More stories

  • in

    Britney Spears Revealed on Instagram That She Had a Miscarriage

    The pop singer, recently released from a conservatorship that had prevented her from becoming pregnant, revealed on Instagram that she has had a miscarriage.A month after announcing on Instagram that she was pregnant, the pop star Britney Spears has posted an update saying that she suffered a miscarriage, writing: “We have lost our miracle baby.”“Perhaps we should have waited to announce until we were further along,” said the message, which was posted to Ms. Spears’s Instagram account on Saturday afternoon and attributed to her and her partner, Sam Asghari. “However we were overly excited to share the good news.”When Ms. Spears, 40, let it be known that she was pregnant, her announcement was seen by many not only as glad tidings, but also as a declaration of agency after being freed from a conservatorship that had governed her life since she was in her 20s.That arrangement began in 2008, amid concerns over her mental health and potential substance abuse, when a judge in California granted oversight of her personal life and finances to her father, James P. Spears.During court proceedings last summer that stemmed from her request that the conservatorship be dissolved, Ms. Spears testified during a 23-minute speech that the arrangement had been “abusive,” adding that she had not been allowed to remove an IUD.“I want to be able to get married and have a baby,” Ms. Spears said then. “I was told right now in the conservatorship I am not able to get married or have a baby.”The statement about not being allowed to become pregnant was particularly stunning, even in a speech in which Ms. Spears also told the court that she had been placed on Lithium and forced to work against her will.Some reproductive rights advocates said that forced birth control was legally questionable, a violation of Ms. Spears’s autonomy and of her basic human rights.Late last year, a judge in Los Angeles ended the conservatorship, saying it was “no longer required.” By that time Ms. Spears had announced her engagement to her longtime boyfriend, Mr. Asghari, an actor and fitness trainer who told Men’s Health in 2018 that he had met Ms. Spears two years earlier while working on a music video for her song “Slumber Party.”Ms. Spears announced that she was pregnant on April 11, posting a photograph of pink flowers on Instagram and writing: “So I got a pregnancy test … and uhhhhh well … I am having a baby.”She described having experienced depression during a previous pregnancy, and said that this time she would be staying in more and doing yoga each day. She ended her message by writing: “Spreading lots of joy and love,” followed by heart emojis and exclamation points.The message posted on Ms. Spears’s Instagram on Saturday expressed gratitude for fans’ support. “Our love for each other is our strength,” it added. “We will continue trying to expand our beautiful family.” More

