John Prine Doc ‘Hello in There’ Picked Up for Theatrical Release

Feature-length film charts singer-songwriter’s legacy and recent resurgence with Tree of Forgiveness

John Prine poses in his office in Nashville, Tenn. The former Chicago mailman has become an affable songwriting guru for many of Nashville's talented young artists and his songbook, "Beyond Words," released in April, features guitar chords, family photos, handwritten lyrics and witty stories alongside some of his best known songs, such as "Sam StoneMusic John Prine, Nashville, USA - 20 Jun 2017

John Prine poses in his office in Nashville, Tenn. The former Chicago mailman has become an affable songwriting guru for many of Nashville’s talented young artists and his songbook, “Beyond Words,” released in April, features guitar chords, family photos, handwritten lyrics and witty stories alongside some of his best known songs, such as “Sam Stone Music John Prine, Nashville, USA – 20 Jun 2017

AP/REX/Shutterstock

John Prine’s songwriting legacy and recent resurgence will be the focus of an upcoming documentary titled John Prine: Hello in There.

Sony Pictures Classics announced Saturday that it had acquired the film, which was directed by Zachary Fuhrer and produced by Rolling Stone‘s Patrick Doyle.

“The movie began filming John as he prepared to release his first album of new songs in 13 years, and follows him throughout a remarkable resurgence that has taken him from Radio City Music Hall to the Songwriters Hall of Fame,” Sony Pictures Classics said of the film. “With the complete support of the Prine family, the filmmakers conducted extensive interviews with Prine’s friends and peers; including young songwriters he helped shape, such as Sturgill Simpson, Jason Isbell and Margo Price.”

Doyle added, “Spending time with John Prine over the last year, we’ve learned that he is just as insightful — and hilarious — in everyday life as he is in his songs. From playing at pubs in western Ireland to the Ryman Auditorium, there is nobody better at spellbinding a room. For the last 50 years, he’s been a voice for the overworked, underpaid and forgotten, and our current political times have made his songs even more relevant. He is a Johnny Cash-level talent we are lucky to still have performing, and he was kind enough to let us in on his life: making breakfast at home in Nashville, preparing for the biggest show of his life at Radio City and more.”

John Prine: Hello in There is currently in post-production with a theatrical release planned.

Fuhrer said in a statement, “As John’s band members like to say, ‘There are two types of people: those who love John Prine and those who haven’t heard of him yet.’ John’s philosophy on life — finding comedy in tragedy — is the heart of the film; his stories a daily reminder that there’s always a way to laugh at your own misfortune.”

Linda Ronstadt Talks Illness, ‘Trio’ Album in Candid ‘CBS Sunday Morning’ RollingStone Interview

linda-ronstadt.jpg

Now retired from singing, legendary performer offers observations on several points of her remarkable career

In a touching, funny and inspirational conversation with CBS Sunday Morning’s Tracy Smith, Linda Ronstadt opened up about her battle with Parkinson’s, the disease that robbed fans of Ronstadt’s remarkable singing voice.

From the classic rock hits “(Love Is Like a) Heat Wave” and “You’re No Good,” to the acoustic country of “Telling Me Lies” and “To Know Him Is to Love Him,” performed with her Trio partners Dolly Parton and Emmylou Harris, Ronstadt’s range as an interpreter and vocal powerhouse earned her membership in the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 2014.

Now 72, with streaks of purple in her light brown hair, Ronstadt revealed that although she can no longer physically sing the songs for which she is well-known, she does have one way to hear herself perform them (it’s not on her million-selling records — she never listens to those).

“I can sing in my brain,” she says. “I sing in my brain all the time. It’s not quite the same as doing it physically. There’s a physical feeling in singing that’s just like skiing down a hill. Except better, because I’m not a very good skier.”

Although Ronstadt’s humor shines through in the interview, there’s also the poignant revelation that by 2009 she retired from singing because, by that time, what she heard herself doing mostly onstage was “yelling” as her voice faltered.

These days, Ronstadt spends much of her time at home reading, a pursuit that has deepened her interest in political affairs. In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Ronstadt endorsed Michael Lewis’ bestseller The Fifth Risk. “It’s a great little civics lesson, to start with. It’s a real education in how the Cabinet works and what happens when it does its function, which it’s not doing now,” she said. “The ‘fifth risk’ is incompetence. For instance, the Secretary of Energy was a nuclear scientist, and Trump put in somebody who wasn’t even interested in the reports they prepared to hand over to the new administration. They didn’t even come in for a briefing. The Department of Energy, which I didn’t know before, takes care of all the nuclear weapons. Our nuclear arsenal is in the hands of the Department of Energy.”

