On Branding, Own the Generic: Why I Became “David Boles” on the Internet

If you spend any time doing business on the internet — “Branding Yourself” — is an important part of the process even if it seems shameful and unseemly and selfish: Enjoy it! It’s what you’ve become by being here!

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David Boles Blogs Album of the Year: Neil Young’s Storytone

For most of 2014, since June, the album I played every day to help keep me awake and inspired as I worked — was Jack White’s Lazaretto — that album had great verve and energy that fit any writing mood.

However, that all changed a month ago when Neil Young‘s latest masterpiece — Storytone — appeared on my musical horizon.

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When Sunny Gets Blue and Sunshine Blows Through the Blues

“When Sunny Gets Blue” is one of the greatest Blues/Jazz songs ever written. You can sing it slow and creeping with an oozing loss, or you can snap it up and make the song fast and raspy.  The lyric is especially keen — you can take it as a comment on a personality, or a conundrum of living in the sunshine when the world is dark around you:

When Sunny gets blue, her eyes get gray and cloudy,
Then the rain begins to fall, pitter-patter, pitter-patter,
Love is gone, so what can matter,
Ain’t no new lover man come to call.

Many of us probably have a Sunny or two in our lives — some versions gloomier than others, but today, I want to share a 10-second memory of a ray of sun.  Her friends and co-workers call her “Sunshine” and the name fits her without a fog.

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R.I.P Pete Seeger: So Much More than a Musician

The passing of Pete Seeger at the remarkable age of 94 is one that will be felt deeply by many of my generation across the world.

I was born in the late 1950’s, a year after “If I had a Hammer” was first released, I learnt nursery rhymes and Christmas carols as a child.

My first “grown up” songs were “Where Have All the Flowers Gone?” shortly followed by “We Shall Overcome” — the words of which I still know by heart.

These, of course, became part and parcel of any and all peace marches, Vietnam Protests and civil resistance.

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J’attendrai: Melodic Beauty and Grace in Performance

J’attendrai is one of those songs that, when you first hear it, you want to play it on the guitar and sing it in performance.  The melody is perfect.  I have yet to see a performance of the song that didn’t glide with a gracious humanity.

Translated from French as — “I Will Wait” — J’attendrai was first made popular in 1938 by Rina Ketty and was written by Dino Olivier and Nino Rastelli.  J’attendrai is the hallmark song for the start of World War II as people all over the world prepared for an uncertain and dramatic future:

I will wait night and day,
I will wait forever,
For you to come back, I will wait, [I will wait]
For the bird flying away
Comes to seek oblivion in its nest.
Time flies and runs,
Beating sadly in my oh so heavy heart
And yet I will wait for you to come back

The most resonant, historic, performance of J’attendrai belongs to magnificent Jazz guitarist Django Reinhardt and expert violinist Stéphane Grappelli.

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Songwriters Who Did Not Write their Songs

It’s no secret in the music business that the bigger star you are, the more song royalties you get by claiming “authorship” of a hit song written by a committee of lyricists and composers. You can force yourself into an author share of the profits because, by recording a song, you can make it popular enough that everyone will get paid.  Giving you a little something for something you did not write — instead of guaranteeing an even split of nothing for the actual authors — is one surefire way to win in any business dyad.

Chuck Berry has been accused of not writing his own hit songs that he claims ownership of — because, some argue, the songs are written in chords that are more common on a piano than a guitar.  If you don’t write a lot of music to begin with, having to transpose musical keys from one instrument to another in your head during composition of a song is nigh impossible.  You’d write the song in the familiar, and easier to play, key signatures of the instrument you use to perform.

Johnnie Johnson, one of Chuck Berry’s longtime sidemen and the man who inspired Berry’s classic “Johnnie B. Goode,” filed suit against Berry in a St. Louis Federal District Court on Nov. 29.

The multi-count suit alleges that Johnson and Berry were equal collaborators on early rock classics like “Roll Over Beethoven,” “No Particular Place to Go” and “Sweet Little Sixteen,” to name a few. Johnson claims that Berry registered the copyrights to the songs in his name alone, and therefore was the sole recipient of royalties from those songs. Johnson’s suit also seeks public recognition for his songwriting role on the fifty songs he claims to have written with Berry.


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How Alcoholism Saved Eric Clapton from Suicide

I’m always torn when it comes to admiring people who may be talented, but who should not be morally allowed to reserve our undying adulation.  Fame and adoration tend to clasp each other, and since most performers are broken, it becomes a difficult task to try to divine who deserves our public scorn versus who deserves our moral compassion.

It’s no secret that I’m an Eric Clapton fanatic — but there is no hiding from the facts of his life that he was an addict, an abandoned child and an abandoning father — and one of the greatest guitar talents of several generations.

What’s a fan to do?  Pity the man?  Admire the Guitar God?  Can we temper the person with a little bit of each, or are we not allowed to split the righteous baby when it comes to placing a talent in the history of time?

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