Apr 242017
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

ham

As the cops close in and Walter White lies dying, one of television’s most influential series ends with the crisp power-pop of Badfinger’s “Baby Blue” in the background. (“Guess I got what I deserved…”) It was likely the first listen to Badfinger for many Breaking Bad fans, and the exposure provided by the show resulted in a huge spike in song downloads and more than a few blog posts on the “tragic” band from Wales. Badfinger would be remembered mainly for three reasons: being seminal contributors to the power-pop genre, penning one huge and iconic song, and the suicide of its two best known members.
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Jan 102017
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

jim croce

“Jim Croce knew about the America he sang of; he was a sweet, peaceful person who had tasted of life, and having tasted, desired only to tell people through song about the people he knew and the feelings he had…. The world is full of people like Big Jim Walker and Leroy Brown, but maybe without the music and poetry of Jim Croce, it’ll be a little harder to find them.”

Those words come from a PBS broadcast of a concert Croce gave less than six weeks before he died in a plane crash at the age of 30. Were he still alive, he would be turning 73 today.
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Nov 112016
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

LeonardCohenLive

It’s hard to know where to start when talking about Leonard Cohen covers. In some respects, he might have been the most cover-friendly artist of all time. Only Bob Dylan would come close.

Why was his music so coverable? Well, for one he wrote terrific songs. Duh. But so do Bruce Springsteen and The Rolling Stones, and covers of their songs on average do not match covers of Cohen. Or look at the Beatles, who I’d put on the opposite end of this spectrum. The average Beatles cover is nowhere near as good as the original (though lord knows there are exceptions).

But no artist inspired more great covers than Cohen. Perhaps that is because unlike the Beatles, whose performances are hard to top, his original recordings were rarely definitive. His early albums were so barebones that one could do almost anything with this songs. Then there was the Phil Spector record, where great songs were buried under too much production. Then the ’80s came, a decade rarely kind to singer-songwriters, and Cohen’s records especially suffered from a reliance on instantly-dated production. In so many cases, Cohen’s perfect songs were presented with imperfect recordings. Hundreds of songs ripe for another artist to come along and make his or her own. Continue reading »

Sep 162016
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Marc-Bolan

Marc Bolan died in a car crash 39 years ago today, just short of his thirtieth birthday. Tragic as this was, it was a perfect cap to the legend of the former Marc Feld, a man determined to be a near-myth of a rock star; live-fast-die-young had to be the closing number. But as other would-be legends (hi, Jobriath!) might tell you, an image won’t last without talent to keep it up, and Bolan’s talent for writing simple, catchy glamthems has kept him in the front of public consciousness, even for the ever-growing segment of the public that was born after he moved on.
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Apr 112016
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

MerleHaggard

Merle Haggard died on April 6th, his 79th birthday. On another April 6th, eleven years earlier, he celebrated his birthday in Chicago, opening the spring run of Bob Dylan’s “Never Ending Tour.”

I don’t know what he did for most of that 66th birthday, but I do know how five minutes or so was spent. He was standing outside his tour bus, listening to a handful of Dylan obsessives sing “Happy Birthday” to him. I was one of them. Continue reading »

Jan 292016
 

In Memoriam pays tribute to those who have left this world, and the songs they left us to remember them by.

Willie-Dixon

Willie Dixon was a talented stand-up bass player, producer, and occasional vocalist for Chess Records, but his greatest gift lay in his pen. One cursory glance at his song titles – “Back Door Man,” “Little Red Rooster,” “I Ain’t Superstitious,” and “You Can’t Judge a Book By the Cover,” to name just a “Spoonful” – reveals what an impact he had not only on Chicago blues, but rock ‘n’ roll as well. No self-respecting sixties band with a blues foundation would dream of taking the stage without a working knowledge of Dixon’s songs, and he wrote more than 500 of them – songs that sounded immortal from the moment they were first created.
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