Christmas Music – Dave Brubeck, John Lennon, Cuba LA, The Monkees, Donny Hathaway & more


Merry Christmas 2013.

Here are twelve (12) of my favorite Christmas recordings, from Band Aid to Poncho Sanchez.  (My list ends with the letter, “S?!?”  No Tchaikovsky and nut cracking?  And none of the letters post-S. That means no Van Halen, Vivaldi, Webern, Xenakis, Neil Young, Frank Zappa or Jan Dismas Zelenka.)

As with most music, what attracts me to many of the recordings below is creative, surprising and atypical uses of chords, melody, rhythm, tone color, lyrics and/or structure.  And in the case of Bob Dylan’s “It Must Be Santa” recording and video, great humor.


Dave Brubeck was a special gift to the planet.  Anything he created fascinated, led and taught me.

Dave Brubeck  –  The Christmas Song

This was quite a surprise and very un-Monkee-like.

The Monkees  –  Riu Chiu

This is the same song the Monkees recorded above.  It is a beautiful work that does not need frills or excessive ornamentation.

Kalenda Maya  –  Riu Chiu

Band Aid was one of those gathering of large rock & roll egos but one in which a new song would be recorded.  The song was meant as a reminder that there were millions of people living in poverty throughout the world who needed our empathy and support especially at Christmas time, and to raise money for famine relief in Ethiopia.

Band Aid  –  Do They Know It’s Christmas

This was one of John Lennon’s instant classics – a new Christmas song that did not preach or pronounce typical Christmas sentiments but instead reminded us that we could live better and more peaceably.

John Lennon  –  Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

As with some Christmas songs and Christmas carols, the origin of God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen is not specifically known.  But the melody and chords set in a minor key lend themselves to many brilliant interpretations.

Cuba L. A.  –  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

This is the most unusual recording I have selected.  It is surprising and insane to hear the names of many American presidents inserted into “It Must Be Santa.”  From 1.56 – 2.03:  “…Roosevelt, Kennedy, Johnson, NixonRonald Reagan…”

Bob Dylan  –  It Must Be Santa

Dave Brubeck with his band performing “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.”

Dave Brubeck  –  Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

There are at least two (2) albums by Cuba L. A.  “Deck The Halls” is from their Christmas album, Navidad Cubana, in my opinion, one of the best Christmas albums.

Cuba L. A.  –  Deck The Halls

A very nice but overlooked and not well known Christmas song written and recorded by Donny Hathaway.

Donny Hathaway  –  This Christmas

Poncho Sanchez is an often-overlooked Mexican-American percussionist, band leader and singer who has worked with musicians as diverse as Claire Fischer, Hugh Masekala, Cal Tjader, Mongo Santamaria and others.

Poncho Sanchez  – What Child Is This

A Christmas mashup not intended as a mashup but of the mashup style that is sometimes heard in the music of Bob Marley.

Bob Marley  –  Christmas Reggae


Here, without additional text, is the set list in the specific order I favor today, December 25, 2013.  This could change in change in 10 minutes but for now for me this order is right and most satisfying!

Dave Brubeck  –  The Christmas Song

The Monkees  –  Riu Chiu

Kalenda Maya  –  Riu Chiu

Band Aid  –  Do They Know It’s Christmas

John Lennon  –  Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

Cuba L. A.  –  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Bob Dylan  –  It Must Be Santa

Dave Brubeck  –  Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Cuba L. A.  –  Deck The Halls

Donny Hathaway  –  This Christmas

Poncho Sanchez  – What Child Is This

Bob Marley  –  Christmas Reggae


Here is the set list if you want to listen to these songs in alphabetical order via recording artist (a fun thing to do!):

Band Aid  –  Do They Know It’s Christmas

Dave Brubeck  –  Santa Claus Is Coming To Town

Dave Brubeck  –  The Christmas Song

Cuba L. A.  –  Deck The Halls

Cuba L. A.  –  God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

Bob Dylan  –  It Must Be Santa

Donny Hathaway  –  This Christmas

John Lennon  –  Happy Christmas (War Is Over)

Bob Marley  –  Christmas Reggae

Kalenda Maya  –  Riu Chiu

The Monkees  –  Riu Chiu

Poncho Sanchez  – What Child Is This


M E R R Y     C H R I S T M A S             M E R R Y     C H R I S T M A S        

M E R R Y     C H R I S T M A S

Thanksgiving 2013 & Music Expressing Thanks


 H A P P Y      T H A N K S G I V I N G  

I thought to celebrate this wonderful day of ThanksgivingI’d compile music with lyrics that express thanks in various ways.

Here is my Thanksgiving wish:

Music from these artists (arranged alphabetically):

Louis Armstrong

J. S. Bach

Charles Ives

Led Zeppelin

Bob Marley

Pat Metheny

Charles Mingus

Me’Shell Ndegéocello

Sam & Dave

Hank Williams

The ten (10) THANKFUL recordings (arranged in the listening order I prefer):

Thanks A Million  –  Louis Armstrong

Holidays Symphony – Mvt. IV.  Thanksgiving (Forefathers’ Day) – Charles Ives

Thank You Lord  –  Bob Marley

Everyday I Thank You – Pat Metheny

Thank You  –  Led Zeppelin

I Thank You  –  Sam & Dave

Thank God  –  Hank Williams

Thankful  –  Me’Shell Ndegéocello

Wham Bam Thank You Ma’am – Charles Mingus

Now Thank We All Our God – J. S. Bach

Excerpts of lyrics from six (6) of these songs (corresponding to the listening order above):

“Thanks a million, a million thanks to you, for every thing that love could bring you brought me”  (sung by Louis Armstrong)

“Thank you, Lord, for what you’ve done for me.  Thank you, Lord, for what you’re doing now”  (sung by Bob Marley)

“And so today, my world it smiles, your hand in mine, we walk the miles, thanks to you it will be done, for you to me are the only one”  (sung by Robert Plant)

“You didn’t have to love me like you did, but you did, and I thank you”  (sung by Sam & Dave)

“Thank God for every flower and each tree, thank God for all the mountains and the sea, thank God for giving life to you and me, wherever you may be, thank God” (sung by Hank Williams)

“So much suffering for fancy cars, big houses, everything, I lose my faith sometimes, I lose my faith sometimes, yeah, just want to be happy and thankful”  (sung by Me’Shell Ndegeocello)

 H A P P Y      T H A N K S G I V I N G


Copying & Using Lyrics As Lyrics, Names Of Bands, Magazines & Organizations


“We may have to walk near dangers, close to awful things…

I’ve been gone from this space for too long – most of November – but for very good reasons.

There was the trip to St. Louis to speak to students and faculty the St. Louis University Law School (October 23-24, 2013).

That was followed by a stay in Birmingham, Alabama where I spoke about fair use and copyright and my views on these subjects at a UAB Music Department convocation on November 6, 2013.

I also did a follow up to my 2nd Annual Indian Cultural Society Lecture to members of the Indian Cultural Society on November 8, 2013.  And that was sandwiched between attending the rehearsal and concert of Anoushka Shankar on Thursday, November 7 and Diwali, The Festival of Lights on Saturday, November 9, 2013.

On Saturday, November 16, I spoke about uses of social media and the future of the music industry at the IBS 2013 East Coast Regional Radio & Webcasting Conference at Simmons College in Boston.

On Monday, November 18, 2013 I spoke to students and faculty at the Harvard University Law School in Cambridge.

On Tuesday, November 19, 2013 I spoke to students and faculty at the Berklee College of Music in Boston.


