Notes from watching the Grammy’s

Three and a half hours I can never get back! Why do I watch this thing?

James Corden’s opening was pretty funny, and he was pretty great throughout. Bright future for that young man!!

The Weeknd can’t really sing. Was that really the Daft Punk guys in those suits? Were they actually playing those keyboards? Or did they just send the suits and had a couple of stagehands wear them on stage?

Pop duo or group award. I didn’t know who any of those people were!! 21 Pilots took off their pants when they were walking to the stage. Pretty funny and made a point that anyone can dream a big dream.

Ed Sheeran– 2 microphones, 1 guitar and I keyboard/sampler. Took a lot of balls to come out with no staging or lightshow and just entertain. I guess he does this every night in arenas around the world. Impressive.

Who the hell is Lucas Graham? I think it is a band- I get at least 2 press releases per week about them. Is it a guy named Lucas? Or a guy named Graham?

Beyonce. Great when she sang, but mostly just stood there as people danced around her.

Car Pool Karaoke- brilliant to get Neil Diamond out there! Give the old guys a chance.

William Bell and Gary Clark, Jr.- first real performance of the show. Just two guys and one guitar. Born Under a bad sign was a great choice of song.

Maren Morris and Alicia Keys. Lots of cleavage and fake hair. Too bad they can’t just come out and sing. Guess that wouldn’t be good TV.

Adele messed up the tribute to George Michael and had to start over. Very real moment!

Metallica and Lady Gaga. Someone forgot to turn James Hetfields microphone on at the beginning. Oh well, only an international show. Lady gaga should become a metal singer!!

Sturgil Simpson with the Dap Tone horns. Real singer singing a real song. Fabulous.

Bee Gee’s tribute. Embarrasing to put so little talent up on stage in front of Barry Gibb. Why is Demi Lovato in all of these tributes? Who is Tori Kelly? Who is Andra Day? Little Big Town was pretty good here. The rest? Not so much!!

Busta Rhimes coins a new name for Trump. (I think). President Agent Orange.. Tribe called Quest finished there set surrounded by Immigrants. Pretty powerful.

The Time was pretty fabulous, as always. Then Bruno Mars joined them and the rest was pretty pedestrian. Lounge version of “Let’s Go Crazy.”

Google Phone Ad with “Nothing Compares To U” was first good ad- about 3 hours in.

Chance the Rapper, Francis and the Lights, Tamala Mann and Kirk Franklin tore down the house. Reports are that he has turned down $10 million to sign with a label! The future of music.

John Legend and Cynthia Erivo sing my friend Brian Wilson’s song “God Only Knows” to memorialize the people who had passed in 2016. Fabulous moment.

The rest was a blur!!!

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Chicago Voices

About a half of year ago, my friend Jaime approached me about a project being produced by the Chicago Lyric Opera Company. It was called Chicago Voices, a celebration of Chicago Singers. Soon there were 3 photo exhibits mounted in Chicago, including a great amount of my pictures of Chicago artists.

 

Last night was the culmination of the project- a great concert at the Lyric Opera House.. It was a celebration of genius- (John Prine singing two of his finest songs- “Angel From Montgomery” and “Hello In There)”, proving once again that he is in the same league as John Lennon and Woody Guthrie.

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It was a celebration of the ridiculous- Renee Fleming (a self described opera diva) singing a country and western song with John Prine.

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It was a powerful moment of message music as Terrence Howard and Jessie Smollette of the hit television show Empire did an amazing version of Curtis Mayfield’s classic “People Get Ready.”

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All in all a great night of music for Chicago.

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The Roches

In December of 1982, I went to a small club to see a band I heard was pretty good. They were more than that- they were great. They were called the Roches. Three sisters (Maggie, Terre and Suzzy) with impeccable harmonies, great songs and a great sense of humor. That year, in the year end issue of the Reader, I wrote my top ten list, listing the Roches as #1. I went to see them every time they came to town, and they kept getting better and better. But fame always seemed to elude them. It didn’t seem to matter to them- they liked the pure joy of making music.

The Roches at the Park West in Chicago, Illinois April 6,1984. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

 

Throughout the 1980s, The Roches continued to release their music to small audiences, little or no air play, and only modest record sales.

The Roches at Tuts in Chicago Illinois , December 2, 1982 .  (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

 On January 21, 2017, Maggie Roche died of cancer at the age of 65.

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Hamilton

I got some tickets for Hamilton this week. A friend and I went to see it Wednesday night. It was amazing. I usually get very nervous watching theater- I keep on reaching for my camera to photograph the beautiful sets and capture the great lighting. All of that was here but the story was so amazing (and the acting and singing was so great that I forgot about the visuals for a while.) Even Wayne Brady as Aaron Burr disappeared from his “Let’s Make a Deal” persona to be very believable. This was the first cultural event I have ever gone to that I had to study for beforehand!

The most interesting part of the night was my date for the night. A friend of mine is visiting from Russia for a few weeks. She works in the economic sector in Moscow. I suggested that she study Hamilton before she came over (which she did). She knew the whole story (Better than me) and was enthralled by the play. It seems to me to be the perfect intersection of art and history, and we both found it very entertaining. All in all a great way to spend an evening!!

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Still going strong!!

I know I sound like a broken record, but Buddy Guy, at 80 years old, is playing like a man half his age during the first weekend of his January concerts! Clocking in at 2 hours per night, he is pulling out a lot of chestnuts from the blues archives, and playing them with power and finesse. He rehearsed a bunch of stuff with his band last Monday and they are as good as ever. They never know what is coming up next during the show, but are always right on time when he starts a song.

Buddy Guy at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago Illinois , January 7, 2017. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

 

Saturday morning he showed up at his club at 10 in the morning to find a bunch of people waiting in line for the front row seats (doors opened at noon). So he let them all come in out of the cold- and it was really cold!! When they got inside he realized that there was nobody there yet to watch them, so he sat and talked with them till someone showed up. That is the mark of someone who cares about his audience.

Buddy Guy at Buddy Guy's Legends in Chicago Illinois , January 7, 2017. (Photo by Paul Natkin/Getty Images)

 

The shows are great, the crowds are great, and a good time is had by all! 3 down, 13 to go!!!!!

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RIP (It was a very bad year)

Just some of the many

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Also remembering Muhammad Ali, Howard Bingham, John Glenn and many more

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Access

My biggest problem- access is continually being cut (soon there will be none at all).

This week, Rick Morrissey, writing in the Chicago Sun Times, discusses access for sports reporters. He describes a scene before Super Bowl 3 when Joe Namath sat poolside at a Fort Lauderdale hotel, surrounded by writers, three days before the game. There are no Jets personnel trying to stop him. He and the writers are just chatting. As Rick asked:

Was Namath worse for the experience?

Were the Jets?

Did the world fall apart because the big, bad media talked with him?

Namath and the Jets won the Super Bowl, Sports Illustrated got a great photograph, and those reporters gave their readers what they couldn’t have gotten from a formal press conference.

As he finished, his last line said it all:

“If sports writers tried getting that close to an NFL player today, he would probably get tased.

So it seems that sports writers are getting a taste of what we have been getting for years!! Without access, we cannot do our jobs. This is the point that managers and publicists do not seem to understand. I have spent the last year scanning photos from my archives, and I am astounded as I look at them how much access I had. This from the same artists that now restrict photographers. The most interesting part of the conversation is that the artists either don’t even know it is going on, or do now but don’t understand why!

A few years ago, I went to photograph a band called Young the Giant. I was standing backstage talking to the road manager, who was telling me that I could only shoot the first three songs. There was a guy (obviously a member of the band), standing with us, who asked “Why do we only let people shoot three songs? We are proud of our show. We like people to see it in pictures.” The road manager then sighed, and said, OK- I guess you can shoot the whole show. The next day, I sent a few JPEGS to their manager (from the end of the show). He called me and said: “These pictures are great. How did you get them?” When I told him, there was silence on the other side of the phone. Finally, he said, “Well, I guess we should let people shoot the whole show.”

