Ska Greats The Selecter Talk 40th Anniversary & Why Greta Thunberg Is "The Most Together Person On The Planet"

The Selecter

Photo: Dean Chalkley


Ska Greats The Selecter Talk 40th Anniversary & Why Greta Thunberg Is "The Most Together Person On The Planet"

Two founding members of the pioneering U.K. two-tone/ska group, Pauline Black and Gaps Hendrickson, speak to the Recording Academy about their celebratory tour, hopes for the future, the music that inspires them and more

GRAMMYs/Oct 2, 2019 - 02:06 am

This year, pioneering U.K. two-tone/ska group The Selecter celebrate 40 years as a band and 40 years of two-tone (they helped found the second-wave ska movement in the '70s). They came together, rather serendipitously, in Coventry, England in 1979, the same year that conservative posterchild Margaret Thatcher became Prime Minister.

The two-toners responded to the increasingly unsettled social climate through their socially charged music, with groups made up of a racially diverse—and in the case of The Selecter, gender diverse—membership. The frenetic, upbeat sound they created blended Jamaican-born ska with punk and new wave sounds and aesthetic. In 1980, not long after The Selecter was formed, they released their powerful debut album, Too Much Pressure. Every line of the title track begins with the words "too much pressure," echoing the climate of the time.

Fast forward to Oct. 6, 2017, not long after the 45th President of the United States took office and Britain first voted in favor of Brexit, 37 years after their debut, The Selecter released their 15th studio album, Daylight. The album's messages responding to the current state of affairs don't feel all that different from their debut, with coy references to hashtags.

"My mind is full, my heart is empty. / It's hard to live in a world of plenty. / The more I see, the less I feel. / You sell me dreams, but they're not real," frontwoman Pauline Black sings on "Frontline," the opening track of Daylight. "Nobody's, nobody's hashtag / ever the mighty shall fall / nobody's, nobody's hashtag / nobody's hashtag at all!" 

As anyone following the news will realize, yesterday's revolutionary music continues to resonate today. But, as founding Selecter members Black and Arthur "Gaps" Hendrickson reassure us, things have changed for the better since their debut—and will inevitably keep improving.

"You've got to remember that we're celebrating our 40th anniversary. 50 years ago, I believe, black people in this country were celebrating the birth of civil rights," Black recently told us. "That's within my lifetime, only 10 years more than when we first started and we came over here. From that point of view, things definitely have changed. They might be taking a retrogressive step at the moment, but you can definitely say that things have changed."

The Recording Academy recently sat down with Black and Hendrickson hours before they joined their bandmates for a high-energy show at the Saint Rocke in Hermosa Beach, Calif., during the U.S. leg of their anniversary tour. Read on to hear from them about their hopes for the future, what music and artists most inspire them, how the band originally came together and more.

What does 40 years of The Selecter mean to you?

Pauline Black: 40 years of The Selecter actually means that, my goodness, we've lasted this long, we've made some music that actually resonates with people still, around the world, after 40 years. I don't think that's any mean feat in that way. And it's still a work in progress. All bands are a work in progress, aren't they? You just celebrate these decades as they roll around, but this is a fairly special one because you really don't know, at the ages that we're at, whether you're actually going to see the 50th.

Gaps Hendrickson: And we'd tour places and, people said they were 15, they were too young to come to a concert and they're glad to see us. That's all encouraging news and it gives us a lot of scope to advance.

It is definitely a feat. And you're about to wrap up the 40th Anniversary Tour. What has stood out to you the most about your experiences on this tour?

Black: In America—well, we started off in Mexico. Mexico City, which was a really, really, really brilliant gig, wasn't it?

Hendrickson: Yeah, very good.

Black: It was at Sala and that was just amazing. It seems kind of weird for us because I think after the U.K., America and Germany, Mexico is our next best-selling place for records, but we haven't been there that much. We've only done festivals, so to actually go there and do gigs was quite radical really, wasn't it?

Hendrickson: Yeah, especially Mexico City. Every song got really loud applause.

Black: And they knew the words and everything, which you're not really expecting. Also, we got to look around the whole place, which is rather fabulous. We went to the Leon Trotsky Museum, that was cool. And then we went around some Aztec temples. And we did a few touristy things, which we'd never done before. Then we flew to New York and we were there on September 11, which of course was a bit of an auspicious day.

Hendrickson: That was the next best one, wasn't it?

Black: Yeah. We didn't feel as though we could let that anniversary pass of what happened in New York. We invited some of the firefighters, the first responders, via the union of the fire brigade union in London. They responded to that and we had a whole load of officials come down and the guys came down all dressed in their best dress uniform and stuff. We had them on the stage at the end for our encore when we do "Madness," because that's what it must have been like on that day. So yeah, that was a thoroughly satisfying visit there and it was a really great show too, at the Gramercy Theatre.

What have been your favorite songs this go-round to play live?

Hendrickson: At the moment, I wouldn't say I've got a favorite song.

You don't have to pick just one.

Hendrickson: Well, okay then. I do like singing "See Them A Come." I think that's one of my favorites to sing on stage. But to listen to, I would pick a song of our latest album, which is called Daylight, [the title track] is my favorite track. I would sit down and call my friends and say, "Hey, listen to this," because I think that's a great song.

Black: For me, when we were putting the set list together for this particular tour, we wanted to do a broad spectrum of songs that encompass basically 40 years, so we went back and looked at our second album, Celebrate the Bullet, and resurrected a great song that Gaps sings called "Facing Situations," which seemed really apt for the political-social time that we're living through at the moment. Everybody's having to face situations and figure out what we're going to do, be it climate change or be it what on earth is going on with our governments as they all lurch towards the right and stuff like that.

