Roky Erickson, Dr. John & Jim DeRogatis on R. Kelly

Roky

Roky Erickson and his group the 13th Floor Elevators spread the psychedelic gospel in the heart of Texas in the 1960s and influenced groups like R.E.M. and ZZ Top. After a tumultuous life that included a long battle with schizophrenia, Roky died last month at 71. Jim and Greg pay tribute this week on Sound Opinions. Plus, Greg interviews Jim about what he learned about the nature of music in 19 years of investigating R. Kelly and they say goodbye to Dr. John.

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Soulless: The Case Against R. Kelly

R Kelly

One of the foundational tenets of Sound Opinions is that music is powerful and, in the best cases, music can save your life. We rarely talk about the flip side of a life saved by rock and roll on Sound Opinions, but the release of Jim’s book Soulless: The Case Against R.Kelly, Jim and Greg thought it was time to examine one of those stories. In 19 years of investigating R. Kelly, Jim has found that Kelly used this same power of music for his own malevolent ends.

Jim and Greg also discuss how music critics and journalists have played a part in minimizing R.Kelly’s alleged misdeeds in the name of his talent. What obligation does the music community have to learn about the personal lives of musical heroes?

Roky Erickson and The 13th Floor Elevators

roky

Roky Erickson was a psychedelic pioneer who kept bouncing back to music despite many tragic challenges throughout his life. With The 13th Floor Elevators he helped spread drug-assisted enlightenment in one of the least accepting places in America: 1960s Texas. After their single You’re Gonna Miss Me became a national hit, The Elevators appeared on American Bandstand and amassed a significant following, largely on the strength of Erickson’s vocals. Combining elements of Little Richard, James Brown and Buddy Holly, Greg says Erickson had a punk rock approach to music as early as 1965.

With a larger audience came closer scrutiny, especially from Texas law enforcement. Roky was busted for drug possession twice in the late 60s and plead insanity to avoid a lengthy prison sentence. Over his four year stay in Rusk State Hospital, Erickson battled schizophrenia and underwent electroconvulsive therapy. By the mid-70s Erickson was out of the institution and returned with darker music exploring paranormal and horror movie themes.

After another run-in with the law (this time for mail theft), long-time Elevators fan turned music publicist, Bill Bentley, organized a fundraising tribute album: Where The Pyramid Meets The Eye. From that album’s release in 1990 until his death last month, the music community of Austin, Texas (including Okkervil River, Butthole Surfers and ZZ Top) shared the duty of supporting Erickson with his family, helping him thrive as a musician until the end.

Dr. John

drjohn

On June 6, musician and songwriter Dr. John died at age 77. The Right Place, Wrong Time singer began his career as a session musician and later became a solo artist, winning six Grammys for his unique blend of the blues, rock and jazz. Jim and Greg bid farewell to the New Orleans’ original and speak about his storied career and rocky life journey.

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