PHOTO: BRIAN ACH/GETTY IMAGES FOR BOB WOODRUFF FOUNDATION
Bruce Springsteen Essentials: 15 Tracks That Show Why The Boss Is A Poetic Rock Icon
The reach of Bruce Springsteen's cosmovision is universal. Ahead of the launch of Bruce Springsteen Live! at the GRAMMY Museum, revisit 15 hits and beloved classics by The Boss.
More often than not, the songs of Bruce Springsteen detail with stark, poetic realism the struggles, disappointments and triumphs of the anonymous heroes that make up the very fabric of American society. But the reach of his cosmovision is universal.
On the strength of his epic melodies and superb musicianship, Springsteen became a global rock'n'roll icon — an iconic status he has maintained through a consistent body of work. These 15 tracks highlight the creative brilliance and emotional honesty of an artist who was born to be called The Boss.
The music and career of the 20-time GRAMMY winner will be the subject of a new exhibit at the GRAMMY Museum in downtown Los Angeles. Bruce Springsteen Live! launches on Sat. Oct. 15 and runs through April 2, 2023.
Born To Run (1975)
After releasing two critically acclaimed but commercially underwhelming albums, Springsteen was given a healthy budget by Columbia Records as a last chance for mainstream success. He reacted by investing his notorious perfectionism into a wall-of-sound approach on Born To Run, his first international hit. The title track is the one song that Springsteen has performed the most times onstage — a classic rock narrative about speed, freedom and broken heroes.
Informed by the energy of the punk revolution that swirled around him, "Badlands" was the ferocious opening track of Darkness On The Edge Of Town — released three years after Born To Run due to a legal dispute with his former manager. Springsteen favored a more immediate approach during the prolific sessions for this album. Striving for an aggressive sound, he recorded live in the studio with the E Street Band in order to avoid excessive overdubbing.
Hungry Heart (1980)
The River was going to be a single album until Springsteen changed his mind and continued recording a sprawling double LP that switches from party pop-rock to somber storytelling. The Boss wrote "Hungry Heart" with the Ramones in mind, but decided to keep the infectious radio hit for himself. Touches of piano and Clarence Clemons’ baritone sax anchor Springsteen's voice, which was slightly sped-up in the studio to create a Beach Boys-like effect.
The River (1980)
Springsteen composed one of his most memorable songs in a New York hotel room, right after singing Hank Williams’ "My Bucket’s Got A Hole In It." Written in honor of his sister Ginny and his brother-in-law — who was unemployed due to the recession of the late ‘70s — it features one of Springsteen’s most vulnerable performances, accompanied by a plaintive harmonica solo. When he recorded it at The Power Station, mixing engineer Toby Scott started sobbing at the console.
After completing an extensive international tour in 1981, Springsteen rented a ranch by the shore of a lake in his native New Jersey. Inspired by its solitude and the writings of Flannery O’Connor, he began working on songs about gamblers, criminals and other desperate characters in a portable 4-track recorder. Sparse and introspective, the new songs were released in their original shape, without the E Street Band. Inspired by serial killer Charles Starkweather, the opening title track sets the mood with the singer’s gravelly voice, acoustic guitar and harmonica.
Born in the U.S.A. (1984)
With its bold cover, crisp '80s sound and brave examination of the American dream, Born in the U.S.A. marked Springsteen’s commercial peak as a rollicking arena-rock star. The timing was perfect, as the musically dismal decade was in dire need of a song prophet with lyrical depth. Ironically, the meaning of the title track was misunderstood by many as a paean to America’s glory. Maybe because the lyrics of reckoning and disenchantment were coupled with a call-to-arms drum beat and his rousing vocal performance.
Dancing in the Dark (1984)
Written overnight after producer Jon Landau asked him for a surefire hit, "Dancing in the Dark" touches on Springsteen’s feelings of alienation and fatigue, as well as a desire to escape. A delicate melodic gem disguised as pop-rock concert favorite, it breathes to the sound of a synth line — hopeful, ever nostalgic — played by Roy Bittan on a DX7 Yamaha. Clemons’ solo at the end enhances the bittersweet mystique.
Brilliant Disguise (1987)
Springsteen weathered the excesses of the ‘80s admirably well. The Tunnel of Love sessions found him in a contemplative mood, performing most instruments himself with the assistance of the occasional E Street Band member. He considers "Brilliant Disguise" to be the existential centerpiece of the album, a meditation on masks and identity seeped in romantic defeat.