  • in

    My Chemical Romance’s Prog-Emo Surprise, and 12 More New Songs

    Hear tracks by the Smile, Julia Jacklin, black midi and others.Every Friday, pop critics for The New York Times weigh in on the week’s most notable new songs and videos. Just want the music? Listen to the Playlist on Spotify here (or find our profile: nytimes). Like what you hear? Let us know at theplaylist@nytimes.com and sign up for our Louder newsletter, a once-a-week blast of our pop music coverage.My Chemical Romance, ‘The Foundations of Decay’My Chemical Romance — the New Jersey band that fused the momentum of pop-punk, the crunch of hard rock and the opulent productions of glam — announced its breakup in 2013 and released its last new song in 2014. Although the band reunited to tour in 2019, “The Foundations of Decay” is its first new material since then. There’s no punk sarcasm for now; as the music builds from measured dirge to pummeling anthem, the lyrics both recognize and rail against the ravages of time, even on the verge of a new tour. JON PARELESThe Smile, ‘The Opposite’On its debut album, “A Light for Attracting Attention,” the Smile is Thom Yorke and Jonny Greenwood from Radiohead joined by a different drummer: Tom Skinner from Sons of Kemet. The new band’s ingredients add up largely as expected: a leaner take on Radiohead’s longstanding thoughts of alienation and malaise, pushing rhythm into the foreground. Skinner starts “The Opposite” by himself, with a sputtering, shifty funk beat that’s soon topped by an accumulation of overlapping, stop-start guitar riffs, each one adding a new bit of disorientation. Yorke might be describing the track itself when he sings, “It goes back and forth followed by a question mark.” PARELESblack midi, ‘Welcome to Hell’“Welcome to Hell” announces the third album by black midi, “Hellfire,” due July 15. It’s a jagged, funky, speed-shifting mini-suite, by turns brutal and sardonic, with lyrics about the dehumanization of a soldier. “To die for your country does not win a war/To kill for your country is what wins a war,” Geordie Greep sings. The music is exhilarating; the aftertaste is bleak. PARELESKendrick Lamar, ‘The Heart Part 5’Kendrick Lamar has made a series of songs called “The Heart” to preface his albums. “The Heart Part 5” arrived a few days before his new one, “Mr. Morale & the Big Steppers.” As always, Lamar’s work is multilayered, self-questioning, thoughtful, rhythmic and bold. The track’s jumpy, insistent conga drums, bass line and backup vocals come from Marvin Gaye’s “I Want You,” a title that Lamar repurposes to address his fans. On the sonic level, Lamar’s fast-talking vocals challenge the congas for syllable-by-syllable momentum. His mission is to “Sacrifice personal gain over everything/Just to see the next generation better than ours.” The song’s video clip uses deep-fake technology to make Lamar look like charged cultural figures including O.J. Simpson, Kanye West and Nipsey Hussle. This is hip-hop working through its own implications, contradictions and repercussions. PARELESFlores, ‘Brown’Flores’s voice has luster, but she can also envelop messages of pain and pride into moments of gentle acuity. On “Brown,” from her debut EP “The Lives They Left,” she meditates on her upbringing on the El Paso-Juárez border: the violence of government agencies like ICE and C.B.P., as well as the small joys of quotidian life, what she calls “brown trust” and “brown love.” A lonely saxophone resounds under the production, as Flores reflects on the resilience of the Indigenous ancestors that preceded her: “When they ask you where you people come from/16,000 years we here/Valleys stained of blood and tears/Mexica let ’em know/ This the land we’ve sown/Laid the seeds that grow.” ISABELIA HERRERARemi Wolf, ‘Michael’“Michael” is a relatively subdued song for an artist as antic and kaleidoscopic as Remi Wolf, but she puts her stamp on it nonetheless. Written with the Porches mastermind Aaron Maine — their first time working together — and Wolf’s touring guitarist Jack DeMeo, the track is a sing-songy depiction of romantic desperation, with Wolf singing from the perspective of someone clinging to an obsessive relationship she knows is doomed. “Michael, hold my hand and spin me round until I’m dizzy,” she begs atop a murky electric guitar progression. “Loosen up my chemicals.” LINDSAY ZOLADZJulia Jacklin, ‘Lydia Wears a Cross’The Australian