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Top 10 Music News Items of the Week: Paul Simon, the Oud, Girl Groups and More

Here are some of the newsworthy and interesting pieces of news and commentary from the past week or so.

One item features Paul Simon. So, above is the great original video for “Me and Julio Down by the School Yard.” It features Mickey Mantle. I forget the exact story, but I believe Willie Mays originally was going to be in the video. There also are appearances by Spud Webb and John Madden and the video is introduced by Biz Markie and Big Daddy Kane. In other words, it’s a great time capsule.

Another item focuses on the history of girls groups. At the bottom of this post is TLC’s video of “Girl Talk.”

The Stories of Rahim Alhaj…: Interlochen Public Radio offers a feature on Rahim Alhaj, a musician/composer originally from Baghdad. He fled Iraq in 1991 after being imprisoned and tortured by the regime of Saddam Hussein. He went to Jordan, Syria and ended up in New Mexico. He became an American citizen in 2008 and won a National Heritage Fellowship seven years later. Alhaj plays the oud, a precursor of the guitar. His album “Letters from Iraq” turns letters written by Iraqis living through war into music.

.…And Aweys Kabanle: In the second news item featuring the oud, The Guardian features a piece on Aweys Kabanle, who plays the instrument in the embattled city of Mogadishu, Somalia. The second paragraph sets the scene:

Kabanle, a 45-year-old former dressmaker turned musician, is playing traditional Somali music at the luxury Mogadishu Beach View hotel at the city’s Lido to a smartly dressed audience in one of the world’s most dangerous cities.

The city is swollen by refuges, poorly run and still not recovered from the war against al-Shabaab Islamic militants.

Down(streams) on Their Luck: Downloads are, well, down. Drastically. Nielsen Music, via Digital Music News, says that downloads fell 27.4 percent during the first half of the year. In raw numbers, downloads slipped from 307.2 million to 223.1 million. Albums slipped 21.7 percent, or 35.1 million to 27.5 million. And where there is a loser there is sure to be a winner. And there is: Streaming. Nielsen says that streams rose 41.6 percent or from 284.8 million to 403.4 million.

About Girl Groups: Pitchfork tells us the story of girls groups in 45 songs. The list, which links to YouTube videos of each, follows an interview with TLC. All of the familiar groups and songs are represented. There are some lesser known, as well as The Bobbettes’ “Mr. Lee,” The Primettes’ “Pretty Baby,” The Cookies’ “Chains,” The Dixie Cups’ version of “Iko Iko” and 702s’ “Where My Girls At?”

Consciousness of Streams: Here is what looks to be a good primer on Google Play Music and YouTube Music. It’s probably even confusing for people younger than me, which seems to be more and more people every day.

There Goes Rhymin’ Simon (For Real This Time): It feels as if Paul Simon has been retiring for some time now. Here is a nicely written review of his a show at the Manchester Arena, which is part of his last swing through the United Kingdom. Simon wrote “Homeward Bound” nearby.

It’s impossible to calculate the impact that Simon has had on modern music. He, perhaps more than any other megastar, embraced new influences and cultures as his career progressed. He will retire from touring for good with a concert in Queens on September 22.

At one point during the concert, Simon referred to Art Garfunkel as “Artie,” which seems both natural and odd. Anyone hoping the he shows up at Simon’s last performance will be heartened by this clip, which was recorded at Yankee Stadium in 2010. Just two former co-workers catching up at a ballgame. Life is funny.

Childish Music: Childish Gambino – aka Danny Glover – has released (I’m too old to say “dropped” without feeling foolish) two summer songs: “Feels Like Summer” and “Summertime Magic.” It’s about time—it’s almost the middle of July.

Have Music, Will Deliver: ZDNet says that the Sonar Music Festival in Barcelona marked its 25th anniversary by sending 25 years of its history into space. The idea is to send 10 seconds of electronic music from 38 associated artists, including Jean-Michel Jarre, Laurent Garnier and Zora Jones, toward a potentially inhabitable planet called GJ273b. It’s 12.5 light years away. The project brings up the good old Chuck Berry joke.

Music Drives the Internet: Folks interested in the interplay between music and the Internet may be interested in a book excerpt at Wired on the topic. The book was written by Microsoft researcher Nancy Baym.

Music from Tom Petty: On September 28, Reprise Records will release a box set of previously unreleased Tom Petty music. The first single from “An American Treasure” will be “Keep a Little Soul,” which is from 1982. Petty’s wife and daughter are co-executive producers. They, 45-year bandmates Mike Campbell and Benmont Tench and studio collaborator Ryan Ulyate will curate the songs.

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