Dr. Jam


Humanity’s active roster became a little less interesting yesterday following Dr. John’s call-up to an even higher plane. A special and influential embodiment of New Orleans’ special and influential scene, it remains unclear whether, contrary to his own suggestion, anyone else would have done what he did had he not done it. Henceforth, any nocturnal confusion seems likely to be just a little less sweet.

Queen Jam

Aretha Franklin died this week in Detroit at the age of seventy-six. Her accomplishments are too many and great to capture here in words, at least mine anyway. Remembrances from Doc Woods and Patterson Hood follow related selections from her soulful catalogue.

It was just two months ago that Franklin appeared in this space in a clip memorializing her Blues Brothers scene-mate Matt “Guitar” Murphy, who passed in June. Naturally, that scene, like any other in which Franklin appeared (e.g., supra), belonged to Franklin.    Continue reading

Why We Need “The Basement Tapes Complete” (via Wondering Sound)

bigpinkThe new “complete” set, in its semi-scholarly presentation, in no way robs this music of its power and peculiarity; it clarifies it, and puts it in a context that is simultaneously aesthetically and historically meaningful. The narrative of The Basement Tapes is easy and enjoyable to follow, but it has never before been so fully and conscientiously laid out. … Read More

(via Wondering Sound)

Mike Piazza attempting to extort The Band’s Garth Hudson [UPDATE]

Yambands.com reports:

A New York State judge has granted a restraining order that puts a planned auction of legendary The Band keyboardist Garth Hudson’s belongings on hold. The move was made after Hudson’s attorneys filed a complaint with the courts alleging that the organ whiz was the victim of attempted extortion.

Last month, a Kingston, NY landlord sold a number of Hudson’s belongings to the public after claiming that he had failed to pay more than $50,000 in storage fees. Hudson’s supporters gathered at the event after the musician requested that his Facebook fans buy the items and allow him to reimburse them. The landlord had planned to sell more of these items—things like sheet music, photos, reel-to-reel tapes and his instruments—at another auction on April 6. However the new restraining order will keep that from happening for the time being. Hudson is now demanding that the landlord, Mike Piazza, return his possessions and pay damages and legal fees.

Hudson also accuses Piazza of moving his belongings on two occasions without his permission, which he claims damaged some of the items. Hudson also claims that Piazza stole a number of his possessions—including a pump organ—before selling them on eBay.

Lawyers from both sides are inspecting the items, which have been moved to a new location. A meeting between the lawyers for both parties is scheduled for April 11.

The former catcher’s old team continues to be in financial straits, and he’s been hawking his “bizarre” book in hopes of a post-retirement paycheck, so maybe we shouldn’t be surprised, if nevertheless saddened, that Piazza appears to have turned to a life of crime.

UPDATE: Garth Hudson’s lawyer, John Clark, dropped by this afternoon to share his thoughts on this story. As promised, I have reposed his statement here:

Attn: Adland. I am an attorney and represent Garth Hudson in the litigation discussed in your story above. Please note that the Mike Piazza who is the defendant in the litigation IS NOT THE Mike Piazza of baseball fame. Same name, different person.
Please correct your story immediately.
John E. Clark

Great White Northern Jam

A timely observation of my Thanksgiving tradition was a casualty of my recent relocation, but I was able to restore order, albeit belatedly, this week with the assistance of Commodawg. Considering anew how a group of (mostly) Canadians had such a substantial impact on American music, I found myself wondering what group of Canadians was the most Canadian, and, in turn, what Canadian song was the most Canadian Canadian song ever.

I immediately knew the answer, having reached the conclusion some years ago. The group: the hit-making Bachman-Turner Overdrive precursor The Guess Who. The Jam:

Tell me I’m wrong.


Canadians commit most Canadian crime ever

Friday Jam: He was Levon, and He was a Good Man.

The news came out of Woodstock on Tuesday, from his wife and daughter, that Levon Helm was in the final stages of his battle with cancer. When I first read it, I had to close the door to my office for a few minutes. I couldn’t quite figure out why it shook me up so. It’s not like I ever met the guy. I saw him perform live only once. But he’s unique among my musical icons, if you can call them that, insofar as I feel like we’d relate to one another. That we’d have something to talk about, that he wouldn’t be too uppity to say a few words, and that it wouldn’t just be polite conversation. That a man who grew up in a town called Turkey Scratch would be all that you’d expect – easy going enough to sit down and have a beer with you and tell stories for hours, no matter who you were. By all accounts, he was. I’d conned myself into thinking we’d been old friends.
At that moment when you realize that The Band sings The Weight and Up On Cripple Creek, it occurs to you that you’ve been a fan a lot longer than you’ve known. But my first experience with The Band, the moment that I had a realization that the band I was loving was none other than The Band, occurred in my sophomore year of college (So late – for shame!). My roommate at the time had “discovered” them recently, and honored his discovery by playing The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down. Over and over again, at top volume, for a couple weeks. No exaggeration. I’d say he played it ad nauseum, but I can’t recall it even getting old.
And it didn’t get old when, each year, AD would call us together at Thanksgiving to celebrate and fellowship in a law school classroom, of all places, to watch the Last Waltz. Ironically, Levon hated that movie. But for me, and probably a lot of other folks, it’s the first glimpse you have of this man, and the spectacle of him crooning as he bangs the hell out of those drums.
When I finally saw him play live, at the Ramble at the Ryman in 2010, I was two weeks away from graduating law school. It was one of those late April days – sunny, not too cool, not too hot, air heavy with the fragrance of blooms and electric with life – that is the truest blessing of a southern Spring. A group of us grabbed dinner and headed downtown to worship. A perfect storm of circumstances that set it up to be a magical night, no matter which guests he brought on stage. The voice wasn’t what it had been before his surgeries, but it was still beautiful. As AD said to me on Tuesday afternoon, even afterwards, he never lost his inflection, that sound that makes it so immediately clear who is singing up there. But the voice sometimes faltered, so singing duties shifted throughout the evening. Still, he was grinning from ear to ear the entire night. Truly, I can’t recall a moment when he wasn’t singing or grinning. Or as this reviewer put it, looking like a proverbial pig in the shit. They closed the night with a cover of I Shall Be Released, and then I walked out and down onto Broadway with a crowd full of people who were quiet with the recognition that the night had been a special one, even by Nashville standards. For me, it still makes The List.
He left us yesterday, so we’ll honor him with today’s jam. We picked The Night They Drove Old Dixie Down, but if you are satisfied with one song right now, you’re a better  man than me. To that end, here’s a great spotify playlist from Rolling Stone to keep you listening for a while longer.
Ramble on, old friend.

Whip to Grave: Levon Helm, the Real Voice of America (via Esquire)

This was healing music, but it was in no way peaceful. Levon’s voice made sure of that. It was tough and sound and brooked no easy answers. (When, an album later, he voiced the story of Virgil Kane, a grunt in the Confederate army, he managed to push the story beyond politics. You swear by the mud below your feet and you make a pact with the land that nothing can break.) It was a Southern voice, certainly, but there was in it that universal sense that we are all in this great experiment together, that we hold a number of truths to be self-evident and the ones that Mr. Jefferson listed were only the very beginning of them. That there is a commonwealth that binds us, through the worst of what we can do to each other, and the worst of what we can make of our promise. For all the wild rhetoric and the political posturing, and for all the horror that extended from My Lai to the floor of the kitchen of the Ambassador Hotel and back again, that we all had an America to come back to, no matter how long we were away, no matter even if we were half-past dead. Because that America was the America of the tall tale, the underground history, the renegade, buccaneer country that belongs to all of us. Levon Helm told those stories. He gave that history a voice that we could all hear over the din of the times.

He was the true Voice of America, as far as I’m concerned. … Read More

(via Esquire)


I’ve praised and criticized Charles Pierce here before. I’ve never criticized his ability to write, though, and he posted the excellent textual snapshot excerpted above this morning, as Levon’s health currently and precipitously fades.

A Thanksgiving tradition for over 30 years

If there’s one thing upon which all of us can agree, I think it’s The Last Waltz at Thanksgivingtime. The following is from an invitation I’ve sent to friends in years past when I was living elsewhere:

On Thanksgiving, 1976, at Winterland in San Francisco, the Band gave its final concert: The Last Waltz. The group was in top form, playing all of their best songs from their multi-decade lifespan with their best friends and influences there to help them. From early mentors and collaborators like Ronnie Hawkins and Bob Dylan to Canadians Joni Mitchell and Neil Young to bluesmen Muddy Waters and Eric Clapton to songsmiths Neil Diamond and Van Morrison and many more, this was a one-of-a-kind event, captured and beautifully preserved by Martin Scorsese.

A true landmark, both in the worlds of music and cinematography, The Last Waltz has been a part of my Thanksgiving observation for years now, and I would like you to take it in with me. 

Wherever you find yourself this year, the 35th anniversary of the event, grab a copy of the movie, give thanks, wear something nice, and above all else, remember,

Fall Fridays

One of the nice things about having my first real autumn in a few years is knowing that I won’t be sweating my face off at any more football games this fall. Another is a more natural turning to seasonal music, which is why I had this song in my head this morning: