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Ry Cooder: “Jesus on the Mainline”

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This post presented two problems. The first was that as I was putting it together I had a sinking feeling that I have failed in not listening to enough Ry Cooder during my life. The second was more immediate: Each clip I listened to was better than the one before. How could I choose which to feature?

Clearly, neither is a crisis. I can listen to more Cooder. And anyone who listens to the music here can go listen to more. It’s available. In any case, here are The Very Things that Make Her RichHow Can a Poor Man Stand Such Times and Live? and Vigilante Man.

Cooder is featured in the movie Ry Cooder & The Moula Banda Rhythm Aces: Let’s Have A Ball.  The clip above is from the film. Cooder also was the driving force behind the great Buena Vista Social Club, which paid homage to forgotten  Cuban musicians.

Rolling Stone has Cooder on its lists of best guitarist ever. It’s a bit confusing, since he ends up in different spots in different years. One has him at eight, right between Stevie Ray Vaughan and Jimmy Page, another at 31, in a Billy Gibbons/Elmore James sandwich. Ranking guitarists is dumb anyway, so suffice to say that he is, and is in, great company.

Here’s about one-third of what the site wrote:

In Ry Cooder’s hands, the guitar becomes a time machine. Ever since he began as a teen prodigy in the Sixties, he has been a virtuoso in a host of guitar styles going back to the most primal bottleneck blues, country, vintage jazz, Hawaiian slack-key guitar, Bahamian folk music and countless other styles. He’s combined these different musical idioms into his own eclectic style as one of the world’s foremost performing musicologists.

(Homepage photo: Dani  Cantó)

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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.


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.

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