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Posts tagged 'Music'

Music Picks for Kids - Part 1

Music is an excellent way to learn and enjoy language while moving to the beat.

Here are five children's music CDs to listen to with the kids: 

 

owl CD RaffiOwl Singalong by Raffi

The newest CD by world famous Raffi.  This collection includes his version of well-known songs, including foreign language offerings Somos El Barco in Spanish and Dans La Foret Lointaine in French.  The story of  Abiyoyo orginally done by Pete Seeger is retold here by Raffi. 

Tots  Music  Kids  Children  CDs  Babies

 

The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto by Mitch Albom

AlbomI had not read this well-known author (Tuesdays with Morrie, The Five People You Meet in Heaven) before, and actually had not planned to until one of our fabulous library patrons told me how much I would love this book – and wow, I love this book!

The setting is fictional famous singer and guitarist Frankie Presto’s memorial service.  He was a former Spanish War orphan who became an international musician and led a very exciting life. At the memorial, musicians Presto played with during his life share stories about him and give eulogies. Each witness to his life seems to have known him in a way unique from all the others.  The narrator of the book, is, wait for it – MUSIC! Music’s voice ties the various musicians’ stories together to create a fabulous testimony to Presto; his life, his loves, his instruments, his constantly forming and reforming family, his travels, and most importantly, a very special guitar with strings that just might have magical powers.  Author Albom is a lifelong musician who writes about “the bands we all join in life” that become our family. 

 I’m eager to read this book through a second time, as I know that when I was caught up in the story, I missed a lot of details that would no doubt make the novel even richer. The Magic Strings of Frankie Presto has been popular with men and women alike, and especially with anyone who believes in the power of music. It would be great for book discussions.  A CD has been made of the songs that are performed in this book, featuring such stars as Tony Bennett, The Byrds, Kiss, and Lyle Lovett .

book

Nancy's Picks  Music  Inspirational  Historical Fiction  Family  Faith

02/01/16
 

Jerry Lee Lewis: His Own Story by Rick Bragg

Note to celebrities looking to publish their memoirs: forget about the ghost writer trying to tell your story in your own voice. Find a quality writer who has some knowledge about what it is that you do and let do what they do best and articulate your story. That's what Jerry Lee Lewis did with Pulitzer Prize winner Rick Bragg, author of All Over But the Shoutin' and The Prince of Frogtown. Bragg does an outstanding job of capturing Lewis' story and voice and has produced a real page-turner.

Born in poverty in Louisiana, at first glance Lewis seemed unlikely to take the world by storm with his music (he had one formal piano lesson in his life) Lewis spends much of his early life trying to reconcile his family's religious convictions with his desire to play the devil's music. Growing up close to his cousin, Jimmy Swaggart, Lewis bounced between playing churches and juke joints and even enrolled in seminary for a short while. He was too rough hewn for many established record labels but found a home at Sun Records, home to Elvis Presley and Johnny Cash. Lewis's insights on contemporaries such as Elvis, Cash, Buddy Holly and Chuck Berry are some of the highlights of this book.

Lewis's career was starting to flounder when he convinced Sam Phillips to send him to New York City for a last ditch attempt to give him some national exposure. The gamble paid off when a rollicking version of Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On (complete with piano bench being kicked across the studio floor) on The Steve Allen Show let the world know that he was a special talent. Great Balls of Fire and Breathless would soon follow and these great singles as well as half-crazed marathon shows made him the hottest star in the country.

Unfortunately, Lewis's fall would be swift, as he took his new bride Myra with him on his first tour of  Great Britain. When the British tabloids got word that his third wife was not only 13 when they were married but was a cousin as well, he was hounded and run out of the country before he could play all of his shows. While he had been advised to leave her at home, his orneriness became apparent in his insistence that he had done nothing wrong and would bring her with him, reporters be damned. Unfortunately this bad press sent his career into a long drought, although Lewis would never quit producing records or performing.

Following years of drug abuse, car wrecks (including a fantastic one at Graceland), concert fights, near-death hospital stays and even a role in a modern adaptation of Shakespeare, Lewis started to get the recognition that he deserved as he was initiated in the first class of the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Amazingly, at 79 Lewis is still producing albums and playing live. In this book he is fiercely unrepentant about a life that has brought him seven marriages, IRS troubles and a constant internal struggle between darkness and light.

Bragg does a fantastic job at bringing Lewis's colorful history into the light without making any of it seem trashy, which could have been easy given the material. He gives readers a sympathetic taste of the South in which Lewis was raised, which is as familiar as Mars to me. Bragg nicely colors the facts of Lewis's life with Lewis's own takes on his motivations and desires. All-in-all this book was everything that a memoir should be - a well-written fresh look at a fascinating person.

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Music  Mikes Picks

07/18/15
 

It's a Long Story: My Life by Willie Nelson

I can't stop reading rock and roll memoirs! The latest is Willie Nelson's It's a Long Story: My Life. I find Nelson's approach to life inspirational; he follows his muse from moment to moment, despite occasional doubts from people in his personal or business life.

Nelson's music has never been easy to pigeonhole. Ostensibly cataloged as country, his recordings include his takes on jazz, rock and the great American songbook. Nelson recounts instances where producers and record companies tried to get him to change his approach but in light of his success, it seems that the Willie Nelson sound trumps any genre.

