John Lennon Songwriting Exhibit opens at Grammy Museum

On October 9, 2010, on what would have been his 70th birthday, visitors to the Grammy Museum were also able to view the new John Lennon exhibit called ‘Songwriter‘ which opened on October 4.

The Exhibit features many items donated by Yoko Ono Lennon. Yoko comments in the Exhibit about Lennon’s songwriting stating that: “in his songs, he was really real, he believed in truth.” Ono continues that ideas for songs would come to Lennon at unexpected times and he would be writing down lyrics while they were on airplanes.

The exhibit occupies part of the 4th floor of the museum and showcases many original handwritten lyrics for songs like “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” and “Working Class Hero”. Items on display range from Lennon’s Beatles days like his Sgt. Pepper jacket from 1967 to a harmonica and a collarless suit from 1963 that John can be seen wearing on the 45 picture sleeve of “I Saw Her Standing There.”

At the end of the exhibit is a special white room, in true John and Yoko style, showcasing a large video screen with John performing ‘Imagine’ and other songs. There is also an interactive wall inviting people to add their thoughts to the phrase “Imagine a world…”

Click on the link for more information on the Grammy Museum, and may the Muse be with you… Ci vedimes…

GRAMMY Museum John Lennon exhibit – PÄS | project art school

RIP Recent Deaths to Start 2010 on a Sad Note… McGarrigle, Pendergrass, Charles

Too many deaths recently to start this year on a sad note for songwriters…

In Canada, today we heard of the death at 63 of Kate McGarrigle, who with her sister Anna, formed the folk duo the McGarrigle Sisters… She was the mother of Rufus and Martha Wainwright, who are songwriters themselves… Read more about dear Kate here…

Here she is singing Heart Like A Wheel with her sister:

And on the other side of the musical genre, Teddy Pendergrass passed away last week.  As part of Harold Melvin and the Blue Notes, Pendergrass was a backup singer, and then he went on to a great solo career.

Not long after reaching solo success, however, Pendergrass suffered complications from a car accident in 1982 that left him paralyzed from the waist down. Though certainly hindered by the accident physically, especially initially, Pendergrass’ unfortunate disability did not keep him from continuing to make music.  Read more about Teddy Pendergrass here.

Here is a Soul Train version of “If You Don’t Know Me By Now” in the Blue Notes days:

And from older days still, a songwriter who teamed with Fats Domino on Walking to New Orleans and penned other songs such as See You Later, Alligator (made famous by Bill Haley & the Comets) and The Jealous Kind (covered by Joe Cocker and others), also passed away last week.  RIP Louisiana’s own Bobby Charles who passed away at 73.

You can read more about Charles here and hear a version of See You Later, Alligator as performed by him here:

May the Muse stay with these musical souls…

Haydain Neale – A Personal Thanks

I just want to write a simple note of personal thanks to Haydain Neale, frontman for jacksoul and a great supporter of songwriters through SAC and other endeavours.  I posted in the past about Haydain’s participation in the SAC Date With A Demo nights (see here and here) and the amazing night that saw him perform a songwriting circle with other songwriters just weeks before the tragic scooter accident that sidelined him until his sorrowful passing this past week from lung cancer at 39.  The CP story follows:

TORONTO — Jacksoul frontman Haydain Neale was remembered as an “amazing individual” and a “joyful presence” as stunned colleagues learned of his death from cancer on Monday.

Neale, the frontman for the Juno Award-winning group, died Sunday at Mount Sinai Hospital in Toronto at age 39, after a seven-month battle with lung cancer, the family said in a release Monday.

Neale had also been recovering from serious injuries after being hit by a car while driving his Vespa motor scooter in Toronto on Aug. 3, 2007.

His friends and fellow musicians were shocked by the news, particularly since many of them thought that he was over the worst part of his illness and was recovering.

“That guy just exuded what it is to be a really cool, down to earth, just amazing individual,” Toronto hip-hop MC Kardinal Offishall told The Canadian Press backstage at the SOCAN awards on Monday.

