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discogs Discogs Android App: New Collection & Wantlist Filters

Get more control over how you view your music Collection with the latest version of the Discogs Android App!

Music is a vitally important part of life, and especially now, it’s a lifeline to get us through this social distancing thing. 

You probably didn’t realise it at the time, but your vinyl-buying habit, possibly once frowned upon by your nearest and dearest (depending on severity), was actually really smart future-proofing against going nuts in lockdown. 

Remember Gordon Deitrich in V For Vendetta who has centuries worth of art preserved in his bunker? That’s basically you now. You’ve been actively archiving physical art and furnishing your environment with artifacts and entertainment while we push through widespread lockdowns. Ignore the fact that in Deitrich’s case the art he’s housing is considered propaganda, this analogy is totally working. Take a minute to gloat now if you want, I’ll wait. 

One thing I’m pretty sure Deitrich did not have for his bunker-art-collection was an inventory of all the stuff he had at his fingertips at any given time. If your Collection is up to date, you do have a handy inventory of all the physical music in your possession. 

For users of the Discogs Android App, it just got easier to filter and sort through your Collection to access the music you’re in the mood for. If you’re in the mood for some uplifting pop, but your physical collection is organised alphabetically, filtering your Collection in the app helps you access a single genre or style faster to get those soothing tones through your speakers on the double. 

As well as being able to sort your Collection by Title, Artist, Year, Format, Label, Cat # (catalog number), Newest/Oldest Added, and Rating, you can filter down further on Folders, Artist, Format, Label, Year, and now also Genre and Style of your music Collection. Sorting and Filtering can be combined, so you can sort your Collection view by artist and filter on a single genre, or narrow down a style to just one year. (e.g. Aretha’s gospel albums, or Funk from 1970).

Besides getting a more manageable view of your Collection, Genre and Style filters give you an insight into the make up of your music collection. See at a glance how many items you have in each Genre and Style.

These sorting and filtering options also apply to your Wantlist. If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the ever-mounting virtual stack of records you need to get, you can take a shortcut to prioritizing by applying filters.

Try filtering out for yourself 

If you’re an Android user, go to your Collection or Wantlist in the app and find a record to put on your turntable by narrowing down your Collection on the genre or style you’re in the mood for. Let us know which record you land on in the comments.

The post Discogs Android App: New Collection & Wantlist Filters appeared first on Discogs Blog.

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Mick Rock at Home Ep. 7 – David Bowie, Iggy Pop and Lou Reed: “The Unholy Trinity” (1972) premiers…

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Astrud Steehouder presents Adventures In Sound And Music

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Dr. Jennifer Otter Bickerdike How Madonna’s ‘Vogue’ Transformed The Dance Floor

In spring of 1990, Madonna‘s career and creativity was on an upward trajectory. She was already an international icon and had successfully made the transition from ’80s pop star to global megabrand. The singer’s visual component played an arguably huge role in helping her become a phenomenon, as she questioned, pushed and confronted many accepted societal norms. In the early part of her career, this was mainly via her own overt sexuality. Yet unlike many other female artists, Madonna was not simply eye candy.

Madonna’s Coat of Armour

While she became synonymous with wearing ‘underwear as outerwear’ – I have never seen a white men’s tank top and boxers look better than when she dons this combo in 1985’s Desperately Seeking Susan – it was her ability to transform these then daring looks not into something to simply be consumed by the masses, but to make them a coat of armour. I was seized with the overwhelming urge to appear at my junior high school wearing one of my dad’s oversized dress shirt with garters (note: this would not have gone down well with my Italian Catholic mother)- not because I wanted people (boys) to look at me, but because Madonna made her fashion and attitude about showing strength, confidence and a celebration of being a thinking, authentic self.

Madonna in Desperately Seeking Susan

This last part is the hardest to grapple with, as if you dressed like Madge, it was easy to be seen as a blind acolyte helping fuel the multi-million dollar Ciccone machine. But if you were brave enough to scratch below the surface, Madonna was all about questioning gender and expectations, whether that was strutting around proudly in masculine attire or piling on yet another rosary on an already bead-ladled neck. Madonna taught me acceptance, not by TELLING me I had to be different, but by SHOWING. In the aforementioned boxer outfit, she never says, ‘LOOK AT ME BEING SO TRANSGRESSIVE!’ She simply flops around doing her daily Madonna things, as if she was wearing a T-shirt and jeans, not men’s underwear, and a holy piece of jewelry from the Catholic church. This made the [engaged] fan ask themselves, WHY NOT?, or maybe more importantly, WHY? to not question tradition.

