I’ve often joked that if I managed to make it to Heaven, I’d want my own horn section whose job would be to follow me around and punctuate my conversation with James Brown-style R&B call-and-response awesomeness.
Like most Beatles fans, there was a time when we hoped the band would somehow reunite for just one last show. That hope took a nosedive first with the shooting death of John Lennon, then George Harrison’s death from cancer.
Along the way, we got a few tidbits, including a new song by the surviving members (Harrison, Ringo Starr and Paul McCartney) remixed with archival recordings of John Lennon for a best-of collection back in the 1990s. Honestly, that was just a little creepy – basically the three survivors discovering ghost tracks on an old reel, writing a little music around it and deciding to send it out into the world anyway.
What is it about the beach that makes everyone’s attitude improve?
Think about it. Everything good in life seems a little bit easier when you’re breathing sea air and basking in sunshine all day. Conversations between strangers strike up more easily. People are more attracted to each other. They’ll let you pull into traffic in front of them. And movies … movies at the beach just seem to go down a little easier, make us a little happier and add a special highlight to what’s usually a week away from “real” life. And it doesn’t even matter that the only reason you were at the movies was probably because it was raining that day.
So it was the first day of my family’s annual beach vacation in the Outer Banks of North Carolina a few weeks ago. We arrived on Sunday, and Monday turned out to be a wash as far as sunning and swimming went. And really, it provided the perfect excuse for me to round up my son and assorted other cousins and siblings (along with my 70-something aunt) to see a movie I’d been a little bit more excited about than a 45-year-old dad probably should be. Continue reading → Entirely Biased and Totally Subjective Movie Review: ‘Guardians of the Galaxy’
In 1974, when this song came out, I was 6 years old, and yet I find that memories of it playing on AM radio still bubble up from way back then.
It was one of those songs that, in retrospect, should have told me that I would eventually become a huge fan of the source material the Raspberries tapped, which was really Rubber Soul– and Revolver-era Beatles.
It’s also a reminder, at least for me, not to do anything half-assed. Granted, that sort of going all the way isn’t exactly what the song is about (you can read about that in another posting), but it never hurts to have little musical cues throughout your playlist reminding you to take care of business … as in actual business, rather than the other kind of wink-wink, nudge-nudge business.
Ladies and gentlemen, I give to you “Penguins,” one of out-and-out funkiest songs ever laid down by someone generally classified as a country artist.
But if you took a country music fan – the Coors Light-drinking, NASCAR-watching, truck-driving, ATV riding type of country music fan – and asked him about Lyle Lovett, chances are he’d look at you like my dog does when he’s confused about what I’m asking him to do.
That’s because on the radar screen of your average “hot” country radio listener, Lovett isn’t even a blip. He’s too funny looking (real country stars are pretty-boy handsome with a rustic edge), he’s too bluesy (real country stars have twang galore and don’t use all those annoying horns and … what the hell is that – a cello?) and he sings about the wrong stuff (no songs about getting wasted on cheap beer from a Solo cup while partying in a field), etc.
The Oscar nominations were announced yesterday, and along with my annual bout of angst over having seen very few of the nominated films, I was delighted to see that Pharrell Williams’ song “Happy” from the Despicable Me 2 soundtrack, made the cut as a nominee for best song. Continue reading → Have a Happy, ‘Happy’ Funky Friday
Ever since the 1970s, science fiction and the funk have somehow emerged as two great tastes that taste great together.
I suppose we can credit George Clinton and Parliament Funkadelic for the concept of the extraterrestrial visitors who descend to Earth to bring us some form of rump-shaking higher knowledge.
By introducing the Mothership and it’s garishly clad crew of funkateers, Clinton managed to combine the self-determination that arose from the civil rights movement of the 1960s with the idea that maybe something bigger was needed to bring about full acceptance of the African American culture that has informed every bit of American life since the 1600s.
Something like … a full-on alien invasion.
The concept of alien visitors bringing about some kind of funk epiphany was new, but somehow it caught on. The Mothership itself appeared in live P-Funk shows and the massive musical collective worked the extraterrestrial vibe to the hilt (everybody say, “Go Bootsy!“). Their rallying cry was, “Free your mind, and your ass will follow.” Well put.
It could have been a one-time thing had young Prince Rogers Nelson not set upon his own journey of funk/rock fusion and become the performer we now know only as Prince, who counted among his early influences Sly & the Family Stone, James Brown, Earth, Wind & Fire, Miles Davis, Carlos Santana, Jimi Hendrix, Todd Rundgren and … Parliament-Funkadelic.
Prince seemed to bring everything along for the ride – space, pan-sexuality, end-of-days prophecy, visions of a post-apocalyptic utopia – all packaged in this surreal mix of pop, rock, funk and old-school R&B. When Prince broke big in the 1980s with 1999 and Purple Rain, it really did seem like he’d come from space like a late wave of the invasion that P-Funk initiated.
Plenty of old-timey “classic rock” guys turned up their noses, despite the scorching guitar solos and the obvious tribute to Jimi Hendrix, probably because it was hard for them to get past the fact that the Little Purple One was black.
Meanwhile those of us of a more sci-fi frame of mind more easily got a hold on what Prince was doing – pushing the envelope that had been shrunk ever smaller by obnixious, prefab arena rock and what was left of those trying to capitalize off the disco craze.
Since Prince curtailed his career and output, there have been few willing to step up and bring the sci-fi/funk connection back to the fore. Until now.
Janelle Monae seemed to emerge from much the same science fictional universe as Prince, and brings even more of that delightful future-funk to the world, especially in her videos. “Dance Apocalyptic” brings us the end of the world, complete with zombies, aliens and humanoid apes, but for purposes of today’s blog, it doesn’t really count as funk, per se. It’s still a damn fine song, and you should still give it a listen.
The best example of Monae’ sci-fi/funk fusion is the song – or more specifically the video – below. While the song isn’t science-fictional in itself, it does propose that the world is a better place when everyone’s being him or herself without worrying about the folks who never can quite get the hang of that.
The video, though, is based on the premise that Monae was the leader of a full-on cultural and social revolution, and that her organization has been frozen in suspended animation in a “living museum” for rebels and radicals – until they are once again unleashed.
Which brings us right back around to the P-Funk motto. Let the funk free your mind, and your ass will indeed follow.