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Found 10 results

  1. So, I was watching this pre-concert lecture by Glenn Gould, recorded in the late 1960s. After four minutes, he turns to go and play Beethoven's Tempest Sonata, and the host comes on briefly to introduce the piece. I'm thinking to myself, 'I know this guy, but who is he?' before suddenly blurting out, 'Oh my God, it's *Alex Trebek*!' I get a Brownie Button for this one!
  2. I was reading about "This Land Is Your Land," and didn't realize that Woody Guthrie had sarcastically written it in 1940 because he was tired of hearing Kate Smith singing "God Bless America" - instead of the lyrics, "This land was made for you and me," the article implies that the lyrics were originally, "God blessed America for me" (which has the same number of syllables and the same cadence). I suspect that many of today's younger Americans are more familiar with the terrifically wonderful parody, "This Land," released in 2004 by the company, Jib-Jab. Read on after the video for some surprising detail about the "real" song by Guthrie; in the meantime, take a stroll down memory lane and enjoy this fantastic piece of work: Now that you've been grinning from ear-to-ear, let me tell you something interesting about Guthrie's song: There is a fascinating and controversial stanza in the original, 1940 version, which Guthrie sings below: Was a high wall there that tried to stop me A sign was painted said: Private Property, But on the back side it didn't say nothing — God blessed America for me. [This land was made for you and me.] And the final stanza of the 1940 version which changes the song's entire fabric - this is a shocking and sobering set of words, which is not included in the 1944 version. The true, original meaning of this song was most certainly not unbridled, rah-rah patriotism - I've never heard Guthrie actually sing the version which included these lyrics: One bright sunny morning in the shadow of the steeple By the Relief Office I saw my people — As they stood hungry, I stood there wondering if God blessed America for me. [This land was made for you and me.] This is Guthrie singing his 1944 version:
  3. For several years, I was a Big Brother, until my little brother, Ali, his mom Iris, and his sister, Naimah, moved to San Diego to stake out a better life for themselves. I remember taking his family to the airport, and had to pay for their cat to get on the plane because they didn't have the money. I only saw Ali once more after that, a few years later when I went to visit their family out in San Diego. We drove up to Los Angeles because Ali wanted to go to the Spike Lee Store, where everything was overpriced and of questionable quality. I bought him a T-shirt, and paid twice what it was worth - I didn't want to drive back to San Diego without a momento from his hero. A few years before that, I had flown in from Moscow. Exhausted after traveling the better part of 24 hours, I was ready to collapse into bed, but checked my answering machine first. There was a message from Iris: Ali's best friend Frankie was shot and killed in a drug deal gone bad, and the funeral was in about one hour. Somehow, I found the strength to throw on a suit, and drive to Seat Pleasant, where I was the only white person at the funeral. Frankie's mom came up to me, and asked me to say a few words. To this day, I have no idea why - what the heck was I supposed to say? Fighting lack of concentration because of sleepiness, I fumbled through my speech, turned to Frankie lying in his coffin, and told him we all loved him - that won the audience over, and things went as well as they could have under the extreme amount of pressure I was under. Six years ago, I wondered what Ali had been up to, and I searched his name on the internet, only to find his obituary. I posted this. Frankie and Ali were both the finest young men. I loved them and miss them terribly to this day - their premature deaths are 100% attributable to the neighborhoods they grew up in - even though Iris tried her best to escape, it just wasn't enough. She didn't have the money. I did things with Ali and Frankie about once a week, and remember one day asking them where they went to school. "Taney Middle School," Ali said, which meant nothing to me, or to him, or to Frankie. But a few years later, I did a little research, and found that Roger B. Taney was a Supreme Court Justice. 'Okay,' I thought to myself, they had gone to a middle school named after a Supreme Court Justice. Then, I found out that Roger B. Taney was actually Chief Justice from 1836-1864, and was the person who wrote the majority decision in the Dred Scott v. Sandford case of 1857. These children were going to a school that was nearly 100% black, and the school was named after the Chief Justice who tried the Dred Scott case? I couldn't believe it, but over the years, I forgot all about it. Until recently, when it popped back into my mind, and I Googled to see if that school was really named after the same man who wrote the Dred Scott ruling - the ruling that said, blacks "had no rights which the white man was bound to respect." Fortunately, in 1993, someone had the common sense to change the name of the school from "Roger B. Taney Middle School" to "Thurgood Marshall Middle School": "School May Change Name to Thurgood Marshall" on articles.orlandosentinel.com This column came out today: "Out with Redskins - and Everything Else!" by George F. Will on washingtonpost.com Will mixed up some valid points along with some reductio ad absurdum, as he seems to have a tendency to do - he's a smart guy; I wonder what he would say about Roger B. Taney Middle School educating a nearly all-black student body.