So yeah, that was a favorite for me and we also resurrected another song, "The Whisper," which is our fifth single. We thought, well, a lot of people in America probably never heard that or didn't get to hear it. I think a lot of people in America came to The Selecter maybe in 1981, when they put out a compilation album here called Selected Selecter Selections. That's a bit of a mouthful. They took cuts off the first and the second album so some got missed off.

People here didn't actually go out and buy the Celebrate The Bullet album, they bought that instead, so there's a lot of things that they didn't get to hear necessarily. And I love doing "Celebrate The Bullet," if nothing else, to spite the N.R.A. and their policies.

You guys mentioned Daylight; on that album you tackled the issues of today, which somehow unfortunately really don't feel that different than what you were talking about on the first albums.

Hendrickson: Indeed, yeah.

It's kind of crazy. What do you think is the biggest societal change that needs to happen now?

Black: Well, the biggest societal change would be what your generation decide to do. That's going to be the biggest thing. I hope you make less of a mess of the planet than we did, or at least our generation did. I'm not particularly proud of our generation at all. I think that we created all kinds of chaos on the planet and now we're denying that it's actually even happening.

I think the one thing that would give myself and Gaps hope—Gaps has a 12-year-old daughter—is what that generation can do. Greta Thunberg is a showing the way, isn't she? She's a teen and seems to be the most together person on the planet, I would say, at the moment in terms of what the future of this planet actually needs and what we should be doing. All hope has to be in young people.

Hendrickson: I wouldn't like to see these children struggle the way that I struggled against racism and prejudice. I have to admit, it's somewhat easier for them because they can go out and do what they want to want to do, more or less. And there's not as many obstacles or doors shut in your face now, so that's good. I've seen, for them, a little progress that way. I hope it continues, very slowly, but I'm sure it will one day.

Black: You've got to remember that we're celebrating our 40th anniversary. 50 years ago, I believe, black people in this country were celebrating the birth of civil rights, certainly the civil rights movement was going on. Now, 50 years isn't that long. That's within my lifetime, only 10 years more than when we first started and we came over here. From that point of view, things definitely have changed. They might be taking a retrogressive step at the moment, but you can definitely say that things have changed.

But I think it's like everything. It's very easy to say, "Goodness me, things that were happening in 1979, when we were first around, are the same as what's happening now." People say that history repeats itself, but I don't think it does, but it does rhyme every now and again. Currently, it's rhyming quite significantly with what was going on in 1979, both in this country and in the U.K., where we come from.

I like that.

Black: I didn't say that, Mark Twain said it.

How do we keep moving forward so that in the future, it's good for everyone?

Black: Oh, we don't have to worry about that because nature would change anyway. Whether we're here or not, we're all part of that. That's always going to change. It's how we respond to it and what we learned from it that's the significant thing. The human animal doesn't seem to learn very much or very quickly sometimes. I think maybe we need to speed the process up and maybe your generation can speed up the learning process.

Well, what is your biggest hope for the near future, in say, five years?

Black: The future's in every moment, isn't it? Within the next five years, I would definitely like to see some actual progress towards getting rid of fossil fuels and all of those kinds of things because they're the biggest culprits at the moment. Plus all those farting cows that are doing their thing all over the world. Whether I particularly want to end up eating crushed beetles or whatever is going to be our protein source, I don't know, but I'm game for anything. It's better than frying on a planet, and that's not going to be such a great thing either, is it, when everywhere is a desert. So that would be my biggest hope, that we wake up to that.

Hendrickson: I agree. Walking down here just about half an hour ago, you smell all of the [vehicle] fumes. I'm sure I won't be around when all vehicles go electric, but I think it will be a wonderful thing to not smell fumes like that.

You two are pioneers in music, fashion and more. What does it mean to you to have led the way for others? And what do you hope to see in the next generation of artists?

Black: That's a continually evolving thing. We're just a small part of it really. Ska music doesn't even have its own genre on iTunes or any of those kinds of things. It's lumped into reggae and things. I don't really see it like that. Rock music is ubiquitous and all that it is four on the floor. It's just the on-beat. All we are is four on the off-beat, really. Why people can't be more imaginative with that in the same way as what we've tried to do and be, I don't really know.

I see there are still people, including young people, who are interested in music as a form. Us older people, we continually try and make new music and stuff like that, and people like The Specials have had great success in the U.K. with a new album. So yeah, I think that ska music is in the best shape really that it's been in for a long time.

Hendrickson: Pauline and I sing with Jools Holland, who's a very reputable musician in the U.K., and we go to places that we probably wouldn't play with The Selecter. When we go out as The Selecter, we get people saying, "We saw you [with Holland] and we thought we'll come along and see what your band is like because we really love your music and had never heard it before" As I said before, it's always lovely encouraging new sorts to be there. It's a privilege after 40 years, may it long continue.

"It's a privilege after 40 years. May it long continue." – Gaps Hendrickson

And for you Pauline, there was a recent Vogue feature on your style.

Black: Oh, that was last year. I don't know about that, it just came out of the complete blue.

I think you could say that whether or not you were realizing at the time, you made your mark in fashion.

Black: The whole of the fashion of all the subcultures that coalesced around the two-tone movement, was people wearing black, white checkers, that kind of thing. Monochrome aesthetic, a mod aesthetic as well, not to mention hats. I really like your beret.

