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243: Ricky Nelson, “I’m Walkin'”

You can’t understand popular culture without understanding why it was worth waiting half an hour for Ricky. Thunder on the horizon.

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242: Dhafer Youssef, ‘Les Ondes Orientales’ (with Tigran Hamasyan)

Dhafer Youssef, a Tunisian oudist and muezzin-styled vocalist, with Tigran Hamasyan an Armenian pianist, two of the finest jazz musicians around today.
If I gave their music a grade, it would be 100.

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241: John Sebastian, ‘Welcome Back’

Big week coming up for me. Bigger than winning a million dollars in the lottery. Bigger than flying to the moon. Bigger than anything.

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240: The Staves, ‘No Me, No You, No More’

Three young sisters from Watford, singing in DNA-perfect, vocal and emotional accord. Covering each others’ backs, facing outward. Sisters. They come from the same place. Literally.

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070: Buddy Holly, ‘That’ll Be the Day’

The (almost full) story of Buddy Holly’s great song and the night The Grateful Dead backed me singing it. Yeah, for real.

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076: Roy Orbison, ‘Oh, Pretty Woman’

Roy and Claudette were building a home back in Hendersonville, but while he was out on the road, she began an affair with their contractor. Their marriage was on the rocks. One morning in 1964, Roy Orbison was sitting in the kitchen working with his songwriting partner Bill Dees when Claudette came in and said she was going to go into town to buy something. Orbison asked if she needed any money, and Dees cracked, “Pretty woman never needs any money.” By the time she got back from shopping, they had the song.”

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077: J.S. Bach, ‘The Art of The Fugue’ (The Emerson Quartet, ‘Contrapunctus 9’)

My knowledge of classical music is patchier than an Iowa quilt. But my wife still harbors delusions that I’ll grow up some day, and in her mind listening to Bach is a more dignified and mature activity than listening to The Beach Boys. Well, a lot of people with highly-refined musical sensibilities don’t really understand Brian Wilson, but the opposite is the opposite, I believe. Anyone – even a corner-boy drug dealer from West Baltimore, who takes a moment to pause and listen to “The Art of the Fugue” by Johann Sebastian Bach – must grasp that he is standing before a grandeur and beauty rare in the course of our ordinary lives. Like standing on the lip of the Grand Canyon. Like gazing at the Temple Mount in Jerusalem. Like hearing your grandchild say “I love you, Poppa.” Those moments in which we transcend the traffic-jam that is our life.

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239: Ben Howard, ‘Keep Your Head Up’

Some of my best friends (and favorite artists) are Millenials. Especially the ones who show respect for their elders.

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