Dolly Parton Pays Tribute to RBG: “She Was Small in Stature but Even the Tallest Looked Up to Her”

Dolly Parton, Pearl Jam, Hayley Williams of Paramore, Margo Price, and several other musicians have joined Stevie Nicks in paying tribute to Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

“She was small in stature but even the tallest looked up to her,” Parton said in a statement post to social media. “Her voice was soft but her message rang loud and clear and will echo forever. Thank you, RBG. Rest In Peace. Respectfully, Dolly Parton.”

“A life that was the very definition of service,” wrote the members of Pearl Jam. “May she rest now in peace and may we not rest until we have carried her legacy forward.”

“Major thanks to this badass,” remarked Williams. “Rest in peace & power #RBG now, let’s all PLEASE just fucking vote! I feel especially inclined to mention how much our reproductive rights are at stake – please excuse me for the dramatics but i don’t want to be a handmaid in this lifetime. LET’S VOTE.”

Price struck a similar tone to Williams, writing: “We have lost a feminist icon and a just and historical leader. Thank you Ruth Bader Ginsburg for your passion and your fight to hang on for us all… Let’s rise against anyone trying to fuck with our democracy in her name.”

Find these tributes and more below.

Ginsburg passed away Friday, September 19th, at the age of 87 from pancreatic cancer. When it came to music, Ginsburg was an avid fan of the opera and even had a small speaking part in a 2016 production of La Fille du Régiment at the Washington Opera. In light of her passing, the New York Times spoke to opera director Francesca Zambello, who called Ginsburg “our greatest advocate and our greatest spokesperson.”

 

The Flaming Lips Unveil New Album American Head: Stream

The Flaming Lips have released their new album American Head. Stream it below via Apple Music and Spotify.

The effort is the 21st (!) record from the Oklahoma psych-rock heroes, following their 2019 album King’s Mouth and their collaborative album with Deap Valley from earlier this year. As its title implies, American Head is the Lips’ embracing their identity as an American band. When they announced the album back in June, frontman Wayne Coyne published a short essay about how they always considered their homebase to be “Earth”, but that they wanted to see what would happen when they consciously channeled so-called traditional American rock ‘n’ roll.

All of the album’s many singles — “Dinosaurs On The Mountain”, “My Religion Is You”, “You n Me Sellin’ Weed”, “Mother Please Don’t Be Sad”, and “Will You Return / When You Come Down” — do feel a little more tethered to American roots music than some of their more recent material. But the record as a whole is unmistakably Flaming Lips, even the Kacey Musgraves collaborations “Flowers Of Neptune 6” and “God and the Policeman”.

In a recent feature for SPINCoyne talked about his wacky idea for how he imagined the record would sound:

“I did sort of fantasize about ‘What would have happened to Tom Petty and the fellas if they’d ran into my older brothers and their really drugged-out friends, and they all got strung out on heroin and didn’t end up becoming Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers, and instead made some really homesick music? The more I thought about that, I thought, ‘Man, that’d be a great record.’”

Elsewhere in the interview, Coyne revealed that the Lips and some “venue guys” in Oklahoma are brainstorming ways to bring their live show to life despite the ongoing pandemic. The group is known for Coyne performing in a giant clear bubble, and back in June, the Lips played The Late Show With Stephen Colbert while everyone — audience included — was safely inside their own see-through orbs. They could be onto something there.

American Head Artwork:

The Flaming Lips - American Head

American Head Tracklist:
01. Will You Return / When You Come Down
02. Watching the Lightbugs Glow
03. Flowers Of Neptune 6
04. Dinosaurs On The Mountain
05. At The Movies On Quaaludes
06. Mother I’ve Taken LSD
07. Brother Eye
08. You n Me Sellin’ Weed
09. Mother Please Don’t Be Sad
10. When We Die When We’re High
11. Assassins of Youth
12. God and the Policeman (Feat. Kacey Musgraves)
13. My Religion Is You

Artist of the Month Anjimile’s Giver Taker Is a Startlingly Beautiful Prayer to the Present: Review

The Lowdown: Anjimile Chithambo might be new to the spotlight, but he’s been paying attention for a long time. His debut album, Giver Taker, carries a wide variety of influences — among them church choirs, ’80s pop, African music, and indie-folk — and melds them together as if they were born for this, born to flow into one another. The Boston-based trans musician wrote much of Giver Taker while in treatment for drug and alcohol abuse, and many of the songs are also concerned with his experiences coming out as trans and non-binary. As such, the entire album is papered with transformation, but through lenses of tenderness: the love implicit in confessions and the awe of one’s own resilience in the face of socialization and struggle.