So, it's the style and it's as valid as any other style that I can think of, and the fact that Vogue woke up and saw it as a kind of a style, I don't know. It began with Duro Olowu, who is a fashion designer. He's a Nigerian-British fashion designer. His wife Thelma Golden runs the Studio Museum in Harlem, they're both artistic people. He decided that I was going to be his muse last year, which was complete news to me.

I saw some of his clothes and they were very colorful, some Nigerian colors. He made me an outfit, which is absolutely lovely. I can't actually say that I might ever wear it on stage in the kind of style that I do, but it's a beautiful outfit and I'm dying to wear it at some point in time. But he decided that what he was doing had some resonance with Rude Boys and Rude Girls and who was I to argue? I wasn't going to argue. He's a very lovely man too. So that's how that came about. Whether Anna Wintour had anything to do with it, I didn't know.

Amazing! I'd love to hear a little bit of the backstory of how you guys came together as a group.

Black: Well, that's long. You start, I'll finish.

Hendrickson: The original members of The Selecter are Charley Anderson, Desmond Brown, Charley "H" Bembridge and Compton Amanor. We had a band called Hardtop 22, which was basically a reggae band. In Coventry, we used to have this club called Mr. George's and every Monday night, Coventry Automatics, who later became The Specials, and Hardtop 22 used to play. At the end of the night, they'd probably give us a pint of lager or something. We knew each other, living in Coventry, and The Specials made good and they thought they'll bring us along and basically that's how it started. This is where Pauline picks up the story.

Black: Well, at the same time, there was a white guy in Coventry called Neol Davies, who knew Jerry Dammers from The Specials. He had recorded a track, which initially he called "Kingston Affair," in the shed of the producer, who would go on to produce some of our records later, Roger Lomas. When The Specials put out "Gangsters," they didn't have a B side, they ran out of money to record one. Jerry rang up Neol Davies and said, "You know that track that you've had lying around for two years, do you want to put that on the B side of our single? We'll call it The Specials versus The Selecter." Which is all a very Jamaican kind of way of doing a single. And that's what they did.

I don't know whether they thought that it was going to be a hit or not, but anyway, it started climbing the charts. Initially a lot of people thought that The Selecter was just the B side by The Specials. They didn't know that it was a band in its own right, but at that time there was only one member, Neil Davies. At the same time, I was trying to put a band together with people that included Desmond Brown, who was also in Hardtop 22, Charles Bembridge and also Silverton Hutchinson, who was the original drummer for The Specials. Are you keeping up? [Laughs.] Trying to pick the sense out of the nonsense.

Anyway, we were rehearsing somewhere in the deepest, darkest Coventry, and who should turn up but Lynval Golding from The Specials. He had a little listen and said, "I think you should come along and meet a friend of mine," which was Neol Davies. Somebody had to be sent out to get Gaps because he didn't feel like coming over that night. And all the people who ended up there all went on to be in The Selecter, which is kind of weird, really.

When you guys were younger, did you imagine that you would be in music?

Black: No, I thought I was going to be a biochemist.

Hendrickson: I've always had two ambitions in my life. One was to be a pop star and the other one was to be a lazy bastard. [Grins.] I'm still working on the being a lazy bastard bit.

There's always time. When you were growing up, who were your musical idols? Who were the people you were always listening to?

Hendrickson: Oh, everybody. I love music from [Henry] Mancini to Billy Idol. Jim Reeves.

Black: Billy Idol? You've kept that out of your hat.

Hendrickson: Growing up, on Sunday mornings, my parents would put on Prince Buster, the Skatalites and things like that on. Obviously, you know that music was invented, more or less, where I was born, which is in the Western Indies. It just resonated with me and here I am. I couldn't believe it when I met some of the stars because I always used to go up to buy the records, Desmond Dekker and artists like that. That was my greatest influence.

Black: I started playing music in folk clubs, not because I liked folk music, but because if you wanted to play guitar and sing at the same time, and that was one of the very few places you do it in the '70s. I was listening to people like Joan Armatrading, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, those kinds of people.

Hendrickson: And Carole King.

Black: Carole King, yeah, those kind of things. I always had a love of Tamla Motown [the U.K. affiliate of Motown Records]. And Aretha Franklin, obviously. Not that I have any wish to sound like Aretha Franklin, or could, but I greatly admired her tenacity and the way that she carried herself. Harking back further than that, Billie Holiday. Her choices of music, things like "Strange Fruit," and living through the times that she lived through in this country, when she had to use the back doors of the places she was performing and touring in the South. I read all those stories and lapped those up. Anyone who's on the margins of society or has something to say about that, those kinds of people who are ostracized from mainstream society or the status quo, I'm interested in.

And are there any newer artists, or artists that are newer to you, who you're really excited about?

Black: Yeah, I constantly keep an eye on what's around. I'm always interested in new female artists. This young girl Billie Eilish, I think she's absolutely fabulous at the moment. She seems to have come from nowhere and whoa, sprung fully formed. She's only about 17.

And similarly, there's an artist called Christine and the Queens and I greatly admire what she's doing. Just the sheer feet of her athleticism and dancing and the music that she makes. And coming from France and speaking in both English in French, that's no mean feat either. That's the sort of things that I would search out.

Hendrickson: Yeah, having grown up, as I said, in the West Indies, we listened to calypso and other rhythm, like merengue, which comes from the Dutch West Indies. That's pretty good. I love all that sort of thing. Artists come and go and you see them spring up today, then tomorrow you don't hear of them. Wait until they've established themselves and then I will listen to their music.

Black: Well, yeah, that is true about artists, but I also think that in terms of music now, it's so hard for new artists, particularly young artists, to make any mark anymore. You need enormous backing from record companies and stuff like that. It has got so much easier to make music because you can make music on your phone now. You don't need big studios, but you still have the same problem, how to market your music if you don't have any money, and invariably, artists don't tend to have the kind of money that other pursuits have. That's the difficult thing, so unless they've got real backing from record companies, it's as hard to break through now as it ever was.

If you could go back 40 years and give your younger self then a piece of advice, or a message, what would it be?

Hendrickson: Me, I don't think I would change anything much, especially leading up to the formation of The Selecter. Financially, when you look back at that, that's where I would probably start changing, but hey.

Black: I don't think I'd change anything really. I probably would tell my younger self enjoy it more. Because when you're young, you're always worrying, "What do people think of this? What do people think of me?" And you're unsure about all kinds things, of how you look, stuff like that. And then you look back at photos of yourself and you think, "Wow, what was I moaning about?"

But I wouldn't change anything because it's been a great learning curve and I've got to share it with Gaps. I kind of live for the moments on stage. That's the coolest part of the whole thing to me, when you just get those nights when everything you do resonates with an audience and they're giving you back as much energy as you were putting out. When that happens, it's just a great feeling and I can't think of anything better to do than this.

"I kind of live for the moments on stage. That's the coolest part of the whole thing to me, when you just get those nights when everything you do resonates with an audience and they're giving you back as much energy as you were putting out." – Pauline Black

What is the legacy you hope to leave behind with your music?

Hendrickson: For my children, and other black children, to go out there and seize the moment and have a happy life. And hopefully I would've shown my children that and hopefully they'll take it from there. Nothing stopped dad from being the boy he wanted to be, so I would like to leave that legacy with them.

Black: I don't really think about legacies in that way. I think about changing people's perceptions. Every time that we step on stage, being people of color, we're not the usual way of being. A lot of the people that are into ska music, particularly over here, are white people, and that comes with its own way of looking at both this music and the issues that they deal with. I think in some ways it's quite shocking for audiences to look at us and the way we come at them. And the things that we try and impart to them through the music, both joyfully or politically or socially. It's not the usual norm.

I'd like to see that legacy carried on by other young black people that are coming up, that might take what myself and Gaps have done and further that. I think there's plenty to explore there. To a certain extent over here, a lot of young people got into ska music back in the '90s but it was all very much about just having a good time, having beer. There's nothing wrong with that, but I feel that the music's a lot deeper than that. I would like to see that legacy to be left and furthered.

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Remembering Wayne Shorter: 7 Gateway Tracks From The Jazz Titan's 1960s Run
Jazz Musician and composer Wayne Shorter in 2018

Photo: Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post via Getty Images


Remembering Wayne Shorter: 7 Gateway Tracks From The Jazz Titan's 1960s Run

The pioneering composer and tenor and soprano saxophonist passed away on March 2. His influence and legacy spans decades and permutations of jazz, but for the uninitiated, here are seven highlights from his 1960s leader albums.

GRAMMYs/Mar 3, 2023 - 10:57 pm

When the world learned of the pioneering saxophonist and composer Wayne Shorter's death on March 2, it did so partly through a quote from the maestro itself: "It's time to go get a new body and come back to continue the mission." 

This evocation of reincarnation not only speaks to Shorter's elaborate psychospiritual universe — he followed Nichiren Buddhism for half a century — but his multitudes as an artistic behemoth. In his 89-year life, Shorter irrevocably altered so many sectors of jazz and related forms that he seemed to inhabit many bodies at once.

To trace the 12-time GRAMMY winner's artistic evolution is to tell the story of the music as it evolved and propagated through the latter half of the 20th century. He was a member of two of the most crucial groups in jazz history: the brilliant, hotheaded drummer Art Blakey's unofficial jazz academy the Jazz Messengers and Miles Davis' so-called Second Great Quintet. 

But even that's just the tip of the iceberg. After an astonishing run of leader albums on Blue Note — including all-timers like JuJu, Speak No Evil and The All Seeing Eye — Shorter formed Weather Report, a fundamental group in '70s and '80s jazz fusion. Along the way, he also collaborated with AOR legends — Joni Mitchell on a slew of mid-period records, and on the title track to Aja, Steely Dan.

In the 21st century, he continued hurtling forward as a composer, and work only seemed to grow more eclectic and multifarious, arguably culminating with (Iphigenia), an expansive opera co-created with bassist and vocalist Esperanza Spalding. At the 2023 GRAMMYs, he won Best Improvised Jazz Solo alongside pianist Leo Genovese for "Endangered Species," a cut on Live at the Detroit Jazz Festival, which also features Spalding and drummer Terri Lyne Carrington.

In 2015, the Recording Academy bestowed upon him a Lifetime Achievement Award. "Wayne Shorter's influence on the jazz community has left an indelible mark on the music industry," Harvey Mason jr., CEO of the Recording Academy, said in part. "It's been a privilege to celebrate his contributions to our culture throughout his incredible career."

As bandleader Darcy James Argue put it, "There isn't a jazz composer today who does not owe an absolutely immeasurable debt to Wayne Shorter. Whether you assimilated his harmonic language, or consciously rejected it, or tried to thread a path somewhere in between, his influence is as unavoidable as the elements."

But with this vast cosmology established, how can Shorter neophytes find their own way in? To traverse the universe of the self-dubbed Mr. Weird — from a line about person or thing X being “as weird as Wayne” — one need not enter it at random.

Arguably, the gateway is Shorter's aforementioned '60s run as a leader; from there, one can venture out in a dozen directions and be rewarded with a lifetime of cerebrality and majesty.

So, for those looking for a way in, here are seven essential tracks from that specific period and component of Shorter's culture-quaking legacy.

