Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Obituary (Charlie Louvin)

Charlie Louvin Obituary
Written by Tom Wilmeth
Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Well foot. I’ve been trying to break away from writing obituaries and convince some folks that I can deal with the world of the living. But here’s one I can’t let go by. It may sound harsh, but Charlie Louvin was the lesser half of The Louvin Brothers, a close harmony duo that you have probably never heard of unless you study country music or are at least 60 years old. And even then, it would help greatly if you were from the South.

Together, Charlie and Ira Louvin are without question the finest harmony singers Country Music has ever produced. I love the Delmores, the Stanleys, the Blue Sky Boys, the Carter Family, and many others. But for perfection of harmony nobody can touch The Louvin Brothers. They stand toe-to-toe with The Everly Brothers, who influenced the rock and pop world, beginning in importance with John & Paul. The Louvin Brothers impact, however, stopped at the country music border.

Perhaps two primary differences between these brother acts will help distinguish their place in American music. The Louvin Brothers emerged from a childhood rich with Southern Shape Note Singing, a choral effort which adds an unmistakably rigid element to the sound. The Everly Brothers had no such influence in their background. In fact, when I spoke with Don Everly some years ago, he had never heard of Shape Note Singing. Everly was also quick to correct a very common misnomer of influence. Because of the edge to much of the Louvins’ vocals and the absolute perfection of their harmonies, many view the Everlys’ smoother sound as a natural extension of the Louvins and see Ira & Charlie as key musical role models for the younger brothers. But Don insisted that this sort of direct-line approach was absolutely wrong. He told me that he and Phil really respected what the Louvins were doing, but that the Everlys already had their harmony sound solidly in place before they came to Nashville.

The other main difference between the groups is found in the content of the songs. Unlike Everly Brothers’ tales of teenage heartache, many of The Louvin Brothers’ greatest songs are original gospel numbers, penned primarily by Ira Louvin. “Just Rehearsing,” “Weapon of Prayer,” “Satan Lied to Me,” “The Great Atomic Power” – These songs merely touch the hem of the garment of Ira’s deep catalogue and remarkable talent as a songwriter. Porter Wagoner once observed, “Ira could write out the lyrics to a new song the way other people would write out a grocery list.”

The Louvin Brothers would finally cross over to the country charts in 1955 with Ira’s secular “When I Stop Dreaming,” but this was only after Capitol Records grudgingly let them try one (and only one) non-gospel number. Fortunately, it was a big hit, which then convinced Capitol to let them record what they pleased. This success also got the brothers an invitation to join the Grand Ol’ Opry, where they were well received and where Charlie Louvin had been performing regularly until his death this week from cancer, at age 83. Charlie had worked the Opry as a single for quite a long time – the brothers dissolved the act in 1963, and Ira died in a car accident two years later.

Let there be no doubt, Charlie had once been the solid lead vocal line to Ira’s aching tenor -- the anchor and an integral part of the harmony. But the man’s singing voice had been absolutely shot for decades. This may have had something to do with the chain smoking I witnessed over three days in 1995. But I can’t be sure. Charlie Louvin was not a difficult interview, but he seemed pretty unhappy that people always wanted to talk about The Louvin Brothers and not his solo career. “I’ve sold more records by myself than The Louvin Brothers ever did,” he insisted – not with pride but with irritation. That is a believable statistic, since the brothers had an important but relatively short career. Their last Top 10 Billboard Country Chart hit was in 1958.

Brother Ira’s volatile temperament never helped the group, nor did his ever increasing alcoholism. But Charlie was protective of his brother’s image to the end, demonstrating pride and frustration by turns during our conversations. “Ira could do a recitation as good as Hank Williams,” he told me. Big talk, but it was true. Of the 14 recitations Ira recorded, most are on the level of Luke the Drifter – the gold standard for country recitations.

When I left Charlie at his home in Bell Buckle, Tennessee that day in 1995 he was copying cassettes of Louvin Brothers songs to send out to various performers. He hoped to generate fresh recording interest in the back catalogue before his copyrights expired. He was simultaneously handing me several new solo CDs he had made for various small labels, such as Watermelon. Charlie was looking forward to recording a song about tour buses called “Silver Eagle,” thinking this one might get him back on the radio.

Before I left, I asked him about country peers and newcomers. “I know what goes into being a country artist,” he assured me. “I know who can make it and who can’t. And I know why!” He had the greatest respect for George Strait because he had a “man’s haircut” and Dwight Yoakam because Dwight had paid for a huge number of roses to decorate the entire Opry interior for Minnie Pearl when she was ailing. When I asked him for favorite songs by either performer, an embarrassing silence followed. But he knew that they were both the real deal. I thought he might be more comfortable in the past -- he told me Jim Reeves had the best voice in country music. He hated Webb Pierce and loved Ernest Tubb. “People in Nashville were just waiting for Webb Pierce to fail. But if anybody could help Ernest in any way, they’d do it!” He wondered how Bill Monroe could live with himself, and when I asked about Hank Snow, Charlie only smiled and laughed. Finally, Louvin didn’t see how anybody could consider Jimmie Rodgers to be the Father of Country Music, as he became surprisingly angry about Rodgers’ reputation. “Look here, now – he had a trumpet on one of his records. That ain’t country!”

Money was a recurring topic. Charlie Louvin clearly felt he had not received his share. “If we could have gotten Elvis Presley to record just one of our songs . . .” It was clear that Charlie firmly believed that he would now be on permanent easy street from royalty income. But Elvis never did, in spite of his reportedly high regard for the duo and the fact that they were the favorite gospel group of Elvis’ mother. Of course, it may not have helped when Ira went off on Presley at an early gig during a package tour. The infamous story summarized: Elvis was playing gospel music on a backstage piano between shows; Ira took exception, calling him a “white nigger.” I asked Charlie his thoughts on Elvis. “Very professional; night-in and night-out,” he said thoughtfully. “I had no problem with Elvis or his act; but Ira was having none of it.” Charlie then sort of snapped back to attention, as if he had forgotten something. “But we were headlining that tour. Make no mistake! Elvis was opening for us!”

Since he was trying to get newer artists to record his and Ira’s songs, I thought Charlie might have done well financially with The Byrds’ 1968 recording of The Louvin Brothers original “The Christian Life.” There was an awkward silence, and I then hesitantly asked if he had liked the Sweetheart of the Rodeo album. Charlie took a long drag on his cigarette and just stared at me. I tried again – any thoughts on Gram Parsons, and how he had been partly responsible for bringing a younger audience to country music? Another long pause and another long drag. And then, very deliberately, he said, “I have never understood how one man can be sexually attracted to another man. I just can’t understand it!” I was dumbstruck. And this time it was I who was silent.

Charlie Louvin talked with me for three days in 1995 because he thought I could help promote him as a solo artist – he encouraged me to do a separate book about his solo career when I finished with my Louvin Brothers project. And maybe I should have; but I didn’t. I spoke with Charlie out of a deep love for his music with Ira, but also because I thought writing about him could help my reputation and potential career as a writer. I guess we both came up short, but that’s OK. Charlie Louvin did just fine – although he had no further chart action, he remained a respected elder statesman of Country Music, even being inducted with his brother into the Country Music Hall of Fame a few years after our visit. I too was very fortunate – none of my writings about The Louvin Brothers got much attention, but my interaction with Charlie Louvin opened my eyes to fascinating sides of the music business I never knew existed.


Tom Wilmeth 1,552 words

(262) 243-4218

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Tom Wilmeth wrote the liner notes to the Grammy winning CD Songs of The Louvin Brothers, a various artists tribute CD including one of the very last recordings made by Johnny Cash.

Wilmeth has also published the book The Music of The Louvin Brothers: Heaven’s Own Harmony.

He will probably post it all on his blog one of these days when he gets around to it.

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Addenda – Letter to a Friend, who wondered about the Bill Monroe and Gram Parsons references in the Charlie Louvin obituary

So -- Bill Monroe, the acknowledged Father of Bluegrass -- he took the sound from String Band to Bluegrass. And that a large difference. Charlie Louvin was down on Bill Monroe for not taking care of his own brother, Charlie Monroe, who lived in the area but was doing poorly economically and health-wise. Bill and Charlie Monroe had once been an act as the Monroe Brothers, then Bill made it big on his own -- I think Charlie was in the military at this point. Anyway, Bill became huge (but was still very much eclipsed for decades by his own former sidemen Flatt & Scruggs) while brother Charlie Monroe couldn't get a gig. That's a simplified version -- but you get the idea.

How did I get into country music? Well, I was never truly opposed to it, but had almost no time for it EXCEPT for Hank Williams, who I felt was the Alpha and Omega -- I discovered him in the late Cedar Falls days. When I got to Texas, my new friends said, Yeah Tom, Hank is the man. But how about checking-out some of this other stuff? And so I was introduced to country old and new, such as -- Dwight Yoakam, George Strait (then new) and Louvin Brothers and Bill Monroe (old).

Gram Pasons -- not gay. I almost left that exchange out of there, but the reason I left it in -- Because every time I relate that story to someone who knows about Parsons, they are stunned that Charlie Louvin thought that -- cuz Parsons was NOT gay. As I say, judgment call. And I started to explain it in the obit, but it took the focus off of the dead Louvin.

Hope this helps -- I'll say it again: you are now only one of two to ask me for clarification on these points. Nobody ripping on me, so that's good.

Hey -- better run. Stay in touch and thanks for reading this stuff.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Essay: "Futher Thoughts on Bob Dylan's 'Last Thoughts'"

“Further Thoughts on Bob Dylan’s ‘Last Thoughts ’”
Essay written by Tom Wilmeth
23 January 2011

I have not written much about Bob Dylan in a long time. It got to the point where I figured, What’s the use? There was such a flood – nay, glut – of writings about Dylan being produced. It was the birth of the Internet that started to make me question whether I was really a Dylan fan any longer or not – a question which always makes my two grown children howl with laughter. True, I have all of Dylan’s officially released materials. Over the past decades I have faithfully purchased the spate of soundtrack and various artists CDs to get his individual tracks, going so far as to buy a 3 CD Joan Baez box to acquire the elusive “Troubled and I Don’t Know Why” duet. I still go see him when he comes to town, as I have since the 1974 tour, and I chose XM Radio over Sirius because XM carried Bob’s Theme Time Radio program

On the Internet, however, the Dylan world became an ever expanding universe, and what had been a lot of fun quickly seemed to turn into an often mean-spirited competition of territorialism. Or so it appeared to me. And so I walked away for a while – not from the music, but from the community of Dylan commentators. I write the following because a question floats to my frontal lobes with surprising regularity, and (although I could have easily have missed it) I have not seen this specific topic discussed.

There was a high quality Dylan bootleg LP that many of us prized in the mid-1970s, when these underground albums really came into their own. Known by the title Are You Now or Have You Ever Been?, the album included excerpts from a New York City concert at Town Hall from April 1963 – the days when Bob was the brightest beacon of the folk community. For the concert’s encore, Dylan recites his just completed poem entitled “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie.” Already a veteran of high profile area gigs, he nevertheless seems quite nervous as he introduces what he knows will be a lengthy spoken piece. Sans guitar, it will be outside of Dylan’s regular style -- almost an a cappella performance. In his introduction, Dylan speaks of Guthrie’s personal importance to him. He then begins a unique recitation of adulation.

This spoken work was performed only once. The 1963 recording would be legitimately released on the first of The Bootleg Series sets, issued by Columbia Records in 1991. However, what I found interesting then and now is that Dylan’s brief prefatory remarks to the piece have been edited, which becomes immediately clear when comparing the bootleg recording to the sanctioned Columbia release. The deletions jolted and irritated me the first time I played the official disk because I always felt that included in this introduction was a quick glimpse into Bob Dylan as fan – an unguarded moment acknowledging devotion.

The careful editing of these introductory remarks was not made for the purpose of time, I’m convinced, but primarily for content. True, Dylan’s halting delivery is cleaned-up, making the speaker’s words appear to flow -- when actually they were at times quite choppy and uncertain. But it is the halting nature of this spoken introduction that helps the audience to recognize the heartfelt and unrehearsed elements at play. The unedited tape certainly does not make the speaker sound inarticulate, if that was a concern.

Much more important than speech fluidity, however, is the content edited from this already short introduction. Excised from Columbia’s release is Dylan’s sincere attempt to explain to the audience that night the inexpressible depth of Woody Guthrie’s pull on him. In a removed section of the tape, Dylan says that Guthrie’s appeal “cannot really be told in how many records of his I buy, or this kind of thing. It’s, uh . . . a lot more than that, actually.” I assume it was Dylan himself who ordered the lines removed before the recording’s official release, but this decision could also have fallen to producer Jeff Rosen. Either way, I’m thinking that the cuts must have had Dylan’s approval.

