Daniel Levitin, Rodney Crowell, and a shout-out on Minnesota Public Radio

Two mornings ago my phone started ringing and my email box filled up with messages from friends telling me "I was just listening to NPR and they were interviewing some author and he mentioned you!"

A nice way to start the day! Turns out that Minnesota Public Radio was interviewing my friend Dan, who has released a brand new book called "The World In Six Songs."

Daniel Levitin is a neuroscientist, musician, and professor at McGill University in Montreal. He's pioneering research about the brain and how music contributes to development. It's very interesting stuff, and his books are written in such a way that the layperson can really dig into this information and come away with "new ears" for the music that surrounds us. My wife Dawn has some good comments regarding Dan's books at her blog.

You can listen to Dan's radio interview by visiting the MPR Midmorning radio webpage and clicking on the "Music and the Shaping of Humanity (program audio)" link in the upper right corner of the page. If you want to hear Dan giving me a shout-out, you have to listen all the way to 49:45.

And don't forget to buy yourself a copy of "The World in Six Songs". It also makes a great stocking stuffer for the music nerd or brain scientist on your Holiday shopping list!

Here's a photo of Dan Levitin and me, about ten years ago (the stamp on the picture is incorrect...it was not 1987!), during one of my stranger gigs. I played a concert on the sidewalk of Melrose Avenue in Hollywood and Dan happened to be in town. Dawn and I met Dan way back in 1992 at grad school at the University of Oregon. Dawn and Dan were both in the psychology department, and we discovered a common love of music. Each Thursday Dan had a group of folks over to his house and we would listen to music together. Dan was just transitioning from a career in showbiz where he'd been a session musician, record producer, and exec at Reprise Records. He'd worked with a huge list of artists from Santana to Stevie Wonder to kd lang, and he was (and is) a walking wealth of showbiz and technical knowledge as well as the sheer wonder and joy of music.

At the time I was a 21 year old with a high school diploma, and I had never done any hanging out with record producers or neuroscientists before, so Dan was a huge influence on my own musical development as a listener and a performer. I remember sitting in Dan's living room with a group of U of O grad students and professors, listening intently to the hi-hat parts on Steely Dan records. I remember comparing the different sounds captured by producer Chris Thomas on two different Pretenders albums. One night some brain researchers from Russia were in town so we went with professor Don Tucker to hear his daugher Corin Tucker's punk band Heavens To Betsy play a show at a local art gallery (Corin would go on to form legendary trio Sleater-Kinney). Thanks to those Thursday nights in front of Dan's stereo, I discovered one of my favorite songwriters, Parthenon Huxley. My wife Dawn may have been in grad school for psychology, but I was in grad school for rock and roll.

You can read more about those musically formative days of mine in the liner notes for my Best of the 20th Century album, written by none other than Daniel Levitin. I'm very pleased to join Julia Fordham and Stevie Wonder in the list of folks who have liner notes by Levitin!

Dan's new book "The World in Six Songs" features amazing insights from many great musicians including Joni Mitchell and Sting. Another main character in the book is Rodney Crowell, and I just so happen to be on a Rodney kick these days. It started a few years ago when I went to my mailbox and found a package from Amazon.com. I hadn't ordered anything myself, but I opened the envelope to find a gift sent to me by Dan...a CD of Rodney's The Houston Kid. I didn't have any of Rodney's albums at this point, so it was a great discovery for me. Since then I've followed him through his recent series of brilliant career-reinventing albums Fate's Right Hand (my favorite, I think), The Outsider, and now his brand new one Sex & Gasoline. I shall close this post with some holiday shopping advice: buy some Levitin books and some Crowell CDs as gifts for yourself this year!

And thanks to Dan for the music and fun and education and the shout-out on the radio!


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