Remembering Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr Though Song

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On January 15th, 1929, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. was born. He was an American pastor, activist and humanitarian who helped advance the case of civil rights for all. I thought I would share with you a couple of my favorite songs that pay tribute to, or was inspired by, Dr. King. I hope you enjoy. In no particular order:

“Why? (The King Of Love Is Dead)” by Nina Simone: This song was written, recorded and performed within three days after his murder.

“MLK” by U2: A haunting lullaby. My college a cappella group did a cover of this song, and it gave me chills each time we sang it.

“Up To The Mountain” by Solomon Burke. I love Patty Griffin’s original, but Solomon’s cover is more moving to me insofar as Solomon knew Dr. King.

I’ve included Patty’s version too.

“People Got To Be Free” by The Rascals: This song was written in reaction to the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. In a sad twist of fate, right before the single was released, Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated. It was The Rascal’s last top ten single.

“Shed A Little Light” by James Taylor: As James’ soft voice reminds us to “[l]et us turn our thoughts today to Martin Luther King”, the sound alone makes me feel the meaning of Mr. King’s nonviolent, civil disobedience.

“Pride In The Name Of Love” by U2: “Early morning, April 4/Shot rings out in the Memphis sky/Free at last, they took your life/They could not take your pride.”

“Like A King” by Ben Harper: If you don’t know about the 1992 Los Angeles Riots, you should read up on it.

Finally: “Black Bird” by the Beatles: Though this song isn’t about Dr. King, it was inspired by the civil rights struggle for blacks, written by Paul McCartney after reading about race riots in the US.

 

Young, Gifted & Nina: A Tribute to Nina Simone | California Plaza | July 5, 2013

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If Nina Simone were alive today, she would have celebrated her 80th birthday in April. Having passed away ten years ago, Grand Performances and KCRW organized a free evening concert in the heart of downtown Los Angeles celebrating her life. Hosted by KCRW DJ Tom Schnabel, it was an evening that touched on a wide selection of Nina’s vast catalogue. From the upbeat melodies “Ain’t Got No/ I Got Life”, “I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel To Be Free” and “See-Line Woman” to the soulful vibes of “Wild Is The Wind” and “Backlash Blues” to the anthemic “Young, Gifted and Black”, it was a tremendous evening of well rehearsed, beautiful music.

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There were females voices aplenty that helped bring Nina’s music to life: Georgia Anne MuldrowJimetta RoseJoi Gilliam (whose sheer red dress definitely caught everyone’s eye), Patrice QuinnSonja Marie, and Waberi Jordan. But it was perhaps the sole male vocalist who evoked the most oohs and aahs from the audience: Dwight Trible.

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With his robust baritone voice, Dwight Trible sang his two  selections with such soulful vigor , it almost overshadowed the rest of the musicians of the evening. He sang with such a pure sense of being in the moment, that it made audience members look to their neighbor in awe.

Grand Performances is a summer concert series that is open to the public. This was the first concert of this series that I have ever attended, and subject to me being able to get there early enough to snag a good location at the venue, I would plan on attending another Grand Performances event.  It definitely seemed to be  a well organized, family friendly event.

In Memoriam | Nina Simone | 1933-2003

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On this day, February 21, 1933, Eunice Kathleen Waymon, better known as Nina Simone, was born.  Below are videos of her performing live some of my favorite songs from her catalog.

1.  “Black is the Colour (Of My True Love’s Hair)” 

2. “I Loves You, Porgy” 

3. “Backlash Blues” (Written by Langston Hughes

4. “I Put A Spell On You” 

I was able to find a recording of Nina’s entire set at the 1976 Montreaux Jazz Festival.  The clip of “Backlash Blues” is from that show.  The entire set is amazing and is: “Little Girl Blue”, “Backlash Blues”, “Be My Husband”, “Wish I Knew how It Is To Feel Free”, “Stars”, “Feelings” and “Africa”.  If you have some spare time, it’s a classic performance of music legend. Very highly recommended. 

R.I.P., Nina.  Your spell will always be over us.

A Year of Concerts: 2012, 24 Concerts, 1 Favorite

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In 2012, I was blessed to have been able to attend 24 concerts.  This being the inaugural post of my blog, I thought it may be a good way to kick things off if I listed each of the concerts in the order that I enjoyed them (starting with the least favorite, and ending with my favorite), with a line or two of my thoughts.

24. Shuggie Otis– The Echoplex- Wed Dec 5

It’s hard to see an artist that you acknowledge as Los Angeles musical royalty without his gift.  By all accounts, a sad musical revelation for me.

23. The 10th Annual Korea Times Music Festival– Hollywood Bowl- Sat April 28

While I can appreciate the musicality of some of the K-Pop act thats performed throughout the evening, I’m assuming I didn’t truly appreciate it like the others because I just didn’t understand enough.  I’m a bad Korean-American.

22. Moby– The Annenberg Space for Photography- Sat Jul 14

Moby did two sets:  Live Folk and DJ.  Unfortunately, I wasn’t that impressed with either.  While I can appreciate his musical venture, I kind of want to hear the older hits that I grew up with.

21. Boyce Avenue– Club Nokia at LA Live- Sat Dec 08

By buddy proposed to his girl, on stage at this show.  He picked the perfect show.  Chicks dig Boyce Avenue.

