sábado, 17 de marzo de 2012

W. C. Handy

William Christopher Handy (November 16, 1873 – March 28, 1958) was a blues composer and musician. He was widely known as the "Father of the Blues".
Handy remains among the most influential of American songwriters. Though he was one of many musicians who played the distinctively American form of music known as the blues, he is credited with giving it its contemporary form. While Handy was not the first to publish music in the blues form, he took the blues from a regional music style with a limited audience to one of the dominant national forces in American music.
Handy was an educated musician who used folk material in his compositions. He was scrupulous in documenting the sources of his works, which frequently combined stylistic influences from several performers. He loved this folk musical form and brought his own transforming touch to it.

Handy was born in Florence, Alabama. His father was the pastor of a small church in Guntersville, another small town in northeast central Alabama. Handy wrote in his 1941 autobiography, Father of the Blues, that he was born in the log cabin built by his grandfather William Wise Handy, who became an African Methodist Episcopal (AME) minister after emancipation. The log cabin of Handy's birth has been saved and preserved in downtown Florence.
Handy was a deeply religious man, whose influences in his musical style were found in the church music he sang and played as a youth, and in the natural world. He later cited the sounds of nature, such as "whippoorwills, bats and hoot owls and their outlandish noises", the sounds of Cypress Creek washing on the fringes of the woodland, and "the music of every songbird and all the symphonies of their unpremeditated art" as inspiration.
Growing up he apprenticed in carpentry, shoemaking and plastering. He bought his first guitar, which he had seen in a local shop window and secretly saved for by picking berries, nuts and making lye soap, without his parents' permission. His father asked him, "What possessed you to bring a sinful thing like that into our Christian home?" Ordering Handy to "Take it back where it came from", his father quickly enrolled him in organ lessons. Handy's days as an organ student were short lived, and he moved on to learn the cornet. Handy joined a local band as a teenager, but he kept this fact a secret from his parents. He purchased a cornet from a fellow band member and spent every free minute practicing it.
He worked on a "shovel brigade" at the McNabb furnace, and described the music made by the workers as they beat shovels, altering the tone while thrusting and withdrawing the metal part against the iron buggies to pass the time while waiting for the overfilled furnace to digest its ore. "With a dozen men participating, the effect was sometimes remarkable...It was better to us than the music of a martial drum corps, and our rhythms were far more complicated." He wrote, "Southern Negroes sang about everything...They accompany themselves on anything from which they can extract a musical sound or rhythmical effect..." He would later reflect that, "In this way, and from these materials, they set the mood for what we now call blues".
In September 1892, Handy traveled to Birmingham to take a teaching exam, which he passed easily, and gained a teaching job in the city. Learning that it paid poorly, he quit the position and found industrial work at a pipe works plant in nearby Bessemer.

During his off-time, he organized a small string orchestra and taught musicians how to read notes. Later, Handy organized the Lauzetta Quartet. When the group read about the upcoming World's Fair in Chicago, they decided to attend. To pay their way, group members performed at odd jobs along the way. They arrived in Chicago only to learn that the World's Fair had been postponed for a year. Next they headed to St. Louis but found working conditions very bad.
After the quartet disbanded, Handy went to Evansville, Indiana, where he helped introduce the blues. He played cornet in the Chicago World's Fair in 1893. In Evansville, Handy joined a successful band that performed throughout the neighboring cities and states. His musical endeavors were varied: he sang first tenor in a minstrel show, worked as a band director, choral director, cornetist and trumpeter.
At age 23, Handy became band master of Mahara's Colored Minstrels. In their three-year tour, they traveled to Chicago, throughout Texas and Oklahoma, through Tennessee, Georgia and Florida, and on to Cuba. Handy earned a salary of $6 per week. Returning from Cuba, the band traveled north through Alabama, and stopped to perform in Huntsville. Weary of life on the road, he and his wife Elizabeth decided to stay with relatives in his nearby hometown of Florence.
In 1896 while performing at a barbecue in Henderson, Kentucky, Handy met Elizabeth Price. They married shortly afterward on July 19, 1896. She had Lucille, the first of their six children, on June 29, 1900 after they had settled in Florence, Alabama, his hometown. Henderson's W.C. Handy Blues & Barbecue Festival is held annually in June.
Around that time, William Hooper Councill, President of Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical College for Negroes (AAMC) (today named Alabama Agricultural and Mechanical University) in Normal, Alabama, recruited Handy to teach music at the college. Handy became a faculty member in September 1900, teaching through much of 1902.
His enthusiasm for the distinctive style of uniquely American music, then often considered inferior to European classical music, was part of his development. He was disheartened to discover that the college emphasized teaching European music considered to be "classical". Handy felt he was underpaid and could make more money touring with a minstrel group.

