Musings On Music History: The Red-Headed Stranger Graces Us, Jimi Gets Busted, and Lars Takes On Napster
04.30: On this day in 1933 William Hugh “Willie” Nelson was born. Holy cow, what a guy. We could go on and on and on about Willie, but we shan’t. Instead, we’ll just say that Willie is one of the most down-to-earth, vibrant, original and amazing guys ever to command a stage. And he smoked a joint on the roof of the White House. Nuff said. If you can name the president who invited him there, without looking it up, you are a true fan. Happy birthday, Willie! We love you, man!
05.01: On this day in 1967 Elvis Presley married Priscilla Beaulieu in Las Vegas. And they lived happily ever after.
05.03: On this day in 1969 Jimi Hendrix was arrested on drug charges at Toronto International Airport after officials found heroin and hashish in his luggage. Hendrix was released on $10,000 bail and acquitted of the charges at a jury trial in December. His argument that convinced the jury? The drugs were slipped into his bags by a fan. Right, Jimi. A “fan.” Wink, wink, nudge, nudge.
05.03: In a move that proved the death knell for the original incarnation of Napster, on this day in 2000 Metallica drummer Lars Ulrich personally delivered a 60,000-page document, which included 1.4 million copyright violations and the names of the 30,000+ Napster users who traded Metallica material, to Napster as part of a massive lawsuit. Many people have lamented both sides of this story, that file sharing helped more than it hurt or that file sharing took income away from everyone involved in the music business. Some have said that the music business (much like the film and book businesses) failed to sieze the interweb zeitgeist and have suffered ever since. File sharing sites still exist, music still leaks online weeks or months ahead of scheduled releases, and people still share music. Some justify this, both sharers and bands, by saying that it encourages people to find new music and, in turn, see those bands or musicians live, where the real money is made. Others, both bands and labels, say it still hurts business by undermining the artists’ hard work and all of the money that is put into a band’s recording and production. Many bands have been spurred to release new music themselves, for free, as a sign of good faith that the true fans will appreciate it that much more, will continue to come to the shows, buy merch, and support the band in that fashion. This argument is far from dead, especially with the launch of iTunes in 2001 and the subsequent launch of the first iPod later that year. The business of music has fundamentally changed, for better or worse, with the worldwide proliferation of the internet.
05.04: On this day in 1970 four Kent State University students were shot and killed by the National Guard during an anti-war demonstration. The deaths spurred a collaboration between Neil Young and Crosby, Stills and Nash (CSNY, as they were soon known) on the song “Ohio.” Nothing funny or snarky to say about this one. It was a tragedy, from every perspective. From the young National Guardsmen who never set out that day to kill anyone to the students being shot while rallying for peace. CSNY focused the angst, anger, and humanity of the times into one helluva song.