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Les Blank, Nov. 27, 1935-April 7, 2013

Documentary filmmaker Les Blank–many of whose films had musical subjects–died on April 7. Here is Blank’s Wikipedia entry.

The film-maker Les Blank, who has died aged 77, explored the margins of America’s music, capturing and framing idioms such as Louisiana Cajun and zydeco, the norteño music of the Texas-Mexico border, blues, polka, and Appalachian old-time music. He was also fascinated by traditions of eating and cookery, and when screening his film Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (1980) he sometimes created what he called “smellovision” by cooking garlicky dishes in the auditorium. (Continue Reading…)

Above is what appears to be the promotional piece for the film Sprout Wings and Fly. The top comment is a description from Michael Goodwin of Berkeley Monthly: 

“Sprout Wings and Fly” is a compassionate, life-affirming, altogether extraordinary document by Les Blank (www.lesblank.com) on old-timey Appalachian fiddler Tommy Jarrell. It’s a fascinating film on the theme that art, music, dance, food and earthly pleasures help human beings live joyously in the face of certain death. It offers fine old-timey music, crazy jive, and a fascinating cast of backwoods characters.

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Here’s What’s Here

The Daily Music Break explores every genre of music, from hip hop to opera. It's simple: Boundaries are dumb. It's all good. Here is more about the site and here is our index:

--A Tribe Called Quest to The Dick Hyman Trio (In other words, A to H)

--Indigo Girls to Queen Ida (I to Q)

--Radiohead to ZZ Top (R to Z)

Reading Music

The stories of the great bands and musicians are fascinating. Musicians as a group are brilliant, but often troubled. The combination of creativity and drama makes for great reading.

Here are some books to check out.

Duke Ellington brought class, sophistication and style to jazz which, until that point, was proudly unpolished and raucous. His story is profound. The author, Terry Teachout, also wrote "Pops," the acclaimed bio of Louis Armstrong. Click here or on the image.

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What else is there to say? Here is the story behind every song written by The Beatles. Click here or on the image.

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The Grateful Dead don't get enough credit for the profound nature of its lyrics. Many of the band's songs are driven by a deep and literate Americana ("I'm Uncle Sam/That's who I am/Been hidin' out/In a rock and roll band" and "Majordomo Billy Bojangles/Sit down and have a drink with me/What's this about Alabama/Keeps comin' back to me?").

David Dodd's exhaustive study tells the story, song by song. Click here or on the image.