so obviously out of their reach, because they are simply afraid that, even with your gloves on, you'll be transmitting death to them. I found it a bit emotionally overwhelming. My eyes watered, but I marched stoically to the cashier, gave her my address, unloaded my shopping cart, paid the bill, and walked swiftly back home before the mist turned to a steady rain.

I walked into the hallway downstairs and climbed up one flight to my apartment on the second floor of this two-famly house. I got to the top step and stood outside the door of my home. And in a striptease of necessity, off came the jacket, off came the sneakers, the socks, the shorts, the underwear, the T-shirt---all of it placed in a laundry bag left outside the apartment, to be picked up this evening by the laundromat owners who are pitching in to avoid having any people gathering in their places of business, cleaning our clothes with the utmost sanitary care. And finally, off came the mask and the gloves, which were turned inside out, an art I've begun to master. And I walked into my apartment the way I came into this world... going directly into the shower.

I don't think I'll need to go back out for a couple of weeks---unless I have to pick up something at the pharmacy, which, given my own medical condition, is something of a bi-weekly ritual for me. But even here, our local pharmacists are doing everything they can to get prescriptions to their customers without having their customers come to them, keeping social distancing to a minimum.

***

There are all sorts of theories floating around about why New York City has been hit the hardest; some have argued that it's merely a function of the "leftist" politics of this urban center, which has increased its vulnerability due to overcrowding. A few others have embraced the more absurd position that this is God's retribution for countries that allow LGBTQ Pride Parades (and considering that NYC sponsored World Pride Day in June 2019, I guess that the Big Apple is at the top of the list for divine wrath!).

I think it is going to take a while to truly understand the nature of this pandemic and how it has been spread. But it does seem to me that New York Governor Mario Cuomo was at least partially correct in acknowledging that NYC in particular is "an international hub tightly packed with people from all over the country and the world. What makes New York unique has also rendered it vulnerable to a pandemic."

While I too am upset with the contribution that NYC politics has made to this pandemic and while I too can sometimes find the city's density a bit daunting, the truth of our situation transcends politics or population. This city's "density" has come less from its wrong-headed housing policies than from its promise. That promise is the source of this city's beauty and the diversity of its people, those who were born here, those who have come here from abroad, and those who stay here regardless of the regulations and rules that might constrain them.

"New York, New York" has been a magnet for millions upon millions of people since before the 1898 consolidation of the five boroughs into a single city. Millions of immigrants from every country, every race, every ethnicity, have come through its gates precisely because of its financial, cultural, and spiritual promise, embodied by the statue in its harbor that lifts "the lamp beside the golden door.

This is still a city of neighborhoods, of people who, whatever their differences, seem to find common ground when they are most vulnerable. We saw this in the aftermath of the terrorist attacks of September 11th, when even strangers joined hands to rebuild that which was torn down. Now, of course, as Adam Gopnik writes, unity must take new forms:

The current crisis is, in some respects, the mirror image of the post-9/11 moment. That turned out to be a time of retrospective anxiety about a tragedy unforeseen. The anticipatory jitters weren’t entirely unfounded---anthrax killed a hospital worker in Manhattan---but they arose from something that had already happened and wouldn’t be repeated. By contrast, the COVID-19 crisis involves worries about something we’ve been warned is on the way. The social remedy is the opposite of the sort of coming together that made the days and weeks after 9/11 endurable for so many, as they shared dinners and embraced friends. That basic human huddling is now forbidden, with the recommendations for "distancing" bearing down ever tighter: no more than five hundred people together, then two hundred and fifty, then fifty, then ten.

I am confident that New Yorkers are still coming together---even in the act of social distancing---and that they will rise like the phoenix from the ashes left behind by this pandemic.

Postscript 1 (4 April 2020): Some folks on Facebook inquired why my family wasn't doing more online shopping or resorting to ordering from local supermarkets for delivery, without having to leave the house. I replied:

You have no idea how much we've ordered online (Amazon, Target, Walmart, etc.) with regard to everything from BAND-AIDS to shampoo, napkins, tissues, etc. The thing we can't really get from those places, however, is fresh food or frozen food items, and, in truth, the specialty places around here offer the best stuff of all. So we've tried to cut down on the amount of time we're spending in supermarkets, focusing on milk, dairy, meats, poultry, fresh fruit and vegetables, and so forth---while getting the non-food items from the online services. So that's one way we've severely cut into our grocery-time shopping (which we've been doing once or twice a month during this pandemic; this trip will, however, last us through at least mid-May, I assure you!). We do have delivery, but unfortunately, because our local supermarket is short-staffed, they are no longer taking phone orders. So you have to go and pick out the stuff yourself (which I prefer to do because when one used to 'order' things from the store, they invariably got something wrong!). But they do, in fact, deliver all the groceries to you once you've shopped ... I couldn't possibly carry it, even with a shopping cart, and we wouldn't dare move the car for fear of losing a parking spot... for the situation in parking has only gotten worse since the days of "Seinfeld." But we still get delivery from the best pizzerias in Brooklyn, so on that count, we're in good shape!

Postscript 2 (4 April 2020): Of course, like so many things I write, some folks will offer comments that are critical. But sometimes, criticism crosses the line. One commentator attacked me with such ferocity, taking umbrage that I was "complaining" about grocery shopping in NYC during an uptick in Coronavirus cases, which pales in comparison to the experiences of Anne Frank during the Nazi genocide or the experiences of John McCain during the Vietnam War. There was nothing in this post that compared my experiences to either the Holocaust or the war in Vietnam and there was nothing written that could be remotely compared to "complaining." I am providing an ongoing journal on my Notablog of my experiences during this pandemic; it is a cathartic and therapeutic exercise for me, but also one that I hope will resonate with those who are going through similar experiences. Facing this kind of personal attack, I was compelled to Unfriend, Block, and Delete the comments of this so-called Facebook "Friend" on my Facebook Timeline. I stated on Facebook, and I state here, for the record:

Some people think they can come on my Timeline and insult me. The comments have been removed. I will not hesitate to unfriend, block, and remove comments from any person who thinks that being an FB "friend" is a license to be rude and recklessly stupid.
At one time in my life---and still to a very great extent---I was open to any and all critics, no matter how crazy some of the criticisms of my writings have been. For goodness sake, till this day, I still have on my home page every negative review ever done of any book I've ever written. I welcome criticism and I welcome the give-and-take of discussion. I also recognize that in social media, sometimes things are not as elegantly expressed as they might be and it may require a few exchanges to get things clear (after all, we can only capture so much with regards to tone and intent in simple emojis).
But let me be very clear about what I've written here and in all my installments on the Coronavirus: This is not an ongoing series of essays in the art of complaining. I am simply writing an ongoing diary or journal of my experiences during a very difficult time for my hometown. It's nothing unusual to me; as I said in a comment now deleted, I'm still posting annual installments to honor the survivors---and those who paid the ultimate price---on September 11, 2001.
I count my blessings that I am here and well enough to continue to write and to express myself. I count my blessings that I am here to take care of myself and my loved ones to the best of my ability. I count my blessings that I have so many people in my life who express their care and concern, love and support. I also count my blessings that I have people who offer comments and critiques of my work, for none of us ever stops learning.
Still, there comes a point at which even somebody who has spent the better part of his adult life promoting the value of dialogue (indeed, the "dialectical method" I champion finds its roots in the dialogues of the ancient Greeks), must give pause. And with the rudeness of the commentator, all I can say is: "My cup runneth over".
I will not tolerate somebody who comes onto my Timeline as a so-called Facebook "Friend" only to piss on my back and tell me it's raining. Not. Gonna. Happen. Those days are over. Unfriend. Block. Delete. And I will repeat that exercise any and every time I confront this kind of harassment. Life is too short. That I've devoted any time to explaining this is already a waste of more minutes of my life than was necessary.
But it had to be said. Just for the sake of those who do support my work and even those who do engage in spirited, but reasonable, disagreements with it.

April 02, 2020

Song of the Day #1779

Song of the Day: Keep Your Head Up, words and music by Andy Grammer, is from his 2011 debut self-titled album---and has one of those positive messages fit for the times we live in. In addition, I never thought I'd find a pop song that takes a swipe at philosophical skeptics! "Skeptics mess with the confidence in my eyes. I'm seeing all the angles, thoughts get tangled. I start to compromise my life and my purpose. Is it all worth it? Am I gonna turn out fine? Oh, you turn out fine! Fine, oh, you turn out fine! But you gotta keep your head up, oh oh. And you can let your hair down, eh eh!" Check out the official video [YouTube link], with a cameo from actor Rainn Wilson, and, with a French turn-of-phrase "Releve le tete", in a duet with Melissa Nkonda [YouTube link].

March 12, 2020

Song of the Day #1778

Song of the Day: Passion Dance, composed by jazz pianist McCoy Tyner, is featured on three of his albums, including the 1967 quartet album, "The Real McCoy" [YouTube link] (with tenor saxophonist Joe Henderson, bassist Ron Carter, and drummer Elvin Jones), the 1978 live album, "Passion Dance" [YouTube link] (with bassist Ron Carter and drummer Tony Williams) and the 1992 Big Band album, "The Turning Point" [YouTube link], for which Tyner won the first of five Grammy Awards. I just learned that the great pianist died on 6 March 2020 at the age of 81. He was the last surviving member of the legendary John Coltrane Quartet. Tyner developed a virtuoso distinctive "maximalist" style, incorporating and integrating the "two directions" pioneered by Coltrane into his piano playing, what Sami Linna has described as "playing chordally (vertically) and melodically (horizontally)" simultaneously, with complex use of pentatonic scales---which had a great impact on many pianists to follow in his wake, including Chick Corea. This NEA Jazz Master remains one of my all-time favorite jazz pianists. RIP, McCoy [YouTube links to Aimee Nolte's discussion of Tyner's distinctive contributions]. Think of this as a prelude to what is forthcoming in Summer 2020: My Fifth Annual Summer Music Festival (Jazz Edition)!

Song of the Day #1777

Song of the Day: Stupid Love, words and music by host of writers including Max Martin and Lady Gaga, is the lead single to Gaga's forthcoming album, "Chromatica". Along with Dua Lipa, JT and SZA, and others, Lady Gaga contributes to "Disco's Radio Revival" as Gary Trust puts it in a recent Billboard article. Check out the official video version [YouTube link]. Okay, my Happy Dancing Days are over for this week ... gotta rest these tired dogs! ;)

March 11, 2020

Song of the Day #1776

Song of the Day: High Hopes features the words and music of a host of writers, including lead singer Brendon Urie of Panic! at the Disco, which brought this song to #1 on five Billboard charts and into the Top Five of the Hot 100---the biggest hit in the band's chart history. Winner of the Top Rock Song at the 2019 Billboard Music Awards and of the MTV Best Rock Video, this upbeat song, telling us to "go make a legacy," was the second single from the band's sixth studio album, "Pray for the Wicked." Not to be confused with that great Sinatra tune [YouTube link] from the 1959 film, "A Hole in the Head", check out this song's award-winning official video [YouTube]. With this track, we've hit Song of the Day #1776! Think of the Declaration of Independence! The Wealth of Nations! Or just keep on dancin'...

March 10, 2020

Song of the Day #1775

Song of the Day: Trolls World Tour ("The Other Side"), words and music by Sarah Aarons, Ludwig Goransson, Max Martin, Justin Timberlake and SZA, is featured on the soundtrack to this upcoming sequel to the 2016 animated flick "Trolls". This newly released song has a retro R&B dance feel. Justin continues to show the impact of Michael Jackson on his musical style and choreography, giving us that MJ toe stance on his kicks in his very first dance move in the video [YouTube links].

March 09, 2020

Song of the Day #1774

Song of the Day: Don't Start Now, words and music by Caroline Furoyen, Emily Warren Schwartz, Ian Kirkpatrick, and Dua Lipa, whose recording of this single reached the summit of the Billboard Dance Club chart in January. It is the lead single to her forthcoming album, "Future Nostalgia." Check out the official video and the extended mix, as well as a slew of remixes: Purple Disco Machine, Andy Jarvis, Kungs, Dom Dolla, Theo, and Kenan. I'm still doing my happy dance...

March 08, 2020

SNL Spoofs NYC's LaGuardia Airport

For those who have never had the pleasure of going through New York City's LaGuardia Airport, here's a recent "Saturday Night Live" skit that should have you in stitches (which is what you may need if you go through that airport anyway!):

Song of the Day #1773

Song of the Day: Adore You features the words and music of Amy Allen, Tyler Johnson, Thomas Hull, and Harry Styles, who recorded this single for his 2019 album, "Fine Line". This song's got a nice chill, soulful dance groove to it. Check out the official video, a live performance on "The Late, Late Show with James Corden", as well as remixes by J. Bruus and DJ Matt Blakk.

March 07, 2020

Song of the Day #1772

I introduced this "Song of the Day" entry on my Facebook Timeline with this comment: I've had quite a week, the highlight of which was submitting to Pennsylvania State University Press the July 2020 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies... the first issue of our twentieth anniversary volume! Twenty un-freaking-believable years!!!

Woo-hoo!!!

So I feel "like a boy" this morning, and in honor of that, I'm going to be doing my Happy Dance for a few days, highlighting mostly new pop-dance tracks.

Song of the Day: Boy, featuring the words and music of Jacob Kusher and Charlie Puth, appears on Puth's second studio album, "Voicenotes." Puth [YouTube link] is a boy with perfect pitch [YouTube link] and with a sense of humor (watch his spot-on Michael McDonald-Doobie Brothers impersonation in Jimmy Fallon's "Music Genre Challenge") [YouTube link]. Check out the album version, a live concert version [Live Nation at 1:15:14], and an Instagram jam with John Mayer [YouTube links].

March 03, 2020

Bernie Sanders: Public Enemy #1 or Yoko Ono #2?

Calm down, Bernie Supporters! This is not about Bernie Sanders so much as it is about the break-up of one of the most influential hip hop groups of all time: Public Enemy. There has long been friction between two of its original members, Chuck D and Flavor Flav (who has now left the group). With Super Tuesday upon us, it seems more is at stake than just the Democratic Party nomination! From Wikipedia:

In late February 2020 it was announced that Public Enemy (billed as Public Enemy Radio) would perform at a campaign rally in Los Angeles, CA on March 1, 2020 for Bernie Sanders, who is campaigning to be the nominee of the Democratic Party in the 2020 presidential election. Days following the announcement, Flavor Flav took issue toward the group being associated with the Sanders campaign and issued a cease and desist letter asking the campaign to not use the group's name or logo. "While Chuck is certainly free to express his political views as he sees fit---his voice alone does not speak for Public Enemy. The planned performance will only be Chuck D of Public Enemy, it will not be a performance by Public Enemy. Those who truly know what Public Enemy stands for know what time it is, there is no Public Enemy without Flavor Flav," Flavor Flav's statement read. Chuck D responded to the statement by saying "Flavor chooses to dance for his money and not do benevolent work like this. He has a year to get his act together and get himself straight or he’s out.” A lawyer for Chuck D added "Chuck could perform as Public Enemy if he ever wanted to; he is the sole owner of the Public Enemy trademark. He originally drew the logo himself in the mid-80’s, is also the creative visionary and the group’s primary songwriter, having written Flavor’s most memorable lines." Prior to the group's performance at the Sanders rally, Chuck D issued a statement saying Flavor Flav had been fired from the group. "Public Enemy and Public Enemy Radio will be moving forward without Flavor Flav. We thank him for his years of service and wish him well." According to reports, Chuck D and Flavor Flav had been at odds for a while. In 2017, Flavor Flav sued Chuck D over claims his earnings from Public Enemy "diminished to almost nothing." Flavor Flav issued a statement shortly before his firing saying "I don’t want our family and our movement broken up. I am a little worried about my partner Chuck, I hope he is ok and that Public Enemy can get back to doing the good works we have done for 30 years…not for money but for people like me who have been denied their rights to participate because of bullshit policies. I have nothing personal against Bernie but I have issues with how he and his people have handled this." Following his firing his lawyer released [a] statement taking shots at Chuck D and claiming that "masses of clock wearing fans" left the Sanders rally when Public Enemy Radio performed.

Leonard Greene in the New York Daily News commented on this brush up in his column today, stating:

As a longtime Public Enemy fan, and a Chuck D devotee, I never thought I’d hear myself say this, but I think I’m with Flav on this one. While it’s probably true that Public Enemy’s Flavor Flav doesn’t know the difference between Bernie Sanders and Barry Sanders or even Col. Harland Sanders for that matter, it doesn’t mean that presidential candidates should be able to use his likeness---or his clock---without his permission. ... Bernie Sanders may have broken up Public Enemy, and I for one may not be able to forgive him.

Still, Greene keeps a sense of humor about all this, recognizing the long-time tension between Chuck D and Flavor Flav: "Now, as much as we’d like to make Sanders out to be Yoko Ono in all of this---it’s a Beatles reference; just Google it---the split is more likely about what every musical group split is about. Money."

Oh well. All this is not unusual. Even if we consider the use by public figures of songs by groups that despise them (and that list is legion), I'll leave it to the IP folks (Stephan Kinsella?) and ASCAP to sort out the legal issues, and to the ethicists to sort out the rights and wrongs of politicians using compositions written by folks whose first impulse is to issue "cease and desist" orders.

Still, in defense of Bernie Sanders: You may or may not endorse his politics but don't blame him for the break-up of Public Enemy!

What can I say? Whatever your political persuasion: "Fight the Power" [YouTube link]!

March 02, 2020

Song of the Day #1771

Song of the Day: Mr. Roboto, words and music by Dennis DeYoung, was released as a single from the 1983 album "Kilroy Was Here" by the band, Styx. A quintessential mash-up of prog-rock and synth-pop styles, the song went to #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song is part of a rock opera of sorts, in response to anti-rock religious groups who pushed various bills demanding record manufacturers to label albums that might include "subliminal" messages through "backward masking" (see the "Paul is Dead" controversy that emerged from various Beatles' recordings [YouTube link]). The Styx album tells the story of a futuristic society run by a theocratic fascist state and the "Majority for Musical Morality" [YouTube link]. This rebellious song sports an infectious hook and a memorable video [YouTube link]. Domo Arigato, Mr. Roboto! [Yarn link].

February 29, 2020

Song of the Day #1770

Song of the Day: At the Circus ("Lydia the Tatooed Lady"), music by Harold Arlen, with clever lyrics by Yip Harburg (the team that gave us the Oscar-winning song "Over the Rainbow" from the 1939 film, "The Wizard of Oz"), made its debut in this other 1939 film, a Marx Brothers comedy. New York-born Groucho, the greatest Marxist of them all, introduced this song in this hilarious romp [YouTube film clip]. Groucho was in a class by himself, indeed [YouTube link]. But Kermit the Frog also delivered this song on "The Muppet Show" as did Virginia Weidler in "The Philadelphia Story" (1940) [YouTube links] (hat tip to Roderick Long). And so, we end our sixteenth annual Film Music February on a leaping comedic note [YouTube link to a Dick Cavett interview in which Groucho sings this signature song], and look forward to revisiting the magic of film music again next year!

February 28, 2020

Song of the Day #1769

Song of the Day: Until They Sail ("Main Title"), music by David Raksin, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, is sung over the opening credits by Eydie Gorme. This 1957 Robert Wise-directed film includes an all-star cast of Jean Simmons, Paul Newman, Joan Fontaine, Piper Laurie, and Sandra Dee. Check out the Eydie Gorme single (which goes through 2 minutes and 42 seconds at that YouTube link). This is the second time in two consecutive years in which Paul Newman starred in a film directed by Robert Wise, with a main title featuring lyrics by Sammy Cahn!

February 27, 2020

Song of the Day #1768

Song of the Day: Somebody Up There Likes Me ("Title Track"), music by Bronsilau Kaper, lyrics by Sammy Cahn, opens this 1956 film about the life of Brooklyn-born middleweight boxer, Rocky Graziano, played by Paul Newman. This is the first of two back-to-back years that Paul Newman starred in films directed by Robert Wise, with a title song whose lyrics were written by Sammy Cahn! (We'll check out the second of these collaborations tomorrow!) Perry Como sings this song over the opening and closing credits to the film [YouTube links].

February 26, 2020

Song of the Day #1767

Song of the Day: Point Break ("Take Me Down"), words and music by Michael Hodges, Kayla Morrison, and Gerald Trottman, is sung by Genevieve over a pulsating dance groove, featured on the soundtrack to this 2015 action thriller. The film didn't receive a great reception, earning an 11% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, nowhere near the original Kathryn Bigelow-directed 1991 original, but the films share rockin' soundtracks. Check out this propulsive track here [YouTube link].

February 25, 2020

Song of the Day #1766

Song of the Day: Sabrina ("Opening Title") [YouTube link], composed by Friedrich Hollaender, opens this 1954 Billy Wilder rom-com, starring Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, and William Holden. In 1995, the film was remade by director Sydney Pollack. The Wilder version received six Oscar nominations, winning only in the category of Best Costume Design, for Edith Head, who, in her lifetime, was nominated 35 times, winning 8 Oscars along the way. It is rumored, however, that Hepburn personally chose outfits created for her by Hubert de Givenchy.

February 24, 2020

Song of the Day #1765

Song of the Day: Lady Sings the Blues ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Michel Legrand, who was born on this date in 1932. This is one of the few original compositions on the soundtrack to this 1972 biopic of Billie Holiday, portrayed by the Oscar-nominated Diana Ross with heartbreaking realism. The soundtrack includes, of course, some of the grandest gems from the Great American Songbook.

February 23, 2020

Song of the Day #1764

Song of the Day: Lady Be Good ("Fascinating Rhythm"), music by George Gershwin, lyrics by Ira Gershwin, originated in the 1924 Broadway production "Lady, Be Good!," and was introduced on the stage by Clint Edwards, Fred Astaire, and Adele Astaire (Fred's older sister). It has been recorded by so many artists through the years, becoming a bona fide entry in the Great American Songbook [pdf link]. Listen to Astaire's original Broadway version [YouTube link] and then check out the epic tap sequence [YouTube link] by Eleanor Powell, which comes immediately after a sequence with the Berry Brothers [YouTube link], both featured in the 1941 remake of the 1928 silent film version. And for a little extra fun, check out Fred Astaire's appearance at the 1970 Oscars.

February 22, 2020

Song of the Day #1763

Song of the Day: Murder, Inc. ("The Awakening") [YouTube link], words and music by George Weiss, is introduced by Sarah Vaughan in her first screen credit, in this gritty 1960 docudrama, which earned Peter Falk, in the role of Brooklyn-born gangster Abe Reles, a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nomination (the first of two consecutive nominations he received in 1960 and 1961). Facing the electric chair for a series of murders in which he was implicated, Reles, who was a member of the organized crime group known as "Murder, Inc." turned government informant, sending other gangsters to the hot seat. He eventually met his death by, uh, suicide, trying to "escape" from Room 623 of the Half Moon Hotel located on the Riegelmann Boardwalk in Coney Island on the very day he was due to testify against Mafia hood Albert Anastasia---forever dubbing him "the Canary Who Could Sing, But Couldn't Fly." Funny how these things happen, eh? [Daily Motion, part 2, clip at 49:00] Check out the song as delivered in the film by Sassy in a lounge scene [Daily Motion, part 1, clip at 42:19].

February 21, 2020

Song of the Day #1762

Song of the Day: Wait Until Dark (vocal rendition), music by Henry Mancini, lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, is sung by Sue Raney (performed by the artist live and from the soundtrack [YouTube links]) over the end credits to this 1967 thriller (based on the 1966 play by Frederic Knott), starring Audrey Hepburn, who earned an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Actress. A lovely song that builds on the eerie themes of the main title [FSM mp3 link], in a much less sinister way than one would have anticipated.

February 20, 2020

Song of the Day #1761

Song of the Day: Anastasia ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, opens this 1956 film, which stars Ingrid Bergman, who resembles the Grand Duchess Anastasia Nikolaevna, rumored to be the only surviving daughter of Czar Nicholas II, who was executed by the Bolsheviks as a member of the Romanov family in 1918. Bergman was awarded the Oscar for Best Actress and Alfred Newman received an Oscar nomination for "Best Music Score of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture," but lost out to Victor Young, who won the award posthumously for his score to "Around the World in 80 Days." But Newman and Ken Darby did walk away with a statuette for their scoring of a musical picture ("The King and I"). Bergman's co-star in this film, Yul Brynner, had a banner year; in addition to this film, he also starred as Ramesses II in Cecil B. DeMille's blockbuster "The Ten Commandments" and received the Best Actor Oscar for his role as King Mongkut of Siam in the film version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical, "The King and I." I highlight this film today for a very special reason: Today is the 101st anniversary of my mother's birth. Known as Ann or Anna to her friends and relatives, her full Greek name was Anastasia, and for those who loved her and were loved by her, she was royalty incarnate.

February 19, 2020

Song of the Day #1760

Song of the Day: King Cobra ("Luuvbazaar"), words and music by Cody Baker Critcheloe and J. Ashley Miller, closes the credits to this 2016 film based on the book Cobra Killer: Gay Porn, Murder, and the Manhunt to Bring the Killers to Justice, by Andrew E. Stoner and Peter A. Conway. The unsettling film stars Christian Slater as Bryan Kocis, James Franco as Joseph Kerekes, and Garrett Clayton as Brent Corrigan. On the soundtrack, the song is performed by SSION (and check out their music video too) [YouTube link].

February 18, 2020

Song of the Day #1759

Song of the Day: King of Jazz ("Wild Cat") [YouTube link], a duet between jazz violinist Joe Venuti and jazz guitarist Eddie Lang (both of whom are credited as composers of the tune) backed by the Paul Whiteman Orchestra, is a brief snippet in the 1930 "talkie" film with early two-color Technicolor, providing only a glimpse of Venuti's virtuosity. This is the first of two consecutive cues from films referring to a "King" ... tomorrow, something entirely different, to say the least!

February 17, 2020

Song of the Day #1758

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Balthazar's World") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, incorporates several motifs from the film score, including the Prelude, the Christ theme, and the theme for the "Adoration of the Magi"---all speaking to the character of Balthazar, one of the three wise men who has returned to Judea to find the child he first encountered in a manger in Bethlehem, following the star that proclaimed his birth. William Wyler once joked that it took a Jew to make a good film about Christ (indeed, in music, as in film, such Jewish Americans as Irving Berlin, who wrote "White Christmas" and Mel Torme and Robert Wells, who wrote "The Christmas Song," have contributed some of the finest "chestnuts" to the soundtrack of the Christmas holiday season). Be that as it may, this film's soundtrack, written by one of the greatest composers of his generation---or any generation, has always provided me with a special kind of spiritual nutrition, even during some of my most difficult days. The 1959 all-time Oscar champ (tied only by "Titanic" and "The Lord of the Rings: Return of the King"---each with 11 Oscars) recently celebrated its 60th anniversary; it was released on 18 November 1959. And now, yes, today, I too am 60. It has become a tradition of sorts to feature a cue from this epic---my all-time favorite film---on my birthday. How fitting to celebrate a 60-year old film and soundtrack, when a 1960 baby celebrates his Beddian Birthday (or should that be "his Ben-hurdian Birthday"?).

Postscript on Facebook: It is an overwhelming experience to have a few hundred people sending you Happy Birthday wishes. I 'hearted' every person who posted to my 60th Birthday Timeline... because words can't express how much I appreciate such an outpouring of love and kindness. But 60 or not... this was one of the T-shirts I got for my birthday... and youthful spirit that I am, this one just about says it all!

Chris1960ShirtSmall.jpg

February 16, 2020

Song of the Day #1757

Song of the Day: Touch of Evil ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Henry Mancini for this 1958 film noir classic, directed by and starring Orson Welles. Charlton Heston, Janet Leigh, and Marlene Dietrich round out the cast of this film, which critics regard as among the finest of its genre. Welles was aghast at how the studio edited his film---but this is Mancini at his classic, gritty best. A year later, Heston would win his Best Actor Oscar for "Ben-Hur" and two years later, Janet Leigh would meet a different fate in Hitchcock's "Psycho" [iSpot.tv link]. But in this film, with its unforgettable, iconic uninterrupted opening tracking shot [YouTube link], Welles delivers one of the last and best of this genre's genuine classics.

February 15, 2020

Song of the Day #1756

Song of the Day: Khartoum ("Main Theme and End Titles") [YouTube link], composed by Frank Cordell, opens and closes this 1966 historical drama, which centers on the siege of Khartoum in the late 19th century. Charlton Heston portrays General Charles Gordon, Laurence Olivier portrays Muhammad Ahmed (the Mahdi), and Ralph Richardson portrays British Prime Minister William Ewart Gladstone. Historical inaccuracies aside, politically correct concerns aside, the film boasts an intelligent script and a wonderful score. This is actually the first of three films in our Film Music February salute, starring Charlton Heston.

February 14, 2020

Song of the Day #1755

Song of the Day: The Godfather, Part III ("To Each His Own"), music by Jay Livingston, lyrics by Ray Evans, was a popular hit for several recording artists in 1946: Eddy Howard, Freddy Martin and His Orchestra, Tony Martin, The Modernaires with Paula Kelly, and the Ink Spots [YouTube links]. Though this song was released in the same year as the 1946 film of the same name, starring Oscar-winning Best Actress Olivia de Havilland---who is still kickin' at the age of 103---it is only tangentially related to that film! But it is a standout track to the third installment of "The Godfather" trilogy, performed in the 1990 film by Al Martino [YouTube link---with the Sicilian turn-of-phrase "Salsiccia's Own"). On this Valentine's Day, celebrate love ... "to each his own."

February 13, 2020

Song of the Day #1754

Song of the Day: Home Room ("Main Theme") [site link], was composed by my friend Michael Gordon Shapiro, for a 2002 film, a cue from whose soundtrack I highlighted last year. This film, starring Erika Christensen, Busy Philipps, and Victor Garber, portrays the traumatic after-effects in the wake of a high school shooting massacre. On the eve of the two-year anniversary of the tragic mass shooting that took place at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, this cue has special poignance. I truly love and value so much of Michael's music over the years and encourage listeners to explore his ever-growing body of work.

February 12, 2020

Song of the Day #1753

Song of the Day: Blue Gardenia ("Title Song"), words and music by Lester Lee and Bob Russell, is sung by Nat King Cole (playing himself) in the Blue Gardenia restaurant and nightclub in this 1953 film noir, directed by the great Fritz Lang. Check out the studio version and the film version [YouTube links]. It would also become a signature song for the great Dinah Washington [YouTube link].

February 11, 2020

Song of the Day #1752

Song of the Day: The Mark of Zorro ("Soundtrack Suite") [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, includes all of the key themes to this swashbuckling 1940 adventure film, starring Tyrone Power as Zorro. The score was among the seventeen scores nominated in 1940 for "Best Original Score" (losing out to "Pinocchio"). It illustrates just why Newman is considered one of the great composers of the Golden Age of Classical Hollywood Cinema. With pitchers and catchers reporting to Spring training for both the New York Mets and the New York Yankees, it would be nice to see a little swashbuckling magic in the upcoming 2020 MLB season!

February 10, 2020

Song of the Day #1751

Song of the Day: L.A. Confidential ("Soundtrack Suite") [YouTube link] was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who was born on this date in 1929. The suite, derived from the terrific 1997 film, provides just a glimpse of that Goldsmith magic, which has made an indelible mark on American cinema, running the gamut from "Patton" (1970), "The Sand Pebbles" (1966) and "Chinatown" (1974) to "Planet of the Apes" (1968), "Alien" (1979) and "The Omen" (for which he won his only Best Original Score Oscar in 1976 out of a lifetime eighteen Academy Award nominations).

February 09, 2020

Song of the Day #1750

Song of the Day: Since You Went Away ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Max Steiner, opens the 1944 film, which centers on the American home front during World War II, with a stellar cast that includes Claudette Colbert, Jennifer Jones, Joseph Cotten, and Shirley Temple. The "Golden Age" composer would go on to win the Oscar at the 17th Annual Academy Awards for "Best Scoring of a Dramatic or Comedy Picture" in a field of twenty nominees! Tonight, another composer will win an Oscar for Best Original Score at the 92nd Annual Academy Awards. Tune in and find out who gets the Oscar statuette.

