There was something fitting and something discomfiting in the climactic moment of the nutty pastiche of a spectacle that Danny Boyle concocted to open the 2012 Olympic Games. Music has always played a role in the grand theater of the Olympiad, with original works typically commissioned from brand-name composers such as Philip Glass and John Williams.
Imagine: How Creativity Works By Jonah Lehrer (Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, 279 pp., $26) THE YEAR IS 1965. Bob Dylan has just completed two weeks of touring in England. He is tired—exhausted actually. He needs a break. There is a tiny cabin in upstate New York where he can stay, where he can get away from it all, where he can find himself. After returning from Europe, he does just that. It’s him and his motorcycle. No more songwriting, no more guitar, no more pressure, no more responsibility. Hell, he might start working on a novel.
Tony Bennett: The Complete Collection Sony Music More than thirty stars of contemporary or recent-vintage pop, rock, and country music sing with Tony Bennett on his two CDs of cross-generational collaborations, Duets and Duets II, the second of which was released shortly after Bennett’s eighty-fifth birthday last summer. The albums are narratives of pilgrimage. Most of the guest singers, who include Lady Gaga and Faith Hill, are young or youngish; and the oldish ones, such as Paul McCartney and Aretha Franklin, are considerably younger than the singer who brought them together.
Rock stars of the 1960s have begun turning 70, and the aging of a generation that defined its culture by its youth has prompted the sucking of veiny thumbs. I did mine last October, right here, on the seventieth anniversary of John Lennon’s birth. Earlier this month, Joan Baez turned 70; Neil Diamond will do the same on January 24; Bob Dylan will have his seventieth birthday in May, followed by Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, along with the likes of David Crosby, George Clinton, and Paul Anka.
Despite the temptation, I'm not going to write about the new Spider-Man musical without seeing it. I just really, really, really do not want to pay several days' salary to watch three hours of staging stunts accompanied by rock show tunes by Bono and the Edge. As I recall, a critic once lost a lawsuit brought by David Soul, the beloved costar of Starsky and Hutch, for a critical review of a play starring Soul, which the writer said took place on a night the theater was dark.
We know how old John Lennon would have been this Saturday—70—but who he would have been, we can only imagine. There were so many Johns: Teddy boy, moptop, Walrus, avant-gardist, Mr. Ono, politicker, house husband, and, finally, in the months before his death 30 years ago this December, model of middle-age content. "Grow old with me," Lennon once crooned into a cassette recorder he used for making quickie demos in his apartment in the Dakota.
Among the more rational propositions blurted forth by John Lennon in the early 1970s was a notion to release his new songs on cardboard 45-RPM singles. Lennon had just relocated from London to New York, and he seemed to be following the tracks of Bob Dylan's bootheels from Dylan's first days in the city a decade earlier, when he had fashioned himself after Woody Guthrie as a leftie newshound with an acoustic guitar.
I am little enriched for having listened over the past week to most (though not all) of more than 90 songs published with Paul and Linda McCartney credited jointly as co-writers. In fact, I almost wish that President Obama had never given Sir Paul the Gershwin Prize and stirred me to reconsider this remarkably unmemorable work, much of which I had heard at one time or another over the years and appropriately forgot.
Speaking of aged beknighted idols of the British Invasion who have engaged in dicey songwriting practices, as I started to do in my last post about Mick Jagger, the fact that the Library of Congress has presented Paul McCartney with the Gerswhin Prize led me this week to review Sir Paul's vast output as a composer, and I found something baffling in it. As background, I should point out that McCartney has been jockeying for some time to reverse the order of the songwriting credits—from "Lennon and McCartney" to "McCartney and Lennon"—for Beatles songs that McCartney wrote solely or mainly on h
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.