The Good: Would that I could just plop every single lyric from this album on here and let that be the review. Alas, I can’t — but they really are that beautiful, from end to end. Calming and profound, the lyricism throughout Giver Taker speaks to the divinity of connection, the search for self-comprehension, and the discovery of holiness therein. Anjimile’s keen instinct for poetry arises in the heartrending lullaby “Not Another Word”, in verses like, “I came howling after God/ Won’t you set things right/ Mend my mind, untie my knot/ Calm me through the night,” and, “To the sky I raise my head/ Won’t you set me straight/ Will I live to shake the dead/ Will I crumble from the weight.” “Giver Taker” offers another shrewd poetic moment with, “As you rest/ May you find/ Peace of heart/ Peace of mind/ Mine is yours/ Yours is mine/ Or divine/ Or design.”

This observation of holy experience breathes well in the lyrics, but it isn’t confined to them. The entire album benefits from church-like atmospherics that speak to Anjimile’s past as a choir singer as well as his love for acoustic, soft-spoken folk. From the winds and strings intertwined in its opening notes all the way through to the end, the makeup of Giver Taker is one of careful brushstrokes of indie guitars and blooming backgrounds, sweeping from song to song and anchored by deliberate points of clarity throughout. “Baby No More” brings a welcome old-timey feeling in its lounging jauntiness, its refrain of “Am I/ Not supposed to hurt you?/ Am I/ Not supposed to make you cry?” subtly recalling Lennon’s “Jealous Guy”. In keeping with the themes of fluidity, change, and self-definition being sacred concepts, all of the songs feel guided by their own innate rhythms — like the soft percussion on “1978” or the subdued but striking conga pattern that takes over from the consistent guitar plucks in “To Meet You There”.

The Bad: Comparisons to Sufjan Stevens are already aplenty and earned — the style in Giver Taker’s arrangements, with melodic vocals punctuating a percussive, folksy undertone, will feel quickly familiar to Sufjan fans. This doesn’t feel like a strictly negative thing because Anjimile does achieve the effect so well and so organically — it’s more that Anjimile’s own unique voice in some places risks being surfaced by the recognizability of his influences. He is already an artist well posed to be, himself, an inspiration and an influence to many others, by virtue of both his musical styles and his compassionate candor — Giver Taker offers a stunning glimpse at what this influence will look like, but hasn’t quite reached the finish line of having its own singular sound. Then again, with the album itself being so crucially about growth and the feeling of standing at a juncture, maybe the snapshot of a journey not quite finished is the whole point.

The Verdict: A debut album can often feel like an announcement or an artist statement: something that says, This is me, and this is my music. Anjimile unites that self-consciousness with an exploratory intention — one that asserts that to be lost isn’t the same thing as to be aimless, and to be questioning of something isn’t to not also be sure and steady. He is already in a place of growth from one self into the next, and he’s not afraid for us to meet him there.

Essential Tracks: “1978”, “Not Another Word”, and “To Meet You There”

Pick up a copy of Anjimile’s Giver Taker here.

Viggo Mortensen’s Falling Offers Repetition and Expletives, But No Payoff: TIFF Review

This review is part of our coverage of the 2020 Toronto International Film Festival.

The Pitch: In Viggo Mortensen’s directorial debut, gay Air Force pilot John (Mortensen) struggles to care for his ailing conservative father, Willis (Lance Henriksen). Malcontent and never afraid to shy away from a racist, homophobic or sexist rant, Willis offends everyone from John’s husband Eric (Terry Chen) to his daughter Sarah (Laura Linney), all while he slips in and out of flashbacks, including his two marriages to wives Gwen (Hannah Gross) and Jill (Bracken Burns).

Grumpy Old Man: Early in Falling, as the relationship between John and Willis is being established, it’s clear that Henriksen is exceptional in the role. Willis is the kind of curmudgeonly character whose edges are too often softened in Hollywood dramas and the elder genre vet clearly relishes the opportunity to take on the role of despicable old crank.

Everyone and everything is fair game to Willis, whose mean streak extends into flashbacks from the children’s life on the farm. It’s immediately evident that Willis (Sverrir Gudnason) raised his children and treated his wife in very specific, hyper-masculine ways: boys wake up early and go hunting; women prepare the food and clean up the dirt tracked in from outdoors.

In one memorable moment, Willis’ first wife Gwen asks him to put out his cigarette and help her cut John’s 10th birthday cake and he spews a litany of expletives at her – and their living room full of guests – before stomping out. These scenes clarify that Willis’ disease isn’t to blame for his abrasive behavior. He’s always been this way…it’s just that now he’s dying.

Old & Tired: The main argument against Falling is that its central character is an unlikeable dinosaur whose dementia ensures he will never change. Willis isn’t just frustrating for his family, he’s also a chore for the audience watching the film. What begins as an intriguing character study and a strong role for Henriksen quickly becomes shrill and one-note because Willis can’t evolve. There’s nothing here except Willis’ incessant hate-fuelled rants, which quickly become repetitive and increasingly more frustrating to watch.

Willis is clearly an ill-man and the moments where he forgets what he has already asked — or demanded – is a telling portrait of an elderly man losing his faculties. The issue is that Falling never expands to elaborate why its audience should care, or even to elaborate why John is making the effort. Mortensen’s script simply repeats the same abusive interactions, defined by John’s refusal to take the bait while the supporting characters get angry, sullen or crack jokes to break the tension.

But repeating the same scene in different settings with rotating supporting characters for two-hours merits some kind of emotional payoff or catharsis and Falling never delivers on that front.

Falling TIFF Review

Falling (Modern Films)

Back To Nature: Thankfully Falling is shot and edited exceptionally well. This is particularly evident in the idyllic way that nature is visually represented, particularly Willis’ flashbacks to life on the farm. Close-ups of wheat, running water, and wide-open spaces capture the nostalgic, idealistic yearning for “simpler times”. This provides a nice juxtaposition to Willis’ perceived (and ill-informed) notions about life in the city, and more specifically his son and daughter’s liberal California lifestyle.

In one scene at a family brunch in John’s backyard, Sarah comments on John’s landscaping work, reflecting on its transition to something beautiful from the original barren lot. Intriguingly, Mortensen’s camera never reveals more than the table where everyone sits, resolutely refusing to confirm Sarah’s claim. The only true nature shot in present-day occurs when Willis sneaks away from another lunch to visit the beach, where he wades into the waist high water, caught somewhere between dementia and euphoria.

What’s ironic, then, is when the action relocates to Willis’ beloved farm for the last act those warm, welcoming flashback memories are contrasted by the cold present day reality. The farm isn’t vibrant and nostalgic; it has a water-stained roof and unwelcoming animal pens. The disconnect between memory and reality is just another example of how Willis has become unmoored from the world around him, in addition to foreshadowing his impending death.

The Verdict: Despite great direction by Mortensen, who also delivers a strong performance alongside Henriksen and (briefly) Linney, Falling is a repetitive and exhausting exercise that never gets around to unpacking why the audience should care about its ailing patriarch character. It’s too long and too one note for too little pay-off.

Where’s It Playing? Falling tumbles into theaters on December 4th.

Trailer:

The Walking Dead to End

After more than a decade, The Walking Dead is finally ready to rest. As Deadline notes, the long-running horror series will come to an end in 2022 after an expanded 11th season. But just as one zombie falls only to be replaced by another, so does a new spin-off of The Walking Dead stumble on in the show’s place. The new untitled series will star Norman Reedus’ Daryl and Melissa McBride’s Carol, and is expected to debut in 2023. An anthology series, Tales of the Walking Dead, is also in the works.

Created in 2010 by Frank Darabont and based on the graphic novels by Robert Kirkman, The Walking Dead revolutionized blockbuster television a year before the debut of Game of Thrones. In its first few years, TWD emerged as a ratings juggernaut and nabbed a couple of Emmys for Outstanding Makeup. But recent seasons have seen declining ratings and departing stars, and then the comic series came to an end last year. The decision to move on from the flagship program hardly comes as a surprise.

The coronavirus pandemic had already interrupted production on Season 10, pushing the season finale back to October 4th. Still, the wait will be worth it for devoted Deadheads, as Season 10 will be expanded with six additional bonus episodes. As if that weren’t enough, Season 11 comes packed with 24 episodes of undead entertainment. For those not counting along at home, that means that there are 31 more episodes of The Walking Dead set to air between now and the series’ end in 2022.

Meanwhile, the new, untitled spin-off starring Daryl and Carol was created by current TWD showrunner Angela Kang and chief Dead content officer Scott M. Gimple. In a statement, Melissa McBride explained what the role of Carol has meant to her so far, and what excites her about the new direction. She said,

“Of course, I’ve always enjoyed working so closely with Norman throughout these many seasons. In playing Carol, and as a viewer of the show, I’ve also long been intrigued with ‘Daryl and Carol,’ and by what so early on between them, even then, felt somehow bound. Their shared history is long, and each’s own personal fight to survive, even longer — the more obvious aspect of what has kept them close and loyal. But there is also a rather mysterious aspect to their fondness for one another that I enjoy, and their playfulness when the world permits. I’m very curious! Angela has a way of shaking things up in great and unexpected ways. She’s like a kid playing with the dimmer switch! I’m very excited!”