I want to mention and briefly discuss the copying of lyrics.

Many questions can arise pertaining to the copying of lyrics, questions that can be extremely wide-ranging.  For this space today, I am mostly concerned with identifying a few examples of copying that I find constructive, reconstructive and progressive, i.e., these examples of copying do not infringe copyright or constitute laziness on the part of the new author/creator.

Why are lyrics copied?  Are lyrics copied for some of the same reasons that music is copied?  I will pose a few possible answers as to why lyrics are copied:

Why do authors/creators copy lyrics? 

They like the meaning of the lyrics.

They like the sound of the lyrics.

They like all or some of the lyrics’ surrounding melody, harmony, rhythms, instrumentation, loudness levels, sounds, etc. isolated or in combination and believe that the copied lyrics can connote the same or similar meanings or feelings as the original.

They believe the copied lyric will sound good/function well in the new work of authorship.

To pay tribute to or honor a lyricist/author and/or a lyricist/author’s specific expression.

To make a lyric/cultural reference – to “signify.”

To answer what the original lyrics may have addressed, i.e., the new use constitutes all or part of an answer song.

To give the borrowed lyrics new meaning by placing them in a new context.

To comment, criticize or ridicule the borrowed lyrics, i.e., parody.

To use the lyrics to comment, criticize or ridicule something other than the borrowed material, i.e., satire.

To draw attention to one’s own lyrics and/or music because the new author believes her/his new lyric is an improvement on the original source.  The new author is asserting that if the original had been better, it would have been authored like this.

To draw attention to an “opportunity” to spend money on a product or service.  This is especially common with lyrics and/or expression used in television commercials as the company wants to draw your attention before your eyes and/or ears leave the “messaging area.”

To draw inspire action that is not commercial in nature but instead a “call to duty,” engagement, action or involvement.

To draw attention to one’s own lyrics and/or expression (especially so if the borrowing occurs at the opening of the new work of authorship).

The borrower was capable of original expression but felt that borrowing from a few to many sources could result in original expression, i.e., the borrower aimed to make original expression out of earlier or contemporaneous expression.

It may have worked well the first time – it is a good lyric and will work again (which leads to the worst reasons for borrowing – the next few reasons;)

The borrower has run out of ideas and needs to borrow, copy or steal from elsewhere.

To ride the coattails of a better lyricist/author and/or better expression.

They borrow/copy accidentally, unconsciously or unintentionally, i.e., they believe their lyric was original and not borrowed.

The borrower was never capable of original expression and chose to copy others’ expression.


The examples below can be divided into several parts:

Lyrics used as lyrics

Lyrics used as band names/artist names

Lyrics used as magazine name

Film titles used as band names

Lyrics used as name of organization


1.  Lyrics Used As Lyrics


Isaac Hayes’ Shaft used in Pearl Jam’s Dirty Frank.

The Rolling Stones’ Get Off Of My Cloud used in SheDaisy’s Get Over Yourself.

James Brown Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag used in Mystikal’s Never Gonna Bounce.

Jimi Hendrix If 6 Was 9 used in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Almost Cut My Hair.

Jimi Hendrix If 6 Was 9 used in They Might Be Giants How Can I Sing Like A Girl.


the referenced lyrics and locations are:

Isaac Hayes’ Shaft – “you see this cat Shaft is a bad mother—-Shut your mouth!—well I’m talking about Shaft— we can dig it” – is heard between 3.21-3.28.

It is copied (and altered) in Pearl Jam’s Dirty Frank – “well that Dirty Frank was a bad mother—Shut your mouth!—hey man I’m just talking about Dirty Frank” – and heard between 1.47-1.52.

The Rolling Stones’ Get Off Of My Cloud – “get off of my cloud” is first heard at 0.43.

It is copied by SheDaisy’s Get Over Yourself and first heard at 0.50.

James Brown Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag – “Papa’s got a brand new bag” is first heard at 0.20.  “Papa’s got a brand new bag” is used in Mystikal’s Never Gonna Bounce at 0.27-0.29.

Jimi Hendrix If 6 Was 9 – “but I’m gonna wave my freak flag high, high!” is heard at 1.42.

It is copied in Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Almost Cut My Hair  – “I feel like letting my freak flag…” and heard at 0.52.

Jimi Hendrix If 6 Was 9 – “but I’m gonna wave my freak flag high, high!” is heard at 1.42.

It is copied in They Might Be Giants’ How Can I Sing Like A Girl  – “I want to raise my freak flag higher and higher and, I want to raise my freak flag…” is heard between 0.58-1.11 and 2.30-2.43.


2.  Lyrics Used As Names Of Bands


Bob Dylan’s Ballad Of Frankie Lee And Judas Priest was used for band name, Judas Priest.

Talking Heads Radio Head was used for band name, Radiohead.

Queen’s Radio Ga Ga was used for artist name, Lady Gaga.

Tommie Johnson’s Canned Heat Blues was used for band name, Canned Heat.

Muddy Waters’ Rolling Stone was used for band name, The Rolling Stones.


3.  Lyrics Used As Magazine Name



Muddy Waters’ Rolling Stone was used for magazine name, Rolling Stone.


4.  Movie Titles Used As Names Of Bands


The film, Black Sabbath was used for the band name, Black Sabbath.

The film, All The Fine Young Cannibals was used for the band name, Fine Young Cannibals.

The film, Shaolin and Wu Tang was used for the band name, Wu-Tang Clan.

The film, They Might Be Giants was used for the band name, They Might Be Giants.  In a very cool nod to the film, They Might Be Giants also wrote a song called, They Might Be Giants.

I love the closing scene of the film, They Might Be Giants.

“We may have to walk near dangers, close to awful things…

Does justice ever lose?

It does from time to time…”


5.  Lyrics Used As Names Of Organizations


Elvis Costello’s Poor Fractured Atlas – “poor fractured Atlas…” was used for nonprofit organization name, Fractured Atlas.

Much more about this subject at another time….

H A P P Y    S U N D A Y    E V E R Y O N E !


My Favorite 9 Minutes of George Duke – Did A Vehicle Did A Vehicle Did A Vehicle



Did a vehicle did a vehicle did a vehicle

Guacamole queen guacamole queen guacamole queen

Was George Duke a vehicle that came from somewhere out there?



Yesterday, August 6, 2013, I learned that George Duke had died.  George Duke, to me, was a mythical character.  I loved so much of his playing and singing, and I couldn’t figure him out because of his great diversity and depth.  He was a great pianist, keyboardist, singer, band leader, sideman, creator, performer, improvisor, persona and, according to so many who knew him, wonderful and kind man.  By “persona,” I am referring to George Duke as an actor, and by “actor” I mean “live musician on stage with Frank Zappa.”  In addition to being a musician in any of Frank Zappa’s bands over the decades, one had to be able to act.  One had a persona and maybe a changing persona over time.

My favorite George Duke performance is his multiple keyboards, keyboard styles, vocals and vocal styles on Frank Zappa’s Inca Roads, from Zappa’s brilliant 1975 album, One Size Fits All.  (This also happens to be my favorite performance of percussionist Ruth Underwood.)  As a bonus, there is the great claymation interspersed with this public TV performance of Frank Zappa and the Mothers Of Invention.

Inca Roads, more than any other performance, is the finest demonstration of every musical aspect of George Duke.  Duke sings a very challenging melody – rhythmically as well as in terms of intervals, melodic range and tempos.  His keyboard playing covers many areas – from playing “spacecraft landing” sounds and sweeps on an analog synthesizer, to jazz and rock, to extensive solos in several styles, and superb unison and harmony playing with others in the band.

My informal guide to this supremely brilliant performance of Inca Roads:


0.00 – 0.35  intro & spaceship landing

0.36 – 0.59  “Did a vehicle come from somewhere out there…”

1.00 – 1.14  “I ain’t never seen nothing like that…”

1.15 – 1.47  “Did a vehicle did a vehicle did a vehicle…”

1.48 – 2.03  mallets, keyboard & flute unison bridge transition to Zappa guitar solo

2.04 – 4.41   Zappa red Gibson SG guitar (my electric guitar) solo over two repeated chords

4.41 – 5.12  wordless harmony vocals over the same two chords

5.13 – 5.30  repeat of mallets, keyboard & flute unison bridge (from 1.48)

5.31 – 5.44  “did a vehicle come from somewhere out there did a vehicle come…” – very fast vocal

5.45 – 6.37  “did a vehicle” melody, now instrumental & embellished

6:38 – 7.16  great George Duke solo mostly on Fender Rhodes

7.17 – 7.55  George Duke solo continued – now synth reenters

7.56 – 8.08  killer mallet solo

8.09 – 8:13  “Did a booger bear….”

8.14 –  8.21  “Guacamole queen guacamole queen guacamole queen…”

8.22 – 8.24  “Chester’s thing, on Ruth!”

8.25 – 8.48  “Did a booger bear….that’s Ruth!”



Two more George Duke performances:

Here is a great piano solo by George Duke from 1983 in Tokyo.  (Note also his personality and affability in this performance.)

This is George Duke and Billy Cobham live at the Montreux Jazz Festival in 1976.

Here is George Duke’s enormous discography.  This multifaceted special human left us with so much music.  We are fortunate to have had George Duke land here.



Yesterday, Another Day, John Lennon Fires & Ends The War on Paul


My last post (July 30, 2013) was about Paul McCartney’s attack on John Lennon, during the historical time period known as


Paul wrote and recorded Too Many People, and John would soon respond with a song on his Imagine album.  To regurgitate some of the past – with the release of McCartney’s second solo (post-Beatles) album, Ram, the feud between Paul McCartney and John Lennon went public.

On the front cover of Ram, McCartney is holding a ram by the horns.  Lennon responded.  On the back cover of his album, Imagine, John mocked Paul  by holding a pig by the ears.

On the back cover of Ram is a picture of two beetles copulating.

If John only had responded with a photo holding a pig by the ears, this feud likely would not have been significant.  Paul’s attack on John was most conspicuous and unmistakable because of the following lyrics:

That was your first mistake 

You took your lucky break and broke it in two

The only interpretation seemed to be that John was lucky to have been a Beatle and that he destroyed his “lucky break” be breaking up The Beatles.  The rest of the lyrics of Too Many People were far too subtle in comparison – “too many reaching for a pice of cake…” – and were not intended to signal an attack.


To fully grasp all that John Lennon would do in his SONG OF REVENGE (and then some), How Do You Sleep?, it is important to understand a difference between John and Paul – production.  Fully-fledged productions often favored by Paul, as opposed to simpler raw rock songs favored by John.  The Beatles’ Abbey Road album is an excellent example of these two philosophies at work –  John liked Side 1, Paul liked Side 2.

Side 1 is simple – record six songs and be done with it.  Side 2 is complex – record songs, some of which have many parts, and with great time and care, meticulously tie the enormous work together.  Side 1 would be easy to play live;  Side 2 would not.

Side 1 of Abbey Road

On side 1 of Abbey Road, there are six (6) songs written and recorded by The Beatles.  Each of the six songs are stand-alone, unconnected songs.  Every song is separated by a few seconds of silence.  In other words, it is album side of songs that do not convey a special message.  They do not have to flow into each other to create a greater whole or suggest something deeper than the message of the single song.  John preferred an album of stand-alone songs, like those on side 1.

Side 2 of Abbey Road

Side 2 of Abbey Road is a collection of songs that after the first two –  Here Comes The Sun and Because – are connected, i.e. flow together without pause (except for the brief separation before Golden Slumbers) until the end.  The final song heard on the album – Her Majesty – begins at the end of side 2 – The End.  (Her Majesty may have been the first “hidden track,” a favorite trick found on many CD’s.)

You Never Give Me Your Money which begins the suite of songs at the center of Abbey Road Side 2 is itself a microcosm of Side 2 as it is a complex musical work consisting of multiple short well-produced songs that transition into one another.  You Never Give Me Your Money was not the simpler offering that comprised side 1.

0.00 – 1.09  “You never give me your money…”

1.10 – 1.30  “Out of college money spent…”

1.31 – 2.11  “but oh the magic feeling…”

2.12 – 2.27  instrumental transition

2.28 – 2.47  “one sweet dream…”

2.48 – 4.02  “came true today…


AN ORCHESTRA TUNING (becomes a weapon)

The concept of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had been Paul’s idea – the opening song, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band , was Paul’s composition.  The sound of the orchestra heard at the opening was also Paul’s idea.  The Sgt. Pepper show had a beginning that was large in scope featuring a large ensemble (a classical/art music orchestra) to open the large show.  Orchestras first tune just before the big show opens.  Orchestras are big.  An orchestra tuning must be a big idea.  Just as the Sgt. Pepper show opened with an orchestra tuning, so too would How Do You Sleep? open with an orchestra tuning.  Paul liked Big Ideas.  John ridiculed Paul’s Big Idea penchant even before the first note of John’s message song to Paul had begun.

Beatles – Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band  (the opening sounds of strings in an orchestra tuning before the concert or show).

How Do You Sleep? opens with the obvious reference to Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band – an orchestra tuning along with an audience member clearing his throat.  ____________________________________________________________________________

Unlike Paul McCartney in Too Many People, John Lennon in How Do You Sleep? is blunt and direct with no room left for subtlety or interpretation.  John brings on the blunt immediately beginning with the word, “so,” as if the conversation had been ongoing – John had been in the room already letting Paul have the benefit of his wisdom.

So, Sgt. Pepper took you by surprise

You better see right through that mother’s eyes

Those freaks was right when they said you was dead

There had been a worldwide rumor that Paul had died some time before the recording of Sgt. Pepper.  John’s reference to the death of Paul is particularly hard hitting.  How is Paul “dead?”  As  a person?  An artist?  A friend?

You live with straights who tell you you was king

Jump when your momma tell you anything

“Straights” were those who were of The Establishment –  the bland, boring, uncreative sheep who had the power and ran the worlds of business and politics, and brought on The Vietnam War.

“Jump” when Linda Eastman McCartney, Paul’s wife, tells Paul to jump – that was John’s one and only direct attack on Paul’s wife (in the song).

The only thing you done was Yesterday

And since you’re gone you’re just Another Day

This was the most direct attack so far in the song.  John gives Paul credit for having written one good song during the Beatles – Yesterday – and one good song post-Beatles – Another Day.

A pretty face may last a year or two

But pretty soon they’ll see what you can do

Paul is good looking – that doesn’t last – but how will he fare without his partnership with John, and the Beatles?

The sound you make is Muzak to my ears

You must have learned something in all those years

John saves the toughest assault for the end – Paul’s songwriting isn’t good and there’s no excuse for it – why didn’t he learn more in his songwriting and performing days with John and The Beatles?

To add more insult to injury, George Harrison plays guitar on How Do You Sleep?.  George had grown weary of Paul’s demanding ways during the last days of the Beatles as can be seen in this tense, to-hell-with-you-Paul excerpt from the Beatles Let It Be film.

