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Gord Downie and The Tragically Hip

Posted by purplemary54 on August 22, 2016

The Tragically Hip is one of those bands that seems like they’ve always been around.  You don’t think about them very much (unless you’re a fan) because they’re like the furniture: a solid, steady presence that gives you comfort and entertainment, but otherwise doesn’t get in the way. I’ve never been much of a fan, so this particular band has always been more like furniture in someone else’s house, but I still feel a little bit like the rug’s been pulled out from under me.  See, because The Tragically Hip was always there, I always figured I could catch up with them somewhere down the line.  There wasn’t any real urgency to listen, since I could always rely on them to be there.

Not so much, anymore, it turns out.

When lead singer Gord Downie was diagnosed with terminal brain cancer, he decided to go out on one last tour with the band he’s fronted for some 30 years.  Keep working as long as you can, go out doing what you love.  That seems to be what musicians faced with the end of their lives these days are doing more and more.  (Dying music looks like it’s gonna become a whole new sub-genre, kind of like divorce albums.)

Last night, The Tragically Hip played their last show in Downie’s hometown of Kingston, Ontario.  By all accounts, it was an awesome concert. I might go back and watch it someday, after I’ve caught up with the rest of their catalogue.  Because just listening to this one tune from their final album, Man Machine Poem, this is one band I should’ve been paying attention to all along.

I’m sorry there isn’t going to be any more of this ageless music.  The style is such that it could be perfectly at home in the 80s, 90s, or right now.  Americans suffer from a great deal of myopia as far as music from other countries goes, and this Canadian band has been fairly tragically neglected by the mainstream American press.  It might even go as far as Criminally Underrated.  So there might not be more music coming, but at least I have plenty to discover.

As Gord said to the audience last night, “Thank you for that.”

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“Devilish Mary”

Posted by purplemary54 on August 14, 2016

Today would’ve been Daddy’s 75th birthday.  That’s the only reason I dug up this chestnut.  I debated using some Wagner or Monk, or a song by one of Daddy’s other favorites.  But then I decided this happy memory from my childhood was a better choice.

I’ve shared before my love of the old Country Bear Jamboree at Disneyland (now fated to never return since they’re building Star Wars Land in its area of the park).  The music in that show was the kind of music they call Americana now, but it was the kind of music my father grew up listening to in Iowa.  I remember being very small, not more than five, sitting in Daddy’s lap while he bounced his knee in time as the animatronic bears sang this song.

Posted in Country, Music | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Sharon Jones

Posted by purplemary54 on August 12, 2016

I just read in my newest Rolling Stone that singer Sharon Jones’ cancer has returned and spread.  Her current prognosis is not good.  Having been dealing with my mother’s latest illness, I’m especially sensitive to these kinds of stories.  While I’m not exactly a super fan, I think Jones is an extraordinary singer and performer.  And it breaks my heart to think of all that marvelous talent being cut down so quickly.

Like the late great Warren Zevon, Jones is not taking her diagnosis lying down.  She is working, with a new album almost completed.  I’m looking forward to hearing it.  But in the meantime, let’s celebrate her while she is still hear.  And let’s enjoy this music.  Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings really put the soul in Soul Music.

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Pete Fountain

Posted by purplemary54 on August 6, 2016

My daddy played the clarinet.  He said he fell in love with the sound it made when he saw a performance of Peter and the Wolf as a child.  He didn’t keep up with it after high school.  He wasn’t interested in making it a career, and hobbies like drinking and talking were more fun to him.  But he always loved clarinet music.  Which is why I immediately thought of him when I heard that clarinetist Pete Fountain had passed away at 86.  This makes the great concert of the afterlife a little more entertaining, and it’ll certainly make my father happy.  Of course, it sadly leaves this plane of existence just a little more bereft.

