Tuesday, August 27, 2013

If it quacks like Marvin Gaye

I'm a little disappointed in myself right now. About two months ago I heard a song for the first time at a friend's party that gave me a great idea for a column. It required a little research, which I conquered brilliantly, if I do say so myself. It also required a carefully constructed playlist, which I meticulously put together. And then, I totally forgot about it. Now I look like I'm just jumping onto the bandwagon along with everyone else, because the exact thought that went through my head that gave me the idea for the playlist in the first place, and the song behind it, has become the center of controversy. The subject of a lawsuit. Two lawsuits, in fact. It's also the subject of a heckuva lot of other music columns around the world. Columnists who beat me to the punch, dammit. But just so you know, just so it's clear, I'm no Johnny Come Lately.  What was that thought, you ask? Well the second thought that went through my head when I heard "Blurred Lines" when my friend Destiny busted it out at Tim & Monica's anniversary party was "Oh, Marvin Gaye is rolling over in his grave right now!" The first thought, of course, was, "I think I've just been introduced to my new favorite song!"

So I'm not the only person that thought Marvin Gaye would be rolling over in his grave when they heard "Blurred Lines" for the first time. Marvin Gaye's family thought the same thing, and they've been making headlines for the last month, accusing Robin Thicke for borrowing a little too heavily from the soul master's popular anthem, "Got To Give It Up." This is news that's been as widely spread as Miley Cyrus' ... oh, never mind.  But did you know that Marvin Gaye's family isn't the only group that's thinking perhaps they deserve a piece of the action from the hit of the summer ?

Here's the thing. Robin Thicke (and co-songwriters Pharrell Williams & Clifford Harris, Jr, better known as T.I.) freely admit that Marvin Gaye's hit song from 1971 was a huge inspiration for "Blurred Lines." But they didn't actually sample the song, just so you know. I actually imported both songs into my high tech radio goddess audio editing software and listened to them together in the most scientific of environments and am pretty sure that no sampling was actually done. It's the same vibe, for sure, which is exactly what Thicke was going for. And while you might think it was the family of Gaye, who died in 1984, that would've been first in line to hire a lawyer, it was actually Thicke and Co. They pretty much figured that they'd get sued for copyright infringement after Gaye's family started saying that Thicke had plagiarized, and filed a suit to protect the genesis of the song.

I know what you're thinking. "Blurred Lines" sounds so much like "Got To Give It Up" that, while they aren't identical twins, maybe not even fraternal twins, they are most definitely siblings, or kissing cousins at the least, right? Thicke doesn't deny it. He comes right and pays a huge homage to Marvin Gaye for helping him come up with the idea of writing a song that would, as he says, 'invoke an era.' But he says the intent was never to blatantly steal from Gaye. After the family began accusing Thicke & his co-writers of doing exactly that, they acted first and filed a lawsuit to protect the integrity of the song and even offered Gaye's family a six-figure settlement to settle the potential issue. The family, by the way, turned it down. They don't care if Robin Thicke was just trying to get something "with that same groove," as he claimed a few months ago in a GQ interview. They're saying if it looks like Marvin Gaye and quacks like Marvin Gaye, it is Marvin Gaye, so hand over the bucks.

But guess who else is claiming that Thicke and his buddies are copyducks? Hard to believe (well, I find it hard to believe), but the folks who own the rights to some of Funkadelic's tunes have jumped on the bandwagon and are claiming that "Blurred Lines" is so much like Funkadelic's "Sexy Ways" that they'd like to get in on the royalties too. If they really feel that way, maybe Funkadelic should be suing Marvin Gaye's estate as well, since their song came out in 1974, and "Got To Give It Up" didn't come out until several years later. I don't hear it, myself. But hey, you're gonna get a chance to judge for yourself in a moment.
Anyway, all this got me to thinking about all the other songs that sound just a little too close for comfort like other songs. And voila, you've got today's playlist. Some of these songs have resulted in lawsuits. Some, shockingly, haven't. Others have resulted in a tipping of the hat from the original artist, which I think is an amazingly gracious way to handle the sincerest form of flattery. Especially since I'm betting that the millions of people who have downloaded "Blurred Lines" have now also downloaded "Got To Give It Up" (and perhaps to a much much lesser extent "Sexy Ways") to see how similar these tunes really are. I think you'll be surprised at how un-original some of the well known songs on today's playlist really are, and where the inspiration came from. If you've got any additions to the playlist, please, list them in the comments below!

You can check out the Grooveshark playlist here, or click on the arrow below and stream it.

  Sounds like.. by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark
  1. Marvin Gaye - Got To Give It Up
  2. Robin Thicke - Blurred Lines
  3. Funkadelic - Sexy Ways
  4. Coldplay - Viva La Vida
  5. Joe Satriani - If I Could Fly We'll never know how much money Joe Satriani got when the plagiarism lawsuit he filed against Coldplay was settled out of court.  But his song came out 4 years before Coldplay came out with Viva La Vida.
  6. The Hollies - The Air That I Breathe
  7. Radiohead - Creep Radiohead got sued for plagiarism as well, and as a result, Albert Hammond & Mike Hazelwood of The Hollies are listed as co-songwriters of this anthem. Here's the proof.
  8. Andrew Oldham Orchestra - The Last Time
  9. The Verve - Bittersweet Symphony Every time you hear this song, the Rolling Stones get a little bit richer. Mick & Keith wrote it. Andrew Oldham covered it. The Verve asked for permission to use part of it in Bittersweet Symphony, but they used a little too much, apparently. Because they got sued. And they lost.  Jagger & Richards are now listed as co-writers, but the Rolling Stones receive 100% of any royalties. Yeah. Someone had a great lawyer.
  10. Killing Joke - Eighties
  11. Nirvana - Come As You Are The similarity is obvious. Killing Joke was understandably pissed when Nirvana denied that "Eighties" was the inspiration for the #1 grunge riff of all time.  They did file a lawsuit, but it was dropped. There's a few different versions of the story, but the one I'd like to believe is the one where Killing Joke decided to forget the whole thing when Kurt Cobain committed suicide. 
  12. ABBA - Waterloo
  13. The Foundations - Build Me Up Buttercup As far as I know, nobody ever sued ABBA for borrowing this amazing groove from The Foundations. 
  14. David Guetta ft. Kelly Rowland - When Love Takes Over    After what they did to Satriani, Coldplay really doesn't have any room to critize Guetta for doing (even less of) the same thing. Well played, Guetta. Well played.
  15. Coldplay - Clocks
  16. Rhianna - SOS (Rescue Me)
  17. Soft Cell - Tainted Love Rhianna straight out sampled Tainted Love. And probably paid for the opportunity. But did you know that she probably ended up paying Ed Cobb, who originally wrote the song in 1964? He certainly received a songwriting credit. I wonder if Soft Cell paid Diana Ross & The Supremes for straight out borrowing "Where Did Our Love Go?"
  18. Oasis - Cigarettes & Alcohol
  19. T. Rex - Bang A Gong Oasis was accused of stealing the riff from "Bang A Gong," but I don't think it ever went to court.  
  20. Goldfrapp - Ooh La La
  21. Norman Greenbaum - Spirit In The Sky Goldfrapp samples this riff, they admit it, prolly paid for it. It's pretty awesome, although to be honest, it's so much more subdued than many of the other bands that went to court over this kind of thing. 
  22. Wire - 3 Girl Rhumba
  23. Elastica - Connection I remember hearing this song for the first time and being bugged for weeks because I knew it sounded just like another song from my past, but I couldn't figure it out for the longest time. It was weeks before it dawned upon me, and I could finally sleep at night.  Turns out Elastica borrowed from 2 of my favorite post-punk groups for Connection:  Wire and The Stranglers. Not just the riff. Even the lyrics! From what I understand, all the royalties go to The Stranglers.
  24. The Stranglers - No More Heroes
  25. Luiz Bonfa - Seville This song was obscure enough that most people (in the U.S. at least) had no idea Gotye had borrowed the music from Brazilian guitarist & composer Luiz Bonfa, who died at the age of 78, 10 years before Gotye sampled his tune.
  26. Gotye - Somebody That I Used To Know 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Time Flies

I have completely run out of time again. How does this happen? It seems like only yesterday I filed my last column, right up against deadline (which is so typical for me, just ask Doni. No, ask Joe Domke. He's 9 hours ahead of me on Prague time, and ends up getting my column when he wakes up Friday mornings, about 5 minutes after I've finally fallen asleep). And now, all of a sudden, here I am again, right up against deadline.

How does time pass so quickly that I find myself completely blindsided again and again every two weeks? You know, maybe there's something to this whole theory of relativity thing after all. And then again, maybe I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm big enough to admit that. But hear me out.

Back when I was in college, I took a science class. It was labeled something like "Astronomy 101", so it sounded very cool. Like we'd be looking through telescopes and learning about planets. Turns out, it was actually Physics 101 disguised with an enticing name. Because Physics is kind of daunting and intimidating, even if it was a beginners class. Remember, I'm the gal who flunked Algebra numerous times before the teacher finally pretended I'd earned a passing grade.

I honestly don't remember anything from that class. Well, I remember two things. The first was some advice from my professor, when I tried to drop out after it became really obvious to me that I was not getting anything he was laying down. He said, "I won't let you drop out, not yet. I think you're doing better than you realize. What I think you should do is date that young man sitting over there. He's the one that keeps ruining the curve." It was good advice. We dated for a few weeks, I distracted him enough to bring his grade down at least a notch, I'm pretty sure.

And then there was this one other thing that sunk in from the class. One itsy bitsy teeny tiny little theory, that I may or may not have gotten completely screwed up. It was that thing Einstein came up with. That whole relativity thing. I just remember sitting there one day and suddenly it dawned on me that time really is relative.

Suddenly, as I sat there starting at the clock waiting for class to get over, I remembered what it was like when I was 5, waiting for that horrible hour. That FOR-EVVVVVVVVV-ER hour on Saturday nights. My parents had a black and white tv with 2 channels, and on Saturday nights one channel had Hee-Haw, the other had Lawrence Welk. I wanted to watch something, anything on our brand new first ever TV so badly, but even then at that early age, I had scruples. I had limits. I couldn't bear to watch either of these awful shows that even then seemed to be an insult to my 5 year old  brain. But it was absolute h-e-double hockeysticks waiting until they were over so that I could watch Emergency! with that hunk Randolph Mantooth. It was an hour of pure torture that lasted an eternity. A whole hour.

Actual photo of Albert Einstein
But in college, an hour went by relatively quickly. And now, I could blink and 3 hours have passed. Well, even worse. I just blinked and two weeks went by! How does that happen?
Well, I tell you, time is relative. Just like Einstein said. He did say that, right? I don't have enough time to actually look it up right now, but I'm pretty sure he did. So here's my thoughts on Einstein's theory of relativity:

I realized that for a 2 week old infant, that 2 weeks is its whole life. 1/1 of its existence. Forever. When I was a 21 year old college student, 2 weeks was 1/546 of my life so far. A much smaller amount of time, relatively. But now that I'm 46? 2 weeks is 1/1196th of my life. Such a teensy, tiny, little bit of time. No  wonder. When a 2 week old infant, a 21 year old college student, and a 46 year old procrastinator watch the same lousy 30 second TV commercial, it plays exactly as long in real time for each of us, but how long that commercial seems to be is relative to how long each of us has been sucking air on this planet. Does that make sense? Or am I as crazy as my family keeps telling me? Or should I give up my day job and start teaching high school physics right away?

Not an actual photo of Albert Einstein.
But aren't you impressed by the likeness?
So. All that to say that I have just plum run out of time. I hope I spelled everything correctly, because I don't even have time to go back and proof read what I just wrote. But still, I had time to wax on about Einstein, had time to find that hilarious photo of my daughter dressed up as Einstein for a school project back in 7th grade, and somehow I found the time to put together the biggest playlist ever. I guess time still flies when you're having fun! Today's playlist is filled with 40 of the best songs ever written about time. It's a hefty one, hope you've got the time to listen to it!