Ronstadt’s first-ever live album, Live in Hollywood, taped for a 1980 HBO special, was issued last week. The LP collects 12 of the 20 songs performed in the special, many of which have been unreleased in any form until now.

The Keeper Of Southern Folk Is Up For 2 Grammy Awards ~ NPR

 

Folklore archivist William Ferris is among the nominees for next week’s Grammy Awards for his album: Voices of Mississippi — a collection of rural church gospel hymns, Delta blues and work songs.

 

voices-of-mississippi-cover_700.jpg

Deluxe box set with a 120-page hardcover book edited by William Ferris. The set features essays by Scott Barretta, David Evans and Tom Rankin; Two CDs of Blues and Gospel recordings (1966-1978); One CD of Interviews and Storytelling (1968-1994); One DVD of Documentary Films (1972-1980). Also included are transcriptions for each track and a download/streaming code. Nominated for two Grammy Awards: Best Historical Album and Best Liner Notes.

Review

Voices of Mississippi taps into the rich world of southern musicians, storytellers, and writers. Their beautiful voices touched my heart. Bill Ferris is a profound historian. I am his biggest fan! –Quincy Jones

The combination of William Ferris and Dust-to-Digital is so important in preserving the cornerstone of our musical American history, and this collection is extraordinary. While listening to the amazing sounds of these tracks and paging through the brilliantly done book, it s clear that a lot of care and love went into the making of this project. –Lucinda Williams

Going from farm to front porch across the American south in the 1960s, William Ferris recorded everything from praying pigs to haunting blues a political act, he says, at a time when black voices were being silenced. –Rebecca Bengal, The Guardian

The Women Behind The Songs: Jessie Mae Robinson ~ NPR

Many may know Wanda Jackson‘s 1960s hit “Let’s Have a Party,” or even the versions performed by Led Zeppelin and Elvis Presley, but most will not recognize the name of the woman who wrote it: Jessie Mae Robinson.

Whether she was composing party songs or heartbreak songs, Robinson wrote with the concise, evocative language of a journalist. She gave her characters dignity no matter who they were or what they were doing.

Born in Texas in 1918 and raised in California, Robinson’s songs have been recorded by hundreds of artists, from Louis Jordan to Lana Del Rey.

Growing up in the Watts neighborhood of Los Angeles, Robinson found a supportive community, and plenty of opportunities to explore her creative interests. She became a champion tap dancer, competing at the old Largo Theater. As a teenager, she wrote a column for the California Eagle newspaper. She earned an Actors’ Equity card, performing in WPA musicals like Show Boat.

But Robinson also had a penchant for making up melodies and writing poetry. She was encouraged to become a songwriter by neighborhood friend Joe Adams, who’d go on to manage Ray Charles and Dootsie Williams. Williams owned a local studio, where Robinson got her songwriting start. She caught a break in 1945, when a young Dinah Washington released “Mellow Mama Blues.”

Robinson was an African American woman working mostly on her own in the 1940s and 50s, but she challenged a music industry determined to pigeonhole her into writing only blues and R&B. She loved Tin Pan Alley and show tunes, and refused to be confined by genre.

In 1952, Robinson had her first pop music crossover success when Patti Page recorded her song, “I Went To Your Wedding,” about watching the love of your life marry someone else.

A self-taught musician, Robinson wrote songs even when she had no access to an instrument. She’d hum melodies into a tape recorder, and scribble lyrics on random pieces of paper. She didn’t learn to drive until age 30, so early in her career, she’d take a bus to Hollywood, and have her songs transcribed onto sheet music that the studio musicians could read.

In the early 1960s, Robinson started her own record labels, naming the first one after her daughter, June. Though she loved music, Robinson had grown tired of the industry. She was physically tired, too. Robinson’s health was in decline, and in 1966 she sought treatment for a chronic throat problem. The doctors suggested surgery, but she said no, fearful of permanently losing her voice.

Robinson died in 1966 at age 48, leaving behind a body of work that reflects who she was: soft-spoken yet self-possessed, imaginative and ambitious. She was a uniquely gifted composer with an eye for detail that most people overlook and the ability to pack so much emotion into just a few words.

With A New Book, Louie Peréz Of Los Lobos Is Master Storyteller

“There is no such thing as Chicano hippies! And playing Mexican music??”

