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Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird

Thirteen Ways of Looking at a Black Bird

1. THE LOGO for LA rock band The Airborne Toxic Event is a black bird, flying alone through an arid winter sky, that’s been shot through with an arrow and is spraying blood out of its right side. I...

No Wave Feminism

No Wave Feminism

What’s it like to be a girl in a band? I don’t quite understand That's so quaint to hear I feel so faint, my dear — Sonic Youth, “Sacred Trickster,” The Eternal (2009) IN HER LYRICS to th...

After The Fall

After The Fall

THERE’S A CERTAIN doggedness required to play the bass: a sonic obligation to carry the weight of others while keeping things together. It’s no surprise, then, that the recent biography from Steve...

How I Got Over: The Soul of Aretha Franklin

How I Got Over: The Soul of Aretha Franklin

DAVID RITZ’S new biography of Aretha Franklin, Respect, is not the book Franklin wanted written. The Queen of Soul already published the book she wanted, From These Roots, which Ritz himself ghostwr...

The Escapes and Escapades of Rick James

The Escapes and Escapades of Rick James

THERE’S NO LOGICAL REASON Rick James should have lived as long as he did. That he didn’t die in prison, overdose on crack, commit suicide, or get shot by a jealous husband or lover is a secular ki...

Work It on Out

Work It on Out

IN THE SUMMER of 2003, you couldn’t miss “Crazy in Love.” The Beyoncé single with a horn hook from the Chi-Lites and a rap from the singer’s future husband Jay-Z was everywhere. I heard it o...

Paul McCartney: The Wilderness Years

Paul McCartney: The Wilderness Years

IF HE WASN’T a Beatle, then who was he? What was he? These were questions Paul McCartney had never had to ask himself, but he was asking them now. It was 1969, the year he’d made the legal moves t...

Forgive My Father, For He Has Sinned

Forgive My Father, For He Has Sinned

IT WAS IN the early days of 2009, two days, to be exact, after Barack Obama was sworn into his first of two presidential terms, that David Berman, frontman and founder of the Silver Jews, swore off hi...

Dancing with Dictators

Dancing with Dictators

WHEN I WAS A YOUNG GIRL in Leyte, I danced for Imelda Marcos. The effect of that on my psyche, an obeisance innocent and obscene, came back to me in the nightclub setting of David Byrne’s oddly cath...