On this day in 1975, pioneering singer/actress/dancer/civil rights activist/spy Josephine Baker passed away at the age of 68. She died just a few days after a retrospective performance at the Bobino in Paris celebrating her 50 years in show biz. Jackie O, Princess Grace and Prince Rainier funded the show and opening night featured a celebrity-studded audience that included everyone from Mick Jagger to Sophia Loren. Baker's body was discovered four days later, reportedly surrounded by newspapers featuring glowing reviews of her performance.
At her funeral, she became the first American woman to garner full French military honors, one of many "firsts" involving Baker. She was the first black woman to star in a major film, the first to demand (and get) integrated audiences at her concerts and the first to become a global superstar. She fought for civil rights in America (offered a chance to lead it after MLK's assassination, she declined for fear of also being killed) and, before that, helped France (her adopted homeland) in World War II, for which she received numerous honors. Baker was also reportedly a bi-sexual who had serious relationships with both men and women in her lifetime, adding some spicy mystique to her life story.
She got her start as a vaudeville dancer at 15 and eventually became one of the highest paid chorus girls on the planet. In the mid ’20s she did burlesque shows in Paris and around Europe, well-known for her trademark banana-skirt and, later, her pet cheetah Chiquita, who would join her on stage (and, reportedly, terrorize the orchestra). Baker was considered a "muse" for artists from Pablo Picasso and Christian Dior to F. Scott Fitzgerald and Ernest Hemingway, who once said she was "the most sensational woman anyone ever saw."
Baker's life has been the source of several films, musicals, plays and books. On screen and stage, she's been portrayed by the likes of Lynn Whitfield, Diana Ross, Keri Hilson and Beyonce, who sported Baker's banana costume during a 2006 performance (see below) and, in her "Naughty Girl" video, she again paid tribute by dancing in a giant champagne glass.
Baker released several albums in the early ’50s for Columbia and Mercury. Here she is performing her biggest hit (in France), "J'ai Deux Amours."
Click on for Born This Day featuring Hound Dog Taylor, Tiny Tim, Nick Hexum and Vince Gill.
Cincy-based, ukulele-friendly Folk Pop duo Shiny and the Spoon are gearing up for the release of its first full-length album, Ferris Wheel. The record officially drops Aug. 13, when the twosome (Amber Nash and Jordan Neff) hosts a release party at the Southgate House with guests the Rubber Knife Gang, Lisa Walker (of Wussy) and The Hiders. But yesterday, Nash and Neff posted a “teaser” of Wheel on YouTube, featuring a medley of the album’s tracks. Check it out below.
Those Guys have emerged as one of the more impressive up-and-comers in Cincinnati Hip Hop, both via their digital/CD releases (a handful of singles and a trio of excellent mixtapes) and their live show, which incorporates a three-piece live band. Those Guys features MC's J.Al and Jova, who met as high school freshmen and started the group upon graduation in 2008. Citing influences like Kanye, The Clipse and Kid Cudi, the duo issued Greater Than the Mixtape Volume 1 in 2009.
The most recent in their Greater Than the Mixtape series (Volume 3) was released late last year, kicking off with the monster track "You Ain't Know," which showcases the duo's telepathic back-and-forth, superb lyricism and a fat and funky musical approach.
The duo has been garnering extra attention with their just-released video (Those Guys' first) for "You Ain't Know," which was filmed in Monroe just prior to Halloween and features some spectacular scenes of the crew blowing up a car. Who says you need a big budget for action-movie-like special effects? (The group thanks the City of Monroe's parks, fire and police department as well as the Butler County Bomb Squad in the video description on YouTube, so the fiery shoot was on the up-and-up.)
The video has been creating major buzz on social media, even drawing praise from Hip Hop legend Redman, who tweeted "Dope ass video … thats wut Im talkn bout … sumtn different … hard shit."
Check the clip below, then visit the duo's Bandcamp site to download the latest mixtape and other Those Guys material for free. You can find more about Those Guys at their official site, Facebook page and on Twitter here.
Despite Frank Ocean's deft leg-syncing and Taylor Swift's torture-porn-disguised-as-wholesome-circus, Akron, Ohio's Dan Auerbach and The Black Keys were The Grammys' big story last night, winning five trophies, the most of any artist.
While the Keys won the Grammys for Best Rock Album, Best Rock Song and Best Rock Performance, Auerbach scored two solo Grammys for his production work, winning the trophy for Producer of the Year (Non-Classical) and also winning one for producing Dr. John's Locked Down, the Blues Album winner.
While Grammys for album winners are usually given to the producers, engineers, mastering engineers and artists, hopefully Cincinnati's Brian Olive will also score one for his work on the LP. Auerbach — who has produced albums by both Olive and Cincinnati's Buffalo Killers — enlisted Olive (an original member of Cincinnati's Greenhornes) to work on the Dr. John album. Olive has songwriting credits on every track on Locked Down, and he's also credited with playing guitar, percussion and woodwinds, as well as providing background vocals. (Check out CityBeat's profile of Olive from 2011, about his Auerbach-produced Two of Everything album, here.)