singer-songwriter Julia Jacklin’s music is a gradual accumulation of small, sharp lyrical details, and “Lydia Wears a Cross,” the first single from her forthcoming album “Pre Pleasure,” is full of them: Two young girls “listening to ‘Jesus Christ Superstar’ soundtrack”; a child “singing every single word wrong” on a parade float; a catechism teacher instructing her pupils to pray for Princess Diana. Such snapshots create a larger atmosphere of religious indoctrination and Jacklin’s youthful questioning: “I felt pretty in the shoes and the dress/Confused by the rest, could he hear me?” The arrangement is sparse — drum machine, echoing stabs of piano — to spotlight Jacklin’s storytelling, but a subtle unease creeps in when she gets to the haunting chorus: “I’d be a believer, if it was all just song and dance/I’d be a believer, if I thought we had a chance.” ZOLADZDeath Cab for Cutie, ‘Roman Candles’Ben Gibbard sings about numbness and detachment, claiming “I am learning to let go/of everything I tried to hold,” in “Roman Candles,” the preview of an album due in September. But the music belies any claim to serenity. Drums, bass and guitars all overload and distort, pounding away in a relentless two-minute surge. PARELESThe Black Keys, ‘How Long’There’s usually some angst tucked between the brawny classic-rock riffs on a Black Keys album. The duo’s new one, “Dropout Boogie,” includes “How Long,” a betrayed lover’s confession of desperate devotion. Just two descending chords, a cycle of disappointment, carry most of the song, with layers of guitar piling on like heartaches. “Even in our final hour/See the beauty in the dying flower,” Dan Auerbach sings in the bridge, but the obsession isn’t over; the song ends with the narrator still wondering, “How long?” PARELESJoy Oladokun, ‘Purple Haze’It’s not the Jimi Hendrix song. “You and I know that love is all we need to survive,” Joy Oladokun insists in her own “Purple Haze,” preaching togetherness in the face of dire possibilities. A syncopated acoustic guitar and Oladokun’s determined voice hint at Tracy Chapman as the song begins; more vocals and guitars join her, insisting on optimism even if “maybe we’re running out of time.” PARELESAmbar Lucid, ‘Girl Ur So Pretty’Ambar Lucid may be known for her brassy, arena-sized voice, but on her new single, she ventures into new territory. “Girl Ur So Pretty” glitters like pixie dust: in an airy, gossamer falsetto, the 21-year-old artist serenades her crush over sparkling synths and ’00s girl group handclaps. It’s a welcome spin on the bubble gum pop of a bygone era, and she brings her tongue-in-cheek humor along, too: “Can’t tell if I’m in love or high,” she sings. “I’m not usually into Earth signs.” HERRERAChes Smith, ‘Interpret It Well’There’s a nervy, bated-breath feeling about the music that the drummer and vibraphonist Ches Smith is making with his new quartet featuring Mat Maneri on violin, Craig Taborn on piano and Bill Frisell on guitar. It’s not fully dread, but not simple anticipation either. For an LP led by a drummer, “Interpret It Well” is full of extended passages with no drumming; latent tension hangs where the percussion might have been. On the title track, Smith taps the vibraphone in a pattern of resonant octaves, and the rest of the quartet grows restless behind him. A bluesy aside from Frisell sends the band into silence, and Taborn plays a long cadenza. By the end of the nearly 14-minute track, the four are charging ahead together. This is the peak, but the stench of expectation still lingers, as if something else even louder — or completely peaceful — waits just ahead. GIOVANNI RUSSONELLOJacob Garchik, ‘Fanfare’The trombonist and composer Jacob Garchik treated his new album, “Assembly,” as a canvas for some impressive formal experiments, and there’s rarely a dull moment. Its tracks include spontaneous improvisations reframed via overdubs; complex compositions mixing two different tempos; and dissections of pieces of the jazz canon. On the fast-charging “Fanfare,” as Garchik and the soprano saxophonist Sam Newsome harmonize on a series of descending and ascending patterns, the rhythm section’s off-track backing gives the illusion that things are speeding up. Then suddenly a long, cooled-out passage begins, just trombone and piano, with Garchik sounding as buttery as Tricky Sam Nanton over changes borrowed from Duke Ellington’s “In a Sentimental Mood.” RUSSONELLO More

