When elton John Is Your DJ…
IDON’T KNOW if you have but I hadn’t heard Syreeta Wright till last week. And I probably wouldn’t have if I hadn’t chosen to listen to a programme on an Internet radio channel that I have now decided I shall not miss – more on that in a bit. Wright, a soul and R&B singer, sang and recorded with greats such as Billy Preston and Stevie Wonder. The latter is someone that we are all so familiar with that I won’t elaborate on besides mentioning that Wright who died in 2004 was briefly married to him. About Preston, however, I will. Anyone remember The Concert for Bangladesh? The two same-day benefit gigs in New York City’s Madison Square Garden in 1971 that were organised by exBeatle George Harrison and sitar maestro Ravi Shankar? If you do and if you’ve heard the album (original vinyl triple or the re-mastered two-disc reissue) or watched the film (if you haven’t you must!) will surely remember Harrison and Preston doing a rousing gospel song, That’s the Way God Planned It. When I heard that Wright had collaborated with Preston, I pulled out my copy of The Concert for Bangladesh and spun a few tracks that filled me with pleasant nostalgia. But I digress. This isn’t about Preston; nor is it about the famous gig that Harrison and Shankar organised. It’s about a playlist.
The song I heard Syreeta (she often recorded under her first name) sing was I Can’t Give Back the Love I Feel for You,
…you discover new musicians and unearth classic old gems, introduced with rare nuggets of information and a personal touch
vocals howl under the robust influence of legions of blues and soul singers of the deep south. A musician to discover, follow and savour.
On that same playlist, I heard Jimi Hendrix’s Hey Joe (nostalgia once again); preceded by folk-rocker Ray LaMontagne’s Ourobouros and followed by Let’s Groove, a funky upbeat song by Earth, Wind & Fire – remember them? One of the longest lasting African-American bands whose huge body of work and scores of musicians who’ve been part of its ensemble, Earth, Wind & Fire are difficult to categorise – their music spans multiple genres – from funk to groove to disco to rock and roll and R&B. They are also considered one of America’s most successful bands and although their line-up has changed several times, they’re still going strong.
That same playlist, which had 12 carefully curated songs (including all of the above and more) ended with a band I’d never heard of – Kenton Slash Demon, a Danish electro-House duo whose track, Peace, was introduced by the DJ and curator as being a sort of danceable dessert to conclude his programme, something that he almost invariably ends his episodes with. And who’s the DJ I’m referring to? None other than Elton John. Sir Elton, to be precise. On Apple Music’s Beats1 radio channel, that famous musician does a weekly episode titled Elton John’s Rocket Hour. An indefatigable discoverer of new music, his Rocket Hour episodes always have new bands and musicians, often introduced with rare nuggets of information or a personal touch. But they also delve into the past to unearth classic gems that you may have heard long back and nearly forgotten; or better still, never heard before. A mix of the old and the new. I heard the 51st episode of his show last week. And, as I write this, I’m waiting eagerly for the next. For more DOWNLOAD CENTRAL columns, log on to hindustantimes.com/brunch. Write to Sanjoy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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