Archive for the ‘music’ Category
I am prepared to admit that my sense of humor can be as sick and dark as the next guy. But I was not prepared for the front page of Sunday’s New York Times.
Splashed across most of the top of the front page was this photo, with this headline:
A Place Where Cancer Is the Norm
The article was about about M.D. Anderson hospital in Houston.
As I recall, there was recently much press over the fortieth anniversary of the Beatles’ iconic Abby Road photo:
So, here is my conclusion: there are people at the New York Times with a pretty sick sense of humor (no pun intended) or this is one of the most brilliant pieces of political commentary that we have seen in years. The Times is really making a statement about the health care system in the U.S., comparing it to the British system which manages to produce healthy and beloved artists, while we have people walking around in the Texas sun with I.V’s and pink sandals.
Perhaps there is a third option: incompetence.
Peter Gabriel’s most recent album was called UP. It contained a song titled, “Growing Up.” I have sort of grown up with Peter Gabriel, and it has been rather shocking to watch Gabriel’s youthful self transformed into the Old Man of the Mountains. But you know, growing up has its virtues. (And age doesn’t seemed to have prevented him from having a son in 2008. Gabriel was born in 1950.)
Last night I discovered that there are videos of Gabriel singing the same song live, and solo, over a period of twenty five years. Gabriel’s interpretations of “Here Comes the Flood” support those who believe that we become ourselves as we express ourselves over time. Or perhaps we just become more capable of divining the depths of our earlier work. (“Here Comes the Flood,” in my view, is not Gabriel’s very best work. This doesn’t matter. It is a song that gets better over time.)
You don’t have to listen to all of the earlier performances. A minute or so will do. And then watch and listen to the most recent one. His voice doesn’t have the range it once did, but….
Some readers have wondered why I have not been writing and posting new pieces on politics. I have taken something of a “sabbatical” this summer as I finish a book on the topics of self-determination and cosmopolitanism. I expect blogging fever to return before August is out.
In the meantime I have been posting a few clips that might be of interest to readers of UP@NIGHT. Last week I wrote about the work of the singer-songwriter Kenny Rankin, and I mentioned Laura Nyro’s influence on him. Having done so, I realized that readers under 50 may never have heard of Nyro, even though her songs have been covered by many others. I found Kenny Rankin’s work to be uneven, and the same is true for Nyro, but when she hit it, she really hit it.
There aren’t very many videos of her around. The two below leave much to be desired in terms of audio quality, but given where the country is right now, her “Save the Country” seems an appropriate pick. Her “Poverty Train” can be found about a minute and fifteen seconds into the second clip. (She was only 19 years old when she sung “Poverty Train” at the Monterey Festival, one of her first major live performances.) If you haven’t heard this Bronx original, by all means take a few minutes and check out the clips. (Here is the link to her Wikipedia bio: Laura Nyro.)
“Save the Country”
I just learned this evening that Kenny Rankin, singer-songwriter, died early in June. He was a unique talent. I first heard him in my teens on his first album, Mind Dusters, singing the songs in the two videos below. If you have never listened to him, the videos are worth watching. Below the video is most of the current entry on Rankin from Wikipedia. (I never thought my musical tastes would have anything in common with Johnny Carson’s, but one never knows.) He was no Bob Dylan or Miles Davis, but he never tried to be. I liked him best when it was just him and his guitar…..his voice, as always, uncannily sweet and heartfelt.
Three facts about Kenny’s life that I just discovered: he played guitar on Dylan’s “Bringing It All Back Home” album, often opened for George Carlin, and Laura Nyro was a tremendous influence on him (as she was on others, including Joni Mitchell and Steely Dan). According to the L.A. Times:
One of his major influences was Laura Nyro, the late songwriter who wrote “Wedding Bell Blues” and “Stoned Soul Picnic,” whom he met in Greenwich Village in 1960. [Unlikely it would have been 1960, as opposed to the 1960s, since Nyro was 12 and 13 in 1960-- M.A.]
“She profoundly changed my musical life and affected it to this day, more than anyone or anything else,” Rankin told the Globe and Mail newspaper in Toronto in 2007. “She was deep, dark and light, the spectrum of passion.”
Mind Dusters (jacket)
In the mornin fun when no one will be drinkin anymore wine,
I wake the Sun up by givin him a fresh share
full of the wind cup
And I won’t be found in the shadows hiding,
I can wait for fate to bring around to me,
Any part of my tomorrow….tomorrow
Cause it’s oh…oh so peaceful here
No one bendin over my shoulder
Nobody breathin in my ear.
Oh uh oh… it’s oh so peaceful here
In the evening shadows are callin me
And the dew settles in my mind
And I think of friends in the yesterday
When my plans were giggled in rhyme
I had a son while on the run
And his love brought a tear to my eye
And maybe some day he might say
That I’m a pretty nice guy…Oh Oh my
end: It’s (oh so peaceful ) (3 times) here
Rankin was raised in New York and was introduced to music by his mother, who sang at home and for friends. Early in his career he worked as a singer-songwriter, and developed a considerable following during the 70s with a steady flow of albums, three of which broke into the Top 100 of the Billboard Album Chart. His liking for jazz was evident from an early age, but the times were such that in order to survive his career had to take a more pop-oriented course. By the 90s, however, he was able to angle his repertoire to accommodate his own musical preferences and to please a new audience while still keeping faith with the faithful. Rankin’s warm singing style and his soft, nylon-stringed guitar sound might suggest an artist more attuned to the supper-club circuit than the jazz arena, but his work contains many touches that appeal to the jazz audience.
Rankin appeared on The Tonight Show more than twenty times. Host Johnny Carson was so impressed by him that he wrote the liner notes to Rankin’s 1967 debut album Mind Dusters, which featured the single “Peaceful.” Helen Reddy would reach #2 Adult Contemporary and #12 Pop in 1973 with a cover of it, released as her follow-up single to “I Am Woman”. Georgie Fame also had a hit with this song in 1969, his only songwriting credit to hit the British charts reaching number sixteen and spending 9 weeks on the chart.
Rankin’s accompanists from time to time included Alan Broadbent, Mike Wofford and Bill Watrous, and on such occasions the mood slips easily into a jazz groove. His compositions have been performed by artists such as Mel Tormé and Carmen McRae, while Stan Getz said of him that he was “a horn with a heartbeat”. Rankin was deeply interested in Brazilian music and his Here In My Heart, on which he used jazz guests including Michael Brecker and Ernie Watts, was recorded mostly in Rio De Janeiro. More contemporary songs were given an airing following his move to Verve Records, including the Beatles’ “I’ve Just Seen A Face” and Leon Russell‘s “A Song For You.”
Rankin’s own unique gift for reworking classic songs such as The Beatles’ “Blackbird,” which he recorded for his Silver Morning album, so impressed Paul McCartney that he asked Rankin to perform his interpretation of the song when McCartney and John Lennon were inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame.
Rankin died in Los Angeles from lung cancer on June 7, 2009. He was 67 years old. Alternate source, The Los Angeles Times’ obituary, says Rankin was 69.
There are a lot of reasons to be embarrassed about being a member of the human species. Take the way that the “leadership” in Iran is currently behaving. But then there are reminders of just why the species is worth saving. Today’s reminder is brought to you by the Japanese group “Sour.” Enjoy.
(Those in the video are fans of “Sour.” The creation of a world wide culture does indeed appear to be accelerating, not one that necessarily replaces other cultures, but exists as a new “intracultural “space.”)
A nod to Andrew Sullivan for finding this music video.