The November election seems so far away

We're in the dog days of summer for the Presidential campaigns.  I know that's self-defeating of me to say as someone who heavily relies on national events to provide the content for "AirTalk."  However, it's the undeniable truth.  When you see cable television news channels devoting hours to campaign surrogates' attacks, you know desperation has set in.

However, in Southern California we've got a lot to talk about -- Governor Brown's tax initiative, cutbacks in higher education, cities on the financial brink, and the local housing market bottoming-out and gently rising.  These are just a few of the major stories we've got happening here.

Summer also gives us time to talk about lighter topics that we don't otherwise have time to discuss.  On this morning's "AirTalk," I interviewed the head of a local company that creates music playlists for many prominent local and national restaurants.  We probably notice the music played at our favorite places, but don't necessarily think about how it was chosen.  I assumed it was picked by management or came from a canned service.  It was interesting to hear how individualized soundtracks are growing in popularity and how big a role that sound can play in a restaurant's success or failure.

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Remembering Donna Summer and the age of disco

As I've noted several times on "AirTalk," I think disco has been unfairly maligned.  Yes, there are terrible examples of the sound, particularly in its later years.  Nevertheless, the infectiousness of the beat and the inclusiveness of the music's transracial and pansexual messages had a big cultural impact.  I think some of that public backlash was over that cultural wave as much as the music.

My first memory of Donna Summer was in the summer of 1975, when I was 16.  "Love to Love You Baby," Summer's first hit, came on the radio and I was mesmerized.  Sure, there were a lot of sexually-themed songs on pop radio, but nothing this charged.  Hearing it today, the song is clearly of its time and doesn't connect in the same way as it did nearly 40 years ago.  However, then, it was a graphic symbol of unabashed sexual pleasure, right out on public airwaves.

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A music lover's dream

That’s what I experienced last week at the historic recording stage at Sony Pictures in Culver City.  The stage was where musical soundtracks for numerous classic MGM films were recorded, including “The Wizard of Oz.” 

I was there at the invitation of Academy Award-winning composer Michael Giacchino, who was recording the score for next year’s Disney action release, “John Carter.”  The film is adapted from a series written by “Tarzan” creator Edgar Rice Burroughs.  Giacchino had an orchestra of over 100 musicians, being recorded in-synch with scenes from the film.  Time-coded sections of the movie were projected onto a huge screen at the back of the room, facing the conductor. 

Given how rarely full orchestras are recorded with all the musicians together at the same time, it was particularly fun to see.  Standing in various parts of the room, with the orchestra playing around me, was an experience I won’t forget. 

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Grooving to the sounds of Black affirmation

If you’ve been listening to AirTalk for even a few months, you’ve probably heard me talk about my love of jazz and soul.  When you combine either with creative political commentary -- so much the better.

Wednesday morning, I spoke with music writer Denise Sullivan about her new book, Keep on Pushing:  Black Power Music from Blues to Hip-Hop.  It was so much fun to play excerpts from great songs of the 60s and 70s.  From Curtis Mayfield to Sam Cooke, Odetta to Nina Simone, we have no shortage of creative giants to consider.

My favorites such recordings would have to include Curtis Mayfield’s (Don’t Worry) If There’s a Hell Down Below (which begins its long version with a string of racial epithets), Choice of Colors, and  People Get Ready, along with Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On, and Bobby Womack’s Across 110th Street

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Marvin Hamlisch has a way with more than music

Hamlisch joined me in studio Thursday morning on AirTalk, and was it a treat!  His love of music is infectious.

Sometimes musicians have a hard time talking about their work and the creative process involved.  Not so for Hamlisch.  He was very entertaining in talking about working with Barbra Streisand, writing the music for A Chorus Line, and winning three Oscars in 1973.  Not surprisingly, he’s done a lot during a career that began at age six at Julliard in his hometown of New York City.

Hamlisch, along with composing film scores and leading multiple regional orchestras, is principal conductor for the Pasadena Pops.  He’s put together a Broadway-themed program for this coming Saturday night, August 6th, followed two weeks later with one devoted to movie music.  The Pops’ concerts are on the lawn outside the Rose Bowl – a beautiful setting for live music.

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