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Smithsonian’s Dinosaur Hall 2019: For Better or For Worse?

October 21, 2014 at 10:51 am

smithsonianWhether you’re a science buff or just an excited tourist who wants to see the sites, a visit to Washington DC wouldn’t be complete without heading to the famous Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History. If you’ve seen the film Night at the Museum, you can read about this fantasy, adventure comedy herefor sure you’re curious to see the glory of this magnificent landmark.

If you’re planning to visit within the next five years, however, you might be in for a bit of disappointment. The museum’s Fossil Hall (aptly called Dinosaur Hall by some) will be closed for renovations until 2019. It’s for a good reason though – the museum will showcase a new exhibit with an unrivaled fossil collection, including their very own Tyrannosaurus rex.

The National Fossil Hall started with the renovations and closed their doors on April 28 of the current year. Though there’s no specific date of opening yet, the place that was once called the Hall of Extinct Monsters will soon feature the Nation’s T. rex, the centerpiece of the museum’s new 31,000 square-foot dinosaur and fossil hall.

This forty-eight million dollar project centers on the most complete Tyrannosaurus rex skeleton ever unearthed. This will be the museum’s largest and most extensive exhibition renovation to date. On loan for the next fifty years from the US Army Corps of Engineers, this 66-million year old specimen was discovered by a team of paleontologists from the Museum of the Rockies in Bozeman, Montana.

Why will the renovation take so long? Fossil Hall exhibits over 2,000 specimens, and each of these will be disassembled, examined, and then assembled again using modern preservation techniques. Dealing with the bones will take time, as the team aims to avoid breakage as much as possible.

The new hall will be named after David H. Koch, who gave thirty-five million dollars of the total project cost. Koch is the executive vice president of Koch industries and a known philanthropist. Click this link to read more about Koch’s philanthropic acts.

The dinosaur experience might not be as complete for the estimated eight million museum visitors per year, but there is still a lot of the museum to see.The renovation will not affect the museum’s other popular displays, such as the Hope Diamond and Henry, the African bush elephant.

Though the exhibition project manager Siobhan Starrs claims that five years is still too short, museum director Kirk Johnson feels that it will be traumatic for the kids who won’t be able to see it when they visit. But there’s good news for those who are planning to visit before Halloween. Before putting the Nation’s Trex on display, the museum team is still studying it in the 1,830 square-foot Rex Room. Visitors until October 22 can look inside to see what the team is working on.

Having this hall closed for the next five years is surely a sad thing for museum lovers. Fortunately, while you can’t see the T. Rex in person, you can go online and check different history and archeology websites. That way, five years from now when you finally come face to face with this dinosaur, you’ll be familiar with every part of its body.

Having connection issues with your Internet? Why not call the Xfinity Phone Number hotline ? A customer representative will be glad to assist you with any Internet troubles, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week.

What Was It Like To Be A Teenager In The 18th Century?

October 13, 2014 at 11:13 pm

18thcenturylifestyleThe idea of “teenagers” is a recent one, mostly conceptualized in the post-war years to refer to a generation of thirteen-to-nineteen-year-olds who enjoyed relative stability and wealth unlike any others before them. In past generations, such as the 18th century, the only visible transition was from childhood to adulthood, unlike today’s society where teenagers are considered a whole segment of their own, with clothing, entertainment, and activities marketed at this profitable group.

What would it have been like for teenagers in the 18th century? It was a simpler time, but definitely not as backwards or as uncivilized as most youngsters would think. Major transitions and advances in science, technology, and innovation were happening in the mid- to late-18th century, many of which we are still reaping the benefits until today. Teens in that era, for the most part, had an education that cultivated both the scientific and artistic leanings.

The schoolroom was where the youngster’s life revolved in the 18th century. For the wealthier children, private tutors at home were more common, although most would still leave home and go to university when they reach the age of eighteen or nineteen. Many of the subjects were similar to today’s curriculum, such as Mathematics, Philosophy, History, and Science, but there was also a greater focus on languages such as Latin, Greek, and French. In addition, teenagers at that time learned many vocational or career-related skills such as household management, hunting, food preservation, weaving, and others. You can read more about the educational system during the 18th century here.

Because there were no computers or television sets yet, most hobbies and activities enjoyed back then were outside. Boys would go hunting, fishing, or exploring the wild. Girls were limited because of stricter societal rules back then, but they would still be allowed to enjoy dances, fairs, and festivals. Teens in the 18th century were also more exposed to poetry, music, arts, sculpture, and other literary and creative activities.

The very lenient rules we have today regarding teenage dating and romance would not have been allowed in the 18th century. Girls were expected to marry and have their own families once they finished school, and so they were not allowed to get out of the house without a chaperone. Boys and girls were not allowed to be alone together, and it was considered a major scandal back then for a girl to have a romantic relationship without her family’s consent. Stories of elopement would be the talk of the town for a long time. This article provides an example of the process of courtship in the 1700s.

Teens back then were also very much involved in church and community events. In many small towns, life revolved around the church, with the whole family trooping to Sunday services, and then big church dinners and get-togethers afterwards. Community events such as county fairs and sporting events were big attractions that teenagers looked forward to.

The teenagers of the 18th century were also expected to assume responsibilities and continue their family profession once they reached adulthood, and so they started helping out and learning the family trade very early on. For eldest sons, a career in the army or the church would be common. Later on, as the Industrial Revolution roared into much of the Western world, teens had more choices and leeway as far as their careers.

