Billie Holiday Cuts to the Core on “Strange Fruit”

Autumn, 1937. Harvard graduate, now high school English teacher Abel Meeropol submits his newest poetic offering to local Union publication The New York Teacher in a bold and unapologetic attempt to shine a light southward and into the face of the ongoing atrocities that seem to stick like burweed into the fabric of Southern culture. […]

Sinead O’Connor’s “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance”

This is the last day of our acquaintanceI will meet you later in somebody’s office The opening lyrics to Sinead O’Connor’s “The Last Day of Our Acquaintance” enter briskly, as a cold autumn wind through a poorly-sealed window frame. Clinical, mechanical, and void of all but exhaustion, O’Connor aptly reflects and envelopes all the emotion […]

The Righteous Brothers “Unchained Melody” and the Thread that Connects Us

“An invisible red thread connects those who are destined to meet, regardless of time, place, and circumstance. The thread may stretch or tangle. But it will never break.” That’s the ancient Eastern proverbial counterpart to the West’s ‘twin flame’ theory. Meeting people is easy in the revolving door-reality of modern daily life. So easy, in […]

Phosphorescent Rips Love’s Heart Out on “Song for Zula”

Love. It has been the catalyst and impetus of the vast majority of art since some short time after our ancestors covered the walls of Lascaux and Chevaux caves with the earliest forms of artistic expression. Often – too often – musicians opt for the easy path of beating the long-dead ‘my heart is broken […]

Prince Slams Societal Discord on “Sign O’ The Times”

It’s 1986 and Prince’s career is in full-afterburner mode. “Purple Rain,” “When Doves Cry,” and “Raspberry Beret” have already cemented his inclusion among the most successful – and talented – popular musicians of the second half of the 20th century. Tepid off of two less-than-seismic releases, The Artist has decided to go rogue, disbanding his […]

Steve Earle Dismantles Capital Punishment on “Ellis Unit One”

“I object to my government killing people because my government is meant to be me and I object to me killing people.” This is simply one of many damning quotes by legendary American folk artist Steve Earle regarding America’s arguably archaic capital punishment laws. It’s 1995 and famed actor/producer/director Tim Robbins (The Shawshank Redemption, Jacob’s […]

Sublime’s “Pool Shark”: Bradley Nowell’s Suicide Note

California, early 1990s. Despite the epicenter of popular music emerging from the Sunset Strip (think Guns n’ Roses) and Compton (think N.W.A. and Snoop Dogg,) a counterculture hotbed is simmering. Prior to boiling and spilling eastward, upward, and outward across the world with acts like No Doubt, Red Hot Chili Peppers, Rage Against the Machine, […]

The Mayfield Four Triumph on Marvin Gaye’s “Inner City Blues”

“Sing what you know about.” This well-established trope has been central to musicians’ integrity, creative flow, and authenticity for a century. Freddy Mercury did it (even if the audience didn’t know it at the time,) Lead Belly did it (even when it meant writing and performing a song for a Texas governor, in hopes of […]

Neil Young Hits the Vein on “The Needle and the Damage Done”

It’s January 19, 1971. Contrasting the cold winter evening, Toronto’s Massey Hall is a radiator of heat, energy, and electricity. Omemee, Ontario’s (about 175 kilometers NE of Toronto) prodigal son, Neil Young, has returned for a much-anticipated, sold-out performance. The stage is sparsely occupied, as his band Crazy Horse is nowhere to be seen. Despite […]

Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy Whispers his Alienation on “Wolf Among Wolves”

She holds a phantomShe kisses and she hugs himAnd I am notAverse to how she loves him Why must I live and walk, unloved as what I am? If the opening verse of Will Oldham’s (AKA Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy) melancholic masterpiece does not immediately thrust one into existential catatonia, then perhaps one should search their […]

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