Saturday, May 29, 2010

'They say it's your birthday, we're gonna have a good time..'

Thanks, among other sources, to the daily updates from Paul Shaffer's Day In Rock, I was struck that this past week was quite an amazing one for musical birthdays...

On Monday, Robert Allen Zimmerman celebrated his 69th birthday. I've only seen Bob play live once, at Wembley Arena in London in October 1987 on the Temples In Flames tour, with Roger McGuinn and Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. (I've also heard him once, in Prospect Park in Brooklyn two years ago, like thousands of others who couldn't get near the bandshell.) The London show was a great gig - even for a venue as cavernous as Wembley. There's a movie of a show from Melbourne, Australia, which I think was shot later in the tour.

The same day, the beautiful - and generously social Tweeter - Rosanne Cash marked her 55th birthday. Her 1993 album 'The Wheel' is one of my all-time favorites and this is a particularly lovely version of the title track.

Talking of great female voices, on Wednesday Stevie Nicks turned 62, but to many people she'll always be ageless. I saw her in 1982 at the Civic Coliseum in Knoxville, TN. She had the sort of stage presence that meant you couldn't take your eyes off her for a second, but her band was just brilliant - the great guitar player Waddy Wachtel, drummer Russ Kunkel, Bob Glaub on bass and Professor Roy Bittan on a vacation from E Street on piano. (I know Tom Petty's keyboard player Benmont Tench played some shows on that tour but I can't remember if he was there that night).

Tuesday saw the birthday of one of the most influential figures in the last three decades of British popular music: Paul Weller turned 52. Through his work with The Jam, The Style Council and his subsequent solo career - his latest album is 'Wake Up The Nation' - he has delivered sharp, clever observations of British life that have resonated with and inspired a successive generation of songwriters. Here, he plays a 1980 Jam classic with Noel Gallagher of Oasis - who incredibly also had a birthday this week.

Two other great songwriters from opposite ends of the globe were celebrating: New Zealand's own Neil Finn is now 52 - his band Crowded House have a new album, 'Intriguer' out on June 11 and are playing in Dublin this weekend.

At 65, Canada's national treasure Bruce Cockburn's career has been characterized by a commitment to musical integrity and activism in the pursuit of justice. Now he's going to finally write a book about his remarkable life. There's also some new recordings and a solo tour on the way next year, it appears. He's one hell of a great guitar player and probably the only person to have written a song about the International Monetary Fund.

Here, he performs one of his best-known songs at a 2001 benefit, along with Steven Page of the Barenaked Ladies.

The amazing Levon Helm, drummer with The Band and inspiration for the Midnight Ramble, turned 70 and is currently in the middle of a nationwide tour - including Radio City in New York on July 28 and the Newport Folk Festival on August 1st - as well as having been nominated for 2010 Artist of The Year by the Americana Music Association.

On Friday, former Creedence frontman John Fogerty turned 65. I've seen him a couple of times in recent years - 2004 in Orlando on the Vote For Change tour with Bruce and REM, and then again last year at the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame Anniversary show. The guy sure wrote some great tunes and still rocks the house.

Friday was also the birthday of Dobro-meister supreme Jerry Douglas who is 54. I saw him play with Allison Krauss at the Beacon Theater in New York a couple of years ago, and he was just incredible. He did 'A Tribute To Peadar O'Donnell' and it brought the house down.

As if all that wasn't great enough, today is the 49th for the beautiful and courageous Melissa Etheridge

as well as the 43rd for the aforementioned Noel Gallagher, one of Britain's greatest pop songwriters (who, for what it's worth, thinks next month's England-US World Cup game will end up a draw..)

Among others, there were also birthdays this week for Jewel, Ramsey Lewis, Gary Brooker of Procul Harum, Gladys Knight, and Mike Porcaro of Toto, as well as an appreciative nod to Dr Robert Moog, inventor of the synthesiser.

And just to round things off properly, tomorrow rockin' Tom Morello of Rage Against The Machine turns 46.

Next week is looking a bit thin by comparison I guess, but nevertheless many happy returns to Johnny Paycheck and Corey Hart...

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