In Memoriam – WXNA DJ Bill Verdier

Above: Bill Verdier, Ireland, circa 1984, Photo by Joanne Van Voorhis

All of us at WXNA were shocked and saddened by the news that Bill Verdier, host of Down the Back Lane, passed away on Friday, February 25, 2022 at the age of 64.

Bill was a member of WXNA’s “First Class” of DJs, showcasing the best in Celtic music on WXNA every Sunday afternoon since we first took to the air in June 2016, along with being a first-class musician and a cheerleader for Nashville’s local Celtic music scene. He was also an enthusiastic supporter of the station, working at many of our events with always a kind and friendly word for everyone he met. He embodied the best of “community radio” in everything he did for the station.

We asked Bill’s Down the Back Lane co-host, Kevin Donovan, to write a few words in memory of Bill, and he supplied this moving tribute.

It has been a privilege for me to co-host Down the Back Lane with Bill the last couple of years. Bill’s work as a DJ is an offshoot of his activity as a musician, and the show has greatly benefited from some of the same aspects of his personality that made him such a respected fiddler and arranger.

The respect and affection he inspired on and off the air is evident in the many social media posts mourning his passing from players of the music he championed, nurtured, and sustained in middle Tennessee. His vast and deep knowledge of Irish traditional music and related musical traditions enriched both the show and his playing.

I learned much about the living culture of the music from listening to the show before being invited to join him, and I continued to learn much from him in the studio. In addition, Bill’s taste and judgment were always strengths of his programming as well as his playing. So was the passion he brought to the tradition he fiercely loved, both as a player and a programmer. His lively wit and sense of humor certainly benefited the show, but they were also aspects of the great sense of fun and vitality that likewise enlivened his playing in sessions and performances. I honor and cherish the memory of our friendship, conversations, and musical exchanges, and I mourn his loss.
— Kevin Donovan, March 2, 2022

Down the Back Lane will carry on in Bill’s spirit in its usual time slot, Sundays 4-6 p.m. CT


“Most of our geniuses leave early. They leave us their legacy. They leave us their music and the music lives on forever.”
-Amp Fiddler

A Tribe Called Quest
The Roots
The Pharcyde
Erykah Badu
Busta Rhymes
De La Soul
Black Star
Janet Jackson
Ghostface Killa
Slum Village

This list represents some of the cornerstones of the second golden age of hip-hop. James Yancy was the conductor that helped ring in that second age. A period where beats and verses were dense, “bling” was merely a sample that you may grab from a Raymond Scott album to add track texture, and producers were starting to step out from behind their MPC’s and 808’s to become superstars in their own light.

Most people who worked with or consider James Yancy (J Dilla) a friend would describe him as quiet, not one to cast a wide shadow when in a room. But when his MPC 3000 was booted up (A MPC that is now in the Smithsonian btw!) and would crank out a beat in the basement of his mother’s house, it would do all the talking necessary, and you knew that you were working with one of the best.

Dilla’s legacy would begin in the neighborhood of Constant Gardens in Northeast Detroit. As a teen, Dilla teamed up with high school friends T3 and Baatin to form Slum Village, becoming the torch-bearer for Detroit underground hip-hop, creating music in the home of Funkadelic keyboardist and Constant Gardens resident Amp Fiddler.

Amp saw Dilla’s talent and while on tour with A Tribe Called Quest at Lollapalooza in 1994 he introduced Dilla to Q-Tip, a fellow beatmaker and the leader of ATCQ. Dilla handed Tip his tape of Slum Village beats and later that night Tip was floored. “I played it for Common, Questlove, Pharcyde….I was just tellin everybody you gotta hear it you gotta hear it you gotta hear it.”

And hear it they did! From 1995-2000, J Dilla would produce beats for ATCQ’s Beats, Rhymes and Life and The Love Movement, The Pharcydes’ Labcabincalifornia, Erykah Badu’s Mama Gun,
De La Soul’s Stakes Is High, Busta Rhymes’ The Coming, Common’s Like Water For Chocolate, The Root’s Things Fall Apart as well as releasing Fantastic Vol. 1 and 2 with Slum Village. He was a founding member of The Soulquarians, a collective that would usher in the 3rd golden age of hip-hop.

Dilla’s trademark sound— pulling samples from all areas of music from soul to jazz to world to abstract commercial jingles, not quantizing the beat in the MPC so that the drums are slightly off the beat and therefore more human— would make the rounds in the form of beat CD’s to MC’s and made Dilla the go-to producer in hip-hop. Even Jimmy Jam and Terry Lewis reached out to Dilla (along with Q-Tip and Ali Shaheed Muhammad) to produce a track for Janet Jackson, the biggest pop artist at that time.

