Last month, we reported an exciting piece of news for blues fans: Texas-based forensic artist Lois Gibson had authenticated a previously unknown photograph of musical legend Robert Johnson, of whom only two photographs had previously been verified. Like many other media outlets, we ran with the stor Read more
Over at the Library of Congress, check out this digital exhibition of presidential campaign songs from bygone days, long before campaign managers could just borrow a Tom Petty or Bruce Springsteen song and call it a day—until the inevitable cease-and-desist, at least. Our favorites? William Howard T Read more
Where does everyone’s favorite tiny, twangy stringed instrument come from? The answer’s not quite as simple as you might think: the ukulele didn’t actually appear in Hawaiian music until the very end of the island chain’s independence. The instrument had its origins in the machete de braga, a small Read more
A never-before-seen-photo of Robert Johnson just turned up in an antique Winthrop desk. Why is this such a big deal? Only three confirmed photos of the blues legend exist. Esquire reports: “The identification comes from Lois Gibson, award-winning forensic artist for the Houston Police Department an Read more
Better known by his stage name Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, Will Oldham is pretty much a hipster god. If you’re hoping to impress your music snob friends this holiday season, look no further than this playlist Oldham put together of historic Kentucky folk recordings from the venerable Smithsonian Folkways Read more
On Cuepoint, writer Jessica Ferber tells the epic story of how she discovered the incredible photographs of Robert James Campbell—and how she came to care deeply for Campbell, despite the fact that she never actually met the photographer at any point during his hard life. Of the hundreds of personal Read more
Like an artificial Christmas tree, this classic XKCD comic gets pulled out of the internet’s attic and dusted off around this time every year. There are a few different metrics used to track the popularity of individual songs; the one used above is radio airplay between 2000 and 2009. A look at t Read more
The pioneers of modern musical movements frequently draw on any and every period in history. Rapper Tupac even traced his name to two historic icons; his mother, Afeni Shakur, dubbed him “Tupac Amaru” at birth, calling him after two South American rulers who were both fierce leaders of their peoples Read more
Unless you’re an Andy Warhol superfan, you may have been surprised to read that Holly Woodlawn, whose death the New York Times just reported, was the same Holly who “hitchhiked her way across the U.S.A.” in Lou Reed’s cult classic 1972 song “Walk on the Wild Side.” Like Holly, the other countercu Read more
In the hospital, now In Washington D.C. Ain’t got nobody To see about me So begins what just might be the rosiest song ever written about the American healthcare system, Skip James’ “Washington D.C. Hospital Center Blues.” In the course of the song, a sick and broke James is treated by a kind team o Read more
Wax cylinders were the earliest commercial medium for recording sound. The University of California, Santa Barbara Library recently launched a new website that features over 10,000 wax cylinder recordings—all available to download or stream online for free. The searchable collection has everything f Read more
If Pitchfork’s too mainstream for you now that it’s been bought by Condé Nast, you can always maintain your hipster cred— and keep the dream of the 1890s alive—with these extra-deep cuts. For sheet music and lyrics, just click on the images. 1. “The Omniscient Ostrich,” 1890 via NYPL 2. “The Under Read more
A century can change a lot, but some things are eternal. Here are three totes relateable tunes released precisely 100 years ago that represent the first stirrings of American pop music. 1. “On the 5:15” by Billy Murray and the American Quartet Commuting was just the worst in 1915, too. 2. “A Litt Read more
We tend to think of rabid celebrity fandom as a new phenomenon, a product of our narcissistic social media-immersed society. We scoff at the Beliebers and Directioners, as if their particular obsession is a unique affront to civilized society, and we happily trade photos of longing followers who wan Read more