But why was this content removed for the 1991 release? In his introductory comments about the intangible attachment of fan to artist, Dylan twice stresses how Guthrie is “more than a folk singer.” These lines are also cut. When Dylan then explains that his feelings about Guthrie could not be measured by “how many records of his I buy,” did Bob in 1991 think that this stated rejection of equating album purchases to one’s devotion toward an artist might hurt his own future record sales? I think not. I believe that this line was edited-out because it and the following sentence cut too close to the bone. That is, I think these lines must have touched-on something that the artist did not want revealed. Was it his youthful attempt to express an unchecked devotion toward Guthrie that Dylan later decided to bury? Did he want to downplay this element in himself, having been the recipient of such unsettling fan worship for most of his own career? Whatever the reason, this seems to be a window that Dylan wanted closed in 1991. Dylan’s younger self concludes his grasp at articulating his inexpressible feelings toward Guthrie with, “It’s a lot more than that, actually.” His thoughtful, almost distracted tone here is telling -- almost as if that 1963 audience has melted away, and he is speaking to himself.

There is only one other time in the pre-electric canon where I believe Dylan gets this close to unconsciously confiding to an audience his private thoughts about music. Near the end of the 1964 Halloween concert (also in New York City) Dylan is about to close the main part of the evening’s set with one of his strongest songs before bringing out Joan Baez. As he begins the chords to “The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll,” Dylan uses the same joke for the second time that night: “This is a true story – right out of the newspapers again.” Perhaps this line is a comment about the press of the day often calling him a topical songwriter.

Dylan then again tells the audience: “Just the words have been changed around,” a line which Bob finds funny but which generates only a small amount of polite laughter from the audience. There is then a very brief pause, as if the performer really is considering the subject before he states, “It’s like conversation, really.” Although clearly exuberant here and throughout this 1964 concert, Dylan speaks the line thoughtfully, as if this connection had just occurred to him. Then he is off into the familiar waltz cadence that becomes “Hattie Carroll.” Fortunately, this shred of insight into Dylan’s creative process was not spliced from the official release. I believe it to be very telling about the songwriter’s use of language when composing his lyrics.

Telling too is how Dylan categorizes his own work by saying what it is not. Earlier in this piece I refer to “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” as a poem. Most would likely agree with this assessment. Not Bob, at least not in 1963. At the very beginning of the unedited bootleg recording Dylan says to the audience with urgent sincerity, “I have a po--. I have -- it’s not a poem here, but uh . . . it’s something, uh . . .”. He then quickly shifts topics, telling how this is his first solo concert in New York. Interesting here is that fact that he almost calls the work a poem and then stops himself abruptly – quickly indicating that it is “not a poem.” Perhaps the idea of even briefly taking-on the poet’s mantle also resulted in his hesitant introduction to this spoken work. He purposefully continued to shun the tag of poetry, it seems, as demonstrated by the back cover of Another Side of Bob Dylan (August 1964), where he calls his written works “Some other kinds of songs . . .” and not poems. But even though Dylan rejected the term poem, and couldn’t really name the genre of the spoken non-musical work on that April night in 1963, he was certainly right when he said, “It’s something.” There is nothing else like “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie” in Dylan’s canon.

I said earlier that I had purposefully stayed away from writing about Bob Dylan for quite some time. After all, it seems that short of reviewing new releases, it’s all been covered. And maybe this very topic has already been addressed by others. Even so, this is my take on Dylan’s spoken introduction to “Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie.” In the 20 years since Columbia Records officially released the track, my feelings about the edited introduction have gone from great irritation to great interest. This essay, then, is speculation born of anger toward the record company and fed by my unending fascination with the artist. And truncated comments or not – I’m just glad Columbia had tape rolling that evening.

Tom Wilmeth 1,511 words
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Transcripts of Bob Dylan’s full, edited, and collated introduction follow. 
April 12, 1963 – NYC’s Town Hall

FULL TRANSCRIPT (from Are You Now or Have You Ever Been LP bootleg):
“I have a po--. I have -- it’s not a poem here, but uh, . . . it’s something, uh, . . . This is the first concert I ever played alone, really, in New York, and uh, . . . uh, uh. There’s a fella out in Brooklyn State Hospital; his name is Woody Guthrie and uh, . . . [applause] . . . uh, . . . but, uh, . . . Woody is really sort of more than a folk singer. Uh, he’s . . . he’s really something else more than a folk singer, and uh, . . . There’s this book coming out that’s doing a . . . dedicating it to him, and they asked me to write, uh, something about Woody. . . uh. Sort of like, ‘What does Woody Guthrie mean to you?’ – in 25 words. And uh, . . . and I couldn’t do it. I wrote our five pages, and uh, . . I have it here. It’s a . . . have it here by accident, actually. [Dylan -- very slight laugh] But, but I, I, I’d like to say this out loud. So, uh, . . . th’, my feelings towards Woody Guthrie. Uh, . . . can not really be, uh, . . . told in, uh, . . . how many records of his I buy, or . . . or this kind of thing. It’s . . . uh, . . . a lot more than that, actually. . . . So, uh, . . . if you can sort of roll along with this thing here; this is called ‘Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie’ . . . um. ‘When your head gets twisted and your mind grows numb . . .’”

