When Frankie Shot Johnny

Image of Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds

Santi Elijah Holley on the story of Allen Britt and Frankie Baker While most murder ballads traditionally center on the murder of a woman by a man, a few notable ballads flip the script. The most immediate one that comes to mind is, of course, the classic ballad of the spurned woman, “Henry Lee” (or “Love Henry,” as it’s also known), which Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds included on their album Murder Ballads. Though not referenced on Murder Ballads, one of the most popular and widely adapted ballads in…

The Love and Tragedy of Henry Lee

Santi Elijah Holley on the story behind Nick Cave and PJ Harvey’s ballad duet For young Americans living under the specter of the Cold War and imminent nuclear annihilation, where the ideological divide between younger and older generations was growing wider and wider, an obscure collection of bluegrass, country, folk, blues, and gospel music was a surprising choice as a countercultural “bible.” But that’s exactly what Greenwich Village folksinger Dave Van Ronk called the Anthology of American Folk Music, the six-LP collection of eighty-four songs that had originally been recorded…

The Legend of the Bad Man Stagger Lee

Santi Elijah Holley on the history of murder ballads In a saloon in St. Louis, Missouri, an African American man named Billy Lyons was shot dead by an African American man named Lee Shelton, also known as “Stagger Lee,” following a dispute over a Stetson hat. This murder was otherwise unremarkable—it was one of five murders in St. Louis on that Christmas night in 1895—but the cold-bloodedness of Shelton’s killing and the callousness with he walked away from Lyon’s prone body quickly spread by word-of-mouth, with each successive narrator creating…

ANNOUNCEMENT: NEW 33 1/3 BOOKS + UPCOMING AUTHOR TAKE-OVER!

Calling all music lovers, it’s that time of the year again! That’s right, today marks the publication of 3 new 33 1/3 titles—24-Carat Black’s Ghetto: Misfortune’s Wealth, Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds’ Murder Ballads, and Elvis Presley’s From Elvis in Memphis,. And with this new batch of books, we are celebrating the publication of our 150th book in the series! All of our books submerge you in the world of performances and production while also exploring the history and culture beyond the music as you learn more about artists and the albums they created.  To coincide with these releases, we’re having the ultimate author take-over. Over the…

ANNOUNCING BLOOMSBURY MINICAST: A SHORT SERIES WITH BIG IDEAS

Bloomsbury Minicast is now available. For this podcast miniseries, we invite Bloomsbury authors to discuss the politics embedded in their work, analyzing the subtle or not so subtle political qualities therein. Connections between the popular and the political, the national and the global, are forged in discussion of interdisciplinary books. Listen to our first episode featuring author Nina Jankowicz speaking about the politics discussed in her book How to Lose the Information War. And stay tuned for a new episode each week this fall! Politics are omnipresent. Politics affect everyone,…

Video Vault: Blondie, “Hanging On The Telephone”

Image of Blondie

With summer now a hazy memory and October dragging into its 17th week, it is fitting to reflect on the moody album once described by Rolling Stone’s Arion Berger as “romantic fatalism”: Blondie’s Parallel Lines. I have been pining for the glamorous while exclusively dressing in well-worn athletic wear and never leaving home. Debbie Harry’s vocals, accompanied by a reading of Kembrew McLeod’s “gloriously revisionist history” (MTV News) of this album, offer a refreshing dose of allure.

The Ten Most Historically Important Tribute Albums

Ray Padgett on the covers that shaped the tribute album as we know it today I write about a lot of tribute albums in my book; in the index, the “tribute albums” section runs almost three pages. Most of them I like, and my team at Cover Me is finalizing a separate list of the 50 Best Tribute Albums Ever, to go up next week (and even capping it at 50 required a lot of painful cuts). But there’s another way to look at the history of tribute albums other…

What did Leonard Cohen himself think of the covers on I’m Your Fan?

Ray Padgett on how Cohen viewed the tribute albums he inspired From Judy Collins in the ‘60s through I’m Your Fan and Jeff Buckley in the ‘90s through today, covers have played an enormous role in exposing audiences to Leonard Cohen’s songs. “I was born with the gift of a golden voice,” he sang on “Tower of Song,” and everyone knew it was a joke; in concert, the audience would dutifully laugh and clap at that line every night. It took others to spread his songs far wider than he…

One of Hal Willner’s Final Interviews

Ray Padgett in conversation with the acclaimed music producer who brought tribute albums to life When I decided to write a book about tribute albums, I knew I needed to speak with Hal Willner. He all but singlehandedly invented the format in the ‘80s, though, as he was quick to point out, others made it bigger in the ‘90s. He continued producing tribute albums on and off until his tragic death from COVID-19 earlier this year. His latest, a tribute to Marc Bolan of T. Rex which he was extremely…

Why I Wrote a Book About I’m Your Fan

Ray Padgett, a leading expert on cover songs, on his 33 1/3 about Leonard Cohen and the power of the tribute album Bob Dylan got me into cover songs. But it wasn’t one of the million covers of his own songs that did it, nor was it a cover he performed himself. It was a cover he DJ’d. For a few years in the 2000s, Dylan hosted an XM Radio show called Theme Time Radio Hour. In one of the first episodes, he played a version of the George Gershwin…