You never know who you're going to meet on the internet and I came to know Peter Tibbles (bio here) via email over the past couple of years. His extensive knowledge of most genres of music and his excellent taste became apparent only gradually (Peter's not one to toot his horn) but once I understood, I knew he needed his own column at Time Goes By - or, better, that TGB needed his column - which appears here each Sunday.
As this is an elders’ website, it’s about time I featured some elder musicians. I originally thought of having an arbitrary cut-off age but decided against it in the spirit of this website. Besides, it gives me more scope.
First off is Pete Seeger who turned 90 recently. He celebrated with a bash with his friends. What friends. Actually, I think anyone who met Pete would become a friend. I have seen him a number of times and, as an Australian, I regard Pete as one of the greatest Americans of my lifetime.
Like Pete, Tony Bennett was prominent in the civil rights struggles of the fifties and sixties. That alone would make him worthy of inclusion, but it’s his voice is what matters. Frank Sinatra said it best: "For my money, Tony Bennett is the best singer in the business.”
He’s also a painter of skill and quality (and not just houses, sorry, I really have difficulty avoiding quips of this kind). His voice may not be what it once was, but it’s still better than just about anyone else around. Here he sings The Best is Yet to Come with Diana Krall who’s a pretty good singer herself, but doesn’t qualify as an elder musician.
I can’t remember a time when Fats Domino wasn’t around. Although I’d give the kudos to Chuck Berry, a good case could be made that Fats invented rock 'n' roll (and a few years earlier – “The Fat Man” came out in 1949. If that’s not rock n roll I don’t know what is).
He lost his house in New Orleans during the Katrina blow, but he’s rebuilding along with the other folks of that great musical city. He doesn’t like to leave New Orleans (well, you can’t get the food anywhere else – good enough reason for me). Here is I’m Walkin’.
Les Paul invented the solid-body electric guitar. So did Leo Fender and Adolph Rickenbacher. They all did it about the same time without any reference to the others. Les, however, invented multi-tracking music, distortion, reversing tracks, slowing them down and speeding them up fifteen years before The Beatles.
He had a number of hits in the fifties with Mary Ford that we all remember, and he’s still out there playing that Les Paul Gibson guitar. He had a recent album that featured all sorts of guitarists with him from Buddy Guy on down (Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Steve Miller, Keith Richards, Billy Gibbons. A bunch of others).
This is a great track, but a rather creepy one as it features Sam Cooke on vocals. I don’t think Sam was in the studio that day. Eric Clapton was there. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to try to tell when Eric is playing and when Les is playing. Somebody Ease My Troublin' Mind.
Dave Brubeck didn’t want to become a musician, he wanted to be a rancher. His mother was a piano teacher and taught him and his two older brothers the piano. They went on to have careers in classical music in academia. Fortunately for us, Dave’s rancher plans didn’t pan out.
After the end of his famous quartet and his later, not-quite-so-famous quartet, Dave turned to writing music in a classical vein. He wrote ballets, operas, oratorios, cantatas, symphonic pieces, other classical compositions, liturgical works.
He has never been a favorite of critics and they often refuse to acknowledge his importance in the development of jazz. I imagine their thinking was along the lines of someone who was this popular can’t be any good or important. Well, fie upon them, I say.
Here he is improvising with a rather familiar looking gentleman sitting beside him.
I won’t say that clichéd line: here’s the “King of the Blues”. Oops, too late.
I share a birthday with B.B. King. He’s exactly 20 years older than I am. That will give you a clue as to how old he is or I am depending on which of us you know. Anyway, B.B. is still out there performing and I’m not (those who have heard me perform are breathing sighs of relief). Here he shows us all how it’s done.
There are any number of elder conductors who are still waving the baton. I could mention them and have some clips of various concerts, but I won’t. I will feature one, though, who came from a completely different background. André Previn.
I won’t go into his jazz and film score background I’d like to mention, rather gratuitously, that he’s been married five times. Some of his ex-wives are Dory Previn (a fine singer/songerwriter - Beware of young girls who come to your door, wistful and pale, and twenty and four), Mia Farrow (the aforementioned wistful and pallid one), Anne-Sophie Mutter (fine violinist). He is technically Woody Allan’s father-in-law.
I have featured him playing Scott Joplin with Itzhak Perlman in another of these blogs, and I like that album so much I’m going play another track from it. This is The Easy Winner.
Ah Willie. I imagine Willie Nelson stays alive just so he can perform a duet with every singer in the world. He’s well on the way - more than half way through that plan by my reckoning. Fortunately, more singers arrive all the time so that will probably keep him alive indefinitely. Let’s hope so.
Here’s just one of those duets with Merle Haggard, who could be featured here as well, but I ran out of space. Pancho and Lefty, a Townes Van Zandt song.
Chuck Berry just keeps on going, doing his thing. He’s still strutting his stuff, using pick-up bands wherever he performs. This can make for a great performance or a desultory one, but this is Chuck Berry, folks.
This is the man who invented rock n roll. And he’s still with us. We should be shouting his name to the treetops, to the sky, the second most important popular musical artist of the twentieth century. This time he’s backed by a pretty good band – The E Street Band – doing Johnny B Goode.
I’m going to end with a performer whom I’m really, really, really, really surprised is still with us. Not just with us but still twiddling the ivories.
Jerry Lee Lewis. Who’d have thought that of all those early rockers Jerry Lee would be the last man standing? Well, apart from Chuck, Fats and Little Richard, but why spoil a good story and a good album title. This is a Robbie Robertson song called Twilight from Jerry Lee’s recent “Last Man Standing” album. That’s Robbie playing guitar.
Pete is 90
Tony is 82
Fats is 81
Les is 94
Dave is 88
BB is 83
André is 80
Willie is 76
Chuck is 82
Jerry Lee is 73
(Merle is 72)
I know you’re all going to go with the “What about…?” I have my own list of those who missed the cut: Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, George Jones, Don Burrows, Charlie Louvin, Allen Toussaint (well, he’s still a bit young).
I welcome other suggestions as I’ve no doubt missed a bunch of folks and that will give me material for the next one.