On March 3, 1972, Stevie Wonder released the album “Music of My Mind” which began an unexpected and unprecedented critical and commercial five-album run (“Music of My Mind”, “Innervisions”, “Talking Book”, “Fulfillingness First Finale”, and the double LP magnum opus, “Songs in the Key of Life”) that shaped the course of popular music and redefined the image of artistic genius for a generation of Black artists.
It has been 21 years since Le Sony’r Ra (born Herman Poole Blount) has left our physical plane (he did not like to discuss dates of birth of death, according to Ra Biographer, John Szwed), but the breadth of his prolific output and the depth of his influence is still being unearthed and measured.
This particular exhibition examines the visionary musician’s poetry as an integral part of his creative ethos and artistic identity.
According to the gallery’s press release, “He [Sun Ra] was fascinated by what he called “the multi-self words,” summoning language’s power to conjure the paradoxical, succinctly suggesting: “The idea that words/Can form themselves into the impossible/Then the way to the impossible/Is through the words.”
A timely concept from a Man who was always ahead of his time.
This summer I attended the “Matisse in the Studio” show at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston and what struck me most about the exhibit was Henri Matisse’s intense discipline and boundless creativity within his controlled, yet curated environment.
So for those who are waiting and searching for inspiration to visit—just get on with it!
Two years ago, I wrote a feature for TLS about Emily McDowell’s straightforward and often humorous line of empathy cards borne out of her own battle at age 24 with Stage 3 Hodgkin’s Lymphoma.
This small, personal project has evolved into a larger, collaborative book, There is No Good Card for This (the title, inspired by the name of one of Emily’s cards) with Kelsey Crowe, Ph.D. to help individuals chart a meaningful course of action “when life is scary, awful, and unfair to people you love”.
Divided into three parts, the book’s practical, conversational prose perfectly mirrors Emily’s spare and insightful illustration style—she is masterful at distilling complex subjects and concepts into warm and meaningful forms.
Congratulations Emily and Kelsey on the new book. And thank you for transforming illness, struggle, and pain into meaning, purpose, and beauty that benefits us all.
Gifted with the benefit of hindsight, we are aware of Bowie’s terminal illness during the conceptualization and execution of his final album Blackstarwith the Donny McCaslin Quartet so it is surprising that hours before what would have been David Bowie’s 70th birthday (and several days before the anniversary of his passing) a Tom Hingston-directed video for the ironically titled “No Plan” has been released online.
Even from beyond, Bowie remains a beautifully enigmatic and otherworldly creative presence with the ability the stimulate our intellect and touch our hearts.
We are all the richer for his efforts: Peace, Blessings, and Godspeed David.
CODA: Explore the world of the album’s title track:
16 years ago, a group of Australian proto-punk, alternative artists turned deejays unleashed Since I Left You : a sprawling, sumptuous fin de siecle album upon an unsuspecting world.
As the 90’s drew to a close, we were witnessing the swift transformation of the music industry from guitars to turntables, record stores to Napster, analog recording to digital assembly; and the Avalanches threw themselves headlong into this brave new postmodern world inhabited by likes of Massive Attack, Portishead, Moby, Air, Thievery Corporation, and DJ Shadow.
Like DJ Shadow’s 1997 magnum opus Endtroducing, the album Since I Left You painstakingly constructed a digital valentine to the quickly vanishing analog era. A lot has happened in since the early aughts and Wildflower quickly picks up and expands upon where the previous album left off. Assisted by a stellar roster of cameos, Wildflower is a collision of hard, urban beats and soft, psychedelic melodies expertly sequenced as only a collective of seasoned DJs can.
This was my album of the summer, but may be one of the most pleasurable listens of the year.
Austin Kleon’s brilliant book “Steal Like an Artist” has a companion journal with invaluable exercises to get one’s creative juices flowing with a bias towards action.
As a music aficionado, I was immediately interested in the exercise: “Make a Mixtape (For Someone Who Doesn’t Know You)”. I wrote down my list and created two playlists (“Make a Mixtape Vols. 1 and 2”) in my iTunes to listen to while I work throughout the day. Hopefully you will create a mixtape of your own and share it with a friend.
Enough writing, here’s the list:
Charles Brown—Black Night
Nina Simone—Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood
Jimi Hendrix—1983 (A Merman I Should Turn to Be)
Sun Ra—Calling Planet Earth
Madvillian—Shadows of Tomorrow
A Tribe Called Quest—Excursions
Wes Montgomery (with the Wynton Kelly Trio)—Impressions
Bad Brains—Sailin’ On
Alton Ellis—Reason in the Sky
King Sunny Adé—Sunny Ti De Ariya
Rhythm and Sound Featuring Cornell Campbell—King of My Empire
Hiatus Kiayote—Breathing Underwater
Los Destellos—Onsta La Yerbita
The Black Keys—Weight of Love
Gary Clark Jr.—When My Train Pulls In
Paul Weller—Whirlpool’s End
Three Dog Night—Easy to Be Hard
Terry Callier—Love Theme from Spartucus (4 Hero No Skins Mix)
Nostalgia 77—Quiet Dawn (Examples of Twelve Remix)
Miles Davis—Flamenco Sketches
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