Celebrating Pete Seeger

Bruce Springsteen celebrated Pete Seeger’s ninetieth birthday by telling the great folk singer and activist, “You outlasted the bastards, man.” And so he did. Seeger, who died on January 27 at 94, was singing with Woody Guthrie when “This Land Is Your Land” was a new song. And because he meant and lived the words of the oft-neglected final verse—“Nobody living can ever stop me, / As I go walking that freedom highway”—Seeger was hauled before the House Un-American Activities Committee in the 1950s, blacklisted and sent to the sidelines of what was becoming an entertainment industry. But Seeger just kept singing “This Land,” kept writing songs like “Where Have All the Flowers Gone,” kept playing a banjo inscribed with the message “This machine surrounds hate and forces it to surrender,” and kept rambling across the country and around the world—for every cause from labor rights to civil rights to peace. Seeger was convicted in 1961 of contempt of Congress for refusing to name the Young Communists and Young Socialists he sang with in the heyday of 1930s and ’40s anti-fascist organizing. Before his conviction, which was overturned the following year, he told the court: “I have been singing folk songs of America and other lands to people everywhere. I am proud that I never refused to sing to any group of people because I might disagree with some of the ideas of some of the people listening to me. I have sung for rich and poor, for Americans of every possible political and religious opinion and persuasion, of every race, color and creed.” Seeger’s singing was stronger than the forces that sought to silence him. With what Springsteen hailed as a “stubborn, defiant and nasty optimism,” the bestselling singer of the early 1950s—crooning “Goodnight Irene” with the Weavers—was still up for a Grammy in 2014. Along the way, Continue Reading

Obie Dziedzic, more than Bruce Springsteen’s No. 1 fan, has died

Obediah “Obie” Dziedzic of Neptune, Bruce Springsteen’s No. 1 fan and a pivotal  force behind the Sound of Asbury Park, passed away on Monday, May 1 at Monmouth Medical Center South in Lakewood.She was 65.Dziedzic was an early supporter of Bruce Springsteen who became the Boss’ assistant. She also played a managerial role for Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes. MORE: Bruce Springsteen's Greetings from Asbury Park: The backstory “So sorry to hear of the passing of our ‘Obie,’ number one band booster from forever,” tweeted E Street Band bassist Garry Tallent. “What a loss. RIP, there should be a plaque somewhere.”“Our first fan,” tweeted Stevie Van Zandt, who included a picture of himself, Dziedzic and Springsteen. “All our love on your journey.”“The only time I took my eyes off Bruce onstage was when I’d see Obie’s smiling face in the front row,” tweeted E Street Band drummer Max Weinberg."Obie was one of my oldest friends," said Vini Lopez, a founding member of the E Street Band. "She helped so many people throughout her lifetime. She loved her some Bruce!"Dziedzic was often called the Boss’ first and “No. 1 fan’’ by Springsteen himself, and she also served as a confidante who helped the musician purchase his first car and his first house.She is credited with helping Springsteen move from junk food to a more balanced diet that includes vegetables and salads, according to the book “Bruce” by Peter Carlin, and she’s credited with helping to choose the version of “Racing in the Street” that appears on the 1978 album, “Darkness on the Edge of Town,” according to the Thom Zimny film, “The Promise: The Making of ‘Darkness on the Edge of Town’.”She became involved in the business end of the music, who, as an assistant to Van Zandt, helped run the Continue Reading

Bruce Springsteen, comedians raise money for injured vets

Disabled veterans, soldiers from Iraq, and Bob Woodruff's brain injury - now THAT'S a recipe for comedy," Conan O'Brien told a mix of U.S. Marines in full dress and New York swells at Town Hall Wednesday night, where Bruce Springsteen, Robin Williams and Stephen Colbert helped raise $2.5 million for the Bob Woodruff Family Fund. "To top it off, my writers are on strike ... so if anyone has a joke, I'm paying cash."Woodruff and wife Lee started the foundation for brain-wounded vets after the ABC newsman suffered traumatic brain injury from a roadside bomb while covering the Iraq War last year. Caroline Hirsch and Andrew Fox, two of the great New Yorkers, organized it as part of this week's New York Comedy Festival - so Springsteen said he felt he should put out some punch lines."Knock knock," said the Boss, and the adoring audience called out, "Who's there?!" Springsteen replied, "The Interrupting Cow!" and before they could finish "The Interr..." he yelled, "Moo!" After Springsteen performed an exquisite reinvention of "Thunder Road" and putting his all into songs from his new album, "Magic," fans agreed he should leave comedy to the pros.Like Lewis Black, who harangued about how stores start putting Christmas decorations up in September. "Let's face it," Black railed, "Thanksgiving has become 'Christmas halftime.'"And even as Colbert ended his White House bid after he was blocked from the ballot in his native South Carolina, Black suggested a new candidate for President: Santa Claus."Show the terrorists you're more nuts than they could ever be. Elect Santa," he yelled. "Or at least make the winner wear the red suit."An out-of-towner, Brian Regan, was a scream as he described New Yorkers. "When people in the rest of the country get on an elevator, they just press the button for the floor. New Yorkers do that, but then they press 'Door Close, Door Close, Door Close,' yelling, 'Come on!'" he said aptly.Writers or no writers, Conan had abs burning as he showed Continue Reading

