Paul McCartney

Carole King is the deserving winner of this year's Gershwin Prize. Too bad her songwriting partner isn't being honored alongside her.

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Ravi Shankar--who died this week at 92--established the model for the all-star benefit concert.

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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.

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The Semifinals

I miss Paul the Octopus. Who can I now challenge to a predict-off? I was right on all quarterfinal predictions, but unfortunately, that wasn’t much of an accomplishment. Paul the Octopus and Paul McCartney would have easily predicted the same winners. The level of teams was too disparate. England could have won the shootout, but, luckily, the Ashleys had other plans, and we were spared watching an England Germany semi where Merkel shakes her booty at least half a dozen times. By the way, did anyone else think that she shouldn’t have celebrated so gleefully when the Greeks got scored upon?

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The notion of a “cover”—the performance of a song that the performer did not write as something exceptional—is a relatively recent one in the long history of song. The act was simply called “singing” for the many centuries when composers did the work of creation, and singers took care of the separate but significantly creative work of interpretation. Blues, folk, and other vernacular musicians, abandoning the hierarchal rules of the specialization model, transformed the song culture in this country and made songwriting and singing a unified art of individualistic expression.

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A week before Christmas, Russia banned the import of harp seal pelts—the skins of those undeniably cute animals with their big, melting eyes and their cuddly bodies. This followed a similar ban in the E.U. and the U.S., both of which have forbidden the import of almost all seal products. Prominent animals rights activists, like Paul McCartney and Pamela Anderson as well as groups like Humane Society International, hate seal hunting—and I understand their objections. I had a toy stuffed seal when I was a kid. (Name: Sealy).

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A Smile for Carol Kaye

The unironically monumental project of monumentalizing the music of the Baby Boomers has reached yet another landmark this month, with the release by Capitol Records of multiple editions of material the Beach Boys recorded in 1966 and 1967 for their aborted Smile album. Long mythologized as the lost masterpiece of rock, the album was reconstructed and revised several years ago by its principle creators Brian Wilson and Van Dyke Parks for a concert tour and recording.

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Oohs and Aaahs

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.

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Paul McCartney’s new ballet Ocean’s Kingdom with choreography by Peter Martins is the worst ballet I have seen in years and an all-time low for the New York City Ballet. Here we have—in 2011!—a throwback to an antiquated 19th century form: the romantic story ballet, complete with underwater sea maidens and a silly pantomime story that is impossible to follow, much less care about. Martins, who took over NYCB soon after George Balanchine’s death in 1983, has been working for several decades to unravel modernism and revive this old fairy-tale art.

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Few things of meaning come across as more meaningless than another person’s dreams. Everything that makes a dream fascinating to the dreamer—the confusion, the illogic, the mercurialness of time, place, and identity—seems like little more than random weirdness when the Id involved is not our own. As a means for making art, moreover, dream-telling is treacherous for all but the most artful of tellers. I recall myself having written short stories that ended with the cheat of an explanation that all that I had described was really just a dream. I learned to do better at the advice of Mrs.

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