February 08, 2020

Song of the Day #1749

Song of the Day: Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace ("Duel of the Fates") was composed by New York-born John Williams, who turns 88 today---the number of people in the choir accompanying the London Symphony Orchestra in this recording. This composition is one of the most brilliant, rousing symphonic pieces in the Williams repertoire. With Sanskrit lyrics based on "Cad Goddeu," an archaic Welsh poem, the track actually charted on MTV's "Total Request Live" for eleven days after its release as a single! The composer just won a Grammy Award for Best Instrumental Composition for "Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge Symphonic Suite" [YouTube link], a piece inspired by the Disney Themed Land dedicated to the "Star Wars" film franchise, which opened in the summer of 2019. Williams, who has won twenty-four Grammy Awards and five Oscar Awards (out of 52 nominations, second only to Walt Disney), has also created the music for the entire nine episodes of the central "Star Wars" franchise, including its 2019 finale, the J. J. Abrams-directed "Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker," for which he has been nominated for an Oscar for Best Original Score this year. This is the fourth "Star Wars" soundtrack that has earned Williams an Oscar nomination---the others being the original 1977 Oscar-winning soundtrack for "Star Wars: Episode III - A New Hope" (for which he also won both Golden Globe and Saturn Awards); the 2015 soundtrack to "Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens" (for which he also won a Saturn Award); and the 2017 soundtrack to "Star Wars: Episode VIII - The Last Jedi". Identified as one of the greatest symphonic composers for the cinema, Williams remains a global treasure. Happy birthday, John! Check out the soundtrack album version, the official music video and the action-packed scene (spoiler alert!) [YouTube link] in the 1999 film in which this triumphant theme is heard.

February 07, 2020

Song of the Day #1748

Song of the Day: An American In Paris ("I Got Rhythm"), music by George Gershwin (who wrote the original 1928 jazz-influenced orchestral composition that inspired this film adaptation) and lyrics by Ira Gershwin, was first heard in the 1930 Broadway musical "Girl Crazy." But it was among the highlights of this 1951 musical, starring Gene Kelly. Check out the scene from the 1951 film that features this wonderful jazz standard [YouTube link], which embodies Kelly's vocal and choreographical charm.

February 06, 2020

Song of the Day #1747

Song of the Day: Sing ("Faith"), words and music by Francis Farewell Starlite, Benny Blanco, Ryan Tedder, and Ariana Grande and Stevie Wonder, who duet on this original rockin' jam from the soundtrack to the 2016 animated motion picture, "Sing". Check out the studio version, the music video, and a live performance of this sizzling, gospel-influenced song [YouTube links].

February 05, 2020

Kirk Douglas, RIP

We are in the middle of Film Music February, and I've just learned that the legendary actor, Kirk Douglas, passed away today at the age of 103.

A three-time Oscar nominee, Douglas was honored with a lifetime achievement award at the 1996 Oscar ceremonies [YouTube link]. We have honored Douglas through song choices in Film Music February entries in the past, including his portrayal of Vincent van Gogh in "Lust for Life", his heart-wrenching portrait of a tragic jazz trumpeter, inspired by the life of Bix Beiderbecke, in "Young Man with a Horn" (in which he co-starred with the late Doris Day), and, of course, his immortal performance of the title role in the 1960 epic, "Spartacus" (cues from which I've noted here and here).

RIP, Kirk.

Song of the Day #1746

Song of the Day: Purple Rain ("The Bird"), words and music by Prince, Morris Day, and Jesse Johnson, was first released by The Time as part of their 1983 album, "Ice Cream Castle." Except for guitarist Johnson, Prince played all the instruments on the original studio version of this single, but it was later released in a live rendition [YouTube link]. The group performs the song in the 1984 film, "Purple Rain." Check out a clip from the film and as part of a twentieth anniversary tribute concert [YouTube links].

February 04, 2020

Song of the Day #1745

Song of the Day: Demetrius and the Gladiators ("Soundtrack Suite") [YouTube link], composed by Franz Waxman, incorporates some of the themes made famous by the glorious soundtrack to "The Robe", composed by Alfred Newman. But Waxman still retains his own musical voice throughout the score. This particular suite gives the full flavor of many of the cues heard throughout the 1954 film, the CinemaScope sequel to "The Robe," featuring Victor Mature as Demetrius, Susan Hayward as Messalina, and Jay Robinson as the utterly insane Emperor Caligula (check out these two interviews of Robinson on YouTube). The script has some of my favorite lines; Hayward delivers one of the best: "When the truth is ugly, only a lie can be beautiful."

February 03, 2020

Song of the Day #1744

Song of the Day: Godzilla ("Godzilla!") [YouTube link], composed by Alexandre Desplat, opens the 2014 reboot of the classic 1954 monster movie whose main theme we featured yesterday. Desplat has been nominated for ten Academy Awards for Best Original Score in his career, having won two (for "The Grand Budapest Hotel" and "The Shape of Water"). Having had a long-time love affair with "Monster Movies" since childhood, I am all the more impressed by Desplat's fresh approach to a film franchise with a long history, which is both an homage to the original "Godzilla" themes, while never losing its unique voice in the process. Oh, and btw, the little monsters, both Punxsutawny Phil and Staten Island Chuck, predicted an early spring!

February 02, 2020

Song of the Day #1743

Song of the Day: Godzilla ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Akira Ifkube, opens the classic 1954 Japanese film, "Gojira," that launched one of the biggest monster movie franchises in cinema history. It was released in 1956 to American audiences as "Godzilla: King of the Monsters!" and re-edited to include Raymond Burr as journalist Steve Martin. Today, of course, we're looking not to a beast as Super Bowl large as Godzilla but to the relatively smaller, though not necessarily less vicious Groundhog [YouTube link to ex-NYC Mayor Bloomberg getting his finger bit by Staten Island Chuck!], who will let us know how many more weeks of winter we'll have to endure in the Northern Hemisphere! Tomorrow, we'll check out the main theme of the 2014 reboot!

February 01, 2020

Song of the Day #1742

Song of the Day: Of Human Bondage ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the "father of film music," Max Steiner, is heard over the opening credits to the 1934 film version of the W. Somerset Maugham novel. In previews, RKO executives were not too fond of Steiner's initial score, and he literally had to write a new one, with motifs for each of the characters. The opening credits feature, however, a lovely waltz, which doesn't begin to convey the venomous power of one of Davis's most memorable performances, with one of the most memorably delivered lines in cinema history: "And after you kissed me, I always used to wipe my mouth. Wipe my mouth!!!" [YouTube link]. Alas, our sixteenth annual Film Music February begins today, February 1st and runs through February 29th. Today also begins TCM's Annual 31 Days of Oscar celebration.This leap year, the Oscars air a bit earlier than usual: on February 9th. But we will be celebrating film music every day in February, running the gamut from score cues, suites, and main titles to songs that originated in film and those used in film, even if they originated elsewhere. This year, we'll be focusing more attention on scores from the Golden Age of American Cinema (broadly interpreted). So fasten your seat belts, it's going to be a bumpy month [YouTube link]!

January 26, 2020

Song of the Day #1741

Song of the Day: 7 Rings features a host of writing credits, but the most important ones are Richard Rodgers, Oscar Hammerstein II, and Ariana Grande, who took this song to #1 in its first week of release on the Billboard Hot 100, where it spent eight non-consecutive weeks (her longest running #1 single to date). The song, featured on her 2019 album, "Thank U, Next," interpolates the classic "Sound of Music" song, "My Favorite Things." If for nothing else, I give kudos to Grande for truly standing on the shoulders of giants in crafting this mega-hit. I'm sure many of her fans don't even know who Rodgers and Hammerstein are (and the Rodgers and Hammerstein estates are getting 90% of the royalties for the song)! And yet, the song is currently the subject of a lawsuit. Rapper DOT (Josh Stone) claims the hook was stolen from his song "I Got It" [YouTube links]. However that turns out, I like the song! Check out the video single, a remixed version featuring rapper 2 Chainz, the Workout Remix and the DJ Linuxis Deep House Remix. The song is nominated for Record of the Year and Best Pop Solo Performance at the 62nd Annual Grammy Awards, which takes place tonight. Tune in!

January 10, 2020

Neil Peart, RIP

I just learned from my friend Irfan Khawaja that Neil Peart, drummer and primary lyricist for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame band, Rush, passed away on January 7, 2020 at the age of 67.

I once wrote a Fall 2002 Journal of Ayn Rand Studies article, "Rand, Rush, and Rock" that spawned a Fall 2003 JARS symposium on "Ayn Rand and Progressive Rock," featuring contributions from Durrell Bowman, Steven Horwitz, Ed Macan, Bill Martin, Robert M. Price, Peter Saint-Andre, and Thomas Welsh, with a rejoinder by me. It was a lively symposium, indeed, but it would never have been possible without the contributions of Neil Peart---whose Randian phase ultimately provoked my original essay.

RIP, Neil Peart.

Ed.: As I added to a Facebook thread by my friend Steve Horwitz:

And you're right, Steve: I have no words either [to express my sadness over this loss] ... but plenty of lyrics and music to remember him by. ❤️

January 01, 2020

Song of the Day #1740

Song of the Day: Happy New Year, words and music by Gordon Jenkins, is featured on the 1957 studio album, "Alone," by Judy Garland. It has a certain sadness to it, but given the recent resurgence of interest in Judy (see the 2019 film with Rene Zellweger), I thought it was a poignant way of bringing in the new year [YouTube link]. To better days in 2020, filled with love, health, and happiness!

December 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1739

Song of the Day: What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin')?, written and recorded in 1936 by Louis Prima, is a fun and jazzy song that encompasses the joy of the holiday season, and its message of peace on earth, goodwill to all. Cali (below) and the Sciabarra family wish folks a very Merry Christmas. As you can see, we have to create a large space for her under the tree, and in front of the creche and the village, because she demands to be the center of attention! But she's trying not to be naughty... and is tracking Santa on NORAD, awaiting her gifts! Check out this holiday favorite [YouTube link]!

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December 22, 2019

Song of the Day #1738

Song of the Day: A Week and a Day, words and music by I Have No Clue, made its debut on the 19 December 2019 "Late Late Show with James Corden." A parody of 90s-era boy bands, the song was performed in a music video setting by "Boyz II Menorah," featuring Zach Braff, James Corden, Christopher Mintz-Plasse, Josh Peck and Charlie Puth. For years, the only Hanukkah songs we could rely on were "Dreidel, Dreidel, Dreidel" [YouTube link] and, of course, Adam Sandler's "The Hanukkah Song" [YouTube link]. So check out this funny, good-natured celebration [YouTube link] of the Jewish festival of lights and a Happy Hanukkah to all my Jewish friends! And a Happy Solstice, especially to all those who live in the Northern hemisphere, as we now march toward the light!

December 17, 2019

All I Want for Christmas Is ... A #1 Single! Wow!

I'm sure many of you are probably tired of hearing this 25-year old song, and it's not even a Song of the Day, since I featured it way back on December 28, 2008. But today, with its sales and streaming combined, Mariah Carey's perennial ol' time song ("All I Want for Christmas Is You") has finally ascended to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, the first Christmas song to hit #1 in sixty-one years! The last Christmas song to hit #1 was "The Chipmunk Song (Christmas Don't Be Late)" [YouTube link] (which I featured on December 28, 2005). Mariah's song was a true original from her 1994 holiday album, "Merry Christmas."

That gives Mariah nineteen #1 singles (first among solo artists and only one behind the all-time Beatles record twenty #1 singles)! Check out three different videos to the song [YouTube links]. And while you're at it, check out Mariah's appearance on "The Late Late Show" with James Corden and her brand new video celebrating the song's ascent to #1 [YouTube links], where the production gives a wink to Busby Berkeley. And check out this chat with Mariah Carey about the song [YouTube link].

Plenty of folks have said that the song has a 50s or 60s vibe, but don't kid yourself: You could easily do a Lindy Hop (or, if you prefer, a Jitterbug) to this song with no problem---and that sound goes all the way back to the swing era, which is why "All I Want for Christmas Is You" has been embraced by children of all ages!

So, we're decorating for the holidays---there's no "war on Christmas" in this house---and cranking up the volume, mixing those great traditional carols and popular songs delivered by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Judy Garland, Bing Crosby, Gene Autry, Ella Fitzgerald, Sarah Vaughan, Diane Reeves, Henry Mancini, Donny Hathaway, Joe Pass, Bobby Helms, Brenda Lee, Jose Feliciano, Paul McCartney, Karen Carpenter (speaking of which, unrelated to Christmas, check out this remarkable duet of Karen and Ella), Vince Guaraldi (with the "Peanuts" gang), Wham!, and, yes, Mariah Carey too [YouTube links]! It's time to Deck the Halls (and the windows and every other room in the apartment)!

December 16, 2019

Song of the Day #1737

Song of the Day: You're No Good, words and music by Clint Ballard, Jr., was first recorded by Dee Dee Warwick [YouTube link] in 1963. Other renditions of this song by Betty Everett and The Swinging Blue Jeans [YouTube links] charted in 1963 and 1964, respectively. But it wasn't until 1975 that Linda Ronstadt [YouTube link] took this song to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was one of the highlights on her #1 breakthrough fifth solo studio album, "Heart Like a Wheel." Last night Ronstadt was among the honorees at the 2019 Kennedy Center Honors, where Trisha Yearwood [YouTube link] delivered this song in tribute to the artist. Though retired since 2011 due to ill-health, Ronstadt was in attendance and clearly moved by the tribute to her remarkably diverse musical legacy [YouTube link]. Other honorees included Michael Tilson Thomas, Sally Field, Sesame Street (which celebrates its fiftieth anniversary this year), and Earth, Wind & Fire. A tribute to that seminal group served as the rousing finale to this year's festivities, with some wonderful performances by John Legend, Cynthia Erivo, Ne Yo, the Jonas Brothers, and an all-cast performance of "September," which brought down the house [YouTube links]. It was a really entertaining night. Bravo to all the recipients! But, note to the committee: I'm still waiting for Chick Corea to become a Kennedy Center Honoree!

December 12, 2019

Song of the Day #1736

Song of the Day: Day In, Day Out, music by Rube Bloom, lyrics by Johnny Mercer, has been recorded by countless artists since its first appearance in 1939. Our birthday boy, Frank Sinatra, who would have been 104 today, recorded the song three times himself in wildly different arrangements, from his albums, "The Point of No Return" [YouTube link] (recorded in 1953, but featured in a 2002 expanded edition of the album, as a ballad arranged by Alex Stordahl); "Come Dance with Me" [YouTube link] (1959, in a swinging Billy May arrangement); and finally on "Nice 'n' Easy" (1960, in a distinctively Nelson Riddle orchestral arrangement). Amazing how different arrangers could allow Ol' Blue Eyes to explore the different nuances of a single song. All part of the genius that was Frank Sinatra and the wide influence [YouTube link] he continues to have.

December 10, 2019

Song of the Day #1735

Song of the Day: Demolition Man, words and music by Sting, was first recorded by Grace Jones as part of her 1981 album, "Nightclubbing." The Police would record their own version of the song on their 1981 album, "Ghost in the Machine," as would Mannfred Mann's Earth Band for their 1983 album, "Somewhere in Afrika." Sting himself would release his own version as part of a 1993 EP in support of the Sylvester Stallone/Wesley Snypes film of the same name. I put this song up today with a little tongue-in-cheek (and with a hat tip to my friend, Brandon). For those who don't know why I've made this the Song of the Day, no explanation is possible; for those who do, no explanation is necessary. :) Check out the various versions: Grace Jones, The Police studio version and performance video, Mannfred Mann's Earth Band, and the Sting solo rendition [YouTube links].

December 05, 2019

Song of the Day #1734

Song of the Day: Pneuma features the music of Maynard James Keenan and the lyrics of Keenan [YouTube interview link], Adam Jones, Danny Carey, and Justin Chancellor of the progressive metal band Tool for their fifth studio album, "Fear Inoculum." Hat tip to Richie! The word "pneuma" comes from the ancient Greek for "breath"---and this track certainly breathes. It captures the notion of "becoming"---in Stoic thought, the emergence of the vital spirit, soul, and creativity of both the individual and the cosmos. Check out this piece from their critically acclaimed #1 album on YouTube.

December 01, 2019

Sassy, Mel, and Merv

I was a senior in high school, and one night I caught a showing of the "Merv Griffin Show" that was absolutely splendid. I pulled out my trusty audio cassette recorder [a Wiki link for those who don't know what that is] and immediately hit the record button. On the show that night were two of my all-time favorite singers: Sarah Vaughan and Mel Torme. Each did a solo spot (Sarah did "Someone to Watch Over Me" and Mel did a stupendous "Porgy and Bess Medley" [YouTube link to his studio version of it]). But then, the two jazz greats joined forces for "Lady Be Good" and an impromptu version of "I Got Rhythm." All these years, all I had to go on was the audio cassette version of this wonderful musical TV moment.

And then, just the other day, I was having a chat with a friend, mentioning one of the lyrics to "Lady Be Good" and I did a haphazard search on YouTube and---lo and behold, I found a clip from the "Merv Griffin Show" of Sassy and Mel doing the version that has been emblazoned in my mind due to my audio cassette recording of it back in the 1970s. And watching it, I was practically able to sing along and "scat" along with every note the two traded in their exhibition of the art of vocal improvisation.

So this is not a song of the day, since I featured "Lady Be Good" on---believe it or not---November 30, 2006 (where I referred to this Sass-Mel duet!), the very date (yesterday) that I shared with my friend one of the lyrics to the song. But for those who have never heard or seen this wonderful duet, check it out on YouTube [YouTube link]. If for nothing else, you will see on display the pure joy of two giants trading in a currency unique to them, which can be appreciated by anyone who trades in the universality of music.

November 28, 2019

Song of the Day #1733

Song of the Day: We Gather Together is a Christian hymn, derived from a Dutch poem, "Wilt heden Nu Treden," written by Adrianus Valerius, which celebrated the Dutch victory over the Spanish in the Battle of Turnhout in 1597. It was later wedded to an 1877 score arrangement of Eduard Kremser, with English lyrics provided by musicologist Theordore Baker in 1894. Recognized as an American hymnal in 1903 by the Hymn Society in the United States and Canada, it was adopted by the Dutch Reformed Church in 1937 as its first non-psalm-related hymnal, but gradually made its way into the hymnals of many interdenominational institutions, especially on this holiday. Check out various renditions of this hymn from the Grace Community Church in California, the Joslin Grove Choral Society, and, finally, as a tribute to the late actor John Ingle (who played the character of Edward Quartermaine from 1996 to 2012 on "General Hospital") [YouTube links]. Whatever one's religious beliefs or nonbeliefs, I think of this hymnal on this Thanksgiving Day as a way of counting the many blessings I have. And I wish all my Notablog readers a "Happy Thanksgiving" as they gather together with family and friends to celebrate this holiday.

November 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1732

Song of the Day: Park Avenue Petite was composed by tenor saxophonist Benny Golson. It first appeared on the 1960 album "Meet the Jazztet," featuring trumpeter Art Farmer and pianist McCoy Tyner. Check it out here and here [YouTube links]. In that same year, trumpeter Howard McGhee recorded another melancholy version [YouTube link] for his album "Dusty Blue." But my favorite version is by Blue Mitchell, which preceded both the Golson and McGhee recordings; it was featured on his 1959 album, "Blue Soul," with a group that included pianist Wynton Kelly, trombonist Curtis Fuller, tenor saxophonist Jimmy Heath, bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Philly Jo Jones. Check out his haunting version here (and a hat tip to my friend Brandon!). A blue song for a blue Monday in November.

November 07, 2019

Sinatra Across the Generations

Hat tip to Stephen Hicks for sharing this on Facebook, showing how the Chairman of the Board, Ol' Blue Eyes, Francis Albert Sinatra, reaches across the generations; check it out here.

It brought to mind my own multi-week Centenary tribute to Sinatra back in 2015.

September 23, 2019

Song of the Day #1731

Song of the Day: Let Me Take You Dancing features the words and music of Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams. Though this year's Dance Party focused on the Golden Anniversary of Woodstock and its artists, this 1978 dance track takes us full circle---since we started our Fourth Annual Summer Music Festival with Bryan Adams's "Summer of '69", we end it with an Adams recording that, believe it or not, was one of the most memorable disco hits of the decade following Woodstock. Unfortunately, Adams has actively worked to suppress all digital uploads of this song to any site, including YouTube. The original John Luongo 12" dance remix sped Bryan's 18-year old voice up to 122 BPMs without access to the voice compression technology of today---thus making young Bryan sound even younger (or as one critic put it: like a "Disco Chipmunk"). So, hanging onto the last four hours of summer by an eyelash, I can only provide you with the instrumental 12" vinyl version, three snippets from Jim Vallance's website, a snippet of the single's "lost" 3rd verse [Facebook link] and cover versions by David Karr and Vicki Shepard [YouTube links]. We conclude this year's festival with the song's main lyric: "Let me take you dancing, let me steal your heart tonight. Let me take you dancing, all night long." Till next summer...

September 22, 2019

Song of the Day #1730

Song of the Day: Whiskey Cavalier ("Love Me Again"), words and music by Steve Booker and John Newman, was the main title to this 2019 sleek spy comedy-drama with Scott Foley and Lauren Cohan that I actually enjoyed in its 13-episode run on the ABC network---which meant, of course, that the show would be cancelled. The song was actually released by John Newman in 2013 for the album, "Tribute." It can be heard as part of the "Intro Opening" to the show, and in its entirety in this clip with scenes from the series, as well as in its original music video [YouTube links]. Enjoy tonight's Emmy Awards!

September 21, 2019

Song of the Day #1729

Song of the Day: I Want to Take You Higher, words and music by Sly Stone was actually the "B" side to "Stand!", the first bona fide Woodstock performance [YouTube link] I featured in this year's Summer Music Festival, coinciding with the Golden Anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. Even as a "B" side, "I Want to Take You Higher" hit the Top 40 chart in 1970 for both Sly and the Family stone and Ike and Tina Turner, who did a cover of the song [YouTube links]. This song was one of the highlights of "Woodstock: The Director's Cut", an expanded version of the 1970 Oscar-winning Best Documentary Feature. Check out the Woodstock performance [YouTube link], which took place in the wee hours of Sunday, 17 August 1969. It's the final entry in our Fiftieth Anniversary Tribute to Woodstock. Tomorrow's entry marks the 71st Annual Emmy Awards, but we return in the wee hours of 23 September 2019, to conclude this year's Summer Music Festival with the same artist who opened it---all before the Autumnal Equinox hits the East Coast of the United States at 3:50 AM.

September 16, 2019

Song of the Day #1728

Song of the Day: Sucker is credited to six writers, three of whom constitute the group that recorded it in 2019: The Jonas Brothers. Today happens to be Nick Jonas's birthday; he turns 27, the baby of the bunch. (His brother Kevin Jonas is 31 and his brother Joe Jonas turned 30 on August 15, the date that Woodstock turned 50!) This is the first song recorded by the brothers in six years---and it went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in March 2019. Check out the music video and a few dance remixes by: DJ Lacqua, Fraze, the Barry Harris Sweet Dreams & Andy Ajar Video Club Mix [YouTube links], and a jazzy rendition by the brothers [Billboard link] and a jazzy rendition by Romina Manzano [YouTube link].

September 13, 2019

Song of the Day #1727

Song of the Day: Amazing Grace is a Christian hymn that was published in 1779, written by John Newton. If there had been recording technology back then, I think we could fairly say that there would have been thousands of recordings of this song by now. Since the advent of recording, AllMusic estimates that there have been at least 1,000 recordings of this hymn. Our Summer Music Festival (Woodstock Golden Anniversary Edition) continues with this rendition [YouTube link] by Arlo Guthrie, who closed his six-song set at 12:25 am on Saturday, 16 August 2019. Given this week's nineteenth installment in my annual WTC Remembrance Series, I could think of fewer themes more appropriate to feature this weekend. Also check out this bagpipe rendition [YouTube link], which features a montage of 9/11 images in tribute to the 343 firefighters who paid the ultimate price on that day---so that others might live. [Ed.: Hat Tip to my friend Kurt Keefner, who mentions that the words of this song were matched in 1835 to the melody of "New Britain" by William Walker.]

September 06, 2019

Song of the Day #1726

Song of the Day: The "Fish" Cheer/I-Feel-Like-I'm-Fixin'-To-Die Rag, written by Country Joe McDonald, was first released as part of a 1965 extended play vinyl, "Rag Baby Talking Issue No. 1," recorded by Country Joe and the Fish. In 1967, it became the title song of this psychedelic rock band's second studio album. With its biting satire, this was one of the most iconic counterculture protest songs ever recorded in opposition to the war in Vietnam. And so our Summer Music Festival (Woodstock Anniversary Edition) continues with this classic song. Check out the original EP version and then the unedited live Woodstock performance [YouTube links] that ended the group's Saturday afternoon set on 16 August 2019.

September 04, 2019

Song of the Day #1725

Song of the Day: Bootylicious features the words and music of Rob Fusari, Falonte Moore, and Beyonce Knowles, who turns 38 today. This was the third single from the 2001 album "Survivor" by Destiny's Child, the "girl group" which consisted of Kelly Rowland, Michelle Williams, and Beyonce. The song actually features a sample from "Edge of Seventeen" by Stevie Nicks (who makes a cameo in the music video) and went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 2001. To date, amazingly, it is the last song by a "girl group" to achieve a #1 hit in the United States. Though the word "bootylicious" was first used by rapper Snoop Dogg in 1992, this song's title became so much a part of the American vernacular that it was added to the Oxford English Dictionary in 2004! Check out the Matthew Rolston-directed music video [YouTube link], where Destiny's Child and their supporting dancers perform choreography made famous by Michael Jackson. A Rockwilder remix [YouTube link], featuring a rap by the 2019 Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award recipient, Missy Elliott, was featured in the 2001 MTV musical, "Carmen: A Hip Hopera." The song was also featured in two prominent "mash-ups": one with Nirvana's "Smells Like Teen Spirit" and the other with Stevie Wonder's "Superstition" [YouTube links].

September 02, 2019

Song of the Day #1724

Song of the Day: Sundream, words and music credited to the alternative dance group, Rufus du Sol, is featured on their debut album, "Atlas". It is Labor Day today, which makes it all the more ironic that it was on this date in 1946 that Ayn Rand began writing a book she had initially entitled "The Strike"; it became Atlas Shrugged, which was published by Random House in 1957. (The December 2019 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies will feature a symposium on the novel, in honor of its 60+ year anniversary!) And this date shows up in the novel several times as well, which is why September 2nd has been called, in some circles, "Atlas Shrugged Day." This song, with an almost ambient dance groove, features a line reminiscent of the book as it tells us to "fall into the Atlas"---just one of the reasons I've highlighted it today. The album itself debuted at #1 on the Australian album chart on 19 August 2013, and this was the fourth single issued from it. Check out the official video, and several remixes: Claptone, Hayden James, X3SR, Classix, and Casino Gold. I know two people, including somebody very, very special to me, who are celebrating their birthdays today---and you know who you are! My love always ...

August 31, 2019

Song of the Day #1723

Song of the Day: Brown Eyed Girl features the music and lyrics of Van Morrison, who took this song into the Billboard Top Ten in 1967. From the album "Blowin' Your Mind!", the song became a signature tune for Morrison. My all-time favorite of his remains his very jazzy "Moondance," which was recorded fifty years ago this month and was the title track to his album, released in January 1970 [YouTube link], though the single wasn't released until 1977! But this one is a classic rock staple, from the "original" Summer of Love. Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer turns 74 years old. Check out the original album version and live in concert at the BBC Radio Theatre [YouTube links].

August 30, 2019

Song of the Day #1722

Song of the Day: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, composed by Stephen Stills, appeared on the 1969 debut album of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (Neil Young performed with them at Woodstock, but only as part of their "Electric Set"). The song is literally constructed as a suite, but it is also a play on the phrase "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes," which refers to Stills's former girlfriend, singer/songwriter, Judy Collins. Check out the album version and their acoustic performance at Woodstock [YouTube links], both ending with that absolutely infectious "doo-doo-doo-da-doo" heard in the suite's coda.

August 29, 2019

Song of the Day #1721

Song of the Day: Don't Matter To Me is credited to numerous writers including Paul Anka, Aubrey "Drake" Graham, and Michael Jackson, who was born on this date in 1958. As I explained in my essay, "Michael Jackson: Man or Monster in the Mirror," published on Notablog on the tenth anniversary of MJ's death this past June, I believe that even if it could be proven that some artists engaged in destructive behavior during their lives, it need not erase our appreciation of the art they created. Ultimately, it's something that each person has to decide for themselves. But the case of Michael Jackson is particularly troublesome because there are so many contemporary artists who have openly acknowledged how deeply they were influenced by him. One of these artists, Drake, had been very vocal in his acknowledgment of MJ's influence on his music [MTV clip]---so much so that he asked the Jackson estate if he could include samples from a previously unreleased MJ song for his 2018 album, "Scorpion". Today's "Song of the Day" is that "collaboration"---a duet that drove the track into the Top Ten on Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop charts. It's not as if allegations of MJ's exploits with children were unknown prior to the release of the documentary, "Leaving Neverland"; but in the film's wake, Drake decided to remove this song from his setlist on his current world tour in support of his album. Jackson's lyrical contribution to the track is now all the more ironic: "All of a sudden you say you don't want me no more. All of a sudden you say that I closed the door. It don't matter to me. It don't matter to me what you say." Even MTV, on which MJ made a huge impact, has been pressured to strip his name from the Video Vanguard Award at its VMAs. Protests from his most recent accusers may have led MTV to drop his name during the presentation of the Award this past Monday. But this year's recipient, Missy Elliott, would have none of it---her epic performance and acceptance speech proudly paid tribute in both choreography and words to MJ [YouTube links]. She even thanked MJ's sister Janet for all her support through the years.

For reasons I explained in June, I continue to celebrate MJ's artistry. Deep down, I'm sure Drake still acknowledges Jackson's impact on his music. But if he fears a public backlash or feels that guilty about this particular song appearing on his album to the point that he won't even perform the "duet" publicly, maybe he ought to send all the proceeds he made off this Certified Gold Single to charities supporting victims of child abuse, as SNL's Pete Davidson [YouTube link] once bitingly suggested. Either way, I remain undaunted in highlighting Jackson's contributions, even if they are featured on present or future posthumously released singles. Check out this track's original music video, with its haunting MJ vocal chorus. And then check out the Zanderz dance remix [YouTube links].

August 26, 2019

Grant That I May Not Criticize My Neighbor ...

. . . until I Have Walked a Mile in His Moccasins.