In 1902 Handy traveled throughout Mississippi, where he listened to the various black popular musical styles. The state was mostly rural, and music was part of the culture, especially of the Mississippi Delta cotton plantation areas. Musicians usually played the guitar, banjo and to a much lesser extent, the piano. Handy's remarkable memory enabled him to recall and transcribe the music heard in his travels.
After a dispute with AAMC President Councill, Handy resigned his teaching position to rejoin the Mahara Minstrels and tour the Midwest and Pacific Northwest. In 1903 he became the director of a black band organized by the Knights of Pythias, located in Clarksdale, Mississippi. Handy and his family lived there for six years. In 1903 while waiting for a train in Tutwiler in the Mississippi Delta, Handy had the following experience:
"A lean loose-jointed Negro had commenced plunking a guitar beside me while I slept... As he played, he pressed a knife on the strings of the guitar in a manner popularized by Hawaiian guitarists who used steel bars....The singer repeated the line three times, accompanying himself on the guitar with the weirdest music I had ever heard."
About 1905 while playing a dance in Cleveland, Mississippi, Handy was given a note asking for “our native music”. He played an old-time Southern melody, but was asked if a local colored band could play a few numbers. Three young men with a battered guitar, mandolin, and a worn-out bass took the stage.
“They struck up one of those over and over strains that seem to have no beginning and certainly no ending at all. The strumming attained a disturbing monotony, but on and on it went, a kind of stuff associated with [sugar] cane rows and levee camps. Thump-thump-thump went their feet on the floor. It was not really annoying or unpleasant. Perhaps “haunting” is the better word.”
Handy noted square dancing by Mississippi blacks with "one of their own calling the figures, and crooning all of his calls in the key of G." He remembered this when deciding on the key for "St Louis Blues".
"It was the memory of that old gent who called figures for the Kentucky breakdown-the one who everlastingly pitched his tones in the key of G and moaned the calls like a presiding elder preaching at a revival meeting. Ah, there was my key – I'd do the song in G."

In describing "blind singers and footloose bards" around Clarksdale, Handy wrote, "[S]urrounded by crowds of country folks, they would pour their hearts out in song ... They earned their living by selling their own songs – "ballets," as they called them -and I'm ready to say in their behalf that seldom did their creations lack imagination."
In 1909 Handy and his band moved to Memphis, Tennessee, where they started playing at clubs on Beale Street. The genesis of his "Memphis Blues" was as a campaign tune written for Edward Crump, a successful Memphis mayoral candidate in 1909 (and future "boss"). Handy later rewrote the tune and changed its name from "Mr. Crump" to "Memphis Blues."
The 1912 publication of his "Memphis Blues" sheet music introduced his style of 12-bar blues; it was credited as the inspiration for the foxtrot dance step by Vernon and Irene Castle, a New York–based dance team. Some consider it to be the first blues song. Handy sold the rights to the song for US$100. By 1914, when Handy was 40, he had established his musical style, his popularity increased significantly, and he composed prolifically.
The three-line structure I employed in my lyric was suggested by a song I heard Phil Jones sing in Evansville ... While I took the three-line stanza as a model for my lyric, I found its repetition too monotonous ... Consequently I adopted the style of making a statement, repeating the statement in the second line, and then telling in the third line why the statement was made."
Regarding the "three-chord basic harmonic structure" of the blues, Handy wrote the "(tonic, subdominant, dominant seventh) was that already used by Negro roustabouts, honky-tonk piano players, wanderers and others of the underprivileged but undaunted class". He noted,

"In the folk blues the singer fills up occasional gaps with words like 'Oh, lawdy' or 'Oh, baby' and the like. This meant that in writing a melody to be sung in the blues manner one would have to provide gaps or waits."
His published musical works were groundbreaking because of his ethnicity, and he was among the first blacks to achieve economic success because of publishing. In 1912, Handy met Harry H. Pace at the Solvent Savings Bank in Memphis. Pace was valedictorian of his graduating class at Atlanta University and student of W. E. B. Du Bois. By the time of their meeting, Pace had already demonstrated a strong understanding of business. He earned his reputation by recreating failing businesses. Handy liked him, and Pace later became manager of Pace and Handy Sheet Music.
In 1917, he and his publishing business moved to New York City, where he had offices in the Gaiety Theatre office building in Times Square. By the end of that year, his most successful songs: "Memphis Blues", "Beale Street Blues", and "St. Louis Blues", had been published. That year the Original Dixieland Jazz Band, a white New Orleans jazz ensemble, had recorded the first jazz record, introducing the style to a wide segment of the American public. Handy initially had little fondness for this new "jazz", but bands dove into his repertoire with enthusiasm, making many of them jazz standards.
Handy encouraged performers such as Al Bernard, "a young white man" with a "soft Southern accent" who "could sing all my Blues". Handy sent Bernard to Thomas Edison to be recorded, which resulted in "an impressive series of successes for the young artist, successes in which we proudly shared." Handy also published the original "Shake Rattle and Roll" and "Saxophone Blues", both written by Bernard. "Two young white ladies from Selma, Alabama (Madelyn Sheppard and Annelu Burns) contributed the songs "Pickaninny Rose" and "O Saroo", with the music published by Handy's company. These numbers, plus our blues, gave us a reputation as publishers of Negro music."
Expecting to make only "another hundred or so" on a third recording of his "Yellow Dog Blues" (originally titled "Yellow Dog Rag" ), Handy signed a deal with the Victor company. The Joe Smith  recording of this song in 1919 became the best-selling recording of Handy's music to date.

Handy tried to interest black women singers in his music, but initially was unsuccessful. In 1920 Perry Bradford persuaded Mamie Smith to record two of his non-blues songs, published by Handy, accompanied by a white band: "That Thing Called Love" and "You Can't Keep a Good Man Down". When Bradford's "Crazy Blues" became a hit as recorded by Smith, African-American blues singers became increasingly popular. Handy found his business began to decrease because of the competition.
In 1920 Pace amicably dissolved his long-standing partnership with Handy, with whom he also collaborated as lyricist. As Handy wrote: "To add to my woes, my partner withdrew from the business. He disagreed with some of my business methods, but no harsh words were involved. He simply chose this time to sever connection with our firm in order that he might organize Pace Phonograph Company, issuing Black Swan Records and making a serious bid for the Negro market. . . . With Pace went a large number of our employees. . . . Still more confusion and anguish grew out of the fact that people did not generally know that I had no stake in the Black Swan Record Company."
Although Handy's partnership with Pace was dissolved, he continued to operate the publishing company as a family-owned business. He published works of other black composers as well as his own, which included more than 150 sacred compositions and folk song arrangements and about 60 blues compositions. In the 1920s, he founded the Handy Record Company in New York City. Bessie Smith's January 14, 1925, Columbia Records recording of "St. Louis Blues" with Louis Armstrong is considered by many to be one of the finest recordings of the 1920s. So successful was Handy's "St. Louis Blues" that in 1929, he and director Kenneth W. Adams collaborated on a RCA motion picture project of the same name, which was to be shown before the main attraction. Handy suggested blues singer Bessie Smith have the starring role, since she had gained widespread popularity with that tune. The picture was shot in June and was shown in movie houses throughout the United States from 1929 to 1932.
In 1926 Handy authored and edited a work entitled Blues: An Anthology—Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs. It is probably the first work that attempted to record, analyze and describe the blues as an integral part of the U.S. South and the history of the United States.
The genre of the blues was a hallmark of American society and culture in the 1920s and 1930s. So great was its influence, and so much was it recognized as Handy's hallmark, that author F. Scott Fitzgerald wrote in his novel The Great Gatsby that "All night the saxophones wailed the hopeless comment of the "Beale Street Blues" while a hundred pairs of golden and silver slippers shuffled the shining dust. At the gray tea hour there were always rooms that throbbed incessantly with this low, sweet fever, while fresh faces drifted here and there like rose petals blown by the sad horns around the floor."

Following publication of his autobiography, Handy published a book on African-American musicians entitled Unsung Americans Sing (1944). He wrote a total of five books:
Blues: An Anthology: Complete Words and Music of 53 Great Songs
Book of Negro Spirituals
Father of the Blues: An Autobiography
Unsung Americans Sing
Negro Authors and Composers of the United States
During this time, he lived on Strivers' Row in Harlem. He became blind following an accidental fall from a subway platform in 1943. After the death of his first wife, he remarried in 1954, when he was eighty. His new bride was his secretary, the former Irma Louise Logan, whom he frequently said had become his eyes.
In 1955, Handy suffered a stroke, following which he began to use a wheelchair. More than eight hundred attended his 84th birthday party at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel.
On March 28, 1958 he died of bronchial pneumonia at Sydenham Hospital in New York City. Over 25,000 people attended his funeral in Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church. Over 150,000 people gathered in the streets near the church to pay their respects. He was buried in the Woodlawn Cemetery in Bronx, New York.

domingo, 11 de marzo de 2012

Paul Kantner

Paul Lorin Kantner (born March 17, 1941) is an American rock musician, known for co-founding the psychedelic rock band Jefferson Airplane and its spin-off band Jefferson Starship.
Although the band was originally formed by Marty Balin, Kantner eventually became the main man of Jefferson Airplane and captained the group through various successor incarnations of Jefferson Starship. Kantner has the longest continuous membership with the band; at times he was its only member. A political anarchist, Kantner once advocated the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD for mind expansion and spiritual growth, and is a prominent advocate of the legalization of marijuana. In a 1986 interview, Kantner shared his thoughts about cocaine and alcohol, saying, "Cocaine, particularly, is a bummer. It's a noxious drug that turns people into jerks. And alcohol is probably the worst drug of all. As you get older and accomplish more things in life in general, you realize that drugs don't help, particularly if you abuse them." When Kantner suffered a cerebral hemorrhage in 1980, his attending physician at Cedars-Sinai, Stephen Levy, was quick to point out it was not a drug-related issue, saying: "There is zero relationship between Paul's illness and drugs. He doesn't use drugs." Kantner's primary instrument is the rhythm guitar, and he also sings lead or backup vocals. Kantner has three children, sons Gareth and Alexander, and daughter China.

The son of Paul and Cora Lee (Fortier) Kantner, Paul had two much older half-siblings: a half-brother and a half-sister. His mother died when he was eight years old, and Kantner remembers not being able to attend her funeral, having been sent to the circus instead. His father, a traveling salesman, sent young Kantner off to Jesuit military school after his mother's death. It was in the school's library at age eight or nine where he read his first science fiction book, finding an escape by immersing himself in science fiction novels and music at an early age. When he became a teenager he went into total revolt against all forms of authority, and became determined to become a protest folk singer in the manner of his musical hero Pete Seeger. He entered University of Santa Clara and San Jose State College, completing a total of three years before he dropped out to enter the music scene.
During the summer of 1965 singer Marty Balin saw Kantner perform at the Drinking Gourd, a San Francisco folk club, and recruited him as part of the original Jefferson Airplane. When the group needed a guitarist, Kantner recommended Jorma Kaukonen, whom he knew from his San Jose days. Kantner would be the only member to appear on all Jefferson Airplane/Starship albums bearing the Jefferson prefix. Kantner's songwriting often featured whimsical or political lyrics with a science-fiction or fantasy theme, usually set to music that had a hard rock, almost martial sound. Kantner and Jefferson Airplane were among those who played at Woodstock. Forty years later, Kantner recalled: “We were due to be on stage at 10pm on the Saturday night but we didn’t actually get on until 7.30am the following day.” Later in the year, the group also played at Altamont, where Marty Balin was knocked unconscious by a Hell's Angel member originally hired as security for the concert.

Despite its commercial success, the Airplane was plagued by intra-group fighting, causing the band to begin splintering at the height of its success. Part of the problem was manager Bill Graham, who wanted the group to do more touring and more recording. During the transitional period of the early 1970s, as the Airplane started to disintegrate. Kantner recorded Blows Against The Empire, a concept album featuring an ad-hoc group of musicians whom he dubbed Jefferson Starship. This earliest edition of Jefferson Starship included members of Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young (David Crosby and Graham Nash) and members of the Grateful Dead (Jerry Garcia, Bill Kreutzmann, and Mickey Hart), as well as some of the other members of Jefferson Airplane (Grace Slick, Joey Covington, and Jack Casady).
In Blows Against the Empire, Kantner (and Slick) sang about a group of people escaping earth in a hijacked starship.The album was nominated in 1971 for the science fiction Hugo Award. A sequel, The Empire Blows Back, was released in 1983 and included most of the same musicians, performing this time under the name The Planet Earth Rock and Roll Orchestra.
Kanter had been in love with Grace Slick for some time, but she was involved in a relationship with the band's drummer, Spencer Dryden. After their two year affair ended, he finally had a chance with Grace. In 1969, Kantner and Grace Slick began living together publicly as a couple. Rolling Stone magazine called them "the psychedelic John and Yoko." Slick became pregnant, and a song about their love child's impending birth "A Child Is Coming" appeared on Blows Against the Empire. Kantner and Slick's daughter China Kantner was born in 1971. Slick would later leave Kantner to marry Skip Johnson, a Jefferson Starship roadie. Despite the split, Slick remained with the band.
Kantner and Slick released two follow-up albums. Sunfighter was an environmentalism-tinged album released in 1971 to celebrate China's birth. He and Grace made news again in 1972, when they were accused of assaulting a policeman after their Akron, Ohio concert. 1973's Baron von Tollbooth and the Chrome Nun was titled after the nicknames David Crosby had given to the couple. Through a songwriter friend Kantner discovered teen-aged guitarist Craig Chaquico during this time, who first appeared on Sunfighter and would play with all of the incarnations of the Starship name through 1991.