And Ringo had already recorded with John post-Beatles, but not with Paul.

The John Paul Wars were the best and most thoughtful of all of the rock music wars.



Piece of cake, copulating beetles & Paul McCartney attacks John Lennon


McCartney attacks Lennon.  Lennon attacks McCartney.  Later, there is peace (but only after “cake” became a 7-syllable word).

Q.  When is “cake” a seven (7)-syllable word?

A.  When Paul McCartney wants to attack John Lennon.


This post came about because of this short article a friend posted on Facebook:  The 30 Harshest Musician-on-Musician Insults in History.  I believe the article missed the greatest, most effective and significant insults, and I am leaving aside even greater vitriol that has taken place throughout the centuries of Classical music/art music.  (Wagner, anyone?)

There are some good insults (insults can be good?) found in this 30 Harshest post originally from August 15, 2011.  I prefer the clever insults or those that really did more than state something as dunce-headed as, “your mother wears army boots.”  Out of the thirty (30) in the post, my favorite is from Elvis Costello:

“Morrissey writes wonderful song titles, but sadly he often forgets to write the song.”


I think the multifaceted insults cast from Paul McCartney to John Lennon and back are so better worth highlighting than any of the 30 contained in the post.  How could the McCartney-Lennon feud have been omitted from the “30 Harshest?”

If one hasn’t studied the Beatles or been alive during the time of the Beatles (1964-1970, if one is American, and 1963-1970, or 1957-1970 if one is from the UK), then it is understandable that one missed out on these very good songs, barbs and photographs hurled from one side to the other.  And not only did John and Paul have vitriol to cast at each other, the other two Beatles – George and Ringo – as well as many Beatles fans, also took sides.

As a band and as friends, it seemed that the Beatles would need to part ways, at least temporarily, at some point.  They had recorded at least two great albums per year, released many great double A-sided singles in addition to those albums (The Beatles did not want to include their hit singles on their hit albums as they did not want to gouge the public and make them buy the same song twice – the opposite of The Beach Boys, for example), made movies, and toured frequently while consistently changing music and leading musicians and audiences in stunning new directions.  (By double A-sided, I am referring to the fact that both songs on the single – the A-side and the B-side – were brilliant and either of them could have been the “A-side.”  One of the best examples of a double A-side(d) single is “Strawberry Fields Forever” and “Penny Lane.”  Which of those two songs should be the A-side?)

The Beatles also were very young during those times and would have needed time to simply live life.  When The Beatles appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964, they ranged in age from 20 (George) to 21 (Paul) to 23 (John and Ringo).



With the release of McCartney’s second solo (post-Beatles) album, Ram, the feud between Paul McCartney and John Lennon went public.

On the front cover of Ram, McCartney is holding a ram by the horns.  Ram (front album cover)

Lennon responded.  On the back cover of his album, Imagine, John mocked Paul  by holding a pig by the ears.  (John holding a pig by the ears)

On the back cover of Ram is a picture of two beetles copulating.  (Notice the insect spelling, b-e-e-t-l-e, and not musicians spelling, B-e-a-t-l-e-s, which looks correct.)  This is ripe for multiple interpretations.  Is one beetle named “Paul?”  Is one named “John?”  Whose idea was it to use beetles rather than spiders or ants?



The opening song on Ram, Too Many Peopleis an attack on Lennon’s politically and socially critical obsessions as well as McCartney’s derision on Lennon’s importance in The Beatles.

Too many people going underground

Too many reaching for a piece of cake

Too many people pulled and pushed around…

McCartney was criticizing Lennon and those who were out to change society.  “Underground” usually referred to those who were not “The Establishment,” the mainstream of society.

“Piece of cake” could refer to missing the main course and focusing on the more trivial sweet things – cake.  “Piece of cake” often refers to the ease of a task – it is a piece of cake.  Perhaps this is a further criticism of those who hadn’t put real effort into changing society.  They went into the underground because so many others did, and that this foray into the underground was, by 1971, a shallow and less substantive venture.

“Pushed and pulled around” could also be a reference to the masses who wanted a piece of (not “cake” but) John Lennon and Paul McCartney as Beatles – they wanted them as BEATLES to join the undergournd and anti-war movements that were omnipresent.  The Beatles, however, mostly avoided speaking (and singing) about Vietnam and the most pressing topics of the 1960’s.  (Late-Beatles and especially post-Beatles, John would venture far into anti-war efforts and social movements of the times while the other Beatles did not.  Here is Bed Peace starring John Lennon & Yoko Ono.  This was released by Yoko in August 2011.  It captures the spirit of John & Yoko’s “Bed-Ins,” the late 1960’s anti-war activism, as well as John and Yoko’s proclamation of peace (“War is over if you want it”).  It is a wonderful historical artifact – the conversations with Dick Gregory and Tom Smothers were among my favorite parts of the film.)

The most strident and obvious attack on John came with the lines:

That was your first mistake 

You took your lucky break and broke it in two

This was the lyric that went too far for many fans and unlike phrases such as “too many people going underground” or “too many people being pushed and pulled around,” this meaning was conspicuous and unmistakable.  Paul McCartney seemed to be telling John Lennon and the entire world that The Beatles were a “lucky break” for John even though back in the 1950’s, John had asked Paul to join HIS band, and Paul joined JOHN’S band.

And to go a step further – Paul was asserting that John broke up the band.  John “broke it in two.”  The idea that a four-man band would break into two, rather than four solo parts, was significant to those in the inner circle of The Beatles but probably not yet to the outside world.  The idea that The Beatles had broke into two factions would become clear to many when John released his Imagine album in September 1971.


McCartney, perhaps in a brief effort to ameliorate some of the pain he may have caused Lennon (the guy who was lucky to have been a Beatle), might be assigning blame for the legal and financial problems that the Beatles experienced near the end of their time as Beatles (the death of Beatles manager Brian Epstein and the hazards of new management, the establishment and serious problems of future Beatles’ management, the dissolution of the Beatles, etc.) to business managers and lawyers “breaching practices.”

Too many people breaching practices

Don’t let them tell you what you want to be

At the end of the verse, McCartney might even cast the Beatles’ and Lennon’s problems as not all of John’s fault.

Too many people holding back

This is crazy and maybe it’s not like me

Perhaps important people are holding back and not able to help Lennon, The Beatles and their predicaments?

The situation is crazy and maybe it’s not like McCartney – no, perhaps Paul is stating that it is really not like him to be the one to level an attack on John (“maybe” was the only indecisive word of the song).

But perhaps this last note of possible positivity is an illusion.  If Paul had only ended Too Many People at this point, the song would still be a strong personal attack on John “Lucky” Lennon but one that might have ended on an uptick.  Instead, Paul now descends into “your girlfriend’s a dog, mine’s hot, and your mother wears army boots” territory as he saves his most personal and unnecessary sneer for the end.

That was your last mistake

I find my love awake and waiting to be

Now what can be done for you?

She’s waiting for me

Paul’s love is “awake” (enlightened?) and “waiting to be” (at peace and not being “pulled and pushed around”).

Paul saves the phrase, “to be,” for the final sections of Too Many People.  Would a listener be reading too much into the twice-stated “to be” –

Don’t let them tell you what you want to be

I find my love awake and waiting to be

as possible references to Paul’s famous song, Let It Be, or a slight dig at John’s songwriting significance or ability?  John might have seen it that way as John would, in turn, attack Paul and the significance and ability of his songwriting in a song on John Lennon’s next solo album, Imagine.

