Posts Tagged ‘Elvis Presley’

“Bold Run”- Now at the West End Gallery


“Most people are convinced that as long as they are not overtly forced to do something by an outside power, their decisions are theirs, and that if they want something, it is they who want it. But this is one of the great illusions we have about ourselves. A great number of our decisions are not really our own but are suggested to us from the outside; we have succeeded in persuading ourselves that it is we who have made the decision, whereas we have actually conformed with expectations of others, driven by the fear of isolation and by more direct threats to our life, freedom, and comfort.”

― Erich Fromm, Escape from Freedom


Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose
Nothin’, don’t mean nothin’ hon’ if it ain’t free, no no

Kris Kristofferson, Me and Bobby McGee:


What is real freedom?

I can’t say for sure. Wish I could.

Lately, I have been thinking about the 1941 book from Erich Fromm, Escape From Freedom. In it, Fromm writes about that we actually have a fear of freedom.  Real freedom requires personal responsibility for our decisions and actions and creates an almost unbearable anxiety in man. Real freedom means living without a safety net, where we decide who and what we are, what we want from life, where we are held accountable for each decision we make.

Put that way, freedom sounds much more perilous.

As a result, we have fostered a desire to be told what we should be and what we should do. Fromm makes the point that we want someone to make the decisions that guide our lives while maintaining the illusion that we have freely made them.

“Modern man lives under the illusion that he knows ‘what he wants,’ while he actually wants what he is supposed to want. In order to accept this it is necessary to realize that to know what one really wants is not comparatively easy, as most people think, but one of the most difficult problems any human being has to solve. It is a task we frantically try to avoid by accepting ready-made goals as though they were our own.”

A life of real freedom is scary and difficult so it is always tempting to just fit in, to accept a bit of comfort and security in exchange for losing a large degree of that freedom. Doing this make us susceptible to falling prey to those with less than honorable intentions.

“Escape from Freedom attempts to show, modern man still is anxious and tempted to surrender his freedom to dictators of all kinds, or to lose it by transforming himself into a small cog in the machine, well fed, and well clothed, yet not a free man but an automaton.”

The concept of this book seems to be playing out in real time lately.

I don’t know that we, myself included, understand the concept of real freedom. I have tried to shape and live a free life but have I succeeded?

I don’t know.

I will continue to look for an answer but in the meantime, here’s this week’s Sunday Morning Music. It’s I Want to Be Free, an old Leiber and Stoller hit first sung by Elvis Presley in the 1957 film Jailhouse Rock. While Elvis does a fine job with the song, I much prefer this version from Robert Gordon who had a nice run as a rockabilly artist with several memorable albums in the 1980s. Here, I think he fills in the blanks that Elvis left in his version.

Give a listen and have a good day. And take a minute to think about what you think real freedom is.



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Mont Saint Michel-Jeremie Eloy-wanaiifilms-comI am really swamped in the studio getting work ready for my upcoming show at the West End Gallery.  Too much to d0 so I wasn’t going to write anything today except maybe mention the start this morning of this year’s Tour de France, one of the great spectacles of world sport.  This great bicycling event starts at Mont Saint Michel, an old abbey on a tidal island off the of coast Normandy, France.  As you can see in the photo above, it’s an amazing sight, one that always stirs some mysterious emotional response within me.

But since I am so busy I just want to share a video I stumbled across.  It’s from Moon Mullican, known as the King of the Hillbilly Piano Players in the 1940’s and 50’s and a huge influence on early rockers like Elvis and Jerry Lee Lewis.  This is Grandpa Stole My Baby with a video that features an early film, most likely from the time around the turn of the 20th century, well over a hundred years old.  I could not find any attribution for the film but it has two dancers, one a seemingly older gent, who show some pretty nice dance moves that fits well with the song.  I couldn’t look away.

Give a listen and take a look for yourself.  Have a great day and weekend!



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GC Myers- Two Sides  Aww, change the channel.  It’s a rerun…

Wait, it’s not another rerun, just another mass shooting/ terror event in Anytown, USA.

Another episode of America- The Series.

Same basic script– crazy ideologue(s) with automatic weaponry goes into a school/church/community center and kills multiple people before dying in a firefight with responding police forces.  Insert a montage of non-stop cable news network coverage with “experts” and politicians  praying and posturing in clips of some saying there are too many guns and others who say we need to be even more armed.

You could even insert a clip here of a nutty bible college president — let’s have him played by Jerry Falwell, Jr. of Liberty College–saying he wanted the students on his campus to have carry/conceal permits so they could “shoot the Muslims.”  Because that’s the kind of measured rational response we expect from those entrusted to lead our kids.  Besides, nothing says safety like an arena filled with armed college age kids.  Kids with inflated self-images emboldened by being raised on a diet of action movie heroes who are somehow never hit by the hail of bullets from their enemies and in a culture of video games that cheapens life.

Seems reasonable to me.  There certainly won’t be any confusion or problems with law enforcement agencies when some of those young armed students are of  African or Middle Eastern descent.  I see a spin-off in the future.

The script plays out for a few days of hand-wringing and funerals but little real action before fading to black.  Hit replay and do it all over again.

That’s seems to be the gist of it.  I wish whoever is writing this crap would come up with a new storyline.

996-226 Elvis in the WildernesssmI am going to change the channel now.  It’s time for Sunday music and I’ve been singing this song all week.  It’s the Tom Jones version of Elvis Presley Blues which was written and performed originally by Gillian Welch.  I am a big fan of Gillian Welch and love her version but I really admire Tom Jones’ take on it as well.  It’s pared down accompaniment really highlights the power of his voice which is still formidable even at age 75.

