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Posts Tagged ‘David Bowie’

I am not feeling celebratory on this Fourth of July.  I have strong feelings about the ideals of this nation and the recent events here challenge my belief that those ideals can prevail or even merely hold on. There is just a bit too much irony in today celebrating our independence from what we viewed as the grip of cruel tyranny in 1776. We are weakening our country when we accept cruelty and selfishness as an aspect of our governance and national character. And make no mistake about what I am saying, selfish cruelty is weakness and we are witness to that currently. Here’s a post from several years back that I run every now and then on this day, speaking to our better ideals. Enjoy your 4th.

Jasper Johns “Flag”

Another Fourth of July.

Parades. Picnics. Fireworks. Red, white and blue. That’s the shorthand version of this day. The actual meaning of this day is much harder to capture, probably more so for Americans than for those from other countries who view us from a distance. I think we sometimes lose sight of the idea and ideal of America in our day to day struggle to maintain our own lives. But even that struggle is symptomatic of the basis of our nation, reminding us that anything worth preserving requires work and maintenance.

For me,  America is not a static ideal, a credo written in granite that will always be there. It is vaporous and always changing, like a dense fog. But it is an inviting fog, one that is warm on the skin and invites you in with hazy promises of possibility.

And maybe that is all America ever was and will be– the promise of possibility.

Maybe it is the sheer potential of a better and safer life, the possibility of remaking one’s self, that defines our ideal America. We are at our best when we are open and inviting, offering our opportunity and empathy to all. We are a long way from our ideal when we close our doors and try to capture the vapor that is America all for ourselves. It is not ours to hold– we are simply caretakers of an ideal, one that brought most of our ancestors here.

Maybe this doesn’t make any sense. Since it is such a hazy thing, this amorphous fog that is our ideal, we all see it in different ways. This is just how I see it.

Here’s a video of the song America from Simon and Garfunkel, as performed by David Bowie. This is not a flag waving, chest thumping anthem but it speaks as much to the meaning of the American ideal in that simple chorus — all gone to look for America— as the very best Sousa march.

Have a good day.

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Wasn’t going to write anything today as I have a full schedule in prepping work for delivery of my June Principle Gallery show combined with my visit to see my dad at the local nursing facility where has lived with his dementia for most of the last three years. But I began listening to some music and when Heroes from David Bowie came on, it made me scroll back through some older posts and I came across the one below.

Heroism is a term that has been warped a bit by our fascination with comic book heroism. On a Memorial day weekend, we should be reminded that many of the people who we memorialize for their service and sacrifice didn’t have superhero qualities. They were no different than anyone else when faced with adversity and danger– scared, confused and wishing it was all over. But heroism comes in fighting through these emotions and simply doing the task that is required of them. To simply do the right thing and take responsibility for those things before them that they can control. To unselfishly serve in the moment.

Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Doing one’s duty without giving thought to how the outcome might affect you is a rare thing. I guess that is why we celebrate holidays devoted to service and heroism.  And it’s especially rare in these perilous times where a single, simple act of heroism from a small handful people in congress could completely change the direction in which this country is headed.

That might be too much to ask of them. Heroism is not for everyone, I suppose. But for the rest of us, let us put aside our selfish concerns and serve someone and something greater than ourselves. Just do what is right. Then we can all be heroes.

Here’s the post from several years back:

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Arthur Ashe HeroismKeeping up the theme that was the subject of an earlier post this week, I decided that for this Sunday morning’s musical selection I would play a lovely version of Heroes from David Bowie. It’s an acoustic version (with Gail Ann Dorsey accompanying him on vocals and bass) from a 1996 performance at the Bridge School Benefit, an annual concert began by Neil Young to benefit the Bay Area school that helps kids with severe speech and physical impairments. In that context, the song takes on additional layers of meaning as you see the many parents in the audience with their children, many cradling them.

Heroism.

Looking for an image to illustrate this post, I did an image search by punching in the word hero. It was all superheroes and warriors which saddened me because I know that heroism is something far more than that. It’s about doing those things that need to be done, about taking responsibility in order to serve a purpose beyond your own needs. We think of it as a rare thing but it is evident every day in the actions of those people who give so much of themselves to others.

