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Posts Tagged ‘news’

Hail to the King

Posted by purplemary54 on August 16, 2017

It’s been forty years since Elvis Presley shuffled off this mortal coil.  While he’d slipped into pop culture irrelevancy in the last few years of his career, the musical landscape was just as shaken by his death as it had been by the earthquake of his arrival in the 1950s.

But Elvis holds an odd relevancy today.  See, when he started out, Elvis explicitly tried to blend two different musical worlds: Black R&B and white Country & Western.  I know there have been a lot of critics who say he “stole” that music from the blacks, but considering that he was always friends with and surrounded by a vital African-American community in Memphis, then I think it might be a little harsh to say he willfully took from black artists for his own profit.  He used the music he loved and that influenced him to develop his own unique sound.  If people want to lay blame for the magnificent, brilliant black musicians that didn’t get the credit or reap the financial rewards of fame, then blame the music industry; they’re the ones who exploited people.  Elvis just made the sound he heard in his head and heart manifest.

Some people reacted badly to Elvis.  Besides being kind of lewd in some people’s eyes, he was also committing the worst sin any white man from the South could commit: He liked black culture and black people.  He freely associated with them.  He sounded like them.  To these people, Elvis was some kind of traitor.  The people who thought this were what I like to call racists.  This was the early days of the Civil Rights Movement, and Jim Crow was still the rule of law throughout the South (and the rule of custom in so many other places).  Things were changing, and racists didn’t like it.  They didn’t like the idea that their pure white children might go to school with those nasty black folks.  They didn’t think they should have to serve or sell products to people they had decided were subhuman simply because the color of their skin was different.  The racists still held on to the notion that the South would “rise again,” a phrase I’m pretty sure is code for “reinstate slavery and destroy all those dirty n*****s once and for all.”  They were afraid that their “way of life” would be taken from them and they would be forced to treat black people equally.

So they fought back by beating sit-in participants.  By turning fire hoses and police dogs on Civil Rights marchers.  By lynching and shooting both black and white activists who committed sins like registering black citizens to vote.  They didn’t call themselves racist.  They didn’t even call themselves white supremacists for the most part.  They called themselves good, honest, hardworking, Christian Americans.  They really truly believed God was on their side.

Does any of this sound familiar?

It should.  Because it’s still going on today, some sixty-odd years after the Civil Rights Movement began in earnest and Elvis Aron Presley burst onto the scene.  What happened a few days ago in Virginia, before, during, and after a so-called “Unite the Right” rally was pretty much the same thing.  These neo-Nazis, these white pride adherents, these alt-right followers–whatever the fuck they’re calling themselves–were as sickening as the racists back then were.  They carried torches, for crying out loud!*  All they needed was a couple of white hoods and a giant cross to burn, and we would’ve gone back in time a few decades.  Lather, rinse, repeat.  And because of the Cheeto masquerading as president, these imbeciles think it’s okay to come back out of the woodwork and show their pathetic faces.  They think it’s okay to intimidate and beat counter protesters.  They think it’s okay (and it actually is okay in a lot of places) to carry assault weapons to a supposedly peaceful protest.  With all the racist, xenophobic rhetoric coming from the Cheeto, these racists think they can do whatever they want to anyone they think is an inferior because the idiot they voted for says it is.  He refuses to call them out largely because he agrees with them.  They are essentially his unpaid army of thugs.

Now I support the right to free speech.  That means I also support the right of these racist fucks to say what they want.  It’s a hard, bitter pill, but I will swallow it because they do have the right to speak their minds and express their opinions.  I hate what they have to say, but I will defend to the death their right to say it.  But they surrender any Constitutional right to free speech the second they start carrying weapons and torches.  They give up any and all First Amendment protections when they assault anyone who dares to disagree with them.  They deserve to be arrested and prosecuted when they do things like drive their cars into a crowd of pedestrians and counter protesters.  These so-called people, these useless piles of flesh and bones, are the living breathing definition of terrorism.  They always were, going back generations upon generations, and they should be treated as such.

Like the racists who resisted both Civil Rights and Elvis, these terrorist neo-Nazis are scared because they think they’re losing something when other groups, primarily the groups that they hate, gain something.  They see society changing and progressing, and they see it as an assault on their power.  It is.  And it isn’t going to stop.  As more and more marginalized people gain greater and greater rights, the social order these terrorists want to see will continue to die out.

I’ve gotten a bit farther away from Elvis than I thought I would, but I think that’s kind of a testament to his power.  He brought musical styles together and created something magical.  Today, no one even really thinks about how revolutionary his sound was.  Imagine what would happen if we could finally, FINALLY, stop dividing ourselves by the colors of our skins and unify.  Think of what we could accomplish if we actually stopped treating each other differently because we look or speak or pray or vote differently.  Then the real revolution would finally begin.

