Here’s a rewarding exercise: Assemble a playlist of songs by recently dead musicians. This list will almost certainly be random, and in the case of those who died in 2013, it could hardly be more so.
Reg Presley, of the ’60s garage band the Troggs, famous for their version of “Wild Thing,” died in February. Slim Whitman, whose career evolved from cowboy crooner to punch line, died having sold more than 70 million records. Richie Havens, whose great claim and burden was to have been first onstage at Woodstock, died in April. The list would include Eydie Gorme; the jazz trumpeter Donald Byrd; Risë Stevens, the opera singer who owned “Carmen” at the Metropolitan Opera in the ’40s and ’50s; Alan Myers, Devo’s drummer; J. J. Cale, George Jones, Bobby (Blue) Bland.
It’s not what you would call a coherent mix. But when these artists are removed from their usual context — classic rock radio, say, or the Met — surprising sounds emerge from music you thought you knew back to front. For instance: The relationship between Whitman’s high-lonesome yodel and Stevens’s vaulting mezzo is not obvious. But in the ear buds, played back to back, they make an inspired pair. Within this artificial framework, you have a chance to hear their songs as if for the first time. Read on: http://nyti.ms/1i322Ym
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