Business-and-music-related observations and comment.

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Hail! Hail! Chuck Berry

chuck-berry-394429_960_720Sad to hear that Chuck Berry, the Father of Rock & Roll, has died at the age of 90.

The great early rock bands owe their very existence to Berry—including The Beatles, Rolling Stones, and Beach Boys. Rock & roll may have never gained traction in the 50s and 60s without his signature guitar style (both on lead and rhythm). It was the DNA of his many hits, including “Johnny B. Goode,” “Roll Over Beethoven” and “Sweet Little Sixteen.”

Berry—along with his boogie-woogie pianist Johnny (B. Goode) Johnson—played a key role in the alchemy of R&B, rockabilly, Gospel, and jazz that was taking place in the 1950s and given the name of "rock & roll." The infectious rhythm—combined with Berry's innovative lyrics that celebrated the consumerist culture of fast cars and fast food—attracted white teens to this emerging genre, helping to launch a new musical form—and even a new demographic.

For purposes of this blog we should note that Berry, unlike many early rockers, developed his business acumen quickly, after being cheated by his first manager. Berry took charge of his own career and became so focused on cost-cutting that he was known to sleep in his Cadillac rather than pay hotel bills. (Of course, when touring the South a black man didn’t have the option of sleeping in most hotels or motels anyway.)

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Making rock & roll great again

guitar-1015750__340 The giant has awakened.

We owe a debt of gratitude to the new American President for single-handedly reviving rock & roll as a political and cultural force—as reported on this site, early and often).

The list of rock bands and rock singer/songwriters who have denounced the Prez in song, tweet, or interview is a who’s who of top musical talent, including U2, The Rolling Stones, Springsteen, Green Day, Neil Young, David Crosby, REM, Def Leppard, Metallica, Guns N’ Roses, Queens of the Stone Age, Tom Morello, Kelly Clarkson, Henry Rollins, Death Cab for Cutie, Morrissey, My Morning Jacket, and Aimee Mann.

If we expand the generic rock category to include pop, rap, and EDM we can add Katy Perry, Rihanna, Lady Gaga, Madonna, Ariana Grande, Eminem, Shakira, Wyclef Jean, Miley Cyrus, Moby, John Legend, Usher, Josh Groban, Adele, and dozens more.

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Not the Best idea

beatles-1295244__340Sometimes it's not a good thing to get sick and miss work.

Ringo Starr appeared with The Beatles at Liverpool’s Cavern Club 55 years ago this month, when their regular drummer, Pete Best, was taken ill. The Beatles, especially Paul McCartney, liked Ringo’s playing and circled back to Ringo six months later to persuade him to replace Pete on drums.

As stated in previous posts, the events surrounding Pete’s firing—in August of 1962—are STILL riddled in mystery. After all, Pete was the most popular Beatle with the female fans and a critical piece of the Beatles’ “Wall of Sound."

But as theorized here, there seemed to be several forces at work. One was McCartney’s constant attempts to unseat Pete Best, either because of McCartney’s jealousy at Best’s popularity with the “birds” or because McCartney thought Pete's drumming was weak (an opinion not universally shared by Liverpool musicians at the time).

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"Better songs, if nothing else"

*singer-29259__340This was the title of a recent Boston Globe opinion piece by Renée Graham referring to what a Trump Presidency could contribute to the common good: “riling up musicians to voice their political opposition in song.”

It echoes my observation in recent posts that incompetent and duplicitous leadership in the White House is awakening spontaneous resistance in the rock & roll community that hasn't been heard in nearly a half century.

That began last week as a unified boycott of President Trump’s inaugural events and parties by the nation's premier musical talent. (The acts who did perform at those events lacked serious artistic cred and did themselves no favors publicity-wise.) The best rock and pop artists have always had good BS detectors and have been among the first to sniff out deceit in political leadership. (One could argue that rock & roll’s finest hour—at least as a cultural force—was during the reign of Richard Nixon.)

But you might ask, “Why would the centers of political (or commercial or financial) power be concerned about what some pop singers wail about?”

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O Canada!

My favorite band in the galaxy—as most readers know—is Walk Off The Earth, an alt-rock band from Burlington, Ontario.

Below is a moving performance I just came across of WOTE singing “O Canada” at the World Hockey Finals last year. (It should not shock anyone that many Americans have been thinking fondly of Canada in recent weeks.)

This short clip captures the musical magic of the band. I often post WOTE's own videos to illustrate their madcap creativity, but this more solemn rendition of the Canadian anthem demonstrates the vocal mastery (understated but poignant) of their three lead singers—Sarah Blackwood, Ryan Marshall, and Gianni Luminati. They do their country proud here.

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