Commentary: Music

Admired Work Film and Television Music

Allen Toussaint (1938-2015)

I woke this empty morning to the sudden departure of a great and good man. There will be many better, more comprehensive tributes today from musicians, music lovers and New Orleanians who knew him well, so don’t stop here without going further to celebrate Allen Toussaint’s life.  I met him on only a handful occasions and then only in a professional setting; others can attest to so much more. But there are a couple of warm anecdotes that I treasure and that ought to be added to the day’s reflections on a gentle, giving soul and one of the finest composers who ever created American music. I had a few rare opportunities to share time and space with Mr. Toussaint during our four seasons of filming “Treme” in New Orleans, on those occasions when he allowed us to portray his person and his music as part of our fictional, post-Katrina narrative. Among other things, “Treme” was our attempt to depict the New Orleans music community as organically as...

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Memoriam Music People

Pete Seeger, 1919-2014

  If there is an American who has lived a more honorable and creative life in the past century, the name cannot be readily conjured.  Pete Seeger did everything possible to merge the power of popular song to the very idea of community.   Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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Music People

“The highway’s jammed with broken heroes…”

He knew. We can say this now with certainty if we ask ourselves one basic question about human nature:  What good does it do a political operative to screw over the opposition if you can’t then tell your boss about it?  Where is the  joy for any lickspittle hack in the office hierarchy if he or she can’t pull off a dirty trick against a political adversary, then walk down the hall and tell the boss just how well you did on his behalf?  What would be the point? I’ve actually found New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie’s bluster and anger to be endearing at times, if only for the plain-speaking insistence on results.  I don’t find anger to be a particularly negative trait when that anger is offered on behalf of others, nor do I regard argument as anything other than a worthy endeavor if the argument is actually about something.  I didn’t agree with Mr. Christie on any number of issues, but I found him credible as a public servant.  He reminded me in some...

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Memoriam Music

The Great Chuck Brown Has Passed

Just heard the news that the father of D.C. go-go has died.  He was 75. Having heard Big G, The Backyard Band and the Soul Searcher horn section bring their funk to New Orleans last Friday, the news lands strangely.  The guys on the stage of Tipitina’s last week are very much the proud children of Mr. Brown and his Soul Searchers. This man, who invented a musical genre and grooved so hard and for so long, is not yet in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.   The Dave Clark Five, however, are comfortably settled in the shrine. Argument enough to burn that motherfucker down to the Lake Erie waterline. Share this:FacebookTwitterLinkedInRedditEmailPrint

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Music

Notes from Jazz Fest in New Orleans, 2012

Told myself I wasn’t going to battle the crowds to see Springsteen close out the first weekend.  No disrespect to Springsteen, but I usually hover around the smaller stages at the fest, hoping to see music in a more intimate setting. But it happened by degrees.  First, my son lured us closer to the Acura stage with lurid talk of strawberry shortcake from the vendors nearby. Then, following that shameful little spectacle, we noticed that Al Green wasn’t on the Congo Square stage for another forty minutes. “Let’s check Springsteen out for half an hour, and then catch Al Green.” So we waded into the sea and found ourselves somewhere in the great, white mass of Bruce fans, feeling as if Al Green was receding in possibility with every step. Wondering where we might stand without offending anyone behind us,  we were suddenly clasped on the back.  I turned, expecting to be challenged by a couple trespassed-upon mouth-breathers from, say, East Rahway, New Jersey...

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Music People Treme

Levon Helm

I can’t even begin to get good words around how much this man’s voice and musicality meant to me,  and how much his work colored my sense of American music.   From West Helena, Arkansas to the world. We’re now filming the last episode of the third season of Treme.  In the original beat sheet for that episode, there is a story arc in which one of our characters performs with Helm and his band in Woodstock, at one of his legendary Midnight Rambles.  Helm himself had conversations with one of our producers about the possibility.  And having had the chance to attend one such Ramble in his barn there, I wanted it to happen badly.  Those homemade concerts were pretty damn magical, and I relished the thought of using the drama to cast a little more light on Helm and what he meant to roots rock’n’roll. A couple months ago, we got word that Helm had again stopped singing, and, too, we had exhausted a good chunk of our travel budget for the production.  We...

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