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Nellie McKay Graces the Blue Note 

I met the singer/songwriter/actor/activist Nellie McKay in 2009, after I interviewed her for Vanity Fair. Since then I've seen her versatility in action many times, as when she performed Doris Day songs at the swank Feinstein's (now closed), 60s songs at the supper club 54 Below, and more recently a combination of standards and originals at the Blue Note, which happens to be in my neighborhood. The Blue Note show, on July 31, was the first of three Sunday engagements (two brunch shows each day), and there's…

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"Alithia's Flowers" on OWWR 

The other day I got a Facebook notification about a post by Michael J. Mand, aka Michael the Molar Maven, an NYC dentist who moonlights as a radio host for the Old Westbury, Long Island, station OWWR. He had included my song "Alithia's Flowers (Children of Uvalde)" on the August 26 episode of his show St. James Infirmary, which airs on Friday afternoons. When my husband and I listened to the podcast (click on image for link), Bob said it reminded him of Don McGee's eclectic show, Mixed Bag, on WFUV here in…

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In the Paper and on the Radio 

My song "Alithia's Flowers (Children of Uvalde)" has led me down a few paths. I contacted Alithia Ramirez's parents, Jess Hernandez and Ryan Ramirez, shortly after recording it. I wanted them to know that I'd been inspired to write the song by a drawing made by their daughter, who died in the Uvalde, Texas, school shooting. Since then we've had several exchanges, and I've also frequented local social-media pages, such as for Uvalde Strong. As the Times reported in a recent article, Uvalde is a tight-knit…

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Writing Courtney  

Catching up here!

Shredder, ruminator, singer-songwriter—the amazing Courtney Barnett is my complex subject in a recent Village Voice piece (click here or on image), combining my impressions of Anonymous Club, the new documentary about her by  Danny Cohen (a Q&A with him and Barnett followed the screening I attended), and a fantastic Radio City Music Hall concert she gave a couple of weeks ago. If you're not familiar with this Australian wonder, she is both Dylanesque and Townshendesque, quite a combination…

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A Voice Choice 

A couple of decades ago, like many other New Yorkers, I used to love picking up the weekly Village Voice on Wednesday mornings. A few of the names I looked for in the pages at that time were writers Vivian Gornick and Cynthia Heimel, cartoonists Jules Feiffer and Lynda Barry, and photographers Amy Arbus and Sylvia Plachy. I also always read the section called “Getting and Spending,” in which writers touted stores and products, but often in a creatively askew way. One day I decided to write something myself…

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"Alithia's Flowers (Children of Uvalde)" 

School shootings are mystifying and tragic. I’m writing this on the Fourth of July (a day when another type of mass shooting has occurred, at a parade), wondering how this country can allow—through lax laws—this horrific kind of thing to occur, again and again. Little children being gunned down. It’s hard to fathom. 

Two days after the school shooting in Uvalde, Texas, on May 24, I went to see an expansive and amazing Faith Ringgold show at the New Museum here in NYC. It included a large painting called…

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Writing Rickie  

Someday I hope to talk to Rickie Lee Jones about her song “Living It Up,” which contains one of my favorite lines of hers: “[They] carried her over the bridges like fluttering pages.” The song is about a trio of familiar Jonesian street characters—colorful, yearning, down-at-the-heels—yet mysteries abound.  

The first lines of the chorus, “Oh Wild and the Only ones / Tell him where you are,” invite speculation. Who’s “him”? Why the caps (as we say in publishing) on “Wild” and “Only ”? And who are the Only…

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Middle Child Sings 

Yesterday was my birthday, which made me think of my song “Middle Child,” released two years ago. It's a live version, recorded at Pianos in NYC during my last pre-pandemic club gig. 

When the lyrics first started to form in my mind for this song, I thought, I can’t sing these words. I felt they were too personal and too revealing. My parents are deceased, yet I still wondered if it was okay to publicly look at a different aspect of their experience, kind of a flip side of my song “Blue Lights.” 

It was…

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The Done Wrongs Do Right 

Sometimes we know people but not really. This was the case for me with the singer Laura Palmer, aka Laura Rebel Angel. We'd both recently been in an online music community and thus become Facebook friends but had never met; however, her post last week announcing her first gig with the Done Wrongs caught my eye.

Aside from dropping in at the Bitter End about a month ago to say hello to my bandmate Joan Chew, I hadn’t stepped into a club or bar since before the pandemic. But bolstered by my recent booster, I…

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Left It in the Studio 

I got the idea for my new song, “Left It on the Stage,” after my husband, the writer Robert Rosen, told me I’d done just that after a gig at the Bronxville Women’s Club—great acoustics!—in Westchester County, N.Y., with guitarist Hoop and bassist Peter Weiss. (Bob explained that he was drawing on the sports expression “left it on the field.”) When a chorus melody popped into my head, I sang it into my phone, where it hibernated for a long time. 

But in 2018, seeing Lady Gaga and Bradley Cooper in A Star Is

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