In March of 2018, the Long Center will turn ten and the concert hall is celebrating with a grand event featuring The Avett Brothers with Asleep at the Wheel on Saturday, March 3.
Pre-sale tickets are already available for Long Center members and tickets will go on sale to the general public this Friday, October 27 at 10 a.m. at TheLongCenter.org or by calling (512) 474.LONG (5664). Tickets will also be available at the Long Center’s Box Office located at 701 West Riverside Drive at South First Street.
The evening will include pre- and post-show festivities for the Long Center’s 10-year anniversary.
Australian super model Nicole Trunfio and her husband, Austin guitar hero Gary Clark Jr., are growing their family. The couple’s son, Zion, will be three in January, and last week, Trunfio announced on Instagram that the couple is “humbled” by the news that they will be “graced with the presence of a daughter in 2018.”
In another Instagram post Trunfio talked about how it feels to become mother to a girl into at this moment in time when sexual harassment scandals plague all areas of the entertainment industry, including Trunfio’s profession, high fashion modeling.
“In a world that can be so volatile at times, it seems crazy to bring another soul into it. Especially one so innocent and helpless, that is as susceptible to the chaos already present, created by strangers,” she wrote. “As an optimist, I couldn’t be more proud to be a woman at this moment in history, and to be bringing a girl into this world who I will raise to be strong, bold and brave.”
In the post she applauded the women who are coming forward to talk about the abuse they’ve experienced and called for solidarity between women.
“We need to harness the comradeship that exists between men, and stand behind one another,” she wrote. “Let us fight gracefully, for what we believe in for the futures of our girls.”
Add music to your monster mash at these costume-friendly concerts and parties.
Friday: A Neverending Halloween Homecoming at Spiderhouse. Time to bust out the zombie prom dress, my “American Girl(s).” The party features Johnny Walker and the Heartfakers inhabiting the spirit of Tom Petty and Letty Leal Evans possessed by Prince. There will also be a midnight costumed karaoke dance party. $7-$12. 10 p.m. doors. 2906 Fruth St. spiderhouse.com/ballroom.
Friday-Saturday: Elysium 16-year anniversary weekend. At Red River’s industrial goth nightclub, it always feels like Halloween. The club, which describes itself as “a haven from the everyday,” is named after an ancient Greek afterlife realm reserved for mortals who are relatives of gods and heroes. Don your “Zeus’ cousin” costume and catch dark wave band, the Cruxshadows at the actual anniversary party on Friday. Or, show up on Saturday, when the club hosts ‘Helloween 2: Demon’s Night.” The party, “made for horror fans by Austin’s horror community,” includes a costume contest, “devilish burlesque” and a “dance of the dead” with DJ Dren Pasht. $20-$25 Friday; $5-$7 Saturday. 9 p.m. doors. 705 Red River St. elysiumonline.net.
Friday: KUTX Live at Mueller with Brownout, Kupira Marimba. Technically, this is not a Halloween party, and the Brownout crew won’t don their full metal jackets til Nov. 2, when they transform into the band’s alter ego Brown Sabbath to raise money for Puerto Rico. It is, however, a great opportunity, to bring your little costumed crusaders out for a little after dark witching. Face painting runs from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. Music starts at 7 p.m. 4550 Mueller Blvd. More info.
Saturday: Foot Patrol at Stay Gold. Halloweeen is a time to indulge your offbeat urges and this crew of funky foot fetishists are here to help. Kev Bev Collins also performs. 10 p.m. 1910 E. Cesar Chavez. More info.
Saturday: HollaQueen Part 2 at Cheer Up Charlie’s. It’s a ghoulish birthday bash for two of Austin’s top drag queens, Lousianna Purchase and Zane Zena. Event features drag show, costume contest, tunes from DJ Girlfriend and more. $5. 10 p.m. 900 Red River St. More info.
Sunday: Polkapocalypse with Brave Combo and Friends at Elisabet Ney Museum. The event promises a “crazy mix of Tejano, Czech, German, Ukranian, Polish, Gypsy, and Norteno” from four polka bands. Erik Hokkanen and The Polka Playboys, Conjunto Los Pinkys and Belen y Tocayo join Denton-based Grammy winners Brave Combo. There will also be a costume contest. Free. Noon. 304 E. 44th St. More info.
