Posts Tagged ‘Singers’

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Gotye: The Instant Classic of “Somebody That I Used To Know”

April 15, 2012

 

 

 

The difference between a song that’s a chart topper that quickly fades away and a song that endures to become a classic is relevance.  New listeners over generations can project themselves into a classic, each hearing something a little different, each moved based on their own life experience. A classic song isn’t just beautifully built like a house, it has body and soul and new life is breathed into it with each person who experiences its words and melody.

And every so often there comes a song that saturates the airwaves, becomes an internet obsession, launches an artist worldwide…a song that sets trends, has deep meaning in the simple language of its verses, an irresistible chorus, and a video to go with it that is not just artistic but the perfect marriage of the song’s vocal and visual story.

Right now that song is “Somebody That I Used To Know” by the Australian singer songwriter Gotye. Last night he performed the song on “Saturday Night Live.” Tonight he’ll perform it at the Coachella Music Festival in California.

Gotye’s song tells a story that is as old as time: man, woman, relationship down the drain and the hard feelings that linger. And the nagging hurt that each treats the other like a stranger when they once shared their most intimate feelings and desires. Gotye’s decision to write a verse with the woman’s alternate perspective (sung by breakout artist Kimbra) was an ingenious decision in storytelling and is probably why the song became such a hit. It’s not often that both sides in the relationship-gone-bad song get a voice.

But when a friend sent me the link to “Somebody That I Used To Know” being performed as a cast number on  “Glee” I confess I was skeptical. I believe the word “vomitous” came up when I learned the song had been turned into a production number. I did not want to see a this song that is singlehandedly resuscitating what’s left of Top 40 and adult contemporary radio and the one new song that we want on the ipod,  diminished into a platform for contrived teenaged angst or  the quarterback-cheats-on-cheerleader high school plot.

But a classic song will also surprise you. And that’s how I felt after watching the “Glee” version. Will it ever be my favorite cover? No. (Neither will the cringe inducing duet performed on American Idol by contestants Elise Testone and Phillip Phillips). But the way in which “Glee” used the song to tell story of the estrangement of two brothers is interesting. It speaks to the scope of Gotye’s writing. The song has the depth and breadth to have relevance in relationships that I had never envisioned. Not just romantic but between siblings, a parent and child, or best friends.

And that’s how classics are born.

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Remembering The Moment I Witnessed Whitney Houston Hocking Her History

February 12, 2012

In January 2007, I reported on the auction of thousands of items belonging to Whitney Houston. They were contained in an old, as I recall leaky warehouse located on an industrial street in Irvington, New Jersey. Houston hadn’t paid the storage fees and after the bill reached nearly two hundred thousand dollars her belongings were put up for sale.

There were amplifiers, trunks, recording equipment and instruments from her tours, clothing, boxes of various awards she’d received, and stage costumes. Lots of custom made stage costumes for what must have been her size zero frame during those years when she appeared so terribly thin. Tonight, watching the television coverage of her death, they played a clip of her performing in the early 1990s and I recognized the gown. It was a lavender, beaded velvet gown I’d seen hanging on a rack at the warehouse. I held it up at one point when we were taping. Later that day a collector bought it for around two hundred dollars.

I remember thinking at the time: most of these things probably mean nothing to Whitney Houston, but she is hocking her history.

By this time Whitney’s  troubles with drugs, impaired singing voice and rocky marriage had been played about publicly for years.  Piece by piece it seemed her life and enormous talent were being stripped away. And to me this auction was yet another example of her losses.

But tonight I prefer to remember her music. Her soaring, nuanced voice, her incomparable spine tingling notes on “I Will Always Love You” and the sheer joy of dancing to “How Will I Know” and “I Wanna Dance With Somebody (Who Love Me)”.

In the days ahead I’m sure we’ll all see a deeper meaning embedded in each of Whitney’s songs and how they reflect the artist and woman who is now gone at just 48.

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One More For 2011…The Final ON THE SCENE Of The Year

November 20, 2011

I am determined, doggedly , to end 2011 on a high note with an original December ON THE SCENE to remember.

We are booking artists as we speak and within a week or so I should be able to let you  know the interview line-up. There’s an Academy Award winner on the to-get list who I would love to interview so stay tuned.

And, this past week I found out that the most popular ON THE SCENE episode of 2011 which features interviews with Darlene Love and photographer Timothy White, will receive a special encore spin and I’ll know the date later this week.

That was such a great episode because Darlene Love was fresh from learning that she would be inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame in 2011. For me, it was the ideal interview: an extraordinary talent at an emotional,  pivotal moment in life reflecting on all the pivotal moments that got her to where she is today. (You can watch it by clicking the credits page of http://www.johnbathke.com) And Timothy White, well, he is the most prolific photographer of movie posters and billboards and celebrity portraits. And with that comes a wealth of stories about shooting Hollywood’s A-list. We shot this piece at his massive studio in Midtown. Together, Love and White were a fascinating combination.

So check back soon there’s a lot to coming up to tell you about.