You can learn more about how life was like for the teenagers of the 18th century through many books, films, and even dolls, such as the American Girl Felicity doll patterned after a teenager in 1774. Although for some, it’s just a toy for young girls, an American Girl doll has a huge potential in educating the children and the youth about history. Furthermore, American Girl free shipping offers are available for every purchase of an American Girl doll.

What Do Celebs Do To Keep In Shape?

October 13, 2014 at 3:57 pm

celebritydietsWhen you see big-name celebrities on television, in movies, or featured in magazine covers and spreads, you should know that they spend a lot of time achieving the look that they want. From clothing and styling, to accessories and shoes, everything that your favorite actor or recording artist dons on the red carpet is part of an exact science that entails the advice and close monitoring of a bevy of assistants and stylists.

A major component of the celebrity’s public image is maintaining their shape. Normal people look up to celebrities with chiselled abs and biceps, toned chests, and slim, sexy curves. Also, fans emulate popular personalities and often want to know what they do to stay in shape. While notable celebrities have also resorted to other methods of the surgical kind, many have achieved and maintained their ideal weight through different diet plans and programs. Here are some famous celebrity diet plans:


  •  Beyonce and Jay-Z’s vegan plan. Music industry’s power couple has been in the news a lot lately because of rumors of philandering and impending separation. In 2013, however, Beyonce and Jay-Z chronicled their 22-day vegan challenge on Instagram. Their all plant-based meals included oatmeal, almond milk, berries, nuts, mushrooms, and a wide variety of vegetable and fruit salads and combinations. Jay-Z also fancied a smoothie made with almond milk, banana, spinach, almond butter, and dairy free protein powder. If you want to give Jay-Z’s diet a try, why not start by visiting this dairy free protein powder online resource to get a good understanding of its health benefits.


  • Marilyn Monroe’s light breakfast and power dinner. It was said the Marilyn Monroe preferred a breakfast of two raw eggs whipped in milk (eggnog-style), abstain from lunch altogether, and then have a hearty dinner of broiled steak, liver, or lamb with five carrots on the side, plus a hot-fudge sundae.


  • Sarah Michelle Gellar’s low-calorie plan. When Buffy wasn’t slaying vampires and saving the world, she was sticking to a very strict seven-day low-calorie plan that allowed only cabbage soup, alternating between vegetables, milk, yogurt, and fruit, plus small servings of brown rice or lean meat on the weekends. Visit this page to read more about the benefits of very low calorie diet.


  • Madonna’s macrobiotic diet plan. The Material Girl still looks as healthy and fit now as she did when she first made a splash in the recording industry. Her secret to keeping that great body? A rigorous macrobiotic diet that forbids all wheat and dairy products, eggs, and meats, while substituting with generous amounts of sea vegetables.


  • Gwyneth Paltrow’s allergy-friendly diet. Paltrow was diagnosed with food allergies when she was younger, and switched to a gluten-free semi-vegan diet. She abstains from bread, red meat, tomatoes, eggplants, and cow’s milk.


  • Alicia Keys’ and Lady Gaga’s 5 Factor diet. Their music styles may not be the same, but what Alicia Keys and Lady Gaga have in common is an adherence to the 5 Factor Diet of fitness guru and trainer Harley Pasternak. In this diet, followers have five meals a day using five ingredients with protein, complex carbs, fluids, fiber, and fat. One day a week is allowed as a cheat day where the dieter can eat anything. Other celebrities who follow this plan include Megan Fox, Kate Beckinsale, Katy Perry, and Eva Mendes.


  • The Jennifer Aniston Diet. This diet was a brainchild of Dr. Barry Sears and officially called The Zone Diet, but became popular because of Jennifer Aniston’s seal of approval. This plan gleans 40 percent of calorie intake from carbohydrates and 30 percent from fats. Read more about the zone diet here.

Understanding the Music of the Youth

October 8, 2014 at 2:02 am

grandma_musicAuthor Eva Figes compares the difference of being a grandparent and a parent as that of being married and being involved in a love affair. Being a grandparent is an immensely satisfying, commitment-free job. Why? When you have your first grandchild, there might be confusion over what exactly your role is. You know you have to be part of the child’s life, but suddenly, your words don’t matter anymore. The new parents don’t consider your opinion on child rearing to be valid – almost as if they’ve forgotten that you raised the very child that has now become a parent.

This situation comes with a definite perk though. Since you’re not the adult looked at to be the responsible one, you can have more fun with your grandchild (within limits, of course). You become the cool adult; the one that the children know will give undivided attention to them and will play for them as long as they want to. They see your house as a home away from home and moments spent together are always a special treat.

As the children grow up however, there might be a loss of connection. As they start to develop their worldviews, they might start to lose interest in stories from the past. When this happens, don’t sulk and think that you’re not the type of person to force your way in someone’s life. This is your grandchildren after all, and you have to show them just how awesome a grandparent you are. With this in mind, how can you still be relevant to your grandchild’s life?

Share your passion with music, of course.

Music is a universal language that discriminates over no age, gender or place. It is a wonderful way to connect with your grandchild – while you learn about his music, you can also show him yours.

You may not always like their musical taste, but remember that this way to bond with your grandkid is one that he will appreciate. Before having grandkids, you might have thought that the youth’s choice of music is loud and unruly. The Teen Pop genre which is thoroughly described in this article, and the Bubblegum Pop discussed in this website, are created and marketed towards preteens and teenagers and does not seem to be easily accepted by the older generation. But if you have a genuine willingness to really give it a listen, you might learn to like it.

