Posts Tagged ‘music’

Ronnie Gilbert RIP

Posted: 7 June 2015 in Uncategorized
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Ronnie Gilbert,

whose crystalline, bold contralto provided distaff ballast for the Weavers, the seminal quartet that helped propel folk music to wide popularity and establish its power as an agent of social change, died on Saturday in Mill Valley, Calif. She was 88.

Jean Ritchie, who brought hundreds of traditional songs from her native Appalachia to a wide audience and wrote additional songs, especially about the disasters of coal mining—”and in the process helped ignite the folk song revival of the mid-twentieth century—died on Monday at her home in Berea, Kentucky.

Here are the lyrics to her “Black Waters”:

I come from the mountains, Kentucky’s my home,
Where the wild deer and black bear so lately did roam;
By cool rushing waterfalls the wildflowers dream,
And through every green valley there runs a clear stream.
Now there’s scenes of destruction on every hand
And only black waters run down through my land.

Sad scenes of destruction on every hand,
Black waters, black waters, run down through my land.

O the quail, she’s a pretty bird, she sings a sweet tongue;
In the roots of tall timbers she nests with her young.
But the hillside explodes with the dynamite’s roar,
And the voices of the small birds will sound there no more;
And the hillsides come a—sliding so awful and grand,
And the flooding black waters rise over my land.

Sad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

In the rising of the springtime we planted our corn,
In the ending of the springtime we buried a son,
In summer come a nice man, said, “Everything’s fine—
My employer just requires a way to his mine”—
Then they threw down my mountain and covered my corn,
And the grave on the hillside’s a mile deeper down,
And the man stands and talks with his hat in his hand
As the poisonous water spreads over my land.

Sad scenes of destruction on every hand;
Black waters, black waters run down through the land.

Well, I ain’t got no money and not much of a home;
I own my own land, but my land’ s not my own.
But if I had ten million – somewheres thereabouts—
I would buy Perry County and I’d run ’em all out!
Set down on the bank with my bait in my can,
And just watch the clear waters run down through my land!

Well, wouldn’t that be like the old Promised Land?
Black waters, black waters no more in my land!

“West Virginia Mine Disaster” was another of her original songs, performed here by Betsy Rutherford:

And here are the lyrics:

Say, did you see him walking? it was early this morning
He passed by your house on his way to the coal
He was tall, he was slender, and his blue eyes so tender
His occupation was miner, West Virginia his home

It was just about noon, I was feeding the children
Ben Moseley come running for to give us the news
Number eight is all flooded, many men are in danger
And we don’t know their number, but we fear they’re all doomed

So I picked up the baby and I left all the others
For to comfort each other and pray for our own
There’s Timmy, fourteen, and there’s John not much younger
Soon their own time will be coming to go down the black hole

Now if I had the money to do more than just feed them
I’d give them good learning, the best could be found
And when they grew up they’d be checkers and weighers
And not spend their life drilling in the dark underground

And it’s what will I tell to my three little children?
And what will I tell his dear mother at home?
And it’s what will I tell to my poor heart that’s dying?
My heart that’s surely dying since my darling is gone

Say, did you see him walking? it was early this morning
He passed by your house on his way to the coal
He was tall, he was slender, and his blue eyes so tender
His occupation was miner, West Virginia his home

My long-time friend Stephen T. Ziliak is doing great things with students at Roosevelt University, including teaching an introduction to economics based on the Grapes of Wrath and Theories of Justice, whence the video above.

Here is an excerpt from the lyrics:

Readin’ Greg Mankiw,
Queue the conservative man’s view
Supply, demand, invisible hand too
Following these Ten Commandments he hands to you
Hey kids, you understand what Econ really can do?
These ain’t the pearly gates, Mr. Mankiw
Just preachin’ on profit and Max U
But where’s the vertical mobility?
Masses are enslaved in poverty
Millions for your fat pockets see
This poverty of nations ain’t so efficient
Mainstream economists are mentally deficient
Monotonous lectures despite student resistance
What works on the Blackboard but not with existence
Your crackpot theories plot all the wrong axes
If you are the state we-Uber-killin’ all your taxis

Clark Terry RIP

Posted: 22 February 2015 in Uncategorized
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Jazz legend Clark Terry, “one of the most popular and influential jazz trumpeters of his generation and an enthusiastic advocate of jazz education,” has died.

His signature song was “Mumbles,” performed above with the Oscar Peterson Trio (Peterson on piano, Ray Brown on double bass, and Ed Thigpen on drums).

One of my many other Terry favorites is “In Orbit,” with Thelonius Monk on piano (one of his rare appearances as a sideman), bassist Sam Jones, and drummer Philly Joe Jones.


As a follow-up to yesterday’s post about lynchings in the United States, and as part of the research for our Tale of Two Depressions course, I discovered that the inspiration for Lewis Allan’s “Strange Fruit,” later made famous by Billie Holliday, was the 1930 lynching of two black men in Marion, Indiana.



On the Number 2 train, the Seventh Avenue Express—from Brooklyn through Manhattan to the Bronx. . .

I can’t say I have a good explanation for it. But, more than five years into the recovery from the most recent global financial crash, the specter of Marx continues to haunt contemporary capitalism.

For example, the Reuters’ John Lloyd is convinced “communism is again haunting Europe.” I suppose that was inevitable, given the landslide victory of Syriza in Greece. The irony, of course, is that Alexis Tsipras, Yanis Varoufakis, and the other members of the new government have promised nothing more than to create some breathing room (by renegotiating the external debt), ameliorate the worst effects of the previous government’s austerity policies (by providing food aid to the poor and rehiring some government workers), and modernize the state (by making it more difficult for the oligarchy to avoid paying its taxes). The fact that such proposed changes are actually haunting contemporary Europe should give us some pause.

Which reminds me of an earlier piece, by , in the Guardian, who argues that, for many in his generation, the “ideological underpinnings of capitalism have been undermined.”

Marxism in America needs to be more than an intellectual tool for mainstream commentators befuddled by our changing world. It needs to be a political tool to change that world. Spoken, not just written, for mass consumption, peddling a vision of leisure, abundance, and democracy even more real than what the capitalism’s prophets offered in 1939.

And then there’s the fact that I’ve been invited this spring to present a university-wide lecture on “Utopia and Critique: A Marxian Perspective.”

Yes, indeed, there seems to be a whole helluva lotta Marx goin’ on out there. . .