In the tumultuous year of 1968, the world was ablaze with social and political upheaval, and the music of the time resonated deeply with the spirit of change. As we reflect on the sounds that defined this pivotal era, it’s impossible not to be swept away by the eclectic mix of genres and emotions that filled the airwaves. From soulful ballads to psychedelic rock anthems, the music of 1968 was a reflection of the turbulent times in which it was created.
One cannot delve into the musical landscape of 1968 without acknowledging the timeless classics that continue to capture hearts and minds today. Marvin Gaye’s “I Heard It Through the Grapevine” remains a soulful testament to the power of love and betrayal, while The Beatles’ “Hey Jude” stands as an enduring anthem of hope and resilience. Meanwhile, Otis Redding’s “(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” evokes a sense of quiet contemplation amidst the chaos, its melancholic melody lingering long after the last note fades away.
The year also saw the rise of revolutionary artists who pushed the boundaries of conventional sound and style. Jimi Hendrix’s electrifying rendition of Bob Dylan’s “All Along The Watchtower” redefined the possibilities of guitar-driven rock, while Sly & the Family Stone’s “Dance To The Music” infused funk with a vibrant energy that transcended racial and cultural divides. Steppenwolf’s “Born To Be Wild” became the anthem of a generation, capturing the restless spirit of rebellion that coursed through the veins of youth around the world.
Each track on this playlist is a testament to the power of music to unite, inspire, and console, even in the darkest of times. Let us remember the year that was 1968 and the enduring legacy of the artists who helped shape it.
Born into poverty in Arkansas during the Great Depression, the life journey of Johnny Cash, the iconic country music legend, was a rollercoaster of triumphs and tribulations. Yet, one constant thread ran through it all: his sense of responsibility and compassion for his fellow humans.
Cash’s musical contributions are legendary. His hits like “Ring of Fire” and “I Walk the Line” resonate across generations. But it’s not just the catchy melodies or poetic lyrics that set him apart. Cash’s raw authenticity and ability to capture the human experience made him a true troubadour. His songs weren’t mere entertainment; they were anthems of rebellion, redemption, and resilience.
The classic “Folsom Prison Blues” deserves special mention. Inspired by a movie he saw while stationed in Germany, Cash penned this song from the perspective of an inmate. He stepped into the shoes of the forgotten, the incarcerated, and sang their pain. His live performances at Folsom Prison and San Quentin Prison weren’t just concerts; they were messages of hope. Cash believed in rehabilitation over punishment, advocating for counseling and reclassification of offenses. His empathy for prisoners fueled his lifelong commitment to prison reform.
Cash also championed Native American rights, especially through his haunting song, “The Ballad of Ira Hayes.” The tragic tale of a Pima Indian who raised the flag at Iwo Jima only to face discrimination back home struck a chord with Cash. He used his platform to amplify voices that society often silenced.
From the rebellious spirit of “A Boy Named Sue” to the spiritual depth of “God’s Gonna Cut You Down,” Johnny Cash’s music transcends time. It’s the voice of a man who understood pain, redemption, and the human condition. Let’s honor Johnny Cash—the Man in Black—by not only tapping our feet to his tunes but also by carrying forward his spirit of empathy, justice, and love for all.
George Harrison, the lead guitarist of the legendary band The Beatles, left an indelible mark on the world of music and philanthropy. Born on February 25, 1943, in Liverpool, England, Harrison’s creative genius extended far beyond his iconic slide guitar playing. Let’s delve into his remarkable contributions and the profound impact he had on both the music industry and humanitarian causes.
While John Lennon and Paul McCartney often took center stage, George Harrison’s quiet brilliance elevated The Beatles’ sound. His compositions, such as “While My Guitar Gently Weeps” and “Here Comes the Sun,” showcased his ability to blend intricate melodies with soulful lyrics. Harrison’s solo debut album, All Things Must Pass, remains a timeless masterpiece, earning its place on many lists of the 100 best albums ever recorded.
George Harrison’s commitment to making the world a better place was unwavering. In 1971, he organized the groundbreaking Concert for Bangladesh, a multi-artist benefit event that raised funds for refugees displaced by war and famine. The concert featured luminaries like Bob Dylan, Eric Clapton, and Ravi Shankar, emphasizing music’s power to effect change.
Harrison’s philanthropic efforts extended beyond charity concerts. He established the Material World Charitable Foundation in 1973, supporting diverse artistic expressions and alternative life views. His passion for peace and social justice resonated through his music and actions. As the first Western musician to explore Eastern spirituality, he bridged cultural gaps and introduced Indian sounds to the world.