"Night Dreamer" (Night Dreamer, 1964)

Shorter was terrific as a leader from the jump, but he arguably came into his own with his fourth album under his own name, Night Dreamer. Much of this had to do with paring down his compositions to their haunting essence. "I used to see a lot of chord changes, for instance, but now I can separate the wheat from the chaff," Shorter said at the time

Immerse yourself into the fittingly crepuscular title track, which Shorter crafted for a nighttime brood. "The minor keys often connotes evening or night to me," he wrote in the liner notes. "Although the beat does float, it also is set in a heavy groove. It's a paradox, in a way — like you'd have in a dream, something that's both light and heavy." 

"Juju" (Juju, 1965)

Night Dreamer and Juju feature a rhythm section closely associated with John Coltrane — the classic Olé Coltrane one, composed of pianist McCoy Tyner, bassist Reggie Workman and drummer Elvin Jones.

As a tenorist influenced by Coltrane, Shorter invited comparisons to his inspiration. But alongside Trane's accompanists, he had developed his own style — with the raw, unvarnished quality of said legend, but a barer tone and more elliptical sense of articulation. Juxtaposed against his accompanists' dazzling, shattered-glass approach, the side-eyeing Shorter is enchanting.

"House of Jade" (Juju, 1965)

After the rainshower of piano notes that initiates "House of Jade," Shorter demonstrates his inimitable way with a ballad, hung on Jones' weighty swing and sway. As jazz author and columnist Mark Stryker put it in an edifying Twitter thread compiling the best of Shorter at a gentler pace: "The ballads are everything. It's all there, now and forever."

"Indian Song" (Etcetera, rec. 1965 rel. 1980)

Featuring bassist Cecil McBee, drummer Joe Chambers, and harmonic mastermind Herbie Hancock — Shorter's lifelong ride-or-die — on piano, Etcetera was recorded the same year as Juju but remained on the shelf for a decade. Better late than never: it stands tall among Shorter's Blue Notes of its time.

All five tracks are fantastic — four Shorters, one Gil Evans, in "Barracudas (General Assembly)." But regarding its final track, "Indian Song," one reviewer might have hit the nail on the head: "At times the rest of the album seems like a warm-up for that amazing tune." 

Across more than 11 minutes, "Indian Song" expands and retracts, inhales and exhales, on a spectral path into the unknown. Want an immediate example of how Shorter and Hancock twinned and intertwined their musical spirits to intoxicating effect? Look no further.

"Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum" (Speak No Evil, 1966)

As per compositional mastery, evocative interplay and plain old vibe, Speak No Evil represents something of an apogee for Shorter — and many in the know regard it as the crown jewel. 

The majestic, mid-tempo "Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum" is just one highlight of this quintessential, classic-stuffed Blue Note. Hear how Hancock's elusive harmonic shades and Shorter's simple yet impassioned approach just gel — with support from trumpeter Freddie Hubbard, bassist Ron Carter and drummer Elvin Jones.

"Wayne isn't playing the changes, but plays around the composition—he's creative within the composition," saxophonist David Sanchez once explicated. "[It's] distinct from a lot of other Blue Note recordings of the period on which, generally speaking, people would improvise on the changes once the head or theme was over."

But you don't need to know what's under the hood to hear how this classic thrillingly pushes and pulls.

"Infant Eyes" (Speak No Evil, 1966)

"Infant Eyes" is a Shorter ballad of almost surreal atmosphere and beauty: on a compositional and emotional level, it's difficult to compare it to much else. It's "doom jazz" decades before that was ever a thing. 

Down to Shorter's sheer note choices and the grain of his tone, "Infant Eyes" will make your heart leap into your throat. As per Stryker's Twitter litany of enchanting Shorter ballads, the combination is stiff — but if one is supreme, it's difficult to not pick this one.

"Footprints" (Adam's Apple, 1967)

This loping waltz-not-waltz from 1967's Adam's Apple is one of Shorter's most well-known tunes; even without close analysis of its sneaky rhythms, it's downright irresistible. And talk about gateways: it's a launchpad for any young musician who wants to give his tunes a shot.

"Footprints" continues to be a standard; it titled his biography; the Facebook post announcing Shorter's death bore footprint emojis. Shorter may have transitioned from this body, but his impressions are everywhere — and we'll never see the likes of Mr. Weird again.

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Why Did Bob Dylan Change His Name? 8 Questions About The Legendary Singer/Songwriter Answered
Bob Dylan performing in 1974

Photo: Steve Morley/Redferns


Why Did Bob Dylan Change His Name? 8 Questions About The Legendary Singer/Songwriter Answered

Bob Dylan is arguably the most venerated singer/songwriter in American history, but he tends to kick up far more questions than answers. Here are eight of them, addressed.

GRAMMYs/Dec 29, 2022 - 07:04 pm

Pretty much everyone in the Western world knows Bob Dylan is eminently cagey and elusive. But to the point that a 4,000-word interview still leaves you scratching your head?

Said Q&A appears in a recent issue of The Wall Street Journal. Questions abound: which TV shows would he designate as "dog a—"? Has he really "seen Metallica twice"? And regarding his new book, and why he thanked the crew from Dunkin' Donuts? We got a non-answer.

File them all away with questions about his Victoria's Secret commercial, as well as all his misdirections in the recent Rolling Thunder Revue doc: Bob's gonna Bob. can't claim to have all the answers — who does? — but it can at least address some oft-posed questions about the 10-time GRAMMY winner. Read on for eight of them.

Why Did Dylan Change His Name?