Hence the stage was perfectly set for Madonna to drop the song Vogue at the start of the new decade and once again change everything. She was already a household name, still had a bit of a controversial edge- see the Like A Prayer video where she kisses a saint statue, so blasphemous!- and was dating renowned Hollywood ladies’ man Warren Beatty. The two were making the movie Dick Tracy together, with Madonna supplying the accompanying soundtrack I'm Breathless: Music from and Inspired by the Film Dick Tracy. Producer Shep Pettibone was brought in to work on a song for the album. He had already previously worked with the singer on numerous remixes and had been involved with the Like A Prayer single. It was a quick job for the seasoned professional; Pettibone wrote the backing music in under two weeks on the then shoestring budget of $5,000.

Vogue Was Supposed To Be A B-Side

Legend has it that Madonna had been clubbing at New York’s Sound Factory when she supposedly first saw young men on the dance floor striking poses and pulling their bodies into unusual positions. After receiving Pettibone’s cut, Madonna quickly penned the lyrics inspired by her recent experience and flew out to New York to record her vocals in a tiny 24-track basement studio located on West 56th Street; the booth where she worked was a converted closet. Despite the spartan surroundings, Pettibone later said that the singer laid down all of her parts quickly, in order and often in single takes. The rap in the middle of the song, name checking famous golden era celebrities, was conceived on the spot, with the two quickly making a list of particular favourites before Madonna put them to tape. By the time Pettibone finished compiling the song, it had been just three weeks from conception to completion.

The track was supposed to be the B-side for the next Like a Prayer single, Keep It Together. However, this plan was scrapped once Madonna’s record label heard the disco soul of Vogue. Though it had no clear relation to Dick Tracy aside from the Ciccone connection, the single was put onto the Breathless soundtrack. This was an astute decision, Vogue became a global #1 hit, reaching the top spot in over 30 countries and being the best-selling single of the year, with more than two million copies flying out of stores.

But the song was much more than simply fun chart fodder. The song’s significance was further reaching than any of Madonna’s previous endeavours. Vogue introduced gay culture to the masses. The dancing that the singer is rumoured to have randomly seen on a night out was much more than simply a bunch of boys having fun; it was a snapshot of an entire scene happening in New York at the time, mostly among the LGBTQ African American and Latino communities. The dance form immortalized in Madonna’s song was just one small part of the larger ‘ballroom’ events occurring in the city. For those not familiar, the ball consists of various ‘categories’ that people can enter and compete in. Each category is based on being the epitome of various stereotypes and classes, allowing for participants to both satirize these frameworks of gender and social mobility while providing an escape from their own realities. Lip-synching, dancing, and modeling are also part of each contestants ‘walks’, with trophies and prizes being given to the best and ‘most real’ within each section. For those that may have been discarded or disowned by their birth families, the ball culture created a space of acceptance.

When A Pop Song Becomes An Empowering Anthem Of Possibility

Though Vogue dropped in 1990, the ballroom movement has deep roots going all the way back to 1920s Harlem, where it was unlawful to wear clothes ‘belonging’ to the opposite gender. Although the early balls were integrated- a very unusual occurrence at the time- segregation was still prevalent, with non-white performers being banned from being judges at the balls and category winners being almost exclusively Caucasian. This rejection within their own communities encouraged black and minority groups to form their own events.

Ballroom movement

Like she had with her fashion, suddenly Madonna made something that was ‘under’ visible to everyone. It is easy to say that she simply co-opted gay culture from her comfy perch of beautiful white blonde megastar. But let’s not forget- when Vogue dropped, the AIDS epidemic was in full swing. Gay people were feared and reproached in many straight communities, framed by the media as the spreaders of the devastating plague, made to seem like dangerous monsters. However, Vogue changed much of that. The video, packed with gorgeous and unapologetically gay dancers, is glamorous, classy, and stylish, reimaging the ‘scary’ gay community as beautiful, timeless, and aspirational. For queer youths living in suburban and rural areas, suddenly they had at least a fleeting glimpse of a possible life outside the daily terror of being outed. The last-minute inclusion of Hollywood greats in the song’s bridge also aligns the song, the idea, THE DANCE, the performers with an enduring trait of canonical sacredness, creating a definitive ‘before’ and ‘after’ point for not just the track, but the acceptance and mainstreaming of a once alienated group.

With the current, often disposable nature of playlist culture, it is almost inconceivable to imagine a song not only having the ability to still fill dancefloors decades after its release but to have tangibly made a shift for a better world. Madonna’s magic at both ‘hiding’ (it’s a black and white Hollywood noir video) her message and meaning (lyrics about an underground gay culture) in plain sight of heterosexual acceptability allowed her to create something that laid the groundwork for so much that came after. Like the image of the old crone / beautiful woman, Vogue allowed the listener to take what they wanted and needed from it- a groovy bootie shaker or an empowering anthem of possibility.

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Freya Parr How did Beethoven cope with going deaf?

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Ludwig van Beethoven’s deafness is probably the best-known physical ailment of any composer in history. Because it caused him untold suffering and affected his work, it has become an unshakeable part of the legend surrounding the man and his music.

It’s often presented as an obstacle he had to overcome, while his reaction to hearing loss is spoken of as a struggle or battle from which he emerged heroically, having triumphed over a threatening enemy. It has even been said that after Beethoven could no longer hear, he retreated into the privacy of his imagination, heard music in his head, then wrote it down. Yet as our understanding of disability has been reshaped over the years, it is becoming evident that much has been misunderstood.

Even though more than a hundred diagnoses have been offered, there is still no clear understanding of what caused Beethoven’s hearing loss or even when it began. He claimed to have started noticing it in 1796, when he was 25, but if his experience is like that of other people who gradually lose their hearing, it probably began several years earlier, perhaps even before he moved to Vienna from Bonn in 1792.

Although it has been claimed that he was ‘stone deaf’ by the time he wrote the Fifth Symphony in his mid-thirties, there is a report of him listening with an ear trumpet while his nephew Karl played the piano and correcting  his mistakes as late as 1820, when he was nearing the age of 50.

 

 

Perhaps our image of the composer isolated in his deafness, working out music in his mind, is outdated. Beethoven always spent a great deal of time improvising at the piano – not just in public performance but as part of the way he composed. The keyboard was a lifeline for Beethoven in his deafness. In early 1818, he received a Broadwood piano (pictured left) as a gift from the English piano builder. He treasured the instrument for the rest of his life.

Two years later, the composer took the unusual step of having an amplifier – the so-called ‘hearing machine’ – built for his piano. This was a concave metallic resonator, possibly made from zinc, that was placed on top of the instrument. Beethoven used this device or later versions of it until his death, suggesting that even in his final years he could hear well enough to obtain some benefit from it.

A recent recreation, for the first time, of both the Broadwood piano and Beethoven’s hearing machine suggests a fascinating new possibility: that the tactile contact Beethoven experienced with the new English pianos became more important to him as his hearing grew worse.

As Belgian pianist Tom Beghin discovered when he recorded the late Beethoven sonatas on this piano, the action of the Broadwood was heavier than that of Viennese pianos. The keys were ‘spongy’: they sank deep into the instrument and required that each note be separately articulated. Yet the result was a sound that was somewhat murky compared to the clear, bell-like tones of the Viennese instruments. It is unlikely that Beethoven was able to hear this instrument better, so why was he so devoted to it?

 

 

 

The secret, it appears, was in the touch. The Broadwood was constructed so the sounding board connected directly to the instrument’s outer frame, conveying powerful vibrations where Beethoven needed them most: at the keyboard and through the floor at his feet.

With the hearing machine in place to amplify the sound and vibrations even further, the instrument became a physical extension of his body. He could feel its resonance to his core. Given this, it seems unlikely that the loud dynamics in Beethoven’s music were a response to deafness, as is often suggested. It seems even less likely when you also consider that in his thirties Beethoven suffered from loudness recruitment.

This condition, in which some sounds register as much louder than they actually are, is familiar to people with hearing loss. As a result, Beethoven plugged his ears with cotton to make playing the piano bearable. So if anything, loudness recruitment would have made loud music painful for him to listen to.

 

 

And it was the instruments at his disposal, rather than the frequencies he could or couldn’t hear, which affected the pitch range of Beethoven’s music. The mighty Hammerklavier Sonata (1818) provides a striking example of this. The first three movements were written for a six-octave Viennese piano, extending from the F two and a half octaves below middle C to the F three and half octaves above. Beethoven used this full range in the Hammerklavier.

But just before he began the final movement, he received the Broadwood. The range of the music shifted to fit the new instrument’s lower six-octave range, which instead extended to the Cs three octaves either side of middle C. So the entire sonata could not be played on either of the instruments Beethoven had available while he was writing it. A more modern piano would be needed for that.

Despite the remarkable lengths Beethoven went to in order to feel the music, there was a period during which he composed in near total deafness. It is probably safe to say that it includes only the relatively small number of late works from about 1815. That includes public works like Symphony No. 9 and the Missa Solemnis, but is dominated by the intimate last five string quartets and last five piano sonatas. These have long been considered among his most challenging and rewarding works.

 

 

From the outset they provoked extraordinary responses. In the five years after its premiere in 1824, more was written about the Ninth Symphony than had been written about any of his previous compositions. Unprecedented effort was put into trying to understand his music. Many of the quartets and sonatas received unusually extensive reviews that helped readers come to terms with compositions many of them found baffling.

Those reviews have helped to establish some of the very beliefs now in question. In particular, Joseph Fröhlich’s long review of the Ninth, published in 1828, the year after Beethoven died, suggested for the first time that the tragedy-joy narrative of the symphony was Beethoven’s musical autobiography.

It showed that Beethoven had triumphed over deafness. Works that follow a similar outline (like the Fifth Symphony), or that glorify heroism (the Eroica), were understood in the same way, even though Beethoven wrote those two pieces when he could still hear music quite well. It’s even suggested that the works in which Beethoven does not present this titanic battle are less important.

 

 

The most significant thing to be learned from studying the history of Beethoven’s deafness, however, may be that his music has a much broader emotional range than he is often given credit for.  His oeuvre includes the Pastoral Symphony with its relaxed evocations of the countryside; beautiful and lyrical songs from the cycle An die ferne Geliebte, and delightful and impish small piano pieces like the late Bagatelles, most of which Beethoven wrote when he was using the Broadwood and the hearing machine.

These works, written in successive decades as his deafness grew more advanced, show a composer whose technique and emotional range continually broadened even as his hearing failed. Beethoven did not triumph over deafness. He learned to work with it and around it. 

 

Words by Robin Wallace, author of 'Hearing Beethoven: A Story of Musical Loss and Discovery. This article first appeared in the September 2018 issue of BBC Music Magazine.

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Freya Parr The best classical music for working from home

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Oliver Condy, Editor

There are times in the month when the magazine team really needs to get its collective heads down to get pages to the printer – for that slightly manic week or so, I tend to reach for Tudor choral music.

Byrd’s Ave Verum, Tallis’s O Nata Lux, a spot of Gibbons, perhaps some Tomkins. It never fails to bring the blood pressure down and focus the mind.

 

 

Michael Beek, Reviews Editor

Listening to music is part of the job for me, but if I’m in need of background music to keep the brain ticking over I will always go to solo piano music.

So if I had to choose one piece to play on a loop, it would be Clair de lune by Debussy. It has an instantly calming effect on me and inspires utter stillness. Of course, there is the risk of becoming so relaxed I might slump at the desk and have a sleep. Perhaps it should be alternated with something a bit more lively to achieve maximum productivity…

 

 

Jeremy Pound, Deputy Editor

For me, finding suitable classical music to work to can be a tricky business. Anything with peaks and troughs of volume have to be avoided, as does gloomy introspection or pieces that demand my concentration so much that I simply have to stop and listen – for the last of these reasons, a recent attempt to work to Schubert’s two Piano Trios ended in failure.

However, I am going to stick with the Austrian composer, in the form of his youthful Third Symphony. Don’t be put off by the ominous-sounding opening D, played in unison – this soon turns into a symphony of matchless effervescence, with one high-spirited movement leading onto the next. Carried along by Franz’s good humour, my sub-editing and writing tasks simply fly by.

 

 

Freya Parr, Editorial Assistant

For me, a cursory album selection on Spotify or Apple Music can become an hourlong trip down a musical rabbit hole. Therefore, in the hope of getting any work done, I steer clear of streaming platforms and pop on one of John Luther Adams’s almighty 40-minute soundscapes: Become Ocean and Become Desert. 

