Joe Bihari: His Modern Records Label Helped Give Us the Blues

In the 1950s, Joe Bihari scoured African American bars and nightclubs in the South for undiscovered blues phenoms. Bihari, who passed away on Nov. 28 at age 88, tried to elevate those he found to stardom at Modern Records, the Los Angeles-based label that he cofounded with his brothers, Jules and Saul. Bihari traveled the South behind the wheel of a red 1952 Lincoln convertible. One southern lawman trying to dissuade Bihari from trying to make records with black performers, …

The Man Who Composed Princess Diana’s Musical Farewell

One of the most moving moments of Princess Diana’s funeral in 1997 was the performance of a strikingly simple but nonetheless haunting choral piece titled “Song for Athene” as her casket was carried out of Westminster Abbey. “Athene” was the work of British composer John Tavener, who died on Nov. 12 at age 69 in England. Tavener was a giant of modern music, and not just figuratively. At 6 feet 6 inches in height with a balding dome and stringy …

Rita Moreno Adds Life Achievement To Award List

As movie awards season draws a little closer, it’s worth noting that the Screen Actors Guild will give its Life Achievement Award of 2014 to the inimitable Rita Moreno, who turns 82 in December. She’ll add the SAG statue to a shelf of many others, an Emmy, two Grammys, an Oscar and a Tony (she is one of only 11 artists in entertainment history to have won that grand slam), not to mention a Presidential Medal of Freedom and a …

Elton John: Still a Student at 60 Years On

Elton John, whose first solo studio album in seven years comes out today, told University of Southern California students treated to a free concert of his last week, “You have to keep trying and improving. Coasting is dangerous. I can’t just play ‘Bennie and the Jets’ over and over again.” But John did play “Bennie and the Jets” during his concert at the university’s 1,250-seat Bovard Auditorium, along with other hit classics including “Goodbye Yellow Brick Road” and “Rocket Man.” …

Ray Dolby: He Made Everything Sound Better

In the 1970s, “Dolby” was that button on your cassette deck that you pressed to magically eliminate static hiss that could easily mar the beauty of, say, Jimmy Page’s guitar solos on Led Zeppelin’s Houses of the Holy. Of course, the noise-reduction technology pioneered by inventor Ray Dolby, who died on Sept. 12 at age 80 in San Francisco, did much more than that. Sound-improving innovations developed by his Dolby Labs have found their way into an estimated 7.4 billion …

At 96, Fred Stobaugh and His Love Song Are a Huge Hit

A 96-year-old widower’s sweet song about his late wife not only has brought him national attention, he’s also achieved a new record: The oldest artist to have a song on Billboard‘s top 100 – beating out 85-year-old Tony Bennett, no less. Fred Stobaugh of Peoria, Ill., made the iTunes top 10 last month, alongside megastars like Lady Gaga and Katy Perry. Stobaugh lost his wife, Lorraine, in April. They met in 1938 at an A&W Root Beer stand where she …