For me, an example of this came to me in a very personal way. When my mother was struggling in the last months of her battle with cancer, I visited her for  last time. Her and my father had been together for about 46 years at that point, years which could be described as turbulent at best. For such a long married couple, they had an odd love/hate relationship which had them always on the edge of huge screaming  battles that were fraught with violence. They were terrible things to see and even as a child I often wondered why they remained together. But they did and as she neared the end of her life, Dad became her cook, her maid, her nurse, and her driver to the many treatments that made up the last months of her life. Her everything.

When I made my last visit, I noticed a photo on her bedside table. It was photo of the two of them together from several years before, standing at some Florida site drenched in sun. On the cheap little frame, underneath my father was a word formed in simple block letters, those kind of press-on letters that you rub on from a sheet.

It was the word Hero.

Now, at that point in my life I didn’t see my father in heroic terms. Far from it. No, he was and is a very flawed human being with many traits that are far from any definition of heroism. But in this case, he took on the form of a hero for my mother and in that moment, looking at that photo, for myself as well. I realized that the word was not about great accomplishment but rather about following that need to serve another and just doing the right thing in a moment of need.

So it can be for everyone, as the song says :

I, I will be king
And you, you will be queen
Though nothing will drive them away
We can beat them, just for one day
We can be heroes, just for one day

I finally came across the  quote at the top from the late Arthur Ashe that seemed to best fit the thought .

Have a great Sunday. Be a hero to someone today.

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There is an electric fire in human nature tending to purify – so that among these human creatures there is continually some birth of new heroism. The pity is that we must wonder at it, as we should at finding a pearl in rubbish.

–John Keats

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I find myself nodding in agreement with the above words from the poet John Keats. It seems that there is ample evidence that humans have the desire and capability for living heroic lives. Yet to do so is a rare and wondrous thing.

A pearl in rubbish, as he says.

Maybe our failure is that we only see heroism defined in epic terms, not in the bravery of the responsibility that comes in making everyday decisions that opt for doing what is right and not expedient or self-serving. Not every hero wears a cape or jumps from buildings.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I think of when my mother was dying from cancer many years ago now. In her final months, she had a picture next to her bed of my father in a small cheap frame with press-on letters on the bottom leg of it that spelled out the word hero.

Now, hero is not a term I have often equated with my father, a man who is deeply flawed in many ways. I confess that, in this aspect, the apple doesn’t fall from the tree.

But this was especially evident when it came to his relationship with my mother. Most of their life together was loud and contentious. They were always one word or a single side glance away from their next battle royale, the horror shows of mine and my siblings’ childhoods.

But somehow through the years of anger and adversity she still saw something in this man that she recognized as being heroic. Maybe it was that he had simply stayed, had maintained a sense of responsibility and caring for her that became very obvious in her last days.

I will never know for sure. The psychology of it all evades me. But that cheap frame on a dying woman’s bedside table with that word hero on it still lingers with me and always will.

It’s a matter of perspective.

I didn’t plan on writing this for today’s post, didn’t seek to be so personally biographical. It just came and I guess I can live with that. I only wanted to jot down a little something to introduce the song below for this Sunday morning music. It is one of my favorite David Bowie songs, Heroes, performed by the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britain. I know it sounds like it should be a joke or a parody but it’s a wonderful version. I think my mom might well understand it.

Have a good day. Be a hero to somebody.

 

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gc-myers-995-125-party-lights-small1I saw a short segment on TCM (Turner Classic Movies) that they run between their films at this time of year.  It’s their look back at  all of the people associated with filmdom who have died this past year. Every year it seems that I find myself being surprised at the number of well known actors, directors, composers, etc who have passed away in that year.

This year was no different.

But they flashed a shot of David Bowie and it reminded me of the musical talents that passed away this year.  Bowie. Prince. Leonard Cohen and so many more that some were lost in the shuffle.

One who slipped away somewhat unnoticed in those surreal days after the election [sic] was musician and songwriter Leon Russell.  A wonderful writer and a gifted pianist, he collaborated with just about everybody in the recording industry in a career that spanned almost 60 years.

