Johnny Cash

A few weeks ago I read Robert Hilburn’s biography of Johnny Cash, an interesting if somewhat longish and discouraging look at the Man in Black.

Today at Open Culture there was a link to the first episode of Cash’s music-variety show. The program from June 7, 1969, included guests Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell and Doug Kershaw. And the Carters, of course. Not a bad way to visit 45-year-old music history.


In Any Civilized Nation March 2nd Would Be a National Holiday

Miles Davis began recording “Kind of Blue” on this date in 1959.

Kind of Blue

It’s anniversary of the birth of Lou Reed (1942).

The influence of the Velvet Underground on rock greatly exceeds their sales figures and chart numbers. They are one of the most important rock and roll bands of all time, laying the groundwork in the Sixties for many tangents rock music would take in ensuing decades. Yet just two of their four original studio albums ever even made Billboard’s Top 200, and that pair – The Velvet Underground and Nico (#171) and White Light/White Heat (#199) – only barely did so. If ever a band was “ahead of its time,” it was the Velvet Underground. Brian Eno, cofounder of Roxy Music and producer of U2 and others, put it best when he said that although the Velvet Underground didn’t sell many albums, everyone who bought one went on to form a band. The New York Dolls, Patti Smith, the Sex Pistols, Talking Heads, U2, R.E.M., Roxy Music and Sonic Youth have all cited the Velvet Underground as a major influence.

Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum

Author Tom Wolfe is 83 today.

“I can’t read him because he’s such a bad writer,” Irving said of Wolfe. When Solomon added that “Bonfire of the Vanities” author Wolfe is “having a war” with Updike and Mailer, Irving dismissed the notion out of hand: “I don’t think it’s a war because you can’t have a war between a pawn and a king, can you?”

Irving described Wolfe’s novels as “yak” and “journalistic hyperbole described as fiction … He’s a journalist … he can’t create a character. He can’t create a situation.”

Salon Books

Author John Irving is 72 today.

Reached through his publisher, Wolfe responded in writing. “Why does he sputter and foam so?” he asked about Irving. “Because he, like Updike and Mailer, has panicked. All three have seen the handwriting on the wall, and it reads: ‘A Man in Full.’”

If the literary trio don’t embrace “full-blooded realism,” Wolfe warns, “then their reputations are finished.” He also offers Irving some additional literary advice: “Irving needs to get up off his bottom and leave that farm in Vermont or wherever it is he stays and start living again. It wouldn’t be that hard. All he’d have to do is get out and take a deep breath and talk to people and see things and rediscover the fabulous and wonderfully bizarre country around him: America.”

Salon Books

Sam

Dr. Seuss (Theodor Seuss Geisel) was born 110 years ago today (1904).

The Writer’s Almanac had good background in 2010.

When Geisel/Seuss was awarded an honorary degree from Princeton in 1985, the entire graduating class stood and recited Green Eggs and Ham. At one time Green Eggs and Ham was the third largest selling book in the English language — ever.

Seussville


Rhapsody in Blue

George Gershwin’s phenomenal blending of jazz and classical music, premiered at Aeolian Hall, in New York City, on February 12, 1924, 90 years ago tonight. Gershwin wrote the piece in three weeks, reportedly improvising some of the piano parts during the premiere.

Rhapsody in Blue was one of NPR’s 100 most important American musical works of the 20th century. You can listen to the NPR report from NPR Music.

This video (audio with photographs actually) is an acoustic recording made in June 1924 with Paul Whiteman and his Orchestra with Ross Gorman playing the clarinet opening as he did during the premier, and the composer at the piano.


Imagine

Imagine there’s no heaven
It’s easy if you try
No hell below us
Above us only sky
Imagine all the people
Living for today…

Imagine there’s no countries
It isn’t hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will be as one

Imagine no posessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world…

You may say I’m a dreamer
But I’m not the only one
I hope someday you’ll join us
And the world will live as one

John Lennon (1940-1980)
Lennon was killed 33 years ago tonight.


Because I Cannot Imagine Being Able to Do This

. . . it just fascinates me.

From the September 1980 Playboy interview published in January 1981:

PLAYBOY: Then let’s talk about the work you did together. Generally speaking, what did each of you contribute to the Lennon-McCartney songwriting team?

LENNON: Well, you could say that he provided a lightness, an optimism, while I would always go for the sadness, the discords, a certain bluesy edge. There was a period when I thought I didn’t write melodies, that Paul wrote those and I just wrote straight, shouting rock ‘n’ roll. But, of course, when I think of some of my own songs — “In My Life” — or some of the early stuff — “This Boy” — I was writing melody with the best of them. Paul had a lot of training, could play a lot of instruments. He’d say, “Well, why don’t you change that there? You’ve done that note 50 times in the song.” You know, I’ll grab a note and ram it home. Then again, I’d be the one to figure out where to go with a song — a story that Paul would start. In a lot of the songs, my stuff is the “middle eight,” the bridge.

PLAYBOY: For example?

LENNON: Take “Michelle.” Paul and I were staying somewhere, and he walked in and hummed the first few bars, with the words, you know [sings verse of "Michelle"], and he says, “Where do I go from here?” I’d been listening to blues singer Nina Simone, who did something like “I love you!” in one of her songs and that made me think of the middle eight for “Michelle” [sings]: “I love you, I love you, I l-o-ove you . . . .”

PLAYBOY: What’s an example of a lyric you and Paul worked on together?

LENNON: In “We Can Work It Out,” Paul did the first half, I did the middle eight. But you’ve got Paul writing, “We can work it out/We can work it out” — real optimistic, y’ know, and me, impatient: “Life is very short and there’s no time/For fussing and fighting, my friend….”

PLAYBOY: Paul tells the story and John philosophizes.


Best Lines of This or Any Day

As soon as you’re born they make you feel small
By giving you no time instead of it all
Till the pain is so big you feel nothing at all
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

They hurt you at home and they hit you at school
They hate you if you’re clever and they despise a fool
Till you’re so fucking crazy you can’t follow their rules
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

When they’ve tortured and scared you for twenty odd years
Then they expect you to pick a career
When you can’t really function you’re so full of fear
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

Keep you doped with religion and sex and TV
And you think you’re so clever and classless and free
But you’re still fucking peasants as far as I can see
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

There’s room at the top they are telling you still
But first you must learn how to smile as you kill
If you want to be like the folks on the hill
A working class hero is something to be
A working class hero is something to be

If you want to be a hero, well, just follow me
If you want to be a hero, well, just follow me

John Lennon (1940-1980)