Common wisdom dictates that Robert Zimmerman changed his name based on his love of the poet Dylan Thomas; all the way back in 1961, he swatted that down.

"Straighten out in your book that I did not take my name from Dylan Thomas," he told The New York Times. "Dylan Thomas' poetry is for people that aren't really satisfied in their bed — for people who dig masculine romance."

He may have not directly lifted his name from Thomas, but he was in the ether. And "Bob Dylan" was actually one of several nicknames he tried on; it's just the one that stuck.

As to a single, concrete reason why? It remains to be seen.

What Inspired "Like a Rolling Stone"?

Is it about Edie Sedgwick? Joan Baez? Marianne Faithfull? None of the above? The epochal "Like a Rolling Stone" is naturally one of the most analyzed tunes by Dylanologists.

To answer this question, it's almost impossible to grab onto a single human subject. The most realistic scenario was outlined by Dylan himself: a generalized feeling of revenge.

What Inspired "Blowin' in the Wind"?

Hung on the melody to the pre-Civil War spiritual "No More Auction Block For Me," the elliptical "Blowin' in the Wind" became a cherished civil rights anthem, was covered by hundreds of artists, and recently fetched $1.8 million for a one-of-a-kind record.

As Dylan has explained, the song's list of deeply felt, rhetorical questions is its essence; it's not about any one world event, but the entire nature of peace, war and brotherhood.

"[The answers] ain't in no book or movie or TV show or discussion group," Dylan said at the time of its writing. "Man, it's in the wind — and it's blowing in the wind."

Why Did Dylan Paint His Face?

No, Dylan's face makeup on the Rolling Thunder Revue tour wasn't due to seeing KISS in Queens — thank you very much.

That was one of the many misdirections in Martin Scorcese's 2019 doc Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story. Rather, the lion's share of the evidence points to Dylan finding inspiration in the 1945 French film Children of Paradise.

What Religion Is Bob Dylan?

It's flickered back and forth over the years, most intensely during Dylan's born-again Christian period in the '80s. The following decade, Dylan seemed to set the record straight:

"This is the flat-out truth: I find the religiosity and philosophy in the music. I don't find it anywhere else," he told Newsweek in 1997. Songs like 'Let Me Rest on a Peaceful Mountain' or 'I Saw the Light' — that's my religion. I don't adhere to rabbis, preachers, evangelists, all of that. I've learned more from the songs than I've learned from any of this kind of entity. The songs are my lexicon. I believe the songs."

Then again, Dylan just said "I'm a religious person. I read the scriptures a lot, meditate and pray, light candles in church. I believe in damnation and salvation, as well as predestination."

Is that simply proof that a lot can change in 25 years? Or another winking bit of misdirection? The answer is… well, you know.

Why Did Dylan Not Accept His Nobel Prize?

He did. After months of uncertainty and speculation as to whether he would. Whatever the reason for the lag, Dylan accepted the Nobel Prize in Literature graciously, calling the honor "truly beyond words" and akin to "standing on the moon."

What Is Bob Dylan Up To In 2022?

Dylan stepped out with the rare Wall Street Journal interview because he's promoting The Philosophy of Modern Song, his predictably strange, illuminating and quixotic 2022 breakdown of canonical tunes that galvanize and inspire him.

As far as the young 2023? On Jan. 27, he'll release Fragments, a boxed set encompassing the sessions around his beloved 1997 album Time Out of Mind.

Is Bob Dylan On Tour?

Amazingly, Dylan is still on his so-called Never Ending Tour, which has been rolling up, down, to and fro interstates since 1988.

And after a pandemic-related break from the road, he promises the current leg, which promotes his latest album Rough and Rowdy Ways, will continue until 2024.

And a lot can happen in those two years. Maybe even that Metallica collab, sponsored by Dunkin' Donuts? Bob knows.

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5 Standout Moments From Billie Eilish's Happier Than Ever, The Hometown Encore Tour
Billie Eilish performs onstage at The Kia Forum on Dec.13, 2022, the first night of her tour

Photo: Matt Winkelmeyer/Getty Images for ABA


5 Standout Moments From Billie Eilish's Happier Than Ever, The Hometown Encore Tour

Opening night of the highly anticipated, sold-out Billie Eilish's Happier Than Ever, The Hometown Encore tour brought new guest stars, tender moments, and a whole lot of holiday cheer. EIlish will perform in her native L.A. for three nights in December.

GRAMMYs/Dec 14, 2022 - 11:23 pm

Billie Eilish is celebrating the holiday season in her native Los Angeles, with a few thousand of her nearest and dearest.

On Dec. 13, the GRAMMY-winning musician kicked off her Billie Eilish's Happier Than Ever, The Hometown Encore tour at The Kia Forum in Inglewood, to a sold-out crowd. Eilish has two additional sold-out gigs at the Forum on Dec. 15 and 16. 

While there were no opening acts, just a pre-show soundtrack of classic Christmas tunes. Over the course of two hours, the 20-year-old ran through more than 30 songs on a stage that seemed to be fully constructed from LED screens. 

She was not shy about displaying her youthful vigor, jumping in the air, doing the splits, jaunting around with the mic stand like a classic '70s rocker. Even while sitting on the floor during slow songs or confined to a small platform atop a crane as she floated around the arena, Eilish maintained her stage presence to the point that no one could take their eyes off her.

Opening night of the tour showcased how Eilish has stepped into her status as an international superstar — an echelon she continued to climb even as the pandemic marred the release of 2021's Happier Than Ever. She kept very busy in the interim of the COVID-plagued industry, releasing live concert films taped at The Hollywood Bowl, sharing a documentary detailing her previous touring cycle, doing collaborations with Nike, branding new fragrances, and recording an Oscar-winning entry into the legacy of James Bond themes: "No Time To Die."

