Her name is Vega

American contemporary folk artist and popular musician Suzanne Vega is performing live at The Ark in Ann Arbor on Saturday, September 29. Vega began releasing albums in the mid- 1980s and her first big success came with the singles “Luka” and “Tom’s Diner” (you know, that song that always got stuck your head.) Her latest release, Beauty & Crime, brings further proof that she’s got something to say that’s worth listening to. You can see more of Vega at her website.

(Standing In The Shadows Of) Motown

The Funk Brothers, Motown’s house band, had as much to do with the signature Motown Sound as anybody else at the studio. The group of jazz and blues musicians integrated their non-pop musical background into creating the arrangements and style now associated with Motown. Also, like Booker T. and the MGs—their Stax Records equivalents—they were an integrated band, a rarity in the late 50s, early 60s. Their story is outlined in the insightful, rocking, and occasionally touching documentary Standing In The Shadows of Motown.

Cheer Up Sleepy Jean: The Monkees Story

The National Broadcasting Corporation formed a band in 1965 called The Monkees. Their moptop haircuts, singer/tambourinateer with a British accent, jangly rhythms, tight harmonies, and misspelled-animal-as-band-name were all bold and revolutionary... when The Beatles did it. Combine the fact that their first two albums—More of the Monkees and The Monkees—featured little to no original material and studio musicians playing the backing tracks, and the band that doesn’t it make it easy for music snobs to like them. But once this band, which consisted of two very extraordinary musicians and two… other people, had the reigns of their career, they went forth to produce some very fine and very overlooked material.

If you like Irish music....

This Friday evening, September 14, Liz Carroll, fiddler extraordinaire will be performing with equally talented guitarist, John Doyle at The Ark. Carroll's and Doyle's joint performances, in concert and on cd have been described by the Irish Echo as "...a magnificent balance of virtuosity, drive, and finesse .... Carroll's bowing and Doyle's picking represent a kind of soloing in sync, each supporting and inspiring the other without a whiff of self-indulgence."

Check them out, if there are still tickets left. And look for a sizeable collection of Irish music at the Library.

The Jitterbugging ‘00s, Part I: Britney Spears and Other Mistakes

Part of me is surprised that I didn’t write on this Monday when I came into work. At the time, The Zombies seemed much more important. But I’ve reconsidered the significance of Britney Spears’s poor performance at the VMAs last weekend. People went nuts over her lackluster dancing/walking, poor lip-synching, and her out-of-shape body (of course, people, she wasn’t out of shape. Certainly less in-shape, but not out of shape,) but beyond all that, the incident marks a shifting trend and now Britney Spears, for the second time in her life finds herself the harbinger of change.

Oh, You're My Best Friend

Queen were big in the United States. But many Americans don’t realize that everywhere else in the world, they were gigantic. Europe, South America, Japan, you name it, Queen are number two only to The Beatles as far as popularity. Most people in the U.S. would be familiar with the content of Queen’s Greatest Hits like "Bohemian Rhapsody," "Under Pressure," "We Will Rock You," and "Don’t Stop Me Now," (thanks to it’s prominent use in Shaun of the Dead,) but may be less familiar with their amazing studio albums like A Night At The Opera, A Day At The Races, Jazz, and The Game.

They Don’t Want To Eat Your Brains; They Just Want To Rock

The Zombies, despite their completely terrifying moniker, are not scary at all. That is, of course, unless amazing psychedelic rock gives you a particular fright. Starting in England 1964, they made a hit or two, "She’s Not There" and "Tell Her No," they released only three albums (one of which was a hodgepodge of singles and unreleased materials,) never invaded the United States with the other British bands, and broke up in 1967. But that third album… what an album. The Zombies pulled together to make Odessey and Oracle [sic]. Though one of the best albums ever made, at the time, O&O almost didn't get a U.S. release, and only did in 1968 at the intervention and insistence of Al Kooper, and let’s just be glad he was around.

Today in Music History

Many interesting things have happened in the world of music over the past several decades. Including September 10th in the worlds of pop, Motown, and rap:

-In 1964 The Kinks single You Really Got Me reached #1 on the UK singles chart.
-In 1966 The Supremes began two weeks at #1 on the US singles chart with You Can’t Hurry Love.
-In 1990 Will Smith (DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince) appears on The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, making his TV debut.
-In 1996 Wal-Mart bans Sheryl Crow’s self titled album, as "Love is a Good Thing" mentions the store in a way they’d rather not acknowledge.

Scores of interesting things happen to noteworthy musicians daily and it’s fun to get a blast from the past!

Ciao, Luciano!

PavarottiPavarotti

Beloved Italian tenor Luciano Pavarotti died Thursday at the age 71 from pancreatic cancer. Perhaps second only in popularity to the legendary Caruso, the colorful tenor was the most important classically-oriented singer of the second half of the 20th century, adored by opera-goers and popular music fans alike. Aside from his impressive recording oeuvre, Pavarotti had a notable influence on the current resurgence in the operatic repertoire, including the three tenors phenomenon.

Great Balls Of Fire

Anyone who says that Nashville is the home of country music, has obviously never heard of Sun Records. In the 50s, the Memphis record label assembled soon-to-be country music icons Johnny Cash, Jerry Lee Lewis, Carl Perkins, Roy Orbison, and Elvis Presley into their small building on Union Avenue and then knocked out some the greatest examples of pure rockabilly (which is country with a backbeat.)

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