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My Cousin Says Lenny Bernstein was a Regular Guy

HT: ES

He had a stern visage and chiseled features (or was it stern features and chiseled visage?), invariably was called “Leonard” and generally was wearing a tux when us lay people saw him. This made Leonard Bernstein seemed to be a formal and standoffish figure.

This, apparently, wasn’t the case. My cousin Ellen, who is the principal oboist for the Grand Rapids Symphony, posted the above clip on Facebook and referred to Bernstein as “Lenny.” This informality surprised me. “That’s what we called him,” she wrote. Well, I had no idea that she knew “Lenny.” (Ellen, by the way, is the pretty girl in the glasses at the right side of the screen at the 1:34 mark in this video.)

It turns out that Lenny was quite a relaxed guy. That apparently came through in the Young People’s Concerts he hosted. I am too young to remember those. (It’s refreshing, by the way, to be able to say that.) Check out the video above, which presumably consists of excerpts from those presentations, to hear Bernstein run through some boogie-woogie piano and bits of songs by The Association, The Kinks, The Beatles and, as an added bonus, Tommy James & the Shondells.

Somehow, I had never thought of Leonard Bernstein and “My Baby Does the Hanky Panky” in the same sentence before.

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.

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