Crazy Heart: A Q&A With Ryan Bingham

American Songwriter

Ryan Bingham has lived an itinerant life. Before becoming a professional musician, Bingham spent several years on the bull-riding circuit, a job that he says involves as much “bullshit” as the music biz. Today, the Texas-reared songwriter is best known for penning “The Weary Kind,” the Academy Award-winning song for the 2009 film Crazy Heart.

We sat down with Bingham at Bonnaroo, where he treated us to a performance of “Bread & Water,” a cut off his first album Mescalito. During our interview, he talked about his development as an artist, the inspiration behind the “The Weary Kind,” and why the state of Texas produces a special kind of songwriter.


Bruce Springsteen, “Brilliant Disguise”

September 10th, 2012

American Songwriter

Coming off the mega-success of Born In The USA, Bruce Springsteen could have easily churned out another ten rock and roll anthems and continued down that lucrative road endlessly. Instead, he turned inward with an album that delved into the deepest crevices of one of the most mysterious and terrifying places on earth: The human heart.

That album, Tunnel Of Love, is now adored by The Boss’ faithful for its uncompromising and unflinching look at relationship trauma, the same traits that might have turned off some of the casual fans back when it was released in ’87. Bruce chose “Brilliant Disguise” as the song to introduce this dark classic to the world, and the song still stands as one of his most compelling some 25 years after it was first released.

“Brilliant Disguise” reached #5 on the pop charts, helped along by a soaring arrangement featuring E Streeters Max Weinberg, Danny Federici, and Roy Bittan, that’s reminiscent of classic Roy Orbison. The sugary sound surely helped the medicine go down, because it’s rare for lyrics so bleak to invade Billboard’s rankings.

As Springsteen said when performing the song on VH1’s Storytellers in 2005, “I guess it sounds like a song of betrayal — who’s that person sleeping next to me, who am I? Do I know enough about myself to be honest with that person?” Indeed, the song’s narrator incriminates himself as much as he does his wayward significant other.

Bruce quickly shatters expectations by introducing the romantic scene of the couple dancing and then undercutting it: “What are those words whispered/Just as you turn away.” With the tone of paranoia set, it’s no surprise that this guy can’t escape his suspicions, not even in his home, not even in his bedroom.

At least he is self-aware enough to understand that his issues have more to do than with just his choice of lover: “I want to know if it’s you I don’t trust/’Cause I damn sure don’t trust myself.” Nonetheless, he gets drawn into the deceptive give-and-take. In the final refrain, he tells her, “So when you look at me/You better look hard and look twice/Is that me baby or just a brilliant disguise?”

If that wasn’t dire enough, Springsteen throws in an epilogue in which the narrator surveys the crumbling kingdom of his love and musters enough useless wisdom to give advice to anyone listening: “God have mercy on the man/Who doubts what he’s sure of.” It’s one of the best closing lines in rock.

In hindsight, many people read Springsteen’s own marital problems (he divorced actress Julianne Phillips a year after the album’s release) into this song and some of the others on Tunnel Of Love, but that somehow diminishes his accomplishment. “Brilliant Disguise” is relevant to anyone who has ever experienced the lonely feeling that occurs when you realize the person you love most is the person you trust least.

“Brilliant Disguise”

I hold you in my arms
as the band plays
What are those words whispered baby
just as you turn away
I saw you last night
out on the edge of town
I wanna read your mind
To know just what I’ve got in this new thing I’ve found
So tell me what I see
when I look in your eyes
Is that you baby
or just a brilliant disguise

I heard somebody call your name
from underneath our willow
I saw something tucked in shame
underneath your pillow
Well I’ve tried so hard baby
but I just can’t see
What a woman like you
is doing with me
So tell me who I see
when I look in your eyes
Is that you baby
or just a brilliant disguise

Now look at me baby
struggling to do everything right
And then it all falls apart
when out go the lights
I’m just a lonely pilgrim
I walk this world in wealth
I want to know if it’s you I don’t trust
’cause I damn sure don’t trust myself

Now you play the loving woman
I’ll play the faithful man
But just don’t look too close
into the palm of my hand
We stood at the alter
the gypsy swore our future was right
But come the wee wee hours
Well maybe baby the gypsy lied
So when you look at me
you better look hard and look twice
Is that me baby
or just a brilliant disguise

Tonight our bed is cold
I’m lost in the darkness of our love
God have mercy on the man
Who doubts what he’s sure of

– Written by Bruce Springsteen

Amy Winehouse: only now can we glimpse her legacy

Amy Winehouse: ‘There’s nothing more pure apart from your love of music’

Via theguardian

Like many other dead artists, it’s easy to remember the late singer as a tragic caricature. But that betrays her real musical worth

On the first anniversary of the death of Amy Winehouse, found in her bed at her north London home, the afternoon after a night of furious drinking. It was a strangely quiet end to a life racked by drug abuse, musical accolades and wild, reckless love affairs; an evening, according to her bodyguard, of television, vodka and laughter.

