ADDING CLASSICS TO YOUR LIFE

By Steve Rogers, Editor

Music is an influence in our lives, and I greatly appreciate the diversity of styles and artists performing today.

While I recall when many people wanted to download huge quantities of music and movies for free, I was always content to buy one song or album at a time from iTunes. Now I have a sizable collection that ranges from Apocalyptica to The Beatles to Yo Yo Ma.

Up front, the music on my no-fly list currently includes 95 percent of rap music. Don’t take me there, but if the artist cannot sing a compelling note, you won’t impress me. Beyond that, rock, jazz, country, pop, audiobooks, acapella, rockabilly, new age, classical, Cuban, Latin, soul, dance, reggae, Christian/gospel, blues and much more appeal to me.

I realize also that what I consider a classic may be crap to you. So listen carefully and critically with your ears, not mine.

The artists and albums I suggest are red hot to me because I grew up devouring music as a youth, including:

  • Soaking in every LP my dad played like: “Downtown” by Petula Clark
  • Every song on the radio like “Don’t Go Breaking My Heart” by Elton John and Kiki Dee
  • Every album my brother manage to play on dad’s stereo when no one was around like Wings Over America by Paul McCartney and Wings.

Hold your nose and open your ears. Image the best of these famed artists. And if you don’t know their best music, let me introduce them to you. For we all need inspiring music, original lyrics. Music is really about your heart, your hopes, your faith and your loves in this life.

  1. The ultimate cellist on Earth is Yo-Yo Ma. His work in “Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon” mesmerized me some 16 years ago. No one plays with with such passion and precision. He plays classical music, but his creativity rises to the top on soundtracks. I was particularly pulled into his music when he teamed with famed composer Ennio Morricone to re-create the music from, among others, a spaghetti (Italian) western film featuring a young Clint Eastwood. Yes, I am referring to the 3+ hours of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly, which features perhaps the best soundtrack ever by a western film.

    “JORGE HARADA…PLAYS LIKE ONLY ONE OTHER LEGEND HAS — AND THAT WAS STEVIE RAY VAUGHN.”

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    JORGE HARADA, 6-string Samurai

  2. My favorite guitarist today may not be on your list of standouts, but he is an old friend of many talents. He may not be the biggest man on stage among all-stars, but Jorge Harada of Ruby Dee and The Snakehandlers plays like only one other legend has — and that was Stevie Ray Vaughn. Jorge is a master guitarist and brings Stevie Ray back to the stage for me. He gives the reins to lead singer Ruby Dee on most nights because she commands the stage so well. But when Jorge steps up for a solo on their original compositions, each note strikes your heart and soul. Rockabilly is the band’s music genre, but this Austin-based band travels internationally because so many people love their music. Try their live album from Austin to get a feel for this band. The band is currently touring in Europe and killing it. Play one for me tonight, Jorge. The six-string Samurai can be visited at JorgeHarada.com, and the band’s website is RubyDeeMusic.com.
  3. On the country front, I’m still hooked on the young tenor Josh Turner. His hits range from “Long Black Train” to “Firecracker” to “Why Don’t We Just Dance.” And Josh’s voice reveals a deep tone that is nearly unmatched in the country music genre right now. This guy has a supremely bright future.
  4. For now, I will leave you with a young artist who was murdered after her concert on June 10, 2016. Christina Grimmie was only 22 when she passed, but her connections with Adam Levine, Selena Gomez and more than a million fans since her introduction to the music world in 2009 are eternal. She also starred in an endearing movie, The Matchbreaker. She finished third on The Voice in 2014, and that kicked off her tremendous growth. What allowed Christina to capture the hearts of millions was her thankful, sincere personality and her powerful, pure voice. While Christina released only a handful of albums and one movie, she and her family continue to change lives for the better with the Christina Grimmie Foundation. Donations and purchases can be made at ChristinaGrimmie.com.

More award-winning music later. Contact my friend Terry at UDPhotos@gmail.com when you are planning big events in your life. He has an amazing history as a photographer, and now he has new equipment too.

Make today legendary, friends!

2017 BEATLES REUNION WITH A SGT.

In June 1967, The Beatles already owned rock music and had captivated the ears and hearts of millions.

Of the four tremendous musicians in The Beatles, Paul McCartney and John Lennon had already penned more than 100 original songs to establish the Lennon-McCartney byline as the most successful singer-songwriter combination. The Beatles broke sales records, attendance records and dominated the scene even before appearing in America in February 1964.

