David Hajdu

Pretending
January 07, 2010

The Beatles: Rock Band Guitar Hero When smug old children of the 1970s such as my friends and I get together, we play a game. We talk about the bands we loved when we were kids; we trade grumbles about the fact that music no longer seems to dominate youth culture, as we nostalgically recall the role that rock had in our past; and we try to guess what happened. I call this a game and not a discussion, because really it is diverting silliness that boils down to a competition to reach an agreed-upon goal--that is, to prove our generation’s superiority to our successors.

Keys To the Kingdom
March 18, 2009

David Hajdu: Why the best jazz was made by a great human being.

Get Back
October 22, 2008

Books about John Lennon shouldn't leave out his music.

High Hopes
March 12, 2008

Yes We Can” “You and I” “Let’s Put a Woman in Charge” Among the things that happened in early February, when Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic nomination seemed suddenly to kick into a higher gear, was the emergence, through YouTube, of a new music video called “Yes We Can,” a mash-up of moments from the speech Obama gave after the New Hampshire primary, set to music by Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas.

The Sound of One Hand Composing
January 30, 2008

Book of Longing Philip Glass and Leonard Cohen   As anyone who has ever balanced a salad spinner on his or her nose for two days could tell you, the secret of getting into The Guinness Book of World Records is to invent your own category, and the same principle applies in the arts. Distinctiveness, which is something different from distinction, tends to lead to recognition.

They Paved Paradise
November 05, 2007

Sweet bird of time and change, you must be laughing. Quite a bit of time has passed since Joni Mitchell last picked up the guitar or sat at the piano and wrote a song--about ten years now--and she has changed.

Stolen Moments
September 10, 2007

Abbey Sings Abbey Abbey Lincoln Love Is What Stays Mark Murphy Near the end of 1956, two young jazz singers made their first albums: Abbey Lincoln's Affair … A Story of a Girl in Love, released by Liberty Records, a quality-conscious shoestring operation, and Meet Mark Murphy, issued by Decca, then a major jazz-pop label. Lincoln was twenty-six and black and a woman, Murphy twenty-four and white and a man, and both had talent and looks. For half a century, they followed separate and circuitous but roughly parallel career paths.

Songbook Jam
March 20, 2007

Mos Def and His Big Band American Songbook, Lincoln Center The view of Tin Pan Alley from Harlem was so bad during the first decades of the twentieth century, a great time for white songwriters, that the African American lyricist Andy Razaf wrote a mordant work of verse on the subject, a "prayer for the Alley." Published in the 1930s in New York Amsterdam News, the black daily, the piece lamented the Midtown center of popular music as "lacking in soul," a place "where something original frightens the ear" and pandering technicians produce "dull similarities, year after year." Razaf, who died i

A Mighty Wind
February 19, 2007

Would American music have undergone a radical transformation in the middle of the last century, as it did, without Eric von Schmidt? No doubt and no matter. We all know how popular music changed during the first decades of the postwar era: It grew more informal,rougher and earthier, shifting from an aesthetic of burnishedprofessionalism to one of unschooled authenticity.

Ye Olde Rocker
January 29, 2007

Songs From the Labyrinth - Sting (Deutsche Grammophon) Rock and rollers, as they age, sometimes find themselves outgrowing a music they cannot outlive. Rock, a style invented for teenagers—or, more precisely, one adapted from an older style made originally for adults, the blues—endures as a bluntly, rudely cogent expression of adolescent anxiety, rage, and sexual fantasy. Long live rock and roll! The beat of the drums, loud and bold!

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