Sister Rosetta Tharpe kicked ass!
Born in March of 1915, she was a pioneer of rock and roll who first gained attention for her gospel recordings in the 1930s and 1940s. As she combined her spiritual sound with the secular, she transformed music as we know it. She was one of the first to use distortion in her guitar and slide her hand up the guitar’s neck to play the higher notes and solos. Artists she influenced include Little Rirchard, Jonny Cash, Carl Perkins, Chuck Berry, Elvis, Jerry Lee Lewis, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, and Keith Richards. When she was asked about her impact on music in the late 1960s, she said, “Oh, these kids and rock and roll — that is just sped up rhythm and blues. I’ve been doing that forever.”
Tharpe’s 1944 release “Down by the Riverside” was selected for the National Recording Registry of the U.S. Library of Congress in 2004, which noted that it “captures her spirited guitar playing and unique vocal style, demonstrating clearly her influence on early rhythm-and-blues performers.”
Her 1945 hit “Strange Things Happening Every Day” was the first gospel record to become a cross-over hit as it reached number two on the Billboard “race records” (later to be renamed the R&B chart).
Tharpe’s performances were curtailed by a stroke in 1970 after one of her legs was amputated as a result of complications from diabetes. Three years later, another stroke took her life on the eve of a scheduled recording session. She was buried in an unmarked grave in Philadelphia’s Northwood Cemetery. In 2008, a concert was held to raise funds for a marker, and January 11 was declared Sister Rosetta Tharpe Day in Pennsylvania. A gravestone was placed later that year.
More info in this documentary:
Released in 1987, “Shore Leave” was Yung Wu’s only album. However, the members of Yung Wu were incredibly active!
Yung Wu was one of three 1980s side-project bands consisting of members from the legendary group The Feelies. Dave Weckerman had joined The Feelies in 1984 as a percussionist, but on “Shore Leave” he was Yung Wu’s lead singer and songwriter. Glenn Mercer (guitar), Bill Million (guitar), Keith DeNunzio (bass), and Vinny DeNunzio (drums) retained their roles from The Feelies, and John Baumgartner was recruited to play keyboard from the (awesomely named) group Speed The Plough.
Yung Wu featured a more down-to-earth vibe than The Feelies, but “Shore Leave” retained the group’s joyful, post-punk pop that made their sound unique. Their album was out-of-print for some time until Bar/None Records reissued it last spring. You can listen to the full album below, purchase it from Amazon, and stream it on any major music service.
*Tip of the Hat* to Jason Hartley for the recommendation!
Hailing from Vancouver, P:ano was a Canadian lo-fi orchestral pop band that formed in 1999 and dissolved sometime around 2008. The band’s members consisted of Larissa Loyva, Justin Kellam, Julia Chirka, and Nick Krgovich. Each member played several instruments that varied from song to song.
I first heard P:ano in 2003 towards the end of college. Late one night I ran across a Salon.com article recommending readers to check out their 2001 debut When It’s Dark And It’s Summer. Sitting in my bedroom with headphones connected to the computer, I streamed the album’s moody first track “All Of November, Most Of October” and instantly fell for it.
At that point in my life I was editing the school’s arts & entertainment section of the newspaper. I liked it. I used that space often recommend albums, but I kept this one to myself. In the last days before I’d move on to the real world, I’d put the album on late at night to fall asleep.
P:ano released a series of other albums, but I never got into them. The Den from 2002 was focused but off-putting due to its complexity. 2005’s Brigadoon was over the top with quirkiness (though it’s grown on me because I realized it was their Pet Sounds).
The final album, the odd Ghost Pirates Without Heads also from 2005, was written & recorded in a day, and it shows.
Despite the uneven catalog, P:ano has always held a special place for me. They produced a perfect album for melancholy nights. I even slipped in “All Of November, Most Of October” into the my wedding reception.