A Sirius comeback for Bruce Springsteen

Sirius Satellite Radio has reinstituted its E Street Radio channel, which is devoted entirely to the music of Bruce Springsteen and will run from Sept. 27 through March.The relaunch, which will be heard commercial-free on Ch. 10, will help preview Springsteen's new "Magic" album, which comes out Oct. 2 - and whose first single, ironically, is titled "Radio Nowhere."Springsteen also starts a new tour, his first in four years with the E Street Band, on Oct. 2. (He'll be on the "Today" show Sept. 28.)Sirius did a similar Bruce channel in 2005 and says it proved quite popular. E Street Radio will feature exclusive interviews with Spring-steen and band members, track-by-track commentary on the music from "Magic" and less-heard Bruce music, including early live recordings. - David Hinckley Dots all ...WCBS/Ch. 2 correspondent Pablo Guzman on Monday will be honored with an HOLA award (Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors) for his "Latino Power" series in the English Language Media Award category. ... David Zaslav, president and CEO of Discovery Communications, will be presented with the Trustees Award by the National Television Academy of Arts & Sciences. ... Tonight at 9:30, MSG, as part of its "WaMu Concert Series" airs "Elton John's 60th Birthday Celebration," a 30-minute version of the concert that took place March 25, 2007. ... Tonight at 7, MTV airs "Gamekillers," a new show created with AXE, the body spray company, that follows unsuspecting guys going on dates who face challenges from other guys along the way. ... Sean Penn appears on WNBC/Ch. 4's "Reel Talk" Saturday at 10 a.m. ... This should be a cutting moment: Lorena Bobbitt appears on Court TV Monday with Star Jones at 3 p.m. - Richard Huff Join the Conversation: Continue Reading

ASU Gammage celebrates 50th anniversary

"Iconic" is a word that gets bandied around a bit too much these days, but if there's one architectural landmark in the Valley worthy of the label, it's Tempe's ASU Gammage.Designed by Frank Lloyd Wright — his last public commission — the auditorium sometimes referred to as the "pink wedding cake" will mark its 50th anniversary in September.No one is more keenly aware of the venerable venue's stature in the community than Phoenix attorney Grady Gammage Jr., whose father championed the construction of a world-class concert hall at Arizona State University."I call people and tell them my name, and I get responses like, 'Were you named after the building?' Which is really an odd notion," Gammage said. "One time I introduced myself as Grady Gammage, and the woman on the other line said, 'Yeah, right, and I'm Turf Paradise.' "A center of cultural life in the Valley for half a century, Gammage's stage has been graced by performers ranging from the Bolshoi Ballet and the New York Philharmonic to Ray Charles, Bette Davis and Bruce Springsteen. It has hosted presidential debates and the funeral of Arizona Sen. Barry Goldwater, and even served as a movie set for Barbra Streisand's "A Star Is Born" and Tom Cruise's "Jerry Maguire."These days, Gammage is known primarily as the home of touring Broadway shows such as "The Phantom of the Opera" and "Wicked," two megahits that will make return visits during the upcoming 50th-anniversary season. The 2014-15 series kicks off Sept. 16 with the Tony Award-winning "Kinky Boots" — 50 years to the day after the hall was dedicated. Coming-of-age storyLike any big civic project, ASU Gammage was conceived not just as a building and a gathering place, but as a statement: "We have arrived." Or, perhaps more accurately, "We're on our way."The concert hall's story begins in 1956 with the collapse of the roof of the nearly 50-year-old Gymnasium/Auditorium at Arizona State College at Tempe. Grady Gammage, the school's longtime Continue Reading