Kudos to Mr. Olive! That's him — the handsome feller with big side-burns playing sax (and a little guitar) in this video for the album's "Revolution."
Check out all the winners from last night's Grammys here, and click here or here for some extra musings about the show.
On this date in 1993, Elvis Presley died. For real this time. This according to the tabloid Weekly World News, which has given the world such groundbreaking stories as the trials and tribulations of Bat Boy (half-boy, half-bat, of course), the capture of various mer-people (mermen and mermaids) and the secret romantic relationship between Saddam Hussein (former gay porn star … ALLEGEDLY) and Osama bin Laden.
Presley died from diabetes, according to WWN's exclusive report.
Alas, the King didn't stay dead long in the pages of the tabloid. In 2005, everything in the universe was back in its right place as the Weekly World News published the cover feature "Elvis IS Alive." Not only was he still alive, but he was going to run for President. I don't recall that actually happening, but they wouldn't print it if it wasn't true, right? Either the lame-stream media just ignored Elvis' campaign or the King was just gearing up for a 2012 run. I hear the Republicans need a viable candidate.
What's Elvis been up to lately? Last summer, WWN reported he was hanging out on Barack Obama's tour bus. As for Obama, the President's foes are apparently way off base with the whole "secret Muslim" thing. Among other things, WWN has reported that Obama is a — duh! — alien from outer space. Oh, and he won the "Who is a bigger enemy of dogs?" war handily by kidnapping "Republican campaign dog, Huckabee." Holding him hostage? Nope. According to WWN, the President "had a Huckabee burger.” (Actually, WWN seems almost reasonable compared to the "birther" movement. Now THAT'S scary.)
Until the next time Elvis dies, just remember the words of Mojo Nixon, poet and prophet:
Born This Day: Musical movers and shakers sharing a May 14 birthday include ’50s/’60s Pop star ("Mack the Knife," "Beyond the Sea") Bobby Darin (1936); one of Rock's greatest bassists, Cream's Jack Bruce (1943); original drummer for legendary Canadian Rock trio Rush, John Rutsey (1952); frontman for British rockers The Cult, Ian Astbury (1962); guitarist for glammy Hair Metal heroes Poison, CC DeVille (1962); bassist for Alice in Chains, Mike Inez (1966); the still-alive half of Milli Vanilli, Fabrice Morvan (1966); one of the less-celebrated New Kids on the Block members, Danny Wood (1969); bassist for Modern Rock band AFI, Hunter Burgan (1976); half of the killer Hip Hop duo Clipse, Terrence Thornton, known professionally as Pusha T (1977); Disney actress/Pop princess Miranda Cosgrove (1993); and Soul/R&B singer/songwriter/musician/producer Raphael Saadiq (1966).
Saadiq's career began in the early ’80s when he got a job as bassist for Sheila E and toured the world with Prince. He returned to his native Oakland after the tour and formed the R&B/Pop trio Tony! Toni! Tone! with his brother and cousin. The band scored several hits, notably the upbeat "Feels Good," their only Top 10 hit on the Billboard singles charts. In 1997, Saadiq formed Lucy Pearl, a supergroup of sorts, featuring members of A Tribe Called Quest and En Vogue.
Saadiq has worked behind the scenes with several popular artists. He collaborated with D'Angelo for "Untitled (How Does It Feel," which won D'Angelo a Grammy, and also worked with Whitney Houston, Macy Gray, Jill Scott, John Legend, Joss Stone and many other star performers. In 2002, he put out his first solo effort, Instant Vintage, a brilliant throwback/old-school R&B album that scored Saadiq five Grammy nominations. He has since released a string of strong solo works, including 2011's great Stone Rollin' and 2008's even better The Way I See It.
Recently, Saadiq was one of a small handful of musicians named one of Time magazine's "100 Most Influential People In the World," joining Rihanna, Adele and others. Elton John wrote the blurb about Saadiq for Time, writing "Immaculately dressed (a Saadiq trademark) and moving like the soul stars of old, (Saadiq) confirmed that great black music is alive and well and not just a string of hip-hop monotony."
Happy 46th birthday to Mr. Saadiq. Here's a clip for the title track from his most recent solo album.
The Afghan Whigs' upcoming live reunion shows have generally been in Europe, largely at festivals, save a couple of U.S. shows (in New York City and at Lollapalooza in Chicago and All Tomorrow's Parties in Jersey). Today it was announced that the group's official first show back after 13 years will take place later this month, May 23, at the Bowery Ballroom in New York. Tickets go on sale this Friday in noon, if you're up for a roadtrip. Joseph Arthur opens the show.
It will be the first Afghan Whigs show since Sept. 29, 1999, when the Whigs played a private show at an NYC club called Hush.
If you can't make it to New York in 15 days, two weeks from tonight The Afghan Whigs will make their first public appearance together as a reunited group on Late Night with Jimmy Fallon. The band will be the musical guest on the program's May 22 episode.