So says a plaque on my wall, by my desk, in my home office. In response to several Facebook threads documenting a recent visit to New York City by a dear friend of mine, Ryan Neugebauer, I received some feedback from other folks who were a bit upset that I had not done X, Y, or Z in the past with them but somehow had found a way to go on the Staten Island Ferry and see the fireworks in Coney Island with Ryan, while he was here in NYC. My response was restricted to Facebook, but I decided to post it on Notablog because as a secondary, unintended consequence, it seems to have resonated with lots of folks, especially those who deal with various disabilities and who are exhausted having to explain their constraints over and over again even to loved ones. Here is what I said on Facebook:

Folks, I'm really sorry I have to even post something like this as I don't like talking too much about my private life or its constraints, but it seems that quite a few friends have gotten upset because they saw that Lo and Behold, Chris Matthew Sciabarra was OUT OF THE HOUSE FOR ONE NIGHT and how dare I do such a thing when I've not been able to do X, Y, or Z, when asked by somebody else.
This post is not directed to any person in particular, but to the situation in general. Given the number of FB messages I've received and my inability to address every single one of them, I think this is better. For those of you who truly understand (and I know who you are... so don't even think of apologizing), no explanation is necessary. But for those who don't really know what I've gone through, even though I'm not inclined to justify one minute of my life, here it goes:
A dear friend of mine, Ryan Neugebauer, made his first trip to NYC, and on one of the nights of his visit, my sister was kind enough to drive over to Staten Island so we could take the ferry and see the skyline of NYC, and to get back in time to the see the fireworks in Coney Island. A very New York experience, indeed.
And I had a lot of fun.
But for somebody who has undergone 60+ surgeries and who talked about it extensively in a "Folks" interview (see here), it might seem odd, as I put it in my post with Ryan, that I was able to get out at all. I even remarked that "some nights they actually let me out."
I haven't been on the Staten Island Ferry since before 9/11---that's twenty years or more; I've been to about ten or so concerts or films in ten years. I am a Yankee fanatic who has yet to see the New Yankee Stadium, even though it's been open for ten years. I don't remember the last time I went to any of NYC's museums.
What it takes to get out of this apartment is nearly two days of starvation in order to ATTEMPT it, and a carefully laid-out plan that involves logistics with regard to accessibility to a restroom!
So please: Just celebrate with me for a few minutes the fact that I was able to get out one night and have a damn good time with a great friend. Anyone else who is a friend certainly knows that, unless I'm scheduled for a surgical procedure, the door is open. Which is why I have folks come through these parts to visit for a few hours at a time, AT MY HOME, which puts the least pressure on me, to have a good time with caring friends. You are no less loved because you didn't go on the Staten Island Ferry with me.
We all seem to carry crosses in life; everybody has their issues and problems. Cliches though these are, I truly can't and won't criticize my neighbor until I've walked a mile in their moccasins.
Though I'm being flattered in a way to be loved by so many, let me emphasize: Before you get all depressed that you didn't get to go on the Ferry with me, please take a look at my song of the day today: You Need to Calm Down. If you personalize the fact that I couldn't get out with any one of you on some other night, I can't do anything to help you out of your depression. Every day, every hour, changes contexts for me. And dialectical guy that I am, I have to evaluate every thing I do according to the constraints of the context of every day I live.
DO NOT FEEL SORRY FOR ME. I neither ask nor seek your pity or permission. I do the best that I can.
Having the stars align for one night of fun with one special friend is not a statement against any other special friend I have. And Lord knows I have a lot of folks here and elsewhere with whom I share very close bonds and who have been amazingly supportive, both spiritually and materially, over the years. For this, I am profoundly grateful.
But cut me some slack. Life is too short.

I added a postscript to the FB thread, because my post seems to have led in an uptick in shares on the "Folks" website of my interview from January 2018:

Thanks to everyone who has responded to this post and for all the support I received here and privately. I decided to post this comment on my own Notablog; apparently, just by including a link to the "Folks" interview here, in just four hours time, it has gone from 307 shares to 360 shares [and growing by the hour, apparently] at the Folks website. And though this post was not meant to be a public service announcement, I am happy that it may have resonated especially with those who have to deal with a disability and find special ways to cope with its constraints. Love to all...

And for the record, there are a ton of photos on Facebook of my night out with Ryan, but here are two pics of us on the Staten Island Ferry---one on the way to Manhattan, the other on the way back to Staten Island:

RyanChris1S.jpg


RyanChris2S.jpg

Ed. (10 September 2019): My FB post resulted in an uptick of "shares" on the site of "Folks", "an online magazine dedicated to telling the stories of remarkable people who refuse to be defined by their health issues." Shares increased from 307 on the day of this post to 456 today. I'm delighted that more "folks" had a chance to read the Robert Lerose-penned profile of me on that site---and if it helped or enlightened anyone, I'm very grateful.

Song of the Day #1720

Song of the Day: You Need to Calm Down features the words and music of Joel Little and Taylor Swift, who released this as the second single off her new album, "Lover." Swift ties Ariana Grande with ten nominations each for tonight's MTV Video Music Awards. The truly bold video single [YouTube link] to this infectious song has more cameos than one can count and its message of tolerance (which extends even to her long-time feud with Katy Perry!) has led to over 100 million views on YouTube alone. Check out Swift's live "Prime Day" performance of the song as well [YouTube link]. And check out the Video Music Awards tonight! Missy Elliot will be the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. In three days, we'll be marking the 61st anniversary of MJ's birth with a new song that has an interesting history.

August 24, 2019

Song of the Day #1719

Song of the Day: White Rabbit, words and music by Grace Slick, was featured on the 1967 Jefferson Airplane album, "Surrealistic Pillow." The Top Ten song was actually first performed by Slick when she was with the Great Society, a San Francisco band. Check out that first recording, with its long instrumental introduction [YouTube link] (from "Live at the Matrix") and then the Jefferson Airplane version [YouTube link]. Jefferson Airplane appeared at Woodstock on Sunday morning, 17 August 1969, and this was the penultimate song in their set [YouTube link].

August 20, 2019

Song of the Day #1718

Song of the Day: Bad Guy, words and music by Finneas O'Connell and his sister, Billie Eilish (O'Connell), appears on Eilish's macabre #1 debut album "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" It sat at #2 for nine nonconsecutive weeks (a Billboard chart record!) before unseating "Old Town Road," which broke all records on the Hot 100 for its 19 weeks atop that chart. The single got a much-needed shot of adrenaline when Justin Bieber joined Eilish in a remix (Bieber did much the same for "Despacito"). With its infectious hook and beat, it's a quirky song (with an even more quirky video [YouTube links]). Also check out the remix video with Justin Bieber, and dance remixes by Trap Nation and Sasha Vector. Duh.

August 18, 2019

Song of the Day #1717

Song of the Day: Spinning Wheel was written by the Canadian lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas of that quintessential jazz-rock hybrid band, Blood, Sweat, & Tears. The song's studio version peaked at #2 in 1969 [YouTube link]; it was from the group's eponymous album "Blood, Sweat, & Tears," which won the 1970 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. They stretched out in their performance of the song at the Woodstock Festival [YouTube link] in the wee hours of this very day, fifty years ago.

August 17, 2019

Song of the Day #1716

Song of the Day: Green River, words and music by John Fogerty, was the title track to the third studio album of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The song was a Certified Gold Single that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Check out the single version [YouTube link] and the live version [YouTube link] of the song, which the group performed on this very day fifty years ago at Woodstock (it was the second song in their set, which lasted from 12:30 a.m. to 1:20 a.m.). The song has been heard in several films through the years, including "The Post" (2017), in which it is used anachronistically---since it plays over a scene in 1966 Vietnam, three years before this single was released! One film that it was not heard in was "Easy Rider," which debuted on 14 July 1969 (during the same month that our song of the day was also released). This is therefore the Golden Anniversary Summer of a landmark "counterculture" film, which starred Peter Fonda, who, died at the age of 79 yesterday (16 August 2019). Fonda considered himself a part of the counterculture of the 1960s and was "Born to Be Wild" [YouTube link], indeed. It was all the more ironic then that, in 1999, he would receive a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for a Miniseries (for the Showtime movie version of Barbara Branden's book, "The Passion of Ayn Rand"), playing Frank O'Connor, opposite Helen Mirren, who assumed the role of his wife, Ayn Rand, and who would go on to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Television Movie.

August 16, 2019

Song of the Day #1715

Song of the Day: Lady Madonna, credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was a Top Five hit in 1968. The Beatles may have been going through some troubles, which led to their inevitable breakup in 1970, but their music lived on in the voices of several Woodstock performers. Richie Havens, who opened up the Woodstock festival on 15 August 1969, performed a few Beatles covers in his marathon set, such as "With a Little Help from My Friends" (and he needed a little help with the lyrics!) and a medley of "Strawberry Fields Forever and Hey Jude" [YouTube links]. This Beatles song was also a part of his repertoire, but not performed live at Woodstock. I feature it today nonetheless because it gives us a chance to say Happy Birthday to a different Lady Madonna, who, was born on this date 61 years ago---a full eleven years before the festival took place. Madonna would go on to rock the charts of the 1980s and beyond, along with such artists as Prince, George Michael, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston, all of whom are now gone. But Madonna is still kickin' in 2019, scoring her ninth #1 album on the Billboard Hot 200, "Madame X," which debuted at #1 in 58 countries on iTunes in the last week of June. But getting back to this year's Summer Music theme, check out a rendition of our song of the day by the guy who kicked off the Woodstock festival, Richie Havens [YouTube link] (though the highlight of his set was, undoubtedly, the improvised "Freedom" [YouTube link], based on the Negro spiritual, "Motherless Child"). The Brooklyn-born Havens died in April 2013, and his ashes were later scattered on August 18th of that year, across the Woodstock site, that 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, to coincide with the festival's anniversary. Finally, let's not forget the original rendition of this classic song by the Beatles [YouTube link].

August 15, 2019

Song of the Day #1714

Song of the Day: Pinball Wizard, words and music by Pete Townshend, was featured on "Tommy," the rock opera recorded by The Who in 1969. Check out the original album version [YouTube link]. Today marks the first of four days coinciding with the Golden Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. I will be focusing primarily on some of the songs and artists who appeared at that festival (with one quasi-exception tomorrow). But our Woodstock tribute will continue until the end of the Summer (in September). Since I will be posting entries over these next four days, which coincide with the dates of the original festival, I think we should note a few things about Woodstock itself---given the bad press it received with its legendary rampant drug use and "free love" in the mud on open display.

This festival took place on Max Yasgur's 600-acre farm in Bethel, New York. Having received $75,000 for the use of his private land for the very public festival, Yasgur, who was a pro-Vietnam War conservative, was also deeply committed to the American principle of free expression. He addressed the crowd that had come to his property and openly celebrated the "kids" in attendance at the event [YouTube link]. He observed correctly that this was one of the largest gatherings of youth "ever assembled in one place"---one marked by no violence, despite some very real "inconveniences" (like severe rainstorms and shortages of both food and toilets). Even the local community rose to the occasion; the largely conservative, rural town residents, who would not have ordinarily sat down with anyone from the "hippie" generation, gladly donated food, water, and other resources to aid the young people who were overwhelmed by the sheer size and unpredictable scope of the event and its hardships. Even the Medical Corps of the armed forces flew in supplies---to monumental applause from the hundreds of thousands of people who were there.

The Summer of '69---which we have been commemorating in this year's installment of our Summer Music Festival---is a study in contrasts (Ayn Rand herself saw it as a battle between "Apollo" and "Dionysus"). But it is also a study in convergence. In July 1969, two human beings walked on the surface of the moon for the first time, while in August 1969, nearly half-a-million human beings embraced the music and message of a festival, featuring more than 30 artists and/or bands, embracing 'cosmic' peace (I'm sure some of the participants thought they were walking on the moon themselves, at various times over that four-day period!). Whatever one's attitudes toward the views of that era, of its culture or its "counterculture", this remarkable convergence of events demonstrated what was possible when people reached across a "generation gap." At Woodstock, the "counterculture" [pdf to one of my encyclopedia entries]---many of them left-wingers who were not particularly enamored by the institution of private property---nevertheless assembled on private land to very publicly voice not just their disenchantment with the Vietnam War and the draft, but to nonviolently celebrate "peace" and "love" through the music of their day, at the end of one of the most turbulent, violent decades in American history. In the summer of 1969 alone, there were thousands of military and civilian casualties in Southeast Asia, not to mention ongoing unrest and violence at home, including a sensational murder spree in early August committed by the Manson cult that led to the horrific deaths of five people in Los Angeles (including actress Sharon Tate, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant). And yet, for all its "countercultural" hoopla, only two people died at Woodstock (one from a drug overdose; another from a tractor accident). It's as if a Wizard had simply waved a wand to show, in a single unforgettable summer, what was possible---in the stars and on earth---when people of different ages, backgrounds, views, and perspectives could claim to have "come in peace for all mankind."

And so we kick off the height of our Woodstock Summer with a song of Wizardry. It was featured about half-way through The Who's set at the festival [YouTube link], in the wee hours of 17 August 1969, followed by what has become known as the "Abbie Hoffman incident" [YouTube link] (one of the few disruptions during any musical set, not counting delays due to pouring rain!). Of course, for those of us who saw the 1975 film version of "Tommy," it's not possible to forget Elton John's performance of this song [YouTube link] or its re-imagining in this year's Elton biopic "Rocketman" [YouTube link]. But wizards work magic, and in that summer, fifty years ago, there was pure magic on display in so many significant ways.

August 10, 2019

Song of the Day #1713

Song of the Day: I'm Going Home features the words and music of the late rock guitarist Alvin Lee of Ten Years After. Lee had always marvelled at the fast fret work of the jazz guitarists he emulated, including Django Reinhardt, Barney Kessel, John McLaughlin, and Joe Pass. At Woodstock, he provides us with a truly adrenaline-fueled guitar solo, incorporating snippets of "Blue Suede Shoes," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," and John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom." Check out the version from their album "Undead" and the rockin' live performance at Woodstock [YouTube links].

August 09, 2019

Song of the Day #1712

Song of the Day: Higher Love features the words and music of Will Jennings and Steve Winwood, who took this song from his album "Back in the High Life" to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of 1986. The female vocals on the single were provided by Chaka Khan, who also appeared in the music video [YouTube link]. Tomorrow, we get back to our Woodstock Edition of the Summer Music Festival, but today, we mark the date, 56 years ago, when Whitney Houston was born. It turns out that despite having left a remarkable discography to posterity, Whitney actually recorded this song in 1990 (produced by Narada Michael Walden) for her third studio album, "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (and what a great song that was [YouTube link]!), but it appeared only on the album's Japanese release. So her current single is the first posthumously released recording to hit the Hot 100 since her untimely death in 2012. Check out Whitney's live performance of the song and the Kygo-produced remix released last month as well as the slammin' Stormby Club Mix [YouTube links]. The song is already a Top 5 Dance Club Track, peaking at #2 as well on the Hot Dance / Electronic Songs Chart.

August 08, 2019

Song of the Day #1711

Song of the Day: If I Can't Have You features the words and music of Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Nate Mercereau, and Shawn Mendes, who turns 21 today! Check out the video single and several remixes by Galoski, MT SOUL, and the Bass Brothers. And Happy Birthday, young man!

August 03, 2019

Song of the Day #1710

Song of the Day: The Oscar ("Maybe September"), music by Percy Faith, lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, was featured in the 1966 movie, with an all-star cast, including Tony Bennett, who made his film debut and sang its theme song. The song appears on two of Tony's albums: "The Movie Song Album" and the second of two albums he did with the jazz piano legend Bill Evans, "Together Again". Check out the original version and the Evans collaboration [YouTube links]. And Happy 93rd Birthday to Tony!

August 02, 2019

Song of the Day #1709

Song of the Day: Going Up the Country, words and music by Canned Heat, was a remake of sorts of the 1928 "Bull Doze Blues" [YouTube link] by blues musician Henry Thomas. Their version of this song was recorded for their third album, "Living the Blues" and became an international hit. Check out the single version and the Woodstock festival version of this rollicking blues-rock romp [YouTube links].

July 30, 2019

Song of the Day #1708

Song of the Day: Old Town Road (Remix), words and music by Kiowa Roukema and Montero Hill (aka Lil Nas X) with a sampled beat from "34 Ghosts IV" [YouTube link] by Nine Inch Nails (credited to the Oscar-winning duo of Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross), breaks the all-time Billboard Hot 100 record today, logging its seventeenth straight week at #1. It passes both "Despacito" (by Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, featuring Justin Bieber) and "One Sweet Day" (by Mariah Carey and Boys II Men), each of which held the previous #1 record at sixteen consecutive weeks. Lil Nas X paid $30 for the right to use the Nine Inch Nails sample and added Billy Ray Cyrus to the performance, producing one of the most interesting crossover sounds, merging elements of country, rock, and rap. And I'm just going to say it: Whoever dreamed that a song that started as a meme [YouTube link], which went viral, featuring the 57-year old country-singing father of Miley Cyrus and the 20-year old African American rapper who recently came out would be the longest running #1 single in the history of the Billboard Hot 100 charts? Goes to show you---life offers us a rainbow of possibilities! But it helps if your song is really catchy. Check out the mini-movie video version of the song [YouTube link] (with some hilarious cameos) and the truly infectious single version [YouTube link].

July 26, 2019

Song of the Day #1707

Song of the Day: We Shall Overcome is a gospel song descended from a 1900 hymn by Charles Albert Tindley and other African American spirituals. It was sung by many folk singers, such as Pete Seeger, Frank Hamilton, Joe Glazer, and others, as a protest song during the civil rights era. But it was the Staten Island-born Joan Baez, who had first met and befriended Martin Luther King, Jr. back in 1956, that would become most associated with this song. A civil rights and antiwar activist, she sang it at the 1963 March on Washington, near the base of the Lincoln Memorial, in front of 300,000 people. During her set at Woodstock, the visibly pregnant Baez spoke eloquently about how her husband at the time, David Harris, who opposed conscription [YouTube link to a Johnny Carson interview with Ayn Rand, who opposed both the draft and the Vietnam War], was arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for draft evasion in July 1969. (He would later be paroled in October 1970). So it was no coincidence that she'd close her own Woodstock set with this song [YouTube link] in the wee hours of Saturday, August 16, 1969.

July 24, 2019

Song of the Day #1706

Song of the Day: Let's Get Loud, words and music by Gloria Estefan and Kike Santander, was featured on Jennifer Lopez's 1999 debut album, "On the 6." Though the song was not released officially as a single, it was a Top 40 hit on the Hot Dance Club Play chart. Today, the Bronx-born Jenny from the block, like Woodstock---a child of 1969---turns 50 years old! Check out the album version and remixes by Kung Pow, Castle Hill, and D.MD Strong [YouTube links].

July 20, 2019

Song of the Day #1705

Song of the Day: Moon Maiden, words and music by Edward Kennedy "Duke" Ellington, was commissioned by the ABC News Network to debut on the day of the Apollo 11 moon landing and moon walk. Awaiting the first walk upon the surface of the moon by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin, while Michael Collins orbited above in "Columbia," the command module, ABC anchor Frank Reynolds introduced the piece. This performance by Duke was actually recorded live on 15 July 2019 but aired on the ABC network on this date fifty years ago, after the lunar module, "Eagle," touched down in the Sea of Tranquility. Check out the rare footage of its debut by Duke Ellington and a later studio recording [YouTube links] with Duke "speaking" the lyrics, accompanied by his own playing on the vibes-sounding celeste. As a 9-year old kid, I cannot even begin to describe the level of utter elation I felt watching the grainy images of human beings on the surface of a celestial body other than the Earth. I had followed the space program from the earliest moments of my consciousness of such things (the politics of it never crossed my mind at the time); I remembered John Glenn's orbit around the earth, the Apollo 1 fire, and the Christmas Eve moon orbit of Apollo 8. But nothing could compare to the excitement I felt watching my TV fifty years ago this day [YouTube link], the sense of awe I felt hearing Neil Armstrong's first words on the lunar surface, and the sense of hope that was inspired in me, hearing him enunciate the words on the lunar plaque: "We came in peace for all mankind" [YouTube link]. It gave credence to Robert Browning's poetic tribute to human potential: "Ah, but a man's reach should exceed his grasp, Or what's a heaven for?" The promise of that which seemed impossible made real inspired me to use that line from "Andrea del Sarto" as an epigraph to Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, the first book in my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy."

July 19, 2019

Song of the Day #1704

Song of the Day: Dark Star, lyrics by Robert Hunter, music by the lead guitarist of the Grateful Dead, Jerry Garcia and his bandmates, is best remembered in its 23+ minute rendition [YouTube link] from their 1969 live album, "Live/Dead," which blended psychedelia, jazz, and jam elements. By contrast, the original single version, at 2 minutes and 44 seconds [YouTube link] sold only 500 copies and "sank like a stone," as band member Phil Lesh put it. The song was also a respectable 19-minute highlight from their set at Woodstock [YouTube link]. Today's "Dark Star" is a prelude to our commemoration tomorrow of a fundamentally bright cosmic event in human history.

July 12, 2019

Song of the Day #1703

Song of the Day: Evil Ways, words and music by jazz guitarist Clarence "Sonny" Henry, was originally recorded in 1967 by jazz percusionist Willie Bobo [YouTube link] for his 1967 album "Bobo Motion." It was later recorded by the group Santana, led by Mexican American Carlos Santana, who pioneered a fusion of rock and roll with Latin jazz. Gregg Rolie provides both the vocals and the Hammond organ solo. The song appears on the band's self-titled debut album, which was released on August 30, 1969, only two weeks after their performance of it at the Woodstock Festival [YouTube link] on August 16th. "Evil Ways" wasn't released as a single until December 30, 1969, becoming the group's first Top 40 and Top 10 hit. Check out the the really cool, studio version, as well as covers by the Village Callers, Johnny Mathis and jazz saxophonist Stanley Turrentine [YouTube links].

July 07, 2019

Joao Gilberto, RIP

I learned earlier today that Joao Gilberto, who, along with Antonio Carlos Jobim, was one of the most important figures in the creation of the sounds of samba and bossa nova, died yesterday at the age of 88. He was one of my all-time favorite artists. In fact, his trailblazing album with jazz saxophonist, Stan Getz, "Getz/Gilberto," would go on to win the 1965 Grammy for Album of the Year, Best Jazz Instrumental Album, Individual or Group, and Best Engineered Album, Non-Classical. Its famous single, "The Girl From Ipanema," which featured vocals in Portuguese from Joao and in English from Joao's wife, Astrud Gilberto, would go on to win the 1965 Grammy for Record of the Year. The album remains one of my all-time favorites---one of those recordings that, if necessary, I would take to a Desert Island with me. I couldn't put up a "Song of the Day" in honor of Gilberto, because I've featured him so much on "My Favorite Songs." Among the songs that I have highlighted through the years, featuring Gilberto's magic touch, check out:

"The Girl from Ipanema" [listen here]

"So Danco Samba" [listen here]

"Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars (Corcovado) [listen here]

"Desafinado" [listen here]

"O Grande Amour" [listen here]

"Vivo Sonhando" [listen here]

"Doralice" [listen here]

"Bim Bom" (written by Joao) [listen here for Joao's version and here for the classic Brasil 66 recording of it]

"Para Machuchar Meu Coracao (To Hurt My Heart)" [listen here]

"Meditation" [listen here]

There are so many others... just type his name in "YouTube" and you'll be introduced to a world of musical genius.

July 05, 2019

Song of the Day #1702

Song of the Day: Ball and Chain was a hit record in the early 1960s for its writer: Big Mama Thornton [YouTube link]. It was later recorded by Janis Joplin in 1967-1968 with Big Brother and the Holding Company for the 1968 album "Cheap Thrills" [YouTube link], which went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 200 Album Chart. She performed the bluesy song famously at Monterey Pop and as the finale to her own set at Woodstock [YouTube links].

July 04, 2019

Song of the Day #1701

Song of the Day: The Star-Spangled Banner features lyrics taken from an 1814 poem by Francis Scott Key, "Defence of Fort M'Henry," written during the War of 1812, with music based on a popular British drinking song written by John Stafford Smith for the Anacreontic Society, a men's social club for amateur musicians. In truth, my personal all-time favorite "patriotic" song remains "America the Beautiful" (especially as delivered by the great Ray Charles [YouTube link]). Quite apart from the controversies that have surrounded the U.S. national anthem over the years (and to all my 'anarchist' friends, chill a moment!)---from those who claim that one of its rarely sung stanzas expresses racist content to those who have taken to kneeling during its presentation prior to sports events---I have marvelled at the way it has been performed by some of the most diverse artists through the years, including Yankee stadium stalwart, the late opera singer Robert Merrill, the late Whitney Houston [YouTube links], who delivered a heartfelt rendition at the 1991 Super Bowl XXV, and the "controversial" Latin-tinged, acoustic version performed in Detroit in Game 5 of the 1968 World Series by Jose Feliciano [YouTube link]. His version became the first recorded rendition of the anthem that ever charted on the Billboard Hot 100 (peaking at #50; Whitney's version peaked at #20). But in keeping with the theme of our 2019 Summer Music Festival, there remains one truly electrifying instrumental rendition of the anthem by rock guitarist Jimi Hendrix, who performed as the last artist to appear at Woodstock [YouTube link]. To some, this performance was a sacrilege; to others, it was a sign of the turbulent and violent era to which it spoke. Hendrix actually plays a couple of notes from 'Taps' to drive home the point of a nation at war abroad---and at home. Nearly all the critical commentators on the event have viewed this as the most iconic performance of the four-day festival. It reflects both the fireworks of its time and, in a twist of irony, the fireworks set off on this day in 1776 when American rebels---whatever their own flaws, embodied in the contradictions of their time---pledged their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor, in declaring their independence from the British Empire. A Happy and Safe Independence Day to all!

Postscript #1: Context: I'm a native Brooklynite and a lover of film scores.

Having been on the Brooklyn Promenade back in 1983, when there was a fireworks display to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge, I thought I'd never see a better fireworks display. But the Macy's Fireworks display tonight, which focused its attention on NYC's East River and the Brooklyn Bridge, one of the world's great, iconic spans, against the backdrop of some of the greatest film themes ever written (by everyone from Alfred Newman and Max Steiner to Elmer Bernstein and John Williams) was one of the best I've ever seen.

If the program hasn't reached your time zone yet, I'm sure it will be on YouTube or the NBC site soon. But definitely check it out! You won't be disappointed. Truly wonderful. (Yes, and they even included the love theme from "The Godfather." :) )

Postscript #2: Here is a link on YouTube, starts about 16 seconds in, from the national anthem to Alfred Newman's Fox Fanfare to Casablanca (Steiner), and so forth. Somebody on the YouTube thread objected to "The Godfather" being included. But what's America without the Family? ;) And don't miss Jennifer Hudson's wonderful rendition of "Over the Rainbow," which includes the rarely heard opening verse or that absolutely spectacular John Williams segment. At 55 mins., the fireworks display is shown again, with an introduction by historian David McCllough, discussing the Brooklyn Bridge---built by immigrants---completed in May 1883.

Postscript #3 (6 July 2019): Remarkably, one reader interpreted the fireworks display as symbolizing the destruction of the Bridge. My response was light-hearted, but I think it made a few essential points. As I stated:

Maybe you need a high-definition television. :) I mean, they were by no means "covering" the bridge [with explosives]. They were cascading off the bridge like waterfalls; they were shooting straight out of the cathedral towers of the bridge. And they were---believe it or not---in complete sync with the magnificent film score medley; even during the love theme to "The Godfather" there were red, heart-like shapes forming over the bridge; rainbow colors accompanied "Over the Rainbow", and "celestial" shapes accompanied the John Williams segment, and so forth. But as I said: To each his own. I opened the original thread about this fireworks display with "Context": That I was a native Brooklynite and a lover of film scores. I was also there when the Grucci Family celebrated the 100th anniversary of the opening of the Brooklyn Bridge; here is a link to that fireworks display; Macy's actually adapted the very same "waterfall" and cathedral firework effects from that celebration, as a paean to the Centennial display. Why on earth are we debating this display as if it were a symbol of celebration or nihilism? Inquiring minds want to know...

The reader responded that there was a distinct difference in context between the 1983 display and any displays after 2001. I replied:

Well I appreciate that; but I truly am not interpreting this as some kind of expression of post-9/11 terrorism. Remember that part of the glory of fireworks on the Fourth of July is that despite all the explosives, the iconic image still stands (whether it be the flag in "The Star-Spangled Banner" or the Brooklyn Bridge). To me, the effects highlighted the Bridge and its glory; to you, it is destruction. I just think we should agree to disagree. You're no less a Brooklynite if you despised the display then or now. Cheers!

July 01, 2019

Song of the Day #1700

Song of the Day: Heart of Glass features the words and music of Chris Stein and Debbie Harry, who as the lead singer of the new wave group, Blondie, took this song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 in 1979. The song is featured on the band's third studio album, "Parallel Lines" (1978). Check out the Stanley Dorfman-directed video, the 12" dance remix, the Shep Pettibone 1988 remix, and the Philip Glass "Crabtree" remix. In 2014, Brazilian supermodel Gisele Bundchen, with producer Bob Sinclar recorded a charity single cover version of this song; check out the video. But in my mind, I always hear the voice of Debbie Harry, who today celebrates her 74th birthday!

June 28, 2019

Song of the Day #1699

I introduced this song and essay on Facebook with the following preface: Whatever your social, religious, philosophical, or cultural views, if you embrace the basic principles embodied in this country's "Declaration of Independence"---and its enunciation of the individual's rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness---then it is time to take a "Stand" for Stonewall on its Fiftieth Anniversary. Indeed, as the lyrics to today's song of the day state: "Stand! You've been sitting much too long. There's a permanent crease in your right and wrong." Check it out:

Song of the Day: Stand!, words and music by Sly Stone, was recorded by Sly and the Family Stone in 1969. This was the title song to the group's fourth studio album and was the last song they played on their set list at Woodstock---this year's first bona fide Woodstock Golden Anniversary moment, the theme of our 2019 Summer Music Festival. It was also a song that was featured on the jukebox of the Stonewall Inn, which in the wee hours of this very day, fifty years ago, was raided for the umpteenth time by the New York City Police Department. Perhaps the police didn't get the payola they expected from the Mafia-owners of the bar, since bars that served alcohol to people engaging in "disorderly conduct" (code for simply being gay) would be denied a liquor license in New York City. But this time, the patrons had had enough; they were, indeed, 'mad as hell and not going to take this anymore' [YouTube link]. They pushed back, rioted, and fought for six days in a siege against political oppression---giving birth to the modern gay liberation movement.

For those who are uncomfortable with this whole subject, as if it were some "leftist" expression of "identity politics," we need to make one thing perfectly clear (a phrase often attributed to President Richard Nixon, who took the White House fifty years ago this year): Both "liberals" (going all the way back to the policies of FDR) and "conservatives" (of both the McCarthyite and religious right variety) have played a part in crafting repressive laws in the United States aimed at crushing homosexuality. It is neither our job nor our responsibility to change the minds of those who find "alternative lifestyles" repugnant or who believe that same-sex relationships are a sign of "sickness" or "sin". Whatever one's cultural, religious, philosophical, or political views, it all comes down to liberty. If one values human liberty, one must recognize that state-sponsored terrorism against individuals---simply because of who they love or how they love---continues to this day across the world. Seventy countries still maintain laws that make it illegal to engage in same-sex sexual activity, and so-called "leftist" regimes have been among the most repressive, in this regard. Whether in the name of politics or religion, these countries have used imprisonment, flogging, and torture to punish those who are different, and in ten countries, execution---by stoning, hanging, beheading, or being thrown off buildings---is government policy, legitimized by various states' interpretations of Islamic law. The battle cry of Stonewall is as prescient today as it was fifty years ago. Indeed, "eternal vigilance is the price of liberty." And those who value liberty need to embrace a future in which the Rainbow Railroad [CBS News link] is no longer required to save those who are being persecuted in other countries for their sexual orientation.

In the United States, there were heroes in the battle for individual rights prior to Stonewall, who fought government entrapment and discrimination against "the love that dare not speak its name"---going all the way back to the 1920s, with the Society for Human Rights and into the 1950s, with organizations such as the Daughters of Bilitis, the Mattachine Society, and, among individuals, the courageous Frank Kameny, who challenged "The Lavender Scare" [PBS video link].

But the significance of the Stonewall Uprising by a group of individuals who were too often marginalized and brutalized by the police, the courts, and the culture-at-large is that, in its fundamental premises, it was based upon a sacrosanct libertarian principle: that every human being, regardless of age, ethnicity, gender, race, or sexual orientation, has a right to equal protection under the law, a right to life, liberty, property, and the pursuit of happiness, without infringement by the coercive, oppressive tools used by municipal, state, and federal governmental institutions. This month, New York City's Police Commissioner James O'Neill apologized for the NYPD's actions fifty years ago at the Stonewall. This was no mere nod to "political correctness." The commissioner recognized that "[t]he actions taken by the NYPD were wrong, plain and simple. The actions were discriminatory and oppressive and for that I apologize." Even the New York Yankees unveiled a plaque in Monument Park to commemorate this date in history.

