Archives for category: Stax

Chips Moman at Country Music Hall of Fame, all photos – Brad Hardisty

Chips Moman was at The Ford Theater in The Country Music Hall of Fame as part of the “Celebrate the King” series on Saturday, August 19th and spent a little over an hour talking about over thirty years worth of work in the music industry. If there were a list of the top 25 people that are responsible for American music today as we know it, Chips would be there.

Chips, who grew up in La Grange, Georgia, got a ukulele when he was three and a guitar when he was four, hitchhiked to Memphis to stay with his Aunt when he was just fourteen. When asked why he decided to go to Memphis, Chips just said, “I had never been there before.”

Scotty Moore and Brad Hardisty at Chips Moman Interview

Chips, who rarely does such interviews, drew a five star crowd of musicians that worked with him, especially in the Memphis years. Original guitarist for Elvis, Scotty Moore as well, the members of The Memphis Boys, sessions cats from the American Sound Studio years featuring guitarist, Reggie Young. Also, Gary Talley from The Box Tops.

James Burton, the other prominent guitarist in Elvis Presley’s career was also there.

Chips, who grew up listening to Les Paul & Mary Ford on the radio as a young boy, was also asked when he first heard Black Music. Chips just said, “I guess it was while I was picking cotton when I was a boy,” which brought a little laughter. It was hard to get a straight answer when one of the architects of the Memphis Sound was just going to play off your last statement.

Johnny Burnette & The Rock and Roll Trio

Chips Moman started playing guitar on some Sun Sessions for Warren Smith. In those early days, he played guitar in road bands for Gene Vincent and The Burnette Brothers.

Chips left Memphis for a while and headed out to California and worked at Gold Star studios as a session player while learning the studio experience where Phil Spector would develop the “Wall of Sound” production techniques.

With that experience, Chips was ready to work with somebody to start an R&B label when he got back to Memphis. Chips had talked Jim Stewart into buying a tape machine and went to scope out a place for a studio with Paul Ritchie and it was really under Chips insistence that they purchased the Theater on McLemore Avenue in Memphis that would serve as the recording studio for Satellite and Stax releases.

Defining the Stax Sound,Chips writes “Last Night”

In fact Chips wrote the first big hit, “Last Night” by The Markeys that was on Satellite Records and helped to establish the Memphis Sound with the driving beat, horns and locked in guitar, bass and drums.

Chips was a true visionary able to play guitar, compose music, run a label and act as Producer for well over 100 Billboard hits during the sixties and seventies.

A little inside story, Chips owned a little British sports car where Booker T. & The MG’s got their name from.

When asked why he left Stax, the simple answer was that he wasn’t getting paid.

 

The first hit record out of American Sound Studio.

What happened next was the founding of his own studio, American Sound Studio, where not only did Chips continue composing and Producing, but, other great American Producers such as Jerry Wexler and Tom Dowd worked to create some magic including the classic album, Dusty in Memphis by Dusty Springfield.

Elvis with The Memphis Boys at American

If you ever wondered how Elvis Presley ended up recording in Memphis, Marty Lacker, Elvis’ confidante who ran the day to day operations of the Memphis Mafia put that one together and delivered one of his finest albums in 1969, the Chips Moman Produced, From Elvis in Memphis, which featured some of Elvis’ greatest late career recordings, “Suspicious Minds,” “In The Ghetto” and “Kentucky Rain.”

After the Martin Luther King Jr. assassination, the vibe had changed in Memphis and so did the music business. Chips began spending more time in Nashville and Muscle Shoals, Alabama.  Chips co-wrote “Do Right Woman, Do Right Man” for Aretha Franklin whom he said was one his favorite singers at that time. Chips played guitar on that track along with tracks by Wilson Pickett.

Produced by Chips Moman

Although, Chips would have liked to see things get back the way they were in Memphis, they never did turn around and later on, Chips ended up producing a lot of great recordings by Willie Nelson, Gary Stewart, Tammy Wynette, Ronnie Milsap, and The Highwaymen.

Chips discussing Waylon Jennings

Chips penned, “ Luckenbach, Texas (Back To The Basics Of Love)” for Waylon Jennings after hearing him talk about the place.

