April 8 – 14:This Week In Music History

April 8 – 14 is an important week in music history. Whether you’re a fan of rock’n roll, pop, country, or classical something important happened years ago.

 

April 8, 1994–Kirk Cobain Found Dead

April 8, 1994, rock star Kurt Cobain was found dead in his home outside Seattle, Washington. Fresh injection marks pierced both arms. Additionally he suffered a fatal wound to the head from a 20-
gauge shotgun found between his knees. Cobain’s suicide brought an end to a life marked by far more suffering than is generally associated with rock superstardom. But rock superstardom never did sit well with Kurt Cobain. Cobain was a social outsider who was reluctantly dubbed the spokesman of his generation.

Kurt Cobain rose to fame as the leader and chief songwriter of the Seattle-based band Nirvana. This band is often credited with turning a regional music scene in the Pacific Northwest into a worldwide phenomenon labeled “grunge.”  Nirvana became enormously popular in the wake of their era-defining single “Smells Like Teen Spirit” (1991).

April 9, 1939–Marian Anderson sings on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial

“I have a dream that one day this nation will rise up and live out the true meaning of its creed: ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.’” But Martin Luther King, Jr., was not the first to raise his voice from those steps with a message of hope for America’s future. That distinction belongs to the world-famous contralto Marian Anderson. Her performance at the Lincoln Memorial on April 9, 1939, made a compelling case for the transformative power of music.

Marian Anderson was an international superstar in the 1930s. Race had been no impediment to her career abroad. However, there were still places in the United States where a black woman was simply not welcome, no matter how famous. What surprised Anderson and many others was to discover in 1939 that one such place was Constitution Hall. This venue was owned and operated by the Daughters of the American Revolution. Once the D.A.R. refused to allow Marian Anderson to perform at Constitution Hall because of her skin color. As a result the organization lost one of its most influential members: First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt. Roosevelt and many other women quit the D.A.R. in protest of its discriminatory action, which soon became a cause célèbre.

April 10, 1970–Paul Mccartney Announces Breakup of The Beatles

By the spring of 1970, there was little more than a tangled set of business relationships keeping the Beatles together. Each of the Beatles was pursuing his musical interests outside of the band. In addition there were no plans in place to record together as a group. But as far as the public knew, this was just a temporary state of affairs.

That all changed on April 10, 1970, with an ambiguous Paul McCartney  “self-interview”. The statements Paul released to the press that day were about the upcoming release of his debut solo album, McCartney. However, they were interpreted as an official announcement of a Beatles breakup.

April 11, 1961–Bob Dylan Plays His First Major Gig in New York City

The singular creative vision that would change the face of popular music wasn’t really in evidence yet. However, what Bob Dylan did have was his guitar, harmonica, and unique stage presence. He also brought a vast library of American folk songs in his repertoire. On April 11, 1961, he got his first real chance to put those on display with his first major gig in New York City. At the age of 19 he was the opening act for bluesman John Lee Hooker at Gerde’s Folk City.

April 12, 1989–Garth Brooks Releases His Debut Album

His integration of rock and roll elements into the country genre has earned Garth Brooks immense popularity in the United States. Brooks has had great success on the country single and album charts. His works include multi-platinum recordings and record-breaking live performances, while also crossing over into the mainstream pop arena.

Garth Brooks is his debut studio album,  released on April 12, 1989 through Capitol Nashville. It was both a critical and chart success, peaking at #13 on the Billboard 200 and at #2 on the Top Country Albums chart. The album has been certified diamond by the Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) for shipments over ten million copies. This is Garth’s only album to have a neotraditional country sound before developing a more crossover-friendly country-pop sound.

April 13, 1742–Handel’s Messiah premieres in Dublin

Nowadays, the performance of George Friedrich Handel’s Messiah oratorio is a deeply entrenched Christmas tradition.  It would surprise many, then, to learn that Messiah was not originally intended as a piece of Christmas music. Messiah received its world premiere on this day in 1742, during the Christian season of Lent.

Messiah gained widespread popularity only during the final years of Handel’s life, in the late 1750s. It remains one of the best-known musical works of the Baroque period more than two centuries later.  Handel composed the score for Messiah in just 24 days, Ludwig van Beethoven said of Handel: “He is the greatest composer that ever lived. I would uncover my head and kneel before his tomb.”

