Monday, 27 January 2014

The Good, The Bad and The Tone Deaf - The History of the Grammys

Grammy Statue
All rights reserved to the academy - don't sue me
This past weekend was the Grammy Awards - the mostly American music industry getting together to celebrate their industry's best. Managed by the Recording Academy, the first awards show was in 1959, a year (as all are) of great changes in the world. For example, the Dalia Lama fled the Chinese invasion of his home, Fidel Castro names himself Cuba's premier, and Alaska became a state. Among all this, on May 4th at the Beverly Hilton, the Na­tion­al Academy of Re­cord­ing Arts and Sci­ences handed out 28 Grammys.

Guess who was a big winner with three Grammys?

It's ok - Peter Gunn won best Album
There was a serious snit that a rock and roll album for kids won. And they were cartoons, not real musicians. Here are Some other winners of 1959.

Excepting the Chipmunks, the Grammys have played it safe for most of their run. With a few exceptions. The 1990 win of Milli Vanilli, who only lipped synced their music. They lost their Grammys after this was revealed. Blame it on the rain, or the fact that people weren't that stupid.

What ticks me off is...

The modern media and listeners have definitely forgotten there is more to the awards than just the top 10 pop songs. I know - rock and roll was in it's infancy then so of course they celebrated jazz. Popular music has changed, but why am I being spoon fed Rhianna and that horrific man Robin Thicke? At least Daft Punk won for Best Album.

What about the jazz, children's, classical and other genre musicians? Very little coverage. Very annoying for anyone who listens to something other than top 40 while they write or take a bath. (My preference is still Ella or a little Nina Simone)

So, in an effort to remedy that, here are some of the artist who won the awards we didn't hear about. The full list is at Forbes. A special nod to one:

Best Children's Album :
Throw A Penny In The Wishing Well by Canada's own Jennifer Gasoi

Sunday, 19 January 2014

A Quick Note On Your Old Beaver...

The legendary Canadian periodical The Beaver had a name and focus change a while back now - it's now Canada's History. I like them simply because they have the controversial mandate of:

"History is happening right now at Canada's History, where our mission is to make the discovery of our nation's past relevant, engaging, empowering and accessible to all Canadians."

HAH! Their mission to make history accessible flies in the face of our current government in Canada's need to control how we think and access our own history. Such calm civil disobedience!

Because I am a cheap human, I read copies at my library or articles online.I prefer the online edition because:

-  Links to free webinars on teaching history 

- A great education page or how to teach history and resources

- Destinations that are historical and a a good vacation idea

- Current topics such as the 100 anniversary of the Great War


Saturday, 18 January 2014

Back in the Saddle Again with Black Country Singers

Back in the Saddle Again...

First, I'm glad to be blogging again. What better way than having a little country/western music thanks to Gene Autry (above) and a bit more on the history of a multi-billion dollar industry?

Country music is rooted in folk music from around the world, brought together by immigrants to North America. They brought easy to transport string instruments with them, like the Irish fiddle, Spanish guitars, African banjos, and German dulcimers, and English mandolins.  Musicologists agree that the main pot where all these traditions mixed were in the American South in Appalachian Mountains, hence hte name calling of country as Hill-Billy music.

Blind+Lemon+Jefferson+PNG+version.pngDespite much of its reputation as a Whites Only musical form, early country was influenced heavily by Blacks, such as Rufus 'Tee-Tot' Payne who taught Hank Williams. My personal favourite is Blind Lemon Jefferson, who played honky-tonk country and blues from the early 1900s till his death in 1929. How can you not love a guy named Blind Lemon?

One Black Country musician whose regained his rightful place among the legends of Country music is DeFord Bailey. From the 1920s to the 1940s, he was a well know country musician. Born in Tennessee, He was one of the first performers and members of the Grand Ole Opry. His instrument of choice was the mouth harp.

Bailey was pretty much forgotten until the 2003 documentary on him by PBS "DeFord Bailey: A Legend Lost", and his entrance into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2005.

What kind of ticks me off a bit is the whole "country music is only for white people" perception. So many great Black musicians were at the beginning, and such a lack of respect for their own history that's not white. I'd like to explore it more in the future and think about other non-white performers, like many First Nations people who play country music. As my mom, who loved country music, said, "Who cares where they are from as long as they can sing and play and make a story from the air."

Further References on the Web:

Roughstock's History of Country Music - a a great site that deals with all forms of country, from the original sounds of Jimmy Rogers, to Western Swing, and onto the Outlaw and current pop formations.

Country Music Hall of Fame - a good primer with lots of good links to artist then and now.


Bill C Malone and Jocelyn R Neil. Country Music USA. (University of Texas Press; 3 Revised edition, 2010)

David C. Morton with Charles K. Wolfe. DeFord Bailey: A Black Star in Early Country Music (Knoxville: The University of Tennessee Press, 1991)