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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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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065: Ella Fitzgerald, ‘Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most’

A beatnik musical (what??), an obscure jazz standard (oxymoron), and high school nostalgia (snore)–the convoluted paths we take to visit our past.

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097: Mstislav Rostropovich, ‘Cello Concerto Opus 43, Adagio’ (Mieczyslaw Weinberg)

Holocaust Day just ended, and here’s the stranger-than-fiction story of a Jewish composer, Mieczyslaw Weinberg (1919–1996), whose personal odyssey is emblematic of that of the Jewish people in the 20th century, not only for the trials and tribulations he underwent (although there were more of them than can be grasped), but because of the wholly bizarre, tortuous and miraculous course of events.

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063: Pust, ‘En Reell Halling’

Who wouldn’t scoff at a Norwegian a cappella sextet singing a musical battle between their own halling dance and an Irish jig?
You wouldn’t, if you give it a listen.

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072: Stephen Stills, ‘Suite:Judy Blue Eyes’ (“Just Roll Tape”)

Late one night after a recording session in which he accompanied his girlfriend Judy Collins, post-Buffalo Springfield/pre-CSN Stephen Stills gave the engineer a couple of hundred dollars, and said, “Just roll tape”. The resulting recordings, acoustic demos of 13 new Stills songs, lay forgotten for 40 years.

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069: Catherine Russell, ‘New Speedway Boogie’

In which the daughter of Louis Armstrong’s musical director, Julliard graduate and studio singer par excellence, sparkles up an old Grateful Dead tune backed by a mandoline, string bass and tambourine.
Jerry would have loved it.

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