Taylor Swift, the country superstar who became a professional songwriter at 14, scored a record deal at 15 and released her first album at 16, is kicking in $4 million toward the creation of an education center that will bear her name at the Country Music Hall of Fame and Museum in Nashville, part of the museum’s $75-million expansion.
The Taylor Swift Educational Center will increase the museum’s educational facilities seven-fold, officials said in announcing her pledge Thursday.
“Taylor Swift represents country music’s best traditions,” museum Director Kyle Young said in a statement. “By stepping forward to fund our education center, she has once again demonstrated that she has an eye on our industry’s future. …It is not an overstatement to say that the Taylor Swift Education Center will have a profound impact on our museum, our new campus, our city and even our country. It will truly be the heart of our living museum, educating and inspiring young people and families, teaching them country music history and helping them to make meaningful connections between the music and their own lives.”
It is being designed to include three classrooms and a children’s exhibition gallery. The museum’s capital campaign has raised $56.8 million to date. The expansion is scheduled to be completed early in 2014.
Banjo player Doug Dillard, an influential bluegrass musician who played with many rock outfits, appeared on "The Andy Griffith Show" and with his family band the Dillards, died Wednesday in Nashville after a long illness, the group's longtime publisher Lynne Robin Green said Thursday. He was 75.
Dillard and his brother Rodney began playing music together with other members of their family in the 1940s growing up in Salem, Mo., but hit their stride after moving to Los Angeles in the early 1960s and signing with Elektra Records.
The Dillards were among the first bluegrass acts to use amplified instruments, and their music and faces became familiar nationwide when they began appearing on “The Andy Griffith Show” as a band called the Darlin’ Boys. Griffith encouraged them to use their original songs as often as possible on his show. Here's a clip of them joining Griffith on "Doug's Tune":
Their popularity on the TV sitcom led to guest spots on musical variety shows hosted by Judy Garland, Tennessee Ernie Ford and others.
Living and working in Southern California in the 1960s, they were around at the birth of what would become known as country rock, and Doug Dillard, who had been profoundly influenced by banjo pioneer Earl Scruggs, who also died recently, played for a time with the Byrds, then formed a band with ex-Bryds member Gene Clark called Dillard and Clark.
A full obituary on Dillard will be posted later and will appear in Friday’s Los Angeles Times.
The week-long tour opens June 15 at the Spreckels Theatre in San Diego, where Kristofferson will be joined by Mariachi Divas, and continues with stops June 16 in Fresno (Rojas with Trio Ellas), June 16 in Stockton (support act to be arranged), June 19 in Bakersfield (Los Lobos), June 21 in Oxnard (Mariachi Los Camperos de Nati Cano) and June 22 in San Jose (Los Texmaniacs).
“It’s an honor for me to share my talent with an organization such as the UFW and its cause of advancing the lives of thousands of workers that put food on all of our tables,” Kristofferson said in a statement. “Joining forces with renowned Latino performers through these special performances offers fans great music with a great cause.”
Other activities will be part of the UFW’s 50th anniversary convention being held Thursday through Sunday in Bakersfield. Details on the UFW’s website.
Los Lobos is revisiting its watershed 1992 album “Kiko” in a 20th anniversary reissue, adding to the original studio album with previously unreleased early and alternate takes of several songs. Simultaneously, a document of the band’s 2006 performance of “Kiko” in its entirety will be released separately on CD, DVD and Blu-ray, with both “Kiko” projects coming Aug. 21.
“Kiko” was hailed in 1992 as a new artistic pinnacle for the widely lauded East L.A. group and appeared on numerous critics’ yearly Top 10 lists. It was the No. 1 choice in The Times’ consensus Top 10 among its staff writers and regular contributors, and made the Top 10 of Village Voice magazine’s annual poll of some 300 pop music critics.
“ ‘Kiko’ is the band's masterpiece -- a startling leap forward in sonic reach and depth of vision,” Mike Boehm wrote in reviewing the album for The Times two decades ago. “ ‘Kiko’ is a long, troubled dream of an album that holds the temporal and the spiritual in a single gaze: It shows us a suffering humanity an angel's breath removed from an overarching realm of spirits, magic and hallucination.”
“Kiko Live” has never been released or broadcast, and includes interviews with the band members and others about the making of the album. In 2006, Los Lobos did a series of live performances focusing on it in its entirety. Above is exclusive video of the group's performance of "Kiko and the Lavendar Moon."
The CD also includes three tracks the band recorded live at Capitol Records in Hollywood for a “Hollywood House Party with Los Lobos” special that aired in 1992 on National Public Radio. The album reissue and the “Kiko Live” DVD/Blu-ray are being released by the Shout! Factory reissue specialty label.