April 14, 1935–Country legend Loretta Lynn is born in Butcher Hollow, Kentucky

If there’s one thing nearly everyone knows about country-music legend Loretta Lynn, it’s what her father, Ted Webb, did for a living. Like any man struggling to provide for a family during the Great Depression, he took work wherever he could find it. However, his primary job was in the mines of the Consolidation Coal Company in the rugged mountains of eastern Kentucky. Ted and his wife, Ramey, raised eight children in their small wooden house in Johnson County.  The most famous coal miner’s daughter in the world was born on this day in 1935.

As she sang in her autobiographical 1971 country hit, “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” Loretta Webb grew up dirt poor but well-loved and taken care of by her hardworking parents. She adored music and sang in church choirs as a child.

Loretta Lynn’s record sales and chart performance over the next two decades were enough to qualify her for genuine “legend” status. Her contribution to the genre went beyond mere popularity. She wrote much of her own material, most from a strong, feminine perspective, Lynn helped transform the role of women in country music.

Correction: in my last post I incorrectly said we performed Stairway to Heaven at South Street Christian Church in 1973. It was actually 1975.

Holy Grail # 8 – Led Zeppelin IV

Led Zeppelin IV was a commercial and critical success, featuring many of the band’s best-known songs. These included  “Black Dog”, “Rock and Roll”, “Going to California”, “Stairway to Heaven”, and “When the Levee Breaks”. The album is one of the best-selling albums of all time with more than 37 million copies sold. It is tied for third highest-certified album in the United States by the Recording Industry Association of America at 23× Platinum.Writers and critics have regularly cited it on lists of the greatest albums of all time.

My Stairway to Heaven

Silence filled the pews of South St., Christian Church as I clutched my guitar. There I was, on stage at the ripe old age of 15 with my brother Bert, age 12,  backing me on drums. This was my first live performance. How would the congregation respond? I began…

So far so good. I continued with the remainder of the intro (humming the part of John Paul Jones’ recorder)…

Time for the vocals. Those who have ever heard me sing can testify that perfect pitch is not one of my spiritual gifts. However in my best Robert Plant impersonation I belted out the lyrics.

There’s a lady who’s sure
All that glitters is gold
And she’s buying a stairway to heaven
When she gets there she knows
If the stores are all closed
With a word she can get what she came for
Oh oh oh oh and she’s buying a stairway to heaven

I continued my finger-plucked acoustic arpeggios as I sang the next verse.

There’s a sign on the wall
But she wants to be sure
‘Cause you know sometimes words have two meanings
In a tree by the brook
There’s a songbird who sings
Sometimes all of our thoughts are misgiving

Winging It

Truth be told that’s all I knew of the song’s guitar part. However, I knew the lyrics so I carried on. It’s probably worth mentioning that I was playing a classical guitar. It’s nylon strings sounded great during the early part of this song. Alas, it wasn’t particularly well suited for rock’n’ roll. Nonetheless, I began strumming the basic chord structure.

Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it makes me wonder

 There’s a feeling I get
When I look to the west
And my spirit is crying for leaving
In my thoughts I have seen
Rings of smoke through the trees
And the voices of those who stand looking

 Ooh, it makes me wonder
Ooh, it really makes me wonder

And it’s whispered that soon, If we all call the tune
Then the piper will lead us to reason
And a new day will dawn
For those who stand long
And the forests will echo with laughter

Bert Joins the Party

He hadn’t had anything to do until now but Bert took advantage of his moment in the sun.

If there’s a bustle in your hedgerow
Don’t be alarmed now
It’s just a spring clean for the May queen
Yes, there are two paths you can go by
But in the long run
There’s still time to change the road you’re on

And it makes me wonder

Your head is humming and it won’t go
In case you don’t know
The piper’s calling you to join him
Dear lady, can you hear the wind blow
And did you know
Your stairway lies on the whispering wind

Time to lay down my version of Jimmy Page’s  epic guitar solo. (included here for your listening pleasure)

I would like to be able to tell you that I mastered that solo and performed live on this day. Unfortunately that was way beyond my abilities. My only option: skip the solo and head to the final verse.

