Sam Cooke, one of the greatest soul singers in history, was shot to death on this date in 1964 – at the height of his career. In 1963 he wrote one of the earliest protest songs of the civil rights movement: the soul-stirring “A Change is Gonna Come,” which was released after his death.
When I was 16, the woman whose bedroom was above mine in our apartment building was forced to move because I wouldn’t stop playing Led Zeppelin’s “Nobody’s Fault But Mine” at warp sound. I mean, I feel bad about it now, but at the time I felt such a sense of…victory! Behold, the power of rock.
Last year, on the 32nd anniversary of John Lennon’s death, his son Julian thanked his Facebook followers for their heartfelt condolences, and asked them to buck up, remember the good times, and not wallow in sadness. Right on, Jules. Even though I shed a tear each and every December 8th – the date of John’s murder – this year I’ve decided to present an upbeat memorial to the man whose music changed my life. How about a little story about his enormous influence on the freedom-seeking youth of Prague, the capital of the Czech Republic?
Snarly, salty Tom Waits is one of the few singer/songwriters never to sell out by allowing his songs to be used in TV commercials. Through the years he’s filed lawsuits against lots of big companies that attempted to use his songs – or rips-offs of his music – in TV ads. And he won every case.
With Christmas madness upon us, let’s take a detour from the usual rock talk and examine a character from one of the world’s most beloved holiday songs. Yeah, Rudolph, I’m talking about you! Okay, so you were born with a shiny red schnoz and had the misfortune of living in a frozen polar cap with no access to rhinoplasty. And all those reindeer jocks and their fawning cheerleader girlfriends called you names and shunned you because of it. Well, my heart goes out to you. We’ve all been subjected to teasing and taunting; it’s all part of growing up. In recent years psychologists and child development experts have been speaking out against your Christmas song and the TV special it inspired because it depicts the bullying of a physically undesirable misfit. But that’s not what rattles me. What I find offensive is the fact that you, Rudolph, copped out and allowed those conformist reindeer snobs to welcome you into their clique only after you bailed Santa’s ass out of trouble. Man, you should have had more self-respect than that!
It all started because Queen frontman Freddie Mercury had to go to the dentist, and his band was forced to cancel a scheduled TV appearance at the last minute. That bit of serendipity gave the U.K. public its first taste of the menace known as the Sex Pistols. On December 1, 1976, the punk rock band was summoned to the studios of Thames Television’s “Today” program, an early evening live talk show hosted by Bill Grundy. The program’s producers offered its substitute guests the customary assortment of alcoholic treats as they waited in the green room prior to air time. Big mistake. The drunk punks unleashed a torrent of expletives – infuriating scores of TV viewers. The 3-minute interview from hell ended Grundy’s career and catapulted the band to international notoriety overnight.
The 1960s music scene had it all: folkies, mods, electric bluesmen, surf singers, soul scorchers, R&B belters, psychedelic hipsters…and one falsetto-voiced ukelele player who went by the name of Tiny Tim. No course on the decade’s pop culture would be complete without a mention of this eccentric celebrity. Mr. Tim, born Herbert Khaury on April 12, 1932, in Washington Heights, Manhattan, to a Polish Jewish mother and Lebanese Catholic father, personified the “let your freak flag fly” philosophy of the late 60s.
Today, as I give thanks for all the people, events and opportunities that have enriched my life, I would also like to acknowledge my gratitude for the cosmic forces that came together in the 20th century to create the music that saved my soul: rock and roll. I am thankful…
Cutting your teeth…honing your skills…paying your dues…(and, my favorite)…making your bones.Whatever you want to call it, Jimi Hendrix did it all in the days prior to achieving eternal super stardom as the greatest rock guitarist of all time. He played for years in backup bands for such American artists as Little Richard, Sam Cooke, the Isley Brothers and Joey Dee and the Starlighters. He also spent an evening playing backup for English crooner Engelbert Humperdinck and once toured with The Monkees as an opening act. Perhaps more than any other musician in rock history, Jimi Hendrix loved to play. It didn’t matter what, where, when, or with whom.
That was the pronouncement of Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II on the transformation of the Fab Four from the droll, cheeky mop-topsof 1964, to the lysergically induced hipster-gurus of 1967. Rumor has it that the Queen voiced this “turning funny” verdict to Sir Joseph Lockwood, chairman of the Beatles’ British record company EMI, at a highbrow Buckingham Palace event that took place at the height of the boys’ cosmic journey into all things metaphysical.