Tuesday, June 22, 2010


Artie Shaw gives a music lesson in swing in 1939, just seventy-one years ago. Like any recipe, the magic is more than the sum of the ingredients--it's adding a little heart and soul to the mix. Shaw has fun breaking it all down for us--and yes, that's Buddy Rich beating on the skins. In addition to hiring Rich, Shaw hired Billie Holiday as his band's vocalist in 1938. Not only did Shaw make a good choice, he became the first white bandleader to hire a full-time black female singer to tour the segregated South.

Like the proverbial tree falling in the forest, music requires a listener to experience it--and all listeners are different. Some dig swing, some don't. Some like Chinese food, some like Thai. Do you like this?

Here's another musical recipe full of heart and definitely soul, from another era altogether--Sly and the Family Stone in 1968 (just forty-two years ago). After singing "Everyday People" ("different strokes for different folks...") the band launches into "Dance to the Music" and breaks it down like Artie Shaw, naming the various ingredients of the tune. The outfits and attitudes may seem dated (just like in the Artie Shaw clip) but the truth behind the lesson remains the same. This is an upbeat dance tune--how does it make you feel?

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