Lizzo, Dua and Halsey

As a way to say thanks for all they’re doing for us at this incredible time, Lizzo has been buying lunch for hospital workers across the nation.  From San Diego to Boston and seemingly everywhere in between – including Henry Ford Hospital in her home town of Detroit – she’s been sending heartfelt messages on Instagram with each delivery.

In case you missed the 2020 Grammy Awards back in the kinder, gentler era of January, Lizzo was nominated for 8 awards – most of anyone this year – and walked away with three.  While honored for work on her 2019 album Cuz I Love You, “Good as Hell” is from her major label debut with Atlantic Records in 2016.

Dua Lipa’s link to the pandemic is less intentional, no doubt.  The chorus to “Break My Heart” features the prescient lyric, “I would have stayed at home, ’cause I was doin’ better alone” and the video features a scene on a nearly empty airplane.  Dua, by the way, won two Grammys last year, including Best New Artist.

This one’s a bit of a stretch for the pandemic theme, but Halsey’s plays to an empty bar in her recent video for “Finally // Beautiful Stranger”.  Had to include it in this post, though, because of all the incredible women dominating pop music these days, she’s my favorite. When you’re done with the video below check out her cool piece of singing-while-painting performance art on Saturday Night Live last year.

 

Playing for Change – Where Have I Been?

Fifteen years ago Mark Johnson and Whitney Kroenke began filming and recording musicians around the world, mixing down their performances into what has become a decade’s worth of joyous covers.  Several zillion YouTube views, a few compilation albums and several live concerts later, I’ve finally caught on to Playing for Change.  Though clearly not conceived as an exercise in collaborating while social distancing, find some inspiration!

First up is a recent production of The Weight, featuring The Band’s own Robbie Robertson, Ringo Starr, and a bunch of artists I’ll be researching for weeks.

Next is the exquisite Bob Marley track, Redemption Song.  PfC even edited in some original Bob Marley footage.

I’ll close out with What’s Goin’ On, one of those songs we just need at this time. But if you’re totally digging these videos, check out what might be the first in the series, the sunny Chanda Mama, and a song that surprisingly always makes for great covers Gimme Shelter.

He’s BAAACK!

Dear friends,

After a few years with only a few posts, I’m going to take a run at getting Music Now & Then back up and running.  I know all three of my followers out there are jumping for joy!

March 2020 will unfortunately be remembered as the month so many of us around the world shut ourselves in to protect not only ourselves, but our families, our friends and our fellow citizens of this incredibly small planet from the ravages of the alien COVID 19. With new and old forms of entertainment and diversion part of the formula for keeping sane, I humbly offer my small contributions.

With so much rapid fire information – none of it good – assaulting us at this time, let’s burrow into a vein of tranquil sound to transport us to somewhere soothing and calm.   Morcheeba was formed 25 years ago by vocalist Skye Edwards and brothers Paul and Ross Godfrey.   During a seven year run they released four studio albums.  The third, Fragments of Freedom, included “The Sea”.  Relax, maybe sip a drink, and let this one wash over you.

Now go one notch mellower with “Sao Paolo” from their fourth album, Charango.

After a decade of breakups and reunions, Skye Edwards and Ross Godfrey are once agin releasing music and touring as Morcheeba.  Here is the first track from their latest album, 2018’s Blaze Away.

Thanks, Walter Becker

Those of us who have been around awhile have seen many musical heroes pass away over the last couple of years, but today’s news of Walter Becker’s death is especially personal to me.  Steely Dan was, is, and always will be my number one.

In part that’s because their coming of age between 1972’s Can’t Buy a Thrill and 1980’s Gaucho corresponded to mine, in part that the jazz filling my parent’s home when I was a child set my ear for Becker and Fagen’s complex work, and in part that my guitar hero worship was locked on the incredible solos Steely Dan teased out of guitar icons on every album.  Mostly, though, it’s because Becker and Fagen’s perfectly crafted pieces of recorded music never grow old for me no matter how many times I listen to them.

What Walter Becker and Donald Fagen each contributed to Steely Dan’s complex musical compositions, poetic and snarky lyrics, and marathon studio efforts is unknown and likely has no answer.  Like Lennon and McCartney, the fusion of Becker’s and Fagen’s talents was complete and their work permanently joins their two names.   Condolences, Donald, for losing your longtime friend and collaborator.

Walter, thanks for a soundtrack that’s brought me so much joy for many decades.   While I can call to mind pretty much every note of every track you created, I’ll send you off with the Dan’s official greatest hit.  No more pristine, perfectly crafted track was ever put on vinyl.

Catching Up With My Favorites

Over the past few years I’ve come across a few artists that have taken places among my favorites.  So this week I’m checking out what’s new with Lake Street Dive, Snarky Puppy and Chris Thile.

In an amazing convergence, Chris Thile performed with Snarky Puppy at a recent live show.  Chris jumps in to play jazz mandolin at about 2:30. You’ll hear Snarky Puppy’s band leader Michael League say, “We got six minutes, Chris Thile you got four-and-a-half!”. Suitable homage from one supremely talented musician to another.

Chris also dropped by the Steven Colbert show where he played his Punch Brothers song “My Oh My” with Jon Batiste & Stay Human. You don’t often get to see Stay Human play a full song, so check out their work including Batiste’s fantastic piano accompaniment. You’ll see why Thile exclaims “This band!”.

Lake Street Dive’s members seem to have taken time over the winter for some side projects.  Listen to Rachel Price tap into her jazz roots with a 1930’s Gershwin Brothers tune, in a duet with Brooklyn-based guitarist/singer Vilray.

And LSD’s base player, song writer, backing singer and all around super talented Bridget Kearney put out her own album “Won’t Let You Down” a couple of weeks ago. Here’s the video from “Wash Up”.