For the duration of each piece, I am utterly transported. If you’re someone that’s easily distracted by melody, these orchestral works are the perfect solution. Evoking sounds of the sea and of vast desert plains, these spacious, powerful pieces of music are the answer if you’ve ever reached for the whale music or ‘sounds of rain’ and found yourself immensely disappointed. 

I save my evenings for musical discoveries, which often delivers the goods, like this self-isolation playlist I whipped up on Friday night. 

 

 

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discogs You Don’t Have To Have Releases To Get Involved With The Database

With so many of us stuck inside for the foreseeable, there’s never been a better time to get involved with the Discogs Database. Plenty of you will be seasoned pros who don’t need tips, but if haven’t had an opportunity to get stuck into the database, here’s a look at things you can do to get started, or how you can contribute even if you don’t have any releases on hand to add.

We’re grateful to the community of thoughtful contributors who put their time and effort into ensuring all music fans have an enduring archive of music releases, up to date artist and label information, images and videos, for generations of music fans to come.

If you’re looking for ways you can get involved with the database but don’t have anything new to submit, here are some relatively low effort but high impact tasks you can pick up today. 

default icon of a cassette release without an image

Add images to pages missing them

Imagine digging through the crates at your local record store, but all the records were missing covers. Sure, you might still be able to find some gems, but the whole experience would just be a bit duller. It’s the same when release pages are missing artwork. You can find releases missing images that you have in your possession by scrolling through your Collection and looking out for the grey placeholder images.

Check Releases that need edits

Take a look in your Collection and you’ll notice next to many of the releases’ artwork (they all have images now, right?), it’ll be grey, yellow, red, or white. 

Collection view of releases that require edits

These indicate whether the submission needs edits, ; yellow is new, not reviewed, grey is voted on, then edited, red needs changes (minor or major) and white/no color is correct. Since you have these items on hand, you can go to the release page, take a look at what needs correcting and consult your physical copy. Kind of like a puzzle, find the error and update the details on the submission page with notes. 

If you’ve contributed before, you can check things you’ve previously added or edited that are in need of edits. Using advanced search, enter your username in the Contributor or Submitter box (towards the bottom of the right column) and check the ‘Needs changes’ box at the bottom left. You’ll get a list of everything you’ve added/edited that has existing ‘needs changes’ votes.  

Outside of things you’ve added or own, there’s also a long list of everything that’s been flagged as needing changes. While you’ll need to have the item in hand to accurately make some of these changes, many can be done without. 

Write reviews on Master or Release pages

Reviews are a major source of music discovery on Discogs. Like-minded music fans can connect over shared items and discover similar releases that they’ll love. Your review could be the introduction to a new lifelong devotee of a band, artist or release you love. Similarly, if a particular pressing should be steered clear of, you’re saving someone’s ears (and stylus).

Add more details to Artist and label pages that need them

Big artists have all the details they need – everyone (pretty much everyone) knows who Madonna is and knows she’s not really British despite that mad accent, but there are plenty of up-and-coming, indie, or lesser known artists that could do with having the details on their artist pages fleshed out a bit. You can find details about the artist or label on their releases, and other official pages online, like their website, social media sites, or Bandcamp profiles.. 

Add YouTube Videos

Hearing is everything. It’s like looking at a photo of a Ferrari vs. driving it. Help out the music fans who stumble upon an unfamiliar track or album in the Discogs database who are keen to get stuck in. Adding a YouTube link to the release page enriches the information – hearing it adds a whole other dimension to the data. 

Merge From The Pending Merges Queue

You have to have voting rights for this one, but the Pending Merges queue is always in need of more warm bodies to review things. Anyone can earn the ability to vote, it just takes time and helpful contributions to the database. 

Get into the forums

The forums are such a valuable tool to the database. You’ll learn a tonne just from interacting with fellow contributors, find out what they’re working on in the database, get a new perspective on contributing, and look out for clean up projects to get involved with.

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Keith Nelson Jr. Montell Jordan’s “This Is How We Do It” Wasn’t An Album; It Was A Statement for R&B and South Central L.A.

R&B in the ‘90s was an explicit departure from the soul music of old. In the ‘80s, Marvin Gaye yearned for sexual healing over soft bongos and congas that felt as harmless as it was seductive. In the ‘90s, hypersexuality was the status quo, and sexual healing became just bumping and grinding over thanks to sexual maximalists like R. Kelly running the charts. R&B artists in the ‘90s were changing the musical landscape and Jordan’s debut album was a perfect encapsulation of how R&B did it in the ‘90s.

In 1995, Montell became only the second R&B artist signed in the then 21-year history of the music monolith that was Def Jam Records. This Is How We Do It was not only the first album the label released from a male R&B artist, it was also only the second R&B album the label had released in the ‘90s, at the time, and only one of two R&B albums the label released in 1995.

As the only South California R&B artist on the biggest East Coast rap label in the world, Jordan had to represent for his hometown, his label, and his genre.

What did he do? Show the world This Is How We Do It.

Sign of the R&B Times

Montell Jordan had the sort of voice that could make anything sound sweet. Him harmonizing he was “scoping that ass, checking that smile,” in that order, on “Something 4 The Honeyz” was quintessential ‘90s R&B — sex first, romance after. Jordan wailing about “it ain’t about love all of the time” over the spacey experimentation of the production on “I Wanna” sounds as if he’s sending a message to the soul traditionalists who scoffed at R&B hypersexuality that this is how we do it now.

Here’s the thing: ‘90s R&B artists’ proclivity for over-sexualization is rooted in society’s shifting desire for explicit transparency from its artists. By 1995, hip-hop began ruling the world with artists like Notorious B.I.G. lusting for casual sex on the same album he was vividly expelling his suicidal thoughts. Besides frequently doing this it’s the confessional outro track “Daddy’s Home,” a ballad featuring Jordan tearfully explaining to his son why he wasn’t in his life, that is the best display of the dynamic range of Montell Jordan’s rich falsetto and his underrated songwriting talents.

If you didn’t think This Is How We Do It was partly a showcase of ‘90s R&B, Jordan made sure to remind people on “Something 4 The Honeyz” that “sometimes I bust a rhyme, but I’m an R&B singer.” That song was also one of the best examples of this album’s ode to where Jordan was raised– South Central L.A.

Repping For The Home Team

Before Jordan was on the radio, his home was in turmoil. Civil unrest erupted on the streets of South Central L.A. in 1992 after four Los Angeles Police Department officers were acquitted on charges of using excessive force during the infamous videotaped Rodney King altercation.  Jordan could’ve disavowed his volatile home and simply filled his album with innocuous love ballads. Instead, he made himself inextricable of the streets, subtly making fans know that whenever they hear him they’re hearing the results of the streets.

He has described the album’s titular hit single, an eternal party anthem, as a “direct reflection of what street life was for a good kid growing up in the neighborhood.” Before you hear Jordan on his own, you hear his mother reporting live from the “ghetto bird,” a common phrase for police helicopters, on “My Momma (Intro).” He talked as lovingly about returning home to L.A. on guitar-driven “Coming Home” as he did about any love interest in the entirety of the 63-minute album.

On “Coming Home,” he also made sure to bring his hometown to his new home, Def Jam, by sliding in a mention of him “chilling on the east,” presumably referring alluding to working with New York-based Def Jam. On “Gotta Get My Roll On,” he extended an already 4-minute and 40-second song in order to let the world know his bosses, Def Jam co-founder Russell Simmon and the label executive Lyor Cohen.

The song “This Is How We Do It” stayed at #1 on the Billboard charts for seven consecutive weeks and remains the definitive song of one of the greatest R&B artists of the ‘90s. But, to reduce the memory of This Is How We Do It to a singular song, no matter its place in pop culture history, is to ignore a genre and part of the world that changed music for an entire decade and beyond.

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Morgan Enos Remembering Bill Withers: Eight Wildly Different Covers You Need To Hear

Bill Withers left behind a handful of mellow-soul hits — “Ain’t No Sunshine,” “Lean on Me,” “Lovely Day” — that fit any mood like a turtleneck and wore into the creases of oldies radio stations. Yet who knew they’d be so versatile as to be coverable by (respectively) a heavy metal band, a Christian rap trio, and a crossover jazz pianist?

“What few songs I wrote during my brief career, there ain’t a genre that somebody didn’t record them in,” Withers marveled to Rolling Stone in 2015. “I’m not a virtuoso, but I was able to write songs that people could identify with.” This relatability gave his songs nearly Chuck-Berry-level durability — you can bend them in any direction without breaking them.

Withers passed away at 81 on Monday (March 30) and his death was announced today (April 3), but his music maintains the mystical ability to lower your blood pressure and induce a smile. After you spin his studio albums in tribute, try these wildly diverse Withers covers on for size.

Rahsaan Roland Kirk, “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Blacknuss, 1972)

The post-bop flautist who invented Jethro Tull went on to plumb soul music on Blacknuss, which features material recorded by Marvin Gaye, the Temptations, and the Jackson 5. It all kicks off with a version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” in which Kirk wrings that song’s mellow blues into chest-beating desperation. He may sob and whimper through his flute, but the unmoved orchestral backing breaks the unfortunate news: she’s gone.


Scott Walker, “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Any Day Now, 1973)

After playing chess with death on his grim, experimental first four proper solo albums (all called Scott with a number), Walker backslid in the early 1970s with a run of middling covers-filled albums. Not to say Any Day Now doesn’t have its charm — between songs by Burt Bacharach, Jimmy Webb, and Randy Newman, his do-I-really-have-to-sing-this stiffness on “Sunshine” is a hilarious counterweight to Kirk’s catharsis.


DC Talk, “Lean On Me” (Free at Last, 1992)

Just before their double-platinum 1995 breakout Jesus Freak, DC Talk began to corner the Christian music market with Free at Last. Two covers were included for their scripturality: the traditional “Jesus is Just Alright” and Withers’ ubiquitous “Lean on Me,” recast with (presumably) Christ singing it in first-person. Given the song’s gospel tint, the “Footprints” poem popular in youth ministries is as understandable a lens as any.


Meshell Ndegeocello, “Who Is He and What Is He To You” (Peace Beyond Passion, 1996)

The bassist-rapper’s best album, Peace Beyond Passion, features a cover of Withers’ and Stan McKenny’s “Who Is He And What Is He To You,” an accusatory song about a cheating partner. “I’ve gotten a gazillion things in the mail and that’s the only one I’ve ever done something with,” he said of McKenny’s lyrics, “Because I could see it. If I don’t see it, it doesn’t occur to me, so I don’t attempt to say it.” “Who is He” fits Negegeocello’s funk-soul-R&B amalgam like a glove, and — perhaps in a nod to her out bisexuality — she left the genders in the lyrics unswitched, thereby avoiding song interpreters’ most grievous rookie move.


Fiona Apple, “Use Me” (live at Phoenix Concert Theatre in 1997)

Despite peaking at No. 2 on the Billboard Hot 100, “Use Me” is less known than Withers’ other signature songs. For one thing, it’s no “Sexual Healing” as romantic soul hits go — rather, it’s about being warned by your friends and family that your partner is no good. While Fiona Apple never officially recorded “Use Me,” she performed it live during a string of 1997 shows, showing how Withers’ song fit her purview of shattered relationships.


John Legend and the Roots, “I Can’t Write Left Handed” (Wake Up!, 2010)

“Bill Withers recorded this song at the end of the Vietnam War,” John Legend announces at the top of “I Can’t Write Left Handed.” “As I record this now, America — the land of peace and prosperity — is in the middle of two wars.” Thereby, the “All of Me” singer and the Philly hip-hop giants apply this Withers song — about a veteran who lost a limb — to the ongoing quagmires in the Middle East. Because Wither wrote with keen detail instead of blaring his message through a bullhorn, this slice of 1960s social commentary endures.


Black Label Society, “Ain’t No Sunshine” (Unblackened, 2013)

The Zakk Wylde-led metal agitators turned down the volume for Unblackened, a live acoustic album stemming from a one-night-only gig at Club Nokia in Los Angeles. The bonus tracks include similarly stripped-down studio recordings, including a guttural version of “Ain’t No Sunshine” with orchestral backing. Props to Wylde for not torturing Withers’ hit into headbanging riffage, but for playing it straight and reverent.


Robert Glasper Experiment, “Lovely Day” (Black Radio 2 [Deluxe Edition], 2013)

A genre-blurring pianist and producer with one foot in rap and the other in jazz, Robert Glasper makes albums that feel more like buzzed hangouts than studio creations. The deluxe edition of Black Radio 2, which was recorded with his Robert Glasper Experiment band, ends with a stony, vocoder-led version of “Lovely Day” that barely resembles the ebullient original. But as always, Withers’ tune was sturdy enough to lean on.

The post Remembering Bill Withers: Eight Wildly Different Covers You Need To Hear appeared first on Discogs Blog.

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