March is Women’s History Month, which certainly seems like an appropriate time to pay tribute to some of the outstanding female performers whose work can be found within the Rhino catalog. Not that we don’t pay tribute to them on a regular basis, you understand, but when the incredibly powerful calendar consortium takes such great pains to decade an entire month to the history of their gender, we just feel like we’d be missing an opportunity if we didn’t do a little bit extra.
Today’s playlist spotlights several top-notch female R&B artists, spanning numerous decades and more than a few different musical sensibilities, including a bit of blues, jazz, and even a bit of hip-hop thrown in for good measure. Hope you enjoy!
We just got out our little red book and realized that today is Arthur Lee’s birthday, so we thought we’d better offer up a brief tribute to the late Love frontman, a singer, songwriter, and musician who’s influenced a lot of folks without ever becoming the sort of household name he had the potential to be.
Born in Memphis, Tennessee in 1945, Lee – birth name Arthur Taylor – came by his musical ability honestly (his father, Chester, played the jazz cornet), but in high school he was much more likely to be found playing basketball than an instrument. In fact, it wasn’t until 1963 when he first entered a recording studio as a member of a band called the LAGs, the lineup of which featured fellow future Love member Johnny Echols. Lee took to the studio quickly, however: by the following year, he was already doing a bit of producing for other artists, including a single for singer Rosa Lee Brooks, whose band included none other than Jimi Hendrix.
In 1989, with the Travelling Wilburys having recently made the idea of super-groups seem cool again and Dire Straits having been formally dissolved, Mark Knopfler decided to fill the musical void in his life by teaming up with Guy Fletcher, Brendan Croker, Steve Phillips, and pedal steel player Paul Franklin to form a new band: the Notting Hillbillies.
Granted, Knopfler’s fellow Hillbillies might not have been household names, but their CVs were far from shabby: Fletcher had worked with Steve Harley and Roxy Music and had been playing with Dire Straits since ’84, Phillips and Franklin had their own street cred, and Croker and his band – the Five O’Clock Shadows – had been recording and releasing albums since the mid-‘80s.
New Order’s debut single, “Ceremony,” was released 33 years ago today, and although it’s still considered one of the band’s signature songs, to say that it was a transitional record doesn’t really do the situation justice.
Can you believe that the ‘90s were pretty much 20 years ago? Heck, it seems like only yesterday that I was rolling my eyes at everything, whilst acquiring a fashionable drug problem. The guitars were loud, the beats were bangin’ and the economic growth was unfettered, my friends. We were truly alive and, if it weren’t for these tunes, I wouldn’t remember a stitch of it. Enjoy!