In Memoriam | Lena Horne | 1917-2010


On May 9, 2010, Lena Mary Calhoun Horne, professionally known as Lena Horne, passed away.  A talented actress, engaged social activist, and sublime vocalist, Lena Horne was one of the first female jazz vocalists that I fell in love with.

I got introduced to Jazz music in middle school at the same time I delved into musical theater.  There was a musical called “Show Boat” (a heavy musical that dealt with integration and interracial romance) that I was researching at the local library, and I remember finding a version of my favorite song from the musical on a jazz sampler.  The song was “Can’t Help Lovin’ Dat Man” and it was performed by Lena Horne.  There is a lot of history and trivia out there, and rather than write it all out here, I suggest you click on this IMBD link to read more.

Heaven.  Her voice was expressed so much emotion and expression that my heart melted, and she’s been a constant staple of my jazz collection and playlist rotation ever since.

Today, I remember a voice that I fell in love with.  With her passing back in 2010, a little bit of my heart broke. A classic beauty, sublime talent and divine individual doesn’t come around that often.  I’m just glad a bit of her soul is still with us in recordings and video.  Below are some of my favorite Lena Horne performances.

R.I.P., Lena. My “Lady” of jazz.

In Memoriam | Johnny Cash | 1932-2003


Better known as the “Man in Black”, John R. Cash was born February 26, 1932 and passed on September 12, 2003.  His music has stood the test of time, and he is widely regarded as one of the most influential musicians of the 20th century.

As stupid as it sounds, I learned about the Man In Black through the movie “Swingers” when we learn that a character in the movie is named after a the Johnny Cash Song “A Boy Named Sue.”  If you haven’t seen the movie (which is a personal favorite of mine) you can catch the scene at around the 35 second mark in the video at the link here.

Such a classic scene. Johnny Cash’s music is classic as well.  “I Walk the Line“, “Folsom Prison Blues“, “Ring of Fire“, “Man in Black“… all Johnny Cash classics.  If you’re not familiar with those songs, maybe you should google them. I’m not going to embed them here.  Rather, I’d like to list 9 interesting facts that I found at this link.  Stuff I didn’t know, that you may find interesting or amusing:

1. Johnny Cash started smoking when he was 12 years old.

2. His first gig with the Tennessee Two was playing for a group of elderly ladies in a church basement.

3. During his act in the 1950s, Cash flaunted a killer Elvis impersonation.

4. Roy Orbison was Cash’s next-door neighbor in Tennessee for over 20 years.

5. An ostrich attack left Cash with five broken ribs and internal bleeding.

6. Muhammad Ali wrote a poem for Cash called “Truth” which Cash kept locked in a vault.

7. According to his autobiography Cash, if he were stuck on a desert island, Cash would bring Bob Dylan’s The Freeweelin’ Bob Dylan, Merle Travis’ Down Home, Jimmie Davis’s Greatest Gospel Hits, Emmylou Harris’ Roses in the Snow, Rosanne Cash’s The Wheel, a gospel album by Rosetta Tharpe, “something by Beethoven,” and You Are There by Edward R. Murrow.

8. Cash suffered from aviataphobia (fear of flying) and ophidophobia (fear of snakes).

9. In the Air Force, Cash wrote short stories under the pen name Johnny Dollar.

In Memoriam | Kurt Cobain | 1967-1994

Kurt-kurt-cobain-1285543-1024-768February 20, 1967, one of the most iconic figures in rock music was born. Kurt Donald Cobain, best known as the lead singer and guitarist of Nirvana.  Nirvana’s legacy is well documented.  They made “alternative music” cool, bringing that which was part of the “underground”  into the foreground, and popularized a new genre of music that we call “grunge”.

Whether he wanted it to or not, Kurt Cobain became the voice of a generation.  For all of the Gen X kids, his voice spoke to our frustrations and Nirvana’s music was the outlet. His early death immortalized his legacy, and it is a shame that there isn’t more music with him featured out there.