  • in

    Martha Wainwright Tells a Few Stories She Might Regret

    With a new memoir, the singer-songwriter from a famous musical family says she is happy to be “letting go of this story of being No. 4 on the totem pole.”When Martha Wainwright was 14 years old, she moved to New York from her home in Montreal to live with her father, the singer-songwriter Loudon Wainwright III. Her mother, the Canadian folk star Kate McGarrigle, was busy with a new album and a concert tour, and so it was decided that Loudon would watch over Martha for a year. The New York experiment turned out to be something of a failure, though, according to Ms. Wainwright; she did poorly in school and stayed out late, as if in competition with a father who was sometimes out even later. But the year definitely had its upsides: “I became more like my father, as if the DNA in me that came from him started to wake up,” she writes in a new memoir, “Stories I Might Regret Telling You.”A few years later, she went with him on a tour of Britain, serving as his warm-up act and joining him onstage for father-daughter duets. One night she heard him introducing “I’d Rather Be Lonely,” a song she had figured was about an old girlfriend. So she was surprised when he told the audience it was about the year he had spent living with his teenage daughter. As Ms. Wainwright listened to him sing the key lines — “You’re still living here with me / I’d rather be lonely” — she began to cry.“A part of me wanted to jump to my death from my tiny seat,” she writes in the memoir. “Or, better yet, take off into the night, leaving him standing there waiting for me. But the show must go on, so I dried my tears and went down the stairs and on to the stage.”The new book, cigarette and all.HachetteConfessional art always comes at a cost, for its creators and subjects alike, as people in the Wainwright-McGarrigle family know all too well. Loudon, who rose to sudden success with the novelty hit “Dead Skunk,” has included songs about his family on a majority of his more than 25 albums, many of them devastatingly personal. Ms. McGarrigle, who made 10 albums as part of a duo with her sister Anna before her death in 2010, also wrote a number of autobiographical songs that touched on her marriage to Loudon, which ended in divorce, and their children.When Martha and her older brother, the singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright, came of age, they joined what was by then an established family tradition. The first song Ms. Wainwright wrote was about the birth of a new half sibling, a wry welcome to her singular family; and a song on her brother’s 1998 debut album delved into his relationship with his mother.As children, Martha and Rufus sang for paying audiences at folk festivals. Later, when he had a deal with the DreamWorks record label and started touring the world, she was often his backup singer, an arrangement that eventually came to an end. “He needed to cut the fat and I needed to get out of his shadow,” she writes.Rufus and Martha Wainwright sing their father’s hit “Dead Skunk” at a show in London, circa 1984.Martha Wainwright Collection In New York, Ms. Wainwright performed in dive bars while putting herself through a series of crushes on unavailable men. She was by turns ambitious and self-destructive. On nights when she knew a label scout or producer was in the crowd, she would go onstage drunk or high. “I created an impossible situation for myself,” she writes. “I was afraid to fail but I kept setting myself up to fail.”As her brother’s fame grew, she struggled with her status as the least famous member of her nuclear family. And while her parents provided inspiration, she says in the book that they could have been more helpful. “I don’t know if you’re wondering where my dad was during those New York years,” she writes, “but at the time, I was wondering, too.”For a while Rufus was running around as part of a “sons of” club, a group that included Sean Lennon, Chris Stills and Harper Simon. “They were all getting signed and written about and had publicists and photo shoots and beautiful girlfriends,” Ms. Wainwright says in the memoir. “Were their songs better than mine?” The chip on her shoulder led her to write a grand statement song, its title a vulgar epithet. Contrary to what she has told journalists in the past, the song isn’t about her father — or, rather, it isn’t exclusively about him.In addition to the attention-grabbing title, the song had perhaps the closest thing to a pop hook to be found in her oeuvre up till then. Whereas the typical Martha Wainwright melody meanders as it showcases her acrobatic whisper-to-scream vocal range, this one was different: a folky strum-and-shout with straightforward lines like “Oh, I wish, I wish, I wish I was born a man.”The Guardian called the song a “masterpiece” when it appeared in 2005 as the centerpiece of “Martha Wainwright,” her first album. Critics admired her debut but couldn’t resist comparing her with the rest of her family. A Pitchfork reviewer praised her voice and her songs, only to add the caveat that her ability to write about personal matters with such candor “would be more remarkable if it weren’t a genetic