Volume 4, Issue 1 Publisher- Howard B. Leibowitz
Editor- David K. Moseder
Managing Editor – Emma Hernandez
Contributing Editor - Elizabeth Siegal
Contributor - Adina Bernstein
Events Editor - Jamie Brooks
All music…. All Brooklyn !!
Marching into a Musical Month
Cold weather got you down? Can’t feel your nose, toes, and everything in between? Well grab your fish oils and a glass of milk to stop that Vitamin D deficiency and remind yourself of why you stick it out through these cold New York months: the music, of course! While the reliability of the snow-filled and freezing forecasts has proven shaky, we can certainly guarantee a (early) spring in your step with the upcoming musical events throughout our favorite borough.
In an update to our recent report of the new Kings Theater restoration and opening, a proper baptism by fire was performed at the venue on February 3rd by the legendary Diana Ross in the most supreme fashion. Hoping to become a premiere arts center for both popular artists and the community of Brooklyn, the theater boasts an impressive set list for the upcoming months, including performances by the talented Sarah McLachlan, the ever- eclectic Björk and the Jersey boy himself, Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons, all in the month of March. As we get closer to summer, the theater will host a diverse group of acts, such as electronic favorites, Passion Pit, and Kensington resident Sufjan Stevens in May, sure to impress music aficionados both young and old.
For the insatiable ear, embrace your inner-feminist, when the Brooklyn Museum hosts “Women Changemakers,” for their Target First Saturday series. Included in this diverse night of hands-on art, multiple workshops, and film are the sounds of Alissia and the Funketeers, Princess Nokia, the singer and voice behind the Smart Girl Club radio show and the DJ duo JSMN and MeLo-X, spinning reggae, dancehall, hip-hop, house, and electronic music. Of course, there is crowd favorite BAM, which features a special Taiko drum ensemble, Kodo, alongside a dance and instrumental performance from March 19th-21st, as well as the Music Hall of Williamsburg, who hosts artists Brandi Carlile, Milky Chance, and Brooklyn natives The Lone Bellow, all during March.
And, just as the memories of summer nights become but waning dreams, the announcement of BRIC’s annual Celebrate Brooklyn! at the Prospect Park Bandshell has finally restored our faith in temperatures above freezing. The premature set-list includes a wide variety of artists, from the fabulous funk of Chaka Khan to folk artist Damien Rice, New York indie natives Interpol, and the always soothing Willie Nelson. We can feel the cool breeze on our sun-kissed skin already…
So don’t fret fellow Brooklynites. With so much to look forward to, let’s make good of Punxsutawney Phil’s endless wintery forecast and start planning our upcoming musical months today. Just make sure to avoid the ice when you dance along in preemptive excitement to your buzzing headphones.
Brooklyn Background Helps Nora Guthrie Keep Her Father’s Legacy Alive
Woody Guthrie once said, “All you can write is what you see.” Now folks can experience what the folk music legend wrote about with the new walking guide, “My Name Is New York: Ramblin' Around Woody Guthrie's Town”. The guide is the latest brainchild of Nora Guthrie, musician, artist and keeper of the flame of her father’s legacy. Guthrie told Brooklyn Roads that her upbringing made her feel “that I could do just about anything I wanted to in the arts”.
Throughout her childhood, she and her siblings (including big brothers Arlo and Joady) were exposed to just about every existing art form. “Some we took to more than others, but we were taught to at the very least ‘know’ what all the art forms were about. Over the years, I’ve done some of these professionally–dancing, clothing design, songwriting, record producing, concert producing, book editing, book designing,” Guthrie said. “Nowadays, it also helps me work comfortably with artists in each of these genres.”
Ashes to Hot Dogs: Woody Guthrie's Final Repose
Nora, Joady , Woody and Arlo Guthrie- Coney Island 1951 Photo courtesy of Woody Guthrie Publications
After Woody Guthrie passed away in 1967, his family committed his ashes to the ocean at the beach in Coney Island. Nora Guthrie shared her feelings and reflections about that day with Brooklyn Roads.