It might surprise you to learn that some of the songs today have wonderful messages for the younger generation. Though there are racy themes, especially seen in the music videos, the artists know that lyrics can have a powerful effect and encourages the children to accept their own selves and love themselves the way they are. Think back to when you were younger – the songs at the time wasn’t exactly conservative, either.

Sometimes though, grandparents can’t have listening sessions with their grandchild, because they live countries apart. Why don’t you try asking your grandchild what music he likes best over the phone? By getting one of the free cellphones for seniors listed here, a call to your beloved has never been this easy. Talk about each other’s days and interests, and discuss music as well. Listen to the same songs, and suggest music based from his interests that you think your grandchild will enjoy.

Your grandchild will love that you make an effort to be involved in his life, and will view your enthusiasm to listen to his music as a sign of a grandparent’s everlasting love. Being a grandparent is a gift you receive if time permits. It’s not something you have to work for, or a reward you earn. The grandness of having a new child to love and help raise is a rewarding experience that will give you utmost happiness and fulfillment.

Music Scene in New York: What’s the Latest?

October 2, 2014 at 10:09 am

nymusicsceneAs the home of the artists of all kinds, it’s not surprising why New York City is considered the intellectual and cultural hub of the world. A walk around Manhattan is a boost of strength to make you feel alive. Biking through Brooklyn’s cozy spots will bring nuggets of inspiration to your next great work. Riding the ferry to Staten Island and seeing the view of the Statue of Liberty is an experience worth the hour-long commute, and source of many a masterpiece. Check out this article for a complete list of all the beautiful spots in New York City.

And if you’re talking about art, it’s not just about paintings and poetry. If you want live music, then the city that never sleeps is the place to see. You just know that a city notorious for its people’s chatter and loud transportation noises is bound to have great musical sites all around. From tight lounges to big arenas, this city offers a variety of experience to music lovers. All you have to do to pick the right venue is to determine the logistics of what you prefer:


Joe’s Pub

With up to three shows daily, spending a few hours in Joe’s Pub will always be a different experience. As part        of the Public Theater complex in Lower Manhattan, the Pub features a variety of musical acts, ranging from the established to the up-and-coming. If you want great sound with great food as well, this is the place to go.


Beacon Theater

Built in 1929, the theater’s acoustics are so amazing you’ll hear every part even though you’re at the last row of the near three thousand seats inside.


Radio City Music Hall

Best known for the musical show they hold every Christmas, Radio City Music Hall has one of the world’s best acoustics and sits over six thousand. Its interior design and elegantly designed space will give the “New York” feel that you’re looking for.


Union Pool

For that Williamsburg music vibe, head on to 484 Union Ave and see this lovely bar. As a playground of the up-and-coming, this place often hosts live (and sometimes free) bands.


The Living Room

Looking for a venue where the crowd is as welcoming as the performers? The Living Room is a bit bigger than your average bar, with live music, great acoustics and a cool crowd that really goes there to listen to music.


Glasslands Gallery

If you’re in the mood for independent music, then this great spot in Brooklyn is worth the trip. It might not be a large venue but it’s definitely cool. It’s part music venue and part art space, so you can go check out the amazing backdrop while enjoying the music you like.



Another indie place, Barbes in Brooklyn has been dubbed as one of the best places to drop by. At any given night, the performances are always worth watching. The doors open out onto the street so you’ll hear the music outside as you pass by.


A night out in any of the five boroughs in New York City can be as spontaneous or as exciting as you want it to be, which makes it more fun. But if these are not enough, see other music venues in New York by clicking here. The night will surprise you even if you plan every detail. Before you leave home, make sure to print some Tires Plus Coupons from this page. Make sure to put them in your car or your wallet so that moving from one venue to another will be safe and convenient.

MTV News: The New Address of MTV Style

September 19, 2014 at 9:12 am

A few years ago, MTV was originally known as an acronym to the Music Television channel. This was the channel that gave us music videos and introduced the latest songs. When we watched this channel as teenagers, we used to get updates from video jockeys about our favorites songs as they transition to and from each video. Over the years however, the range of offerings of MTV has widened. It has went beyondplaying music to young adults; now it has different channels that has shows about entertainment, cars, houses, and fashion.

mtvstyleAside from television, MTV has also moved to the digital print world by launching their fashion site, MTV Style. In this site you can find blog posts about the different style icons that MTV viewers may be interested in. They had articles not about the artists’ music, but also about their fashion style and latest life update. This July however, they’ve moved on to a new address. MTV Style is now housed under an extension of their news website, MTV News.

According to the last post on their old site, MTV has described the move as the best choice they could do in their situation, which they compared to someone looking at their closet and seeing overflowing stuff inside. So instead of giving the stuff away or putting it in storage, MTV has decided to move their Style site to a new home, that as they say has a responsive web design, and is “tricked out with granite countertops” and “an indoor/outdoor pool”.

And indeed, it has become quite a looker. The site has transformed from having the feel of a blog to that of a magazine. The way the articles are laid out is interesting, because readers will have an easier transition as they browse from article to article. Main images have been upgraded to high definition (no blurred selfie photo allowed!), and the topics vary from hair styles, wardrobe selections, runway pieces, to the latest celebrity gossip that are readers’ guilty pleasure. MTV Style has an average of one hundred thousand followers on Facebook and Twitter each. This means that this many people can find their daily entertainment news right here in this very website.

