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Bluegrass and jazz? yes please. The band formed in 1988 that goes by the name of Béla Fleck and the Fleckstones is a band filled with incredible musicians starting with Fleck on the banjo, Victor Wooten on the bass, Roy Wooten on the drumitar (more on this later) Howard Levi and Jeff Coffin.

The instrumental only band was formed by Fleck after he was invited to play for the Lonesome Pine Special on PBS in 1988. He decided to keep the group together and work on some music, and as time kept passing by the band never got tired of experimenting and keep pushing it further into strange genres, amazing bass solos and complex structures. But who is the man behind the band’s name?

Béla Fleck

He is one of the most recognized banjo players in the music industry. He started playing at the age of 15 and got very interested in bluegrass music.

He studied at New York’s High School of Music and Art and practiced with his banjo experimenting with new sounds and genres such as jazz. After graduating he joined a band called Tasty Licks and after that he made a solo album which eventually led him to to form the band.

Roy’s Drumitar

One of the insteresting things about this band was its approach to percussion

In an interview with Casey Driessen, he talks a bit about how the Drumitar came to be.

Casey: How did you make the transition from sticks to fingers? How did the thought process for your instrument the Drumitar begin?

Futureman: The metaphor would be like somebody who is really into studying everything about the physical body and one day they want to go deeper and see it under a microscope. I wanted to dig deeper, to apply a note to every stroke, and open up each stroke to a melodic interpretation.

Casey: What were the first reactions to the Drumitar?

Futureman: At first people didn’t understand, but after the first Grammy and then the second one, people were like, “Oh!” And at every NAMM Show people would understand my new approach to the drums a little bit better. My whole approach was to never advertise it, let people experience it, be invisible. If they didn’t ask, then I knew I had passed the test. Then Max Roach came to one of the Flecktones’ shows. I didn’t see him, but we talked on the phone afterwards, and I said, “Max, you are such a big influence, you’re like my hero. We used to listen to you all the time.” And he said, “Nah, man, you’re my hero. I saw you playing but I didn’t see the drums, and when I saw what you were doing I thought: That’s some creative shit.” That’s all I needed.

Victor Wooten

Wooten is one of the greatest bassists in music, and also plays cello ocassionally. He has won the Bass Player of the Year award from Bass Player magazine three times and is among the 10 best bass players of all time according to Rolling Stone.

He has a long solo career history and a big interest in teaching music that led him to create the Center for Music and Nature and includes all instruments.

Howard Levy and Jeff Coffin

Even though Howard and Jeff didn’t stay for every step of the way with the rest of the band, they both brought something fresh to the sound of the band since they were both so different yet great musicians.

Howard was a multi instrumentalist, but his main thing was the harmonica which was beautifully implemented with the Fleckstones.

On the other side, Jeff was a saxophonist since the age of five, and with that long history in his pocket, it was only logical that the sax part in the Fleckstones would be very very interesting.

This is a very unique band full of talent and cool experiments, so for any musician out there, try listening to some of their work, it’s almost guaranteed to be worth your while.

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Just like in movies, tv shows, politics, and everyday life, music has shared some important moments when it comes to the acceptance of people choosing who they want to be, and never be judged the wrong way because of their gender, sexual orientation or any other part of them.
There are someimportant figures in the history of music that have shown great strength and resolve when it comesto overcoming these issues that with each passing day become a thing from the past. However there is still a fight towards a world where empathy and love can overcome these things that separates us as human beings.

In order to remember and to praise the people that have made it in the music industry despite these problems, let’s go over some of them.

Aaron Copland

It would be a hard thing to overstate the big impact on music that was brought upon by Aaron Copland, often called “Dean of American Composers,”. When it comes to his influences, they were very varied and international; he had a wide circle of friends included musicians, artists, and writers; and he traveled a lot, which gave him the chance to learn from other cultures and grow as a musician.

He never tried to hide his relationships or anything to the world, he just did his thing and manage to live a peaceful, succesful life as a musician.

Freddy Mercury

It would be hard to imagine a world without Freddy Mercury, one of the biggest singers ever. Freddy saw his fair share of judging looks and insecurities, but none of that stopped him from making history.

In an interview he was ased about being a sex symbol and being bisexual, to which he answered:

It’s a great feeling. I play on the bisexual thing because it’s something else, it’s fun. But I don’t put on the show because I feel I have to and the last thing I want to do is give people an idea of exactly who I am. I want people to work out their own interpretation of me and my image. I don’t want to build a frame around myself and say, ‘This is what I am’ or ‘This is all I am”.

It’s an interesting take and a good one, because as musicians, the most important thing is the music, through that people can make their assumptions, but everyone has their own private life.

Howard Ashman

Disney couldn’t brag about many of the great songs of its classics if it weren’t for Howard Ashman,

Howard had to endure the harshness of AIDS just like many other people, but thanks to his talent, he could cope with it in the most beautiful way possible, giving life to Disney characters.

The Beauty and the Beast’s producer Don Hahn said:

He was really dealing with a debilitating disease, in an era when it was stigmatized. And so, there were so many of those underpinnings to the movie that people may not have seen.

Sister Rosetta Tharpe

Even though she is not as famous world wide as Elvis, she does carry the same amount of creativity and power for blues and rock n’ roll.

Just like many blues artists, she began singing at the church, and picked up the guitar at a very early age.

In a biography by Gayle Wald, he states that:

For homosexuals in her audiences, rumors about Rosetta’s sexuality might have been liberating, an invitation to look for tell-tale signs of affirmation of their own veiled existence.

Interview With Sam Smith

One of the most famous artists in the music industry today, Sam Smith, spoke in an interview with GQ magazine about some aspects of his life and his career as a gay artist.

When talking about touring he said:

It’s wonderful. It’s amazing. There are parts of the world where I’ve performed, such as in China, Abu Dhabi and places like that, where I’m singing my song “Him” on stage and I have the flag come up and it feels very proud. I feel very proud. But it can be scary at times. In some countries where it’s illegal you have to send your lyrics and everything to them before you perform – but they OK it, they all OK it, and sometimes I can’t believe they’ve OKed it, because it seems weird to me. But I don’t know what I should do: I don’t know whether I should perform in places where it’s illegal. It’s this weird thing: there aren’t that many queer artists who have played in arenas all around the world like I have. There just isn’t a lot. You’ve got Elton [John] and you’ve got George [Michael]. I’m trying to think of who else, obviously Freddie [Mercury], but it’s difficult. It’s uncharted territory at times

I’m starting to understand how big this world is and this planet is. If anyone in a situation can help kids out there, it’s really important to do that and speak about it. I want to speak about my learning experience and what I’m figuring out in case that helps in some way. It helps me as well. Talking about it helps.

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There is a very exciting yet uncertain nature about rock artists that sometimes manages to surprise us in very interesting ways. One of the most important figures in rock of the 21st century is Joshua Homme, now leading man of Queens of the Stone Age, producer, and overall “workaholic” when it comes to music.

Having collaborated with the likes of Dave Grohl, John Paul Jones and Iggy Pop, Josh doesn’t hesitate when it comes to bringing new ideas to life.

The Desert

Josh was born in May 17, 1973 in Joshua Tree, CA. He started playing guitar at the very early age of nine, from there he eventually found the right people to play with to start a band, however the scene in Palm Desert was not very intense, so there was not many people to play with.

It wasn’t until these “generator parties” began where friends would gather in a secluded part of the desert where the band would plug into a power generator and jam all night, that Josh would meet his first true band.

Kyuss was Josh Homme’s first band, it was a very raw sound, very heavy but not as heavy as metal, it had a pecualiar personality with a strong bass, and very low pitched sounds.

The band ended up being one of the pioneers of stoner rock, and one of the things that made them make music like that was the place they were, the isolated, strange and beautiful place, the desert of California.

He once said in an interview with NME that:

There’s a bit of mental disrobing that goes on as you drive to the desert.” Josh muses. “I think as a musician, particularly in this day and age, you have a bit of armour on to protect yourself from grabbing hands and chatting mouths and closed ears. You do it to insulate yourself. But on the way to Joshua Tree, you take a lot of that off – which is ultimately a combination of insecurity and bravado – and you really empty your pockets of the residual of trying to protect yourselves.

Queens of The Stone Age

After Kyuss broke up, Josh Homme gave up on playing guitar for while until some casual gigs and the Dessert Sessions, (a series of “jams” made into records with several guest musicians) mad ehim recover his passion for having his own band.

With the help of former Kyuss’ drummer Alfredo Hernandez the band was born, which had Josh Homme as guitarrist and lead vocals. Although the band had many changes in its roster through the years the inclusion of bassist Nick Oliveri in 1998 and guitarrist Troy Van Leeuwen in 2002, the band reached new heights.

Queens of The Stone age maintained the desert charm while also experimenting with a lot more variety, bringing them into the spotlight of rock music. Josh’s guitar playing got a boost of personality which made the band special and unique, and it was this dark, eerie blues sound, that was also sometimes fun and quirky.

Josh says in an interview with mensjournal.com:

It’s still heavy-rock music-a little more melodic, robotic, and psychotic. We’re trying to set it up so we can play a new style of music that we like so the spectrum is a little wider. That’s the main focus-we’re still heavy rock, but also whatever else that’s good.

As the band continues to evolve, Josh begins to have new ideas as well like participating in various side projects and encouraging the band to grow in way that makes them happy.

For many people, rock is not that big today and has “died” in many ways, however among the big names that proves them wrong is Joshua Homme, who hasn’t only brought incredible music to the world but also helped other giants like the Arctic Monkeys by being an inspiration and producing an album for them.

Sometimes it’s better to just listen.

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