That was my father’s reaction when I described seeing five honest-to-goodness Chicano hippies with beards and ponytails playing mariachi music at a Chicano student leadership retreat at UC Davis in 1975. Los Lobos del Este de Los Angeles, the group called themselves.

Three years later, there was a bright yellow album cover with a drawing of a nopal plant and an inlay photo of those very same Chicano hippies that proclaimed themselves as ‘Just Another Band from East LA.’ They were still playing Mexican folk music and that record was a staple of Chicano activist parties during my college years in Fresno, Calif.

Then, nothing. For five years. Until they came roaring out of the LA punk scene with electric instruments turned up to 11 rocking corridos, a Richie Valens song and the first three originals by David Hidalgo and Louie Perez, a song writing team that would redefine Chicano musical expression and win legions of fans around the world.

 

~~~~

 

Good Morning, Aztlán : The Words Picture and Songs of Louie Peréz (published by Tia Chucha Press) has just been published and it is a breathtaking examination of Perez’s masterful storytelling in the name of sharing the lesson that we have more in common than we are different.

This week, Louie Peréz sits down for a wide-ranging interview about the book, his own story, his creative bond with David Hidalgo that stretches back to the 11th grade and his commitment to telling the stories of the world as he has seen it from countless tour buses.

Good Morning, Aztlán has songs as well as short stories, poetry and philosophical riffs all written by Peréz and we selected a few to include in the show. (Big thanks to Alt.Latino contributor Marisa Arbona-Ruiz‘s multi-talented acting skills for the dramatic readings on the show this week. Get your tissues out for her reading of “Little John Of God” one of Peréz ‘s most powerfully emotional songs.)

With David Hidalgo as his writing partner and the rest of Los Lobos as the vehicle that brings those stories to life, Louie Peréz has created an imaginary world full of real life joys and pains and wonder that seems worlds away from the hippie mariachi I saw. But the through line going back to 8-year-old Louie Peréz of East LA has been his fascination with the written word. And we all have benefited from that.

Tia Chucha’s online bookstore

~~~

good-morning-aztlan_1024x1024@2x.jpg

Good Morning Aztlán

TIA CHUCHA PRESS

Regular price$21.95

The Words, Pictures, and Songs of Louie Perez

 

Louie Pérez is a master musician and innovative visual artist who has spent the last forty years as a founding member and principal songwriter for the internationally acclaimed group Los Lobos. Working with his songwriting partner, David Hidalgo, Pérez has written more than four hundred songs. Many of those songs, along with previously unpublished poems and short stories as well as paintings, sketches, and photos, are collected in this deeply personal, yet universally appealing volume. The book also features essays by musicians, artists, and scholars who artfully dissect the significance of Pérez’ work. Good Morning, Aztlán is, without question, a different kind of memoir.
About the Author

 

Louie Pérez is an American songwriter, percussionist, and guitarist for the multiple Grammy Award-winning band Los Lobos. Pérez songs have been showcased on every Los Lobos recording, beginning with “And A Time To Dance” and continuing through the band’s most recent album, “Gates of Gold.” Pérez also co-wrote songs with his writing partner David Hidalgo for two critically praised albums by Latin Playboys.

In addition, Pérez wrote songs for Tony Kushner’s 1994 adaptation of Bertolt Brecht’s “The Good Person of Szechwan” at the La Jolla Playhouse in California. He co-wrote the book for About Productions’ play “Evangeline, the Queen of Make Believe” which premiered at the Bootleg Theatre in Los Angeles. Many recording artists, including Waylon Jennings, Jerry Garcia, and Robert Plant, have covered Pérez’s songs. His prose work has been published in a number of periodicals, including the Los Angeles Times Magazine, LA Weekly and the New York arts journal BOMB. As a visual artist, he has exhibited his paintings and sculpture in many prominent galleries and museums in Los Angeles and New York.

Reviews

 

“I’ve been blessed to watch Louie Pérez evolve from a beginning songwriter who mimicked the traditional yet inspirational lyrics of American rhythm & blues and Mexican corridos into a damn good ‘serious’ songwriter whose best work stands equal to that of those two master songwriters of spiritual exploration—Leonard Cohen and Bob Dylan.”
—Dave Alvin of the Blasters

Nina Simone’s ‘Lovely, Precious Dream’ For Black Children ~ NPR

This story is part of American Anthem, a yearlong series on songs that rouse, unite, celebrate and call to action. Find more at NPR.org/Anthem.


