Monday, June 8, 2015

Dark Monday • Tony Awards 1975

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Clockwise: The Tony Award, Bernadette Peters, Ted Ross, and Rita Moreno.

While thinking about the telecast for the latest Tony Awards last night, I decided to look back 40 years to the 1975 Tony Award show, and some of the incredible work celebrated. I will begin with a performer I love, who was nominated but did not win in 1975. Bernadette Peters was nominated for Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical for her work in 'Mack and Mabel'. She played opposite Robert Preston, playing real life Hollywood lovers Mack Senett and Mabel Normond. The show featured music and lyrics by Jerry Herman, and I still love hearing some of the music today. In this clip, Bernadette sings "Time Heals Everything" from 'Mack and Mabel'.



Rita Moreno sings her big number from 'The Ritz'. She won the Tony for Best Performance by a Featured Actress in a Play, performing a song also sung by the winner of the Best Performance by an Actress in a Musical, Angela Lansbury. Ms. Lansbury played Mama Rose in a revival of 'Gypsy'. Moreno played Googie Gomez, a performer in a gay bathhouse in Manhattan. The place gets invaded by some mobsters, and, of course, hilarity ensues. This is Rita singing "Everything's Coming Up Roses" in the film version of the Broadway hit, 'The Ritz'.



The musical that earned many of the trophies in 1975 was the new look at an old favorite. With music and lyrics by Charlie Smalls and book by William F. Brown, 'The Wiz' told the story of 'The Wizard of Oz' in a more modern, urban setting. The Broadway show was such a success, it was soon also made into a film. One of the actors who made both the Broadway and film versions of the show was Ted Ross, who played the role of the Cowardly Lion. In fact, Ross was named Best Performance by a Featured Actor in a Musical at the 1975 Tony Awards. I found this clip of him playing the role with Diana Ross, the late Michael Jackson, and Nipsey Russel in the film version. This is Ted Ross singing "I'm A Mean Old Lion" from 'The Wiz'.



Have a great week!

Ronnie Gilbert • 1926 - 2015

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Ronnie Gilbert, perhaps best known as a member of the group The Weavers, passed away over the weekend at her home in California. She was 88 years old. While singing, it was hard to mistake the gorgeous and rich tone of her voice, as well as her bold and strong style of singing. The Weavers were formed in 1948 in Greenwich Village, New York, the epicenter of the Folk movement. The quartet was made up by Gilbert, Lee Hays, Pete Seeger, and Fred Hellerman. They made music that was uniquely their own, although many followed in their footsteps. They sang international traditional Folk songs, as well Glues favorites, Gospel songs, children's songs, and American ballads. The group had several hit songs, like "On The Top of Old Smoky", "Kisses Sweeter Than Wine", "The Wreck of the John B", and many others. This is the group singing the 1950 hit that was the b-side of another hit, "Goodnight, Irene". This is The Weavers singing "Tzena, Tzena, Tzena".



Like many of the Folk musicians of the time, The Weavers had a strong liberal view on social issues, and communicated with their music. From the traditional songs they performed, to the songs about labor, their music put them on the firing line of some politicians in the 1950s, most notably, Joseph McCarthy. Seeger and Hays were 'identified' as members of the Communist Party, and called to testify before the House Committee on Un-American Activities. Seeger was found guilty of contempt, and the group soon discovered they were blacklisted, unable to play on television or the radio, and near impossible to find a venue to play live. Later, the FBI informant recanted his testimony, but the damage had been done. The group took time off, and reunited a few times in the 1950s and 1960s before breaking up in 1964. They reunited a few times, for the right cause, or just to give back to the fans who stayed with them through the years. This is The Weavers with "Wimoweh" from a reunion show at Carnegie Hall.



After the break up of the group, Ronnie did her own thing, at her own pace. She earned a master's degree in clinical psychology in the 70s, and worked as a therapist. Many of the Folk singers of the 1960s, especially the ladies, not only noted the influence Gilbert and The Weavers had on their career, but also invited her to sing with them. This is a clip from a 1988 show of Judy Collins, who invited Ronnie to join her on stage. Gilbert sang the 1950 hit by her old group, "Good Night, Irene", and both the audience and Collins joined in.



Ronnie was married to Martin Weg from 1950 to 1959, and together they had a daughter, born in 1952. During years after that, Gilbert took time for personal exploration, and found herself involved in women's issues, and in relationships with women. In the 1980s, collaborated with Holly Near, one of the biggest out lesbian performers of the time. They worked together on three albums, and played live shows together. The following clip features Holly Near speaking of the influence of Ronnie Gilbert had on her career. The clip was taken from the 1982 documentary, 'Wasn't That a Time?", and Ronnie sings "Nobody Wants You When You're Down and Out", and joins Near singing "Hay Una Mujer Desaparecida (Chile Song)".