Harrison’s fascination with Indian culture blossomed during the filming of Help! (1965), a quirky movie that playfully parodied cultural norms. Amidst the irreverence, he discovered India through a sitar played by one of the film’s Indian musicians. This encounter ignited his lifelong love affair with Indian music and philosophy. The sitar-infused tracks like “Within You Without You” and “The Inner Light” stand as testament to his cross-cultural exploration.
George Harrison’s legacy extends far beyond his guitar strings. His commitment to spiritual harmony continues to inspire generations. As we listen to his timeless tunes, let’s remember the man who not only shaped musical history but also championed a better world—one note at a time. 🎵🌍
Steely Dan’s Walter Becker was obsessed with a tiny sound glitch on the album Katy Lied and flew to a 3M factory in Minnesota to find out the cause. It turned out to be a blot of dried mustard on the tape. Duh!
The late Walter Becker was born on this date in 1950. Lots of Steely Dan on today’s playlist.
Smokey Robinson is one of the most influential and beloved figures in the history of American music. He is not only a legendary singer, songwriter, and producer, but also a humanitarian who has used his fame and fortune to support various causes.
William “Smokey” Robinson was born in Detroit, Michigan, in 1940. He grew up in a musical environment, listening to the likes of Nolan Strong, Hank Ballard, and Jackie Wilson. He formed his first vocal group, the Five Chimes, while in high school, and later changed their name to the Miracles. He met Berry Gordy Jr., the founder of Motown Records, in 1957, and became one of his first artists and collaborators. He also suggested the name Motown, in honor of the Motor City.
The Miracles gave Motown its first number one hit with “Shop Around” in 1960, and went on to score many more classics, such as “You’ve Really Got a Hold on Me,” “The Tracks of My Tears,” “I Second That Emotion,” and “The Tears of a Clown.” Smokey Robinson was the lead singer and the main songwriter of the group, as well as a prolific producer for other Motown acts, such as Mary Wells, the Temptations, the Supremes, and the Marvelettes. He wrote and produced some of the most iconic songs of the Motown era, such as “My Guy,” “My Girl,” “The Way You Do the Things You Do,” and “The Hunter Gets Captured by the Game.”
Smokey Robinson left the Miracles in 1972 to pursue a solo career, and continued to create hits, such as “Quiet Storm,” “Cruisin’”, “Being with You,” and “One Heartbeat.” He also became the vice president of Motown, and helped to nurture the careers of new artists, such as Lionel Richie, Rick James, and Teena Marie. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame twice, as a solo artist and as a member of the Miracles. He also received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award, a Kennedy Center Honor, and a Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for his contributions to popular music.
Smokey Robinson has written and sung some of the most romantic songs ever. He has also shown his love for humanity by supporting various charities and causes, such as the Barbara Davis Center for Childhood Diabetes, the Boys & Girls Clubs of America, the Elton John AIDS Foundation, the Gabrielle’s Angel Foundation, the Miami Children’s Hospital Foundation, UNICEF, and the United Negro College Fund. He has also invested in his hometown of Detroit by donating to the Motown Museum and supporting arts and music programs for young people.
Smokey Robinson is a living legend who has enriched our lives with his music and his love. He is a role model for aspiring artists and a source of inspiration for generations of fans. He is a treasure of American culture and a gift to the world. Let us celebrate his legacy by listening to thirty of his best songs as a vocalist, which are featured in the playlist below. Enjoy!
Dr. Dre is one of the most influential figures in hip-hop history. As a rapper, producer, and entrepreneur, he has shaped the sound and culture of rap music for over three decades. He is also a philanthropist who has donated millions of dollars to various causes, especially in the fields of arts, technology, and education. However, he is not without controversy, as he has faced accusations of misogyny and violence against women throughout his career. In this blog post, we will explore the achievements and challenges of Dr. Dre, and how his music reflects his life story.
Dr. Dre was born Andre Romelle Young in 1965 in Compton, California, a city notorious for its gang violence and poverty. He began his musical career as a DJ and a member of the electro group World Class Wreckin’ Cru in the early 1980s. He then joined forces with Eazy-E, Ice Cube, MC Ren, and DJ Yella to form N.W.A, a group that pioneered what became known as gangsta rap and brought the realities of the streets to the mainstream. Their second album, Straight Outta Compton (1988), was a landmark in hip-hop, featuring songs like “Fuck tha Police,” “Express Yourself,” and the title track, which showcased Dre’s production skills and the group’s raw and rebellious lyrics.
However, N.W.A soon fell apart due to internal conflicts and legal disputes. Dre left the group and co-founded Death Row Records with Suge Knight in 1991. He released his solo debut album, The Chronic, in 1992, which introduced the G-funk style, a subgenre of rap that used heavy samples of funk music, synthesizers, and melodic hooks. The album was a huge success, spawning hits like “Nuthin’ but a ‘G’ Thang,” “Let Me Ride,” and “Dre Day.” It also featured the debut of Snoop Doggy Dogg, who became one of Dre’s most frequent collaborators and protégés.
In 1996, Dre left Death Row Records after a violent incident with Knight and founded his own label, Aftermath Entertainment. He faced some initial setbacks, as his first compilation album, Dr. Dre Presents: The Aftermath, received mixed reviews and sales. However, he bounced back in 1999 with his second solo album, 2001, which was another commercial and critical hit. The album featured songs like “Still D.R.E.”, “Forgot About Dre,” and “The Next Episode,” which reaffirmed Dre’s status as a rap icon.
Dre also established himself as a prolific and influential producer, working with artists such as Eminem, 50 Cent, The Game, Kendrick Lamar, and many others. He helped launch the careers of some of the biggest names in rap, and earned multiple Grammy Awards and accolades for his production work. He also expanded his business ventures, co-founding Beats Electronics, a company that produces headphones, speakers, and streaming services. In 2014, he sold the company to Apple for $3 billion, making him one of the richest and most powerful figures in the music industry.
Despite his success and fame, Dre has also faced criticism and controversy for his treatment of women. He has been accused of assaulting and abusing several women, including his former girlfriend Michel’le, TV host Dee Barnes, and rapper Tairrie B. He has also been called out for his misogynistic lyrics, which often degrade and objectify women. Some of his songs, such as “Bitches Ain’t Shit,” have been seen as glorifying violence and rape against women.
Dre has apologized for his past actions and expressed regret for his mistakes. He has also tried to distance himself from his violent and sexist image, and focus on his positive contributions to society. He has donated millions of dollars to various causes, such as the USC Jimmy Iovine and Andre Young Academy for Arts, Technology and the Business of Innovation, which he co-founded with music executive Jimmy Iovine in 2013. The academy aims to foster creativity and innovation among students from diverse backgrounds and disciplines. He has also supported other initiatives, such as the Compton High School Performing Arts Center, the Global Fund, and the Michael J. Fox Foundation.
Dr. Dre is a complex and controversial figure, who has both inspired and offended millions of people with his music and actions. He is a rap legend, a musical genius, and a business mogul, who has changed the course of hip-hop and popular culture. He is also a flawed human being, who has made mistakes and hurt others, and has supposedly tried to atone for his sins. He is a man behind the beats, who has a story to tell, and a legacy to leave behind. Today’s playlist consists of 30 examples of his best work, either as a rapper, producer, writer, or some combination thereof.
A used unwashed black t-shirt worn by Green Day’s Billie Joe Armstrong during the promotion of the band’s American Idiot album sold for $2500 at a charity auction, with the proceeds going to the Oakland School of the Arts. I would love to dispose of my laundry pile the same way, but I doubt anybody would pay more than $400 for my sweat-stained socks.
Billie Joe Armstrong was born on this date in 1972. Tracks from his band are included on today’s playlist.
The Weeknd is one of the most successful and influential artists of the 21st century. His music spans genres from R&B to pop to new wave, and his lyrics explore themes of love, loss, addiction, and identity. He has won multiple Grammy Awards, sold over 75 million records worldwide, and set several streaming and Billboard chart records. Beyond his musical achievements, The Weeknd is also a generous and outspoken philanthropist who supports various causes around the world.
The Weeknd was born Abel Makkonen Tesfaye in Toronto, Canada, to Ethiopian immigrant parents. He grew up speaking Amharic, one of the two main languages of Ethiopia, and attended an Ethiopian Orthodox church as a child. His cultural roots have influenced his music and his philanthropy. In 2016, he donated $50,000 to the University of Toronto to help establish an Ethiopian studies program. In 2021, he donated $1 million to the United Nations World Food Programme to provide meals for people affected by the conflict in the Tigray region of Ethiopia.
The Weeknd has also shown solidarity with other communities in need. In 2020, he donated $300,000 to Global Aid for Lebanon to help the victims of the Beirut explosion, which killed more than 200 people and injured thousands more. He also donated $500,000 each to the MusiCares COVID-19 Relief Fund and to frontline health workers at Scarborough Health Network, the health care network in his hometown. Additionally, he has been a vocal advocate for racial justice and social change. He has donated to organizations such as Black Lives Matter, the Equal Justice Initiative, and the Colin Kaepernick Know Your Rights Camp Legal Defense Initiative. He has also used his platform to raise awareness and call for action on issues such as police brutality, systemic racism, and human rights violations.
The Weeknd’s music reflects his passion and his vision. His songs often feature collaborations with other artists from different backgrounds and genres, such as Daft Punk, Kendrick Lamar, Ariana Grande, and ROSALÍ. His albums showcase his artistic evolution and experimentation, from the dark and gritty House of Balloons to the bright and more pop-oriented After Hours.
The Weeknd is more than just a musical star. He is a humanitarian star who uses his talent and his influence to try to make a positive difference in the world. Thirty of his best tracks are in the playlist below. Hit play and enjoy The Weeknd!
In late 2002 I had credit card points that were about to expire so I ordered a bunch of CDs by artists whose music I had not heard, which included Lifted or The Story Is in the Soil, Keep Your Ear to the Ground by Bright Eyes, which turned out to be a good choice. The album’s title is a reference to a quote by William S. Burroughs: “The story is in the soil, lift it up, anything can happen.”
Bright Eyes’ Conor Oberst was born on this date in 1980. Lots of tunes from Conor are included on today’s playlist.
Joy Division and New Order are two of the most influential bands in the history of rock music. They emerged from the punk scene of the late 1970s and evolved into different styles and genres, leaving behind a legacy of timeless songs and albums.
Joy Division was formed in 1976 by four young men from Manchester, England: Ian Curtis (vocals), Bernard Sumner (guitar), Peter Hook (bass), and Stephen Morris (drums). They were inspired by the energy and attitude of the Sex Pistols, but they soon developed their own distinctive sound and vision. Their music was dark, atmospheric, and haunting, reflecting the bleakness and alienation of their industrial surroundings. Their lyrics were poetic, complex, and literary, dealing with themes such as love, death, isolation, and mental illness. Curtis, who suffered from epilepsy and depression, delivered his vocals with a deep, expressive, and sometimes erratic voice.
Joy Division released two albums in their short career: Unknown Pleasures (1979) and Closer (1980). Both are considered masterpieces of post-punk, a genre that emerged after the initial wave of punk and experimented with new sounds and influences. Joy Division’s songs, such as “Love Will Tear Us Apart,” “Atmosphere,” “Transmission,” and “She’s Lost Control,” are among the most iconic and influential of the era. They also created a distinctive visual identity, with minimalist and abstract album covers designed by Peter Saville.
Joy Division’s career was tragically cut short by the suicide of Curtis on May 18, 1980, the eve of their first American tour. His death shocked and saddened the music world, and also mythologized the band as a symbol of intensity and authenticity. Joy Division’s music has inspired countless artists across genres and generations, from U2 and Radiohead to Nine Inch Nails and The Killers.
After the death of Curtis, the remaining members of Joy Division decided to continue making music under a new name: New Order. They were joined by Gillian Gilbert, a keyboardist and guitarist who added a new dimension to their sound. New Order’s music was a radical departure from Joy Division’s. They embraced synthesizers, drum machines, and dance music influences, creating a fusion of rock and electronic music that was groundbreaking and influential. Their music was also more upbeat, colorful, and optimistic, reflecting their personal and artistic growth.
New Order released several albums throughout the 1980s and 1990s, each one exploring new musical directions and possibilities. Their most famous and successful song is “Blue Monday,” a 1983 single that is the best-selling 12-inch record of all time. The song is a synth-pop masterpiece, with a catchy melody and a pulsating rhythm. Other notable songs by New Order include “True Faith,” “Regret,” “World In Motion,” and “Bizarre Love Triangle.” New Order’s music has influenced many artists in the fields of synth-pop, techno, house, and alternative rock, such as Depeche Mode, Pet Shop Boys, The Chemical Brothers, and LCD Soundsystem.
Besides their musical achievements, Joy Division and New Order have also been involved in various philanthropic efforts. One of their most notable contributions was their participation in the Artists Against Apartheid project, a campaign that aimed to raise awareness and funds for the anti-apartheid movement in South Africa. In 1986, New Order recorded a song called “State of the Nation,” which denounced the racist regime and expressed solidarity with the oppressed people. The song was released as part of an album called Conspiracy of Hope, which also featured songs by U2, Sting, Peter Gabriel, and others. The album was a benefit for Amnesty International, a human rights organization that works to end injustice and abuse around the world.
Joy Division and New Order also supported the Hacienda, a legendary nightclub in Manchester that was owned by their record label, Factory Records. The Hacienda was a cultural hub that hosted many famous bands and DJs, such as The Smiths, The Stone Roses, Madonna, and Happy Mondays. It was also a place where people of different backgrounds, races, and sexual orientations could mingle and enjoy music and dancing. The Hacienda was a pioneer of the rave culture, which promoted peace, love, and unity through electronic music. However, the club also faced financial and legal troubles, and eventually closed in 1997. Joy Division and New Order donated much of their royalties and profits to keep the club running, and also performed there several times.
Joy Division and New Order are two bands that have made a lasting impact on music and culture. If you want to listen to some of their best songs, check out this playlist.