  4. "Rebecca," Alfred Hitchcock's first American project, is a Gothic tale filled with suspense. There is fine acting, beautiful cinematography and more twists and turns than your favorite roller-coaster. I wanted to see this film because I have watched a number of movies lately starring Joan Fontaine, and this is considered by many to be her finest work. "Rebecca" is the only Alfred Hitchcock-directed film to win an Academy Award for Best Picture. It is based on the 1938 novel of the same name written by Daphne du Maurier. Filmed in black-and-white, "Rebecca" has a darkly brooding, mysterious feel to it. Fontaine is perfect as the naively sweet second Mrs. De Winter, living in the shadow of her predecessor, Rebecca. Fontaine and Laurence Olivier have wonderful chemistry in this film. All of the actors are top-notch, but Dame Judith Anderson is simply unforgettable in her role as the demented housekeeper, Mrs. Danvers. "Rebecca" is a sweeping, captivating picture that every lover of classic films should see.
  5. It's funny how they (probably had to) e-nun-ci-ate "Lovely Little Lass." A highly influential precursor to rap and hip-hop, no doubt. Lyrics
  6. One of the first cookbooks I ever had was Louisiana Kitchen. I learned a lot from that book and would make the fat-laden dishes for special occasions. Making blackened redfish was always a challenge-- especially in terms of ventilation! I wish I had the chance to go to K-Pauls, but I did go to Commander's Palace for an over-the-top brunch once. Anyway, sad to see him go. He was a man who knew the meaning of "roulez bon temps!"
  7. I've been a fan of Dr. John for most of my life. My first exposure to him was his very first album, Gris-Gris, released in 1968, although it was probably the following year when I first heard it. "Gris-Gris Gumbo Ya Ya": His earliest work as a leader was drenched in voodoo, or at least voodoo trappings, and was sometimes rather disturbing, like the track above, and this, from Dr. John's 1971 album The Sun Moon & Herbs, "Craney Crow": Later in his career, Dr. John concentrated more on straightforward New Orleans music, although he continued to make unconventional costume choices, as you'll see here in a brilliant performance of the New Orleans classic "Iko Iko" with the first iteration of Ringo Starr's All-Starr Band (1989), and a remarkable collection of icons it was: I don't use "brilliant" casually. God, I wish I had been there. The talent on that stage was positively prodigal.
  8. I've sort of run out of steam with the 20th-century chanteuses I was highlighting. Lots and lots of recordings to listen to, of course, but not a lot of my favorite female jazz singers I haven't posted about at least once. So what about the great rock-n-roll singers? I find that almost all of them were men. I'm setting aside R&B and soul singers, like Aretha Franklin, one of the greatest singers of the 20th century (to anyone with any discernment), and ditto James Brown, say, or Otis Redding. It's not a matter of race: Little Richard and Chuck Berry, along with Jimi Hendrix and others, certainly inhabited the world of rock-n-roll, but it became more and more dominated by white artists as time went by in the 50s and into the 60s, and the only black rock-n-roll singer whose star shines in the highest firmament to me is Little Richard, of whom more later. The prominent female rock singers, like Grace Slick and Janis Joplin, are largely over-rated, in my view. Joplin might have become a really great singer, but her career was so terribly short. Probably my favorite female rocker is Marianne Faithfull, but it's hard to put her in the same category as the greatest male r-n-r singers, such as John Lennon. Charlie Pierce famously maintains that the only wrong answer to "what's your favorite Beatles song?" is "Revolution Number 9", a point of view I'm in sympathy with, but can't agree with in the detail. "Revolution Number 9" isn't a song, but there are songs from the white album that are wrong answers: "Piggies" and "Oh-bla-di", for example. But the white album also includes much of John Lennon's best work with the Beatles. Not just his best writing, but his best singing. Take as an extravagantly great example one of my very favorite Beatles songs, probably not well known to generations younger than mine, but which features one of John's most wonderful vocal performances, among other things - "Everybody's Got Something to Hide Except Me and My Monkey" (1968): I loved him as if I knew him.
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