Today’s/Tomorrow’s Top 40: Featured Artist: P!nk

P!nk was born in 1979 as Alecia Moore. In her teens she was a member of an all-girl band named Choice that recorded one professional album. Like so many new bands, pressure was applied to make P!nk the star of the band, with her friends being placed in subordinate backing roles. Instead of agreeing to this, the band fell on their musical swords and broke up. P!nk was signed to a solo contract shortly thereafter. This happened at a time when singers such as Britney Spears were being marketed as the next big thing in Pop music. Initially P!nk was marketed by her record label in the same manner. She was an attractive young woman who was asked to wear revealing clothing and sing certain songs that packaged her for public consumption as a sex symbol. It was at this time in her life that the real Alecia Moore stood up and made herself known.

P!nk was never content to allow herself to be marketed by men. She wanted to be in charge of her public image and of the music she released under her name. Growing up, her idol was Madonna. In interviews, P!nk has stated that it was Madonna who inspired her to believe that women could blaze a trail in the music business on their own terms. With that in mind, P!nk recorded a new album of music that she wrote herself. That album ended up going four times platinum. That was quickly followed up by her participation in the song “Lady Marmalade” with Mya, Lil’ Kim and Christina Aguilera for the Moulin Rouge soundtrack. That song went to #1, making it the first of many P!nk songs to do so. Over the course of her career, she has sold over 60 million albums, 75 million singles, 18 million digital downloads and her songs have been streamed almost one billion times online. P!nk has won multiple Grammy Awards, has been named the Female Artist of the Decade (for the 2000-2010s) and is currently the top female artist in the world as far as the number of times her songs have been played on the radio.

P!nk with Dallas Green (of City and Colour). They called their act You + Me.

While her numbers are impressive, P!nk is well respected by critics, fans and peers alike because of the strength of her character above all else. P!nk seems devoid of ego. She performs as a solo artist but is more than willing to appear in collaborations with other artists. Two recent examples are of her partnership with the lead singer of the Canadian band City and Colour (Dallas Green) for an album entitled You + Me. One of my favourite videos to listen to/watch is of them singing a duet of the City and Colour song “What Makes a Man?” (which you can watch here). P!nk also gave of her time to help singer Dave Grohl of the Foo Fighters put on two benefit concerts in memory of the late Foo Fighters drummer Taylor Hawkins. (You can watch Dave and P!nk rocking out here). P!nk writes her own music, but she also writes songs for other performers to record.

Alecia Moore aka P!nk.

Like David Bowie, P!nk is known for her appearance. Specifically, she is known for changing her image to suit her mood. Sometimes she shaves her head. At other times she wears her hair spiked up and colours it every colour of the rainbow imaginable. She dresses in whatever she wants, which ranges from jeans and t-shirts, to formal dresses, to work out attire. The point is that P!nk, like Bowie before her, uses control of her public image as a flex in a world in which many women do not have that form of control over their lives. While P!nk sometimes lets her actions speak for her (as in the example above), she is also unafraid to support causes that are near and dear to her heart. Consequently, P!nk has been a vocal supporter of causes devoted to women’s rights, animal rights and causes such as the recent drive to have people get the vaccines available to fight COVID-19.

P!nk live! What a strong powerful voice she has!

But what is most impressive about P!nk is the simple fact that she can really sing. P!nk possesses a strong, powerful singing voice and has been dubbed the voice of her generation by her peers. Her singing style, her artistry as a songwriter, her physical strength and the principles which she lives her life by have all acted as an inspiration for many young girls who aspired to become singers in her wake. Adele has stated that seeing P!nk perform in England as a teenager was the single most transformative moment of her life. She described the power of P!nk’s voices as being akin to experiencing a wind tunnel. Kelly Clarkson has stated that the independence that P!nk has shown throughout her career helped to give her the confidence to stand up for herself when record executives attempted to steer her in directions in which she was uncomfortable. In general, P!nk has done much to allow younger women to be themselves when it comes to developing a career in the music industry. It still is not easy to be a woman in an industry that remains predominantly male. However, performers such as P!nk are doing their part to create a better balance of power within the industry.

P!nk has a new album out called Trustfall and is embarking on a world wide tour in support of it. From that album comes today’s song which is tongue-twistingly entitled “Never Gonna Not Dance Again”. The song’s message is about remaining strong in the face of adversity. P!nk was aiming her message squarely at everyone who, like her and her family, found themselves dealing with a world restricted by the COVID pandemic. “Never Gonna Not Dance Again” is about not giving up when the times are tough and about finding the wherewithal to get back on your feet again and begin living once again. If you have $400-500.00 to spend on a ticket, I am certain that she would put on a good show and would be exciting to see live. In any case, P!nk is worth listening to whether it is live in concert or via video or on radio in your car. If you have a favourite P!nk song, feel free to let me know in the comment box below.

Thanks, as always, for taking the time to read these words. I appreciate having you be part of my world…in words.

The link to the video for P!nk’s latest song, “Never Gonna Not Dance Again”, can be found here. ***The lyrics version can be found here.

The link to the official website for P!nk can be found here.

The link to the official website for The Good Lovelies can be found here.

