The New Year is still relatively fresh, but 2016 has thus far been deadly for music icons.
To date, we have lost David Bowie, Natalie Cole, Motorhead’s Lemmy Kilmister and now founding Eagles’ guitarist Glenn Frey, who died Monday from complications related to Rheumatoid Arthritis and Pneumonia. He was 67 years old.
Frey burst onto the music scene in 1971 when he, Don Henley, Randy Meisner and Bernie Leadon formed The Eagles, a band known for producing radio-saturating hits like “Hotel California”, “Life in the Fast Lane” and “Desperado”. They were inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1998.
Like many music lovers of my generation, I grew up listening to The Eagles on AM and FM radio—long before I ever knew the names of the band members. In fact, I first learned who Glenn Frey was in the 1980s when he released “The Heat is On” as part of the Beverly Hills Cop soundtrack. I always recognized the talent, though, and I assure you that he will be missed.
Enjoy that peaceful, easy feeling, my man. Always.
Once again, it appears that the legendary rock group Led Zeppelin is under fire for musical plagiarism, a charge not uncommon for the quartet—especially for guitarist Jimmy Page, who many considered a craftsman when it came to “lifting riffs” from other artists and incorporating them into Zeppelin tunes.
This time, however, the charges involve arguably Zeppelin’s most notable—and most overplayed—hit song, “Stairway to Heaven.” More specifically, they involve the opening guitar riff, which blatantly rips off the 1968 Spirit song “Taurus.”
The band Spirit toured with Led Zeppelin in 1969—a year after releasing “Taurus” on their debut album—and could have sued after the release of “Stairway to Heaven” in 1970, but didn’t. Spirit guitarist Randy California went public with his claims in 1997, but again never sued… at least not until recently.
According to Francis Malofiy, an attorney representing a trust for California—who drowned in 1997 after saving his 12-year-old son from a rip current while swimming in the ocean—the lawsuit has been “a long time coming.” In fact, it may not have happened at all if Led Zeppelin wasn’t planning to issue remastered versions of their studio albums, including Led Zeppelin IV, where “Stairway” appears.
“The idea behind this is to make sure that Randy California is given a writing credit on ‘Stairway to Heaven,’” Malofiy said recently. And since a 2008 estimate calculated that the hit song generated more than $562 million for Led Zeppelin, California’s trust is likely seeking some financial compensation, as well.
As I mentioned earlier, this isn’t the first time Led Zeppelin has been accused of stealing music and songs. A host of their hits allegedly “sample” other artists, including “Whole Lotta Love”—the lyrics of which come from the Willie Dixon blues song “You Need Love”—and “Dazed and Confused”—a song originally written for The Yardbirds by Jake Holmes.
Holmes sued Jimmy Page in 2010 for copyright infringement, but the case was dismissed, presumably because the parties settled out of court. I’m sure Zeppelin paid a hefty price for that one.
Granted, this may not seem like big news to people familiar with all the past allegations of plagiarism against Led Zeppelin, but it sure opened my eyes. And sadly, my opinion of one of my previously favorite bands of all time has forever changed… and not for the better, either. What a shame.
I guess it had to happen sooner or later, but that certainly doesn’t make it any easier.
Originally from Chicago—my home town, incidentally—Ray ended up in California during the tumultuous times of the early 1960s. He studied film at the University of California in Los Angeles (UCLA) and could easily have enjoyed a long and lucrative career in the movie industry if not for one life-changing event.
In 1965, Ray was walking along Venice Beach and happened upon a long-haired, modern-day poet: the one and only Jim Morrison.
Jim had written some song lyrics, which Ray immediately asked to hear. Against his better judgement—and never really considering himself to be much of a singer—Jim sang the first few lines of what would later become “Moonlight Drive.”
Check out a pretty good performance of this tune live at the Hollywood Bowl in 1968 by going HERE.
And the rest, as they say, was history.
Together with guitarist Robby Krieger and percussionist John Densmore, Ray and Jim formed The Doors and provided part of the soundtrack from one of the most turbulent eras in modern American history. Songs like “The End,” “People are Strange,” “Love Her Madly” and the quintessential Doors’ hit “Light My Fire”—complete with unmistakable keyboard work from Manzarek (check it out HERE)—set the tone for the 1960s and paved the way for a multitude of singers and musicians to follow.
Bands like Stone Temple Pilots, Iggy and the Stooges, Alice in Chains, The Strokes, Fatboy Slim, Bon Jovi and countless others all cite The Doors as a major influence on their own careers and successes.
Sadly, The Doors in their original incarnation only lasted until 1971, the year of their last recorded studio album, L.A. Woman. Following the recording, Jim moved to Paris with his girlfriend Pamela Courson and started to drink and use drugs more heavily. He did manage to record a little more—taking some musicians he met on the street to an impromptu recording session—but was found dead in his bathtub on July 3rd. He was 27 years old.
Ray and the surviving members of The Doors kept their legacy alive—the group was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1993—but life without their flamboyant front man just wasn’t the same. Each of them went on to different projects and garnered some degree of success in their professional careers, but their fame would never approach what they experienced at the height of their popularity.
For Ray, life after The Doors meant playing with other groups—including Nite City, Echo & the Bunnymen and the Los Angeles band X, which he also produced—writing poetry and a memoir—1998’s Light My Fire: My Life with The Doors—and even hosting a radio program on the BBC. Ray also managed to cut an album with slide guitarist Roy Rogers—2011’s Translucent Blues—which ranked at number three on the Top 100 Roots Rock Albums of 2011.
In other words, he lived a full, productive, successful and inspirational life. And even though he just lost his battle with cancer and passed away, his influence on music, art and film will be felt indefinitely.
