Thursday, June 11, 2009

REMEMBERING RAY & THE LIBRARY OF CONGRESS ADDS HOOKER

Posted By on Thu, Jun 11, 2009 at 11:18 AM

Detroiter Marcus Belgrave assumes a key role in a new podcast series on the music of Ray Charles. Longtime jazz journalist — and a pioneering jazzhead on the Web — Bret Primack is heading up a 16-podcast series on the music of Ray Charles for Concord Records, rounding up notable musician-commentators including Al Kooper, Mike Post and Leon Ware, as well as jazz experts and insiders such as George Wein and Ira Gitler. Former Raelettes are on Primack’s panel, as are former Charles sidemen such as Gregg Field and Steve Turre. But Belgrave is the only cat who has first-hand experience with Brother Ray’s early music. In fact, with the passing of saxophonists Hank Crawford and David “Fathead” Newman earlier this year, Belgrave’s believed to be the only survivor of Charles’ early bands. The first installment of the podcast series can be heard by clicking here, along with a podcast about the series itself. Also in the podcast is U.S. Rep. John Conyers, a well-known jazz fan who happened to be at a Belgrave event when Primack flew to Detroit earlier this year for filming.

In the wake of the feature film Ray and various documentary films about his life, Primack says his series will be different in that it puts the spotlight foremost on the incredible music the man made. Primack plans to add podcasts every two weeks.

*********

Detroiter John Lee Hooker’s 1948 “Boogie Chillen” is among the 25 latest additions to the National Recording Registry of the Library of Congress. The selections judged to be “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant” now number 275, ranging from 1888-1889 Edison cylinders to FDR fireside chats to Nirvana’s Nevermind. As best we can figure, scanning the Library lists, the only past Detroiters in the collection are Joe Louis (well, he’s not actually heard, but his 1938 match with Max Schmeling gets the blow-by-blow treatment from announcer Clem McCarthy), Martha & the Vandellas (“Dancing in the Street”), Smokey Robinson & the Miracles (“Tracks of My Tears”), Aretha Franklin (“Respect!”), Marvin Gaye (What’s Going On) and Stevie Wonder (Songs in the Key of Life).

The Library description of of the Hooker selection reads as follows:

“This first hit for the largely self-taught John Lee Hooker showcases his take on the Delta blues. Hooker was born in Coahoma County, Mississippi, spent his early years in Memphis and eventually moved to Detroit. The R&B label Modern released the infectiously rhythmic track after Hooker’s manager presented them with a demo. While the song’s instrumentation is simple, featuring only vocal, guitar and the tapping of Hooker’s foot, the driving rhythm and confessional lyrics have guaranteed its place as an influential and enduring blues classic.”

Other additions to the registry (officially, these are 2008 additions that are now being made public) include recordings of Jascha Heifetz (1917-1924), sounds of the Ivory-billed woodpecker (1935), radio coverage of Marian Anderson’s 1939 Lincoln Memorial recital, Link Wray’s “Rumble” and The Who Sings My Generation (1966). You can hear a snippet of the Hooker selection by clicking here. --W. Kim Heron

Mr. Hooker in his prime...

More by Bill Holdship

Best Things to Do In Detroit

Newsletters

Never miss a beat

Sign Up Now

Subscribe now to get the latest news delivered right to your inbox.