This is Spinal Tap – again

Christopher Guest, Michael McKean, and Harry Shearer, the three guitar players in the 1984 cult film that featured the loudest rock band ever (it went up to 11), are actual musicians and a few days ago, the trio performed live with Elvis Costello at the Tribeca Film Festival at a screening for the 35 anniversary of the film. (The drummers in the band had a habit of dying mysteriously.)

Here’s the trailer for the original film from back in 1984.

Yo Yo Ma gets political

The world famous cellist is noted for his genial personality and his untiring efforts to use music to promote understanding between the peoples of the world. He has not been overtly political but he just brought his Bach Project to the sister cities of Laredo, Texas, and Nuevo Laredo, Mexico, playing at the border. There were also performances on the Mexican side. He also spoke decrying the building of a border wall.

Andre Previn (1929-2019)

The highly acclaimed composer, pianist, and conductor has died at the age of 89. His music career included four Academy Awards for film scores.

Previn, like violinist Yitzhak Perlman, was comfortable in a wide variety of genres and one of my favorite CDs is The Easy Winners where the two of them play Scott Joplin’s music. Here is one track The Entertainer that many will recognize from the soundtrack to that classic film The Sting.

He was also willing to not take himself seriously, as seen in the sketch with the comedy duo Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise.

Peter Tork (1942-2019)

The bass player for The Monkees (whose full name was Peter Halsten Thorkelson) died today at the age of 77. I always liked The Monkees with their cheerful, upbeat songs. Because they were a band brought together by TV producers for a show, people tended to underestimate their musical abilities, even referring to them derisively as the ‘pre-fab four’. In addition to the bass, Tork could also play the keyboards, banjo, and harpsichord.

Here they are singing one of their big hits Last Train to Clarksville.

Down memory lane with the Beatles

Fifty years ago today, the Beatles gave their last live public performance, an impromptu session on the roof of their recording studio in central London while they were working on their last album Let It Be. The session lasted for 42 minutes before police shut it down, presumably because they did not have a permit and were disturbing the neighbors.

Here is the group singing Don’t Let Me Down.


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Michel LeGrand (1932-2019)

The award winning composer and jazz pianist has died in Paris at the age of 86. He has an impressive list of compositions but I want to highlight just one memorable song The Windmils of Your Mind that won an Oscar for the 1968 film The Thomas Crown Affair. Despite so many years having passed since I first heard it, I have never forgotten the beautiful evocative poetry of the lyrics and the haunting melody, which is surely a testament to its power.

The song was covered by many, many artists. Noel Harrison sang the original version in the film and here he is reprising it.

Cleveland Orchestra fires two prominent members

I blogged recently about two prominent members of the Cleveland Orchestra, concertmaster William Preucil and principal trombonist Massimo La Rosa, who had been placed on leave pending investigations into sexual harassment and misconduct. Today, after an outside investigation delivered its report, the two were fired. People outside Cleveland and the orchestra world may not realize what a powerful figure Preucil was in the classical music circles, so this is not an insignificant event. It will have wide repercussions and I hope it will deter such behavior in the future.
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Paul Simon partially stops performing

The acclaimed singer-song writer-guitarist has announced that he is retiring from concert tours. He has had a long and illustrious career and the Simon and Garfunkel songs were the soundtrack of my youth. There are so many songs that I love, many of them with quirky and cryptic lyrics, that it was hard for me to pick one to post here but I finally went withThe Boxer. Here is a live version performed in New York’s Central Park in 1981.

Songs that look back on life

When they reach a certain age, singers often take up songs that reflect back on life. Some songs betray boastful arrogance and self-satisfaction, such as Frank Sinatra and My Way, while others convey a jaded, world-weary, disenchanted sensibility like Peggy Lee singing Is that all there is?. To my mind, one of the best such songs is by Charles Aznavour, who died last week at the age of 94.
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