I’ve been watching the Ken Burns documentary The Roosevelts: An Intimate History and I’m astonished by how much I didn’t know about that era of American history. One example: a Gallup Poll from early 1939 revealed that 84-85% of American protestants and Catholics “opposed offering sanctuary to European refugees. So did more than one-quarter of American Jews.” This was after the well-reported “Night of Broken Glass” in November of 1938 when Hitler’s goons ransacked Jewish homes, shops, and synagogues through Germany and Austria, killing dozens of Jews and imprisoning thousands more.
I knew that Americans had become isolationist in the wake of World War I, but I had assumed that the so-called Greatest Generation had risen to the occasion when faced with the atrocities of the Nazis. Not so much. It’s shocking to see photos of young American protesters marching with “Make peace with Hitler” signs. FDR reinstated conscription and on October 16, 1940, American men had to register for the draft, and most Americans were not happy about it. Before I watched this episode I had assumed it was just lefty radicals like Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger who opposed the war. Their band the Almanac Singers recorded one of my favorite protest songs, “Ballad Of October 16th.”
Oh, Franklin Roosevelt told the people how he felt
We damn near believed what he said
He said, “I hate war and so does Eleanor
But we won’t be safe ’til everybody’s dead.”
The connection between music and memories is as fundamental as that between heart and soul. We write songs about things we’ve done and people we’ve loved and those songs remind us that we are human. To be robbed of either is heartbreaking, to be robbed of both is tragic.
Glen Campbell has been frank about his battle with Alzheimer’s disease. He announced his affliction in 2011 and embarked on a farewell tour—one that he had to take while he still could. If you love songs but aren’t familiar with Campbell’s work then you are missing some of the 20th century’s most endearing music. The towering shadow of his career is summarized in just the opening paragraph of his Wikipedia entry:
Campbell has released more than 70 albums. He has sold 45 million records and accumulated 12 RIAA Gold albums, 4 Platinum albums and 1 Double-Platinum album. He has placed a total of 80 different songs on either the Billboard Country Chart, the Billboard Hot 100, or the Adult Contemporary Chart, 29 in the Top 10 of which 9 peaked at number one on at least one of those charts.
And now he has one more song and album. His 78 years are reflected in this video, his last.
A couple of years ago, it blew my mind that Adele’s 21 had sold more than 100,000 copies per week for what ended up being 45 weeks by the time I stopped paying attention. Back then 21 had cumulative sales of a little over seven million. Well, guess what: it’s still selling.
Last week Adele’s 21 surpassed 11 million in U.S. sales. This is 189 weeks after it was released, and it has never once fallen out of the Billboard 200. In fact, Billboard‘s Keith Caulfield points out that “It has spent all but 11 of its chart weeks in the top 100.” That’s just bonkers.
John Lennon released four solo albums before the Beatles officially broke up, but three of these were experimental recordings made with Yoko Ono and the fourth was a live album recorded in Toronto with an under-rehearsed band featuring Eric Clapton. These four albums are generally dismissed as non-canonical, and they were not included in Spotify’s recent addition.
His first “proper” solo album, John Lennon/Plastic Ono Band, came out in December 1970 and remains the best album released by any former Beatle. It’s raw, honest, and brutal. 1971′s Imagine is very good as well, but unfortunately for John it was all downhill from there. Most of his recorded output between 1972 and 1975 is…spotty, to put it gently. Lennon was uncomfortable with the natural sound of his own voice and buried it in echo and reverb and schlocky production. He took a break from the music business until 1980 when he was inspired to go back in the studio to record Double Fantasy and enough outtakes for the posthumously released Milk and Honey.
Here are the 17 best songs from what’s available now on Spotify.
If you’ve seen A Hard Day’s Night then you know George was definitely the coolest Beatle. If you’ve seen any clip of him you know it. And so it’s fitting that we celebrate George Harrison Week with Conan O’Brien and a cast of friends, family and admirers.
Beck Kicks it off with “Wah Wah” and the influence of All Things Must Pass on Beck’s sound become so obvious now.
Next is George’s old pal, Paul Simon with a tasty cover of “Here Comes the Sun.”
Guess what other flavor of rock isn’t dead, Gene Simmons? Garage Rock! Yes, there are lots of bands out there banging away on rough guitar riffs and smashface drum parts. I like Toronto’s Pet Sun, made up of a gang of high school pals who just can’t let go of the rock.
The band’s first official release is out on September 27 and includes this gloriously bizarre video for the single, “Feel Like I’m Going Away.”