Ringo was best man at Harry Nilsson’s wedding. Nilsson knew all of The Beatles. In fact, when asked who his favorite band was, Lennon said “Nilsson.” Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why is Everybody Talkin’ About Him)? is a documentary examining the life of a songwriter who widely influenced popular music of the 20th century, but has since been somewhat forgotten. Using three dozen interviews with family and friends (like Yoko Ono, Robin Williams, and Eric Idle), along with music videos, home videos, and archive audio footage, a moving portrait of a musician is made. Nilsson’s vivid and complex creativity is exposed, along with the wild side that may have hastened his death.
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Luther Gaunt is a member of the Long Gone Daddies, a working man’s band that play dive bars. The Long Gone Daddies are on the their way to Memphis, but where the band wants to make it big, Luther mostly wants to retrace the steps of his musical father and grandfather and piece together his family’s history. Luther’s father disappeared years ago and Luther’s grandfather is definitely dead – shot for rambling around with another man’s wife, but what of his life before that bullet? Armed with Cassie, the guitar that has been passed down for generations, Luther is searching for songs, truth, and family in David Wesley Williams’ novel, Long Gone Daddies.
The New York Dolls were a proto-punk, rock-and-roll band who played hard, loud…and in women’s clothing. They kicked out the jams for five years and fell apart by 1977. New York Doll is a documentary on bassist Arthur “Killer” Kane after his life in the Dolls. Kane describes his alcoholism, drug abuse, and his climb back into normal life – having become a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. Just when working in a Mormon genealogy library was starting to get mundane, the New York Dolls reunited, giving Kane a chance to rock out without the negative nightlife.
Izzy Sanabria, a Latin music promoter from New York, was credited with popularizing the term “salsa” to define Latin dance music in the 1970s. Tito Puente hated the term, and supposedly stated, “I’m a musician, not a cook.” Whether you call it Cuban music, Latin music, or salsa, it can really get a joint jumping.
Click here to get your salsa listening party started.
Hedwig and the Angry Inch, cinematic history’s first transsexual, glam-rock musical, follows German expatriate Hedwig and her hilariously unpopular band The Angry Inch (named for Hedwig’s semi-botched sex-change operation). Their cross-country tour plays a chain of cut-rate family seafood restaurants in a film about pain, love, and what identity means.
In How Music Works, David Byrne examines the joy, physics, and business of music, often through the lens of his own diverse career. Most people know David Byrne as the shy, awkward lead singer of the Talking Heads. He is also an author, painter, photographer, producer, and uber-talented eccentric.
Here’s Byrne giving a TED Talk about how architecture helped music evolve, a topic he writes about in How Music Works.
“Write this down, and don’t forget, that the best of times ain’t happened yet,” sings William Elliott Whitmore in the title track from his latest album, Field Songs. Whitmore is a one man folk band whose well-worn voice carries the ambitions, longing, and occasional anger of the working class man.
February 3, 1959 was christened as The Day the Music Died by Don McLean in his iconic song, “American Pie.” It was the day that Ritchie Valens, the Big Bopper, and Buddy Holly died in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. Rock and roll is full of untimely ends, but the music lives on.
Click here for musicians that died unfortunately early.
It is almost a cliché, these days, for rappers to be business moguls. Puffy did it. Jay Z did it. 50, too…but Pharrell Williams is not your average rapper gone business mogul. He’s changed the game. He has done everything from fronting bands to producing bands to designing clothes, jewelry, shoes, and toys – all before he was 40. Pharrell: Places and Spaces I’ve Been is his collaborative memoir of ambitions and inspirations.
Did you know that Zooey Deschanel – the wide-eyed actress from The New Girl – has a holiday album? So does Johnny Cash, Sufjan Stevens, Lady Antebellum, Justin Bieber, and Stevie Wonder. Don’t leave your holiday spirit up to the radio! Find new and traditional music at the Library.
Click here for classic Christmas music.
Click here if you want a more country Christmas.
Try here for pop stars singing holiday tunes.
Finally, If you’re in the mood for the obscure, click here for quirky holiday music.