Then the restrictions cleared, gatherings were permitted, and postponed dates were solidified, and so she hit the road, playing over 75 shows in almost eight months across four continents (she’s visiting the fifth, South America, in 2023), and that number doesn’t include her headlining slots at festivals like Coachella 2022.

Although Eilish performed at both weekends of Coachella 2022 — which, despite its location in Indio, is an L.A. festival for all intents and purposes —  her performance within city limits took her infamous energy to a new level. Built on a combination of the considerable experience she gained as a performer in 2022 and her unfettered love for her hometown, Eilish truly seemed happier than ever onstage. Read on for five moments Billie Eilish showed Los Angeles that there is no place home.

Billie Gets Jazzy With Tunes New And Old

Billie Eilish is an artist born into a generation that doesn’t give a darn about genres. With Spotify and other DSPs, everyone has access to every genre in the palm of their hand, and she’s been influenced by all of them — including jazz.

While her music may not fit a jazz aesthetic, Eilish has begun to implement more artistic improvisation into her vocal delivery. A lilt to close a phrase here; a small riff between verses there. The improvisation demonstrates her continued ownership over the songs, and Eilish's ease with manipulating them.

Such skills came front and center during two songs in particular: "my future" (her first time performing it on this tour) and "Billie Bossa Nova." Had there not been thousands of fans screaming every word, Billie’s intricate vocal work could have turned the forum into an intimate jazz lounge for a few minutes.

Listened To Her Fans, And Went Deep Into Her Catalog

In the days leading up to the shows, Billie took to Instagram to ask fans what songs she should perform, because "these shows are for you!" 

On Dec. 13, Eilish performed "xanny," the second track on WHEN WE ALL FALL ASLEEP WHERE DO WE GO? and one she hadn't performed in four years. 

There’s no way to know whether she decided to perform "xanny" because her fans requested it, though it was one of the most unifying moments in the entire show. 

If only she had also done "wish you were gay," which is what I sent to her through Instagram.

She Climbed "Mount Everest" With Some Friends

When Billie says she has a song stuck in her head, everyone in the crowd knows she’s going to sing it. 

So when she referenced Labrinth's "Mount Everest," everyone knew what was coming — yes, that includes Labrinth’s appearance. Eilish said she was going to make the shows special, and that just had to include some of her friends.

Labrinth’s music is as titanic as it is poignant, and it may be hard to believe the sweet-voiced Eilish could match his intensity. But she did so with aplomb, especially when she took on the duties for the verse of Labrinth’s song for the "Euphoria" soundtrack, "I’ve Never Felt So Alone."

For "I’ve Never Felt So Alone," the crowd was singing along instead of screaming along. The screams were welcome for the rest of the set, but it was simply impossible not to take it down a notch and be in your feelings in that moment.

Apparently, Finneas Sneezed

Eilish's creative relationship with her brother Finneas — her co-writer, producer and band member — took center stage during the acoustic portion of her performance. 

Finneas admitted that he had sneezed on his sleeve earlier, and was worried everyone could see the remnants when he took a seat on his stool next to his sister under the direct front lighting. At this admission, Billie started laughing with sheer glee. Then Finneas started laughing at her.

It may sound like innocuous stage banter, but it’s a kind of chemistry that’s infectious. It was a powerful, honest moment that highlighted the unique chemistry required to make this music.

Everyone in the crowd felt it, and the acoustic versions of  "i love you," "Your Power" and "TV," were just as powerful and honest.

Santa Eilish Or Billie Clause?

Billie Eilish was full of holiday cheer, giving not just the gift of music but actual gifts for the audience as well.

From atop a raised platform that moved throughout the arena, where she performed three songs, Eilish took candy from a stocking and threw it into the crowd. Before the final song of the night, "Happier Than Ever," she pulled out a bag of gifts and threw what looked like t-shirts into the crowd as well.

This came after she performed an actual Christmas song —"Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas." 

Billie is an artist who keeps her family close, and the holidays are a time of family. At her Happier Than Ever, The Hometown Encore, everyone in the audience felt like they were a part of the Eilish family…if only for a couple of hours.

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A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea
Franc Moody

Photo: Rachel Kupfer 


A Guide To Modern Funk For The Dance Floor: L'Imperatrice, Shiro Schwarz, Franc Moody, Say She She & Moniquea

James Brown changed the sound of popular music when he found the power of the one and unleashed the funk with "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag." Today, funk lives on in many forms, including these exciting bands from across the world.

GRAMMYs/Nov 25, 2022 - 04:23 pm

It's rare that a genre can be traced back to a single artist or group, but for funk, that was James Brown. The Godfather of Soul coined the phrase and style of playing known as "on the one," where the first downbeat is emphasized, instead of the typical second and fourth beats in pop, soul and other styles. As David Cheal eloquently explains, playing on the one "left space for phrases and riffs, often syncopated around the beat, creating an intricate, interlocking grid which could go on and on." You know a funky bassline when you hear it; its fat chords beg your body to get up and groove.

Brown's 1965 classic, "Papa's Got a Brand New Bag," became one of the first funk hits, and has been endlessly sampled and covered over the years, along with his other groovy tracks. Of course, many other funk acts followed in the '60s, and the genre thrived in the '70s and '80s as the disco craze came and went, and the originators of hip-hop and house music created new music from funk and disco's strong, flexible bones built for dancing.

