Posts Tagged ‘music’

Paco de Lucia RIP

Posted: 26 February 2014 in Uncategorized
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I own many of Paco de Lucia‘s albums and had the privilege of twice hearing him play in concert. He was both an accomplished flamenco guitarist (as above) and an innovative jazz musician (as below).



For pretty much anyone of my generation Pete Seeger was identified with a long, rich tradition of American protest music—of labor, civil rights, antiwar, and so on. I was fortunate to hear him play and sing on numerous occasions, including a small concert with his family and friends in Connecticut.

But it is also the case that the music of the Left was eventually reduced to folk music and excluded other important traditions, such as classical music. R. D. Davis, in an article published in the journal Rethinking Marxism back in 1988, considered this to be a problem.*

The form of most folk and almost all jazz/pop music does not (cannot) even reflect industrial social relations as we know them, much less make a comment on them. Classical music, or music organized by a trained composer, art music, is more likely to produce an instructional metaphor (and form) with which to examine the foundations of corporate society.

For Davis, Hanns Eisler and Charles Seeger (Pete’s father) represented two radically different approaches to making music for the Left in the 1930s: “intellectual composition versus the folk tradition.” Both were available, both were viable—but the Left (for reasons Davis explores in his article) rejected the former in favor of the latter.

Still, I experienced a moment of national pride when Seeger was joined by Bruce Springsteen to sing all the verses of “This Land Is Your Land,” the Woody Guthrie classic, at Obama’s first inauguration.


*R. D. Davis, “Music from the Left,” Rethinking Marxism 1 (Winter 1988): 7-25.

Yusef Lateef RIP

Posted: 25 December 2013 in Uncategorized
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I was fortunate to hear a concert by the legendary Yusef Lateef (accompanied by percussionist Adam Rudolph) in 2009. I’ll admit, I was expecting something along the lines of classic Lateef but, as Brent Hallenbeck explains, we heard something entirely different.


It’s just been announced that Bruce Springsteen’s “The Ghost of Tom Joad” will be released as a duet with the Nightwatchman Tom Morello on Springsteen’s new album.*

The timing couldn’t be better, as I work on the syllabus for my spring 2014 course, “A Tale of Two Depressions,” which I’ll coteach for the second time (here’s a link to the course last spring) with Ben Giamo.


*For younger readers, Tom Joad is a character in John Steinbeck’s novel The Grapes Of Wrath. Near the end of the story, Tom makes his famous “I’ll be there” speech, which is noted in Springsteen’s lyrics.

Tom Joad: I been thinking about us, too, about our people living like pigs and good rich land layin’ fallow. Or maybe one guy with a million acres and a hundred thousand farmers starvin’. And I been wonderin’ if all our folks got together and yelled…

Ma Joad: Oh, Tommy, they’d drag you out and cut you down just like they done to Casy.

Tom Joad: They’d drag me anyways. Sooner or later they’d get me for one thing if not for another. Until then…

Ma Joad: Tommy, you’re not aimin’ to kill nobody.

Tom Joad: No, Ma, not that. That ain’t it. It’s just, well as long as I’m an outlaw anyways… maybe I can do somethin’… maybe I can just find out somethin’, just scrounge around and maybe find out what it is that’s wrong and see if they ain’t somethin’ that can be done about it. I ain’t thought it out all clear, Ma. I can’t. I don’t know enough.

Ma Joad: How am I gonna know about ya, Tommy? Why they could kill ya and I’d never know. They could hurt ya. How am I gonna know?

Tom Joad: Well, maybe it’s like Casy says. A fellow ain’t got a soul of his own, just little piece of a big soul, the one big soul that belongs to everybody, then…

Ma Joad: Then what, Tom?

Tom Joad: Then it don’t matter. I’ll be all around in the dark – I’ll be everywhere. Wherever you can look – wherever there’s a fight, so hungry people can eat, I’ll be there. Wherever there’s a cop beatin’ up a guy, I’ll be there. I’ll be in the way guys yell when they’re mad. I’ll be in the way kids laugh when they’re hungry and they know supper’s ready, and when the people are eatin’ the stuff they raise and livin’ in the houses they build – I’ll be there, too.

Ma Joad: I don’t understand it, Tom.

Tom Joad: Me, neither, Ma, but – just somethin’ I been thinkin’ about.


Lou Reed and Arthur Danto couldn’t have been more different. One used music to make us feel the contradictions occasioned by the desperate situations people find themselves in, while the other used philosophical language to make us think about what constitutes a work of art.

But they were also connected, at the very start: The Velvet Underground & Nico was produced by Andy Warhol (in 1967), while Warhol’s Brillo Box was the object that led Danto (in 1967, pdf) to argue that art is whatever the artworld says it is.


I can’t say I was ever fully satisfied by the answers Reed and Danto offered but my encounters with the work of both of them led me to feel and think about life, music, and art in new, unexpected ways. And the world is now a less interesting place without them.


The pianist and singer Barrett Strong [ht: sm], who first recorded “Money (That’s What I Want)”* and, according to records at the United States Copyright Office in Washington, was originally listed as a writer of the song, has never seen a penny of the royalties generated by the song.


*”Money” is one of the economic representations songs I used to play at the start of my Principles of Microeconomics classes. The rest of the songs ranged from Juan Luis Guerra’s “El Costo de la Vida” and The Miracles’ “Got a Job” to Michael McDermott’s “Unemployed” and Tom Petty’s “Money Becomes King.”

Marian McPartland RIP

Posted: 21 August 2013 in Uncategorized
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I’ve been listening to Marian McPartland for years, especially her Piano Jazz on NPR. She had an amazing ability to talk and play jazz with the best of them, including Bill Evans (here are parts 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, and 7).

Jim Nayder RIP

Posted: 4 July 2013 in Uncategorized
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Chicagoan Jim Nayder was the creator of the Annoying Music Show on public radio.


Georges Moustaki (né Giuseppe Mustacchi), the French singer and composer, has died at the age of 79.

Here are the lyrics to his “Marche de Sacco e Vannzetti”:

Maintenant Nicolas et Bart
Vous dormez au fond de nos coeurs
Vous étiez tous seuls dans la mort
Mais par elle vous vaincrez!

Richie Havens RIP

Posted: 22 April 2013 in Uncategorized
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Richie Havens, who sung every song he knew during a three-hour opening set at the Woodstock Festival, died today at the age of 72.