Streets of Philadelphia (1994)
Mournful and serene, yet backed by a bouncy drum machine loop, "Streets of Philadelphia" was written at director Jonathan Demme’s request for inclusion in Philadelphia, one of the first mainstream films to deal openly with the AIDS crisis. The singer recorded a fuller version with jazz icon Ornette Coleman on sax, but then reverted to his original, low-key demo. A masterful decision, as this solo version is one of his most vulnerable recordings.
The Rising (2002)
A soaring gospel-rock anthem, "The Rising" was written when Springsteen was almost done recording the album of the same name as a reaction to the September 11 tragedy. He felt the need to write an extra tune giving voice to one of the many heroes who died trying to rescue the victims of the attack. Filled with religious imagery, the song found him reunited with the E Street Band after 18 years.
Radio Nowhere (2007)
In 2006, Springsteen released a folk album exploring the songbook of activist and singer Pete Seeger. The following year, Magic marked an explosive return to both rock’n’roll and the E Street Band. Produced by veteran alternative-rock helmer Brendan O’Brien, opening cut "Radio Nowhere" leaps out of the speakers with its distorted guitars — a sharp contrast to the lyrics, depicting a post-apocalyptic world where all communications are down.
Working on a Dream (2009)
While putting the finishing touches on Magic in Atlanta, Springsteen started writing songs for a more hopeful album. Reminiscent of Roy Orbison, title track "Working on a Dream" talks about the concerted effort that we must invest in our daily lives in order to create a better tomorrow. He performed it live in 2008 at a rally held by Barack Obama, two days before the presidential election.
We Take Care Of Our Own (2012)
Wrecking Ball, Springsteen’s 17th studio outing, was not only a critical darling — Rolling Stone named it album of the year and the record was nominated for three GRAMMY Awards — but it also climbed to the top of the charts on both sides of the Atlantic. A song about the death of illusions, "We Take Care Of Our Own" frames his soulful vocals on a wide canvas that includes glockenspiel, subtle piano, a string arrangement and female choruses.
Hello Sunshine (2019)
It is a testament to Springsteen’s stature as one of the most talented songwriters of his generation that he continues releasing gorgeous new songs. This timeless 2019 gem is one of them. Included in the bucolic Western Stars album, it recreates the effortless sophistication of ‘60s American pop, as Bruce’s voice floats in the ethereal arrangement of strings and a melancholy pedal steel guitar.
Having turned 70 in 2019, it was only natural that The Boss would gravitate to themes of aging and loss on Letter To You, his 20th album. Focusing on a more natural, organic sound, its 12 tracks were recorded live in the studio, with everyone playing together at the same time. An uplifting rock tune that sounds like an outtake from his early days, "Ghosts" talks about the joys of being in a band — and the pain of losing old friends to the inevitable ravages of time.
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Photo: Malcolm MacNeil/Mirrorpix/Getty Images
7 Artists Influenced By The Beach Boys: The Beatles, Weezer, The Ramones & More
Ahead of "CBS Presents: A GRAMMY Salute to the The Beach Boys," take a look at the profound influence of the harmonious Southern California trailblazers of a new sound of surf-rock and good-time vibes in the 1960s.
When talk turns to the history of American pop vocal groups in the 20th century, the conversation begins — and ends — with the Beach Boys. These California siblings and their high school compadres reinvented modern music, taking listeners on a sonic journey with their melodic harmony-rich hits. More than 60 years on, the group is still considered a touchstone for today’s artists and the pinnacle of pop.
The Beach Boys formed in the Los Angeles suburb of Hawthorne in 1961. The original lineup featured the three Wilson brothers (Dennis, Brian and Carl), cousin Mike Love and high-school friend Al Jardine. Initially, Murry Wilson (the siblings father) managed the group and helped land their first paying gig: opening for Ike and Tina Turner at the Ritchie Valens Memorial Dance in Long Beach on New Year’s Eve 1961.
It was an auspicious start to the year. That summer, the teenage quintet with a joie de vivre and a love of sun, surf, and sand signed to Capitol Records. The major label deal followed the success of their first two singles: "Surfin,’" which reached No. 3 on West Coast regional charts and sold 40,000 copies, and "Surfin’ Safari." The band’s debut full-length, Surfin’ Safari, climbed all the way to No. 32 on the Billboard charts.
The Beach Boys sophomore release, Surfin’ U.S.A., came out less than six months after their debut and saw Brian Wilson experimenting more with innovative studio techniques like double-tracking vocals. The album hit No. 2 on the Billboard charts — but the band's success and innovation had far from peaked.
1964's All Summer Long capped a year when the group played more than 100 shows around the world and recorded all or parts of four albums, largely leaving the beachy parts of their sound behind in favor of new sonic textures and more personal lyrics. Released in May 1966, Pet Sounds was the high point of this experimentation and cemented the group as innovators. The intricately arranged concept album peaked at No. 10 in the U.S., but reached second spot in the British charts. The record came to represent the future possibilities of pop and signaled a shift in music-making and studio wizardry. Today, it’s considered one of the most influential albums of the 20th century due to its pioneering production and introspective lyrics.
Dozens of artists have covered the album’s most well-known song: "God Only Knows," including: Glen Campbell, David Bowie, Olivia Newton-John and Wilson Phillips. Graham Nash cites "God Only Knows" as a significant inspiration to him when first learning the craft of writing songs.
All told, the Beach Boys released 29 studio albums, 11 live recordings and dozens upon dozens of compilations. The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1988 and they have been nominated for four GRAMMY Awards. The band have impacted everyone from contemporaries like the Beatles to current indie-folk rockers Fleet Foxes. Beyond commercial success — more than 100 million records sold, four No.1 Billboard hits and more than 33 Platinum and Gold Records (the greatest hits album Sounds of Summer: The Very Best of the Beach Boys sold three million copies alone) — there are few genres these California kids have not had an influence on over the past six decades.
In advance of the April 9 television special "A GRAMMY Salute to The Beach Boys" — which features Beck, Brandi Carlile, Fall Out Boy, Norah Jones, John Legend, Michael McDonald, Weezer, Charlie Puth and Mumford & Sons — GRAMMY.com shines a light on seven artists who count these sweet-singing melody-making trailblazers as essential to their musical education.
Listen to the vocal harmonies in songs like "Paperback Writer" and the complex arrangements, orchestration and time-shifts on "A Day in the Life" and try not to hear the sonic similarities. Pet Sounds came out the year before the GRAMMY-winning Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, and early demos and acetates of the album ended up in the hands of the British band. Paul McCartney is also on record saying: "God Only Knows" is the greatest song ever written and he cries every time he hears it.
George Martin, the "fifth Beatle" and GRAMMY-winning producer who was the studio architect of some of the Fab Four’s biggest albums, heralded Wilson and acknowledged the Beach Boys' influence on Sgt. Pepper’s. "Brian is a living genius of pop music. Like the Beatles, he pushed forward the frontiers of popular music," Martin says in Charles L Granata’s book Brian Wilson And The Making Of Pet Sounds.
"There’s no greater world created in rock and roll than the Beach Boys, the level of musicianship, I don’t think anybody’s touched it yet," Bruce Springsteen said in the documentary Brian Wilson: Long Promised Road.
Listen to "Girls in Their Summer Clothes" from 2007s Magic, which sonically could have easily fit on Pet Sounds 40 years earlier. Or put on your headphones and zone out to "Hungry Heart," the Boss’ first top 10 hit and try not to hear the Beach Boys' influence in the arrangement. In the documentary, Springsteen praises Wilson, his friend and musical mentor: "[He] just took you out of where you were and took you to another place."
Surf-rock influencing punk-rock? You bet. The Ramones were well aware of, and influenced by, the SoCal music movement of the 1960s when they exploded onto the burgeoning punk scene in 1974.
The Beach Boys were one of the messiahs from the past they worshiped and looked to while crafting some of their most enduring punk rock anthems. "Rockaway Beach" was penned by bassist Dee Dee Ramone to mimic the style of the Beach Boys earliest surf-rock hits, but was sped up to match the punk rockers energy. Many of the Ramones’s song titles and lyrics — just like the California group — clung to the innocence of youth and name-dropped local attractions and experiences that kids growing up in the boroughs understood.
Take these lines from: “I Don’t Want to Grow Up” : “I’d rather stay here in my room/ Nothin’ out there but sad and gloom/ I don’t want to live in a big old tomb on Grand Street.” Remind you of the pensive “In My Room” perhaps? Or, how about "Oh Oh I Love Her So," from Leave Home? Joey Ramone sings of falling in love by a soda machine and then riding the coaster with his girl down at Coney Island all night long. The song even ends with a surf-rock riff.
Not long after moving from the East Coast to Los Angeles, Weezer’s lead singer and songwriter Rivers Cuomo bought a copy of Pet Sounds. The album would go on to influence the early days of the alternative-rock band and Cuomo’s approach to songwriting, especially on their self-titled debut.
Weezer once covered the Beach Boys' "Don’t Worry Baby" and, on the GRAMMY-nominated Pacific Daydream (2017) there’s a song called "Beach Boys." In an interview, Cuomo reflected on Wilson’s wide-ranging, everlasting influence: "To me, he’s one of the standout talents of the century or of our culture. I think I’m a pea in comparison. But I certainly emulate him as do countless others." On the forthcoming GRAMMY salute to the Beach Boys, Weezer covers "California Girls."
While his friends were studying algebra, a teenage Robin Pecknold was studying The Beach Boys — specifically how they created their complex stacked harmonies. This musical education began the foundation for his band Fleet Foxes and their approach to harmonizing and making music. In this interview on Brian Wilson’s website, the songwriter refers to the Beach Boys music as his "textbooks." "My parents bought me a four track for my1 5th birthday and I would practice stacking harmonies for hours on end," he recalled.
From the layered harmonies that open "Sun it Rises," the first track on the band’s self-titled 2008 debut, and the intricate orchestration that follows, the Beach Boys comparison is evident. Pecknold acknowledges this influence in the liner notes, writing: "Whenever I hear 'Feel Flows' by the Beach Boys, I’m taken straight to the back of my parents’ car on the way to my grandparents’ place, fourteen with Surf’s Up in my walkman and the Cascade Mountains going by in the window."
In that same interview posted on Wilson’s website, Peckhold raved about Brian Wilson's influence on him as a young musician. "I remember being so driven as a teenager by how much amazing music Brian made in his early 20s. That he was such a prodigious master of his craft, making Pet Sounds at the astounding age of 23, always pushed me to get as good as I could as a musician, as soon as I could," Peckhold reflected. "But at some point I accepted that haste is no substitute for brilliance, there is only one Brian Wilson."
And, if this is not proof enough, Fleet Foxes sampled Wilson’s voice from "Don’t Talk (Put Your Head on My Shoulder)" on the song "Cradling Mother, Cradling Woman" on 2020s GRAMMY-nominated Shore.
The French synth-rock quartet that formed in 1995 show how the Beach Boys' influence spans not only generations, but borders. This admiration for the California soft-rock sounds of the 1960s and harmonious pop is most apparent on the GRAMMY-winning band’s sixth album: Ti Amo. Just like Pet Sounds, these cerebral musicians mine the depths of human emotions on this record and find the spaces in between to shed light on what we all feel. In this piece, Phoenix discusses how Brian Wilson and the Beach Boys influenced the sunny sounds of this 2017 record that is a love letter to Europe.
The Sha La Das
Family harmonies? Check. Summer vibes? Check. Led by father Bill Schalda and featuring the sibling sounds of his three sons — Will, Paul and Carmine — this band hail from Staten Island. Growing up, the brothers often sang on the front stoop with Bill providing guidance. Later, they sang backup on the late Charles Bradley’s Victim of Love.
Listen to the old-soul and do-wop of "Summer Breeze" from the band’s 2018 debut Love in the Wind and you are transported to southern California, circa 1961, and the first time the sunny sounds of the Beach Boys came across the airwaves.
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Photo: Rebecca Sapp
New Shakira Exhibit At GRAMMY Museum Visualizes The Colombian Superstar's Voracious Creative Appetite & Global Influence
Go behind the scenes at the GRAMMY Museum's inspiring new exhibit, "Shakira, Shakira." Filled with costumes, musical equipment and listening stations, the first-ever exhibit on Shakira explores the work of "a devoted, passionate musical globetrotter."
The entrance of the enchanting "Shakira, Shakira: The GRAMMY Museum Experience" is trimmed by a golden fringe, setting the mood as Shakira's voice and music beckon you inside to admire her bedazzled artifacts. But much like the Colombian pop star herself, the exhibit is so much more than a bunch of sparkle and shine.
The first-ever exhibit celebrating Shakira, on view through winter 2024, is a multi-room immersive experience that explores her 30-plus-year career and key moments along the way. The in-depth look at her music details her disciplined, yet exploratory artistic approach, and highlights her cornucopia of global influences.
"Shakira, Shakira" reminds us of the incredible talent, passion and creativity that the "Whenever, Wherever" singer has long possessed, making it clear why the three-time GRAMMY winner and 11-time Latin GRAMMY winner is still breaking records and boundaries, decades into her career.