Noel King

By the early 1960s, Nina Simone was well-known to the world as a singer, songwriter and classically trained pianist. But around 1963, as race relations in America hit a boiling point, she made a sharp turn in her music — toward activism.

First, there was the murder of Medgar Evers that summer. The civil rights leader was killed by a Klansman, shot in the back in his own driveway in Mississippi. Three months later, in Birmingham, Ala., four black girls were killed in a church bombing. In response to the grief and outrage, Simone wrote a powerful song with unsparing lyrics and a provocative title: “Mississippi Goddam.”

Then, in 1968, she identified a different side of the struggle. The Black Power movement was rising. Pride in being black and beautiful was expressed in big afros and raised fists. She aimed to capture that moment of joy in black identity — and though the song she wrote was addressed to children, it became an anthem for adults, too.

And then, in January 1965, Hansberry died of cancer at the age of 34. A few months before, she had told a group of student essay winners, “I wanted to be able to come here and speak with you on this occasion because you are young, gifted and black.”

Those words stuck in Nina Simone’s head. In an interview recorded at historically black Morehouse College in Atlanta, she said, “I remember getting a feeling in my body, and I said, ‘That’s it: to be young, gifted and black. That’s all.’ And sat down at the piano and made up a tune. It just flowed out of me.”

Simone wrote the music, while the words came from her bandleader, Weldon Irvine. He reportedly sat writing the lyrics in his car, tying up a busy New York City intersection for 15 minutes as he scribbled on napkins and a matchbook cover. Simone had told him to keep it simple — write something that “will make black children all over the world feel good about themselves, forever.”

“To Be Young, Gifted and Black” caught on, and other artists quickly recorded it. Soul singer Donny Hathaway released a cover of the song in 1970. Aretha Franklin made own version the title track of an album she released in 1972.

~~~  CONTINUE  ~~~

How The Byrds’ ‘Sweetheart Of The Rodeo’ Became A Classic 50 Years After Its Debut ~ NPR

January 1, 2019

When The Byrds released “Sweetheart of the Rodeo” in 1968, it was a commercial failure. A half century after its debut, the album has become a classic.

~~~  LISTEN  ~~~

 

Unknown.jpeg

After Chris Hillman dragged new friend Gram Parsons into the Byrds, they made an album as close to a country masterpiece as a rock act could ever make. In fact, the only tunes better than the definitive covers here of songs by Bob Dylan (“You Ain’t Going Nowhere”), Guthrie (“Pretty Boy Floyd”), and the Louvin Brothers (“The Christian Life”) are Parsons’s originals, especially the incomparable “Hickory Wind.” Sweetheart wasn’t the first country-rock album, but with its gorgeous three-way harmonies and sweet pedal steel, it remains the best. –David Cantwell

Why Is The Music Of 1968 So Enduring? ‘It Was Allowed To Be Art’ ~ NPR

 

In 1968, The Beatles and The Rolling Stones were at the top of their game. Aretha Franklin released two great records. The Kinks, The Byrds and Van Morrison put out some of their best work, too.

One of the most tumultuous years of the 20th century also produced some of its greatest popular music. And it’s not just baby boomers who are nostalgic for the sounds of their youth: Even to people born decades later, the music of 1968 stands out.

 

“There’s this kind of blossoming in what was possible,” says Meg Baird, a singer and musician who performs under her own name and in the band Heron Oblivion. She lives in San Francisco, the city that nurtured a flowering of psychedelic rock bands half a century ago, including Quicksilver Messenger Service, Jefferson Airplane and the Grateful Dead.

“I really don’t know what was the magic formula,” Baird says. But she’s not the only who’d like to recapture it. “I think everybody is always trying to go back there, to be honest.”

Maybe part of the fascination is hearing musicians trying to break free from the industry’s formulas. “There was a cookie-cutter aspect to most pop music at the time,” says John Simon, an in-demand producer during the 1960s and author of the 2018 book Truth, Lies & Hearsay: A Memoir of a Musical Life In & Out Of Rock and Roll. “People wanted to make hits,” he says.

By 1968, that was changing. The world outside of the recording studio was in upheaval. And musicians wanted to capture of the spirit of what was going on

 

John Simon worked on some of the most acclaimed albums of 1968, including Bookends by Simon & Garfunkel. He produced Cheap Thrills by Big Brother & the Holding Company — the record that introduced Janis Joplin to a wide audience.

And he produced the first record by a group of musicians who were best known for backing up Bob Dylan. He remembers the first time he heard the demos that became Music from Big Pink by The Band.