We can listen to the lyrics of today's song as an expression of the libertarian spirit of the Stonewall Rebellion: "Stand! There's a cross for you to bear. Things to go through if you're going anywhere. Stand! For the things you know are right. It’s the truth that the truth makes them so uptight. … Stand! You've been sitting much too long. There's a permanent crease in your right and wrong. … Stand! They will try to make you crawl. And they know what you're saying makes sense and all. Stand! Don't you know that you are free. Well at least in your mind if you want to be. ... Stand! Stand! Stand!" I stand in solidarity with those brave men and women who fought for their rights half-a-century ago on this day. Check out the album version of this song and its energetic performance by the group at Woodstock [YouTube link].

Postscript (29 June 2019) Justin Raimondo, Outlaw, RIP. Justin lost his battle with lung cancer and has died at the age of 67, on the eve of the fiftieth anniversary of the Stonewall Rebellion. I knew JR from way back when---going all the way back to when he wrote that monograph for Students for a Libertarian Society, "In Praise of Outlaws: Rebuilding Gay Liberation," which saw Stonewall and the rise of the gay liberation movement as a distinctively libertarian event. And he was right. A lightening rod for many people, antiwar.com was his passion, and though we had our disagreements through the years, he was always fighting against the policy of "perpetual war for perpetual peace."

Postscript #2 (30 June 2019): In another thread on Facebook, I had a bit of a discussion with regard to whether the struggle for "gay rights" is over in the United States, and I made the same point in that thread that I make here in my Notablog post: Seventy countries across the world still treat same-sex activities as a crime punishable by imprisonment, flogging, and torture, and ten of those countries treat it as a crime punishable by execution (beheading, hanging, and being thrown off buildings).

It was suggested that I might be implicitly advocating trying to intervene in those other countries to change their domestic policies; as a firm non-interventionist in foreign policy, I am totally against such intervention even for the purpose of human rights abuses abroad. But that does not mean that I favor the long history of foreign aid policies practiced by the United States, which involves expropriating the American taxpayer for the purpose of sending "foreign aid" to despotic regimes abroad, like Saudi Arabia, which are then required to use that "foreign aid" to purchase US munitions, which they can use in their wholesale slaughter of people in Yemen and elsewhere. US relationships with such despotic regimes is legion, and our current President believes "it is good for the economy."

Considering that the Saudis gave us 17 of the 19 hijackers who flew planes into the Twin Towers and elsewhere and that they were probably complicit in the 9/11 attack, I would say that what might be "good for the economy" is most definitely not good for the stability of the Middle East and other hot-spots around the globe, where the US has a record that even Trump himself once said was not so "innocent."

No, we cannot change the domestic policies of foreign governments that engage in violations of human rights. But that doesn't mean the U.S. taxpayer should be subsidizing them. This is not a battle for "gay rights"; it is a battle for individual rights, and individual rights don't cease at the borders of the United States.

But yes, Stonewall 50 is a a cause for celebration for all those who believe that individual rights apply to every person regardless of sexual orientation. And I stand in solidarity will all those who sacrificed their lives over the past century to get this country to recognize those rights.

Postscript #3 (1 July 2019): I added this comment to a Facebook post by Tom Palmer, who provided a link to a fine 2016 article by David Boaz, "Capitalism, Not Socialism, Led to Gay Rights:

Good piece by David Boaz and thanks for posting, Tom!

I've heard from quite a few of my very orthodox Marxist colleagues over the years who believe that homosexuality is one of the decadent offshoots of capitalism (guess they missed all that stuff that went on in the ancient world) and that it would wither away, like the state, under full communism.

They also leave out the part that gulags will play in helping the withering-away process.

Of course, orthodox Marxists actually reject the whole development of 'identity politics' (which the fight for same-sex individual rights is most certainly not) as a way of obfuscating the "essential" conflict between proletarians and capitalists.

I've argued this past weekend that the Stonewall Rebellion was in its essence a libertarian expression of the fight for the individual's right to live his or her own life, socialize in privately-owned establishments without police harassment, and pursue happiness without the interference of state-sanctioned terrorism. That fight goes on globally and even within this country; the battle for "gay rights" is not over, as James Kirchick says in "The Atlantic." If it is over, I invite anyone to go into the reddest of red states (or any sections in "blue" states in which "tolerance" is not a key cultural value), holding hands with their partner, and in open spaces, sharing a romantic kiss as the sun sets. Then we'll take a poll and see how many folks get their heads bashed in.

On all these issues of markets having changed traditional notions of the family, women, and sexuality, over time, I highly recommend the work of Steve Horwitz, especially his book Hayek's Modern Family: Classical Liberalism and the Evolution of Social Institutions and, of course, his essay in The Dialectics of Liberty: "The Dialectic of Culture and Markets in Expanding Family Freedom." Check out the abstract here.

I agree that the essential political and legal battles have been won, but changing political culture and mores is a long-term process, and often leads to a kind of political/legal backlash against which one must always be vigilant.

And as a noninterventionist in foreign affairs, while I would never advocate interfering in the domestic affairs of other countries, the fact remains that seventy countries still categorize homosexuality as a crime punishable by imprisonment, flogging, and torture, and in ten of those countries, it is punishable by execution (beheading, hanging, or being thrown off buildings). No, the US has no business being the world's policeman on violations of human rights, but the least it could do is to stop expropriating its taxpayers into providing "foreign military aid" (a fancy phrase to describe providing U.S. financial assistance to foreign governments that are then obligated to purchase U.S.-manufactured munitions) to reactionary governments, such as Saudi Arabia, which has a horrendous human rights record, and is using all those munitions to slaughter people in Yemen.

Ah, but our President says it's "good for the economy."

June 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1698

Song of the Day: Who Is It? features the words and music of Michael Jackson, from the 1991 album, "Dangerous." On this day, ten years ago, the artist tragically died. As I note in today's Notablog essay, "Michael Jackson Ten Years After: Man or Monster in the Mirror," there are still reasons to celebrate the art of somebody, even if it should be discovered that they may have done something in their lives that was terribly destructive. This particular track went to #1 on Billboard's Hot Dance Club chart. Its various versions provide different hues of interpretation; check out the original David Fincher-directed music video and his beat box interpretation of the song in an interview with Oprah Winfrey, which became the basis of one of the song's remixes, and then hit the dance floor with the slammin' Brothers in Rhythm House Mix, the Brothers Cool Dub, Moby's Tribal Mix and Moby's Lakeside Dub [YouTube links]. RIP, MJ.

Michael Jackson - Ten Years After: Man or Monster in the Mirror?

This essay makes its Notablog debut on the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of Michael Jackson. It can also be found in the essay section of my home page here. It deals with one of the most difficult issues we face in evaluating art---and its creator.

Can Bad People Create Good Art?

Writing in The New York Times, Charles McGrath asks: "Can bad people create good art? If that question pops up on an exam or at a dinner party, you might want to be wary. The obvious answer---so obvious that it practically goes without saying, and ought to make the examinee suspicious---is that bad people, or at least people who think and behave in ways most of us find abhorrent, make good art all the time." McGrath then gives us a laundry list of folks who are frequently cited as pretty bad people who created good art, among them such notorious anti-Semites as the proto-fascist Ezra Pound, composer Richard Wagner, who "once wrote that Jews were by definition incapable of art," and Edgar Degas, whose anti-Semitism led him to defend "the French court that falsely convicted Alfred Dreyfus." (And Lord forbid any of you should respond with a slight nod of aesthetic approval to just one of these paintings, for it will only prove that you are a secret admirer of young Adolf!)

But the list of "bad artists" who may have created "good art" is legion: There's Norman Mailer who "in a rage once tried to kill one of his wives"; the "painter Caravaggio and the poet and playwright Ben Jonson [who] both killed men in duels or brawls"; Jean Genet, gay prostitute and petty thief; Arthur Rimbaud, who flaunted all the conventions of his time; Gustave Flaubert, who "paid for sex with boys," and so it goes.

We can add to that list: Director Roman Polanski, who fled the United States after pleading guilty to a statutory rape charge, but who gave us the classic horror flick, "Rosemary's Baby,"; the great neo-noir mystery "Chinatown," and "The Pianist," a harrowing biopic of Holocaust survivor Waldyslaw Szpilman (played by Oscar-winning Best Actor Adrien Brody). Most recently, let's not forget: Producer Harvey Weinstein, who may not have been an artist, but who produced Oscar Award-winning films and Tony Award-winning plays, and was expelled from the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences for a series of horrific allegations leading to his arrest on charges of rape and sexual assault---practically giving birth to the #MeToo Movement; R&B singing sensation R. Kelly, who was once indicted (and found not guilty) on charges of child pornography, only to be re-indicted this past Februrary on ten counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse; funk musician Rick James, who gave it to us with "Super Freak," only to end up in prison on everything from draft evasion to rampant drug use that led to kidnapping and sexual assault convictions; long-beloved comedian Bill Cosby, who is now serving a three-to-ten year sentence for aggravated indecent assault.

In the ideological sphere, honorable mention goes to Dalton Trumbo, among the blacklisted Hollywood Ten, whose trials and tribulations were the subject of a fine 2015 film starring Bryan Cranston, which doesn't once mention that Trumbo was an apologist for the Stalinist purges of the 1930s. But it does remind us of what a gifted writer he could be, when you see re-created scenes from the momentous 1960 epic "Spartacus." And let's not forget Kate Smith, whose recording of "God Bless America" has now forever been banned from Yankee Stadium during the seventh-inning stretch, because she recorded a couple of records almost ninety years ago (in 1931) with racist lyrics.

Indeed, once we open up that ideological and historical can of worms, we're faced with calls to obliterate various monuments to the American revolutionaries who fought for life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, including Thomas Jefferson, who, despite penning the Declaration of Independence and speaking out against slavery, owned over 600 slaves himself, freeing only seven in his lifetime.

Human beings are a complicated lot. As McGrath points out, however, it is very misleading to ascribe "badness" and "goodness" especially in the context of artists and art, because these concepts can have different referents: they can point either to the person's moral worth or to the aesthetic merit of that person's work. Take Wagner. For this film score fan, the impact of Wagner on the art of the score is immeasurable. Even "[t]he conductor Daniel Barenboim, a Jew, is a champion of Wagner's music, for example, and has made a point of playing it in Israel, where it is hardly welcome. His defense is that while Wagner may have been reprehensible, his music is not. Barenboim likes to say that Wagner did not compose a single note that is anti-Semitic." McGrath states further that "the disconnect between art and morality goes further than that: not only can a 'bad' person write a good novel or paint a good picture, but a good picture or a good novel can depict a very bad thing. Think of Picasso's Guernica or Nabokov's Lolita, an exceptionally good novel about the sexual abuse of a minor, described in a way that makes the protagonist seem almost sympathetic."

McGrath recognizes that art, like ideas, is one of those realms of human experience that can inspire us, enlarging "our understanding and our sympathies." He hits upon an even more interesting point when he states, in almost Randian fashion, that "the creation of truly great art requires a degree of concentration, commitment, dedication, and preoccupation---of selfishness, in a word---that sets that artist apart and makes him not an outlaw, exactly, but a law unto himself." Of course, from a Randian standpoint, there is a virtue of selfishness, even if it is typically viewed as a vice. And it needn't mean that the artist qua selfish is necessarily tortured or bad. Yet, it is nevertheless true that many artists have been tortured souls throughout the centuries. Finding ways to express their inner conflicts and tensions through the sheer act of creation can provide for a kind of cathartic experience. For those of us who respond to that art, it provides a form of objectification that allows us to appreciate the art work on its own terms, whatever the moral merits of the person who created it.

But comedian Pete Davidson scored a few points in the Gallows Humor Department in one of those "Weekend Update" segments on "Saturday Night Live" [YouTube link]. "Once we start doing our research," he quipped, "we're not gonna have much left, you know, because it seems like all really talented people are sick." Well, I wouldn't go that far. Moreover, not every artist has a cesspool for a soul. Thank goodness.

But when we admire a piece of art, whether it be a painting hanging on the wall of a museum or a work of music, we don't have to contemplate how lost, how tortured, or how awful the artist may have been as a person when they engaged in the act of creation. If the work speaks to us, whether we respond to it on the level of "sense of life" or just because of our mood on that particular day, what we are responding to is that work, not necessarily to the person who created it.

Distinguishing Between the Creator and the Creation

If we focus long enough on the artist, rather than the art, or the writer, rather than what is written, we might be led to airbrush out of existence some of the most important and influential artists or intellectuals---be they "good" or "bad"---throughout human history. This is a subject that hits close to home for a scholar such as myself. In my work, I have spent much time analyzing the legacies of many individuals whose ideas stand in diametric opposition to one another. Though I stand by the dialectical mantra that "context matters"--that is, though I am inclined to place the work of a thinker within the larger context of that thinker's life and the culture within which that thinker came to maturity, all of which helps us to better understand his or her ideas---it would never lead me to dismiss that thinker's work on the basis of their personal or cultural context. Let's take Karl Marx as an example; many have focused on evidence that he "lived in filth and neglected his own children." That may be true. But I would not treat his work with a sweeping ad hominem dismissal---especially since one of my goals has been to grapple with his intellectual legacy and his use of a dialectical method of social analysis, so important to my own project of rescuing dialectics for libertarian theory. And, as a Rand scholar, I have had to face all sorts of criticisms of Rand the person---from those who despise her work, and who dismiss it wholesale on the basis of her questionable personal attitudes toward everything from Beethoven to homosexuality, or who view her as nothing more than a pop-novelist and cult-leader who had a scandalous sexual affair with her protege, Nathaniel Branden, twenty-five years her junior, which destroyed their personal and professional relationship, and which she never acknowledged publicly. And on the other side of that equation, I've had to come to grips with those Rand acolytes who dismiss all of Branden's work on the importance of self-esteem to human survival, because he lied repeatedly to Rand as that relationship dissolved, thus showing him, and, by extension, his ideas, as, at best, hypocritical, or at worst, a sign that he was nothing other than a self-aggrandizing con man.

Michael Jackson and "Leaving Neverland"

And so, finally, we come to the subject of Michael Jackson, the boy who became a man before his time, as he led his brothers in the Jackson Five straight into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and who, as a solo artist, amassed a discography that has sold hundreds of millions of records worldwide, giving him his own place in that same famed hall. Jackson's impact on music, dance, fashion, and culture has influenced scores of artists over the past fifty years. His music has been sampled, reinterpreted, and resurrected by everyone from Justin Timberlake and Drake to Alien Ant Farm, Chris Cornell, and the 2Cellos [YouTube links].

But there were those allegations that first emerged in 1993, when police descended on his Neverland Ranch, investigating claims that Jackson had molested a 13-year old boy. An exhaustive search found no incriminating evidence, though a civil case brought by the boy in question, Jordan Chandler, and his parents, was eventually settled out of court. Later, in 2005, Jackson was charged with the child molestation of Gavin Arvizo, serving alcohol to a minor, conspiracy, and kidnapping, facing twenty years in prison. His homes were ransacked by the LAPD, but nothing incriminating was found, and an in-depth investigation by the FBI came up with no evidence of wrongdoing. In the end, Jackson was acquitted of all charges.

As Forbes magazine reported, however, choreographer Wade Robson had testified in the 2005 trial under oath, that as a child and young adolescent, in the many years that he knew Michael Jackson, the artist had never touched him inappropriately or sexually abused him. James Safechuck, who spent time with Jackson in the 1980s, also defended Jackson back in the 1993 case. Various events thereafter occurred which led these two men to eventually file suits against the Jackson Estate, nearly four years after Jackson's tragic death on June 25, 2009 (a decade ago this very day), seeking $1.5 billion in damages, claiming that they had, in fact, been sexually abused by Jackson: Robson, when he was between 7 and 14 years of age; Safechuck, when he was 10 to 12 years of age. Both the Robson and Safechuck cases were dismissed in probate court.

On January 25, 2019, at the Sundance Film Festival, the documentary, "Leaving Neverland," directed by Dan Reed, featuring both Robson and Safechuck, as well as some of their relatives, made its debut. HBO showed the four-hour documentary over two nights in March 2019, followed by an Oprah Winfrey-hosted special, with Reed, Robson, and Safechuck as guests. I watched the documentary in full and the "After Neverland" Winfrey interviews, and was left feeling deeply saddened and sick at heart. The dead cannot defend themselves, and the documentary offered no cross-examination, no counter-testimony [YouTube links], and no alternative narratives [Quora Digest link]. But that didn't take away the sting of hearing the shattering testaments or of observing the body language of the two men as they painted shockingly graphic portraits of their sexual abuse by someone who had befriended them, groomed them, and subsequently betrayed their trust.

If none of what they say is true, it is a travesty to the memory of a man, who was probably abused as a child himself, and who went on to raise millions of dollars in humanitarian aid for children worldwide with his "We Are the World" single (co-written with Lionel Richie) and his Heal the World Foundation.

If only 10% of what they say is true, it is a horrifying portrait indeed. But for the sake of this essay, which marks the tenth anniversary of the tragic death of a truly unique artist, let's say it's all true.

What does this mean for those of us who grew up listening and dancing to Michael Jackson's music?

Reassessing Jackson's Artistry? Reassessing Myself?

Michael Jackson's music was, for all intents and purposes, like the coming-of-age soundtrack of my youth.

Indeed, I can tell you that as a 9-year old kid, in December of 1969, I sat in front of my black and white television and was inspired to see somebody about my own age stepping out onto the stage of the "Ed Sullivan Show" to belt out "I Want You Back" [YouTube link] like he was an old pro. I can't count the number of times, as a mobile DJ in my college years, how I lit up the dance floor with the propulsive beats of the Jacksons' "Shake Your Body (Down to the Ground)" or "Walk Right Now" [YouTube links] or how I got a group of tired teachers up at a school reunion to dance over and over again to "The Way You Make Me Feel" [YouTube link]. Or how MJ drew me into a world of romantic intrigue with his "Heartbreak Hotel" (aka "This Place Hotel") [YouTube link]. Or, more personally, how I danced, with a blind date, to the disco beats of "Don't Stop 'til You Get Enough" and "Rock with You" [YouTube link] from MJ's pathbreaking solo album, "Off The Wall." Or how awestruck I was when I saw him on the "Motown 25" special doing his sensational signature Moonwalk to "Billie Jean" [YouTube link] (predictably, on the recent "Motown 60" special, he was practically airbrushed out of existence). Or the first time I saw the chilling, thrilling video to the title track of the album [YouTube link] from which "Billie Jean" emerged, the all-time global best-selling "Thriller." Or that first sensuous kiss I experienced with somebody, in a moment of intimacy, listening to the "Quiet Storm" sounds of "The Lady in My Life" [YouTube link] from that same album.

I saw MJ perform live in concert two times, once with his brothers (on the "Victory Tour") and once as a solo artist (on the "Bad" tour). He was a lion on stage, the quintessential song-and-dance man of his generation who merged the grace of Astaire and Kelly with the grit of the street. Filled with irrepressible energy that fueled more than two hours of one greatest hit after another, his choreography was staggering to watch, his vocals were purer than anything you'd hear even on a carefully produced studio album. Even my mother went to those shows, she loved him so much!

So, where does this leave me? Am I to feel guilty that my foot still starts to tap, almost involuntarily, every time I hear that bass line that opens "Billie Jean" or "Bad"?

Maybe Michael Jackson was really trying to tell us something literally when he sang, "I'm bad, I'm bad, you know it." Or maybe when he metamorphized into that monster in the "Thriller" video, he was giving us a glimpse of the horror within. Or maybe he was telling us something even more personal when he sang: "I'm gonna make a change for once in my life. ... I'm starting with the man in the mirror. I'm asking him to change his ways. And no message could have been any clearer. If you want to make the world a better place, take a look at yourself. And make a change."

Perhaps he was that Man in The Mirror [YouTube link], who was incapable of taming the monster within. Perhaps not. All I know is that my heart broke when I heard of his death on the radio ten years ago this day, and my heart breaks today every time I hear one of his songs. I can't erase what he did or may have done to those children, but I am equally incapable of erasing the part his music played in my life. And so, today, I can only be brutally honest: I highlight one of his recordings as my "Song of the Day"---"Who Is It?"---still wondering who he really was, but unflinching in my appreciation of his artistry.

June 21, 2019

Song of the Day #1697

Song of the Day: Summer of '69 features the words and music of Jim Vallance and Bryan Adams, who recorded this song for his 1984 album, "Reckless." New York City celebrates the Summer Solstice, which comes to the Northern Hemisphere at 11:54 a.m. (EDT)---which means that Notablog begins its Fourth Annual Summer Music Festival (Woodstock Fiftieth Anniversary Edition). I'm not here to debate the moral underbelly of the "Apollonian" moon landing (which, as a child who grew up in awe of the space program, I will also celebrate in song) versus the "Dionysian" mudfest that was the Woodstock Music and Art Fair, as Ayn Rand once contrasted these events (though Jeff Riggenbach once called the Woodstock generation among "the disowned children of Ayn Rand"). This year's festival will run mostly on a weekly basis from the first to the last day of summer. It will place special emphasis on the participating Woodstock artists and the songs they recorded in that era. With some notable exceptions (marking a few birthdays, for example), Notablog will also mark the Golden Anniversary of some of the defining events of the Summer of '69. Our first song is not from that era, but its very title speaks to the year of our focus---when I was only nine years old---though Adams himself has long maintained that the number "69" in the title had less to do with the year and far more to do with a particular love-making position. This single went to the Top Five on the Billboard Hot 100 in June 1985; check out the Bryan Adams recording [YouTube link]. As is customary, I will open and close our annual Music Festival with songs from the same artist, so don't forget Bryan, since we'll be returning to him on the last day of summer (it was Chubby Checker who bookended the 2018 Notablog Summer Music Festival).

June 17, 2019

Song of the Day #1696

Song of the Day: Big City Blues, words and music by Adrienne Anderson, appears on "2:00 AM Paradise Cafe," Barry Manilow's fourteenth studio album. In what is one of his best albums, the artist---who turns 76 today---brings together a host of jazz musicians, including pianist Bill Mays, baritone sax player Gerry Mulligan, drummer Shelly Manne, bassist George Duvivier, and guitarist Mundell Lowe, whose pleasant pickings can be heard at the beginning and end of today's recording. The 1984 album is one of Manilow's finest, including the gorgeous "When October Goes," based partially on an unfinished lyric from the great Johnny Mercer and a melody composed by Manilow. The album also includes two wonderful duets: one with the Divine One, Sarah Vaughan, and the other---today's Song of the Day---with Mel Torme, who left us twenty years ago (June 5, 1999). Check out this Manilow and Mel duet [YouTube link] in honor of today's birthday boy.

June 09, 2019

Song of the Day #1695

Song of the Day: The Music Man ("Seventy-Six Trombones"), music and lyrics by Meredith Wilson, is one of the rousing highlights from this 1957 Tony Award-winning musical, starring Robert Preston (who won for Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical) and Barbara Cook (who won for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Musical). The cast album would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Musical Theater Album. In October 2020, a revival of the musical, starring the irrepressible Hugh Jackman, will make its debut on Broadway. (Jackman actually performed "Rock Island" [YouTube link] with LL Cool J and T.I. on the 2014 Tony Awards, giving us a glimpse into the "rap" nature of one of the classic opening numbers to the musical!) Check out the original Broadway cast version of today's song from the musical and the 1962 film version [YouTube links], both led by the great Robert Preston. And I'm one to enjoy even one [YouTube link], let alone seventy-six, trombones. Enjoy the Tony Award's celebration of the Broadway stage tonight!

June 08, 2019

Song of the Day #1694

Song of the Day: Cabaret ("Maybe This Time"), music by John Kander, lyrics by Fred Ebb, was one of the winning songs not included in the original 1966 Broadway musical, which nonetheless won a total of eight out of the eleven Tony Awards for which it was nominated: Best Musical, Best Direction of a Musical, Best Original Score, Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role (Joel Grey), Best Performance by an Actress in a Featured Role (Peg Murray), Best Choreography, Best Scenic Design, and Best Costume Design. I wasn't fortunate enough to see the original Broadway production, but I did see its absolutely spectacular 1998 revival, which won Tony Awards for Best Revival of a Musical, Best Performance by a Leading Actor in a Musical (the stupendous Alan Cumming), Best Performance by a Leading Actress in a Musical (Natasha Richardson), and Best Performance by an Actor in a Featured Role (Ron Rifkin)---four awards out of a total of an additional ten nominations. The musical derives from the 1951 play, "I Am a Camera," which itself was adapted from the short story by Christopher Isherwood, Goodbye to Berlin. This song made its way from the film into the musical revival and it remains one of its highlights, sung by the character Sally Bowles. Check out the rendition sung by Natasha Richardson in the 1998 reboot, and, of course, the Oscar-winning Best Actress performance of Liza Minelli [YouTube links], in the Bob Fosse-directed 1972 film adaptation. Today starts a two-day tribute to the 2019 Tony Awards, hosted by James Corden, which will air on Sunday, June 9th, on the CBS Network.

June 07, 2019

Song of the Day #1693

Song of the Day: Le Grind, composed by Prince, is from his "Black Album" (aka "The Funk Bible"), which was recorded in 1986-87, but not released until 1994, largely because the artist believed it was created under the influence of an "evil" demonic entity "Spooky Electric." With all honesty, it's hard to figure out precisely what was so evil about this funk-heavy track with the same sensuous lyrics we'd all come to expect from The Artist. Despite his tragic death in 2016, his music lives on. Today would have been his sixty-first birthday. Check out the rare track on YouTube.

June 06, 2019

Song of the Day #1692

Song of the Day: I Love You, words and music by Cole Porter, was the #1 song on this day, June 6, 1944, for the fifth week in a row, as sung by Bing Crosby with John Scott Trotter and His Orchestra. The song came from Porter's 1944 stage musical "Mexican Hayride." It was first recorded by Wilbur Evans (who played the character David) in that musical, but it was Bing Crosby's recording of the song that took it to the top of the charts. This weekend, other musicals will be honored at the Tony Awards. But it is of particular interest that the American public had embraced a sentimental song of love for the five weeks leading up to the Allied invasion of Normandy, the largest air, land, and sea invasion in human history that proved to be the beginning of the end of World War II. That war, which led to estimated fatalities of 70 to 85 million people, may have signified the "nadir of the Old Right"---but it also brought forth the intellectual seeds of a libertarian resurgence in the decades to come. Nevertheless, I post this song today as an expression of love to my own family members who fought and died in that most horrific of wars, and in honor of those who survived that battle on the beaches of Normandy, and who have returned to those beaches today, to mark the seventy-fifth anniversary of that invasion, knowing that, in the words of Herman Wouk: "The beginning of the end of war lies in remembrance." Check out the original Wilbur Evans version of this song and the #1 Bing Crosby hit [YouTube links] that serenaded Americans at home, who listened to the music on the radio, with news bulletins that, they prayed, would move the world one step closer to peace.

May 20, 2019

Song of the Day #1691

Song of the Day: Take Me Home, words and music by Michelle Aller and Bob Etsy, was a Top Ten Pop and Dance track for Cher in 1979, making an impact as well on the Adult Contemporary and Hot Soul Singles charts. She turns 73 years old today! The title single from Cher's fifteenth solo studio album was pure unadulterated disco, just one of the many genres of popular music from Cher's long and remarkable career, celebrated even today on Broadway. A recent Kennedy Center Honoree, she was serenaded by Adam Lambert [YouTube link] at the induction ceremony, who sang "Believe"---the biggest song of Cher's long career---as a ballad. Check out the rare original video of today's song and the Casablanca 12" vinyl extended mix. Happy birthday to the Oscar-winning actress, Grammy-winning singer, and three-time Golden Globe Award winner!

May 17, 2019

Politically Incorrect: Dennis Miller & Don Rickles on Frank Sinatra

A friend sent me a link to a Dennis Miller monologue on his dinner with Frank Sinatra. It really has to be watched to be appreciated. Miller recounts that this was toward the end of Sinatra's life, and that comedian Don Rickles remarked that Frank was suffering from Sicilian Alzheimer's Disease: "He only remembers the grudges."

Folks could never get away with that kind of humor today. But this is worth a watch; check it out on YouTube.

May 14, 2019

Song of the Day #1690

Song of the Day: The Tim Conway Show ("Main Theme") was composed by Dan and Lois Dalton, for the short-lived 1970 CBS-TV series that re-united Tim Conway and Joe Flynn (check out parts one and two of "Mail Contract") from their multi-year stint as part of the ensemble that made up "McHale's Navy," a TV show that I watched religiously from age 2 through age 6. It starred Oscar-winning actor Ernest Borgnine as Lieutenant Commander Quinton McHale and introduced me to the hilariously funny Emmy-winning actor and writer Tim Conway, who played Ensign Parker [YouTube link]. Conway would go on to a comedic career that encompassed classic stints on "The Carol Burnett Show" [YouTube link to "Went with the Wind!"] to his own variety show [YouTube link]. Today, the funnyman died at the age of 85. RIP, Tim [YouTube links].

May 13, 2019

Song of the Day #1689

Song of the Day: The Man Who Knew Too Much ("Que Sera, Sera (Whatever Will Be, Will Be)"), words and music by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, made its debut in Alfred Hitchock's 1956 remake (with James Stewart and Doris Day) of his own 1934 film. The song became central to the plot of that suspenseful remake, and it was the great Doris Day who sang it numerous times in that film, taking it to #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. It won the Oscar for Best Original Song and became Day's signature tune and the theme to her TV show, which ran from 1968 to 1973. Doris Day passed away today at the age of 97. A powerhouse and often underrated talent, she will be remembered for her work in film, television, and song, and as one of the most humane defenders of our domestic pets and family members. For years, folks lobbied to get her that honorary Oscar that forever eluded her. Now her charming legacy belongs to the ages. Check out this song as performed in the film, not once, but twice and in its studio version [YouTube links]. RIP, Doris.

Postscript (8 June 2019): I just wanted to alert those who are interested that Turner Classic Movies is running a 24-hour marathon of Doris Day films tomorrow (June 9th) starting at 6 am Eastern time (more information here).

Artists Seen and Unseen

On Facebook, I was prompted by my cousin Michael J. Turzilli, to participate in a game of sorts, in which one lists twenty bands/artists one has seen in concert, which includes one lie. Folks were invited to leave a comment on who they think is the lie. Here was my list---but after lots of guesses and countless Facebook PMs, I spilled the answer. Scroll down.

Here's my list:

1. Stevie Wonder
2. Michael Jackson
3. Chick Corea
4. Chuck Mangione
5. Joe Pass
6. Charlie Puth
7. Bruno Mars
8. Justin Timberlake
9. Michel Legrand
10. Benny Goodman
11. Sting
12. Phil Woods
13. Stephane Grappelli
14. Bill Evans
15. Pink
16. Prince
17. Madonna
18. Barbra Streisand
19. Sarah Vaughan
20. John Williams and the New York Philharmonic

The one artist I didn't see, to my great dismay, was #19, Sarah Vaughan. In honor of The Divine One---the singer of whom Frank Sinatra once said: "Sassy is so good ... that when I listen to her I want to cut my wrists with a dull razor"---I'm re-highlighting my "Song of the Day #1079," in which jazz vocalist Sarah Vaughan gives a Master Class in the Art of Scatting.

I literally taped this off my own television back in 1974, when I was 14 years old, from "In Performance at Wolf Trap", a live-recorded concert for PBS, where Sassy's voice shows its four-octave range. Years later, I was able to digitize it. Check out "Scattin' the Blues."

May 09, 2019

Song of the Day #1688

Song of the Day: Only The Good Die Young, words and music by Billy Joel, was the third single from the artist's 1977 album, "The Stranger." Tonight, the Bronx-born Joel is rockin' Madison Square Garden in celebration of his 70th birthday! Apparently, the Good Live On! One of my all-time favorite Joel tracks, check it out on YouTube. And Happy Birthday, Billy!

April 21, 2019

Happy Passover and Happy Easter to the Westerners

Well, it's just after midnight here in New York City, and the ABC Network is showing "The Ten Commandments," and Chuck Heston (as Moses) just parted the Red Sea, all of which can mean only one thing: A Happy Passover to all my Jewish friends and a Happy Easter to all my Western Christian friends. (Yes, I was going to say "A Happy Western Easter", but my dear friend, Roger Bissell, said that the phrase sounded a bit like an oxymoron.)

Either way, for those who celebrate, enjoy the holidays, and for those who don't, embrace the joys of Spring (though my tree pollen allergies put a damper on its joys!). Next week, it will be "Christos Anesti" to all my Eastern Orthodox friends, something with which I'm much more familiar, having been baptized Greek Orthodox not too long after I was born!

Postscript (added on 22 April 2019, from Facebook):

I wrote on Sanford Ikeda's timeline, after he commented that he couldn't believe how few Biblical films were on television this weekend; I figured I'd share my reply to him here---because the link I posted is still (to me) hilarious:

I agree! Something was very wrong with TV this weekend. I saw more listings for slasher films and films of demonic possession than any Biblical epics.
However, as noted, "The Ten Commandments" was on the ABC network on Saturday night, and while "Demetrius and the Gladiators" played on FX Movie Channel, "The Robe" was nowhere to be found---either in its widescreen or flat-screen versions (the latter, far better acted version of that classic, hasn't been seen in about 30 years on any station!).
However, the great "Ben-Hur" was making its rounds last week on the big screen for its 60th anniversary, so it too was nowhere to be found (TCM regularly plays "Ben-Hur": it was shown around Christmas, during their "Sword and Sandals" January feature, and again during their "31 Days of Oscar" in February).
But TCM did play "The Silver Chalice" (with Paul Newman) and "Barabbas" (with Anthony Quinn) in the early afternoon, and, at night, after "Easter Parade", they played the Nicholas Ray-directed "King of Kings" (1961)---with the blond-haired, blue-eyed Jeffrey Hunter as Jesus, the film that sent Oprah Winfrey to confession because after she saw it, she felt she had sinned for having 'lusted after Jesus'. The was followed by the silent DeMille version with H.B. Warner as Jesus (known as "The King of Kings").
But an obscure cable channel did play the 1965 epic, "The Greatest Story Ever Told" (with Max von Sydow as Jesus, who would become Father Merrin in 1973's "The Exorcist"), of which I caught only the last scenes---starting with the absolutely classic lines uttered by John Wayne as the Centurion. The film is filled with cameos from many Hollywood stars, but the Duke sounds like he just got off his horse in some old Western: "Truly this man was the son of Gaad."
And that's your sparse Biblical movie round-up for this past holiday weekend!

March 29, 2019

Song of the Day #1687

Song of the Day: Time of the Season, composed by keyboard player, Rod Agent, is one of the featured tracks on the album, "Odessey and Oracle," by The Zombies, who will be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame tonight at the Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York. The song was recorded in 1967 at the Abbey Road Studios, right after the Beatles finished recording "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band." Argent actually used the mellotron and piano left behind by John Lennon from the "Sgt. Pepper's" session. The album and the song have an unusual history. With the word "Odessey" misspelled on the psychedelic art cover designed by Terry Quirk, the album didn't do well in its 1968 release in Great Britain. It was Al Kooper, formerly of Blood, Sweat, and Tears, who urged producer Clive Davis at Columbia Records to release the album in the U.S. on a subsidiary label. This song caught on, first with a disc jockey in Boise, Idaho, and eventually throughout the United States, peaking at #3 on the Billboard Hot 100. With lyrics that include a nod to Gershwin's "Summertime" and a bass line like that of "Stand by Me," the song eventually propelled the album to plantinum status, with over two million copies sold. It has been covered by artists as diverse as the Dave Matthews Band, and jazz artists Curt Elling and Cassandra Wilson. But nothing is as definitive as the Zombies' truly classic recording [YouTube links]. Thanks to my friend John F. Welsh for sharing all this wonderful trivia with me, as I prepared to honor this year's crop of R&R Hall of Famers. We'll have a chance to see the broadcast of this year's ceremonies on HBO in about a month.

March 28, 2019

Song of the Day #1686

Song of the Day: The Thrill of it All, words and music by Bryan Ferry, opens the 1974 Roxy Music album, "Country Life"---considered a milestone in the history of British art rock, one of the reasons for their upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Check out the 6+ minute album version [YouTube link]. Today is Opening Day for the New York Yankees at Yankee Stadium, and I can't think of a better phrase ("the thrill of it all") to sum up this baseball fan's enthusiasm about the upcoming season. [Ed.: Great Opening for New York: Mariano Rivera throws out ceremonial first pitch and the Yanks win at Home, 7-2 over the Orioles, and the Mets win on the road, with former Yankee Robinson Cano driving in 2 runs to give de Grom his first win, 2-0 over the Nationals!]

March 27, 2019

Song of the Day #1685

Song of the Day: Paranoid Android is credited to the English alternative rock group Radiohead. It was the lead single from the group's third studio album, "OK Computer" (1997). The 6+ minute song has four distinct sections that were drawn from three different compositions, each written by a different member of the band. What emerges from its varied rhythms and its series of minor keys, its multi-track choral vocals and a showcased Jonny Greenwood guitar solo, is a musical totality that lands squarely in the realm of progressive rock. Check out the animated video for the track [YouTube link].

March 26, 2019

Song of the Day #1684

Song of the Day: Lovesong is credited to Robert Smith, Simon Gallup, Porl Thompson, Roger O'Donnell, Boris Williams, and Lol Tolhurst, known collectively as the alternative rock band, The Cure. It was the third single released from their eighth studio album, "Disintegration" (1989). Check out the single version, the music video version, and the extended mix, as well as a cover version by Adele [YouTube links].

March 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1683

Song of the Day: Stand Back was written and recorded by Stevie Nicks for her second solo studio album, "The Wild Heart" (1983). In 1998, she entered the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of the British-American rock band Fleetwood Mac. This year, she is honored for her solo work. Check out the song's official video and its "Disco Purrfection Version" [YouTube links].

March 24, 2019

Song of the Day #1682

Song of the Day: What Have You Done for Me Lately?, words and music by Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson, was the lead single from Janet's 1986 album, "Control." The album certainly highlighted Janet's determined vocals and its videos became a showcase for her glittering choreography. This song's video was choreographed by Paula Abdul. Check out the video single, its 12" mix, and its super-extended mix [YouTube links]. This week, Miss Jackson finally joins her famous brothers in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

March 23, 2019

Song of the Day #1681

Song of the Day: Pour Some Sugar On Me is credited to Joe Elliott, Robert John "Mutt" Lange, Phil Collen, Steve Clark, and Rick Savage, and was a hit single from the 12x platinum-selling 1987 album, "Hysteria", by English hard rock band Def Leppard. Today kicks off our seven-day tribute to the seven inductees, which constitute the Class of 2019, into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. I'm paying special attention to this year's induction ceremony because it is taking place for the fourth time in the last five years in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Center. An HBO special of the event will air on April 27, 2019. Each day over the next week, I will devote to one of the inductees en route to the March 29th ceremony. I could think of no better song to kick off our tribute than one that's hot, sticky, and sweet. Check out the official video of the song and the extended version [YouTube links].

March 04, 2019

Song of the Day #1680

Song of the Day: Beverly Hills 90210 ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by John E. Davis, opened up the coming-of-age television teen drama during its ten-year run on Fox. It was a guilty pleasure, I admit, but I watched all ten seasons, and at least one of its various spin-offs ("Melrose Place"). As in all teen-age soap operas, the series had one brooding young male character, and in '90210', it was Dylan McKay, played by Luke Perry, who died today at the age of 52, due to complications from a massive stroke. The only person I ever actually visited from that zip code was Nathaniel Branden, back in 1999. Today, however, is a date seared into my own memory---for my own father died on March 4, 1972, at the age of 55 from a massive coronary. As you get older, it's only natural that you are reminded of your own mortality, but at the age of 59, you tend to think that this happens to folks older than you. At some point, of course, the mathematics tend to outweigh the thoughts. Still, at 52, Perry is another person gone too soon. RIP, Luke. RIP, Dad.

February 27, 2019

The Dialectics of Liberty: A New Anthology is On The Way!

It is my distinct honor---and pleasure---to formally announce a forthcoming book: The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, a trailblazing collection of essays by a diverse group of scholars, coming from a variety of disciplines and perspectives. The anthology has been coedited by Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, and Edward W. Younkins. It is slated for publication by Lexington Books in June 2019 and it is sure to be a provocative read for anyone interested in liberty and the contexts that nourish---or undermine---it.

Readers can find the book's home page here (which is redirected from both Dialectics of Liberty.com and Dialectics and Liberty.com). As we state on our abstracts page:

These essays explore ways that liberty can be better defended using a dialectical approach, a mode of analysis that grasps the full context of philosophical, cultural, and social factors requisite to the sustenance of human freedom. The contributors represent a variety of disciplines and perspectives who apply explicitly dialectical tools to a classical liberal / libertarian analysis of social and cultural issues. By conjoining a dialectical method, typically associated with the socialist left, to a defense of individual liberty, typically associated with the libertarian right, this anthology challenges contemporary attitudes on both ends of the political spectrum.

Abstracts for all the articles that are included in the anthology can be found here and contributor biographies can be found here. For those who just can't wait to read through those links, here is a glimpse of what to expect:

Table of Contents

Introduction - Roger E. Bissell, Chris Matthew Sciabarra, Edward W. Younkins

Part I: Foundations and Systems of Liberty

Chapter 1: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism - Chris Matthew Sciabarra

Chapter 2: Freedom and Flourishing: Toward a Synthesis of Traditions and Disciplines - Edward W. Younkins

Chapter 3: The Unchained Dialectic and the Renewal of Libertarian Inquiry - John F. Welsh

Chapter 4: Whence Natural Rights? - Douglas Den Uyl and Douglas B. Rasmussen

Chapter 5: Dialogical Arguments for Libertarian Rights - Stephan Kinsella

Chapter 6: Dialectical Psychology: The Road to Depassement - Robert L. Campbell

Part II: Government, Economy, and Culture

Chapter 7: Don Lavoie's Dialectical Liberalism - Nathan Goodman

Chapter 8: Free Speech, Rhetoric, and a Free Economy - Deirdre Nansen McCloskey

Chapter 9: Exploring the Interconnections of Politics, Economics, and Culture - Robert Higgs

Chapter 10: Context Matters: Finding a Home for Labor-Managed Enterprise - David L. Prychitko

Chapter 11: The Dialectic of Culture and Markets in Expanding Family Freedom - Steven Horwitz

Chapter 12: Up from Oppression: Triumph and Tragedy in the Great American Songbook - Roger E. Bissell

Part III: Justice, Liberation, and Rights

Chapter 13: Why Libertarians Should Be Social Justice Warriors - Roderick T. Long

Chapter 14: Radical Liberalism and Social Liberation - Gary Chartier

Chapter 15: Social Equality and Liberty - Billy Christmas

Chapter 16: Formal vs. Substantive Statism: A Matter of Context - Kevin A. Carson

Chapter 17: The Political Is Interpersonal: An Interpretation and Defense of Libertarian Immediatism - Jason Lee Byas

Chapter 18: Aesthetics, Ritual, Property, and Fish: A Dialectical Approach to the Evolutionary Foundations of Property - Troy Camplin

Index

About the Editors and Contributors

********************

Anyone taking a look at the contributors to this book might be scratching their heads a bit, wondering how some of the authors associated with the volume may very well not associate themselves with the views of other authors herein represented. Let me say by way of introduction, that this collection falls under the category of "Big Tent" classical liberalism / libertarianism: It is not presented as a monolithic view of what a dialectical approach to human freedom must be. Rather, it is a sign of the fruitful interplay of ideas and theories that might result when classical liberal and libertarian thinkers adopt a context-sensitive dialectical approach, making their political project a living research program that will necessarily generate a variety of perspectives, united only in their ideological commitment to freedom and their methodological commitment to a dialectical sensibility.

I should just add that this is purely an announcement: I'd like to save the debates for when the book is published and folks actually have a chance to read the essays, before passing judgments, either positive or negative on the contents of the volume. I know that our authors would greatly appreciate critical feedback; but nothing advances human knowledge when judgments are reached on the basis of reading short abstracts or brief biographies. Suffice it to say: We are going to have plenty of time and many forums in which to debate the contents of this book.

For now, I would simply like to extend my heartfelt appreciation to my hard-working fellow editors, and our remarkable group of superb scholars, whose commitment to the project has been a delight to behold.

So many more Notablog posts with further information on the forthcoming book to come ...

Postscript: This Notablog announcement was shared on Facebook by quite a few people, reaching potentially thousands of readers. I'm delighted by the response, and added a few points in several threads. The most important point I made, however, was in response to some folks who criticized the inclusion of people whose views they oppose. Here was my response:

If I may add a point: One of the reasons that folks as diverse as Stephan Kinsella and Kevin Carson are in the same volume is because each applies a dialectical sensibility to the topic of their essays; we wanted a volume that would represent the wide range of perspectives and disciplines that might be engaged in a genuinely radical classical liberal / libertarian research program.
And if I may be so bold: I think that the volume constitutes a virtual paradigmatic shift in its explicit embrace of a dialectical sensibility in furtherance of a radical libertarian social theory. From the early 1980s through to the publication of my Dialectics and Liberty trilogy (from 1995 to 2000), I felt like "the voice of one crying in the wilderness." But I argued that many classical liberals and contemporary libertarians had already embraced a dialectical approach to libertarian social theory, even if they had not named it as such. That today, 30+ years after I started this project, I am a co-editor of a volume that features such talented scholars who are not afraid to utter the words "dialectic" and "liberty" in the same sentence is of great significance to me. I'm very proud to be associated with this project, and prouder still of the work that each author contributed to it. It's a Big Tent folks: Get under it! :)

Postscript II: The debate over the contents and its contributors has continued, so I made the following observation on one of the Facebook threads:

I have to admit that if this is how worked up folks are getting over the list of contents and contributors, i just can't imagine what will happen when the book is actually released and its contents are actually read, comprehended, and commented upon.
As a matter of fact, even I don't agree with every essay in the book; this is of little consequence, however. What was more important to me was to amass a group of writers from every discipline and a variety of perspectives, who demonstrated an attention to the larger context within which freedom might be nourished---or undermined. There is not a single author in this book who does not qualify on those grounds. I may disagree with the way some folks apply certain dialectical tools of analysis to their subject matter, but in a sense, the book itself is an example of the very "dialectics" of liberty it proposes, at least in terms of its original intent of meaning: that in viewing the issues at hand, we look at them from as many different vantage points and on many different levels of generality as is possible, to reveal relationships that might be obscured by one-dimensional readings.
Even in disagreeing with this or that author, it is my hope that folks, especially those who adhere to classical liberal / libertarian ideas, might actually embrace the "rivalrous" readings offered in this volume, in much the same way that they embrace the "rivalrous competition" they extol as one of the virtues of free markets. Embrace the differences; you don't have to agree. But celebrate the fact that the editors had the audacity to put this volume together and that the contributors, even those that found themselves on opposite sides of certain issues, were courageous enough to be a part of what is sure to be a provocative, trailblazing anthology.
As I said: If this is the reaction we're getting from a Table of Contents, abstracts, and biographies, I can only imagine what might happen when the volume comes out in June! Mount Vesuvius ain't got nothin' on us! :)

This post was shared on quite a few Facebook pages, and also noted on several blogs, including that of Center for a Stateless Society, Bleeding Heart Libertarians, Austro-Athenian Empire, and StephanKinsella.com.

February 25, 2019

Song of the Day #1679

Song of the Day: The Monkees ("Main Theme" or "Hey, Hey, We're the Monkees"), words and music by Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart, was the theme song of the TV show "The Monkees," that I regularly watched as a child. On February 21st, Peter Tork, one of the quartet's original members, passed away. Check out the memorable theme [YouTube link].

February 24, 2019

Song of the Day #1678

Song of the Day: Yentl ("Papa Can You Hear Me?") features the lyrics of Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the music of the late Michel Legrand, who would have turned 87 today. I still feel the sadness of his passing. How apropos then to conclude our Film Music February tribute on Oscar Day with a song from this man who died on January 26th, days before our annual tribute began. He gave so much to the art of the score throughout his illustrious career. This song comes from the 1983 film, directed by and starring Barbra Streisand, who became the first woman to win a Golden Globe Directing Award (for a Musical or Comedy), as the film itself took home Globe honors for Best Motion Picture (Musical or Comedy). This particular song, along with "The Way He Makes Me Feel," was Oscar-nominated for Best Original Song, but lost out to "Flashdance: What a Feeling." But Legrand and the Bergmans took home the Oscar for Best Original Score (Adaptation). Tonight, composers and lyricists will take home awards for scoring and songs at the 91st Annual Academy Awards. And we'll be back next year for another Film Music February tribute. For now, check out this song as heard in the 1983 film [YouTube link].

February 23, 2019

Song of the Day #1677

Song of the Day: Sharky's Machine ("High Energy") [YouTube link] was composed by Bob Florence for the jazz-infused soundtrack to this 1981 thriller, directed by and starring Burt Reynolds. Reynolds is sure to be among those mentioned in the "In Memoriam" segment of tomorrow night's broadcast of the Academy Awards. This particular track from the film is performed with blazing heat by the Doc Severinsen Band.

February 22, 2019

Song of the Day #1676

Song of the Day: Christmas in Connecticut ("The Wish That I Wish Tonight"), music by M. K. Jerome, lyrics by Jack Scholl, is heard over the opening credits to this 1945 film, starring Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, and Sydney Greenstreet. Check out the music in the title sequence and as sung by Dennis Morgan in the film. The song was also a hit for the Ray Noble Orchestra with vocalist Trudy Erwin and Jo Stafford [YouTube links].

February 21, 2019

Song of the Day #1675

Song of the Day: The Godfather, Part III ("Promise Me You'll Remember"), words and music by Carmine Coppola and John Bettis, was the love theme from the concluding part of the Francis Ford Coppola "Godfather" trilogy. Nominated for "Best Original Song" at both the Golden Globe Awards and the Academy Awards, it was performed on the film's soundtrack [YouTube link] by Harry Connick, Jr.

February 20, 2019

Song of the Day #1674

Song of the Day: To Catch a Thief ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Lyn Martin, provides a lively opening to this visually stunning 1955 Alfred Hitchcock film, starring Cary Grant and Grace Kelly. This was one of four films that Grant did with Hitchcock and one of three films that Kelly did with Hitchcock. The pairing of Grant and Kelly in a Hitchcock [YouTube "Dick Cavett" interview clip] film with the French Riviera as backdrop thrills audiences with romance, suspense, and literal fireworks [YouTube link]. Today is the 100th anniversary of my mother's birth; she passed away in 1995, but not even a five-year bout with lung cancer could dull the intensity of her love for Cary Grant (she would practically fall over from excitement, watching Cary run in Hitchcock's "North by Northwest" famous crop-duster scene! [YouTube link]). So this one's for Mom... and for Cary!

February 19, 2019

Song of the Day #1673

Song of the Day: Airport ("Emergency Landing") [YouTube link], composed by Alfred Newman, is a musical highlight from the 1970 film that originated the "disaster genre" that would come to dominate the decade. This was the last film Newman scored prior to his death on February 17th of that year, a month before he would have turned 70 and less than a month before the release of this film (on March 5, 1970). Nominated for forty-five Oscars throughout his scoring career, Newman would go on to win nine Academy Awards for Best Original Score, third behind Walt Disney, with twenty-six, and art director/production designer Cedric Gibbons, with eleven.

February 18, 2019

Song of the Day #1672

Song of the Day: El Cid ("Palace Music") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, is a gentle theme for flute and guitar for the soundtrack to the 1961 Anthony Mann-directed epic (which was lovingly restored by Martin Scorsese in 1993), starring Charlton Heston in the title role and Sophia Loren as Dona Ximena. For his gorgeous cinematic soundtrack,Rozsa received an Oscar nomination as well as for Best Original Song ("The Falcon and the Dove"), losing to Henry Mancini in both categories (who won for "Breakfast at Tiffany's" and "Moon River," respectively).

February 17, 2019

Song of the Day #1671

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("Anno Domini") [YouTube link] composed by Miklos Rozsa, comes immediately after the "Overture" in the 1959 Biblical epic, which still holds the all-time Oscar record with 11 Academy Awards, including "Best Picture" (tied by "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" except "Ben-Hur" is the only one among these that includes two Oscars for acting categories). This cue opens with the score's famous three-note motif and serves as the backdrop for the narration [YouTube link], which tells us the story of Rome's occupation of Judea, a prelude to the Nativity scene [YouTube link]. Director William Wyler bookends this "Tale of the Christ" with the birth and crucifixion of Jesus [YouTube link], whose presence is felt throughout the film, without ever seeing his face or hearing his voice---except through the expressions and experiences of the other characters. Known as the first "intimate epic" [pdf], this film remains my all-time favorite with my all-time favorite score, and it's become a tradition of sorts for me to highlight a cue from this soundtrack on this date, my birthday. Unlike the film, however, I'm not yet 60! Not that there's anything wrong with that [YouTube link]. For those who haven't seen the finest film version of the classic Lew Wallace tale, it will be shown as part of TCM's 31 Days of Oscar tomorrow afternoon.

February 16, 2019

Song of the Day #1670

Song of the Day: Love, Simon ("Roller Coaster"), words and music by Jack Antonoff and John Hill, can be heard on the soundtrack to this endearing coming-of-age 2018 film. The Bleachers' song (not to be confused with that great jazz track [mp3 track] by that illustrious duo Carl Barry and Joanne Barry, my jazz guitar brother and jazz vocalist sister-in-law, nepotism aside) is a retro-80s-sounding rock track [YouTube link]. It first appeared on the Bleachers' debut album, "Strange Desire" and was also heard in the second season finale of the Netflix series, "13 Reasons Why."

February 15, 2019

Song of the Day #1669

Song of the Day: Home Room ("Going Home") [site link] was composed by my colleague and friend, Michael Gordon Shapiro, for a 2002 film, starring Erika Christensen, Busy Phillips, and Victor Garber, dealing with the traumatic psychological effects in the aftermath of a school shooting. It is a phenomenon that continues to haunt American society (yesterday marked the one-year anniversary of the Parkland shooting), and Shapiro brings to it an understated poignancy that reflects the tragic, numbing sense of loss that one would expect in a score of this nature.

February 14, 2019

Song of the Day #1668

Song of the Day: Dr. Zhivago ("Lara's Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Maurice Jarre for his Oscar-winning soundtrack to the 1965 film, remains one of the most famous, sprawling romantic melodies to emerge from the cinema. From the David Lean-directed epic, starring Omar Sharif and Julie Christie and based on the Boris Pasternak novel, with the Russian revolution as backdrop, the theme can also be heard with accompanying film clips and in a jazz arrangement by the Harry James Band [YouTube links]. But it was by request of singer Connie Francis that a vocal version (with lyrics by Paul Francis Webster) materialized as "Somewhere My Love" (nominated in 1967 for Grammy Song of the Year). It was recorded first by Ray Conniff and the Singers (who took it to #9 on the Billboard Hot 100), and also by Connie Francis and Andy Williams [YouTube links]. Whatever melancholy one might find in the lyrics, I want to wish a Happy Valentine's Day to all!

February 13, 2019

Song of the Day #1667

Song of the Day: Two for the Road ("Something for Audrey") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, is only one of the lush, romantic tracks from the utterly gorgeous score for this 1967 film, starring Audrey Hepburn, with whom Mancini had a musical love affair. Mancini received a Golden Globe nomination for Best Score, and long considered the title song [YouTube links] from the film his all-time favorite and it's one of my all-time favorites too!). The film also stars the late Albert Finney, who passed away on February 7, 2019 at the age of 82 [YouTube links from one of Finney's best moments in "Erin Brockovich," for which he received one of his five Oscar nominations]. The Stanley Donen-directed flick was experimental for its day, since it told its story of a twelve-year marriage (the principals played by Hepburn and Finney) in a nonlinear fashion. This was Hepburn's third Donen-directed film (the others were "Funny Face" and "Charade," the latter featuring another great Mancini score [YouTube link]). Today's Film Music February entry is just preparing you for a romantic tomorrow.

February 12, 2019

Song of the Day #1666

Song of the Day: Soldier in the Rain ("Love Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, is one of the maestro's most beautifully orchestrated film themes. It can be heard in this 1960 film starring Jackie Gleason and Steve McQueen, an unlikely pair, indeed. Adapted from the William Goldman novel by Blake Edwards and Maurice Richlin, the film has a lot to say about the special bonds of friendship that can be forged between folks who often march to a different beat. Today begins a two-day appreciation for Mancini's melodic movie music.

February 11, 2019

Song of the Day #1665

Song of the Day: The Adventures of Robin Hood ("Main Title") [YouTube link] is the rousing opening composed by Erich Wolfgang Korngold for the truly wonderful 1938 film, starring the great swashbuckling Errol Flynn and his steadfast co-star Olivia de Havilland, with whom he appeared in eight films. She is still going strong at 102 years of age. I highlighted a classic cue from this Korngold Oscar-winning soundtrack back in 2007, but the Main Title still shines as memorable movie music.

February 10, 2019

Dispensing Advice on Relationships

No, I'm not the next Ann Landers or Dear Abby, but I figured I'd pass on this advice, given on a Facebook thread, to Notablog readers as well. My friend Nick Manley who started a Facebook discussion on the difficulties of being in relationships when one is a "radical political type" who tends "to categorize whole groups of people as friends or enemies to a degree that more centrist and less conflictual minded political types generally don't." I dispensed a little personal advice (which pertains to friendships as much as it does to romantic relationships):

All I can say is that I have rarely been in relationships with folks who agreed with me ideologically (it's not as if there is a multitude of "dialectical libertarians" out there); I tend to have a live-and-let-live attitude in this area. There are many areas where people can find commonality: "sense of life", likes and dislikes on a wide palette that goes from food to film to music, etc.

So, being "dialectical" about it: Don't 'reify' any single aspect of any single person and let it represent the whole person. Look at the person's whole context in conjunction with your own; I tend to look for commonality on a very wide scale. Life does not have to be an intellectual dog fight. If you are going to make friends or enemies on a strictly ideological litmus test, you'll be a very lonely person---for absolutely no reason at all. Complementary or even deep ideological differences should not be "deal-breakers" in human relationships; people are much more than what they believe (or claim to believe). Why seal yourself off from folks just because you disagree over politics?!

Song of the Day #1664

Song of the Day: The Wind and the Lion ("Love Theme") [YouTube link] composed by Jerry Goldsmith, is a highlight from the Oscar-nominated and Grammy-nominated Best Original Score, from this 1975 film, starring Sean Connery and Candice Bergen. Tonight the Grammy Awards will present yet another Original Score award. Today would have been Goldsmith's 90th birthday and it is only fitting that he is among the illustrious composers who have been honored by the Recording Academy with nominations in this category.

February 09, 2019

Song of the Day #1663

Song of the Day: The Detective ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, the 90th anniversary of whose birth we honor over the next two days. This cue opens the 1968 neo-noir film version of the Roderick Thorp novel. It stars Frank Sinatra, and the title theme has a touch of that Sinatra swagger.

February 08, 2019

Song of the Day #1662

Song of the Day: The Post ("The Presses Roll") [YouTube link] was composed by John Williams for the 2017 Steven Spielberg-directed film, focusing on the controversial publication of "The Pentagon Papers," which revealed the extent to which the U.S. government had engaged in a systematic policy of disinformation in its conduct of the Vietnam War. Tom Hanks (as Ben Bradlee) and Meryl Streep (as Katharine Graham) give fine performances as the principals who published these classified documents in The Washington Post, which, with The New York Times, went on to win its First Amendment case in a 6-3 U.S. Supreme Court decision. Today, our birthday boy, John Williams, turns 87 years old. He is the consummate maestro whose cue, here, can make even the functions of a printing press sound heroic.

February 07, 2019

Song of the Day #1661

Song of the Day: Cactus Flower ("The Time for Love is Anytime"), words and music by Cynthia Weil and Quincy Jones, is delivered with sass by Sarah Vaughan. This song opens the 1969 film starring Ingrid Bergman, Walter Matthau, and Goldie Hawn, who won a Best Supporting Actress Oscar. Check out the Divine One's vocals for the film's main theme [YouTube link].

February 06, 2019

Song of the Day #1660

Song of the Day: The Firm ("The Death of Love and Trust") [YouTube link], composed by pianist Dave Grusin, is one of the jazziest, most sensual cues from the Oscar-nominated soundtrack to this 1993 film, directed by Sydney Pollack and based on the John Grisham novel. The film stars Tom Cruise and a strong supporting cast.

February 05, 2019

Song of the Day #1659

Song of the Day: The Red Shoes ("Ballet of the Red Shoes") [YouTube link] was composed by Brian Easdale, who went on to win the Oscar for Best Original Score for this highly stylized 1948 film, directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger. Easdale was the first British composer to win in this category. The film also earned a well-deserved Oscar for Art Direction. The wonderful Moira Shearer plays the role of Victoria Page [YouTube link from "The Birdcage"], and her dancing in this particular ballet, choreographed by Robert Helpmann, influenced a generation of people who were inspired to become professional dancers. An adaptation of the Hans Christian Anderson tale, this iconic film underwent a magnificent restoration in 2006, and has been praised by directors as diverse as Brian DePalma and Martin Scorsese.

February 04, 2019

Song of the Day #1658

Song of the Day: Furious 7 ("See You Again"), words and music by Andrew Ceder, Justin Franks, Cameron Thomaz, and Charlie Puth, who provides the vocals to match Wiz Khalifa's poignant rap tribute to Paul Walker, who had portrayed the protagonist in the series (Brian O'Conner), and who tragically died in an automobile accident before this 2015 film was released. This lead single from the film's soundtrack spent 12 nonconsecutive weeks at #1, tying Eminem's Oscar-winning "Lose Yourself" and the Black Eyed Peas "Boom-Boom-Pow", as the longest-running rap track atop the Billboard Hot 100. It is among the most streamed and most viewed videos (exceeding three billion views) in history, and was among the best-selling singles of 2015. We did a Puth spotlight this past summer. Check out the video single and a live performance of it at Berklee by Charlie and in concert (at 01:23:10).

February 03, 2019

Song of the Day #1657

Song of the Day: Bohemian Rhapsody ("We Will Rock You"/"We Are the Champions") are two separate songs that have often been paired when heard on the radio, going all the way back to their 1977 debut on the Queen album, "News of the World." The first song is credited to Brian May, the second to Freddie Mercury. With its "Boom, Boom, Clap" beginning, and its anthemic sound, "We Will Rock You" has probably become the most sampled track in history for use at sports-stadium events. It was also part of the last medley performed by a reunited Queen at the Live Aid charity concert at Wembley Stadium on July 13, 1985 [YouTube link]. In 2005, Queen's 20+ minute set [YouTube link] was voted by sixty artists, journalists, and music industry executives as the greatest live performance in the history of rock. It is also only one of the highlights of this 2018 Oscar-nominated Best Picture, one of the most emotionally-wrenching paeans to the tortured soul and artistic genius of Freddie Mercury, played courageously and poignantly by the Oscar-nominated Rami Malek, who has already won Best Actor Awards for his performance from the Golden Globes and the Screen Actors Guild. I confess that the film often left me a slobbering mess, in terms of its emotional impact, which speaks to its powerful cinematic portrait of Mercury. Check out this remarkable side-by-side comparison of the Live Aid performance and its depiction in the 2018 film [YouTube link]. And also check out the original album recording [YouTube link]. Today, in Atlanta, where the Los Angeles Rams and the New England Patriots will be vying for the Super Bowl Championship, one team is going to rock the other and declare "We Are the Champions."

Postscript: Love them or hate them, Brady does it again, as the Pats win their Sixth Super Bowl Title (with Brady wearing five of those rings). And celebrating the 50th anniversary of his own Super Bowl win, former New York Jets QB Joe Namath brings the Vince Lombardi Trophy to the podium.