The entrance to "Shakira, Shakira" | Rebecca Sapp
The exhibit begins by detailing Shakira's rich roots in the Colombian city of Barranquilla, a colorful, coastal city filled with Afro-Caribbean influence and the sounds of salsa, cumbia and vallenato. Her home there was creative, musical and multicultural: Her mom is Colombian with Italian and Catalan roots and her dad is Lebanese. Fascinated by a visit to a Lebanese restaurant, Shakira began belly dancing at the age four and "cherished Arabic music as a child." She also began writing songs at 8 years old, and was encouraged by her parents to pursue her artistic passions. As a teenager working on her early records, Shakira also learned the ins-and-outs of the studio so that she could also co-produce her music.
A musical map stretching across the first room uses locales to unpack the layered influences the singer expertly folds into her global sonic quilt. It is divided into three major sections: Barranquilla, global (including rock and rock en español) and Afro Caribbean, and each explores the specific styles, genres and artists that have influenced her.
"From the very beginning, we realized this was not going to be an exhibit putting records and album covers on the wall," says exhibit co-curator Ernesto Lechner, who is also a writer for GRAMMY.com. "[With the exhibit atlas], we can talk about this woman who goes to play in Paris and performs an '80s French pop hit in French in front of the Parisian audience. How gutsy do you have to be to do that?"
At the listening stations for each region, you can explore songs from Shakira's catalog that exemplify these influences, as well as tracks that influenced her. For example, "Gypsy" on 2009's She Wolf is a tribute to India's Bhangra music and included traditional Indian instruments like the tabla and sitar.
One of the instruments on display | Rebecca Sapp
Through another fringed space, you'll hear directly from Shakira and some of her key collaborators in an exclusive new mini documentary made for the exhibit. Therein, Shakira looks back at some of her biggest moments including adorable archive footage of her performing as a kid and promoting her first album, 1991's Magia — released when she was just 14.
Shakira opened up her home in Barcelona to the museum's curatorial team, which selected a stellar collection of instruments and costumes from her tours, music videos, and photo shoots. You can admire three of her enviable, shiny guitars: the baby pink Fender covered in 20,000 pink and silver Swarovski crystals that she used on her Oral Fixation Tour in 2006 and 2007, her custom gilded Yamaha from the 2018 El Dorado Tour, and her Gibson Firebird covered in 70,000 black Swarovski crystals that she rocked at the 2020 Super Bowl halftime show.
There are also plenty of her head-turning looks on display, although it would be impossible to have all of them! The exhibit offers an up-close look at her green leaf Garden of Eden bikini from the Oral Fixation Vol. 2 cover, the red pants from her first world tour in 2002, both of her sparkly Super Bowl outfits custom designed by Peter Dundas, and more.
Shakira’s lyric journal | Rebecca Sapp
Another video features Latina music journalists discussing Shakira's most iconic music videos, which highlight themes of feminism, freedom and cross-cultural references. They point out how her iconic 2005 collab with Wyclef Jean, "Hips Don't Lie," is generally thought of as being about her body and its power, but really, it has a much deeper message. The video is a tribute to Afro-Colombian and Caribbean influence in Barranquilla and is a cross-cultural conversation between her and Wyclef, asserting their Caribbean connection and claiming the title refugee for themselves.
"I'm always upset when a musician — this happens a lot to women — is put in a little box by the general public and the mainstream press. I never liked that Shakira was always thought of as a light pop star, a pop star who's pretty and dances. I think that's such a disservice to her amazing discography and the work she has done," says Lechner. "She is a devoted, passionate musical globetrotter who has explored every single music genre that you can think of, with purity and respect, without doing any appropriation whatsoever, with a genuine love for the essence of the genres that she falls in love with."
Lechner added that Shakira has always been a musical chameleon, and in doing so, has helped popularize a variety of sounds with mainstream global audiences.
"'Ojos Así' was this seal of approval, it was this big cultural statement saying, 'I'm a hip rockera and I love Arabic music and I belly dance and I incorporate it into my music.' I think it opened the minds of so many people of my generation," Lechner added.
As you absorb all the stories about Shakira, her music and accomplishments, it’s nearly impossible to not feel inspired. It wouldn’t be a GRAMMY Museum exhibit without some interactive spaces in addition to all the education and musical artifacts. "Shakira, Shakira" features a mixing desk, where you can step into the producer's seat and practice mixing her music. There's also a TikTok booth, where you can watch Shaki's latest TikTok challenge and record yourself serving your best attempt to make your hips speak the truth.