Below are three video clips of my favorite Kurt Cobain moments:

1.  For Nirvana’s MTV unplugged TV performance, Nirvana closed with “Where did you Sleep Last night’.  The song itself is heavy and brooding, and quite repetitive. Kurt’s vocals starts off muted, and suspicious, but slowly  rises to intense accusation.  As he escalates the tension throughout the song, it culminates (at around the 4:40 mark) in the deepest and most intense breath in taped music performance history.  A breath, which to me, signifies a final realization that he in fact knew where his lover was.  So intense.  The exact way I want to remember Kurt Cobain.

2. If you  google “Kurt Cobain, interview” and watch whatever is pulled up from the search engines, you will see that Kurt Cobain was real person.  Very human.  The following interview is quite long (20 minutes), but it’s the kind of interview that made his fans adore him.  No pretentiousness.  Honest talk. 

3. When Nirvana was asked to play for England’s “Tops of the Pops”, and play to a pre-recorded, instrumental track, the band decided to have some fun at the show’s expense.  With the band faking to play their instruments, and Kurt doing his best (or worst) Johnny Cash impression, this is pure comedy awesomeness. 

4.  I’ve only read about this, but damn … I wish I was there.

“Amidst rumors that Nirvana was breaking up, not to mention Kurt Cobain’s questionable mental and physical state at the time, the band makes a scheduled appearance at the annual Reading Festival. Many fans, doubting that Cobain will even show, is rolled out on stage in a wheel chair. Krist Novoselic addresses the sea of the people, “With the support of his friends and family, he’s gonna make it.” Cobain stands up, sings a Bette Midler tune, and collapses on the stage. He then rises to his feet and leads Nirvana in a performance that Novoselic calls his highlight of the year. If Cobain dressed in a hospital gown wasn’t funny enough, the band later performs Boston’s “More Than A Feeling” (Boston had said “Smells Like Teen Spirit” was a rip-off of their hit song). Cobain also delivers a classic line of stage banter during the set: This is our last show–until the next one.”  – From IFC’s list of “Top 10 Nirvana Moments”.

As an added bonus, here a list of Kurt Cobain’s 50 favorite albums (written in his own hand).  I’m proud to say I have a lot of them:


I hope you’re resting in peace, Kurt.

In Memoriam | J Dilla | 1974-2006 | “We reminisce over you”


A lot of people don’t know this, but before I went to law school, I worked at a small boutique entertainment law firm in Santa Monica, CA.  One of our clients was the production company that had signed Slum Village as an artist.  One of the first albums I got my entertainment law hands dirty with was “Fantastic, Vol. 2”.  I took great pride while working on the project because I knew there was something special with the talent in that group, particularly the talent of the producer J Dilla, who produced the ENTIRE album, which is amazing.

When I entered my second year at law school, I decided to work part-time, splitting my time  hustling in the class room, and hustling in the office.  Though J Dilla decided to move on from Slum Village, he produced a couple tracks off of Slum Village’s next album, “Trinity (Past, Present and Future)”.

James Dewitt Yancey, pka J Dilla, born February 7, 1974, passed away February 10, 2006 from a blood disease, and I remember feeling a great sense of loss.  He was part of my professional evolution and maturation, and is a reason why I love this business so much.  To work, albeit somewhat remotely, with talent makes it all worthwhile.

His instrumental album “Donuts” and his first solo album “The Shining” are 4 and 5 star albums based on my own personal rankings.  NPR, in their obituary, stated that J Dilla “was one of the music industry’s most influential hip-hop artists, working for big-name acts like A Tribe Called QuestDe La SoulBusta RhymesThe Pharcyde and Common.”

This is a terrific four part interview of J Dilla from back in 2003. You want and in-depth take of his come up and the way he produced, and what inspired, his music? You need to set aside 40 minutes of your day and listen to this interview.

Here’s a great video of man who lucked out and scored a storage unit of J Dilla’s record collection. I hope all of that wax is being taken care of.

Below are some of my favorite J Dilla Tracks.  RIP, Mr Yancey.  Truly a visionary.  Lost but not forgotten.  “We Reminisce Over You”.

Note:  If any of the links don’t work, let me know, and I’ll find an alternate version: