Another Motown legend, Esther Gordy Edwards, has passed

26 08 2011

Two days after Motown songwriting legend, Nick Ashford, passed, Esther Gordy Edwards, older sister of Berry Gordy, passed away.  Esther was 91 years old.

She wasn’t a performer.  She wasn’t really a composer. She didn’t found the company.   But Mrs. Edwards was, by all accounts, hugely instrumental in the success of the Motown label.  Mrs. Edwards provided the seed money, out of a Gordy family account, that helped her younger brother, Berry, start Motown records.  That $800 loan, excellent talent scouting and being in the right place at the right time, eventually helped Motown become a dominant force in the music business.  We all know how great the music was.

Mrs. Edwards is also credited for her skills at scouting talent and promoting the artists and label, both here and abroad.  She was a trusted confidant to her brother, and she kept the Detroit Motown offices running after major operations were shifted to Los Angeles in the early 1970’s.  Once Motown’s center of gravity settled in Southern California, Mrs. Edwards founded and ran the Motown Museum, a place that still attracts fans from around the globe.  I personally visited it last week (though I didn’t go inside.)  Paul McCartney stopped there during his Detroit tour stop earlier this summer.

She’ll be laid to rest on August 31.–family


RIP Jerry Leiber, Nick Ashford

23 08 2011

Half of one of rock-and-roll’s most famous songwriting teams, Jerry Lieber, most famous for his work with Mike Stoller, has died at age 78.  He penned such classics as “Hound Dog,” “Jailhouse Rock,” and “Stand By Me,” to name a few.

Another songwriting legend, Nick Ashford, who partnered with Valerie Simpson, both as a songwriter and performer, has also passed.  Ashford was 70.  As a songwriter, he’s probably best known  for the hits he (co)wrote for Marvin Gaye and Tammi Terrell,  “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough,” “Ain’t Nothing Like the Real Thing” and “You’re All I Need to Get By.” “Solid” was one his bigger hits as a performer with Simpson.  He was key to Motown’s late 60’s success.


Smells Like twenty years ago

18 08 2011

Nirvana’s Nevermind album turns 20 this September.  The rock magazines, like Spin, are already starting to do their retrospective on the album and its impact on _____ generation.

A few things really jump out at me during this run-up to the anniversary.  One, I hated “Smells Like Teen Spirit” when it first came out, and I’m still not a fan.   I turn it off, change the station or forward to another song if I hear it.  I’m sure I’m in the minority, but I find that song to be grossly overrated and downright annoying, despite the fact that it rocks.

Two, I love the album!  This might be underselling it a bit, but it’s one of the 10-ish best albums of the last 20 years.  I’m sure many people would say it’s the best.  Simply as a matter of personal preference, I like some other stuff better.  But I think it’s safe to call it amazing on some levels.  In my humble opinion, I think the hype around “Teen Spirit” drags the whole thing down for me.

Three, it’s Nirvana’s best album by miles.  That’s probably stating the obvious , but I do know some people that like Bleach and In Utero better.  Unplugged was massive, too.  I don’t care for those other albums, at least not now.  They were alright 15-20 years ago, but they no longer speak to me.  I can still crank Nevermind, though.

Four, Nevermind turning 20 makes me wonder, “Where did all the years go?”  Sgt Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band came out four years before I was born.   That was the Baby Boomers’ Nevermind, if you will.   In 1987, there was all the “It was 20 years ago today…” magazine and newspaper articles, celebrating the 20th anniversary of Sgt Pepper’s.  There was a lot of hype around that and a lot of retrospectives.   Being a teen at that time, I remember thinking, “Man, that album came out a long time ago! It’s old!”  Twenty years after Nevermind, my reaction is, “Man, that album couldn’t have come out 20 years ago, could it have?  It only seems like a few years ago…” The baby on that iconic cover, Spencer Elden, is now a grown man.

That’s simply a matter of aging and noticing that, while time rolls by at the same pace, the years feel shorter as they go.   I wonder if there is something in the Theory of Relativity that explains that phenomenon.  I know the math behind the felling.  When you’re 5, one year is 20% of your life.  When you’re 20, one year is 5% of your life.  I’m the ripe old age of 40, so one year is a mere 2 1/2 % of my life.  Twenty years ago ain’t what it used to be, I guess.


I can identify (or Thoughts on the Why Music Matters initiative)

17 08 2011

The Beatles are why I like music so much and they were the first band I ever cared about.  I’ve loved them since I was four, maybe five.  Though I’ve never been tossed out of my house — not yet, anyway! — I identified with this short film.   Apparently, the Beatles have approved this movie and have thrown their support behind the Why Music Matters campaign.

First, enjoy the film.  It may speak to you.

Second, I found it interesting and slightly surprising — which was a bit naive of me — that the Why Music Matters campaign does not appear to deal with music as an art form, at least not solely for the sake of art.  With the backing of what’s left of the major record companies and a number of artists, Why Music Matters seems aimed at convincing people that music is an art form worthy of them spending their money on it.  It’s a backdoor way of saying, “Don’t download music for free.”  I support artists in wanting to be paid for their creative efforts, but I think people should know what message is being sent.  Here’s a little blurb on WMM from Paul McCartney’s website:

The Music Matters campaign was first launched in March 2010 as a credible artist driven campaign. In its first year it has attracted unanimous support from all sectors of the music industry – managers, all four major record labels (Universal, Sony, Warners and EMI) and independents, publishers and retailers as well as some of the worlds most loved artists. In recent times technological advances mean that music is more readily available and accessible than ever before. Music Matters aims to start a conversation to get people thinking about how valuable music is, where they get their music from and through this make the right ethical choices when consuming music.

This phase of Music Matters will significantly ramp up online consumer engagement over the next twelve months, asking music fans to directly get involved and pledge their support. Music Matters is also encouraging artists – both established and emerging – to contribute videos and commentary about the enduring value of music and what it means to them.

I suppose that showing people the value of music, both personally and to culture, and them asking them (subtly, nicely) not to steal that music is a softer approach.  It probably beats the record industry suing individual downloaders thousands, tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Vinyl records sales still on the rise

12 08 2011

This is hardly shocking news to anyone who follows music closely.  But it is still interesting to hear repeated that vinyl records sales continue to climb.  In an age where the album as a unit is virtually dead and more and more people — including the 30 and over crowd — jokingly ask, “CD? What’s a CD?” it’s kind of cool to see an old format revived.

I’m not sold that vinyl sounds better than CD’s.  I suppose that depends on the system, the turntable, the condition of the album, the speakers and the production quality of the record itself.  But I do understand why people find records to sound more genuine.

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Jani Lane dead at age 47

12 08 2011

Yet another former rock star has turned up dead in a cheap motel.  Sadly, Jani Lane has passed at the all-too-young age of 47.  Not surprisingly, the cause of death is not yet determined (or at least not released to the public.)  Suicide or accidental overdose stand out as likely causes.

It’s always sad news when someone like Jani passes.  I can’t say his music meant anything  to me.  In fact, I always thought Warrant was pretty cheesy, so there’s no glowing epitaph to write.  I hope he has found peace and comfort now.