 

*Okay, they were tiki torches, but that would’ve only leant the scent of citronella to the cross burning.

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Glen Campbell

Posted by purplemary54 on August 8, 2017

He did better songs.  Some of them were truly beautiful and brought tears to my eyes.  But to me, Glen Campbell will always be the Rhinestone Cowboy.

While he will always be best remembered (and rightly so) for his own, numerous hits, I think it’s important to note here that Glen Campbell was also once in the Wrecking Crew.  L.A.’s answer to the Swampers at Muscle Shoals, the Wrecking Crew were a set of crack studio sidemen that played on just about every hit recorded out here in the 1960s.  He was a consummate, versatile musician and singer.  Upon being diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease a few years ago, Campbell embarked on a touring and recording spree to get as much of his extensive musical memory and talent down before he was robbed of it forever.  Alzheimer’s robbed Campbell of himself, and it finally claimed his life today at 81.

Posted in Country, Music, Obituaries | Tagged: , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Chester Bennington

Posted by purplemary54 on July 20, 2017

Richard Manuel.  Michael Hutchence.  Chris Cornell.  Robin Williams.  And now, Linkin Park lead singer Chester Bennington.  They all have one horrible thing in common: They committed suicide by hanging themselves.

I have to start here by saying I don’t really understand suicide.  I have never been in the depths of a depression so deep and dark that the only way out was to die.  I have never struggled with mental illness so powerful and damaging that I finally listened to the disease.  I have never fought addiction.  But knowing what I know about how you die when you hang yourself, I do know that a person has to be truly desperate to harm themselves in that way.  It is an awful way to die.  I’m glad that it is not still an option for the death penalty (which ought to be abolished completely anyway, but that’s a different rant).  All of these men battled their various illnesses and addictions; all of them lost.  It makes me despair a little at the waste of beautiful life.

Not being a fan of Linkin Park, I don’t really have anything to say about their music.  But I know so many people do love this band.  And Chester Bennington’s family and friends loved him.  And I ache for all of these people.  Knowing his pain is over doesn’t end the pain for everyone else.  Most of all, I hate that he felt like he had to die to end his pain.  I don’t want anyone to feel like that, but I know I can’t stop it.  So here’s a link that might be able to help at least one person out there choose something different.

National Suicide Prevention Hotline

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Adam West

Posted by purplemary54 on June 10, 2017

When I saw the news that TV’s favorite Batman Adam West had passed today, I was sadder than I thought I would be.  The 1960s television version of Batman is often ridiculed for its cartoonish action, ham-handed moralizing, and general silliness.  People of my generation grew up on this version, but we were indoctrinated into the Dark Knight school of Batman characterization in the 80s and 90s; our then-teenaged psyches found more to love in the troubled, vengeful version that is so ubiquitous today than we did in the brightly-colored uprightness of our childhoods.  But Adam West’s portrayal of Batman as a decent man who fought crime because it was the right thing to do became a pop culture touchstone, and made West an icon.

Adam West did a lot of other acting besides Batman, but that character is what he will be most remembered for.  One of the things I loved is how he embraced it and how he in turn used it as a base for much of his recent work.  West did voice acting for a number of cartoons, and he used the same cadences and phrasings he did as Batman.  It made him easily recognizable and, I think, brought a lot of warm feelings to those who remembered that voice from Saturdays in front of the TV.

So I bid a fond farewell to West with the Batman theme, a tune almost as iconic as his portrayal of the Caped Crusader.  Composed by jazzman Neal Hefti, the catchy “na na na na na na na na” riff runs throughout and is really what makes it such an effective ear worm.  (Seriously.  Try to get it out of your head.  I dare you.)  Because this version of Batman relied so heavily on the comic book version of the character that was popular at the time, this is exactly the kind of music you’d expect to hear if a comic book could play music when you opened it.  With its jazzy and surf undertones, it was perfect.

So long, Mr. West.  Thank you for bringing so much happiness to so many people.

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Gregg Allman

Posted by purplemary54 on May 27, 2017

In yet another blow to Rock & Roll, Gregg Allman has passed from this plane at 69.  He had a long career but he was at his best as the singer and organist for the Allman Brothers Band.  They were blues and rock and psychedelia rolled into one rollicking package.  While it can be argued that Duane Allman’s mythic guitar had a more lasting impact on music, you can’t say that Gregg didn’t help shape the Allman Brothers’ sound in equally crucial ways.

