As part of the Rock Hall's Celebration Day, the Museum will screen the Bill Withers documentary, Still Bill, at 5pm ET. In this post, the film's co-director (along with Damani Baker) Alex Vlack, shares how he found Bill Withers, his hero, and transformed the experience into a movie.
Everyone who's ever turned on the radio, walked into a restaurant, been in a bar, lived in this country for more than a few days knows Bill Withers' biggest songs. But most people don't know his name, and most people don't know most of his music.
I didn't really discover it until college, when my friend Jon Fine turned me on to Still Bill, Withers' second record. We listened to it on cassette over and over and over. I'd grown up on blues and jazz and rock, and thought I was pretty well-versed – when you're 18 years old, you can think of yourself as a lot of things! – so how could an album like this have slipped past me? It was, simply, the best album I'd ever heard. Fine and I started a band, and one of the first things we did was ...
In 1970, Lou Reed quit the Velvet Underground at the end of a nine-week performance residency at the famous rock club Max’s Kansas City (in New York City), leaving the VU album Loaded recorded but unmixed; and leaving the VU to continue on with none of its original members.
Two years later, Reed released his self-titled, first solo album on RCA records. The album was mostly made up of songs he had written for – and in some cases even performed live with – the Velvet Underground. While the release generated a lot of buzz, it turned out to be a critical and commercial flop. There are some strong songs, but even listening to it today it feels… well, lost. It doesn’t have the bite of the early VU songs like “Heroin,” nor the pop sensibilities of songs like “Sweet Jane.” So with the album as disappointment to everyone including Reed, what to do next?
Reed, for his part, was enamored with ...
The 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee exhibit opens April 11, 2015, and will feature amazing stories and incredible pieces from this year's class: The Paul Butterfield Blues Band, the "5" Royales, Green Day, Joan Jett and the Blackhearts, Lou Reed, Ringo Starr, Stevie Ray Vaughan and Double Trouble, and Bill Withers.
Here are eight of our favorite items in the new exhibit, from a mirrored-star shirt designed by Slash's Mom to an infamously muddy outfit that was at the center of a near-riot at Woodstock '94.
1. Bill Withers' Main Guitar
Bill Withers was in many ways an anomaly in the music business. In the “Black Power” era of funk and flash, as he put it, “[In] 1970, 1971 or something, you know, I’m this black guy coming out sitting on a chair with an acoustic guitar.” His songwriting and performance style was understated, subtle, simply and straightforwardly constructed, and both articulate and honest. Withers' Martin acoustic guitar model D-35 was his main instrument, used to write and record with, and on stage for live performances.
2. Billie Joe Armstrong of Green Day's Woodstock '94 Outfit
Woodstock '94 in Saugerites, New York, was ...
The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame celebrates gospel music every day at the Museum as one of the essential musical roots of rock and roll. Three gospel performers who have had a profound influence on popular music have been inducted into the Hall of Fame: Mahalia Jackson (pictured above), whose fervent contralto was one of the great voices of the 20th century; The Soul Stirrers, who brought gospel out of local churches to a national audience, setting the pace for gospel and pop vocal groups; and The Staple Singers, who landed gospel on the pop charts with songs that advanced the Civil Rights movement.
Gospel echoes throughout the history of rock and roll. We hear it in the early vocal groups like The Drifters and this year’s inductees The “5” Royales (who started out in North Carolina singing gospel as the Royal Sons Quartet); the Motown sounds of the Temptations, and Martha Reeves and the Vandellas; the soul music of legends like Ray Charles, Sam Cooke, Darlene Love, Aretha Franklin, Al Green and Wilson Pickett; and in the message and spirit of The Isley Brothers and Earth Wind & Fire in the 70s; as well as the extraordinary music ...
