Monday, December 7, 2009


Tomorrow will mark another year since the senseless murder of John Lennon. But this album, released posthumously, fortunately brought back some great music from this legend of rock and roll.

There's not much I can say about John Lennon that hasn't been better said before by others. Likely I'll read a few more tributes to him, as I have in the past few days, so I thought I'd focus on Jim Keltner, the drummer on this record, as he had a long and storied history of playing with John Lennon.

Live in New York City features a stellar cast of musicians playing some grest songs. One of my favorite drummers, Jim Keltner, plays the live benefit concert by Lennon, thrown at the special request of Lennon by Geraldo Rivera. Keltner did the gig, and he is fabulous.

Keltner is a studio drummer and live drummer who has played with many of the greats of rock and roll.

Keltner first hit my radar screen when I was a youngster and he was playing double drums with Jim Gordon behind Joe Cocker's Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour, but he'd been out and about before then. Since then, he's played with hundreds of artists. He's a master, and if you're interested in just extraordinary drumming at all, pick up the CD that he did with Charlie Watts

Here's what Keltner's wiki page says about some of his playing:

"Keltner is best known for his session work on solo recordings by three of The Beatles, working often with George Harrison, John Lennon (including Lennon solo albums, as well as albums released both by the Plastic Ono Band and Yoko Ono), and Ringo Starr. He and Starr were the drummers on the Concert for Bangladesh, rock's first charity benefit, initiated by George Harrison and Ravi Shankar, in August, 1971 at Madison Square Garden in New York; he also performed at the Garden in 1972 for John Lennon's "One To One" benefit for the Willowbrook State School. Keltner later joined the 1974 George Harrison/Ravi Shankar tour, after many phone calls on the road from Harrison to him. His first gig on the tour was Memphis November 20, 1974.

Keltner's relationship with the former Beatles was such that he was parodied on albums released by both Harrison and Starr in 1973. Early that year, Paul McCartney, the only Beatle not to have worked with Keltner, included a note on the back cover of his Red Rose Speedway album, encouraging fans to join the "Wings Fun Club" by sending a "stamped addressed envelope" to an address in London. Later that year, both Harrison's Living in the Material World and Starr's "Ringo" contained a similar note encouraging fans to join the "Jim Keltner Fun Club" by sending a "stamped undressed elephant" to an address in Hollywood. Keltner plays the role of the judge in the video for George Harrison's 1976 Top 30 hit, "This Song".

As a percussionist, Keltner started out in jazz, although his first session was recording "She's Just My Style" for the pop group Gary Lewis and the Playboys. In addition to his work with three of the Beatles, Keltner, as a free-lance drummer, has also worked with Roy Orbison, Harry Nilsson, Jerry Garcia, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Joe Cocker, Van Dyke Parks, the Rolling Stones, Ronnie Wood, Bill Wyman, Mick Jagger, Keith Richards, Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Brian Wilson, Seals and Crofts, Bill Frisell, Neil Young, Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young, Phil Keaggy, Steve Jones, Crowded House, Fiona Apple, Elvis Costello, The Bee Gees, Jackson Browne, Ry Cooder, Sam Phillips, Los Lobos, Pink Floyd, Warren Zevon, Steely Dan, Rufus Wainwright, Tom Petty, Gillian Welch, the Steve Miller Band, Alice Cooper and Lucinda Williams among many others. He is featured on Carly Simon's 1971 album, Anticipation. In 1973 Keltner was the session drummer on Bob Dylan's Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, which includes the hit "Knockin' on Heaven's Door". Jim says that session "was a monumental session for me because it was such a touching song, it was the first time I actually cried when I was playing".

In the late 1980s, Keltner toured with Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band. He also played drums on both albums released by Harrison's 1980s supergroup, the
Traveling Wilburys, playing under the pseudonym Buster Sidebury.

He has specialized in R&B, and is said to have influenced Jeff Porcaro and Danny Seraphine of Chicago. His drumming style typically melds deceptively simple drum patterns and a casual, loose feel with extraordinary precision. Demonstrations of his style and range can be found from Jealous Guy on John Lennon's Imagine, the hit single Dreamweaver by Gary Wright, Josie on Aja by Steely Dan, Watching The River Flow by Bob Dylan and The Thorns' debut, in which he provides a master class in sensitive musicianship alongside Matthew Sweet, Pete Droge and Shawn Mullins. Has performed as a session artist on many of the classic recordings by J. J. Cale. Often double billed with bassist Tim Drummond - a formidable combination."

In any event, you've likely heard a song or two that Keltner has drummed on over his illustrious career.

Just give a listen to "Cold Turkey" on this album and listen to some great rockin' music.

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