February 02, 2019

Song of the Day #1656

Song of the Day: Groundhog Day ("I Got You Babe"), words and music by Sonny Bono, was a huge hit for Sonny & Cher, peaking at #1 for three weeks in August 1965. It is also the song heard over and over again in this 1993 film that TV weatherman Phil Connors (played by Bill Murray) wakes up to every morning in a seemingly endless time-loop, covering the findings of Punxsutawney Phil on Groundhog Day, which just so happens to be today! (In New York, we rely on Staten Island Chuck, who has had a habit of biting past NYC Mayors.) Here's to the Groundhogs that do not see their shadows; we can use an early Spring!

February 01, 2019

Song of the Day #1655

Song of the Day: Call Me By Your Name ("Mystery of Love"), words and music by Sufjan Stevens, was a 2017 Oscar nominee for Best Original Song. Based on the Andre Aciman novel, this coming-of-age drama, starring the young and talented Best Actor-nominated Timothee Chalamet (a graduate of Brooklyn's LaGuardia High School) will tug at your heartstrings. The film also features wonderful performances by Armie Hammer and Michael Stuhlbarg (whose scene with his son near the end of the film is itself worth the price of admission) [YouTube link, spoiler alert!]. Check out the song, accompanied with film clips [YouTube link]. So we begin this year's 15th Annual Film Music February en route to the Oscar Awards on February 24, 2019 with a song from one of last year's "Best Picture"-nominated films. Let's remember that Film Music February includes not only film score cues and original songs featured in film, but also songs previously recorded that found life again in film soundtracks. So be prepared for a very wide variety of music over the next 24 days! Today also begins TCM's annual 31 Days of Oscar!

January 30, 2019

Michel Legrand: A Notablog Index

On January 26, 2019, the world lost a gifted composer, musician, arranger, and conductor: Michel Legrand. I offered my thoughts in a tribute to the maestro on that day. I was asked by several people if I would not mind providing an index to the various Legrand compositions that I've highlighted over the years. There are scores of songs in "My Favorite Songs" that provide us with Legrand renditions of non-Legrand compositions (most from the Great American Songbook). This list is limited just to Legrand compositions performed by Legrand, other instrumentalists, or singers with whom Legrand collaborated.

These are Notablog entries, wherein you should find a link to the full song or an excerpt (since in the old days, you couldn't get anything but an excerpt off the Internet):

Brian's Song [13 September 2007]

Cinq Jours en Juin [24 February 2017]

Dingo (Paris Walking II) [24 February 2018]

How Do You Keep the Music Playing? [18 March 2005]

Images [16 January 2005] (but go here as well)

I Will Say Goodbye [16 July 2014]

Monsanto Legrand Jazz Interlude [19 September 2013] (This particular tune was recorded by me when I was 12 years old on an audio cassette recorder placed close to the TV speaker; it features such musicians as Stan Getz, J. J. Johnson, and Dave Grusin, and was recorded off of a 1972 Monsanto-sponsored special on Michel Legrand, which is not available anywhere except the Library of Congress and on my site. My version includes my brother's dog Shannon, who barks in the middle of the bass solo.)

Never Say Never Again ("Main Title") [24 February 2014]

Once Upon a Summertime [22 June 2006]

Once You've Been in Love [13 August 2005]

Paris Was Made for Lovers [15 November 2015]

The Summer Knows [20 September 2004]

Summer Me, Winter Me [21 June 2007]

The Thomas Crown Affair ("Chess Scene") [14 February 2018]

What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life? [1 September 2004] This was the very first song on the list that became "My Favorite Songs."

You Must Believe In Spring [20 March 2005]

This is just a small sample of Legrand's magic; I will be featuring his work for many years to come. Watch this space. For now, just enjoy the music!

Postscript: Check out this wonderful essay by Howard Reich on The Sublime Poetry of Michel Legrand's Film Music" and this Guardian interview.

January 29, 2019

Song of the Day #1654

Song of the Day: Baby, Come to Me, composed by Rod Temperton, and produced by Quincy Jones, both of them at the top of their craft, made its debut on "Every Home Should Have One," a 1981 Patti Austin album, in which Patti duets with James Ingram, who died today at the age of 66. Ironically, there is a connection between Ingram and Michel Legrand, who I honored in a tribute on January 26, 2019, when he passed away. Ingram sang with Austin on the first recorded rendition of the Legrand-Bergmans' Oscar-nominated song, "How Do You Keep the Music Playing?" [YouTube link], from the 1982 film, "Best Friends." Today's "Song of the Day" duet, which predates the film duet, only reached #72 on the Billboard Hot 100 in April 1982. But it was regularly heard by fans of the ABC soap opera hit, "General
Hospital
," as the love theme for the character Luke Spencer, and in October 1982, it was re-released, reaching #1 by February 1983 on the Hot 100 chart. Check out the lovely single [YouTube link]. RIP, James. Your velvety voice will be missed.

January 26, 2019

Michel Legrand: Legendary Composer, RIP

Ordinarily, to mark the death of somebody, especially somebody from the enchanting world of music, I'd put up a "Song of the Day." As it happens, I am days away from beginning my fifteenth annual Film Music February, which will culminate on February 24, 2019, the date of the 91st Academy Awards. And it was on that date in 1932 that one of the greatest composers of our time was born: Michel Legrand. So, appropriately, I have planned and will post one of his many wonderful compositions to conclude my film music tribute next month. Today, he died at the age of 86.

In truth, however, I have featured scores of his compositions throughout these last fifteen years. In fact, on September 1, 2004, my very first Song of the Day was "What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?" [YouTube link to Michel's arrangement caressed by the Divine One, Sarah Vaughan]. It began a "Song of the Day" practice that has continued to this day (now well into the 1600s!]. With the romantic lyrics of his frequent collaborators, Alan and Marilyn Bergman, and the melodic loveliness of Legrand's music, that song has remained one of my all-time favorites. That Oscar-nominated masterpiece from the 1969 film, "The Happy Ending," lost out to "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head." But Legrand would earn three Oscars, including one from "The Thomas Crown Affair" (for which he won for Best Original Song, "The Windmills of Your Mind") and one each for the lush orchestrations of "Summer of '42" and "Yentl" [YouTube links].

I had the honor of seeing Legrand perform live at Hunter College in April 1996; I went backstage to shake his hands, ever-so-gently, after he had played a grand piano in a remarkably energetic two-hour performance of so many of his greatest compositions. I told him that the year before, in April 1995, my mother had passed away, after a five-year bout with lung cancer, and that one of the joys of her life was his music, which she listened to almost to the very day she died. He was so genuinely moved, and I was deeply touched by the endearing and comforting expression on his face. He could not thank me enough for what I had said to him.

I felt as if I were in the presence not merely of genius and boundless talent, but of a man of genuine human grace.

Let me remind those who may think of Legrand as a "film score composer" that he was also one of the greatest jazz musicians, arrangers, and conductors of his generation---indeed, of all time. His "Legrand Jazz" is a milestone recording of its genre, featuring such jazz greats as Miles Davis, Bill Evans, and John Coltrane (check out Side One and Side Two on YouTube). And if you have not heard Legrand's Grammy-winning three-movement suite, "Images," with alto saxophone soloist Phil Woods, you're in for a treat. The album itself won the 1976 Grammy for Best Large Jazz Ensemble Album and the suite won a Grammy for "Best Instrumental Composition." Turn up the volume, and get ready to blow a hole through your ceiling [YouTube link].

Today, sadly, I feel as if the news of Legrand's passing has blown a hole through my heart. But the legacy of his music will swiftly turn the heartache back into joy. RIP, Michel, with love.

January 01, 2019

Song of the Day #1653

Song of the Day: Ringing in a Brand New Year, words and music by Billy Ward, was recorded by Billy Ward and His Dominoes in 1953 [YouTube link]. The song was later recorded as "Bringing in a Brand New Year" by both Charles Brown and B. B. King [YouTube links]. Whether you're bringing it or ringing it, a Happy New Year to One and All!

December 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1652

Song of the Day: Christmas Swing [YouTube link], composed by Django Reinhardt, was recorded by the Quintet of the Hot Club of France, with the immortal Django on guitar and the legendary Stephane Grappelli on violin. You can swing your way into Christmas Day, watching Santa make all his stops on NORAD, in keeping with the situation [Yarn clip]. A very Merry Christmas, with peace on earth, and good will to one and all.

December 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1651

Song of the Day: Guess Who I Saw Today, music by Murray Grand, lyrics by Elisse Boyd, was originally written for "New Faces of 1952," a Broadway musical revue by Leonard Sillman, and sung by June Carroll [YouTube link]. The song was later recorded in 1957 by both Carmen McRae and Eydie Gorme [YouTube links]. But it became a signature tune for jazz song stylist Nancy Wilson, who recorded the song for her second album, "Something Wonderful," released in 1960. I learned today that Nancy Wilson passed away yesterday at the age of 81 after a long illness. One of my all-time favorite singers, whose music filled the air of my youth, Nancy Wilson was one of those singers with a truly distinctive style. Check out the album version of this song, with its Billy May arrangement, as well as two live presentations, which combine her singular interpretive style with an understanding of both the comedic and dramatic elements of performance: a 1987 Newport Jazz Festival appearance and a 1994 concert (with a tip of the hat to "Miss Otis Regrets") [YouTube links]. RIP, Nancy. You will be greatly missed.

December 12, 2018

Song of the Day #1650

Song of the Day: Ain't She Sweet, music by Milton Ager, lyrics by Jack Yellen, was published in 1927 and became a Tin Pan Alley standard. In 1962, it was recorded by Frank Sinatra for a Neal Hefti-conducted album, "Sinatra and Swingin' Brass." For those who remember my Frank Sinatra Centenary Tribute, today marks the 103rd anniversary of Sinatra's birth. Check out this wonderful rendition of a timeless classic [YouTube link].

December 11, 2018

Song of the Day #1649

Song of the Day: Psycho ("Main Title"), composed by Bernard Herrmann, is heard over the opening credits to the 1960 classic Alfred Hitchcock thriller. This is just a little precursor of what is to come in our fifteenth annual Film Music February, which celebrates songs, cues, and other music heard in the movies---en route to the Oscar broadcast on February 24, 2019. I post this entry today, however, for two reasons: First, it comes from a film that was featured in my very first Film Music February tribute (which highlighted the "Murder" that occurs in the famous shower scene). Second, for film fans who might remember, this is the exact time and date on which the action of this film begins: at 2:43 p.m. on December 11th (a Friday in the film, a Tuesday this year). A classic Herrmann score for a classic Hitchcock film. And tune in to Notablog for the 2019 Film Music February tribute!

December 09, 2018

Song of the Day #1648

Song of the Day: Young Man with a Horn ("Get Happy"), music by Harold Arlen, lyrics by Ted Koehler, was introduced by Ruth Etting in the 1930 Broadway musical "The Nine-Fifteen Revue." It was performed by Kirk Douglas (dubbed by the great Harry James), who turns 102 today, in this 1950 film, based on the novel by Dororthy Baker, and inspired by the life of jazz cornetist Bix Beiderbecke. Check out the film clip (with the legendary Hoagy Carmichael on piano) and vocal versions from Judy Garland (from the 1950 film "Summer Stock") and Ella Fitzgerald. [YouTube links]. And a Happy Birthday to one of the greats!

December 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1647

Song of the Day: Change features the words and music of Johan Carlsson, Ross Golan, and Charlie Puth, who turns 27 today. The moment I heard the opening chords of the song, without even looking at the track listing off of "Voicenotes," Puth's second studio album, I thought to myself that it sounded like a James Taylor song. And sure enough, Puth duets with Taylor on this song. I celebrated Puth's music this past summer, and anyone in pop music who can incorporate a Bill Evans chordal phrase into his compositions [YouTube link] has earned his way into my musical heart. Check out the album version with Taylor, Puth's live concert performance with acoustic guitar accompaniment (at 37 minutes in), and his live March for Our Lives performance [YouTube links].

November 22, 2018

Song of the Day #1646

Song of the Day: I've Got Plenty To Be Thankful For, words and music by Irving Berlin, made its debut in the 1942 film, "Holiday Inn." The soundtrack features some truly wonderful gems that would make their way into the Great American Songbook. This particular tune was sung in the film by Bing Crosby, accompanied by Bob Crosby and his Orchestra [YouTube link]. It's just my way of saying "Happy Thanksgiving" to one and all.

October 10, 2018

Song of the Day #1645

Song of the Day: Suffer features the words and music of Breyan Isaac and Charlie Puth, who recorded this song for his debut album, "Nine Track Mind." Check out the album version, the extended video single, and then check out how well Charlie tickles the ivories on some bluesy, jazzy live versions from Radio City Music Hall, the Live Nation-recorded stop in Saint Paul, Minnesota (at 1:00 exactly), and the Vince Staples/AndreaLo Remix video [YouTube links]. I put this song up tonight in honor of the New York Yankee fans... who had to "suffer" the loss of their division series to the Boston Red Sox, who now move on to face the Houston Astros for the American League Pennant. All 100-game winning teams, but only the ones who win in these short series get to move toward a World Series ring. I'm not bitter. But "Go Houston!" And wait till next year!

October 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1644

Song of the Day: J'aime Paris au Mois de Mai ("I Love Paris in May") features the words and music of Pierre Roche and Charles Aznavour, who passed away yesterday, October 1, 2018, at the age of 94. Known as the "French Frank Sinatra," he was the writer (or co-writer) of over a thousand songs, sold over 180 million albums worldwide and appeared in over 80 films. This particular song was first recorded by Aznavour in 1956 [YouTube link], but it is also featured in a collection of Aznavour's hits, re-interpreted in a jazz setting, that he re-recorded in 1998 for the album "Jazznavour." Check out this wonderful duet with the incomparable jazz singer Diane Reeves [YouTube link]. RIP, Charles Aznavour.

September 25, 2018

Dance and The Revolution: Emma, Chubby, and Dick

On Facebook, in introducing the last song ("Let's Twist Again") in my "Summer Dance Party," I said:

I just know some of you cringe at the frivolity of my "Song of the Day" entries, but as Rosa Luxemburg once said: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of your revolution." And so our Summer Dance Party ends with the same artist who kicked it off: Chubby Checker. The Autumnal Equinox arrives at 9:54pm ET, at which point you'll want to "Twist Again... like we did last summer"

Well, I made a mistake folks. Of course, that statement about dance and the revolution is derived from Emma Goldman, as my friends and colleagues, Susan Love Brown and Joel Schlosberg pointed out in the thread. In fact, Joel pointed to an essay by Alix Kates Shulman, "Dances with Feminists" (published initially in Women's Review of Books 9, no. 3, December 1991), published online on The Emma Goldman Papers, which casts doubt that Goldman ever uttered those words in precisely that fashion.

Switching gears, and also as part of that thread, another friend of mine, Kurt Keefner, raised the point that Chubby Checker ripped off the original Hank Ballard version of "The Twist," and of course, one can see the similarity in the recordings (and I mentioned the Ballard version in my first Summer Dance Party entry). But I pointed out that cover versions are rich in the history of music:

This happens quite a bit sometimes. And sometimes you can get two megahits from the same song: "Light My Fire" (The Doors; Jose Feliciano); "MacArthur Park" (Richard Harris!!!, Donna Summer); "I Saw Her [Him] Standing There" (The Beatles; Tiffany); "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (The Supremes; Vanilla Fudge; Kim Wilde; Reba McEntire); "You Can't Hurry Love" (The Supremes; Phil Collins); "Walk This Way" (Aerosmith; Run-D.M.C.); "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" (Gladys Knight and the Pips; Marvin Gaye); "For Once in My Life" (Stevie Wonder; Tony Bennett); "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye; Diana Ross; Inner Life); "Twist and Shout" (the Isley Brothers; the Beatles)---and the list goes on and on and on. And let's not forget how many early R&B hits were remade by a guy named Elvis Presley who took them to another chart level entirely.

But I brought the discussion back to "The Twist", which set off a worldwide dance revolution of its own, and the force behind its revolutionary impact on pop music, Dick Clark:

You can definitely compare the two [versions of "The Twist"] and see the similarities; why one gets the hit and the other doesn't is difficult to measure. Ballard's version went to #28 on the Hot 100. But Checker's version set off a dance craze that went worldwide. In fact, his version is the only single in the history of the Billboard charts to reach #1 on the Hot 100 in two different "Hit Parade" runs: once in 1960 and again in 1962, riding the crest of Twist-mania. Billboard magazine credits it as the biggest hit of the decade. But here's the best explanation of why Ballard's version didn't become the hit that Checker's version became. Yeah, Checker's version had that driving sax and those rolling drums, but ultimately, it went to the top because of a guy named Dick Clark. From Wikipedia:
The [Ballard version of the] song became popular on a Baltimore television dance show hosted by local DJ Buddy Dean; Dean recommended the song to Dick Clark, host of the national "American Bandstand." When the song proved popular with his audience, Clark attempted to book Ballard to perform on the show. Ballard was unavailable, and Clark searched for a local artist to record the song. He settled on Checker, whose voice was very similar to Ballard's. Checker's version featured Buddy Savitt on sax and Ellis Tollin on drums, with backing vocals by the Dreamlovers. Exposure for the song on "American Bandstand" and on "The Dick Clark Saturday Night Show" helped propel the song to the top of the American charts.
And this was only one example of the power of Dick Clark and "American Bandstand" and its impact on pop music culture.
P.S. - I bet Ballard was kicking himself in the head for a while for not having made himself available on that day!

So, I hope I've straightened out some things here; either way, ever the dialectician, as far as I am concerned, there will be no political revolution dedicated to liberty unless it preserves and extends the cultural revolution that the dance embodies. So, yep, whether it was Emma Goldman who ever said it, or Rosa Luxemburg, or some entrepreneurial T-shirt-making rabble-rouser, I can say with confidence: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of anybody's revolution"---including the libertarian one I favor!

September 22, 2018

Song of the Day #1643

Song of the Day: Let's Twist Again, words and music by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, recorded by Chubby Checker, would go on to win a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording. This 1961 track brings our Third Annual Summer Dance Party to a conclusion. We've come full circle: We started with Checker and we conclude with Checker. As the opening lyric says: "Let's Twist Again, like we did last summer." And so we will . . . next summer! The Autumnal Equinox arrives at 9:54 p.m. ET, so listen to this original 1961 hit [YouTube link]---and go out dancing!

September 21, 2018

Song of the Day #1642

Song of the Day: Rock Around the Clock, words and music by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers, was not the first rock and roll record, but it became an anthem for the rebellious young generation of the mid-1950s. The best known recording of it, by Bill Haley and His Comets, would rocket to #1 on Billboard-tracked sales and radio airplay, as well as #3 on top-selling R&B singles. Check out the original rockin' single [YouTube link].

September 20, 2018

Song of the Day #1641

Song of the Day: At the Hop, words and music by Artie Singer, John Medora, and David White, was originally called "Do the Bop," but when Dick Clark heard it, he suggested a title change, and after it premiered on his "American Bandstand," this 1957 recording by Danny and the Juniors would go on to #1 on the Hot 100 and the R&B Best Sellers list, and #3 on the Country chart. This huge rock and roll / doo-wop hit opens up the final weekend of our Summer Dance Party, where we will go back to the era that started this year's annual dance tribute. Check out the original single version as well as one of its many covers in later years, including a rendition by Sha Na Na heard at the 1969 Woodstock Festival [YouTube link] and that of Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, who perform it on the soundtrack (as "Herby and the Heartbeats") to the 1973 George Lucas film, "American Graffiti" [YouTube film clip].

September 19, 2018

Song of the Day #1640

Song of the Day: Summertime Magic, words and music by Donald Glover and Ludwig Goransson, was recorded by Childish Gambino (actual name: Donald Glover) for his 2018 EP "Summer Pack." Check out this slow summer jam, along with several remixes by FalconDap, Raspo, and P.A.F.F. [YouTube links].

September 18, 2018

Song of the Day #1639

Song of the Day: Stranger in My House, words and music by Shep Crawford and Shae Jones, was recorded by Tamia, who took the song to the top of the Billboard Hot Dance Club Song chart in 2001. The song was featured on the artist's second studio album, "A Nu Day" and became a Top Ten hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop Singles charts. Check out the original ballad album version, and then its titanic transformation into a dance classic with remixes by Thunderpuss, Maurice, and Hex Hector [YouTube links].

September 17, 2018

Song of the Day #1638

Song of the Day: Surviving: A Family in Crisis ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the late, great James Horner, is heard sparingly over the opening credits and in variations throughout this painful, heartbreaking 1985 television movie on teenage suicide [YouTube link to film]. The film, which was later released in edited form on VHS as "Tragedy" (it remains unreleased on DVD), features a stellar cast that included Ellen Burstyn, Marsha Mason, Paul Sorvino, and a young River Phoenix. It centers on the tragic dual suicide of teenage characters, played by Zach Galligan and Molly Ringwald. Horner's score provides the perfect backdrop for this haunting film, which was originally shown on ABC. Tonight, television honors its best at the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on the NBC network.

September 16, 2018

Song of the Day #1637

Song of the Day: Levels features the words and music of a host of writers, including the songwriting team known as The Monsters and the Strangerz. The 2015 song appears only on "Nick Jonas X2," the reissue of his second eponymous album, "Nick Jonas" (2014). With this song hitting #1 on the Hot Dance Club Chart, today's birthday boy Jonas actually matched Madonna in career #1 dance tracks the year this was released (2015) due in part to remixes by Alex Ghenea, Steven Redant, and Jump Smokers [YouTube links]. Check out the original funk-laden video single as well.

September 15, 2018

Song of the Day #1636

Song of the Day: Too Late, words and music by Bob Carter and Junior Giscombe, is featured on Junior's first album, "Ji", which spawned the 1982 mega-hit, "Mama Used to Say." Both of these songs were Top 10 R&B hits. This artist was one of the first British R&B singers from the U.K. to climb the U.S. charts. Check out the original 12" extended mix [YouTube links].

September 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1635

Song of the Day: My, My, My features the words and music of James Alan Ghaleb, Oscar Gorres, Brett McLaughlin, and Troye Sivan, on whose 2018 album "Bloom" this #1 Hot Dance Club song appears. Check out the single video version, and live performances on SNL, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", and "Live with Kelly and Ryan" on September 5th. Then check out a series of dance remixes: the Throttle Remix, Hot Chip Remix, U-Go Boy Remix, and the Cliak Remix. We're taking this year's Annual Summer Dance Party right through the last day of summer, so stay tuned for the next eight days!

September 08, 2018

Song of the Day #1634

Song of the Day: I'm Not Gonna Let You, words and music by Marston Freeman and Colonel Abrams, was a #1 1986 Dance Club hit, from a #1 Dance Club album, which was the artist's self-titled debut recording that included yesterday's "Trapped" as well. Check out the original 12" extended mix [YouTube link].

September 07, 2018

Song of the Day #1633

Song of the Day: Trapped, words and music by Marston Freeman and Colonel Abrams, topped the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play Chart on this date in September 1985. Abrams, who died tragically in 2016 at the age of 67, was one of the luminaries of the "house music" trends of the 1980s. Check out the single version of his signature tune and the extended remix. This is the first of two entries for a Colonel Abrams weekend!

September 06, 2018

Song of the Day #1632

Song of the Day: Sharky's Machine ("Love Theme"), words and music by Cliff Crofford, John Durrill, Snuff Garrett, and Bobby Troup, appears on the wonderful jazz soundtrack to this action-packed 1981 thriller directed by and starring Burt Reynolds (in the title role). Reynolds passed away today at the age of 82. The song is delivered in Sassy fashion by Sarah Vaughan. Check out the Divine One on YouTube. RIP, Burt.

September 04, 2018

Song of the Day #1631

Song of the Day: Single Ladies (Put a Ring On It) features the words and music of Christopher "Tricky" Stewart, Terius "The Dream" Nash, Thaddis Harrell, and Beyonce Knowles, who was born on this date in 1981. The song, from the artist's 2008 album, "I Am ... Sasha Fierce," went to #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart, spent 7 weeks atop the Billboard Hot R&B/Hip-Hop chart and 4 weeks atop the Billboard Hot 100. It went on to win Grammy Awards for Song of the Year, Best Female R&B Vocal Performance, and Best R&B Song, becoming one of the biggest selling singles of all time. Its black-and-white video won the MTV-VMA Video of the Year, as well as the awards for Best Choreography and Best Editing (that was the year that Kanye West swiped a VMA from Taylor Swift to give it to Beyonce for Best Female Video). It also won Video of the Year honors from BET and the MTV Europe Music Awards, among others. Check out the original video single, the Dave Aude Remix, and several hilarious paradoies: the first by Joe Jonas, another by Charlie Puth, but by far, the best was an absolutely insane SNL skit [Vimeo link], featuring Beyonce with Justin Timberlake, Adam Samberg, Bobby Moynihan, Darryl Hammond, and host Paul Rudd.

September 03, 2018

Song of the Day #1630

Song of the Day: Dr. Beat, words and music by Enrique A. Garcia, was the first international single released by Miami Sound Machine, led by Gloria Estefan, from their first English-language album, "Eyes of Innocence" (1984). The song reached the top 20 of the U.S. Hot Dance Club chart, only a tiny hint of the many mega-hits to come from MSM and Gloria Estefan, in her long solo career (and featured as well in the 2015 musical, "On Your Feet! The Story of Emilio and Gloria Estefan"). Check out the original video single, the full 12" extended mix, and a Mylo vs. Miami Sound Machine Mash-up of "Drop the Pressure" and "Dr. Beat" [YouTube links].

September 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1629

Song of the Day: Shame, words and music by John H. Fitch, Jr. and Reuben Cross, was a Top 10 Billboard Hot 100, R&B, and Dance Club hit for Evelyn "Champagne" King. From her 1977 album, "Smooth Talk," the track became one of her all-time signature songs. Other renditions of the song were recorded, first for the 1994 soundtrack to "A Low Down Dirty Shame," by the soul duo Zhane and then by Kim Wilde in a more faithful-to-the-original 1996 version [YouTube links]. But neither version tops the original, in my view. Check out the original 12" vinyl version of this classic from the Disco era [YouTube link].

September 01, 2018

Song of the Day #1628

Song of the Day: Do Me Right, words and music by Nidra Beard and William Shelby, was another hit from Dynasty's 1980 album, "Adventures in the Land of Music." Check out the album version [YouTube link], which sports that classic SOLAR sound.

August 31, 2018

Song of the Day #1627

Song of the Day: I've Just Begun To Love You, words and music by William Shelby and Ricky Smith, was featured on the 1980 album, "Adventures in the Land of Music," by the SOLAR-label R&B group, Dynasty. This song was the highest charting track in the Dynasty single discography, a Top Ten R&B hit. Check out the Extended 12" Mix [YouTube link]. What's a Summer without a little SOLAR power?

August 30, 2018

Song of the Day #1626

Song of the Day: I Like Me Better features the words and music of Kobalt and Lauv, who provides the vocals on this melodic mid-tempo dance track. The song, from the artist's second studio album, "I Met You When I Was 18 (The Playlist)," took a record 35 weeks to reach the Top Ten on the Billboard Mainstream Top 40 chart. Check out the official video version, a version performed live by the artist at this year's MTV Video Music Awards, and several dance remixes by TRU Concept, Kaan Pars, and Paul Gannon.

August 29, 2018

The Dialectics of Liberty: A Forthcoming Collection

I am honored to announce that our contract with Lexington Books, a subsidiary of Rowman & Littlefield, has been signed, sealed, and delivered [Hat Tip to Stevie! YouTube link] and that a superb new collection entitled The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom will be published in 2019-2020.

The book, co-edited by Roger E. Bissell, Edward W. Younkins, and yours truly, features the contributions of eighteen extraordinary scholars in fields as diverse as aesthetics, business, economics, higher education, history, the humanities, law, philosophy, politics, psychology, and social theory. Despite spirited disagreements among them, and the diversity of perspectives represented, all of our authors work under the Big Tent that is "dialectical libertarianism"---a form of social analysis that seeks to understand the larger dynamic and systemic context within which freedom is nourished and sustained.

The homepage we have developed is sparse right now, because we are in the process of collecting, editing, and organizing essays from our contributors and integrating them into an organic unity; in other words, you might say that the very creation of this trailblazing volume will be an unfolding dialectical process---so, for now, we are purposely not providing a list of our contributors. That will come in time; indeed, very soon, we'll unveil our stellar cast of authors.

But the news of the book's acceptance for publication was just too wonderful not to share with you. I look forward to filling in the blanks very soon. But most importantly, I look forward to the publication of the volume itself.

And speaking only for myself, as a person who felt as if his was the voice of one crying in the wilderness over the past forty years, in championing the very notion of a "dialectical libertarianism" with my "Dialectics and Liberty Trilogy" (Marx, Hayek, and Utopia, Ayn Rand: The Russian Radical, and Total Freedom: Toward a Dialectical Libertarianism), I have immense personal satisfaction in having played a part in bringing together this remarkable group of contributors from whom I've learned so much---and who have honored us with their presence in what promises to be one of the most important and provocative contributions to the scholarly literature of its generation.

Song of the Day #1625

Song of the Day: Speed Demon features the words and music of Michael Jackson, who was born sixty years ago on this date in 1958. This track from Jackson's 1987 album, "Bad," was never released as a single, but it is memorable for its funk-rock music video, featured on the artist's "Moonwalker" 1988 video anthology. Check out the album version, the fun video with its cool animation, the Extended Alternate Mix, the Dilemmachine Edit, the DMC Remix, and the Nero Remix included on the 25th anniversary edition of "Bad" [YouTube links]. The song has even been covered by British heavy metal band Xerath [YouTube link].

August 28, 2018

Song of the Day #1624

Song of the Day: LovE is LovE is LovE is credited to Darrell Brown, Lindy Robbins, Toby Gad, and LeAnn Rimes, who turns 36 today. And today also begins an eight-day extended Labor Day weekend stretch of hits for our Summer Dance Party. This was the third Rimes single to hit #1 on the Hot Dance Club Chart (the other two #1 Dance Hits preceding this one were "What I Cannot Change" [YouTube link] from 2009, and "Long Live Love" from the same album as this song, "Remnants," released in 2017). Check out the original single and then listen to its transformation to a dance floor hit in three remixes: the Dave Aude Disco Remix, the Drew G Remix, and the Maruo Mozart Remix.

August 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1623

Song of the Day: West Side Story ("Symphonic Dances") [YouTube link], composed, arranged, and conducted for the concert stage by the great Leonard Bernstein, is derived from his score for the classic musical. Here, Bernstein lifts his baton to lead the New York Philharmonic Orchestra (for which he was the Musical Director from 1958 to 1969) at Lincoln Center, which was built over the very terrain on which the movie version of this classic Broadway musical was filmed. He actually made his debut conducting the Philharmonic on November 14, 1943 at Carnegie Hall, on a few hours notice, when conductor Bruno Walter came down with the flu. On that date, he led the orchestra in a challenging program that included Richard Strauss's "Don Quixote," along with works by Schumann, Wagner, and Miklos Rozsa---and was met with enthusiastic applause and critical acclaim. In this 1976 clip, the composer interweaves so many of the wonderful themes from the musical, illustrating his distinct ability to integrate elements of classical, jazz, Latin, and other idioms into his repertoire. So in keeping with our Summer Dance Party theme, this gives you dance of another kind entirely. Let us hail the Maestro, in a Centenary Tribute on the date of his birth, one hundred years ago today.

August 24, 2018

Song of the Day #1622

Song of the Day: Prelude, Fugue, and Riffs was written by legendary composer Leonard Bernstein, the centenary of whose birth we celebrate this weekend---as we take a little break from our Summer Dance Party. This ensemble piece was originally written for Woody Herman before the breakup of his band. Its premier performance was shown on the CBS show "Omnibus: The World of Jazz" [Vimeo show link] on October 16, 1955. Dedicated to clarinet great Benny Goodman, Bernstein recorded the piece with the King of Swing in 1963 [YouTube link]. The piece suggests a three-movement classical composition, its first two movements typical of the Baroque form, its final movement based on a series of jazz "riffs." It is the kind of piece that was the perfect incarnation of Bernstein's and Goodman's penchant for crossing over from classical to jazz and back. Stay tuned: Tomorrow is Lenny's Centenary.

