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Matthew E. White Says Rock and Roll is Cold

Second efforts must be terrifying. Second books, second albums, second anythings. You’ve worked your whole life to attain a goal — and you did it! You’re a success! Now what? Can you recreate and recapture the creativity and hunger to succeed and produce something just as good the second time around — and with everybody watching? Sounds brutal to me.

Maybe Harper Lee, author of “To Kill a Mockingbird,” got it right. She wrote one of the great American novels and managed to wait until she was 88 years old before trying to do it again. I understand that it’s more complicated than that, but it was a thought that struck me.

Second efforts came to mind when I began reading the bio at Matthew E. White’s website. White’s arrival on the scene was dramatic: He broke onto the scene by starting a record company, Spacebomb Records, in 2011. White then released “Big Inner,” which became a hit, the next year.

The profile opens on Christmas Eve 2013. White is in his childhood home with shingles as his family celebrates the holiday elsewhere. It’s a great place to start: White had had a triumphant run, but was stressed by success and wondering what would come next.

It’s a bit of a long profile and I confess that I didn’t make it to the end. But the beginning seemed to capture the angst of success, which seems to be the about the same as the angst of failure, though probably spent at better hotels and restaurants.

I heard “Rock ‘n’ Roll is Cold” (above) on WFUV in New York. It’s just great. I think it is to some extent a shout out to Lou Reed, but that’s just a guess. They could have done a bit more with the video, but less can be more. Below is “Will You Love Me,” which also is tremendous. It’s seems very church influenced, but I am again guessing.

Besides his solo work, White leads Fight the Big Bull, which Wikipedia says is an avant-garde jazz band. He was a member of a rock band with the fun name The Great White Jenkins.

Matthew E. White’s Tumblr site and Wikipedia was used to write this post. The home page photo is by Kim Matthäi Leland.

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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.


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


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.