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    Nobels & Dylan

    Posted by Ginny on 15th October 2016 (All posts by )

    In the mid-sixties, Bob Dylan’s music was the soundtrack to our lives. Now, in 2016, he’ll receive a Nobel. In that half century he’s become central to later generations and in other ways. But between the years when “everyone” quoted Childs numbers and when the Beatles took America by storm, Dylan’s voice was important. The folk singer who lived upstairs in ’65 patterned his style – music, clothes, harmonicas – after Dylan, placing roses on the stage at Pershing when Dylan played Lincoln; another friend wrote poems filled with Dylan allusions, murmuring Mr. Tambourine Man. Dylan did Nashville Skyline; in Chicago, watching him on Johnny Cash, I began to love country: a less surreal, more seductive Dylan singing Lay Lady Lay. In 1975 Austin, newly married, we bought Blood on the Tracks, with “Shelter from the Storm”

    And in 2016, he will stand another stage. His website is workmanlike; in his mid seventies, his tours continue. The “News” section doesn’t (tonight) have the Nobel listed. It’s hard to put my memories of a man who seemed to speak for and to lost boys in the context of his (and our) maturity, of all those years and all his work between then and now. For me, he remains fixed in the past, mine is ambivalence and nostalgia, but that larger, longer public context: Washington Post; Wall Street Journal; New York Times.

    If Dylan didn’t touch your life, Sohrab Ahmari’s take on one who did might be worth comment. Seven years has produced a world a less smug and ahistorical vision would have foreseen.


    Posted in Arts & Letters, Music, Personal Narrative, Poetry | 12 Comments »

    Seth Barrett Tillman: Some Late Thoughts on the American Civil War and Southern Identity

    Posted by Jonathan on 26th June 2016 (All posts by )

    What I learned was that these gentlemen were entirely comfortable with their U.S. identity. They did not pine for the Confederacy to rise again. They did not blame the U.S. military for Confederate wartime deaths. There was no anger in connection with Sherman’s march, and the destruction of southern cities, farms, infrastructure, and other public & private property. So what exactly did bother them–what precisely was their beef? It was The Battle Hymn of the Republic. It upset them to no end. I was young then. Perhaps, I should have understood why it upset them so much. In my defence, I can say, after some years (decades) of reflection, I figured it out.

    Interesting thoughts. More here.

    Posted in Anglosphere, Civil Society, Culture, Deep Thoughts, History, Music, Religion, USA, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    The State of American Politics in May, 2016

    Posted by David Foster on 5th May 2016 (All posts by )

    …my feelings right now as expressed in song, prose, and poetry.

    Bob Dylan:  I threw it all away

    For I’, substitute ‘we’:

    Once I had mountains in the palm of my hand
    And rivers that ran through every day
    I must have been mad
    I never knew what I had
    Until I threw it all away

    Procol Harum:  Broken Barricades

    Now gather up sea shells
    And write down brave words
    Your prayers are unanswered
    Your idols absurd
    The seaweed and the cobweb
    Have rotted your sword
    Your barricades broken
    Your enemies Lord

    British general Edward Spears, describing his feelings in the aftermath of Munich:

    Like most people, I have had my private sorrows, but there is no loss that can compare with the agony of losing one’s country, and that is what some of us felt when England accepted Munich.  All we believed in seemed to have lost substance.

    The life of each of us has roots without which it must wither; these derive sustenance from the soil of our native land, its thoughts, its way of life, its magnificent history; the lineage of the British race is our inspiration.  The past tells us what the future should be.  When we threw the Czechs to the Nazi wolves, it seemed to me as if the beacon lit centuries ago, and ever since lighting our way, had suddenly gone out, and I could not see ahead.

    Yet it was only two years after Munich that Britain demonstrated its  magnificent resistance to Nazi conquest.

    From an English or Scottish ballad

    I am a little wounded but am not slain
    I will lie me down for to bleed a while
    Then I’ll rise and fight with you again

    Lie down to bleed a while, if you need to–but not for too long–but do not give up.  The stakes are way too high.

    Posted in Britain, Deep Thoughts, History, Music, USA | 5 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake, XVIII

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 7th April 2016 (All posts by )

    Remember the standard:
    “If you are going to cover a song, rip it apart a bit and make it your own.”
    Changes, by David Bowie:

    And a remake by Lewis and Clarke:

    I saw this one while perusing Jeff Carter’s excellent blog, Points and Figures, which you should take a look at every day. It particularly struck me today as I am going through some big changes in my life right now. Some good, some bad, but in the end, as my daughter keeps telling me, “everything will be just fine”.

