Artists at Home

There have been a zillion at home performances created over the last several weeks by artists famous and undiscovered, young and old, solo and synced-up with bandmates.   Stripped down as they are, the performances reveal just how good – or not so good – voices and musicianship are.  Below are a few performances that succeed on both counts – for the most part.

Pink begins this clip by admitting that playing piano is a new part of her repertoire.  Bob Dylan wrote “Make You Feel My Love” for his 1997 album Time Out of Mind.  A cover of the song by Garth Brooks was a huge hit for him in 1998, as it was for Adele a decade later.  Pink gives us a very pretty version for this decade, showing off her fantastic voice and the fruits of all those hours of piano practice.

The Doobie Brothers prove they still have it on both counts with this performance of “Black Water” Live in Isolation.  I’m just sorry I didn’t get tapped for the amateur harmonies at the end.  And Patrick Simmons is as cool a grandpa as a kid could have.

This one is a comical group effort (I’ve never seen air drumming, and I have no idea what the heck Keith is doing).  But Mick is incredible!  His voice hasn’t lost anything, and he even anchors the guitar work.


Backup Singers Take 20 Giant Steps Forward

Over the past few months the documentary “20 Steps From Stardom” has been showing up in limited release.  Directed by Morgan Neville, an Emmy winning and Grammy nominated creator of music documentaries, the film debuted at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2013 and tells the stories of women whose vocals have been so much more than “backup” for decades of hits.  This clip from begins with an interview of Merry Clayton telling the improbable story of one of the most memorable pieces of backup work ever.

While these backup singers remain largely unknown, big stars cover their iconic vocal tracks. Here are a couple working to capture the magic that Merry Clayton created. The first clip features Alicia Keys at the New York Live Earth concert in 2007 (this is a great performance if you’ve never seen it), and the second features a Lady Gaga cameo at an early date on the Stones’ 50 & Counting tour.

And, of course, we can’t end without hearing the original in all its glory.

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