And as mentioned above George Harrison and Ringo Starr would also be involved in this war.  To be continued…



The Amorphidity of the Organic Internet, Christian Tiger School, Tom Jones & Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Singing A Song of Paranoia


The Amorphidity of the Organic Internet, Christian Tiger School, Tom Jones & Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young Singing A Song of Paranoia

I feel the need to recount two (2) fun diversions I had recently –


One – I met the manager of a band from South Africa known as “Christian Tiger School” – CTS describe themselves as “a psychedelic/dream hip-hop duo from Cape Town, South Africa, comprising of Luc Veermeer and Sebastian Zanasi.”  I like this video to their song, Carlton Banks, for its personal DIY element (I like the music as well).  I think too many bands and artists spend large amounts of money on video and effects when more handheld, low tech informal type clips would make fans and strangers very happy.

DIY is fun.  Spontaneous is often much better than meticulous preparation.  Meticulous preparation that poses as fun, spontaneous and non-meticulous (perhaps Carlton Banks) can also be highly effective.

I like the search engine possibilities – the SEO-ness – of a name that includes the word, “Christian.”  (Did you know that another term for “natural” or “unpaid,” with respect to search engine results, is “organic?”  (Surely the Organic Internet is as organic as Organic Coke.)  I like the slipperiness, flexibility and amorphidity (my word) of our contemporary English – that something as completely non-organic as electrons and the e-Internet/the i-Internet can produce something, “organic.”  I learned this meaning of “organic” from Wikipedia.  As you might imagine, this lexicographic gem caused me to don my wings and  exude the joy joy joy joy in my heart.

Will Christians in search of praise stumble upon Christian Tiger School and be angered that they were suckered in by a band they thought might be on a mission to turn wild jungle animals into gospel-loving Christian animals fit for a ride on Noah’s ark?  Or will those in search of “Christian” be happy to have stumbled upon OkayAfrica.TV by way of Christian Tiger School? has its own YouTube channel (of course) and if it’s Africa, how can Femi Kuti be far removed?  And then that leads to Femi Kuti and Common live in Central Park again via OkayAfrica via Christian Tiger School.  At the end of the Common & Femi Kuti interview excerpt there is talk of “revolution.”  And “revolution” is pertinent to Thing Number 2.



Two (Thing Number 2)

While perusing Christian Tiger School, I came across this  –  Tom Jones & Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young performing David Crosby’s Long Time Gone.  No.  Really.  I’m glad that this was captured and uploaded to YouTube as this bizarre pairing (the pairing of Tom Jones & CSN & Y, not the pairing of C + S + N, and then Y) is otherwise too hard to imagine and describe especially for one who was extremely active during that time period.

In the 1960’s (time for a footnote – look below later), Tom Jones was “one of them,” i.e. not one of the important musical artists revered by American youth.  Tom Jones seemed to be one of THEM, i.e., the older generation – the people who often hated what we young people LOVED.  The phrase, “generation gap,” referred to the enormous set of differences between young and old people, and especially children and parents.  When it came to music and culture of the 1960’s, the generation gap was at its widest.

Tom Jones as an artist did not have a message – he was not saying anything pertinent to 60’s youth culture.  That could have been because Tom Jones was a singer and interpreter of other peoples’ songs –  he was not a songwriter and in the 1960’s, musical groups favored by youth were usually known for their sound as well as their messages, lyrics originality and originality of their songwriting.  (Of course, sometimes not having a message can be a very good thing as the particular message can be too topical, too dated and not age well.)  In the 1960’s, artists who had a message, or messages, points of view, attitude, angst, or incited audiences to act or commiserate with the attitudes (or platitudes) of young people, were highly valued.  It was not required that artists have “attitudes” or reflect their audiences, but it seemed to be widespread.  Tom Jones was “just a singer,” although one with a powerful voice, excellent intonation and great musical ability and agility.

Tom Jones was a singer of Top 40 hits, not deep and deeply-placed album cuts.  His songs were meant for a large public, not a small subset of the public that listened to album cuts on FM radio.  (Again, us vs. them.)  Tom Jones was the Big Voice of big hit songs such as Delilah, or It’s Not Unusual, or What’s New Pussycat?  Tom Jones was not a musical artist associated with the artists that were favored by America’s youth – Tom Jones did not fit in the pantheon of Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Doors, The Grateful Dead, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, etc.  (The fact of Jones’ exclusion from this group of groups might also speak to the shortsightedness and rigidity of classification of musicians, as well as shortcomings of music journalists of those times as well.)

But then there is paramount performance of Long Time Gone by Tom Jones with CSN & Y which I did not see, hear or believe possible in the 1960’s.  I discovered it this month (July 2013),one century removed from the crazy 1960’s.  The original 1969 recording of David Crosby’s Long Time Gone is the penultimate song on Side Two of the great debut Crosby, Stills & Nash album – one of my favorite songs on the album.  The original recording is done at a faster tempo (108 beats per minute – BPM) than the Tom Jones version (95 BPM).

The Tom Jones version is slower and more compelling than the original.  If this (Long Time Gone) is the actual beginning of that live performance, it is one that started out with a great deal of energy and vocal power.  This slower version (Long Time Gone) seems built for Tom Jones as there is more time and space for him to be more virtuosic and forceful.  CSN & Y seem to be more on their game as well with Stephen Stills singing at his most soulful.  I especially love watching David Crosby’s reaction of amazement to Tom Jones’ mighty singing from the outset – it seems Crosby is quite elated by hearing Jones’ profound effort in recreating Long Time Gone.  There is the studio version Crosby wrote, sang and recorded with CSN & Y, Long Time Goneand then there is the Master’s Version, Long Time Gonesung by Tom Jones.  Although Tom Jones’ performance might seem like a throwdown – Tom Jones’ flawless and heated performance of Long Time Gone  I believe it is Jones’ strong effort to show respect for a good song and fellow musicians.  (On a side note, there seems to be something cut out of this song – perhaps the odd edit that took place at 2.54 – 2.55.  I wish every second of this actual performance could have been on this YouTube clip.)

This performance of Tom Jones with CSN & Y was new to me but my respect for Tom Jones was boosted post-1960’s as I learned of Tom Jones’ friendship, collaboration and/or work with other artists including The Chieftains, Frank Zappa and Janis Joplin.  I have enormous respect for Tom Jones, the superb, creative and original musical artist.

Christian Tiger School led me to the fantastic performance of Long Time Gone by Tom Jones, David Crosby, Stephen Stills, Graham Nash and Neil Young.  I am very happy for all of the oddness that came out of a simple short search one day in July.


My first footnote in an post –

F O O T N O T E  (yes, right below):

[The 1960’s began when The Beatles came to the U. S. and appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show (February 9, 1964) and lasted until President Richard Nixon resigned (August 9, 1974).  Not January 1, 1960 through December 31, 1969.  Decades ignore the Julian Calendar.  Decades are better and more interesting than those specific ten (10) chunks of twelve (12) months.]



Why Would An Artist Re-Record Portions Of Her/His Own Music?


A conversation was begun on Facebook among my friends recently.  It does not seem to still be on Facebook but as I recall, the question was posed  – why do artists re-record music?  Another friend wanted to know my take on this question.  I found it to be something which I had not given much thought but was fascinated as to the reasons why one re-records a work.

This questions brings up many more questions.  Why ask about “re-recording” and not “re-composing?”  Is one much different from the other?  Is there a continuum between re-recording being closely related or not at all related to re-composing?  I want to delve more into “why does someone re-record,” than “why does someone re-compose,” but the two are usually in play simultaneously.