    Posted in Music, Video | 3 Comments »

    Merle Haggard, American Musician, 1937-2016

    Posted by Lexington Green on 6th April 2016 (All posts by )


    Merle Haggard is dead.
    God rest his soul.
    The last and greatest of the musical titans finally falls.
    Possibly the greatest of them all, in our national history, at capturing in music the hard, Jacksonian core of America.
    Merle Haggard riding his bicycle as a kid, too young to get in, hanging around by the back door, to hear Bob Wills and the Texas Playboys, part of a continuity that stretches back to the peopling of the American backcountry, and beyond that to the bloody world of the English border, and poor and proud people who made their own music.
    Merle lived hard. Nine lives at least.
    If you are not yet a Merle Haggard fan, get that way.
    Merle Haggard, we will never forget you.
    We will never stop loving your music.

    Posted in Music | 7 Comments »

    Bei Mir Bistu Shein Though Time

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 3rd April 2016 (All posts by )

    From Wiki:

    “Bei Mir Bistu Shein” (Yiddish: בײַ מיר ביסטו שיין‎, “To Me You’re Beautiful”) is a popular Yiddish song composed by Jacob Jacobs (lyricist) and Sholom Secunda (composer) for a 1932 Yiddish comedy musical, I Would If I Could (in Yiddish, Men Ken Lebn Nor Men Lost Nisht, “You could live, but they don’t let you”), which closed after one season at the Parkway Theatre in Brooklyn, New York City. The score for the song transcribed the Yiddish title as “Bay mir bistu sheyn”. The original Yiddish version of the song (in C minor) is a dialogue between two lovers.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Music, Video | 9 Comments »

    Gypsy Jazz

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 2nd March 2016 (All posts by )

    Time for a break with ‘Gypsy Jazz’ creator Django Reinhardt and sometimes collaborator Stephane Grappelli.

    (Minor Swing)

    (Dark Eyes)

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Culture, Music | 18 Comments »

    Joni Mitchell, 1965

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 30th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Joni wrote this. She’s 22 years old here.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Music, Video | 2 Comments »

    Christmas 2015

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.

    Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.

    Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.

    Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm

    Lappland in pictures…link came from the great and much-mourned Neptunus Lex

    Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos

    A Romanian Christmas carol, from The Assistant Village Idiot

    In the bleak midwinter, from King’s College Cambridge

    Rick Darby has some thoughts on the season. More here.

    A Christmas reading from Thomas Pynchon.

    The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. (although there is debate about the historical veracity of this story)

    An air traffic control version of  The Night Before Christmas.

    Ice sculptures from the St Paul winter carnival

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Jeff Sypeck on a winter garden

    Mona Charen, who is Jewish, wonders  what’s going on with the Christians?

    Posted in Christianity, Holidays, Music, Religion | 2 Comments »

    Songs of 2015

    Posted by David Foster on 19th December 2015 (All posts by )

    I’ve heard quite a few good new songs this year…not all “new” in the sense of being just-released, but at least new to me.  Some of them…

    Della Mae is an all-female bluegrass-oriented group.  Their songs include Hounds (inspired by Francis Thompson’s poem ‘The Hound of Heaven’),  Some Roads Lead On,  Heaven’s Gate, and  To Ohio.

    Reflections from the beyond of an Irish immigrant who fought in both the American Civil War and at Little Big Horn: Mick Ryan’s Lament, sung here by John Sheahan, Jane, & Shane.

    From Tom Russell’s new album: The Rose of Roscrae and When the Wolves No Longer Sing.  (I’ve written about some of Tom’s earlier work here)

    Laura Orshaw: Guitar Man

    I heard this sequence of songs on the radio while driving home one foggy night:

    John Prine, Clay Pigeons

    Larry Campbell & Teresa Williams,  Midnight Highway

    Jason Isbell,  Hudson Commodore

    Nanci Griffith,  Waiting on a Dark Eyed Girl  (can’t find Nanci’s version online, the link goes to one by Kevin Welch)


    Posted in Music | 3 Comments »

    USAF Band – Museum ‘Flash Mobs’

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 16th December 2015 (All posts by )

    Posted in Holidays, Music, Video | 14 Comments »

    The Sound of Music

    Posted by Michael Hiteshew on 9th December 2015 (All posts by )

    This year is the 50th anniversary of the theatrical release of The Sound of Music. This was one of last things to come out of the Old Hollywood studio system which was broken apart first by anti-trust laws and later by the advent of TV. The tattered remains of Hollywood were then occupied by the communists and nihilists of the late 1960’s who proceeded to destroy whatever artistic foundations remained. Hollywood is completely incapable of producing a movie of this artistic quality and beauty today. Everyone, I think, feels the loss.

    The Sound of Music became the highest grossing film of its time, bringing in $286,214,076 worldwide ($2.366 billion in 2014 dollars), finally displacing Gone With the Wind. The film was adapted from a Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway musical that opened in 1959 and starred Mary Martin. I’ve listened to the recordings of Mary, and I have to say Julie Andrews is much, much better. That’s probably because it was near the end of Mary’s career, which began in 1939, and Julie Andrews, age 30, was at the peak of her ability. She did a spectacular job in this film and I still get it out once in awhile to revel in its music and beauty.

    It was directed by Robert Wise: The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951), West Side Story (1961), The Sand Pebbles (1966) The Andromeda Strain (1971), and Star Trek: The Motion Picture (1979). A young Robert Wise edited Citizen Kane.

    The critical reception, from Wikipedia…I had to laugh at the NYT getting it completely wrong, even back then:

    The film had its opening premiere on March 2, 1965 at the Rivoli Theater in New York City. Initial reviews were mixed. Bosley Crowther, in The New York Times, criticized the film’s “romantic nonsense and sentiment”, the children’s “artificial roles”, and Robert Wise’s “cosy-cum-corny” direction. Judith Crist, in a biting review in the New York Herald Tribune, dismissed the movie as “icky sticky” and designed for “the five to seven set and their mommies”. Wise later recalled, “The East Coast intellectual papers and magazines destroyed us, but the local papers and the trades gave us great reviews. “Indeed, reviewers such as Philip K. Scheuer of the Los Angeles Times described the film as “three hours of visual and vocal brilliance”, and Daily Variety called it “a warmly-pulsating, captivating drama set to the most imaginative use of the lilting R-H tunes, magnificently mounted and with a brilliant cast”.

    The movie is a celebration of love, of family, of the beauty of the world on a summer day, and the importance of family and friendship in the worst of times. That “The East Coast intellectuals” would completely miss that, well, it doesn’t surprise me in the least.

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Music | 20 Comments »

    When It Took Guts To Live Your Music

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 21st November 2015 (All posts by )

    Some nights when I have time to kill I just put on a recorded music video show from MTV2 or Palladia and fast forward until I see something that looks interesting. I stopped briefly on a new band out of the UK that looked like half glam / half punk just long enough to get a screen shot… I don’t even care enough to spend ten seconds looking on the internet to figure out their name.

    What I really thought about was that once it took guts and rage to look different from everyone else and music / lifestyle / looks were one and the same, not just an act that you put on like makeup. If you want to read about that in action, try “Get in the Van” by Henry Rollins, the iconic lead singer of the seminal Southern California punk band “Black Flag”.

    Growing up we listened to Black Flag all the time, especially the iconic “Damaged” album. I was too young (and too chicken) to go see them in concert, but reading the “Get in the Van” book really brought home all the violence and flat-out deprivation that it took to live that lifestyle, with Rollins completing a set after being punched and kicked and often drenched in spit. We also forget that Rollins was one of the first individuals to get interesting tattoos in addition to his hairstyle and overall look, which constantly got him in fights everywhere he went. If you want to read about a real and dedicated artist, not some band that was prefabricated for TV and the internet, just read anything Rollins writes but start with “Get in the Van”.

    Reading the book prompted me to get back in the spirit and listen to my favorite Black Flag albums. However, they’ve been lost from vinyl to cassettes to CDs and I’m pretty much done with physical media anymore. So I just signed up for Apple Music and there they all are – the whole catalog. Kind of ironic to listen to music that was made and played with fire in such a bloodless manner as through my iPad and bluetooth speaker…

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Book Notes, Music | 10 Comments »

    99 Luftballons

    Posted by David Foster on 29th October 2015 (All posts by )

    The story about the runaway surveillance balloon,  especially in conjunction with the report that  there may have almost been an unauthorized missile launch in Formosa, at the time of the Cuban missile crisis, reminded me of  this song.

    Original German version, with on-screen lyrics, and  an attempt at directly translating the lyrics into English.

    Posted in Germany, History, Music, War and Peace | 8 Comments »

    One Moment in the Eighties

    Posted by Ginny on 29th June 2015 (All posts by )

    David Foster writes of the “reset” button. I wanted to thank him in a comment, but it lengthened. And as he begins with the mistranslation, I should begin with an apology: I still know no Czech. But a memory from the eighties came so powerfully, I wanted to share it.

    In those years, we hosted various musical and academic visitors. My language incompetence was a difficulty: fluent English wasn’t always an aid in getting those visas. Often a scholar or musical group was substituted for the requested one; visa granting was erratic and subject to bureaucratic whims.

    But I remember vividly a group sent to a conference, around 1983 or so. One of the local Czechs, a family dedicated to the language (the father had taught Czech at A&M, his brother at UT), invited them to visit their farm. The folk singers were given tea and cake; sitting in the farm’s front yard, with grasshopper pumps near the house and broad land and skies behind that, they chatted. But then, they stood and began singing acapella with deep and strong voices an old hymn – one they knew well, but never sang at concerts, they said. The resonance came from their hearts. I didn’t know the language and decades have come between. Perhaps it was this one (or this) . If not, the simplicity and clarity were similar. It was a breathtaking moment.

    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Civil Society, Music, Personal Narrative | 10 Comments »

    BB King RIP

    Posted by Dan from Madison on 15th May 2015 (All posts by )

    Most of the tributes you see and hear today about BB will feature crap like “The Thrill Is Gone” and that terrible song he did with Bono. This is the real deal and is what I cut my teeth on when I was discovering the Blues. You can thank me later. Godspeed.

    Cross posted at LITGM.

    Posted in Music, Obits, Video | 4 Comments »

    Chicago International Movies and Music Festival

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 18th April 2015 (All posts by )

    There is a festival here in Chicago focused on movies about music which also has a bunch of bands playing as well.  It is our attempt to have a little “South by Southwest” action in the city of Chicago.  At least they have some nice weather this year – this weekend seems to be the start of spring and everyone is out side and on balconies and has a lot of positive energy.  Here is a shot from one of the movies on the cover of the Reader.

    Unfortunately I can’t go to any of the events because I can’t stand in lines for too long and I can’t be jostled or have someone step on my foot and that’s what usually happens at a concert.  I will look for some of these movies out there on the internet though later or if they come to an art house movie theater or something.  Here is the site listing what is going on and an interview with the founder on Chicago Tonight (a great program) and below are some of the ones I’d go to see if I was able to do so.

    • Danny Says” which is a movie about the manager of the Stooges and the Ramones.  That guy must have seen a lot of crazy stuff
    • 808” a story of how a device never intended to be a beatbox helped launch hip hop and modern music
    • Morphine – Journey of Dreams” one of my favorite bands of the 1990’s was Morphine and I was very saddened when their lead singer / bassist dropped dead at a show overseas.  Also the remaining members played a show under “Vapors of Morphine” as well
    • Jaco” is about the fantastic bass player Jaco Pastorius who was a little crazy and unfortunately died young after being beaten by a club bouncer.  At the festival the bass player from Metallica (who is from Suicidal Tendencies if you go way back to “Institutionalized”) talks about Jaco, as well
    • Local H is playing too.  They are awesome and one of the few survivors of the 1990’s.  See them when they come to your town

    Cross posted at LITGM

    Posted in Chicagoania, Film, Music | 8 Comments »

    Chicagoboyz Feel Good

    Posted by Jonathan on 17th April 2015 (All posts by )

    It’s Friday.

    Posted in Music | 2 Comments »

    Our Need For Categorization

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 14th February 2015 (All posts by )

    I am an enormous fan of “top lists” and almost any sort of categorization. If it is the top 100 guitarists, the greatest bands, a type of warship, or anything else – I like to see it in a category and classification that can explain trends and try to cut through complexity by organizing the data into different groupings.

    Sirius XM radio stations are a great example of categorizations. Recently on a trip with Dan and our friend Brian we had the station stuck on “Hair Nation” – and then we started thinking through the different stations and how Sirius has chosen to allocate music across each of them.

    Some bands are solidly “Hair Nation” – Poison, Warrant, LA Guns, and everything else with spiky hair and all about having a good time. While Dan is more “Hair Nation” – I am more on the “Boneyard” station, which has a big overlap with Hair Nation but a whole host of songs that aren’t on Hair Nation, such as UFO and older heavy metal like Judas Priest.

    We started to have a mock “debate” in a snooty English style of “Dear Sir – I beg to differ with your classification of the band Skid Row. “Monkey Business” is more of a hard Boneyard song while their ballads of course could reside properly within the confines of Hair Nation.”
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Humor, Music | 4 Comments »

    Christmas 2014

    Posted by David Foster on 24th December 2014 (All posts by )

    Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.

    Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.

    Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.

    A wonderful 3-D representation of the Iglesia San Luis De Los Franceses. Just click on the link–then you can look around inside the cathedral. Use arrow keys or mouse to move left/right, up/down, and shift to zoom in, ctrl to zoom out.

    Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm

    Lappland in pictures…link came from the great and much-mourned Neptunus Lex

    Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos

    A Romanian Christmas carol, from The Assistant Village Idiot

    In the bleak midwinter, from The Anchoress

    Rick Darby has some thoughts on the season. More here.

    A Christmas reading from Thomas Pynchon.

    The first radio broadcast of voice and music took place on Christmas Eve, 1906. (although there is debate about the historical veracity of this story)

    An air traffic control version of The Night Before Christmas.

    Ice sculptures from the St Paul winter carnival

    O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya

    Gerard Manley Hopkins

    Jeff Sypeck on a winter garden

    Posted in Architecture, Christianity, Holidays, Music, Religion | 6 Comments »

    Don’t Worry, Be Happy

    Posted by Jonathan on 14th December 2014 (All posts by )

    Or at least try sometimes to be happy despite your worries. But it’s not like we’re giving advice here, because what do we know. In any case a catchy tune couldn’t hurt.

    Posted in Music, Video | 3 Comments »

    Ed Paschke Art Center – And Steve Schapiro Photo Exhibit

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 23rd November 2014 (All posts by )

    We watched an episode of “Chicago Tonight” the PBS news program where they discussed the Ed Paschke Art Center, a museum highlighting the work of the vibrant visual artist Ed Paschke, a Chicago native who died in 2004. They also have other artists featured at the museum, and when we went it was photographer Steve Schapiro, who photographed Warhol, Reed and Bowie among many others.

    The museum is easy to reach – by car you can take the Kennedy and get off at Lawrence, and it is an easy walk from the blue line or the metra (if you take that line). Here is the outside of the building, which is painted in the style of his work. The museum is free (we made a donation) and the docent working there was friendly and interested if you had any questions.

    We talked to the museum employee and the building used to be a call center; they redesigned it to hang his big art canvas projects and set it up so that the light illuminated everything properly. Downstairs they had his paintings, and upstairs they re-created his studio, including the last painting that he was working on at the time of his death.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in Arts & Letters, Chicagoania, Music, Photos | 3 Comments »

    Veterans Day 2014

    Posted by David Foster on 11th November 2014 (All posts by )

    The War was in Color

    Posted in History, Holidays, Music, Video | 4 Comments »

    Twenty Five Stories About Work – The School of Rock

    Posted by Carl from Chicago on 9th November 2014 (All posts by )

    I was recently on a plane doodling and thought of some funny / interesting stories from 25+ years of working and traveling. So I decided to write them up as short, random chapters of a non-book with the title of this post. Hope you enjoy them and / or find them interesting. Certainly the value will be at least equal to the marginal cost of the book (zero)…

    Chicago, the 1980s

    Recently I was at an art exhibition and I saw a book about the “School of Rock” which takes kids with an interest in music and sets them up in a band situation and allows them to work together and perform live. I think it is a great idea and I have a friend whose son plays drums and has really gotten a lot out of this in terms of confidence and poise.

    I had my own experiences learning an instrument and playing in a band which really were formative to my business experience, although I never really thought of them as “formally” part of my background until I looked at that photo and remembered these 25 posts.

    Back in the 1980s I used to play bass guitar (switched from regular guitar) and was in various local bands with friends which typically went nowhere except maybe some free gigs in a public place or someone’s backyard. I absolutely am not a good musician nor was I particularly talented.

    However, the act of participating in a band in that era had many of the hallmarks of being in a small business. First of all – you needed to have some money to buy gear. You needed a bass guitar, a few amps (one to practice on at home, and one to leave at the primary practice space), and if you had extra money – a PA system which we could use for the entire band and microphones for the drums, vocals, etc… Actually having gear and these extra pieces of equipment immediately made you a more attractive potential band member, regardless of your skills.
    Read the rest of this entry »

    Posted in 25 Stories About Work, Music, Personal Narrative | 9 Comments »

    The Art of the Remake XVII

    Posted by Lexington Green on 4th November 2014 (All posts by )

    You Ain’t No Big Thing Baby, Sam and Dave (1963)

    An early, solid soul song from the mighty Sam and Dave.

    You Ain’t No Big Thing Baby, Holly Golightly (1998)

    Holly’s version is more brooding and sultry.

    Holly heard something in the song that was a lot different from the original.

    She tore it to bits and made it her own, as we here at The Art of the Remake Division of the Chicago Boyz Zaibatsu demand.

    And her live version of it is yet a third interpretation, more of a rave up, with harmonica.


    Posted in Music, Video | 1 Comment »