It's a Long Story follows Nelson as he chases his muse from tiny Abbott, Texas to Nashville to Hawaii, with lots of stops between. His career got a boost in Nashville when he wrote hit songs for the likes of Patsy Cline, Faron Young and Roy Orbison but Nashville's cookie cutter style never seemed to fit Nelson. It wasn't until he teamed up with Columbia Records' Jerry Wexler that he became a star. Wexler was wise enough to let Willie be Willie and not overproduce his unique sound.

Of course the book also treats us to Willie's thoughts on marijuana (and related incidents), as he has become its outspoken proponent over the years. His battle with the IRS (blamed on a corrupt business manager) and many acting gigs are also discussed, as are a number of "life on the road" stories. He doesn't go into a ton of detail about family and personal life but guides us through his many marriages (and divorces) in a gentle way that makes us realize that there's probably not a lot of bitterness there.

This book is a fun read and captures Willie Nelson's easygoing life philosophy quite well. It reads like an old bandana and pair of blue jeans. If you're a fan of Nelson's music or just want a peek at his personal journey you'll like It's a Long Story.

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new nonfiction  Music  Mikes Picks

06/19/15
 

George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door by Graeme Thomson

Who's your favorite Beatle? Are you into winky, cutesy Paul? Is John's politicizing where it's at? Or maybe you're a Ringo person...if you're 5 years old. Let's face it though - by any possible means of measure, George was the coolest Beatle. He might not have been the best songwriter of the four but he did write Something, which has been covered by everyone from James Brown to Willie Nelson to Frank Sinatra (who supposedly called it his favorite Lennon-McCartney tune). When Paul was escaping to his farm and John was shuttling between New York and L.A., Harrison purchased the 120-room gothic mansion Friar Park, which included extensive gardens and underground tunnels - UNDERGROUND TUNNELS!!! And while Ringo brought us the Thomas the Tank Engine TV show and McCartney birthed the woeful film Give My Regards to Broad Street, Harrison was responsible for producing Monty Python's greatest film, Life of Brian!

If I haven't convinced that Harrison was the coolest Beatle then you really owe it to yourself to pick up the new biography George Harrison: Behind the Locked Door by Graeme Thomson. If you already love the man then you definitely need to read the book. It's a comprehensive warts-and-all look at "the quiet Beatle" that at 400 pages does not overstay its welcome.

Despite being with the Beatles from the very beginning, George's status as the youngest Beatle seemed to define his relationship with the others. A strong guitarist who was more comfortable playing set parts than improvising, George found himself in one of the most popular bands in the world by 21. At an age when most of us were looking for our first post-college jobs, George was one of the most recognizable people on the planet. As his songwriting progressed, he found it hard to convince the others in the band of his skills - somewhat understandable when he was competing with the likes of Lennon and McCartney to get songs on albums. Many people don't realize that not only was Harrison the first to leave the band, over frustration with the other musicians' dominance (he'd soon return) but he was also the first to release a solo album, with the experimental soundtrack Wonderwall Music.

While Harrison may not have been the musical leader of the band, he was the one who initiated the spiritual quests of the Beatles, leading them on trips to India to meet the Maharishi and meditate. While Ringo had very little interest and John a little bit more, the effect of Indian religion on George lasted his whole life, influencing his outlook on life, death and celebrity. More noticeably to the rest of us it also affected his role in the Beatles music, with exotic sitar colorings bubbling to the top of their songs.

Music  Mikes Picks

04/09/15
 

No Simple Highway: A Cultural History of the Grateful Dead by Peter Richardson

The biggest concert news this year for Chicagoland and perhaps the entire United States was that the remaining members of the Grateful Dead will be reuniting for the last time ever at Soldier Field. Tickets are now being sold for (this is not a typo) over $100,000, after the entire batch sold out in mere minutes. There is hardly a vacant hotel room to be found in downtown Chicago that weekend. How is it that this band that didn't manage to place a single into Billboard's Top 10 until 1987's Touch of Grey (their only song to reach the Top 40 in Billboard's Hot 100 chart) has managed to build such a cross-generational following? Author Peter Richardson tries to answer this question by looking at the Grateful Dead in the context of their times.

Formed as The Warlocks in 1965, The Grateful Dead soon became the quintessential San Francisco band, with their initial self-titled album released in the March preceding the Summer of Love. Despite this album setting a precedent of poor sales, their appearances at Ken Kesey's acid tests and other events and theaters in northern and southern California earned them a reputation as THE live band for the drug culture. Eventually, they moved their operations outside San Francisco to Marin County in order to get away from the scene that they had helped create, which was now being overrun by outsiders.

Richardson focuses on the creation of the Haight-Ashbury scene from its early roots in art school students, folk musicians and writers and and shows how the members of the Grateful Dead fed off of these early ideas in the creation of their sound. While their albums never sold particularly well, the Dead were present at both Woodstock (where they refused to sell their movie rights, thus ensuring that they would not be seen in the successful film of the same name) and Altamont (where they refused to play, after hearing about the conflict between the crowd and the Hell's Angels - incidentally, a group with whom they had many close connections). Somehow their music continued to touch a nerve despite changes in its sound and the community of Dead Heads that followed them across the country grew.

One of the cultural threads running through the book is Reaganism, as he was Governor of California during the sixties - a position from which he decried the youth and drug culture - and then later as President he launched the War on Drugs, which ran contrary to a scene in which drugs were encouraged by both band and audience members. The Grateful Dead were never a political band though, instead trying to nurture a community that existed outside politics.

Music  Mikes Picks

03/06/15