Musician Tributes

Here you will find some of my most popular articles that pay tribute to my musical heroes. These include the many great ones who died at 27 (Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, Jim Morrison, Brian Jones, and Pigpen.) You will also find tributes to John Lennon.

Mickey Hart Accelerates Next Stage in Music’s Evolution

Throughout a career spanning over 50 years, Mickey Hart has been an innovative and inspirational leader in musical research and performance.   Known as “The Rhythm Devils,” Mickey and Bill Kreutzman were the driving force behind The Grateful Dead – particularly during their extended jam experiences.  It is only fitting that Mickey’s latest venture – Mysterium Tremendum – is ground-breaking and entertaining at the same time.  Mickey and his band weave together a host of musical styles and influences, including world music, electronic wizardry, hippie rock, and psychedelic trance.

In this article I will personally review Mickey’s latest CD project.  I will include selected lyrics – written by Dead lyricist, Robert Hunter.  After that I will summarize some other CD reviews, as well as reviews of the band’s live performances.    I have abstracted  some recent interviews with Mickey and several band members – bassist Dave Schools and producer/keyboardist Ben Yonas.  After that you can read about some of Mickey’s innovative, interdisciplinary research projects, as well as some of the awards he has received.  He is truly an interdisciplinary musical scholar who has written some really fine books.

I find the fact that Mickey has been a lifelong musician, who has also explored cutting-edge science to be personally and professionally very inspirational and unique.  I just spent almost three decades in academia earning degrees in Biology, Journalism, and Sociology (Ph.D. Iowa State University in 1986.)   I worked as a Professor of Sociology and Food Science at North Carolina State University from 1987 – 2010.  For the last 15 years I have again been playing a lot of music (guitar, mandolin, and percussion) – something I had done a lot between 1965 and 1980.

Click Below to learn “all you need to know” about Mickey Hart’s life-long and continuing contributions to the evolution of music (and society.)

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Bob Marley Would Say “Occupy Yourself Before You Occupy Outside”

The Occupy Movement has focused on occupying physical spaces to draw attention to important issues.  However, it is even more important that each of us work hard to get our own lives together.  We need to free our minds and resist the outside forces of capitalist consumption.   Be ready to live with less and avoid entrapment by credit schemes.  As the system continues to melt down, only those who are resilient and self-sufficient will be able to thrive.  One of the best ways to do this is to understand and practice the Rastafarian lifestyle as modeled by Bob Marley.   His words that inspired this title are “Judge not, before you judge yourself.”   Get your own life in order if you want to be able to challenge the Babylon system.  He summed it up perfectly:  “Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery.  None but ourselves can free our minds.”

I personally became aware of and interested in Rastafarianism about ten years ago through Bob Marley’s life and music.  I did my own research into what it means to live the Rasta lifestyle.  I found that this social movement has much to teach us about how to free ourselves and take down the system.  We can’t get one without the other.  I began to teach about this in my social change and social movement classes.  I found many young people eager to embrace the principles and practices that Bob Marley and others preach about in their music.  In fact, the Occupy fighters already believe in and live many of the values and practices espoused by the Rastafarian way of life.  I developed a series of slides to use in my lectures and have included them here.  Each should be self-explanatory.  Then, I include lots of great pix and quotes from Bob Marley’s music and interviews.  This tribute recognizes that Bob Marley’s music and messages are more relevant today than ever.

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Chuck Berry Helped Create Rock + Roll Which Set Young People Free

Rock and roll set a whole generation free and on fire during the 1960’s.  I have written before about how much influence the blues had on British and American rock and roll.   We also need to appreciate where rock and roll came from.  One of the leading innovators – Chuck Berry – is still alive and deserves our deep respect and appreciation.  He taught us all how to have fun and enjoy life.  He helped young people shake off their shackles and get happy.  He sang about cars, girls and wild music.  He was also one of the most gifted guitar players.  He directly influenced all the best sixties bands – Beach Boys, Beatles, Rolling Stones, Grateful Dead, Jimi Hendrix, the Animals and countless others who covered his songs.  He is likely the most studied and admired musician we have known.

John Lennon said “If you tried to give rock and roll another name, you might call it Chuck Berry.”  He helped us break sexual taboos and rebel against authority.  Chuck Berry will soon celebrate his 85th birthday.  He has had an amazing and creative life that have made us all much happier.   Read what follows to learn about the many honors Chuck has received along with his impacts on music and society.  There is also news about his health following an incident in Chicago last January.   Learn to appreciate how his songwriting and guitar picking were truly innovative and important.  Go to I-tunes or wherever to get the real deal and support this great artist.  Let’s all praise rock and roll’s leading light for almost a century.

