Music Newslettes 4.19.07: No Award? No Money!, DeGreg Goes “Down the Middle,” The Colonel’s Unwell and GNR Misunderstood

Insert Punny “Gets a Bad Rap” Headline Here
Al Sharpton’s proclamation that he and other leaders will protest the music industry for its role in promoting perceived sexist and otherwise negative lyrics in Rap music is going to cost him. Literally. While several industry “moguls,” led by Def Jam founder Russell Simmons (and including at least one artist, successful rapper T.I.), reportedly gathered for a summit about the issue, the New York Post reported that major-label conglomerate Universal was taking its ball and going home. Sharpton was scheduled to give the James Brown Memorial Cultural Impact Award to Universal-affiliated imprint Def Jam’s L.A. Reid (a Cincinnati native) yesterday, but the civil-rights leader decided it would be hypocritical to turn around and “honor” anyone affiliated with the Rap label in the wake of the Don Imus kafuffle. Reid, reportedly very quickly, ordered the return of a donation of $15,000 (roughly Jay-Z’s gym-shoe-buffing budget for a week) that the label gave Sharpton’s National Action Network, which was hosting yesterday’s event, an annual convention in NYC.

“Middle” Man
Cincy Jazz great and Blue Wisp Jazz Club house-band leader, pianist Phil DeGreg, is celebrating the release of his latest CD, Down the Middle, tonight at the Blue Wisp. For DeGreg’s tenth release, he traveled to Los Angeles last summer to record a collection of originals and Jazz standards. The disc features bass work from Tom Warrington and drum work from Joe LaBarbera, who played extensively with the Bill Evans Trio and Tony Bennett. The covers include compositions by Cole Porter, Dizzy Gillespie, Jerome Kern, Antonio Carlos Jobim and Bud Powell. The album also contains a song written by legendary Jazz saxophonist, Jimmy McGary (one of Cincy’s greatest Jazz performers of all time), entitled “Palindrome.” Discs will be available tonight at the 8 p.m. performance for $10.

Pray For “The Colonel”
Sad news today for the Cincinnati music community. According to a post on by someone who says he just visited him, beloved local musician Mark Chenault (perhaps best known for his role in area Funk kings SHAG in the ’90s) is close to death at the Scarlet Oaks facilities in Clifton. A couple of years ago, the members of SHAG reunited for a show at Bogart’s to raise money for Chenault, who had just been diagnosed with multiple myeloma, an aggressive form of bone cancer.

“Mr. Brownstone”: Mass Murder Anthem?!
Is there another “negative cultural impact” connection within the tragedy at Virginia Tech? Reporters seemed desperate to connect violent video games with the case, asking those acquainted with the shooter whether he played them a lot (one roommate, after being grilled by a network talking-head, simply said, “No, I never saw him play video games,” which seemed to disappoint the interviewer). One of the “plays” the disturbed gunman wrote was called Mr. Brownstone, also the name of a Guns N’ Roses song from their breakthrough album, Appetite for Destruction. The play touches on all of the lyrics to the GNR song, but in the story, Mr. Brownstone is the name of the teacher the main characters are plotting to murder. Any GNR listener with a brain knows the track is a not-so-thinly-veiled song about heroin addiction (“Mr. Brownstone” is heroin, not a teacher, in the song). The entire play – along with his other play, Richard McBeef (a tribute to Ray Kroc? Uh oh, ban McDonald’s!) — can be read here. Like the older cases from the ’80s, where Metal artists like Judas Priest and Ozzy Osbourne were blamed and taken to court for inspiring young fans to commit suicide, this is another instance of misguided interpretation. The cultural police need to consider this when they lambaste Rap music and violent movies and video games — a young, confused mind can derive “meaning” (right or wrong) from anything. If someone wrote that they found secret messages in The Bible telling him to blow up the White House, would that mean that we as a society need to really examine carefully the negative messages apparent in The Bible?

— Mike Breen

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