Still no word on a Cincinnati date (Chicago's the closest so far). Keep your fingers crossed, local Whigs fans. Keep an eye on the band's official site for the latest Whigs updates. (I've been loving the "On This Date" in Whigs' history; today in 1990, FYI, the band played at Foufones Electroniques in Montreal.)
Fallon wasn't on yet when the Whigs were around previously, but here's a playlist of many of The Afghan Whigs' TV appearances over the years.
It's looking like the historic Emery Theatre on the border of Over-the-Rhine and Downtown is back in business as a full-time functioning venue. Bands like Magnolia Mountain and Pop Empire have been using the Theatre to film music video projects and, next Saturday (April 28), the Emery hosts the "Rock This Town" benefit concert for CityLink, which helps resident "break the cycle of poverty" by providing employment training and other assistance. The event's music will be provided several groups of business people who can play instruments or sing (modeled on the "Suits That Rock" concerts that benefit the Carnegie Arts Center in Covington).
On April 27, the Emery will host a dual album release party/concert in honor of two new releases from the label Ol Kentuck, run by SubPop recording artist and Northern Kentucky native Daniel Martin Moore. One of the albums is a vinyl release of producer/guitarist/composer Ric Hordinski's Arthur's Garden (read more about the album here).
The other is the first release from a duo project consisting of Moore and singer Joan Shelley (pictured) titled Farthest Field. The event will also feature readings from authors Silas House and Marianne Worthington (who wrote one of the most engaging press releases for the album I think I've ever laid eyes on for the duo's debut; click the "Bio" pdf link on this page to read it).
It's a great time to check out the Emery circa 2012 because the concert is also free and open to the public. (Rock this Town's tickets range from $35-$100 — for a great cause, of course.)
Here are two video clips (shot by photographer Michael Wilson with help on the audio side from Pop Empire) promoting the concert, with music from Moore and Shelley's Farthest Field (officially available May 8).
Were it not for the Grim Reaper, two celebrated musical couples would be celebrating wedding anniversaries today. Country music superstars Johnny Cash and June Carter (soon-to-be Carter Cash) tied the knot on this date in 1968 in a Franklin, Ky., church. The bride wore light blue; the groom wore (duh!) black. Their relationship was the basis for the celebrated biopic Walk the Line, which showed the couple's rocky patches in all their glory, as well as their dedication to each other. The couple had just one child together, John Carter Cash (born in 1970). The couple managed to put their problems behind them and remained married until June's death in May of 2003. Cash passed away five months later.
June co-wrote (with Merle Kilgore) one of Johnny's biggest songs, 1963's "Ring of Fire," which is said to have been inspired by her conflicted feelings for Johnny.
The music he made with groups like The Light Wires, The Great Depression and The Brothers and the Sisters helped make singer/songwriter Jeremy Pinnell one of many local music fans' favorite songwriters. Pinnell's folksy songs were marked by his ability to convey — with an almost uncomfortable accuracy — the kind of dark, ominous emotions most people try to bury. His words, his melodies and especially his muttering yet soulful voice had that rare ability to effortlessly do what most writer's strive for their whole career — to make a deep connection with the listener that goes beyond a hummable hook or slick guitar solo and buries itself deep inside their conscience.
Having practically every person who heard his songs immediately captivated wasn't enough to keep those projects together. Pinnell seemed to ride the waves of success each act experienced (on varying levels), then the band would break up before the project's full potential was reached.
After another dry spell, Pinnell returns to the local stage tonight at MOTR Pub in Over-the-Rhine for the live debut of his latest project, Jeremy Pinnell and the 55's. Once again, Pinnell has hooked up with some gifted collaborators to create more soul-stirring songs to shatter what's left of your fragile, blackened heart.
The 55's reteams Pinnell with one of his earliest musical partners, Cameron Cochran (currently with Pop Empire). When they were 18, Cochran and Pinnell were pals playing Country songs together at their buddies' Punk Rock shows. Cochran says "The Voice" was already in place.
"He had that voice that would shut up a room," Cochran writes in a press release. "It didn't matter what the show was. He would open his mouth and everyone listened."
The two went their separate ways eventually, but recently reconnected. Cochran is vague about the circumstances of their last project ending and this one beginning, saying only that it is a tale of "heartbreak, tragedy, love and redemption" worthy of a Country song. Indeed, the 55's sound is somewhere between AltCountry and Indie Folk, with the timelessness of those genres' precursors driving everything. The band is rounded out by drummer Chris Alley and bassist Ben Franks; Cochran adds spectral atmospherics with his pedal steel guitar work and hovering backing vocals.
Some of the 55's material has come out via a handful of wonderful live videos shot by local photography superstar Michael Wilson. Below, check out one of the clips by Wilson, who is also working with Cochran on a series filming at The Emery Theater called "One Shot Music Videos" (referring to how Wilson shoots each in one continuous shot without edits).
Tonight's show at MOTR is free and starts around 9:30 p.m. Visit JP & the 55's on Facebook here.