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Rock Star Deaths

Charlie Watts’ death on August 24th had a somewhat surprising impact on me. To be honest, I doubt that I’ve thought about Charlie Watts for more than a cumulative hour over the course of my life. Nonetheless, his death sank into my bones. It bothers me that I could feel so disturbed by the deathContinue reading “Rock Star Deaths”

Is Record Collecting Abnormal?

People collect all manner of things: stamps, coins, Air Jordans, Pokémon cards, matchbooks, comic books, paintings, wine, Pyrex bowls, guitars, baseball cards, seashells, rocks, antique ukuleles, books, Funko toys, foreign currency, basketball jerseys, baseball caps, classic cars, Beanie Babies, dolls, World War II memorabilia, pocket watches, action figures, “Star Wars” memorabilia, Happy Meal toys, concertContinue reading “Is Record Collecting Abnormal?”

A Handful of Covers

I’m taking a little break from the cultural/historical theme this week in order to follow up on a remnant thought from last week’s post about the Beatles’ popularity. They ushered pop music into the era of original compositions, and this led me to think about cover versions. Covers that remain true to their sources areContinue reading “A Handful of Covers”

Otherness on Vinyl: Midcentury Exotica Records

I started buying used records at garage sales and thrift stores in the 1980s. Since they were really cheap, like a quarter, I’d often buy records just because they had interesting covers. That’s how I became acquainted with the genre of music called “exotica.” I became fascinated by these records for reasons that will becomeContinue reading “Otherness on Vinyl: Midcentury Exotica Records”

The King of Independent Record Companies: An Interview with Music Historian Jon Hartley Fox

As I fiddled with my Zoom settings, the man on the screen thought aloud about his backdrop. “In interviews everybody has their library behind them. I have an empty doorway. It’s kind of symbolic.” Thus began my conversation with music historian Jon Hartley Fox. Jon, with his white beard and charming southern drawl, seems to beContinue reading “The King of Independent Record Companies: An Interview with Music Historian Jon Hartley Fox”

The Folk in Folk-Rock’s “Wild Mountain Thyme”

I enjoy opportunities to merge my personal and professional interests, and the topic of folk music is one such opportunity since I regularly teach my students about folklore in the context of culture. One of the features of folklore – whether songs, tales, legends, jokes, or other forms – is that it cannot be tracedContinue reading “The Folk in Folk-Rock’s “Wild Mountain Thyme””

Allen Toussaint

Anyone who has even the vaguest awareness of American popular music from the late 1950s onward will have heard an Allen Toussaint song, but they may have never heard his name. This is one artist who actually is underrated since relatively few have heard of him beyond his hometown of New Orleans, with the exception ofContinue reading “Allen Toussaint”


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