Instead of “segregating our influences, treating them parochially,” as band member Steve Berlin described the band’s approach before “Kiko,” for that album “whatever our unconscious minds’ response was to the stimuli, that was what we wanted. We let our imagination take over and didn’t try to control it.”
The band is continuing on a tour that included the first Los Lobos Cinco de Mayo Festival at the Greek Theatre, at which the group headlined a bill that included Mariachi El Bronx and X and such guests appearing with Los Lobos as Neko Case, Alejandro Escovedo, Flaco Jimenez, and Dave and Phil Alvin.
He also recorded a live rendition of one of the album’s songs, a version of Pearl Jam’s “Just Breathe,” in the studio with sons Lukas and Micah Nelson, along with a couple of his longtime Family Band members, including his sister, keyboardist Bobbie, and harmonica player Mickey Raphael. The video can be seen here.
“Just Breathe” is one of a couple of left-field song choices -- another is Coldplay’s “The Scientist” -- on a set that also features more big-name duet partners for Nelson, this time including Merle Haggard, Kris Kristofferson, Billy Joe Shaver, Sheryl Crow, Jamey Johnson and (drum roll, please) Snoop Dogg. Nelson and Snoop teamed up for the lighthearted smokefest celebration “Roll Me Up and Smoke Me When I Die.”
Should Nelson ever decide to stage the odd-couple duet live, it’s a safe bet that Snoop won't send a hologram to inhale in his place.
Punk rock has nothing if not a strong sense of the absurd, and Saturday will bring yet another example with the annual birthday bash honoring punk founding father Joey Ramone. It will include a live performance of a new album by a rocker who’s been dead for 11 years.
It’s no gag, though. The new album, “… ya know?” and scheduled for May 22 release, consists of tracks left incomplete when Ramone, born Jeffry Hyman, died in 2001 of lymphoma. Ramone’s brother, Mickey Leigh, used demos and other unreleased recordings his brother made and completed the tracks with assistance from various friends and admirers including Joan Jett, E Street Band guitarist Steve Van Zandt (who has written the liner notes), Cheap Trick’s Bun E. Carlos, Patti Smith Group guitarist Lenny Kaye and Smithereens drummer Dennis Diken.
"Over the past eight years, I've been getting a barrage of emails and Facebook messages from Joey's fans, wanting to know when this album would be coming out,” Leigh said in a statement issued Tuesday. “So having it finally become a reality gives me a feeling of triumph -- not for me, but for my brother, and for his fans. And there's not the slightest doubt in my mind that people are gonna be blown away by it."
At Saturday’s 12th Joey Ramone birthday celebration in New York, Leigh will be joined in performing the album in its entirety by many of those who played on "... ya know?" including Jean Beauvoir, Richie Stotts, Ed Stasium, Amy Hartman, Al Maddy and JP “Thunderbolt” Patterson. Tommy Ramone, the sole surviving original member of the group, is slated to be among those making guest appearances along with David Peel, Joey Lanz and others. Additional performers for the show will include the Threads, the Brats, the Indecent, Ivan Julian and the Bullys. The event will be held at the Studio at Webster Hall.
Tickets are $40 and proceeds go to the Joey Ramone Foundation for Lymphoma Research.
In “This Land Is Your Land: Woody Guthrie and the Journey of an American Folksong” (Running Press, $24), author and Grammy Museum Executive Director Robert Santelli traces the extraordinary life of what is arguably America’s best-known and best-loved folk song, written by America’s greatest folk troubadour.
It’s long been known that Woody Guthrie wrote the song in 1940 as his reaction to -- and dissatisfaction with -- Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America, which became ubiquitous throughout the Depression, primarily from Kate Smith’s signature recording and her countless performances on live radio broadcasts.
Among the many examples of cultural detective work in Santelli's book -- published in conjunction with this year's Woody Guthrie centennial -- Santelli traces a journey that culminates in the song being sung by Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen at a 2009 inauguration concert for President Obama. Along the way, he also answers the question: How exactly how did “This Land Is Your Land” become part of the elementary school standard repertoire, where virtually every kid in the United States can sing it -- or at least, the best-known parts of it -- by the time they’re 7?
It partly can be traced to the inclusion of “This Land Is Your Land” on a 1951 album of children’s songs called “Songs to Grow On,” the third volume in a series of children’s music released by producer Moses Asch on his new Folkways record label.
Asch, who had made records with Seeger and Huddie "Lead Belly" Ledbetter and other folk and blues artists in New York City in the '40s, first met and recorded with Guthrie in 1944. He was so bowled over by the quality of Guthrie’s songs, which had not been captured extensively in recordings before that, that he got Guthrie to lay down dozens of tracks, including “God Blessed America,” the song that eventually would come to be known as “This Land Is Your Land.”