Legendary funk bassist Bootsy Collins learned the power of the one from playing in Brown's band, and brought it to George Clinton, who created P-funk, an expansive, Afrofuturistic, psychedelic exploration of funk with his various bands and projects, including Parliament-Funkadelic. Both Collins and Clinton remain active and funkin', and have offered their timeless grooves to collabs with younger artists, including Kali Uchis, Silk Sonic, and Omar Apollo; and Kendrick Lamar, Flying Lotus, and Thundercat, respectively.

In the 1980s, electro-funk was born when artists like Afrika Bambaataa, Man Parrish, and Egyptian Lover began making futuristic beats with the Roland TR-808 drum machine — often with robotic vocals distorted through a talk box. A key distinguishing factor of electro-funk is a de-emphasis on vocals, with more phrases than choruses and verses. The sound influenced contemporaneous hip-hop, funk and electronica, along with acts around the globe, while current acts like Chromeo, DJ Stingray, and even Egyptian Lover himself keep electro-funk alive and well.

Today, funk lives in many places, with its heavy bass and syncopated grooves finding way into many nooks and crannies of music. There's nu-disco and boogie funk, nodding back to disco bands with soaring vocals and dance floor-designed instrumentation. G-funk continues to influence Los Angeles hip-hop, with innovative artists like Dam-Funk and Channel Tres bringing the funk and G-funk, into electro territory. Funk and disco-centered '70s revival is definitely having a moment, with acts like Ghost Funk Orchestra and Parcels, while its sparkly sprinklings can be heard in pop from Dua Lipa, Doja Cat, and, in full "Soul Train" character, Silk Sonic. There are also acts making dreamy, atmospheric music with a solid dose of funk, such as Khruangbin’s global sonic collage.

There are many bands that play heavily with funk, creating lush grooves designed to get you moving. Read on for a taste of five current modern funk and nu-disco artists making band-led uptempo funk built for the dance floor. Be sure to press play on the Spotify playlist above, and check out's playlist on Apple Music, Amazon Music and Pandora.

Say She She

Aptly self-described as "discodelic soul," Brooklyn-based seven-piece Say She She make dreamy, operatic funk, led by singer-songwriters Nya Gazelle Brown, Piya Malik and Sabrina Mileo Cunningham. Their '70s girl group-inspired vocal harmonies echo, sooth and enchant as they cover poignant topics with feminist flair.

While they’ve been active in the New York scene for a few years, they’ve gained wider acclaim for the irresistible music they began releasing this year, including their debut album, Prism. Their 2022 debut single "Forget Me Not" is an ode to ground-breaking New York art collective Guerilla Girls, and "Norma" is their protest anthem in response to the news that Roe vs. Wade could be (and was) overturned. The band name is a nod to funk legend Nile Rodgers, from the "Le freak, c'est chi" exclamation in Chic's legendary tune "Le Freak."


Moniquea's unique voice oozes confidence, yet invites you in to dance with her to the super funky boogie rhythms. The Pasadena, California artist was raised on funk music; her mom was in a cover band that would play classics like Aretha Franklin’s "Get It Right" and Gladys Knight’s "Love Overboard." Moniquea released her first boogie funk track at 20 and, in 2011, met local producer XL Middelton — a bonafide purveyor of funk. She's been a star artist on his MoFunk Records ever since, and they've collabed on countless tracks, channeling West Coast energy with a heavy dose of G-funk, sunny lyrics and upbeat, roller disco-ready rhythms.

Her latest release is an upbeat nod to classic West Coast funk, produced by Middleton, and follows her February 2022 groovy, collab-filled album, On Repeat.

Shiro Schwarz

Shiro Schwarz is a Mexico City-based duo, consisting of Pammela Rojas and Rafael Marfil, who helped establish a modern funk scene in the richly creative Mexican metropolis. On "Electrify" — originally released in 2016 on Fat Beats Records and reissued in 2021 by MoFunk — Shiro Schwarz's vocals playfully contrast each other, floating over an insistent, upbeat bassline and an '80s throwback electro-funk rhythm with synth flourishes.

Their music manages to be both nostalgic and futuristic — and impossible to sit still to. 2021 single "Be Kind" is sweet, mellow and groovy, perfect chic lounge funk. Shiro Schwarz’s latest track, the joyfully nostalgic "Hey DJ," is a collab with funkstress Saucy Lady and U-Key.


L'Impératrice (the empress in French) are a six-piece Parisian group serving an infectiously joyful blend of French pop, nu-disco, funk and psychedelia. Flore Benguigui's vocals are light and dreamy, yet commanding of your attention, while lyrics have a feminist touch.

During their energetic live sets, L'Impératrice members Charles de Boisseguin and Hagni Gwon (keys), David Gaugué (bass), Achille Trocellier (guitar), and Tom Daveau (drums) deliver extended instrumental jam sessions to expand and connect their music. Gaugué emphasizes the thick funky bass, and Benguigui jumps around the stage while sounding like an angel. L’Impératrice’s latest album, 2021’s Tako Tsubo, is a sunny, playful French disco journey.

Franc Moody

Franc Moody's bio fittingly describes their music as "a soul funk and cosmic disco sound." The London outfit was birthed by friends Ned Franc and Jon Moody in the early 2010s, when they were living together and throwing parties in North London's warehouse scene. In 2017, the group grew to six members, including singer and multi-instrumentalist Amber-Simone.

Their music feels at home with other electro-pop bands like fellow Londoners Jungle and Aussie act Parcels. While much of it is upbeat and euphoric, Franc Moody also dips into the more chilled, dreamy realm, such as the vibey, sultry title track from their recently released Into the Ether.

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