Everything. Is. Derivative.


!!! Warning !!! The following may be unsuitable to those persons not as musically obsessed as the author.

Hyde Musicians – Clockwise from upper right (w/Chris Chickering ’88 in center): Bailey Kent ’18, Zach Hurd ’99 of Bay Ledges, Georgia Hurd ’03, Mark Radcliffe (former faculty), Adam Stern ’02, Liah Alonso ’98, John Hiatt (alum parent), Matt Newberg (former faculty)

At the beginning of our Studio Hyde music class, I asked each student to write a personal musical history paper where they identified their own musical faves and influences.  I then responded to each student with a personalized selection of songs and musicians to check out.  My main point in doing this was to be consistent with my own 3-word theory of music: Everything. Is. Derivative.

I explained that none of the songs on our “Studio Hyde 5/20” playlist popped up out of nowhere. In fact, when I listen to just about anything, I hear…

  • Chain-bound men, singing aboard a ship bound for the Americas;
  • Sharecroppers breaking the tedium of the cotton fields with song;
  • Robert Johnson moving from “The Crossroads” to the juke joint;
  • A New Orleans funeral march;
  • Muddy Waters plugging into an outlet on Chicago’s south side;
  • Vagabond vaudeville acts rambling from town-to-town;
  • Doo Wop singers on NYC stoops;
  • A small town church choir;
  • Count Basie, Duke Ellington, or Glen Miller holding court with their orchestras;
  • Jimmy Rodgers, The Carter Family, and Hank Williams barn-storming the South;
  • Single-named songbirds Aretha, Bessie, Billie, Ella, and Judy;
  • And while we’re on single-named stars, jazz is endless w/ Bix, Diz, Duke, Fats, Monk, Miles, Mingus, etc.;
  • Crooners Rudy Vallee, Nat King Cole, Tony Bennett, and Sinatra;
  • Ray Charles bringing some church to the nightclub;
  • Rockers Elvis, Chuck, (Little) Richard, and Jerry (Lee);
  • The British “invasion” of mod, mop-topped drum/bass/lead rhythm combos;
  • A Grandmaster rising from the South Bronx to bring “The Message” to The World.

Every sound came from somewhere. So, after considering the influences described in the Musical History papers, here are some tunes personalized for each student — with names changed to protect the innocent or guilty, whatever the case may be — all deserving of an attentive ear, and all of which can be found on the Studio Hyde 5/20 Spotify playlist. (When the student noted an instrument of choice, I note this in parentheses.)

A-Squared Alto (saxophone) – “Giant Steps” by John Coltrane, the iconic title track from his 1960 classic album… “Pieces of Dreams” by Stanley Turrentine (1974) serves up an uplifting, make-you-wanna-be-a-better person vibe… “The Sad Cafe” by The Eagles (w/David Sanborn, a high demand session musician) off The Long Run (1979). Ostensibly about the Troubadour (a famous LA music hall), it is also about the lost promise of a generation. (An “OK, Boomer” anthem, if you will)  Although Sanborn’s alto sax doesn’t show up until the last minute, it stands as one of the best examples of the instrument in rock… “Can’t You Hear Me Knocking?” by The Rolling Stones.  Bobby Keys, another famous session man, played sax on a number of their albums. His solo on this Sticky Fingers (1971) track shows up at the halfway point of the song.  (FWIW, the guitar work here by Keith Richards and Mick Taylor is oft cited as the finest on any Stones song.)… “Always There” by Ronnie Laws (Off Pressure Sensitive, 1975). While the sax tends to be an instrument of accompaniment, this flat-out kick-ass piece shows how it can also be front-and-center. “Compared to What” by Les McCann and Eddie Harris – Off Swiss Movement – Live at Montreaux (1969).  While McCann’s powerful lyrics are the song’s mainstay, listen for Harris’ sax on one of the most popular jazz/soul albums of all time. “Try to make it real compared to what?!?”

Charm City 88s (piano) – Give a listen to Ben Folds: “Zak and Sara” rocks.  “One Angry Dwarf and 200 Solemn Faces” shows his irreverent side. (I have no doubt that he and Bragg would have tangled had Folds enrolled at Hyde.) “Brick” shows his slower side. (It is also his biggest song on Spotify with 25M hits.)  “Uncle Walter” is a rocker about a crazy uncle. (Doesn’t every family have an Uncle Walter?) “Philosophy” is one of his classics… On “Jessica” by Allman Brothers Band, Chuck Leavell delivers what some consider the greatest piano solo in rock history. (Wait until the 2:30 mark for it.) Having played with the likes of the Stones, Clapton, George Harrison, John Mayer, Leavell is probably the greatest rock session pianist ever… Johnnie B. Bad by Johnnie Johnson is an excellent album by Chuck Berry’s piano player featuring special guests like Keith Richards. Love the opener: “Tanqueray.”… (Bonus: Ben Sidran’s fun and bouncy “Piano Players” somehow manages to name-check over 50 pianists you should get to know.)