Sunday: …And You Will Know Us By the Trail of Dead at the Lil Darlin’. After a few quiet years, Austin’s most seasonally appropriate art rock crew heads across the pond next month for a string of U.K. shows. They warm up at this free happy hour show at a South Austin neighborhood dive. 5 p.m. 6507 Circle S Rd. More info.
Tuesday: Flying Lotus in 3D at Emo’s. It’s Halloween night. Will it be strange? Oh certainly, pushing the boundaries of electronic composition is what he does. Will it be spooky? His last album was called “You’re Dead.” Is it a good place to dress up and pretend you’re going on some sort of an interstellar journey to a mystical otherworld? The best. Seven Davis Jr. and Pbdy open. $30-$35. 8 p.m. doors. 2015 E. Riverside Drive. emosaustin.com.
Tuesday: LCD Soundsystem, Big Freedia at Austin360 Amphitheater. Electro-rockers LCD Soundsystem dramatically broke up and hosted a “final” concert in 2011, then reappeared last year to play an enthralling headline set loaded with lights and sounds, stories and magic at ACL Fest last year. Time to come back from the dead yourselves, zombies of Austin and Big Freedia is your non-gender-conforming undead style inspiration. $30-$71.75. 8 p.m. 9201 Circuit of the Americas Blvd. More info
Tuesday: Ghost Town Halloween Parade. KreweDCM celebrates their 11th annual Halloween Parade with another haunted hike through the streets of East Austin. Dead Music Capital Mega Band will provide the murderous marching music for the event that kicks off at 8 p.m. at Pan Am Park. There will be a post-procession celebration at Esquina Tango with more music, dancing and “scareoke.” 8 p.m. 2039 East 4th Street. More info.
Tuesday: Vampyre and friends at Sahara. A night of face-melting noise to drive out the demons. Pleasure Venom and Jerkagram also perform. $5. 8 p.m. doors. 1413 Webberville Road. More info.
More hot haunts
Rocktober Halloween Bash with Vallejo, Black Heart Saints at the Parish
Hot Since 82 Halloween party at Vulcan Gas Company
Hidden Ritual at Barracuda
Angelz & Demonz: Til Death Do Us Danz Partee at Drinks Lounge
Reverend Horton Heat, Robert Gordon at Continental Club
Goblin-A-Go-Go, Krista Van Liew, 2069 at Mohawk indoor
The World is a Beautiful Place and I Am No Longer Afraid to Die, Rozwell Kid, Adjy at Sidewinder
3Teeth, Curse Mackey, Sine, Bloody Knives at Empire Control Room
Gavin Rayna Russom at Empire Garage
Tributes to Siouxie and the Banshees, the Damned at Hotel Vegas
Alt-rock juggernaut Foo Fighters released their ninth studio album “Concrete and Gold” in September. They’re currently storming arenas around the country on the first leg of the support tour which ends in mid-December.
On Monday, the band announced the second leg of the tour set for spring 2018. It kicks off on April 18, here in Austin at the Austin360 Amphitheater.
Tickets to the show go on sale Friday, Nov. 3 at 10 a.m. More info.
Earlier this year, our June Austin360 Artist of the Month, Brownout dropped a new EP, “Over the Covers.” It was their first release of original material since 2012, and the title was a tongue and cheek way of saying the Black Sabbath cover project, Brown Sabbath, that dominated the Austin Latin funk powerhouse’s work for the last few years, is taking a break.
But hold the “Electric Funeral,” Sabbath fans, the (helping) “Hand of Doom” will be back to celebrate the Day of the Dead while raising money for hurricane-ravaged Puerto Rico at a benefit show called “Una Noche Para Puerto Rico” at Empire Control Room on Nov. 2.
Like most Austin bands, Brownout gets asks to do many charity events and they have to be selective about the commitments they make, but lead singer and bat-friendly Ozzy substitute, Alex Marrero said everyone in the nine-piece outfit immediately agreed to this one. “The right causes kind of become very clear,” he said.
“Puerto Rico has been in turmoil for a few years now. The last thing they needed was something like this,” Marrero, a Mexico City native who’s lived in Austin since 1994, said. “This is an on-going crisis. It’s going to take years to recover from this one. People don’t have access to clean water, electricity or food. Still. Things you don’t immediately think about like hospitals keeping medication and food refrigerated. Clean clothes, clean water, non-perishable food. It’s a large group of people trying to put their lives back together under some really dire circumstances. It’s bad.”
