A Tribute to Charlie Hebdo: Edith Piaf sings “No, je ne regrette rien” (No, I regret nothing)

Note: If you are new to my blog, please also see last week’s post, “Kids, Music and Why I Started This Blog”.

Your Weekly Listen for 1/13/15 is a tribute to all who lost their lives defending free speech in Paris last week: the legendary Edith Piaf singing “Je ne regrette rien” (I regret nothing).

Édith Piaf was an iconic French singer and a symbol of French passion and tenacity. Affectionately called “La Môme Piaf” (“The Little Sparrow”), she was born in Paris in 1915. She rose to fame as a singer of French art songs during World War Two, and after the war her reputation spread around the world. She also allegedly assisted in preparing false documents for a number of French soldiers so they could escape imprisonment by the Nazis. She died in France in 1963.

“Because my life, my joys
today begin with you.”

The song, “Non, je ne regrette rien, was composed by Charles Dumont, with lyrics by Michel Vaucaire. It was written in 1956, and spent seven weeks atop the French Singles & Airplay Reviews chart.


Kids, Music and Why I Started This Blog

Your weekly listen for 1/6/14 is me ranting a bit.

I have always loved music and dancing. In fact, here’s me, back in 1970 (this was my first birthday).

Charlotte's first birthday

According to my Mom, I was dancing to my favorite song, which was “Down On the Corner” by CCR. I did listen to some “kids’ music” as a child, but I don’t really remember any of it. I remember Melanie, CCR, Cream, Buddy Holly, The Stones, Van Morrison, Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, the Chieftans, Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos, Vivaldi’s “Four Season”, to name a few. My parents, like most people in those days, had a stereo set with a turntable in their living room (also depicted here), and it was customary to put music on to set a “mood” whenever you had company over, or just anytime you felt like it. We often listened to records together in the evenings.

At age twelve, I became interested in the Beatles, and started guitar lessons. As a teenager, I got involved in my local ‘punk rock’ community. I often ‘jammed’ or shared songs with others, and I went to see a lot of teen bands play at underage venues. Later I pursued a career in modern dance, which involved an active interest in music as well. And today, I sing and play with friends, alone and with my daughter. I listen to music online and in the car, and I still have a stereo in my living room.

I have always loved music and have listened to music on a daily basis throughout my life.

When I first began teaching guitar, I mistakenly assumed that what is normal for me is normal for everyone. But in my time as a music teacher, it has become clear to me that this is not the case. When starting with a new guitar student, I would often ask, “Who are your favorite musical artists?” Sometimes, I would get a cogent answer, but more often than not, I would get a blank stare.

“I mean, what songs do you like?” I would continue, thinking perhaps the question had been unclear or the student was just feeling shy. Another blank stare or mumbled “I don’t know”. “Well, how do you listen to music?” I’d ask, “Do you listen to CDs? The radio? What songs are on your iPod?”

Gradually, through much probing, the truth would emerge: that this aspiring music student didn’t really listen to music AT ALL.

I must pause here to emphasize this point:

You need to listen to music before you can play it.

Imagine someone trying to write an essay, without ever having read a book. How can you play music, if you don’t know what music is supposed to sound like? And how can you be motivated to practice if you don’t have a goal in mind of how you want your playing or singing to sound? Before you undertake to learn a musical instrument, discover what inspires you. What music is beautiful to you? What music makes you want to dance, or laugh, or cry? A student of music should spend as much time listening as playing.

And that’s why I started this blog.

This blog is a curriculum for a music listening education.

Just imagine, for a moment, what a rich world of music lovers and players we could foster if every child was introduced to music from around the world and across the musical spectrum? How many more of those kids would want to learn an instrument? How many would spontaneously want to start bands at school, or jam and play music with their friends, without being hounded to practice? I believe, even more important than teaching your child to play an instrument, you can enrich their lives by simply exposing them to music on a daily basis in your home.

So far, in this, my music-video-centered blog, I have featured country, folk, rock, contemporary acoustic, blues, African, classical, prog-rock, improvisational, musical theatre, and Turkish folk music. My mission is to expose you and/or your young music student to every genre of music under the sun, and such a variety of exceptional artists as to enrich the most sophisticated of musical palettes. And the best part is, your little one can start this music listening program as early as the day they are born!

It’s also never too late to start. That’s why this blog is for all ages … newborn through retirement age. Just scroll back through the posts and see for yourself. 🙂


Angelic Voices: Christmas in Ireland

Your weekly listen for 12/24/14 is Libera, a boys choir based in London, England. Here they are singing a positively entrancing version of the classic “Carol of the Bells”. I hope you will enjoy it!

I thought I’d keep it simple at this hectic time, and just wish everyone the very best of the season. See you in the new year!


The Timeless Voice of Joni Mitchell

Joni Mitchell

Your (not so) weekly listen for 12/16/14 is the lovely and legendary Joni Mitchell. Here she strums a lap dulcimer and sings one of her classic melodies, “California”. This video is from an October 1970 appearance on BBC Television. Although the dulcimer is a bit out of tune, her vocal performance is flawlessly on pitch, and furthermore, so inspired that I felt the video overall was well worth recommending.

