Dance the Old Fashioned Way-Musicians we said goodbye to in 2018.

piano

2018 has been a year where we had to say goodbye to a great number of musicians. Here are just some of them and some of their music. May they all rest in peace.

7 January:France Gall

 

February 1: Dennis Edwards

 

March 12: Craig Mack

 

April 20: Tim Bergling  aka Avicii

 

7 May: Maurane

 

June 18: XXXTentacion

 

July 8:Tab Hunter

 

August 16,: Aretha Franklin

 

14 September: Anneke Grönloh

 

October 1: Charles Aznavour

 

October 24:Tony Joe White

 

November 15: Roy Clark

 

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The Buchenwald Song and the brutal murder of the man who wrote it.

Song

Fritz Löhner-Beda was  an  Austrian born Jewish librettist, lyricist and writer. Born Wildenschwert, Bohemia but he grew up in one of Europe’s most cultural cities,Vienna. Alas Vienna’s culture was to become tainted to a degree.

In the 1920s, Löhner-Beda became one of the most popular and  sought-after librettists and lyricists in Vienna. This popularity though meant nothing on April 1,1938, less then 3 weeks after the Anschluss, (annexation of Austria by the Nazis).

AH ANSCHLUSS

On April 1, 1938 Löhner-Beda was arrested and deported to Dachau concentration camp.His Viennese neighbors and fan base did very little to help him.Just over 5 months later on September 23 1938 he was deported to Buchenwald.

While in Buchenwald, at the end of 1938, he wrote Das Buchenwald lied(the Buchenwald song) together with Hermann Leopoldi an Austrian born Jewish composer. Below is the text to the chorus of the song

“O Buchenwald, ich kann dich nicht vergessen,
weil du mein Schicksal bist.
Wer dich verließ, der kann es erst ermessen,
wie wundervoll die Freiheit ist!
O Buchenwald, wir jammern nicht und klagen,
und was auch unser Schicksal sei,
wir wollen trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen,
denn einmal kommt der Tag, dann sind wir frei!”

English Translation:

“O Buchenwald, I cannot forget you,
because you are my fate.
Only he who leaves you can appreciate
how wonderful freedom is!
O Buchenwald, we don’t cry and complain;
and whatever our destiny may be,
we nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life:
for once the day comes, we shall be free!”

Viktor Frankl used the line “trotzdem Ja zum Leben sagen”(nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life) as the German title for his book “Man’s Search for Meaning”. written in 1946.

ja zum leben

On October 17, 1942,  Löhner-Beda was deported to the Monowitz concentration camp, a sub-camp of Auschwitz. The SS established the camp in October 1942 at the behest of I.G. Farben executives to provide slave labor for their Buna Werke (Buna Works) industrial complex.

monowitz

On December 4,1942 Fritz Löhner-Beda had already been ill. he was accused of not working hard enough. Because of this he was beaten to death by a Kapo. Just imagine that, beaten to death that is a different kind of evil. I know the Kapo’s were forced to do bad things in order to survive themselves, but beating someone to death that takes a particular kind of person.

So many people were killed during the Holocaust but with that also so much cultural heritage has vanished.

Fritz Löhner-Beda could have contributed so much more for the betterment of humankind.Who knows how many classic songs he could have written, or how many more award winning plays and screenplays. His death didn’t only end his life it also deprived the world of a great artist.

Fritz

Ending this blog with a version of the song and one more time the line “we nevertheless shall say ‘yes’ to life” Let’s do that , let us all say yes to life despite whatever comes our way, We owe to Fritz and to ourselves.

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Where’s the orchestra?

orchestra

Some people might recognize the title of this piece as the title of a Billy Joel song, and you would be right. It is a beautiful song which has a sad intonation, in a way it is a haunting piece of music, a story of something that is no longer there.

Billy Joel’s grandfather Karl Amson Joel, a German Jewish business man escaped the Holocaust, in the 1930’s he escaped to the US via Switzerland and Cuba.