***All original content contained within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post shall be reblogged, copied or shared in any manner without the express written consent of the author. ©2023

Today’s Top 40: October 5, 2022.

The songs featured below were all found on the Top 40 charts of the following music-oriented organizations: BBC Radio 1, CHUM-FM and Indie88-FM (from Toronto), Spotify, Billboard Magazine and KEXP-FM (from Seattle). All songs featured were found in the Top 5 of their respective charts for this past week. ***Because there are some repeat songs in this list that have appeared in previous posts, I am going to go into slightly greater depth for the songs that are new to this series this week. However, I will link to the past articles so you can enjoy those stories again or read them anew if you missed them the first time around. Here we go!

Late Night Talking by Harry Styles (CHUM-FM).

Harry Styles.

***This song was profiled in a previous post that you can read here.

Bad Habit by Steve Lacey (Billboard Magazine).

Steve Lacey.

***This song was profiled in a previous post that you can read here.

Unholy by Sam Smith and Kim Petras (BBC Radio 1 and Spotify)

Kim Petras and Sam Smith.

The song “Unholy” by Sam Smith and Kim Petras is a song that first gained momentum via the social media app TikTok. Both Smith and Petras have a strong social media presence and are followed by millions of viewers because of their music but equally for their position as role models for the LGBTQ2s+ community. Petras is from German and is a transsexual singer whose transformation from male to female was made completely in the public eye. Petras allowed each stage of her transition to be made public so that people could see that feeling trapped in the “wrong” body isn’t something that happens in isolation. Petras hoped to inspire others who were feeling lost in their bodies to summon the courage to be their true selves. Sam Smith is a singer from the UK who has won multiple Grammy awards for songs such as “Stay With Me”. He is very much known as a crooner. However, on social media, he has long been a very high profile Gay entertainment figure. In recent times, Smith has gone further and declared himself to actually be non-binary. So, the fact that one of Europe’s leading transsexual entertainers has teamed up to sing with one of the UK’s leading non-binary entertainers is news, in and of itself.

The song “Unholy” is a dark, pulsating song about living secret lives and the impact on those who are aware of such secrets and those who aren’t. The song is specifically about a man who has been frequenting a strip joint made famous by the show, “RuPaul’s Drag Race”. In the song, the man who attends these strip shows does so in secret. However, his daughter happens to see him there and thus, possesses a secret that she doesn’t wish to know because of the implications it has on the stability of her family life as she presently knows it. The daughter acts as the narrator of the song. While the song describes the dramatic scene that it does, Petras and Smith are also singing about their own lives and the cost associated with being forced to live their true lives in secret. As we know, they have bucked that trend themselves so this song is meant for the many others who live lives of emotional anguish, unable to be who they see themselves as being. For me “Unholy” falls into that category where sometimes a song is more than just a song. For Smith and Petras, “Unholy” is akin to leaving a light on at the porch. For those struggling in silence, “Unholy” means seeing that porch light and knowing that they have found their way home.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Belize by Danger Mouse, Black Thoughts ft. MF DOOM (KEXP-FM).

Black Thought and Danger Mouse.

When it comes to Hip Hop, the pickings are either a feast or famine proposition for me. I am not a fan at all of the profanity-laced, overtly sexualized music that passes for much of what is considered Rap music these days. When it comes to Hip Hop, I tend to be more likely to go old school and listen to the sample-rich, jazz-influenced Hip Hop of performers such as DJ Shadow and his magnificent “Midnight in a Perfect World” *(which you can read about here). “Belize” by Danger Mouse, Black Thoughts and MF DOOM mines similar terrain. It is a beautiful sounding song that I could listen to for the background music samples alone. This is the type of song that I like to listen to in the dark, where each snippet of music can shine like the star that it is in this firmament. Good Hip Hop for me is also music in which the linguistic dexterity of the performers is allowed to be showcased in such a way that their skill as rappers is not overshadowed by the shock-content and vulgarity of the lyrics. MF DOOM puts on a masterclass of controlled rapping all throughout “Belize”. I know that for some of you, Hip Hop is not your cup of tea. Much of what I hear today doesn’t do much for me, either but “Belize” is different. It stands out from noise because it is a throwback song that honours the roots of Hip Hop and of Black musical culture. When I listen to music such as this, I hear poetry. I hear history.

***I am not sure if a lyrics version exists for this song but, if it does, you can find it here.

News Update: Lizzo Plays a Crystal Flute.

Lizzo playing James Madison’s crystal flute at The Library of Congress.

I am a big fan of Lizzo. She is someone with a razor-sharp mind. Lizzo knows her history and often uses her platform as a singer to make historical connections for her audiences. *(You can read about how she does this in a previous post that you can find here). Anyway, you may have heard about something Lizzo did recently in a live concert that has garnered a lot of attention from those on both sides of the political spectrum. A while ago, Lizzo was permitted to examine historically significant musical artifacts that were being stored in the Library of Congress. Being a lover of history and being someone who is passionate about cultural connections and the significance of stories on shaping identities, Lizzo was intrigued by a crystal flute that had once belonged to former US President James Madison. Lizzo was aware that Madison was connected to the odious practice of slavery. She also knew that, as a woman of colour, not only touching his flute but actually breathing into it and bringing it to life, musically speaking, would make a statement on so many levels. So, Lizzo was given permission to play Madison’s flute live, in concert. And so she did. Being the multi-instrumentalist that she is, Lizzo was able to make lovely sounds come out of the historic crystal flute. The symbolism of what she was doing was not lost on those who champion human rights. From those people, Lizzo was lauded as being a hero to the cause of civil rights in America. To those on the political right, touching a former president’s delicate crystal flute amounted to sacrilege.