And as we wind on down the road
Our shadows taller than our soul
There walks a lady we all know
Who shines white light and wants to show
How everything still turns to gold
And if you listen very hard
The tune will come to you at last
When all are one and one is all
To be a rock and not to roll
And she’s buying the stairway to heaven

So how did the congregation respond?  A few adoring fans (4th and 5th graders) “rushed the stage” for an autograph after the service. For one day at least we felt like rock stars.

The Tradition Continues

South Street Celebration! Band

In 1973 playing rock music at Church using guitars and drums was a radical concept. Today there are many forms of “contemporary” worship services. Instrumentation has grown far beyond the   piano and pipe organ.

Bert plays drums in a band at Trinity Church Kirkwood. Our brother Brian plays in the Celebration! and Bluegrass bands at South Street Christian Church. My church, Coker United Methodist has a contemporary worship service at 9:30 every Sunday. They also have an orchestra that plays on occasion in worship and during seasonal events such as Christmas, Easter and other festival occasions. My career as a performer would continue for a few more years (more about that in a future blog post).

I can’t say we started the contemporary worship service movement. However with the benefit of hindsight it does appear that Bert and I were early adopters of this idea. I look back on April 8, 1973, 45 years ago today with fond memories.

 

NCAA Men’s Final Four in San Antonio

The NCAA Men’s Final Four is returning to San Antonio in 2018.

Fans are invited to partake in the city’s 300th anniversary celebration. that coincides with the March 30 through April 2 national semifinal and championship games.

If you don’t have tickets to the games, there are still many things to to do this weekend in the Alamo City.

Semifinals and Championship Games

National Semifinals

Saturday, March 31

5:09 p.m. — No. 3 Michigan vs. No. 11 Loyola (Chicago) | TBS

7:49 p.m. — No. 1 Villanova vs. No. 1 Kansas | TBS

National Championship

Monday, April 2

8:20 p.m. — Semifinal winners | TBS

NCAA Final Four Fan Fest

If the games weren’t exciting enough, the Final Four is bringing a weekend jam-packed with events around San Antonio for residents and visitors of all ages. Sports fans, college students, families, music junkies: there is something for everyone!

Tip off your weekend with a trip to Final Four Fan Fest presented by Capital One. As you take your first steps through the Henry B.
Gonzalez Convention Center doors, you’ll be greeted by a sports wonderland of interactive games, special celebrity and athlete appearances, autograph signings, and much more!

Fan Fest is so much more than basketball.  Knock it out of the park at Home Run Derby, participate in one of the free cheer clinics taking place over the weekend or make your way over to the rock wall and climb to the top to get a birds-eye view of the entire event!  You will even have a chance to snap a selfie with the championship trophy!

Didn’t have enough time to see and do everything in one day? Don’t worry, Fan Fest is open all weekend!

Fan Fest is the best way to celebrate Final Four weekend in San Antonio. And with free entry for kids 12 and under, it’s affordable too! Don’t miss out on this once-in-a-lifetime experience!

 

March Madness Music Festival

The March Madness Music Festival began in 2010 and since then has hosted the likes of Pitbull, LL Cool J, Tim McGraw, Aerosmith, Bruce Springsteen, Jimmy Buffett, Rihanna, and Sting.

March Madness Music Festival Event Schedule

All times local, central. All events, times and locations are subject to change.

Friday, March 30 – AT&T Block Party (4 – 10 p.m.)
4:00 pm – Doors Open
6:45 pm – Kelsea Ballerini
8:30 pm – Jason Aldean

Saturday, March 31 – Coca–Cola Music (2 – 10 p.m.)
2:00 pm – Doors Open
2:30 pm – Luis Fonsi
3:45 pm – Cold War Kids
5:00 pm – Watch Party: Semifinal Game 1
​7:15pm – Imagine Dragons

Sunday, April 1 – Capital One JamFest (3 – 10 p.m.)
3:00 pm – Doors Open
3:45 pm – Daya
5:00 pm – Panic! At The Disco
6:30 pm – One Republic
8:30 pm – Maroon 5

Music with a dash of trivia