One small victory- not enough to get me out of the house these days

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Black Lives Matter

In the recent issue of Sports Illustrated, the cover is the Sportsperson of the Year (LeBron James). The article is not just about his acconplishments on the court, but his activism off the court. Recently, at the ESPY awards, he, Dwayne Wade, Chris Paul and Carmelo Anthony stood on the stage and pledged to speak up on issues of race in America. LeBron seems to be following through, helping his hometown of Akron, Ohio by putting his money where his mouth is.

Dwayne Wade:

Wade furthered his “Spotlight On …” initiative that his foundation has made a staple of home games, surprising 100 teenagers at an after school program and encouraging them to work to remedy the city’s violence with positive examples of success. (From the Chicago Tribune)

 Also: Working with the Bulls’ community services department, they went into a home of an underprivileged family and fully refurnished it and left gifts. (From the Chicago Tribune)

 The magazine goes on to tell the story of the meeting that took place on June 4, 1967 on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland, where some of the top athletes in America, including Jim Brown, Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul Jabbar and 10 other athletes and politicians met with Muhammad Ali to find out the truth about his refusal to enter the Army. 50 years later, that meeting still resonates with me, as the people in the room, many of them military veterans, stood behind Ali and supported his right of free speech and freedom of religion. A very moving article!

The magazine goes on to profile Doug Baldwin, a Seattle Seahawks wide receiver, who backed Colin Kaepernick’s protest during the Star Spangled Banner by locking arms with a fellow teammate. Baldwin is still working for the cause, going to 3 or 4 meetings a week with police and city officials (sometimes with Pete Carroll, the head coach of the Seahawks) to discuss issues of race.

Finally, the article quotes Harry Edwards, the most prominent sociologist in sports, who was the architect of the Olympic Project for Human Rights, which resulted in the Black Power salute on the victory podium by John Carlos and Tommie Smith at the 1968 Olympics.

Edward’s said in this article: “Follow through is the difference between a movement and a mob.”

 I commend these athletes for following through on their words!!

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Journalism???

Just had a great conversation with a friend of mine over breakfast. Topics eventually came to the media, and it’s purpose. We talked about a new interview with Barack in the latest issue of Rolling Stone, where he partially blames the internet for our problems. We now seem to believe anything we read on line!! I acquired a Facebook page when I was running a not for profit and needed it to communicate with members. I have never used it since. People communicate to me on Facebook and I try to answer them by telling them that the best way to get to me is by phone or email. They respond to that by messaging me on Facebook!!!

I understand why Donald Trump likes Twitter as much as he does. His pea-brain can’t construct a thought more than 144 characters. I guess we will have to put up with that for the next four years (hopefully not eight). Maybe he will lose interest during the four years!!

Seems that people are making up “False” news and putting it on the web, causing guys to go into pizza places with guns. This practice is defended with the line- “Well, it could be true.” There is no more fact checking- just copy and paste whatever you think looks good and put it out there- maybe people will think it is true!!!

A couple of years ago, Kitty Kelly was writing a book about Oprah Winfrey, and she wanted to interview me. I had no interest, and ignored all of her calls. So one day she showed up at my house. I wasn’t home so she left a note in my mailbox with her cell number on it. I didn’t call her back. So…..when the book came out, I went to a bookstore to look at it and found my name in the index. When I turned to the page, I saw that she had copied and pasted a paragraph from my website (even though there is a clear copyright notice on every page of my site. Oh well, I guess that is journalism today!!

Random thoughts. I really have lost interest in the whole thing

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The World has REALLY Come to an end!!!

At least the idea of professional photographers. On Thursday the new issue of Sports Illustrated dropped through my mail slot. As I picked it up. I saw a nicely composed, adequately lit portrait of Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson on the cover. It had a littler pixelization but overall a nice picture.

I opened to page three and there was an “Article” titled “Behind the Cover.” At the top of the page was a picture of the photographer shooting with a smart phone. Looking closely at the “article’” I realized that it was an ad for the Moto Z Droid and that Sports Illustrated had sold the cover shoot to Motorola to hype their new phone/ Camera!!

The photographer, Michael J. Le Brecht, was quoted as saying, “I really loved the zoom. It’s a 10x Optical Zoom, not a digital one like you’d find on a typical smartphone.”

So, maybe I can get a few bucks for all of my Nikon equipment. I’ll just carry a cell phone around with me from now on.

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