Kennedy Center: EWF; Sally; Linda; Sesame St; MTT

Field, Ronstadt, Tilson Thomas

The 42nd Annual Kennedy Center Honors will air Sunday, December 15 – earlier than usual – at 8 p.m. EST. CBS has broadcast the special each year since its debut. The event will take place on December 8. Earth, Wind & Fire; Sally Field; Linda Ronstadt; Sesame Street; and Michael Tilson Thomas will be celebrated.

Michael Tilson Thomas

Michael Tilson ThomasAmerican conductor, pianist and composer Michael Tilson Thomas is a familiar name. He is currently music director of the San Francisco Symphony, though he announced in 2017 that he would step down in 2020. He’s also “artistic director of the New World Symphony, an American orchestral academy based in Miami Beach, Florida.”

He has his own YouTube channel. NPR mentions him frequently. A 2019 article in Vulture describes him a “disrupter who’s become the comfortable center.”

Michael Tilson Thomas is the only one in this group that had not appeared in this blog before now.

Sally Field

I wrote an extensive post about Sally Field in November 2016 when she turned 70. I’d seen her in everything from Gidget to Sybil to Brothers and Sisters. And she’s still working.

Earth, Wind & Fire

Their introduction on the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame page says it well. Earth, Wind & Fire “took jazz, soul, gospel, pop and more and wrapped them in one psychedelic, mystical package.” The band was founded in Chicago by the late Maurice White in 1969.

Rolling Stone offered up 12 essential songs. My personal favorite is Fantasy, as I explained. I own the box set of their music.

You might recognize the name Philip Bailey, the falsetto vocalist, who sang a duet with Phil Collins on Easy Lover.

Linda Ronstadt

My admiration for Linda is huge. For her sixtieth birthday, I explained why I bought her box set when I already owned so much of her music. I advocated that she be in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She was rightly inducted in 2014.

When she turned 70, I listed about three dozen of my favorite songs by her. I touted the documentary about her, which played at a local theater for months.

Sesame Street

I’ll admit it; I watched Sesame Street when I was in college, as I noted in 2011. The beloved children’s television show was shaped by the African-American communities in Harlem and beyond. Of course, I bought the 10th anniversary music album.

Farmers Insurance has been running a series of ads featuring the Muppets. Take a look at the website and the music of Sesame Street. The USPS to release stamps in honor of show’s 50th anniversary.

Since he won’t be at the event, I suppose I can share, from Business Insider back in 2017: “‘Sesame Street’ has been mocking Trump since 1988 — here are some of the best moments.”

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice

She seizes control of her life’s narrative

Linda RonstadtI went to the 12:55 pm showing of the documentary Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of My Voice at the Spectrum Theatre in Albany, NY on the day it opened in town. There were a total of five people there, and I suspect they’re all over sixty. (In fact, I know the pair of women in line were because they ALSO took the senior discount.)

I can tell you that we were all blown away. Sad that she no longer sing (mostly) because of her Parkinson’s disease. Her last concert was in 2009. If you’ve seen the movie up to that point, you suspect that someone who was less than the perfectionist she was/is could have milked her career for another two or three years.

Naturally, because I’m like that, I then went to the early Rotten Tomatoes reviews. 85% positive from the critics, 100% positive from the fans. I’ve decided to address the negative reviews.

“She suddenly seizes control of her life’s narrative, careening herself towards a series of bizarre, baffling creative decisions that inexplicably kept succeeding.” As the film makes clear, she was tired of being on the road in arenas.

The decisions to do Pirates of Penzance was a function of the music she grew up with. Joseph Papp would have given her the gig, but she wanted to be sure she was right for the part.

Ditto her three American songbook albums. She heard those tunes in her youth and wanted to sing them, getting someone like Nelson Riddle to arrange it, only to discover the man himself was available.

Her foray into Mexican music came from growing up singing in Spanish the tunes from her father’s heritage, Germans who moved to Mexico in the 19th century.

Hagiography?

“It isn’t long into the film when the hagiographic soundbites from famous interviewees become the dominant mode.” Also, “Ronstadt speaks of herself honestly and modestly, but the talking-heads tributes in this doc are trite.”

I have seen documentaries when one could say, “Why are THEY here?” as they ramble about the subject. But we’re talking Don Henley, who was a drummer for her in an early band before he met Glenn Frey and started the Eagles. Jackson Browne was part of that scene, touring with Linda.