And after you attempt to process all the jaw-dropping stats listed on the wall — like how she was the first solo female artist to chart a Spanish language song in the Top 10 of Billboard's Hot 100 and the first artist to top both Billboard's Top 40 Mainstream and Latin charts in the same week — take a seat to watch the final video, a rousing compilation of some of Shakira's best live performances over the years.
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Photo: Rebecca Sapp
6 Things To Know About Bonnie Raitt: Her Famous Fans, Legendary Friends & Lack Of Retirement Plan
During "A Conversation With Bonnie Raitt" at the GRAMMY Museum, 13-time GRAMMY winner detailed her career trajectory, history of big-name collaborations, and how her win for Song Of The Year at this year’s GRAMMY Awards was "a total surprise."
For the uninitiated, Bonnie Raitt is just an "unknown blues singer" — albeit one who managed to nab the Song Of The Year award at the 2023 GRAMMYs, plus two other trophies. But to the millions in the know, and the choice few in attendance for a chat with Raitt at the Grammy Museum on March 5, she is a living legend.
Over the course of her decades-long career, Raitt has earned 30 GRAMMY nominations, taking home 13 golden gramophones for tracks like "Nick Of Time," "Something To Talk About," and “SRV Shuffle,” as well as albums such as Luck Of The Draw and Longing In The Hearts. Last year, Raitt was awarded the GRAMMY Lifetime Achievement Award, and at this year’s ceremony, she snagged GRAMMYs for Best American Roots Song, Best Americana Performance and the coveted Song Of The Year.
Before she heads out on a tour of the western United States and Australia, Raitt sat down to chat with moderator David Wild for about two hours, musing not only about her "total surprise" about snagging the Song trophy, but also about her experience at the ceremony. It was an illuminating and downright charming experience — as well as an educational one. Here are six things we learned at "A Conversation With Bonnie Raitt."
Taylor Swift Is A Fan — And A Humble One At That
Raitt recounted being chatted up by Taylor Swift during the GRAMMYs, with Swift telling Raitt backstage that she felt okay losing Song Of The Year to her. Swift's "All Too Well (10 Minute Version)" was in competition, alongside works by Lizzo, Adele and Harry Styles.
Swift also introduced herself to Raitt, whom she’d never met, saying,"Hi, I’m Taylor." Raitt said she responded, "Ya think?" — which made the audience in the Clive Davis Theater crack up.
She’s A Master Collaborator, With More On The Way
"No one commands more respect" amongst their musical peers than Bonnie Raitt, said Wild, who's worked on the GRAMMY Awards as a writer since 2001. Whenever the show’s team has struggled to think of who could best pay tribute to someone like John Prine, Ray Charles, or Christine McVie, "the answer is always Bonnie Raitt."
That’s probably why, as Raitt noted, she’s recorded duets with more than 100 different musical acts — from Bryan Adams to B.B. King. Raitt added that she’d still love to work with Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, and H.E.R., and that fans can anticipate new collaborative work coming from work she’s done with Brandi Carlile and Sheryl Crow.
Raitt added that she’s gotten really into Unknown Mortal Orchestra lately, who she heard about through Bruce Hornsby.
She’s Learned From And Befriended Musical Masters
Raitt was effusive about her love for King, among others, saying that one of the great joys of her career has been sitting at the feet of blues greats like Sippie Wallace and Son House. The singer/songwriter expressed her gratitude for being able to help get so many of these once-forgotten masters both the attention and the pay they deserved. She cited her work with the Rhythm And Blues Foundation as being of great importance to her personally, saying that it’s vital that the roots of blues and jazz are taught in schools today.
Wild also got Raitt to open up about her friendship with legendary gospel-soul singer Mavis Staples, who toured with Raitt just last year. Calling Staples, "all the preacher I’ll ever need," Raitt said she thinks she and Staples bonded over being the daughters of famous fathers. "It’s a great honor of my life being friends with her," Raitt said of her "mutual sister."
Later, Raitt also waxed rhapsodic about another famous daughter, Natalie Cole, who she said she’d been thinking about all day.
Raitt’s Got An Independent Spirit And An Independent Label
A good portion of Wild and Raitt’s chat was devoted to the star’s career trajectory. The two detailed how, as a 21-year-old college student, Raitt signed to Warner Bros. only after they promised her complete creative control of her own indie label, Redwing.
Raitt said it was only with the help of a"team of mighty women" that she was able to go independent. She cited lessons from friends like Prine, Staples, and Jackson Browne, from whom she learned going it alone could be done successfully.
