Friday, March 27, 2015

In-Studio Performance: Markus James, March 26th, 2015.

Guitarist, singer and songwriter Markus James, known for his West African-influenced blues stopped by the studio to chat with Dave on March 26th, before heading over to his show at Johnny D's later that night. James grew up in the Washington DC area where his first musical influence, when he was just four years old, was an old blind man playing the blues on the sidewalk. As an adult James made R&B and Rock music in Northern California, but it was on his 1994 trip to Mali that his current style began to develop. Since then he has studied, written and recorded with many Malian musicians including the "Malian Bluesman" Ali Farka Toure.

With him on percussion was Marlon Green, a drummer who toured with John Lee Hooker during the last year and a half of Hooker's life. Green approached the percussion for each song in a very unique style. Rather than using actual drums Green alternated between playing his knees, a stool, and even an upside down recycling bin. James played a gourd banjo he had  built himself from a gourd, deer hide, and even Indian camel bone using a blue-glass slide on his pinky.

Markus James latest record, Head For the Hills was released on September 30th of last year and is currently available.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Remembering John Renbourn

John Renbourn was a beautiful and gentle man. His guitar playing was one of the foundations of the English Finger Style. First as a soloist, then with American Dorris Henderson, Renbourn worked the folk clubs of the U.K. In Glasgow he met Bert Jansch and things clicked. First as a duo and then as the foundation of the legendary band Pentangle. Following the breakup of that group, he often toured with his own John Renbourn Group and later Ship of Fools which included both Steve Tilston and Maggie Boyle. His recordings were eclectic, ranging from American Blues and Old Time Country to Medieval music styles.

John Renbourn passed away today at age 70. He was both a master and an innovator. He is missed.

-Dave Palmater

Friday, March 20, 2015

Celebrating Women In Music: Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlight American recording artist, singer, guitarist and songwriter, Sister Rosetta Tharpe.

Rosetta Nubin Tharpe was one of gospel music’s first superstars, the first gospel performer to record for a major record label, and an early crossover artist from gospel to secular music. Tharpe has been cited as an influence by countless musicians, including Bob Dylan, Little Richard, Elvis Presley, and Johnny Cash.. She is credited with bringing gospel music into the mainstream in the 1930s and 1940s. She toured until her death in 1973.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe was born Rosetta Nubin on March 20, 1915, in Cotton Plant, Arkansas. Although the identity of her father is unknown, Tharpe's mother, Katie Bell Nubin, was a singer, mandolin player and evangelist preacher for the Church of God in Christ. The church encouraged musical expression in worship and allowed women to preach. With the support of her mother, Tharpe began singing and playing the guitar from a very young age. She could sing and keep on pitch and hold a melody – unusual for someone so young - and on guitar she played individual notes, melodies, and riffs instead of just strumming chords.

Tharpe began performing onstage with her mother from the age of four, playing the guitar and singing "Jesus Is on the Main Line." By age six, she had joined her mother as a regular performer in a traveling evangelical troupe. Billed as a "singing and guitar playing miracle," Tharpe accompanied her mother in sermons and performances in front of audiences all across the American South.

In the mid-1920's, Tharpe and her mother settled in Chicago, Illinois, where the duo continued to perform religious concerts in a church on 40th Street while occasionally traveling to perform at churches throughout the country. As a result, Tharpe developed considerable fame as a musical prodigy, standing out in an era when prominent black female guitarists remained very rare; blues legend Memphis Minnie was the only such performer to enjoy national fame at the time.

In 1934, at the age of 19, Rosetta Tharpe married a preacher named Thomas Thorpe, who had accompanied her and her mother on many of their tours. Although the marriage only lasted a short time, she decided to incorporate a version of her first husband's surname into her stage name, Sister Rosetta Tharpe, which she would use for the rest of her career.

In 1938, Tharpe moved to New York City, where she signed with Decca Records. On October 31 of that year, she recorded four songs for Decca: "Rock Me," "That's All," "The Man and I" and "The Lonesome Road." The first gospel songs ever recorded for Decca, all four of these recordings became instant hits, establishing Tharpe as one of the nation's first commercially successful gospel singer.

Then, on December 23, 1938, Tharpe performed in John Hammond's famous Spirituals to Swing Concert at Carnegie Hall. Her performance was controversial and revolutionary in several respects. Performing gospel music in front of secular audiences and alongside blues and jazz musicians was highly unusual, and within conservative religious circles the mere fact of a woman performing guitar music was frowned upon. Musically, Tharpe's unique guitar style blended melody-driven urban blues with traditional folk arrangements and incorporated a syncopated swing sound that is one of the first clear precursors of rock and roll. The performance awed the Carnegie Hall audience. Later Tharpe gained even more notoriety by performing regularly with jazz legend Cab Calloway at the famous Cotton Club in Harlem.

During the early 1940s, Tharpe continued to fuse the worlds of religious gospel music with more secular sounds, producing music that defied easy classification. Accompanied by Lucky Millinder's orchestra, she recorded such secular hits as "Shout Sister Shout," "That's All" and "I Want a Tall Skinny Papa." "That's All" was the first record on which Tharpe played the electric guitar; a sound that would have an influence on such later players as Chuck Berry and Elvis Presley.
Tharpe kept up a grueling tour schedule, performing her gospel music in churches as well as playing secular clubs. One highlight was a weeklong stint on stage at New York's famous Café Society before racially mixed crowds. Tharpe's considerable crossover appeal was demonstrated during World War II when she became one of only two African American gospel artists to be asked to record "V-Discs" (the "V" stood for "victory") for American troops overseas.

In the mid-1940s, Tharpe scored another musical breakthrough by teaming up with blues pianist Sammy Price to record music featuring an unprecedented combination of piano, guitar, and gospel singing. The duo's two most famous tracks, recorded in 1944, were "Strange Things Happening Every Day" and "Two Little Fishes and Five Loaves of Bread." However, in the face of intense criticism from the religious community, who viewed her jazzy collaborations with Price as the devil's music, Tharpe returned to recording more Christian music later in the 1940s. In 1947, she formed a duet with fellow gospel singer Marie Knight to record such spiritual traditional gospel songs as "Oh When I Come to the End of My Journey," "Stretch Out" and "Up Above My Head" ("I Hear Music in the Air").

Tharpe married again in July of 1951.The ceremony at a stadium in Washington, D.C., attended by some 25,000 paying audience members, featured a gospel performance by Tharpe in her wedding dress and finished with a massive fireworks display.

In 1953, Tharpe and Knight deviated from the gospel genre to record a secular blues album. The experiment proved disastrous. Not only was the album a commercial failure, it also earned both artists widespread condemnation from the religious community that had provided their most loyal fan base. Tharpe and Knight parted ways shortly after the album's release and neither ever recovered her previous popularity. Tharpe spent the remaining two decades of her career touring Europe and the United States, primarily playing gospel music.
Though she had a much lower profile during these years, Tharpe enjoyed several late-career highlights, including an acclaimed 1960 performance with James Cleveland at the Apollo in Harlem and a 1967 performance at the Newport Jazz Festival.

While on a European blues tour with Muddy Waters in 1970, Tharpe suddenly fell ill and returned to the United States. She suffered a stroke shortly after her return and, due to complications from diabetes, had to have a leg amputated. Despite her health woes, Tharpe continued to perform regularly for several more years. In October 1973, however, she suffered a second stroke and passed away days later, on October 9, 1973, at the age of 58, in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
One of the most celebrated musicians of all time, Sister Rosetta Tharpe enjoyed a celebrity in the 1940s rarely attained by gospel musicians before or since.

Ira Tucker Jr., the son of the legendary gospel singer Ira Tucker of the Dixie Hummingbirds, put it simply: "She was a rock star."

More than just popular, Tharpe was also groundbreaking, profoundly impacting American music history by pioneering the guitar technique that would eventually evolve into the rock and roll style played by Chuck Berry, Elvis Presley, and Eric Clapton. However, despite her great popularity and influence on music history, Sister Rosetta Tharpe was first and foremost a gospel musician who shared her spirituality with all those who listened to her music. Her epitaph reads, "She would sing until you cried and then she would sing until you danced for joy. She helped to keep the church alive and the saints rejoicing."

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Pledge Your Support To WUMB Today!

As you have probably noticed we are in the middle of our Spring Fundraiser. We want to send out a big thank you to everyone who has pledged their support to WUMB so far. We have five more days to make our goal and we are already 65% of the way there! And don't forget--the sooner we reach our goal the sooner we end the Fundraiser!

Most radio stations have getting the biggest audience as their goal--the more people who listen, the more stations can charge advertisers. Here at WUMB, our goal is to win your heart. Our goal is to have you enjoy this station and the music we play as much as we do. We use a lot of words to try to entice you to give to public radio, but really, it's a simple idea. You listen because you find music you enjoy here. We are here for you every day, whenever you want us, on the radio and also online. 

Now is when we ask you to step up to the plate. Call and pledge your financial support to help us pay the costs of operating YOUR public radio station. This is made possible by your contribution. 

Call and pledge your support at 800-573-2100 and online here. Thanks again! 

WUMB Member Concert: Sarah Blacker

·         Sarah Blacker was born and raised in Wellesley, Massachusetts and upon graduating from Wellesley High School chose to stay in the area, attending Berklee College of Music. While at Berklee Ms. Blacker studied classical vocal performance and Music Therapy, a form of expressive therapy in which therapists use music to help clients improve their mental and physical health. She worked full-time in the field upon graduation from Berklee and continues on a part-time basis in order to balance with her music career. It is only fitting that her message is, "Songs save lives."
·         Since 2009 Sarah Blacker has released three albums and an EP, and her new record In Waves is slated for an April 21st release through a Pledge Music campaign. She also took home the 2013 New England Music Award for Female Performer of The Year and her music has been featured on MTV's Jersey Shore and FriendZone.

·         If you would like to attend WUMB Member Concerts you can become a member today here or by calling the membership office at 617-287-6902.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Celebrating Women In Music: Tina Turner

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlight author, singer, actress and dancer, Tina Turner. 

Tina Turner is one of the great soul singers of all time, a powerful performer bursting with passion and sex appeal. She also has a story of overcoming an abusive relationship with her former partner Ike Turner.

Tina Turner achieved massive professional success with her 1984 album, Private Dancer, which sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. Since that time, she has continued to top the pop music charts with subsequent recordings, has won countless awards, was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and has starred in several films. In July 2013, she also married her longtime boyfriend Erwin Bach.

Tina Turner was born Anna Mae Bullock on November 26, 1939, in Nutbush, Tennessee. Her parents, Floyd and Zelma Bullock, were poor sharecroppers, who, early in her life, split up and left Turner and her sister to be raised by their grandmother. When her grandmother died in the early 1950s, Turner moved to St. Louis, Missouri, to be with her mother.

Barely in her teens, Turner quickly immersed herself in St. Louis's R&B scene, spending much of her time at Club Manhattan. It was there, in 1956, that she met rock-and-roll pioneer Ike Turner, whose band the Kings of Rhythm was a fixture at the club. It wasn't long before Turner was performing with the group, and she quickly became the highlight of their show.

In 1960, when another singer failed to show up for a Kings of Rhythm recording session, Turner sang the lead on a track titled "A Fool in Love." The record was then sent to a radio station in New York, and was released as "Ike and Tina Turner." The song became a huge R&B success, and soon crossed over into the pop charts. Before long, the group was touring as the Ike and Tina Turner Revue and became known for their electrifying stage performances. The group also capitalized on the success of "A Fool in Love" by releasing a string of successful follow-up singles in 1961, including "It's Gonna Work Out Fine," "Poor Fool" and "Tra La La La La."

With their popularity growing, Ike and Tina were married in Tijuana, Mexico, in 1962, and two years later their son, Ronnie, was born. The couple now had four sons in all including three from prior marriages.

In 1966, Tina and Ike's success reached new heights when they recorded the album River Deep, Mountain High with superstar record producer Phil Spector. The title track was unsuccessful in the U.S., but it was a massive hit in Europe and brought the duo new fame. In 1969 they toured as the opening act for the Rolling Stones, winning themselves still more fans. Their popularity continued well into the 1970s, with the group charting with tracks such as "Proud Mary" and "Nutbush City Limits." In 1975, Tina also appeared in her first film, playing the Acid Queen in the Who's Tommy.

But despite their success as a musical duo, by the mid-1970s, Tina and Ike's marriage was in shambles. In 1976, the couple separated both personally and professionally, and in 1978, they were officially divorced, with Tina citing Ike's physically abusive behavior, frequent infidelities and increasing drug and alcohol use. In the years following her divorce, Tina's solo career got off to a slow a slow start. According to Tina, when she left Ike, she had "36 cents and a gas station credit card." To make ends meet and to care for her children, she used food stamps and even worked cleaning houses. But she also continued to perform, only in lower-profile venues, and made guest appearances on other artists' records, though without achieving any notable success.

In 1983, however, Turner's solo career finally began to take off when she recorded a remake of Al Green's "Let's Stay Together." The following year, she exploded back into the record industry when her much-anticipated solo album, Private Dancer, was released to overwhelming critical and popular success. It went on to win four Grammy Awards and eventually sold more than 20 million copies worldwide. By this time, Turner had become known for her uniquely energetic performance style and raspy singing style, as well as for her signature look—typically performing in short skirts that expose her famous legs, and with voluminously styled hair.

In 1985, Turner returned to the screen, starring opposite Mel Gibson in the film Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (for which she contributed the song "We Don't Need Another Hero"), and in 1986, she published her autobiography, I, Tina, which would later be adapted as the film What's Love Got to Do with It? (Her soundtrack for the film would go double platinum.) The year 1986 also saw the release of Tina Turner's second solo album, Break Every Rule. Tina Live in Europe followed in 1988 and won the Grammy for Female Rock Vocal Performance, and Foreign Affair, which included the hit single "(Simply) The Best," outdid even Private Dancer in worldwide sales.

During the 1990s, Turner released Wildest Dreams and Twenty Four Seven. She also made several recordings for film soundtracks, including Goldeneye and He Lives in You. In 1991, Ike and Tina Turner were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Ike was unable to attend the ceremony, however, as he was serving time for drug possession (he died of an overdose in 2007).
Though she is now semi-retired, Tina Turner does make rare appearances and recordings. In 2008 she embarked on her "Tina! 50th Anniversary Tour." It became one of the highest-selling ticketed shows of 2008 and 2009. 

In 2013, it was announced that Turner, at the age of 73, was engaged to marry her longtime partner, German record executive Erwin Bach. The couple has been living together in Switzerland since 1995. In July of 2013, the couple got married in Zurich, Switzerland, only months after Turner gained her Swiss citizenship in the spring.

Friday, March 13, 2015

Celebrating Women in Music: Ani DiFranco

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlight American songwriter, singer, poet, and multi-instrumentalist Ani DiFranco. 

Ani DiFranco has been in control  of her career from the earliest days. She is a maverick whose music defies genre and description, but which identifies with the truest spirit of folk music. Her songs are often laced with profanity on topics ranging from abortion and rape, to exploitation and sexuality. She formed a record label when she was 19, and released her first album at 20. Since then, DiFranco has grown a fierce following of fans through constant touring, performing, and recording.

Ani DiFranco was born in Buffalo, New York on September 23, 1970. She learned how to play guitar as a child, and played her first show at age 9. When DiFranco was 15, her mother moved to California. Rather than accompany her, DiFranco petitioned for emancipation and stayed behind in Buffalo, living on her own. By the time she was 18 she had played every bar in Buffalo, and after a year of art classes at college, she decided to move to New York City where she worked as a nude model, kitchen helper and house painter.

In 1990, DiFranco recorded a demo and approached some record companies, but received no interest. Instead she borrowed money from friends and looted her own bank account to finance the release of her debut Ani DiFranco. She produced 500 copies on cassette, which she sold at shows, and Righteous Babe Records was born.

As word of her music spread, DiFranco began to tour extensively around the country, building a grassroots following especially among college aged fans who identified with her ability to tackle personal subjects in her songs.

Throughout the 1990’s she released a number of albums including collaboration with folksinger Utah Phillips, which involved Phillips telling stories and DiFranco laying down music behind him. Like Phillips, DiFranco tooks pride in her independence as an artist, spurning offers from major labels as her popularity grew.

DiFranco maintains that although people often think that owning her own label is about retaining maximum profits, it is really her way of maintaining her artistic freedom and control over her music. Though this may be the case, her royalty rate per album sale is often more than twice the industry standard.

Although DiFranco refers to herself as a folk singer, she's also frequently categorized as belonging to the alternative-rock genre. Her influences are broad, and her songs often incorporate elements from other musical styles, including punk, funk, classical and electronic. Many of DiFranco's songs are drawn from her personal life and experiences, but equally as often, her lyrics are feminist and political. Her music has tackled topics like war, corporate greed, sexual assault and gun control.

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Celebrating Women in Music: Yoko Ono

Sunday, March 8th was International Women's Day, an entire day dedicated to celebrating the achievements of women across the globe. Here at WUMB we are celebrating the contributions of women in music for the entire month of March. Today we highlight peace activist, multimedia artist, and songwriter, Yoko Ono. 

Yoko Ono is a controversial figure in 20th century popular culture. She is Japanese multimedia artist, singer, and peace activist, perhaps best known for being the life partner and widow of The Beatles' John Lennon . The two worked extensively on music, art, and activist causes throughout the late 60s and 1970s.

Ono was born on February 18, 1933, in Tokyo, Japan, the eldest of three children born to Eisuke and Isoko in a wealthy Japanese banking family. She remained in Tokyo through World War II, including the great firebombing of 1945. Ono was an excellent student and became the first woman admitted to study philosophy at Japan's Gakushuin University in 1952. Ono moved to New York City in 1953 to study at Sarah Lawrence College. After dropping out, she became involved in New York conceptual art movements in Greenwich Village. During the early '60s Ono's works were exhibited and/or performed at the Village Gate, Carnegie Recital Hall, and numerous New York galleries. Her work often demands the viewers' participation and forces them to get involved. Her most famous piece was the "cut piece" staged in 1964, where the audience was invited to cut off pieces of her clothing until she was naked, an abstract commentary on discarding materialism. In the mid-'60s she lectured at Wesleyan College and had exhibitions in Japan and London, where she met Lennon in 1966 at the Indica Gallery.

Lennon was taken with the positive, interactive nature of Ono’s work. He especially cited a ladder leading up to a black canvas with a spyglass on a chain, which revealed the word "yes" written on the ceiling. The two began an affair approximately 18 months later. Lennon soon divorced his first wife, Cynthia, and three days later he and Ono released Two Virgins. Because of the full-frontal nude photos of the couple on the jacket, the LP was shipped in a plain brown wrapper.

On March 20, 1969, Lennon and Ono were married in Gibraltar; for their honeymoon, they held their first "Bed-in for Peace," in the presidential suite of the Amsterdam Hilton. The peace movement was the first of several political causes the couple would take up over the years, but it was the one that generated the most publicity.

That May, in their suite at the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, they recorded "Give Peace a Chance"; background chanters included Timothy Leary, Tommy Smothers, and numerous Hare Krishnas.

In September 1969, Ono, Lennon, Eric Clapton, Alan White, and Klaus Voormann performed live as the Plastic Ono Band in Toronto at a Rock 'n' Roll Revival show. The appearance was released as Live Peace in Toronto. In October the Plastic Ono Band released "Cold Turkey", which the Beatles had declined to record.

Yoko Ono and John Lennon continued their peace campaign with speeches to the press; "War Is Over! If You Want It" billboards erected on December 15 in 12 cities around the world, including Hollywood, New York, London, and Toronto; and plans for a peace festival in Toronto.

In April of 1970, Paul McCartney announced his departure from the Beatles and released a solo LP. From that point on The Beatles were no more, allowing Ono and Lennon to focus exclusively on their own partnership.

At the time, much attention was focused on Ono's alleged role in the band's end. A racist Esquire magazine piece was an extreme example of the decidedly anti-woman, anti-Asian backlash against Ono that she endured for years to come.

In late 1970 Lennon and Ono released their twin Plastic Ono Band solo LPs. Generally, Ono's '70s LPs were regarded as highly adventurous works. In late 1971Ono and Lennon had resumed their political activities, drawn to leftist political figures like Abbie Hoffman and Jerry Rubin. Their involvement was reflected on Some Time in New York City which included some of their most overtly political releases.

On October 9, 1975, Ono gave birth to Sean Ono Lennon. Beginning in 1975, Lennon devoted his full attention to his new son and his marriage, which had survived an 18-month separation from October 1973 to March 1975. For the next five years, the couple took care of Sean while Ono ran the couple's financial affairs.

In September 1980 Lennon and Ono signed a contract with the newly formed Geffen Records, and on November 15 they released Double Fantasy. But on December 8, 1980, Lennon, returning with Ono to their Dakota apartment on New York City's Upper West Side, was shot seven times by Mark David Chapman, a 25-year-old drifter and Beatles fan to whom Lennon had given an autograph a few hours earlier. Lennon was pronounced dead on arrival at Roosevelt Hospital. At Ono's request, on December 14 a 10-minute silent vigil was held in which millions around the world participated. At the time of his death, Lennon was holding in his hand a tape of Ono's "Walking on Thin Ice."

Three months after Lennon's murder, Ono released Season of Glass, an LP that deals with Lennon's death (his cracked and bloodstained glasses are shown on the front jacket), although many of the songs were written before his shooting. Season of Glass is the best known of Ono's solo LPs; it was the first to receive attention outside avant-garde and critical circles.

In 1982 Ono released It's Alright, Milk and Honey (featuring six songs apiece by Lennon and Ono), and Starpeace. During the Starpeace Tour, Ono performed behind the Iron Curtain, in Budapest, Hungary. Following a 1989 retrospective at New York's Whitney Museum, Ono's artwork found a new audience and has since been shown continuously throughout the world. In the wake of renewed appreciation for Ono's work, a box set Onobox was released in 1992 followed by a re-release of the entire Ono catalogue. In 1994 she wrote a rock opera entitled New York Rock, which ran off-Broadway for two weeks to largely positive reviews. Clearly autobiographical, the play was a love story featuring songs from every phase of her recording career.

Ono has continued to pursue her career, recording albums, performing concerts in addition to maintaining careful watch over the Lennon legacy.