Finally, Gimple is developing the new anthology series Tales of the Walking Dead. These standalone episodes will bring in new characters as well as diving into the stories of old favorites. The timeline is not expected to be linear, and it’s possible that some of the many dead characters from TWD will find another life in these Tales.

The new shows join a crowded horde of spin-offs including Fear the Walking Dead, which is soon to enter its sixth season, the Y.A.-leaning The Walking Dead: The World Beyondset to debut next month, and a movie series starring original TWD star Andrew Lincoln.

Editor’s Note: Stay safe by picking up one of our custom face masks. A portion of the proceeds will benefit MusiCares’ COVID-19 Artist Relief fund supporting independent musicians.

Kang Isn’t Marvel’s Next Thanos, He’s the New Loki

News broke on Monday that Lovecraft Country star Jonathan Majors has been tapped to play Kang the Conqueror in Ant-Man 3. While Marvel has yet to officially confirm Majors’ character, speculation that the popular comic baddie would be the next big Marvel Cinematic Universe supervillain has been bubbling since even before the release of Avengers: Endgame. Now that it seems likely the time-traveling antagonist will appear in Peyton Reed’s third Ant-Man film, it’s boiled over.

Majors’ casting sent the Internet instantly abuzz with the idea that Kang would be stepping in to fill the Thanos-sized hole in the MCU’s Phase 4. Although it’s entirely plausible this will be the case, the fan-theories might be overshooting Kang’s value. Instead of being the next Thanos, he may end up being the next Loki, setting the stage for the principal foe behind the next 10 years of the MCU.

To begin with, consider Thanos was an overtly powerful purple threat in indigo armor from beyond space challenging Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. Replacing him with an overtly powerful indigo threat in purple armor from beyond time would — crazy as it sounds — be pretty redundant. Plus, the DC Extended Universe is already making plays to become the leading multiverse franchise with its reality-hopping Flash movie. After spending over a decade building a massive lead on the Distinguished Competition’s storytelling, it would behoove Marvel to continue setting itself apart rather than contend with another inter-dimensional blockbuster series.

But that’s what using Kang as the next Thanos would do. Created by Marvel legends Stan Lee and Jack Kirby in 1963, Kang is one of comics’ most perennial and complicated villains. A 31st century time traveler from an alternate Earth who’s bored with the veritable utopia of his home, he stumbles upon time travel technology and decides to become an inter-temporal overlord. He first heads to ancient Egypt to try being Pharaoh for awhile, turning himself into the brutal dictator Rama-Tut. However, that’s just one of a handful of personas he uses over millennia of hopping timelines and realities. Eventually, he accidentally winds up in a war-torn 40th century, where he realizes he can weaponize his time travel talents to rule over everything as Kang the Conqueror.

The fact that Ant-Man and The Wasp and, subsequently, Endgame introduced time travel and the multiverse to the MCU sets Kang up as a perfect primary antagonist for Marvel’s heroes. There’s even rumors he’ll debut before Ant-Man 3 (Ant-Man and the Wasp 2?) in the forthcoming Loki series on Disney+, which makes sense considering the time travel aspects of that show. Still, despite some tried-and-true formulas, Marvel likes to keep audiences on their toes. Perhaps, then, Kang could fill the Loki role instead, acting as a key bad guy through Phase 4 only to give way to a bigger bad in Phase 5 and beyond.

Like Loki and his scepter, someone has to be there to present Kang with the tools to set all these events in motion. Someone had to leave that time travel tech lying around. In the comics, Kang even designs his armor after this imposing shadow figure.

That character is one of comics’ all-time greatest villains, the ruler of Latveria: Doctor Doom.

Kang’s connection to Doom is deep — like, blood deep. Whereas Kang is largely an Avengers adversary, Doom is the archenemy of the Fantastic Four. Yet Kang is inextricably tied to the FF, as well. His real name is Nathaniel Richards, the distant descendant of the Fantastic Four’s leader, Reed “Mr. Fantastic” Richards. It’s actually a time-displaced Fantastic Four (Mr. Fantastic along with Invisible Woman, The Thing, and the Human Torch) that boot Kang out of ancient Egypt back when he’s still Rama-Tut-ing around.

doctor doom fantastic four kang ant-man marvel cinematic universe

Marvel recently reacquired the FF in its takeover of Fox, and studio head Kevin Feige teased their imminent future in the MCU at last year’s San Diego Comic-Con. Marvel could put extra focus on the team in Phase 4 and beyond, especially after the Avengers storyline came to such a satisfying conclusion in Endgame. It would simultaneously allow them to center their next stretch of stories around a different group of heroes and a very different kind of supervillain.

Kang and Thanos are God-level characters; Doom only wishes he was a God. Think Tony Stark if his ego ran truly rampant. The monarch of his own country, he uses his unparalleled wealth, intellect, and even magic (hi, Doctor Strange) to turn himself into a would-be global dictator. Although his goals aren’t as far-reaching as Thanos’ or Kang’s (at least not at first), the danger he poses to Earth makes him as much of a threat to Marvel’s superheroes.

So Kang could easily open the door for Doctor Doom to take over as the next Thanos, but he could also lay far vaster groundwork for the rest of the MCU. One of his many alternate reality personas is a character called Iron Lad, a teenaged Richards who travels to the prime present in hopes of forming a team to stop his future self. That team is the Young Avengers, and the first hints of the superhero heirs have already popped up across the MCU.

When Ant-Man returns from the Quantum Realm after the Blip, he discovers his daughter, Cassie, is now a teen. In the comics, Cassie eventually becomes Stature (and, uh, Ant-Girl, Stinger, and a handful of other aliases). Then there’s Kate Bishop, aka Haweye, whom Hailee Steinfeld is set to portray alongside Jeremy Renner in Disney+’s Hawkeye limited series. Other Young Avengers include Wiccan, the “son” of Scarlett Witch and Vision (it’s super complicated… but keep an eye on WandaVision); Patriot, the grandson of a Black US solider with ties to Captain America’s Super Soldier Serum; and Hulking, a Kree-Skrull hybrid.

kang marvel cinematic universe young avengers

Amazingly, there’s yet another super-team with a Kang connection, and wouldn’t you know it, Marvel just got them in the Fox acquisition, too. When he’s ruling Egypt as Pharoah, Kang attempts to adopt a boy known as En Sabah Nur as his heir. He chooses En Sabah Nur because he knows who he truly is: the world’s very first mutant, destined to become one of the powerful beings on Earth and the X-Men’s most fearsome enemy, Apocalypse. One of the most dangerous characters in Marvel history, he could be a Thanos-level character in his own right — and he has ties to the Eternals, making their debut in their own MCU film in 2021. (A somewhat lazy version of the Apocalypse was played by Oscar Isaac in the 2016 flop X-Men: Apocalypse.)

The Fantastic Four, Doctor Doom, the Young Avengers, the X-Men, the Eternals: Kang is just a step onto a Time Platform away from all of them. While he could become the Marvel Cinematic Universe’s new Thanos, that sort of interconnectivity has even greater potential to make him a mega-Loki. As he terrorizes Phase 4 of the MCU, he could be setting up a massive expansion for years of films to come.

That “Strange Case” in HBO’s Lovecraft Country We Can’t Stop Thinking About

Warning: This editorial discusses scenes depicting rape and sexual assault.

HBO’s Lovecraft Country has been a wild ride so far. In just four episodes, we’ve seen haunted houses, vampiric monsters, and mysterious cults, along with the real world horrors of Jim Crow laws and white supremacy. The series’ fifth episode — this past Sunday’s “Strange Case” — manages to top all of that with one of the most disturbing scenes in recent memory. In a twist on Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde, Ruby (Wunmi Mosaku), a Black woman takes a potion and wakes up in a white body. At first, she’s shocked and horrified, but begins to see the value in this new “currency” of whiteness. The potion eventually wears off, causing Ruby to violently shed her new skin in bloody chunks.

As her white counterpart “Hillary” (Jaime Neumann), Ruby takes her dream job as assistant manager at a department store. She reports to Paul (David Stanbra), a white man who is quick to note that Ruby is overqualified even for his own job. On a group outing to a nightclub, he attempts to assault Tamara (Sibongile Mlambo), the store’s only Black employee. She clearly says no and bites him in order to escape. As she runs away, Paul hurls a disgusting racial slur at her. Ruby watches this happen, but is unable to intervene having just completed a bloody transformation back into her original body.

Lovecraft Country That Scene

Lovecraft Country (HBO)

The next day, Ruby offers her resignation under the guise of wanting to sleep with Paul, but what she has in mind is more vicious. She seduces him, strips him, binds him, wraps his belt around his neck and commands him to suck the heel of her shoe. She then violently rapes him with this stiletto heel, letting her rage flow out with each strike. During the attack, the potion begins to wear off and she transforms again. Each time she assaults Paul, more of her skin melts off of her body in bloody globs, leaving a puddle of gore and white skin on the floor. It’s one of the most shocking, triggering, and cathartic scenes I’ve ever seen.

Make no mistake, this is a rape. Paul is brutally assaulted and I’ve been both disturbed and conflicted about it since first viewing. I am a survivor of sexual assault, and I’ve dealt with my share of rage through the course of my recovery. My attacker eventually went to jail for attacking someone else, and a friend asked me if it made me feel better knowing he was probably being raped there. I’ve thought about that question many times over the years, and my answer is always no. I would never wish that on anyone else. But damned if it doesn’t feel good to see here.

By logical moral codes, what Ruby does to Paul is wrong. But it feels earned because we know that he will never face any other consequences. He’s planning to fire Tamara and will continue assaulting women because he knows he can get away with it. When justice is unavailable, sometimes it feels like the only option is revenge. Ruby is not a victim, but she becomes a vigilante exacting this absent justice for every victim who will never see the person who assaulted them punished. It is simultaneously problematic and extremely cathartic.

Lovecraft Country That Scene

Lovecraft Country (HBO)

Rape is physically damaging, but the psychological damage mostly comes from losing your power; losing control over what happens to your body. It’s terrifying and humiliating and nearly impossible to explain to anyone who hasn’t experienced it. This is why justice often feels so hollow. True justice would see rapists fully comprehend the emotional pain they’ve caused, as well as the physical, but unfortunately many never will. We see that understanding in Paul. The look in his eyes as he tries to make sense of what is happening, wonders how much longer it’s going to last, and panics at losing control tells us he is suffering mentally as well, and allows survivors to vicariously experience the vengeance they will likely never get in reality.

As a Black woman, Ruby is also avenging the racism and oppression that allows Paul to prey on Tamara. When she is finished, she steps on his chest with that same heel and uses Paul’s own racial slur against him when revealing her true identity. She is not only avenging victims of sexual assault, but for victims of racist oppression. She’s calling on the silent rage of generations of Black women and men whose power was stolen by men like Paul and giving it a voice.

Whenever we right a power imbalance, there’s a pull towards vengeance. It’s tempting to want to regain that power by taking it from someone else. I’m not judging Ruby’s actions because I know how strong the need to lash out in rage can feel. But that kind of power only masks the pain for a short time. Maintaining that feeling of satisfaction requires holding onto someone else’s pain and fear, which only adds toxicity to our own lives. However, when justice is unavailable, it feels better than nothing.

Lovecraft Country That Scene

Lovecraft Country (HBO)

The most cathartic aspect of this scene is Ruby’s metamorphosis. As she vents her rage, she literally transforms into someone who is allowed to let her anger show. After a lifetime of being forced to submit to white men, she is finally able to express her true feelings. Ruby not only sheds her skin, she rips off the shell she’s been forced to hide in for fear of attracting attention. Her skin melts off like the rage oozing out of her pores. When she’s finished, she is a bloody mess, but she is fully herself.

When we tell our stories, we are revealing a side of ourselves not designed to please a world demanding female perfection. It’s empowering to let that pain and rage show, even though the world may find it horrific. But it’s the world that should change, not us. I will make a moral judgement on Ruby’s actions after we start holding racists, rapists, and those who enable them accountable for theirs. Not before.

R.I.P. Toots Hibbert, Reggae Pioneer and Frontman of Toots & The Maytals Dies at 77

Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert, founder of the pioneering reggae group Toots & the Maytals, has died at the age of 77.

Hibbert had been hospitalized in his native Kingston, Jamaica after contracting COVID-19. He passed away Friday, September 11th, surrounded by family, according to a statement.

By incorporating elements of Jamaican ska and rocksteady alongside traditional gospel, soul, R&B, and rock & roll, Hibbert is widely credit as being one of the originators of the reggae genre. In fact, Toots & the Maytals’ 1968 single “Do the Reggay” was the first song to use the word “reggae” and would ultimately give the genre its name.

In the early 1960s, Hibbert formed The Maytals alongside fellow vocalists Henry “Raleigh” Gordon and Nathaniel “Jerry” Mathias and instrumentalists Jackie Jackson, Hux Brown, Rad Bryan, and Paul Douglas. After finding initial success working alongside producer Clement “Coxsone” Dodd and his house band, The Skalites, The Maytals’ activities were briefly derailed after Hibbert was arrested and sentenced to 18 months in jail for possession of marijuana. However, while behind bars, Hibbert wrote “54-46 That’s My Number”, which would become one of The Maytals’ first hit singles.

Following Hibbert’s release from jail, The Maytals found fame beyond Jamaica thanks to singles including the aforementioned “Do the Reggay”, “Monkey Man”, and “Pressure Drop”, the latter of which is now considered one of reggae music’s defining songs. In 1972, Toots & The Maytals were further introduced to an international audience after their music was featured heavily in the popular Jamaican crime film The Harder They Come. The following year brought the release of their now seminal album, Funky Kingston.

Not only were Toots & The Maytals torchbearers of the Jamaican reggae movement, but the band’s music inspired the creation of a second genre in the United Kingdom in the late 1970s. Bands like The Specials, The Selector, and Madness combined elements of punk rock with ska and reggae to foster a sound that would come to be known as 2-tone. Notably, The Specials covered The Maytals’ “Monkey Man” on their 1979 debut, and The Clash recorded their own version of “Pressure Drop” in 1980.

Hibbert pursued a solo career in the 1980s, but reformed Toots & The Maytals the following decade and continued to lead the group up until his death. Toots & The Maytals currently hold the record for most No. 1 singles in Jamaica (39), and in 2004, they won their first Grammy with True Love, a collection of past hits re-recorded with collaborations like Willie Nelson, Eric Clapton, Jeff Beck, Trey Anastasio, No Doubt, and Manu Chao. Toots & The Maytals’ most recent album, Got to Be Tough, was released just last month.

Hibbert is surved by his wife of 39 year and seven children.

Alicia Keys Teams with NFL to Launch $1 Billion Endowment for Black Businesses and Communities

As America continues to wrestle with the systemic racism that to this day impacts millions of its citizens, the NFL is undergoing a reckoning of its own. After blackballing Colin Kaepernick for beginning the “take a knee” protests during the National Anthem, the league has been clawing its way back from a hole of racial insensitivity. The latest move comes in collaboration with Alicia Keys, who has agreed to perform at the NFL Kickoff event and is teaming with the league to create a $1 billion endowment fund for Black business and communities.

In a statement issued to Billboard, Keys says she saw the collaboration as an opportunity to “use my platform to further racial equity.” She’s also penned a letter explaining her decision to take part in the NFL Kickoff show, which airs tonight, September 10th, at 7:00 p.m. ET on NBC. “My initial reaction was to decline because of some of the NFL’s past decisions,” Keys writes. “Yet I realized I HAVE to use my platform, we all need to use our platforms, every chance we get to press for racial equity.”

Because the NFL is “already committed to ensuring Black representation across-the-board, from employees to executives, contractors, suppliers and vendors,” Keys says the next logical step is launching an endowment.

“The fund will be steered by Black leadership with a clear goal to empower Black America. The fund will create long term solutions with a focus on Black entrepreneurs, businesses, communities, Black schools, banks, and other Black institutions, while addressing persistent social, economic and environmental disparities. It’s starting here, but the intention is to build a multi-billion-dollar endowment across multiple industries. Through our collective action, we can end the needless and preventable agony created by systemic racism.”

The letter also makes a call for “sustainable action” building off the swell of support in the wake of the killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Bree Black, and too many more. To that end, Keys sees the new endowment as just the first of many. “Even with that it does not come close to closing the economic gap. The next steps are to reach out to different industries to invite them to invest in racial justice and create a multi-billion dollar endowment across business sectors,” she tells Billboard. Other partners and contributors to the $1 billion fund haven’t been disclosed.

Listen to Alicia Keys on This Must Be the Gig Podcast

To close her letter, Keys gives kudos to Kaepernick, saying his “silent protest was a brave and necessary stand to increase our awareness of the acts and consequences of police brutality.”What is being accomplished by this performance and these new commitments are meant to deeply honor that this moment is a direct result of his courage and prophecy.”

Read Keys’ full letter below.

The news of Keys’ performance and the new endowment fund come as the NFL ramps up its social justice programs for the 2020-2021 season. In addition to playing the Black National Anthem (“Lift Ev’ry Voice and Sing”) before every Week 1 game, phrases like “End Racism” and “It Takes All of Us” will be painted in end zones. Last summer, JAY-Z partnered with the league for their live music entertainment and social justice strategies. The mogul had some hand in getting Kaep a tryout last fall, but that didn’t exactly turn out so well.

“While the streets of America are filled with rightful outrage, something has struck me deeply and I know I cannot turn away. None of us can. As Americans, we actually have to face each other, even if we haven’t always seen eye-to-eye. I continue to think: what opportunity for change can I evoke? How can I help to transform a culture so ripe for reimagining?

Today, I will be doing something I never thought I would do again. I’m performing for the NFL Kickoff event. My initial reaction was to decline because of some of the NFL’s past decisions. Yet I realized I HAVE to use my platform, we all need to use our platforms, every chance we get to press for racial equity.

It’s often said football is the microcosm of America. We all can see that deep, radical change is needed for our country and together we can all work to transform it. It will take each of us to understand that racism and racial injustice rely on our individual and collective silence and ignorance. If you know that there are two Americas – one that seems safe and full of possibilities and another where a racial hierarchy allows for Black Americans to be systematically brutalized and dehumanized – and you do not act, then you are complicit.

This truth requires restorative justice now. What are we going to do to move forward?

The workforce of America has to represent the diversity of this country. We have to strive for true population parity. The NFL has already committed to ensuring Black representation across-the-board, from employees to executives, contractors, suppliers and vendors.

The league has also committed to contribute to a billion-dollar endowment.

The fund will be steered by Black leadership with a clear goal to empower Black America. The fund will create long term solutions with a focus on Black entrepreneurs, businesses, communities, Black schools, banks, and other Black institutions, while addressing persistent social, economic and environmental disparities. It’s starting here, but the intention is to build a multi-billion-dollar endowment across multiple industries. Through our collective action, we can end the needless and preventable agony created by systemic racism.

We are pushing for an aggressive agenda to meet the urgent need of proper access, opportunity and inclusion. I am personally committed to creating meaningful conversations to hold corporations and institutions accountable for their contributions to racial justice.

It’s time for sustainable action. It’s time to speak and document the truth about what Black Americans are facing and owed. The system was never set up for everyone to have an equal chance. Black creativity and labor continue to be oppressed, exploited, appropriated, and undercompensated. And it’s STILL the case today that the color of your skin can be a death sentence like the needless killings of Breonna Taylor, George Floyd, Bree Black, Ahmaud Arbery, and too many others. That’s why we see people from all walks of life, races and creeds taking to the streets in fury, protesting. As a Black mother, I want my sons to grow strong and healthy with confidence and without fearing for their lives.

Four years ago, Colin Kaepernick’s resistance by taking a knee in silent protest was a brave and necessary stand to increase our awareness of the acts and consequences of police brutality. He is still way ahead of his time. What is being accomplished by this performance and these new commitments are meant to deeply honor that this moment is a direct result of his courage and prophecy.

There has been forward motion — the NFL has been working with players throughout the league to support important initiatives in the Black community, like education reform, economic empowerment, voting rights and criminal justice reform. With collective action and the truth as our guide, a new future is within our grasp. The time is now for building the America we want and desperately need. I am optimistic that if we take action and operate with a sense of urgency, together we will renew America and finally put an end to the false notion of racial hierarchy.

Moving forward we must act together with love over hate, hope over fear and action over complacency to build the America we all know is possible.

We invite all corporations, NFL clubs, and organizations to join this mission to invest in racial justice.

Look forward to my call.

With love and light,

Alicia Keys.
Artist/Activist/Mother”

Fender Will Sell More Guitars in 2020 Than Any Other Year in History

Who said rock is dead? The guitar certainly isn’t. Fender has reported it will sell more guitars in 2020 than any other year in its history. Other leading manufactures such as Gibson, Taylor, and Martin have also seen sales spike this year.

The obvious reason for the surge is that people have been at home more than ever during the COVID-19 pandemic. And there’s really no better time for guitarists to work on their skills or for aspiring musicians to pick up a new instrument.

To put Fender’s sheer numbers into perspective, the company’s “Fender Play” instructional app saw its user base increase to 930,000 from 150,000 between late March and late June. Twenty percent of the new users were under 24, and 70-percent under 45, as young people try their hand at the instrument.

“[2020] will be the biggest year of sales volume in Fender history, record days of double-digit growth, e-commerce sales and beginner gear sales,” Fender chief executive Andy Mooney told The New York Times.

To say the guitar is dead has been a vogue statement for think pieces attempting to overanalyze the musical zeitgeist over the past decade. In actuality, the guitar is trending younger, and if the recent success of young guitar-based artists like Clairo, Snail Mail, and beabadoobee is any indication, the instrument is flourishing. The latter even teamed with Fender to endorse the new affordable Offset series, designed specifically for “non-conforming” musicians.

“It’s not just graying baby boomer men looking to live out one last Peter Frampton fantasy,” Mooney said. “Young adults and teenagers, many of them female, are helping to power this guitar revival, manufacturers and retailers said, putting their own generational stamp on the instrument that rocked their parents’ generation while also discovering the powers of six-string therapy.”

The sudden commercial revival of the guitar was a reversal of fortunes after the universal halt on manufacturing nearly crippled the industry early in the pandemic. It’s bounced back, to say the least.

“I never would have thought we would be where we are today if you asked me back in March,” Mooney said.

Brendan Murphy, a senior salesperson at online instrument retailer Sweetwater, added, “I’ve been in the instrument retail business for 25-plus years and I’ve never seen anything like it. It feels like every day is Black Friday.”

If you’re looking to get into the guitar game, you can purchase a Fender here.