Music

Neil Young On World Cafe

Jun 24, 2016

Every time Neil Young joins World Cafe, he seems to have a different project he's excited about — and it's not always a new album. He's been telling us about his PONO digital music player and download service for a while, and he returns to that topic in today's conversation.

Keyboardist and composer Bernie Worrell, who helped shape the sound of the band Parliament-Funkadelic and influenced countless artists across a wide range of genres, died Friday at 72.

Worrell announced earlier this year that he had been diagnosed with late-stage lung cancer.

Musician and composer Frank Zappa was a lot of things: biting satirist, ferocious critic of societal norms, outspoken defender of free speech. He saw himself as not only an entertainer, but also a serious composer. And he saw no contradiction in being all of these things at once, to the consternation and confusion of the many journalists who interviewed him.

Truth be told, when I saw the opening of this video, with Phaedra & Elsa Greene donning sunglasses and coordinated stars and stripes outfits, it felt trite: then the words kicked and the tone of the video along with my attitude, changed.

"America bleeds
The tears of a clown
Seeing stars
Behind bars."

I want to take a moment to remember and appreciate Bernie Worrell, the former keyboard star of Parliament-Funkadelic who is dying from cancer as I write this.

One of my favorite new artists of the year, Japanese Breakfast blends elements of shoegaze, power pop and even early-2000s emo in her work. She sounds as much like Evanescence as she does Miracle Fortress.

Each year dozens of new artists become part of my life soundtrack. Last year Courtney Barnett, Soak, Ibeyi, Girlpool and many more all became a huge part of my listening for the year and some wound up on my final top ten list.

This year, Lucy Dacus, Big Thief, Margaret Glaspy, Mothers, Overcoats and Weaves are all part of my everyday listening, and are all artists making a debut either with their first album, EP or very first songs.

Let's hear it for part-time punks: the musicians who go to work by day so they can get to work at night, and who give the man 40 hours a week rather than let him dictate the terms of their art. It's a sacrifice most of us won't make to pursue our passions, especially when it's so much easier to consume than create.

Before he turned twenty-five, Van Morrison had written a rock and roll standard ("Gloria"), essayed arguably the greatest-ever Bob Dylan cover ("It's All Over Now, Baby Blue" — both with Them), made a top-ten American hit ("Brown Eyed Girl") and recorded two very different, very compatible LP masterpieces, Astral Weeks and Moondance — the former concerned with "childhood, initiation, sex, and death," per Greil Marcus in Stranded, the latter with rebirth, experience, love and living for its own sake.

Bob Boilen is the man behind NPR's All Songs Considered and the Tiny Desk concert series, which takes place at his desk. Needless to say, he's always in search of new music; last year alone, he saw more than 400 bands live.

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