This blog however is not about the Joel family but about  the  Orchestras in the concentation camps.

orchestra 2

Music has so much power and can evoke so many emotions and also a sense of comfort and hope. In the twisted mindset of the Nazi regime something beautiful as music was turned into an instrument of evil.

Although it saved many  musicians from hard labour it also caused controversy,because the aim of the orchestras was not to please the inmates, even though the sounds would have been pleasing, The purpose of the orchestra was much more cynical.

The purpose humiliation and terror, especially upon return of the commandos from work, when the totally exhausted victims  had to enter the camp in the rhythm of military marches or other up beat melodies.

march

It also created the perception to people who arrived in the camps ,that maybe things weren’t as bad as they had expected. Not knowing that many of them were led straight to the gas chambers after arrival,while the orchestra was playing.

It must have been such a torture for the musicians because they knew what was happening, but yet in order to survive themselves they had to conform. Sometimes they would play to entertain the SS troops in the camps, knowing that these people they were entertaining were responsible for the deaths of their friends and families. They also knew that if they didn’t play or if the music didn’t please the commanders they easily could be killed on the spot.

orche

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Sources

Music and Politics

Auschwitz.org

 

 

Heartbreak Hotel.

elvis

I don’t think there isn’t one person on the planet who hasn’t heard of Elvis, the undisputed King of Rock N Roll.

This is the story of his first ever number 1 hit “Heartbreak Hotel”. ‘Why do a story on just one song?’ I hear you say. The answer is easy, there are so many aspects to this song.

For starters, as already mentioned it would be Elvis’s first ever number 1 hit. It was the 2nd song he recorded with RCA Victor. Prior to his recording of Ray Charles’s “I got a woman” ,Elvis had been with Sun records.

“Heartbreak Hotel” was released as a single on January 27.1956.

nr one

It is also the song that inspired John Lennon,Elton John,George Harrison,Keith Richards and Robert Plant to become musicians, just imagine this song is responsible for the Beatles,Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin.

Something that is often overlooked or taken for granted is the actual structure of the song. It starts of with only Elvis’s vocals. Typically a song would start with the instruments first and then the vocals come in, but in Heartbreak Hotel it is turned around. There are very few songs structured that way and I think it may have been the first time or one of the first times this happened in popular music.

Then there is the back story to the song, which remains a bit of a mystery.The song was written in 1955, by Mae Boren Axton, a high school teacher who was also involved in musical promotions, and Jacksonville based singer–songwriter Tommy Durden.

The lyrics were inspired by an article in ‘The Miami Herald’ about a hotel guest who jumped out of a window and committed suicide and left the note, “I walk a lonely street”.

However In 2016, a piece in Rolling Stone magazine suggested that the story originated from a report about a painter and petty criminal, Alvin Krolik, whose marriage had broken down and had written a partial autobiography including the line “This is the story of a person who walked a lonely street.”

 

lonely street

Krolik first made the news in 1953 in Chicago. One day in November  he walked into an Albany Park police department and confessed to his part in 10 robberies.

He said his victims could not identify him because he had used oil paints on his face.

He confessed he was driven to crime after his five-week marriage to Agnes Sampson ended in divorce.

He was given a lenient sentence because he had handed himself in and the Police thought he could be rehabilitated.

On August 25th,1955 , just prior to  Durden and Axton  found their inspiration for “Heartbreak Hotel,” which was written in September ,Krolik was about to make news again. On a Saturday night in El Paso, Texas, Krolik attempted  to rob a liquor store.

D.R. Pinney,  a former Texas patrolman.was the owner of the Busy Bee Liquor Store, shot Krolik 9 times. Krolik was not the first person Pinney had killed, he had killed robbers before.Maybe Krolik had  known about Pinney’s record on criminals that held up his store, making this perhaps  a suicide, similar to suicide by cop.

krolik

Whatever event it was, the Krolik or the Miami Herald event, it adds a certain intrigue to the Rock N Roll classic”Heatbreak Hotel”

Ending the blog with the aforementioned song, enjoy.