Portu Gal (singer/songwriter/ukulele – “Speed of the Sound of Loneliness” finds Nanci Griffith giving great cover to a John Prine song, an all-time great, recently lost to Covid 19… “Pedestrian at Best” by Courtney Barnett, an Aussie singer/songwriter of incredible style range. After listening to this upbeat rockish number, check out “Avant Gardener” for her darker, chiller side… “Strange Fruit” by Billie Holiday. The angriest protest song ever recorded. (Suffice it to say that lynching was not exactly an easy topic for anyone, let alone an African-American singer, to cover in 1930s Jim Crow America.)  Check out the film “Lady Sings the Blues” (1972) starring Diana Ross as Holiday and a young Richard Pryor as her pianist/fellow heroin addict… “Stop This World” by Chrissie Hynde.  Hynde, who came to fame as lead singer of The Pretenders, covers a Mose Allison (1927-2016) classic… “Mack the Knife” by Ella Fitzgerald (1960). This song was a huge hit by Bobby Darin and was covered by many singers of that time. This particular track is noteworthy because of Ella’s incredible improvisation after she forgets the words… “Moonlight” by Grace VanderWaal. Would never have believed that a ukulele song could gather 83M Spotify hits!… Thanks for turning me on to Dodie. “Sick of Losing Soulmates” is hauntingly captivating.

Johann Sebastian (guitar) – When I heard your impressive guitar work last year in the Union, I made a mental note that I need to connect you with Peter Ciluzzi ‘93. Until that happens, check out “Spring at Last,” an acoustic instrumental off his album Still Without Words (2016)…  You mentioned The Ink Spots as an influence. Very cool that their “Address Unknown” popped up on an episode of Better Call Saul… I hear a lot of Ink Spots in the Temptations and the Four Tops. After giving a listen to the Temps “My Girl,” get Tom Bragg to do his version for you… Tough to beat “It’s the Same Old Song” by the Four Tops… As for Billie Holiday, listen to her version of “All of Me” (w/Eddie Heywood Orchestra)… and then hit up Diana Ross covering it on the Lady Sings the Blues soundtrack… If you like Green Day, you might enjoy comparing their version of The Who’s “My Generation” with the original… As for ragtime, if you like Scott Joplin’s “Maple Leaf Rag,” you might check out the soundtrack to the 1974 film The Sting… Finally, if you want to hear an incredible guitar range, listen to Bill Kirchen’s “Hot Rod Lincoln” and be sure to wait until the middle of the song where he masterfully mimics 45 different well known guitarists!

A Portion of the Obsessed Author’s T-Shirt Collection

Boise Gal (singer/songwriter) – When I think of Lady Gaga, I first think of Madonna. I never tire of her first big hit: “Borderline” off her 1983 debut album… Then I think of Lady Gs amazing versatility and range as evidenced in her collaborations with Tony Bennet.  After you listen to their awesome version of “It Don’t Mean a Thing (If It Ain’t Got That Swing,” check out Duke Ellington’s original… Then, after working with Tony, she shows her country chops with Bradley Cooper on A Star is Born. (“Shallow” has over a billion – billion with a “b” – Spotify hits!)… When Ben Burlock ’12 died due to a tragic accident as a sophomore at Tulane University, I joined scores of Hyde folks at his memorial service in San Francisco. I will never forget the instrumental version of the Modest Mouse song “Missed the Boat” that the ensemble did. (I’m still trying to track that instrumental down and will post it on Studio Hyde 5/20 if I can find it.)  Whenever I hear that song, I think of Ben.

Texas Trombone (trombone) – “My Blue Heaven” by Glenn Miller Orchestra. (Miller was a trombone player turned big band leader.)… “In the Neighborhood” by the inimitable Tom Waits off his Swordfishtrombones (1983) album and featuring, not one, but 2 trombonists: Dick “Slyde” Hyde and Bill Reichenbach… “Don’t Do It” and “W. S. Walcott Medicine Show” off The Band’s Rock of Ages (1972) album may be the best fusion of horns – including trombonist Earl McIntire – and rock that I have ever heard. Listen to Robbie Robertson introducing “the best horn men in New York” to the audience… “Beginnings” by Chicago. Off Chicago Transit Authority (1969, debut album), featuring James Pankow on trombone… “Music Goes ‘Roun and Around” by NRBQ. A tribute to horn players everywhere: “Push the other valve down, and the music goes round and ‘round… Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah, Yeah,Yeah… and it comes out HERE!”