You also can’t say that Gregg Allman didn’t live the Rock Star persona to the hilt.  He was as hard-living as the characters he sang about, and he paid that price in more ways than one.  Losing Duane and ABB bassist Berry Oakley in eerily similar motorcycle accidents within a year of each other were not only a huge personal losses but ones that changed the sound of the Allman Brothers Band.  His tumultuous marriage to Cher and years of substance abuse made Gregg tabloid fodder.  And those years of drugs and alcohol led directly to the health problems that plagued him in his final years.  He spent much of the last few years playing as often as his body would allow him to.  His voice had grown ragged, but I’m sure the music gave him some measure of peace.

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Chris Cornell

Posted by purplemary54 on May 18, 2017

Fuck.

This is not what I expected to be doing this morning.

I’m going in for my annual mammogram this afternoon.  I’ve got to run a couple errands today.  Maybe a load of laundry.  I checked the news on my phone to see if there were any interesting developments in the Russia investigation.  I did not expect to see that Soundgarden frontman Chris Cornell had passed into the next plane last night in what Rolling Stone’s website is reporting as a “possible suicide.”  Fuck.

Cornell’s voice was a force of nature, which was exactly what a band like Soundgarden needed to become a Rock powerhouse.  He could wail and groan like a hurricane, then drift down to a whisper of a breeze.  He was as relentless and undeniable as the wind.  And I cannot believe he is silenced.  He was only four years older than me.

I was never a Soundgarden superfan, although I always enjoyed listening to them.  My favorite Cornell song is actually “Hunger Strike” from the Temple of the Dog one-off, which was itself a tribute to late Mother Love Bone singer Andrew Wood.  Cornell teamed with the surviving members of that band and some new kid named Eddie to play and sing for a life cut short.  Cornell’s voice meshes perfectly with Eddie Vedder’s.  And the chorus seems like an aptly fitting description of the musical landscape the last couple of years: “I’m going hungry.”

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“America”

Posted by purplemary54 on May 16, 2017

I’ve been so disheartened by what’s happened in this country.  Not the “divisiveness” that everyone on the interwebs is bitching about; we’ve been divided socially, politically, economically, and any other -ally you can think of pretty much since Europeans moved their sanctimonious asses into this country.  Yes, the Native Americans had their wars and disagreements; it wasn’t all some egalitarian paradise.  But there wasn’t a wholesale genocide or systematic demonization of anyone determined by the group in power to be “other” before white folks showed up.  Fucking own it, people.  I like political divisiveness.  I like protest.  I like resistance.  I think they are part of what it means to be a patriotic American.  Remember, boys and girls, the First Amendment also protects the right of the People to criticize their government–or anyone else–without fear of prosecution or persecution.

No, I’ve been disheartened by what the Cheeto has been attempting to do to this country, with varying levels of success.  There are people who say he’s a dictator.  Or a tyrant.  Or that what he really wants is to be emperor.  No.  He thinks the government is just another business and he’s the CEO.  In Trump’s worldview, the president has the right to do pretty much whatever the fuck he wants because it’s his company to run into the dirt.  He’s wrong, of course.  Government is one of the things that should never, ever be run like a business (schools, hospitals, and courtrooms are the others in case you were wondering).  The point is not to turn a profit or run a lean, mean machine.  The point of government is to serve the People, and I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but there are a LOT of fucking people in this country and very few of them are identical in every way.  We need a large government because we have a large country with a lot of very diverse needs.  Anyone in favor of a small government should go right ahead and give up public schools, public libraries, fire departments, labor protections, police departments, and any of the other multitude of services the various levels of government provide.  And before someone says, but the cities and states provide most of those things, I wish to point out that especially in rural areas or states without silly things like income taxes, the Federal government is who steps up to fund all the stuff you think is your right to have (which it is, btw).

Have y’all noticed that I’m just the tiniest bit pissed off?  Have I not used a form of “fuck” often enough for that to sink in?  I am angry.  I expected to be basking in the glow of the first woman president at this point.  (For the record, I don’t particularly like Hillary all that much either, but at least she knows how to do the fucking job.)  I was not expecting a cheeto who lacks a brain-to-mouth filter and who thinks dismantling the federal government is a good idea.  What the fuck did he plan on doing?  Outsource all governmental functions to Russia?

Which brings me to the actual reason for tonight’s rant.  Russia.  And all the obvious entanglements it so obviously has with Trump and virtually all his back-biting, slimy, little toadies.  I live in the fucking United States of America, and while I do not subscribe to outdated Cold War prejudices, I do not believe that a foreign government has any fucking say whatsoever in any aspect of the running of MY fucking government.  (Is that enough fucks for y’all, yet?)  It’s all beginning to come to light, just like I knew it would.  I wasn’t certain it would be Russia that brought the Cheeto down, but I knew he’d do something before the end of this year to finally get those spineless dickfaces in Congress to rev up those old Articles of Impeachment.  Hell, they impeached Bubba because he couldn’t keep it zipped–something everyone on both sides of the political divide always knew.  The fact that he liked having sex with women not his wife was the only thing they could nail him for is why he was ultimately acquitted.  It’s not like he was, oh I don’t know, REVEALING STATE INTELLIGENCE TO THE RUSSIANS, or anything like that.  Or firing the FBI director because said director was conducting an investigation into his ties with Russia via his bloodsucking cronies.  Or trying to completely dismantle the fucking federal government.

