Saturday, November 27, 2010

Taylor Hicks ~~ Americana Music

Some time ago, a friend sent me music by Irma Thomas including a beautiful version of “Loving Arms,” one of my all time favorite songs. I had not heard her music—Miss Irma, New Orleans’ Soul Queen. I liked her rich, soulful sound. “Break Away” is one of her own songs, and “I Wish Someone Would Care” is a soulful jewel.

She is representative of the great artists out there who aren’t charting hit makers or mainstream pop culture icons. But they have a loyal following because they are good.

Music blogger, Bob Lefsetz, has said that he’s not a fan of hits, but a fan of music and that we need a “filter” to find the good music out there—there is so much of the other kind. He thought someone could make money by presenting really good music and artists, not just performers with deep pockets.

Musical talent was discovered in a somewhat unusual way in the 1930s.

It was the Thirties’ version of a government stimulus package—part of President Franklin D. Roosevelt’s New Deal.

This is from an intriguing history, “Highway 61 Revisited The Tangled Roots of American Jazz, Blues, Rock, & Country Music,” by the master sax musician, Gene Santoro.

“Under the New Deal, the government sent out squadrons of researchers, writers, artists, and collators to document and disseminate local American folkways and history. This was part of the broader push to put to work the armies of unemployed, but it also reflected a country awakening from the social elite’s Eurocentric cultural dominance, partly thanks to emerging mass media…”

John and Alan Lomax were part of this unique effort.

“Alan Lomax worked with his ex-banker father, John A. Lomax, from age 17, crisscrossing the South making irreplaceable field recordings… adding oral histories and interviews that nest among the jewels of the Library of Congress.

“The biggest prize the Lomaxes snared on their 1933 Library of Congress trip to Louisiana’s Angola State Penitentiary was Huddie 'Lead Belly' Ledbetter. …
He carried in his head a fathomless bag of Americana.”

The Lomaxes were enthralled by Lead Belly and were able to get his release. He was turned over to Moses Asch, an independent label head with a small studio just off New York’s Time Square.

“Asch is one of those independent label heads who played vital roles in postwar American music. At Folkways, Asch recorded culture that was vanishing beneath urbanization and the growing mass media. He ran his several labels on love and a shoestring.”

“Lead Belly was the first folk artist Asch recorded, and his songs fed a powerful underground stream into folk and rock music of the 1950s and 1960s: songs he claimed to write…include 'Goodnight Irene' and 'Cottonfields,' which were covered by everyone from [Pete] Seeger to Creedence Clearwater Revival, and defined others like 'House of the Rising Sun.'"

I was fascinated by an “under the radar” DVD, “Deep Blues, a Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads,” by Robert Palmer and others, captured much in the same way as the Lomaxes did—recorded in tucked away roadhouses, bars, and front porches in the Deep South. It is “real” blues and soul music that is about as far away from mainstream as one could get.

It made me realize that there are live music places, much like the ones where Taylor Hicks “cut his musical teeth” all over the country in out of the way byways and housed in old buildings on busy city streets where good music is humming. Raw talent is performing on Wednesday night hoping just to get a Friday or Saturday night gig.

It makes you want to go out to the local bar or club and check out the talent. Support live music!

If you are lucky enough to be in or around New Orleans, one of the most fascinating cities I’ve ever had the privilege to visit (yes, to see Taylor Hicks), Irma Thomas has an impressive musical resume and is appearing there in December.

And she is good.

From Rounder Records: "She remains one of America’s most distinctive and classic singers, a treasure from the golden age of soul music who remains as compelling and powerful as ever..."

Check out Miss Irma, New Orleans’ Soul Queen:

If music is your passion or your diversion, Gene Santoro’s comprehensive history of 20th century Americana music is outstanding. As a non-musician, I didn’t understand much of the music lingo, but the histories of great musical legends from Woody Guthrie to Bruce Springsteen were fascinating. It is an in-depth study of the people and influences that create the basis for our Americana music scene today. It is not just about Southern roots, but also the legacies of the West Coast, New York City, and Detroit.

All of these musical treasures are available on Amazon!

Miss Irma’s soulful albums
“Deep Blues, A Musical Pilgrimage to the Crossroads” by Robert Palmer and others “Highway 61 Revisited The Tangled Roots of American Jazz, Blues, Rock, & Country Music,” by Gene Santoro, Oxford University Press
Taylor Hicks’s music, “Taylor Hicks,” “Early Works,” “The Distance,” and “Whomp at the Warfield,” live performance DVD.

And all are wonderful presents for the music lover on your holiday gift list!

Final Reflection:
The music I have discovered in the past few years, not only from Taylor Hicks, but from friends and online communities has enriched my life anew. I have always loved music—sang in church choirs as a teenager, studied a little bit of it in college, and then I got busy with life. Except for an occasional concert, popular vinyl album, or a radio in the background, I missed a few decades of music.

The last four years has been a reconnecting with music from the past and good music of today.

I am forever grateful to Taylor Hicks for that!


To subscribe to The Lefsetz Letter, visit:

Photos: Miss Irma Thomas from; Taylor Hicks at Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Taylor Hicks ~~ Karma, dancing, and thanksgiving...

I am forever thankful for a beautiful family, caring friends, a good job and warm home.

I am also thankful for the balance in my life.

As winter blew in last weekend with cold, wet snow, I went out to bring in the cushions on the front porch chairs. I shook the covers to be sure I didn’t bring an outside creature inside. Unexpectedly, something did fall out.


I laughed and then felt sad as I realized I had destroyed the winter cache of a small critter, perhaps even the winter home!

I knew about acorns. They house Karma.

One winter I thought they would be a nice decorative addition on my coffee table and naively picked up many little piles of them, under leaves, tucked away. They did look pretty in the flat antique basket. Overnight they warmed up, and Karma came crawling out all over my coffee table and into the carpeting.

What they say about Karma is true!

The world is a serious place. Sometimes there is little to laugh about, let alone dance about.

I was stunned last week when I read:

“I thought the world couldn’t be any colder and emptier. Now it is.”

He had lost someone dear to him and then learned of the death of Matt Kimbrell. But she had lived just as Matt had. They all danced at midnight.

Taylor Hicks has said it is not about how many records you sell. It is about how many lives you touch.

I am thankful for those who still dance at midnight—those who make the music and those who dance.

I was happy to read last night that a "party of 10" was on the way to the airport to welcome home their Marine.

I am thankful that some of our troops will be having dinner at home with their families today!

And I am forever grateful for the service of our brave men and women in the Armed Forces who spend this day far from home.

God bless our troops and keep them safe wherever they are this Thanksgiving!

A blessed and Happy Thanksgiving from...

The Taylor Hicks Community

Don’t pick up the acorns!

Photo from

Monday, November 15, 2010

Taylor Hicks "...owned the song" as he performs "Gran Torino"

It was an impressive gathering by any standards. So was the guest of honor.

The best and brightest turned out Sunday evening in Los Angeles for the Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival Gala honoring Clint Eastwood. California Governor, Arnold Schwarzennegger, attended along with award recipient, Eli Wallach, Rabbi Marvin Hier, and British director and producer of “Iron Cross” recipient of the Rembrance Award, Joshua Newton. The ceremonies were hosted by comedian and TV host, George Lopez with special musical guests Taylor Hicks and Michael Grimm.

Taylor Hicks performed the title song, “Gran Torino,” from Eastwood’s award winning movie set in a troubled Detroit. Loren Gold, who toured with Taylor in 2007 as his musical director, accompanied Taylor on the piano. A signature touch of the American Idol from Alabama was harmonica lines woven into his performance of the poignant lyrics.

“Gran Torino” was requested by Mr. Eastwood and obviously well received. @RabbiYonah posted on twitter this morning:

“@TTHC @TaylorRHicks one of the highlights of the night, he owned the song, and the audience.”

Taylor tweeted after the performance: @TaylorRHicks: “Was a great honor performing for Mr. Eastwood.. What an honor! Busy night…”

Congratulations to all who bring the entertainment world and good causes together!

Truly, it is the lasting work of the business.

Photo credits: Group gathering from MDouglas47 via twitter: L to R: Eli Wallach, Nina Josephs, Bryce Dallas Howard, Taylor Hicks, Rabbi Marvin Hier, Clint Eastwood, Tom Scott, Arnold Schwartzennauger, George Lopez; other photos from and

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Taylor Hicks to perform "Gran Torino"

“…heart locked in a Gran Torino”

Detroit was the home of the muscle cars in the 1970s. New models rolled out in the fall with champagne-infused evenings for the car-lovin’ populace in and around Motor City.

Been there, done that.

Detroit was also the home of violence, intolerance, and urban decay. The auto capital of the world has come a long way since then. It fought through its intolerance. It built the Renaissance Center that spawned a rebirth of the city and its culture.

It is the auto industry that is in trouble now.

Taylor Hicks, long-time touring musician and American Idol turned Broadway star, presents a musical backdrop for all of this as he performs “Gran Torino,” from the movie of the same name—the creation of the legendary filmmaker and its star, Clint Eastwood. “Gran Torino,” the movie, is a stunning portrayal set in Detroit of Walt Kowalski as he is embroiled in the turmoil that rocked many cities in those days—the turmoil on the streets and the turmoil in our hearts.

Taylor performs the intricate title song at the request of Clint Eastwood!

He tweeted: @TaylorRHicks: Truly honored 2 B asked by Clint Eastwood 2 sing Gran Torino ths wknd. rlly cool...

The Alabama native appears as a special guest performer at the Museum of Tolerance International Film Festival in Los Angeles this Sunday evening. He entertains for the inaugural event that honors Clint Eastwood in a special tribute and recognizes film legend, Eli Wallach. George Lopez hosts the gala, and America’s Got Talent winner, Michael Grimm, appears along with other musical guests.

“Gran Torino” was written and performed by Jamie Cullum for the movie. It is a complex weave of lyrics and nuances that invites the singer’s interpretation.

"Gran Torino"
Realign all the stars
Above my head
Warning signs
Travel far
I drink instead
On my own
Oh, how I've known
The battle scars
And worn out beds

Gentle now
A tender breeze blows
Whispers through a Gran Torino
Whistling another tired song
Engines humm and bitter dreams grow
Heart locked in a Gran Torino
It beats A lonely rhythm
all night long

These streets are old
They shine with the things I've known
And breaks through the trees
Their sparkling

Your world
Is nothing more
Than all
The tiny things
You've left behind

So tenderly
Your story is
Than what you see
What you've done
Or will become
Standing strong
Do you belong
In your skin
Just wondering

Gentle now a tender breeze blows
Whispers through the Gran Torino
Whistling another tired song
Engines hum and bitter dreams grow
A heart locked in a Gran Torino
It beats A lonely rhythm
All night long

May I be so bold and stay
I need someone to hold
That shudders my skin
Their sparkling

Your world
Is nothing more
Than all
The tiny things
You've left

So realign
All the stars
Above my head
Warning signs
Travel far
I drink instead
On my own
How I've known
The battle scars
And worn out beds

Gentle now a tender breeze blows
Whispers through the Gran Torino
Whistling another tired song
Engines hum and better dreams grow
Heart locked in a Gran Torino
It beats a lonely rhythm

All night long

It beats a lonely rhythm
All night long

It beats a lonely rhythm
ll night long

Taylor Hicks does interpretation very well. He will give his own touch to Sunday night’s “Gran Torino.” Like a new model rollin’ off the line, he will own this “Gran Torino” as surely as Walt owns the shiny one in his Detroit driveway.

For the music and the cause that champions our quest to live peacefully together, may the night…

…hum and better dreams grow.

Heart locked in a Gran Torino
It beats a lonely rhythm
All night long

It beats a lonely rhythm
All night long
It beats a lonely rhythm
All night long

Jamie Cullum’s “Gran Torino” …

Thanks to RagsQueen for the photo of Taylor at the Dawn of a Dream gala, Minneapolis, 11.6.10.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Taylor Hicks ~~ Thank our Troops!

At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month…

Two years ago on my way through an airport, I was in line at a Starbucks. A young soldier was behind me. In a shaky voice I told the cashier to put his food on my bill. He seemed surprised and mumbled a thank you. I replied with a choked voice, “No… thank you. It’s the least I can do.”

Taylor Hicks spends a lot of time in airports. Early one morning in March he sent these poignant tweets:

“Good morning. 30,000 feet above you all. Beautiful sunrise... Reflecting.” Mon 29 Mar 03:47 via twitter for Blackberry

“Don't ever be too shy. To tell a soldier ‘Thank You’ while you are in the airport.” Mon 29 Mar 05:37 via twitter for Blackberry

A few weeks ago I was boarding a plane on my way to the happiest place on earth. I was stopped in the center aisle waiting as those in front of me stowed their carry ons. I stood next to a young soldier in uniform seated on the aisle. I remembered Taylor’s suggestion with a knot in my throat. I wanted to thank him, but I wasn’t sure I could find my voice.

I didn’t.

I was glad when a man coming behind me put out his hand to the soldier and said, “Thank you for your service.” He was the only one. Everyone passing by that soldier should have thanked him. I VOWED that I would next time.

FOUR soldiers from my home state come home this week aboard their final flight.

I cannot forget the opportunity I had to thank that young soldier.

Now, it is too late for some.

Today is a time to remember our veterans and thank our troops!

Find your voice!

“19” is Taylor’s tribute to our troops, and it always receives a standing ovation from an emotional audience. I think that it should be here today:

Those we remember and thank today are our real heroes!

God bless our troops!

Happy Veterans Day!

Thanks to AnotherTayFan for "19" from Springfield, IL.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Taylor Hicks ~~ For the Children...UPDATE!!!

UPDATE: 11-7-10
From @childrenscancer late last night: "Woot! We exceeded our fundraising goal by $100,000! We raised $925,000 tonight. Thank you donors & sponsors for your generosity!"

That says it all!!!

Sometimes it’s more than a night out. It’s more than a show. It’s more than music.

Sometimes $500 is much more.

Taylor Hicks brings the show and the music with his Southern soul and rock band. “Dawn of a Dream” celebrates the 30th anniversary of the Children’s Cancer Research Fund with a black tie and pearls night out at The Depot in Minneapolis Saturday evening. The gala supports the passion of Children’s Cancer Research:

“...a world free of childhood cancer.”

Sometimes $500 funds a dream.

“Just before 13-year-old Katie Hageboeck died, she asked her parents to take the money she had saved for a 10-speed bike and donate it to a fledgling group formed to fund cancer research.

“That was 1979. Since then, Katie's $500 savings has snowballed into $75 million worth of cancer research at the University of Minnesota, thanks to the Children's Cancer Research Fund launched by her parents.”

Sometimes the young lead the way.

It's been heartwarming the last few days to watch the twitter messages of support for this weekend’s celebration. It was a caring community in Minnesota and online coming together to celebrate and support a dying child’s legacy to help others.

News from @childrenscancer this week said they were “packing it to the rafters” with over 1,000 party goers out on the town for a good cause. The event is sold out~~as well it should be!!!

In town for a concert at the Maplewood Performing Arts Center Friday night, Taylor Hicks tweeted on Friday:

“@TaylorRHicks: Just had a great visit at Children's Hospital at U of M Medical Center!! And to think we have strength...”

Sometimes the young surpass us in ways we may not see.

What Taylor saw most in the young cancer patients was their strength!

If $500 has grown to $75 million in the last 30 years, what can $75 million + do in the next 30 years?

Congratulations to the Children's Cancer Research Fund for the success of the past three decades! Bless all those who see a need and do something about it…like Katie did.

Here’s to reaching that dream in the next 30!

Rock those rafters at The Depot! Party for the best of reasons…

For the children!!!

Read more about the Children’s Cancer Research Fund and find out how you can help make this dream come true at:

“My mom says I was special because I had cancer when I was a baby. She still says I'm special. I think it's because I'm a princess.” Sydney S. Acute Myelogenous Leukemia Survivor

God bless the children.

In the Taylor Hicks community, we are proud to be a small part of this effort. Thanks for allowing Taylor to perform for such a worthy cause.

It’s one of those special times when music is so much more!

The Border Song, Maplewood Performing Arts Center, Friday night; thanks to MN Sue!

Border Song, Maplewood, MN 11-5-10 from MN Sue on Vimeo.

Thanks to Wonder for a stunning photo of Taylor Hicks at Epcot Center, 10.10.10.