August 20, 2018

Song of the Day #1621

Song of the Day: Filthy features the words and music of Larrance Dopson, James Fauntleroy, Floyd Nathaniel Hills, Timothy Mosley, and Justin Timberlake, who released this electro-funk track as the lead single from his 2018 album "Man of the Woods." It was the first song featured in his medley of hits in this year's Super Bowl Half-Time Show [YouTube link]. Tonight, the futuristic video of this song is nominated in the category of "Best Choreography" on the MTV Video Music Awards. The song made an impact on six Billboard charts, becoming a Top 10 Billboard Hot 100 hit. Check out the innovative video, the single version, the Lord 'n Club remix, and the Workout remix [YouTube links].

August 18, 2018

Song of the Day #1620

Song of the Day: I Turn to You features the words and music of Billy Steinberg, Rick Nowels, and Melanie Chisholm---aka "Melanie C" or "Sporty Spice," one of the five original Spice Girls. She recorded this 1999 song for her first solo album, "Northern Star." She was the first woman to top the U.K. charts as part of a quintet, quartet, duo, and solo artist, racking up eleven #1 U.K. singles in the process. Check out the single mix, a music video mix, the Hex Hector 12" Club Mix and the Techno Mix to this catchy tune [YouTube links].

August 17, 2018

Song of the Day #1619

Song of the Day: Let it Whip, words and music by Leon "Ndugu" Chancler and Reggie Andrews, was recorded by the Dazz Band for their 1982 album, "Keep It Live." The song held the #1 spot on the R&B chart for five nonconsecutive weeks and peaked at #2 on the Hot Dance Club Chart and #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. It would go on to win the Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group with Vocals. Check out the funky album version and the extended 12" remix [YouTube links].

August 16, 2018

Song of the Day #1618

Song of the Day: Respect was written by Otis Redding, who recorded the song in 1965 [YouTube link]. But it was in 1967, that Aretha Franklin recorded a version of this tune that went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and became her signature song, featured on her album "I Never Loved a Man the Way I Love You." Franklin would go on to win her first two (out of eighteen) Grammy Awards for her rendition, for "Best Rhythm & Blues Recording" and "Best Rhythm and Blues, Vocal Performance, Female"---in the latter category, the first of an unprecedented eight consecutive wins, and a record-holding 11 wins out of a record-holding 23 nominations. The song was later inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame (in 1998), added to the Library of Congress National Recording Registry (in 2002), and rated #5 on the Rolling Stone 500 Greatest Songs of All Time. The Memphis-born Aretha herself became the first female inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (in 1987). On a date that marks the sixtieth birthday of the Queen of Pop (Madonna), the forty-fifth anniversary of the passing of "The King" (Elvis Presley), as well as the seventieth anniversary of the death of the Bambino and Sultan of Swat (Babe Ruth), we have lost the Queen of Soul today at the age of 76. Ironically, I had already programmed this song for later in our 2018 "Summer Dance Party"---but moving it up to today is so much more apropos. Check out Aretha's soul-shaking recorded version of this classic, along with two live performances, one in Detroit and the other in Paris (at 16:33) [YouTube links].

Song of the Day #1617

Song of the Day: Like a Virgin, words and music by Tom Kelly and Billy Steinberg, was the title, lead single from the second studio album released by Madonna, who was born on this date sixty years ago. This song, produced by Chic-alum, Nile Rodgers, featured an almost Billie Jean-like bass line (which MJ freely admitted was inspired by the Hall & Oates hit, "I Can't Go For That"). It was among the most talked-about singles the moment it hit the airwaves, made all the more scandalous when Madonna performed it in a wedding dress on the very first MTA Annual Video Music Awards show in 1984 [YouTube link], writhing and floor-thrusting her way into music history. It would become the entertainer's first #1 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 as well as the Billboard Hot Dance Club charts. It's hard to believe that among the three most iconic figures in 1980s pop music, all of whom were born within three months of one another in 1958 (Prince and Michael Jackson are the other two), Madonna is the only one alive to celebrate her 60th birthday. Check out the original single, the original video, the original 12" extended dance mix, as well as her live performance (where a lick from "Billie Jean" is heard) on "The Virgin Tour" [YouTube links]. The Queen of Pop would later pay tribute to the fallen King at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards [YouTube links]. Having seen Madonna in tour back in 2004, it was clear to me then that she'd have enough energy to perform for many years to come. Happy birthday!

August 15, 2018

Song of the Day #1616

Song of the Day: Toothbrush features the words and music of Ilya Salmanzadeh, James Alan Ghaleb, Rickard Goransson, and Joe Jonas, who turns 29 years of age today. The song, with its rhythmic groove, was recorded by DNCE for their debut 2015 EP, "Swaay." Check out the single video version, Higher Self Remix, and Aldi Waani Remix [YouTube links].

August 11, 2018

Song of the Day #1615

Song of the Day: I Want Your Love, words and music by Nile Rodgers and Bernard Edwards, was a #1 1978 Hot Dance Club hit by Chic, from their classic Disco album, "C'est Chic." In 2006, Jody Watley recorded a cover for her 2006 album "The Makeover," and it too went to #1 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart. Check out the Chic classic album version, the extended 12" mix of the Watley cover version, and a 2015 Lady Gaga version as well [YouTube links]. These various renditions only show how that dirty word, "Disco," has profoundly influenced dance music through today, from House to Hi-NRG, from Eurobeat and Techno to EDM, its sounds continue to resonate.

August 10, 2018

Song of the Day #1614

Song of the Day: Rhythm Nation features the words and music of Jimmy Jam, Terry Lewis, and Janet Jackson, who released this song from her 1989 album, "Rhythm Nation 1814." It peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 but topped both the R&B/Hip Hop and Dance Club charts. The video for the song received MTV Video Music Awards for "Best Choreography" and "Best Dance Video." It also won a Grammy as part of Jackson's long-form "Rhythm Nation 1814" video. This week the Greater Harlem Chamber of Commerce is honoring people who have had various ties to Harlem's history, and both Janet and "The Divine One," Sarah Vaughan, are among the honorees. This song remains one of Janet's best and one of my all-time favorite Janet Jackson tracks, with its killer bass line and melodic hook. Check out the single version and the classic black-and-white video [YouTube links].

August 04, 2018

Song of the Day #1613

Song of the Day: Don't Go Breaking My Heart, words and music by Stephen Wrabel, is the lead single to a forthcoming 2018 album by the Backstreet Boys. The boy band has grown up, but still has a flair for the rhythmic and the melodic. Check out the video single and a nice saxed-up sexy Dave Aude dance remix [YouTube links]. Also check out their recent appearance on "The Tonight Show" where they performed one of their golden goldies, "I Want it That Way" with toy instruments [YouTube links].

August 03, 2018

Song of the Day #1612

Song of the Day: Lost in Japan features the words and music of Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Nate Mercereau, and Shawn Mendes, who turns 20 years old on August 8th! This track is featured on Mendes's self-titled 2018 album (which spawned the hit single "In My Blood," covered by his one-time-tourmate, Charlie Puth [YouTube links]). Mendes tells us he was inspired by the music of Justin Timberlake (especially JT's "Justified"). Mendes provides us with a strong JT-like falsetto over a bass-infused groove. Check out the single version and the especially slick dance remix [YouTube links].

July 29, 2018

Song of the Day #1611

Song of the Day: Love is Like an Itching In My Heart, written by the famous Holland-Dozier-Holland team, was another Billboard Top Ten Hot 100 and Hot R&B hit from "The Supremes A' Go Go" album. The 1966 single was an uptempo dance hit, released in April of that year but making its television debut on "The Ed Sullivan Show" on May 1st. Check out the single version and the television performance as we conclude our Supremes Weekend [YouTube links].

July 28, 2018

Song of the Day #1610

Song of the Day: You Can't Hurry Love was another #1 hit for the Holland-Dozzier-Holland songwriting team, recorded in 1966 by The Supremes for their album, "The Supremes A' Go-Go." Billboard magazine named this song #19 on their list of the 100 Greatest Girl Group songs of all time! In 1982, Phil Collins would take this song to the top of the Billboard Hot 100 yet again. Check out Phil's memorable version and then take a listen to the original Motown hit by Diana Ross and the Supremes [YouTube links].

July 27, 2018

Song of the Day #1609

Song of the Day: You Keep Me Hangin' On was composed by the Holland-Dozzier-Holland songwriting team for the supreme Motown "Girl Group": The Supremes. The group took the 1966 song (from the album, "The Supremes Sing Holland-Dozzier-Holland") to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100. The song was recorded by other acts who also charted successfully: Vanilla Fudge (whose version hit the Top Ten in 1967), Kim Wilde (who hit #1 with her version in 1987), and Reba McEntire (who took the Love to Infinity "Classic Paradise" remix of the song to #2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart) [YouTube links]. But that truly classic Motown sound is still delivered by the original Supremes hit [YouTube link]. And what a nice way to start a Supremes Weekend!

July 24, 2018

Song of the Day #1608

Song of the Day: Waiting for Tonight, words and music by Maria Christensen, Michael Garvin, and Phil Temple, and was originally recorded in 1997 by the "Girl Group" 3rd Party [YouTube link]. Two years later, it was recorded by Jennifer Lopez, today's birthday girl, who took the song to #1 on the Billboard Dance Club chart, her first chart-topper on that chart. From her album, "On the 6," the song received the MTV Video Award for Best Dance Video. The Latin House arranged-song was critically acclaimed by many as the best of J-Lo's career. Check out J-Lo video version of the song and the Hot Hex Hector extended remix [YouTube links].

July 22, 2018

Song of the Day #1607

Song of the Day: Give Up the Funk (Tear the Roof Off the Sucker) features the words and music of Jerome Brailey, Bootsy Collins, and Geoge Clinton, who was born on this date in 1941. Recorded in 1976 by Parliament-Funkadelic (or "P-Funk" for short) for the album, "Mothership Connection," it was the band's first million-selling single. Check out the original "We Want the Funk" extended album mix [YouTube link].

July 21, 2018

Song of the Day #1606

Song of the Day: Fascinated, words and music by Ish Ledesma, was recorded by the freestyle "girl group" Company B and spent four weeks atop the Billboard Hot Dance Club Play chart in March 1987. Check out the single video promo version and the original extended 12" remix.

July 16, 2018

Song of the Day #1605

Song of the Day: The Way I Am, words and music by Jacob Kasher Hindlin and Charlie Puth, is the opening track to "Voicenotes," where the artist showcases many influences (including even MJ!). This is the concluding track of our Puth survey, as he headlines tonight at Radio City Music Hall. His newest album's first single [YouTube link] "Attention" [YouTube Rolling Stone link] charted on no fewer than six Billboard charts, from the Adult Contemporary to Mainstream Top 40 and the Hot Dance Club Chart, peaking at #5 on the Billboard Hot 100. (The song is covered by Pentatonix [YouTube link] on their new 2018 album, "PTX Presents: Top Pop, Vol.1.") This "Voicenotes" song sums up Puth's path, sometimes bullied as a child for being different [YouTube interview with Larry King], working through self-doubt, aware of his anxieties [YouTube link], but still announcing: "Ima tell 'em all that you could either love me or hate me---but that's just the way I am." Indeed [YouTube link]. Check the album track, the official video to the song released on July 9th, and a host of remixes: Maylar & Beat Boy, STVCKS and Dim Wilder, IndianBoyz, and Phillip Maizza [YouTube links]. And for New Yorkers lucky enough to see our featured artist at Radio City [YouTube link]: Have a great time!

July 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1603

Song of the Day: LA Girls features the words and music of Sean Douglas, Jason Evigan, Jacob Kasher Hindlin, and Charlie Puth. Another track from Puth's current---and second---solo album, "Voicenotes," the lyrics reflect this Jersey-born artist's East Coast loves. In this song, he yearns for one particular East Coast love, but is suffering from West Coast blues, "messin' with these LA Girls." He yearns to be back on that "Greyhound to NYC." Well, on Monday, Charlie's back in NYC, but tonight his tour stops at the BMHMC Amphitheater at Bald Hill, in Farmingville, Long Island. Check out the album track [YouTube link].

July 13, 2018

Song of the Day #1602

Song of the Day: We Don't Talk Anymore, words and music by Jacob Kasher Hindlin, Selena Gomez, and Charlie Puth, is from Puth's debut album, "Nine Track Mind." A child prodigy, Puth was introduced to classical music by his mother, who began teaching him how to play piano at age 4. He went on to study jazz by age 10, and was a participant in the Count Basie Theatre's Cool School summer youth jazz ensemble by age 12. Manhattan School of Music Pre-College and Berklee College of Music came later. His music embraces multiple genres [YouTube link]. In the liner notes to his debut album, Puth wrote: "I want to dedicate this record to my parents. In 2001, we couldn't afford a dining room table, and my mom and dad came up with the money to purchase a Korg Triton Studio Synthesizer for me. We ate dinner on the floor while my 11-year old self tried to figure out how to sequence 808s and make beats on this very complex piece of hardware. I learned how to produce records with this piano. So without that initial investment on their part, I probably wouldn't have been able to make this album in 2015. So Mom and Dad, here is the return on your investment. Thank you for everything you have ever done for me, and thank you for pushing me." In a culture that is sometimes at war with the gifted and talented, Puth's attitude is a breath of fresh air. In 2015, Charlie was somewhat famous for doing covers of other artist's hits (like this BBC cover of Calvin Harris's "How Deep is Your Love?" [YouTube link]). Tonight, Puth touches down at the Blue Hills Bank Pavillion in Boston, Massachusetts, with special guest Hailee Steinfeld, to perform his own hits. Check out this song's video single from that first album, as well as a live performance during Gomez's Revival Tour, a snippet of a live Manchester performance with a jazz curve ball thrown in to surprise the crowd, a Teen Choice solo live performance, and the Outamatic Remix [YouTube links]. [Ed: Also check out Puth's rendition of this song on "The Tonight Show" in the style of the Doobie Brothers [YouTube link at about 4 minutes in]. Hilarious!]

July 12, 2018

Song of the Day #1601

Song of the Day: Sober is credited to a host of writers, including The Futuristics, Charlie Puth and rapper G-Eazy, on whose fourth studio album, "The Beautiful & Damned," this portrait in darkness appears. This is not the first rap track on which Puth has been featured; his collaboration with Wiz Khalifa for "See You Again" (from the 2015 film, "Furious 7"), a poignant tribute to the late actor Paul Walker, remains among the most streamed videos of all time (over 3.45 billion streams!). Check out today's unsettling offical video and a dance remix of the track [YouTube links].

July 11, 2018

Song of the Day #1600

Song of the Day: Done for Me, words and music by Jacob Kasher Hindlin, John Ryan, and Charlie Puth and Kehlani, who recorded this duet with Puth for his 2018 sophomore effort, "Voicenotes." A couple of NYC radio stations have declared this Charlie Puth week as he kicks off his first World Tour tonight, beginning in Toronto, Ontario, Canada---on the Budweiser Stage. He will make a Radio City Music Hall stop on Monday, July 16th. In keeping with the spirit of things, I'll be featuring Puth tracks [YouTube link] right through that date. He started doing covers and doing a comic Musical Vlog on YouTube in his early years, and later joined up with young prospects doing covers of his songs [YouTube links]. I am certainly among those who appreciate Perfect Pitch Puth [interview clip with "Kelly and Ryan" on YouTube]. It's been nice watching this child prodigy's musical evolution (perhaps not his "rap" skills or his beatboxing, but certainly his jazz chops) [YouTube links]. So check out the jazz-infused, acoustic version of this song, as well as the video version, and remixes by Syn Cole, James Hype, Oblivious Sound, and a nice mashup with Puth's "How Long" [YouTube links].

July 10, 2018

Song of the Day #1599

Song of the Day: A Time for Love, music by Johnny Mandel, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, was an Oscar-nominated song from the 1966 film, "An American Dream." It has been treated lovingly by many vocalists and instrumentalists alike, including singer Tony Bennett and pianist Bill Evans [YouTube links]. One of the most sensitive readings of the song, arranged by Sammy Nestico, was recorded by trombonist Bill Watrous [YouTube link]; it was the title song for his 1993 album in tribute to "The Music of Johnny Mandel." Today, I learned of the death on July 2, 2018, of Bill Watrous, trombonist extraordinaire, whose effortless playing would leave you breathless. He was 79 years old. Whether he was playing a lush standard from the Great American Songbook, like "Body and Soul" [YouTube link] or performing a live rendition of "Spain" [YouTube link], with Chick Corea and an all-star 1976 Downbeat Awards Show line-up that included Hubert Laws (on flute), George Benson (on guitar), Stanley Clarke (bass) and Lenny White (drums), Watrous took us to musical heights for which he will be long remembered.

July 07, 2018

Song of the Day #1598

Song of the Day: One Kiss features the words and music of Adam Wiles, Jessie Rayez, and Dua Lipa, who contributes the vocals to this Calvin Harris dance track, which hit #1 on the Billboard Dance Club chart on June 2, 2018. Check out the video single and the Oliver Heldens Remix.

July 06, 2018

Song of the Day #1597

Song of the Day: Work Bitch is credited to a host of writers, including will.i.am and the woman who recorded it: Britney Spears. The song peaked at #3 on the Billboard Hot Dance / Electronic Songs chart and #2 on the Billboard Hot Dance Club chart. Check out the steamy video of this pulsating dance track, the extended mix [YouTube links], and Britney's recent energetic live Vegas performance of the song on Dick Clark's 2018 New Year's Rockin' Eve [YouTube link].

July 04, 2018

Song of the Day #1596

Song of the Day: Back in the U.S.A. features the words and music and classic sound of Chuck Berry. It's a quintessential Independence Day song. Check out the original Chuck Berry version and a 1978 hit Linda Ronstadt version as well. The two of them did a live version on the occasion of Berry's sixtieth birthday, with Keith Richards on backup vocals [YouTube links].

July 03, 2018

Song of the Day #1595

Song of the Day: Self-Control, words and music by Giancarlo Bigazzi, Raffaele Riefoli and Steve Piccolo, was the biggest international hit in the career of singer Laura Branigan, who was born on this date in 1952. Tragically, she died at the age of 52 from a brain aneurysm in August 2004. This was the title track to her third album, hitting #4 on the 1984 Billboard Hot 100, and peaking at #2 on the Hot Dance Club Chart. Check out the extended 12" remix and the video single [YouTube links], which was directed by William Friedkin (director of such films as "The French Connection" and "The Exorcist"). The song was also used for a key opening scene to "American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace" [YouTube link], with Darren Criss giving an award-worthy unsettling performance as spree killer Andrew Cunanan.

July 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1594

Song of the Day: I Love Music, words and music by the Philly soul team of Kenneth Gamble and Leon Huff, was featured on the 1975 album, "Family Renunion," by the O'Jays. This iconic '70s dance track ("Part One") was a Top 5 Hot 100 hit and a #1 Billboard R&B chart hit. But in its full-length album version ("Part One" and "Part Two"), it spent eight weeks atop the Hot Dance Club chart. It was also featured on the soundtracks to "Carlito's Way" (1993) and "Pride" (2007). A little trivia: The solo bongo intro was played by comedian Bill Cosby and the "Get it On" chorus was sung by Cleavon Little. Check out the album version and the extended 12" version in all their '70s Disco Glory [YouTube].

July 01, 2018

Song of the Day #1593

Song of the Day: Self-Image [YouTube link], composed by jazz trumpeter David Allan, is featured on one of the landmark jazz guitar albums in jazz history: Sounds of Synanon, an album which was released on this date in 1962. We may be in the middle of a Summer Dance Party---in which case, get close to a partner and feel this music in a jazzy slow jam. As Downbeat writer John Tynan tells us in the liner notes to the album from which it came: "There are times in the ironic drama of Life when happiness and fulfillment bloom out of misery and despair." Tynan explains that "the seeds of [this] music were planted in seven individuals whose lives had been blighted by drug addiction." Among them were pianist Arnold Ross, baritone horn player Greg Dykes, bassist Ronald Clark, drummer Bill Crawford, bongo player Candy Latson, trumpeter Dave Allan, and the man whose career soared to the legendary heights of jazz genius: guitarist Joe Pass. This marked the first vinyl album on which Pass was ever featured, and jazz historian Leonard Feather would say, with no apprehension, in his July 1962 Downbeat review that the Pacific Jazz label had "discovered a major jazz talent" in Joe Pass. In this selection, each of the players reveals a depth of emotion that is deeply touching. Of course, Pass shines, but it is Dave Allan, who composed the piece, who truly provides us with a poignant, heart-breaking "self-image" that will stay with you long after you've listened to it. Check it out on the link above or at this YouTube link as well.

June 30, 2018

Song of the Day #1592

Song of the Day: Hitch it to the Horse, words and music by Jesse James, was a 1968 pop and R&B hit for Fantastic Johnny C. (Johnny Corley). Drawing on the James-penned hit, "The Horse," which we featured on Triple Crown Day, this song implores us to do "the funky walk." Check out the original single and a 2003 cover by Latin jazz artist Poncho Sanchez, which features a nice sax solo to accompany its soulful funky beat [YouTube links].

June 29, 2018

Song of the Day #1591

Song of the Day: Shake Your Groove Thing, words and music by Dino Fekaris and Freddie Perren, was a 1978-79 Peaches and Herb hit that made the Top 5 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts, peaking at #2 on the Billboard Disco chart. This song has made its impact on popular culture, featured in various film and television shows throughout the years. Check out the single version, the album version, and the original 12" remix [YouTube links]. We're beginning an extended "Song of the Day" run that will take us right through July 4th. So no excuses: Shake your groove thing!

June 28, 2018

Song of the Day #1590

Song of the Day: It's Your Thing, words and music by Ronald Isley, O'Kelley Isley, Jr., and Rudolph Isley, otherwise known as the Isley Brothers, was released in February 1969. This song, from the album, "It's Our Thing," would reach #2 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the R&B charts, and would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best R&B Performance by a Duo or Group. It was one of the singles featured on the jukebox at the Stonewall Inn, which was raided by police in the early morning hours of June 28th of that year, in what proved to be the final act of state violence against this private establishment catering to a largely gay and lesbian clientele. With lyrics such as "It's your thing, do what you wanna do! I can't tell you who to sock it to! I'm not trying to run your life, I know you wanna do what's right. Give your love now, to whoever you choose. How can you lose!"---it became a perfect funk anthem to celebrate the birth of the modern gay liberation movement as the Stonewall Inn patrons fought back in defense of their rights to live their own lives in liberty and to pursue their own happiness, without social or political oppression or the need for the Mafia-owned bar to continue making police pay-offs---a libertarian moment if ever there were one!

June 27, 2018

Song of the Day #1589

Song of the Day: Bloom features the words and music of Brett McLaughlin, Oscar Holter, Peter Svensson, and Troye Sivan Millet, a 23-year old South African-born Australian who used social media to "come out" [YouTube link] and to gain an impressive pop following with his music. But even Ian McKellen was impressed as was Larry King [YouTube links to Larry King interviews]. He recorded this title song for his forthcoming second album. He provides us with an exercise in human authenticity in a revealing interview for Billboard's 2018 Pride Issue. Tomorrow, we'll have more to say about the 'prideful' meaning of these dates in late June. For now, check out the song's original video single, Cliak Remix, Mysterio Remix, and Craig Welsh Remix.

June 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1588

Song of the Day: Scream features the words and music of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis and siblings Janet Jackson and Michael Jackson, whose recording of this duet was released in May 1995. The critically acclaimed video would go on to win three MTV Video Music Awards (for "Best Dance Video," "Best Choreography," and "Best Art Direction"), as well as a Grammy Award for Best Music Video. Check out the original video single, the Flyte Tyme Remix and the Naughty Remix (featuring a rap by Treach of Naughty by Nature) [YouTube links]. On this day, nine years ago, MJ was "gone too soon." This song gave his sister a chance to provide a touching tribute to her brother at the 2009 MTV Video Music Awards [YouTube link], as Janet matched the choreographic moves of MJ live on stage, with the video to this #1 Dance Club Song as her background. And for an extra treat, check out a classic Disconet medley of some of MJ's hits put to a fine video edit [YouTube]---giving us a glimpse of why he was one of the finest "song and dance men" of his generation.

June 24, 2018

Song of the Day #1587

Song of the Day: Man in the Mirror, featuring the words and music of Siedah Garrett and Glen Ballard, was the fourth of five consecutive #1 singles released from Michael Jackson's "Bad," the 1987 solo album that followed the massive success of "Thriller," still the biggest-selling album in music history. This song features not only Jackson's classic vocals [a cappella link], but the background vocals of Garrett (who sang a duet with Jackson on the album's first #1 hit, "I Just Can't Stop Loving You"), The Winan's, and the Andrae Crouch Choir. Check out the single version, the extended version, the official video version, and the inevitable dance remix. Also check out his performance of the song at the 1988 Grammy Awards (which followed a jazzy live performance of the third #1 single from the same album, "The Way You Make Me Feel") [YouTube links]. This begins a two-day tribute to MJ in remembrance of his untimely passing on June 25, 2009.

June 23, 2018

Song of the Day #1586

Song of the Day: Unbreak My Heart, words and music by Diane Warren, was one of the most successful singles in the history of the Billboard charts. Produced by David Foster and recorded by Toni Braxton for her album "Secrets," she went on to win the Grammy for Best Female Pop Vocal Performance. As a power ballad, the song spent 11 weeks at #1 on the Billboard Hot 100, 14 weeks at #1 on the Adult Contemporary Chart, but in several dance remixes, it attained the #1 spot on the Dance Club Chart for four weeks. Check out the video ballad version, and then, get back on that dance floor with the Frankie Knuckles Radio edit, the full Frankie Knuckles 12" Remix, the Soul-Hex Vocal Anthem mix, and a live performance at the 1996 Billboard Music Awards that combined the ballad and dance sounds of an unforgettable hit.

June 22, 2018

Louis Prima Sets Billboard Record

From Billboard magazine comes some interesting news for long-time Louis Prima fans. Because of the contemporary penchant for sampling, it appears that Louis Prima, legendary jazz trumpeter, singer, composer, and bandleader, who died in August 1978, and whose last appearance on the Hot 100 was on February 13, 1961, for the #15 song "Wonderland by Night" [YouTube link] has just set a record. The new hip hop group, Kids See Ghosts, made up of Kanye West and Kid Cudi, has heavily sampled from Prima's 1936 recording of "What Will Santa Claus Say (When He Finds Everybody Swingin')" [YouTube link], for their own song "4th Dimension" [YouTube link].

That song debuts at #42 on the Hot 100 this week, which "ends a record break of 57 years, four months and two weeks between Hot 100 appearances" for Prima.

For somebody who once sang "I Ain't Got Nobody" [YouTube link] as part of a medley with "Just a Gigolo", one thing is clear: He's got a record he may hold on to for a very long time!

Song of the Day #1585

Song of the Day: Turn the Beat Around, words and music by Gerald Jackson and Peter Jackson, was recorded by Vicki Sue Robinson for her 1976 debut album "Never Gonna Let You Go." A bona fide Disco Classic with a raw percussive edge, this single went to #10 on the Billboard Hot 100 and spent four weeks at #1 on the Dance Club Chart. Check out the original extended mix [YouTube link]. The song was subsequently covered by Laura Branigan and Gloria Estefan [YouTube links], whose version also went to #1 on the Dance Club Chart in 1994.

June 21, 2018

Song of the Day #1584

Song of the Day: The Twist features the words and music of Hank Ballard and it was Hank Ballard and the Midnighters [YouTube link] who first recorded this song as a B-sided single in 1959. That original version peaked at #28 on the Billboard Hot 100 in 1960. Later that year, along came a gentleman named Chubby Checker, whose cover version hit the top of the Hot 100 in September 1960 and again in January 1962, leading Billboard to declare it the "biggest hit" of the 1960s. "The Twist" was also the name of the dance that sparked a wordwide dance craze. Even at 2 years old, I was twisting and turning to the sounds of this mega-hit. In 2018, it was among six songs named to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's inaugural class of singles recognized as having influenced the course of rock. With the summer solstice having arrived today in the Northern Hemisphere at 6:07 a.m. ET, this song kicks off our Third Annual Summer Dance Party, which unlike previous celebrations, will be highlighting dance hits from the 1950s through today, with special emphasis on the hits of yesteryear. Check out the original Chubby Checker #1 hit [YouTube link].

June 17, 2018

Song of the Day #1583

Song of the Day: You're Looking Hot Tonight features the words and music of Barry Manilow, who celebrates his 75th birthday today. He opens his Vegas residency this weekend with concerts at Westgate Las Vegas. We've not officially started our Third Annual Summer Dance Party, but I figured it would be nice to post a rare 1983 dance track from Manilow. Check out the single version and then listen to the superior dance remix offered by Disconet [YouTube link].

June 10, 2018

Song of the Day #1582

Song of the Day: Dear Evan Hansen ("You Will Be Found"), words and music by Benj Pasek and Justin Paul, is a musical highlight from this 2017 Tony Award-winning Best Musical. With lead vocals by Tony-Award winning "Best Actor in a Musical," Ben Platt, the song is an inspiring call to "let the sun come streaming in" when "the dark comes crashing through." Tonight, another musical will take the top award at the Tony Awards. For now, we can enjoy a gem from last year's winner, featured on the Broadway cast album [YouTube link].

June 09, 2018

Song of the Day #1581

Song of the Day: The Horse, words and music by Jesse James, was a million-selling #2 hit on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts. It was technically the instrumental B-side of the 1968 single "Love is All Right" [YouTube link], by Cliff Nobles and Company. A slice of Philadelphia soul at its best, it boasts a horn section that went on to become the group MFSB. I provide this second "Song of the Day" for one reason only: Today, the Horse, Justify, vies for a place in Thoroughbred Racing History, looking for a win at the 150th running of the Belmont Stakes to take the Triple Crown. Go Justify! And check out this classic instrumental [YouTube link]. [Ed: And Justify becomes the 13th Horse in History, and only the second undefeated Thoroughbred, to win the Triple Crown!]

Song of the Day #1580

Song of the Day: Summer: The Donna Summer Musical ("Heaven Knows") features the words and music of Giorgio Moroder, Pete Bellotte, and Donna Summer, whose recording of this 1978 song (with the background vocals of The Brooklyn Dreams and lead vocals by Joe "Bean" Esposito) reached #4 on the Billboard Hot 100, #1 on the Billboard Dance Club Chart, and was a Top Ten R&B hit. The song, from Summer's album "Live and More", is also featured in "Summer: The Donna Summer Musical," which boasts two Tony nominations for Leading Actress and Featured Actress in a Musical (LaChange and Ariana DeBose, respectively, who play Donna at different points in her life). Check out the original Summer single, an alternative take with Esposito singing the lead vocal, the original 12" single version, the 12" Purrfection Version, and finally, "The MacArthur Park Suite," of which this song was a part (13:26 in the suite) [YouTube links].

June 08, 2018

Song of the Day #1579

Song of the Day: Broadway Gondolier ("Lulu's Back in Town"), words by Al Dubin, music by Harry Warren, is from the 1935 Warner Brothers film musical. Powell provides the vocals, with the Mills Brothers, for this song in the movie [YouTube link]. The song was also performed by Fats Waller, the Hi-Lo's with the Nelson Riddle Orchestra and in a swinging take by Mel Torme [YouTube links]. With the Tony Awards being broadcast on CBS on Sunday night, this is a Broadway weekend, even if this particular song didn't come from a Broadway show!

June 07, 2018

Song of the Day #1578

Song of the Day: Erotic City features the words and music of Prince, the sixtieth anniversary of whose birth we celebrate today. Recorded by Prince and the Revolution in 1984, this song was released as the B-side to the Purple One's classic "Let's Go Crazy." And I can think of no song more appropriate to showing the "naughty side" of this Naughty Boy. The song, with co-lead vocals by Sheila E., is not freely available on the web, but you can hear an excerpt at Amazon.com.

May 20, 2018

Song of the Day #1577

Song of the Day: That's the Way Love Goes features the words and music of Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis, Charles Bobbit, and Janet Jackson, with samples credited to James Brown, Fred Wesley, and John "Jabo" Starks. This sensual Grammy-winning R&B downtempo song was the lead single from Jackson's fifth studio album, "Janet," topping the Billboard Hot 100 for eight weeks (the longest reign atop that chart of any Jackson family member!), and remains the only single in chart history to debut at #1 on the Hot R&B/Hip Hop Airplay Chart. Check out the music video and the soulful album version [YouTube links]. At the end of a weekend of Royal love, and with Justify now vying for a Triple Crown of Thoroughbred Royalty, tonight Janet ("Miss Jackson, If you're Nasty") will offer up a bit of American musical royalty with a medley of her hits as she receives the Icon Trophy on the Billboard Music Awards, televised on NBC.

May 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1576

Song of the Day: As Long as I'm Singin' features the words and music of Bobby Darin, who was born on this date in 1936. Recorded in 1964, it was one of those songs that went unreleased in Darin's tragically short lifetime (he died at the age of 37). The song can be heard on the soundtrack to the 2004 Kevin Spacey-biopic of Darin,"Beyond the Sea." But the original recording showcases Darin's swingin' ways. Gone but never forgotten. Check it out on YouTube.

May 13, 2018

Song of the Day #1575

Song of the Day: Mama Said, words and music by Luther Dixon and Willie Denson, was a huge hit for the Shirelles, who took the song to #4 on the Billboard Hot 100 and #2 on the R&B chart. It has been covered by many artists through the years, but the original Girl Group hit remains my favorite. What better way to wish all the mothers out there "Happy Mother's Day." Check it out on YouTube.

May 12, 2018

Song of the Day #1574

Song of the Day: How Long features the words and music of James Kasher Hindin, Justin Franks, and Charlie Puth, who recorded this song for inclusion on his long-awaited second studio album, "Voicenotes," which was released yesterday, May 11, 2018. The 26-year old Puth, a New Jersey native, is a talented artist, with perfect pitch, who graduated from Manhattan School of Music Pre-College, where he majored in jazz piano, with a classical music minor. He later earned a degree from Berklee College of Music. I first noticed this guy when he performed "Attention" on "The Tonight Show," hosted by Jimmy Fallon. He played an electric piano solo that exhibited some really nice jazz chops; the song eventually was a Top 5 hit on the Billboard Hot 100, followed by the equally hook-laden "How Long" [YouTube link]. As if speaking to his jazz roots, one of the lyrics to the chorus of this song is "How Long Has This Been Going On?"---a clear allusion to the great Gershwin standard. Bravo, Charlie! Great new album! [Ed.: And for a chuckle, check out the Trump Mix [YouTube link].]

May 05, 2018

Song of the Day #1573

Song of the Day: Livin' on a Prayer, words and music by Jon Bon Jovi, Richie Sambora, and Desmond Child, went to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and Album Rock Track charts and became a signature song for the American rock band, Bon Jovi. Check out the hit song as well as a hilarious Karaoke version at a gas station [YouTube links]. Congratulations to the band for their induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame on April 14th; the ceremony is being televised tonight by HBO.

March 31, 2018

Song of the Day #1572

Song of the Day: Ciaconna (from "Partita in D-minor for Violin No. 2"), BMV 1004, is the last part of a five-movement partita (sometimes rendered in its French spelling as "Chaconne," each part corresponding to a dance of the time), written by German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was born in 1685 on this date, at least according to the Gregorian calendar. One of the greatest composers of all time, Bach wrote music that was definitive of the Baroque period. This work has a special place in my heart, and I was able to track it down with the help of my friend Roger E. Bissell. The intensity of the piece is displayed by violinists Hillary Hahn and the great Itzhak Perlman [YouTube links]. It has also been played by classical guitarists Andres Segovia and Julian Bream [YouTube links]. Ironically, however, I was first made aware of the piece due to an extraordinary video posted on YouTube in memory of jazz guitarist Joe Pass. It was recorded at the Adelaide Festival S.A. (sometime between 1-8 March 1990). It is heard during a seminar that included Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco Pena, blues guitarist Leo Kottke, classical guitarist John Williams (not the film score composer, whose birthday we celebrated last month as part of my annual Film Music February series), and jazz guitarist Joe Pass. Beginning at around 2:15 in the 5:26 minute video, we are reminded that the classical masters were basically improvisers: they came up with a main theme and then "improvised" variations on the theme, which were written down. Guitarist Williams is obviously fascinated by the spontaneous improvisation of the jazz artist, and to illustrate the spontaneity and brilliance of the process, he lays down the basic melodic structure of the Chaconne, and invites Pass to improvise simultaneously over that melody. Pass throws in a few jazz licks that get a chuckle out of the audience, but the whole video provides us with a lesson on the universality of music. Check out the video clip here [YouTube link]. The piece can also be heard throughout the eerie 1946 film, with Peter Lorre, "The Beast with Five Fingers" [YouTube trailer].

March 09, 2018

Song of the Day #1571

Song of the Day: When You're Smiling/The Sheik of Araby is a Tin Pan Alley duet made famous by the rip-roaring pair of Louis Prima and Keely Smith. Keely Smith would have been 90 years old today. "When You're Smiling" was written by Larry Shay, Mark Fisher, and Joe Goodwin in 1928; "The Sheik of Araby" featured the music of Ted Snyder and the lyrics of Harry B. Smith and Francis Wheeler, and was a response in song to the popularity of "The Sheik," which starred the smoldering silent screen star, Rudolph Valentino. Greatly influenced by Louis Armstrong, trumpeter and vocalist Louis Prima, a native of New Orleans, brought a spicy touch of Sicily to the popular sounds of jazz and early rhythm and blues. In fact, it was in the largely Italian-owned social clubs of the city that Prima learned much of the vernacular of early jazz. But it was in the magic pairing of Prima with jazz singer Keely Smith that the two would launch one of the earliest and most successful lounge acts on the Las Vegas strip. Though the pair divorced in 1961, their studio and live recordings were legendary. Prima died in 1978 at the age of 67, and Smith died at the age of 89 in December 2017. But at their height, they were selling out five shows a night at the Sahara in Vegas. Check out their duet of this classic medley (with smokin' saxman Sam Butera) and Smith's own 1958 live recording of it as well [YouTube links].

March 05, 2018

Song of the Day #1570

Song of the Day: The Champion features the music and lyrics of Chris DeStefano, Brett James, Christopher Bridges, and Carrie Underwood, who recorded this song to open NBC's coverage of Super Bowl LII, but it was used by NBC throughout the 2018 Winter Olympics, which ended on 25 February 2018, and is an appropriate post-Oscar tribute to all those who took home statuettes last night. Check out the Champion vocal pipes of Underwood in the Super Bowl opening and in the official video, which features a rap by Bridges (aka Ludacris) [YouTube links].

March 04, 2018

Song of the Day #1569

Song of the Day: Star Wars: The Last Jedi ("A New Alliance") [YouTube link], composed by John Williams, constitutes proof that a Jedi master composer can continue to provide new thematic content to a long-time Star Wars franchise with which he has been associated since 1977. In this cue from one of this year's Oscar-nominated scores to the latest installment of the franchise, we hear a familiar theme, but The Maestro takes us in other directions, transporting us into a galaxy, far, far away, as our annual film music tribute comes to a conclusion. At 86 years old, Williams earns his 51st Oscar nomination with this score; he is only four years younger than the Academy Awards. So, until next year's Film Score February, enjoy the 90th Annual Academy Awards, hosted for the second consecutive year by Jimmy Kimmel. And May the Force Be With You!

March 03, 2018

Song of the Day #1568

Song of the Day: The Omen ("Ave Satani"), composed by Jerry Goldsmith, whose birthday we celebrated on February 10th, is the theme that opens the devilishly scary original 1976 film, "The Omen," starring Gregory Peck and Lee Remick. The film would spawn two sequels, and a 2006 reboot. This song actually received an Oscar nomination in the Best Original Song category, the only song sung in Latin to ever be so nominated---though it would lose to "Evergreen" from the Streisand version of "A Star is Born". Goldsmith still walked away with a well-deserved Oscar for Best Original Score, because it did everything that could ever be asked of a soundtrack: contributing to and augmenting the things we see on the screen. And that it does quite well! Now, let me be clear about one thing; I've been called many things by many folks: a Hegelian, a Marxist, even a nutjob, but one thing I am not is a "Satanist," even if I'm highlighting this song on this day. I am a fan of many film genres and their corresponding scores---horror films among them. And this is certainly one of the most eerie soundtracks to ever be honored in this category---definitely not something to listen to before you go to bed, unless you want 666 nightmares before dawn! Check it out on YouTube. Don't say I didn't warn you! Now here's a bit of ironic horror cinema trivia: On this date, March 3rd in 1692, Elizabeth Selwyn, accused of being a witch, was "Burned at the Stake in Whitewood, Massachusetts" [a metal track from "Horror Classics and Other Tributes to the Darkside" by Those Left Behind]. Before the flames consumed her, she cast a Satanic curse on the town to last for all eternity (spoiler alert: nothing lasts forever). Well, that's how the 1960 British film "City of the Dead" [YouTube film link] opens. It is known to some horror film fans as "Horror Hotel" (which was slightly edited for its American audience) and scared the daylights out of me when I first saw it as a kid. As did "The Omen" [YouTube film clip]. All the more appropriate then to feature this selection from Goldsmith's Oscar-winning score on this devilish date (called "The Witches' Sabbath" in "The City of the Dead")!

March 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1567

Song of the Day: Ferdinand ("Home") features the words and music of Justin Tranter, Nick Monson, and Nick Jonas, who sings the lead from this song, which was nominated for a Golden Globe Award, but is not among the nominees for this year's "Best Original Song" Oscar category. It is, however, a highlight from the 2017 3D-animated flick, "Ferdinand." Check it out on YouTube.

March 01, 2018

Song of the Day #1566

Song of the Day: Me, Myself, & Irene ("Totalimmortal") was originally recorded by AFI, and featured on their extended play album, "All Hallow's E.P." The song was subsequently covered by The Offspring, and heard over the closing credits for this "black comedy," released in 2000, starring Jim Carrey and Renee Zellweger. Check out the original and its Offspring [YouTube links].

February 28, 2018

Song of the Day #1565

Song of the Day: Batman ("Batdance"), composed by Prince, uses the Batman hook [YouTube link] from the campy 1960s TV show I grew up watching, starring the late Adam West as our Caped Crusader. This song was featured in the Tim Burton-directed 1989 Batman reboot, starring Michael Keaton as Batman and Jack Nicholson as an over-the-top off-the-wall Joker. Check out the official music video [YouTube link].

February 27, 2018

Song of the Day #1564

Song of the Day: The Dead Pool ("San Francisco Night") [YouTube link], composed by Lalo Schifrin, is featured over the end credits for the 1988 film, which was the fifth and final installment in the "Dirty Harry" series. This particular film Includes an unforgettable car chase in which Clint Eastwood's Harry Callahan, driving his unmarked Oldsmobile 98 squad car, is pursued by a bomb-loaded electric race buggy. As far as film scores go, you know you're in an Eastwood movie, because it is almost always jazzy, and Schifrin's soundtrack doesn't disappoint.


February 26, 2018

Song of the Day #1563

Song of the Day: The Giant Behemoth ("Main Title") [YouTube link at 1:15], composed by Edwin Astley (no relation to Rick), opens this Eugene Lourie-directed 1959 film, in which a prehistoric beast terrorizes London. Lourie also directed the similarly themed 1953 monster movie, "The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms," in which the prehistoric beast terrorizes Manhattan (even though the monster is ultimately defeated in Coney Island, Brooklyn. He obviously picked the wrong place to go on a monster rampage!). This film includes classic stop-action animation by Willis O'Brien, of "King Kong" fame (whereas the "20,000 Fathoms" film featured that same technique used by one of O'Brien's greatest students: Ray Harryhausen).

February 25, 2018

Song of the Day #1562

Song of the Day: Hollywood Canteen ("What Are You Doin' the Rest of Your Life?"), words by Ted Koehler, music by Burton Lane, can be heard in this 1944 film performed by Jack Carson and Jane Wyman (with the Jimmy Dorsey orchestra) [YouTube link]. Not to be confused with, perhaps, my favorite song of all time, the very first entry ever featured on "My Favorite Songs" (written by yesterday's birthday boy, Michel Legrand), this song, nonetheless, is a musical highlight of the Canteen film. It was also recorded in 1945 by Vaughn Monroe [YouTube link].

February 24, 2018

Song of the Day #1561

Song of the Day: Dingo ("Paris Walking II") [YouTube link] was composed by the only Michel Legrand, who turns 86 today. His jazzy score to this 1992 Australian film is all the more significant because it features the trumpet work of the only Miles Davis, who also stars in the film and received co-composing credits. Michel will be making a four-night stop at the Blue Note jazz club in NYC in April! Happy birthday, Michel!

February 23, 2018

Song of the Day #1560

Song of the Day: Imitation of Life ("Main Theme"), music by Sammy Fain, lyrics by Paul Francis Webster, is sung in the title sequence by Earl Grant (who has a Nat King Cole-ish delivery). It is a lovely song from one of the signature Douglas Sirk films of the 1950s. The 1959 film stars Lana Turner and John Gavin. Check out the theme over the opening credits [YouTube link].

February 22, 2018

Song of the Day #1559

Song of the Day: To Wong Foo, Thanks for Everything! Julie Newmar ("Turn it Out"), words and music by Shep Pettibone and Steve Feldman, is sung by Labelle, led by the soaring pipes of Patti Labelle. This dance track was featured in the 1995 comedy, which starred gender-bending Patrick Swayze, Wesley Snipes, and John Leguizamo. Shake that booty on YouTube. And then check out "The Bomb" 12-inch remix [YouTube link].

February 21, 2018

Song of the Day #1558

Song of the Day: Courage Under Fire ("Main Title") [YouTube link] was composed by the late James Horner for this 1996 film starring Denzel Washington. The theme features certain phrases that are quintessentially Horner (such unique phrases are a hallmark of virtually all composers, whether for the concert stage or the silver screen). Gone too soon, James Horner left a body of work that has withstood the test of time.

February 20, 2018

Song of the Day #1557

Song of the Day: The Bourne Identity ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by John Powell, gives us that pulsating, suspenseful motif we've come to expect from the film franchise. Matt Damon takes on the role of Jason Bourne in this 2002 film, the first film in the Bourne film series. He would go on to star in four of the five films in the series thus far.

February 19, 2018

Song of the Day #1556

Song of the Day: What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (Vocal), composed by Frank DeVol and Bobby Helfer, was derived from one of the rock-oriented themes from the soundtrack to the 1962 thriller starring Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. This single was actually released, featuring both Debbie Burton (who dubbed the singing voice of the young Baby Jane Hudson in the film) and Bette Davis. The single can be heard here and here [YouTube links]. Susan Sarandon, playing Bette Davis, nails it in Episode 4 of the series, "Feud," a miniseries on the legendary feud between the two actresses. Check out Davis's performance of this on the Andy Williams show in 1962, as well as a "mashup" of the Davis and Sarandon versions [YouTube links].

February 18, 2018

Song of the Day #1555

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur: A Tale of the Christ ("Chariot Race") [YouTube film clip], music by Carl Davis (for the restored 1987 version), highlights the rousing chariot race from the 1925 epic silent version of the famous Lew Wallace novel. The film stars Ramon Navarro as Judah Ben-Hur and Francis X. Bushman as Messala; they battle it out in one of the finest silent screen action sequences ever filmed. It is noteworthy that the 1959 Oscar champ, with its glorious film score by Miklos Rozsa, has no musical accompaniment for its famed chariot race [YouTube film clip excerpt], which was staged by famed Hollywood stuntman Yakima Canutt. It was a terrific choice, artistically speaking, because the audience is engulfed by the sounds of the arena---its gruesome violence depicted by the clashing chariots, their riders and horses, and thousands of extras, none of it generated by CGI effects. A silent film, however, had no such luxury; Carl Davis's soundtrack provides the audience with a dramatic motif that augments the action we view on screen. A genuine triumph. One other piece of cinema trivia: In this 1925 silent epic, William Wyler was an uncredited Assistant Director, and A. Arnold Gillespie was an uncredited set designer for the art department. Both Wyler and Gillespie would go on to win Oscars for the 1959 version, in the categories of Directing and Visual Effects, respectively.

February 17, 2018

Song of the Day #1554

Song of the Day: Ben-Hur ("The Mother's Love") [YouTube link], composed by Miklos Rozsa, is one of the most melancholy themes from this William Wyler-directed 1959 blockbuster, which won a record 11 Oscars, including a well-deserved one for its magnificent score. Equaled but not surpassed by "Titanic" and "Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King" in its Oscar tally, this epic is the only film among those holding the record to have won Oscars in the acting categories---one for Charlton Heston as Best Actor (in the role of Judah Ben-Hur) and the other for Hugh Griffith as Best Supporting Actor (in the role of Sheik Ilderim). Heston has the distinction of appearing in what is considered to be the last of the "classic" costume epics ("The Ten Commandments") and this, the first of the modern intimate "thinking man's" epics ("Ben-Hur"), noted for providing deep characterization amidst grand spectacle. Ironically, in both films, actress Martha Scott played Charlton Heston's mother (and today's theme captures "the mother's love" so poignantly). It's become a tradition during my annual film music tribute, which started way back in 2005, to pick a cue on this date, my birthday, from my all-time favorite film and film score---and I have no intention of changing that tradition anytime soon. How appropriate to highlight this selection especially for "the mother's love" that gave me life and nurtured me as I grew to maturity. Today also happens to be the 32nd Annual American Society of Cinematographers Outstanding Achievement Awards, in both theatrical releases and television, hosted by TCM's Ben Mankiewicz. Apropos, among the 11 Oscars received by "Ben-Hur" was one for "Best Color Cinematography" by Robert Surtees. For this year's TCM "31 Days of Oscar" celebration, films are being featured by Oscar Award category each day. "Ben-Hur" is the final film---in the climactic final category of "Best Picture"---in TCM's annual tribute, scheduled for 2:45 a.m. ET on March 4th. It's the most obvious period at the end of any cinema sentence, since it is still among the most honored films in Oscar history.

February 16, 2018

Song of the Day #1553

Song of the Day: Where Eagles Dare ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Ron Goodwin for this 1968 British World War II film. The military thematic content is accentuated here, a musical set-up for the story to come. The film starred an international cast, which included Richard Burton and Clint Eastwood. From the screenplay based on the novel by Alistair Maclean to the stunt work of the legendary Yakima Cannutt (who plays no small role in tomorrow's entry in our series), this film bursts with talent. "Broadsword calling Danny Boy!" [YouTube link].

February 15, 2018

Song of the Day #1552

Song of the Day: Cinderella ("A Dream is a Wish Your Heart Makes"), words and music by Mack David, Al Hoffman, and Jerry Livingston, was sung by the character Cinderalla (vocalist Ilene Woods). It was on this date in 1950 that the Disney film, "Cinderalla," was released. This is one of the loveliest songs to emerge from the Disney musical catalogue. Listen to the original animated version of this song [YouTube link] and then check out an instrumental rendition that is among my favorites; it was recorded by the Rob Mounsey Orchestra for the album, "Jazz Loves Disney" [YouTube link].

February 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1551

Song of the Day: The Thomas Crown Affair ("Chess Scene") [YouTube link], composed by Michel Legrand, is featured in the original 1968 version of the film, starring Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway. In this particular scene, the music augments the chemistry and sensuality between the stars. After viewing this sexually charged scene, you'll never again look at the game of chess the same. It's a nice way to celebrate those loving hormones often generated by Valentine's Day. Legrand lost the Oscar for Best Original Score, but got one for Best Original Song (along with lyricists Alan and Marilyn Bergman) for the film's classic tune, "The Windmills of Your Mind" sung by Sting in the fine 1999 remake [YouTube link]).

Postscript: On Facebook, I added two comments on Michel Legrand:

And speaking of Michel Legrand (whose birthday I'll celebrate later this month as part of the Film Music February salute): a pair of "Olympic Athletes from Russia" did a lovely figure skating routine last night to an orchestral version of the Legrand theme to "Summer of '42". Beautiful.
Legrand is one of the most brilliant composers, arrangers, and conductors of the modern age. I saw him in concert many years ago at Hunter College, and actually went back stage to shake his hands (ever so lightly, because they were numb from having played his butt off for nearly 2 hours).
In any event, for those who have fallen in love with his film scores, there is a whole other side to him, which started with "Legrand Jazz", and has gone on till this day. His album with Sarah Vaughan, for example, is outstanding---the orchestrations beyond belief.
But one of his finest compositions is a three-movement orchestral piece, "Images," with Phil Woods as the featured alto saxophonist. The unison lines that Woods and Legrand play are breathtaking, and the improvisation within the piece is just remarkable (I didn't appreciate the level of improvisational brilliance until I heard a second recorded performance of this piece, certainly wonderful, but with a French alto saxman Herve Meschinet, who, as far as I am concerned, couldn't touch the dexterity and fluidity of Woods.)
In any event, the album ("Images"), on which the Woods version appears, received a Grammy Award for "Best Jazz Ensemble Album" in 1976, and the track, "Images," received the Grammy for "Best Instrumental Composition", both well deserved. You can check out the piece, in all its virtuosity, on YouTube. It is best heard with the volume all the way up, during the day---so as not to provoke the neighbors from calling the police.

February 13, 2018

Song of the Day #1550

Song of the Day: From the Terrace ("Love Theme") [Film Score Monthly excerpt link] was composed by Elmer Bernstein for this Paul Newman-Joanne Woodward 1960 film. The theme serves as the main title and can be heard in full at the beginning of this YouTube film link. This cue provides us with an example of Bernstein's capacity to write soaring, lush, and passionate themes.

February 12, 2018

Song of the Day #1549

Song of the Day: My Fair Lady ("On the Street Where You Live"), music by Frederick Lowe, lyrics by Alan Jay Lerner, was a highlight in the 1956 Broadway musical (in which it was sung by John Michael King [YouTube link], and in the 1964 film version, where is was sung by Bill Shirley, dubbing for actor Jeremy Brett. Check out the film score version here [YouTube link]. But I provide this additional "Song of the Day" today because I've just learned of the death of singer Vic Damone, another singer who was deeply influenced by Ol' Blue Eyes, who said of Damone that he had "the best pipes in the business." The Brooklyn-born Damone recorded the most popular version of this song, which went to #4 on the Billboard chart. Check it out on YouTube.

Song of the Day #1548

Song of the Day: The Rat Race ("Main Title" / "Soundtrack Suite") [YouTube link] was composed by Elmer Bernstein for the 1960 film, featuring Tony Curtis and Debbie Reynolds. It provides yet another taste of the jazzy sounds for which the composer was well known. Curtis plays a jazz saxophonist named Pete Hammond, Jr. in the film (one year after having played another jazz saxophonist named Josephine in the gender-bending comedy classic, "Some Like It Hot"), and he gets support from real-life jazz saxmen, Sam Butera and Gerry Mulligan.

February 11, 2018

Song of the Day #1547

Song of the Day: The Man with the Golden Arm ("Main Theme") [YouTube link] was composed by Elmer Bernstein for the 1955 film featuring Frank Sinatra as a struggling heroin addict. The soundtrack has been characterized by some as the #1 jazz-infused score, due to Bernstein's integration of elements of West Coast Jazz and Afro-jazz. Also check out the theme as heard in the opening credits to the film. We'll be spending a little time with Bernstein's scores [a YouTube link to one of his rejected scores] over the next few days.

February 10, 2018

Song of the Day #1546

Song of the Day: Air Force One ("Main Title/The Parachutes") [YouTube link] was composed by Jerry Goldsmith, who was born on this date in 1929. This theme is featured in the Wolfgang Peterson-directed 1997 film, which stars Harrison Ford as President James Marshall, whose Air Force One plane gets hijacked by Russian nationalists, led by Egor Korshunov, played to the villainous hilt by Gary Oldman (who is nominated for a Best Actor Oscar this year for his performance as Winston Churchill in "Darkest Hour"). The original score by Randy Newman was rejected by the studio and Goldsmith produced this heroic soundtrack in a miraculously swift twelve days.

February 09, 2018

Song of the Day #1545

Song of the Day: Peter Rabbit ("Feel It Still") is credited to the band that recorded it, Portugal. The Man (with credit for interpolations from "Please Mr. Postman" by the Marvelettes). The song, from the band's album, "Woodstock," reached #1 on six major Billboard charts, while being featured in several commercials and the soundtrack to the 2018 animated flick that hits theaters today, "Peter Rabbit"---about the famous "rascal rebel rabbit," with featured voice roles by Sia and James Corden, the host of this year's Grammy Awards. A Grammy winner in the category of "Best Pop Duo/Group Performance," this song is a pop-oriented, funky track with a retro feel. Check out the official video, and its use in two trailers to the film [YouTube link]. "Ooh, woo, I'm a rebel just for kicks now..." Irresistible.

February 08, 2018

Song of the Day #1544

Song of the Day: The Poseidon Adventure ("Main Title"), composed by birthday boy John Williams, opens the Irwin Allen-produced 1972 film. Allen was known as the Master of Disaster, and this disaster film, featuring a stellar ensemble cast, is one of the best. For this soundtrack, Williams, who turns 86 today, received an Oscar nomination in the category of Best Original Score, one of his remarkable 51 Oscar nominations---second only to Walt Disney, with 59 Oscar nominations. Though Disney's winning percentage is greater (22 wins out of 59 nominations to Williams's 5 wins out of 51 nominations), Williams is the most nominated living person in Oscar history. And how appropriate it is to celebrate a Williams birthday as the 2018 Winter Olympics begin; after all, he even wrote one of the famed Olympic themes [YouTube link].

February 07, 2018

Song of the Day #1543

Song of the Day: The Big Country ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by Jerome Moross, opens the sprawling William Wyler-directed 1958 Western, starring Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, Carroll Baker, and Burl Ives, who won a well-deserved Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor. And if it weren't for the relationship forged between Wyler and Heston in this film, Chuck would never have gone on to Oscar glory in "Ben-Hur." The Moross score received an Oscar nomination (but it lost to Dimitri Tiomkin's score for "The Old Man and the Sea").

February 06, 2018

Song of the Day #1542

Song of the Day: Sully ("Sully Reflects") [YouTube link] is credited to a musical collaboration between director Clint Eastwood, Christian Jacob, and the Tierney Sutton Band. It has that jazzy feel that one associates with all things Eastwood. This 2016 film tells the story of the Miracle on the Hudson in very personal terms. Tom Hanks gives us a measured, steady performance in the role of pilot Chesley "Sully" Sullenberger. At a time when the sight of any plane flying low over Manhattan Island would elicit a post-9/11 traumatic reaction, this is the story of a genuinely heroic Hudson River landing in which not a single person lost their life.

February 05, 2018

Song of the Day #1541

Song of the Day: Sunflower ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Henry Mancini, opens up the 1970 Italian film ("I Girosoli"), starring Sophia Loren. This is truly a Mancini Musical Moment, just another example of why he was one of the most melodic composers in the history of film scoring. The soundtrack received an Oscar nomination for "Best Original Score" but lost out to the score from "Love Story."

February 04, 2018

Song of the Day #1540

Song of the Day: Say Something features the words and music of Larrance Dopson, Floyd Nathaniel Hills, Timothy "Timbaland" Mosley, Chris Stapleton and Justin Timberlake, who recorded this duet for JT's newly released album, "Man of the Woods." We interrupt our Film Music February tribute briefly only because JT will be doing the Half-Time show for Super Bowl Sunday. There should be no "wardrobe malfunctions" [YouTube link] this time around! Check out the official video to this electro-country-rock tune. Stapleton and Timberlake are no strangers to one another, having performed a duet melody at the Country Music Awards in 2015 [YouTube link]. And then check out today's game between the New England Patriots and the Philadelphia Eagles. Ugh. What's a New York football fan to do with that match up?! So, go JT! [Ed.: Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles on their First Super Bowl Win and to JT for Killin' It during Half-Time!]

Song of the Day #1539

Song of the Day: Eye for an Eye ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by James Newton Howard, opens up the 1996 thriller based on Erika Holzer's suspenseful novel of the same name. The film stars Sally Field and Kiefer Sutherland, in a role that is neither Jack Bauer-like nor Presidential. He's a sleaze and, well, I won't spoil it for you. But "an eye for an eye"...

February 03, 2018

Song of the Day #1538

Song of the Day: The Ten Commandments ("Go, Proclaim Liberty!") [YouTube link], composed by Elmer Bernstein, is featured in the final scene to the Cecil B. DeMille epic story of Moses (played by Charlton Heston). The 1956 film received Oscar accolades for its eye-popping special effects. Till this day, I have a tendency to call any epic visual effect a "Red Sea Moment" [YouTube link].

February 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1537

Song of the Day: Against Time ("Main Theme") [site link], composed by my colleague and friend Michael Gordon Shapiro, is a sensitive orchestral theme to a 2001 film starring Oscar-winning actor Robert Loggia, as well as Craig T. Nelson and John Amos. The film was originally titled "All Over Again," but was released in 2007 as "Against Time." Shapiro's touching score is a quintessential example of how scoring can enhance a film's emotional impact. This main theme is only one example of his many gifts (for those who own a DVD copy of the film, the "Deleted Opening Music" can be found in the "Special Features" section, but this lovely theme can be heard in variations throughout the film). Somewhat ironically, it is fitting to feature a song from a time travel movie on a day when groundhogs are telling us how much more time we have to wait for Spring!

February 01, 2018

Song of the Day #1536

Song of the Day: Speed, words and music by Billy Idol and Steve Stevens, is the title theme of a 1994 thriller, starring Keanu Reeves, Dennis Hopper, and Sandra Bullock. This hard-rocking song is classic Idol, a perfect match for a hard-rocking film. Check out the official video (featuring some scenes from the film) as we kick Film Music February into high gear!

January 31, 2018

Song of the Day #1535

Song of the Day: Rosemary's Baby ("Main Title") [YouTube link], composed by Krzysztof Komeda, features the vocals of "Rosemary Woodhouse" herself: actress Mia Farrow. This creepy, haunting theme opens the equally creepy, haunting 1968 horror film, directed by Roman Polanski and produced by William Castle. The film is based on the 1967 novel by Ira Levin, among whose influences was Ayn Rand. Rand loved his first novel, A Kiss Before Dying, but went ballistic over this horror classic, viewing it as an embodiment of the Middle Age's obscene "spirit." Rand may not have been a fan of horror movies, but this film is one of the most intense psychological thrillers of its era. "All of them witches!"

January 30, 2018

Song of the Day #1534

Song of the Day: Evita ("Don't Cry for Me Argentina") features the lyrics of Tim Rice and the music of Andrew Lloyd Webber, who, along with Leonard Bernstein, was honored on Sunday night, January 28, 2018, at the Grammy Awards. This song was famously delivered in the original 1979 Tony Award-winning Broadway musical production of "Evita," by Tony Award-winning Patti LuPone, who played the lead role of the Argentine political figure, Eva Peron. LuPone revisited this song at the Grammy Awards ceremony on Sunday [see her brilliant Grammy performance here]. Check out LuPone's rendition from the Broadway cast album, and Madonna's performance in the 1996 film version, as well as its inevitable dance remix [YouTube links], which went to #1 on the Billboard dance chart. Even though this song is from a Broadway production, it appeared in a film, which is why it's part of our Film Music February tribute en route to the Oscars. As part of this annual series, we cover everything from songs and cues to main themes and source music.

January 29, 2018

Song of the Day #1533

Song of the Day: West Side Story ("Cool"), music by Leonard Bernstein, lyrics by Stephen Sondheim, is one of the highlights to the score of the Broadway musical and 1961 Oscar-winning film version of "West Side Story." Yesterday, the Grammys celebrated the contributions of the great Leonard Bernstein, in this, the year of his centenary (I will feature some classic Bernstein around the time of his 100th birthday on August 25th). The very talented Ben Platt---who won a Tony Award for "Dear Evan Hansen" and yesterday, as part of the cast, he was a winner in the Grammy category of "Best Musical Theater Album"---sang "Somewhere" [check out his tribute here from the famed score]. Three cheers to the