I just read in my newest Rolling Stone that singer Sharon Jones’ cancer has returned and spread. Her current prognosis is not good. Having been dealing with my mother’s latest illness, I’m especially sensitive to these kinds of stories. While I’m not exactly a super fan, I think Jones is an extraordinary singer and performer. And it breaks my heart to think of all that marvelous talent being cut down so quickly.
Like the late great Warren Zevon, Jones is not taking her diagnosis lying down. She is working, with a new album almost completed. I’m looking forward to hearing it. But in the meantime, let’s celebrate her while she is still hear. And let’s enjoy this music. Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings really put the soul in Soul Music.
I tried posting on this long ago, but couldn’t include the song because I couldn’t find one that was actually sung by the tender, pure, crystal clear voice of Linda Thompson. Well, someone was finally kind enough to put it up on YouTube, and I can’t be happier to share this song with all of you. Just listen to it. Trust me.
If this song doesn’t make you cry, even just a little, then I’m not sure you actually have a heart.
A few days ago, I was listening to an old episode of the TED Radio Hour, which is a show on NPR that excerpts TED talks along particular themes and interviews the speaker about the topic. (TED stands for Technology, Entertainment, and Design; it’s a nonprofit group “devoted to Ideas Worth Spreading.”) I recently subscribed to their podcast, and I’ve been catching up on the episodes I missed. The podcast from May 18th, 2012 was about “The Power of Crowds” and introduced me to Eric Whitacre and the Virtual Choir.
Okay, to be fair, I’d heard about the Virtual Choir before, but I’d pretty much forgotten about it until I listened to this podcast. Eric Whitacre, a composer and conductor, came up with the idea (listen to the podcast to hear his quite funny recounting of the “aha!” moment) of creating a choir of ordinary people in the electronic ether of the Internet, all singing one of his compositions. Here’s how it happens: Whitacre makes the music of one of his pieces available for free download on the Internet. Folks who want to join the choir get the music, learn the appropriate vocal part (if I were to take part, for example, I would learn the alto part), and upload a video of themselves singing to the site. Finally, some very nice technical folks edit the videos together–synching the sound and all that stuff–and it gets posted for everyone to enjoy. Last year’s Virtual Choir performance was turned into a short film, a little more than half of which is the credits (each singer is identified by name, which must be unbelievably cool for all of them). The result is singularly stunning.
I recommend watching this one on full screen to get an idea of the scale. There are 3,746 performers in “Water Night.” The lyrics are from a poem by Octavio Paz. It is one of the loveliest musical moments I’ve ever discovered. And it makes it clear just how powerful the Internet really is, how it can be used to create art and beauty and community. How it is helping to make the world just a little bit smaller, one voice at a time.
Want to join the Virtual Choir? You can sign up for Virtual Choir 4 here.
In a couple of hours, there will be an annular eclipse visible in SoCal, aka a ring of fire eclipse (and yeah, I probably could’ve gone with Johnny Cash today). If we’re lucky, it’ll look something like this
From Time magazine’s newsfeed
Cool. Although since I don’t have any “eclipse glasses” and have no interest in burning out my retinas, I will not be observing it. I think I remember watching an eclipse or two as a kid, so I figure it can’t be that different anyway.
So instead, I offer Bonnie Tyler’s “Total Eclipse of the Heart.” There’s really not much to say about this epic 80s classic, mostly because I’ve always had a little trouble deciphering it. It’s obviously a love gone sour song, but beyond that it’s anyone’s guess. I think I might be a little too influenced by the music video, which should’ve won some kind of award for its EPIC cheesiness. I mean, what’s with the goodbye Ms. Chips thing? And the creepy glowing eyes? It’s almost as bad as The Cure’s “Boys Don’t Cry.” What is this, the boarding school of the damned? Still, it’s fun to watch, so if you’re not in eclipse viewing range or you’re lacking in the proper eye protection, enjoy some good old-fashioned 80s weirdness.