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Ten Music Facts That May Surprise You


Here are ten (actually, a few more) fun facts about music:

1. Merle Haggard was incarcerated in San Quentin Prison from 1958 to 1960. He was inspired by Johnny Cash’s performance there to join the prison’s country music band.

2. Leonard Cohen is a year older then Elvis. He was born in Montreal and first found fame as a poet and novelist. The songwriting and performing came later.


3. Johann Sebastian Bach was better known as an organist than a composer during his lifetime.

4. Leadbelly, serving a prison sentence for murder at the Texas state prison in Huntsville, wrote a song asking Governor Pat Neff to pardon him. Neff granted the request.

5. Chuck Berry played shows with local musicians provided by the venue. A young Bruce Springsteen was one such musician.

6. Louis Armstrong was given his first instrument—a cornet—by a Lithuanian-Jewish family for which he worked for as a youth in New Orleans. Armstrong wore a Star of David and ate matzoh for the rest of his life.

7. The Beastie Boys’ video “(You Gotta Fight) For Your Right (to Party!)” featured Rainn Wilson, Jason Schwartzman, Mary Steenburgen, Ted Danson, Amy Poehler, Steve Buscemi, Maya Rudolph, Kirsten Dunst, Orlando Bloom, Will Ferrell, John C. Reilly and Jack Black.

8. Billie Holiday’s real name was Eleanora Fagan and she sometimes baby sat Billy Crystal, whose father was a record executive.

9. KISS has sold more than 100 million albums.

10. Tony Bennett was discovered in Greenwich Village by Pearl Baily and hired by Bob Hope.

(KISS statuettes: NMirada. Harmonica player: Helkathon)

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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.


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.