Muddy Waters’ “Louisiana Blues”

Muddy Waters 1950

Muddy Waters 1950

When I was a teenager, I read some of the pop music magazines that were available at St-Jacques, the local pool hall and general store in Rockland. Other than the radio, there were no other media to inform you about what was happening in Britain and America, the vanguards of contemporary music at that time. When I started working at the age of 19, all the music from my youth was being replaced by new directions that I had very little faith in. At that time, I could finally afford my first instruments : a used Gibson acoustic guitar, a second-hand Gibson electric guitar and a cheap Fender banjo. Thanks to the influence of artists like Doc Watson and Mississippi John Hurt, I loved acoustic music and the more I delved into its past, the more I understood the migration of music from the rural southern United States to the industrial northern states. The music of the American post-war era became my bible.

Many black people from all walks of life migrated to the north for jobs and many of them settled in Chicago. One of these travellers was McKinley Morganfield (1913-1983), born in a Mississippi county that is not conclusively known. His grandmother, Della Grant, raised him after his mother died shortly after his birth. Grant gave him the nickname “Muddy” at an early age because he loved to play in the muddy water of nearby Deer Creek.

Son Sims & Muddy Waters

Son Sims & Muddy Waters

Muddy Waters grew up on Stovall Plantation near Clarksdale, Mississippi where the remains of the cabin where he lived in his youth are now preserved as the Delta Blues Museum. In August 1941, Alan Lomax, Assistant in Charge of the Archive of Folk Song of the Library of Congress, went to Stovall Plantation to record various country blues musicians including Muddy Waters, who played at that time with a fiddler named Henry “Son” Simms (1890-1858). Lomax came back in July 1942 to record them again. Both sessions were eventually released by Testament Records as an album entitled “Down on Stovall’s Plantation.”

In 1943, Muddy headed to Chicago with the hope of becoming a full-time professional musician. He lived with a relative while driving a truck, working in a factory by day and performing at night. In 1944, he bought his first electric guitar and then formed his first electric combo out of necessity. Electrifying his sound was the only way to be heard above the shouts, arguments, fights and flying beer bottles in the boisterous Chicago clubs of the era. The beer bottles in particular forced many musicians to play behind a protective fence of chicken wire.

In studying the evolution of blues music, you readily see that the modern concept of 12-bar blues was more and more incidental the further back you go. Artists like Mississippi Fred McDowell and John Lee Hooker played their music without being constrained by a rigid tempo. The music simply flowed organically. Being one of Muddy’s earliest recordings on Chess Records, “Louisiana Blues” follows along those lines. Muddy sings and plays guitar with Little Walter Jacobs on harmonica, Ernest “Big” Crawford on upright bass, and drummer Elgin Evans tapping on a piece of wood. It is blues at its very core, primal and unadorned.

“Louisiana Blues” makes mention of a “mojo hand.” In African-American spiritualism, a mojo is a spell that can be carried with or on the host’s body, consisting of a bag containing one or more magical items. Alternative American names for the mojo include gris-gris and mojo hand.

Hammie Nixon, Yank Rachell & Sleepy John Estes

Hammie Nixon, Yank Rachell & Sleepy John Estes

I add a mandolin on my version of “Louisiana Blues.” Although the mandolin has been associated with blues music since the days of W.C. Handy (1873-1958), I first heard it played in blues songs by the great James “Yank” Rachell (1910-1997) on some of the very influential recordings of Sleepy John Estes (1899-1977).

Richard Séguin – voice, slide guitar, Dobro resonator guitar, mandolin, sampled percussion.

Louisiana Blues

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Gillian Welch’s “Elvis Presley Blues”

Le premier disque

The first album

I was lucky. Thanks to my older brother Gabriel, I got to know Elvis Presley in his prime. My brother, 14 years my senior and a keyboard player in a small local band, had a record collection that featured the best of black (Chuck Berry, Little Richard, Ivory Joe Hunter, LaVern Baker) and white (Jerry Lee Lewis, Elvis, Duane Eddy, Eddie Cochran). My brother loved rock ‘n roll music, no matter what the colour of the artists and I grew up in the same way. Racism is a disease reserved for adults.

Such racial equality was a rare thing in the United States at that time. When I was a boy, the United States was a place of segregation in everything – human rights, public institutions, popular music, the record industry. In Canada, it was never an issue. I suspect that my parents were way too busy keeping a household of 9 people clothed and fed to bother with such things. My brother didn’t care and I never even once heard about the existence of different races as I grew up. I loved the music of Chuck Berry and Jerry Lee Lewis equally. I saw a picture of singer LaVern Baker at the age of 8 and she was the most beautiful woman I had ever seen. It never occurred to me that she was black.