The images shown here are from my Outlaws series from back in 2006.  The one at the top is Two Sides and the one to the left is Elvis in the Wilderness.  I thought they fit today.

Enjoy the song and have a good Sunday.

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I have a lot going on this morning so I’ll quickly show you this new piece that I call Blue Moon (You Saw Me Standing Alone) , taken from the lyrics of the old song.  There is something both restful and dreamily melancholic in these blue nocturnes.  There is also a wonderful sense of harmony created by the different blue tones in it coming together.  It may be a small piece, only about 4″ by 8″, but it has visual oomph, particularly in the way the blues hug the texture of the sky.  The color thins near the top of each ridge then pools darker in the depressions creating a nice rhythm in the blue night sky around the white eye of the moon.

Speaking of things  dreamily melancholic, here is a video of the Cowboy Junkies’ take on the old standard.  This version is from 1988 but the song has had many interpreters since being written in 1934.  Most probably remember the Elvis version but I have always  liked the exaggerated depressive quality in this version.  Plus, the person responsible for this video did a great job in putting together some nice mmon footage.

Have a great day!

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I was looking earlier online for a video of the song Blue Christmas to accompany this little painting that I have used as a Christmas card in the past.  I wanted something other than Elvis’ version, which is the standard by which all other versions are judged.  I was amazed at how many different people have covered the song.  There are rock versions , big band and country versions from dozens and dozens of various artists from every segment of the musical spectrum that all seem to pay homage to Elvis’ particular take on the song.  There are different instrumental versions including a charming version on the harp played by a teen who is lamenting the loss of her homeschool teacher, versions from various handbell groups (I particularly liked the one from the Trinity University) and one on the ukulele from one of my favorites, the Ukulele Orchestra of Great Britiain.

It is an amzing array of sounds and styles that cover this beloved holiday song.  But I found one video entitled Blue Christmas that is another song altogether.  It’s features the trumpet of Miles Davis and the sax of Wayne Shorter and is even bluer in tone than the songs above.  Maybe it’s the odd little animation that accompanies it that gives it even a glummer feel for the holiday.  But it swings.

Take a look-

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Big Mama Thorton at the 1965 American Folk Blues

After writing a short post about Stevie Ray Vaughan  the other day, marking 20 years since his death, I felt like hearing some blues.  Old school stuff.  After listening to a bit in the studio, I went searching for some old Buddy Guy online and came across a great piece of film from the American Folk Blues Festival in 1965. 

 It was a beautifully shot and produced performance by Big Mama Thorton backed by a young, slick Buddy Guy. She rambles out and belts out her best known song, Hound Dog.  Yes, the same song that propelled Elvis to mega-stardom.  There are a lot of purists who throw a lot of hate towards Elvis for taking Big Mama’s song and moving it out of the realm of race records, for making it a big hit on the predominantly white pop charts.  I’m not one of them.  I think Elvis did a great version of the song and in many ways it helped artists such as Big Mama find their way to a wider, more diverse audience.  And Big Mama did a version that was different than Elvis’.  It rocked hard in a bluesier, earthier way.  Big Mama was like a  human earthquake.

Check out this performance.  The sound and camera work is really top notch especially for a performance video of that era.  I’ve also included a video from the same session with Big Mama and several other bluesmen including Big Walter Horton and Doc Ross trading licks on their harps.  Check out John Lee Hooker on his harp, his trademark  guitar nowhere to be seen.  You ever see this one, David?

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I can’t believe I failed to mention the birthday of Elvis Presley, who would have turned 75 a  few days back.  It’s not that I was the hugest of Elvis fans although I was an admirer of many of his songs and performances and recognized the attraction his talent had for many.  It’s just that in death he has become this cultural phenomenon, an icon that has taken on almost mythic and mystical qualities for his ardent fans.

That’s kind of what I saw when I painted this small piece a few years back.  It’s called Elvis in the Wilderness which recalls Moses‘ exile to the wilderness.  I may do a follow-up where Elvis leads the exodus from Eygpt.

Or maybe Elvis healing lepers.  Or perhaps traveling through time, battling various injustices throughout history.  Elvis in hand to hand combat with the tag team of Hitler and Mussolini.  Elvis at Valley Forge.

TCB, baby.  Just like the 3 letters on his huge belt buckle indicate.  Taking care of business.

It could be anything, anywhere.  That’s the beauty of Elvis as a mythic character, a superhero.  He fits easily into any time and setting with the powers imbued on him by his fans and as a result, never really dies.

Here’s a performance that I really love if only for the iconic stance in his white suit before the huge ELVIS sign.  Great visual.

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guitarSunday morning and we deserve a break from painting, at least in this blog.  I was thinking of a song I first heard back in 1975 when Willie Nelson released his classic Red Headed Stranger album, which was a concept album composed of sparse compositions that told the story of a fugitive on the run.  Just a beautiful group of disparate songs that come together to chronicle a tale.

When I heard Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain, I was hooked on the poetry and simplicity of the song, especially as performed in Nelson’s spartan manner.  So simple but so filled with emotion and feeling.  I think of this song often when I’m painting, trying to think how I can match that feeling of simple grace and depth of feeling in my own work.

I didn’t know much about the song then, always thinking that it was Nelson’s song.  But it had a long history, written in 1945 by the legendary Fred Rose for Roy Acuff.  Hank Williams recorded it in 1951 and a number of others have as well over the years.  It is considered to be the last song that Elvis recorded at Graceland, the day before he died.  But for me, there’s only one version that really stands alone.

Here’s the lovely Blue Eyes Crying In The Rain

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