Music of The Beats & Opinions on Jay-Z

Jim and Greg talk about the intersection of rock and Beat poetry with Beat scholar Simon Warner.

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Greg spoke to Lauryn Hill in 1999, a year after the release of her Grammy-winning solo album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. If you had told him then that 14 years later she’d be in prison, he would’ve gasped. But the former Fugees singer began serving a three-month prison sentence on Monday for failing to pay about $1 million in taxes over the past decade. Here a Danbury inmate offers her some advice.

Music of the Beat Generation

If you read On the Road in high school, you know a thing or two about the Beat movement’s influence on literature. This week, Text and Drugs and Rock ‘n’ Roll author Simon Warner wants to get you thinking about the Beat influence on rock. Forget the stereotypical bongos; Warner says Beat fathers like Allen Ginsberg and Jack Kerouac were most inspired by Harlem’s avant-garde jazz invention, Bebop. Warner makes the case that the Beats influenced a whole generation of rock lyricists - Bob Dylan and John Lennon among them - to embrace a more surrealist, personal, and politically engaged approach to lyric-writing. Think of Subterranean Homesick Blues, he says, as Beat poetry with a, well, beat. But while Ginsberg and Kerouac struck a chord with the hippie generation, it was Beat colleague William S. Burroughs who served as guru to the later musical avant-garde. 1970’s punks Jim Carroll and Patti Smith, and alternative era stars like Kurt Cobain and Sonic Youth, all made pilgrimages to Burroughs’ NYC bunker-apartment to pay their respects to Old Bull Lee. Burroughs’ cut up writing technique may still inspire wordsmiths from Bowie to Thom Yorke, but Jim thinks it’s Kerouac whose legacy may ultimately be the most lasting. It’s that writer’s spirit of adventure, Jim says, that continues to motivate every indie band still on the road.

Magna Carta Holy Grail Jay-Z

Magna Carta... Holy Grail

Jay-Z was the first to point out that he’s not just a businessman, but a business, man. He’s sold 50 million records in the past two decades and is valued at almost half a billion dollars. And with this latest album, Magna Carta Holy Grail, he sold a million albums to Samsung before the actual release date. So you cannot argue with Jay’s success. But, what about the music? Jim hears a lot of complaining and a lot of bragging. The only reason for his Burn It rating is the terrific sounding production from people like Timbaland and Swizz Beats. Greg thinks Hova is just coasting on this record. There’s no emotional depth and no reason you shouldn’t Trash It.

Jim

Jim’s been thinking about Summer Songs this season and remembers being 7-years old on the New Jersey boardwalk and hearing Uncle Albert/Admiral Halsey, by Paul and Linda McCartney. The Ram track is cheesy, to be sure, but man did McCartney have a way with hooks. Jim has no idea what the lyrics mean-are they about drugs? WWII?-but the song deserves a place in the Desert Island Jukebox.

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