by Robert Wilkinson
Today’s the birthday of 4 major league musical talents!
Due to time constraints, this year I can’t do a full birthday tribute to these four superstars. But I will give you a few of their best!
Nat “King” Cole (March 17, 1919 – February 15, 1965) was an accomplished jazz pianist but was primarily famous for his smooth as silk baritone voice. Inspired by Earl Hines, he started playing as a teenager in the 30s and never looked back. He was a pioneer in being one of the first men of color to have his own television show, and was universally loved when he died too young of lung cancer.
Here are a few of his best! And they’re almost all live performances!!
"Too Young" (audio only)
And for the finale, "Unforgettable"
For our encore I found the entire 48 minute BBC video of Nat from 1963! You’ve seen some of these before now, but here’s the whole show. An Evening With Nat King Cole
We now turn our birthday celebration to the great Paul Kantner! Founder of the Jefferson Airplane and Jefferson Starship, Paul Kantner (March 17, 1941) was a major influence on the development of psychedelic music in the San Francisco Bay area in the 60s.
Although the band was originally formed by Marty Balin, Kantner eventually became the main man of Jefferson Airplane and captained the group through various successor incarnations of Jefferson Starship. Kantner has the longest continuous membership with the band; at times he was its only member. A political anarchist, Kantner once advocated the use of psychedelic drugs such as LSD for mind expansion and spiritual growth, and is a prominent advocate of the legalization of marijuana. In a 1986 interview, Kantner shared his thoughts about cocaine and alcohol, saying, "Cocaine, particularly, is a bummer. It's a noxious drug that turns people into jerks. And alcohol is probably the worst drug of all. As you get older and accomplish more things in life in general, you realize that drugs don't help, particularly if you abuse them."
Here’s the Airplane at their best!
A great 1966 live performance at the Fillmore of “It’s No Secret”
From their early period, the studio version of the very beautiful “Comin’ Back To Me”
From October 1967, an audio-only 70 minutes of The Jefferson Airplane Live
From 1968 on the Perry Como show, the Airplane live performing "Watch Her Ride"
From Woodstock, live in 1969, the Jefferson Airplane doing two of Grace Slick’s dynamic tunes!
From the same legendary gig, the equally legendary song calling for revolution! “Volunteers”
We’ll finish their Woodstock set with a live performance of “Uncle Sam Blues”
From the disastrous 1969 Altamont gig, here’s the Airplane doing “The Other Side of this Life”
From 1970, Live at the Family Dog, the Jefferson Airplane doing one of my favorites! “The Ballad of You and Me and Pooneil”
From 1975, the original studio version of “Miracles”
We’ll close this birthday tribute with a performance from a more recent era. Here’s Paul live in 2005 with Marty Balin and Jack Cassady doing a JA tune from the “Surrealistic Pillow” album, “Plastic Fantastic Lover.”
For an encore, here’s a great look at San Francisco in the 1960s via a full 80 minute documentary about the Jefferson Airplane called “Fly With the Jefferson Airplane”
Now for John Sebastian! As founder of the Lovin’ Spoonful, John Sebastian (March 17, 1944) is a singer, songwriter, guitarist, and autoharpist, one of the first in rock and roll! Influenced from everyone between Burl Ives and Woody Guthrie, when he joined Zally, Steve, and Joe to form the Lovin’ Spoonful, American folk joined with New York "jug band" attitude to create a major hitmaking response to the British invasion!
Here are some of their biggest!
From the mid-60 in color, a live performance on tv of "Daydream"
Here they lip-synch to the studio version of "Summer in the City"
Again lip-synching on television, "Nashville Cats"
At Woodstock in 1969, here’s John solo acoustic singing “Darlin’ Be Home Soon”
Very much live on the TNT television show, “You Didn’t Have To Be So Nice”
"Six O’Clock" (audio only)
"Younger Girl" (audio only)
And from his post-Spoonful days, the theme song to the television hit series “Welcome Back Kotter,” "Welcome Back" (audio only)
And now for the youngest of our quartet! A big happy goes out to Billy Corgan (March 17, 1967), musician, producer, lyricist, writer, professional wrestling promoter and occasional slam poet, best known as the frontman and founder of The Smashing Pumpkins. For your enjoyment, here are a few of the biggest from the Smashing Pumpkins along with some full concerts!
From 1993, the full one hour 54 minute show of The Smashing Pumpkins at the Chicago Metro
From 1996, the full 1 hour 15 minute show of The Smashing Pumpkins at the Rockpalast
Also from 1996, the full 2 hours and 2 minute show of The Smashing Pumpkins at Toronto
From 2013, live at Glastonbury, a full 80 minute live set of The Smashing Pumpkins at Glastonbury
We’ll close with a 47 minute documentary on the Smashing Pumpkins titled “Graceful Swans of Never”
For the encore, a 2012 interview with Billy by Alex Jones at SXSW in Austin! “The Awakening Has Begun”
So it’s a happy RIP to Nat Cole, and an equally big happy to Paul, John, and Billy! Rock on, gentlemen, and may you have many more years of rocking on!!
© Copyright 2014 Robert Wilkinson