20 best 4th of July songs in the history of rock & roll: Bruce Springsteen, Meat Puppets, X, CCR, Beach Boys

Hey baby, it's the Fourth of July.So sang John Doe on X's classic version of Dave Alvin's contribution to the list of greatest rock songs ever written involving the Fourth of July. It's No. 3 here, surrounded by tracks from the likes of Bruce Springsteen, Creedence Clearwater Revival and Tempe's Meat Puppets.The Springsteen song that tops our list is not, it should be noted, "Independence Day," because that song is more a metaphor than "4th of July, Asbury Park (Sandy)," which is actually set on the Fourth of July. That's also why Elliott Smith's song titled "Independence Day" was not included here. These songs all make reference to the actual Fourth. PLAYLIST:  30 hits that soundtracked the 4th of July in AmericaIn which a dude who’s pining for the live-in love who took her things and moved away looks for a reason to believe. “Well, maybe I’ll call or I’ll write you a letter,” he sings. “Now maybe we’ll see on the Fourth of July.” Why, the Fourth of July? He doesn’t say. Could be an anniversary. Could be a small town where you end up seeing everyone you know at some big festival with fireworks and hot dogs. Could be a random detail that had the right numb of syllables (in which case Memorial Day would also have worked, but not Easter).Fireworks as a metaphor for the sparks romantic feelings can ignite between two lovers? It’s the underlying premise of countless songs that mention fireworks. This one looks back on the Fourth of July, when “you and I were… fireworks that went off too soon.” It’s over now and he’s left pining in the afterglow while sighing, “May the bridges I have burned light my way back home on the Fourth of July.”Adams earned a Grammy nomination for this song, in which he memorably sets the scene with “Well, I shuffled through the city on the 4th of July / I had a firecracker waiting to blow.” There’s also a verse about Continue Reading

A definitive list of celebrity stances on Trump’s controversial immigration order

When it comes President Trump's executive order restricting immigration, celebrities are exercising their right to protest."A lot of people are saying right now that actors shouldn't express their opinions when it comes to politics," said Kerry Washington in the opening of Sunday's Screen Actors Guild Awards show. "But the truth is, actors are activists, no matter what, because we embody the worth and humanity of all people."Here's a look at what Hollywood has to say about the ban, which affects citizens from seven Muslim-majority countries. Bruce SpringsteenDuring a concert in Adelaide, Australia, Monday night, Springsteen spoke out. "Tonight we want to add our voices to the thousands of Americans who are protesting in airports around our country," he said. "The Muslim ban, the detention of foreign nationals and refugees — America is a nation of immigrants and we find this antidemocratic and fundamentally un-American." He proclaimed, "This is an immigrant song," as the E Street Band began playing American Land. Arianna HuffingtonThe Huffington Post founder had a short message accompanying an Instagram of herself wearing a white top that said, "I am an immigrant." She captioned the photographed, "Time to find this t-shirt again..." Amy SchumerOn Tuesday, the comedian posted a lengthy caption on Instagram accompanying a screenshot of a tweet from President Trump in which he wrote, "Nancy Pelosi and Fake Tears Chuck Schumer held a rally at the steps of The Supreme Court and mic did not work (a mess)-just like Dem party!""This is what he was thinking about at 621am," stated Schumer. "This was his tweet after his first soldier died. Also 8 Yemeni women and 7 children died and trump called the raid 'successful.'"The Snatched star leapt to the defense of her relative, Sen. Chuck Schumer, before making a call for citizens to get involved. "Also I know chuck Schumer and HE CANNOT act trust me," she Continue Reading

David Letterman’s top 10 moments, as celebrated by CBS special

Cramming 33 years of David Letterman's TV show into an hour and a half is a little like allowing five minutes to get all the morning commuters through the Midtown Tunnel. But at least, after 33 years, Letterman did finally manage to leap forward 125 minutes into prime time. Ray Romano acted as conductor for the trip, after explaining that he would be watching the show in his living room "with a three-legged dog" if Letterman hadn't given him the break that catapulted him to the big time. But the night was about Dave, and in his spirit, here were the top 10 moments: 10. Dropping watermelons off the roof. OK, anyone can drop watermelons on 53rd St. The genius lies in first dropping buckets of paint, which gives the melon splatter a whole different artistic resonance. 9. The show was a family. Romano said so. And as we know, Dave was closer with some family members than others. 8. Fun with food. Of all the rules Dave ignored, maybe the best was "Don't play with your food." He drank olive oil from the bottle. He drank mustard from the container. He chugged Tabasco. And the set usually ended up looking like Gordon Ramsey had been judging the food without taking his meds. 7. Drew Barrymore's dance. She danced on Dave's desk, showed off her lower back tattoos and by all appearances flashed him. Pole dance without a pole. Lap dance without a lap. A lotta guys wanted to be Dave that night. 6. He could make politicians do or say something funny. OK, not Eddie Murphy funny. But compared to how funny Al Gore or George W. Bush usually were, the percentage increase was geometric. 5. Darlene Love singing "Christmas (Baby Please Come Home)" every year since 1986. Actually, Letterman had some great non-mainstream acts between the likes of Paul McCartney, James Brown, Bruce Springsteen, U2 and Beyoncé. Not that many hosts would book the Cowboy Junkies. 4. Johnny Carson props. It's no secret Continue Reading

