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Hitmaker musician Leon Russell dead at 74 - Monday, November 14, 2016

Leon Russell, who sang, wrote and produced some of rock 'n' roll's top records, has died. He was 74. An email from Leon Russell Records to The Associated Press says Russell died Sunday in Nashville.

The email cites Russell's wife as the source of the information.

Russell had heart bypass surgery in July and was recovering from that at the time of his death. He had been planning on resuming touring in January, the email said. Russell's official website also says the musician died Sunday. Besides his music, Russell was known for his striking appearance: wispy white hair halfway down his back and that covered much of his face.

Russell played keyboard for the Los Angeles studio team known as the Wrecking Crew, helping producer Phil Spector develop his game-changing wall of sound approach in the 1960s. He wrote Joe Cocker's Delta Lady and in 1969 put together Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, which spawned a documentary film and a hit double album.

As a musician, primarily a pianist, he played on The Beach Boys' California Girls and Jan and Dean's Surf City. He also played guitar and bass. Russell produced and played on recording sessions for Bob Dylan, Frank Sinatra, Ike and Tina Turner, the Rol details

Being original Beatles drummer Pete Best has never been easy, but it was especially tough in 1964 when Beatlemania swept the world and he had to watch from the sidelines. In March of 1964, the Beatles had the top four songs on the Hot 100: "She Loves You," "I Want to Hold Your Hand," "Twist and Shout" and "Please Please Me." They were four of the most famous people on the planet, but when Pete Best walked onto the set of I've Got a Secret that month nobody knew who he was.

He introduced himself to the panel as Pete Best from West Derby in Lancashire, England before whispering his secret to host Gary Moore. "I left my job two years ago," he said. "I was one of the Beatles." The panel was merely told his secret involved something he did. Bess Myerson (Miss of America of 1945 and a staple of 1950s television) immediately noticed his haircut. "Could you be a new kind of bug that we've imported from England?" she asked. "Do you have anything to do with your predecessors, the Beatles?"

Bill Cullen was up next, and like many Americans at the time, he was fixated the Beatles' haircuts, thinking he might be their barber. He did get Best to say he still "vaguely" had something to do with the Beatles. Betsy Palmer (who wen details

Fashion designer Stella McCartney unveiled her first menswear collection on Thursday at London's famous Abbey Road recording studio, where she promised men a more free and fun wardrobe.

She chose to present the collection at the recording studio made famous by her father, Paul McCartney, and his three fellow Beatles when they named one of their albums after Abbey Road. The fashion show referenced the 1969 album cover, which shows the band walking across Abbey Road, by parading models over the same white stripes to photographers' flashes.

McCartney said the venue was special both for its musical and family ties.

"It really means a lot to our family this studio... seeing and hearing what's been created here, the best music in the world. It's such an iconic place. So many people have recorded here," she said.

Pink Floyd, Radiohead, the Manic Street Preachers and Blur are just some of the other bands to have recorded at Abbey Road in recent years.

McCartney, who trained at the Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design, has built a reputation as a designer but has only just decided to enter the world of menswear. The collection shown at Abbey Road ranged from playful casual wear, such as details

The identity of the true "fifth Beatle" has been hotly debated for half a century, but the strongest case can be made for Sir George Martin. The band's trusted and loyal producer, Martin served as expert and conspirator, taskmaster and mad scientist, friend and father figure throughout the band's studio life. He shaped their songs in ways that are seldom appreciated but impossible to forget.

Unlike most producers of his era, his creative daring fostered an environment where it was acceptable to explore and expand the realm of the possible. He played with the Beatles, in every sense of the word — by picking up an instrument, or merely indulging their curiosity and translating their abstract musical fantasies into reality. "He was always there for us to interpret our strangeness," recalled George Harrison. It's difficult, and frightening, to imagine the Beatles' artistic trajectory had they been paired with anyone else. His role as a confidant, advocate and realizer cannot be overstated.

These are 10 of our favorite moments in the Beatles' catalog that we owe to George Martin.

"Please Please Me" (1963)

When John Lennon and Paul McCartney first played "Please Please Me" for George Martin durin details

 

“I don’t think of the Fifth Beatle as an activist book. I certainly don’t have a political agenda but I do hope it’s an inspiring book. I hope that when people finish reading it they close the book inspired to chase their own dreams in the world however they see fit.” – Vivek Tiwary

The Fifth Beatle is the graphic novel debut of Tony Award Winning Broadway Producer Vivek J. Tiwary. This New York Times #1 Best Selling exploration of pop culture & personal identity brilliantly chronicles the story of “Gay, Jewish, Kid from Liverpool” Brian Epstein, The Beatles visionary manager. Myself being a “Bleek (Black Geek) from The Bronx” could relate to Brian’s outsider status and my discussion with Vivek (pronounced like cake) a self described, “Weirdo Indian Kid from the Lower East Side” made me realize what we shared in common.

Vivek and I are both first generation Americans. Vivek’s folks are Guyanese of Indian extraction, my parents were from Barbados. We bonded sharing West Indian tidbits and his parents traditional expectations on career choice really hit home for me. While at Wharton Business School, on track to j details

Before George Martin's death on March 8th, the legendary producer and "fifth Beatle" aligned with PBS for an eight-part series titled Soundbreaking: Stories From the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music. For the series, which was five years in the making, Martin and his son Giles recruited over 150 artists to share behind-the-scenes stories about the art of recording.

The first two Soundbreaking episodes are scheduled to premiere March 14th at the SXSW Film festival with a PBS premiere set for November. Rolling Stone has the exclusive first look at the Soundbreaking trailer, featuring Ringo Starr, Elton John, St. Vincent, Bonnie Raitt and Don Was discussing their craft.

"My first meeting with the Rolling Stones, I ended up with Mick Jagger sitting here and Keith [Richards] sitting here, and they were both talking at the same time," says Was, who first worked with the Stones on 1994's Voodoo Lounge. "Keith said, 'You sure you want to be the meat in this sandwich?'"

Directed and produced by Jeff Dupre and Maro Chermayeff, the series features 150 exclusive and original interviews with both artists and producers. Paul McCartney, Tom Petty, Roger Waters, Roger Daltrey, Dave Grohl, Questlove, Bon Iver, Willie Nelson details

In the late Sixties, the Beatles and Eric Clapton kicked off a nearly five-decade-long tradition of recorded collaborations.

Sure, "While My Guitar Gently Weeps"—the only official EMI Beatles recording Clapton ever played on—is an undisputed highlight, but Slowhand's fretwork also graces recordings by all four solo Beatles. In fact, the former Yardbird is the only guitarist—ever—who played on a Beatles album and on official studio recordings by John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr.

Clapton even wrote (and played on) a tune for Ringo—"This Be Called a Song"—in 1976. As we'll see, Clapton and the former Beatles also played on the same sessions for different artists throughout the decades.

Today, however, we'll restrict our focus to the late Sixties through 1970, the golden era of Clapton-Beatle collaborations. We'll explore the the rest of the Seventies, Eighties, Nineties and beyond in the near future.

Although they had already been friends since the Beatles' "moptop" period, Clapton and Harrison never got together in a recording studio (to actually record something) until a few years later. And once they started, the floodgates were open details

John and Yoko in Their Own Words - Wednesday, November 09, 2016

Fifty years ago Wednesday, on Nov. 9, 1966, John Lennon met Yoko Ono. The English musician and the Japanese artist met at one of her art exhibits, were married in 1969, and had a son together, Sean, in 1975. With the exception of a year-and-a-half-long separation, which Lennon called his “lost weekend,” they created music — and controversy — together until his death in 1980.

On the day of their meeting, Lennon visited Ono’s conceptual art show in a gallery in London. He was won over by one of her pieces, which was experienced by climbing a ladder and looking through a spyglass onto an apparently blank canvas, where the viewer can see, in tiny letters, the word “yes.” “So it was positive,” Lennon told Rolling Stone’s Jann Wenner in 1971, in the series of interviews that would later comprise Lennon Remembers. “It's a great relief when you get up the ladder and you look through the spyglass and it doesn't say ‘no’ or ‘f--- you’ or something, it said ‘yes.’” The gallery owner introduced the Beatle and the artist, and the rest is history.

Lennon discovered he was in love with Ono when “I called her over, details

John Lennon and Paul McCartney could write from different perspectives — a young woman in “She’s Leaving Home,” or a randy young man in “Lovely Rita” — but “Getting Better” may be one of the most personal tracks the duo ever recorded. A tale of optimism, humility, and a touch of what author Gary Tillery calls “cynical idealism,” “Getting Better” narrates how one man tries to learn from past mistakes and reinvent himself. In 1980, Lennon called the lyrics a “diary form of writing,” and the track allows the duo to reveal their own transformations from their Liverpool days to their London present.

According to Hunter Davies’ Beatles biography, the idea for “Getting Better” came from an unlikely source: Jimmie Nicol, the drummer who subbed for an ailing Ringo Starr during the Beatles’ 1964 tour of Europe, Hong Kong, and Australia. While on that tour, the group would frequently ask Nicol how he was holding up under the pressure. “It’s getting better,” Nicol replied.

That phrase randomly popped into McCartney’s head while he walked his dog Martha one day in March 1967. After returni details

Ten bands that owe it all to The Beatles - Monday, November 07, 2016

From Badfinger to Black Sabbath...

Let's be honest: every band owes The Beatles a huge debt of gratitude. Here's some who owe more than others...

The Beach Boys

OK, so we're not really claiming The Beach Boys owe it all to The Beatles, but it’s clear the Fabs were crucial to their development. Staggered by the ingenuity of Rubber Soul, Brian Wilson was driven to create Pet Sounds in response. “No one had heard that in rock‘n’roll back then,” Wilson said, referring to The Beatles’ use of sitar and other exotica. “It really did inspire the instrumentation I ended up using for Pet Sounds.” He composed God Only Knows the morning after first hearing it.

The Byrds

Roger McGuinn was slipping Beatles beats under traditional folk tunes during his early days in Greenwich Village. When he hooked up with the rest of The Byrds in LA, their collective Fabs obsession took on whole new levels. The tipping point was a cinema trip to see A Hard Day’s Night, after which they reinvented their look, bought themselves a Gretsch and Rickenbacker and set about transposing Beatles harmonies onto their own brand of George-like jangle.

By: Rob Hughes

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