Joni Mitchell was a pioneer in the folk music revolution of the 1960s along with contemporaries like Judy Collins, Joan Baez and Bob Dylan. She had numerous hits including “The Circle Game”, “Big Yellow Taxi”, “A Case of You”, “Woodstock” (made famous by Crosby, Stills & Nash), “Both Sides Now” and others. Many of her songs have been recorded by other well-known recording artists. Some have even credited her with “inventing” the female singer-songwriter genre.

She was born in Fort McCloud, Alberta (Canada) in 1943 and eventually found her way to New York City where she joined in the folk music scene there and got her start. She had huge success as a “hippie” folk singer in the 1960s and early 1970s.

In the course of her career, she has released 19 studio albums. In the 1980s and 90s, she gravitated more towards a jazz sound. In 1997 she was inducted into both the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame and the Songwriters Hall of Fame.

Joni Mitchell is also an accomplished painter and today resides in Canada. She is undoubtedly one of the most influential musical artists of our time.


Magical Musical Puppetry : Grego and Mazja


Happy Thanksgiving! Your weekly listen for 11/30/14 is Grego of with his beautiful creation, “Mazja the Dreambird”.

Originally from the United States, Grego has built several musical puppets and has performed at festivals all over the world. He has also been featured on television in Japan, where he lives with his wife and baby. He is shown here performing outdoors at the Oregon Country Fair in Eugene, Oregon.

Mazja the Dreambird is both a puppet and a bowed psaltery, which is a harplike instrument. She herself holds a harp, a pan flute, a violin and a set of cymbals. Notice how her arm is attached to Grego’s arm so that she bows in concert with him. In this performance she is shown playing the cymbals and the violin.

I have had the pleasure of seeing Grego perform live with Mazja on two occasions, and this video, as lovely as it is, doesn’t do justice to the magic of their performance, which truly seems to cast a spell over the audience. Unfortunately Grego doesn’t perform in the United States often but I’ll try to keep my eye out for any upcoming peformances in our area!

The bowed psaltery is a descendent of the Greek psalterion and the European medieval plucked zither psaltery, both of which closely resemble a harp.


This Song Will Give You Chills: Africa Stop Ebola!

Your Weekly Listen for 11/23/ 14 is Africa Stop Ebola by Various Artists.

There is so much to say about this video, it’s hard to know where to start. I’ll begin with a bit of music video history. My generation watched the birth of music videos and we all remember when, in 1984, Bob Geldof of The Boomtown Rats pioneered the first charity song/video combo for famine relief in Africa with an all-celebrity cast singing “Do They Know It’s Christmas?”. The song was cowritten by Geldof and Midge Ure, and brought a host of British musical talent together to form the original “Band Aid”, including members of U2, The Police, Banarama, Duran Duran, Spandau Ballet, Culture Club and others. The song went straight to number one and stayed there for weeks, raising millions of dollars. Not to be outdone, a group of American artists formed “USA For Africa” the following year, to record and release “We Are The World”. Written by Lionel Ritchie and Michael Jackson, the recording featured Paul Simon, Tina Turner, Billy Joel, Daryl Hall, Bob Dylan, Cyndi Lauper, Bruce Springsteen, Willie Nelson, Diana Ross and many others. It also went straight to number one and raised millions more. “We Are the World” and “Do They Know It’s Christmas” have both been re-recorded over the years to raise funds for other benevolent causes. In additions, dozens of “imitation” videos – songs written by other artists for charitable causes – have emerged. Bob Geldof deserves mountains of credit for getting this ball rolling. It’s entirely possible that without him, nothing like this ever would have happened.

Thirty years later, “Africa Stop Ebola” takes the trend to a whole new level. It features a host of African musicians I’ve never heard of before, but wish I had, and will keep an ear out for in future: Amadou & Mariam, Salif Keita, Oumou Sangaré and Kandia Kouyaté, Mory Kante and Sia Tolno, Tiken Jah Fakoly, Barbara Kanam and Didier Awadi. What incredible voices and presences! But this video isn’t just out to raise funds, it also aims to educate and instruct. The lyrics, written by musicians in collaboration with an academic advisor, and at the request of the Disasters Emergency Committee, counsel the African public on disease containment and sanitation practices, in both French and indigenous languages. Song sales raise money for Doctors Without Borders.

Tragically, as of my writing this, the song is NOT AVAILABLE FOR DOWNLOAD FROM ITUNES USA! I’ve written to iTunes to request that they remedy this (feel free to do the same). In the meantime, you can click here to donate to Doctors Without Borders . I just signed up for monthly donations and hope you’ll do the same if you haven’t already. Minimum donation is only $7.50!


MUST-SEE! Fantastic All-Ages Show, This Thursday in Columbia City!

This news JUST came across my desk so I’m adding a special post to let folks know that THIS coming Thursday, November 6, there is a fabulous, FREE (by donation) all-ages show at the Royal Room in Columbia City.

Just for a quick taste of what you’ll be in for – here is a glimpse at an outstanding local artist of national reputation who will be part of this amazing line-up: Danny Godinez, guitar wizard. Also on the line-up will be a new band with Farko Dosumov, and equally outstanding bass player who has collaborated with Danny for over ten years. I’ll do features on both of these great artists eventually, but for now, here’s a quick listen.

Details again: Thursday, November 6, NO COVER, ALL AGES until 10 pm, show starts at 8!
The Royal Room is located at 5000 Rainier Ave S. I’ll be there, with my kiddo. Hope to see you!


Brilliant Blind Boy Plays the Blues: Felix de Saint-Hilaire!

Your weekly listen for 11/4/14 is Felix de Saint-Hilaire of Montreal, Quebec (Canada). Felix, born blind, got his first guitar at age 6 and taught himself to play on his own. He is now 10 years old and is shown here playing “Everyday I Have the Blues” by BB King. Felix has soul, passion, a strong voice and some great guitar chops!

It is often said that when a person loses one sense, another develops to compensate for the loss, and I believe it is true. I went to music college with a young man who was blind and he possessed an almost super-human ability to play by ear. He was a pianist, and his talent was so well recognized that the professor would often use him to demonstrate in class. The teacher would play a short piece of music on the piano – a melody with a fairly complicated chord progression underneath. Without hesitating, the blind student was able to reproduce the entire piece of music on the piano, note for note, after hearing it only once. It makes me wonder how much more we sighted people might achieve musically if we were to close our eyes and open our ears more often.

Regardless of what impact Felix’s disability may have had on his playing, he is a great musician and I know you will enjoy his performance!


Seattle’s First Lady of Rock: Nancy Wilson

Your weekly listen for 10/28/2014 is Seattle-based classic rock band Heart’s monster guitar mama, Nancy Wilson!

Ann and Nancy Wilson, better known as the two front-women of the rock band “Heart”, have enjoyed a long and successful writing and performing career beginning with their debut album in 1976. “Dreamboat Annie”, featuring the two hit songs “Crazy On You” and “Magic Man”, skyrocketed the Wilson sisters to fame as the first women in the history of rock music to achieve success writing their own songs and playing their own instruments. Though neither of these songs ever reached #1, they have stood the test of time and are still frequently played on the radio today.

Heart went on to have a multi-decade career. They had numerous hits in the 1970s and 80s, including “Heartless”, “Barracuda”, “Straight On”, “Never”, “What About Love” and many others. They earned a Grammy Lifetime Achievement award and have been inducted into the Rock’n’Roll Hall of Fame.

Nancy Wilson was clearly not about to be outdone by her male counterparts in the world of rock guitar. Here she demonstrates her virtuosic playing with a variation on her famous intro to the song, “Crazy On You”. I have learned the familiar recorded version of this intro myself, and I can stumble through it at about 3/4 speed. It’s tricky. In the version you are about to see, she smoothly transitions from “Crazy On You” into a blues progression, then to “Babe, I’m Gonna Leave You” by Led Zeppelin, to the classic riff from “Hijinx”, another Heart song, and finally back to “Crazy On You”. If that isn’t impressive enough, check out the martial arts kick at the finale. This lady is not to be reckoned with!


Make Music With Anything: Artis the Spoonman!

Your weekly listen for 10/21/14 is Seattle’s legendary Artis the Spoonman! Artis spent many years living in and around Seattle and is well known at the Pike Place Market, where he used to perform regularly with another Seattle legend, the inimitable Jim Page (folk singer, songwriter and guitarist). He has also toured extensively through North America and Europe. Some of his more noteworthy performances include the David Letterman Show and a guest appearance with the Seattle Philharmonic Orchestra. However, it was certainly the Soundgarden song “Spoonman” (written about and featuring him in the video) that skyrocketed him to fame. He claims the honor of being “the most famous spoon player in the world” and I have no doubt that it’s true. Watch and listen to find out why (here he appears on the show “Night Music” in 1989, hosted by the Grammy-award winning jazz saxophone player David Sanborn):

The tradition of playing spoons dates back to prehistoric times. Spoons evolved from “bones” or “folk bones”, which are flat instruments carved out of animal bones. Musical bones (still in use today) are played in approximately the same way as spoons, by holding two in one hand and knocking them together. Spoons or bones have been employed as musical instruments in ancient Rome, Greece and Egypt as well as in Slavic, Russian and Irish folk music, Cajun music and Zydeco. In America, spoons and bones were used in early minstrel shows and “jug” bands.

Artis’ slogan is “make music with anything” and he certainly walks his talk. Notice that his collection of instruments includes spoons of both metal and wood in a variety of shapes and sizes to create different tones and resonances, a pie lifter, some forks (a regular dinner fork as well as musical tuning fork that is designed to create a particular pitch and carry it for several seconds), and several sets of folk bones.

Artis now lives in Port Townsend, WA and is taking a sabbatical from performing, but if he comes out of retirement, I will certainly put his show(s) on the Your Weekly Listen events calendar.

ACTIVITY: Parents of wee ones, here’s a GREAT indoor activity for the kids on a rainy day. Collect a bunch of different shapes and sizes of spoons and let the kids experiment with them to find out what kind of sounds they make.

Follow by Email