A program called Musicians on Call strives to bring music to the bedsides of patients too sick to leave their hospital beds. NBC's Lester Holt reports.
Allison Flicker, NBC News writes
At the Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital in Nashville, Tenn., it is not uncommon for the crisp, clean, soothing sound of an acoustic guitar to echo down the hallway.
Patients, their families, and medical staff members alike light up when musicians come in to sing. Patients’ smiles grow, their eyes widen, and they sometimes dance along to the beat of the songs from their hospital beds.
Courtney Butcher, a 17-year-old patient suffering from chronic stomach pain, was particularly excited about her personal musical performance because, she admitted, “I like all music.”
It’s all part of a program called Musicians on Call, whose mission is to bring music to the bedsides of patients too sick to leave their hospital beds. The program exists in numerous health care facilities in six different cities: New York, Philadelphia, Miami, Washington, D.C., Los Angeles, and Nashville.
The program relies heavily on local musicians. There is, however, a handful of more famous, celebrity musicians who are active participants.
Darius Rucker, of Hootie & the Blowfish fame, is one such volunteer.
Darius Rucker, who became famous as the front man for Hootie and the Blowfish and is now a solo country music artist, tells NBC's Lester Holt that playing for sick children in the hospital as part of 'Musicians on Call' can be emotional, but he puts that aside to help the kids feel better.
Having recently embraced the country music world, he performs mostly in the “music city” of Nashville.
"The singing stuff, that’s cool and it’s my job, but I really enjoy when … Musicians on Call, or the children’s hospital down in Vanderbilt or Charleston [calls]," Rucker said. “I love doing that stuff.”
Rucker says his success in the country music world fits perfectly into Musicians on Call because “the storyline of country music…it's such…emotion filled music. The storyline's always about kids and families and stuff like that.”
Thirteen-year-old Brooke Kreger, who has been in and out of the hospital since Christmas, thought Rucker was “awesome” and that his performance was “really good.” Her father, Tony, was thankful because Rucker’s performance broke up the “monotony of the day.”
The performances have physiological benefits for patients, too, including “pain control, lowering blood pressure, and lowering stress,” said Leslie Faerstein, the executive director of Musicians on Call.
The emotional benefits are evident, too, in boosting the morale of patients, their families, hospital staff, and even the volunteer performers.
A faithful believer in music therapy, country musician Randy Houser is also a Musicians on Call volunteer in Nashville.
“It doesn’t surprise me that there’s healing power in music,” said Houser. “Music has always been very therapeutic for me.”
Faerstein continues to see the benefits of the program as it expands.
“Once somebody does it, and they hear about it from another musician, they realize what an incredible experience it is, not just for the patient, but for the musician, him or herself,” Faerstein said. “It really affects everyone.”
Rucker does admit it can be difficult sometimes.
“I've been in a couple rooms where the kids were real sick,” Rucker said. “I've walked out of rooms where…you really have to stop for a second … so you don't go in the next room crying.”
Nevertheless, he and many other talented musicians across the country, continue to go back and share the joy of music with the patients.
“It’s one of those things that when you do it…it’s amazing,” Rucker said. “And when you’ve done it – you can’t – you don’t say no.”
Federal authorities inspect the site of the plane crash in El Tejote locality, Nuevo Leon State, Mexico, where Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera along with six other people died as they were travelling from Monterrey, in northern Mexico, to Mexico City.
NBC News and news services writes
Updated 11:05 p.m. ET: Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera died in a plane crash Saturday night, her father and brother confirmed on Telemundo.
"She never gave up and she was good to everyone," said her father, Pedro, about his daughter’s legacy outside of his home in Lakewood, Calif.
The wreckage of the plane was found Sunday in northern Mexico with no apparent survivors, authorities said.
The wreckage was found in the Ejido La Colorada, Municipality of Nuevo Leon. Gerardo Ruiz Esparza, secretary of communications and transport, said that the plane was not recognizable, but the evidence suggested it was the aircraft carrying the singer, Telemundo reported.