20. Starting 6– Vanguard- Fri Aug 10

Hot, sweaty, party hip-hop.  These guys can rock a joint

19. Orange Tulip Conspiracy– Mr. T’s Bowl- Fri Sep 21

The musicality of this Jazz group is amazing. A must for any jazz aficionado. I hear they are recording a new album, and I can’t wait to her the new material.

18. The Airplane Boys– Roxy Theater- Wed Aug 15

Other level hip-hop.  I also saw them at Coachella.  They killed it at the Roxy like they killed it in the desert.

17. Bizarre Ride Fest– Bizarre Ride Live (Fatlip, Slimkid3, J. Swift, etc.)- The Roxy Theater- Sat Dec 29

The Pharcyde’s debut album “Bizzare Ride II The Pharcyde”, to quote my buddy David [@davidshein on twitter] is “just one of the best hip hop albums ever”.  I won’t disagree.  Even when it’s performed by only half of the original group, the music still holds up.

16. The Heavy– El Rey Theatre- Fri Sep 07

In support of the their most recent release, The Glorious Dead, I jammed out at this concert.  Their front man, Kevin Swaby, was born to perform.

15. Jason Mraz and Christina Perri– Tour Is A Four Letter Word- Hollywood Bowl- Fri Oct 05

I enjoyed Jason Mraz at the Hollywood Bowl, but I’ve seen him at The Wiltern (full band) and The Walt Disney Concert Hall (acoustic), and his music is better suited for more intimate venues.

14. Animal Collective, Flying Lotus and Huun Huur Tu– Hollywood Bowl- Sun Sept 23

Animal Collective delivered.  Huun Huur Tu entertained.  Flying Lotus blew my mind.

13. Raphael Saadiq and Band of Skulls– The Annenberg Space for Photography- Sat Aug 04

Such and odd concert pairing, but they both were amazing.  KCRW kicks ass.

12. Girl In A Coma, Pinata Protest and Sara Radle– The Echoplex- Fri Apr 27

Girl In A Coma is one of my favorite “new” bands.  These girls kick ass.  I wanted to see them again this year when they were opening for Grizzly Bear, but I couldn’t fit it into my schedule.  The lead singer, Nina Diaz, has a voice to die for.

11. Playboy Jazz Festival– Hollywood Bowl- Sun Jun 17

Ramsey Lewis is a musical savant.  I always pay money to watch genius perform.  Robin Thicke were Preservation Hall Jazz Band were good.  Was a slightly unimpressed with Spectrum Road.

10. Eric Hutchinson– Troubadour- Sat May 19

He was the first artist I truly “represented” back at my first job after passing the bar exam.  I couldn’t  be prouder of how far he’s come.

9. Allen Stone– The Fonda Theatre- Fri Oct 19

If this guys plays his card right, he could playing the Hollywood Bowl in a few years.  The first thought I had after the show ended?  “I’ll be able to tell my kids (when I have them), that I stood front row at an Allen Stone concert at The Fonda”.

8. Ben Harper– Vieux Farka Tour- Hollywood Bowl- Sun Jul 01

When Ben Harper sang a cappella, without a mic, at the front of the Hollywood Bowl stage, he earned by respect. He also played the one song I needed to hear, “Burn One Down”.  Can’t ask for more.

7. Hot Chip, Passion Pit and Omar Souleyman– Hollywood Bowl- Sun Sep 9

I went to the show to see Passion Pit. They met and exceeded expectations.  I was expecting more from Hot Chip.  I didn’t get to see Omar Souleyman.

6. Meshell Ndegeocello and James “Blood” Ulmer– Royce Hall- Fri Dec 7

Meshell Ngedeocello performed her interpretations of Nina Simone classics.  Mesmerizing.

5. Peter Gabriel– Back To Front- Hollywood Bowl- Sat Oct 6

I’m not going to lie.  I had a moment.  Flashing back to my younger years when he played “In Your Eyes”, mine started to water.  The power of music.

4. Fiona Apple– The Greek Theatre- Fri Sep 14

She may have been a bit too gaunt for my personal liking, but she can still sing.  A poetess with a voice.  There isn’t that many like her out there in the world.

3. Mint Condition– Club Nokia at LA Live- Sat Jan 28

Mint Condition has always been underrated.  In my humble opinion? They’re one of the best live, R&B bands out there, period.  Stokley’s voice is perfect for R&B.  I grew up with their music.  They are one of my favorite bands.

2. No Doubt– Gibson Amphitheatre- Fri Nov 30

I’ve always kicked my self in the rear when it comes to No Doubt.  They used to perform locally when I was growing out, but I never went to a show.  I can now cross this off my concert bucket-list.  Oh, by the way, I’m in love with Gwen…

1. The Coachella Valley Music and Arts Festival– Empire Polo Club- Fri Apr 13 through Sun Apr 15

Dr. Dre & Snoop.  Radiohead.  The Black Keys. Bon Iver. Swedish House Mafia.  At The Drive-In.  Florence and the Machine.  Girl Talk.  The Shins.  Mazzy Star.    Andrew Bird.  Need I go on?

I’ve written about most of the shows on my Facebook page, so if you want to know a little more about particulars, free to shoot me a tweet [@methodman13] and I’ll send over some other thoughts.

I hope your 2013 is filled with musical discovery, and that a song stirs your heart always.