“We are in a race, all of us here — a race against time,” Stevie Wonder addressed the crowd as he began his concert following Sunday’s Formula 1 U.S. Grand Prix at Circuit of the Americas. A blissful party of dancing and singing was to come — “a celebration of life, love and the spirit of music,” as he put it later, leading into fan favorites “My Cherie Amour” and “You Are the Sunshine of My Life.”
But Wonder signaled at the outset that he’d also be going deeper during a nearly two-hour performance. “I’ve never seen the color of my skin, nor the color of your skin,” he said. And although he quickly added, “Not to get political, because I don’t like to do that,” he finished by issuing a challenge: “It is time for the leader of this nation, the leaders in the varied political positions that they hold, the people, we as artists — all of us come together as a united people of these United States of America.”
Then the music began, and it was joy to behold. From the one-two opening punch of “Master Blaster” and “Higher Ground,” to 1980s gems such as “Do I Do” and “Overjoyed,” to a late-set smash-after-smash barrage that included “Signed Sealed Delivered,” “Sir Duke” and “I Wish,” Wonder and his 13-piece ensemble made sticking around after the race well worth it.
Up front, those who paid for close-to-the-stage proximity stood on the race track itself and got the full blast of the band. Behind them, a small tier of reserved seats and boxes held a few hundred more fans, with a buffer zone between them and the main infield space that held most of the crowd. If the masses were a long way from the action, the upside was a great sound system that kept Wonder’s voice front-and-center while keeping the often complex big-band arrangements sharp and crisp throughout. And the weather was perfect: clear blue skies and low humidity accompanied temperatures that dipped below 70 as the sun went down midway through the show.
Wonder worked in some nice surprises along the way. He turned a lovely rendition of Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend” into a clinic in three-part harmony, assigning complementary parts to different factions in the crowd and consequently making an age-old song sound fresh and new again. Near the end of his late-’60s hit “For Once in My Life,” he gave a shoutout to jazz giant Dizzy Gillespie, noting that Saturday marked the 100th anniversary of his birth.
It was the ending of the show that will resonate the longest, though. Teasingly asking the crowd, “Are y’all ready to go home,” after about an hour and a half and getting the inevitable “No!” in response, Wonder began a fascinating finale. After playing “Ribbon in the Sky,” one of his most elegant piano ballads, he segued briefly into the Joe Cocker hit “You Are So Beautiful” before landing on John Lennon’s “Imagine.” When Wonder sang “You may say that I’m a dreamer,” the crowd answered him: “But I’m not the only one.”
Switching to harmonica, Wonder wound the song’s ending across a free-jazz bridge that suddenly turned into “The Star Spangled Banner.” On a Sunday in which many National Football League players continued their symbolic protests to raise awareness about racial injustice, Wonder’s instrumental version of the anthem on harmonica was spectacular, and as he brought it home, he sank to his knees, clearly indicating solidarity with protestors.
“In the home of the United States, or the united people of America, not some but all,” he said as the song finished, “feel me, Mr. President.”
All that was left was one last glorious funk jam on “Superstition,” drawn out past 10 minutes so that Wonder could introduce and sincerely thank all of his band members. Standing up to join his four backup singers for a final wave to the audience, he reveled in the moment, dancing with them as the band played on until finally it was time to go. David Bowie’s “Changes” and “Suffragette City” filled the P.A. as well-chosen exit music, and as we wended our way through the race track maze toward the parking lots, I overheard one concertgoer say, “That may be the best show I’ve ever seen.”
Tuesday: Reverend Horton Heat at Continental Club. SoCo’s historic Continental is an anchor for a lot of roots-based musical styles, including on-the-fringes varietals such as psychobilly. Dallas band Reverend Horton Heat has been at the forefront of the punk-rockabilly hybrid genre for decades, and they seem a perfect fit for the week leading up to Halloween — which is why the Continental has booked them for six straight nights, beginning Tuesday. The band is bringing along a few special-guest ringers: Unknown Hinson (Tuesday-Wednesday), Big Sandy (Thursday-Friday) and Robert Gordon (Saturday-Sunday). $25-$30. 10:30 p.m. (different local acts open each night). 1315 S. Congress Ave. continentalclub.com. — P.B.
Wednesday: Austin City Limits Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony at ACL Live. The fourth class of inductees into this esteemed honorary circle are the Neville Brothers, Rosanne Cash and Roy Orbison. Cash and two of the Nevilles (Art and Ivan) will be on hand, along with host Chris Isaak and a smorgasbord of stars who will perform in tribute to the inductees, including Raul Malo, Ry Cooder, Neko Case, Brandi Carlile and Trombone Shorty. $50-$300. 7:30 p.m. 310 Willie Nelson Blvd. acl-live.com. — P.B.
Thursday: Jimmy Webb at One World Theatre. When legendary songwriter Webb played in Austin last year, he paid special tribute to his close friend Glen Campbell, who was in the final stages of Alzheimer’s. Now that Campbell’s gone, Webb will no doubt revisit some of their great collaborations, but he may also cast a wider net over his own fascinating career, the early part of which is detailed in his new memoir “Cake in the Rain.” $25-$65. 8 p.m. 7701 Bee Caves Road. oneworldtheatre.org. Webb also will appear at 5 p.m. Wednesday at Waterloo Records for a conversation about the memoir with yours truly. (Free, 600 N. Lamar Blvd., waterloorecords.com.) — P.B.
At 8:12 p.m. Saturday night, the lights went dark on the Super Stage built onto the side of the racetrack at the Circuit of the Americas. A scream went through the crowd and the air was filled with the golden voice of… Frank Sinatra? The sound of Ol’ Blue Eyes singing “My Way” might have seemed like an odd intro for an artist whose path from Mouseketeer to teen idol to one of the biggest pop stars of his generation, isn’t particularly iconoclastic, but it was a brilliant crowd read. The masses of inebriated race enthusiasts immediately joined in a swaying singalong.
Moments later, as Justin Timberlake took the stage and began to unwind his epic performance, the significance became clearer. Not only is he a top notch performer with an endless arsenal of serious skills — he sings! he dances! he plays guitar! he plays piano! he slides in a ‘jaunty hat on the crotch’ move and seems cheeky, not sleazy!– his sonic range is remarkable. In just under 90 minutes, he led us on a journey from grand concert halls to sweaty dance clubs to some edgy retro-future astroplane with “Tron”-like special effects.
He opened with the muscular guitar riffs of “Only When You Walk Away” his voice dripping with menacing sensuality as a spectacular display of darting lasers pierced a darkness thick with mist from plentiful fog machines steaming away around the venue. The lights briefly went dark and then he whiplash transitioned into a wholehearted rendition of “Drink You Away” that honky tonked so hard it would not be at all out of place on the stage of the Grand Ole Opry. The lights went dark again and then we were in a swanky jazz age club in L.A. while Timberlake swaggered around the stage crooning about his “Suit and Tie.” Then it was back to the uneasy, light-streaked darkness for “FutureSex/LoveSound.”
For his recent shows, Timberlake’s been using the name JT and the Tennesee Kids to shine light on his stellar backing ensemble, loaded with over a dozen dangerous players, including a full horn section and a quartet of backup singers. He’s a very generous performer, sharing the front line frequently, spotlighting his horns and fellow vocalists. When he segued into the sweaty dance club for “My Love,” he brought his guitarist to the front for an epic solo.
When he took his first break immediately afterward, he called his crew “the best band in the world.” Then he took a moment to celebrate the fact that the Dodgers are in the world series. His enthusiasm about the Astros’ rival elicited far more groans than cheers from the Texas crowd. “Go ahead,” he said, indulging them for a minute, then quipping “now shut up.”
He didn’t spend a whole lot of time on talk, but he dedicated an emotional rendition of “Until the End of Time” to Houston. “We are stronger together. I love each and every one of you,” he said, before playing the song seated at the piano while beautiful points of light played across the air above the crowd. Afterward, he asked the crowd to put two fingers in the air for Houston and for Las Vegas.
One of the emotional high points of the show came a few songs later. He acknowledged that Stevie Wonder would headline the following night and paid tribute to the R&B legend by mashing up “My Cherie Amour” with a slowed down version of “What Goes Around…Comes Around” beautifully orchestrated with Timberlake on acoustic guitar.
“No more of that sappy (expletive),” he said at the end and then he kicked it into high gear to take the set out with a thrill ride of hits.”Rock Your Body” turned the party vibes up. Then Timberlake released the sunshine in his pocket and “Can’t Stop the Feeling” turned into the biggest singalong of the night. Just when we were feeling warm and wholesome, he reminded us that “Sexyback” is one of the greatest nasty club bangers of all time.