 

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Marni Nixon

Posted by purplemary54 on July 25, 2016

You’ve heard Marni Nixon’s voice hundreds of times, even if you’ve never seen her face.  West Side Story.  My Fair Lady.  And one of the few musicals I enjoy, The King and I.  These and many other movie musical performances were the incomparably versatile Marni Nixon.  She was probably the most famous ghost singer in film history.  The studios would call her in when they didn’t feel the leading actress had a strong enough singing voice for the role.  Actresses like Natalie Wood and Audrey Hepburn were immensely talented (and highly photogenic), but not great singers.  They weren’t bad, but they weren’t as good as Marni.

Here’s one of my favorite musical clips ever, with Marni Nixon singing for Deborah Kerr.  “Shall We Dance” also happens to be one of the sexiest scenes in movie history, so feel free to enjoy the afterglow.  RIP, Marni.

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Garry Marshall

Posted by purplemary54 on July 20, 2016

My first crush was Fonzie on Happy Days.  I was five, and he was the coolest.  It was one of my favorite shows, right up until it was cancelled in 1984, long after it had literally jumped the shark.  (For those of you who’ve been living under a rock, Happy Days introduced the phrase “jump the shark” for a TV show that had kind of outlived itself when they had an episode where Fonzie waterskiied over a shark tank.  I think that was one of the episodes set in Hollywood.)

My child’s heart, and my adult heart for that matter, mourns the death of Happy Days creator Garry Marshall.  His vision of the world may have been hopelessly anachronistic and unrealistic.  (No, millionaires do not fall in love with and marry the hookers they solicit.)  But it was a sweet, good-hearted vision.  He liked to portray the fairy tale happy ending.  While my version of the fairy tale might be a little different, I think the world needs a few more happy endings.  Thanks for all the happy days, Garry.

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“I Quit”

Posted by purplemary54 on July 19, 2016

No, I’m not really quitting anything.  I’m just feeling kind of frustrated and cranky.

This song is from a soundtrack of music used in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, most of which was pretty good.  I don’t know much about Hepburn, aside from the fact that they’re obviously English (“The situation’s vacant for me” is a dead giveaway).  I didn’t even know they were an all-female band; this is the first time I’ve seen the video.  Given that this song is close to twenty years old now (yeah, it’s been that long), it’s aged well.  But then again, a well-crafted Pop/Rock song is always a thing of eternal beauty.

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I’m Not in Denial About the State of Things. . .

Posted by purplemary54 on July 18, 2016

The world kind of sucks right now.  My personal world hasn’t been a bed of roses lately, either.  (I’m assuming the phrase “bed of roses” refers to the soft petals and not the thorny bush.  And my choice of metaphors will make sense in a moment.)  I’m not denying any of it, and I’ll probably post something about it soon.  I just don’t want to be sad and angry right now.  Which is why I’m posting this song.

“Love is Rose” is a Neil Young song, but Linda Ronstadt owns it.  I’ve always preferred her version anyway.  Like Neil, his version of the song tends to be kind of prickly; his focus seems to be on the thorns and not the flowers.  “Love is a rose, but you better not pick it” seems to be sound advice as far as he’s concerned.  Fool around to your heart’s content, but don’t fall in love; it’ll only end in tears when you gash your hand open and bleed all over the place while screaming in pain.

In Ronstadt’s version, that line is also a warning but the emphasis is different.  Let’s do it.  Let’s fall in love, but don’t try to own me.  Don’t  imprison me in your world.  Let me grow and thrive in my own environment.  If you do try to cut me off from the things that made you want me in the first place, I will cut you.  Her version is more joyful somehow, more about the cooperation a relationship requires.  “Give me a lift, and I’ll hay your wagon” is mostly a metaphor for sex, but it’s also an idea about how two people can work together to make something good happen.

Since Neil Young wrote the words, the interpretation of the songs could be exactly the same.  But the slower pacing gives Young’s version a more cautious, unhappy feel.  Ronstadt’s delivery and choice of arrangement makes “Love is Rose” softer and more buoyant.  I know part of the reason I like her version better is because I heard it first.  But I also enjoy the carefree tone.  There’s an edge, but you aren’t going to hurt yourself too badly on it.  At least, you won’t as long as you give her a little breathing room, enough to drink, and lots of sunshine.

 

 

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Thoughts on the Brexit

Posted by purplemary54 on July 13, 2016

I’m a couple weeks late on this one, but I had to spend a little time ruminating on the idea that Great Britain is about to go it alone again.  I finally settled on my official opinion:

It’s a really bad idea.

I’m not even going to pretend I fully understand all the economic and political ins and outs of the issue.  I can’t make heads or tails of those things in the U.S. sometimes, so I’m not even going to attempt it on other nations.  But I know that going trying to fly solo in this day and age after being a member of a more or less unified Europe isn’t really smart.  GB is going to have to work twice, maybe three times, as hard to achieve the same results they’ve been getting as a member of the EU.  Yes, they already have working relationships with the most of the countries that they’re going to be dealing with as an independent nation, but you know they’re former EU mates are going to be just the tiniest bit bitter and will probably make things a little tougher on the Brits than they have to be.

While I’ve never fully grasped the concept of all the separate countries of Europe as “unified” in some way, it makes sense.  There’s strength in numbers, and all the smaller countries of Europe working together as one theoretically gives them all a bigger voice and a bigger slice of the pie.  It also just seemed kind of nice.  After decades of war, uniting together made Europe seem even more like a victory against fascism and tyranny.  Years ago, when I told BFF that they were building a WWII memorial in Washington D.C., she commented that “They already have a monument to WWII.  It’s called Europe.”  That’s always stuck with me.  The fact that all these different groups and cultures banded together to save each other from Hitler, et al., said something important about humanity.  They believed in freedom and sovereignty.  They believed in fighting for human rights and equality.  While the EU has always been more a matter of economic convenience, I feel like there was a certain justice to it.  A reaffirmation that the only way to conquer ugliness and hatred was together.  They were united for the same goals, but they retained their individuality and history.

Of course, the European Union has never quite been the kind of Disney-esque “Small World” that existed in my head.  Many of the problems that have always existed with linking more and less successful individual economies were exacerbated by the last great recession.  And the ongoing strife, civil war, and terrorism of the nearby Middle East have spilled into Europe, primarily through refugees from war and ISIS attacks on EU countries.  But to bail on their fellow Europeans like this seems kind of churlish and selfish.

It’s also fearful.  That’s the biggest enemy to unity.  Great Britain has shown just how rattled they are by the complicated problems everyone is facing by running home and hiding in the back of the closet.  They’ve also shown just why these kinds of decisions, just like civil rights issues, should never be put to a popular vote.  Because given the chance, there is always a large portion of any population that will vote against what it is afraid of instead of in favor of what it hopes for.  They let fear (along with its attendants, racism and isolationism) win.  That’s what makes me the most sad about the whole thing.  It’s also what makes this ominous little classic the song that fits the current mood best.

Posted in Music, Punk, Rock | Tagged: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Alton Sterling

Posted by purplemary54 on July 6, 2016

So how do you think the police will try to justify this one?  How does an immobilized, pinned down black man with two white cops on top of him even reach much less use a gun?  How does the fact that he may or may not have had a gun on him at the time he was tasered and tackled justify shooting him several times?

I’m angry that this has happened again.  I’m angry that black citizens are at greater risk of death from a police encounter than white citizens.  I’m angry that cops feel so afraid that they shoot first and ask questions later.  I’m angry that there are so many people who mistrust the police on principle that everyone starts their cell phone cameras the minute cops show up on the scene, and that so many of these amateur videos seem to show misconduct.  I’m angry that these cops “lost” their body cams in the struggle, when these could have provided vital evidence either justifying or condemning their actions.  I’m just angry.  Which makes this song seem just as timely as it did some thirty years ago.

I’m still a middle-aged, middle class white woman.  This song is still not aimed at me as an audience.  But I get it.  I want peace in the streets as much as anyone else.  I want people to trust the cops, and I want cops to be able to enforce the law without fear.  But that’s not going to happen anytime soon.

I’m angry enough right now that I can’t articulate myself properly.  And I know that the evidence is still coming through in this case.  But I really, really hope this is the last time I have to hear a news story about white cops killing a black citizen without clear and present justification.

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