Singer Jenni Rivera, seen here during the Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah, in January, was aboard a plane that went missing shortly after leaving the northern Mexican city of Monterrey early Sunday.
Officials said Rivera's Learjet went off the radar about 62 miles from Monterrey after taking off at 3:15 a.m. local time.
The National Transportation Safety Board dispatched investigators to assist the government of Mexico in its investigation of the crash.
Rivera was heading for the city of Toluca in central Mexico after a concert in Monterrey on Saturday night. The singer, two pilots and four other passengers were aboard, Mexican officials said.
Jorge Domene, spokesman for Nuevo Leon's government told Milenio television that civilian agency helicopters flew over the state searching for the plane. The missing included her publicist, lawyer, makeup artist and the flight crew, the ministry of transportation and communication said in a statement.
In a photo posted on her Twitter account on Friday, Jenni Rivera can be seen referencing her concert in Monterrey. In the photo she is seen holding up a sign with the words, "Nos Vemos este 7 en Colima, 8-en Monterrey. I love you!" Translation: "See you this 7th in Colima, 8 in Monterrey."
Born in Long Beach, Calif., to Mexican immigrant parents, Rivera has sold some 15 million records in her career and won several awards and Grammy nominations, her website said.
The 43-year-old mother of five is renowned as an exponent of the Nortena and banda regional musical styles.
Jenni Rivera's driving license is seen of the ground at the crash site where a plane allegedly carrying Rivera crashed near Iturbide, Mexico, Dec. 9.
The so-called "Diva of the Banda" recently won two Billboard Mexican Music Awards: Female Artist of the Year and Banda Album of the Year for "Joyas prestadas: Banda." Her famous songs include "La Gran Senora" and "De Contrabando."
The singer, businesswoman and actress appeared in the movie "Filly Brown," as the incarcerated mother of Filly Brown, and has her own reality shows including "I Love Jenni" and "Jenni Rivera Presents: Chiquis and Raq-C" and her daughter's "Chiquis `n Control."
Rivera had given a concert before thousands of fans in Monterrey on Saturday night. After the concert she gave a press conference during which she spoke of her emotional state following her recent divorce from baseball player Esteban Loaiza.
"I can't get caught up in the negative because that destroys you. Perhaps trying to move away from my problems and focus on the positive is the best I can do. I am a woman like any other and ugly things happen to me like any other women," she said Saturday night, according to The Associated Press. "The number of times I have fallen down is the number of times I have gotten up."
A plane carrying Jenni Rivera, a popular singer from California, went missing in Mexico Saturday night. The 43-year-old mother of five is renowned for Nortena and banda music. NBC's Miguel Almaguer reports.
The mother and grandmother had announced in October that she was divorcing Loaiza after two years of marriage. It was her third marriage.
Rivera is the sister of Mexican singer Lupillo Rivera.
Celebrities tweeted about Rivera's disappearance.
"OMG! Just heard about @jennirivera Praying for her and her family during this difficult & uncertain time!" Gloria Estefan tweeted.
Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this story.
Aretha Franklin tells NBC's Brian Williams she found inspiration in gospel music at the New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit.
The Library of Congress have this year added several new recordings to the National Recording Registry. Prince, Dolly Parton, Donna Summer, Booker T. and the MG's and Rapper's Delight by the Sugarhill Gang will all take their place in the vault of the iconic recordings of this country -- stored away and taken together: they tell the story of who we are.
The National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress is like America's playlist: a collection of some of the most significant audio recordings in the history of the United States. James Billington, the Librarian of Congress, explains the importance of preserving our great national moments: from rocking out with Bruce Springsteen to President Roosevelt's fireside chats.
