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Posts Tagged ‘Willie Dixon’

One of the benefits that come from writing this blog for nearly 12 years now is that on those days when I am super busy and have to get to work early, I can go into the archives and pull out a favorite. Below is a such a favorite from back in 2013, made doubly so in that it is in itself a reposting of an even earlier entry from 2009. Give a look ( and a listen) if you have a few minutes.

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farmer[2013]– Yesterday, I checked my blog with a search to see if I had ever written here before about that day’s subject, Long John Baldry. I found that I had only mentioned him once in a post from back in 2009. I read the older blog and it made me chuckle. It was titled You Can’t Judge a Book… from a song that Baldry had once covered and had to do with how our preconceptions are often wrong about people. It immediately brought to mind something that had happened over the weekend here at the studio.

My niece, Sarah, brought a friend and her husband to visit the studio from their NYC home. Sarah didn’t share much about her friend outside of saying that they danced together and that she was a filmmaker for one of the large big-name auction houses in NYC.  I had no idea about what her husband did for a living. That was the extent of my knowledge outside of knowing they had been married the year before in New Orleans.

But they arrived and we had a wonderful visit. Both were charming and inquisitive, asking real questions and relating their own experiences in response to my answers. They were easy to speak with and made me feel comfortable in describing my work and process, not something that a lot of people can do easily. We visited for a couple of hours and they headed back to the city.

During our visit we learned a bit about the friend’s husband, whose name I won’t use out of respect for their privacy.  He was in the music business in some fashion, performing as a DJ, and had spent a lot of time touring here and abroad. He also was working on soundtracks for films. When I asked what sort of music he worked in, he said, in an almost apologetic way, that it was mainly rap and hip-hop. The manner of his response struck me in a curious way. He went on to explain that it was the music of when and where he grew up, in the neighborhoods of NYC. Again, this was said in an apologetic manner.

I didn’t think much about it until after they left and I decided to see if I could find out more about his music.  Googling him, I discovered that he had a prodigious reputation in the rap genre, with over twenty years in the business as a DJ and producer for a pretty big name rapper. He had recently started his own record company and had released an album  of his work only weeks before our meeting. I watched a couple of videos of his work and listened to several songs.

I am not an authority on rap/ hip hop in any form but this was powerful stuff. I was really impressed and thought back to his apologetic description of his work.

I understood it then.

He didn’t want to be judged and was trying to make it easy for me to not judge him. I mean, here I was, a middle-aged white guy with gray hair out in the country— not exactly a prime candidate for a hip-hop connoisseur. He had surely heard the venom directed toward his musical genre before from people who looked like me.

So, he judged me before I could judge him. I understood that.  It’s most likely what I would have done had I been in his place. My only regret is that it robbed me of an opportunity to ask the many questions that I formed in looking up his work after they had left the studio. It would have been fascinating to compare our creative processes, to see how he synthesized his influences. I got the impression from our talk that, though we worked in vastly different environments with disparate influences, we both working on a similar creative rhythm, expressing emotion within the framework of our own personal environments.

Well, the next time we will both know and won’t worry about judging one another. Here’s the original post from back in 2009:

I’ve just put the final details on a couple of paintings that will be part of my solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA. The show opens June 12th and I’m scheduled to deliver the work to the gallery a week before so I’m in the final stages of preparation. This is my tenth one-man show at the gallery and before that I did two shows as part of a group of painters from the Corning , NY area that was dubbed the Finger Lakes School.  

I particularly remember one moment from the first show with that group. There was a pretty good crowd and several of us from the group mingled, answering questions and such. I had a small break in the conversation and I heard a female voice from behind ask her companion where we were from. Her friend answered that we were from the Finger Lakes region in New York, pointing out that it was a pretty rural area with a lot of wineries and farms.

“Well, you know, they do look like farmers,” she replied.

I think I did a spit take. Over the years I often think back to that lady’s comment and sometimes laugh. Maybe we shouldn’t have all worn our overalls and straw hats that night. It just reminds me how people judge others by that initial glimpse and how often they end up being wrong. Actually, I’ve come to the conclusion that, in the end, I would prefer being mistaken for a farmer than an artist anyhow. Offhand, I can think of more positive attributes for the farmer. So, if you can make it to the opening look for the guy who looks like a farmer…

That brings me to a song, You Can’t Judge a Book, that was originally written by blues great Willie Dixon and made popular by Bo Diddley. This is a personally favorite version from Long John Baldry, one of the pioneers of the British blues/rock movement in the early 60’s and a guy who had real panache. Give a listen and be careful before judging someone, okay?

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https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=exANll1Mk7o

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mose-allison_1Artistic influences,  seeing how a certain artist will take the work of others and transform it into their own, is a fascinating thing.  Sometimes it’s very obvious especially when the influence is of equal renown or when one artist directly copies the work of another.  But sometimes there are great influences that you may not even recognize.

Mose Allison (born in 1927) is such a person, a name you probably don’t know.  But for many musicians in the who found their voice in the 60’s, he was a huge influence.  Jimi Hendrix,  The Rolling Stones, The Who, The Animals, Tom Waits, Van Morrison and many, many others have all cited him as a strong influence on their work.  But Mose Allison, while achieving considerable fame, never became the household name like so many of his admirers.

He was pretty hard to pigeonhole as a musician- at times very bluesy, himself strongly influenced by the delta blues of his home in Mississippi, other times very jazzy or even pop tinged.  But always a unique and individual sound that allowed him to take a song, his own or those written by others, and  give it a new perspective.  I have to admit that I didn’t know much about Mose Allison until just recently but have been thrilled to find his work and can easily see it in the work of so many others.  I encourage you to seek out his work and give it a listen.

To that end, here’s a small sample for this Sunday morning.  It’s his version of the Willie Dixon blues classic The Seventh Son, a song that became a pop hit for Johnny Rivers.  But here, it definitely feels all Mose Allison.  Enjoy and have a great Sunday.

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Long John Baldry It Aint Easy Cover 1971I remember my brother bringing home this album from some guy I had never heard of before  back in the early 70’s.  I also remember putting it on the turntable and being instantly hooked.  The guy was Long John Baldry and the album was It Ain’t Easy.  Baldry was a 6’7″ ( hence the nickname) British blues singer who was one of the first Brits to sing American blues in the English clubs of the late 50’s and early 60’s which led to the blues explosion there that re-ignited the dwindling careers of many American bluesmen, such as Muddy Waters, John Lee Hooker, Willie Dixon and many others.  Elton John and Rod Stewart and many others had started their careers in Baldry’s early bands and went on to greater acclaim than Baldry when they moved away from the blues and American folk that he so embraced.  Baldry was content playing this music for most of his career, outside of a short foray into lushly orchestrated Big Band crooning that gave him a #1 hit in the UK with Let the Heartaches Begin.

Baldry lived in Canada from the  late 70’s on and passed away in 2005 at the age of 64.  He did a lot of voiceover work late in his life with one  of his best known roles in voice acting was as Dr Robotnik in Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog.  This was news to me when I read it in his Wikipedia biography but it doesn’t take away from a really unique performer.

I dug up the a vinyl version of this album several years back when I wasn’t able to find it on CD or digitally.  I was so glad when I listened to it and found that it is still a really solid group of work, not just some idealized remembrance of a 14  year old mind.   Others must think so as well as it  is now widely available .  This was the first thing I ever heard from him, Don’t Try to Lay No Boogie Woogie ( On the King of Rock and Roll) which is introduced by an entertaining little tale from his early days called Conditional Discharge.

 

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FarmerI’ve just put the final details on a couple of paintings that will be part of my solo show at the Principle Gallery in Alexandria, VA.  The show opens June 12th and I’m scheduled to deliver the work to the gallery a week before so I’m in the final stages of preparation.  This is my tenth one-man show at the gallery and before that I did two shows as part of a group of painters from the Corning , NY area that was dubbed the Finger Lakes School.  

I particularly remember one moment from the first show with that group.  There was a pretty good crowd and several of us from the group mingled, answering questions and such.  I had a small break in the conversation and I heard a female voice from behind ask her companion where we were from.  Her friend answered that we were from the Finger Lakes region in New York.  He  said it was a pretty rural area with a lot of wineries and farms.

“Well, you know, they do look like farmers,” she replied.

I think I did a spit take.  Over the years I often think back to that lady’s comment and sometimes laugh.  Maybe we shouldn’t have all worn our overalls and straw hats that night.  It just reminds me how people judge others by that initial glimpse and how often  they end up being wrong.  Actually, I’ve come to the conclusion that, in the end, I would prefer being mistaken for a farmer than an artist anyhow.  Offhand, I can think of more positive attributes for the farmer.   So, if you can make it to the opening look for the guy who looks like a farmer…

That brings me to a song, You Can’t Judge a Book, that was originally written by blues great Willie Dixon and made popular by Bo Diddley.  My favorite version was from Long John Baldry, one of the pioneers of the British blues/rock movement in the early 60’s and a guy who had real panache, but I couldn’t find a version online.  But while searching I came across an interesting jazzy version of the song from Ben Sidran.  Give a listen  and enjoy…

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