“I’m constantly looking for the edge ... so I can push it,” says Nona Hendryx. Indeed, a fearless sensibility has always kindled the Grammy-nominated icon’s career, whether recording genre-bending solo albums, writing songs as one-third of the legendary trio Labelle or collaborating with Gary Lucas on their forthcoming, full-length release The World of Captain Beefheart (2017). Her artistry thrives in live music spaces, from leading a band of unbridled, no-holds-barred funk/rock to incorporating progressive technology and visual media into her performances. It’s why Joe’s Pub at the Public has selected Hendryx to inaugurate their 2018 Vanguard Residency program.
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Tom Petty was a superstar, adored by millions, and was selling out arenas right until the very end. But I think people took him for granted.
He wasn’t exactly your typical current-day celebrity. He was 66 years old, and his first album came out in the mid-‘70s. Not exactly reality TV show fodder. And yet I guarantee that the Facebook timelines of about 90 percent of the people who read this are positively flooded with posts bemoaning Petty’s passing.
His appeal was pretty simple: he was a prolific and vastly talented songwriter whose appeal spans generations. And he made it all seem so easy. There was nothing terribly complicated about his music—it was solid, meat-and-potatoes rock ‘n’ roll, informed by his idols: the Byrds, the Beatles, and Bob Dylan. So much of Petty’s music (aided by his faithful backing band, the Heartbreakers) was filtered through so many older greats, and the result was unmistakably Petty. Passionate, urgent, occasionally relaxed (no doubt due to some herbal assistance), heartland rock delivered with his inimitable, Dylanesque Southern drawl.
Editor’s Note: With Tom Petty’s passing, we’re revisiting Petty’s top 20 songs in remembrance of the rock legend. This article originally published 16 February 2016.
This year Tom Petty will celebrate an impressively big milestone in his career: the 40th anniversary of his band Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers. In 1976, the Gainesville, Florida-based band released its self-titled debut, a stunning collection of raw rock and roll songs. Petty and his bandmates soon found much success with each following show and album and for good reason: listeners could relate to Petty’s often character and story-driven lyrics about everyday life in America and standing your ground and fighting for what’s important. He also has a knack for writing catchy rock and roll songs like “American Girl.” During its 40 years, the band released an impressive 13 studio albums, including 2014’s Hypnotic Eye. Petty also released three solo albums, including the perennial favorite Full Moon Fever. He also was part of the star-studded Traveling Wilburys and reunited his pre-Heartbreakers band Mudcrutch.
With news that he’s planning to release a previously unreleased collection of songs recorded during the sessions for his 1994 solo album Wildflowers, it seemed as good time as any to look back. Throughout his prolific career, Petty has challenged himself to keep things interesting and reinvent himself, while also staying true to himself and not giving in to what a label wants him to do. Narrowing a 40-plus-year career to 20 songs can be a daunting task (especially if you consider the deep album cuts and B-sides from his 1995 boxset Playback), but here are some of the stand-outs from Petty’s four-decade-long career, limited to one song per album.
In many ways, the Waterboys remain one of the greatest cult bands of our time, with Scotsman Mike Scott developing a sound that helped bridge Celtic folk idioms into a modern rock context, his songs never anything if not wholly accessible. With over three decades of seminal songs under his belt, Scott has managed to evolve and develop his sound to keep up with the times, but never without that unmistakable Waterboys edge.
I’m just beginning to explore this concept of duende both in art and mythology, but I feel throughout my being that this essence/ spirit/ possession has been with me all the while in the making of my art and music. I realize, now, that it’s also embodied by so many of my favorite musicians.