Chips earned a Grammy for writing the B.J. Thomas hit, “(Hey Won’t You Play) Another Done Somebody Wrong Song.”

Chips moved seamlessly from musician to songwriter to producer to studio owner in the triumvirate domain that was Memphis, Muscle Shoals and Nashville speaking in R&B, Pop and Country like it was water out of the same stream.

On the current state of Memphis…”It aint Nashville.”  Without being critical of Memphis itself, that statement was enough that not much else needs to be said. Chips went back in the 80’s to try to turn it around, but, although there are still some quality music coming out of studios in Memphis, the infrastructure that was there from the 60’s through to the early 70’s may never happen again.

Chips finally settled back down in La Grange, Texas where he raises horses. Chips said, “My Walking Horses are running and my Running Horses are walking.”

An afternoon with one of the greats – Chips Moman

With such a well respected lifespan in the music business there were certainly many milestones rather than one single event in the life of Chips Moman.

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

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News came fast and furious over the web of the passing of Donald “Duck” Dunn, a cornerstone of Memphis Soul and Blues.  Steve Cropper posted a message to his Facebook page, saying, “Today I lost my best friend; the World has lost the best guy and bass player to ever live. Duck Dunn died in his sleep Sunday morning May 13 in Tokyo Japan after finishing 2 shows at the Blue Note Night Club.”

Al Jackson, Booker T. Jones, Duck Dunn, Steve Cropper

Dunn’s other surviving MG’s bandmate, keyboard player Booker T. Jones responded to his friend’s death on his official website, saying “I am struck deeply by Duck’s death… God is calling names in the music world. He gave us these treasures and now he is taking them back. Duck was too close to me for me to at this point realize the full implications of his passing… I can’t imagine not being able to hear Duck laugh and curse, but I’m thankful I got to spend time and make music with him. His intensity was incomparable. Everyone loved him. None more than Otis Redding.”

Another legendary bassist – Bootsy Collins – took to his Facebook page to post a message about Dunn: “Yesterday, We Lost Another Brick in our Musical Foundation. ‘Donald Duck Dunn’ has Joined that Musical Stax Soul Orchestra in the Sky. Send out prayers & love vibes to his Family & Friends.”

Dunn was born in the city that changed the world of music, Memphis, Tennessee on November 24th, 1941. His father nicknamed him “Duck” while watching Disney cartoons with him one day. Dunn grew up playing sports and riding his bike with fellow future professional musician Steve Cropper. After Cropper began playing guitar with mutual friend Charlie Freeman, Dunn decided to pick up the bass guitar. Eventually, along with drummer Terry Johnson, the four became “The Royal Spades”. The Messick High School group picked up keyboardist Jerry “Smoochy” Smith, singer Ronnie Angel (also known as Stoots), and a budding young horn section in baritone saxophone player Don Nix, tenor saxophone player Charles “Packy” Axton, and trumpeter (and future co-founder of The Memphis Horns) Wayne Jackson.

Duck would be a part of the second wave of the Memphis music explosion. The first being the triumvirate of cutting edge rock and roll, blues and country by the likes of Elvis Presley, B.B. King and Johnny Cash.

As the sixties began, Rhythm and Blues began a soulful turn as the first recognizable integrated group, Booker T. & The MG’s, not shy on group photos, started a stretch of hit soul instrumentals beginning with “Green Onions.” This was long before Sly & The Family Stone, with Steve Cropper’s songwriting chops and guitar playing locked in arms length with the tight-in-the-pocket bass playing of Donald “Duck” Dunn.

“I would have liked to have been on the road more, but the record company wanted us in the studio. Man, we were recording almost a hit a day for a while there,” Dunn said.

Dunn may be best known for his role in The Blues Brothers as the pipe smoking quiet bassist, but, in reality he was one of a handful of bassists to define popular music of the Sixties.

The Blues Brothers Band, Duck with pipe

Speaking about The Blues Brothers Band, “How could anybody not want to work with John and Dan? I was really kind of hesitant to do that show, but my wife talked me into it,” Dunn said in a 2007 interview with Vintage Guitar magazine, “and other than Booker’s band, that’s the most fun band I’ve ever been in.”

