Saturday, March 1, 2008

Bits and pieces leftover from February

  • Feb. 1: Priscilla Presley gives birth to Elvis's only child, Lisa Marie, in Memphis, Tennessee.
  • Feb. 18: A 22-year-old guitarist named David Gilmour joins Pink Floyd, soon replacing his childhood friend Syd Barrett, as Barrett’s mental condition deteriorates.
  • Feb. 25: 430 Unification Church couples wed in Korea.
  • Feb. 27: Frankie Lymon, former singer of the Teenagers, is found dead of a heroin overdose in Harlem at age 25. The Teenagers' biggest hit was Why Do Fools Fall in Love.
  • Also in February: Peggy Fleming won the gold medal in figure skating, the only gold medal that the U.S. Olympic team won in the 1968 Winter Games in Grenoble, France. Frenchman Jean-Claude Killy won gold medals in all three alpine skiing events.

Friday, February 29, 2008

It was 40 years ago today
that the Beatles took the Grammys away

Most years, I yawn when I see the list of nominees for the Grammy Awards. It always seems to me that the more I like a song or an album, the less likely it is to be honored. And in the past, some of the winners have really seemed like somebody’s idea of a cruel joke.

But that was definitely not the case 40 years ago Feb. 29 when the Beatle’s eighth album, Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, took honors as the Album of the Year at the 1968 Grammy Awards.

The Beatles had played their last live show, in San Francisco, on Aug. 29, 1966. About three months later, on Dec. 6, they started rolling the tape at Abbey Road Studios. Their masterpiece was complete on April 21, after some 700 hours in the studio. It was released on June 1 in the United Kingdom and the next day in the United States. (Click on album cover for a short video.)

In addition to Album of the Year, Sgt. Pepper’s also was honored for Best Album Cover, Graphic Arts; Best Contemporary Album; and Best Engineered Recording – Non-Classical.

Rolling Stone magazine said "Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band is the most important rock & roll album ever made, an unsurpassed adventure in concept, sound, songwriting, cover art and studio technology by the greatest rock & roll group of all time." Rolling Stone put it atop their
500 Greatest Albums of All Time list in 2003.

I recognize the greatness of Sgt. Pepper's, but I hardly ever listen to it. For pure listening pleasure, I'll take Revolver, Rubber Soul or the 2nd side of Abbey Road (cd cuts 7-17).

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Founding father of "Jesus Music" dies

There are two songs that to me are the epitome of peace, love and understanding: Get Together by the Youngbloods and I Love You by People!. I seem to hear Get Together all the time -- it's on the radio regularly and it's one of my most listened songs on my computer. I Love You is so rare that I can barely remember hearing it on the radio, although it, too, is also on a medium computer rotation. I still just an old hippie peacenik at heart and both songs kind of speak right to my inner being.

Driving to work Tuesday, I was blown away to hear People! singing their one hit from 1968 on KPFT’s Sound Awake program. After the song ended, the disk jockey said that singer Larry Norman had died at his home in Oregon at age 60. Larry Norman’s brother Charles Norman announced Larry’s death on Sunday, Feb. 24, on Larry’s Web site.

People! was a psychedelic rock group from San Jose, Calif., that released three albums between 1968 and 1970. The title track of the first album, released in 1968, was cover of a Zombies B-side from a couple of years earlier. I Love You went Top 15 in the spring and summer of 1968.

Norman left People! after the first album to become one of the founding fathers of “Jesus Music” in the late '60s, His record Upon This Rock in late 1969, which, along with Mylon LeFevre’s solo debut, marked the beginnings of the genre. Norman’s Only Visiting this Planet was a high-water mark for Christian rock. Hen was inducted into the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2001.

Norman was born April 8, 1947, in Corpus Christi. His family moved to San Francisco when he was young,

In 1990, CCM magazine voted his Only Visiting This Planet as the greatest Christian album ever recorded. But Norman never gained widespread acceptance from the religious establishment, the Portland Oregonian reported in Norman's obituary.

"The churches weren't going to accept me looking like a street person with long hair and faded jeans," he said in an interview with CCM. "They did not like the music I was recording. And I had no desire to preach the gospel to the converted. I wanted to be out on the sidewalk preaching to the runaways and the druggies and the prostitutes."

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Weren't You My Neighbor

On Feb. 19, 1968, National Educational Television began airing Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. (NET was replaced by PBS in 1970.) Mister Rogers' Neighborhood was produced by public broadcast station WQED in Pittsburgh. The last original Mister Rogers' Neighborhood aired in 2001, making it PBS' longest-running program ever. It ran for 998 episodes. Fred Rogers, a Presbyterian minister who became a cultural icon and kindly neighbor to generations of American children, died on Feb. 27, 2003 at the age 74.

I can't say that I saw Mr. Roger's Neighborhood much for it's first 12-15 years or so. Sometime in the early '80s, my oldest daughter got addicted to the show and refused to go to day care before the show ended. In the mid-1990s when the second set of children came around, I became quite a fan. There weren't a lot of surprises on the show. Mr. Rogers always came in singing the theme song, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, took of his jacket, put on a sweater and began the show. A video, a trip to the bakery or the music store, a chat with a special guest and sometimes a musical performance -- I can remember seeing Yo Yo Ma in one episode -- and then a trip to the Neighborhood of Make Believe and it was time to feed the fish and wrap things up. Most of episodes ended with Mr. Rogers singing the song It's Such a Good Feeling.