Friday, October 05, 2012

An obscure gem

Turley Richards, I have recently discovered, is an awesome vocal talent. Now in his 70s, he's still performing and teaching voice, but mainstream commercial success has always just eluded him - although it seems that he enjoys something of a cult following, including a number of celebrity admirers in the music world (Fleetwood Mac drummer Mick Fleetwood produced and played on his 1980 album Therfu; I was led to check out some of his music on Youtube by this interview with Mick I was reading last weekend, in which he mentions one of the Therfu tracks as amongst the 11 favourite things he's recorded in his long career). You can check out Turley's own website to find out what he's been up to lately.

This might have been the moment when he came closest to breaking out into major fame: an appearance on the Johnny Carson Show in the late '60s, when he was 28 years old.

He's singing Gershwin's Summertime*, which some might object doesn't quite fit into the concept of my ongoing 'Blues Week' on here; but I've always felt it was pretty bluesy (though it was written in the early '30s, somewhat before the classic blues had emerged, at least as a recorded music). And I find some support from the musicologist K. J. McElrath, who writes on the Jazz Standards website"Gershwin was remarkably successful in his intent to have this sound like a folk song. This is reinforced by his extensive use of the pentatonic scale (C-D-E-G-A) in the context of the A minor tonality and a slow-moving harmonic progression that suggests a 'blues'."

* Trivia note: I hadn't previously known that the lyrics are credited to DuBose Hayward, the author of the novel Porgy on which Gershwin's well-loved opera was based.

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