"It is quite amazing when you think about it," Mick Jagger recently told Rolling Stone, reflecting on the 50th anniversary of the Rolling Stones first show on July 12th, 1962 at London's Marquee Jazz Club. "But it was so long ago. Some of us are still here, but it's a very different group than the one that played 50 years ago."
The Rolling Stones' Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Ronnie Wood and Charlie Watts pose in front of The Marquee Club in London, where they first performed live 50 years ago.
On that summer night in 1962, the Rollin' Stones were Jagger on vocals, guitarists Brian Jones and Keith Richards, pianist Ian Stewart and bassist Dick Taylor. The drummer is up for debate; some fans contend it was their frequent early drummer, Tony Chapman, but Richards insisted in his 2012 memoir "Life" that it was friend Mick Avory. The Stones got the gig when Alexis Korner's Blues Incorporated – the club's Thursday night regulars fronted by Jagger – were invited to play a BBC live broadcast. Jagger didn't take part in the broadcast, and Jones persuaded Marquee club owner Harold Pendleton to let their new group fill in. When Jones called local listings paper Jazz News to advertise the gig, the famous story goes, he was asked what the band was called. His eyes went straight to the first song on the nearby LP "The Best of Muddy Waters": "Rollin' Stone."
The band borrowed money from Jagger's dad to rent equipment for the gig. In "Life," Richards recalled playing songs like "Dust My Broom," "Confessin' the Blues" and "Got My Mojo Working." "You're sitting with some guys, and you're playing and you go, 'Ooh yeah!' That feeling is worth more than anything," he wrote. "There's a certain moment when you realize that you've actually left the planet for a bit and that nobody can touch you … it's flying without a license."
The band continued to play around London clubs that summer. In August, Jagger, Richards and Jones moved into a grimy second-floor apartment at 102 Edith Grove in Fulham, living amongst dirty dishes, two beds and no furniture. Soon, Charlie Watts moved in. "The Rolling Stones spent the first year of their life hanging places, stealing food and rehearsing," Richards remembered. "We were paying to be the Rolling Stones."
Today, Jagger admits feeling uneasy about celebrating the milestone. "One part of me goes, 'We're slightly cheating,'" he says. "Because it's not the same band, you know. Still the same name. It's only Keith and myself that are the same people, I think. I've tried to find out when Charlie's first gig was, and none of us can really remember and no one really knows. But it's an amazing achievement, and I think it's fantastic and you know I'm very proud of it."
Richards is less reflective. "Man, I don't count!" he says with a laugh. "The Stones always really consider '63 to be 50 years, because Charlie didn't actually join until January. So we look upon 2012 as sort of the year of conception. But the birth is next year."
On Wednesday, the Stones met at the Marquee Club to shoot an anniversary photo. And while they might look a little worse for wear and tear than they did 50 years ago, they haven't lost any cool. After more than 400 songs, over two-dozen studio albums, ten mega-tours, turmoil and countless public squabbles, they look dangerous and commanding as ever, still capable of giving crowds more satisfaction than any band 50 years their junior.
Richards says the band will discuss recording new material during their London stay, and the band is strongly considering at least one gig this year, while a tour is more likely next year. Here's hoping it all happens. As Pete Townshend told the band while inducting them in to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1989, "Guys, whatever you do, don't grow old gracefully. It wouldn't suit you."
Here is what the Stones played on that night in 1962, according to meticulous, setlist-documenting Stones fansite It's Only Rock and Roll – though the setlist differs slightly from Richards' memory of the show described in "Life."
1. "Kansas City" 2. "Baby What's Wrong" 3. "Confessin' the Blues" 4. "Bright Lights, Big City" 5. "Dust My Broom" 6. "Down the Road Apiece" 7. "I'm a Love You" 8. "Bad Boy" 9. "I Ain't Got You" 10. "Hush-Hush" 11. "Ride 'Em on Down" 12. "Back in the U.S.A." 13. "Kind of Lonesome" 14. "Blues Before Sunrise" 15. "Big Boss Man" 16. "Don't Stay Out All Night" 17. "Tell Me You Love Me" 18. "Happy Home"
Etta James' performance of the enduring classic "At Last" was the embodiment of refined soul: Angelic-sounding strings harkened the arrival of her passionate yet measured vocals as she sang tenderly about a love finally realized after a long and patient wait.
In real life, little about James was as genteel as that song. The platinum blonde's first hit was a saucy R&B number about sex, and she was known as a hell-raiser who had tempestuous relationships with her family, her men and the music industry. Then she spent years battling a drug addiction that she admitted sapped away at her great talents.
The 73-year-old died on Friday at Riverside Community Hospital, with her husband and sons at her side, De Leon said.
"It's a tremendous loss for her fans around the world," he said. "She'll be missed. A great American singer. Her music defied category."
Etta James in 1965.
She had been hospitalized earlier in the year. although she had returned home on Jan. 5. James had been ill for some time.
James' spirit could not be contained — perhaps that's what made her so magnetic in music; it is surely what made her so dynamic as one of R&B, blues and rock 'n' roll's underrated legends.
"The bad girls ... had the look that I liked," she wrote in her 1995 autobiography, "Rage to Survive." "I wanted to be rare, I wanted to be noticed, I wanted to be exotic as a Cotton Club chorus girl, and I wanted to be obvious as the most flamboyant hooker on the street. I just wanted to be."
Despite the reputation she cultivated, she would always be remembered best for "At Last." The jazz-inflected rendition wasn't the original, but it would become the most famous and the song that would define her as a legendary singer. Over the decades, brides used it as their song down the aisle and car companies to hawk their wares, and it filtered from one generation to the next through its inclusion in movies like "American Pie." Perhaps most famously, President Obama and the first lady danced to a version at his inauguration ball.
The tender, sweet song belied the turmoil in her personal life. James — born Jamesette Hawkins — was born in Los Angeles to a mother whom she described as a scam artist, a substance abuser and a fleeting presence during her youth. She never knew her father, although she was told and had believed, that he was the famous billiards player Minnesota Fats. He neither confirmed nor denied it: when they met, he simply told her: "I don't remember everything. I wish I did, but I don't."
She was raised by Lula and Jesse Rogers, who owned the rooming house where her mother once lived in. The pair brought up James in the Christian faith, and as a young girl, her voice stood out in the church choir. James landed the solos in the choir and became so well known, she said that Hollywood stars would come to see her perform.
But she wouldn't stay a gospel singer for long. Rhythm and blues lured her away from the church, and she found herself drawn to the grittiness of the music.
"My mother always wanted me to be a jazz singer, but I always wanted to be raunchy," she recalled in her book.
She was doing just that when bandleader Johnny Otis found her singing on San Francisco street corners with some girlfriends in the early 1950s.
"At the time, Hank Ballard and the Midnighters had a hit with 'Work With Me, Annie,' and we decided to do an answer. We didn't think we would get in show business, we were just running around making up answers to songs," James told The Associated Press in 1987.
And so they replied with the song, "Roll With Me, Henry."
When Otis heard it, he told James to get her mother's permission to accompany him to Los Angeles to make a recording. Instead, the 15-year-old singer forged her mother's name on a note claiming she was 18.
"At that time, you weren't allowed to say 'roll' because it was considered vulgar. So when Georgia Gibbs did her version, she renamed it 'Dance With Me, Henry' and it went to No. 1 on the pop charts," the singer recalled. The Gibbs song was one of several in the early rock era when white singers got hits by covering songs by black artists, often with sanitized lyrics.
After her 1955 debut, James toured with Otis' revue, sometimes earning only $10 a night. In 1959, she signed with Chicago's legendary Chess label, began cranking out the hits and going on tours with performers such as Bobby Vinton, Little Richard, Fats Domino, Gene Vincent, Jerry Lee Lewis and the Everly Brothers.
"We would travel on four buses to all the big auditoriums. And we had a lot of fun," she recalled in 1987.
James recorded a string of hits in the late 1950s and '60s including "Trust In Me," "Something's Got a Hold On Me," "Sunday Kind of Love," "All I Could Do Was Cry," and of course, "At Last."
"(Chess Records founder) Leonard Chess was the most aware of anyone. He went up and down the halls of Chess announcing, 'Etta's crossed over! Etta's crossed over!' I still didn't know exactly what that meant, except that maybe more white people were listening to me. The Chess brothers kept saying how I was their first soul singer, that I was taking their label out of the old Delta blues, out of rock and into the modern era. Soul was the new direction," she wrote in her autobiography. "But in my mind, I was singing old style, not new."
In 1967, she cut one of the most highly regarded soul albums of all time, "Tell Mama," an earthy fusion of rock and gospel music featuring blistering horn arrangements, funky rhythms and a churchy chorus. A song from the album, "Security," was a top 40 single in 1968.
Her professional success, however, was balanced against personal demons, namely a drug addiction.
"I was trying to be cool," she told the AP in 1995, explaining what had led her to try heroin.
"I hung out in Harlem and saw Miles Davis and all the jazz cats," she continued. "At one time, my heavy role models were all druggies. Billie Holiday sang so groovy. Is that because she's on drugs? It was in my mind as a young person. I probably thought I was a young Billie Holiday, doing whatever came with that."
She was addicted to the drug for years, beginning in 1960, and it led to a harrowing existence that included time behind bars. It sapped her singing abilities and her money, eventually, almost destroying her career.
It would take her at least two decades to beat her drug problem. Her husband, Artis Mills, even went to prison for years, taking full responsibility for drugs during an arrest even though James was culpable.
"My management was suffering. My career was in the toilet. People tried to help, but I was hell-bent on getting high," she wrote of her drug habit in 1980.
She finally quit the habit and managed herself for a while, calling up small clubs and asking them, "Have you ever heard of Etta James?" in order to get gigs. Eventually, she got regular bookings — even drawing Elizabeth Taylor as an audience member. In 1984, she was tapped to sing the national anthem at the Olympic Games in Los Angeles, and her career got the resurgent boost it needed, though she fought addiction again when she got hooked on painkillers in the late 1980s.
Drug addiction wasn't her only problem. She struggled with her weight, and often performed from a wheelchair as she got older and heavier. In the early 2000s, she had weight-loss surgery and shed some 200 pounds.
James performed well into her senior years, and it was "At Last" that kept bringing her the biggest ovations. The song was a perennial that never aged, and on Jan. 20, 2009, as crowds celebrated that — at last — an African-American had become president of the United States, the song played as the first couple danced.
But it was superstar Beyonce who serenaded the Obamas, not the legendary singer. Beyonce had portrayed James in "Cadillac Records," a big-screen retelling of Chess Records' heyday, and had started to claim "At Last" as her own.
An audio clip surfaced of James at a concert shortly after the inauguration, saying she couldn't stand the younger singer and that Beyonce had "no business singing my song." But she told the New York Daily News later that she was joking, even though she had been hurt that she did not get the chance to participate in the inauguration.
James did get her accolades over the years. She was inducted into the Rock Hall in 1993, captured a Grammy in 2003 for best contemporary blues album for "Let's Roll," one in 2004 for best traditional blues album for "Blues to the Bone" and one for best jazz vocal performance for 1994's "Mystery Lady: Songs of Billie Holiday." She was also awarded a special Grammy in 2003 for lifetime achievement and got a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Her health went into decline, however, and by 2011, she was being cared for at home by a personal doctor.
She suffered from dementia, kidney problems and leukemia. Her husband and her two sons fought over control of her $1 million estate, though a deal was later struck keeping Mills as the conservator and capping the singer's expenses at $350,000. In December 2011, her physician announced that her leukemia was terminal, and asked for prayers for the singer.
In October 2011, it was announced that James was retiring from recording, and a final studio recording, "The Dreamer," was released, featuring the singer taking on classic songs, from Bobby "Blue" Bland's "Dreamer" to Guns N' Roses "Welcome To the Jungle" — still rocking, and a fitting end to her storied career.
The yellow rickety bus pulls up at the big iron gates. Enthusiastic students, in the midst of a harsh winter, arrive quickly. Others soon appear by foot or pushbike, and they all line up for their daily security pat-down to enter school. But this isn’t just any school, this is Afghanistan’s revived institution for the education of young Afghan musicians.
Ahmad Sarmast, 49, the founder of the Afghanistan National Institute of Music, is an Afghan national from Australia who lives in Kabul most of the year.
“I identified the need to establish a dedicated music college, where the most disadvantaged kids of Afghan society can get their general education and specialist training in music that will guarantee them a bright future,” he said.
The jovial father of two comes from a family with a rich musical pedigree -- his father was the late, well-known Afghan musician Ustad Sarmast. The younger Sarmast wanted to use that reputation and his qualifications to help his native country. His vision for the school took root in 2006 after he earned his Ph.D. in music at Monash University in Melbourne.
Several years later, the school is thriving, and music teachers come from all over the world to instruct the students. Instrument tuition ranges from drums, piano and violin to traditional string instruments such as the Sarod and Rubab.
One of the students, who goes by the name Sapna, is an orphan from Jalalabad who is believed to be 9 years old. Now, she says, she can envision a future for herself.
“When they did [the] entrance exam I chose piano -- and I also like violin,” she said. “I want to be famous all over the world. All kids should learn these things.”
Afghan culture had always provided a rich tapestry of music tradition and history, but when the Taliban captured power in the 1990s, they forcibly banned music in Afghanistan. Musicians suffered discrimination – in many areas only chanting was permitted. Post-Taliban, Sarmast witnessed a bleak and discouraging picture of the music scene.
“When I saw that very grave picture – I decided my country needs me and I have to return back to Afghanistan,” Sarmast said. “That was the major factor for my decision.”
The school now has 140 students with 50 percent of the school enrollment each year reserved for the disadvantaged kids from Afghan society: orphans, street vendors and girls. Sarmast said his school is committed to not only promote music, but to rebuild ruined lives and to empower the women of Afghanistan to practice and listen to music.
“While we are preserving or reserving 50 percent of the places for the most disadvantaged group of Afghan society, the other 50 percent are the most talented kids of Afghanistan,” he said. "If they’ve got the talents, we do everything to have them here.”
People in the community are very supportive of the promotion of music, and music education, Sarmast said. “ everyone is trying to get their kids here so that says a lot.”
One man who shares the same vision as Sarmast is popular music teacher William Harvey from Indianapolis, Ind. who has been teaching at the school since March 2010. Harvey said he believes in the power of music to transcend cultural barriers. “It’s a positive experience that transforms the relationship between the countries one person at a time,” he said.
“When I first came here they could only play ‘Love Story’, or ‘Godfather’, now I have two top students learning Bach’s concerto for two violins,” he added.
Harvey said the students are exceptional and unusual. Teaching the Afghans differs from teaching students in the U.S. because the students often come from very difficult backgrounds.
“It’s also possible in the U.S., but the social mechanism to support them isn’t always there. If a child is being beaten constantly by her father there is no child protective services here," Harvey said. "We do have children that used to be selling chewing gum on the street but thanks to the sponsorship program initiated by Dr. Sarmast, now they are studying violin with me.”
Harvey recalled a student of his, a girl who was forced to work on the streets, begging for small change to support her family. Her father had been paralyzed after being beaten with an electric cable during the Taliban’s reign.
"Instead of working on the streets this girl is now studying violin -- and I believe that she has a good shot at a career, not just in Afghanistan but perhaps internationally given the talent that she has shown.”
Harvey said he believes cultural diplomacy is essential for the United States' relationship with Afghanistan. "I remember conducting the orchestra for President Karzai, four times now, and one of those times someone who was a member of the previous government came up to me and shook my hand and I thought, ‘Wow – this is amazing,'” he said. "Because you know under the government that he served music was banned. And here he is shaking hands with an American who just conducted Afghan children – boys and girls playing Afghan music.”
Sarmast is confident that in 10 years there will be at least three other music schools in Afghanistan. “That’s my vision and I’m dedicated to establishing three more. But on the other end I see, and it’s clearly in front of my eyes, the first symphony orchestra of Afghanistan completed by the graduates of ANIM!” he said excitedly.
"When they play I can see the happiness in their faces – and how much they are enjoying it,” he said. “On Sunday I was in the orchestra room and they were rehearsing I couldn’t control my tears when I came out of the studio.”
We bought a copy of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, which goes on sale next week, for an early and often poignant look into the world of a brilliant man who changed our world. NBC's Kate Snow reports.
Nightly News bought a copy of Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs, which goes on sale next week, for an early and often poignant look into the world of a brilliant man who changed our world.
Among Steve Jobs' favorite artists were Bob Dylan, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, his onetime girlfriend Joan Baez, Aretha Franklin, B. B. King, Buddy Holly, Buffalo Springfield, Don McLean, Donovan, The Doors, Janis Joplin, Jefferson Airplane, Jimi Hendrix, Johnny Cash, John Mellencamp, Simon and Garfunkel and The Monkees ("I'm a Believer").
Isaacson writes that only about a quarter of the songs were from more contemporary artists such as Alicia Keys, Black Eyed Peas, Coldplay, Dido, Green Day, John Mayer, Moby, U2, Seal and Talking Heads.
Jobs enjoyed classical music, too, including Yo-Yo Ma and Bach, his favorite classical composer.
We're going to mark the anniversary of the Walkman tonight, and we came across a piece of writing from Hans Fantel in the New York Times, December 20, 1979. Can you imagine reading this passage today, about the effect of a personal stereo?
"The listener is sonically isolated and psychologically removed from his surroundings. Schubert on Conrail unquestionably helps in traversing the South Bronx."
Where to begin? The gender specificity of "his" surroundings? Conrail? Remember Conrail? You can still see the old logo on a couple of grizzled veteran engines along the track siding. Best of all, what did he just say about the South Bronx?
It's wildly unfair to apply modern standards to criticize a piece of journalism written in another era -- but my intent here is merely to show, using just 21 words, how much change there's been since then.
To another change: nobody used to grunt in tennis. Ever. While my theory is that it's a tributary of our societal trend toward the celebration of self (I will throw down over any challenges to my theory, but without grunting), it has reached ridiculous levels at Wimbledon this year. While I don't play or follow tennis, I thought former NBC Sportscaster Len Berman had some good, provocative reporting on the subject on his blog today.
We're preparing the broadcast for this Wednesday night, and we sure hope you can be with us.
After a long absence due to my workload and travel, I'll soon be updating my music site. Today here at 30 Rock, I interviewed Tony Dekker, the founder and ongoing heart and soul of Great Lake Swimmers. Their music has been described as earnest, airy, sensitive, delicate and restrained. In a word: mellow. But also thoughtful, interesting and carefully crafted.
My favorite song of theirs is a beautiful song called "Everything is Moving So Fast." He talks about the song, his life and his music in the discussion we will post early next week.
Photo by Subrata De
On the broadcast tonight, we'll look at a surprising Supreme Court decision of interest to so many of us with children of school age. We'll also look back at the life and work of Farrah Fawcett, and much more. We hope you can join us.