Click here to listen to today's streaming playlist directly from the source at Grooveshark, or click on the play arrow in the box below.
  TIme Flies by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Time - Pink Floyd
  2. All This Time - One Republic
  3. You Waste Time Like A Grandfather Clock - The Myriad
  4. Time Is On My Side - The Rolling Stones
  5. Time of the Season - The Zombies
  6. Wasting Time - Jack JOhnson
  7. Time & Truth - Cas Haley
  8. Time Tough - Toots & The Maytals
  9. Time of Your Song (Matisyahu
  10. Time's A Wasting - Erykah Badu
  11. Funny How Time Slips Away - Willie Nelson
  12. Time After Time - Cyndi Lauper
  13. The Longest Time - Billy Joel
  14. Closing Time - Semi Sonic
  15. Time of Your Life - Green Day
  16. Time Stands Still - The All-American Rejects
  17. Time Is Running Out - Muse
  18. Time Flies - Porcupine Tree
  19. One More Time - Daft Punk
  20. If I Could Turn Back Time - Cher
  21. Time Has Told Me - Nick Drake
  22. Five Years Time - Noah & The Whale
  23. Time & Space - Groove Armada
  24. This Is The Last Time - Keane
  25. Time Has Come Today - The Chambers Brothers
  26. Times Like These - Foo Fighters
  27. No Time - The Monkees
  28. Time Won't Let Me - The Outsiders
  29. Not Enough Time - INXS
  30. Time Is Tight - Booker T. & The MG's
  31. No Time - Guess Who
  32. Time - Tesla
  33. Time To Move On - Tom Petty
  34. Run Out Of Time - Genesis
  35. Somewhere A Clock Is Ticking - Snow Patrol
  36. Time In A Bottle - Jim Croce
  37. No Time To Think - Bob Dylan
  38. Time Is Ticking Out - The Cranberries
  39. Too Much Time On My Hands - Styx
  40. Time Warp - Rocky Horror Picture Show Soundtrack

Friday, August 2, 2013

Foreign Tongue

I was a bit of a hellion in high school. Shocking, right?! I was an outspoken, brash, mouthy, rebellious teen. I know, I haven't changed a whole heckuva lot in the past 30 years. And my rebel streak got me into a bit of trouble when it came to my grades. If I was truly interested in a subject, I got straight A's. If I couldn't care less, or if I didn't get along with the teacher, I lost any motivation in the subject, and would pull a D. It took me three attempts to pass Algebra, but my Journalism and English teachers loved me.

And then along came Señora Brewold.

Back in junior high I choose Spanish as my foreign language, and while I wasn't a great student, I managed to continue with the subject through high school. My motivation? If my sister and I kept at it, our parents would take us to Mexico (because my mother did NOT speak Spanish and needed a translator). So we did...and they did...and by the time we returned, I wasn't just speaking in Spanish, I was dreaming in Spanish.

My Spanish teacher in high school was a woman that someone long before me had nicknamed La Bruja Del Mar. The Sea Witch. Señora Brewold. I don't know why or how she got that nickname. But there was definitely something a little scary and tough about Señora Brewold. She wore sensible shoes and A-line skirts, and sometimes yelled & slammed things down on the counter to get your attention. Well, my attention. I just wasn't motivated. I'd rather sit and chat with my friends in English instead of learning Spanish. I just didn't care that much. Until the day that Señora Brewold made me stay after class, and told me that I had better get my shit together or she was going to eject me permanently from the classroom (which meant no trip to Mexico).

I was insolent, rebellious, mouthy. I had better things to do after school, like hang out with my boyfriend. I was not happy. I said some bad words. And she gave them right back. And more. I wasn't expecting that. She knew every word that I did, plus a slew of Spanish curse words that I didn't, and she wasn't afraid of using them on me.

Suddenly, I was impressed! She had my attention. I think I cocked my head to the side and realized that maybe I wanted to be in this classroom after all. By the end of our half hour shouting session, she had shown me that however badass I thought I was at 16, she'd been badass for at least 3 or 4 times that long. And that's how I found instant respect for La Bruja Del Mar. I stayed in her class. And I passed that class. I was totally motivated, and ended up with a B instead of a D. Years later, she was the one teacher from high school that came to my wedding.

This 4th of July I went home, and bumped into Señora Brewold at the parade. We talked animatedly for a half hour and laughed all over again about our blow out, and how she conjugated the word chingar for me. I 'll save you the trouble of looking it up. It's the F word. In Spanish. I love that woman.

By the time I graduated from high school, I was hungry to learn more foreign language. So I switched to French for a few years. The day after I received my bachelor's degree, I flew to the Greek Isles and spent the summer learning Greek. I'm told I speak Greek like a country bumpkin from the south. I've got a heavy, southern Cretan drawl. Which makes sense, because that's where I learned it...from a beautiful, young Greek boyfriend from a small village on the southern tip of Crete who didn't speak much English.

For over a decade, I went to Europe every other year, spending 6 to 8 weeks traveling through the Netherlands, Germany, Denmark, Hungary, France, Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. In every one of those countries I tried to learn as much of the language that I could, and tried my hardest to mimic their accents.

 Fast forward to today. When people ask me what I do, I tell them I pronounce foreign words all day long. Words like Mstislav Rostropovich, Esa Pekka Salonen, Johann Nepomuk Hummel and Lang Lang (it's not pronounced how it looks) and my favorite Greek composer, Eleni Karaindrou. I say phrases like "Les Baricades Misterieuses," and "El Sombrero de Tres Picos," and I'm expected to translate as well! I speak phrases and words in Russian and Finnish and Japanese, although I don't know these languages at all, but I give it a good college try. Well, more accurately, I give it a good high school try, right? Because that's what I do. But I don't know if I could have done it without La Bruja Del Mar. Gracias, Señora Brewold. Muchas gracias por su dedicación y su sentido del humor. Usted era un gran maestro.

In honor of la Señora, I'm sharing some of my favorite foreign music with you today. Don't worry, it's not classical. None of it, in fact. Some of it's actually American bands singing in foreign languages, like Pink Martini (Sidenote: who didn't fall in love with Storm Large when she sang in Farsi, Italian, Spanish and Italian at their performance at the Cascade Theatre last month?) Now you know why they're my favorite band in the world. Because they're making it their mission to conquer every language in the world, one country at a time!

Foreign Tongue by Valerie Ing-Miller on Grooveshark

  1. Cro - Easy This is my favorite band of the week right now, thanks to my daughter. They're from Germany, and the lead singer wears a panda mask when he performs, supposedly so that he can maintain some anonymity when he's not on stage. 
  2. Mexican Institute of Sound - A Girl Like You I never how cool music could be south of the border, until I heard this song. 
  3. Manu Chau - Me Gustas Tu
  4. Pork Tornado - Guabi Guabi A South African song that Arlo Guthrie also performs. I hope he'll do it, and explain what the heck these lyrics mean, when he performs at the Cascade later this season.
  5. Pink Martini - Sympathique - The song that introduced me to my favorite band in the world.
  6. Brazil 66 - Mas Que Nada
  7. Paolo Conte - Via Con Me This singer is from Italy, sings in Italian (and English on occasion) but is so big in France. Like super huge.
  8. Pink Martini - Donde Estas Yolanda
  9. Lhasa de Sela - El Payande This amazing singer was raised south of the border, but she was actually born in New York. RIP Lhasa. She was taken by cancer way too young.
  10. Paolo Conte - Sparring Partner
  11. Madeleine Peyroux - La Vie En Rose
  12. La Negresses Vertes - Voila L'Ete
  13. Alkistis Protopsaiti - Pame Xavai With a name this complicated, you know it's got to be Greek!
  14. Cesaria Evoria - Carneval de Sao Vicente
  15. Cafe Quijano - La Lola Now here's a band that's from Spain, but they're huge in Italy! There's got to be a band from France that's huge in Spain, just to complete this trifecta. But I haven't found them yet.
  16. Backyard Dog - Baddest Ruffest OK, this one is my dirty secret. It's actually in English. But it's British-English, actually Manchester. And who can understand a Manchester accent? I seriously thought, until today, that these lyrics were foreign. Because I can't make heads or tails of what they're singing, can you?
  17. B21 - Darshan
  18. PSY - Gangnam Style I love me some K-Pop!
  19. Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan - Piya Re Piya Re
  20. Trio Mocoto - Voltei Amor
  21. De-Phazz - Dummes Spiel This band, let by wunderkind producer Pit Baumgartner, doesn't normally sing in Pit's native German tongue. This is the only one I've found so far.
  22. Udit Narayan & Abhijeet - Chori Chori Gori Se
  23. Plastic Bertrand - Ca Plane Pour Moi This French song translates to "This is the life for me." I know this because I actually translated the lyrics back in 1986, with the help of my tres hip college French instructor. Thanks to you too, Roger!