trait.”Her next album, “I Know You’re Married but I’ve Got Feelings Too,” was partly produced by Brad Albetta, a bass player who, by the time of its 2008 release, was also her husband. Their relationship had always been tumultuous, but she had pushed for marriage anyway, partly because she wanted to “grow up” before losing her mother, who had been diagnosed with terminal cancer.Martha Wainwright with her mother, Kate McGarrigle, in London, 2009.Martha Wainwright Collection Her memoir goes deep into her mother’s illness and death, which coincided with the premature birth of Ms. Wainwright’s first child. In less capable hands, such material could come across as maudlin, but Ms. Wainwright has a light touch and an eye for telling detail. She describes wanting to put her mother’s cancer-ridden body in the same kind of incubator that was keeping her son alive, as well as the moment when she and Ms. McGarrigle compared their damaged bodies — her own fresh C-section incision, the chevron scar from chemo that covered her mother’s torso.Ms. Wainwright’s marriage limped along after her mother’s death. She clung to Mr. Albetta as a source of stability (not to mention bass playing). “I really like the makeup sex / It’s the only kind I ever get,” she sang from the stage while on tour for the album “Come Home to Mama,” with her husband close behind onstage.An early draft of “Stories I Might Regret Telling You” that contained more details about those years was used as an exhibit in their divorce proceedings in 2018. That version — “the whole enchilada,” as Ms. Wainwright described it in an interview — was pared down considerably before publication.Rather than zeroing in on the father of her children (a second son was born in 2014), Ms. Wainwright, 46, concludes the memoir by focusing on her creative and personal renaissance of recent years. She describes the aftermath of a show she gave in Los Angeles, when she emerged rumpled from the house of “someone everyone in the world wants to sleep with” full of joie de vivre and “glad to know that rock ’n’ roll was still alive and I was still a part of it.”The extended musical family in New York, 2012, from left to right: Martha Wainwright, the singer-songwriter Suzzy Roche, Rufus Wainwright, Loudon Wainwright III, and the singer-songwriter Lucy Wainwright Roche.David Corio for The New York TimesOn a recent Zoom call, she looked and sounded exactly as she does onstage: beautifully unvarnished, full of open-mouthed laughter. In the past few weeks she has been preparing to go on tour with a show that combines readings from the memoir and performances of songs on her fourth album, “Love Will Be Reborn.” She said a documentary filmmaker has been following her around, adding that she sometimes wished she had a larger-than-life persona to hide behind, like Tom Waits’s or Laurie Anderson’s.Lately, she added, she has been in the mood to do some serious spring cleaning in her building in Montreal, which she inherited from her mother. “There’s a back room that’s filled with the Kate McGarrigle and Anna McGarrigle archive and crap,” she said, gesturing toward a door behind her desk. “I feel like I’m almost about to light the whole thing on fire. I’m not going to do it literally, but I’m like, ‘OK, let’s call a museum and have them take it away.’ And I think that I’m kind of excited about it. And maybe I’m excited about letting go of this story of being No. 4 on the totem pole.”She said that when she thinks about her earlier albums, filled with so many songs referring to her marriage, she wonders whether she had created the situation in order to mine it for material. Now she’s in a relationship that inspires lyrics like “I got naked right away when I saw you / And my love was like the rain when I saw you.”If her contentment threatens her creative output, she’s fine with that. “I’ll keep the love and forgo the material, if need be,” she said.But later in our conversation, she revised that assessment, after mentioning her plan to pick up her guitar later in the day and try to write some new songs: “I haven’t in a while, so I’ll see if I’m too happy and I made a terrible mistake.”Ms. Wainwright said she has been wondering if she’s too happy to write songs.Alexi Hobbs for The New York TimesEven her relationship with her father seems in a good place. “Stories I Might Regret Telling You” begins with the story of her own birth, or, rather, the story of how she almost wasn’t born. Her father, she writes, tried to persuade her mother to have an abortion when she was pregnant with her, which is something he confessed to Ms. Wainwright when she was a teenager. “It hurt my feelings,” she writes with an understatement that makes the story sort of hilarious. “I had always felt a little out of place in the world, and knowing that I’d only just barely made the cut didn’t help matters any.”Three days before our interview, her father called her to say he loved the book.“I mean, his voice was a little tight when he said it,” Ms. Wainwright said. “He told me he didn’t see things exactly the same way, and I asked him if he could accept my version, and he said that he could accept it. And so that was a really nice moment for us.” More

  • in

    Kevin Morby Chases Ghosts, and a New Album, in Memphis

    Since he was an anxious teen, Morby, a Kansas City singer-songwriter, has been fixated on death. By facing his fears in a mythical city, he found a way to reckon with it.MEMPHIS — Kevin Morby bounded into the lobby of the Peabody hotel on a Tuesday night in late April in a long red coat and twirled twice, stretching his arms toward the travertine columns of the century-old Southern institution. The songwriter, best known for solemn folk rock often fixated on death, beamed.An hour earlier and blocks away, he’d watched as the Memphis Grizzlies overcame a 13-point deficit to win a pivotal N.B.A. playoff game. The spoils of victory spilled into the hotel’s palatial entry — toasts, high-fives, the occasional whoop. A player piano dashed out a Scott Joplin rag, its pep perfectly scoring the electric scene. “That thing was so eerie when I was here writing,” Morby said, pointing as he passed, his grin briefly sagging. “I was so alone.”Just 18 months earlier, in October 2020, Morby escaped the impending pandemic winter in his hometown, Kansas City, Kan., by booking a three-week stay in Memphis. Since visiting the Peabody two years earlier with his girlfriend, Katie Crutchfield, the singer who performs as Waxahatchee, the city’s complicated history had become a muse.The sprawling hotel was so empty, the staff upgraded Morby to Room 409, a suite, where he focused on new songs with an intensity and patience that had always eluded him. He became a regular at some of the city’s morbid landmarks, too — the Lorraine Motel, where Martin Luther King Jr. was assassinated; the spot on the Mississippi River where Jeff Buckley drowned; the haunted stretch of Highway 61 that leads into the Delta.“When lockdown was happening, I wanted to go to the darkest place possible,” he said. Memphis was almost shattered by pandemic more than a century ago.During that stint, Morby wrote the bulk of “This Is a Photograph,” his seventh solo album, due Friday. It is a confident 45-minute sashay through vulnerable devotionals and existential reflections, tuneful folk and handclap soul. Using Memphis as a lens for understanding the frailty of bodies and the dreams they harbor, the album reckons with survival as much as death.“There was zero urgency for Kevin to make an album, and that is a beautiful place to be as a songwriter,” Crutchfield said, wryly laughing by phone. “He is always working so fast, but a year with nothing allowed him to dial in. The word here is density.”When Morby was only 17, his third (and last, until this year) therapist asked him why he was there. “I told him I was so afraid of dying,” Morby, now 34, remembered during an interview weeks before the basketball game. “There was this life-affirming moment where he was like, ‘Kevin, what’s so wrong with death?’ I guess nothing!”As his parents shuffled among various cities for work, Morby had morphed from a sports-loving kid into an especially anxious preteen. In Oklahoma City, he was terrified to learn friends had lost parents in the bombing there; later, in Kansas City, bullets on a playground convinced him his school was the next Columbine.“He might be sitting on the couch, and he would have these anxiety attacks,” his father, Jim, remembered. “He felt it coming, but it would happen anyway.”Dual odes to Jeff Buckley are at the center of “This Is a Photograph.” Whitten Sabbatini for The New York TimesThere were hospitals, therapists and an alternative school founded by a “Vietnam veteran and total hippie,” Morby said. Finally, after a particularly awful spell, his parents offered their son a compromise — he could drop out, granted he finish his G.E.D. and try a nearby junior college. “I felt like such a poor parent,” his mother, Sandy, said, “but I water up thinking about the relief on his face.”When Morby turned 18, he boarded an eastbound train with one goal: joining a band in New York. He started writing songs in seventh grade, lyrics-lined notebooks dotting the house. A Bob Dylan anthology led to the indie rock of the Mountain Goats and the Microphones, who placed less emphasis on production than poignancy. “You’re telling me I can just get a tape recorder and sing?” he said. “It felt like acceptance.” Morby joined the ascendant psych-folk band Woods and toured incessantly, then co-founded the scruffy pop-rock group the Babies. But double duty, plus jobs delivering food and babysitting, exhausted him. He bailed on both bands to take a chance alone. “There’s always something to lose,” he said, “but I thought maybe there was more to be gained.”Morby wrote and recorded at a feverish pace, releasing an album or EP every year since 2013 except one, even while moving from New York to Los Angeles and back to Kansas City. He recorded in a hurry, embracing mistakes and tossed-off lines while striving for productivity over perfection. “If I wasn’t not working,” he admitted, “I felt crazy.”This harried schedule stemmed in part from his fear it would all vanish. Soon after arriving in New York, Morby befriended Jamie Ewing, the dynamo leader of the punk band Bent Outta Shape — “this magical, hilarious guy, always ahead of the curve.” Morby loved Ewing and the artistic possibilities he represented. Ewing died in 2008 from a heroin overdose, which jump-started Morby’s drive.“I had this scarcity mentality,” Morby said, also referencing Jay Reatard, the Memphis garage-rocker who suggested that writing one’s best songs was really a race against death soon before he died. “I had to collect what I could while I could.”A medical scare in January 2020, though, prompted a change. Before a family dinner, Morby’s father accidentally doubled his dosage of heart medication and passed out at the table. He recovered, but Morby had worried he was watching his father die.That night, looking at old photos with his mother, he was struck by an image of his father — then 32, the same age Morby was about to be — posing shirtless in the Texas sun. He contemplated his family’s sudden frailty and began writing “This Is a Photograph,” a galloping track about death’s inevitability and the gratitude the fait accompli should inspire. “This is what I’ll miss about being alive,” Morby howls, putting himself inside his father’s former frame. What had his father lost? What would he lose?Morby took those questions to Memphis. As he drove his blue Ford pickup down Highway 61 to the infamous Crossroads or across Mississippi to sit on Elvis’s boyhood porch, he pondered how big dreams crumbled there. He obsessed especially over Buckley, who had applied for a job as a butterfly keeper at the Memphis Zoo while waiting for his band to arrive in 1997. Passers-by soon spotted his body floating at the foot of Beale Street.“The dead can help shape the living,” Morby said. “I want to be open to that kind of magic.”Whitten Sabbatini for The New York TimesMorby visited the little bungalow where Buckley lived and even recorded the sound of the current where he waded into the water. “You’re Jeff Buckley — you’ve achieved versions of the dream, but there’s still something you’re trying to accomplish,” Morby said. “I relate.”Dual odes to Buckley shape the centerpiece of “This Is a Photograph.” Graced by gospel harmonies, “Disappearing” offers caveat emptor for the kind of tortured artists who might try dipping into the Mississippi. (“I really want to swim in it,” he confessed from its banks, adding he knew it was a bad idea.) “A Coat of Butterflies” slowly unspools like an empathetic eulogy for a musician who spent a lifetime defining himself in light of his father’s fame. Morby realized he’d finally nailed the track as he left Memphis after the album’s third and final session, which he repeatedly called “the best four days of my life.” He’d faced his fear of death and walked away.The morning before the triumphant basketball game, Morby went for a run along a concrete path that skirts the Mississippi, a hobby he took up soon after turning 30. The trail dumped him beneath towering overpasses and a small clearing that led to the river, where Buckley is believed to have entered. Just as he turned around, two butterflies fluttered beside him for several seconds. It was a sign, he thought, that he was moving in the right direction.“It’s like you’re a photographer. You know what you want to take a picture of, but I knew I couldn’t take a photo I could develop until I got here,” he said, his voice rising above the Peabody’s din. “The dead can help shape the living. I want to be open to that kind of magic.” More

  • in

    Why We Collect

    Subscribe to Popcast!Apple Podcasts | Spotify | StitcherIf you know a collector, you know about how collections are more than just agglomerations of items. They are stores of history, stores of emotion. They have a representational value that often far exceeds their literal financial value.They also take up space, physical and mental. They are often private ventures, not public displays. They scratch very personal itches in ways that are often invisible to anyone else.On this week’s Popcast, a conversation about the urge to collect, the stories embedded in certain objects and how some items can unearth stories from the person who covets them.Guest:Hua Hsu, staff writer at The New Yorker and author of the forthcoming memoir “Stay True”Connect With Popcast. Become a part of the Popcast community: Join the show’s Facebook group and Discord channel. We want to hear from you! Tune in, and tell us what you think at popcast@nytimes.com. Follow our host, Jon Caramanica, on Twitter: @joncaramanica. More

  • in

    Susan Jacks, Who Sang ‘Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,’ Dies at 73

    Released in 1969, the song, by her group the Poppy Family, was one of the biggest hits to come out of Canada to that point.Susan Jacks, a Canadian vocalist known for her 1969 hit with the Poppy Family, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,” one of the top-selling records Canada had produced to that point, died on April 25 in Surrey, British Columbia. She was 73.Her brother Rick Pesklevits said in a Facebook post on behalf of the family that the cause was kidney disease. He said she died at a hospital and had been on the waiting list for a kidney transplant, which would have been her second.As a teenager, Ms. Jacks was a regular on the Canadian show “Music Hop” when, in 1966, she needed an accompanist for a show at an Elks Club and turned to Terry Jacks, who had played guitar on the show. Soon they had married, formed the Poppy Family and cut “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?,” a song that Mr. Jacks, who wrote it, said was inspired by the spectacle of young men going off to fight in Vietnam.Ms. Jacks in 1969 with the other members of the Poppy family, from left: Satwant Singh, Terry Jacks and Craig McCaw.“Which way you goin’, Billy?,” Ms. Jacks sang. “Can I go too? Which way you goin’, Billy? Can I go with you?”The song hit No. 1 in Canada and, soon after, No. 2 in the United States.The Poppy Family and the Jackses’ marriage dissolved after a few years, and later there were dueling stories about “Billy.” The song was originally envisioned as “Which Way You Goin’, Buddy?,” but Ms. Jacks said she suggested that Mr. Jacks instead use the first name of one of her brothers. Mr. Jacks, though, said in interviews that he took “Billy” from a song by a group he admired, the Beau-Marks, called “Billy, Billy Went a Walking.”What is indisputable is that Ms. Jacks’s brother Billy played a unique role for her: He donated the organ for her first kidney transplant, in 2010, an operation that gave her a new lease on life.“I had rosy cheeks for the first time in many years,” she told The Vancouver Sun a year after the surgery, when she was giving a fund-raising concert in Coquitlam, British Columbia, for the Kidney Foundation of Canada. Raising awareness about kidney disease and donations had become a cause for her.“I knew nothing about kidney failure” until she was affected herself, she said. “I knew nothing about transplants. I was so uneducated about how important it is and how much it means to people.”Ms. Jacks around 1970 with her husband, Terry, who wrote the group’s biggest hit, “Which Way You Goin’ Billy?”Michael Ochs Archives/Getty ImagesSusan Elizabeth Pesklevits was born on Aug. 19, 1948, in Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, to Janette and Dick Pesklevits. She began singing as a child, performing with school bands. She said her mother saw an audition notice for “Music Hop,” and by 1964 she was a regular on it. She toured with a stage version of the show as well.“Sue, as she is fondly called by members of the group, can swing with a hip tune as well as croon with sentimental ballads such as ‘Summertime,’” The Nanaimo Daily News of British Columbia wrote of a performance by the “Music Hop” road troupe in 1966.The Poppy Family had a few other minor hits before breaking up. Ms. Jacks released a few solo albums, including “Ghosts” (1980). In 1983 she moved to Nashville with her second husband, Ted Dushinski, working as a songwriter and running a pirogi restaurant for a time. She moved back to Vancouver in 2004.Mr. Dushinski died of cancer in 2005, about the same time that Ms. Jacks learned her kidneys were failing.She is survived by a son from her second marriage, Thad Dushinski, and six siblings, Rick, Gerry, Wayne, Bill, Cathy and Jim. More

  • in

    Madonna and Beeple Collaborate on NFT Project

    The pop singer spent the last year working with the digital artist on a video series about motherhood. Proceeds will benefit three nonprofits.Has Madonna embraced the blockchain?The pop superstar’s interest in NFTs, or nonfungible tokens, caught some fans off guard in March, when she paid 180 ether, a digital currency worth $560,000 at the time, for an NFT of a tattooed ape from the Bored Ape Yacht Club, a collection of digital art.On Monday, the singer released her own NFT series, titled “Mother of Creation” — three digitally rendered videos that recast her as a nude woman giving birth to flora, fauna and technology. The artworks are the result of a yearlong collaboration with Mike Winkelmann, the digital artist known as Beeple.“This is such an absolute, insane honor,” said Winkelmann, who is known for selling an NFT in 2021 for $69 million at Christie’s. “I don’t do many collaborations. This is probably the only one I will do for a very long time.”From Wednesday through Friday, Madonna and Beeple’s NFTs will be auctioned for charity through the online marketplace SuperRare.“It’s counterintuitive to who I am,” Madonna said in a phone interview, explaining that her initial struggle with the concept of digital assets made her want to explore what she saw as the elements of faith and community that drive the NFT market.From there, Beeple and Madonna developed three videos in which audiences have a full-frontal view of Madonna’s avatar giving birth to different organisms from a hospital bed, a rusted vehicle, and a forest floor. The singer has paired each video with poetry — some her own and some by the mystic poet Rumi.“I never want to be provocative just for the sake of provocation,” said Madonna, insisting that the butterflies and centipedes she gives birth to in the video mean something. “They stand for hope. They stand for technology.”Proceeds from the NFTs will benefit three nonprofits supporting women and children: the Voices of Children Foundation, which cares for those affected by the war in Ukraine; the City of Joy Foundation, which helps survivors of violence in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and Black Mama’s Bail Out, which provides bail for incarcerated caregivers.The charity auction comes at a time when the NFT market’s future remains uncertain.John Crain, a founder and chief executive of SuperRare, said that his company did $10 million in sales last month compared to a $35 million high set in October. He sees the discrepancy not as a sign of the NFT market’s demise but of its maturation.“It’s been a frothy year, but marketplaces are inherently volatile,” Crain said. “There are fluctuations, but I wouldn’t call it a bear market.” More

