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 ...
"It’s wonderful to be here in Cleveland, and Lou would've loved this," said Laurie Anderson, 2015 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Lou Reed's widow. "The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame is the place where the names of great musicians become completely magic words – Buddy Holly, Little Richard, the Coasters. And now, Lou Reed is one of those magic words."
Anderson's speech followed an extraordinarily moving induction by Lou Reed's friend and fellow Hall of Fame Inductee Patti Smith. "His consciousness infiltrated and illuminated our cultural voice," she said. "Lou was a poet, able to fold his poetry within his music in the most poignant and plainspoken manner.
"True poets must often stand alone. As a poet, he must be counted as a solitary artist. And so, Lou, thank you for brutally and benevolently injecting your poetry into music."
The speeches were complemented by two powerful tribute performances: Karen O and Nick Zinner of the Yeah Yeah Yeahs did a brilliant version of "Vicious," the opening track on Reed's classic ...
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 ...
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 ...
“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 ...
After countless hours researching, interviewing Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Inductee Paul Simon and collecting for Paul Simon: Words and Music, Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum lead curator Craig Inciardi shares some of his favorite things in the new Paul Simon feature exhibit, which opened October 30, 2014.
1. Paul Simon's First Acoustic Guitar
All musicians get their start somewhere. On his 13th birthday, Paul Simon received his first guitar as a gift from his father Louis Simon, who was a musician. His father taught him a few chords and Simon quickly realized that many of the popular songs from the 1950s – the ones he was listening to – used the same chords and patterns. He and childhood friend Art Garfunkel began to write songs using those voicings. The first song they wrote using the Stadium brand acoustic guitar was called “The Girl for Me.”
2. Letter from Paul Simon to Art Garfunkel
Paul Simon wrote this letter dated August 13, 1957, when he was attending summer camp in Bellport, New York. Art Garfunkel was at different summer camp in New Jersey, and it was a pivotal moment in their young lives. They had been singing ...
Hall of Fame Inductee Ian McLagan was among the most prominent unifying threads that linked the Small Faces – a band of mod rockers who embraced soul and psychedelia in the 60s – to the Faces, a rollicking band of roots rockers who took the 70s by storm. A wickedly talented musician, McLagan's percussive playing, nuanced accompaniment and versatility behind the keys made him integral to shaping the Small Faces/Faces sound across two decades, and his influence continued long after the Faces disbanded in 1975.
On April 12, 2012, while in Cleveland for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony, Ian McLagan was joined on stage by former Small Faces/Faces bandmates including guitarist Ronnie Wood and drummer Kenny Jones, while Simply Red singer Mick Hucknall stepped up on lead vocals, filling in for the late Steve Marriott and an ill Rod Stewart. The group ripped through three classics from the Small Faces/Faces oeuvre: "All or Nothing," "Ooh La La" and "Stay With Me."
The biggest hit of Simon and Garfunkel's career turned into their swan song. The much-loved and critically acclaimed duo personified poetic, collegiate folk rock. Throughout the 1960s, however, Paul Simon's songs increasingly discarded formal language for more colloquial lyrics. Similarly, his music expanded from the folkie roots implicit in his guitar finger picking. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" reflected these trends, besides being a typically well-manicured production. Similar qualities characterized Simon's subsequent solo career.
"'Bridge Over Troubled Water' is something of a mystery to me," notes Simon in the Rock Hall's latest exhibit, Paul Simon: Words & Music. "Because nothing prompted me to write it. I was listening to a lot of gospel quartets, particularly the Swan Silvertones and the Everly Brothers album Songs Our Daddy Taught Us. I was stunned and I thought, 'that’s a lot better than I usually write.'"
With a dramatic piano introduction and majestic melody, "Bridge Over Troubled Water" is a moving, spiritual song that like the Beatles' "Let It Be" evokes gospel themes without the overt trappings of that genre. Some theorize that its massive success piqued Simon, who not only wrote the tune but also was intimately involved in its ...