I never thought he got his rightful appreciation after his death so I thought I’d share a Christmas song of his that also goes under the radar in the great flood of holiday music that overwhelms every year at this time.  It’s called Slippin’ Into Christmas and has a bluesy edge that kind of fits this year.

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PurpleIn the last few months we lost two of the most unique and transcendent musicians of our time, David Bowie in January and now Prince.  Luckily for us, both had long and prolific careers and left large musical legacies behind.  I admired Prince greatly and I think that is all there is to say, especially after the millions of words written and spoken over the past few days.  I don’t think I can stand to see another tweet on one of the news channels form some celebrity saying that this is how it sounds when doves cry.

So, instead of trying to dig up some Prince that you might not have heard in the last few days, I thought for this Sunday morning music I would go in another direction and play someone who was one of Prince’s early influences, Sly and the Family Stone.  It’s his performance of I Want to Take You Higher at Woodstock in 1969. I’ve played this clip here before but I am going to play it again just because I think it is a great performance and a great piece of film.  I think you can see how Prince took elements of Sly’s work and made it into something distinctly his own.  That synthesis is part of artistry.

Have a great Sunday.

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Bing and Bowie 1977Well, it is Sunday morning and that usually means that it is time for some music here.  Since it is the last Sunday before Christmas a little holiday music is called for.  This is a song that I have played here before.  It’s that odd pairing between Bing Crosby and David Bowie and the song The Little Drummer Boy/ Peace on Earth.

The story behind how it came about is pretty interesting.  In 1977, 73 year old Bing Crosby was in the midst of  what would be his last British tour.  While there , producers put together Crosby’s annual holiday special for American TV, this time with an English theme, a Merrie Olde Christmas.  It was filmed in September with a number of British celebrity guests, including the 30 year old rock star David Bowie.  Bing actually introduced and showed the video to Bowie’s song Heroes on the special.

On the day of shooting, Bowie learns that he is scheduled to sing Little Drummer Boy with Crosby.  He balks, telling producers that he hates the song and if that’s the song they wanted he might as well leave.  He said he was only there because his mother was huge Crosby fan.

Producers and composers went to work.  In just over an hour, they produced an original tune, Peace on Earth, that would be sung by Bowie as a counterpoint to Bing’s Little Drummer Boy.  The two singers both liked the new addition and the arrangement and ran through it together several times in less than an hour before recording the final version.

Bing Crosby died less than a month later and the special ran as scheduled in December of 1977.  The pairing of Bing and Bowie was considered an oddity then and producers of the show and song thought that was the end of it.  But bootlegs of the song circulated for several years, gaining in popularity to the point that RCA decided to release it as single in 1982.  It has become one of the most popular holiday songs in the intervening years.

I know it’s one of my favorites.  Have a great Sunday…

 

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Fran Jeffries Meglio Stasera The Pink PantherWe got in last night just before 9 PM and I saw that the movie The Pink Panther had come on TCM at 8 PM.  That meant that we were just in time for the song Meglio Stasera which appears in the film about an hour in.  There are scenes from some movies that I always try to see even if I can’t watch the whole film, scenes that capture some deep emotion in the film or at least make me smile every time.  This is one of those.  Another is Dick Shawn as the hipster LSD in The Producers when he sings Love Power.

The funny thing about this scene is that it does nothing for the movies story line, doesn’t move the story ahead in any direction.  It is simply a musical interlude meant to entertain.  And it does that very well, at least for me.

Meglio Stasera, which translates as It Had Better Be Tonight, was written by Henry Mancini who wrote all of the music for the soundtrack including, of course, the hugely famous Pink Panther theme.  The alluring Fran Jeffries performs the song in a European ski chalet setting with a cast of early 60’s euro-jet set types dancing along as the song progresses.  I always watch for the end when she is joined by a lady in a golden boots, a shimmery jumpsuit and a stacked hairdo that makes her look like she could be David Bowie’s or at least Ziggy Stardust‘s mother.

Anyway, I thought this would be a good pick for some Sunday music.  Hope you enjoy.  Have a great Sunday!

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