Yeah, I’m pissed but I’m also feeling kind of optimistic.  Because all the stupid shit that Trump and his minions have been doing is starting to come to light.  I predicted to some friends a month or so ago that by the end of this calendar year the impeachment will either have happened or be in progress.  That doesn’t mean those of us in favor of progressive goals should be smug and sit back.  We need to keep resisting and fighting and shouting our displeasure from the fucking rooftops.  We need to vote with our pocketbooks, email and social media accounts, and especially out ballots.  Don’t whine or complain that nothing you do makes a difference, because when you do nothing then it is a self-fulfilling prophecy.  Democracy is a participation sport, kids.  Capitalism, evil fucking system that it is, works for you when you play by their rules and use money as power.  No political system was EVER changed from the outside.

So why did I choose this particular song from Simon and Garfunkel to punctuate my ravings?  “America” is such a quiet tune, beautiful and sad.  Disaffected.  Disenfranchised.  The characters in this song are disconnected from each other, from their society, from themselves.  From their country.  Do not be these people.  This is your fucking country.  Take it back from the bastards.  Declare at the top of your lungs, “I’ve come to look for America.”  And you sons of bitches better not have sold it to Russia.

Posted in Music, Rock, Singer-Songwriters | Tagged: , , , | 2 Comments »

Chuck Berry

Posted by purplemary54 on March 18, 2017

I’ve got two or three other posts I’m working on right now, one of them a much more personal remembrance, but this news today has to come first.  Dammit.

The passing of Chuck Berry at age 90 isn’t really a surprise; his health had been slowly failing for years.  But it is sad to see one of the original Rock & Roll greats leave us.  Even though I now concede Elvis Presley’s undeniable talent and status as the King, for many years I argued that Berry was the true King of Rock & Roll.  He did so much to create and shape the sound so many of us love so much.  He made some of the greatest music I’ve ever heard, and I never get tired of hearing it.  His guitar style was iconic.  His performances were magnetic and charismatic.  Yeah, he was kind of a jerk as a human being (and more than a little problematic for this feminist), but he was a legend.  The world is a slightly poorer place without him.

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“FDT”

Posted by purplemary54 on February 22, 2017

Ladies and gentlemen, boys and girls, resistance fighters of all ages, I give you our new anthem!

Okay, so the song is about a year old, released during the presidential primaries last year; it is, unfortunately, still quite relevant.  It lacks mainstream publicity, largely because of certain words it uses repeatedly that the FCC takes issue with.  I only heard about thanks to an article on Slate.  Rappers YG and Nipsey Hussle (who deserves some kind of prize just for his awesome stage name) recorded this as an angry response to the hideously racist rhetoric of the maniac living in the White House.  Now this is not the best Rap song I’ve ever heard.  It lacks eloquence and style, relying instead on profanity and swagger.  Public Enemy this is not.  But the raw emotion behind it propels the song and gives voice to the inarticulate anger and fear that so many people of color are feeling (not to mention all the anger and fear emanating from every other group of people threatened by this maniac).  “Fuck Donald Trump” becomes not just an epithet but a rallying cry.  I recommend playing this one REALLY loud.

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Al Jarreau

Posted by purplemary54 on February 12, 2017

You might only remember Al Jarreau if you are a person of a certain age or if you were a huge Moonlighting fan.  A consummate singer and performer, Jarreau had pretty much dropped out of the spotlight in the last couple of decades.  In fact, I think the last pop culture hit he had was the theme to Moonlighting.  At 76, Mr. Jarreau has moved on to the next plane of existence.

Take a minute to familiarize yourself with Mr. Jarreau if you don’t already know his work.  He was originally a Jazz singer, but he crossed into so many genres that he was impossible to pigeonhole.  And wow, was he smooth.  No.  Not just smooth.  Al Jarreau was smooooooooooth.  His voice was silky and pure and clean.  There were no missed notes, no extraneous flourishes, no gratuitous posturing. There was just music, and it was good.

Now all the smooth leaves no room for rough edges, which means Jarreau was never quite to my taste.  But this, singing his 1981 hit “We’re in This Love Together” is how I will always remember him.  Another great voice is just a memory, but it’s a pretty fine one.

Posted in Jazz, Music, Obituaries, Pop, R&B/Soul | Tagged: , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »