Category Archives: Music

On Audra McDonald

For Audra McDonald’s birthday My good friend Ted and I were once talking about Audra McDonald and her performance of “Climb Ev’ry Mountain” in the live televised version of The Sound of Music, and what a powerhouse it was. You … Continue reading

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“If I don’t feel it, I can’t play it.” — James Cotton

Blues-harmonica legend James Cotton was born on this day in 1935 on a cotton plantation. He was a working musician by the time he was 10 years old. He toured with Howlin’ Wolf. Eventually he hooked up with Muddy Waters … Continue reading

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“I don’t have to be an imitation of a white woman that Hollywood sort of hoped I’d become. I’m me, and I’m like nobody else.” — Lena Horne

It’s her birthday today. Mitchell and I – in yet another of our series of conversations – discuss Lena Horne. Weirdly, we had an enormous discussion about her one night when I was staying with him in Chicago. We watched … Continue reading

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Happy Birthday, Millie Kirkham

Millie Kirkham had an unearthly high soprano voice, and recorded with some of the biggest stars of her era (and other eras and ours). Perhaps most famously, she provided the swoopy woozy soprano part on Elvis’ original recording of “Blue … Continue reading

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“There are a great many colored people who are ashamed of the cake-walk, but I think they ought to be proud of it.” — James Weldon Johnson

“Nothing will do more to change that mental attitude and raise his status than a demonstration of intellectual parity by the Negro through the production of literature and art.” – James Weldon Johnson, preface to The Book of American Negro … Continue reading

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“That incident ruined my reputation for 10 years. Get one Beatle drunk and look what happens!” — Harry Nilsson

My introduction, as shallow as this may seem, was through Reservoir Dogs. “You put the lime in the coconut”, etc. My brother said to me, “It’s a stupid song, and a little bit racist, and you think it’s just a … Continue reading

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“So I’m not very popular here with those inside the system, as you might guess. I never wanted to be.” — Waylon Jennings

It’s his birthday today. Like a lot of artists whose music I own (I still like to own music: will never give it up), Waylon Jennings is on almost constant rotation. He’s always there. In playlists, first of all, but … Continue reading

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“It’s innately in me to want to yell and love at the same time.” — Jessie Reyez

“I haven’t been compromising this whole time as an artist. Why would I start with my album?” — Jessie Reyez It’s her birthday today. Jessie Reyez first came on my radar, as I’m sure is true for a lot of … Continue reading

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Happy Birthday, Chips Moman

Elvis Presley and producer Chips Moman, American Sound Studio, Memphis, 1969 Great music producer, songwriter, and American Sound studio owner Chips Moman was an essential part of the thrilling warp-and-weft of the Memphis music scene from the 1960s on. His … Continue reading

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“I couldn’t do no yodelin’, so I turned to howlin’ and it’s done me just fine.”– Howlin’ Wolf

Chester Burnett, who would eventually become the legendary Howlin’ Wolf, was born on this day in 1901. He is in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in the “early influences” category. He is in the Memphis Music Hall of … Continue reading

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