“Wow. Canada really lost something special.”

Family members and friends were by his side when he died.

“Through all these challenges, Haydain’s sense of humour and love of music were ever-present,” his wife Michaela said in the statement.

He constantly brightened the room with his singing and his smile. His joyful presence and beautiful voice will be missed by us all.”

Jacksoul was to release “SOULmate,” on Dec. 1 with 10 new tracks, their first album since the accident.

The first single, “Lonesome Highway,” was co-produced and co-written by Neale, and touches on his recovery, supported by his wife, daughter Yasmin and numerous others.

Former Treble Charger frontman Greg Nori considered Neale a close friend since the two men worked side by side in studio space at the Sony offices.

“This guy was an extremely, extremely generous person,” Nori said backstage at the SOCAN event. “(He) was always 120 per cent to me, as an individual, he really was. I always had a really great friendship with him and we had a great respect for each other.

“I never saw the guy get mad. He only had positive energy about him. That’s my recollection of him. Never, ever did I see any kind of jealousy out of him, or negativity.”

Kardinal Offishall, likewise, said Neale was a special human being.

“People who never had the chance to meet him were able to see that not just through his music, but just in how he carried himself, just the type of dude that he was,” said the rapper, who says he had checked in on Neale’s status by sending a text message to a mutual friend just days before his death.

Jacksoul’s previous hits include “Can’t Stop” and “Still Believe in Love.”

Neale was known for his soulful, elastic croon, for a voice that was faithfully smooth but organic and expressive.

“Hopefully his music will live on,” said Hedley guitarist Dave Rosin. That’s all any artist can hope. … It’s a sad thing.”

Nori, meanwhile, praised Neale’s integrity, versatility and commitment to his artistic ideals.

“I think he was always tackling something that wasn’t the flavour of the moment,” Nori said. “I think it was always a struggle to him because it wasn’t flavour of the moment, and it didn’t sell as much.

“He always had the ability to go do that if he wanted to, but he stuck to his guns and stayed with what he knew was in his heart, and I commend him for that.”

An interment with a private family gathering will take place later this week.

All proceeds from the sale of “SOULmate” will go to the Haydain Neale Family Trust.

The Muse is with you Haydain… Rest peacefully, watch over your family and make music forever…

Pasquale Policelli – My Father

papa closeup 3.jpg

Pasquale Policelli, my father, passed away one month ago today. He spent the past two years prior to his death fighting hard – lung cancer, lobectomy, COPD and asthma – left him struggling to breathe at the best of times… a bout with pneumonia in the Summer of 2007 left him on oxygen, and two more bouts with pneumonia this Fall led to his passing… He kept his wits about him throughout and he never lost his positive spirit, even with all he had to face he was always there for my mother, my brothers and me, his grandchildren, and all his brothers and sisters…

My father was not an educated man, but he is the smartest man I’ve known and I will miss his love and support, always tempered by his guidance and wisdom. I hope even the tiniest bit of his spirit is embodied in me and that I can live up to his high standards. He never once complained while dealing with his illness these past couple of years. He never once asked “Why me?”. He only asked that he not needlessly suffer, and his peaceful passing during the night, in his sleep, was an answer to that request.

Thank you for indulging this blog post of mine. I had to go into at least a little detail about him – he deserves no less… and so much more…

I wrote the following verse some time ago from a song entitled My Papa’s Clothes:

I want to wear my papa’s clothes
I want to know what papa knows
The pistol dreams he once supposed
The barrel-chested man with the strength of gods inside him
His fear of life subsiding
Secure in the path he chose
I want to wear my papa’s clothes

Richey Edwards Songwriting from Beyond

New evidence emerges to suggest that Richey Edwards staged his ...