But what the quartet released to the public in 1967 is still regarded by many as the ultimate musical album of all time. It further scared and perhaps scarred adults raised on Jimmy Dorsey and Frank Sinatra. After all, rock-n-roll was not accepted by the majority of those age 30+ at the time.

However the release on June 1, 1967 of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band altered the scene for musicians, fans, haters/doubters and lovers of swing music. This new theme album changed the music world and inspired greatness from future legendary artists like The Electric Light Orchestra (ELO), Heart, Tom Petty and many others.

Led by Jeff Lynne, ELO released albums blending entire orchestras and classic rock guitars and drums. After The Beatle breakup, ELO became the one of a handful of rock groups that successfully created complex compositions involving string sections and a rock-n-roll beat.

Sgt. Pepper also influenced the legends of the day, pushing them to reach for greater heights in writing and performances. The Beach Boys, The Who, even Elvis, responded to the album that Sgt. Pepper and the boys used set a gold standard some 50 years ago today.

While many award-winning albums have arrived since then, listening to Sgt. Pepper again brings back smile as the album tells a connected story from one song to the next. It was a rare commodity then, and it remains the most challenging feat for a singer/songwriter to execute today.

Another key element to Sgt. Pepper that separated it from the hundreds of quality musical groups in the 1960s was the use of a vast series of instruments from around the globe. George Harrison had brought in sounds from Asia that America and probably European audiences were unfamiliar with.

The diverse, eclectic yet grand orchestration of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band can also be attributed to the grand master producer himself, the fifth Beatle, George Martin. Martin helped these four musical maestros present each song to its full impact, and Martin came from a classical music background.

His contribution earned him many titles and honors, but when Paul McCartney called Martin “a second father,” well, that is about as good as it gets in the music business. Martin was in the right place at the right time and signed the boys when other companies would not.

The rest was collaboration — and musical history that still rings true today.

 

 

A Tribute To Life Magazine

Thank God for Life Magazine, Walter Mitty and Bob Gomel.

While it existed, Life Magazine was my favorite publication because it told history visually with dramatic images from amazing photographers like Houston’s Bob Gomel.

Now in his 80s, New York native Gomel is still an active and intrepid photographer. His images from the 1960s are iconic with personal and historic moments in the lives of Marilyn Monroe, the Beatles, President John F. Kennedy, Muhammed Ali and many others.

If you have seen The Secret Life of Walter Mitty film with Ben Stiller and Sean Penn, you can probably imagine Gomel, a versatile, creative image master, as the philosophical, world-traveling Life cover photographer Sean O’Connell. If not, I’ll do it for you.

I am a photographer, but I have never worked for Time Life Publications. As an avid reader, however, I can attest to the impact each groundbreaking Life Magazine had on me. To me Gomel was one of Life’s best at capturing the quintessential moments that millions of readers thirsted for in the 1960s and 70s. I knew of him before meeting his son Cory Gomel in 1983.

Life photographers had a knack of gaining access and returning with images no one else could obtain. The reason, Gomel said, is Life photographers were told never to return with excuses.

I have met Bob Gomel one time at an open gallery showing his stark, black-and-white images here in Houston. Gomel strikes me as a stylish man who is smart, creative, capable of solving dilemmas and finding back doors to get the right photos if the occasion calls for it.

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty was a film that honored the best efforts of Life Magazine personnel, including the traveled and war-weary photographers who brought this photography publication to life each week. Stiller’s love of photography, as well as a serious team working with the magazine archiver’s team, made this work.

From a personal level, I enjoyed the celebration of the hard working people who are behind the cameras and behind the scenes at such a publication. Like Ben Stiller’s lead character Walter, I imagined myself working at Life before its demise.

And after attending college with Electric Light Orchestra die hard fan Cory Gomel and eventually learning more about his father’s career, I believe a few elements of Sean Penn’s character ring true for Life’s real image kings like Bob Gomel.

It’s a happy memory for me to know that when Cory was very young, he tagged along with Bob on a photo shoot with boxing’s greatest heavyweight Ali. In the end, Cory wound up in a photo with Ali that was animated and humorous.

I have many great memories from college, but hearing Cory tell tales and playing his ELO music at deafening levels are among my favorites today. Little did anyone know I was destined to be a photographer at that time.

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CRAZY iTUNE TIMES

iTunes ranks among the strongest apps to reach the hands of computer users for the ridiculous price of free.
With this musical database, you and I have the pleasure of storing our personal favorite tunes where they can be organized, played and modified to fit our whim. They can be transferred to music players, CDs, DVDs and shared.
What I enjoy best about iTunes is its enormous appetite for music from any genre, any generation and any artist.
Several years ago, my great friend Scott Pederson presented me a single DVD, which proved to change my relationship with iTunes forever.
The DVD in question contained a gift I hope all music historians receive while they are able to play it and dance to it. He sent me the Billboard Top 100 songs annual list from 1970-2005. In 35 years of rock’n’roll, pop, country, dance, hip-hop and various other styles, Scott has given me a way to re-live both my brightest moments and my darkest days.
In June 1973, the Carter family left its Michigan abode and commenced an epic, 4-week vacation driving from Lake Michigan to Arkansas, then Armarillo, Flagstaff and finally Southern California where my grandparents lived.
On the way back, my dad chose a northerly route through Las Vegas, Denver and Chicago. And during the entire trip — sometimes several times each day — Karen Carpenter joined us with her melodic rendition of “Yesterday Once More.”
I know I memorized the lyrics after hearing the song seven more times in Oklahoma on one of our famous 600-mile jogs. Some members of the family are now nauseous when the Carpenters are mentioned at the dinner the dinner table.
But I can still name that tune in two notes.

Three years later, we moved from Michigan to Mississippi. To prepare, three boys had the time of their lives painting a roomy, 1-story home. 1976 was the summer of America’s Bi-Centennial and Elton John and Kiki Dee’s duet, Don’t Go Breaking My Heart.”
I do not intend for you to believe that these songs owned the charts, but they did well. And now the memories of an 8-year-old exploring the Grand Canyon, Meteor Crater and the Rocky Mountains and painting his gigantic home are easily retrieved with an iTunes search for 1973 or 1976.

Seven seasons later, I entered my senior year in high school in Texas. It was 1983, and Michael Jackson owned the Billboard charts with huge hits like Billie Jean, Beat It, PYT, Thriller and more. While the music set an unprecedented standard for excellence, I have to say that after 30 years, the Billie Jean, Beat It and Thriller videos are among my strongest visual memories from that year.

While I never found his tunes on the Billboard Top 100, Star Search champion Sam Harris, who later worked his magic on Broadway, stole the hearts of my future wife and I in 1986 with his version of Somewhere Over The Rainbow.
In recent years, my search for musical talent seemed struggle. Even so, the journey has revealed the likes of John Legend, Whitney Houston, Sugarland, MercyMe, Lady Antebellum, Adele, Josh Groban and Michael Buble among others.
It has been a continuing search for the immense talent the 1960s and 1970s that brought fans to their feet. Groups like Elvis, Eagles, ELO, Willie Nelson/Waylon Jennings/Johnny Paycheck/Johnny Cash, The Beatles,Pat Benatar, Gordon Lightfoot and many more legends.

Just tonight my youngest child, now 19, and her boyfriend were toying around with iTunes. Sensing some tension in the room, I asked Connor to pick a happy song, and almost immediately to The Beach Boys’ Little Deuce Coupe. Now there is a young man I can identify with.
I freely admit my iTunes music collection contains about 15,000 songs, and I don’t love all of them. So you take your chances when you push “Shuffle” around here.
Although the odds are perhaps working against me, I’ve always been an optimist, believing that God sends subtle messages to each of us with his song choices. It’s a bit like an answered prayer when the perfect song comes on the radio or the right artist grabs the mike as you enter the room.
Am I suggesting God and Steve Jobs worked on the invention of iTunes together? No. I believe Apple’s software wizards created a path for the all music lovers to get what songs they want and when they want them.
No more driving to the mall for an album purchase when only two songs are significant. No it’s much better.
And God’s role may appear non-existent to some, I choose to believe He plays a role in every aspect of my life. Without God’s input and the timely invitation of my parents, I may never have been introduced to Alfie Boe, a vocalist who has the chops to sing the most demanding roles on Broadway or the London stage. His lead role in the 25th anniversary of Les Miserables ranks as astounding and became a powerful prayer in a time of need in 2012.

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