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Wednesday, Nov. 26, 2014

Basic Biittner: Old Rockers

Thursday, February 16, 2012

These days, those of us in the 'Baby Boomer' generation are experiencing something we've never encountered before. No, not that ... No, not THAT either. Okay, we're probably experiencing a lot of things we've never encountered before.

The thing to which I am referring, however is this. When we were teenagers and young adults, a lot of our rock star heroes met early deaths - Buddy Holly and Ritchie Valens in that Feb. 1959 plane crash; Eddie Cochrane in a 1960 car crash; Sam Cooke in a 1964 shooting; the seemingly back-to-back-to back drug-related deaths of Jim Morrison, Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix in 1971; Bobby Darin's heart attack in 1973, "the King's" death at the age of 42 in 1977, John Lennon's assassination in 1980, and Rick Nelson's demise in a 1985 New Year's Eve plane crash.

All of these performers were still actively performing at the time of their deaths - some just starting out, others in their prime, and others who had seen better days.

At any rate, I think some people probably think that all of the first generation of rock-and-rollers have vanished from the scene. I'm here to tell you that is not so. Although I personally haven't listened to much "new" music for the last 20 years or so, I do still listen to new music from the "Golden Oldies" who continue to record.

Van Morrison and Neil Young have both been very prolific through the years, releasing new stuff just about every year, and though I was a faithful follower of both throughout the '80s and '90s, I must admit that I am not familiar with their more recent work.

My most recent listening, though, has been to two other early rockers, both of whom have been elected to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame (as have all the other performers I've mentioned) and both of whom have just released new CDs. I am happy to say that both are also in fine voice in their 70's, and, though their newest releases have vastly different musical approaches, I am enjoying "the heck" out of both albums.

The first album is "Tank Full of Blues" by Dion. No, not Celine Dion, - Dion DiMucci, the great Bronx-born vocalist of doo-wop (with the Belmonts) and streetwise rock ('Runaround Sue,' 'The Wanderer') fame. I have the last 3-4 CDs that Dion has released, and his passion now is the blues. In his latest release, he uses his great vocal and song-writing talents and is backed by some wonderful blues guitar work on such terrific blues songs as "I Read It in the Rolling Stone" and "Tank Full of Blues." Pretty good work for a guy who's now 73 years young.

The other new CD is by (Sir) Paul McCartney and, as I said, the material is 180 degrees from Dion's blues. It's more in line with the recent work of another Rock Hall of Famer, the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson, whose last two CDs have been tributes to the music of Gershwin and Disney films. Sir Paul, who is now 70 years old and recently married, returns to songs from the pre-Rock and Roll era, many of which he remembers hearing when he was a lad growing up in LIverpool. The CD's title, "Kisses On the Bottom," is a line from the opening track, the old chestnut "I'm Gonna Sit Right Down and Write Myself a Letter." Other songs with which some of you may be familiar include "Bye Bye Blackbird," "Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive" and "The Glory of Love." There are also some tunes with which I was not familiar, but they are all equally catchy. McCartney also included two original compositions which fit the motif of the album, one of which he originally wrote for a 1979 album, and the other - "My Valentine -" which he wrote for his new wife Nancy on Valentine's Day last year.

And this year, Sir Paul has delivered a valentine for the rest of us - a real "feel good" album.

To Dion, Paul, Brian, Neil and Van the Man I say - keep on rockin' (or making whatever kind of music you choose to do).

Dan Whitney
Basic Biittner