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President Obama Must Learn to Feel and Sing the Blues

Pundits have suspected that President Obama has a hard time relating to ordinary people.  He seems to be distant and aloof, hoping to remain “above the fray.”  Unfortunately, he is also looking like a wimp who is afraid to fight for what progressives and liberals believe to be proper public policy.  His cultural and educational background taught him to compromise and be conciliatory.  However, this is not how the civil rights movement was able to make progress during the 1960’s.   This is a losing strategy for dealing with the angry and aggressive tea-baggers who are holding our country hostage.  As Bill Maher has stated we need a gansta (i.e., tough-black) president now more than ever!!

Members of the Congressional Black Caucus are offended and concerned that America’s “first black president” would forget his roots in the African-American community.  Problem is that Barack Obama has few if any connections to the legacy of slavery that has hung over the African-American community for centuries.   One way to think about this is that Barack Obama never had to really feel or sing the blues (this purely American music is intimately tied to African-American heritage and community.)   This article provides details on the history of the blues and its relationship to black culture.  You will also learn how to write your own blues song – using my free instrumental tracks for you to sing with.   I also review the wonderful book, DVD, and CD produced by Bill Wyman (former bassist for the Rolling Stones) called Blues Odyssey.  Pass this on so we all can start singing and enjoying the blues.

CLICK BELOW TO LEARN MORE ABOUT THE BLUES:

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Categories: Musician Tributes, Prez Obama | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment

Pigpen was the Heart and Soul of the Grateful Dead

Ron “Pigpen” McKernan was born Sept. 8, 1945 and died from alcohol abuse on March 8, 1973.  His father had been a San Francisco radio DJ who played deep blues, soul and R&B, which greatly influenced his son. Ron had always had a wild streak, but was also known to be a really nice guy.  He could definitely play harmonica and and sing the Blues better than most white kids.  In fact, even growing up in the San Francisco Bay area he proved to be a true rebel, with an attitude and approach to the world that inspired many people (especially wanna-be hoods like me.)  He thrived off of African-American culture – just like his contemporaries Brian JonesJim Morrison, and  Janis Joplin did.  In many ways, Pigpen is the forgotten Grateful Dead co-founder – just like Brian Jones became the forgotten founder of the Rolling Stones.  Both were treated quite badly at the end by their respective band mates who were in their defense young and ambitious at the time.

Jerry Garcia was quoted saying that without Pigpen the band never would have made it.  He was the the Dead’s front man because of his passionate voice and willingness to face the audience – while Garcia and Weir were still shy bout singing in public.  He knew how to really work a crowd into frenzy.  Like Jim Morrison and Janis Joplin he avoided psychedelics but drank more than he should have.  He did quit drinking and ate well for an extended time before dying of cirrhosis.  In the case of the early live Dead shows (pre-1972) Pigpen acted as an anchor to his flying off into space band mates (particularly during the early “acid tests” where the band played a lot of covers that Pigpen liked to sing.  He also was, according to Jerry, “The heart and soul of the Grateful Dead.”  This article collects and edits damn-near everything that is currently on the Internet – including media stories, song lyrics, quotes from Jerry and friends, as well as my enhancements of the best pix of Pigpen on the web.  Enjoy and tell your friends because Pigpen deserves the same recognition that have been paid to Jim and Janis, not to mention while considering the history of the Grateful Dead.  Click Below to learn about his contributions, roots, lifestyle, and unfortunate early death.

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Bruce Springsteen and UNC Law School Shine Light on Serious Poverty Problems

Two recent events warn us about the serious social problems associated with poverty in the US.  First, Bruce Springsteen sent a letter to the editor of his local paper warning about the impacts of Republican budget cuts on the poor.  Also last week, I attended a great conference sponsored by the UNC School of Law.  You can read a summary of the conference and download some helpful publications.  Some common themes emerge from the Boss’s letter and the UNC conference.  Right-wing conservatives in many states (including New Jersey and North Carolina) are aggressively pushing pro-corporate economic policies.  Their give-aways to big business will be paid for on the backs of the poor and less fortunate who can least afford such cuts.