 

Sources

Rolling Stone Magazine

YouTube

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Symphony of destruction.

symphony

People who know me, know I am a big Heavy Metal fan ,and one of my favourite tracks is called Symphony of Destruction by Megadeth.But this blog is about a different Symphony, a Symphony which was composed and first performed amidst great destruction.

The piece of music is common;y known as the Leningrad Symphony, It was Dmitri  Shostakovich 7th Symphony.

The disturbing news of the German attack on the Soviet Union, Operation Barbarossa, had reached Leningrad at midday June 22 as Molotov announced the attack via loudspeakers throughout the city.

barbarossa

The 35-year-old composer Shostakovich  was head of the Leningrad Conservatoire’s piano department. He began work on his Seventh Symphony in the first hot days of July.

He had volunteered for the army but was dismissed because of his poor eyesight.

Shostakovich

Instead he became a volunteer for the Leningrad Conservatory’s firefighter brigade. However as a musician he set his talents to work and help the war effort in a different way. I did not research this but as a musician myself I know how powerful music can be, it cam alter moods, lift spirits and boost morale.

When Shostakovich played the first two tacts of his Seventh Symphony to some of his friends, in the besieged city of Leningrad in the summer of 1941, the performance was brutally interrupted by a German bombardment.

Shostakovich endured and worked with an inhuman intensity to finish what would become his best known work. Not because he wanted to become rich from it but because he knew how important art was and especially music in the most dire circumstances.

The first full performance in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) was given in August 1942 by a half-starved orchestra, whose emaciated state is symbolised by the drummer Dzaudhat Aydarov, who had literally been rescued from the dead.

Karl Eliasberg, the conductor on that occasion, stated that Soviet artillery pounded known German battery positions  prior to the start of  concert in order to silence them.

It was the same Eliasberg who went to the morgue looking for the drummer Aydarov,He found his presumed cadaver  still moving and breathing.

Despite the destruction around them and being under siege by the German army, the people of Leningrad still found a bit of comfort by buying a ticket for the mammoth work which lasted for over 78 minutes. 78 minutes where they could forget the war, the hunger and the despair.

ticket

Below is the music  the symphony in its full length.

 

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Sources

Classic FM

The Guardian

BBC

YouTube

 

 

 

 

The Dirty Mac

Dirty Mac

What if John Lennon,Keith Richards and Eric Clapton formed a band together, surely they must have been the most famous band ever. wouldn’t they?

Well yes they did form a band, together with Mitch Mitchell from the Jimin Hendix experience, And no they didn’t become the most famous band ever, in fact hardly anyone knows they did team up forming the super band ‘The Dirty Mac’

The band was formed  for the Rolling Stones’ TV special titled The Rolling Stones Rock and Roll Circus, which aired on December 11, 1968.

To say things went smoothly would be an overstatement. It had become  nightmare full of malfunctioning equipment and eventually took 15 hours before the Stones hit the stage.

Lennon called  himself as “Winston Leg-Thigh, for the occasion.The Dirty Mac recorded a rendition of the Lennon-penned Beatles track “Yer Blues” and then went on to back up Yoko Ono and violinist Ivry Gitlis on a track called “Whole Lotta Yoko”

Just imagine if the Dirty Mac had become a real band?

mac

 

 

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Peggy Sue became a plumber.

bUDDY hOLLY

I could not call myself a genuine Music buff without looking back at the life of the subject of one of Rock N Roll’s most iconic songs, Peggy Sue.

The very title of the song could have been different altogether, the song was originally called “Cindy Lou”, after Holly’s niece. But it was changed to Peggy Sue  referring to Peggy Sue Gerron who was the girlfriend of Jerry Allison, the drummer for the Crickets, at the time .After the couple had temporarily broken up, the title was renamed Peggy Sue.

Allison and Gerron would later get married.however the couple did get divorced in the late 70s.

After her divorce from Jerry Allison, Peggy Sue went to Pasadena Junior College in  and became a dental assistant. She got married again and had two children, a girl and a boy.

Her second husband was a plumber, Peggy Sue and her new husband started a successful plumbing business and she became the  first woman licensed as a plumber in the state of California.

Peggy Sue

Peggy Sue died last Monday,October 1st at the age of 78. She had always enjoyed being the subject of the iconic song.

