Archive for ‘History’

February 12, 2012

RIP Whitney – How Will I Know Cover By Nicki Bluhm

Whitney Houston was a complex figure.  She had huge success and then plummeted quickly and deeply.  She was hugely popular, and extremely talented.  She was dogged by the press, and often became a caricature of herself.  A victim of addiction, it’s hard not to think of the recent death of fellow diva Amy Winehouse.  Houston was a huge force in the music world.  She won 2 Emmys, 3 Grammys, and 30 Billboard Music Awards.  We don’t yet know the cause of death, but she was was too young at only 49. Her death is sad and unexpected.

I was really touched by this sweet little cover of Houston’s hit song, “How Will I Know” by guitarist and singer Nicki Bluhm.  Hopefully you will be too.

January 20, 2012

Rock Hall Is Opening A Library

The Rock N’ Roll Hall of Fame is opening its archives to the public.  They have an extensive list of books including biographies and literary criticism, as well as audio and video recordings.  I like to bag on the Rock Hall, but the archives look pretty cool.

A biography of Joan Jett is one of the over 3,500 books on the shelves at the newly-opened Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum Library and Archives in Cleveland.

Read more here…  or visit the Rock Hall archive site here.

January 8, 2012

Sister Rosetta Tharpe Documentary On Youtube

This morning I stumbled upon a BBC documentary about gospel singer and guitarist Sister Rosetta Tharpe.  It looks like the thing is posted on Youtube, but I’m wondering if it’s somehow available as a DVD.  She’s someone I’ve been wanting to learn more about for some time, so I’m pretty excited.  The documentary is part of privatefender‘s channel – there’s quite a bit of interesting stuff up there.  Most of the documentary is posted to Youtube, although it appears the end or final section is missing.

Here’s the first section of the Rosetta Tharpe doc.  And here, too, is a piece on Tharpe’s influence on Elvis.

December 4, 2011

Twelve Amazing Guitarists Who Didn’t End Up On Rolling Stone’s Stupid List


You may have heard that Rolling Stone released the issue with “the list.” I’m not positive how often they do this – if it’s every year, or every other year. But of course, there are two women on it this year. Interestingly enough, they had a few women on the panel of voters.

I never know what to think of Rolling Stone’s list. I do know that Rolling Stone, in general, seems to be behind the times on what is going on in music. They tend to feature artists after they are already extremely popular. They get scooped on most artists by magazines like Magnet or Venus — these indie mags do much better on up and comers. The list itself is subjective, and was created by a panel of guitarists.

And…I love most of the male guitarists who are on the list. Men like Lee Ranaldo, J. Mascis, Mike Campbell, and Tom Verlaine — I listen to their music on an almost daily basis. I love these guys and think they deserve recognition. But it’s interesting that someone like, say, Jack White makes it on there. He’s admittedly a great guitar player, but the list skipped women like Wanda Jackson, who White has held up as one of his influences.

I’m going to say more about these artists later, but since it’s topical now I thought I would just go ahead and throw some names up here. This list is not definitive, but it is a list of women guitarists who I think are spectacular.

1. Elizabeth Cotten — created the alternate picking style now called Cotten picking.
2. Chrissie Hynde of the Pretenders
3. Wanda Jackson
4. Joan Jett – who has been on the list before but didn’t make the cut this year
5. Nancy Wilson of Heart — who was on the panel of voters for Rolling Stone but didn’t make the list
6. Mary Timony of Helium and Wild Flag
7. Ruyter Suys of Nashville Pussy
8. Poison Ivy of The Cramps – Ivy’s style was simple, but she’s influenced countless numbers of guitarists and bands. Plus, she looked way better while playing than any of the guys on Rolling Stone’s list. Style’s gotta count for something…
9. Carrie Brownstein
10. Viv Albertine, formerly of The Slits
11. Kristin Hersh
12. Thalia Zedek

This list isn’t extensive, and it could have included any of the other women who have been on this blog. Rebecca Gates is excellent. So is Sarah Register. So are Marnie Stern and Alex White. Amy Klein! There are the female “shredders” like Orianthi and Jacqueline Mannering. Ani Difranco. Amy Ray and Emily Saliers. Joan Armatrading. Kaki King. PJ Harvey. Sister Rosetta Tharpe!  I could go on. I guess what I’m really trying to say about the Rolling Stone list in particular and lists like this in general is this. It’s the age of the internet. When I was a teenager, you still had to read magazines to find out information about music. Or at least zines. But now you just have to do a Google Search. So ignore Rolling Stone. Go find a woman you know who plays guitar and ask her something about her influences, or what she likes to play.

June 25, 2011

Bitch Magazine Blog Entry

Nice history lesson over on Bitch Magazine blog.  It’s a short run-down of songs originally recorded by black artists, and later covered by caucasians.  It includes a mention of the legendary Odetta Holmes.

March 10, 2011

Elizabeth Cotten Page on Smithsonian Folkways

I was messing around today on the Smithsonian Folkways website.  They have a really nice page on Elizabeth Cotten, including photos, sound clips, and video.

From the Folkways website:

Elizabeth “Libba” Cotten (1895-1987), best known for her timeless song “Freight Train,” built her musical legacy on a firm foundation of late 19th- and early 20th-century African-American instrumental traditions. Through her songwriting, her quietly commanding personality, and her unique left-handed guitar and banjo styles, she inspired and influenced generations of younger artists.


Elizabeth Cotten

January 17, 2011

Martin Luther King, Jr. Day!

Guess who was pals with MLK?  Joan Baez was!

I found some great photos of Baez at the 1965 Selma to Montgomery, Alabama Civil Rights March.

From Corbis Images


January 13, 2011

Our first guitarist: Larissa Strickland

Larissa Strickland, born Larissa Stolarchuk, was the guitarist for the Laughing Hyenas, a noise rock band active from 1985 to 1995.  She joined the Hyenas after playing  with the Detroit band L-Seven (not to be confused with the LA-based L7).   In the height of her career, she garnered fans throughout the underground music scene, becoming known as one of the most interesting and innovative players of her era.  Sadly, she died of a drug overdose in 2006.

Larissa Strickland called her, “An absolute MONSTER of a guitar player and was pretty much untouchable as one of the great late 80’s/early 90’s players. Hands down.”

And here’s the proof.  Larissa, of course, is the woman with the guitar in the pink dress with the cigarette hanging out of her mouth.

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