So you ask, how do you get to enjoy this amazing new address by MTV? You just go online to their site, of course. Though in some cases, you may have unexpected Internet subscription problems due to untrustworthy connection. What do you do then? Well, it has never been this easy. You can just dial the Charter Phone Number found here and ask about how you can have faster Internet browsing. One call to Charter will ensure that you have your latest updates on your favorite celebrities and fashionistas through MTV Style.

MTV News, as the page is headlined, has become the authority on music, movies, celebrity, television, style and pop culture news and information. Targeting the Millennial audience, their aim is to produce a newsfeed full of worthy articles, insider specials, live red carpet shows, exclusive music video and movie premieres – all a various mix of entertaining daily news for their readers. With their exclusive artist and celebrity interviews on-air, online, via mobile and across social media, MTV Style readers will never feel out of the loop in Hollywood news.

George Clinton: The Funk-a-delic Front man

August 22, 2014 at 9:10 am


Front man, singer, songwriter, and producer, George Clinton is one of the driving forces behind the development and popularization of funk music. Born in Kannapolis, North Carolina, and raised in Plainfield, New Jersey, Clinton’s first foray into music was as the founder and front man for a doo-wop group, the Parliaments, which he started in the late 1950s. The Parliaments were signed to the Revilot label and had one R & B hit, 1967′s “(I Wanna) Testify.” When the Parliaments had legal trouble with Revilot, Clinton dropped the name and began recording as Funkadelic, listing Clinton as the producer and the backup band as the only members. When he won back the right to the Parliaments name, he also began recording with a large collective of musicians as Parliament. Throughout the 1970s, he recorded with both Parliament and Funkadelic, with Parliament signed to Casa Blanca Records, and Funkadelic on Westbound and later Warner Bros. The work and rosters of the two bands often are referred to simply as P-Funk. In the 1980s, he began a solo career, although he often recorded with members from the P-Funk roster, due in large part to legal and copyright issues that stemmed from Polygram’s acquisition of Casa Blanca and the complex issues over royalties and copyrights that arose from the large and shifting membership in the two bands.

Clinton was the architect of the 1970s funk revolution. The music of Parliament and Funkadelic combined R & B with jazz and psychedelic rock influences and turned soul into funk. The characteristic sound had horn runs, synthesizers, and a throbbing bass line, particularly that of bassist William “Bootsy” Collins (1951–), who also has a thriving funk solo career, sometimes using Clinton as the producer for his albums. Clinton combined social commentary and wit with danceable grooves and theatrical live shows to produce concept albums and to dominate the black music scene in the 1970s. Parliament and Funkadelic had dozens of R & B chart hits and three platinum albums: Parliament’s 1976 Mothership Connection and 1977 Funkentelechy vs. the Placebo Effect and Funkadelic’s 1978 One Nation Under a Groove. Clinton’s innovative conceptual approach created concept albums, such as Mothership Connection, which presented the story of a group of black aliens who had colonized the Earth and later would return to liberate their people. He also performed long, intense, and spectacular live shows that involved elaborate costuming and props, including a Mothership from which members of the band emerged to play. In addition to his work with P-Funk and his solo work, Clinton has worked as a producer for latter-day funk bands like the Red Hot Chili Peppers (Freakey Styley).While funk lost some of its appeal in the 1980s, Clinton’s importance was less recognized. His status as a pioneer and father of black music was revitalized as hip hop performers heavily sampled from P-Funk’s work and Clinton began to collaborate with hip hop stars. Clinton has been sampled by and has worked with hip hop stars from Chuck D to Tupac to De La Soul to the Wu Tang Clan and many others. Only James Brown (1933–2006) is sampled more frequently. In addition to the platinum albums, Funkadelic’s 1970 Free Your Mind… And Your Ass Will Follow, Parliament’s 1975 Chocolate City, and Clinton’s 1982 Computer Games are important albums. In 1997, Clinton was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame along with 15 other members of Parliament and Funkadelic.


Innovative = Beck

June 18, 2013 at 9:39 pm

beck musicOne of rock’s most innovative Lo-fi, DIY (Do-It-Yourself) performers and song-writers, Beck (the son of a musician and an artist, born Bek David Campbell in Los Angeles, California, in 1970) became a household name with his early 1990s breakout hit, “Loser,” a catchy, folk-rap track that combined self-deprecating lyrics (half of which were sung in Spanish) delivered in a lackadaisical, free-flowing, oddball rap style laid over a mishmash electronica sound and loose, hip-hop style drum machine beats. The off-kilter track, which was recorded in just a few hours in a living room, was produced by former Geto Boys collaborator Karl Stephenson; it became an instant hit that earned Beck a cult following and helped pave the way for the svelt singer’s career.

Before Beck became a well-known “Loser,” however, the scraggly haired singer/songwriter had been working odd jobs, living in a shed, and playing local gigs in coffeehouses. Soon after Beck relocated to New York City, he met Tom Rothrock and Rob Schnapf, the owner of the local indie label called Bong Load Records; with Bong Load’s support, Beck began recording in a proper studio. Oddly enough, Beck had been playing in a side project known as Loser; he wrote the song as a joke, naming it with the nickname that his friends often used for him. Beck used samples from his friend Steve Hanft’s feature film Kill the Moonlight and snippets from the track “I Walk on Gilded Splinters” by New Orleans pianist/performer Dr. John in the song. Hanft directed the award-nominated video, which featured surreal dream-like sequences of the singer and a cast of characters that included the grim reaper working as a windshield washer at a gas station.

