Joe Strummer, Boy George and me

Back in 1982 when I was covering rock’n’roll for The Aquarian, we decided to try for interviews with the biggest stars of the day, one of them Joe Strummer of the Clash.

Strummer’s publicist at Epic Records politely told me that Joe had taken some time off to go to France and write some new songs. But the publicist asked if I would be interested in speaking with one of Epic’s new and upcoming bands, a group called Culture Club with a flamboyant lead singer.

That’s how I became one of the first American journalists to interview Boy George – and it’s also why we made it a point to find Joe Strummer’s home while we were in Newport, Wales.

A musical look at the 2020 Democratic presidential candidates

“A pamphlet, no matter how good, is never read more than once, but a song is learned by heart and repeated over and over.”

– Joe Hill, songwriter and labor activist 

In the spirit of Joe Hill’s quote about the power of song and with all due respect to the excellent reporting done on the campaign trail, here is a musical look at the Democratic Party’s 2020 presidential candidates.

(Click here to listen to my May 17 radio show about the presidential race or keep reading to learn what songs I played – and why.) Continue reading

As Billy Joel turns 70: Five songs from the ‘Piano Man’ to inspire journalists


References to the New York Times and the (New York) Daily News in “New York State of Mind” are the most obvious connections between Billy Joel’s lyrics and the world of journalism. But journalists also can find connections in several songs from the Piano Man’s extensive catalog. As Joel turns 70 today, here are five of his compositions that will resonate with the hard-working members of the Fourth Estate. Continue reading

Why Are Four-Letter Words Finding Their Way Into Mainstream Media News Reports?

carousel_image_10d3635a0926437c9e30_IMG_1026Five years ago, when a U.S. diplomat used a four-letter word to express her frustration with the European Union, most media reports did not include the word she used.

Lexicographer Jesse Sheidlower was troubled by the omission, and in a New York Times opinion piece, he argued that the media was behind the times and that the exclusion of words – even four-letter words – made it difficult for readers to fully comprehend the significance of news reports. Continue reading