“What I heard was just great. It was just so different,” Simon says. “The forms were different, the instrumentation was different, the attitudes. And so I said, yeah, count me in.”

The Band recorded live in the center of the studio, trying to recreate the magic of the basement of “Big Pink,” the house in the Hudson Valley where they’d spent much of the last year honing their material. They knocked out almost half of the album in a day, while other bands spent hours obsessing over a single track.

But no one pushed the recording studio — or the electric guitar — further than Jimi Hendrix.

“Nobody had recorded guitar sounds like that,” says Vernon Reid, founder and guitarist of the band Living Colour. “No one had made sounds like that in the studio.”

When Hendrix started out, he was a sideman who was supposed to play second fiddle to others. “He played in rock and roll and R&B bands where the lead singer was the was the king,” Reid says. “He got fired all the time.”

But Hendrix’s very first album of his own was a Top 10 hit. So in 1968, he was free to pursue the sounds in his head on a groundbreaking double album called Electric Ladyland that brought together blues and R&B with jazz and space rock.

“He took this notion of freedom seriously,” Reid says. “He was one of the great musical liberators.”

James Brown recorded the song “Say It Loud — I’m Black and I’m Proud” in August of 1968. Saxophone player and bandleader Pee Wee Ellis co-wrote the song. He says it was Brown’s idea to bring in a bunch of neighborhood kids to sing the chorus.

“Their part was very simple,” Ellis recalls. “All they had to say was, ‘I’m black and I’m proud.’ It was done in one take.”

Ellis says audiences across the country learned their part quickly, too. The band recorded the song in Los Angeles, and played a gig at New York’s Apollo Theater a few weeks later.

“James Brown came on stage and said, ‘Say it loud!’ And the whole entire audience said, ‘I’m black and I’m proud,’ ” Ellis says. “That gave me goosebumps.”

So why does the music of 1968 still give audiences goosebumps half a century later?

“People were making music they wanted to be make,” says Meg Baird. One of her favorite records of 1968 is not on many top-10 lists from that year. It’s a double album — half live, half studio — by the British folk-jazz band Pentangle, called Sweet Child.

“You can feel how fun it must be to be in that band,” Baird says. “They’re so good, and the way they’re playing together, it gets shared with the listener and the audience. This is music that was meant to be heard in a hall. It’s not meant to be in a rock club, or a folk club. It was allowed to be art.”

Joan Baez’s Music Keeps Providing The Soundtrack For Political Struggles ~ NPR

joan-baez2.jpg

NPR’s Ari Shapiro spoke with musician Joan Baez in February about her first Grammy nomination in 1962 and her newest album, “Whistle Down the Wind.”

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Joan Baez got her first Grammy nomination more than half a century ago in 1962. This year she released her first album in nearly a decade called “Whistle Down The Wind.” And once again, she’s nominated for a Grammy for best folk album. Like her earlier work, these new songs provide a soundtrack for political struggles from civil rights to women’s equality. When I spoke with her back in February, she told me she thinks of this as a bookend to her first album which came out in 1959.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED BROADCAST)

BAEZ: The first album had the song “Silver Dagger” on it, this famous, famous old folk song ballad.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SILVER DAGGER”)

BAEZ: (Singing) And in her right hand a silver dagger.

On this one I asked Josh Ritter if he’d write me a song. And he wrote a song called “Silver Blade.”

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, “SILVER BLADE”)

BAEZ: (Singing) I have myself a silver blade. The edge is sharp, the handle bone, a little thing of silver made.

I think in the beginning also there was – I did mostly ballads. And then as the years went by, as in, like, the second and third album, then the political-leaning music came in. And this album now is a combination of those two things, very sparse. We made it in three visits of three days each, which is how I like to work – fast (laughter).

SHAPIRO: Your music was some of the signature protest songs of the 1960s. And in that time, there were songs that everybody sang together at protests, some of them your songs. And today it feels like the protests are as big as they have ever been, but it doesn’t feel like there is a shared soundtrack.

BAEZ: No, I think you’re absolutely right. And in the ’60s and ’70s, we had basically civil rights and Vietnam. It was very clear.

SHAPIRO: Yeah.

BAEZ: Now every single day, there’s a new issue to try and keep up with and deal with and decide if that’s where you want to put your energy. So it’s baffling, as you know (laughter). And it’s not going to get any simpler. So, yes, we need that anthem. It beats shouting. But in the meantime, it’s better shouting than silence.

SHAPIRO: I wondered about “The President Sang Amazing Grace”…