“Loser” had been sitting on the shelves until Bong Load released it as a 12-inch. Bong Load could barely keep up with demand for the track, and even self-described Beck fan Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth helped to create a buzz about Beck until the word of mouth spread like wildfire, creating a major label bidding war over the singer, who eventually signed with Geffen Records (home to such acts as Nirvana, Sonic Youth, and Weezer). The contract with Geffen, however, was the first of its kind—the agreement allowed Beck to release his music on smaller indie labels, with the help of Geffen’s distribution muscle.

“Loser”’ was added to the unpredictable singer’s 1994 debut album, Mellow Gold. Thanks to copious radio play,Gold was also an instant hit and “Loser” became a seminal track of early 1990s rock, with Beck leading the fold as a creator of a collage of musical sounds no one else had mixed together before—indie rock, noise rock, jazz, hip-hop, folk, blues, R&B, psychedelica, country, and even blues. Beck’s earlier recordings—a track called “MTV Makes Me Want to Smoke Crack” and a cassette recording called “Golden Feelings”—have since been made available through bootlegged copies.

With “Loser” reaching fans nationwide, Mellow Gold went to #1 on the modern rock charts, went platinum, and peaked on the top ten. “Loser” became an emblematic song for the “slacker” generation, and Beck was a bona fide star. Still, some critics dragged their feet and claimed the singer was a one-hit wonder. But Beck (who toured in 1995 and was added to the bill for 1995’s Lollapalooza tour) delivered quality, groundbreaking music with every release, starting with a string of hit singles from the follow-up album, 1996’s Odelay. The experimental album featured two of Beck’s signature songs—“Devil’s Haircut” and the track that coined the popular phrase “I got two turntables and a microphone,” “Where It’s At”—both of which featured freestyle lyrics that seem to have been put together in a manic free association-style cut-and-paste session. Beck enlisted famed production team The Dust Brothers for the double-platinum selling Odelay, which scored two Grammy’s for the blond-haired singer.

In 1998, artwork that Beck had created with his late grandfather was displayed at a gallery, and he turned his musical focus toward a folkier sound, enlisting Radiohead producer Nigel Godrich for Mutations (Geffen Records). A brief legal scuffle ensued between Geffen and Bong Load, however, since the Grammy-winning Mutations was originally slated to be released by the smaller label. But the two parties settled the dispute amicably. In 1999 Midnite Vultures saw Beck letting loose and coveting R&B and funk sounds. Songs from Vultures appeared in the 2004 acclaimed film Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. On a personal note, Beck married Marissa Ribisi in 2004; he announced his affiliation with the Church of Scientology in 2005. Several of his songs have appeared in countless films, and he has performed on Saturday Night Live a half dozen times.

Beck reteamed with Godrich for his 2002 album, Sea Change, a softer, slower-paced (but no less potent) confessional album that featured string arrangements by Beck’s father. Beck launched an acoustic tour in support of the album and contracted the band The Flaming Lips as his backing band. The second-time’s-a-charm Beck teamed up with The Dust Brothers again for his 2005 album, Guero (Geffen Records), a work that seemed to encompass all of his varied sounds in one package. Guero featured bass lines from The White Stripes’ Jack White. On the heels of Guero, Beck put out Nintendo Variations, an EP of four remixed Guero tracks featuring Nintendo sound effects.

Beck revealed his artistic side even more with his seventh studio album, The Information, which came with stickers for fans to create their own album art. Produced by Godrich, The Information (Geffen Records, 2006) became Beck’s third top-10 album, a collection of fuzzy hip-hop sounds and funky pop that furthered some people’s view of Beck as one of the most creative musicians of modern rock.

The Invention of Soul Music

June 18, 2013 at 9:23 pm

Sam Cooke SoulJerry Wexler, the head of Atlantic Records, a pioneer in R&B, and an authority on the subject, called him “the best singer who ever lived, no contest.” In 1964, Muhammad Ali said, “Sam Cooke is the world’s greatest rock and roll singer—the greatest singer in the world” (ABC-TV Interview, February 25, 1964).

A subject of adulation from both the black and white music communities, Sam’s appeal was many-faceted. Early on, as a gospel singer with the Soul Stirrers, he was nothing less than a saint, a young, striking figure with the voice of an angel and the physical presentation of a god. People called him “that pretty child.” He was the first teen idol the gospel field had produced. On stage with his gospel group, he must have made quite a few of the women, and perhaps some men, have impure thoughts amid all the hymns. Certainly, after he crossed over to the secular side of music, this became a dominant part of his appeal.

“He wore me down,” Aretha Franklin once said of Cooke. Rumors circulated at the time that she and Cooke had a thing going on. “Ooooh, I just loved him. That man could mess up a whole room full of women!” (Franklin and Ritz, 1999). Besides blazing a trail from the gospel to the secular, Cooke also became an important role model as a businessman in the industry. He was among the first black musicians to start his own record label and a publishing company as an extension of his career as a singer and composer. His example, followed by performers such as Ray Charles and Curtis Mayfield, would lead many away from the pitfalls of financial ruin, pitfalls that plagued so many of the more naive black artists in the 1950s and 1960s.

In the annals of modern music, Cooke’s journey from gospel to pop is also among the most controversial. As an iconic gospel performer, Cooke was unequaled at the time, and had he never recorded a note of music as a solo artist his place in the gospel pantheon, high and mighty, would have been secure. With the Soul Stirrers he had become the biggest star gospel music had ever seen, and he had become an important member of the black community, with a fiercely loyal following thanks to performances like “Jesus Wash Away My Troubles” and “Pilgrim of Sorrow.” Had he stayed on with the gospel idiom, he could have taken the musical style to new heights.

