Graham Nash has wild tales to tell in autobiography

Graham Nash autobiographyIn the 1960s and 70s, Graham Nash was one of the musicians at the intersection of global musical creativity that defined those decades. He started as a co-founder and major voice behind the The Hollies, which led the British Invasion with (among others) The Beatles and The Rolling Stones. As he grew artistically beyond the band’s pop-oriented sound, he departed to become a collaborator with David Crosby, Stephen Stills, and Neil Young, before turning to a career as a solo artist. In his engaging 2013 autobiography, Wild Tales, Nash tells all: not just the sex, drugs, and rock-and-roll (naturally), but also the drama, artistry, and moments of transcendence. The book is filled with interesting tidbits. There are exchanges with many of the seminal musicians and insiders of that era, including Joni Mitchell, Mama Cass, Jimi Hendrix, Miles Davis, John Lennon, Jerry Garcia, Elton John, David Geffen, and Ahmet Ertegun (co-founder of Atlantic Records). Continue reading →

Four distinctive ways to honor Joni Mitchell

Photo of Joni MitchellPlenty of artists claim to be influenced by Joni Mitchell, or to sound like her. But finding a thread that translates into something tangible can be hard. Instead, I decided to present a few of the more interesting approaches. These are truly creative endeavors. They stand out for their profound artistry and their tangible love for Joni’s music. Whether through reinventing specific songs or capturing the spirit of her style, these four albums offer first rate experiences. Each album honors Joni in a different way. So I invite you to immerse yourself in these four distinctive ways to honor Joni Mitchell. Continue reading →

Basic Song Structure of Popular Music

Kinobe album coverSong structure forms favored by popular music have been pretty stable for decades. Most music (popular and otherwise) is built off at least two contrasting sections: the initial material (A) and the contrasting material (B). This helps give the music emotional direction, climax, and release. In popular forms, A serves as the verse and B serves as the chorus. The most common form, not surprisingly, is verse–chorus–verse–chorus–verse/interlude/bridge–chorus. After two repetitions of verse–chorus, a number of things can happen. There can be simply an instrumental verse. A bridge can function as additional contrasting material, taking us away from the basic material then returning us back to it. Sometimes there is a breakdown that provides contrasting rhythmic material, the equivalent of a non-lyric bridge. In a variation of this A-B form, there are two verses before the first chorus (A-A-B-A-B…). Continue reading →

Inside the spirit of Joni Mitchell’s music

In Her Own WordsThe first time she wrote a song, as a child taking piano lessons, her teacher rapped her knuckles with a ruler. Her well-loved song “Both Sides Now,” recorded by numerous artists, was ridiculed when she first performed it for someone. When she tried recording with a band early in her career, the bass player refused to play anything other than the root note of the chords, telling her that her suggestions for a more melodic approach were wrong. The story of Joni Mitchell is a story of someone who, time and time again, was told NO. Yet she persevered. It’s an amazing story in many ways, because for a woman to assert herself and not back down was much harder 50 years ago. We learn many of these things in Malka’s book of transcribed conversations with Joni, In Her Own Words. Continue reading →