While Lizzo stood on that stage, making beautiful music come out of an ancient instrument, she was connecting the dots for those who believe that the past matters and that there are stories that need to be told from the past so that we may all have a better tomorrow. She did this without raising her fists or her voice. She simply stood on a stage and played and smiled. There is power in simplicity. LIzzo wields her power well.

***The link to a video of Lizzo playing the crystal flute can be found here.

News Update #2: The L.A. version of the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters checks in on 16 year old Shane Hawkins, son of former drummer, Taylor Hawkins, during a blistering rendition of “My Hero” in Los Angeles.

Three weeks after putting on a concert for the ages at Wembley Stadium in London, England, Dave Grohl managed to put together another stellar musical celebration of life for his dear and departed friend, Taylor Hawkins. This time, the concert was held in Los Angeles. The lineup included everyone from Alanis Morissette with “You Oughta Know”, to Heart with “Barracuda”, to Rush with “YYZ”, Wolfgang Van Halen ripping through his father’s hits, “Panama” and “Hot For Teacher”, Def Leppard blasting through “Photograph” and “Rock of Ages” with Miley Cyris by their side and, of course, plenty of Foo Fighters music all the way through. The highlight on this night was the same as it was at Wembley Stadium…when Taylor Hawkins’ son, Shane took his place behind the drum kit and pounded out “My Hero” along with the rest of the Foo Fighters, who repeated their caring and tenderhearted handling of Shane by constantly coming back to play alongside him as the song went on. I am not sure what Dave Grohl is going to do to top these two concerts but, whatever it is, I have faith it will be epic!

***You can watch the video of Shane Hawkins ripping it up on “My Hero” here.

Stonecatcher by Marcus Mumford ft. Phoebe Bridgers (Indie88-FM).

Phoebe Bridgers and Marcus Mumford.

Our final song of the day goes to Marcus Mumford. You may know him as the lead singer of the folk-rock juggernaut, Mumford and Sons. “Stonecatcher” comes from his debut solo album entitled, Self-Titled. The fact that he collaborated with my current favourite female singer Phoebe Bridgers made this a must-listen to song for me.

I have always liked Mumford and Sons from their very first album called Sigh No More. I have always found their music to be rousing, anthemic and very literate. My introduction to their work came when I discovered a video of the band performing a live version of their song, “The Cave” at the 2010 Reading Music Festival. *(You can watch that performance here). That performance was one of the most joyous videos I have ever witnessed. At that moment in their career, Mumford and Sons were just breaking as a major band. So, when they launch into the opening notes of “The Cave” and the audience instantly sings along, you can see the genuine expressions of joy on their faces. I dare anyone watching this to not leave the song smiling at the end. It is truly wonderful! Since then, Mumford and Sons have had a slew of hits such as “Little Lion Man”, “I Will Wait” and “Believe”. They have won Grammy Awards and many Brit Awards, too. One of the things I have always liked about Mumford and Sons is how literate they are. Their songs draw from Shakespeare, James Joyce as well as P.K. Chesterton. But before any of you come away with the impression that Mumford and Sons are a bookish, boring band because of the sources for many of their songs, let me tell you another thing about them. They very much believe in bringing music to everyone, not just those who can afford to pay hundreds of dollars for a seat at a stadium. In the true spirit of being troubadours, Mumford and Sons make it a point to include smaller, more out of the way locations whenever they are touring. An example is that they played a two day festival in Simcoe, Ontario a few years ago. The world is filled with Simcoe-esque festivals and Mumford and Sons attempt to play at as many of them as they can.

The song, “Stonecatcher” comes from a story in the Bible. If you know your Bible stories at all, you will know that Jesus was portrayed as being a man who preached peace and compassion and love for all people. He was viewed by the authorities as being a troublemaker so the story goes that one day they decided to set him up and expose him as a fraud in front of his followers. The authorities did this by bringing a woman accused of adultery into the town square. The punishment for adultery was stoning to death. Jesus was brought to the square and was asked to denounce this woman and her crime of adultery and then to cast the first stone at her. The authorities were banking on Jesus refusing to cast the stone, at which time they would declare him as being in favour of such immoral behaviour as adultery. However, when Jesus was handed the stone, he simply turned and faced the crowd that had gathered and challenged anyone without sin to cast that first stone. When no one stepped forward, the implications were clear. No one was without sin. Since no one, including Jesus, would cast a stone, the authorities were forced to release the woman. From that point onward, people who stand up for the oppressed and stop or limit pain and discomfort have become known as stonecatchers.

