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Posts Tagged ‘Music’

I am running late again so I am going to keep this intro to this week’s Sunday morning music selection short. It’s a great version of the Rolling Stones’ classic Gimme Shelter from 1970 by Merry Clayton.

While most of us have no idea who Merry Clayton is, she is a legendary back up singer, giving strong vocal backing to a host of artists through the decades. She was a Raelette behind Ray Charles and also backed up  such a diverse group of artists such as Pearl Bailey, Burt Bacharach, Tom Jones, Joe Cocker, Linda Ronstadt, Elvis, Carole King, Tori Amos, Neil Young and even Lynyrd Skynyrd.

The most famous story about Merry Clayton revolves around this song, Gimme Shelter. It seems when the Stones were recording it, Mick Jagger thought it would be great to have a strong female voice in its chorus. They called Clayton in the middle of the night and she showed up shortly after, pregnant and in curlers, and knocked out her part in a couple of takes. The ultimate trooper, her chorus became a defining element of the rock classic.

There’s a lot more to read about here incredible, and largely unsung, career, some of it told in 2013 Oscar winning documentary about back up singers, 20 Feet From Stardom. In 2014, Merry Clayton was in a serious car crash and, as a result, had both legs amputated.

The ups and downs of a life.

Here’s her Gimme Shelter. Have a great Sunday.

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Stay High

Got a lot to get done this morning but I did come across this video of a song from the recent solo album from Brittany Howard, the lead singer of he Alabama Shakes, and I wanted to share it. It’s an acoustic version of the song Stay High.

The album version is more produced, of course, and has the feel of early 70’s soul/ R&B, her voice reminiscent of the falsettos of Eddie Kendricks or Curtis Mayfield. This acoustic piece is plain sweet and simple and natural in its feel. It just made me feel good this morning.

Give a listen. Maybe it will make you feel good, as well.

 

 

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Taking it easy this morning in the studio. Well, it seems easy even though I’m working on a requested piece and trying to reorganize things in here before I start getting in the next painting groove, for whose arrival I am patiently waiting.

I can feel that the next groove is getting here soon and I want to be ready. Certain parts of my studio have slowly devolved in the last year or two into a slight state of chaos. Things get misplaced and can’t be readily found so I spend ten minutes searching for it and lose a bit of my creative momentum, which is already an ephemeral thing for me. It comes and goes in a flash and any time lost while it’s at hand is lost forever.

Plus, there’s a corrosive effect of having my studio in a state of chaos. I can tolerate and even thrive with clutter to a point. But beyond that point, it piles up quickly and spills over into my thought process and my attitude. I’ve realized over the twenty-plus years I’ve been doing this thing and see that the tipping point is near at hand.

So, I am painting and organizing today. Here’s a song from Sturgill Simpson. It’s his cover of In Bloom from Nirvana. There are a couple of levels of irony in this version. Kurt Cobain wrote this song about the irony of the new fans they gained as their fame grew, who sang along with the songs without understanding the lyrics and whose actions in life were sometimes direct contradictions to the meanings of the songs. Kurt Cobain described this song as being about the intolerance of “rednecks, macho men and abusive people.”

It’s ironic that Simpson covers this song because from outward appearance and sound, one might mistake the Kentucky country singer a for one of those rednecks. But Simpson himself deals with that same type of fan who sings along without knowing the meaning of his songs. While his sound is based deeply in traditional country his attitudes are not redneck at all.

In short, this is a really good interpretation of a good song. Also, a neat looking video. Give a look and a listen then have a good Sunday.

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It is very dangerous to go into eternity with possibilities which one has oneself prevented from becoming realities.  A possibility is a hint from God.  One must follow it.  In every man there is latent the highest possibility, one must follow it.  If God does not wish it then let him prevent it, but one must not hinder oneself.  Trusting to God I have dared, but I was not successful; in that is to be found peace, calm and confidence in God.  I have not dared: that is a woeful thought, a torment in eternity.

–Søren Kierkegaard

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It is a shame to be afraid of trying to do big things, to envision and implement big ideas. To doubt and fear to venture beyond our comfort zones is a recipe for regret.

I know it in myself.

I dislike myself immensely when I fail to think bigger, when I have lost the confidence that I can overcome the failure that might come with risking much. I feel cowardly when I settle for being less than I know I can be. I feel weak when I rationalize away my own potentials for the sake of feeling safe, even though I know there is no satisfaction in that safety.

To stay the same, to deny possibility for the sake of the perception of security, is not a victory in any way.

The fear of risk outweighing the desire for what great good might be attained and the contraction of one’s potential to be less than one knows is possible is a grave danger for any person.

And I believe I sense it in this country.

Maybe that’s my own projection. What do I know?