EDITED TRANSCRIPT (officially released by Columbia Records on The Bootleg Series, Vol. 1)

“There’s this book coming out and . . . they asked me to write, uh, something about Woody. . . uh. Sort of like, ‘What does Woody Guthrie mean to you?’ – in 25 words. And uh, . . . and I couldn’t do it. I wrote our five pages, and uh, . . . I have it here. It’s a . . . have it here by accident, actually. [Dylan -- very slight laugh] But, but I, I, I’d like to say this out loud.
So, uh, . . . if you can sort of roll along with this thing here; this is called ‘Last Thoughts on Woody Guthrie’ . . . um. ‘When your head gets twisted and your mind grows numb . . .’”

COLLATED TRANSCRIPT (bold/underlined/italicized/ CAPITALIZED material used by Columbia) – I figure at least one of these FOUR identifying elements will transfer through the filters:
“I have a po--. I have -- it’s not a poem here, but uh, . . . it’s something, uh, . . . This is the first concert I ever played alone, really, in New York, and uh, . . . uh, uh. There’s a fella out in Brooklyn State Hospital; his name is Woody Guthrie and uh, . . . [applause] . . . uh, . . . but, uh, . . . Woody is really sort of more than a folk singer. Uh, he’s . . . he’s really something else more than a folk singer, and uh, . . . THERE’S THIS BOOK COMING OUT that’s doing a . . . dedicating it to him, AND THEY ASKED ME TO WRITE, UH, SOMETHING ABOUT WOODY . . . UH. SORT OF LIKE, ‘WHAT DOES WOODY GUTHRIE MEAN TO YOU?’ IN 25 WORDS. AND UH, . . . AND I COULDN’T DO IT. I WROTE OUT FIVE PAGES, AND UH, . . . I HAVE IT HERE. IT’S A . . . HAVE IT HERE BY ACCIDENT, ACTUALLY. [DYLAN -- VERY SLIGHT LAUGH] BUT, BUT I, I, I’D LIKE TO SAY THIS OUT LOUD. So, uh, . . . th’, my feelings towards Woody Guthrie. Uh, . . . can not really be, uh . . . told in, uh, . . . how many records of his I buy, or . . . or this kind of thing. It’s . . . uh, . . . a lot more than that, actually. . . . SO, UH, . . .IF YOU CAN SORT OF ROLL ALONG WITH THIS THING HERE; THIS IS CALLED ‘LAST THOUGHTS ON WOODY GUTHRIE’ . . . UM. ‘When your head gets twisted and your mind grows numb . . .’”

Best again,

Tom Wilmeth

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Obituary (Trish Keenan)

Trish Keenan, vocalist for the band Broadcast
(an obituary of sorts)
written by Tom Wilmeth
Wednesday, 19 January 2011

I do something each week about which I rarely speak. It is almost a ritual, except that rituals often fall into the realm of empty actions. Instead, my weekly exercises perform an ongoing and important function that I am convinced keeps me happy and stable. This weekly exercise culminates each December in a flurry of activity that becomes obsession itself – followed by a return to the norm of a relatively brief weekend activity.

Since the late 1970s I have recorded the Top 40 pop charts on tape each weekend and then listened back to the programs during the course of the following week – in my car, in my office, while doing dishes. Although I do fast forward over the commercials, I listen to every song on the countdown all the way through. I went through a very brief period of jumping over songs that I didn’t want to hear or skipping songs that were on the way down the chart. However, I soon found that I was jumping over most of the songs. As such, I listen to it all. And I do mean listen – if I leave the room or if the phone rings, I first shut off the tape. What is odd is that it is now rare that I even want to skip over a song – not that they are all good (God knows) but because I am invested in hearing the countdown. And I greatly enjoy the process (or I wouldn’t do it).

What began with a weekly walk-through of Casey Kasem’s American Top 40 would later branch out after I left the Midwest. Living in Texas, I started also taping the weekly American Country Countdown with Bob Kingsley. Like Casey’s chart, this too is a 4-hour weekly program. Each is a little over three hours of listening if you jump the commercials, the Long Distance Dedications and other non-chart extras.

Moving to Wisconsin in 1991, other programs became part of the weekly diet – Nick Spitzer’s American Routes chief among them. Little Steven’s Underground Garage was even more essential to my week. But even with this additional 4-hours of audio things were manageable, and I still made plenty of time for listening to my own record collection and other songs I actually felt like hearing. I was not and am not a slave to the charts. Or so I believe.

Things took an unexpected turn when my lovely wife Ellie gave me an XM Radio subscription four Christmases ago. Although it began slowly enough, I soon found myself taping other weekly countdown shows, including A Rack of Blues, Slim Shady’s Hip Hop Countdown, Liquid Metal’s Devil’s Dozen, Verge’s Alt Nation Countdown, the Octane Countdown, and (the most recent addition) the XMU Download 15. The length of these countdowns ranges from barely 30 minutes (Hip Hop and Devil’s Dozen) to an hour or more (Rack of Blues). What is remarkable is how very little overlap exists in these charts! Even American Top 40 rarely duplicates any of the Octane, Alt Nation or XMU charts.

I love them all, to varying degrees, depending on the week and upon my mood. But what I have repeatedly noticed is that I must experience these charts by myself. They are not the same songs if I am not alone. If anyone is with me – be it wife or son or daughter – all extremely well versed in music – I find that can’t enjoy most of the countdown. For some reason I feel that I am responsible for what the chart holds. I think it is my job to justify and explain and entertain the person with me. As such, I don’t enjoy the music. So I simply don’t try to share the experience; I listen to the charts alone.

Why do I listen to these music charts? As I say above – I still enjoy the experience, and when I no longer find pleasure in these new songs, I will stop taping. How does this relate to anything? Over Christmas, making the 7-hour drive to Wisconsin back from my parents’ home in Des Moines, son Dylan and I were (as usual) playing with the car’s XM Radio. Dylan came across the countdown mentioned above – the XMU Download 15, a chart based upon how many times a song had been accessed or downloaded on the web during the previous week. I was unaware of this countdown, but was struck by many of the songs. None hit me as hard as a selection called “Carolina.” In fact, after returning home, I taped a re-run of this countdown and then went to Milwaukee’s Exclusive Company record store to find it.

The fact that I didn’t just download it says worlds about me, I know. But I’m glad I didn’t, for the song came from a brief EP called Broken Dreams Club. It is by the San Francisco group Girls; as far as I can tell there is nary a girl in the band. The entire CD is good. In fact, I was so struck that I wrote a review of it the following morning. [This review appears as a discrete blog entry.] I have played that CD more in the past month than anything else. All of the songs are fine. I gave it a very positive review, but my opinion of it keeps going up!

I admit that the above example is unusual. It is rare that a song hits me that hard, but I would have been completely unaware of “Carolina” or of Girls had I not listened to that countdown. Would I have lived without it? Sure, but my life is better for knowing about it.

This week, the XMU Download 15 chart started on a somber note. The announcer began by saying that the singer from the first selection had just died unexpectedly after a two-week bout with pneumonia. Rough stuff. And at age 42! The singer’s name was Trish Keenan – it rang absolutely no bells with me. The tune started and I was again knocked-out, much as I had been by “Carolina.” I was impressed not because she was no longer with us, but because of an unmistakable and beautiful voice. I was angry that I had never heard of Trish Keenan before, and that it took her death to make me aware of her. I did some research and discovered that Keenan had been singing with her band Broadcast since the mid-1990s. How had I missed this?

Most of the little I have read so far about Broadcast and Trish Keenan indicate that labels and radio did not know what to do with them – they fit no ready-made nitch. And as we survey the landscape, we see so many others who were musically talented but fit no single pre-existing genre – Charlie Rich (more talented than Elvis, said Sam Phillips) , the Louvin Brothers (too country for the gospel crowd; too gospel for the country audience), Doug Sahm, Todd Rundgren, and many others – from Prince to Bobby Darin.

These are the type of talented artists who have and will continue to slip through existing radio charts – no matter how many exist and no matter what the format. I mentioned at the start of this piece an obsession which hits me each December. This is the annual taping of the year-end charts. This year I recorded over 75 hours of year-end countdowns, from pop to hard rock to techno to Latin. I have listened to all of these charts at least once. At no point did I hear anything by the group Broadcast. I would have remembered.

Why do I tape the countdowns? I am searching for Trish Keenan.