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Posts Tagged ‘Johnny Cash’

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“One of the saddest lessons of history is this: If we’ve been bamboozled long enough, we tend to reject any evidence of the bamboozle. We’re no longer interested in finding out the truth. The bamboozle has captured us. It’s simply too painful to acknowledge, even to ourselves, that we’ve been taken. Once you give a charlatan power over you, you almost never get it back.”

― Carl SaganThe Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark, 1995

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Earlier this year, I used another passage from this same book by Carl Sagan that decried the dumbing down of America and the celebration of ignorance that he was witnessing at that time, in 1995. As most of us have noticed, if things have changed at all, this celebration of ignorance has only grown.

The passage at the top is an understandable explanation of those who still somehow, beyond all explanation, defend the behavior of trump- the unending lying, the blatant corruption, the sheer amorality, the rampant criminality and the traitorous disloyalty to the office and the nation.

They just don’t want to admit they were bamboozled.

They still believe there is some sort of redemption ahead, some move by trump that will miraculously explain the vast array of lies and corrupt actions that have rained down on us nearly every day for the past three years. Personally, I can’t point to any single moment, any words or actions, any evidence of any kind that has me asking myself if maybe this guy is being somehow unjustly persecuted.

No, he is getting what his actions warrant. That is, if the pillars of our democracy hold.

The bamboozle isn’t over yet. The charlatan is still at work.

For this Sunday morning music, I am presenting a different sort of bamboozlement. There are two videos below from Puddles, the 6′ 8′ clown with the Pagliacci manner and a beautiful baritone voice, and his Puddles Pity Party. He has taken two songs, Johnny Cash’s Folsom Prison Blues and the Who’s Pinball Wizard and mashed them together, switching the lyrics from one to the music from the other.

Both are terrific. It’s like two of  my favorite musical artists had weird but fun children. This should be the only sort of acceptable bamboozling.

Give a listen, hopefully enjoy and have a good Sunday.


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Over the last couple of weeks, I watched the documentary series, Country Music, from documentary filmmaker Ken Burns. As is the case with most of Burns’ work, it is extremely well done and deeply researched. I can’t say I learned a lot of new info from it but it was fun to again see many of the old films from the early legends.

Every documentary takes a position and holds its own perspective on its subject in telling its story. This one certainly did and I imagine a lot of fans of the current country music scene, which to my ear is more akin to the pop/rock music of the 1970’s and 80’s, were disappointed that Burns didn’t focus on their contemporary heroes. But Burns showed the continuum of country music, which carries that expression of authenticity that marked country music in its truest earlier form, moving into the genre we today call Americana. As a fan of that raw expressive quality found in the real traditional country music of years ago, I was glad to see this observation from Burns.

One of the lessons I learned from this series is that if a majority of people in the country music industry tell you to not do something, you must really be on to something big. Two of the primary artists they focused on, Johnny Cash and Willie Nelson, both fell into this category. I’ve talked about my affection for Cash many times here, including his amazing late in life work that was the result of working with Rick Rubin, a rap/hard rock producer who encouraged Cash to be true to his authentic self in these late recordings. Cash’s family and many in the country music field warned him not to work with Rubin but Cash went ahead and made several successful, both commercially and artistically, albums. I believe they are as close to real art as you will find in country music and they remain an incredible final testament to his life.

A great songwriter with an unusual vocal delivery, Willie Nelson was always a poor fit with the country music industry in Nashville. In the 50’s and 60’s, he tried to conform but it just never came out right. He was the perfect round peg in square hole world. He wrote a number of songs that became hits for others but he himself released a series of mediocre, standard country albums that did not sell well or open any eyes anywhere.

So he retreated to Texas and just began to be Willie, recording and performing in a completely natural manner without any thought as to how he should look or sound compared to others. His work from that time on had that authentic feel that’s the defining quality of real country music.

