This month, the harrowing story of the deeply troubled life and wildly creative musical mind of Brian Wilson comes to the silver screen, in Love & Mercy. An ambitious undertaking, the film is directed by Bill Pohlad who tidily splits the entire narrative arc into two distinct epochs: the musically fertile period in the 60s that produced Pet Sounds (with Wilson played by Paul Dano) and the fraught psychosis of the 80s-era rebound (with John Cusack as Wilson).
It's a fascinating glimpse into a well-documented life, and the troubled man who gave rise to among the most memorable and celebrated rock and roll of the past 50 years. So musically speaking, what is Brian Wilson most proud of?
The leader of the Boys has cited the opening bars of "California Girls" as his proudest achievement: "['California Girls'] is something I’m very proud of in a sense because it represents the Beach Boys' really greatest record production we’ve ever made."
Released the summer of 1965, the track's intro is stately, almost lethargic, as it blends muted horns and keyboards before slipping into perky-pop song mode. It was also reportedly conceived during among Wilson's first acid trips.
Noel Gallagher's role in defining British rock and roll in the 90s and beyond cannot be overstated. Along with younger brother and lead singer Liam, he led Oasis as the group's principle songwriter, lead guitarist and sometimes vocalist, delivering a succession of recordings that deeply resonated with fans around the globe, inspired a legion of similarly styled Britpop acts and turned the working-class lads from Manchester into bona fide rockstars. The group called it quits in 2009, with Noel reemerging in 2011 as Noel Gallagher's High Flying Birds. His self-titled debut topped the UK charts, and the March 2015 release of Chasing Yesterday sees Noel expanding on his rock repertoire yet still delivering the indelible melodies for which he's well-known.
We caught up with Noel during a tour stop in Cleveland, Ohio, where he toured the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum.
Rock and Roll Hall of Fame: You've gone on record with a lot of thoughts on the state of rock and roll. What's Noel Gallagher's definition of rock and roll?
Noel Gallagher: To me, it’s not a sound – it’s not an idea. It’s a spirit to ...
Although he was being inducted for his incredible legacy of music, 76-year-old Bill Withers also provided among the 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony's most endearing and humorous moments. "One other thing crossed my mind," he said accepting his award. "This has got to be the largest AA meeting in the western hemisphere." The thousands in attendance exploded in roars of laughter.
Stevie Wonder inducted Withers, lauding the accomplished musician for emotionally poignant and resonant songwriting, "songs that were for every single culture there is; everyone can relate, somewhere in the world."
The man behind classics such as "Lovely Day," "Use Me" and "Lean On Me," Withers provided a long list of thanks to the men and women who supported him throughout his career – including the radio DJs that played the flip side to his early single: "Ain't No Sunshine."
"Stevie Wonder inducting me in the Hall of Fame is like a lion opening the door for a kitty cat," joked Withers. "Stevie Wonder knows my name and the brother just put me ...
When Percy Sledge first tried to make a record in Muscle Shoals, Alabama, the white owner of the area’s first record label refused to work with him. Saying that he preferred to stick with white country and pop artists, the producer slammed the door in the young singer’s face. A few years later, Sledge was the area’s biggest star, with a Number One hit that defined “the Muscle Shoals sound” and helped launch one of the era’s most significant music scenes. Sledge’s spare, aching ballad – the still-iconic “When A Man Loves A Woman” – not only set a musical template for deep soul, but also reflected the unique musical alchemy that made Muscle Shoals and southern soul into an international symbol of cultural change.
Crucial to Sledge’s success, and that of Muscle Shoals soul, was his records’ mixture of black and white. He worked with a mostly-white group of young studio musicians, including producer Rick Hall and fellow Hall of Famer Spooner Oldham, who now embraced the chance to cut records with black artists. Additionally, Sledge was one of the great practitioners of the musical hybrid that became known, appropriately enough, as “country-soul.” Sledge’s ...
In a recording career that lasted only 15 years, but left a lasting legacy, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Bill Withers mastered the vocabularies of the acoustic singer-songwriter, R&B, disco and even mainstream jazz, while maintaining a distinctive personality as a composer and vocalist. Here are my picks for essential Bill Withers songs.
“Ain’t No Sunshine”
A breakthrough hit from Just As I Am (produced by Hall of Fame Inductee Booker T. Jones), “Ain’t No Sunshine” set the framework for the Bill Withers sound with its sparse arrangement, direct, no-frills lyric and in the pocket groove. It was also a bona fide hit, reaching Number Three on the Billboard 100 in 1971.
“I was one of those kids who was smaller than all the girls. I stuttered. I had asthma. So I had some issues," recalled Bill Withers. "My grandmother was that one person who would always say that I was going to be OK. … When you're a weaker kid, whoever champions you becomes very important to you." This song is a tribute to those healing hands.
“Who Is He (and What is He to You?)”
Just the right undertone ...
As both a member of The Velvet Underground and a solo artist, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Lou Reed transformed music forever with his uncompromised and daring artistic vision that has influenced artists for decades, from David Bowie to U2 to Arcade Fire. Here are my picks for Lou Reed essential tracks.
“Walk on the Wild Side”
Off 1972's Transformer (produced by David Bowie and Mick Ronson), “Walk on the Wild Side” was Reed’s first hit after the Velvet Underground broke up and remains his most well know tune till this day. The lyrics of the song told the story of people Reed knew from the Andy Warhol/Factory days, while the iconic bass line has been sampled numerous times in everything from hip-hop to electronica.
“Satellite of Love”
This song was originally demoed by the Velvet Underground in 1970 as a possible track for the Loaded album but was eventually rejected. The lyrics are sung from the point of view of a man who is watching a space launch on TV and simultaneously reflecting on his unfaithful girlfriend. The end of the song features a fantastic vocal arrangement performed by Reed and David Bowie ...
“The soulful classics that Pastor Crouch created over the years have uplifted the hearts and minds of several generations and his timeless influence continues to be felt in not only gospel but a variety of music genres.” -President Barack Obama
When Pastor Andraé Crouch passed away in January 2015, the outpouring was remarkable. Artists, elected officials, community leaders and legions of fans flocked to pay tribute to the man known as the “father of modern gospel music.” The response was a testament to the impact of his music over the last 40 years. He created a body of work that drew on contemporary musical styles and sophisticated production to inspire his audience and spread the word of God.
Andraé Crouch and his twin sister Sandra were born in the Compton neighborhood of Los Angeles in 1942. Their parents, Benjamin and Catherine, were very active in the Church of God in Christ. In 1951, they moved to the San Fernando Valley, where Benjamin Crouch established Christ Memorial Church. Andraé began to play keyboards at age 11, which he attributed to his ...
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 ...