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Raitt also talked a bit about her previous GRAMMY triumphs, including her run of nominations and wins around 1989’s Nick Of Time. Her popular single, "I Can’t Make You Love Me," was originally written for Ricky Skaggs, who intended to make it a lively bluegrass record.
Raitt added that she thinks the song "Nick Of Time" struck a chord because she opened up about what it means to be getting older.
She’s Not Planning On Retiring (Or Dying) Any Time Soon
After joking that COVID lockdown felt like "house arrest" and "hibernation," Raitt said that her recent tours have been a blessing. "It feels like I was under the earth without any sunshine," Raitt says, reassuring attendees that she’s "never retiring." She said that while she’s lost eight friends in the past three or four weeks, including the great David Lindley, the 73-year-old is optimistic that she can "be here and celebrate for another couple of decades."
Raitt capped off the event doing what she loves best, teaming with long-time bassist Hutch Hutchinson for an intimate four-song set that included "Angel From Montgomery," "Shadow Of Doubt," "Nick Of Time," and the GRAMMY-winning "Just Like That." Raitt ended the evening by thanking the Recording Academy for inviting her out, joking, "I can’t believe I get to do this for a living."
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Photo: Timothy Norris/Getty Images for The Recording Academy
5 Things We Learned At "An Evening With Chuck D" At The GRAMMY Museum
The GRAMMY Museum celebrated Chuck D's debut fine art book, 'Livin' Loud,' and new PBS/BBC documentary "Fight The Power" with an insightful conversation filled with wisdom from the Public Enemy founder.
Chuck D is one of the great storytellers of our time, and a true hip-hop OG with a scholarly knowledge of the genre. A polymath creative, Chuck first came on the scene in 1985 when he and fellow Long Islander Flava Flav formed Public Enemy, signing with Def Jam the following year, and releasing their critically acclaimed debut album, Yo! Bum Rush the Show, in 1987.
Public Enemy would go on to release many important rap records with hard-hitting, poignant lyrics, like 1989’s "Fight The Power." Chuck has remained an active and uncompromising voice in hip-hop and social justice, offering his deeply resonant voice and far-reaching wisdom to rock and rap collaborations, documentaries, books and more.
In 2017, he shared his extensive expertise in his engaging rap bible, This Day In Rap And Hip-Hop History. Chuck's recently released debut fine art book, Livin' Loud: ARTitation, reveals another element of his creative power, with over 250 of his paintings, sketches and drawings along with a reflection on his creative journey.
Chuck also just dropped a four-part PBS and BBC docu-series called "Fight The Power: How Hip-Hop Changed The World," featuring interviews with a star-studded list of rappers, DJs, graffiti artists and more. The powerful series reexamines the history of hip-hop in the aftermath of the United States' racial and social justice movements of 2020, looking at injustice and resistance in the country through the experiences of its Black and Brown communities.
To celebrate the new documentary and book, Los Angeles' GRAMMY Museum held "An Evening With Chuck D," moderated by the GRAMMY Museum Education Coordinator Schyler O'Neal. The event opened with a screening of the first episode of "Fight The Power," which led into a conversation about the episode, series, and power of hip-hop and telling its stories thoughtfully, with Chuck and the show's Co-Executive Producer, Lorrie Boula. While Chuck dropped enough wisdom throughout the evening to fill another book, we've selected five big takeaways from the impactful and inspiring evening. The GRAMMY Museum conversation will be streamed online from Feb. 16 - 26, and tickets can be purchased here.
“Everybody has art in them, but not everybody can get art out of them. There’s no bad move, but you have to be able to get it out of you…today…people listen with their eyes,” Chuck said during the in-depth conversation, underscoring the importance of art in the visual age we live in. “Art is who you are. It’s your pulse. You have art in you, just be you. You can never get more perfect than a machine….The art is the human error, the mistake.”
Hip-Hop Was Born Out Of A Deeply Collaborative & Resilient Energy
The first episode of "Fight The Power: How Hip-Hop Changed The World" transports viewers back to New York City — the birthplace of hip-hop and its various cultural expressions — in the ‘60s through ‘80s, where challenging social and environmental factors proved to be fertile creative ground.
In 1975, New York was on the verge of bankruptcy. As quality of life declined, a sizable portion of the wealthier population fled to the suburbs, and more working-class people migrated to the Big Apple in search of opportunity. Residents of the Bronx, who were primarily people of color, suffered the worst from the city's qualms, including austerity cuts and harmful policies.