 

 

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On To The Next Show, Always…But First

April 26, 2011

I try not to spend time in the past. Even if the past was just yesterday.

But before I move on and start talking about the next ON THE SCENE episode, I want to thank people who watched and noticed so much about this past weekend’s show with Christine Ebersole and Bojana Coklyat.

It means a great deal to me when I hear what I did today…emails from viewers and comments from my colleagues who appreciated the revealing, personal nature of both interviews and wanted to ask me more about what I thought of each artist.

What I noticed is how Christine Ebersole can intellectualize her art, and then turn around and be pure emotion on stage. That’s a quality surprisingly few actors possess when you start to closely watch their work and listen to what they have to say about their performances.  I had wanted to interview her since she starred in “Grey Gardens” on Broadway, but the truth is, I never asked her for an interview until last month.

Bojana is a story that I needed to tell again. Two years ago when I first interviewed her for ON THE SCENE I felt that there  was territory left uncovered. And since then her life has taken such unexpected twists and turns that it was so important for me to revisit her. She doesn’t hide her heart, her humor or her drive and that makes her compelling. And real.

Now, on to the next show and we have some great interviews in store…

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Ebersole, Coklyat Next Weekend ON THE SCENE

April 16, 2011

I can’t lie, it’s been a grueling week of writing, editing, taping. GRUELING.

But now the show is finished and a new ON THE SCENE airs next weekend featuring my interviews with Tony Award winner Christine Ebersole and painter Bojana Coklyat.

It’s an emotional and revealing episode. Christine Ebersole describes her pivotal moment when she packed up and left Hollywood. Her agent had told her that, at age 45, she was too long in the tooth to get work. She didn’t believe him, moved East, and has built one of the most enviable stage careers around…”42nd Street, “Grey Gardens,” “Blithe Spirit” and concert tours.

Bojana’s story blows people away. She paints but she is nearly blind. Diabetes took most of her eyesight five years ago when she was just 27 years old.  She figured out how to paint again…only to have her health go downhill. Last year she had a kidney and pancreas transplant, which cured her diabetes. She is the most vibrant, optimistic personality, but she’s going through mixed emotions knowing that for her to be alive and well…someone else had to die and there’s a family out there suffering a loss. All of this life experience is reflected in her recent paintings.

It just hit me how much is going on in this show. Complicated emotions and life stories. Sometimes I have to step back from the work for a day or two for it to all sink in.

Tune in April 23rd, 24th at 8:30 AM, 11AM, 2PM each day to catch the show.

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Darlene Love And The Rock Hall Of Fame

March 12, 2011

Monday night when a group of iconic figures are inducted into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, I think no one in the bunch will be more appreciative of the moment than Darlene Love.

If you follow ON THE SCENE and my blog you know that I interviewed her a few days after she found out that she would be inducted.

“It’s like winning the Oscar, the Grammy, the Tony altogether, that’s what it’s like for me to get into the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame” she told me as she choked up with emotion.

Love is 69 years old, she’s been performing professionally since she was in high school, and spent nearly the first half of her career as a back up singer in the studio and on the road for Cher, Dionne Warwick, Tom Jones and Bette Midler, who will induct her into the Hall of Fame.

Love is one of the few singers who can receive a lifetime achievement type award, perform at the ceremony, and not sound like her lifetime of achievements are behind her. Her voice is strong, vibrant, and contemporary.

It’s interesting how many people have emailed or spoken to me since the ON THE SCENE interview aired…a friend of mine who grew up in Greenwich Village remembers her shows at the Bottom Line, another friend would go see her Christmas show at Rainbows and Stars, another loved her on Broadway in “Hairspray.”

Because of the interest in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame ceremony, the ON THE SCENE episode featuring my interview with Love (and also celebrity photographer Timothy White) will get an encore presentation this weekend, March 12th and 13th at 8 AM, 1 PM and 11:30 PM each day.

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Interviewing Christine Ebersole

March 5, 2011

It was in the works for a couple of weeks, now, and last night I interviewed Christine Ebersole  for ON THE SCENE. (She’s the winner of two Tony Awards for “42nd Street” and “Grey Gardens” ). We also taped her concert rehearsal at the Mayor Center For The Arts in Morristown, New Jersey.

People always ask me about the famous people I’ve interviewed and they mostly want to know who was the biggest jerk, the most difficult, what went wrong, the drama. And sometimes there is plenty of it. But  this time I can say there was none of the above. Disappointing to those who like some dirt with their dish,  I know.

What I notice immediately about the artist I am interviewing is: are they willing to go inside themselves, reveal, show the connection between their life and their art.  Since that is the basis of the ON THE SCENE show, by now most people know those are the type of questions I ask and they come ready to have a conversation.

And Ebersole headed down that road on my first question. She described her new concert being themed on her own maturing, how to age with wisdom and grace and yet stay youthful in spirit.

That’s exactly what a lot of people watching tv at any given moment are experiencing, too, so I know women and men of all ages will relate to what she has to say.