Ronnie Gilbert passed away at her home in Mill Valley, California, from natural causes. To the best of my knowledge, Ronnie was still with partner Donna Korones, whom she had married in 2004 when then-Mayor of San Fransisco, Gavin Newsom, legalized marriage for all his citizens. The couple were together for nearly 20 years at the time of their wedding. With her passing, only Fred Hellerman of the original Weavers still survives. Rest in peace, Ronnie Gilbert, for I am sure you are singing harmony in an astounding chorus now.

Wednesday, May 20, 2015

How Liza, Ben, Tap Dancers & Angela Inspired Me

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Today, I thought I would take a look back at some of the music that inspired me, and helped to form what is now quite a vast array of music. While growing up, I was not only exposed to Pop music that was playing on the radio, I also had my older brothers and sister with their music. But in high school, something changed. I did some of the yearly musicals, which exposed me to some different music. But it was when I sent on the yearly trip to New York City, just over a 2 hour drive from my home town, that I got y first taste of professional theater. And my first show was a magnificent way to start. It was 'Pippin', with words and music by Stephen Schwartz, starring Ben Vereen, John Rubinstein, Jill Clayburgh and Irene Ryan, directed and choreographed by the brilliant Bob Fosse. Sitting in the theater and watching it all come to life blew me away, and excited me in a way few other things did. This is a video of Ben Vereen singing "On The Right Track" from 'Pippin'.



I had no idea what to expect when I went to see 'The Act', featuring Liza Minnelli. I was already a big movie buff, having watched many a musical on television, including many starring the late, great Judy Garland. I had seen Liza on the screen, but this time I would actually get to see her on the stage. I was so excited, and have to say, Minnelli lived up to the it all. I was blow away by the shear bravura of her performance. I mean, she was just electrifying in person. The show, which was little more than a star vehicle for Liza, showed off her talents as a singer and dancer. And certainly showed that John Kander and Fred Ebb were still excellent songwriters. This is Liza Minnelli singing "City Life" from 'The Act' in a performance from the 1978 Tony Awards.



Once I left high school, I went to college. At Albright College, in scenic Reading, PA, I found another school that planned yearly theater trips to New York, only now, you got to go for a weekend, and catch more than one show! One of the shows I saw was a phenomenal one I knew nothing about, 'A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine'. The show, which combined original songs with music by Frank Lazarus and lyrics by Dick Vosburgh with other music that fit the needs of the story, was a tribute show of sorts. The first act was a valentine to Hollywood, with humor and heart. The second act was a look at the Marx Brothers famous film 'A Night in the Ukraine'. Both were filled with reverence, camp, and a lot of love. Near the end of the first act, the cast performed a number without the orchestra, using their tap dancing shoes and voices to create a special moment. This is the cast of 'A Day in Hollywood/A Night in the Ukraine' singing "Doin' the Production Code".



I was also lucky enough to get to a preview performance of a new musical by Stephen Sondheim, a little show called 'Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street'. Once again, I walked in blindly, knowing only I already was a fan of Sondheim's work. I found the entire show fascinating, from beginning to end, often getting chills from almost every aspect of the show. Angela Lansbury was perfect as Mrs. Lovett, and Len Cariou amazing as Sweeney. A young and handsome Victor Garber played Anthony, with an impressive voice. It was exciting, beautiful, scary, and sweet, sometimes all at once. In one of the sweeter moments in the second act, this is Ken Jennings with Angela Lansbury singing "Not While I'm Around" from 'Sweeney Todd, the Demon Barber of Fleet Street'.



I purchased the original cast album for all four of these shows, and several others. I still have them, and listen to them to this day. I became a fan of the shows, and the cast who were in them. in a few years, I moved to New York City, and began to work in the Circle Repertory Theatre, in the West Village. I worked behind the scenes, as a carpenter and production manager. There were some fantastic shows, and some memorable bombs. I worked with some incredibly talented people, like designers John Lee Beatty (who I had a bit of a crush on), Dennis Parichy, and Jennifer Von Mayrhauser, as well as many talented actor, directors, and playwrights. I knew the late Lanford Wilson, and worked on Sam Shepard's 'Fool For Love'. And I don't think that would have happened without starting to see the shows I mentioned above, inspiring me.

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

Candy Apple Blue • Detonator Music Video

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I have been enchanted with the music made by the gorgeous siblings from Pittsburgh, known as Candy Apple Blue. I was first introduced to them by SIRPAUL, and they have remained a steady feature of my playlists. Carly and Hoyt Emerick make catchy Electropop songs I find impossible to resist. Recently, they have recorded with singer Nick Bramlett, and it sounds like a collaboration that is great for everyone. Together, they released a new music video for the song "Detonator", and I couldn't be happier. Bold and colorful visuals compliment the song, as well as the handsome artists performing the song. This is Candy Apple Blue with the music video for "Detonator" featuring Nick Bramlett (Tyler Nelson EDM Mixshow Remix).



You can purchase "Detonator: The Remixes" from iTunes, Amazon, Bandcamp, and Bandcamp. The song will be on the album 'Powers Activate', a project combining the wonders of Candy Apple Blue and Nick Bramlett. To learn more about Candy Apple Blue, visit their official website. You can also 'follow' them on Twitter, and 'like' them on Facebook. You can find Nick Bramlett on social media, where you can 'follow' him on Twitter, and 'like' him on Facebook.

Matt Gold • Low

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Ever since I was introduced to his by JD Doyle, I have been a fan of Matt Gold's music. There is a rich soulfulness in his voice, and a melodic beauty to his music. He is a real storyteller, bringing to life whatever tale is is singing about, and doing it with authenticity and style. This remains true with his latest single, "Low". Matt examines relationships and love, and what we do when we find ourselves in that situation. This is Matt Gold with "Low".



Gold's voice still touches me, and quickly discovered this was another song I needed in my collection. You can purchase "Low" from iTunes and Amazon. To learn more about Matt Gold, visit his official website. You can also 'like' him on Facebook, and 'follow' him on Twitter.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Torch • At Long Last Cole Porter

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Left to right: Judy Garland, Ella Fitzgerald, Julie London, and Lena Horne.

Lena Horne sings "At Long Last Love". The song was written by Cole Porter for his 1938 musical 'You Never Know'. The show was notable only because it was Porter's first show after the riding accident that left him using a cane for the rest of his life. Apparently, much of the show is forgettable, even though it featured music by Cole Porter and Robert Katscher, lyrics by Cole Porter, additional lyrics by Leigh and Edwin Gilbert, and songs by others as well. That description alone tells me it will be a bit of a mess. But it had this song, and here it is sung by the always brilliant Miss Lena Horne.



Julie London sings "What Is This Thing Called Love". The song was written for the musical revue 'Wake Up and Dream', on Broadway in 1929. In fact, the show opened on December 20, 1929, making it the final Broadway opening of the 1920s. The song almost instantly became a Jazz standard, and is one of the most performed songs of Porter's impressive songbook. As London is still a favorite of my mother, I can't help but have a warm pot for her and her music. This is Julie London singing "What Is This Thing Called Love".



Ella Fitzgerald sings "It's Alright With Me". The song is from the 1953 musical 'Can-Can'. The show featured the stories of the ladies performing in the Parisian dance halls of the 1890s. The musical was a success both in the original Broadway production as well as the original West End production in London. Here, it is performed by the iconic Ella Fitzgerald, whose voice is just so perfect to sing Jazz and standards as few others can. This is Ella with "It's Alright With Me".



Judy Garland sings "I Am Loved" from the 1950 musical, 'Out of This World'. The show was an adaptation of Plautus' comedy 'Amphitryon', featuring Roman Gods wanting to have some fun with mere humans. The show was the follow-up to the hugely successful 'Kiss Me, Kate', and was his first and only box office failure of the 1950s. Of course, there was only two more shows by Porter to come, 'Can-Can' and 'Silk Stockings'. But I think this song is a perfect way to end the post. This is Judy Garland singing "I Am Loved".



After decades of pain in his legs from the riding accident in 1937, and following 34 surgeries to try to fix it, Porter's right leg was amputated in 1958. Having already lost his mother in 1952, and his wife, Linda, in 1954, it was thought this was the final straw to break Cole, and he went in seclusion, writing no more music until his death in 1964. Luckily for us all, he left a rich songbook that will always entertain.

Julio Iglesias • Volver a Empezar (Begin the Beguine)

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After several years of having to put up with the lifeless whispers of his son, Enrique, I think I had forgotten how truly talented Julio Iglesias was. The man was tall, handsome, and very sexy, and sure could sing. I remember back in the day, other singers like Frank Sinatra thought he was the best! As a recording artist, Iglesias has sold more than 300 million albums worldwide, and is still hitting the studio, despite the fact he is now in his 70s. His first English-language hit was a cover of the great Cole Porter song, "Begin The Beguine", sung in both English and Spanish. He pretty much owned the 1980s, and it is no wonder with his voice and easy style. This is Julio Iglesias singing "Begin the Beguine".



Hope you are enjoying your weekend.

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