As a composer, I have occasionally revisited works I have written.  Sometimes I want a listener to be able to perceive that a “new” musical idea or entire work is the re-creating of an earlier musical idea or complete work of mine – other times, I have wanted to “hide” the source, i.e., to make any connection un-preceivable.  I hope to give examples of this later and in fun detail.

I want to briefly explore the different means, causes and reasons why music is re-recorded.  As always, I welcome readers’ input.  So far, I have been able to identify more than one dozen reasons to re-record music.  This might be tantamount to saying, “more than one dozen categories of re-recorded music.”  I’m not ready to shout out, “Here is the definitive list of how, why, what, where and when music is re-recorded.”  For now, this is just a beginning and an interesting pursuit into an area of creativity and originality.


A common reason to re-record music is because a composer/songwriter wants to quote music s/he created earlier and place it in new music.  The composer/songwriter wants to re-purpose one of his/her earlier musical expressions from an earlier composition/song.  It can be more than the creator/artist having run short of ideas to express.  It can be that re-recording the music and placing it in a new context can give new meaning to the earlier expression, and that expression can function as part of a new “work of authorship,” to quote the phrase found in the Copyright Law of the United States of America.

The first examples that came to my mind in pop music were Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young’s Carry On with its substantive quote of Buffalo Springfield’s Questions.  I was a huge fan of Buffalo Springfield and its principal members – Stephen Stills, Neil Young, and Richie Furay, as well as their projects after Buffalo Springfield broke up –

Stephen Stills formed Crosby, Stills & Nash;

Neil Young was a solo artist, then member of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young until he resumed his solo career;

Richie Furay formed Poco.

(Young aperiodically returns to Crosby, Stills & Nash in a fashion less predictable than the return of cicadas.)

“Questions” is a Stephen Stills composition on Side 2 of Buffalo Springfield’s 3rd and final album, Last Time Around (1968).  Notice that Neil Young is placed on the right side of the “cracked” album cover looking to the right, while the rest of the band is together on the left side looking in the same direction (left).  This seems to be an unsubtle depiction of Neil Young as the member most likely responsible for breaking up Buffalo Springfield.

From 0.26-1.13 of  QuestionsStephen Stills sings:

“With the questions of a thousand dreams, what you do and what you see, come on lover talk to me, when I was on my own chasing you down, what was it made you run trying to get around, the questions of a thousand dreams what you do and what you see, come on lover talk to me”

And at 1.45-2.16, the song’s final phrases are sung:

“Now that we’ve found each other, where do we go now, I’d like to know what you’re thinking, answer me slowly now, the questions of a thousand dreams what you do and what you see, come on lover talk to me, yeah!”

Stills would use these lyrics but with different music two years later in Carry On, the first song on Déjà Vu (1970), the first Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young album (this was the second album featuring CS & N – this time Neil Young was added to the group).

From 2.58-3.13 of Carry OnStephen Stills sings:

“Are the questions of a thousand dreams, what you do and what you see, lover can you talk to me?”

And at 3.27-3.57, the song’s final phrases are sung:

“Girl when I was on my own chasing you down, what was it made you run trying your best just to get around the questions of a thousand dreams, what you do and what you see, lover can you talk to me?”

There is strong similarity between the two as the lyrics have been, for the most part, copied and re-recorded.  The differences between the music of both songs are significant.

I don’t know why significant sections of  Questions were reused.  I just loved the fact that when I bought Déjà Vu on that cold, snowy night, and began to play side 1 on my parents’ stereo, stumbling upon this very familiar Stephen Stills song within a new Stephen Stills song was really exciting.  I felt I was on to a cool secret.  Next, I told my parents of my excitement and started to call friends to tell them as well.  And I called them that winter night using a rotary dial telephone on our kitchen wall.  I wasn’t old enough to have my driver’s license so I couldn’t bring the album to their house.  They’d have to buy their own or wait to see me on the weekend or call local radio stations and beg.  Ah, those old days.  🙂


In the next few weeks, I want to explore other artists who have re-recorded (and re-composed) portions of their own songs.  For this, I emphasize re-recording portions of songs/compositions as opposed to re-recording the entire work or song.  Artists I’ll explore who have re-recorded sections of their earlier works will include The Beach Boys – some of their unreleased songs as well.

Which words work with which music? W. W. W. W. W. M. ?


I may never pose this many questions again.  It starts out with many questions and then morphs into many statements, statements that could have been made by people of different ages, tastes and sensibilities.  I thought it would be illuminating to shift to a series of statements that might have functioned better as questions.  Almost everything in this post, initially, is a question or a statement of uncertainty.  Then they become reactions of people who are positively or negatively inclined towards the music, or neutral, even in times of crisis.  (And you know what is said about those who remain neutral in times of crisis?)

So, why would you read further?  Why would you NOT read further?

Listen to this.  It is very short, so you should probably listen to it several times.  There are also some visuals to keep you more engaged.  Engaged?  No, don’t get so serious that you commit to someone from listening to this.  I meant “engaged” as in busy, occupied or involved.


Up until you heard the singer, this was a composition.

Up until you heard the vocalist, this was a composition.

Up until you heard the soprano, this was a composition.

Up until you heard the mezzo soprano, this was a composition.

Up until you heard the alto, this was a composition.

Up until you heard the female singer, this was a composition.

Up until you heard the male singer, this was a composition.

Up until you heard the boy soprano, this was a composition.

Up until you heard the convict sing, this was a composition.

Up until you found out that this was called, “The Cage,” this was a composition.

Up until you found out that the piano playing you heard was written down (out), this was a composition.

Up until you found out that the piano playing you heard was written, you thought this was an improvisation.

If this composition was written down (out), it represents deliberation and care.

If it’s improvised, than that’s no big deal as you just write stuff that comes to mind without thinking about it and oooomph there it is.  (IMPROVISATION in many circles carries little respect.  IMPROVISATION is considered foreign to CLASSICAL MUSIC and is rarely taught and/or studied in CLASSICAL MUSIC.  IMPROVISATION used to be taught in CLASSICAL MUSIC and was considered an aspect of CLASSICAL MUSIC.)


After you heard the VOCALIST, was this still a COMPOSITION or was it now a SONG?

After you heard the VOCALIST, was this still a COMPOSITION or was it now an ART SONG?

After you heard the VOCALIST, was this still a MUSICAL WORK or was it now an OPUS?

After you heard the VOCALIST, was this still a MUSICAL WORK or was it now a MUSICAL OPUS?




Is this a WORK?


Is this a SONG?

Is this an ART SONG?

Is this an OPUS?


Or, if we want to be LEGAL and invoke LAW – FEDERAL LAW, i.e., the Copyright Law of the United States…



(The answer could be YES it was, but now it’s not.  In my opinion, it constitutes a work of authorship and an original work of authorship even though the Copyright Law of the United States uses the terms, work of authorship and original work of authorship but fails to define these terms.  (It is extremely likely that) the copyright on this composition has, in fact, expired and this original work of authorship is now in the public domain.)


If this is a COMPOSITION, then it is serious and worthy.  It took a higher level of musicality to create and perform this COMPOSITION.  For this to be a COMPOSITION, the music was (likely) “written down” in musical notation.  Those who can WRITE MUSIC using MUSICAL NOTATION are usually more respected in some circles.  Conversely, those who can write music using musical notation can be considered (pejoratively) in some circles as ACADEMIC COMPOSERS or TRAINED COMPOSERS.  They are not SONGWRITERS.  They are not writing (music) from the heart, but instead are writing (music) from the head.  The “from the head” writers are often not welcome in those circles where SONGWRITERS exist.  The SONGWRITERS are often not welcome in circles where the COMPOSERS, the “from the head” writers, exist.