He finished with a sweeping climatic version of “Mirrors.” As the song came to an end, standing on stage, surrounded by some of the best touring musicians in the business, he seemed swept up in the moment. Looking directly into the eyes of some of the fans in the front row who cheered wildly, he said,”This is what we need in the world. Right here. Right now.”
Then he and his crew took a bow, leaving the mass of people buzzing with good vibes.
Around the time that broadcast was winding down, live tribute shows in two Austin clubs were gearing up. At One-2-One Bar, the Damn Torpedoes, an Austin band that has been playing Petty’s songs for years, held forth with special guest Patricia Vonne. We headed over to Hole in the Wall, where Petty Thieves, who formed around a year ago, were holding forth with a half-dozen guest singers sitting in. Check out the video above for a dozen highlights from two-plus hours of Petty classics.
As fate would have it, we began our Tom Petty Day on the phone with Chris Hillman, the Byrds co-founder and Rock and Roll Hall of Famer whose new album “Bidin’ My Time” was the last record Petty ever produced. Hillman will perform Nov. 10 at the Texas Union Theater with his longtime cohorts Herb Pedersen and John Jorgenson. We’ll have more of that interview in the American-Statesman soon, but here’s a brief excerpt:
“Tom was a good producer, and a good man. I’ve known him sort of since 1978, but I really got to know him in the first couple months of this year” (while making the record). “It was hard to look at Tom Petty as a rock star. He was so humble; I never saw that in him. And I have very little tolerance for that rock star thing. They did this article in Mojo magazine, and they interviewed Tom, and he said, about me, ‘You know, Chris, he’s just a consummate musician, I don’t think he ever liked show business; he didn’t really want to be around it.’ And I looked at that, and I said, he’s absolutely right. That’s right, I just never cared much about that. And I don’t think he did either. He was totally into the music.”
Fastball’s Miles Zuniga, who closed out Friday’s Hole in the Wall show just past midnight with Petty’s heartfelt ballad “The Best of Everything,” echoed those sentiments as he noted how personal Petty’s death seems to have been. As hard as fans may have taken last year’s deaths of Prince and David Bowie, it was different with Petty precisely because he always seemed so approachable and un-godlike.
“You couldn’t be Prince. You couldnt’ be Bowie,” Zuniga summed up. “But you could be Petty.”
Back in 2011, when Wonder headlined the Austin City Limits Music Festival, Statesman contributor Chad Swiatecki asked local artists about the impact the R&B kingpin had on their musical development. Here are their responses from the story that originally ran on Sept. 17, 2011.
Thomas Turner, drummer, multi-instrumentalist in Ghostland Observatory
Austin360: What makes Stevie so special?
Pretty much the overall feeling of everything he does, that feeling of Stevie that is so different. There’s lots of soul there, of course, and as his career went on he wasn’t afraid to experiment with things like the Tonto, which was one of the first modular synths and this huge thing that was the size of like a garage, and he used it on “Innervisions.” I remember hearing him on the radio growing up, which wasn’t uncommon at the time, but when I was getting into music my dad’s neighbor was the one who told me to really start checking him out, and I started talking with him about what Stevie did and how ahead of everyone else he was.
As a lyricist, what makes him special?
I love the words and descriptions he puts into songs because this is someone who can’t see saying these things. You listen to all of the things he’s putting into the songs, and it’s so vivid you can’t believe he was never able to see. In “Living for the City” he’s talking about the mom on the ground scrubbing floors and how his sister is wearing a short skirt on legs that are sturdy. It’s just amazing.
I like “Yester-Me Yester-You Yesterday, ” because it’s a song where if the words were changed just a little bit you’d absolutely think it was a church hymnal that’s really touching. I like that he was able to pull off that kind of versatility.
Jonathan ‘Chaka’ Mahone, MC in Riders Against the Storm
When did you first become aware of how important Stevie Wonder was as an artist?
I think it was a song like “I Just Called to Say I Love You”; that’s the kind of song where I would hear it as a kid, but wasn’t aware of where it came from. What did it was when he was on “The Cosby Show.” My family didn’t spend a whole lot of time together growing up, but we made time every week to watch that show, so when he was on there doing that song, that was big. That mattered. I didn’t know he had started as such a young artist, and he’s now in there the same way George Clinton or James Brown are considered timeless. You could take his music to anyone at any point in time and they’d be moved by him.
What’s his effect on contemporary musicians?
Every hip-hop artist who’s a student of music looks up to Stevie Wonder and he obviously influenced a lot of the neo-soul movement with artists like Musiq Soulchild, Angie Stone, D’Angelo and Maxwell. They all took something from him. A lot of the inspiration is because he’s always had such a unique voice and feels like a chosen spirit, like he’s come here from some other place to enlighten and uplift us.
He managed to be political at times during the height of his career but stayed popular. How did he do it?
He called out the U.S. government on things like Vietnam with a song like “They Won’t Go When I Go, ” but he was also subtle about it. Lots of his music was subtle about being on the side of the oppressed and standing for unity. He was never so far as being a Black Nationalist, but he definitely spoke out about apartheid and Vietnam and even though he didn’t speak out often, he was never quiet.
“As, ” first of all because it was my wedding song. It just captures the feeling of being in love with someone, and it’s very joyous. Lots of his work was in gospel and you can see him drawing from that. …
Mark `Speedy’ Gonzales, trombone player, Grupo Fantasma
What’s your first memory of Stevie’s music?
I was born in ’72 when he was releasing some of those first big albums, when he was all over the radio. I was a big music fan and the more I studied music, the more I realized how his writing, his singing and playing were so far different from everything else. I still use him as a reference point when I’m writing my music, and obviously for my own enjoyment. I’ll use something like the structure if I’m trying to come up with something from scratch, just to see what he did and see what kind of inspiration and insight I get from it.
What’s special or unique about the way he composed songs?
The biggest thing is his use of chord progressions, and the way he put melodies over them so they sound so beautiful. A song like “You Are the Sunshine of My Life, ” it has a very simple sounding chord progression, but there’s a lot going on there, and it’s deceptive in how it’s put together. Being able to get the feel down of his songs is the toughest part of playing them. The rhythm of a song like “Superstition, ” everybody plays it but almost nobody gets it right.
When you see him, what do you hope he plays?
I almost don’t care. Any of it. I’ll love every song that could possibly come up in a concert like that. There are certain artists who every song they play is something that you love, and you realize that what you’re hearing was a No. 1 hit at one time. And with him it just won’t end. He’s my favorite artist of all time.
Nakia Reynoso, rock/R&B singer, competitor on NBC’s `The Voice’
When did Stevie Wonder first matter to you?
It happened when I was a kid listening to the radio and those ’80s pop hits like “I Just Called to Say I Love You” and “Part Time Lover.” I remember at that time I was so stunned by his voice and just tuned in on it. In high school I got some anthology of his work, and all the early music on there blew my mind because he was so dedicated to his ideas and what he does. When you look at the arc of his career, you see moments where he’s dedicated to putting out this pop product that is still very good, and other times where he’s only worried about making himself happy and doing what he’s inspired by.
Can you explain how intricate lots of Stevie Wonder songs are?
It seems like a lot of people overlook that just listening to him. For a long time my band did “Signed, Sealed, Delivered” and the cadence of that song is so tough. Or to sing something like “Sir Duke” . . . you just have to be on the very top of your game, but when you get it, it feels so great. If you’re going to sing one of those early period songs where the choruses are so driving, you have to have a group behind you that is strong enough to have an amazing rhythmic pocket. That’s what does it, and if you don’t have that, then forget it.
You saw him live recently in Hollywood. What should people expect?
It was my first time seeing him live and it was fantastic. That’s the only word for it. When he kicked into “Superstition” and “Higher Ground” it was like 18,000 people had been taken to another planet all at once. People who see him at ACL are in for a legendary performance.
Joe Woullard, baritone sax player for Hard Proof and Black Joe Lewis
What does Stevie mean to you?
He’s one of the greatest ever as a player, writer and a composer, and there aren’t many people who have done so many things in so many areas. He was the first to bring that heavy funk and Afrobeat and gospel influences into popular music. He introduced me to a lot of that, and as I get more into African music and artists like Fela Kuti, I’d find things that reminded me of what I’d heard on “Higher Ground, ” like those triplet rhythms versus a regular 4/4 (rock) beat. You can say that his popular music was never dumb, and that’s a compliment. He never confined himself to one genre or approach, and as he became more successful, he brought more things in, even though lots of people told him there’s no way he could make a pop song out of something like “Sir Duke, ” which has these long, Duke Ellington-style solos.
I have a strong affection for “As” because it has such an unusual structure, it’s long and it just goes into a jam. It feels like an emotional high on that album (“Songs in the Key of Life”), like he’s giving his pledge to someone special, and if you were the recipient of those words, you’d feel pretty great.