Amidst the dire circumstances, young people found ways to express themselves and come together. Because there were fewer cops patrolling the Bronx in the '70s, the city became the canvas for graffiti artists, and parties wouldn't get shut down. And this was how hip-hop was born; the early hip-hop parties were discos in the streets. "Hip-hop was disco's bastard child," one of the artists in the episode says with a laugh, explaining that turntables were the only instruments they had access to, since music programs were cut from schools.
“There were no constraints at this time, it was like a pot of cultural get down,” Chuck said of these foundational years of hip-hop, later adding, "As you see in episode one, it’s a collective movement…so we have more people than the usual suspects in our show.”.
Boula added that it was important to them to not only focus on the struggles, but to also show the side of the Bronx that wasn't televised. "We didn’t want to just focus on the oppression… You can try to oppress people, but they will find their f—ng joy. And we wanted to tell that story too."
Chuck D Was An Illustrator & Never Meant To Be A Rapper…
“1960, I was born and raised to make art,” Chuck said in one of many smile-inducing, mic drop moments. Chuck always drew, and entered the New York-wide student art contest every year — and always won or placed. He went to Adelphi University in Long Island to study design and brush up on his illustration skills, and was the school's political cartoonist as a freshman.
Unfortunately, he got kicked out of school because he only attended his art classes. He appealed, and got permission from all of his professors to take their classes again, and got the chance to give it another go. He said that the reason he stuck with it was because of his vision to run a hip-hop arts department. He was unimpressed by the art on most rap records, and wanted to be the one to change it. In fact, Chuck didn't write his first poem until he was 20 years old.
…But Rick Ruben Eventually Convinced Him To Rap With Def Jam
Chuck had a show at Adelphi’s radio station WBAU and rapped to fill the air time between records. In 1984, he recorded a promo tape with himself and Flavor Flav rapping, and it became a station favorite known as "Public Enemy No. 1." Rick Ruben heard the tape and spent two years trying to get Chuck to record with the then-new Def Jam Records.
Yet it was Def Jam's eye-catching logo that made Chuck actually take the offer seriously. “In 1986 I surrendered and signed my contract to become a damn recording artist,” Chuck said.
Chuck didn't make much visual art for the next 30 years, only revisiting it when his father passed away seven years ago. "The arts led me to cover up the silence [left by my father]."
"I have so much art coming out of me, but I don’t want to just do art for art's sake," he explained. "If I see something crazy, I’m going to illustrate it," he asserted.
A War Was Stopped For A Public Enemy & Ice-T Concert
When asked by O'Neal how hip-hop has changed the world, Chuck responded: “Hip-hop has made people change their languages around…to bring them together.” Hip-hop fashion over the years and rap vernacular continue to dominate pop culture, and rap music has become the most popular genre.
Chuck then told an incredible story about how fighting during the Balkans war in Eastern Europe was paused so that Public Enemy, Ice-T (who was in the audience), and Ice Cube could bring their AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted World Tour to war-torn Croatia. For one night in 1994, locals of different beliefs and religions came together to find solace at a hip-hop show. Once the rappers and their crew crossed the border, the bombing continued, but officials felt that the concert was important enough to call for a temporary cease fire.
Chuck D Is Launching A "TikTok For Hip-hop x35"
One of the highlights of the 2023 GRAMMY Awards was the epic GRAMMY Tribute to 50 Years of Hip-Hop, a powerhouse 15-minute medley featuring some of rap’s greatest, including Chuck and Flava, who performed Public Enemy’s "Rebel Without a Pause." When O'Neal asked how it happened, Chuck responded, "Questlove called everybody," which worked because "he's like the Quincy [Jones] of hip-hop."
Speaking about the magic of all those artists spending time together, Chuck noted that he built online mp3 depository RapStation in 2001 (before MySpace!) to expand listeners’ horizons and expose them to talented rappers. RapStation still exists, offering rap news and internet radio shows, but Chuck revealed]that he will be launching a new rap app called Bring The Noise, which he described as "TikTok for hip-hop x35."
Bringing together all his epic stories, threads and themes of the evening like only Chuck D can, he said: "We curate man. That’s what I’ve always wanted to do, curate art."
"We learn how to be spectacular. Spectacle gets you in the building, but spectacular keeps you in the building," Chuck said to close things out on an inspirational note, and to a standing ovation. "Spectacular keeps you coming back from more…so that when you disappear there’s a mark left that’s missed…so make your mark, take it seriously."
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