Rare/Alternative Christmas music 2018: Macy Gray’s call for social justice

December 19, 2018

Some encores from last year. Here’s one in a spasmodic series of posts on Christmas songs you probably haven’t heard a thousand times already, and may actually enjoy hearing. Got a song you’d like to suggest? Suggest it in comments.
Cover sleeve for Macy Gray's

Cover sleeve for Macy Gray’s “All I Want for Christmas.” Amazon image

This one speaks for itself, I think. From experience, I can tell you that playing this song can weed out the Trump supporters in your party attendance rather quickly.

Oddly, I think, it also brings out the dangerous elements of American society to complain about it, judging by comments at the site (go see; there are a lot more):

Grotesque comments at YouTube on Macy Gray's Christmas wishes.

Grotesque comments at YouTube on Macy Gray’s Christmas wishes.

Those thought zombies walk among us. Our cross to bear.

Gray didn’t include it on any album I’ve found.

More:

 

Advertisements

Damon Runyon, the Wright brothers, Eddie Rickenbacker, illegal flying, and “Silver bells”

December 18, 2018

[This is mostly an encore post, written two years ago, marking an anniversary for December 18]

Spent a day with my aging father-in-law last week. Conversation is difficult, but memories always flow. We watched the movie version of “Guys and Dolls,” with Sinatra and Brando, and Stubby Kaye’s get-up-and-sing version of “Sit Down! You’re Rockin’ the Boat.”

He was happy to see the thing again, though in the first few minutes he said he didn’t think he’d ever seen the film. My fondness for the piece, and for Damon Runyon’s stories, goes back (too many) decades to a production of the play by the Utah Valley Opera Society. They hired our high school drama director, David Larson, to direct. On a lark I auditioned, telling them I couldn’t really sing or dance, and ended up with a lot of lines in a couple of supporting roles, and singing and dancing both in the chorus.

When my father-in-law joined in the movie chorus of “Fugue for Tinhorns,” I knew we had a good couple of hours. We laughed, watched, reminisced, and sang along.

Damon Runyon could tell stories, true stories about real people. Sometimes the names were changed to protect the innocent, or the guilty; sometimes the real names were more entertaining than the fictional names Runyon invented.

Some time ago I stumbled across the story of Runyon’s son, Damon Runyon, Jr., using an early airplane to spread the playwright’s ashes. It’s a story Runyon would have appreciated. It’s appropriate for the day after the anniversary of the Wrights’ first flight; December 18 is the anniversary of the event.

On December 17, Orville and Wilbur Wright got their heavier-than-air flying contraption to actually fly with motor driving it along.

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 1...

First flight of the Wright Flyer I, December 17, 1903, Orville piloting, Wilbur running at wingtip. Photo from Wikipedia

On December 18, Damon Runyon, Jr., got Eddie Rickenbacker to fly over Broadway to scatter the ashes of his father, Damon Runyon.

First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 9...

First Lieutenant E. V. [Eddie] Rickenbacker, 94th Aero Squadron, American ace, standing up in his Spad plane. Near Rembercourt, France. Photo from Wikipedia. This photo dates near World War I; Rickenbacker remained a hero for a couple of decades. In 1946, he flew a DC-3 over New York City, and illegally scattered the ashes of raconteur Damon Runyon over his beloved Broadwary.

Not exactly the next day. 43 years and one day apart.  The Wrights first flew in 1903; Runyon died in 1946.

Today in Literature, for December 18:

On this day in 1946 Damon Runyon’s ashes were scattered over Broadway by his son, in a plane flown by Eddie Rickenbacker. Runyon was born in Manhattan, Kansas; he arrived at the bigger apple at the age of thirty, to be a sportswriter and to try out at Mindy’s and the Stork Club and any betting window available his crap-shoot worldview: “All of life is six to five against.” Broadway became his special beat, and in story collections like Guys and Dolls he developed the colorful characters — Harry the Horse, the Lemon Drop Kid, Last Card Louie — and the gangster patois that would swept America throughout the thirties and forties.

A lot of history packed in there.  Runyon’s early reportorial career included a lot of that history — he wrote the lead story for United Press on the inauguration of Franklin Roosevelt, for one example.  Runyon found a uniquely American vein of literary ore on Broadway in New York City, and in the ne’er-do-wells, swells, tarts and reformers who flocked to the City that Never Sleeps to seek fame, or fortune, or swindle that fortune from someone else.

As a reporter and essayist, he smoked a lot.  Throat cancer robbed him, first of his voice, then his life at 56.

Runyon’s ashes were spread illegally over Broadway, from a DC-3 piloted by Rickenbacker. Runyon would have liked that.

You couldn’t make this stuff up.

Factoids of history:

  • Twenty movies got crafted from Runyon stories, including “The Lemon Drop Kid” — in two versions, 1934 and 1951. Appropriate to the Christmas season, the 1951 version introduced the song, “Silver Bells” composed by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans. (Great explanation of the movie, and song, here.)
  • Runyon got fame first as a sports writer.  He was inducted into the writer’s wing of the Baseball Hall of Fame in 1967.
  • According to Wikipedia, Jerry Lewis and others owe a great debt to Damon Runyon:  “The first ever telethon was hosted by Milton Berle in 1949 to raise funds for the Damon Runyon Cancer Research Foundation.”
  • One might salivate over the varied fare offered in the theaters of Broadway in 1946, Runyon’s final year, “Annie, Get Your Gun” through Shakespeare, and everything in between and on either side
  • Runyon and H. L. Mencken both covered the trial of Bruno Hauptmann, the accused (then convicted) kidnapper of Charles Lindbergh’s baby son
  • Yes, of course, “Guys and Dolls.” Frank Loesser created it, but not of whole cloth, but from the stories of Damon Runyon; it is a masterpiece, perhaps in several realms.  In homage to Runyon, Adam Gopnik wrote:

    Just as Chandler fans must be grateful for Bogart, Runyon fans have to be perpetually happy that the pure idea of Runyon, almost independent of his actual writings, produced the best of all New York musicals: Frank Loesser’s “Guys and Dolls,” which made its début in 1950 and is just now reopening on Broadway in a lavish and energetic new production. But then “Guys and Dolls” is so good that it can triumph over amateur players and high-school longueurs and could probably be a hit put on by a company of trained dolphins in checked suits with a chorus of girl penguins.

    Your author here, Dear Reader, was once one of those trained dolphins. It was magnificent.

“Silver Bells,” from “The Lemon Drop Kid,” with William Frawley, Virginia Maxwell and Bob Hope (1951 version):

More:

A view of New York City in 1946:

Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975)

Thomas Hart Benton (1889–1975) “The Artist’s Show, Washington Square,” painted in 1946

Times Square, showing part of Broadway, in November 1946, from the magnificent archives of Life Magazine:

Brownout Time Square.November 1946.© Time Inc.Herbert Gehr - See more at: http://kcmeesha.com/2011/11/29/old-photos-times-square-through-the-years/#sthash.ru9W0F9h.dpuf

Brownout Time Square.November 1946.© Time Inc.Herbert Gehr – See more at: http://kcmeesha.com/2011/11/29/old-photos-times-square-through-the-years/#sthash.ru9W0F9h.dpuf

This is an encore post.

Yes, this is an encore post. Defeating ignorance takes patience and perseverance.

Save

Save


Ready for Tuba Christmas?

November 27, 2018

Tuba Christmas Dallas 2013, at Thanksgiving Square. Screen capture from YouTube

Tuba Christmas Dallas 2013, at Thanksgiving Square. Screen capture from YouTube

One of my musical goals is to play Tuba Christmas.

CBS Sunday Morning sorta explained why back in 2013.

I haven’t had a Sousaphone, or anything else close to a tuba since 1971. So, to be ready to play is a real stretch.

Son Kenny’s euphonium is here at the house, too big for his New York City closets. It calls to me like a siren. But there are mouthpiece problems . . . mostly resolved. And now I have the music, and a CD to practice with.

Dallas’s Tuba Christmas is December 24. Denton is December 22, and Fort Worth is December 21. Wish me luck, and some good lip.

Do you support Tuba Christmas in your town? Do you play?

A rehearsal for Tuba Christmas Dallas in 2016, from Russell Amaya.

(216)

 


Willie Nelson’s new song, “Vote ’em Out!”

November 2, 2018

Willie Nelson and Beto O'Rourke (but not at the Austin concert, I think) Image: Rick Kern / WireImage

Willie Nelson and Beto O’Rourke (but not at the Austin concert, I think) Image: Rick Kern / WireImage

Willie says we should vote for Beto, to change things.

Willie: “Take it home with you, spread it around.” Willie Nelson’s live premiere of Vote ‘Em Out performed 9/29/18 at the rally for Beto O’Rourke.

Willie Nelson headlined a rally for Beto O’Rourke in Austin, Texas, that pulled in a crowd of 55,000 people. It’s the largest political rally ever held in Texas.

Republicans call it a mob. Your children and your friends were there.


Important history not covered in the Texas standards: Electric bass, 1935 to 1969

October 4, 2018

Scott Devine and a blue Fender Bass. Scott's the guy behind the YouTube monster, Scott's Bass Lessons.

Scott Devine and a blue Fender Bass. Scott’s the guy behind the YouTube monster, Scott’s Bass Lessons.

It’s from Scott’s Bass Lessons — but history you need. Let Scott and the video speak for itself.

The Bass, 1935-1969: The Players You need to know.

Am I biased toward bass? Well, yeah — biased toward most stuff in the bass clef, really.

Larry Graham? Heck, in comments here, tell who your favorite bass player was, before 1970. And in hopes of actually stimulating a conversation, throw in any double-bass, stand-up bass players you want to add.

More:

Patent for the first electric bass built by the Fender company, March 24, 1953. Clarence L. Fender (Leo Fender) claimed a patent on the "ornamental design" of the "guitar." I see no mention that it's a bass. Interesting.

Patent for the first electric bass built by the Fender company, March 24, 1953. Clarence L. Fender (Leo Fender) claimed a patent on the “ornamental design” of the “guitar.” I see no mention that it’s a bass. This is the same drawing Scott shows in the video.  Interesting. Via Google Patent.


“Deportee (Plane Wreck at Los Gatos Canyon)” with Arlo Guthrie and Hoyt Axton

June 21, 2018

Marker to the 28 Mexico citizens who died in the Los Gatos Canyon crash in 1948. University of Arizona image via Smithsonian Magazine

Marker to the 28 Mexico citizens who died in the Los Gatos Canyon crash in 1948. University of Arizona image via Smithsonian Magazine

Deportations plague much of recent U.S. history. It never works out well for the U.S., on the whole, especially mass deportations.

Hoyt Axton and Arlo Guthrie joined to sing Woody Guthrie’s account of one catastrophic deportation incident.

A more urgent version of the song, by Lance Canales and the Flood, featuring the names of the 28 who died.

More: 

 


James Baldwin’s record collection

March 15, 2018

Interesting Tweets from an organization in France, Les Amis de la Maison James Baldwin (The Friends of the House of James Baldwin), showing off his collection of records. They are recordings of music, on vinyl. Baldwin died in 1987, when it was still possible to avoid music on compact discs.

I love our old vinyl records. They have great works of art on the covers, often, and they have real notes in a readable font. We turned to CDs when some releases stopped coming on vinyl, after 1987.

Now it’s difficult to get CDs, and the tech magazines talk about the death of medium.

But in this short series of Tweets, more photos than words, Les Amis de la Maison James Baldwin take us back into his mind and art, and give us a glimpse of what could have been a wonderful time, sitting in his home in Paris, listening to great music on his record player — stereo I presume, though there is no information on what equipment he had.

He played some of it loud.

Good.

A photo of the vinyl record albums of James Baldwin, from the group that takes care of his home in Paris.

A photo of the vinyl record albums of James Baldwin, from the group that takes care of his home in Paris.

Diana Ross, Carmen McRae, Patti Labelle, more Carmen McRae, more Diana Ross, Donna Summer. Brenda Lee, Nina Simone and more Nina Simone. The Pointer Sisters. Deborah Brown Quartet (bet you don’t have that one in your collection). Aretha Franklin, “Here Comes the Sun” by Nina Simone, and more Aretha. One of the jazz albums produced by Creed Taylor (you have some of that, certainly). “From a Whisper to a Scream;” Allen Toussaint?

It’s a great collection in that first photo. We might expect polemics from Baldwin, but the polemic comes only from the entire field of artists and material. It’s the art he collected, and that carries a deeper, more powerful message than any one song or one artist.

Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin said,

Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin said, “Neighbors and friends recall music played at volume from the Baldwin villa.”

In the case of Aretha Franklin, “at volume” is a good thing, easily understandable. Heck, that’s true of every record in that collection.

Tweet caption: Well lived, well loved

Tweet caption: Well lived, well loved

Lou Rawls, Frank Sinatra, the Platters, Donny Hathaway, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway. Dinah Washington. Solid stuff.

Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin said:

Les Amis de Maison James Baldwin said: “James Baldwin occupied the villa on Chemin du Pilon from 1970 to 1987.”

Les Amis de la Maison Baldwin captioned this photo:

Les Amis de la Maison Baldwin captioned this photo: “He was reportedly entranced by gospel singer Sara Jordan Powell. He played her Amazing Grace again and again and again.”

Shirley Bassey, Bill Withers, Ray Charles, Otis Redding.

James Baldwin appears not to have had a very large collection of records in his home in France. But what he had, was great. A lot of artists are missing that we may wish Baldwin could have heard, and heard often in his own home. Perhaps he was just building up.

What a firm, great foundation.

More:


%d bloggers like this: