Happy birthday, Michael Penn! One of my all-time favorite musical artists, Penn is an accomplished singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist and producer who has flown under the radar since his debut single, “No Myth”, became his only top 40 hit, peaking at #13 on the Hot 100. Penn’s refusal to play by record label rules (or cash in on his family name) has meant his success is more critical than commercial; with his infectious blend of folk rock and power pop, I’ve always thought he should be a much bigger star. With Paul Thomas Anderson’s debut, Hard Eight (Anderson prefers the original title Sydney), Penn began composing scores for films and television series such as Boogie Nights (in which he also has a role as Nick the engineer), Sunshine Cleaning, Girls and Masters of Sex. His most recent song, “A Revival”, was released last fall.
Bob Odenkirk gave us a little scare this week when he collapsed on the New Mexico set of Better Call Saul. He was taken to an Albuquerque hospital with “a small heart attack” but he’s apparently doing well. Best wishes to Bob and his family.
Have y’all seen the disturbing AF trailer for Lamb?
Fifty years ago today, the Concert for Bangladesh was held at Madison Square Garden in New York City. The brainchild of George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, the benefit concert was to raise money for the refugee and humanitarian crisis in what was then East Pakistan. The event was billed as “George Harrison and Friends”; some of the friends included Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Bob Dylan, Billy Preston, Leon Russell and members of Badfinger. A triple album was released in December 1971 (most of the money raised was through sales of the album, not the concert itself). Concert for Bangladesh was the template for later benefit concerts like Live Aid and Farm Aid.
Jerry Garcia was born on this day in 1942. Singer, songwriter, guitarist and lead vocalist for Grateful Dead, Garcia was a counterculture legend. He was also the first musician to have an ice cream named for them (Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia). The Grateful Dead – an eclectic mix of psychedelic rock, folk, bluegrass, blues and jazz – were the OG jam band, and they were responsible for some of the most iconic music of the 60s and 70s (including American Beauty, below right). Garcia, who struggled with diabetes and addiction, died on August 9, 1995, eight days after his 53rd birthday.
“Endless Love” by Lionel Richie and Diana Ross was released on this day in 1981. The theme song from the Franco Zeffirelli film of the same name, “Endless Love” would become the second most popular single of 1981 (behind Kim Carnes’ “Bette Davis Eyes”) and earn an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Song (it lost to “Arthur’s Theme”). Though the song was ubiquitous then, when I think of it now, this is how I hear it:
M2 (now known as MTV2) launched on this day in 1996. By the mid-90s, MTV had steered away from videos to reality television like The Real World and Road Rules; M2 was offered as an all-video alternative. But, like the mother station before it, MTV2 had eliminated all its video blocks by 2017.
The first book in epic fantasy series A Song of Fire and Ice, A Game of Thrones, was published on this day in 1996. In addition to the novels, the Game of Thrones universe includes several prequels, a comic book adaptation, the critically acclaimed HBO series, and card, board and video games. Author George R.R. Martin has been promising the series’ sixth novel, The Winds of Winter, for about ten years. A prequel series, House of the Dragon, is in production at HBO, with an expected 2022 release.