Eartha Kitt would have been 86 years old today. Above, she sings I Want to Be Evil, in a video that has one odd camera angle after another. Here is more on the sultry singer.by
Earl “Fatha” Hines (December 28, 1903 to April 22, 1983) is not as well remembered as Louis Armstrong or Duke Ellington. But jazz critics put him on their level as a figure in jazz history. Last.fm said that he is known as “the first modern jazz pianist.” The site’s bio suggests an interesting history:
In 1928 (on his 25th birthday) Hines began leading his own big band. For over 10 years his was “The Band” in Al Capone’s Grand Terrace Cafe — Hines was Capone’s “Mr Piano Man”.
All About Jazz has a more extensive biography. Here’s how it starts:
A brilliant keyboard virtuoso, Earl “Fatha” Hines was one of the first great piano soloists in jazz, and one of the very few musicians who could hold his own with Louis Armstrong. His so-called ‘trumpet’ style used doubled octaves in the right hand to produce a clear melodic line that stood out over the sound of a whole band, but he also had a magnificent technical command of the entire range of the keyboard.
A third bio, at Red Hot Jazz, links Armstrong and Hines at what many consider the birth of modern jazz:
This morning, the site featured the great Big Joe Turner. One of the clips featured Jay McShann along with Turner. Here is more McShann.
Kansas City has a special place in jazz history:
Only in Kansas City did jazz continue to flourish. At one time, there were more than 100 night clubs, dance halls and vaudeville houses in Kansas City regularly featuring jazz music. Legends like Count Basie, Andy Kirk, Joe Turner, Hot Lips Page and Jay McShann all played in Kansas City. A saxophone player named Charlie Parker began his ascent to fame here in his hometown in the 1930s.
That’s quite a list. The person who posted the above guesses the McShann clip above is from about 1980.by
This morning the site featured The Blasters, who are heavily influenced by rockabilly. In this video, the great Imelda May suggests that rockabilly started a lot of the most talented performers of the 20th century — Bruce Springsteen, Jeff Beck, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones and Bob Dylan, to name a few — on the road to the great places they ended up.
May mentions Elvis, Gene Vincent, Johnny Burnette, Carl Perkins and Wanda Jackson as particularly important figures in rockabilly. Her song choice for Vincent (and his Blue Caps) is Baby Blue — but I am sure she wouldn’t object to this high quality recording of Be Bop a Lupa.by
The Blasters performance above is from the first Farm Aid in 1985. I wasn’t familiar with the band, but a site visitor sent me a clip and the unfortunate news that lead singer Phil Alvin is in the hospital in Spain. The band has canceled its European tour. Here’s hoping that the situation resolves itself and The Blasters are back on the road soon.
Their self-described “American Music” was a blend of blues music, rockabilly, early rock and roll, punk rock, mountain music, and rhythm and blues.
Bobby Darin — born in 1936 as Robert Walden Cassotto in the Bronx — accomplished a lot in his life, which only lasted 34 years. Here is a short bio and a long one. This is the first paragraph from the short one, which is at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame website:
Bobby Darin was one of the most ambitious and versatile performers of the last 60 years. He straddled generations, appealing to bobbysoxers as a teen idol who wrote and recorded “Splish Splash” in 1958 and then winning over their parents as the swaggering, Sinatra-voiced adult who cut the ultimate version of “Mack the Knife” (a song from Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill’s musical Threepenny Opera) only a year later. Both songs were enormous hits, with “Splish Splash” reaching Number Three and “Mack the Knife” topping the chart for an astounding nine weeks. Darin’s range was as boundless as his brash self-confidence. In 1959, he told a Life magazine reporter that he wanted to be a pop legend by the age of 25, while he allegedly informed another writer that he intended to surpass Frank Sinatra.
Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald did fabulous versions of Mack the Knife, so pronouncing Darin’s the best is not fair. But the rest of this long paragraph captures the bottom line: Darin was a very talented guy. He also seems to have matured as quickly as some of the rock-and-roll bands that followed.
Here are Across the Sea, Mack the Knife (you decide: Here are Armstrong’s and Fitzgerald’s versions) and Artificial Flowers. There also are two clips that deal with trains: a medley with Judy Garland from her show and revealing footage of Darin relaxing and playing guitar while riding. He plays the beginning of a song he is working on that sounds like it could have been written by Woody Guthrie.by
I bet people who were around during World War II would say this song sums up many of the emotions of those times, especially when things looked bleakest. The song was famously featured in the last scene of Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove. It would be interesting to find out how Dame Vera Lynn–who is very much alive–feels about that.
Wikipedia says that in 2009 Lynn, then 92, became the oldest person to reach number one on the charts in England with We’ll Meet Again: The Very Best of Vera Lynn. The song was one of the last–if not the very last–recorded by Johnny Cash.by