Saturday, April 27, 2013

Sam Cooke's "A Change is Gonna Come" To Receive Song Hall Award For 2013

by Retro:Kimmer:

Sam Cooke’s classic song “A Change Is Gonna Come” is the 2013 Songwriters Hall of Fame (SHOF) Towering Song, it was announced today by SHOF chairman Jimmy Webb.

The Towering Song Award, which goes to the creator or creators of an individual song that has influenced our culture in a unique way over many years, will be presented at the 44th Annual Induction and Awards Dinner June 13 at the Marriott Marquis Hotel in New York.

“A Change Is Gonna Come” was written and originally performed by Sam Cooke and is published by ABKCO Music.

Cooke wrote it in 1963. It was released as a single in December, 1964, and was quickly adopted as a Civil Rights Movement anthem.

It is widely considered to be Cooke's most significant and enduring composition, with over 500 recorded versions since then including covers by Aretha Franklin, Otis Redding, Solomon Burke, Bobby Womack, the Fugees, Jon Bon Jovi, Seal, R. Kelly, Gavin DeGraw, Terrence Trent D’Arby, the Righteous Brothers and Al Green. READ MORE

I was born by the river in a little tent 
Oh and just like the river I've been running ever since 
It's been a long, a long time coming 
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

It's been too hard living but I'm afraid to die
 'Cause I don't know what's up there beyond the sky 
It's been a long, a long time coming 
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

I go to the movie and I go downtown 
Somebody keep telling me, "Don't hang around" 
It's been a long, a long time coming 
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Then I go to my brother And I say, 
"Brother, help me please" 
But he winds up knockin' me 
Back down on my knees

Oh there been times that I thought I couldn't last for long 
But now I think I'm able to carry on 
It's been a long, a long time coming 
But I know a change gonna come, oh yes it will

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Story Behind Simon And Garfunkel's Hit Song "The Boxer": Who's The One Getting Beaten Up?

English: Singer-Songwriter duo Simon & Garfunk...
Simon & Garfunkel (Wikipedia)
by Garrett Sawyer

Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" was quite a story in and of itself.

Clocking in at over five minutes it slowly but steadily builds to a tremendous climax before falling back into a long quiet ending that lands as soft as a feather.

The innovation required to record the song was extraordinary, requiring 100 hours to record. Take the lush vocals of the interludes, for instance.

Sung in a recording studio? Nope. Try St. Paul's Chapel at Columbia University where the acoustics were provided by the church's tiled dome. And an 8-track recorder (the state-of-the-art standard at the time) just wasn't enough.

So two 8-track recorders running in sync were required to record all the necessary vocal tracks. It was the first 16 track recording ever made, although Simon said later it was a "b----" to get the two recorders to work together.

Then there was that thunderous drum part underneath those vocals. Hal Blaine, the incomparable veteran session drummer, was responsible for those. Played in a recording studio? Nope, part II.

But they didn't use a church for the drums. They used an office, specifically in front of an elevator at Columbia Record's offices. Blaine pounded and producer Roy Halee added the reverb.

And it worked. The part that didn't work was when an elevator arrived and an elderly security guard walked out and got the surprise of a lifetime.

But probably the biggest innovation came from the lyrics. The song began with imagery Simon had picked up while reading the Bible in hotel rooms ("workman's wages" and "seeking out the poorer quarters" are derived from New Testament verses).

Simon had composed a flowing five verse story of poverty and resilience, where the singer (like a boxer) is beaten down but tenaciously holds on to take more punishment even as he voices his desire to give up and leave.

One could easily imagine Simon had someone specific in mind (similar to the way he used Joe DiMaggio's name in "Mrs. Robinson"). Well, he did have somebody in mind but it wasn't someone from the boxing world. It was himself.

From the beginning of their commercial success in 1966 the duo had praise lavished on them from both critics and fans alike. But it didn't last. Popular music critics began to accuse them of not being real folk artists.

The pummeling continued though Simon felt the criticism wasn't fair. As he recalled in an interview with Playboy Magazine in 1984, "I think the song was about me: everybody's beating me up, and I'm telling you now I'm going to go away if you don't stop."

The criticism may not have stopped but, thankfully, neither did Simon. Unfortunately Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" was the beginning of the end in that it was the first hit song from what would become the legendary album "Bridge Over Troubled Water". It was to be their last album together.

If you like Simon and Garfunkel's "The Boxer" then you'll like a song inspired by the story of a soldier who died after returning from Iraq. For a limited time only you can download that song for FREE by clicking HERE.

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Saturday, April 13, 2013

Classic Rock: The Roar of the Electric Guitar

Gypsy Sun and Rainbows
Gypsy Sun and Rainbows
by Michael Pickett

From the first overdriven guitar sounds of Chuck Berry to the slabs of golden tone from Eddie Van Halen, classic rock guitars are a study unto themselves in the evolution of popular music through the decades.

Naturally, amplification and technology have something to say about the sounds that unfolded from the 60s through the 90s, but cataloging the elements virtuoso players like Jimi Hendrix, Alex Lifeson and the aforementioned Van Halen brought to the party is equally important.

While Scotty Moore fueled Elvis' recordings and Chuck Berry gave us some of the first riff-rock, the Beatles and The Who carved out a niche for themselves with Rickenbacker electrics and 100 watt stacks of Hiwatt amplifiers, respectively.

The Beatles led bands like the Byrds, Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young and others to mine the Ricky-based sound they initial pioneered (before finding their own way to early overdriven sounds in the studio).

The Who continued to ramp up their guitar sounds with Pete Townsend cranking his Les Paul through stacks of amps live and in the studio. Bands like Cream would find Eric Clapton and solo artists like Jimi Hendrix, Zeppelin's Jimmy Page and Jeff Beck firing up hyper-amplified rigs of their own to create signature sounds on pieces like 'Sunshine of Your Love', 'Won't Get Fooled Again' and 'Communication Breakdown'.

From there, the metal thunder of Black Sabbath, Judas Priest and Rush were just a step away.

As the 70s saw effects pedals (stomp-boxes) powering the rock and metal sounds of Deep Purple's Ritchie Blackmore, the wah-inflected tone of Michael Schenker and the hot-rodded, insanely great sound of Edward Van Halen, guitarists began to redefine what it meant to have golden tone and achieve the elusive status of 'guitar god'.

But the 80s, while rich with effects boxes and achievable sounds, proved that songwriting and sound were still key, as a thousand bands began to tastelessly imitate the pioneers that had gone before, but without the tone, taste or compositional ability that had made bands like Zeppelin and Van Halen great.

As with all eras, there were still standout artists with superb sounds like U2's The Edge, Def Leppard's Phil Collen and Steve Clark, Journey's Neal Schon and, of course, Alex Lifeson and Eddie Van Halen.

The sounds of guitar would continue to evolve over time, and if you spend even half-an-hour on a classic rock radio station, you'll hear an incredible cross-section of guitar sounds and styles that illustrate a growth in technology and ability over the course of decades.

Love the sound of classic rock? ... check out Pickett's free music at:

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Saturday, April 6, 2013

The Forbidden History of the Black Panther Party

Black Against Empire by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr.
Cover - Uni of California Press
by Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., UTNE Reader:

Find out why a clear-cut history of the evolution and politics of the Black Panther Party remains unknown. 

Black Against Empire (University of California Press, 2013) is the first comprehensive overview and analysis of the history and politics of the Black Panther Party.

Authors Joshua Bloom and Waldo E. Martin, Jr., analyze key political questions, such as why so many young black people across the country risked their lives for the revolution, why the Party grew most rapidly during the height of repression, and why allies abandoned the Party at its peak of influence.

Learn about why it has been difficult to construct a clear history of the evolution of the Black Panther Party in this excerpt from the introduction.

The Panthers shut out the pack of zealous reporters and kept the door locked all day, but now the hallway was empty. Huey Newton and two comrades casually walked from the luxury suite down to the lobby and slipped out of the Hong Kong Hilton.

Their official escort took them straight across the border, and after a short flight, they exited the plane in Beijing, where they were greeted by cheering throngs.

It was late September 1971, and U.S. national security adviser Henry Kissinger had just visited China a couple months earlier.

The United States was proposing a visit to China by President Nixon himself and looking toward normalization of diplomatic relations. The Chinese leaders held varied views of these prospects and had not yet revealed whether they would accept a visit from Nixon.

But the Chinese government had been in frequent communication with the Black Panther Party, had hosted a Panther delegation a year earlier, and had personally invited Huey Newton, the Party’s leader, to visit.

With Nixon attempting to arrange a visit, Newton decided to accept the invitation and beat Nixon to China.

When Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier, greeted Newton in Beijing, Newton took Zhou’s right hand between both his own hands. Zhou clasped Newton’s wrist with his left hand, and the two men looked deeply into each other’s eyes.

Newton presented a formal petition requesting that China “negotiate with ... Nixon for the freedom of the oppressed peoples of the world.” Then the two sat down for a private meeting.

On National Day, the October 1 anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China, Premier Zhou honored the Panthers as national guests.

Tens of thousands of Chinese gathered in Tiananmen Square, waving red flags and applauding the Panthers. Revolutionary theater groups, folk dancers, acrobats, and the revolutionary ballet performed.

Huge red banners declared, “Peoples of the World, Unite to destroy the American aggressors and their lackeys.” At the official state dinner, first lady Jiang Qing sat with the Panthers.

A New York Times editorial encouraged Nixon “to think positively about Communist China and to ignore such potential sources of friction as the honors shown to Black Panther leader Huey Newton.”