If this is an IMPROVISATION, then it is pretty cool.  It’s dope.  (Maybe) it took a reasonable level of musicality to create and perform this IMPROVISATION.

If this is a SONG, then you need to keep your day job.  This sounds ugly, and do you call that singing?  (It’s great that Starbucks has upped your hours to 21 per week because now you’ll have health care.)

If this is a COMPOSITION, then the composer has no sense of melody, harmony, rhythm, form or taste.  It is unfortunate that the musicians had to learn, rehearse and perform this dreadful “COMPOSITION.”  (Just where did this barbarian “composer” learn his craft?  Somewhere like Yale?  Perhaps this is deep thinking…deep thinking by a disturbed mind.)

Is this jazz?  It starts out sounding like Cecil Taylor.  But Cecil Taylor would start playing a melody above those great chords.  He wouldn’t just play chords for the entire song.  And what’s with the singer?

The song’s too short.

It is an abbreviated composition.

If this was composed for the Special Olympics by one of the Special Olympians, this shows a great deal of creativity.


Words to describe the person who SINGS this composition (or song, art song, work, musical work, etc.) can further define, elevate, d-elevate, or illustrate more about the music, musicians, creator/author/writer, style and genre of music and musicians.

The word SOPRANO is often used in conjunction with CLASSICAL MUSIC or ART MUSIC.  SOPRANO is rarely used with popular music, rock music, jazz, country, urban, R & B and many (or all) other styles of popular music.  SOPRANO can now mean of or affiliated with a New Jersey mob family.

It is even more likely that the term MEZZO-SOPRANO would be used exclusively with CLASSICAL and/or ART MUSIC.  Using the term MEZZO-SOPRANO would indicate that the user knows more about CLASSICAL and/or ART MUSIC and perhaps knows that the term MEZZO-SOPRANO can means a person with a different “sound” than a SOPRANO and a person with a different (and usually lower) “musical range.”  The term MEZZO-SOPRANO places this discussion in a different zone – if the term MEZZO-SOPRANO is used, the discussion now excludes the Grand Ole Opry and other types of popular music.

In the context above, using the terms MEZZO-SOPRANO, ALTO, MALE SINGER, BOY SOPRANO or CONVICT would indicate that one did not read the opening credits in the video, is not aware of the definitions of these words, or  is likely being pejorative by describing the vocalist/singer in this manner.


What of the musicians involved in this YouTube performance?

I’d like this song better if Tim McGraw sang it.

I’d like this song better if Adele sang it.

I’d like this song better if Alicia Keys sang it.

I’d like this song better if John Mayer sang it.

I’d like this song better if Norah Jones sang it.

I’d like this song better if Katy Perry sang it.

I’d like this song better if Eric Clapton sang it.

I’d like this song better if Steven Tyler sang it.

I’d like this song better if Cecilia Bartoli sang it.

I’d like this song better if Mitt Romney sang it.

Tim McGraw couldn’t begin to interpret this composition.

Adele’s magnificent voice would be wasted on something like this.

Alicia Keys would make the melody into something we’d want to hear.

If John Mayer played guitar while he sang this, it might be OK.

Norah Jones would bring subtlety, breathiness and style to this (if the piano didn’t drown her out).

Katy Perry would sound good if she could get Snoop Lion to rap part of it.

Eric Clapton could give it a blues swing and play acoustic guitar – like he did with “Layla” on UNPLUGGED.

If Steven Tyler screamed it, forgot the lyrics and danced, I’d be down with that.

Cecilia Bartoli just needs a more operatic aria to sing.

Mitt Romney wouldn’t sing this as this is music for the 47%.


More words.

The composition unfolded effortlessly  – concise with punctuated chords rising so as to cover the surface with a delicately-veiled, subdued, impressionistic sheen that harkens back to several early 20th-century tone poems by the likes of Debussy, Ravel or even Scriabin.  (That last sentence is an example of critic-speak at its worst.  We’ve managed to leave CRITICS out of it so far – let’s continue to be critic-less.)

I liked it pretty good ’til that woman started singing or talking or whatever she was doing.


How do we react to music based on the WORDS used to describe the style, genre, time period, composer, songwriter, musician, improviser, pianist, keyboardist, singer, soprano, mezzo-soprano, diva, chick singer, etc.

How do we react when we are told little?  Very little?  Nothing?  When we see a video BEFORE we hear the music?  AT THE SAME TIME as we hear the music?  AFTER we  hear the music?

How do we react when we are told what to expect from the music?  From the musical performance?  About the music? About how the music was composed?  Whether the music was composed or improvised?   Whether the composer is young, middle aged or old?  “Trained” or “untrained?” From the European Union?  United States?  Latin America?  (Latin America is Flavor Of The Month in classical/art music in the past few years.)  Asia?  The Subcontinent?

CHARLES IVES composed “The Cage.”



My friend Mulgrew Miller died today (May 29, 2013)



I have revised this post by adding many more links to recordings, performances and teaching moments found on YouTube, photographs, Wikipedia entries, and links to if one is interested in purchasing Mulgrew Miller’s WORK or Tony Williams’ Angel Street.

I saw this photo on Friday and thought about Mulgrew Miller.  My friend and colleague, Mulgrew Miller, had just suffered a massive stroke.

This photo made me smile.  It is pleasant, it is kind.  It is simple and understandable until you delve deeper, and then it is amazingly complex and the intricacy gets more fascinating.  But one comes back to the photo and the weaving that took place – all of the great work that must have gone into creating something so beautiful and accessible but artistic and layered.  The more I looked at this, the more I thought it was particularly suitable to use in writing about my friend.  It makes me think of Mulgrew.

I started to write this on Friday, hoping, praying and expecting that Mulgrew would recover.  I looked forward to seeing Mulgrew and talking with him soon.


I first heard of Mulgrew Miller from reading an article in the New York Times, probably in 1986 or 1987.  The article was about the present state of jazz in the United States.

The article went on to state that the two (2) finest composers of their generation were MULGREW MILLER and GERI ALLEN.  I jumped for joy when I read the name, Geri Allen, as Geri and I had been good friends and classmates in grad school at the University of Pittsburgh a few years earlier.  Geri always carried around a cassette recorder and was recording her compositions at every moment in between every class.  I did too and the two of us would often play our new compositions for each other and discuss the nuts and bolts of music and the music we were writing.  Geri was an ethnomusicology major – I was a music composition major.  She was “ethno,” along with other friends of mine in the ethnomusicology program, so that they could learn a lot about the arts and cultures, and be in a great grad school doing jazz with Prof. Nathan Davis and other distinguished graduate faculty.

I had seen the name, “Mulgrew Miller,” before but hadn’t heard his music.  The NY Times’ praise meant I would leave my house immediately and go get some of his music.  If he and Geri were the best in jazz, I needed to know his music too.  Simple.

I found his 1986 album, WORK.  If all you got to hear was the first song on the album, “Sublimity,” you’d understand why Mulgrew was a musical force.  He begins with a few spacious chords that have time to breathe, added a brief melody, then more chords.  It is not a “look what I can do statement,” although you hear great technique throughout, but an interesting invitation to lean in and anticipate great stuff to follow.  And then at 0.30, the chords and music become more punctuated and serious, you feel the context is changing, that the band is about to enter, they enter and the music changes shape and evolves – what had been sounding in the solo piano begins to get dispersed between the newcomers –  bass and drums – in a carefully developed manner.