But his goal changed, the bar raised, as he became more and more popular with the Soul Stirrers. He wanted to reach beyond the gospel community to the general public. He wanted to sing not only to the black population but to the general population. This meant leaving his gospel roots, which, in turn, meant sacrificing everything he had accomplished to that point. Leaving gospel to go to pop was tantamount to making a deal with the devil.

This is the road Sam Cooke chose. It alienated and angered his gospel fans that considered singing for God, especially the way Cooke did it, to be a blessing. Still, lured by the idea of reaching a wider audience—and the money, girls, and notoriety that came along with it—singing pop became too powerful to resist. He began dabbling in pop soon after Elvis debuted, when he, along with the rest of the nation, began witnessing the appeal of rock and roll among American youths. But he did so delicately at first, recording under a different name so as to not disturb what he had already accomplished in gospel. But even this small toe in the water got Cooke dismissed from the Soul Stirrers and abandoned by his record label.

But Cooke turned gospel’s loss into his advantage, and he began using his real name as a performer. One of his first sessions on the pop side, “You Send Me,” produced by famed producer/A&R man Robert “Bumps” Blackwell and issued on the tiny Keen Records label, became one of the most famous and popular singles of the 1950s, hitting the top of the pop and R&B charts. The song has lived on as vintage Cooke, fusing elements of gospel, pop, and soul in such a way that had never been heard before. It fast became Cooke’s signature sound, and a pioneering sound in pop music for the next 10 years.

Cooke also served his black community in the struggle over civil rights, a movement that paralleled his own rise as a star. When he died in 1964, black America plunged into despair. He had been a ray of light, a symbol of hope, an emblem of equality and racial balance. In fact, so outraged were his fans that his death provoked accusations of a conspiracy. To this day, because his murder has never been solved with certainty, the gospel community believes its prodigal son was killed by the Mafia. Even though it had never been proven that Cooke had Mafia ties, he did lapse into his share of vices as a rich pop star and celebrity. His taste for women, one of whom was accused of his murder, was not surprising or a secret. He had also grown quick-tempered and egotistical, so it would be no surprise either that his disposition, formerly so genial, upset many people.

Having died early in his life and with so much career left ahead of him, the real tragedy of his passing is that he never truly got to make the music he should have. Having spent his first five years in gospel, he was just beginning to find his footing in the R&B and soul music of the 1960s when he died. Before that, as a mainstream pop artist, he was constantly obliged to customize his music to a white pop audience, the one with all the money. But in 1963, a glimpse at what might have been came in the form of a recorded live date at the Harlem Square Club. Cooke proves that underneath the saccharine pop he tailored to radio, he could sing real, gritty soul as well as anyone.

Experts and fans alike imagine that he would have arrived at that point had he stayed his current course. Unfortunately, like so many others in pop who were snuffed out too soon, the world is only left with a guess.

The Definition of Rock: Led Zeppelin

June 17, 2013 at 10:34 pm

zeppelin rockGuitarist Jimmy Page, singer Robert Plant, drummer John Bonham, and bassist John Paul Jones formed Led Zeppelin in August 1968. One year later, the group had broken through to audiences on both sides of the Atlantic and its self-titled debut album had reached the U.K. and U.S. Top Ten.

At its inception, Led Zeppelin was derided by some critics as an overbearing, overloud, and mindless “heavy metal” band. In fact, their music has little of the spiritual gloom and gothic atmosphere characteristic of metal bands like Black Sabbath and Iron Maiden. Zeppelin’s repertoire drew upon diverse influences and traditions including blues from Chicago and the Mississippi Delta, folk songs of the British Isles, funk and soul, mid-1960s psychedelic rock, and strains of Indian and North African music.

Nonetheless, Led Zeppelin exponentially increased the sonic intensity and visual flash of rock music with dramatic results. The group was at the forefront of a “third wave” in British rock music following the breakthrough of the Beatles and the Rolling Stones in 1963–65 and a subsequent crop of blues-oriented bands like Cream and the early Fleetwood Mac in 1966–68. In the case of many English groups of the first wave, the musicians grew up in the same locale and the bands sometimes played out a good part of their careers within that region. But the musicians who formed Led Zeppelin hailed from two disparate regions (suburban London and the West Midlands) and came together as aspiring professionals rather than as friends who’d grown up playing together.

Zeppelin largely avoided face-to-face contact with the music press and eschewed certain standard industry practices. The band rarely performed on television and maintained a policy (at least in the United Kingdom) of not releasing singles from its albums. Rather than limiting its popularity, the band’s stance lent it an aura of principled musical artistry and a reputation for not giving in to pop trends or commercial pressures.

Led Zeppelin was an enormously popular “people’s band” that also personi-fied the wealth, privilege, and arrogance of international rock stardom at its 1970s apex. Particularly in the United States, their music appealed to teenagers for whom the Beatles and Stones, even Cream and Jimi Hendrix, represented the musical tastes of older siblings. This new generation of rock fans embraced Zeppelin and flocked to its concerts in increasingly larger venues, from 400-capacity clubs to open-air sports stadiums. When its career came to a sudden and tragic end in 1980, Led Zeppelin was one of the most popular and influ-ential rock bands of all time.


