Musings On Music History: In Which Maynard, Iggy, And Mr. Smith Celebrate A Birthday

04.17: On this day in 1964, Maynard James Keenan was born. If you’re not a fan, then you probably can’t place the name, but Maynard is the lead singer for two of the most popular rock bands of the past 20 years, from the tribal art metal of Tool to the tight rock production of A Perfect Circle. With Tool, Maynard melded arty prog rock with a vibrant and intense metal soul. We first took notice when MTV started playing the disturbingly awesome video (remember when they played videos?) for Tool’s masterpiece “Sober,” a stop-motion animated romp through a landscape of tortured souls and nightmares. With A Perfect Circle, Maynard found a group with whom he could loosen up a little bit, with a little bit being the operative words. While A Perfect Circle isn’t exactly light listening, it’s darkness doesn’t run quite as dark as Tool, and the melodies are a bit more prevalent, a little more at the front. Just compare Tool’s “Sober” with A Perfect Circle’s “Judith” and you get a hint of what we’re babbling about. We love Maynard because he’s been known to show up on stage in his birthday suit, singing his little heart out, and he also owns a winery in Arizona. The guy’s just awesome. Happy birthday, Maynard!

04.17: On this day in 1970, Johnny Cash performed at the White House at the request of President Nixon. Apparently, having just given a name to the “War On Drugs,” Nixon wasn’t aware of Cash’s heavy drug use or the deep contrasts between Cash’s left-leaning politics and Nixon’s right wing stances. Nixon requested that Cash play Merle Haggard’s “Okie From Muskogee” (a satire, though Nixon didn’t know this, of small town mores and one of the most misunderstood songs out there) and “Welfare Cadillac” (a deeply derisive song about welfare recipients), but Cash declined, citing his unfamiliarity with the songs. Instead, Cash sang a couple of his own tunes and a cover song about a mistreated Native-American WWII veteran. We bet Nixon loved that one. [more]

04.17: On this day in 1998, Linda McCartney lost her battle with breast cancer. Paul McCartney’s wife of 26 years and a gifted photographer, the Yank Linda met the Brit Paul in London in 1967 while she was on assignment, photographing the city’s musicians and music scene. They took in a Procol Harum show (“Whiter Shade Of Pale“, kiddos) and hung out at a party for the release of Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band before she returned to the States. They met again a year later and became inseparable, a real rock ‘n’ roll fairy tale.

04.18: On this day in 1981, YES called it quits. Kind of. The group temporarily disbanded and rumors of bass player Chris Squire and drummer Alan White forming a supergroup with Robert Plant and Jimmy Page never materialized. That either would’ve been the end of civilization or one of the best supergroups ever, we’re not sure. YES got back together a little over 2 years later, so we’ll never know. We’re damn glad they got back together, though, because we wouldn’t have their comeback album, 90125, and the great ’80s song “Owner Of A Lonely Heart.”

04.19: On this day in 1980, AC/DC announced Brian Johnson would replace Bon Scott as the band’s singer. Scott had passed away a few months earlier from “acute alcoholic poisoning” and “death by misadventure” (so says the medical examiner). Enormous shoes to fill, Johnson more than made up for the loss of Scott, when the band released the phenomenal Back In Black, one of the greatest pure rock albums of all time and a fitting hard rock tribute to the sounds Scott had helped pioneer the years prior. Though Johnson isn’t as edgy as Scott and we aren’t as afraid of meeting Johnson in a dark alley, after ten pints, than Scott, he still rocks. “Back In Black” is the bee’s knees.

04.20: On this day in 1992 the three remaining members of Queen held a tribute concert in memory of their late front man Freddie Mercury, who passed away in 1991. David Bowie, Elton John, Guns N’ Roses, Robert Plant and others joined the band onstage. The event raised over $15 million for AIDS charities. Freddie was, is, and forever shall be the greatest frontman for any rock band. The guy had charisma, swagger, attitude, and, above and beyond all that, a voice to rival the angels. He could also write a pretty catchy tune. The man had it. Look up it in the dictionary and there’s a picture of Freddie, in some spandex awesomeness, rockin’ his signature ‘stache, singing his heart out. Don’t believe us? Look it up. It’s the truth.

04.21: On this day in 1947 James Osterberg, aka Iggy Pop, was born. Talk about awesomeness. Iggy still rocks, at the tender age of 66. And he’s still got about 1% body fat. This is all beside the fact that Iggy and his cohorts in The Stooges are, arguably, the progenitors of the entire punk movement during the mid- and late-’70s. That’s not to say that there weren’t others (The Velvet Underground, MC5, Patti Smith) who influenced that first movement, just that Iggy & The Stooges, in our minds, embody all that punk embodied (simple chords, raw lyrics, very fast pace) before it split into its seemingly disparate genres (new wave, alternative, indie, hardcore, post-punk). Though they only put out three proper albums, Iggy & The Stooges loom large over music still, to this day, whether the mainstream knows it or not.

04.21: On this day in 1959, Robert Smith was born. Ah, Mr. Smith, with your shock of onyx hair, your pale, pale face, and your insanely awesome band The Cure. We love you, man. A lot of people who don’t know anything about you or your band think that you are king of the Goths, a mopey, downer kind of guy. But we know you better than that, Mr. Smith. From Boys Don’t Cry to Japanese Whispers (which we love, despite what others may think) to Kiss Me, Kiss Me, Kiss Me, we know that your pop sensibilities are as spot on as your penchant for the darker things in this world. We must say, though, that Disintegration, for all its gothiness, is above and beyond all that came before or since, a seminal album that still haunts us. Thank your for that, Mr. Smith. And happy birthday.

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