After Kaukonen and Casady left the Airplane in 1973 to devote their full attention to Hot Tuna, the musicians on Baron von Tollbooth formed the core of a new Airplane lineup that was formally reborn as "Jefferson Starship" in 1974. Kantner, Slick, and David Freiberg were charter members along with late-Airplane holdovers drummer John Barbata, and fiddler Papa John Creach, along with Pete Sears (who, like Freiberg, played bass and keyboards), and Chaquico. Marty Balin also joined Jefferson Starship while their first album, Dragonfly, was still in the works, co-writing with Kantner the album's biggest hit "Caroline."
After the 1978 release of the album Earth - to which Kantner contributed just one song - Jefferson Starship endured major personnel changes. Slick took a leave of absence, and Balin quit the group to pursue a solo career. No attempt was made to replace Slick, but Balin was replaced by Mickey Thomas, who was previously successful as a member of the Elvin Bishop Group. An album dominated by Kantner compositions called Freedom at Point Zero was released to commercial success. Grace Slick returned for the follow-up album Modern Time which was another record featuring Kantner's science fiction themes.
In October 1980, Kantner was taken to Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in serious condition from a cerebral hemorrhage. Kantner had been working in Los Angeles on an album when he became ill. He was 39 years old at the time and beat considerable odds with a full recovery without surgery. A year later, Kantner talked about the experience, saying, "If there was a Big Guy up there willing to talk to me, I was willing to listen. But nothing happened. It was all just like a small vacation." It was his second brush with serious illness or injury, having suffered a serious motorcycle accident in the early 1960s: ""I hit a tree at 40 miles an hour head first and nearly shattered my skull. I had a plate in there for a while." The injury from the motorcycle accident was credited with saving Kantner from serious complications from the cerebral hemorrhage; the hole left by the accident relieved the accompanying cranial pressure.
In 1984, Kantner (the last founding member of Jefferson Airplane remaining) left the group, complaining that the band had become too commercial and strayed too far from its counterculture roots. Kanter made his decision to leave while Jefferson Starship was in the middle of a tour. Upon quitting Kantner took legal action against his former bandmates over the Jefferson name (the rest of the band wanted to continue as Jefferson Starship). Kantner won his suit, and the group name was reduced to simply "Starship." Under the terms of the settlement, no group can call itself Jefferson Starship without Paul Kantner as a member, and no group can call itself Jefferson Airplane unless Grace Slick is onboard. The legal battle had personal repercussions as well, permanently damaging Kantner's friendships with Mickey Thomas and Craig Chiquico. In a 2007 interview, Kantner related that the legal battles did not put an end to the name issue: "Right now she's (Grace Slick) suing me for some unknown reason, but generally we get along really well. Twenty years ago, feeling tired of the music business, she signed over her interest in Jefferson Starship to me, and now she's suing me for using the name. I actually had to go and dig up the piece of paper she signed, and I showed it to her, and she said, "I don't remember that."" The legal issues came to an end in 2008, with Slick and former group manager Bill Thompson being declared the rightful owners of the name, but granting Kantner the right to use it for his band for a fee which was not disclosed.

In 1985, following his departure from Jefferson Starship, Paul Kantner rejoined with Balin and Jack Casady to form the KBC Band, releasing their only album, KBC Band (which included Kantner's hit, "America"), in 1987 on Arista Records. There was a video made for "America" as well as a national KBC tour. In 1986, Kantner headed for court with Slick and her then husband, Skip Johnson, over the taping of some telephone conversations.
With Kantner reunited with Balin and Casady, the KBC Band opened the door to a full-blown Jefferson Airplane reunion. In 1988, during a San Francisco Hot Tuna gig where Kantner was performing, they found themselves joined by Grace Slick. This led to a formal reunion of the original Jefferson Airplane (featuring nearly all the main members, including founder Marty Balin, but without Spencer Dryden, who left in 1970. A self-titled album was released by Columbia Records. The accompanying tour was a success, but their revival was short-lived, although the band never formally disbanded. According to Grace Slick, the reunion began as a joke: "We hadn't even talked for a year, and we were battling legally - in fact, there are still some standing lawsuits between me and Paul, something to do with the Airplane. Anyway, the idea was that I'd just sneak in, stand at the side of the stage and come out and sing 'White Rabbit' and see what Paul did. Paul never got the joke, but he liked it, the audience liked it, and that's how it started.
Kantner and his Jefferson Airplane bandmates were inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996. The performance at the induction ceremony was the first time original members Marty Balin, Jorma Kaukonen, Jack Casady, Spencer Dryden and Kantner had played together since 1970. Grace Slick had to miss the ceremonies because of a serious leg infection, but sent a message which was delivered by Kantner, "Grace sends her love."

In 1991 Kantner and Balin reformed Jefferson Starship and Kantner continues to tour and record with the band as of 2010. Today Jefferson Starship is primarily a Paul Kantner solo band, with various former Airplane and Starship members dropping in for tours or specific shows. With their latest female vocalist Cathy Richardson and Kantner's son Alexander Kantner on bass, Jefferson Starship released their first studio album in a decade, titled Jefferson's Tree of Liberty in September 2008. The album was a return to Kantner's musical roots featuring covers of 1950's and 1960s protest songs.
In late 2010 Kantner started to compile collections of "sonic art" performed by him and various artists, including a mix of cover songs, sound effects, and spoken word, releasing multiple volumes under the title "Paul Kantner Windowpane Collective".