Nobel Prize winner Bob Dylan, now 75, was 19 when he arrived in Greenwich Village in the bitter cold winter of 1961. Although Dylan creates fascinating music to this day, he made his boldest mark in the early to mid-sixties, when he transformed the pop soundscape with his matchless topical songs, signature symbolist imagery and leap from acoustic music to raw rock ‘n’ roll.
In Dylan’s early career, a smart, confident, determined musician/myth-maker emerges. So does a charged era, from the Folk Revival to the Freedom Rides. Vivid characters – from Joan Baez to Allen Ginsberg to the brash, funny, enigmatic Dylan himself – parade by. And the great songs ring out: “A Hard Rain’s a-Gonna Fall,” “Mr. Tambourine Man,” “Like a Rolling Stone” and more.
Peter King, a well-known Pittsburgh guitar teacher, performer and journalist, will supplement lecture, recordings and videos with his own guitar playing to tell the story of this true American iconoclast.
Quiet Fire – The Music of James Taylor
Hear a few notes from his guitar, and you know it’s James Taylor. Now 68, the writer of “Fire and Rain,” “Don’t Let Me Be Lonely Tonight” and “Carolina in My Mind” has influenced pop, folk and country music with his unique sense of jazz-tinged chords and syncopated rhythms. Taylor’s back with a brand-new CD, “Before This World.” As with his earlier work, the melodies and harmonies go down easy, but a closer listen reveals nuance, surprise and understated power – qualities that have endeared him not only to fans but to peers including Yo-Yo Ma, Pat Metheny and Mark Knopfler.
Taylor’s socially conscious, sometimes tormented soul has shown itself in songs about drug addiction (“A Junkie’s Lament”) the First Gulf War (“Slap Leather”) and Martin Luther King (“Shed a Little Light”). Other songs draw on his brother’s death (“Enough to Be on Your Way”), his difficult relationship with his father (“Walking Man”) and his family’s seafaring past (“The Frozen Man.”)
Performer, guitar teacher and music journalist Peter King will explore what makes Taylor’s music so original, from his debut Apple LP till today. Through guided listening to Taylor’s recordings as well as to songs played live by the instructor on his guitar, the class will gain a deeper appreciation of the art of Sweet Baby James.
The Beatles in Their Prime: Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper
Fifty years have passed since The Beatles first hit No. 1 in America with “I Want to Hold Your Hand.” The group rocketed to unimaginable success, forever altering the course of popular music.
From 1965 to 1967, The Beatles released three albums that are generally regarded as their best: “Rubber Soul,” “Revolver” and “Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band.”
“The Fab Four’s Big Three” focuses on these three landmark recordings – why they still sound catchy, innovative and even profound almost a half-century after they were made.
Through guided listening to the recordings, as well as examples played by the instructor on guitar, the presentation will explore the following topics:
- Tricks and tropes of the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team
- The role of producer George Martin, sometimes called “The Fifth Beatle”
- The group’s innovative use of emerging recording studio technology.
- How the band was influenced by musique concrete, Indian ragas, Bob Dylan and the Beach Boys.
- How cultural currents of the 1960s, from drugs to Eastern religions, shaped The Beatles, and vice-versa.
- The complex personalities and relationships behind the music.
Peter King is a guitar teacher, performer and lecturer who lives in Aspinwall, Pa. He worked as a pop and jazz music critic at The Pittsburgh Press and the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and earned an M.A. in guitar performance at Duquesne University. He has released two CDs, “The Road to Ubatuba” and “Dancing on a Long Leash.”
The Sounds of Simon
Fifty-one years ago this October, a song called “The Sounds of Silence” made its debut on a little-noticed album called “Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.” by Simon and Garfunkel. Months later producer Tom Wilson added electric guitar, bass and pounding drums to the track. The song was released as a single in September, 1965 and became a No. 1 hit.
Songwriter and guitarist Paul Simon, now 75, had started performing with singer Art Garfunkel when they were still school kids in Queens. As Tom and Jerry, they recorded the minor hit “Hey, Schoolgirl.” Simon would go on to produce an extraordinary body of work, first with Garfunkel and then as a solo. From “Bridge Over Troubled Water” to “Still Crazy After All These Years” to “Graceland,” Simon explored diverse musical styles marked by memorable melodies and literate, inventive, profound insights into the human condition.
Through recordings, discussion and live music, “The Sounds of Simon” touches on Simon’s many triumphs, as well as disappointments and controversies. It's a brief but penetrating look at Simon’s long, illustrious career.