When Marcus Mumford decided to put together a solo album, it wasn’t because he was thinking of leaving Mumford and Sons. It was because he had things that he wanted to say that seemed too personal to issue under the banner of the band. One of the things he wanted to address was the fact that he had suffered sexual, physical and emotional abuse as a child. Mumford claims that there was no one there to help him when the pain was his to bear. So, he decided to create an album to discuss the impact that abuse has had on him and those in his life. The song, “Stonecatcher” specifically addresses a promise that he is making to the world. Mumford promises that he will be a better person to others in need than others were to him as a child. He sings of wishing to be a stonecatcher for other abuse victims. That he is able to do this all the while harmonizing with the incomparable Phoebe Bridgers is an added bonus.

So, I will close by urging us all to be stonecatchers for those in our lives. Letting no one suffer on my watch is a promise and a pledge I make willingly and completely. If you feel so willing then, I urge you to do likewise in your world. This is how we make things better.

***The link to the lyrics version of this song can be found here.

Today’s Top 40: The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

Today’s Top 40: Sept. 6, 2022.

Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl of The Foo Fighters. Best buds, too.

I have always believed that music has the power to heal, to inspire and to bring people together. The truth behind this belief was on full display for all to see this past weekend when musicians and fans gathered at Wembley Stadium in London to honour the memory of Taylor Hawkins, the late drummer for The Foo Fighters. Ostensibly, this tribute stood in place of the traditional Celebration of Life that most families would hold for their lost loved one with the exception that it was being broadcast to the world and was being organized by arguably the biggest name in music today, Mr. Dave Grohl. Dave Grohl and Taylor Hawkins were bandmates and best friends. No one outside of his family would have known Taylor Hawkins’ wishes for being remembered better than Grohl. Therefore, it was no surprise that Grohl managed to organize a celebration that captured both, the humanity and the humility of his friend, along with doing so in an amazing rock n’ roll show for the ages. The music was outstanding but the emotion and tender moments are what made this event one of the most positive and uplifting concerts that I have ever seen! What Dave Grohl managed to pull off with this spectacular tribute to his friend was something that so many of us…even those who didn’t personally know Taylor Hawkins…so desperately needed. We all owe Dave Grohl and the Hawkins Family a debt of gratitude. Here is why.

Ever since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, people from all parts of the world have had to live differently than we once had. Collectively, we have suffered tremendous losses in terms of people taken from us, families torn asunder and so on. One of the things that became common as loved ones died was that we, as grieving family members, were not allowed to gather together to mourn. If I had a nickel for every death announcement I read that stated that a service would be held at a later date, I’d be pretty rich by now. Grief postponed is grief unexpressed. Eventually, for the sake of our own emotional and mental health, we need to grieve properly. To do so is to cleanse our souls.

So, while the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert was about paying homage to the life of Mr. Hawkins, what really made the moment special was that it provided an avenue for all of us to participate in as emotionally cathartic an experience I have seen in a long while. But even more than that, this concert was organized so well that we, as an audience, were allowed to grieve other losses all the while honouring the past history of Rock n’ Roll, saluting the present and passing the torch, as it were, to the future…all in one show. The concert was a masterclass in organizational skill. It was also a showcase for how much of a community the music world truly is. Respect. Fellowship. Passion. Musicianship. These are all words that easily come to mind after having watched much of this show.

For a brief bit of context, I have written about the charismatic Foo Fighters lead singer Dave Grohl before in previous posts. *(You can read the main history of his life, as well as Taylor Hawkins here). Dave Grohl has arguably been the biggest name in Rock music in the past decade and change. He has become loved and respected for his skill as a singer, guitarist and drummer. He is also much loved for the charming nature of his personality. He is a storyteller and a very supportive and generous presence in the lives of countless musicians from all genres and eras of music. However, for being so nice a guy, Dave Grohl seems cursed with the most tragic luck imaginable. It almost seems cruel. The short strokes of this tragic arc include being the drummer for the biggest band in the world at one point (Nirvana) and having your friend and lead singer die by suicide. Then, regrouping and getting a second chance at the spotlight by being the lead singer of the biggest rock band since Nirvana (The Foo Fighters) only to have your friend and drummer, Taylor Hawkins die unexpectedly. When Death came into Dave Grohl’s life the first time, he channeled his sadness into a new musical venture which became The Foo Fighters. When Death came into his life a second time, Dave Grohl responded by organizing the Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert. In his most recent book called, Storyteller, Dave Grohl talked a lot about how lost and unsure of himself he felt after the death of Kurt Cobain. Initially, Grohl thought that he would never play again. But music was ingrained in his soul so as time went by, his feelings about not playing began to change. It suddenly felt as if not playing was a betrayal of what he and his friends had accomplished in Nirvana. So, Dave Grohl decided to write music again and to play around with recording his work. But, what gave him the strength and the courage to believe that his new music had worth and, just as importantly, that he had what it took to actually front his own band (which he had never done before) were his friends. One of his most important friends was drummer Taylor Hawkins.

Alanis Morissette and Taylor Hawkins during The Jagged Little Pill days.

Taylor Hawkins came into the public eye for the first time as drummer for one of the most influential new voices of the 1990s, Alanis Morissette. *(You can see him working as her drummer during this appearance on the David Lettermen Show. Alanis rips it up here. As you watch this energetic performance, you can clearly notice the energy and charisma of a young Taylor Hawkins as he plays). When word leaked out that Dave Grohl of Nirvana was making music again and looking to form his own band, Taylor Hawkins got in touch. The mere act of contacting Dave Grohl took a lot of courage because many in the music world considered Grohl to have been a drumming prodigy. Now, Hawkins was asking to sit behind the drum kit of one of the world’s greatest drummers. Luckily, Dave Grohl was looking to begin a band that was a departure from who he was in Nirvana. In The Foo Fighters, Grohl would be the main songwriter, the lead singer and the face of the band. So, he was relieved, in a way, to pass the drumsticks over to Hawkins. As it turned out, Taylor Hawkins not only had the musical chops to occupy Dave’s seat behind the drum kit but he had a personality that fans fell in love with immediately. In Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl had a new wingman and the two became best friends in real life.

Taylor Hawkins passed away in South America earlier this year while on tour with The Foo Fighters. The cause of his death was ruled a drug overdose. The one thing that was made clear was that the overdose was not a suicide. After what happened to Kurt Cobain, a second suicide of a best friend would have been unbearable. As it was, even an accidental death hurt more than words could say. So, when the band finally released an official statement some days after the death, their words sounded very similar to what I read in the many deaths that happened during the pandemic…they said that they were grieving, the loss was devastating and that they would have a proper ceremony for him at a later date. As it turned out, that later date was this past weekend.

It has long been said that when tragedy strikes, you really find out who your friends are. In the case of Dave Grohl, he found out that he had a lot of friends. When the Foo Fighters were actively performing, they often took time to cover the songs of artists they respected and admired. I have heard them cover Rush songs, as well as those of David Bowie, Queen, The Beatles, Black Sabbath and many more. So, not surprisingly, when Dave Grohl decided that the best way to honour his friend was with a tribute concert, he went one step further, he decided to honour the whole of the music community that Taylor Hawkins and he so admired and respected. One of the first people to step forward and volunteer to help were Geddy Lee and Alex Liefson of Rush. They were grieving their own recent loss with the death of legendary drummer, Neil Peart. So, not only did they get to help Dave Grohl honour his friend’s memory by performing for the first time in public since Peart’s death, Dave Grohl, in turn, honoured their loss by sitting in behind Peart’s drum kit while Rush played their short set. That’s what mutual respect looks like. *(You can watch that performance here).

Son of Eddie…Wolfgang Van Halen ripped through “Hot For Teacher” at The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

It was a Whos-Who of music heavyweights that answered Grohl’s call. Paul McCartney showed up and played. So did Liam Gallagher from Oasis. Nile Rodgers and Omar Hakim from the band, Chic, helped honour David Bowie with a short set of Bowie tunes. Chrissie Hynde from The Pretenders played, as did Brian May, from Queen. Even AC/DC reunited for this show. The musical influences from Grohl and Hawkins’ past were on full display, as were performances by artists and bands who are popular today such as Justin Hawkins from The Darkness, Josh Homme from Queens of the Stone Age (doing his best David Bowie impression during the Chic set) and Blink-182’s Travis Barker, an excellent drummer in his own right, sitting in for awhile, as did Lars Ulrich of Mettalica..

Shane Hawkins and Violet Grohl…son and daughter of Taylor Hawkins and Dave Grohl, respectively, gave outstanding performances during The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

But one of the most emotional and important themes of the day was family and that of tradition. In that regard, Dave Grohl took great pains to place the next generation of musicians firmly in the spotlight. He did this several ways. First of all, Grohl got to honour the passing of legendary guitarist Eddie Van Halen by having his son, Wolfgang Van Halen, shred his guitar during a performance of his father’s hit, “Hot For Teacher”. Grohl played drums for that song. *(You can watch that performance here). Secondly, one of the nicest things Dave Grohl had been involved with during the past few years was an internet duel with an eleven year old girl named Nandi Bushell. Nandi had used the Internet (YouTube, in particular) to challenge Grohl to a drum-off. She had tremendous talent so Dave Grohl accepted her offer and the two engaged in a good-natured “rivalry”, back and forth via the Internet which culminated in Bushell being invited to perform live in concert with The Foo Fighters. Taylor Hawkins generously gave up his seat so that Bushell could play with the band. She ended up killing it! So, naturally, in Dave Grohl’s moment of need, Nandi Bushell reached out again and offered to help. Her offer was accepted and she played with the band again…this time at Wembley. *(You can watch that performance here). Dave Grohl’s own daughter, Violet sang two beautiful songs…a cover of “Grace” by Jeff Buckley and “Valerie” by Amy Winehouse….Buckley and Winehouse being two other singers who left the world far too soon. But, by far, the most emotional moment of all was when Dave Grohl invited Taylor Hawkins’ son, 16 year old Shane, to join The Foo Fighters on the closing song, “My Hero”. Not only did Shane Hawkins put on a terrific display of drumming skill, he pounded those drums like he was exorcising demons! It was as emotional a performance by any musician as I have seen. It was grace under tremendous pressure. And, all the while the song went on, Dave Grohl and the other members of the Foo Fighters took turns walking over to check on Taylor’s son, making eye contact with him, making sure that he was ok. He was more than ok. He was phenomenal! *(That performance can be seen here).

Dave Grohl cries as he attempts to sing, “Times Like These” during The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert.

The final important thing that Dave Grohl was able to pack into this tremendous concert was a lesson in humanity. Far too often in life, men are told to hold our emotions deep down inside. We are told that any outward show of emotion is actually a sign of weakness. Personally, I think that this mindset is one of the main causes of much that is wrong in our world. I believe that Dave Grohl would agree. During his solo acoustic performance of the song “Times Like These”, Grohl made no attempt to hide his tears. They flowed freely and frequently. Even rock stars are human after all. *(That performance is here).

When all was said and done, over fifty songs were played over the course of six hours in the first of two concerts. The second concert is scheduled to take place in California in another week or so. I can’t imagine it being any more perfect than the Wembley Stadium gig. But, I have also learned never to underestimate Dave Grohl. He seems connected to all that is right about live music. Grohl understands that music has the power to unite us all; the young and the old, the rich and the poor, regardless of gender or sexual orientation or economic status or religious affiliation or nationality. Music is a universal language that we all understand. It is a powerful force for good. It is certainly helping to heal a lot of hearts. Believe me, the world certainly needed that. Brilliantly done, Dave.

Rest In Peace.

The link to the official website for The Taylor Hawkins Tribute Concert can be found here.

***As always, all original content found within this post remains the sole property of the author. No portion of this post can be reblogged, copied or shared in any form without the express written consent of the author. ©2022

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #11: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana. (KEXP)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

KEXP: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #11: Smells Like Teen Spirit by Nirvana.

Compared to many of the songs that comprise this countdown, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana seems like a new song. But, in reality, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was released in 1992…..which was thirty years ago! Not exactly hot off of the musical presses but, at the same time, I challenge you to find a song as impactful and important in these last thirty years as this song was. If this countdown was restricted to the last quarter-century only, I would have no doubt that “Smells Like Teen Spirit” would be Song #1 on the list. It is just that good and just that important in the grand scheme of things. The story of how the song came to be, the impact it had on the music scene at the time and how it changed the lives of those involved, going forward, is, essentially, the story of modern music, itself, since 1990. So, make yourself comfortable because here comes the story of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana and why it is such a special song. Let’s go!

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was the lead track on Nirvana’s second album, “Nevermind”. A band’s second album is often a pivotal one in their evolution. There have been many, many artists and bands who worked for years, compiling a list of good, tight songs that ended up on a debut album that, in turn, caught the fancy of listeners and critics, alike. However, there are just as many bands who emptied their creative tank into Album #1 and then, found themselves shooting blanks when it came time to create new material for Album #2. Nirvana was a band that followed the initial course of things by releasing their first album called, “Bleach”. This album was raw and energetic and loud and filled with great lyrics that proved that writer, Kurt Cobain was, perhaps, more than just a young screamer and that Nirvana was, in fact, more than just the latest young band to burst forth in the Seattle area when that music scene that set to explode.

Many of the fans who discovered Nirvana during the “Bleach” days loved them because their music was so rough and unpolished and yet, so filled with intelligence and meaning. As a band, Nirvana eschewed corporate leanings, in favour of raw, pure musicianship. The members of the band, (Kurt Cobain, Krist Novoselic and Dave Grohl) were pragmatic enough to know that they wanted their music to pay the bills but, they also knew, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that they wanted to control their message and produce Art on their terms and, if that meant producing music as found on “Bleach” then, so be it. That attitude was embraced by fans who would end up helping to create a new genre of music called, “Grunge”.

Bands who fell under the “Grunge” umbrella were anti-corporate by nature. But, a funny thing happened on the way to Grunge becoming popular with the kids, corporations took notice and came calling. As with any movement that exists in a pure, unsullied form, Corporate America saw Grunge as an untapped marketplace and set about to commodify it. It was against this backdrop that Nirvana released their all-important second album, “Nevermind”. “Nevermind” was produced by a professional producer named Butch Vig. It wasn’t that Vig set out to lead Nirvana into the waiting arms of Corporate America but, he did lend his expertise to the band in ways that helped polish their production values and hence, the overall quality of their sound. It was this collection of songs with “better” production values that caused them to be viewed as more “radio friendly”. The first of these songs to be released was, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” was written while Kurt Cobain was dating Tobi Vail, one of the lead singers of Riot Grrrl headliners, Bikini Kill. The story is that Vail liked to wear “Teen Spirit” deodorant. One day, Vail’s bandmate, Kathleen Hanna, was teasing Cobain that he smelled like Vail…..that she had marked him with her scent……and so, Hanna took a marker and wrote on a wall in Cobain’s bedroom that “Kurt smells like Teen Spirit, man”. Apparently, Cobain was unaware that Teen Spirit was a deodorant and, instead, thought that Hanna was complimenting him on being in sync with the youth of the day and their sensibilities. So, he was inspired to write the song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” as sort of an ode to the restlessness and disaffected nature of youth at that time in the late 1980s/early 1990s.