In the early part of the 20th century, phonographs and phonograph records were most commonly distributed to white clients through furniture stores while blacks who could afford them bought phonograph records from Pullman porters working on the railroads that criss-crossed America. By the mid-1920s, all the major record companies in the U.S. were selling records made exclusively by and for African Americans, “race” records, as they were called.

Things remained the same until 1950, when a former disc jockey named Sam Phillips founded the Memphis Recording Service. Raised along side black people, working with them in the fields, Phillips recorded black amateur musicians and helped launch the careers of artists like B.B. King, Junior Parker, James Cotton, Rufus Thomas, Little Milton, Bobby Blue Bland and Howlin’ Wolf. The Memphis Recording Service also served as the studio for Phillips’s own label, Sun Record Company launched in 1952.

When he first heard Howlin’ Wolf, Phillips famously said “This is where the soul of man never dies.” What Phillips was searching for was a white man who could sing like a black man. As history would have it, that man was Elvis Presley (1935-1977). On July 18, 1953, Presley dropped into Sun studio to record a song for his mother’s birthday. Presley was what Sam Phillips had been searching for all along. Presley’s association with Phillips was a perfect storm. Phillips gave him the leeway and encouragement to go all out. They found the best songs for Presley’s exuberant style, some of them already recorded by then unknown black R&B artists like Arthur “Big Boy” Crudup (1905-1974) (That’s Alright Mama) and Junior Parker (1932-1971) (Mystery Train). Black songwriter Otis Blackwell (1931-2002) was also a major contributor with his compositions “Don’t Be Cruel” and “All Shook Up.”

The Blue Moon Boys (G. à D. Moore, Black, Fontana)

The Blue Moon Boys (L. to R. Moore, Black and Fontana)

To accompany Presley, Phillips used one of the best bands of the rock ‘n roll era, The Blue Moon Boys, with Bill Black (1926-1965) on upright bass, D.J. Fontana (1931-2018) on drums and Scotty Moore (1931-2016), one of the best guitarists in the history of rock ‘n roll. Elvis’ love of black R&B was apparent from the start – his first album in 1956 featured “Money Honey,” a song by Clyde McPhatter and The Drifters, and Ray Charles’ “I Got a Woman.” His electrifying live shows showcased his wild gyrations that no one had ever seen before. In short order, Elvis was featured on television shows hosted by the Dorsey Brothers, Milton Berle, Steve Allen and Ed Sullivan. In particular, 60 million people, or 82.6 percent of the viewing population, tuned in to watch the Steve Allen show..

Elvis and Scotty Moore

Elvis and Scotty Moore

Certainly, black artists like Chuck Berry had magnificent moves but they were slick while Elvis was raw. His gyrations certainly created a storm of controversy. The Catholic diocese in Wisconsin notified the FBI that Elvis was a threat to national security by arousing the sexual passions of teenaged youth. Many renowned music critics toed the line and one wrote that “popular music has reached its lowest depths in the ‘grunt and groin’ antics of one Elvis Presley – an exhibition that was suggestive and vulgar, tinged with the kind of animalism that should be confined to dives and bordellos.” Ed Sullivan, whose TV show was the nation’s most popular, declared Presley “unfit for family viewing.” To Presley’s displeasure, he soon found himself being referred to as “Elvis the Pelvis”, which he called “childish.” The Steve Allen show, in particular, introduced a “new Elvis” in a white bowtie and black tails. Presley sang “Hound Dog” for less than a minute to a basset hound wearing a top hat and bowtie. Presley would refer back to the Allen show as the most ridiculous performance of his career.

Accompanying Presley’s rise to fame, a cultural shift was taking place that he both helped inspire and came to symbolize. The historian Martin Jezer wrote : “As Presley set the artistic pace, other artists followed. Presley, more than anyone else, gave the young a belief in themselves as a distinct and somehow unified generation—the first in America ever to feel the power of an integrated youth culture.”

After being drafted into the U.S. Army in late 1957, Presley reported to Fort Chaffee in Arkansas on March 24, 1958. They cut off his hair like they did for all recruits. He dressed like everyone else and was trained to obey. He went in the greatest Rock n’ Roll artist of his generation and came out looking like everybody else. Elvis Presley may have died in 1977 but to me and others, he died in 1958 at the hands of conformity. He returned to his career in 1960 but was never close to the artist he was in the 1950s.

Gillian Welch released “Elvis Presley Blues” in 2001 as part of her “Time (The Revelator)” CD. Her decision to insert into her song some of the lyrics from Presley’s 1956 hit “All Shook Up” is a stroke of genius.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, mandolin, sampled percussion

To hear the song, click on the title below.

Elvis Presley Blues

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Gillian Welch’s “I’m Not Afraid To Die”

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

Gillian Welch & David Rawlings

“I’m Not Afraid To Die” is a song composed by Gillian Welch and included in her 1998 album entitled “Hell Among the Yearlings.” A version of the song was also separately released as a duo with singer-songwriter Willie Nelson, with slightly different lyrics.

Welch’s compositions incorporate elements of various American music styles, including country, folk, bluegrass, R&B and blues, resulting in a distinctive acoustic roots-oriented sound that is apart from the genres upon which they may be drawn.

Welch was born on October 2, 1967, in New York City, and was adopted by Mitzie Welch (née Marilyn Cottle) and Ken Welch, comedy and music entertainers. After graduating from UC Santa Cruz, Welch attended the Berklee College of Musicians in Boston where she majored in songwriting. During her two years at Berklee, Welch met her musical partner David Rawlings at a successful audition for Berklee’s country band. Moving to Nashville, the duo realized that their voices harmonized well and they started to performing locally. They never considered using a working name, so they were simply billed as “Gillian Welch.” A year after moving to Nashville, Welch found a manager, Denise Stiff, who ignored frequent advice that Welch should stop playing with Rawlings and join a band. They eventually signed a recording contract and producer T-Bone Burnett expressed interest in recording them. Burnett did not plan to disturb Welch’s and Rawlings’ preference for minimal instrumentation, and Welch agreed to take him on as a producer. The resulting recordings have met with universal acclaim.

Richard au dobro

Richard at the dobro

Welch emphasizes music from a previous era as her major influence. She said that “by and large I listen to people who are dead. I’m really of the tried-and-true school. I let 50 years go by and see what’s really relevant.” Welch has acknowledged inspiration from several traditional country artists, including the Stanley Brothers, the Carter Family, the Louvin Brothers, and the Blue Sky Boys. She explained her relationship with traditional music by saying, “I’ve never tried to be traditional. It’s been a springboard for me and I love it and revere it and would not be doing what I do without the music of the Monroe Brothers, the Stanley Brothers and the Carter Family. However, it was clear I was never going to be able to do exactly that.”

Many thanks to my old friend Tom Butterworth for the loan of his dobro. A dobro has strings high off the neck and is designed to rest on your lap and be played overhand with a steel bar.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitars, mandolin, dobro.

To hear the song, click on the title below.

I’m Not Afraid To Die

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Bob Dylan’s “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue”

Bringing It All Back Home

Bringing It All Back Home

“It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” is a song written by Bob Dylan and featured on his “Bringing It All Back Home” album released on March 22, 1965. The song closes out the album, which marked the start of things to come for Dylan and for popular music in general. “Bringing It All Back Home” is generally regarded as one of the greatest and most important albums in the history of popular music. It was inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame in 2006.

On the first half of the album, Dylan is backed by an electric band – a move that alienated him from some of his peers in the folk music community, as well as many fans. The second half of the album contains songs played with his more familiar folk instrumentation. Lyrically, the album is a sharp deviation from his early days and brings to the forefront Dylan’s exploding consciousness at that time, often associated to the use of hallucinogenic drugs.

Alrick Huebener

Much speculation has surrounded who or what is the “Baby Blue” that the song bids farewell to. Coming as it does on the very last track of the album, Dylan’s farewell is so unapologetic and brutally final that it felt, at that time, like he was bidding farewell to an era. And perhaps he was.

In a mesmerizing sequence of how the creative process sometimes works, Willie Dixon (1915-1992), who acted as producer, talent scout, session musician and staff songwriter for Chess Records, started things off with his magnificent composition “Hoochie Coochie Man”, first recorded by Muddy Waters (1913-1983) in 1954. This recording in turn inspired Bo Diddley (1928-2008) to write and record his blues standard “I’m A Man” in 1955. The same year, Muddy answered Bo with his recording of “Mannish Boy.” All three of these very similar blues songs and their magnificent beat inspired rock ‘n roller Gene Vincent (1935-1971) to write and record his song “Baby Blue” in 1958, which in turn inspired Dylan as he was writing “It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue” in 1964. What a journey!

Roch Tassé

Dylan later described the writing of his song by saying “I had carried that song around in my head for a long time and I remember that when I was writing it, I’d remembered a Gene Vincent song. It had always been one of my favorites, Baby Blue… ‘When first I met my baby/She said how do you do/She looked into my eyes and said/My name is Baby Blue.’ It was one of the songs I used to sing back in high school. Of course, I was singing about a different Baby Blue.”

Here is a priceless live clip of Gene Vincent and his band The Blue Caps playing “Baby Blue” in 1958. The Blue Caps featured guitarist Cliff Gallup, one of the more influential instrumentalists of the 1950s.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YOJrvMN0VK0

After the release of “Bringing It All Back Home”, many artists followed Dylan’s path by fusing folk music with rock instrumentation, most notably The Byrds, Simon and Garfunkel and Gordon Lightfoot. In the process, they created a genre that would later be labeled as “folk-rock” music.

I’m lucky to be able to rely on the talent and professionalism of Roch Tassé and Alrick Huebener when recording several of my projects. I’ve known Roch since we were teenagers and he even played on my first recordings in the 1970s. Alrick has contributed his wonderful upright bass on several of my recordings for over six years.

Richard Séguin – voice, MIDI programming (electric piano)
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums

To hear the song, click on the title below.

It’s All Over Now, Baby Blue

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Bob Dylan’s “Chimes of Freedom”

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan wrote “Chimes of Freedom” in 1963 and the song was released as part of the 1964 album “Another Side of Bob Dylan.” The album deviates from the more socially conscious songs that created Dylan’s original impact of the folk music scene in 1962, substituting the more lyrically abstract and introspective character of his new compositions. It is certainly Dylan at his most compassionate. The change prompted criticism from some influential figures in the folk community, even though Dylan still recorded and performed the song as he always had others, singing while playing an acoustic guitar and harmonica. The furor over Dylan’s move to electric instruments waited in the wings.

The song marks a transition between Dylan’s earlier “protest song” style (a litany of the down-trodden and oppressed, as in the second half of each verse) and his later more free-flowing poetic style (the fusion of images of lightning, storm and bells, as in the first half).

The song has been covered many times by different artists, including The Byrds, Jefferson Starship, Youssou N’Dour, Bruce Springsteen and U2. I have always found the song to be profoundly solemn and chose a more sober arrangement.

Richard Séguin – voice, MIDI programming (organ), audio sampling (percussion), electric 12-string guitar

To hear the song, click on the title below.

Chimes of Freedom

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Jimmy Buffett’s “Biloxi”

Jimmy Buffett

Jimmy Buffett

I had been thinking of recording Jimmy Buffett’s song “Biloxi” for quite a few years when he forced my hand by dying on September 1 of this year. Buffett lived for sun, sand and surf and, perhaps not surprisingly, died of complications from skin cancer which had been diagnosed four years earlier. Buffett was 76 years old.

Jimmy Buffett did more for the tourism industry than any other man alive. His entire repertoire, over 30 albums, was populated by anthems to leisure, the beach, the ocean and the occasional beverage. Consequently he was a very popular and endearing entertainer, thanks to his 1977 mega-hit “Margaritaville.” At the time, it seemed that it played continuously on every single radio in North America.

Buffet was a shrewd investor in his own brand and launched several business ventures to sell his lifestyle to his fans, including restaurants, record labels, beer, casinos, retirement communities and cannabis. Buffett’s net worth was estimated at $1 billion at the time of his death. Buffett was also active in environmental conservation, disaster relief and played many charity performances for diverse causes.

Richard

Richard

The song “Biloxi”, written by Jesse Winchester, was released in 1977 as part of Buffett’s landmark album entitled “Changes in Latitudes, Changes in Attitudes”, a perfect summation of his credo. The town of Biloxi is in Mississippi and its beachfront lies directly on the Mississippi Sound, with barrier islands scattered off the coast and into the Gulf of Mexico. Its humid subtropical climate draws many holidayers to the area.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, electric guitar, DX synthesizer (MIDI), electric bass guitar, audio samples (tambourine, floor tom), mandolin.

To hear the song, click on the title below.

Biloxi

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“Aux Natchitoches”, a song from the 18th century

Richard and Roch

In 1714, Fort St-Jean-Baptiste de Natchitoches was established by French Canadian explorer Louis Juchereau de St. Denis (1676-1744). Natchitoches was part of Louisiana, a large tract of land in southern North America named in honour of King Louis XIV of France. The outpost was near a village of the Natchitoches indiginous people, after whom the fort and later the city were named. Early settlers were French Catholic immigrants and creoles (ethnic French people born in the colony). Natchitoches was founded on the Red River for trade with Spanish-controlled Mexico. These political divisions predated the formation of the United States – the original 13 colonies were only incorporated into the United States after the Revolutionary War (1775-1783). The various ethnic participants in Louisiana led to many wonderful tangents in cuisine and music

Alrick Huebener

France had controlled the Louisiana territory from 1682 unti it was ceded to Spain in 1762. In 1800, Napoleon, the First Consul of the French Republic, regained ownership of Louisiana in exchange for Tuscany as part of a broader effort to re-establish a French colonial empire in North America. However, France’s failure to suppress a revolt in Saint-Domingue, coupled with the prospect of renewed warfare with the United Kingdom, prompted Napoleon to consider selling Louisiana to the United States. The acquisition of Louisiana was a long-term goal of President Thomas Jefferson, who was especially eager to gain control of the crucial port of New Orleans. U.S. representatives quickly agreed to purchase the entire territory of Louisiana and Jefferson persuaded Congress to ratify and fund the Louisiana Purchase in 1803.

Downtown Natchitoches today showing the brick streets

The City of Natchitoches was incorporated on February 5, 1819, after Louisiana had become a state in 1812. It is the oldest permanent settlement in the land acquired by the Louisiana Purchase. Today, Natchitoches is a beautifully maintained historic site for tourism in the entire area.

Ed et Bee Deshotels

Ed and Bee Deshotels

The song “Aux Natchitoches” dates back to the early 18th century. It speaks of two languishing lovers, separated according to Catholic dogma where the man never works on Sundays but works the other six days of the week. The song was recorded by a number of Cajun artists but I heard it on a recording by Elby “Bee” Deshotels (1920-1988), who sang it a cappella (without accompaniment). Bee Deshotels often performed in the Ville Platte and Mamou area of Louisiana with his identical twin brother Ed (1920-2003), a fiddler.

As always, I must mention the extraordinary devotion that Roch and Alrick bring to the projects on this site.

Richard Séguin – voice, mandolin
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – percussion

To hear the song, click on the title below.

Aux Natchitoches

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Neil Young’s “Harvest Moon”

Neil Young

Neil Young

Neil Young was born on November 12th 1945 in Toronto, Ontario. He started his musical career as a singer-songwriter in Winnipeg, Manitoba, in the early1960s. During his career, Young has received several Grammy and Juno Awards and was inducted twice:in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, in 1995 as a solo artist and in 1997 as a member of the band Buffalo Springfield. Young was awarded the Order of Manitoba in 2006 and was made an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2009.

Since the beginning of his solo career, often with backing by the band Crazy Horse, his recordings have received widespread critical acclaim. While working the Canadian folk circuit, Young met Stephen Stills and Joni Mitchell, artists who were both instrumental in expanding Young’s career. He moved to Los Angeles in 1966, forming the folk-rock group Buffalo Springfield with Canadians Bruce Palmer and Dewy Martin, along with Americans Stephen Stills and Richie Furay. In 1969, he became a member of the hugely popular group Crosby, Stills Nash & Young.

Taylor XXXIn late 1992, Young released his album « Harvest Moon »  to massive critical acclaim. The music website Classic Rock Review named « Harvest Moon » its album of the year for 1992. The album also earned the 1994 Juno Award for album of the year. The album continued Young’s commercial and critical resurgence, eventually outselling his previous records.

The song “Harvest Moon” topped the AARP’s list of “16 Songs Everyone Over 50 Should Own.” The song is a tribute to Young’s wife Pegi.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitars, mandolin, MIDI programming (bass, organ)

To hear the song, click on the title below.

Harvest Moon

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Bob Dylan’s “Visions of Johanna”

Ma guitare Godin Seagull

Richard

In June 1966, Bob Dylan released one of his most popular albums, enigmatically called “Blonde on Blonde.” A double album, the recordings featured some of Nashville’s very best session musicians Many of the songs on this album have been recognized as some of Dylan’s finest and, in particular, “Visions of Johanna” has left its mark on our popular music culture.

Alrick Huebener

Alrick

When Dylan originally wrote the song, it was under a working title of ‘Freeze Out’, which seems to support claims that it was written during or close to the East Coast blackout of November 1965, which affected parts of Ontario, Connecticut, Deleware, Maryland, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island and Vermont. Over 30 million people and 80,000 square miles were left without electricity for up to 13 hours.

Several critics have hailed “Johanna’s Visions” as one of Dylan’s greatest achievements and the media are full of evaluations from amateurs which, not surprisingly, go from the very top to the very bottom. Certainly, the evocative and subtle language of the piece leads to large-scale interpretations. Songs like this have contributed greatly to Dylan’s 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature.

Roch

Roch

Listening to the song over the last 55 years, it hasn’t faded from my mind. It still fills me with the same sense of wonder as when I first heard it as a teenager. The words “The ghost of electricity howls in the bones of his face” or “The harmonicas play the skeleton keys in the rain” will haunt me forever.

As always, I must point out the help and exeptionel musical support of Alrick Huebener (double bass) and Roch Tassé (drums).

To hear the piece, click on the title below.

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic ghuitars, electric 6-string guitars, electric 12-string guitars
Alrick Huebener – upright bass
Roch Tassé – drums

Visions of Johanna

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The summer of love

The Summer of Love was a social phenomenon that occurred during the summer of 1967, when as many as 100,000 mostly young people converged in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury neighbourhood. Referred to as “hippies”, these people were known for the widespread use of hallucinogenic drugs, an anti-war stance and a free-love policy. Although centered on the West Coast of the United States, the hippie culture spread as far away as New York City and, to a lesser extent, North America and Europe.

During this time, there was an emphasis on sharing and community and a number of free stores and free medical clinics were established. Musician Scott McKenzie recorded the song “San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)” and it served to promote and popularize the “flower children” of San Francisco. Released in May of 1967, the song was an instant success. There followed a bevy of American rock groups with wild, psychedelic names like The Strawberry Alarm Clock, The 13th Floor Elevators, Vanilla Fudge and The Electric Prunes. The more serious bands were Jefferson Airplane, the Grateful Dead, The Doors and The Byrds.

The media’s coverage of the hippie culture drew the attention of people from different age groups and political affiliations and the sociological theory of a generation gap first came to light in the 1960s, when the younger generation seemed to go against everything their parents had previously believed in. Music, values, governmental and political views as well as cultural tastes were all conflicted. The generation gap also created a parallel gap in language throughout society, creating complications within day to day communications at home, in the workplace, and within schools. As new generations seek to define themselves as something apart from the old, they adopt new language and slang, allowing a generation to create a sense of division from the previous one. Combined with the different music and different sensibilities, the latter part of the 1960s saw a general upheaval throughout all levels of society.

Surrealistic Pillow

Surrealistic Pillow (1967)

I have chosen to feature the music of Jefferson Airplane, an American rock band based in San Francisco that became one of the pioneering bands of the era. Formed in 1965, the group defined the San Francisco Sound and was the first from the area to achieve international commercial success. They headlined the Monterey Pop Festival (1967), Woodstock (1969), the Altamont Free Concert (1969), and the first Isle of Wight Festival (1968) in England. Their 1967 breakout album “Surrealistic Pillow”, a perfect title for this era, was one of the most significant recordings of the Summer of Love. Two songs from that album, “Somebody to Love” and “White Rabbit”, are among Rolling Stone Magazine’s “500 Greatest Songs of All Time”. “White Rabbit”, with its Alice in Wonderland imagery, is in my opinion the best song of the decade.

Jefferson Airplane consisted of Marty Balin (guitar and vocals), Paul Kantner (guitar, vocals), Grace Slick (vocals), Jorma Kaukonen (lead guitar, vocals), Jack Casady (bass), and Spencer Dryden (drums). The group was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 1996 and received a Grammy Lifetime Achievement Award in 2016.

Richard Trahan et Carl Wilson

Richard Trahan and Carl Wilson

Earlier this year, I received a visit from two musicians, Carl Wilson from Québec and Richard Trahan from Germany, who, in the early 1980s, recorded an album of acoustic guitar duets taken from their favourirte composers, including two of my own compositions. The three of us have been friends ever since. During their visit, I played them my recording of “Coming Back To Me” and Carl played Jorma Kaukonen’s guitar instrumental “Embryonic Journey” on my electric 12-string guitar. Both pieces are from the “Surrealistic Pillow” album and both are featured below.

To hear the pieces, click on the title below.

Carl Wilson – electric 12-string guitar

Embryonic Journey

Richard Séguin – voice, acoustic guitar, mandolin, electric bass guitar

Coming Back To Me

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