Category Archives: Music

The First Time I Met Pete Seeger…..

The first time I met Pete Seeger, I was far too young to remember it. I was, more than likely, an infant. Pete was an old friend of my parents’, having probably met my father in the 1950s or early 1960s. when they were both fighting fascism and oppression in their own ways, both at home and abroad. When weren’t they, really? In those days Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Paul Robeson Jr., and many others were frequent visitors at our home and while I am proud to know this now, I’ll confess that this was not of primary concern to a small child.

One thing I do remember about Pete is that he was great with kids. Or at least he was with me. Picnics with Pete on the banks of the Hudson became a somewhat regular occurrence* and on one particular night in 1983 at dinner in the Hotel Nacional in Havana, Pete indulged a 12 year-old’s whimsy far more than he needed to.

I had recently learned to make wine glasses “whistle” by wetting a finger and running at around the rim of the glass. To my joy, I was seated next to Pete and at some point in the evening, I started getting bored (dinners in Cuba start late and can go very late) and so I started playing with my wine (water) glass. Pete claimed had never seen this (I suspect he was fibbing) and he and I proceeded to have some fun with the other tables in the dining room by making our glasses whistle and, when people would look around, pretending we were also looking for the source of the whistling. I’ve always thought that one of the true measures of an adult is how they relate to children.

My house was always full of music, despite no one in my family being able to play a lick. Classical and folk were the predominant styles and so many of Pete’s songs have been part of my life since I was a small child. Granted, I was an odd kid. I mean, how many 10 year-old do you know who know the words to “Kisses Sweeter Than Wine,” “We Shall Not Be Moved,” and “Which Side Are You On?” Much of the credit for that should be given to Pete.

The last 2 times I saw Pete were at memorial services. The first was for Mary Travers (of Peter, Paul & Mary fame) in 2009 and the second in 2005 at my mother’s service. Alas, the weather too bad for him to make it to my father’s memorial in 2007. One of the many drawbacks to the aging process is having friends, loved ones, and those we admire pass on. It’s a part of life, but one I have not yet come to grips with.

Pete was one of the bravest, kindest, and most principled people to ever walk the earth. He was one of a kind for so many reasons and I dare say we shan’t see the likes of him again any time soon.

He also had a beautiful falsetto!

*Possible inflation of frequency due to the passage of time.

Beyoncé Surprises But (As Always) Bowie Sets Trends

Yes, yes. We all know that Beyoncé dropped a new album today. We all were surprised and I do think that in today’s landscape of Twitter, cellphone cameras, and rumor-obsessed media, that it’s an amazing feat for an artist as famous as Beyoncé to be able to keep a secret like this. But it’s hardly the miracle that the US press is playing it out to be.

Basically, Beyoncé moved the needle but she did not, as many in the press (and celebrity tweets) would have you believe, “change the game.” That honor must be bestowed on David Bowie and his superb release The Next Day.

Continue reading Beyoncé Surprises But (As Always) Bowie Sets Trends

RIP Adam Yauch: Some Personal Memories

I am sure I can’t add anything to all the professional obituaries of Adam Yauch, so I thought I’d add something a little more personal. Back in the early to mid-1980s, there were two musical movements happening in New York City that were important and influential to me and my friends (among many many others, of course). One, the Two Tone ska revival was destined to remain a subculture, albeit one that we embraced heartily. The second was Hip Hop.

As soon as we heard Rapper’s Delight, we were hooked and in those relatively early days of the genre, as some clubs slowly morphed from the discotheque model to a more hip hop-centered experience, it wasn’t unusual to see blacks, whites and Latinos all in the same club.

Not to digress too much into the economic and cultural makeup of New York in the early to mid-1980s, but it was certainly a different time and I found myself in a complicated social world that somehow merged my left-wing, hippy/socialist summer camp (Thoreau-in-Vermont) with the private school I attended (The United Nations International School, aka UNIS) and the NYC ska and hip hop communities. NYC was (and is) a large place, but if you were in certain high schools and of a certain mindset, your orbits were large, inclusive and on the surface or to an outsider, contradictory. Didn’t seem that way to us, though. Continue reading RIP Adam Yauch: Some Personal Memories

Some thoughts on my favorite new band, Fun.

This is my favorite new band and I’m telling you all to go to You Tube, watch their stuff and then buy their CDs. Seriously. Now.

Even though “We Are Young” is a big hit (and an amazing song) I suggest you start with their debut  Aim and Ignite and then move on to Some Nights. Nate Reuss’s voice is extraordinary and the rest of the trio (Andrew Dost and Jack Antonoff) play everything else, pretty much. Reuss uses his voice like an instrument and even the occasional use of the vocoder simply adds another instrument to the mix. Their first album, heavy on the string arrangements and personal storytelling in the lyrics brings  The Decemberists’ The Crane Wife to mind. (It’s not a concept album, though.)

I’ve only listened to Some Nights twice, so I hope to post a more complete review next week.

In the meantime, here’s a couple of videos. The first is an acoustic version of “We Are Young (feat. Janelle Monáe)” which might actually knock me out more than the album version. First of all, Reuss and Monáe are so damn nice to look at, right? She’s absolutely stunning! I met her once, very briefly after a show at South by Southwest. After putting on an amazing, high-energy performance that knocked the audience on its ass, she was so wiped out that she could barely speak. Maybe she was saving her voice, but she suddenly seemed a small (she is a pretty slight young woman) and almost timid thing and genuinely awed by the fact that she’d just blown us all away. The second video is of a live performance of the beautiful ballad “The Gambler” from their first album.

Michael Giacchino Conducts the Suite From Lost

Here’s a video clip of Michael Giacchino conducting an orchestra playing a suite from the landmark TV series Lost. My apologies for the orientation. It was a combination of a new phone (first video shot on it) and being entranced by the music!