“It was a pretty unusual day as we all improvised our way through the experience,” Guthrie said. “Not being brought up in any particular religion, we really didn’t have a plan, a regime. So, we brought my father’s ashes out to Coney Island, to the spot on the beach where we always spent our days. We wanted to throw the ashes in the ocean there, without any further ceremony.”
“It was a pretty windy day and we had a lot of trouble with the can of ashes, as it kept floating back to the shore after a few attempts,” Guthrie went on. “It could have been a Seinfeld tragic-comedy! Anyway, we finally succeeded and not really knowing if we were supposed to say anything, sing something, or have a moment of silence, my brother Joady finally asked my mom what we were supposed to do. What with all the powerful feelings, and memories, she must have been experiencing at that moment, as we looked to her for some guidance and direction, all she could do was tearfully suggest, ‘Woody would want us to go to Nathan’s.’ So, that’s what we did. We sat on the pavement, with our backs up against the wall, and quietly ate our hot dogs, fries and root beers, just as we always had done with my dad.”
“Since then, it’s always remained a somewhat spiritual experience for me to go to Nathan’s! I love that place. That’s another thing I learned that day. WE fill each or every moment, each or every object, with our love. And even a hot dog can become a powerful symbol, and memory, of great love.”
-David K. Moseder
Guthrie’s Coney Island upbringing exposed her to “just about every nationality, race, religion, and sex–right there on the beach and on the streets. So, I was always comfortable with just about everybody,” she said.
The now-shuttered Woodward School in Clinton Hill also helped shaped Guthrie’s artistic mind. “The teachers there were so creative and stressed creativity and, again, a sense of inclusion when it came to race, nationality, etc.” The music teacher–an old friend of Woody Guthrie– “taught us all the meaningful songs that are part of American folk music history, the racial equality movement and the labor movement.” Not surprisingly, “This Land Is Your Land” was a staple at the school, she said.
Marjorie Mazia Guthrie, Nora’s mother and an accomplished dancer who performed with the Martha Graham Dance Company, founded a dance studio in Sheepshead Bay in the late 1950’s. This likely influenced Guthrie’s own dance career. She told Brooklyn Roads, “At that point, I was living in the city where I had my studio and my own company for a few years. We performed a lot throughout the country and became pretty well known.”
However, Guthrie told us none of these life experiences had anything to do with, nor prepared her for, her most vital and enduring vocation: establishing and maintaining the Guthrie family archives.
“This was one of the few areas that I had absolutely NO background in. I had no idea this work would be in store for me, and it all came as much of a surprise to me, as anyone,” she said. “I was taught by a number of professionals, [especially] Jorge Arevalo Mateus, whose idea it was in the first place to preserve, catalogue, and make available my father’s writings and creative output.” After a few years, Guthrie said, “I got the knack of it, and took on the work as part of my ancestral ‘karma.’ ”
In 1994, she was invited to work at Woody Guthrie Publications, because the man who had been handling her father’s business was planning to retire. “I started out just helping out in the office, typing envelopes and filing a few papers once a week,” she told Brooklyn Roads. “My brothers weren’t involved, as there wasn’t much to do. One thing led to another and, twenty years later, “We ended up opening the archives, making records, books, films, curating exhibits and eventually opening a museum.”
That museum, the Woody Guthrie Center, would be located not in Brooklyn, but Tulsa, Oklahoma. The choice was made in part because Woody was born in nearby Okemah, Oklahoma, where “so many of his ideas and ideals were spawned.”
But there were other factors, Guthrie said. “One was that I met an incredible group of people there whom I fell in love with, and who could make the kind of magic that I had dreamed of happen. I wanted to challenge the current simplistic caricature of Oklahoma as being a ‘red’ state, a solely conservative place where new and current ideas couldn’t flourish. There are always people everywhere who are good and kind, generous, progressive, artistic, activist, in-the-now, and in-the-know. So part of my decision to set the archives in Oklahoma was to also shine some light on these great folks and help empower them.“
When Brooklyn Roads asked how and why she came up with the idea for "My Name Is New York: Ramblin' Around Woody Guthrie's Town”?, Ms. Guthrie told us that “Like everything else I’ve done, that came out of a need. People would come to the archives, like tourists from other countries, and ask me where Woody lived, or where he wrote This Land or whatever. In the beginning, we used to just handwrite an address or two and give them directions! Then, we had to mimeo a few sheets because there were more than one or two address. Finally, the larger ‘My Name Is New York’ came out of a pretty simple desire to answer people’s questions. There was a void, and I just wanted to fill it in a simple and friendly way.”
Woody Guthrie’s works are woven into the fabric of American culture. “My Name Is New York” is a piece of that cloth that Brooklynites and Guthrie fans alike will want to explore.
Erel Pilo grew up in a house where music was a constant. Her father, who was also a musician, introduced her to the classics at a young age–Pink Floyd, the Beatles and Eric Clapton. VH1 was always on the TV and she grew up loving Debbie Gibson and Paula Abdul. As a teenager, she discovered the strong female artists of the 90s like Fiona Apple and Alanis Morissette, and went through a Billie Holiday phase. Now, her influences are varied. She listened for drum structure in Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly” and the inventive texture in Gotye’s “Somebody That I Used to Know.” and applied those elements to her latest song, “Appetite for Love.”
The song was produced with Phil Carroll, from the non-profit Recording Artist Development organization. The hour-long recording session was a prize Pilo won at the Winter 2014 Open Mic singing contest at Wicked Willy’s in Greenwich Village, hosted by RAD. The organization provides up-and-coming singer-songwriters with recordings of their work, career development and artistic support. Pilo placed in second for her original song “Balloon.”
The Israeli-born, Brooklyn-based singer-songwriter says living in the “Borough of Trees” affects her as a musician in a positive way. She says it’s because Brooklyn is a vibrant musical ground and she senses a strong support of original music in the community.
“I've traveled to other cities and performed my originals, and just got the sense that people did not know what to do with original music,” Pilo told Brooklyn Roads “It was only when I started playing covers that I connected with that crowd. In Brooklyn, there really seems to be a hunger for new songs and that helps me as an artist to create new work.”
Brooklyn’s community of musicians is also where Pilo’s other project got its’ start. When she’s not working on her solo music, she’s playing in the band TR3S Leches with pals Lyndol Descant and Dez Gutierrez, a friendship that started two years ago at the Bar 4 open mic scene in Park Slope, which has since closed. Pilo credits it as the place she cultivated friendships with a number of local artists, many of whom she’s worked with and learned from at some point during her career.
Pilo is currently working on new ideas for songs focused on the humanity of living in the digital age with indie synth-pop rock group, Analog Friends. She’s also learning jazz standards and bossa nova tunes to add to her repertoire, as well as new originals. Her newest single, “Appetite for Love,” is set for a March 2015 release.
REVIEW: Ladysmith Black Mambazo at Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts
Ladysmith Black MumbazoPhoto by Arnie Goodman
Four time Grammy winners Ladysmith Black Mambazo have been performing for over six decades under the tutelage of founder and musical director Joseph Shabalala, who recently announced his retirement. They became world wide names when their signature harmonies were featured on Paul Simon’s “Graceland” and went on to work with high profile artists including Stevie Wonder, Dolly Parton and Michael Jackson .The nine member acapella group, who are from South Africa, brought their unique brand of world music and message of unity to the Brooklyn Center for the Performing Arts, warming the hearts and souls of winter weary Brooklynites.
Just before show time, elder statesman Albert Mazibuko and newest member, Babuyile Shabalala, Ladysmith manager Mitch Goldstein and Brooklyn Center Director Jon Yanofsky held an intimate talk session and provided insight into their formative days and a glimpse of upcoming projects. They recorded “Amabutho”, their first album, in just one day and told Brooklyn Roads that their newest one, “Always With Us”, took just two to complete, a remarkable feat, in view of the complexity of vocalizations inherent in their music. The group’s work regimen typically includes four hours of rehearsals each day, one of the reasons their performances have a pinpoint melodic cadence that captivates audiences.
Ladysmith Black Mambazo plans to bring “Inala”, a Zulu ballet, featuring world class dance and live music to North America later this year. Babyuile Shabalala recently formed Young Mbazo, a contemporary offshoot of Ladysmith, with grandfather Joseph Shabalala’s blessing. Their sound is described as a “blend of traditional South African Zulu Isicathamiya singing style, with a hip-hop, R&B, jazz and soul influence” which they call “Indigenous Hop” music.
The stage was bathed in subdued lighting, with warm colors that complimented their dashikis during their two hour, fourteen song performance. Laden with expertly choreographed dance and gymnastic routines, highlights included “Ofana Naye”, from their 2013 Grammy winning album “Live :Singing For Peace Around The World” , “Thalaza” and “Diamonds On The Soles of Their Shoes” and “Homeless” from the Graceland album.
The entire evening was an enriching, spiritual and magical experience that you’ll ’want to share in, if you haven’t done so yet. So be on the lookout for “Inala” and Young Mbazo when they make their way here.
-Howard B. Leibowitz
BACK IN THE DAY: Brooklyn Music Milestones
March 11, 1972: Brooklyn Heights’ own Harry Chapin releases his first studio album, Heads & Tales. Featuring his brother Steve Chapin on keyboards and fellow Brooklynite Timothy Scott on cello, the LP includes the iconic song Taxi.
March 17, 1972: Harry Nilsson’s rendition of Without You completes a four-week run as the top single in the U.S. The Bushwick native’s only number one hit will remain in the top 40 for five more weeks.
March 28, 1995: The release of Return to the 36 Chambers: The Dirty Version marked the solo debut of East New York native Ol’ Dirty Bastard, following his departure from Wu-Tang Clan. The album will peak at number seven on the Billboard 200 and number two on the Top R&B/Hip-Hop charts.
April 8, 1985: Ellie Greenwich’s autobiographical musical, Leader of the Pack opens on Broadway at the Ambassador Theater. Starring Greenwich herself and fellow Brooklynite Annie Golden (The Shirts), as well as pop legend Darlene Love, it features more than a dozen hit songs and originals written or co-written by Greenwich, including Be My Baby, Baby I Love You, I Can Hear Music and the title tune, all sung by Golden; Greenwich’s own renditions of Maybe I Know and Da Doo Ron Ron, and several numbers by Love.
April 8-14, 1955:Alan Freed and His Rock ‘n Roll EasterJubilee -- the first of the legendary deejay’s 19 holiday extravaganzas at Downtown Brooklyn’s Paramount Theatre -- features local sensations The Three Chuckles along with The Penguins and La Vern Baker, among others.
April 17, 1976: Shannon, Sha Na Na co-founder Henry Gross’s only top 10 solo hit, reaches number six on the Billboard singles charts. Twenty-eight years later the song reaches a new audience when it is included on the soundtrack of Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy.
April 28, 1979: Co-written by Midwood native Chris Stein and his bandmate/soulmate Deborah Harry, Heart of Glass becomes Blondie’s first number one single. Stein would later give much credit for the song’s success to Jimmy Destri, the group’s Boro Park-born keyboard player, for his synthesizer work and use of a CR78 drum machine.
-David K. Moseder
Congratulations to Brooklyn’s newest Grammy Award winners: Angelique Kidjo (Best World Music Album, Eve) and St. Vincent (Best Alternative Music Album, St. Vincent)… The latter was also the fourth biggest vote-getter in the Village Voice Pazz+Jop Poll, while Sharon Van Etten’sAre We There was The Voice’s number 15 album…St. Vincent, Van Etten and Lana Del Rey (Brooklyn Baby) will represent Brooklyn at the Governors Ball Music Festivalon Randall’s Island in June…Sufjan Stevens’ highly anticipated new album, Carrie & Lowell, is slated for a March 31 release digitally, on CD, and on both black and clear vinyl. The Michigan native has lived in Kensington for the last several years and he also has an office in DUMBO…The Lone Bellow’s tour in support of their new album, Then Came the Morning, will include a concert at Music Hall of Williamsburg (March 26) and a gig in Las Vegas at – where else? – Brooklyn Bowl. The group calls Park Slope home and the album’s producer, The National’s Aaron Dessner, lives in Ditmas
Park…Matt and Kim are set to release their fifth album, New Glow on April 7. The video of Get It, the first single from this latest effort by the Williamsburg duo, has garnered more than a quarter of a million views since its mid-January release…Hot on the heels of their recent Drum Wars Live! CD, legendary rock drummers (and New Utrecht High School alumni) Carmine Appice and Vinny Appice say they are planning to take their show on the road again later this year, playing songs they have performed with the likes of Black Sabbath, Ozzy Osbourne, Dio, Rod Stewart and others. Carmine is currently touring with Vanilla Fudge in support of their new album of covers, Spirit of ’67…And getting back to the Grammys, Joan Rivers’ win for Best Spoken Word Album (Diary of a Mad Diva) was music to our ears. We only wish it wasn’t awarded posthumously.
Notable Quote: “I didn't really care what Lieber and Stoller thought of my songs. They didn't like 'em, but [Williamsburg native] Doc Pomus did. Doc's songs, they were better… This Magic Moment, Lonely Avenue, Save the Last Dance for Me. Those songs broke my heart. I figured I'd rather have his blessings any day than theirs.” –Bob Dylan, excerpted from his MusiCares Person of the Year acceptance speech.
Lesley’s Gore Is Gone -- and We’ll Cry If We Want to
For many boomers, Brooklyn-born, Lesley Gore, who passed away on February 16 at the too-young age of 68, holds a firm place in the soundtrack of our lives. In the 1960s she captured the essence of teen-age angst (It’s My Party, She’s a Fool), vengeful glee (Judy’s Turn to Cry), denial (Maybe I Know) and resignation (That’s the Way Boys Are). Then there’s You Don’t Own Me, which has come to be regarded as an early feminist anthem; the Grammy-nominated Sunshine, Lollipops and Rainbows;and her last top 20 single, California Nights, a version of which she sang as Catwoman’s would-be protégé on TV’s Batman.
The hits did not keep on coming, but Gore persevered, releasing a few albums in the ‘70s and eventually becoming a popular attraction on the oldies circuit. Along the way she teamed with her brother, Michael Gore, to write some music for the movie Fame. One of those was the Oscar-nominated Out Here on My Own, which lost to Michael’s title theme for the film.
In 2005 Gore came out as a lesbian and released an excellent, critically acclaimed comeback album, Ever Since. The 10 tracks include four originals and an updated version of You Don’t Own Me with a twist in the last verse: “You don’t own me … and I don't own you.” And if you want to hear a decidedly different side of her, go on YouTube and listen to her kick-ass rendition of AC/DC’s Dirty Deeds Done Dirt Cheap.
Rest in peace, Lesley Gore -- and thank you for inviting us all to your party.
Necrology: Brooklyn Artists We Lost in 2014
The show biz career of Greenpoint’s own Mickey Rooney spanned 88 years. Along the way he got to show off his musical chops in a series of Hollywood films such as Babes in Arms, Strike Up the Band, Babes on Broadway and Girl Crazy; as a singing Kris Kringle in the animated Santa Claus Is Coming to Town and on Broadway in more than 1,200 performances of Sugar Babies.
Brownsville native Mitch Leigh composed the music for the long-running, Tony Award-winning musical Man of La Mancha; the show yielded the iconic song The Impossible Dream.
Four years before garnering the first of his five Oscar nominations, struggling Flatbush-born screenwriter Paul Mazursky co-created the Emmy Award-winning TV series, The Monkees. It was not only a major boost to his career, but would also generate royalties for a spate of Brooklyn songwriters, including Neil Diamond, Neil Sedaka, Harry Nilsson and the teams of Gerry Goffin – Carole King and Barry Mann – Cynthia Weil. Mazursky was a graduate of Thomas Jefferson High School and earned a BA from Brooklyn College. Among other Brooklynites who left us last year were Gerry Goffin and Joan Rivers, to whom we paid tribute in Brooklyn Roads Volume 3, Issues 4 and 5, respectively.