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Posts Tagged ‘Sam Cooke’

Frankie and Johnny is an old American traditional murder ballad. What an odd term, murder ballad. It sounds like it should be American and it certainly has been well adapted here. But it does have roots going back to 17th century Europe. It just came here as part of our immigrant tradition.

Anyway, Frankie and Johnny is one of our best known murder ballads, one with a history that some says goes back to the 1830’s. It tells the story of a woman who is wronged by her philandering man and vents her anger by killing him.

The artist Thomas Hart Benton illustrated the murder scene in a print (at the top of the page) as well as part of his epic American mural located in the Missouri State House in Jefferson City. In the photo below, you can see it just above the doorway.

As a song it has been recorded by several hundred different artists in a wide variety of genres. I was reminded of my favorite version the other day when it came on my dad’s radio when I was visiting him the other day. This version from the great Sam Cooke was one that I listened to incessantly when I was a kid. The lyrics and Cooke’s vocal inflections are engraved in my memory bank. I believe that if I ever suffer from the dementia that affects my dad I would remember this song and Cooke’s take on it.

It is a tremendous version of a great song that builds and builds to a roaring crescendo. Cooke definitely puts his own signature on this song, as he did on just about everything he ever sang. This has stuck in my head for the last few days.

Give a listen. We’ll call today Murder Ballad Friday.


 

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civil-rights-marchI have been struggling with the prospect of this coming week for some time.  I thought at one point after the election that I would just sit back and just watch the whole thing unfold, maybe give them a chance to prove that my doubts were unfounded.  For a short period of time –actually, several fleeting instances– he-who-shall-not-be-named-here acted almost conciliatory and I thought I might just keep this wait and see attitude.

But in the two months since, he-who-shall-not-be-named-here has shown with his words and actions just what he is and will continue to be. And that is an absolute reflection of our worst self in every possible way.  There is nothing he has done or said that I would advise a child to emulate. Try as I might, I can not come up with a single quality in his shown character that is admirable in any way.  Every aspect of this person is ugly in spirit.  Even his limited acts of charity are done selfishly, done only because it somehow benefits him and is seen as a cost of doing business.

This is not a person who is taking the weight of this nation upon his shoulders so that all in this nation will benefit. He doesn’t care about you or me.  He doesn’t care about coal miners in Kentucky or farmers in Iowa– they were simply a cost of doing business.  No, he’s putting this country on a butcher block in front of him and is trying to figure how to carve off an even larger and juicier portion for himself and his money buddies.

I agree with John Lewis when he says that he-who-shall-not-be-named-here is not a legitimate president and applaud his courage for saying those words.  But John Lewis is a man of courage and a man who has always worked to lift others.  This is a man who has truly worked to change America for the better and who has consistently stood on the right side of history.

And he is seeing a person coming to power who seeks to weaken the rights and freedoms for which he has bled.  A person who is poised to push us on to the wrong side of history, who is willing to trade away the idealism that has long been our strength and foundation for the benefit and self interests of a precious few.

So, on this weekend marking the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday I thought my Sunday morning musical choice should reflect that.  It’s A Change is Gonna Come from the great Sam Cooke, a song that was written by Cooke at the height of the civil rights struggle in response to his arrest in Louisiana after protesting a Holiday Inn‘s refusal to honor his reservations at that hotel.

It’s a great and powerful song with a message that resonates for both then and now.  I am also including the Otis Redding version just because I absolutely love this performance.  Give a real listen and try to have good day.

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GC Myers- Nobody KnowsI’ve been in a pretty deep funk lately.  I wasn’t going to write about this at all though I am sure it seeps into the writing that I do post.  But in the name of transparency I thought I would share a few words on the subject.

I have often experienced down periods (or funks as I call them) throughout my life.  In the recent past they are less frequent and last for a relatively short period of time, mainly due to having built up some knowledge in how to pull out of them.  There is a general disinterest in most things and a dulling of emotions as well as a loss of confidence where I find myself questioning everything I think I know.  I feel tired and listless and anxious to the point that I can’t focus fully on much of anything or get anything done.  For example, writing this blog has been a tremendous chore over the past several weeks.

As I say, I can usually work my way out these within days or a week or so.  That has been the gift that my painting has presented me over the past two decades.  But this recent bout has been  a doozy with a complete collapse of confidence in everything  that I do or  have done.  I felt dead inside and paralyzed in every way, fearful to move in any direction.

This extended to  my work, that one thing with which would  normally  buoy my emotions, to the point that I couldn’t even pick up a brush.  The mere thought of it formed a giant knot in my gut, as if actually painting would provide proof of the doubts and fears that were eating at me.  I kept putting  off working on a couple of commissioned pieces or starting any other new work and worked only in fits on another project that was several months late already.

