Without a doubt, Sam Cooke was one of the most influential performers in the history of American popular music. His work cut across the genres of gospel, R&B and pop, and Cooke is credited as being one of soul music’s primary architects.
Cooke was born in Clarksdale, Mississippi, in 1931, and his family moved to Chicago when Cooke was a toddler. He started singing in the church, and joined the most popular gospel group in the country, the Soul Stirrers, when he was still a teenager. His career with the Soul Stirrers was enough to secure his place in the annals of music history, but his ambition and talent would take him much further.
With the release of “You Send Me” in 1957, Cooke embarked upon a career in secular music that transcended the boundaries of R&B and pop. He was a pioneering figure in African-American entrepreneurship, gaining remarkable artistic control of his music and the business surrounding it. Recognizing the importance of owning publishing rights to music, he founded his own record label, SAR, with J.W. Alexander and Roy Crain in 1961, despite being courted aggressively by the leading record labels of the day. He ...
It's rare to talk of an artist truly being without equal, but that's exactly who David Bowie was. A remarkable visionary, Bowie was a font of wild creativity, a transformative presence constantly evolving to address and help define our times. His art entertained, challenged and enlightened us all - and that will be an enduring legacy celebrated for many generations to come.
With tributes to the 1996 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee powering in from around the world, we take a look at the stories behind four classic David Bowie songs and fan favorites: "Fame," "Space Oddity," "Changes" and "Ziggy Stardust."
David Bowie and John Lennon Break into "Fame" ... and Lennon Forgets It
Two weeks after finishing the mix on a David Bowie album called The Gouster, one of the producers, Tony Visconti, got a call from the artist: "David phoned to say that he and John Lennon had got together one night and recorded this song called "Fame." I hope you don't mind, Tony, but it was so spontaneous and spur of the moment... He was very apologetic and nice about it, and he said he hoped I wouldn't mind...I said that it ...
Before I saw David Bowie live, I was just your normal, dysfunctional, rebellious teenager from the Midwest, and he has truly changed my life.
I’ve always had a sentimental attachment to David Bowie, not just because I grew up with his music, but it’s because it was the first rock concert that I ever saw, and it was a major event in my life. I planned for months to go and see it. I was 15 years old, it was the end of the school year, and leading up to the week of the show, I begged my father and he said, “I absolutely refuse, over my dead body, you’re not going there, that’s where horrible people hang out,” so of course I had to go. So my best friend spent the night at my house and when we thought everyone was asleep, we snuck out of my window, which was no mean feat, as I was wearing my highest platform shoes and a long black-silk cape. Don’t ask.
We couldn’t drive, so we hitch-hiked into Detroit and I don’t know who was scarier ... the drivers that picked us up, or us in ...
When David Bowie came along, well, rock and roll needed a shot in the arm and when I first saw him it was a shock, and yet it was very familiar. It was very necessary. It was something that was needed. It was essential. And like all rock and roll, it was tasteless, it was glamorous, it was perverse, it was fun, it was crass, it was sexy, it was confusing. And like all rock and roll, it was freedom, it was pain, it was liberation, it was genocide, it was hope, it was dread, it was a dream and it was a nightmare.
It was about sex and drugs, it was about combining literature with rock and roll, with art, with anything you could name. It was about sex as an idea, and sex as a reality, and sex as a liberating force. It was about rebellion, it was about rebellion as a cliché, it was rebellion as an idea. It was about rebellion as a billboard, as an advertisement. It was about the joy of reckless prophecy. It was ironic when rock and roll became self-reverential. It was about joy and terror and confusion in our lives. It ...
Who was Ziggy Stardust, anyway? According to Bowie: "''Ziggy' was my Martian messiah who twanged a guitar. He was a simplistic character...someone who dropped down here, got brought down to our way of thinking and ended up destroying his own self. Which is a pretty archetypal story line."
As Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Bowie prepared to record the song for an album provisionally called Round And Round, he motivated his musicians by telling them, basically, to think Jimi Hendrix. With lyrics about a star with a "screwed-down hair-do" who "played it left hand," "jiving us that we were voodoo," who took it all too far "but boy could he play guitar," how could anyone not have thought of Jimi?
But the song suggested a whole new concept. When the album now titled The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders from Mars was released in June 1972, RCA promoted it with the slogan "David Bowie Is Ziggy Stardust." Not the catchiest slogan, though it did much to up the intrigue.
A month later, when DJ Kenny Everett attempted to introduce Bowie at a London concert, the androgynous figure at center-stage corrected him: "I'm ...
What songs define the career of Smokey Robinson? What are Smokey Robinson's most important tracks? From one of Smokey Robinson's first songwriting collaborations with Motown impresario Berry Gordy in 1959 to the Number Two 1981 pop hit "Being With You," this illustrated history and timeline of key musical moments in Smokey Robinson's career showcases the enduring impact of his music.
As part of its Digital Classroom, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame's education department provides an introduction to rock history as told through the songs that shaped rock and roll. Students and teachers can explore and find tools, strategies and resources including lesson plans, listening guides and exclusive multimedia content, including infographics like the one featured above.
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.
No one song ever defined or redefined a group as generously as "Stairway To Heaven" did Led Zeppelin. For Jimmy Page, "Stairway" crystallized the essence of the band: "It had everything there and showed the band at its best...as a band, as a unit" he said.
"Stairway" evolved during winter 1970-71 sessions for the group's iconographically titled fourth album (a.k.a. ZOSO). It achieved an alchemical blend of the band's metal foundation with the rootsy feel of tones that decorated Led Zeppelin III. Page came up with the chord structure at the Zep retreat in Bron-Yr-Aur, Wales. After a reality check back in London at Island studios, the band regrouped at a country estate in Hampshire called Headley Grange. "Stairway To Heaven" came together as the band lounged before a roaring fire, took out the guitars and plugged into the Rolling Stones' mobile recording studio parked outside to capture the rapid flow of inspiration.
Plant in particular seemed to be channeling an active muse. According to Page: "He must have written three quarters of the lyrics on the spot. He didn't have to go away and think about them. Amazing, really." Plant himself cited British ...