Josephine Baker: Entertainer, War Hero, Civil Rights Champion

Josephine Baker

It’s time to rediscover Josephine Baker, the world-famous entertainer who stood for equality. One of the most significant entertainers of the 20th century, Josephine Baker isn’t as recognized as she should be today, partly because it’s not easy to access the few films she appeared in. It is, however, time to rediscover her, as so many lessons learned from her life are at risk of being forgotten. Born in St. Louis, Missouri, on June 3, 1906, Baker would emigrate and gain fame in Paris as a hypnotic dancer at the Folies Bergiere, and would go on to become a correspondent for the French Resistance during World War II, an ambassador for racial harmony as a mother to 12 adopted children she called the Rainbow Tribe, and a champion of civil rights who would eventually speak alongside Martin Luther King Jr. Born to washerwoman Carrie McDonald and vaudeville drummer Eddie Carson,        …read more

Rise of the Cardinal: Ghost's Comeback and Return to the Stage

Hard-rock sensation Ghost returns to the limelight with their Rats on the Road tour. The last few months have been very big for Satanic-tinted hard-rock band Ghost. After a substantial hiatus, a lawsuit and the resulting exposure of their previously anonymous identities, Ghost has come back with a new front man, single, album release date and tour. From magazine features to charts and lists, all eyes are on them, and it looks like Ghost is more than happy with the resurrection. And “resurrection” is honestly the best word for it, when you understand what’s been happening to the band since their last run promoting their Grammy-winning album Meliora with front man Papa Emeritus III. I’ll preface this with a spoiler alert — or something close to that. The front man and creator of Ghost has been forced out of anonymity, but many fans of the band like to retain his anonymity        …read more

Grace Jones Is Still Doing Whatever She Wants, and We Love Her for It

Grace Jones

La Vie en Rose: Happy birthday to singer, model and actress Grace Jones. Here’s the question: What happens at Grace Jones’ 70th birthday party? Arriving nude to the party has already been checked off her list. Perhaps Japanese fashion designer Issey Miyake will create a custom cape for her that somehow perfectly describes her no-nonsense feelings of age? Feelings which, not surprisingly, scoff at age altogether. As her 2015 memoir states, “There are more important things about me than my age that will give you a better idea of who and what I am. I was born. Let’s take it from there.” Grace Jones’ memoir, by the way, is amazing. Titling it with her lyrics “I’ll never write my memoirs,” she made the choice to do the unexpected. The result? A voyeuristic glimpse into her mind and a lucky chance to live vicariously through her thrilling experiences as an international        …read more

6 Reasons Stevie Wonder’s Life Should Be on the Big Screen

Stevie Wonder's life

His music has accompanied over 50 years of our collective lives, so isn’t it about time it became the soundtrack to Stevie Wonder’s life at a theater near you? One August afternoon in North Carolina, nearly 45 years ago, we almost lost Stevie Wonder in a car accident. He was 23 and had just released his 16th studio album. The details of the accident are fuzzy — some say a log slid from the back of a flatbed truck, crashed through the windshield and hit Stevie square in the head. Others say there were no logs in the back of the flatbed truck at the time the two vehicles made contact. But what is certain is that Stevie was in a coma for a few days, and there was a chance he wouldn’t make it. It’s the stuff movies are made of. But even without a near-fatal car crash, Stevie’s        …read more

Songs for 4/20: Put This Playlist in Your Pipe and Smoke It

420

Get 50 shades of green with this 420 playlist. Marijuana transcends genre. And pot smoke crosses (and blurs) other lines too, like gender, race, class, age, sexual orientation, education level and political affiliation. With recreational cannabis use legal in nine states, medical use legal in 29, and 64% of Americans supporting legalization, 420 just might be the thing that finally unites us, turning blue and red states green. But what does 420 mean? Its hazy origins can be traced to a group of high school students in San Rafael in 1971, but these days both 4:20 p.m. (or a.m. if you’re so inclined) and the date 4/20 hold a generalized significance in stoner culture. 4:20 is a perfect time to light up, and April 20 is as good a day as any other to act as the unofficial holiday to celebrate marijuana. Cannabis is favored by a wide variety of        …read more

The Rebirth of Lana Del Rey

Lana Del Rey

Singer-songwriter Lana Del Rey ditched the cloak of American nostalgia and is navigating her own space. “It’s already difficult to remember Lana Del Rey, but let’s try.” This is the opening sentence from a scathing 2012 New York Times review. Elizabeth Woolridge Grant, also known as Lana Del Rey, became an instant internet success after posting her 2011 single “Video Games” from her debut album Born to Die. The singer-songwriter established a meticulously crafted aesthetic based around iconic American nostalgia. Critics were divided, and some accused the star of a manufactured image. In 2017 Del Rey received a Grammy nomination for her fifth studio album, Lust for Life. It’s been six years since her debut, but has Lana Del Rey transformed herself? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cE6wxDqdOV0 In our digitized environment, it becomes easier to pave your own way in the music industry. Several artists find success without being signed to a record label        …read more

BTS: The K-pop Boy Band on the Rise

boy band

The Korean boy band BTS is riding the wave of their popularity, but it remains to be seen if they can make a lasting mark. “Oppan Gangnam Style. Gangnam Style.” In 2012 the rapper Park Jae-sang, also known as PSY, set the world ablaze with his dance hit “Gangnam Style.” PSY became a quick-fire success, but his star soon fizzled in the U.S. Five years later, the seven-piece boy band BTS made their U.S. TV debut via the American Music Awards and exploded on the scene with appearances on talk shows and a performance at the iconic New Year’s Eve party. The group has an uncanny ability to keep the press’s attention, but will they make a lasting mark in the industry? The boy band craze comes in waves. In the ’60s girls were screaming and fanning themselves at the sight of the perfectly rounded Afros of the Jackson 5,        …read more

Remembering the Man in Black: 12 Best Johnny Cash Songs & Covers

Johnny Cash songs

In honor of his birthday February 26, we’ve gathered 12 top Johnny Cash songs and covers for your playlist today. Few artists have had as profound an impact on the music world as Johnny Cash. Although he’s best known for his country music, Cash’s repertoire also included gospel, folk and rock — he even recorded a haunting cover of the Nine Inch Nails song “Hurt” toward the end of his career. Dubbed “The Man in Black” due to his all-black attire during concerts, Cash’s influence on the music world was far-reaching and continues to inspire artists to this day. Bob Dylan, another icon in the music world, has described Cash as an inspiration and it’s not uncommon to hear modern artists perform covers in concert. On his birthday, remember five of the most iconic Johnny Cash songs, lesser-known gems and a few covers by musicians who love the Man in        …read more

Nina Simone's 6 Most Soulful Songs

Nina Simone

Nina Simone, the ‘High Priestess of Soul,’ was born February 21, 1933. Here are six of the revolutionary icon’s most soulful songs. Nearly 15 years after her passing, traces of singer, songwriter, pianist and activist Nina Simone can still be found in contemporary culture, from an Oscar-nominated documentary to a controversially-casted biopic, a song on Jay-Z’s newest album and her upcoming induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. Nina’s voice — raw and impossible to ignore — remains one of the most recognizable of the 21st century. And whether she’s singing about the state of the world or the state of her soul, her live performances feel just as urgent now as they must have decades ago. Born Eunice Waymon in Tryon, North Carolina, on February 21, 1933, Nina started playing piano as early as three and, years later, attended Juilliard with the help of a scholarship funded        …read more

Are You There God? It's Me, Gucci Mane

influential people pushing boundaries

Two influential people pushing boundaries through art, Gucci Mane and Judy Blume have a lot in common (besides their February 12 birthday). It seems like a stretch that a children’s author who directly addressed the uncomfortable aspects of puberty and a rapper who helped invent trap music would have much in common, but you might be surprised… Introducing the Trap God and Judy the Great, two forces of nature born on February 12 (although 41 years apart) who have made huge strides in their respective industries. Judy Blume, an acclaimed author best known for her controversial children’s books on the gritty side of growing up. Gucci Mane, an infamous rapper who has released thousands of songs and whose recent autobiography made it to the New York Times best-seller list. Challenging Standards and Odds If there’s one thread that connects Gucci and Blume, it’s their insistence on challenging their genre and        …read more