But slowly I find myself creeping out of the pit.  Small goals and small steps forward.  Yesterday I finally picked up a brush and worked on a couple of very small pieces, such as the one shown at the top.  And much to my surprise, I felt that spark once again, a positive emotion generated.  It just felt good again.

So, I see a light at the end of my tunnel.  And believe me when I say I am running toward this light.

As I said, I wasn’t going to write about this here.  In fact, I still am thinking about deleting the whole thing even now.  But I won’t.  I’ve tried to maintain transparency in how my life translates into my work and this is certainly part of my life.  It might be that bit of darkness that underscores the lightness in my work.

I don’t know but at least I feel like thinking about it once again.  And that is a good thing…

So, for this week’s Sunday morning musical break. let’s listen to one of my all time favorites, Sam Cooke, who I believe could sing any song and make it sound incredible.  I took a shortened title from this song for the piece at the top, calling it Nobody Knows.  Of, course, the song is Cooke’s upbeat version of the  old spiritual Nobody Knows the Trouble I’ve Seen, which might seem a bit on the nose for today’s entry.  But it feels positive and so do I.  So, give a listen and have a great day.

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GC Myers- Back to the Land smWell, the opening for my Home+Land show at the West End Gallery was Friday evening and went very well– just a perfectly wonderful night with plenty of people and lots of conversation.  It was a pretty large crowd, especially for a summer opening, but it still was one that met my criteria for a good show:  most of the attention was focused on the work on the wall.

I have been to plenty of crowded openings where the work is sometimes an afterthought and all the people there are facing inward in private conversations.  For me, a good show is one that is outward focused, one where the eyes oriented to the wall.  And even though there  was a good number of people, it seemed to me that most were there for the work.

And that really satisfies me in some deep way and for that I would like to thank all of you who took time from your summer schedule to spend a little time to take a look at the work.  I could not be more appreciative.  And thanks to Linda and Jesse once again for hanging the show in a way that seems to bring it all together in the gallery. Again, I could not be more appreciative.

That said, it’s time for a Sunday morning music and this week I felt like something older and mellow and, for me, the voice of the late and great Sam Cooke can often fill that bill.  This is a song he wrote that has been covered by many artists but his version always seems the real thing for me.  It’s from 1962 and has very recognizable backing vocals from Lou Rawls. Here’s Bring It on Home to Me.

PS: The painting at the top is from the show and is 12″ by 24″ canvas piece titled Back to the Land.

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GC Myers- Beyond the Blues smGreat opening night for my show, Into the Common Ground, this past Friday at the Kada Gallery in Erie.  Great crowd with a nice mix of people, old and new to my work.  Good questions and conversations.  Just a very successful show opening all the way around.

Many, many thanks to Kathy, Joe and Morgan at the Kada for making it such a wonderful night and making me feel like a part of the family there. Also, many thanks to everyone who came out and took part.  I can’t tell you how much it is appreciated.  And thanks to the weather for being relatively mild, a sometimes rare thing on the shores of Lake Erie in December.

Thank you!

Well. that being said, it is time for a little Sunday music.  I was thinking Otis Redding and that voice that I could listen to sing almost anything.  It’s hard to believe that in a few days it will 47 years since he was killed in a plane crash in 1967 at the age of 26.  Hard to imagine what might have come from this huge talent.  But he did leave behind an impressive legacy of music, including this great version of the Sam Cooke classic A Change is Gonna ComeIt gives you something to think about on this Sunday morning.

Have a great day.

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Georges Rouault- Crucifixion 1939

Georges Rouault- Crucifixion 1939

I can’t say that I am a religious person, religion never being much of a part of my upbringing.  I never attended a single Easter service and pretty much thought of the day in terms of chocolate Easter bunnies and colored eggs in my youth.  But I respected the traditions and stories of the Bible and of the other religions as I picked them up through the years and understood the solemnity and importance of faith, even if my own was sometimes lacking.  That being said, I thought I might play a little music this morning that had to do with the fact that it is Easter Sunday.

I have always been drawn to and moved by the passion and conviction of the great gospel songs especially when performed by those with the talent and conviction to match the  material, such as  Mahalia Jackson, Sister Rosetta Tharpe and all so many others.  Sam Cooke, one of the greatest  pop and R & B stars of the 50’s and early 60’s, was also a great gospel singer.  I loved his voice and  could listen to him sing the phone book but when he sang the gospel, it was often magic. Here’s his version of Were You There ( When They Crucified My Lord), which is an old plantation spiritual that fits in with the day and,  performed by Sam Cooke is as I said, magic .

Hope you have a great Sunday.

 

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