Category Archives: Music

Song of the Day #1952

Song of the Day: American Pie, words and music by Don McLean, was the title track to the artist’s 1971 album. The folk-rock song would hit #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in January 1972, and would be dubbed “one of the most successful and debated songs of the 20th century”—due to an array of interpretations as to its meaning. (And McLean is still making headlines till this day!) Check out the original album version (below), a truncated Madonna rendition, a jazz funk rendition by Groove Holmes, and a “Weird Al” Yankovic ‘Star Wars’ parody, “The Saga Begins” [YouTube links]. A Happy Independence Day to All!

And in Brooklyn, it’s not Independence Day without Nathan’s Hot Dog Eating Contest! Joey Chestnut is vying for his 15th win … after last year’s record-setting 76 hot dogs in 10 minutes. Ugh.

Go Joey! (Live stream here.)

Postscript: With a ruptured tendon, Joey Chestnut takes his 15th win, consuming 63 hot dogs in 10 minutes in Coney Island!

See Facebook comments here, here, and here.

Song of the Day #1951

Song of the Day: Sweet Cherry Wine, words and music by Richard Grasso and Tommy James, appeared on the 1969 psychedelic rock album “Cellophane Symphony,” by Tommy James and the Shondells. This anti-Vietnam War protest song was among those included on the jukebox at the Stonewall Inn in the early morning hours of this day, when that gay bar was raided by police for the umpteenth time. But the patrons fought back, asserting the authenticity of their own lives and the right to pursue their own happiness. In looking back on the Stonewall riots, some commentators have cited an urban legend that views the June 27, 1969 funeral [YouTube link] of gay icon Judy Garland—who was born 100 years ago this month (on June 10, 1922)—as an emotional catalyst for the riots late that night. This view has been challenged by many, but there is a poetic irony that gay men of a different generation once referred to themselves euphemistically as “friends of Dorothy” and that Garland’s most iconic song (and LGBTQ anthem), “Over the Rainbow” [YouTube link] (from the 1939 film, “The Wizard of Oz“) finds its symbolic expression in the rainbow flag of Pride (though its creator, Gilbert Baker, denies the connection). Be that as it may—today, I proudly salute the Stonewall Rebels. From the 1969 Stonewall jukebox, check out “Sweet Cherry Wine” (below).

The Seventh Annual Summer Music Festival (Edible Edition) / Song of the Day #1950

At 5:14 am (ET) today, June 21, 2022, the Summer Solstice arrived in the Northern hemisphere. And that means I begin my Seventh Annual Summer Music Festival (Edible Edition). All the songs I’ve picked for this year’s festival reference fruits, blossoms, wines, pies, and so forth, to give us a Summer of Edible Eclectic Music. Eclectic, indeed—since we’ll feature selections across musical genres from a wide variety of artists. Today it’s …

Song of the Day #1950: Watermelon Sugar features the words and music of Mitch Rowland, Tyler Johnson, Thomas “Kid Harpoon” Hull, and Harry Styles, who took this song to the top of the Billboard charts in 2020. Inspired by the Richard Brautigan novel, “In Watermelon Sugar,” this rhythmic, sultry song was the second release from Styles’s 2019 album, “Fine Line“, and would go on to win a Grammy Award for Best Pop Solo Performance. Watermelon has been called “summer’s blessing“, and so I start my Seventh Annual Summer Music Festival (Edible Edition) with a fruit we’ll return to when this festival concludes in September. Check out the official video (below).

Song of the Day #1948 & 1949

Songs of the Day: This Track is a Planet Killer / Milky [YouTube links] are two songs composed by Soy. (to appear on their upcoming album “Johnathan”), with my dear friend Eric Fleischmann on vocals. The starkly different tracks, which follow one another, are united as part of a live performance that debuted on 2 January 2022 [YouTube link]. The first track is full of punk fury; the second is an ambient-alternative instrumental. The full 50+ minute official video can be viewed here. When Eric isn’t protesting on campus or writing about the work of Laurence Labadie or subjects as varied as historical materialism and the anarcho-punk movement, he’s busy wreaking havoc on stage with his bandmates: Mose Hatcher (bass), Max Folan (guitar, vocals), Noah Michalski (drums), Lex Puckett (guitar), Shaan Dahar aka HHP (guitar, backing vocals).

Soy.

Ski and Sue

Yesterday, we learned of the passing of a very dear friend, Sue Mayham (1958-2022). A graduate of the class of 1976 from Brooklyn Technical High School, Sue first met my sister, Elizabeth Sciabarra (Ms. Ski), in the early 70s when my sister asked her to start the Twirlers as part of the BTHS Cheering Squad. Sue was never a student of my sister’s, but she used to slip into Ski’s classes almost every day to listen to lectures on Shakespeare and Chaucer. After Sue graduated, Ski and Sue became lifelong friends. So loving was their connection that it spread to our families. Sue was also kind enough to sit for an interview with me back in 2017, as part of my 9/11 Memorial Series. As I wrote in that article:

A native Brooklynite, [Sue] first attended P.S. 241, a short distance from the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, before moving onto the Packer Collegiate Institute, where she remained through the eighth grade. She decided to take the entrance test for one of the city’s … specialized high schools, one which had only recently opened its doors to young women. She entered Brooklyn Technical High School in downtown Brooklyn as a freshman and was among the first women graduates of the formerly all-boys school. She was actually in the third class in which women were included, in a school of 500 girls and 5,500 boys. For Sue, Tech was a school that thrived on the brilliance and energy of its student population, but it particularly nourished a young generation of strong, powerful, and brave young women. She would move on to Pace University, where she received a BBA in Marketing, preparing her for a career spent on Wall Street. She worked for numerous banks over the years, but on 9/11, the Bank of New York was her employer. 

The interview detailed Sue’s heroic efforts on that day, exhibiting her strength of character and her love of people.

Upon hearing of Sue’s tragic passing, my sister was hard hit emotionally. She writes:

My recollections of Sue go back to my first years at Brooklyn Tech, where I not only had the pleasure of interacting with her in my classes but on the cheering squad—who could forget “The Sting” (our first Half-Time song)? I even went to Sue’s Sweet 16 Party. Later in life, Sue became a loyal board member of the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation. When I became the Executive Director of the Foundation, I was thrilled to work with Sue again to bolster the role of young women at Brooklyn Tech. She started the Ruby Engineers, and was present at all Ruby events, including those where it was clear that she was already experiencing the effects of her ailments. However, this never stopped her from attending functions and participating in so many activities. It is fitting that her last day also marked the Jubilee of Elizabeth II—a strong woman in her own right. Sue was a leader and the dearest of friends for fifty years. My heart is broken. I will miss her so very much.

RIP, dearest Sue. (See too the Facebook post by the Brooklyn Tech Alumni Foundation).

Ski and Sue, 2012

Song of the Day #1947

Song of the Day: Can’t Feel My Face features the words and music of Ali Payami, Savan Kotecha, Max Martin, Peter Svensson, and Abel Tesfaye, also known as The Weeknd, who performs this song. This was the third single from the artist’s second studio album, “Beauty Behind the Madness” (2015). It hit the top of the Billboard Hot 100 three separate times in August-September 2015. Check out the official video and a beat-driven dance remix by Martin Garrix. Today, “Gardenview“, a new album by Nataly Dawn (one half of the duo constituting Pomplamoose) debuts, and it features a creative mash-up of this song with Michael Jackson‘s “Billie Jean” and the Justin Timberlake hit, “Can’t Stop the Feeling!” Check it out here.

E.T. Turns 40!

Forty years ago on this date, “E.T. The Extra Terrestrial” debuted as the final film at the Cannes Film Festival. After its finale concluded, the audience rose to its feet in a lengthy standing ovation. It would not debut in the United States until June 11, 1982, to rave critical reviews and enormous popular success.

The film was both a thrilling sci-fi adventure and an enchanting, loving story of the magic of childhood. Its terrific cast, iconic images, famous lines, and spectacular Oscar-winning, Grammy-winning John Williams-penned score [YouTube link] were key ingredients in its status as one of Steven Spielberg’s landmark films.

It even spawned a Grammy-winning album [YouTube link], released on November 15, 1982, narrated by Michael Jackson, who, 15 days later, would release a little gem of his own called “Thriller”.

I saw this film when it came out in the summer of ’82 and would see it again many times in the years thereafter, including a staging of it on the big screen at Lincoln Center, with the New York Philharmonic providing the score in live accompaniment. That May 2017 cinematic screening was one of the most moving and overpowering experiences of my life. (Folks can check out a Hollywood Bowl screening of it on YouTube.) The film remains one of my all-time favorites. Check out an edited version of the rousing finale below.

Song of the Day #1946

Song of the Day: Friday the 13th (“The Bed Axe”) [YouTube link], composed by Henry Manfredini, is featured in the 1980 slasher film, which went on to spawn a huge multimedia franchise. I’m not particularly superstitious—but I do have to say that I closed not one, but two (!) different book deals on a Friday the 13th! So that sounds like good luck to me! Now “Bring me the Axe!” [YouTube link].

Song of the Day #1945

Song of the Day: Georgy Porgy, words and music by David Paich, appeared on the 1978 self-titled debut album of the band Toto. Having just heard this song during Episode 5, Season 6 (“Black and Blue“) of the fabulous “Better Call Saul,” I was reminded of how much I loved its groove, especially with those backing vocals by R&B singer, Cheryl Lynn. Check out the original version (below), the “Disco Purrfection” version, and a rendition by Eric Benet with Faith Evans [YouTube links].

Song of the Day #1944

Song of the Day: Eye in the Sky, words and music by Alan Parsons and Eric Wolfson, was the most successful release by the rock band The Alan Parsons Project. The title track to their 1982 album has become a staple on rock and soft rock stations, and in its album version, it is preceded by an instrumental piece entitled “Sirius“, included here [YouTube link].