Soundcheck: Death & Taxes

Like everyone else, I’ve been sweating the taxman this week. While I was taking inventory of my life and figuring out last-minute tax deductions (Coffee as a business expense? Check. Writing off movie tickets to Step Up 2 as “research”? Done and done), I had a chance to finally revisit albums by a few of my all-time favorite tax evadors:

Willie Nelson, Stardust
Everyone knows that Willie Nelson would rather smoke week and braid his hair than pay taxes, but considering how genius Willie Nelson is… should he really have to pay taxes? The answer, some have said, is yes). Still, when I listen to Stardust, I can’t help but think that some people should actually be above the law. This was Willie’s take on pop standards from the 30’s and 40’s and it remains one of my all-time favorite albums. Nelson’s versions of “Someone to Watch Over Me” and “Georgia on my Mind” will make tears shoot out of your eyes quicker than you can say “audit.”




Judy Garland, Judy at Carnegie Hall: 40th Anniversary Edition
The IRS is often credited with helping ruin peoples lives, but in the case of Judy Garland it might actually be true. In 1967 Garland was stuck with a $4 million dollar tax bill that resulted in in Garland selling her home and literally living in hotels.  Judy was always at her best, howver, when faced with some kind of adversity, which is what makes this recording of her triumphant 1961 comeback show all the more awesome. Unless you have a heart of stone, I defy you to listen to “Stormy Weather” and not feel a little bit more gay (whether or not you actually happen to be gay). Just ask Rufus Wainwright.

James Brown, Hell
What didn’t James Brown do? Single-handedly create what we today consider soul music? Yes. Take a bonkers mug shot? Indeed. Pay taxes? Not all the time, at least not during the 70s. But who can blame him? He was too busy hustling up serious jams to be bothered with tomfoolery like paying taxes to the man. I’m not gonna lie, there might be more famous James Brown joints than this one, but I like it because A) it was released the year I was born (during Brown’s famous stint of non tax-payin’) and B) it has the greatest album cover ever. Also, it’s called Hell, which tells you a little something about James Brown was going through at the time.