As his star rose, Dilla’s health began to deteriorate. Never one to be the center of attention, Dilla didn’t tell many people that he was dealing with the autoimmune disease Lupus as well as Thrombotic thrombocytopenic purpura, a rare blood disease. In the summer of 2005 as his disease left him bedridden at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, he would produce his magnum opus, Donuts.

Created from boxes of 45’s his mom would bring up to his hospital room, the album would become his love letter to friends and fans. With thirty-one tracks (which was his age at his time of death), none exceeding 2 minutes, the music is cryptic and transcendental to what Dilla was feeling and thinking about what his legacy would be. “It is almost like listening to two producers, the person Dilla was and the person he would be if he had lived,” said friend and fellow beatmaker House Shoes.

The album was released on February 7th, 2006. Dilla would pass away three days later on February 10th.

What is left from his passing is a 10-year span of music that is still powerful and relevant, maybe more relevant than it was when it was created.

Dilla left the Ruff Draft for future producers, shining a light on feel over perfectionism, and keeps us digging for Donuts on the daily.

Nekos Barnes (blackcircle)
The Root, Mondays from 12-1pm

New Show: Reggae University

By Ahmid Sesay (Star)

Reggae University airs Wednesday nights at 9pm ct

What is Reggae? How does Reggae sound? This answer will vary depending on how many people you ask and the era in which they grew up. What is Reggae to me? Reggae is African music. Reggae is spiritual music. Reggae is educational music. How does Reggae sound? A baseline, rhythm guitar, and a one drop beat. It is African music because it resonates with Africans. I was born in Sierra Leone. The majority of my Reggae knowledge comes from being around my late father and my uncles. That is where my inspiration for music was born. The message in the music shows that we share a cultural bond and fight the same struggles universally. Reggae IS a culture.

I focus mostly on Roots Reggae. When I say “roots,” folks quickly associate that with “old school” reggae. Roots is just what most know to be the original style before Dancehall came in and took over. In my opinion, the two are not the same genre. Dancehall is to Reggae what Rap is to R&B. They come from the same people and culture, but they’re extremely different. I dislike the fact that when one is looking for Reggae, Dancehall is often first offered. That bothers me. If I’m hungry and tell you I want Curry, don’t give me jerk. Same culture, different food. Reggae is a style of music. It creates a melodic, yet relaxed vibration. Just because a man chats Patois on a song doesn’t make it Reggae.

That’s why I chose the name “Reggae University” for my show. I aim to teach people about Reggae from ALL eras. Being that I’ve never stepped foot in Jamaica but have a great knowledge of the music, I want to show the POWER of Reggae. Reggae music is a music full of activists. One would like to credit the Rastafarian faith, but it’s not just the Rastas. Jimmy Cliff, Culture, Burning Spear, Bunny Wailer, Peter, and of course Bob are just a few of the “activists” in Reggae. Most people know those names. I want to extend their knowledge to artists like Justin Hinds, The Maytones, and more. I also want to focus on educating people on the newer Roots Reggae artists like Romain Virgo, Lila Ike, Naomi Cowan, Protoje and more. Mi ave nuff fi teach unu (I have a lot to teach you all)!

The message in Reggae, especially in the earlier days, taught the Black race, wherever they may be in the world, to focus on and to cherish Africa. It is our home. It taught us the teachings of Marcus Garvey. It taught about peace and love. The beauty of Reggae is that you can never learn nor have enough. I have crates of records and boxes of cds and still feel like I need to double the amount of what I have. First you start with Bob Marley, then next it may be Gregory Isaacs, then Culture, then Morgan Heritage or Luciano. The music has a deep, rich history that I hope will be revered more as time progresses. So….when you’re chanced, come a mi school and sit dung inna de front row. Its a serious ting mi deh pon…..Reggae University.

WXNA Thanks You!

WXNA thanks you — our generous listeners — for helping us not only meet but exceed our fundraising goal for our fall pledge drive. Your support will help make sure this station continues to grow and thrive. We are so grateful that you are the people in #peoplepoweredradio.

Tis’ the Season

‪Tis’ the season! If you want to find the coolest gifts, head on over to and check out our fantastic selection of swag, including our brand new “Best of Nashville 2018” long sleeve shirt. And the 2017 shirt is now on sale!

Happy Holidays from WXNA :gift: