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 ...
2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Ringo Starr is one of the greatest and most creative drummers in rock and roll history. Throughout the Beatles’ career he sang on many lighthearted and funny songs (“Yellow Submarine,” “Octopus’s Garden”), providing sly humor and clever turns of phrase that helped cultivate the group’s image and persona. Starr was the first Beatle to have significant solo hits in the 1970s. “Back Off Boogaloo,” “It Don’t Come Easy,” “Photograph,” “Oh My My” and “The No No Song” dominated the U.S. and U.K. charts. Here are my picks for essential Ringo Starr listening.
“It Don’t Come Easy”
George Harrison produced Ringo Starr’s first solo single, joined by Klaus Voorman on bass, Stephen Stills on piano and members of Badfinger on guitar and backing vocals. The buoyant melody flows freely on this infections track.
“Back Off Boogaloo”
This track clearly shows the influence of glam rock on Ringo Starr and features stinging slide guitar work from producer George Harrison.
Ringo Starr co-wrote his first Number One solo hit with George Harrison. “Photograph” has a “Wall of Sound” feel with lush, layered instruments, orchestrations and vocal tracks ...
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 ...
“Ain’t No Sunshine”
The song that set the framework for the Bill Withers sound with its sparse arrangement, direct, no-frills lyric and in-the-pocket groove.
“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."
“Who Is He(and What is He to You?)”
Just the right undertone of menace and an unrelenting repeated funky riff drives this testament of a jealous lover home.
“Lean on Me”
Bill Withers’ first Number One hit took us to church. "It's a rural song that translates across demographic lines,” Withers recalled. “My experience was, there were people who were that way. They would help you out. Even in the rural South, there were people who would help you out even across racial lines. Somebody who would probably stand in a mob that might lynch you if you pissed them off, would help you out in another way."
“I Can’t Write ...
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 ...
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 ...
Last night, two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Paul McCartney appeared on The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, where he talked about former Beatles bandmate Ringo Starr. This week Starr learned he was being inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as part of the 2015 class.
In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Starr told the story of how McCartney called to break the big news. "He said he'd been talking to Dave Grohl and other people and they were stunned that I wasn't in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, and he needed something to do that night, and he's going to give me the award," said Starr of McCartney's phone call. "I didn't know that George [Harrison] and John [Lennon] were in it," Starr added. "I'm not keeping up with it all the time. We'll have a very nice evening and it'll be my pleasure to receive the award… And it means, finally, the four of us are in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame even though we were the biggest pop group in the land."
Although she was already queen of the clubs, Madonna didn't swim in the mainstream until "Like A Virgin," the 1984 title track from her second album, became her first million-selling single. Produced by Chic's Nile Rodgers in a bouncy, vaguely retro girl-group mode, the song established one of Madonna's most enduring personas: the good bad girl capable of being "touched for the very first time."
Though Madonna was 26, this witty send-up of innocence and experience made the former cult star a teen idol: the song's video featured Madonna flouncing around Venice in bustier, lace, multiple crosses and a wedding dress that inspired her first legions of wannabes. Along with its equally chirpy follow-up, "Material Girl," "Like A Virgin" might not present Madonna at her vocal best. It did, however, mark her early on as an exceptionally shrewd performer who created and manipulated controversy, changed her image to suit the moment, and prospered through a combination of talent and will.
Madonna, a 2008 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee, is among the many artists from rock and roll history featured in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum's Ahmet Ertegun Main Exhibition ...