But it wasn’t an immediate breakout hit, just one among the slew of songs Guthrie recorded for Asch. Seeger also loved the song’s sing-along and routinely included it when he performed in schools and at summer camps in New York and elsewhere around the Northeast.
The genius stroke, however, came with Guthrie’s introduction to music publisher Howie Richmond. Even into the '50s, Guthrie may have established a body of work as impressive as that of any songwriter in history, but he had no publisher to represent and promote his songs. “Either because of his unconventional ways or his political stance, he was turned down wherever he went,” Santelli writes.
Folklorist Alan Lomax, who with his father, John, made field recordings for the Library of Congress documenting the nation’s folk and blues traditions, met with Richmond to float the idea of extending the reach of such songs beyond the walls of the Library of Congress. Perhaps, Lomax suggested, there was a way to educate the country’s youth to their musical heritage by including some of them in elementary school textbooks.
Richmond took the idea and ran with it, lobbying textbook publishers to include words and music to some of the songs from the Lomax collection; as an incentive, he reduced the normal licensing fees and threw in “This Land Is Your Land” as an added bonus -- he would charge only $1 to include it.
“I really believed that ‘This Land’ -- a truly great song about America, its natural wealth and beauty -- was something that kids sitting in classrooms ought to know and learn to sing,” Richmond told Santelli. “Plus, it was a great song for entire classes to sing. It had a great melody, great chorus, and those lyrics, well, they were so beautiful. I didn’t mind practically giving it away.”
The gambit worked and “This Land” quickly began landing on the desks of American schoolchildren with their next round of new books and incorporated into classroom music time.
The published version, however, omitted two verses that made “This Land” more than a celebration of America’s natural resources, but also a pointed political protest song in which Guthrie spoke on behalf of the millions he’d seen left by the wayside of the American dream during the Great Depression.
In addition to his poetic imagery about the nation’s endless skyway, golden valley, redwood forests, gulf stream waters, sparkling sands and diamond deserts, Guthrie also made a point to note:
As I was walkin’, I saw a sign there And that sign said ‘No trespassin’ But on the other side, it didn’t say nothin’ Now that side was made for you and me
Another often-overlooked verse says:
In the squares of the city, in the shadow of the steeple Near the relief office, I saw my people And some are grumblin’ and some are wonderin’ 'If this land’s still made for you and me?’
(To head the folk purists off at the pass: Numerous variations on these lyrics have been chronicled over the decades, even as written down by Guthrie himself. The verses here are taken from Santelli's book, where they are rendered as "Original Lyrics.")
Half a century later, when Springsteen called Seeger to invite him to sing “This Land Is Your Land” with him at a concert celebrating Obama’s inauguration, “I told him I would, but only if he agreed to sing the song with its original lyrics,” Seeger told Santelli, himself a longtime Guthrie aficionado who had organized a tribute to him in 1996 at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland to launch the hall’s “American Masters” series of tribute performances.
“All these years I sang ‘This Land Is Your Land,’ but never with so many people watching and listening,” Seeger said. “Washington, D.C., filled with people. Television cameras were everywhere. I wasn’t going to let the opportunity pass by. I wanted to make absolutely certain that the world knew the lyrics that Woody originally wrote.”
Springsteen needed no coaching -- he’d been singing the song, including the usually missing verses, since the 1980s.
“We’d like you to join us in perhaps the greatest song ever written about our home,” Springsteen said to the massive audience by way of introduction.
No Teleprompters were needed that day. Nearly everyone there in Washington, D.C., and watching at home on television had long ago learned it in grade school.
The singer most closely associated with the Bacharach-David songbook, Dionne Warwick, sang “This Guy’s in Love With You” and was joined at the event by Stevie Wonder, Sheryl Crow, Diana Krall, Lyle Lovett, Mike Myers and other performers who sang songs David and Bacharach wrote together during their long collaboration from the late 1950s into the 1970s.
Wonder sang “Alfie” and “Make It Easy,” Krall took “The Look of Love,” Crow gave her rendition of “Walk On By,” Lovett did “Always Something There to Remind Me” and Myers sang “What’s New Pussycat” in recognition of the important role Bacharach and David’s music played in his “Austin Powers” films, all three of which included a cameo appearance by Bacharach.
The ceremony was videotaped and will be aired on PBS stations premiering May 21. Other performers included Arturo Sandoval, Michael Feinstein, Rumer and Shelea.
Bacharach, 83, was on hand for the ceremony; David, 90, is recuperating from a recent illness and was unable to attend. Bacharach said winning the Gershwin Prize surpassed receiving an Oscar.
Winning an Academy Award, he said, gives you a “spike up your spine that is an unbelievable feeling. But that’s for a score or a song. But it’s one thing. This is the whole conglomeration of my work that I’ve done. So it is the best of all awards possible. I mean that with all my heart.”
Feinstein told the crowd of lyricist Ira Gershwin’s fondness for the music of Bacharach and David.
“Ira loved the fact that Bacharach and David were continuing a tradition of finding fresh ways to express the feelings of the heart not only lyrically but musically,” said Feinstein, who performed “Close to You.” “He admired that because these were songs that he thought were accessible.”
“I have followed you since I was a little boy. The chord structures inspired me so much, the words, the lyrics. This song is an example of my appreciation,” Wonder said introducing his performance of “Alfie.”
When Wonder was young, he would sing their tunes to girls he was pursuing. He recalled singing “Make it Easy on Yourself” to one in particular.
“She quit me for another guy because he could take her to the movies at a particular time, and I didn’t feel like watching movies that night,” he quipped.
Previous recipients of the Library of Congress’ recently instituted Gershwin Prize include Paul Simon, Stevie Wonder and Paul McCartney. The prize "celebrates the work of an artist whose career reflects lifetime achievement in promoting song as a vehicle of musical expression and cultural understanding," according to the Library's website.
Update at 5:38 p.m.: Librarian of Congress James H. Billington lauded the pair's compositions for helping "launch the careers of many of our nation’s most celebrated performers, and they continue to be played on iPods, radio, television, in movies, and performed in cabarets and on the Broadway stage." He added that the Bacharach-David songbook constitutes "without question one of the richest and most recognizable multi-generational playlists known to the world. Their creative talents have inspired songwriters for more than five decades, and their legacy is much in the tradition of George and Ira Gershwin, for whom this award is named."
The advisory committee for the 2012 award consisted of the three previous winners as well as Elvis Costello, Lee Ann Womack, Rickey Minor and Bobette Dudley.
Photos, from top: Stevie Wonder saluting Hal David and Burt Bacharach in Washington; Dionne Warwick at Tuesday's ceremony for the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Credits: Abby Brack Lewis / Library of Congress Photos.
The first-ever duo album from X founding singers and chief songwriters Exene Cervenka and John Doe began about three years ago as a humble keepsake they made as a fan-only offer to those who turned out for their 2009-2010 tour as a twosome.
Now it’s been released by a fledgling label, Orange-based Moonlight Graham Records. It the inaugural offering from what is promised to be a string of recordings by Southern California musicians that will also include former TSOL frontman Jack Grisham and beyond.
The eight tracks on “John Doe and Exene Cervenka Singing and Playing Live” constitute a combination of songs written independently and several on which they collaborated. Included are "Never Enough," which Doe recorded in a different version for his 2011 solo album, "Keeper," and "Lonesome War," which Cervenka had written on her own, but never released. ("It was tailor-made for us," Doe said.)
Pop & Hiss sat down with them last week to talk about the album for a profile in Tuesday’s Calendar. Doe, who arrived first to the interview, was invited to talk about the first track, “It Just Dawned on Me,” which stood out as a sterling example of the unexpected directions that he and Cervenka have gone throughout their careers together and apart.
“It’s a typically John-and-Exene song,” he said of this stripped-down, predominantly acoustic affair that demonstrates how they still complement one another more than three decades after X was born on the gritty back streets of the City of Angels.
Its arc begins with the singer’s moment of awareness that a romantic partner has emotionally exited a relationship. Initial reactions of confusion and hurt lead to the realization that maybe the split isn’t such a bad thing after all.
Leonard Cohen returns to Los Angeles on Nov. 5 in a stop on his just-announced Old Ideas World Tour 2012, an encore appearance at the Nokia Theatre, where he also played a lauded 2009 concert.
The new “Old” tour opens Halloween night in Austin, Texas, and comprises 21 shows in as many cities through Dec. 20, when the 77-year-old Canadian poet-rocker wraps up the second leg of the tour in Brooklyn. A European tour leg was announced previously.
Three years ago, Cohen delivered a marathon 3 1/2-hour show at the Nokia in which he celebrated “the wintery side of manhood, but his beatific smile revealed the little boy within,” according to then-Times pop music critic Ann Powers.
A week later, Cohen also played outdoors before a large crowd at the 2009 Coachella festival, where The Times noted that “his Coachella performance gained an intimacy and power that the cavernous and sterile Nokia couldn't touch.”
Of the new album, Steve Appleford wrote for The Times, “The rhymes and hard-won wisdom on ‘Old Ideas’ will linger in the mind long after the songs have ended.”