MADELEINE BRAND, host:

OK, that's the sex, now the rock and roll. Pop music is filled with singer-songwriters. You know, someone singing along to a piano or a guitar. Kind of a cliche. Well, not this woman, Lili Haydn. David Was has a profile of her.

(Soundbite of music)

DAVID WAS: Rock and roll violinist Lili Haydn has just released her third studio album, "Place Between Places," which is quite an accomplishment in and of itself. In a genre better suited to electric guitars jacked up to 11, the 23 inches of fragile spruce and maple, that she calls her axe, hardly seems fit to compete much less be heard.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: Then again, the diminutive 33-year-old has more moxy and attitude than a tour bus full of heavy metal crack-heads. Attending a music business pow-wow some years ago, she sauntered uninvited to the front of the stage and started playing with George Clinton's P-Funk review. That led to a two-year residency with the funk ringleader, who has since called Lili Haydn, the Jimi Hendrix of the violin.

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: The tough girl take no prisoners determination may have been a genetic gift from her mother, cult comedienne Lotus Weinstock. A former hostess at the Bitter End in 1963, she was famous for making Bob Dylan pay a cover charge when he was trying to get in free. She was also Lenny Bruce's paramour for the last nine months of his life. It was Lotus who told her daughter to just show up at people's gigs and let them know who she was, a tendency that led her mother to call Lili a jam slut. Such full frontal behavior led to notable gigs, like jamming with Jimmy Page and Robert Plant, and recently Roger Waters at Coachella, for his recreation of "The Dark Side Of The Moon."

(Soundbite of music)

WAS: On her own album, Lili's gate-crasher persona gives way to the neo-psychedelic flower child just beneath the surface.

(Soundbite of unidentified song)

Ms. LILI HAYDN: (Singing) Eye, for an eye, for an eye, for an eye, how long can this go on?

WAS: On the song "Children of Babylon," her wispy vocals appeal for an end to warfare, and she's audacious enough to rhyme violins with violence, wishing aloud that the sound of the former could eradicate the latter. Magical thinking at its best.

(Soundbite of song "Children of Babylon")

Ms. HAYDN: (Singing) How many lives will it take, oh if the sound of violins could only stop violence, I pray for it now…

WAS: The last track on the album is a cover of George Clinton's "Maggot Brain," which features her soloing with the Dakah Hip-Hop Orchestra. The shrinking violet finally disappears altogether and the rock star virtuoso takes center stage. Her soaring wah-wah peddle violin makes you forget Lili Haydn stands just five feet tall and plays with a bow instead of a pick. Heifetz meet Hendrix.

(Soundbite of music)

COHEN: Lili Haydn's new CD is called "Place Between Places." Our reviewer is David Was. He's half of the musical duo Was Not Was.

(Soundbite of music)

BRAND: Day to Day's a production of NPR News, with contributions from slate.com. I'm Madeleine Brand.

COHEN: And I'm Alex Cohen.

Copyright © 2008 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.

Comments

 

Please keep your community civil. All comments must follow the NPR.org Community rules and Terms of Use. NPR reserves the right to use the comments we receive, in whole or in part, and to use the commenter's name and location, in any medium. See also the Terms of Use, Privacy Policy and Community FAQ.