Monthly Archives: September 2013

Twenty Feet From Stardom

There’s a superb new indie film making the rounds that you just have to see.  Twenty Feet From Stardom is the story of the women singers who make bands come alive and take a song way beyond the sheet music.  This music documentary from director Morgan Neville and producer Gil Friesen lets us into the unique world of those incredible specialists known as background singers.  I’ve met some good ones over the years; Luther Vandross, Lisa Fischer, Patti Austin, Ronnie Spector and Nona Hendryx.  God, what voices. They truly are a rare breed.  But at the same time, it’s a tough row to hoe.  In the film Springsteen, Mick Jagger and Sting talk about the importance of these talented women to a group’s sound and in the making of hit records.  Bruce adds to the drama when he comments about someone becoming a solo artist after she has been a back-up singer, “that walk to the front (of the stage) is complicated.”  The sensational Darlene Love who has been burned so many times over the years says, “there’s a power to those women that stand on stage with these guys.”


Here’s a test for you.  The next time you put on a Steely Dan, Stones, Pink Floyd, Clapton, David Bowie, or Stevie Wonder record, try to ignore the intensity and contribution of the back-up singers.  It’s impossible, you can’t.


I haven’t sat in a theater in years where  the crowd clapped and cheered at the end of a film.  There I was the other night sitting and smiling, totally moved, and saying to my row mates “let’s see that again!”  Check out the trailer.

By | 2013-09-20T00:56:35+00:00 September 20th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Twenty Feet From Stardom

The Comeback Kid

A new release and small tour have two of my favorite jazz/rock cats back on the front burner.  The other night at Yoshi’s, San Francisco I caught guitarist Jeff Golub playing his brand of jazz and the blues.  Jeff has been sidelined for three very scary years with the loss of sight in both of his eyes.  After learning how to navigate through the world with this incredible challenge, he was finally able to return to the recording studio making fresh new music.  Joining him on the organ and keyboards was the legendary Brian Auger.  Now, back in the 70s I was the president of the Brian Auger Fan Club.  (not really)  Over the years I’m sure I’ve seen Brian Auger’s Oblivion Express at least sixty or seventy times.golub3


Their set was filled with some funky, new Jeff Golub tunes as well as lots of Auger gems.  Old friends and music makers Joyce Cooling and Jay Wagner were there in the house as well.  It was a great night for music and Jeff’s comeback.


By | 2013-09-10T00:52:21+00:00 September 10th, 2013|Uncategorized|2 Comments

Sign Here Mr. Dvorak

I know it’s a little bit on the geeky side of classical music, but the recent discovery in New York of Antoine Dvorak’s American contract for employment has been a dvorak1fascinating find.  Right off the bat we learn that coming to the new world (1892-93) was a HUGE payday for the Czech composer.  His new position in New York was to make him twenty-five times more money than he was receiving back home in Prague.  This explains how and why this family man was able to pull himself away from his clan for such a long stretch of time.  It’s a handwritten contract with the exact numbers spelled out right there in the paperwork; $15K a year for two years.  His teaching schedule and conducting duties were detailed as well.  Included was his vacation schedule which allowed him to head west one summer and write one of the most famous string quartets of all time (the String Quartet  #12; The American Quartet) while he visited a Czech village settlement in Iowa.


Despite being incredibly homesick for Prague as well as lonely for his wife and kids, this newly revealed document spells out the day to day arrangements for this most creative period from one of the true composing greats of the 19th century.  It was here in the United States in 1892 that the famous New World Symphony (#9) as well as his String Quartet were written.  The document went on display this week at the Bohemian National Hall in New York City. Musicians are famous for getting stung by bad deals and signing horrible contracts, yet this one looks as if it was a pretty good deal for Mr. Dvorak.

Here is a link to the full NY Times article.


By | 2013-09-07T21:11:43+00:00 September 7th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Sign Here Mr. Dvorak

Rog @ 70

Seventy, now that’s a real milestone.  Happy birthday George Roger Waters.  He’s been in bands since he was fourteen.  The Floyd evolved from all those  basement bands and landed at the world’s doorstep in 1966.  Heard See Emily Play on the radio in 1967 and I first witnessed them live in March of 1973 as they were rolling out their new one called The Dark Side of The Moon.  I’ll never forget that show.  Over the years he has fiercely fought to protect the brand that we know and love as Pink Floyd.  Those amazing LPs with their adventurous production have all been re-mastered and boxed-up for us (and generations to follow) to enjoy and inspect.  (I’ve got Meddle on as I type)  And right now, as much as I’d love a big, fat rock autobiography from my old friend Roger with all the juicy, psychedelic details, I can wait.  He’s got other fish to fry.


It’s called The Wall.  I was lucky enough over the years to see the Wall in every configuration; New York (1980), the Berlin Wall (1990) and the latest version that’s making the global rounds since 2010.  I even got to sit in on a Wall rehearsal twenty odd years ago.  The Wall is Roger Waters’ magnum opus and he knows it.  This rich musical story with it’s incredible staging and production is what Roger will always be remembered for.  It’s great that technology has finally caught up with those artistic visions he’s had in his head for thirty-plus years.

I’m actually having trouble dealing with the thought that this just may be his final tour.  That’s my problem.  But I will tell you that no one in the rock world (except for maybe Mr. Dylan) is more passionate, precise, poetic, cutting, compassionate and universal than Roger Waters.


As you blow minds across Europe this weekend with The Wall tour enjoy your special birthday Rog!  Wish I was there.


By | 2013-09-07T20:56:22+00:00 September 7th, 2013|Uncategorized|Comments Off on Rog @ 70