This song, specifically but, also, much of Nirvana’s sound, in general, was mirrored after bands like The Pixies, who mastered the loud-soft-loud style of songwriting and performing. *(You can read about The Pixies and their massive influence on bands such as Nirvana, here). At one point, Cobain was worried that they sounded a bit too much like The Pixies and would, in fact, be viewed as merely ripping them off. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” does follow the loud-soft-loud aesthetic of The Pixies quite closely. However, when the song was officially released, that didn’t seem to matter. “Smells Like Teen Spirit” hit the airwaves and was a huge success almost immediately. Much of the support initially came from “College Radio” and from the local Seattle scene. But, most of the groundswell of interest came from people like me, who were being introduced to Nirvana for the first time via this song.

When I first heard “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, I was impressed by the ferocious drumming, as well as, the intensity of the song as it ramped up out its quiet sections. I was impressed and began following the band more closely after that. However, therein lay the conundrum for Nirvana and their true fans. Many of the fans that first supported Nirvana did so because of the rawness of their album, “Bleach”. They ended up being disappointed because “Nevermind” seemed too polished and professional; with “Smells Like Teen Spirit” not being raw and primal but, instead, having committed the sin of being over-produced. The band was not directly accused of selling out to corporate interests but, at the same time, true fans were disappointed that Nirvana had released a song such as “Smells Like Teen Spirit”.

For the band, the success of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” thrust them clearly to the very forefront of the Grunge scene and, as such, they were deemed as being the spokespeople for an entire generation known as Gen Z. Having a pulpit from which to pontificate was the furthest thing from Kurt Cobain’s mind. He thought it was all ludicrous and pushed back against the attention by accelerating his drug use. At the same time, the band noticed that when they played live, they were seeing fewer and fewer of their original fans and more and more of a crowd who were there to see the “next big thing” because they were followers of trends more than of Art. Suddenly, Nirvana, who had always prided themselves as being pure artists and anti-corporate at their core, found themselves in a media feeding frenzy, alienated from the roots of their scene and they became miserable.

There are many artists who seek out the bright lights and the big stages but, Kurt Cobain was not really one of them. He enjoyed writing songs, playing music and being with likeminded people. But, he did not enjoy the fame and the way his music would become a business venture for many people, more interested in sales figures and advertising opportunities than in the messages contained in the lyrics scribbled in Cobain’s notebooks. For Kurt Cobain, Teen Spirit was never a product to be marketed. It was an ideal that spoke to him and that he, by extension, wanted to share with others who felt left out of the flow of mainstream life, as he did. Kurt Cobain was never the popular man on campus. He was always an outsider. In fact, he acted more like a feminist….being drawn to, and supporting, strong women, like the girls in Bikini Kill *(who you can read about here) and mentor and muse, Patti Smith. The more I have read about Kurt Cobain and Nirvana, the less I am surprised that, in the time after his death by suicide, the best covers of “Smells Like Teen Spirit” were all performed by strong women such as Smith and Tori Amos. The real person that Cobain was seemed to be was someone able to tap into that feminine sensibility and that is, arguably, more in tune with the man he thought he was and that he wanted to continue to become, above all else.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” raced into the #1 chart position and helped make Nirvana the biggest band in the world at the time. All of this attention shook Cobain. Nirvana managed to record one more album called, “In Utero” which was more introspective than “Nevermind” but still, filled with great songs. When the news of Cobain’s suicide was announced on TV, it had the same impact for those in Generation Z, as the deaths of Elvis and John Lennon did for Boomers. It felt as though an entire genre of great music had been cancelled all at once. Other Grunge bands such as Pearl Jam, Soundgarden and Alice in Chains had some moderate success but only Pearl Jam had any lasting fame and, even with them, they are mostly touring and playing old material now, like so many other nostalgia acts out there. The spirit of Grunge seems to have fizzled out with Cobain’s death which, if you really look at it, was attributable to having achieved too much success to begin with. Which leaves “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, despite its’ enormous success, as actually having quite a complicated legacy.

I, for one, still think this song really rocks. In particular, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was my introduction to Dave Grohl. His drumming on this song blew my mind! What ferocity and power! His personality, which shone in comparison to the introverted, Cobain, has always attracted me and I have faithfully followed his career, as he transitioned from Nirvana and the tragedy of his friend, Kurt’s death, to finding new success as lead singer/guitar player of today’s biggest band, Foo Fighters. Amazingly enough, poor Dave Grohl suffered another music-related tragedy just recently, with the death of Foo Fighters drummer, and Grohl’s new best friend, Taylor Hawkins. It is almost too much loss to be believed for Grohl. As I write these words, Foo Fighters have cancelled all remaining tour dates. My wish is for Dave Grohl to be alright and to achieve some semblance of emotional peace in the days and weeks to come.

“Smells Like Teen Spirit” remains the song that is the face of an entire genre of music. No amount of sad consequences can alter the fact that this song was the most important and impactful song to emerge in the last quarter-century. It is a song that still packs a punch that is undeniably loud and forceful. It stands as the only song on my personal playlist for which albinos and mosquitos play a prominent role. It is the only song I love that was inspired…even if it was unintentionally… an underarm deodorant. It is “Smells Like Teen Spirit”……there is nothing else like it in this countdown. Please enjoy it in all of its glory.

The link to the video for the song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Nirvana, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, as covered by Tori Amos, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Tori Amos, can be found here.

The link to the video for the song, “Smells Like Teen Spirit”, as covered by Patti Smith, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Patti Smith, can be found here.

Thanks, as always, to KEXP, for being located at the scene of one of the best music scenes in history. The link to their wonderful website can be found here.

The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History…Song #49: Good Golly, Miss Molly by Little Richard (RS)

This list of songs is inspired by lists published by radio station KEXP-FM from Seattle in 2010, as well as the latest poll taken in 2021 by Rolling Stone Magazine. For the most part I will faithfully countdown from their lists, starting at Song #500 and going until I reach Song #1. When you see the song title listed as something like: Song #XXX (KEXP)….it means that I am working off of the official KEXP list. Song XXX (RS) means the song is coming from the Rolling Stone list. If I post the song title as being: Song #xxx (KTOM), it means I have gone rogue and am inserting a song choice from my own personal list of tunes I really like. In any case, you are going to get to hear a great song and learn the story behind it. Finally, just so everyone is aware, I am not a music critic nor a musician. I am a music fan and an armchair storyteller. Here is the story behind today’s song. Enjoy.

RS: The Top 500 Songs in Modern Music History.

Song #49: Good Golly, Miss Molly by Little Richard.

In his entire enormously important career, Little Richard never won a single Grammy Award. Not one for any song nor album. Of course, after the Grammy Association became embarrassed by its own negligence, he was awarded a “Lifetime Achievement” award but, during the course of a career that spanned over a half century, a career that broke down so many barriers and helped to lay the actual foundation for what was to become “Rock n’ Roll, Little Richard was never acknowledged nor recognized for his contribution….at least by those who controlled the purse strings and authored the official histories.

To those who have been heralded as the Kings and Queens of Rock…..The John Lennons, the Keith Richards and the Elton Johns of the music world……they all know who Little Richard was and how important his role was in opening doors for each of them to become who they became. Dave Grohl of Nirvana and the Foo Fighters tells the famous story of always publicly acknowledging how important a person Little Richard was in the annals of Rock. He states that as famous as he had become, he was still as nervous as a schoolboy when the opportunity arose one day to actually meet Little Richard in person. Grohl says that he was at the airport in Los Angeles and a young man approached and asked if he was Dave Grohl from the Foo Fighters. Grohl is used to being approached and was expecting to be asked for an autograph when, instead, the young man told him that he was a relative of Little Richard and that they had heard about all of the kind words Grohl had said about him and, well, wouldn’t ya know it but, Little Richard was outside sitting in a car if Grohl wanted to come out and say hello. Grohl went outside. The car window slowly lowered and there was the man, himself. Grohl stumbled over his greeting. Little Richard thanked him for his kindness and then, gave Grohl HIS autograph on a prayer card *( because Little Richard was an ordained Minister, along with being a Rock n’ Roll star). Grohl told this story as he gave a eulogy at the funeral to rock star, Lemmy, from Motorhead. When Grohl concluded his remarks at the funeral, he reached into his breast coat pocket, pulled out the autographed prayer card (to the shock and delight of those in attendance) and then, placed it on Lemmy’s casket.

That Little Richard was a transcendent personality throughout the whole of Rock n’ Roll history should be something that everyone who cares about this music can agree upon. That his role and contributions were mostly ignored by the caretakers of the industry is a shocking lapse of respect and of true knowledge of who the real trailblazers and pioneers actually were. Without the likes of Little Richard, many who followed in his wake would have found the journey much more difficult to make.

Little Richard was born, Richard Wayne Penniman. While he grew up in a home that was filled with music, according to Richard, it wasn’t the kind of music that moved him so, he started making his own music. As mentioned in a previous post *(which you can read here), he got his start in the music business because of the kindness and mentorship of Sister Rosetta Tharpe, who gave him his first big break. Once on stage, Little Richard took care of the rest of his business himself. His often outrageous personality frequently disarmed potential critics; especially those who believed Rock n’ Roll to be the Devil’s music and/or who harboured racist tendencies and simply refused to show respect to anyone of colour, let alone a frock-wearing, piano key-breaking powerhouse like Little Richard. One of the most remarkable trademarks of Little Richard’s early days as a performer was how risqué much if his music actually was. For someone raised in Churches and who would later go on to become a preacher, Little Richard was practiced in the Art of singing songs that contained much in the way of sexual innuendo. “Good Golly, Miss Molly” is but one song in a long list that hints very highly at hanky-panky going on. Yet, Richard was never censored for his music.

But, it is one thing for me or for the likes of Dave Grohl to wax nostalgic about Little Richard. It is another thing, entirely, for you to hear and see him play live, yourself. Thanks to the miracle of technology, we can go back in time and watch Little Richard performing at the very height of his power and passion. So, without further delay, here is one of the greatest and most important people ever in the entire history of Rock n’ Roll, with his song, “Good Golly, Miss Molly”. Enjoy.

The link to the video for the song, “Good Golly, Miss Molly” by Little Richard, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Little Richard, can be found here.

The link to the video of the eulogy given by Dave Grohl at Lemmy’s funeral, in which he tells the story about meeting Little Richard at LAX, can be found here.

The link to the official website for Rolling Stone Magazine, can be found here.