McKinley Morganfield

… was born 99 years ago today. We know him as Muddy Waters.

And how important was Muddy Waters to early Rock?

You’ve heard of The Rolling Stones, and “Like a Rolling Stone,” and Rolling Stone magazine. All named for Waters’ early hit, “Rollin’ Stone.”

Muddy Waters transformed the soul of the rural South into the sound of the city, electrifying the blues at a pivotal point in the early postwar period. His recorded legacy, particularly the wealth of sides he cut in the Fifties, is one of the great musical treasures of this century. Aside from Robert Johnson, no single figure is more important in the history and development of the blues than Waters. The real question as regards his lasting impact on popular music isn’t “Who did he influence?” but – as Goldmine magazine asked in 2001 – “Who didn’t he influence?”

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Call March 25th What You Will

I’ll call it a national holiday.

Because it is Aretha Franklin’s birthday.

She’s 72.

Aretha Franklin is the “Queen of Soul” and the first woman inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. She is a singer of great passion and control whose finest recordings define the term soul music in all its deep, expressive glory.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame

Johnny Cash

A few weeks ago I read Robert Hilburn’s biography of Johnny Cash, an interesting if somewhat longish and discouraging look at the Man in Black.

Today at Open Culture there was a link to the first episode of Cash’s music-variety show. The program from June 7, 1969, included guests Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Doug Kershaw. And the Carters, of course. Not a bad way to visit 45-year-old music history.

In Any Civilized Nation March 2nd Would Be a National Holiday

Miles Davis began recording “Kind of Blue” on this date in 1959.

Kind of Blue

It’s anniversary of the birth of Lou Reed (1942).

The influence of the Velvet Underground on rock greatly exceeds their sales figures and chart numbers. They are one of the most important rock and roll bands of all time, laying the groundwork in the Sixties for many tangents rock music would take in ensuing decades. Yet just two of their four original studio albums ever even made Billboard’s Top 200, and that pair – The Velvet Underground and Nico (#171) and White Light/White Heat (#199) – only barely did so. If ever a band was “ahead of its time,” it was the Velvet Underground. Brian Eno, cofounder of Roxy Music and producer of U2 and others, put it best when he said that although the Velvet Underground didn’t sell many albums, everyone who bought one went on to form a band. The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, the Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, U2, R.E.M., Roxy Music and Sonic Youth have all cited the Velvet Underground as a major influence.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Author Tom Wolfe is 83 today.

“I can’t read him because he’s such a bad writer,” Irving said of Wolfe. When Solomon added that “Bonfire of the Vanities” author Wolfe is “having a war” with Updike and Mailer, Irving dismissed the notion out of hand: “I don’t think it’s a war because you can’t have a war between a pawn and a king, can you?”

Irving described Wolfe’s novels as “yak” and “journalistic hyperbole described as fiction … He’s a journalist … he can’t create a character. He can’t create a situation.”

Salon Books

Author John Irving is 72 today.

Reached through his publisher, Wolfe responded in writing. “Why does he sputter and foam so?” he asked about Irving. “Because he, like Updike and Mailer, has panicked. All three have seen the handwriting on the wall, and it reads: ‘A Man in Full.'”

If the literary trio don’t embrace “full-blooded realism,” Wolfe warns, “then their reputations are finished.” He also offers Irving some additional literary advice: “Irving needs to get up off his bottom and leave that farm in Vermont or wherever it is he stays and start living again. It wouldn’t be that hard. All he’d have to do is get out and take a deep breath and talk to people and see things and rediscover the fabulous and wonderfully bizarre country around him: America.”

Salon Books


Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was born 110 years ago today (1904).

The Writer’s Almanac had good background in 2010.

When Geisel/Seuss was awarded an honorary degree from Princeton in 1985, the entire graduating class stood and recited Green Eggs and Ham. At one time Green Eggs and Ham was the third largest selling book in the English language — ever.