  • in

    Ric Parnell, Real Drummer in a Famous Fake Band, Dies at 70

    The central characters in the mockumentary “This Is Spinal Tap” were comic actors, but Mr. Parnell was an actual professional musician.Ric Parnell, a real drummer best known for playing in a fake band, the one chronicled in Rob Reiner’s fabled 1984 mockumentary, “This Is Spinal Tap,” died on May 1 in Missoula, Mont., where he had lived for some two decades. He was 70.His partner, McKenzie Sweeney, confirmed the death. She said a blood clot in his lungs led to organ failure.Mr. Parnell had been in several bands, including the British prog-rock outfit Atomic Rooster, when he auditioned for “This Is Spinal Tap,” a deadpan sendup of rock clichés, and got the role of the drummer, Mick Shrimpton. The central band members, though, weren’t primarily musicians, though they had musical ability; they were comic actors — Michael McKean, Christopher Guest and Harry Shearer. Mr. Reiner played the role of Marty DiBergi, a documentarian recording what turns out to be a disastrous tour by Spinal Tap, a heavy metal band that is past its prime and poorly managed.Mr. McKean said Mr. Parnell fit in seamlessly.“He looked perfect, all hair and cheekbones, but he also got the joke and knew to play the reality without comment,” he said by email. “And he was a great drummer in the tradition of his hero, John Bonham” — the drummer for Led Zeppelin.“Onstage,” Mr. McKean added, “he was the best kind of monster; offstage, a very nice, very funny guy.”Mr. Parnell had only a few lines in the movie, but he was pivotal to one of its funniest gags: Drummers for the band had a habit of dying in bizarre and unpleasant ways. In one scene, he lounges in a bathtub while Marty DiBergi asks him if he’s bothered by that history.“It did kind of freak me out a bit, but it can’t always happen,” Mick says, and Marty agrees, telling him, “The law of averages says you will survive.”The law of averages, alas, was wrong — near the end of the film, Mick spontaneously combusts onstage. When the film developed such a cult following that the fake band went on tour in the early 1990s, playing actual shows, that necessitated a tweaking of Mr. Parnell’s persona — he was now Rick Shrimpton, the twin brother of the deceased Mick.Life almost imitated art in mid-1992, when Mr. Parnell fell down some stairs while hurrying to a sound check as the band was rehearsing in Los Angeles. He injured an ankle.“Despite the odds of meeting with death by remaining with Spinal Tap,” a publicist for the band said at the time, “he’s looking forward to continuing the tour.”That “Return of Spinal Tap” tour eventually took the group to the Royal Albert Hall in London, a pinch-me moment for the British-born Mr. Parnell as he waited to go on alongside Mr. Shearer.“I remember during ‘The Return of Spinal Tap’ standing backstage with Harry and hearing the Albert Hall crowd just chanting, ‘Tap!’ ‘Tap!’ ‘Tap!’ ‘Tap!,’” Mr. Parnell told The Missoula Independent in 2006. “I turned to Harry and I said, ‘Come on, now. We’re a joke! Don’t they know that?’ It was just amazing how quite massive it all became.”The members of Spinal Tap, from left: Christopher Guest, Mr. Parnell, David Kaff, Harry Shearer and Michael McKean.Aaron Rapoport/Corbis/Getty ImagesAbout two decades ago, Mr. Parnell settled into a much quieter sort of life in Missoula, where for a time he had a radio show called “Spontaneous Combustion” on KDTR-FM, on which he told stories and indulged his eclectic musical tastes. For one show he played only artists who were alumni of Antelope Valley High School in California, among them Frank Zappa and Captain Beefheart.“I get to play what I want, do whatever I want — all as long as I don’t swear,” he told The Independent. “That’s the only hard part.”Richard John Parnell was born on Aug. 13, 1951, in London to Jack and Monique (Bonneau) Parnell. His father was a composer, conductor and drummer, and he said that drumming came naturally from a young age.“I got it from my dad,” he told The Missoulian in 2007. “I could sit down at the drum kit and play a beat straight away.”Lessons, he said, were not his thing; he learned by playing in groups.“Over the years, I’ve built up a technique,” he told the newspaper. “I get drummers saying, ‘How did you do that?’ I say, ‘I have no idea. I’m just hitting.’ I wouldn’t know a paradiddle from a flam-doodlehead.”His father, who worked as musical director or in other capacities on numerous television shows, sometimes added to his education by taking him to the set. He recalled sitting at the feet of Jimi Hendrix when he performed on the singer Dusty Springfield’s British TV series in 1968.Mr. Parnell’s own career was starting about the same time. He recalled touring with Engelbert Humperdinck as a teenager. He joined Atomic Rooster in 1970, and then came a stint with an Italian group, Ibis. In 1977 he moved to the United States with a band called Nova, which settled in Boulder, Colo.He played numerous studio sessions over the years and can be heard on records by Beck, Toni Basil and others. For a time he toured with the R&B saxophonist Joe Houston. They would stop every year for a few shows in Missoula before heading into Canada to tour there. But, as Mr. Parnell often told the story, one year the group didn’t have the right paperwork to cross the border and had to extend its stay in Missoula.“I basically got stuck here and then didn’t want to leave,” he told The Independent. “I’d always liked this place — it’s like Boulder in the 1970s, when I first came to the states. I became a Missoulian instantly.”Mr. Parnell was married and divorced four times. In addition to Ms. Sweeney, he is survived by two brothers, Will and Marc, and two stepsisters, Emma Parnell and Sarah Currie.Over the last two decades he could often be found playing with one group or another at local spots in Missoula. In 2004, a writer for The Missoulian asked if he, as an accomplished musician, ever got tired of being recognized only for his joke band.“No, not really,” he said. “Really it’s quite nice to be a part of such a legendary thing.” More