Buddy Holly did write a follow up to the song, “Peggy Sue Got Married”, and recorded a demo in his New York City apartment on December 5, 1958, with only  himself on guitar.The tape was discovered after his death and was “enhanced” for commercial release, with the addition of backing vocals and an electric guitar.

The rarely heard original version was released on a vinyl collection, “The Complete Buddy Holly”. It was also used over the opening credits of the 1986 movie “Peggy Sue Got Married” with Kathleen Turner in the title role.

Got Married

Finishing up with the aforementioned song ‘Peggy Sue got Married”. RIP Peggy Sue, this week  you have made us all feel blue.

 

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Sources

BBC

IMDb

You Tube

The significance of August 16 in Music.

Elvis

August 16 is a date like any other date, except when it comes to music. Several events on this date have had a massive impact on the music industry. In fact in musical terms it just doesn’t get bigger than this .

August 16-1915 The birth of Al Hibbler

Al Hibbler

Nowadays the name Al Hibbler will mean very little to most.But if I will mention the song ‘Unchained Melody’ it will trigger a lot of memories to many, especially the pottery scene in the movie ‘Ghost’ the version of the song was by ‘the Righteous Brothers” and a great number of people may think theirs was the original but it was Al Hibbler who brought the song to the number 1 spot of the charts for the first time in 1955.It was composed by by Alex North and lyrics by Hy Zaret.

In the late 1950s and 1960s, was involved in the  civil rights movement. He got arrested in 1959 in New Jersey and in 1963 in Alabama partaking in protest marches with .This didn’t make him very popular with major record labels notoriety and they did not  carry his work, but Frank Sinatra supported him and signed him to a contract with his label.

August 16-1938 the death of Robert Johnson

Robert Johnson

Robert Elroy Johnson is without a doubt the undisputed King of the blues. Legend has it that he made a deal with the devil for his talents.

As a young man living on a plantation in rural Mississippi, he had a burning desire to become the greatest blues musician. He was instructed to take his guitar to a crossroad near Dockery Plantation at midnight. There he was met by allegedly the devil who took the guitar and tuned it. The devil played a few songs and then returned the guitar to Johnson, giving him virtuosity of the instrument.All Robert had to give in exchange was his soul.

That soul was taken on August 16,1938 when he was aged 27, which also makes one of the first musicians to make it to the list of the the club of 27, the cause of his death has never really been solved. Popular believe is that he was poisoned during an altercation in a bar with  the jealous husband of a woman with whom he had flirted. It is said he was given a given a poisoned bottle of Whiskey after another bottle was knocked  out of his hand.

He only recorded 29 songs but there is yet another legend about a 30th song never recorded. This ‘missing’ song is the plot line of the 1986 movie ‘Crossroads’ in all honesty the movie isn’t great but the music is fantastic, especially the guitar duel between Ry Cooder and Steve Vai is something else.

August 16-1958 the Birth of Madonna

Madonna

Love her or loathe her there is no denying Madonna’s place in musical History, she is without a doubt the most influential female artist in decades.

Born Madonna Louise Ciccone on August 16, 1958 she became the leading female singer in the 80’s,90’s, and early 21st century. Although her acting and directing careers both turned out to be fiasco’s, when it comes to music there is no other like her. Staring off with poppy songs like ‘Borderline’ or ‘Like a Virgin’ she constantly reinvented herself and did not shy away from controversies.

She herself was influenced by 2 other strong female performers,Debbie Harry and Chrissie Hynde.

August 16-1962  the sacking of the Beatle, Pete Best.

Pete Best

The Beatles have been and still are one of the most influential bands ever, Their fame did not diminish after they split up. Kids nowadays still know them, and if you were to ask ,anyone to name the 4 band members people would say”John Lennon,Paul McCartney,George Harrison and Ringo Starr” however as the picture above indicates this wasn’t the original line up.

The original drummer was Pete Best but he was replaced by Ringo Starr on August 16,1962. There was no official reason given why he was sacked but according to Brian Epstein, the Beatles’ manager,Lennon, McCartney and Harrison thought that Best was “too conventional to be a Beatle” and added that “though he was friendly with John, he was not liked by George and Paul”

Originally the Beatles had been a 5 piece band, the original bass player Stuart Sutcliffe died in 1961, in Hamburg.

August 16-1977 the death of the King of Rock N Roll,Elvis.

Elvis the King

I am not going to say too much about the King, because I don’t think there is anybody on the planet who hasn’t heard of them.

This is me personal memory of the day he died on August 16,1977.

Death

I came home from school that day and my mother sat at the kitchen table, and she asked me “Guess who died today?” I replied “I don’t know, just tell me” She said ‘Elvis’. I was 9 at the time and pretended not to care. But I went up to my room and cried my eyes out, it felt I had just lost my best friend.

Leaving you with one of my favourite Elvis songs.

 

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Moody Blues-Prague in White Satin

Moody Blues

You’re an immensely popular Rock-Blues band and you have been invited to one of the Warsaw pact countries,Czechoslovakia to be precise.

They just got a new leader a man with a vision,a prelude to glasnost as such. Alexander Dubček opened it up his country for new cultural experiences, so when the Moody Blues got a chance to play a gig behind the iron curtain of course they took it with both hands, After all what could go wrong? They had the blessing of the supreme leader.

Dubcek

Well it was August 20,1968 the day that the Soviet Union and the other Warsaw Pact nations decided they did not like these new liberties introduced by Mr Dubček and decided to end this party nick named the Prague spring and took control of this unruly situation.

Tanks

The band did get a chance to shoot a promo for a French TV show the video  was shot in the afternoon . As The Moody Blues played their hit song, Warsaw Pact troops were already preparing for an invasion. By the evening, it had begun, and the British Embassy took no chances and quickly withdrew the band members from the city. Justin Hayward recalled in an interview: “We were in Czechoslovakia when the Russians rolled in. The British Air Force very kindly got us out, and it wasn’t until we got back to England that we realized what was going on.”

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Video killed the radio star

VIDEO

In the history of popular music ‘Video Killed the Radio Star’ must be the most ironic song ever to hit the airwaves, Ironic in 2 ways,firstly it was the song that launched MTV on August 1,1981. Secondly, that same MTV eventually killed itself.

The song was written by written by Trevor Horn, Geoff Downes and Bruce Woolley in 1978.Initially it was recorded by Bruce Woolley and The Camera Club (with Thomas Dolby on keyboards) for their album English Garden.

But the version we all know is by the band The Buggles and that is the version which was used by MTV. The Buggles only had the one hit but the musicians involved in the band are genuine Rock and Pop music pedigree.

Geoffrey Downes, a British musician was a member of the prog Rock band ‘Yes’ and in 1981 after he split with Yes, he formed the super group’Asia’ . He  joined forces with Yes’s guitarist Steve Howe , bassist/vocalist John Wetton from King Crimso) and drummer Carl Palmer OF  Emerson, Lake & Palmer fame.

downes

The other member of the Buggles was none other then the aforementioned Trevor Horn. His work is really more behind the scene but significant nonetheless, He co-wrote the song Video killed the radio star. but it is his work as a producer and songwriter is phenomenal. He worked with Seal,Genesis,Hans Zimmer,Lisa Stansfield and many others.

horn

Recently he participated in a BBC documentary  where they tried to scientifically produce the perfect Pop song. Interestingly they had taken data from 7 decades of Pop music. The one thing that surprised me was that according to the data, the Beatles were average and mediocre, the Stones were just a bit more edgy, but the 60s band which was the edgiest was the Kinks.

They did achieve a scientific pop song in the documentary, but had to come to the conclusion it was only mediocre.

MTV started off with a blast.Anyone who grew up in the 80s, grew up with MTV. I don’t know what happened to it but the 21st century MTV has little to do with music but everything with bad to mediocre reality shows, maybe MTV also conducted  a scientific experiment.

mtv

Finishing with the Buggles version of Video Killed the Radio star.(another ironic twist it’s on Vevo)

 

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