The entire album really hooked me.  I agreed with the NY Times – these were the two best composers of their generation.

I then got to know as much of his music as possible.  I bought all of his solo albums as well as many albums which featured Mulgrew as pianist in a band.  Mulgrew was the pianist with many jazz greats including my favorite drummer, Tony Williams.  (I first learned Tony Williams from the Miles Davis quintet (specifically, Miles’ second great quintet – 1964-68) recordings of the 1960’s and then especially for his music in his fusion group, Lifetime.  I got to see Tony Williams’ Lifetime one century ago at the Jazz Workshop in Boston, a place where I had seen Weather Report and other legends.).

All of Mulgrew’s work with Tony Williams is great.  If you don’t know the music Mulgrew created as a band member, I’d start with Obsession, the last song on Tony Williams’ album, Angel Street.  Obsession is very short especially considering the novel that is jammed into this four-minute work!  Listen to Mulgrew’s chords and comping from the beginning.  One wonders how a piano will fit after the frantic solos one has just heard, and how Mulgrew will spin a solo after all of his great chords played from the beginning.  Well, Mulgrew’s solo is exactly one minute in length and is a book-within-a-book here.  Listen from 2.41 to 3.41.  And then pause and keep studying this four-minute work.  At some point, come up for air and listen to the album from the beginning.


How I got to know Mulgrew was completely by accident.  I lived in New York City at the corner of West 51st and 7th Ave. [the 20th floor of The Executive Plaza] from August – December of 2005 while I taught two courses and was the faculty administrator for a music business program of students from Nashville who would spend their Fall semester in Manhattan.  This was the program’s second year.  My friend, Prof. Steve Marcone, created and ran the music and entertainment industry program at William Paterson University in Wayne, NJ.  Steve had wanted me to teach a course one evening per week while I was in residence in Manhattan – I took the 197 bus from Gate 233 of the NYC Port Authority every Tuesday afternoon to Wayne, NJ.  Steve picked me up from the bus, brought me to campus, we talked, then I taught for 3 hours, then Steve & I hung out, then I took the bus back to the Port Authority and eventually I would find my back to 150 W. 51st usually after my favorite distractions of Hell’s Kitchen.  The entire two-bus two-hang one-Hell’s Kitchen trip was always wonderful.  As my people say, “wicked cool.”

One day while sitting in Steve’s squished cinderblock office, I noticed the name, “M U L G R E W       M I L L E R” on the door across from (or very close to) his office.  I was shocked and said, “MULGREW MILLER is on your faculty?!?! The famous MULGREW MILLER?”  Steve told me that it was indeed the famous Mulgrew Miller.  At that moment, I took the school even more seriously but I also realized that the school was luckier than it deserved.

Move ahead a couple of years.  I wanted to move north to be closer to my Mom as she was aging and I wanted to be able to help and spend more precious time with her.  A job opening came about at William Paterson, I got hired and moved to New Jersey.  (I was now only 3 hours and 15 minutes from her residence.)

Because I was the newbie on the faculty, the procedure was to review the teaching of every new professor somewhat frequently.  I was fortunate to receive very good reviews and have Mulgrew as my reviewer on a few occasions.  This also meant that Mulgrew would come to my music theory classes as well as my intellectual property (IP) classes. At one point, I had Mulgrew come to an IP class (not as a reviewer) in order to give students his feedback on their presentations.  And to also talk with me more about IP, music and creativity.  I always loved the exchanges with him.

I also would see Mulgrew often in the hallways or practice rooms.  When he was on campus, his presence was large – physically, yes, but his presence as in The Master is here.  Time spent with Mulgrew was valued by students, faculty and staff.  He was always in demand because of how he thought, how he played, how much he knew, how incredibly musical he was, how he listened to people, their music, their questions, their comments but mostly I feel because of his kindness and soul.  When I, or everyone I knew or even noticed was around him, we felt the presence of a special being.  As big as his talent and creativity were, his personal qualities and gentleness prevailed.  I always felt lucky to see and interact with him.  As quickly as possible, I realized that this musical hero to me, who was now a colleague, was just such a great and modest guy.  His charm was disarming as can be.  I was comfortable with Mulgrew immediately.

As I got to know Mulgrew better, I had to ask him – no, tell him – to stop calling me “Doctor” or “Professor.”  I told him that you are Mulgrew Miller and I call you Mulgrew.  I should call you SIR.  He laughed.  He told me I deserved the titles and the respect.

He was that kind of guy but I’ll always remember when he first called me Michael.  He’d later some times call me the D word or the P word but I just felt good and knew that I was so lucky to have, in addition to his friendship, his respect.  Yikes.


I woke up thinking about Mulgrew today.  Like all of his family, colleagues and friends, I worried about my friend.  But for some reason, his song, The Sage, from WORK, was in my head.  It is his most blues-like, simplest, and catchiest on the album.  It begins deceptively in a kind of Eb Dorian with a very simple but rhythmically slippery rhythm to its right hand melody.  I kept singing it, along with my variations and improvisation on it, in the woods, and at home have been playing AT it on my piano.  No, I can’t play it yet but I will work at it.

Mulgrew made sure I was on guest lists whenever he played in New York.  I didn’t expect that or ask for that favor, but deeply appreciated his kindness.  I almost always went to these concerts alone.  I liked this best because I could really concentrate on the music, and maybe more importantly, talk to Mulgrew at breaks or afterwards.

Mulgrew always had such a kind, sincere and humble way about him.  When you were in his presence, you just felt comfortable and happy.  If you didn’t know he was a gigantic creator and performer, you still wouldn’t have known after spending time with him.  Unless the subject turned to music.  Mulgrew wouldn’t necessarily talk shop all the time.  He really liked people and I valued time with him just spent talking about whatever would come up.

MAY 29 has always been a great day for me to celebrate as it is the birthday of two (2) of my heroes – composer Iannis Xenakis and President John F. Kennedy.

Today, May 29, 2013, is also the 100th anniversary of the enormous scandal at the premiere of Igor Stravinsky’s Le Sacre du printemps, aka The Rite Of Spring.

Sadly, today will now also mark the death of my friend, Mulgrew Miller.  But in the ways that I am grateful for wonderful people, places and art I have known, I am extremely grateful that Mulgrew’s music and then friendship came into my life.  I know Mulgrew will continue to be one of those shining beacons that stand out and serve to inspire us to know and love music and each other more.


I want to end this with a couple of videos of my friend.  We are so fortunate that he left behind so many recordings, people deeply influenced by him, and some marvelous videos.

In this interview, Mulgrew discusses how most jazz pianists were trained (often initially via a classical music foundation), came to jazz and developed, as well as how improvisation can be taught, what a teacher can do, and what a student must do.  These five and half minutes are profound.

But this might be my favorite video as it is so intimate.  There seems to be a camera only inches from the right side of Mulgrew’s head while he so casually demonstrates such great playing (All The Things You Are) to a student.  Notice how Mulgrew looks so often at the student.  Making sure this student is comprehending chord voicings, voice-leading, harmonic variation, melody and melodic variation are of utmost importance to this great Creator, Professor and Musician.  One can learn a lot about who Mulgrew was in this two minute video.

I am forever honored, humbled and grateful for having known Mulgrew’s music from the 1980’s but more so for having Mulgrew as my friend.  I send my deepest love and sympathy to Mulgrew’s family, friends and students.  We were so lucky to have Mulgrew Miller in our lives.