BONUS TRACKS: Joni Mitchell’s Big Week, Inside Pop Stars’ Private Gigs, and Talking About the Numbers
Joni Mitchell accepts the Grammy for Best Historical Album for "Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 1: The Early Years (1963-1967)" in this screenshot from a livestream of the 64th Annual Grammy Awards.
A couple weeks back I told you about MusiCares’ Music on a Mission event, which included a celebration of Joni Mitchell being named the musician-supporting nonprofit organization’s 2022 Person of the Year. I hope you tuned in, because Mitchell performed on stage for the first time in nearly a decade. She joined in on a sing-along to her songs “The Circle Game” and “Big Yellow Taxi” with Brandi Carlile, Cyndi Lauper, Jon Batiste, Stephen Stills, and other musicians who were on hand to honor her throughout the event. You can watch a video of her performance in this article from Stereogum. A few days later, last Sunday, Mitchell introduced a performance by Carlile at the Grammy Awards, alongside Bonnie Raitt, and won a Grammy herself for Best Historical Album, for Joni Mitchell Archives, Vol. 1, The Early Years (1963-1967). If you happened to miss this year’s Grammy winners, we’ve got your list (as least as it pertains to roots music) right here.
The top names in pop music make headlines touring arenas and headlining big festivals, but many of them have an additional income stream that they work hard to keep out of the public gaze: private concerts. Rolling Stone has an interesting inside look at the world of corporate events, yacht parties, weddings, and more, and why some artists are willing to accept those gigs (OK, money, but there are other reasons, too) but aren’t too keen on talking about them.
On the other end of the music economy spectrum, we have a Stereogum report shedding some light on the low pay and tough conditions that indie artists often must endure just to bring their music to fans. It all started when an indie rock band called Wednesday tweeted the numbers behind their recent tour through the Southern US, including a stop at SXSW. They made money at most of their gigs — but not always enough to offset the costs of gas and lodging. (They didn’t even figure in food or the booking agent’s cut for this exercise.) At the end of the tour, they were in the hole almost $100. It’s just the sort of conversation and disclosure that needs to happen more, according to roots music artist and No Depression columnist Rachel Baiman, who wrote about this very issue — and how keeping silent about it can help perpetuate the problem — in her The Long Haul column last month titled “Let’s Talk About the Numbers.”
Back in 1976, a very different truck convoy was on people’s minds than the misguided ones hitting the brakes on their rigs and good sense recently. That year, the song “Convoy” by C.W. McCall was a No. 1 crossover hit all over the airwaves, bringing trucker culture (including phrases like “10-4, good buddy” and a CB radio craze) into the zeitgeist. C.W. McCall was actually a character created a few years before by William Dale Fries Jr., who worked at an ad agency in Omaha and did not, in fact, drive a truck at all. The first ad Fries wrote with an 18-wheeler-themed jingle was a hit, so he kept the character and the truck theme going and submitted the songs for radio, eventually landing a hit with “Convoy,” which topped country and pop charts and was placed at 98 on Rolling Stone’s list of the 100 Greatest Country Songs of All Time. Fries died earlier this month at age 93 after battling cancer, his family said. Read more about Fries, C.W. McCall, and the story behind “Convoy” in this remembrance from Rolling Stone. RIP, good buddy.
WHAT WE’RE LISTENING TO
Here’s a sampling of the songs, albums, bands, and sounds No Depression staffers have been into this week:
Jon Batiste – We Are
Johnny Irion – “Norman Rockwell Blues”
John Craigie – “Distance”
Tobacco City – “Never on My Mind”
S.G. Goodman – “All My Love Is Coming Back to Me,” from her new album, Teeth Marks, coming in June
Tody Castillo – Old Rodriguez
Nathaniel Rateliff – And It’s Still Alright
Daniel Norgren – Skogens Frukter
Shovels & Rope – “The Show” (in which the duo shows they can write and play music, and dance to it as well!)