Cropper has noted how the self-taught Dunn started out playing along with records; filling in what he thought should be there. “That’s why Duck Dunn’s bass lines are very unique”, Cropper said, “They’re not locked into somebody’s schoolbook somewhere”. Axton’s mother Estelle and her brother Jim Stewart owned Satellite Records , where Steve Cropper worked in High School, and signed the band, who had a national hit with “Last Night” in 1961 under their new name “The Mar-Keys“.[3] The bassist on “Last Night” was Donald “Duck” Dunn, but he left the Mar-Keys in 1962 to join Ben Branch‘s big band.

From there it was with Booker T. & The MG’s, featuring Steve Cropper on guitar, a band that even once had Isaac Hayes fill in on Keyboards while Booker T. went to college. Dunn once said that he and Cropper were “like married people.” “I can look at him and know what he’ll order for dinner,” he said. “When we play music together we both know where we’re going.”

Probably one of the most noteworthy gigs was with Otis Redding. Steve Cropper wrote several songs for Redding on which Duck played. Otis Redding and Booker T. & The MG’s toured Europe and got a reception similar to what The Beatles got when they came here.

There were two acts at the famous Monterey Pop Festival that blew everybody else away and that was Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, with Booker T. & The MG’s playing in Mohair Suits in contrast to Jimi’s flamboyant English rocker duds that he had taken on from swinging London. In fact, to the new hippie generation of the bay area, Otis and the band looked downright square, but, the minute Otis with Duck on a solid rhythm section kicked in, they mesmerized the crowd and were considered the best performance of the prototype early rock festival.

The twin performances were the first to be released as a live recording from that night as a back-to-back live album entitled Otis Redding / The Jimi Hendrix Experience, Historic Performances Recorded at the Monterey International Pop Festival released by Reprise Records on August 26, 1970. Otis Redding was at the pinnacle of his career at that time. He was booked as the closing act on the Saturday night of the festival, June 17, 1967. Otis came to the stage following a set by his backup band, Booker T. & the MG’s. However, Otis’ high charged performance ran into a time limit under the festival’s permit, resulting in his having time to perform only 5 short songs.  The performance came on the end of a successful European tour. Otis died less than 6 months later, but not before writing and recording his biggest song ever, “Sittin’ On The Dock Of The Bay,” with Steve Cropper listed as co-writer.

As the bands’ career started to wind down, Duck became a go-to session man in the 70’s, especially after the demise of Stax Records.

Duck with Neil Young onstage in 1993

Dunn went on to play for Muddy Waters, Freddie King, and Jerry Lee Lewis, as well as Eric Clapton and Rod Stewart. He was the featured bass player for Stevie Nicks and Tom Petty‘s “Stop Draggin’ My Heart Around” single from Nicks’ 1981 debut solo album Bella Donna, as well as other Petty tracks between 1976 and 1981. While not credited as playing on any Elvis Presley Memphis tracks, I have reliable sources that in fact, Duck, was called into “fix” the bass parts or rather replace what was recorded earlier on some of Elvis’ biggest Memphis tracks. Due to Duck’s contracts or business relationships at the time, it would not have been proper for Duck to be listed in the credits, such was the music business in Memphis in the Sixties and Seventies. He reunited with Cropper as a member of Levon Helm’s RCO All Stars and also displayed his quirky Southern humor making two movies with Cropper, former Stax drummer Willie Hall, and Dan Aykroyd, as a member of The Blues Brothers band.

Dunn played himself in the 1980 feature The Blues Brothers, where he famously uttered the line, “We had a band powerful enough to turn goat piss into gasoline!” He appeared in the 1998 sequel Blues Brothers 2000, once again playing himself. Dunn supported Neil Young live and in the studio and continued to play with Cropper and Jones, usually with the late Al Jackson, Jr.‘s cousin Steve Potts on drums, as Booker T. & the MGs.

While The Blues Brothers film took place in the north, the music was more than enough pure Stax and featured many of the songs that Duck originally played on.  In fact, John Belushi stayed at the home of Duck’s brother in Memphis while working out the music and script for The Blues Brothers movie. In a way, it would have been more accurate if the film had taken place in Memphis.

In 1992, Duck was inducted into The Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a Member of Booker T. & The MG’s.

His legacy is carried on by the next generation that listens to Memphis soul and especially his original bass lines. U2 Bassist, Adam Clayton, as well as other current players have mentioned Duck as an inspiration.

For the last several years, Duck was still sought out for endorsement deals, musicians wanted Duck on sessions willing to pay whatever it would take, but, it was not about the money, it was whether or not he believed in the music enough to leave some quiet time with family and maybe some deep sea fishing with neighbor and friend, Brian Johnson of AC/DC.

Dunn received a lifetime achievement Grammy in 2007.

He is survived by his wife, June; a son, Jeff; and a grandchild, Michael, said Michael Leahy, Dunn’s agent.

Robert Dunn, Duck’s brother, King Records Memphis Office Manager, Passed away four days after Duck.

Update: Duck’s brother, Robert “Bobby” Dunn, who was 2 years older died the Thursday after Duck’s Passing. There was a possibility of a double funeral, but, the family decided to keep things separate.

The brothers who were close, sharing the same bed until they were 12 years old, growing up in Memphis, were actually reunited in their passing as they were both at the same funeral home for a few days before arriving at their final resting place.

King Records Warehouse

Robert was an avid fan of Rythm and Blues and was responsible for introducing Duck as well as Steve Cropper to the music of The 5 Royales as well as other great music like Hank Ballard that lead to their interest and development in the Satellite, Volt and Stax Records scene starting with their first single as The Mar-Keys while still in their teens.

King Records / James Brown Production logos

Robert ran the King Records office in Memphis until 1968. This was in a time when there were still a lot of problems in the south. Robert would stay with the musicians in “colored” hotels during those times. On one occasion when he was with James Brown, the Hotel desk clerk was not going to  let Robert stay there because he was not “colored”. James Brown said that if he goes the whole band goes and he backed down and Robert stayed along with James Brown and the rest of the band as usual.

King Records Biography, James Brown on cover

James Brown was involved with King Records at the time, which released singles with a James Brown Production stamp on the opposite side of the King Records logo on the label. Robert had a big influence on what became the Stax sound inadvertently being the brother of Duck and having an influence on him and the younger Steve Cropper.

Beale Street Parade for Duck on Wednesday afternoon.Photo – Mike Brown, The Commercial Appeal

Robert’s funeral took place on Monday with most of the same family and friends that attended Duck’s funeral and Beale Street Parade on Wednesday.

They are survived by their older brother Charlie who spoke at both funerals. 

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Kenny Vaughan at Mercy 2011

This would be the year that Indie makes more news in Nashville than Country; what Music City is known for. There seems to be much more going on with the ever developing spider web of Funk, Rock and strange magic underbelly from the Gulch to East Nashville.

Before, we get into this weird year, 2012 with its three Friday the 13ths exactly 13 weeks apart, the intrigue of political discord, 12/21/12, which lines up with Rush’s “Temples of Syrinx” released in 1976, prophecy being realized, “Our great computers, fill the hallowed halls, We are the priests of the temples of syrinx, All the gifts of life, Are held within our walls,” ha! Computers, what a blessing and a curse as all the creative occupations occupied by humans are eliminated by this gift we call knowledge at our fingertips. Remember, when Rush wrote “Temples of Syrinx,” a computer took up a whole room. Well, Steve Jobs, one of the great Priests of the digital age has passed onto the spiritual realm.

The Mayan calendar ends shortly after the election, maybe the world won’t come to an end, but, probably a lot of music will be written about end times and there will be an uptick of heavy dirge and Metal music. This may be the year to contemplate life listening to Dark Side of The Moon again or about sinister underlying forces in Queensryche’s Operation Mindcrime.

Before we move through this “L” shaped recovery, one of the most mentally difficult times I can remember in my life, let’s rewind.

 As far as music, 2011 was a “run for cover” year as the “360 deal” pop artists keep spinning their “larger-than-life-80’s-on-ecstacy” fluff with the bands that happen to still be signed to major labels sounding not too far off the Katy Perryesque mark. I think the bands were put on warning, “Rock radio is dying so you better have “Moves Like Jagger.”