The Welsh Rock Band, Manic Street Preachers, will be recording a new album of songs based on the lyrics of their now-declared-dead guitarist and songwriter, Richey Edwards. The story of the declaration of death hit the newspapers today:

Richey Edwards has been declared as presumed dead, 13 years after he disappeared, a spokesman for the band said yesterday. “There has been a change in his legal status,” said the spokesman for the Welsh rock band, adding that his parents had been granted a court order to that effect. Edwards disappeared in February, 1995, when the 27-year-old musician’s car was found abandoned near the Severn Bridge linking England and Wales. Despite alleged sightings of the guitarist since his disappearance, he is widely believed to have taken his own life.

The band’s website (see link above) comments as follows:

All the songs we are recording are lyrics left to us by Richey. Finally it feels like the right time to use them… It’s a record that celebrates the genius of his words, full of love, anger, intelligence and respect. We have to make this great. Wish us luck.

That’s quite a task to take on… to bring your former bandmate’s words to life when he is no longer around… May the Muse be with them…

Norman Whitfield, Motown Legend, Dead at 68

Norman Whitfield

There’s a great Motown sound that owes a lot to Norman Whitfield, Grammy-winning songwriter/producer/arranger for Motown and for his own label. The hits are many, including I Heard It Though The Grapevine, Papa Was A Rollin’ Stone, and Ain’t Too Proud To Beg (all with co-writers).

The NY Times has an obit on Mr. Whitfield, but I’ll take this quote from an interview he gave and provide it hear for its sheer bravado and insight into what you need to do sometimes to make a song:

In an interview with David Ritz for “Divided Soul: The Life of Marvin Gaye” (Da Capo, 1991), Mr. Whitfield recalled the deep influence of the new, hard-driving funk of Sly Stone, and how he tried to bring something of Mr. Stone’s sound to his work at Motown.

“My thing was to out-Sly Sly Stone,” Mr. Whitfield said. “Sly was definitely sly, and his sound was new, his grooves were incredible, he borrowed a lot from rock. He caught the psychedelic thing. He was bad. I could match him though, rhythm for rhythm, horn for horn.”

It would be something else to “match” Norman Whitfield… time to feel a little soul now… R.I.P. and may the Muse be with you…

RIP – Isaac Hayes

Shaft himself has departed his earthly digs, at the age of 65 on August 10, 2008… Here’s some excerpts from a Time/CNN article:

But the biggest triumph for this self-described Black Moses had to be on April 10, 1972, when his Theme from Shaft won the Academy Award for Best Original Song.

What’s extraordinary is that Theme from Shaft somehow beguiled the Bel Air senior citizens who constitute the Academy membership. Hayes, a newcomer to Hollywood movie scoring, was up against such former and future Oscar winners as Johnny Mercer, Henry Mancini, Marvin Hamlisch and the Sherman Brothers. The award typically went to doyens of the classic-pop establishment, all of whom were white. For nearly two decades, the movie-music fraternity had fought the onslaught of rock and soul music through the simple expedient of ignoring it.

So when Hayes’ name was read out, you could practically hear the sound of mandibles detaching throughout the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion, while back at Stax Records in Memphis there must have been astonished cheers. Hayes had become the first African American to win a music Oscar (or, indeed, an Oscar in any category except for acting). But that belated recognition was less a harbinger of enlightenment than a blip on the rainbow radar. No black musician would cop another Oscar until 1985, when Prince was honored for the score of Purple Rain.

In other endeavors, Hayes’ influence was more readily apparent. Born in Covington, Tenn., 40 miles northeast of Memphis, he was working in a meatpacking plant after college when one of his songs got him hired at Stax. There he played in the house band behind most of Otis Redding’s singles and found a songwriting partner in an insurance salesman named David Porter. They eventually composed some 200 songs and were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2005 — the same year as the Sherman Brothers, whose Mary Poppins score was the spoonful of sugar to Hayes and Porter’s megadose of Viagra. (Hayes made it into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame on his own in 2002.)

Producing many of the Stax hits of the ’60s, Hayes and Porter helped define that studio’s sound, which dispensed with the pop craftsmanship of Stax’s main rival Motown Records and, taking inspiration from James Brown’s mid-’60s ravers, revved up the motor of testosterone. For Sam & Dave they wrote the hits Hold On, I’m Coming and Soul Man.

Those are some great hits in there, and I know many people didn’t know he was behind the Sam & Dave hits… In the words of Shaft – “Can ya dig it?” I can…

In Memoriam – Bo Diddley

Bo Diddley, legendary vocalist, guitarist and rock and roll pioneer died yesterday (June 2/08) at the age of 79.

Author of the oft-covered head-sticker Who Do You Love?, Diddley is often credited as being a key player in the metamorphosis of blues into rock – having drawn upon rhythm and blues as source materials during his (and rock and roll’s) formative years. Utilizing a unique, rectangular “cigar box” guitar that he designed in 1958, Diddley’s never-before-seen guitar work and fiery songwriting helped define rock and roll as we know it.

May the Muse stay with you Bo…

Obituary – Lew Spence

LOS ANGELES – Lew Spence, a songwriter who composed the Grammy-nominated Frank Sinatra song “Nice ‘n’ Easy” and “That Face,” a standard recorded by Fred Astaire, has died. He was 87.

Mr. Spence died in his sleep Jan. 9 at his home in Los Angeles, said his niece, Toni Schulman.

A one-time singer-pianist, Mr. Spence began turning his songwriting hobby into a career in the late 1940s when he was nearly 30.

He worked with a number of lyricists, including Alan and Marilyn Bergman. At 60, Mr. Spence began writing lyrics to some of his songs, and he continued songwriting until his death.

Among his best-known works are “Half as Lovely (Twice as True),” “If I Had Three Wishes,” “Love Looks So Well on You,” “Sleep Warm” and “So Long My Love.”

In addition to Sinatra and Astaire, other artists who sang Mr. Spence’s songs included Dean Martin, Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, Nat “King” Cole, Johnny Mathis, Bing Crosby, Billy Eckstine and Dinah Shore.

“I think he was an excellent songwriter, and his work had a lot of charm,” said Hugh Martin, a theater and film composer best known for his songs in the 1944 MGM musical “Meet Me in St. Louis.”

Marilyn Bergman said Friday that Mr. Spence “was a very talented songwriter. He should have had a bigger career than he did.”

Singer-pianist Michael Feinstein said “That Face,” which Astaire sang on his 1958 NBC special “An Evening With Fred Astaire,” has become “one of a small group of songs from that era that has become a standard.”

“He was a very talented man who was a real melodic craftsman,” Feinstein said of Mr. Spence, whom he first met in the 1980s.

Like Marilyn Bergman, Feinstein believes Mr. Spence “deserved more success than he ultimately attained.”

Copyright © 2008, Chicago Tribune

Oscar Peterson – In Memoriam

Oscar Peterson passed away prior to Christmas… He was quintessentially Canadian and unsurpassed in his musical talent – playing those jazzy keys and bringing joy to many people. I wore out the grooves on my Night Train LP, and the songwriter in Mr. Peterson shined there in Hymn to Freedom. He lived fairly close to me, but I never had the pleasure of meeting him, though I was fortunate enough to see him at the Orpheum theatre in Vancouver in my university days…On his official site you’ll find the following song written by Oscar with Elvis Costello providing the lyrics:

When Summer Comes
Music by Oscar Peterson

Lyrics by Elvis Costello
Originally Performed by Diana Krall


The land was white
While the winter moon as absent from the night

And the blackness only pierced by far off stars
But as every day still succeeds the darkest moments we have known

When season turn
Springtime colours will return

And as the first pale flowers of the lengthening hours
Seem to brighten the twilight and that melancholy cloak

Then a fresh perfume just seems to burst from each bloom
Until the green shoots through each day

As it arrives in every shade of hope
When Summer Comes

There will be a dream of peace
And a breath that I’ve held so long that I can barely release

Then perhaps I may even find a room somewhere
Just a place I can still speak to you