Led Zeppelin was a collective musical effort from its inception but guitarist Jimmy Page was its instigator, record producer, and driving force. Born January 9, 1944, James Patrick Page grew up in the London suburbs of Heston and Epsom. He was largely self-taught on his instrument that he picked up at age twelve when he fell under the spell of guitarist Scotty Moore’s licks on Elvis Presley’s Sun recording of “Baby, Let’s Play House.” From the 1950s rock and roll of Elvis and Gene Vincent, Jimmy worked his way back to electric blues guitarists like B.B. King and Otis Rush and such pre–World War II country blues artists as Robert Johnson and Skip James. He was also a fan of British folk music and in particular the acoustic guitar players Davy Graham and Bert Jansch.

Page’s formal education ended at age fifteen and he joined a beat group called Neil Christian and the Crusaders with whom he made his earliest studio recordings including the 1962 single, “The Road to Love,” and a cover of Big Joe Turner’s R&B standard, “Honey Hush.” When a bout of glandular fever curtailed his touring career, Jimmy enrolled in art school to study painting while continuing to sit in on jam sessions at the Marquee club in London. Mike Leander, a staff producer for Decca Records, was impressed with Page’s talent and began to employ him on numerous recording sessions beginning in early 1963 with “Diamonds” by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan, which became a number one hit in the United Kingdom.

Accompanying performers both celebrated (Donovan, Brenda Lee) and obscure (the Lancastrians, Gregory Phillips), Jimmy Page is estimated to have played on 50–60 percent of the hit records recorded in London in the years 1963–66. Studio life, although often tedious and mechanical, afforded Page the chance to play different styles of pop music with a wide array of arrangements and instrumentation. Working with the producers Mike Leander and Shel Talmy, he absorbed the finer points of overdubbing, mixing, tape editing, microphone placement, and other technical aspects of recording. Page later applied this knowledge as a staff producer for Immediate Records where he worked with British blues singer John Mayall and former Velvet Underground vocalist Nico.

In May 1966, Jimmy joined guitarist Jeff Beck (a friend since primary school) for a “super-session” that also included Keith Moon and John Entwistle of the Who and another London sessioneer, John Paul Jones. Although their raucous instrumental, “Beck’s Bolero,” would not be released for another two years, the creative camaraderie of the session gave rise to talk of a new group with Beck, Page, and the Who rhythm team. When Keith Moon jokingly predicted that the band would “go over like a lead balloon,” John Entwistle chimed in, “more like a lead zeppelin.”

A few weeks later, Page joined Jeff Beck in a new configuration of Beck’s group, the Yardbirds (guitarist Chris Dreja switched to bass). Among the lineup’s few recordings was a careening version of the Johnny Burnette rockabilly classic “The Train Kept A-Rollin’,” made for the soundtrack of Michelangelo Antonioni’s 1966 film Blowup. This track ranks with the Yardbirds’ greatest studio performances and was a signpost on the road to Led Zeppelin: Two years later, “The Train Kept A-Rollin’ ” would be the very first song ever played together by the four members of the new group.

In October 1966, when Jeff Beck exited in the midst of an American tour, the Yardbirds were poised to disintegrate. But Jimmy Page, at last extricated from the London studio scene, was thrilled to be on the road in the birthplace of blues, R&B, and rock and roll. The Yardbirds’ 1966–67 gigs at Bill Graham’s Fillmore Auditorium in San Francisco were Jimmy’s introduction to the nascent American rock ballroom scene and a far cry from the screaming teenyboppers that still made up a good part of the band’s British audience.

The guitarist participated in the Yardbirds’ final studio album, Little Games, but it failed to revive the band’s fading fortunes and in July 1968 drummer Jim McCarty and lead singer Keith Relf called it quits. Jimmy Page and Yardbirds manager Peter Grant hastened to assemble a new band to fulfill the contractual obligation of a two-week tour of Scandinavia. When Chris Dreja left to pursue a career in photography, bassist John Paul Jones was the first to sign on.


John Paul Jones was born John Baldwin to musician parents on January 3, 1946, in the London suburb of Sidcup, Kent. John went on to study music at boarding school where he was equally influenced by blues, modern jazz, and classical music. In 1960, while serving as the organist and choirmaster at a local church, he bought his first bass guitar; two years later he joined his first professional rock band, fronted by Jet Harris and Tony Meehan. On Meehan’s recommendation, Jones began receiving regular offers of studio session work.

In the period from 1964–68, John played bass guitar and/or keyboards on hundreds of sessions. His credits include the Rolling Stones, Herman’s Hermits, Cat Stevens, and Rod Stewart. Both Jones and Jimmy Page played on Donovan’s “Sunshine Superman,” a number one U.S./number two U.K. hit in 1966. It was not unusual for John to compose a score for horns and strings the night before, pass out the music at the next day’s session, and then conduct the ensemble for the recording.

By 1968, Jones was burnt out from the grinding routine. “I was making a fortune but I wasn’t enjoying it anymore,” he told Dave Lewis in a 1997 interview. “It was my wife Mo who noticed an item in [English music paper] Discsaying that Jimmy was forming a new band out of the old Yardbirds. She prompted me to phone him up. It was the chance to do something different at last.”

“I knew [Page] well from the session scene, of course, he was a very respected name. So I rang him up. He was just about to go up to Birmingham to see Robert.”1


Robert Plant was born August 20, 1948, in West Bromwich and grew up in Halesowen. Both towns are in the West Midlands region of Britain, near the city of Birmingham and close to the rural area known as “the Black Country.” This name may have derived from the above-ground seams of coal that ran through the landscape or from the black smoke that poured from its factories and mines in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. In J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings, the forbidding region of Mordor is said to be based on the historic ambience of the Black Country. Despite its history of environmental degradation, the area also contains swaths of beautiful countryside that, along with Tolkien’s trilogy, would later inspire some of Plant’s pastoral fantasies as a songwriter.

