Pop & Hiss
The L.A. Times music blog
Remembering Rod McKuen, the accidental hipster

I was with an acquaintance -- a music expert who, like me, is in his early 40s -- when I heard Rod McKuen had passed away at 81. "The cheesy easy-listening music guy?" he asked.

His assessment is not exactly incorrect. It is undeniable that McKuen's many albums of the 1960s and '70s are now seen as cheesy artifacts of a bygone era, dusty LPs with sentimental covers found in the packed bins of seemingly every Goodwill across America (go ahead, try not to find a copy of 1967's "The Sea" or 1974's "Alone" at your nearest thrift store).

And the same goes for his volumes of best-selling poetry -- or "doggerel," in the words of several highbrow critics who were tasked with reviewing them when they came out and sold thousands of copies. Like fellow singer Jewel's astonishingly popular 1999 book "A Night Without Armor," the lyrical work of McKuen can be regularly snapped up for 50 cents a piece in garage sales across the land.

For some people of my generation, however, there are other, less...

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Rod McKuen, prolific songwriter and poet, dies at 81

Rod McKuen, a prolific songwriter and poet whose compositions include the Academy Award-nominated song “Jean” for the 1969 film “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” has died. He was 81.

McKuen had recently been hospitalized and died Thursday at a Beverly Hills rehabilitation center of respiratory arrest after suffering from pneumonia, according to his friend and producer Jim Pierson.

Among McKuen’s commercial successes in the 1960s and '70s were his reworking of Jacques Brel’s song "Le Moribond" for the English-language version of “Seasons in the Sun,” later covered by the Kingston Trio and Terry Jacks. Frank Sinatra recorded an album of McKuen songs in 1969 called “A Man Alone,” which included “Love’s Been Good to Me.”

Besides his score for “The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie,” McKuen’s music for the animated feature “A Boy Named Charlie Brown” was also nominated for an Oscar.

McKuen was born in Oakland in 1933 and wrote later of an unhappy childhood and the abuse he endured at the hands of...

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Lil Wayne hits Cash Money with $51-million lawsuit

Lil Wayne’s beef with his longtime label Cash Money has become litigious, with the rapper filing a lawsuit to the tune of $51 million.

After TMZ broke the news on Thursday, the 21-page suit surfaced detailing his business dealings with Cash Money, setting up his own Young Money imprint (Drake, Nicki Minaj, Tyga) and amendments to his long-term deal along with advances the label owes to him.

The suit alleges that Cash Money head Bryan “Birdman” Williams (whom Wayne has long referred to as his surrogate father) and the label have withheld substantial payments to Wayne for his serially delayed album, “Tha Carter V.”

For “Tha Carter V,” Wayne says he is owed $10 million, per a 2012 contract extension that would see Cash Money giving him a $10-million advance per solo album -- $8 million to be paid at the start of recording and then $2 million being paid upon delivery, according to the lawsuit.

A number of other grievances are outlined in the suit, which was filed in Manhattan Federal Court...

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Black Sabbath's Geezer Butler arrested in Death Valley bar fight

Geezer Butler, the longtime Black Sabbath bassist, allegedly has a knack for bashing listeners offstage as well.

The 65-year-old Terence Michael Butler was arrested Tuesday on charges of misdemeanor assault, intoxication and vandalism at the Corkscrew Saloon in Death Valley National Park.

According to BBC reports, Inyo County police said that an argument at the bar involving Butler quickly escalated into a physical confrontation. Police arrived shortly after midnight and reported a broken window and one person struck during the altercation.

Butler was arrested and released after what police described as "detox and citation." He gave a Beverly Hills location as his address, and later took to Twitter to express remorse.

"Thx for your messages

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Tom Petty calls similarity of Sam Smith song just a 'musical accident'

Similarities between British singer Sam Smith's Grammy-nominated hit, "Stay with Me," and Tom Petty and Jeff Lynne's 1989 hit, "I Won't Back Down," are nothing more than a "musical accident," Petty said in a statement Thursday.

Petty and Lynne's names were added to the writing credits of "Stay With Me" after the publishers of "I Won't Back Down" noted a resemblance between the songs' chorus melodies.

Petty said there was never any mention of a lawsuit over the song and all is well between the musicians.

"Let me say I have never had any hard feelings toward Sam," Petty said. "All my years of songwriting have shown me these things can happen."

Petty said that most of the time, such similarities are caught before a song gets out of the studio, "but in this case it got by." Smith's song was nominated for this year's Grammys in the song of the year and the record of the year categories.

Although Petty and Lynne are now credited as co-writers of the song, along with Sam Smith, James Napier...

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Overwhelming demand for Grateful Dead's 'Fare Thee Well' shows

Looks like the Deadheads have turned the slate of final Grateful Dead shows into this year’s golden ticket.

More than a week after the surviving members of the band announced a trio of 50th anniversary shows at Chicago's Soldier Field over the Fourth of July weekend, fan demand for tickets was staggering.

Following in its tradition, Grateful Dead first made tickets available through a mail order system explained on its website. In the week since the band began accepting requests, they received more than 60,000 envelopes containing more than 350,000 requests – and that’s just the mail-in pre-orders.

Tickets – which range from $59.50 to $199.50 -- don’t officially go on sale to the public until Feb. 28, and that date was pushed back from its original date of Feb. 14 in order to sort through the onslaught of requests.

Many dedicated Deadheads are going to be left looking for a miracle, however. Soldier Field’s capacity is about 60,000, which means there’s less than 200,000 tickets up for...

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