This is a symptom of the massive wealth gap between the richest families and the rest of us.  In fact, just one percent of Americans now control 40 percent of the nation’s wealth.  Just 25 years ago, the top 12 percent only controlled one-third of the wealth.   These articles also point to the importance of educating the public about how the problems of poverty affect us all.  Clearly, these issues will be important during the 2012 political campaigns.  It should be an area for the Democrats to win the debate– particularly with stronger White House leadership.  However, these stories also stress the important role that state-level politics and budgetary problems have in making the problems of poverty even worse.
Click below to learn why poverty problems are more serious and important now than ever.

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Brian Jones Built Bridges Between Chicago Blues and Young Rock Fans

Brian Jones served as a bridge between southside Chicago Blues and the young, white audience for Rock and Roll. He founded the Rolling Stones, along with Mick Jagger and Keith Richards.  Their original niche was to play fairly faithful covers of classic blues songs by Howlin’ Wolf, Muddy Waters, and other black blues masters from Chicago.  He was the most musically talented member of the Rolling Stones – being able to play many different instruments.

He also was the symbol of the “mod rebel rocker.”  He was fired from the Rolling Stones because he was no longer reliable and would not be able to get a work permit to tour America.  A month later he was found dead in his swimming pool.  His death at 27 was the first of the Sixties rock movement to die of excessive alcohol and drug consumption.   Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Jim Morrison also died at the age of 27  within two years.  Ironically, Jim Morrison died two years to the day after Jones.  The coincidence of ages has been described as the “27 Club.”  Click below for the most complete tribute on the Web!

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Categories: Musician Tributes | 9 Comments

John Lennon Helps Imagine “All We Need is Love”

John Lennon’s life and legacy has much to teach us about how and why we need to build a better society – based on love and freedom.  John would have been 70 this year (born October 9, 1940) – but was killed three decades ago (December 8, 1980). We now need to understand his music and messages more than ever.  His messages fit perfectly with some of the other social leaders profiles on this site.

This article focuses on John’s contribution to the social changes that took place during the past 50 years.  In particular, his roles as a progressive radical and social critic show the best of what an entertainer can accomplish.    The US government, especially under Nixon, persecuted and harassed John Lennon.  Read selected reviews here about the film “The US versus John Lennon.” To learn more about John Lennon’s life and music visit his official siteThen click below for the most creative and complete tribute to John on the web!

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Categories: Musician Tributes | 7 Comments

Jim Morrison Urged Us to Break on Through to the Other Side

NEW Cosmic MorrisonDuring his short life, Jim Morrison of the Doors was a role model to men and sex symbol for women.  In this article you will learn about the man, music and messages associated with one of the best Rock bands and political provocateurs we have witnessed. His life was filled with creativity and chaos; along with conflicts and contradictions.   Here you will find a carefully selected set of articles, pix, quotes, lyrics and more.  I hope you will find lessons here and buy some of the MP3 files that are available from the live performances!!  I have had a long random play list going!!  It includes the awesome 2000 Tribute CD entitled “Stoned Immaculate.”

Like many others, he had a major influence on my young life – sparking seeds of rebellion and spirituality that have burned throughout my life.  He tied our generation to that of the beat poets.  He also tied us back to our natural roots and native American heritage.  I also went down the alcohol road between 17 and 24 (1968-1973).  Although I used to pride myself on looking, thinking, and acting like Jim;  I was blessed to not meet his same fate with booze. This marks the third and final volume in my trilogy of tributes (see also my writings on Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix.)  I was further blessed to have seen them each perform live in the late sixties around Chicago (their spirits are with me still.)  I hope that you will find encouragement, enchantment and enlightenment from their lives and legacies as I have over the past 40 years!!

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Jimi Hendrix Taught How to Change the World Together

Jimi Hendrix was an amazing guitar player, but he also had much to teach us about how to change our own lives and society.  His legacy includes an open embrace of the great potential within our minds to achieve higher levels of consciousness.  He was a fearless spiritual adventurer – boldly going where no man had yet gone.  His lyrics and life provide valuable insights into the nature of the sixties counterculture.  For many of us, Jimi Hendrix was truly the “High Priest of Rock and Roll.”   He also was the first multi-ethnic person to become famous.  This article includes excerpts from the best articles about Jimi; as well as lots of quotes, pix, and lyrics.   So for now, as Jimi would say: “Excuse me while I kiss the sky!!”

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Categories: Musician Tributes | Tags: , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

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