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Now Playing: Special Collaboration Edition

Our collaborative folio with Indiana Review is no ordinary issue, and so this month's Now Playing is no ordinary feature. We asked our contributors to talk about their favorite collaborations, musical and otherwise, and the stories folded within:

Kenneth Lee

The saxophone and bass sample from Tom Scott’s cover of “Today” wins you over immediately. It’s the driving force of the track!! And when Jefferson Airplane first performed the original “Today,” there wasn’t a saxophone featured at all. You have the initial 1960s folk-rock song, covered a year or two later with the inclusion of some sweet saxophone, sampled decades later into hip-hop. So, I guess, in a manner of speaking, it took decades, multiple artistic voices with different experiences, to create an all-time great.

Lena Ziegler

In the 1970s Bob Dylan and The Band collaborated on three albums: the live album, Before the Flood (1974), a studio album, Planet Waves (1974), and a bootleg, The Basement Tapes (1975). Dylan's relationship with The Band started in the 1960s, when they were called The Hawks and backing him up on tour. Though they were their own band, with their own voice and sound, with Dylan in his prime, they kept being referred to as 'the band' and eventually that's what they became: a group of people forever defined by their connection to one other person. Despite it's mid-70s release, The Basement Tapes was actually recorded in the mid-60s in Big Pink - the house outside of Woodstock, New York which was featured on the cover of their 1968 album Music from Big Pink, where members of The Band lived and recorded together. I spent last summer in Woodstock, surrounded by green and trees and the magic of the mountain overlooking the town, a thing of raw creation locals and frequent visitors, like me, try to explain but can't. I spent an afternoon in search of Big Pink, winding through country roads and forests. I came upon a gravel drive too narrow to fit more than one car. I followed it into the woods, imagining the pictures of Big Pink that would live on my phone forever when I'd finally see the house in person. But signs told me to turn back, that this place was private, and cops would be called on sight of any intruders. I debated in that moment, really questioned if I should turn back, or ditch my car, creep through the forest like some kind of animal and peek through the dirt and brush at Big Pink, the birthplace of my favorite collaboration, favorite relationship in music history. Though casual fans of Dylan may not know about his relationship to The Band, his career built around the concept of his solo legend, I know them as intrinsically linked. The raw sound of The Band behind Dylan screaming How does it feeeeeeeeel? to the audience in Royal Albert Hall. Richard Manuel howling Tears of Rage, co-penned with Dylan in 1968 in the opening track of Music from Big Pink. There is no separating these two entities, both larger-than-life and down-home-country all at the same time. I tell you, I really debated what to do in that moment, parked in my car in the middle of the drive, This Wheel's on Fire sounding through my shitty car speakers, and leaves falling like rain drops around me. I decided, ultimately, to turn back. There was nothing really back there for me anyway. Only ghosts in the forest. Well, ghosts and a restored bed and breakfast.

Sean F. Munro

All-time favorite music collaboration: Rebirth Brass Band, Tuesday nights @ the Maple Leaf in New Orleans with the crowd. The collaboration between crowd and band dictates how heavy the set is. If the crowd knows the words, chants the chants, claps rhythms, and grooves groin, the show is longer, better, and sweatier. If the jammed front row is standstill staring, two sets and they're out with the second set shortened. If the crowd's jumpin', the band's pumpin' three sets: supersweat wring your shirt in the street after the set. Linked is an accurate example of what it feels like to be in the front row signing and grooving.

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