Brooklyn Roads Newsletter

ROCKIN' WITH THE BEEP: Marty Markowitz’s Musical Legacy
ROCKIN’ WITH THE BEEP: Marty Markowitz's Musical Legacy
BACK IN THE DAY: This Month in Brooklyn Music History
Volume 1, Issue 1
Editor- David K. Moseder
Publisher- Howard B. Leibowitz

Introducing…. Our first all music, all Brooklyn newsletter for Brooklyn and Beyond!!

Celebrity Interviews! New Artist Profiles! Contests! Brooklyn Music Venue Picks!

What exactly is it about Brooklyn that intrigues the planet? Is it the water, the air, the bridge, the trees, the parks, the beaches, the boardwalk or the streets?  More likely it’s the steady stream and mix of a diverse citizenry who have added their talents, voices and dreams to everything else that Brooklyn was, is and will become. No one can really explain what has inspired artists over the centuries or why people of so many places around the globe have been taken with the Brooklyn mystique. Even those who left the borough long ago are Brooklynites still and so many have made an indelible mark on the world of music.

Now that Brooklyn has finally become “respectable” and a hot bed of musical creativity, we started this newsletter to give our readers a one stop music resource. We’re planning on having an interview in each issue with a group or individual who is from Brooklyn and has made a contribution to the art of music culture, while our “Artists on the Horizon” will give you a peek at some very talented, but as yet undiscovered Brooklyn musicians. “Back In The Day” will surprise you with a capsulated cornucopia of Brooklyn’s contributions to the world of music and “Brooklyn Voices” will contain an overview of Brooklyn music and events. If you’re truly in the Brooklyn know, you’ll also have a chance to test your knowledge.

This first issue starts out with a bit of a historical musical journey with Brooklyn’s number one music booster, Marty Markowitz, our energetic Borough President. Marty has given us a look into why and how he started his now legendary Brooklyn concerts. In future issues, we plan to explore the legacies of Brooklyn’s music luminaries, shining our spotlight on the best and brightest.
As our first newsletter goes out to virtual press, we’d like to invite you to participate in what is envisioned as a vibrant way of musically connecting all the moving parts of the greater Brooklyn community. We’ll look to you to let us know how we’re doing in our “Say What?” feature and by your participating in our contests and by supporting the musicians, venues and music organizations who call Brooklyn home.

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Past Issues
 Volume 3, Issue 6
 Volume 3, Issue 5
 Volume 3, Issue 4
 Volume 3, Issue 3
 Volume 3, Issue 2
 Volume 3, Issue 1
 Volume 2, Issue 3
 Volume 2, Issue 2
 Volume 2, Issue 1
 Volume 1, Issue 3
 Volume 1, Issue 2
 Volume 1, Issue 1


ROCKIN' WITH THE BEEP: Marty Markowitz's Musical Legacy

Marty MarkowitzBorn and raised in Crown Heights, Marty Markowitz is Brooklyn’s biggest cultural booster. The Borough President is widely known for creating two of New York City’s largest and longest-running free concert series: the Seaside Summer Concert Series in Coney Island and the Martin Luther King Jr. Concert Series in Flatbush. No one has worked harder to make Brooklyn synonymous with great music. It is fitting, therefore, that we feature Marty as he prefers to be known, in our inaugural edition.

Like so many kids growing up in the '50s and '60s, Marty Markowitz fancied himself a rock star. “I wanted to be Elvis Presley. I even bought a guitar when I was 12 or 13, but didn’t have the ability.” He did, however, have the ability for organization and promotion, skills he would later use to bring the music he loved to the borough he loves.

The opportunity first presented itself in August of 1979, during his first year as a State Senator. “On my way home from Albany, I was passing by Midwood Field, across from Edward R. Murrow High School, and it struck me that maybe I could do music there,” he says. “I figured I might stage free outdoor concerts during the summer.” He could and did, producing shows on a shoestring using money from his own pocket to supplement funding from what is now the Brooklyn Arts Council.  “For the first two years we hired unemployed musicians, paid by the government, and featured local acts such as the Waldo Brass Ensemble.” Overcoming rain, technical glitches and other woes that happen at outdoor events, the concerts proved popular.

The Stars Come Out

Midwood Field Concert SeriesIn 1981, “I broke into show business,” Marty quips, when the concert series landed its first major star: big band legend Cab Calloway. With the success of the Calloway concert, “I knew what direction I wanted to go in,” he says. “I wanted to make it ‘Las Vegas in Brooklyn.’ The concerts would be about yesterday, not tomorrow, focusing on the music of  the’ 50s and ‘60s.” The series was expanded from four shows to eight, and featured such ‘50s icons as the Andrews Sisters, Peter Duchin, Dinah Shore, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughn and Andy Williams. The rock ‘n’ roll era would soon be represented by the likes of America, Chubby Checker, Fabian, Bobby Rydell, Three Dog Night and Bobby Vinton.

The Beat Goes On

In the summer of 1983 Marty launched the hugely popular Martin Luther King Jr. Concerts at Wingate Field, booking R&B and soul acts geared to younger African-American and Caribbean-American audiences, reflecting the increasing ethnic diversity of his legislative district. “The MLK concerts tend to draw more current entertainers and larger crowds,” he notes, adding that, “We booked Mark Anthony before anyone really knew who he was.” Last year’s headliners included Keyshia Cole, Anita Baker, the O’Jays and Ruben Studdard.

In 1991, the original oldies series was moved to Asser Levy Park and renamed the Seaside Summer Concert Series which Marty says “is wonderful for Coney Island. We had our best year in 2009,” he adds, citing a lineup that included Pat Benatar, Blondie, Gladys Knight, Hall & Oates and Donna Summer. 

“Only in Brooklyn do you get concerts with this caliber of nationally celebrated talent for free,” he says proudly. “I walk around. You see people transfixed, for a few hours their troubles and challenges, they just give it up for the pure sheer enjoyment of it all.” Citing some of his personal favorite highlights, Marty says there was electricity in the air the first time Paul Anka performed  and that Liza Minnelli was “magic…everyone’s eyes were riveted on her.” Rosemary Clooney was another crowd pleaser, Frankie Valli “always dazzles,” and when Eddie Fisher performed, “women, most of them in their 60s, stormed the stage and threw their panties.” 

The Future’s So Bright

Marty says he would like to attract more current top-selling artists to Asser Levy Park, but, in addition to meeting their monetary demands, “artists will only come to venues that are commensurate with their level of talent” and the park’s current lack of bathrooms and dressing rooms, among other amenities, has been a detriment. Going forward, he is hopeful that the proposed renovation of Asser Levy Park will make it more attractive to contemporary artists, even if it means charging admission for some of the bigger names.

“The entertainment industry recognizes Brooklyn as a valued venue, but we still don’t have a facility worthy of a major entertainment hub,” he says. “We need a year-round venue relevant to performers’ needs.”   Toward that end, Marty has spearheaded a plan to restore the long-dormant Loews King Theater on Flatbush Avenue and convert it into a music haven to rival Manhattan’s Beacon and Apollo theaters. There is much work to be done, but Markowitz is optimistic that the restored and revitalized theater will host its first concert before he leaves office in 2013.

Cradle of Creativity

Meanwhile, he sees no end to the cornucopia of talented performers emerging from, or settling into, Brooklyn’s neighborhoods. From classical composer Aaron Copland to rappers like Jay Z and Buster Rhymes – with a myriad of pop and rock stars in between – the borough has a long, proud musical heritage. “Brooklyn has an edge,” Marty explains. “We have an attitude and an extraordinary ethnic diversity here that generates a unique creative energy and brings out the best in these performers.”

Marty’s all-Brooklyn-artists dream concert would spotlight Neil Diamond, Carole King and Barry Manilow. He’d also add Lena Horne, were she still performing, and would grant Tina Turner honorary Brooklyn citizenship to put her on the bill as well. We don’t know if any of these will be showing up on a Brooklyn stage this year, but Marty is already hard at work planning this summer’s entertainment – and we’re sure they’ll be some very pleasant surprises.

ARTISTS ON THE HORIZON: Sweet Soubrette - Heed This Siren's Call

Sweet Soubrette: Heed This Siren's CallSweet Soubrette front woman Ellia Biskertook up the ukulele because, with her small hands, “It’s easy to reach the chords, which helps me to compose songs.” She found the instrument to be a mixed blessing. “I am grateful that it made me stand out and opened doors for me, but there’s the danger of being pigeonholed as a novelty act.”

The Sweet Soubrette CD “Siren Song” is certainly no novelty, but is indeed a standout. Its spare arrangements, often featuring Ellia accompanied only by her ukulele, call attention to her beguiling voice, alternately (and often simultaneously) vulnerable and seductive, and to her lyrics, which range from wry and smart to disarmingly poignant. She sings convincingly as a temptress on “Homewrecker” and the title track, and moves the listener with “songs of doomed romance” such as “Tears That I’ve Cried” and “Unlucky in Love” that never slip into self-pity. She can even sing a love song to her ukulele without a hint of irony.

Ellia moved to Brooklyn six years ago, where she found the interaction with people in its well-populated neighborhoods to be inspiring. “Serendipity is dense in Brooklyn,” she says, “It’s so easy to make things happen here.” After receiving a ukulele as a gift in 2005, she soon took advantage of the open-mike nights at local clubs and played her first official gig in the Bindlestiff Family Circus' variety show in spring 2006. She has since performed at several festivals and New York music venues, and has become a regular participant in the Brooklyn music scene, including Jalopy in Red Hook.

Ellia is currently working on the next Sweet Soubrette CD, “Days and Nights, which will feature a full band and have “a fuller sound, a little more rocking, more bite.”  

BACK IN THE DAY: This Month in Brooklyn Music History

Notorious B.I.G. - Life After Death1961: Clay Cole’s Easter Parade of Stars is the last of the annual 10-day holiday rock ‘n roll extravaganzas at Brooklyn’s legendary Paramount Theater. Over the years, the concert series, originally launched in 1955 as Alan Freed’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Easter Jubilee, featured dozens of rock’s greatest performers, including Brooklyn’s own Little Anthony & The Imperials and Neil Sedaka. In 1962 the Paramount was bought by LIU and converted into a gymnasium/sports arena.

The Crystals’ Uptown begins its ride to number 13, the second of what would become a half dozen top 20 hits, making them the most successful of the era’s “girl groups.”

Neil Diamond cements his reputation as a songwriter when the Monkees’ rendition of A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You climbs to number two on the charts just weeks after the Diamond-penned I’m a Believer’s seven-week reign at number one earlier in the year.

Harry Chapin rides onto the charts for the first time as his iconic ballad Taxi begins a nine-week run in the Top 40.

: Rapper Notorious B.I.G.’s ironically titled CD, Life After Death, rises to the top of the charts and stays there for five weeks. The double album was released the previous month shortly after the Bedford-Stuyvesant native’s passing.

In the musical marriage of the decade, Bed-Stuy’s own Jay-Z weds Beyonce Knowles at a private ceremony.


Citizen Cope - The RainWater LP2010 is already shaping up as a banner year for Jay Z. The Bed-Stuy born rapper picked up his 9th and 10th Grammy Awards in January, won Best International Male Solo Artist at the Brit Awards last month and graced the cover of the February issue of Interview magazine...Citizen Cope's first new album in four years, The RainWater LP, is now available in stores on CD and vinyl. His concert at the Brooklyn Bowl in February sold out in three days…We Both Live in Brooklyn, Babe is the signature song from Frank Hoier‘s well-reviewed CD Making Lovers & Dollars, which NPR calls “a memorable collection of Americana songs with a rock and roll energy”…Dana Fuchs  has just finished mixing 15 tracks at Cowboy Technical Studios in Williamsburg with engineer Tim Hatfield ….Sharon Jones & The Dap Kings new album, I Learned The Hard Way, comes out this month.…Notable Quote: “You don't have to live the blues to play the blues. “ – Brooklyn-born jazz legend Herbie Mann.

Johnny Maestro (center) with Freddie Ferrara (left) and Les Cauchi (right) of The Brooklyn Bridge at a 2006 show.

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