Beginning in his mid-teens, Robert eschewed a career in accounting to sing with a succession of Birmingham-based bands whose styles reflected his eclectic musical states. The Crawling Kingsnakes played blues in emulation of Muddy Waters and Howlin’ Wolf; Listen was a white-soul outfit that released a cover version of the Young Rascals’ U.S. hit “You Better Run.” Band of Joy, with John Bonham on drums, mixed original material with circa-1967 covers of psychedelic rock songs by Buffalo Springfield (“For What It’s Worth”) and the Jimi Hendrix Experience (“Hey Joe”). None of these groups achieved notable success beyond the Midlands but they gave Robert the chance to strengthen his naturally powerful voice and gain invaluable stage experience.

Plant was working with yet another Midlands band, Hobbstweedle, when Jimmy Page traveled to Birmingham to hear him. The guitarist’s first thought was that Plant must have some fatal personality defect: Why else would a vocalist of his caliber still be toiling away in provincial obscurity? As it turned out, the two musicians got on famously from their first record listening Session. “Babe I’m Gonna Leave You” by Joan Baez and “You Shook Me” by Muddy Waters were among the tracks that Jimmy played for Robert as examples of the kind of material he aspired to perform with his new band.

Jimmy Page remembers discussing with Plant “what the band’s driving force should be, the acoustic and electric. Then I saw John Bonham playing with [American singer-songwriter] Tim Rose at a London club and I knew I didn’t have to look any further.”2


John Henry Bonham was born May 31, 1948, in Redditch, Worcestershire, in the heart of the Black Country. By the age of five, he was banging incessantly on tin cans and empty boxes using forks and knives for drumsticks. His exasperated mother, Joan, bought the boy a snare drum when he was ten; at fifteen, Jack Bonham gave his son the gift of a cheap, badly rusted drum kit which was soon replaced by a professional-quality Premier set. John had been expected to follow his father into the building trades but now there was no turning back: “I was determined to be a drummer as soon as I left school. I was so keen [that] I would have played for nothing. In fact I did for a long time.”3

Bonham was only seventeen when he married Patricia Phillips; when their first child, Jason, was born in 1966, the impoverished couple was living in a cramped fifteen-foot house trailer. But the power and precision of his drumming Page 384  |  Top of Articlewith regional bands like the Blue Star Trio, the Senators, and Way of Life made “Bonzo” into a local legend in the West Midlands.

Bonham played so loudly that at least one club owner refused to hire any band that included him. But in tandem with his brute power there was a propulsive sense of swing. As in the big-band drumming of Buddy Rich and Gene Krupa, two of his percussive idols, this element of John’s playing lifted Led Zeppelin’s music rather than simply nailing it to the floor—and he could swing whether playing with sticks or brushes or even his bare hands. Bonham was one of the first “name” drummers in rock to utilize a smaller kit with very large diameter shells (including his trademark oversized twenty-six-inch bass drum) but many observers agreed that he could produce his huge sound on almost any drum set.

“The Band of Joy had been the real schooling for Bonzo and myself for taking material and stretching it, breaking down the general order of the pop song,” Plant later recalled. “So meeting Jimmy and Jonesy was like a gathering of souls, because Jimmy had been doing that with the Yardbirds in a different form.”4

On August 19, 1968, the four musicians gathered for the first time in a small rehearsal room at 22 Gerrard Street in London. Since no one had any original material at hand, they ended up playing the Yardbirds’ arrangement of “The Train Kept A-Rollin’ ” along with some other blues and rockabilly numbers. John Paul Jones later described this inaugural jam as “quite a stunning experience—wonderful, very exhilarating.”5

As “The Yardbirds featuring Jimmy Page,” the quartet commenced a two-week tour of Scandinavia that began with their first public performance on September 7 in Copenhagen. On October 15, they made their live debut as Led Zeppelin at Surrey University. With an eye already cast in the direction of the United States, Jimmy Page and band manager Peter Grant had decided to drop the “a” from “lead” in the belief that Americans would mistakenly pro-nounce it “leed.”

Peter Grant (born November 1, 1935) had worked around the edges of British show business in the 1950s as a talent booker, bouncer, semi-professional wrestler, and film actor. In 1963, he went to work for pop music promoter Don Arden as a tour manager accompanying visiting American rockers including Gene Vincent, Bo Diddley, and the Everly Brothers. Grant took over management of the Yardbirds in late 1966 after Jimmy Page had joined the band and later hired Richard Cole as the band’s road manager for its final American tour in 1968. Both men would play key roles in the Led Zeppelin story.

Standing approximately six feet, six inches and weighing more than 300 pounds, Peter Grant was an imposing figure—and an extremely intimidating one whenever he chose to be. He was completely and unceasingly devoted to Led Zeppelin: Its four members placed their careers, their fortunes, and sometimes their very lives in his meaty hands. It is emblematic of the faith and trust they shared that no written contract ever existed between Peter Grant and Led Zeppelin.



1. Lewis, Dave, Led Zeppelin: The “Tight But Loose” Files—Celebration 2 (New York: Omnibus Press, 2004).

2. Jimmy Page quote from “Led Zeppelin” by Mat Snow, Q Magazine (December 1990).

3. Chris Welch and Geoff Nicholls, John Bonham: A Thunder of Drums (San Francisco: Backbeat Books, 2001), p. 14.

4. Plant quote from “Led Zeppelin” by Snow.

5. Ibid.

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