Upright Citizens Brigade celebrates 17th anniversary of Del Close Improve Comedy Marathon

THE UPRIGHT Citizens Brigade celebrated its 17th Del Close Improv Comedy Marathon and the founding quartet - Amy Poehler, Matt Walsh, Ian Roberts and Matt Besser held a hilarious news conference/improv session for delighted fans and press. At an after party Poehler admitted that the group's success seems a little surreal at times but "UCB just slowly kept putting one foot in front of the other. Because of that, we grew kind of slowly but I think authentically. We didn't make those mistakes that some people do where they buy the house before you can fill it." Poehler takes great joy in well, voicing Joy in "Inside Out." "That movie is so deep," she gushed. "Every time I see it I see something else I love. I'm so honored to be a part of it." Ellie Kemper insists that she can be crabby and low blood sugar and people not following rules makes her prickly. The "Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt" star doesn't like catching up on the show on Netflix. "The show is good but it's hard to watch yourself. It's like listening to your voice on an answering machine. It's just a little gross." Also there was "Silicon Valley's" Thomas Middleditch, and Aidy Bryant and Horatio Sanz of "SNL." TAYE DIGGS CHICK KICKSTaye Diggs is about to slip into some stilettos when the takes over the lead in "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" and the 44-year-old actor can't wait. Diggs was overheard at the Breathe Vape Smart Launch event dishing about wanting to do Broadway since he co-starred in "Rent." Apparently he's been training by wearing women's shoes and fishnet stockings and can't believe how much his tootsies have been aching since taking up heels. Diggs takes over the role from Darren Criss on July 22. BUT ORANGE YOU THRILLED?Mike Birbiglia says appearing in season three of "Orange Is the New Black" has been a game-changer. "It's the first time in my career where people sort of shout out at me on the subway. They'll be like, 'Hey, Orange Is the New Black!' Continue Reading

Finger-pickin’ good. This weekend, the New York Guitar Festival strings together a tribute to a Springsteen classic

Composer-guitarist Luis De Briceño said that the guitar "attracts the busiest of talented people and makes them put aside loftier occupations so that they may hold a guitar in their hands." Though he offered this wisdom in 1626, it still seems apt to ­David Spelman. Once a successful public relations executive, Spelman felt the need to give back to the community, and more specifically, to do so through the guitar. Spelman is a conservatory-trained classical guitarist who fulfilled his goal of enriching other's lives through guitar with the creation of the New York Guitar Festival. The nonprofit foundation produces several concerts a year with diverse performers. The fund has also established Guitar Harvest, which produced a CD compilation of past performances. The profit from Guitar Harvest goes directly to the music departments of New York public schools. The idea, says Spelman, "is to put guitars into the hands of New York City public school students with no strings attached." This Saturday, the New York Guitar Festival celebrates all things guitar with a free opening-night concert. More than fifteen guitar masters, singer-songwriters and bands pay homage to the groundbreaking Bruce Springsteen album "Nebraska." The spare, acoustic guitar-driven LP was considerably different from Springsteen's preceding work. He chose not to fulfill the ever-crescendoing demands of popular opinion - that every album must be bigger and better than the last. He instead produced a dark, chilling album that shows off complementary qualities of the human voice and guitar. DELICATE AND GRIM Upon its release in 1982, Steve Pond of Rolling Stone magazine proclaimed "Nebraska" "an acoustic triumph, a basic folk album on which Springsteen has stripped his art down to the core. ... Every small touch speaks volumes: the delicacy of the acoustic guitars, the blurred sting of the electric guitars, the spare, grim images." Highlights of the festival include an eclectic Continue Reading