The sheer emotional impact of Jimi Hendrix’s Woodstock rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sparked my fascination. His squealing guitar effects depicting the incoming descent of bombs that were soon “bursting in air,” grabbed me, especially as intensified on film when Hendrix “lip synched” the resulting cries and screams. His performance makes the abstract so very human. For me Hendrix’s Woodstock anthem of August 18, 1969, remains atop the list of the most powerful performances of Francis Scott Key’s song ever created.
The Woodstock anthem gets even more interesting when compared with the other 40 or so surviving recordings of Hendrix performing the song. They reveal Hendrix’s artistic as well as political evolution and define the critical and patriotic extremes of his expression to place Woodstock firmly in the middle as a combination of both. Here's a look at five incredible Hendrix versions of "The Star Spangled Banner.' Want more Hendrix? Catch Mark Clague going deep on all-things Hendrix at the Rock Hall's Library and Archives on Wednesday, March 25, 2015!
Hendrix first references the anthem melody a year ...
In advance of opening the latest Rock and Roll Hall of Fame exhibit Herb Ritts: The Rock Portraits on March, 13, 2015, the Rock Hall caught up with Chris Isaak for a look back at 1989's "Wicked Game" music video directed by Herb Ritts and featuring supermodel Helena Christensen.
What was the song "Wicked Game" about? Did the on-camera chemistry with supermodel Helena Christensen happen off-camera, too? What was photographer/director Herb Ritts' vision for the video? Chris Isaak answers all those questions and more.
Rock Hall: What was the song "Wicked Game" about?
Chris Isaak: It's about four in the morning, and somebody calling and saying I'm coming over to your house and I thought right after I said okay, I thought I should have never allowed this person to come over to my house. I know what's going to happen.
And I wrote the song between the time I got off the phone and the person came over to visit. It was just about what happens when you have a strong attraction to people that aren't necessarily good for you.
I think it hit a nerve because I think a lot of us ...
Long Island, New York rap crew and Hall of Fame Inductees Public Enemy saw Armageddon everywhere and all of life as a struggle. Adding dissonance, noise and speed to the muscular hip hop of their idols Run-D.M.C., they came on as "Prophets of Rage" with ties to the Nation of Islam and an eye toward revolution.
That's some high-wire act to sustain, but while they walked it, Public Enemy's music was both viscerally and rhetorically scorching. And then they joined forces with a thrash metal group in 1991, recasting their 1987 single "Bring the Noise" as a rap-metal explosion that challenged perceptions and preempted a mainstream surge in rap-rock sounds by more than a decade.
The F**king Jugular of Doubt
"Bring the Noise" first emerged as a rap single from Public Enemy before its inclusion on 1988's It Takes a Nation of Millions to Hold Us Back. Fittingly, the track's lyrics made arguments for rap's historical connections to rock and roll (Soul control, beat is the father of your rock 'n' roll). The track caught the ear of Anthrax and in 1991 the group recorded a new version with Public Enemy. A ...
This week, millions of music fans, pop culture mavens and dedicated viewers tuned in to the star-studded 2015 Grammy Awards. Over the course of more than three hours, the ceremony offered up a whirlwind of performances – nearly two dozen, in fact – and there were a handful of awards presented, some to Kanye West's chagrin. Throughout it all, there were many Rock and Roll Hall of Fame connections. Did you catch them all?
AC/DC Goes Down a "Highway to Hell"
Although Aussie rockers AC/DC have taken their unmistakable, hard-charging, loud and fiery brand of music-making around the world for more than 40 years, it was the 2003 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductees first time on the Grammy stage. The group opened with new track "Rock or Bust" before segueing into classic rock anthem "Highway to Hell" – the same song they played at their 2003 Hall of Fame Induction. Other familiar nods? Angus Young's signature school boy outfit, one of which is also featured in the Rock Hall's heavy metal exhibit alongside the handwritten lyrics to "Highway to Hell."
Hozier and Annie Lennox cover Screamin' Jay Hawkins' "I Put a Spell on You"
Irish songwriter ...