I’ve been a fan since The Red Headed Stranger, sparse concept album that, with its cinematic feel, tells the story of a cowboy who kills his wife and her lover then goes on the run in a search for redemption. It came out in 1975 and there wasn’t anything that was like it in any way. His songwriting and choice of material was pitch perfect and he harnessed that unusual voice in a way that perfectly captured feeling and emotion of the songs.

Since that time he has continued to make great music, even now in his mid 80’s. He’s worked with a wide variety of artists from many different genres of music and has released a number of great albums including one of my favorites, Teatro, from 1998.

This is really just a long excuse for me to play one of my faves from that album, Darkness On the Face of the Earth. Oh, what the heck, let me throw in Can I Sleep In Your Arms from The Red Headed Stranger. I can just shut up now and, if you like, you can give a listen. If you get a chance, take a look at Ken Burns’ documentary on the PBS site. Have a great day.


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I breathe a deep sigh of relief this morning.

Another Gallery Talk in the rearview mirror, this one at the Principle Gallery. Many, many thanks to the many folks who came out yesterday to spend an hour with me on perfect end of summer day in the Capital District. It was wonderful to see new faces along with the more familiar faces of the many older friends there who I was able to spend a few minutes catching up with.

This was my 17th Gallery talk there and while it is somewhat easier after all those times, it still is a daunting thing to stand in front of a crowd and talk off the cuff. I wasn’t as smooth yesterday as I had wished and didn’t hit all my intended points. I always fret a bit in the aftermath of these talks about things I have said, worrying that I wasn’t clear or spoke with the wrong attitude for what I was trying to get across.

Or just said something plain dopey.

But I also worry about those things left unsaid. Sometimes there are little anecdotes I mean to tell that get lost in the the brain while I am standing there in front of the group.You would think that in 17 hours of yammering on in these talks over the years, everything would have been said, that everything would have found it way out by now. But I know that’s not the case, that there are still a lot of stories yet to be told and potential secrets to be revealed. I guess I’ll have to start now on getting these things into next year’s Talk which I am aiming to make the best yet.

But this year’s talk ended up as a pretty good talk, even with my own critical take on it. It certainly ended on a high note.

Again, my eternal gratitude to those who came out and especially to the whole staff at the Principle Gallery– my good friends Michele, Clint, Owen, Leigh, Pierre and Josh— for the very hard work done in making it possible. They had a large opening the night before, hosting the 14th annual exhibit of the International Guild of Realism with artists coming from around the country to attend. To turn around in a little over 12 hours and host this event is quite remarkable. I am filled with appreciation and affection for these folks.

So, like I said, mark it down now. Next September– best Gallery Talk ever. Promise.

Here’s this Sunday’s music. I thought I’d show one more piece that went down to the talk yesterday, Eyes of Night, shown above. This song lines up nicely with this piece for me. It’s Field of Diamonds, one of Johnny Cash‘s works from his final years. It was period of great expression and artfulness at the end of his time here on earth. It’s an interesting chapter for an artist with a very long and memorable career.

He saw his career in the future rather than in the past. Wished I had said that yesterday.

Have a good Sunday.

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Climbed onto the interwebs this morning and made my way to the YouTube. Needed to find something to play for this Sunday morning and wasn’t sure where to turn. Something deep and ponderous? Retro blast from the past? Cool jazz cats?

I didn’t know what would turn up or where I’d find myself.

Oddly, this morning I didn’t have to go far. It was waiting for me on my YouTube homepage.

It was new, just released in mid-July. It was light. It was seasonal. It had a goofy video. It seemed like a nice respite from watching the news and wringing hands.

Well, alright, let’s go with it. It’s a little ditty called Blueberry Jam from Bonnie ‘Prince’ Billy, aka Will Oldham. He’s been a unique voice on the American music scene for a number of years and I’ve featured his music here a couple of times, once with him performing his I Am Goodbye and another with the epic cover of his song I See a Darkness from Johnny Cash.

Give a listen and grab a blueberry for yourself this morning.

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brassai_1899_1984__-paris-11I thought for this Sunday’s music I’d do something with a Valentine’s Day theme.  I also wanted to use the Brassai photo shown here, one of his famed Paris photos that I used in a post from a few years back. I decided to incorporate a post from a few years back about the song The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.

Most people immediately think of Roberta Flack when they think of the song  and for good reason.  Her 1972 version was  truly beautiful and deserved every bit of the acclaim it earned.  But the song didn’t originate with her and has had many, many versions through the years, including one of my favorites from Johnny Cash, which you can see below along with the Roberta Flack version.

The song’s history began in 1957.  It was written by Ewan MacColl,  a British folk singer who is a very interesting character in his own right.  He was a married man who fell in love with the much younger Peggy Seeger, the half-sister of folk icon Pete Seeger.  He later married Seeger.  MacColl wrote the song about her and for her to perform.  She needed a song for a play she was appearing in here in the USA so MacColl wrote the song and taught it to her via the telephone as he was barred from entering the States because of his Communist ties.  As I said, he was an interesting character.

Her original version has much different phrasing than the better known Flack version and while it is not my favorite, it is nonetheless lovely. It is said that MacColl despised all the later versions of the song, preferring his wife’s.  Hey, it was written for her, after all.

Cash’s version is much more ponderous, closer in tone to the Flack version.  It is from his American series near the end of his life.  His voice was weaker and even rawer than in his younger days but Cash used it in an incredibly expressive way, giving the song  the feeling of a dirge as he looked back from a point near the end of his and his wife’s life, to an earlier time in his life and the fresh discovery of love.  It is both beautiful and sad– much like life and love.

Just a great song. Have a good Sunday…


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Dr. Seuss Slaying "America First" 1941

Dr. Seuss Slaying “America First” 1941

I don’t fear the dark.

I don’t fear the forest or the city.

I don’t fear being alone.

I don’t fear losing everything or being without.

I do not fear the rain or snow or wind.

I do not fear god.

And I don’t fear terrorists.

And I don’t fear criminals.

And I don’t fear missiles raining down from the sky.

And I don’t fear foreign nations invading this country.

And I sure as hell don’t fear any child or mother or father who flees to this nation to escape war and death.

But what I do fear is your fear.

I fear your cowardice and indifference.

I fear your apathy and distraction.

I fear your tiny attention span and your short-sightedness.

I fear your willingness to accept an evil done in your name.

I fear your preference for dividing people into us and them.

I fear your lack of empathy and compassion.

I fear how you mask your prejudices.

I fear the cruelty of your greed.

I fear your ignorance of your civic responsibilities.

I fear your sense of entitlement.

I fear your indifference to education, history or knowledge.

I fear the blatant stupidity and gullibility you proudly display like a new tattoo.

Don’t mistake this as attack on others– I am as much the you in this as anyone else.

And that is to my great shame.

Our great shame.

Enough is Enough.

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No more to say.  For this Sunday morning music I am carrying the tone of the above right into the song.  It’s some late Johnny Cash, from his American Recordings period when his scarred voice carried his age and emotion so eloquently.  It’s his cover of I See a Darkness from Bonnie “Prince” Billy  aka Will Oldham with the following as part of its chorus:

Oh, no, I see a darkness.
Did you know how much I love you?
Is a hope that somehow you,
Can save me from this darkness.

Have a day.

 

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bridge_over_troubled_water_by_aethyrdSeptember 11.  I don’t want to dwell too much on this date.

That day has already taken so much from us that to dwell on it gives it too much power over us, keeping us tied to a moment that is becoming more and more distant.

No, I will never forget that day or this date but it must be as a memory of the departed and not as a source of fear or anger for that moment.  We can not remain in that past.  The world moves on and we must go with it.

I thought that for today I would share a song that is synonymous with unity and coming to the comfort of others, Bridge Over Troubled Water.  There are so many great versions of this song, from original by Simon and Garfunkel to the powerful Aretha Franklin and earthy Johnny Cash covers, that it was hard to choose one.  But this version from Roberta Flack is so delicately powerful and soulful that it sometimes seems like a different song when I hear it.  Just a lovely performance of a great song.

Have  a good day.

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