In the aftermath, the days were filled with a great swirl of tributes from her admirers, with the graffiti that appeared on the walls of Camden, with the fans who flocked to her local pub, the Hawley Arms, and left flowers outside her home. “We all love you and will continue to love you,” read one. “Your legend lives on.”

As the months rolled by, the fuss slowly settled: the paparazzi decamped from her stomping ground; her parents, Mitch and Janis, began to speak to the press less often. A foundation was set up in her name.

Last December, Island Records released Lioness: Hidden Treasures, a collection of unreleased songs and demos selected by Winehouse’s family along with producers Mark Ronson and Salaam Remi. It immediately reached No 1 in the UK album charts, selling almost 200,000 copies in its first week. To some it seemed rushed out with undue haste, but for others it met not only a demand but a need – solace for the devastated fans who craved more of her very particular brand of salty, rough-edged soul.

It was also, crucially, the first step in the shift away from the Winehouse of common caricature, the Olive Oyl figure with the beehive, and the drug abuse, the saucy mouth and the baleful talk of “Blake Incarcerated”; the artist people had sadly come to expect – who had once offered to lamp a member of the audience at Glastonbury, and who had last graced a stage at a festival in Serbia, where she stood swaying and mumbling before a baying audience of 20,000.

How we process the death of an artist and how their legacy is then established is a peculiar and somewhat unsettling art. There is a gulf to be bridged between the rawness of a musician’s departure and the new world of biopics and boxsets; a period of grace, in which their image and their music must lie in state.

But the velocity of our world now, and the encyclopaedic inclinations of modern technology, make this period of sitting musical shiva harder. In our desire to refresh and consume new entertainment, we are eager to forget that which went before; and should we wish to remember, all of the misdemeanours, the unflattering photographs, the phone camera footage of that shambolic performance in Belgrade are preserved online in perpetuity.

On the cover of its latest issue, Q magazine labels Winehouse “the voice of our time”. It is a bold claim (and some might argue that the true voice of our time is the autotuned drone of American pop), but it is another stride towards the cultivation of her legacy, the fading of those images of the singer roaming the streets with bloodied feet and wild eyes.

After all, though she provided fodder for the gossip columns and the morally outraged, Winehouse also brought something remarkable to the music world, a tarry, beetle-black voice and lyrical humour. A songwriter who wrote of an intensely female experience, of the pain of love, as well as the hunger for sex, drugs and alcohol. And, of course, she helped create an appetite for the soulful British voice, paving the way for the likes of Adele, Duffy and Plan B. It is the voice that we hope will be remembered.

A few months ago, Sony released The Pearl Sessions, a 40th-anniversary edition of Janis Joplin’s first solo album, with previously unreleased recordings and demos. I was struck afresh by that extraordinary voice, by all the hurt and joy and desire wrapped up in the way she sang. And I thought not of the singer dead on the floor beside her bed at the Landmark Hotel in Los Angeles, of the heroin and alcohol and her final, scattered months, but only of the sweet release of her songs. This is how we love an artist and continue to love them. This is how the legend lives on.

• This article was amended on 24 July 2012. The original said a drug addiction charity had been set up in Amy Winehouse’s name. The Amy Winehouse Foundation helps to support young people who are in need for many reasons, including ill health, disability, financial disadvantage or addiction.

A 12-year-old Amy Winehouse wrote that she wanted to make people forget their troubles. On the anniversary of her death, Tim Jonze talks to those who knew her at the start of an extraordinary career

Amy Winehouse in her absolute prime, you MUST WATCH:

On the first anniversary of Winehouse’s death, it’s worth remembering just what a natural, instinctive musician she was. Her later, often shambolic shows (in particular that heartbreaking final performance in Belgrade) have gone some way to obscuring the memory of Winehouse at her best: she was one of the last decade’s true superstars, a performer who could be strong, emotionally devastating, yet vulnerable, too. A 2006 appearance at the Other Voices festival in Dingle, which screens for the first time on BBC4 on Monday night, remains one of her most powerful: the singer is mesmerising as she interprets several songs from Back to Black over a stripped-back band.

Airing on BBC4 Monday July 23rd at 10pm and the opening film of the East End Film Festival on July 3rd this BBC Arena / Other Voices co-production with exclusive concert and archive footage, highlights Amy’s unique talent and explores her deep affection for jazz, soul and gospel.