B.B. King died last week here in Las Vegas. He was 89.
I saw B.B. King perform three times. I always loved his music, even when listening to the blues wasn’t particularly fashionable.
Indeed, the blues is not now, nor has it ever been, mainstream music. It’s the wailing howl of the economically disenfranchised, the voice of the social outcasts, the sorrow of broken hearts, and the lament of persistent loss. And yet, quite often, it’s both amusing and uplifting. One figures that life really isn’t really so bad after all, especially when contrasted alongside the song’s hero who somehow loses his job on the same day he catches his lady in bed with another man. While B.B. King put out relatively few best-selling records, for millions of listeners his blues was a deeply biographical soundtrack. If nothing else, it certainly provided incendiary kindling for rock n’ roll, soul, and R&B.
For most fabled singer-songwriters, duet compilations are typically the last oil change before the wheels finally fall off the old clunker and the engine blows up. They’re typically lame excuses for disconnected musical has-beens to cling together one final time and maybe even squeeze out a fluffy farewell nostalgia tour, perhaps even earning a few bucks merchandising to what dregs remain of the steadily-diminishing record-buying consumer market.
Van Morrison quit caring about the music business or record sales nearly a half century ago. Consider that this is a man who didn’t even bother to show up for his own induction into the Rock n’ Roll Hall of Fame, back in 1993 (to be fair, he did turn up and also performed live at the Songwriters Hall of Fame induction alongside his idol Ray Charles, which he considered far more meaningful). His cantankerous nature, including run-ins with record companies and executives, studio engineers, concert promoters, fellow bandsmen, members of the media, ex-wives and girlfriends, and even his own fans reveal an appalling decent towards self-imposed alienation, especially for such an internationally apotheosized icon, earning him a well-earned reputation as one of pop music’s most onerous personalities. Indeed, the only thing Morrison despises more then granting media interviews are typically enduring the interviewers themselves, even when they’re from widely-respected trade outlets. He once cut off a well-known music critic in mid-sentence, curtly insisting “your 30 minutes are up — goodbye.”
What separates Mariah Carey from Britney Spears?
Well, talent for one thing. Ms. Carey can sing. Ms. Spears can’t. Simple as that.
Comparing the two pop divas might seem pointless. But with Ms. Carey’s new residency underway at Caesars Palace this week, the adriot singer-artist with a remarkable 18 number one hits spread out over the course of her illustrious 25-year career does draw inevitable comparisons to the empty-headed bimbo lip-synching her entire show across the street over at a Caesars’ sister property Planet Hollywood, while living inside a cocoon most of time and charging her nitwit “fans” $2,500 a pop for an up-close-and-personal meet-and-greet that’s been timed as short as 3 seconds. Oh, and no autographs or photos are allowed when the pop princess is present in the room. No folks, I’m not making this up. [READ MORE HERE]
I’ve been accused of being a hater, and there’s some valitity to the charge. Indeed, I do hate mediocrity being celebrated and obscenely rewarded in our society. Yes, I do hate it that so many marvelous singers and talented songwriters can’t get into the music business let alone make a decent living, while blundering Britney makes a whopping $475,000 per show [SOURCE HERE] for basically doing this every night:
For those of us of a certain age, raised on a steady diet of MTV (when music videos were played exclusively), many of us will remember U2’s huge breakthrough hit, “Pride in the Name of Love,” recorded in 1984 which came off The Unforgettable Fire album, a masterpiece.
That’s always been one of my favorite rock songs, written by Bono and intended as a tribute to the late Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Long before other musicians were winning Oscars for other anthems dedicated to MLK, U2 did their own salute, which certainly stands the test of time. Rolling Stone magazine routinely picks that as one of the greatest songs of all time, and rightfully so. Even if you weren’t around back then, you’ve probably still heard it.
Of all impersonations, Frank Sinatra’s might be the toughest to pull off convincingly.
The baritone voice, the tuxedoed savoir faire, the quirky and often comical mannerisms, the working-class New York accent — all these classic Sinatra trademarks are relatively straightforward to copycat with some practice combined with the proper flair.
What isn’t so easy to incorporate is the epochal stage presence and the personal charisma. More like impossible. Like all of our most celebrated musical icons — Elvis Presley, Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, The Beatles — the tribute shows might look and sound like the real deal, but they never quite spark the same electrifying voltage of atmospheric energy. We’re never quite able to shake the awareness that we’re consuming Spam from a can instead of real meat.