Aug 202018
 

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

Aretha Franklin cover

In 1998, the British music magazine Mojo polled 175 singers to determine the greatest singer of all time. Aretha Franklin was the winner, which in and of itself was not wholly unexpected. What was unexpected, the Mojo people told its readers, was the degree to which she ran away with it. According to Aretha’s peers, Frank Sinatra was a very distant second. Everybody knows of her famous demand for R-E-S-P-E-C-T, and in the hours that followed her passing, everyone would learn that she got it, and that she truly deserved it.
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Aug 102018
 

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

The story of rock ’n roll is littered with unsung heroes, pioneers, and straight-up madmen, but few—if any—cast as long a shadow as Arthur Taylor Lee, the frontman of the ‘60s Los Angeles band Love. Last Friday, August 3rd, marked 12 years since his passing, but if anything his legend has continued to grow, not diminish, following his death at the age of 61.

Then again, that’s not saying much. For most of his life, Arthur Lee’s renown had nowhere to go but up. Love (the band) was more a theory than a working practice, and outside of a loyal local following in its mid-60s heyday, there were precious few rewards for the band’s labors: A handful of reasonable chart positions and occasional airplay, but little to no financial or critical acclaim, particularly after the essential lineup of the band quit (or were fired by Lee) following their late 1967 album Forever Changes.

After that, Lee spent the next couple of decades issuing a sporadic series of solo albums and half-hearted reboots, none of which garnered—or, frankly, deserved—much attention. So why celebrate him now? What about this troubled, and often troublemaking man deserves our attention?

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May 212018
 

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

frightened rabbit covers

As a musician that avidly records cover songs, I often think about what draws me to putting my stamp on a particular song.

In the thirty years I’ve been playing covers, I find myself drawn to music that could be described as “emotional” without always fitting neatly into a genre box. I connect with a song’s content craft enough to try to reinvent it from the inside out. I am always drawn to songs of love lost, forlorn, or unrequited. The “breakup” song itself is something I immediately can empathize with, which is why a lot of my covers fall under the category of “ballad,” for better or worse.

Now one of my favorite writers of such songs has left us, and it’s really hit me hard. Having first seen Frightened Rabbit live in an intimate setting in Chicago after the release of The Midnight Organ Fight about a decade ago, lead singer Scott Hutchison was one of those frontmen that I immediately identified with. Continue reading »

May 142018
 

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

frank sinatra sad covers

On this day 20 years ago, America lost its greatest entertainer when Francis Albert Sinatra passed away at the age of 82 after suffering a fatal heart attack. The renowned singer/actor/producer had been in ill health and out of the public eye for over a year following an earlier heart attack. While it’s appropriate to celebrate his amazing, resilient life, today marks the silver anniversary of a sad day. With that, we thought it would be just as appropriate to remember his talent for interpreting some of the sad songs that were often a source of comfort for many.

I was inspired to take this approach after reading an insightful thread in the popular Steve Hoffman music forum titled “Sinatra’s best sad songs.” There, one member astutely posted: “With Sinatra, there are sad songs, sadder songs, and ‘dark night of the soul’ sad songs.” Many have become pop/jazz standards and Sinatra is often credited with recording a definitive version. Here are covers of five songs that were mentioned frequently; we believe The Chairman would have smilingly approved. Continue reading »

Apr 162018
 

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

joey ramone covers

Jeffrey Ross Hyman was an odd boy. Disturbingly tall, gangly and gaunt, his facial features -typically hidden under an unruly thatch of hair – seemed disproportionate to his angular head, giving him a distinctly amphibian cast. Crippled by obsessive-compulsive disorder so severe that his mother feared he would spend his life housebound, he instead channeled his anxiety and alienation into music, starting a band with three other self-described “creeps” from the neighborhood, giving himself a new name and in the process changing pop music forever.

Onstage, he was transformed: Long limbs draped casually around an overextended mic stand, left heel pumping to the blistering jackhammer beat of his unstoppable band, it was impossible to take one’s eyes off this otherwise gawky and unsteady-seeming kid.

We’re talking, of course, about Joey Ramone. Continue reading »

Jan 292018
 

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

mark e smith covers

When it comes to musical taste, there’s a million shortcuts to figuring out which side of the tracks you stand on. Here’s one of the fastest: Do you like The Fall?

If the answer is “no,” you’re in good company. Of course, there’s no definitive way to tell how many people aren’t Fall fans, but statistically speaking, almost nobody likes the band’s clattering, repetitive, willfully out-of-tune, misanthropic, oblique and downright perplexing music.

But if the answer is “yes,” you’re in even better company. The Fall may represent the apex of the cult band, an aggressively obtuse art project spinning out over 40 years and a stunning number of ex-band members, mainly disgruntled ones at that. The only constant was the dark, twisted figure at its center: Mark E. Smith, who died January 24th, at the age of 60. Continue reading »