Interesting news in the world o’ music this week. It reminds us of the immediacy of music and the effect those that practice it have in our lives.
• At a star-studded fundraising concert for the victims of Superstorm Sandy in New York Wednesday, Sir Paul McCartney, former Beatle, stood in for the late Kurt Cobain to front Nirvana.
Nirvana, as we all know, was the revolutionary band which brought grunge to the forefront of music in the early 1990s.
Wednesday’s performance with McCartney was Nirvana’s first re-union since Cobain’s suicide in 1994.
It was all right — a sort of kinder, gentler Nirvana. But I couldn’t help thinking that it would have been even better if had been the eternally angry, unhappy, iconoclastic John Lennon standing in for the eternally angry, unhappy, iconoclastic Kurt Cobain. It’s been said before that being in a band like Nirvana would have suited Lennon’s temperament and personality more than being a heart-throb Beatle. His songs, like Cobain’s, were like raging in code.
• Fourteen years after becoming eligible, Canadian rock band Rush finally got its nomination for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, despite a 40-year career’s worth of bias against them from bastions of western snobbery like Rolling Stone magazine. One asks if the rock music “establishment’ disliked Rush because a) their music was classed as “progressive rock,” or “art rock,” or b) because they were Canadian. Americans don’t seem to like Canadian musicians unless they move to Los Angeles, or Woodstock, New York. In any case, there aren’t many Canadian bands who can boast a 40-year career and still be selling out stadiums. In fact, there aren’t any Canadian bands besides Rush who can boast that.
For the record (no pun intended), I bought Rush’s very first album hot off the presses when I was in Grade 8. I played it over and over on a plastic, portable mono record player, and lent it out to all my friends.
Rush joins fellow Canadians the Band (inducted 1994), Leonard Cohen (inducted 2008), Joni Mitchell (inducted 1998) and Neil Young (inducted 1995) in the Hall.
• We should all be excited that Canadian composer Mychael Danna (born in Winnipeg) is nominated for a Golden Globe award, for his music on “Life Of Pi,” a beautifully shot, beautiful sounding movie currently showing in Cranbrook. Danna will probably be up for an Oscar as well, joining fellow Canadian composer Howard Shore (“Lord of the Rings”) in the ranks of Oscar contenders. It is good to have those two words — “Canadian” and “composer” — in the same sentence.
By the way, Danna is recognized as one of the pioneers of combining non-Western sound sources with orchestral and electronic minimalism in the world of film music.
• Speaking of recognition long overdue, Carole King became the first woman to win the Library of Congress’s Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. Carole King has been writing songs and performing for 50 years. The prize was created in 2007. King is the fifth recipient.
It’s been decades since it has been a “man’s man’s man’s world,” to cite James Brown, but only recently does the world seem to be taking those first steps to recognizing the still vastly underrated influence of women in music, in the lists of prize winners, “best ofs,” and “greatest evers.”
• One of the colossi of world music, Ravi Shankar, died this week. The sitar virtuoso gave us all an education in Indian music, putting a little more raga into our pedestrian majors and minors, the mondo modal. Coincidentally, the day he died I watched a recent documentary on George Harrison — those Beatles again — and Ravi Shankar figured largely.
The last time I saw someone play that exotic instrument was in Cranbrook, at the very first Locals concert I attended at the Studio Stage Door. The band Stone Addison incorporated a sitar into their hard rock set. Thus Ravi Shankar helped make the world a smaller, better place.