Emmylou Harris was befriended by Linda after Gram Parsons’ death, as explained in the film. Dolly Parton, who in the extended trailer calls Linda a PITA. The alchemy of their three voices in the Trio sessions awed them all.

I got sufficient insight into Linda from herself and the others. There were details I had totally forgotten. The original version of Different Drum by the Stone Poneys – Linda Kenny Edwards, Bobby Kimmel- was not successful. But the re-recording made it to #13 on the pop charts in 1968.

If I had any complaints is that The Sound of My Voice gave short shrift to her latter output, at least a half dozen albums, including one with Harris and another with Ann Savoy.

If you love Linda’s music, see this film. If you’re not familiar with the range of her work, see this film. Here’s the Still within the Sound of My Voice, the opening tune from the 1989 album Cry Like a Rainstorm, Howl Like the Wind.

Music throwback: Telling Me Lies

Don’t waste your time in the arms of a man
Who’s no stranger to treason

One Clear MomentListening to Telling Me Lies from the Trio album (1987) always affects me greatly. Part of it is the tight harmony among Linda Ronstadt, Dolly Parton, and Emmylou Harris.

The song was the album’s second single, and it reached #3 on the US Billboard country singles charts. The recording was nominated for a Grammy award in 1988 for Country Song of the Year.

The message is painful:

You told me you needed my company
And I believed in your flattering ways
You told me you needed me forever
Nearly gave you the rest of my days

Should’ve seen you for what you are
Should never have come back for more
Should’ve locked up all my silver
Brought the key right to your door

The song first appeared on Linda Thompson’s One Clear Moment album (1985), her first solo collection “after divorcing husband and former collaborator, Richard Thompson.” The track was written by Linda Thompson and Betsy Cook, as were most of the songs on the album, which many critics believed included many well-written songs, often marred by that era’s heavy-handed production.

Don’t put your life in the hands of a man
With a face for every season
Don’t waste your time in the arms of a man
Who’s no stranger to treason

Listen to Telling Me Lies:

Linda Thompson here

Dolly Parton, Linda Ronstadt, and Emmylou Harris here or here

I cover my ears, I close my eyes
Still hear your voice and it’s telling me lies
Telling me lies

***
For good measure, another 1980s female trio with tight harmonies, though a somewhat different style:

You work too hard to take this abuse
Be on your guard jerks on the loose

Listen to Keep On Doing What You Do/ Jerks On The Loose – the Roches, written by by Terre and Suzzy Roche, from the Keep On Doing album (1982)

Linda Ronstadt is 70

Linda Ronstadt had to persuade her record company to include the song on the album.

LindaRonstadt.coverThe birthday of Linda Ronstadt is actually July 15.

As I’ve previously noted, Linda was the subject of one of the two times I was involved in a buycott involving a musician, the other being the Dixie Chicks. NOT a boycott, I tell my spellchecker, it is, in fact, “the opposite of a boycott: deliberately purchasing a company’s or a country’s products in support of their policies, or to counter a boycott.”

In 2004, she had been escorted from a Las Vegas casino “after she had dedicated a song to the filmmaker Michael Moore.” This sufficiently irritated me that I decided to purchase some Linda Ronstadt music. But what? I had most of her earlier albums on vinyl, and many of her later collections on CD.

I decided to order her 1999 box set, which is a great collection. Disc 1 and about a third of Disc 2 are pop album cuts, not necessarily hits, from the most recent back to “Different Drum.” It was followed by selections from her three albums arranged by Nelson Riddle and songs from her two Spanish-language LPs. Disc 3 had duets and trios, and Disc 4 featured rarities. It’s a great collection, though it was sparse of cuts from Hasten Down the Wind, my favorite album of hers.

Of course I am pleased that she has finally been inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

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Music Throwback Saturday: Walk Away Renée

Linda Ronstadt and Ann Savoy recorded Walk Away Renée for their 2006 album Adieu False Heart.

LeftBankeThere really WAS a Renée. From the Wikipedia: The song Walk Away Renée was “written by the group’s then 16-year-old keyboard player Michael Brown (real name Michael Lookofsky), Tony Sansone and Bob Calilli… The song is one of a number Brown wrote about Renée Fladen-Kamm, then-girlfriend of The Left Banke’s bassist Tom Finn and object of Brown’s affection.”

The Left Banke version, which got up to #5 in the US in 1966, was their biggest hit. Pretty Ballerina, also about Renée, went to #15 US in early 1967.
Continue reading “Music Throwback Saturday: Walk Away Renée”