Ye Olde Rocker

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!


The Producers

ON THE SEATING CHART of the creative fraternity, record producers occupy one of the rows behind film directors and in front of book editors. In recording, it is the performers who are the "artists," as the music press and the people who run the Grammys like to remind us. Producers, as a rule, are hired by record companies to produce in a fundamentally commercial sense: to supply product. The task involves extraction (from the artists), organization and supervision (of those artists and their work), and collaboration (with the artists), in varying measures; the producer's job is essentially sus


Heart Music

Fred Hersch, Leaves of Grass (Palmetto) First published 150 years ago this summer, Walt Whitman's Leaves of Grass was always a work in progress--or a series of works that varied in character and grew exponentially in size over more than three decades, until the poet's death in 1892. The first edition, first published one hundred fifty years ago this July and something of a vanity project manufactured with typesetting assistance from Whitman himself, presented a dozen poems on ninety-five pages. The second, published fourteen months later, contained thirty-two poems.


God Only Knows

Brian Wilson Presents Smile (Nonesuch) No masterpiece is so great as a lost one—a symphony unfinished, a painting painted over, a novel shredded or suppressed. Largely or wholly unheard, unseen, or unread, such a work derives its life, as most objects of legend do, from scraps of generative evidence and the accretion of romantic speculation about them, and it takes its lasting if ethereal form in the creative imagination of the public. The lost masterpiece is the only artwork that is perfect, the fulfillment of all our artistic dreams, because it exists primarily or solely within them. Incom


Jazz music, as is also the case with the old down-home spirituals, gospel and jubilee songs, jumps, shouts and moans, is essentially an American vernacular or idiomatic modification of musical conventions imported from Europe, beginning back during the time of the early settlers of the original colonies.


Love in Vain

Escaping the Delta: Robert Johnson and the Invention of the Blues By Elijah Wald (Amistad, 342 pp., $24.95) Robert Johnson: Lost and Found By Barry Lee Pearson and Bill McCulloch (University of Illinois Press, 142 pp., $24.95) Martin Scorcese Presents the Blues: A Musical Journey Edited by Peter Guralnick, Robert Santelli, Holly George-Warren, Christopher John Farley (Amistad, 287 pp., $27.95)   The legend is known to any blues fan: he was an eager kid sitting at the feet of his musical idols, borrowing the guitar he could scarcely play and generally making a nuisance of himself.


There came a time when Louis Armstrong decided that his importance as a musician and his status as a worldwide American entertainer were of such magnitude that he should produce his own documentation of his career. The first of those efforts was published in 1936, when Armstrong himself was not yet thirty-six years old. Its title was Swing That Music. No collaborator, editor, or ghostwriter was identified, not even when the book was re-issued fifty-five years later.


Stand By Your Men

The ballad of Tammy Wynette.

Those were Newsweek's words, not Hillary Clinton's. But a similar sentiment expressed by the wife of Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton was enough to inspire Wynette to write the now-famous screed she sent to many news organizations after Mrs.


One Nation Under a Groove

  I.   My dream was to become Frank Sinatra. I loved his phrasing, especially when he was very young and pure….


Going to Woodstock was interesting. Getting out of there was ecstasy. Four of us set out on the morning of Friday. August 16. 1969--me, fresh out of the Navy; my college friend Phil; and our girlfriends, Karen and Mary. We had spent Thursday night at my sister's farm in Rockland County, not too far from where the festival was to be held. She and her husband wanted to come with us, but they had a small child and decided to stay home. They waved goodbye to us from their porch as we pulled out in Phil's beat-up Volkswagen bug. We knew we were in for an adventure of some sort. Why did we go?