I never knew Ray Manzarek personally—even though I wish that I did—but I definitely feel the loss because of how much I loved (and still love) The Doors and their music. Like many others, I started listening to Jim, Ray and the guys at an early age—during my so-called “formative” years—and even though they disbanded the year I was born—and the year Jim died—there has always been a deep connection between us. And there always will be.
Of course, Ray’s death also reminds me that no matter how much we fight it, time simply catches up to us all. It just sucks when the heroes and idols of your youth start dying off, you know? For me, Ray Manzarek was on that list. I’m going to miss him, but at least he’s in a better place.
And if I know Ray, he and Jim are probably jamming in the Great Beyond as we speak. I can almost hear those sweet keystrokes now…
Mick Jaggers affair with David Bowie revealed in new book: They were really sexually obsessed with each other – NY Daily News
Does this really come as a surprise to anyone? Just watch the “Dancing in the Streets” video these guys produced in the 1980s and the attraction between them seems very obvious. And given that they both flourished in the days of Studio 54, the Sexual Revolution and disco, it’s almost as if this was destined to happen!
Although I’m no longer a concert-goer and would rather enjoy iTunes than venture into a crowded amphitheater or stadium to hear good music, I was fortunate enough to have some really memorable concert experiences along the way.
Near the top of my list are my many trips to see The Grateful Dead while Jerry Garcia was still alive. And I served my time in parking lots bursting with tie-dyed colors, hacky sacks, veggie burgers and other “trippy” freak outs.
Let’s face it. Teenagers long before me recognized The Wall as a defining album in their youthful development. And I’m certain that teenagers for years to come will have similar experiences with this timeless masterpiece. Personally, I can remember listening to the album repeatedly in my first car, at parties, live (when performed by most of Pink Floyd’s members in nearby Raleigh or Charlotte). Any chance I got. I can wax nostalgic for hours just thinking about it.
As big of a Floyd fan as I was—and I truly loved the band and their music (still do)—I simply couldn’t touch the obsession of my friend Alex. It was he who first heard about the concert sometime during our senior year of high school. Roger Waters swore he would only perform The Wall again if the Berlin Wall came down and, in 1989, that very thing happened and the stage was set.
The only problem was that between the two of us, Alex and I barely had enough money to finance a stateside Pink Floyd concert, much less an overseas trip to see an all-star studded event in Europe.
But Alex was persistent. He convinced me that with enough begging, peppered with promises to pay the money back as quickly as possible, we could convince our parents to front us the cash. Alex even arranged for us to stay with a beautiful German exchange student named Imke who spent the previous year at our high school. She was part of our circle of friends and welcomed the opportunity to not only lodge us, but also to accompany us. All we had to do was make it there.
Honestly, it did not take nearly as much convincing as I thought to secure financing from my father. He was always extremely generous and never expected anyone to pay him back—even though I assured him I would and meant it—but I never imagined a trip to Europe would be in the cards. Granted, it would only be for one week, but it was still a trip to Europe. And it would become my first and only trip to that part of the world.
Things went equally well for Alex and before I knew it, we both had airline tickets, spending money, lodging, transportation to Berlin and tickets to the concert. A few dreadfully slow months later, we were in the air and on our way.
Our first adventure began on the plane, where we started drinking heavily the moment we hit international waters. Hell, we were both 19. What else were we going to do?
I have rarely been a heavy drinker, but I must admit that I was ordering everything I could think of. Gin and tonics. Screwdrivers. Straight shots of Jack. And Alex was matching me drink for drink. Needless to say, we were feeling pretty good as we “crossed the pond”.
By the time we reached Frankfurt, we were buzzing like crazy. A lot of signs were in English, and the German people generally speak it pretty well, but I was certain we would get lost in the airport. Divine providence stepped in and, by some miracle, we were able to recover our luggage and make the train to Hanover.
That’s where we started drinking again.
Our cabin—if that’s what you call it—was typical of the train cabins you see in films set in Europe: seats on either side; a fold-down table between them; huge windows on both sides; and lots of dark wood and brass. It was absolutely beautiful.
Even more beautiful was the sweet older woman who periodically rolled her cart full of food, wine and beer past us, stopping to sell us anything we desired.
Well, the old woman and April, a gorgeous young model that joined us a few stops later. She was roughly 19, American, and in Germany for some kind of photo shoot. At that time I had a tiny, battery-operated Walkman with these tacky little speakers you plugged in to the earphone jack. They sounded like crap, but April and I immediately bonded over The Sundays’ cassette I started playing. “Here’s Where the Story Ends” still brings back some fond memories. (Check it out sometime)
Further down the track, we were joined by another American, this time a middle-aged repo man who spent the last 20 years in Germany.
The four of us had a grand time. Laughing and listening to music. Swapping stories. Tossing back tasty German beers and cheeses. It was incredible. And my buzz continued to grow.
April and the repo man both had early stops, so we bid them farewell and settled in for the final stretch to Hannover. By now we were physically exhausted, fairly intoxicated and ready to crash. And that’s just what we did.
Later, I awoke to the sound of the conductor announcing another stop, so I immediately checked my map. Actually, I should say that I misread my map. I thought we missed Hannover, so I panicked and must have scared the hell out of Alex. One minute he’s resting peacefully; the next, he has a freaked-out lush shaking him frantically and rushing him to gather his things.
For two slightly soused individuals, we really pulled things together quickly, though. Within seconds, we were ready to leap out at the next stop, dash to the ticket booth and reverse direction. That’s when we heard the conductor again, except this time the stop he announced was Hannover. We didn’t miss it after all.
I thought for sure Alex would slap me for good measure, but he showed remarkable restraint. And Imke was there to greet us the moment we stepped onto the platform in Hanover.
A short drive later, we arrived at her parents’ home, settled in for the night and dreamed of all the good times to come…