Dirigo Drummer (drums) – If you like Rage Against the Machine and CSNY, you may like “He Got Game” by Public Enemy (co-written with Stephen Stills, the S in CSNY)… Although System of a Down might claim to have no influences, I hear some Frank Zappa (e.g., “Joe’s Garage”) in there… Your “holy trinity” was not only influenced by The Yardbirds, both Eric Clapton and Jimmy Page were once members before leading Cream and Zep.  Check out “For Your Love.”… Jimi Hendrix had many influences, including Elmore James (“Dust My Broom”), Albert King (“Born Under a Bad Sign”), and Muddy Waters (“Mannish Boy”). In fact, he once said, “The first guitarist I was aware of was Muddy Waters. I heard one of his old records when I was a little boy and it scared me to death.”… For something new, check out Little Village, a one album 1992 collaboration of 4 old pros: Ry Cooder, John Hiatt, Nick Lowe, and, Jim Keltner. Cooder’s slide guitar and vocals on “The Action” are top drawer and Hiatt’s vocals are great on full tilt rocker “She Runs Hot.” Keltner, widely considered the best session drummer in the game, is perfection personified from start to finish… And if you can stand one more: “Too Many Dirty Dishes” by Albert Collins – “The Master of the Telecaster” – for the sheer fact that he actually manages to make a guitar sound like a man washing dishes.

Alexandria – Was not familiar with Winnetka Bowling League, but have really enjoyed listening to them this month.  “Slow Dances” and “CVS” are high on my “Like” list… I read that they were influenced by Elvis Costello and can see a connection to his “Veronica.”… Emma Lee’s “TV Head” is both interesting and unique… The San Francisco Chronicle described The Avett Brothers as reflecting “the heavy sadness of Townes Van Zandt, the light pop concision of Buddy Holly, the tuneful jangle of the Beatles, the raw energy of the Ramones.” Wow! That’s saying a lot!  So, here’s one classic song each from those four musical icons: “Poncho & Lefty” (TVZ. You might also check out Emmylou Harris’ cover.)… “That’ll Be the Day” (Holly)… “Paperback Writer” (Beatles)… “Rock & Roll High School” (Ramones).  I always thought we should do that Ramones number in a Hyde P.A. show, but I would make one change: Turn the chorus into “Rock, Rock, Rock, Rock & Roll Hyde School!”

Mantucket (Trumpet) – Both you and A-squared Alto mentioned Post Malone. It was interesting to me that he calls Bob Dylan’s “Subterranean Homesick Blues” the first ever rap song.  That song was a huge part of the soundtrack for my freshman year at Hyde… There never would have been an Enimen without a Grandmaster Flash (“The Message”) or a Sugar Hill Gang (“Rapper’s Delight.”)… Speaking of the pioneer rappers, music legend Quincy Jones pulled a bunch of them together for his landmark mid-90s album Back on the Block. Check out the title track. Listen for Ice-T, a big Post Malone influence… So glad you mentioned Louis Armstrong. As a kid, my parents had a great album called Ella and Louis Together Again (1957). Their excellent version of “Gee, Baby, Ain’t I Good to You” showcases Louis’ horn and the awesome vocal capabilities of the genius that was Louis Armstrong and Ella Fitzgerald… And, of course, I cannot think of a better way to end my recommendations to all of you than Satchmo’s “What a Wonderful World.”

In closing, special thanks to all our Hyde alums/friends who shared their music with our class on Studio Hyde. The tunes by them that we discussed can be found on our Studio Hyde 5/20 Spotify Playlist:

– “Blueprint” by Stealing Oceans (Brian Thompson ’06)

Brian Thompson ’06 and Matt Seiple ’10, front man and manager, respectively, of Stealing Oceans


– “Light to the Universe” by Liah Alonso ‘98

– “What the Hell Are We Doing?” by Adam Stern ‘02

– “Safe” and “I Wonder” by Bay Ledges (Zach Hurd ’99)

– “Start a Landslide” by Mark Radcliffe

– “Drive South” by John Hiatt

– “In Between” by Matt Newberg

– “When You’re Gone”and “Do It Now” by Chris Chickering

– “Limits” by Georgia Hurd ‘03

– “The Happy Song” by Bailey Kent ’18 (Live!)

(Rock) Onward, MWG