Author-activist and jazz trumpeter Hugh Masekela was born in a mining town near Johannesburg, South Africa, in 1939. At the age of 3, Masekela became obsessed with the gramophone, believing there were little people living inside it. He insisted to his parents that he had to move into their neighborhood where all the music was: the music of The Modernaires, Louis Armstrong, Duke Ellington, Louis Jordan, and Count Basie. Masekela left South Africa for England at the peak of repression, just after the Sharpeville Massacre in 1960, eventually making hit records of his own in the U.S. Masekela's 1987 hit "Bring Him Back Home" became the anthem for Nelson Mandela's triumphant world tour upon his release in 1990. Masekela often recounts the story of being overwhelmed by a birthday card sent by Mandela and smuggled out of prison. Masekela now lives back home in South Africa. "Bajabula Bonke (The Healing Song)" is a magical and inspiring track off the 2004 album Still Grazing. Download it.
Artist: Hugh Masekela
Song: Bajabula Bonke
Album: Still Grazing
Canadian songstress Basia Bulat has a vulnerable and sincere quality to her sweet, rich voice. She serves up songs with subtle lo-fi delight, transporting the listener to another era. Try to catch her on tour later this month, opening for Devotchka. Bulat's cover of Sam Cooke's "Touch the Hem of His Garment," from her 2008 CD Oh, My Darling, is a wonderful listen.
Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Musician-performer Nicholas Edward Cave, a.k.a. Nick Cave, has an enviable abandon, though he's kinda scary. The dark and brooding rocker was born in 1957 to a schoolteacher father and librarian mother in Australia. A famous Cave quote: "I want to write songs that are so sad, the kind of sad where you take someone's little finger and break it in three places." What????? The current members of The Bad Seeds are Mick Harvey, Warren Ellis, Martyn P. Casey, Jim Sclavunos, Thomas Wydler, James Johnston, and Conway Savage. The official full-length CD, the band's fourteenth, drops April 8, but download the advance offering "Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!" from the album Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!! It's fun and spooky.
Artist: Nick Cave & The Bad Seeds
Song: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Album: Dig!!! Lazarus Dig!!!
Late rock-'n'-roll great/songwriter-artist/the real deal Warren Zevon, born in Chicago in 1947 and raised in Arizona and Los Angeles, was the son of a Russian Jewish gambler and Mormon mother. Zevon, whose catalog runs a thousand miles deep, wrote songs with Bruce Springsteen and for Linda Ronstadt, among many others. Zevon, remembered for his sardonic and witty tongue, keeps us on our "listening toes" still. Download "My Shit's Fucked Up" from the 2000 album Life'll Kill Ya.
Artist: Warren Zevon
Song: My Shit's Fucked Up
Album: Life'll Kill Ya
Sixteen tracks deep into Snoop Dogg's 2008 release Ego Trippin', he gives us the most original recording of his career, "My Medicine." In the intro, Snoop dedicates the song to the great Johnny Cash, "a real American gangster." Special guest appearance by Whitey Ford of Everlast on guitar. It's hip hop meets rockabilly meets funk. "My Medicine" will cure any ill. It's so much fun and should surely be in your music library. Download "My Medicine" from Ego Trippin'.
Genre: Hip Hop Rockabilly
Artist: Snoop Dogg
Song: My Medicine
Album: Ego Trippin'
Violinist, singer and humanitarian Lili Haydn began as a bit of a prodigy. "I started playing when I was 7, after I had a dream I could play violin," says the daughter of the late comedienne Lotus Weinstock, the first woman to perform at the Comedy Store (Haydn's father was the creator of New Wave Theater, a precursor to MTV). George Clinton, leader of Parliament-Funkadelic, refers to Ms. Haydn as the Jimi Hendrix of violin. She has shared the stage with Jimmy Page & Robert Plant. Place Between Places, Haydn's 2008 release, is bursting with creativity. "Children of Babylon," written by Lili Haydn and Marvin Etzioni, is absolutely melodic and beautiful. Haydn's voice is inviting and perceptive, her violin the glue. Download "Children of Babylon."