As a columnist for the Miami Herald and a prolific novelist of books such as Strip Tease, Lucky You and Star Island, Carl Hiaasen has a subject: Florida. Hiaasen grew up in the state during the 1950s and has lived and worked there his entire life, watching it morph from a rural backwater with abundant natural beauty and resources to one struggling with the effects of development and tourism.
Raised in South Berwick, Maine, and residing in Austin, Texas, Slaid Cleaves is no one's idea of a music-industry insider. He writes and sings songs primarily about working-class people and romantics both hopeful and hopeless. That said, it's also not difficult to hear another element of the fortysomething Cleaves' past: He was an English and philosophy major at Tufts, and his lyrics are underpinned by both a fine sense of meter and moral perspicacity.
Wallace Daniel Pennington grew up singing. His father played guitar and his mother played piano, and by the age of 9, the young man had a guitar of his own. The family attended church on Sunday and Wednesday each week, and to this day, Dan Penn says he remembers the entire Methodist congregation belting out hymns.
The documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, which explores the world of rock 'n' roll's backup singers, opens to the soundtrack of Lou Reed's "Walk on the Wild Side." Reed sings half the refrain â€” "And the colored girls go, doo do doo do doo" â€” until a chorus of backup singers pick up the "Do doo" line. At first these women sound far away, but as the chorus progresses, their voices get louder, less produced and polished, more real and intimate.