Okay, before I get to something positive, there were some disappointments. Janes Addiction, while preparing to release their newest album, The Great Escape Artist, put down their last effort, Strays  as not being that good, when in fact Strays did have a couple of great guitar hooks, while this dark piece, weak on guitar, ended up being more reminiscent of Porno for Pyros.  There was not one solid hook on the entire album.

Red Hot Chili Peppers were able to put together a solid if not remarkable effort with new guitarist, Josh Klinghoffer, who may be capable of taking on some Frusciante and Slovak, but not as innovative. Frusciante was a trailblazer; this is like replacing Eddie Van Halen.

So, with FYE the last major chain in Nashville closing its doors at the old Tower Records site, you got your choice, you have major league fluff, really not much different than the cotton candy days before The Beatles and The Rolling Stones crashed the party or you can go outside the box, think for yourself, show up at a Grimey’s in-store or a showcase at The End.

Hello Kelly at The Rutledge, photo courtesy- Jeni George

As far as bands go, Jeff The Brotherhood, joins the two member band fray that goes nationwide, well deserved with great shows locally and at Bonnaroo and beyond. As far as other local rock acts, Hello Kelly always put on a solid show when I saw them this year as well as The Onethroughtens that played solid sets at both the Third Man Vault show and some fashion meets art consortium at Mercy Lounge.

Kenny Vaughan at Ernest Tubb Record Shop

As far as favorite shows, Kenny Vaughan’s record release at Ernest Tubb’s downtown location was the place to be this year with Marty Stuart, the Fabulous Superlatives as well as Chris Scruggs playing to a packed room with about half being friends and relatives.

Jeff Beck at Ryman 2011

Jeff Beck at The Ryman was another phenomenal show as well as the Americana Awards that saw not only The Avett Brothers and The Civil Wars, but, also Robert Plant and Greg Allman bookending appearances with Buddy Miller providing the musical proceedings.

Okay, now for my top ten of the year. Many recordings are sounding more analog in the Indie world, if not recorded analog, the attempt to match the style with the sound that would come out of the influential era a must.

10.  Jeff The Brotherhood  – We Are The Champions

Starting out with some punk rock Buck Rogers guitar laser blasts subsiding into gnarly Maestro phase shifter on “Hey Friend” clocking in with a long intro, the writing is strong, simple and effective. Jeff gets a major label deal off this one. It will be interesting to see how that goes. Their own label, Infinity Cat, being one of the major local indie labels to develop a short roster that has been hitting every club and festival that they can, Jeff the Brotherhood came up with a solid piece of work.

9. The August – Dear Chicago Love Nashville

Jacky Dustin has one strong Country voice, this Chicago band has been down here chasing their Country music dreams for a little while, not waiting to get signed, they put this great piece of Country rockin’ song cycle out themselves.  Big labels, in their search for solos and doubles, have so far overlooked this great band. What’s wrong with a great band that writes their own songs about cranking The Rolling Stones and talking about where they came from? This is not a one trick pony going from the double-time “We Write Our Songs” to the getting more than you bargained for sultry “Love Me Like A Stranger,” this is probably the best “unsigned” country band in Nashville.

8. Graveyard – Hisingen Blues

This was a find while traveling out to Utah to do interviews, stopping it at local indie record shop, Gray Whale and picking up a recommendation. The Swedish rockers are somewhere between first album Black Sabbath and Vincebus Eruptum, Blue Cheer. The recording sounds like it was done on an old well worn 4 track reel to reel with non-Marshalls, more like full blown, old Sound City amps or something. There doesn’t seem to be anything above 8k on this album. It plays like a record found at a garage sale from an old Vietnam era stoner. They are playing this month at Exit/In on January 20th.  The early Black Sabbath slow un-blues of “No Good, Mr. Holden” and stoner boogie, “Buying Truth (Tack & Forlat)” are stand outs.

7. Mastodon – The Hunter

It’s weird to think that a Metal band that was conceived at The Nick in Birmingham and worked its way out of Atlanta, would earn its wings being lauded not only by Metallica but attendees at such indie festivals as Coachella with 2008’s, Crack The Skye, busting out everywhere. It was hard to follow up Crack the Skye which would be their Dark Side of The Moon, but Mastodon do a great job on such cuts as the “Sweet Leaf” groove of “Curl of The Burl” and the Dream Theater flavored, “Octopus Has No Friends.”  

Dedicated6. Steve Cropper – Dedicated, A Salute to The 5 Royales

Steve has the opportunity to pay tribute to guitarist, Lowman Pauling, who was one of the biggest influences on Stax soul as the great era of the Sixties would kick in full effect. The King records office, run by “Duck” Dunn’s brother in Memphis, brought in some of the strongest soul artists of the day from around the country. Booker T. and The MG’s, Otis Redding and many other artists were influenced as the music changed from rhythm and blues to soul. This has an all—star vocal cast from Delbert McClinton on “Right Around the Corner” to Steve Winwood, B.B. (Beale Street Blues Boy) King, Steve Winwood, Lucinda Williams and an A-list that contribute to this project.

5. Gary Clark Jr.  – The Bright Lights E.P.

With some gritty Black Keys meets The Burnside Exploration bluesy soul of “Bright Lights,” kicking off this four song cycle, there is a little Paul “Wine” Jones thrown in here, this Texan, all things, including a little hill country blues, is more of a promise than a full album. It was good enough to make Rolling Stone’s list for the year and earns a place on my list as well. The fact that it is on Warner Brothers makes it really twisted.

4. Tony Bennett – Duets II

With many of the classic icons now “Dust in The Wind,” it really is amazing that Tony Bennett still sings like a prizefighter. Mr. Bennett could hold up everything by himself, but, the interesting match-ups with Mariah Carey, John Mayer (yes, John Mayer), Willie Nelson, as well as Lady Gaga’s best performance to date on “The Lady is a Tramp” makes for an instant standard. The most prized track is Amy Winehouse’ last recorded performance of “Body and Soul.” The Nelson Riddle style strings make this record sit on the top shelf with the best early Sixties era Frank.

3. Kenny Vaughan – V

Kenny shows up on a lot of Nashville records, known as Marty Stuart’s guitar slinger, Kenny takes center stage with The Fabulous Superlatives providing back up, the album rocks as much as it steeps in mystified netherworld Country, blasting off with “Country Music Got a Hold on Me,” stopping mid-point with the instrumental, “Wagon Ride” before ending up in a rockin’ Country church, “Don’t Leave Home Without Jesus.”  Sonically, this has the frequencies in the right place with no high-end ADD busy bee stuff going on. Well done!

2. Blitzen Trapper – American Goldwing

If I could be in a band right now, this would be it, with only a strong sense of songwriting being the guide this is all over the map with heavy 70’s influenced, “Might Find It Cheap” being probably the best structured song I have heard this year, to influences from accoustified Dylan to southern fried Tom Petty, I think there is a concept going on here, but, more than anything this is worth at least a dozen listens.

1. Amy Winehouse – Lioness: Hidden Treasures

We may never know how far Amy could have gone. She absorbed Dinah Washington, Donny Hathaway as well as The Ronnettes with equal grace. Amy not only did some great covers, but, was a songwriter on par with the best. This disc has some raw original versions showing Amy supporting herself on guitar. Amy had all three talents, great voice, great musician and great songwriter. She was a triple threat in a class of one. Amy is the best voice of the last twenty years. This collection takes us all the way from the very beginning on the demo, “The Girl From Ipanema” to mid career, Stevie Wonder influenced, Amy Winehouse penned, “Half Time” to the current torn heart on a sleeve, Leon Russell cover, “A Song For You.” This is a chronicle of a flame that burned hot and way too fast. She should be here now.

Okay, that’s it.  Watch out for Imelda May. She actually played at 3rd and Lindsley this year. Imelda would have been on the list with Mayhem except it is a 2010 release, but, watch out, there is More Mayhem coming out at a Grimey’s near you.

Kitty, Daisy and Lewis’ stripped down take on the Forties as well as some Ska and Hawaiian music on Smoking in Heaven continues where the last one left. They’re heading for the Big Day Out Festivals in Australia and while not making much of a dent in the States, the recording is a vintage gear monger’s dream. They accurately feel like recordings made in Chicago or Memphis way before Sun.  

 – Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN     thenashvillebridge@hotmail.com

Amy Winehouse put it this way, “I don’t ever want to do anything mediocre. I hear the music in the charts and I don’t mean to be rude, but those people have no soul. Learning from music is like eating a meal… you have to pace yourself. You can’t take everything from it all at once. I want to be different, definitely. I’m not a one trick pony. I’m at least a five-trick pony.”

It was difficult to hear about Amy Winehouse’s passing. I was driving down to Birmingham going through the channels on Sirius when I got a read out on the screen, AMY WINEHOUSE RIP with an 800 number to get in on the conversation.

Modern technology, getting news on my car’s entertainment read out, a little stunned, while driving 75 miles per hour, dialing through my car’s Bluetooth capability, hands free and sitting on hold for twenty minutes to share my thoughts on Sirius Radio.

 

I knew exactly what I was going to talk about. It was the conversation I had with my sister a few months after the release of Back To Black. “She’s such a mess, what do people see in her?” was the basic question. I said, “Have you really listened to the album?” “Well, I’ve heard “Rehab”, it’s not bad”.

We took off in my car with the decent stereo back in 2007, going through track by track. She really got into it.  She really enjoyed the record.

It is a masterpiece, not only the vocal stylist of our time, much the way Billie Holiday and Patsy Cline were in their day. In fact, Amy worked with Producer, Mark Ronson, who was a perfect foil to develop soulful nirvana, using the fabulous Dap Kings out of Brooklyn, New York for the basic tracks before adding lush strings with a mix of Motown, Spector, Soul and stuff that would fit the Rat Pack.

 

What a gold mine, this was a Jazz voice, original in tone and texture with an obvious lineage. I couldn’t wait for the follow up. From what I can tell there was at least one aborted record and possibly another. Hopefully they will be released post-humously.  There have been a lot of so-called authentic voices put on a pedestal over the last decade, but she was “The Voice, Voce Divina”.

So what do you make of erratic, dramatic behavior and all the mess with drugs? Well, I can’t make any excuses. All I can say, is I have had this conversation more than once over the years.  Singers, Musicians, Actors, Comics, okay Entertainers in general; in fact most of the ones that I know that are really part of that world, like I was, come from difficult situations.

Divorce, broken homes, death of parents at a young age, many things can trigger a deep interest in music and the need to express one’s deep feelings through that gift. Musicians feel deeply and tend to self medicate in order to deal with that depth of emotion.

I won’t make any excuses about drug abuse, but, we need to look at things in a real way. Most of us, if not all, have family or friends dealing with addiction. It really only takes an addictive personality to cross paths with drugs to cause real havoc. It does show the importance of the choices we make, because some of the choices we make can end up being an addiction that begins to make choices for us.

I can’t judge her situation. I have too many friends with the same elephant in the middle of the road. There are many icons that dealt with the same issues under the radar before modern technomania. I feel real genius is difficult to deal with.

The interesting thing, although being self-destructive was her calling card, she really did care and put others in front of her. At a time when it should be full speed ahead, she put her Goddaughter, Dionne Bromfield in the studio and on wax, in a way, a legacy started for her own short lived career, “I know I’m talented, but I wasn’t put here to sing. I was put here to be a wife and a mum and look after my family. I love what I do, but it’s not where it begins and ends.”

When she received awards for Back To Black, Amy would not talk about what a great job she did, but instead would say that it proved that England was legitimate, that England had a real scene. Amy put it on the table not only for her but to encourage the other Artists back home.

“I only write about stuff that’s happened to me… stuff I can’t get past personally. Luckily, I’m quite self-destructive.”

“As an artist the key things you have to do is prove yourself in a live scene, prove yourself in a writing scene, and prove yourself doing covers. They’re as important as each other.”

 

 

 

 

 

Let the music speak for itself. She will be missed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

– Brad Hardisty, Nashville, TN