20 Stories

How Native Americans 'Rocked the World'

A new PBS documentary aims to set the record straight

(Newser) - As a child, Fred Lincoln "Link" Wray Jr. hid under a bed when the Ku Klux Klan came to his parents' home in rural North Carolina. Racist groups often targeted the poor family of Shawnee Native American ancestry as the Wrays endured segregation in the American South just like... More »

Can You Name 'Light Blue' Using Just One Word?

The Japanese call light blue "mizu," or water

(Newser) - In Japan, there are a dozen basic colors that almost everyone in a recent survey was able to name using one word. And 11 of them—black, white, gray, blue, green, yellow, red, purple, brown, pink, and orange—all overlap with the basic colors Americans can describe in one word.... More »

The Thrill Is Gone: BB King Dead at 89

'King of the Blues' died peacefully in his sleep

(Newser) - BB King, whose scorching guitar licks and heartfelt vocals made him the idol of generations of musicians and fans while earning him the nickname "King of the Blues," died late last night at home in Las Vegas. He was 89. His attorney tells the AP that King died... More »

How 2 Great American Musicians Simply Vanished

Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley emerge from history's shadows

(Newser) - Elvie Thomas and Geeshie Wiley aren't exactly household names, but they recorded a batch of old country-blues songs that scholars consider masterpieces. What's vexing is that Thomas and Wiley totally fell off the map, gone from history despite decades of research. Enter John Sullivan, who, writing for the... More »

Obama Sings the Blues

President launches into 'Sweet Home Chicago' at White House concert

(Newser) - Now that the world knows President Obama can sing , we may catch him doing a lot more of it. At a White House blues concert last night, both Buddy Guy and Mick Jagger urged the president to bust out in song, the AP reports. After some initial hesitation, Obama took... More »

The 'Last Great Delta Bluesman' Dead at 96

David 'Honeyboy' Edwards was last living link to birth of the blues

(Newser) - The last survivor of the original Mississippi Delta bluesmen has died at the age of 96. David "Honeyboy" Edwards, whose sharecropper parents taught him the guitar as a child, played with all the genre's big names during his 80-year career, including "King of the Delta Blues" Robert... More »

Gangsta Rap Has Nothing on Filthy Blues of Old

(Newser) - Some complain about the explicit lyrics in rap, but modern MCs have nothing on early-20th-century blues singers. Compared to them, “the members of NWA are levelheaded concerned citizens,” says Cracked. A sampling:
  • "A to Z Blues," Blind Willie McTell, 1956: "I'm gonna cut A, B,
... More »

Jack White's New Band Opens Strong

Jack White's latest effort confirms his reign as king of the blues-rockers

(Newser) - Jack White’s rise to stardom in the postmillennial world of the struggling blues rocker is “remarkable,” and he continues to “honor the blues’ authenticity” while also exploiting its “capacity for mythology” with his third project, writes Stuart Berman for Pitchfork. On Horehound, the Dead Weather—... More »

Blues Queen Koko Taylor Dead at 80

Blues world mourns loss of Chicago legend

(Newser) - Koko Taylor, a sharecropper's daughter whose regal bearing and powerful voice earned her the sobriquet "'Queen of the Blues," has died after complications from surgery, the AP reports. She was 80. The Memphis-born singer died at a Chicago hospital about two weeks after surgery for a gastrointestinal bleed,... More »

Kind of Blue Still the Gold Standard at 50

Topselling jazz album helped redefine American music

(Newser) - Fifty years to the day since its debut, Miles Davis’ signature album Kind of Blue remains beautiful and inviting—"like meeting an old friend," Malcolm Jones writes in Newsweek. The record helped jazz earn its title as America’s classical music and remains the bestselling jazz album ever.... More »

Best Overlooked Albums of '08

Catfish Haven and El Perro Del Mar in top 10

(Newser) - Catfish Haven's Devastator tops Spin's year-end list of overlooked albums. George Hunter's "old-soul blues exposes other rock'n'roll kings as pretenders to the crown." The top 10:
  1. Catfish Haven, Devastator: Hunter's voice is "a husky amalgam of Joe Cocker's world-weary croon and Bill Medley's baritone bombast."
  2. El
... More »

Eastwood's First Love: Jazz Piano

Love, not practice, evinced in movies and performance

(Newser) - Growing up, Clint Eastwood had an affinity for piano but no money for lessons. He nurtured his passion for jazz throughout his life, Nick Tosches writes in Vanity Fair, and has written music for almost every picture he’s directed, including the theme for his recent Gran Torino. But, Eastwood... More »

Who's Singing the Blues Now?

(Newser) - Chicago has bid adieu to old blues music and welcomed a new legion of players, many foreign-born, who are transforming the city's low-down tradition, the Christian Science Monitor reports. Largely abandoned by blacks, the blues has moved from Chicago's shuttered South- and West-Side clubs to the friendlier, gentrified North Side—... More »

You Are Your Music: Study

Study says music reflects our personalities

(Newser) - Our favorite music speaks volumes about who we are, according to a new psychological study. It turns out that Indie fans are miserable, and metal heads act a lot like classical music lovers. The Independent breaks down personalities by genre:  
  • Indie: Low self-esteem and lazy, not to mention selfish
... More »

Guitar Whiz Has Underage Blues

Club gigs violate child labor laws, state officials say

(Newser) - An 8-year-old guitar prodigy's nightclub gigs have put him on the wrong side of the law in Wisconsin. Officials were alerted to Tallan "T-Man" Latz's child-labor-law-breaking performances by an anonymous email—perhaps from a jealous older musician—and barred him from clubs, reports the AP. But Latz, who has... More »

Rock Rolls With Bluegrass

Plant and Krauss make an unlikely duo but still make beautiful music on tour

(Newser) - He's a howling rock god; she's a fiddlin' bluegrass queen. It sounds like an odd pairing, but Robert Plant and Alison Krauss weave haunting harmonies on tour, reports Rolling Stone. The duo admits they struggled to find the right groove while performing Led Zep covers and R&B classics from... More »

Bo Diddley's Beat Sure to Carry

No moment of silence possible for rock's 'Originator'

(Newser) - You can’t have a moment of silence for Bo Diddley, J. Freedom du Lac writes in the Washington Post. It’s not that the music world hasn’t lost a great pioneer—it surely has. It’s that the mere mention of Diddley’s name sets your feet tapping... More »

Bo Diddley Dead at 79

Innovator could never capitalize on his status

(Newser) - Rock and roll pioneer Bo Diddley, who made his first recordings in 1955 and was still touring last year, died today at 79, the AP reports. The singer and guitarist, born Ellas Bates in Mississippi in 1928, not only pioneered distorted guitar tones; his bragging, syncopated style foreshadowed rap as... More »

Keys' Attack Releases Old Rut

Garage band figures out how to expand

(Newser) - The Black Keys had hoped collaborating with Ike Turner would finally push the band out of its tired “garage minimalism,” writes Pitchfork’s Roque Strew. Though Ike died in December, the band already had material that expanded its sound. Attack & Release is its “most adventurous album... More »

Critics Split on Jukebox

Some love Cat Power's 2nd covers record; others dismiss it

(Newser) - Indie crooner Cat Power's second album of covers is dividing critics. Many agree that Jukebox is a state-of-the-career effort, but they part ways on where the musician (real name: Chan Marshall) stands. After transforming from blues folkie to soul singer and overcoming depression, the Marshall who “savored” her songs... More »

20 Stories
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