Anyway, here is this Sunday’s musical selection. It’s from a favorite album of mine, Let It Be. No, not the one from the Beatles. It’s a 1984 album from The Replacements, a Minneapolis based band who was highly influential on bands such as Nirvana and Pearl Jam. This song is I Will Dare.

 

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Despairing.

It’s the first word that comes to mind this morning. I wanted to turn to other things, wanted to crow a little about the Yankees’ victory last night. Maybe talk about painting, music, the weather.

Anything.

Anything but face the ugliness of what one infinitely weak man’s decision has unleashed on people who saw the US as their ally and believed the promises and assurances we gave.

But it’s something I can’t turn away from and still believe that I have an iota of humanity left in my soul. I see the reports and videos of men being shot while being on the ground along the roads in northeast Syria with their hands tied. Of mothers crying over dead and severely injured children.

Of the report of the rape and stoning death of the Hervin Khalef, the Kurdish human rights activist. The image above on the right is from a tweet that includes a video with a boot kicking at her to see if she is alive. Her body is mortified and simply rocks from the push of the boot.

Or of the reports from our forces still on the ground there ( huh, is it possible that the president* lied when he said they had been withdrawn?) that the situation has deteriorated rapidly and that they are being bracketed with shelling from the Turks. Bracketing is a term for using artillery fire to either move opposing forces in a desired direction or keep them from moving at all. It was severe and close enough that the leadership on the ground requested permission to respond with fire. It only subsided when US planes approached the Turkish artillery positions and set the lasers from their missile guidance systems upon them as a warning that we would soon be firing on them.

Or of the mass escapes of ISIS fighters from the prisons where Kurds once held them. Or of the emerging reports that Russian planes have been specifically targeting civilian hospitals in Syria in recent months.

Or so many other reports, all while the cretin slumps around one of his golf courses for the umpteenth time then later in the evening whines about how he is so unfairly treated, all the while heavily slurring his speech while threatening those who dare to hold him accountable. And the idiots of his audience cheer.

Maybe I shouldn’t care. It is 7000 miles a way after all and maybe these people, these Kurds, need to finally stand up for themselves. What have they done for us lately? That’s what you hear on social media from those who are willing to turn their backs on our promises and throw away all the credibility of this nation as a loyal ally to any other nation.

People who can somehow believe that atrocity committed on any person anywhere because of our inaction is somehow okay. People who can simply shrug and say it doesn’t affect them.

Out of sight, out of mind.

Maybe that’s the reason I feel compelled to air my despair and anger this morning, again. I am not willing to let people shrug it off and ignore it. I want to keep it in your sight and in your mind. I want you to see that dead Kurdish woman whenever that horrid creature opens his vile mouth because he is complicit with his inexplicable actions, if not directly responsible, for these atrocities and must be held accountable.

You must consider that if he is willing to tolerate and ignore the suffering his actions have inflicted on these people, it is not a stretch to believe that he will do the same when and if it comes to this land. He is not moved by the suffering of others, doesn’t have the ability to see himself in the faces of those less fortunate than himself in any way.

He is devoid of humanity.

Maybe that’s why I do this thing this morning– because I need to know that I do possess humanity, know that I am a creature of compassion and refuse to close my eyes to the horrors we have wrought upon the lives of others.

I don’t have much. I am powerless in many ways to affect real change. But I am a fucking human being and I will not turn away from atrocity or try to make it less than it is. I have eyes and ears and a mind and a voice that won’t be silenced.

So do you. Use them.

Here’s this Sunday morning music selection. It’s from the Kurdish singer Aynur Doğan who is considered a cultural icon who is keeping the traditional music of the Kurds alive. It’s quite a beautiful piece. While I don’t understand the words, it translates.

Have a day.

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As much as I want to scream about the travesty and tragedy currently at play within our executive branch I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that it was on this day way back in 1964 that the Kinks released their first album, Kinks.

Led by the inimitable Ray Davies, they have withstood the test of time with songs that cover a wide range of the musical spectrum, songs that are almost beautifully crafted and insightful. They often are bitingly humorous and dealt with a knowing wink and a nod to the listener.

I have followed their progress for most of my life and there are dozens of favorite songs from them that I could play here today. But I am going to one of my favorites, from their 1971 album Muswell Hillbillies. Every song on this album is wonderful but I am playing the title track here today. Just a brilliant song with a chorus and lyrics that have been bouncing around in my head for 40+ years.

Cause I’m a Muswell Hillbilly boy,
But my heart lies in Old West Virginia,
Though my hills are not green,
I have seen them in my dreams,
Take me back to those Black Hills,
That I have never seen.

So, today keep calm and listen to the Kinks. All hail the Kinks!

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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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