Sinnerman - Nina Simone Gamma Ray - Beck Let Me Blow Ya Mind - Eve featuring Gwen Stefani Everyday it's 1989 - Moby
More songs: Oxygen - Colbie Calliat Bittersweet Symphony - The Verve Wonderful - Everclear Say it Right - Nelly Furtado Untouched - Veronicas Can I Get A - Jay-Z Shut Up and Let Me Go - The Ting Tings If I Ask You Nicely - Gomez Young Folks - Peter Bjorn and John Day & Night - Kid Cudi Knocked Up - Kings of Leon Weird Fishes - Radiohead Girl - Beck What are we Stealing - "Ocean's 11" soundtrack If you Want me to Stay - Lumidee Yen on a Carousel - "Oceans 11" soundtrack Lollipop - Mika Respect Club Remix - Aretha Franklin Fronds like These - Finding Nemo soundtrack Field Trip - Finding Nemo soundtrack Eighth World Wonder - Kimberly Locke Burn - Mad at Gravity
Part 2 update Move Along - All American Rejects Lucky Man - The Verve Red Carpet Massacre - Duran Duran Float On - Modest Mouse Bruises - Chairlift Her Morning Elegance - Oren Lavie These are the Armies of the Tyrannized - Kaki King Lost- Coldplay American Boy - Estelle Untouched - Veronicas Starz in their Eyes - Just Jack Life Being What it Is - Kaki King
*Please note that some of these songs are not suitable for children.
For music fans, a new suggestion: Camera Obscura. Actually, they've been around for a while -- but some new cuts on their latest effort named "My Maudlin Career" deserve a listen. Specifically, "The World Is Full Of Strangers," "Swans," "Away With Murder" and "The Sweetest Thing." Among my fellow Dylan fans, consensus seems to be that "Forgetful Heart" is among the best efforts from his new "Together Through Life." If you haven't heard Dylan in a while, here's a hint … he sounds … like a much older Bob Dylan. Looking for something ephemeral? Try "Floating" by Julee Cruise, a standby for me. It's good when you're trying to fall asleep on an airplane. If she sounds familiar, she did the theme song for "Twin Peaks" a few years back.
Okay. I'm out -- from the music business we turn our attention back to the news business. My thanks to Ann Curry for allowing me some time off. We hope to see you tonight.
My thanks to Ann Curry for allowing me to travel back from London and rid myself of much of the jet lag from our week's trip. Back in New York today, where the following got my attention:
Correction of the day
This is a verbatim quote from today's New York Times corrections: "The Basics column on Tuesday about using quantitative reasoning to find an approximate answer to complex problems, misstated the number of utilities in a game of Monopoly. It is two, not four." Brilliant. Bravo.
New music of the day
While overwrought music writing always sounds like overwrought wine reviews, ("a hint of plum and accents of oak, with a woody finish...") the song "Kingdom of Rust" by the Doves is interesting for the influences that you can hear on just one listen: the Moody Blues, The Edge, the E-Street Band (keyboard and glockenspiel, for starters) not to mention the Chris Martin-esque vocals. In the mellow category, another nice new one is "Everything Is Moving So Fast" by the Great Lakes Swimmers...their song "Palmistry" is also good. And longtime Leonard Cohen fans and followers may be surprised at the banter and humor on his new live recording. I was. Especially strong are "The Future" and "Tower of Song." And it's been a while, so it deserves another mention: the great song "Dirty Dishes" by the Rhode Island bar band called Deer Tick. I've received a few emails from fellow fans...I notice they are getting a bit more traction. The new single by the 17-year-old Australian phenom Gabriella Cilmi "Sweet About Me" is hooky and great, and for something heavier, try "To Lose My Life" by White Lies...a couple of Brits who sound a lot like Interpol. And that's today in music.
Back to our day jobs: tragedy in Italy, three awful shootings in three days here in the U.S. The President continues overseas, and we'll end the broadcast with a Making A Difference report tonight. We're glad to be back at home base, and we hope you'll join us.