What WAS a little surprising was that I couldn’t find the May birthday songs I own on YouTube; I’ve just started to expect it.
I first looked for the pair of songs from Pete Seeger’s We Shall Overcome album, a live 1963 recording. Pete did A Hard Rain’s Gonna Fall and Who Killed Davey Moore; nope. Instead, here’s Paths of Victory
Then I sought out Poor Immigrant by Judy Collins from my beloved Who Knows Where The Time Goes album; no such luck. Here’s Judy singing Like a Rolling Stone
Frankie Valli and the Four Seasons perform the amazingly goofy Don’t Think Twice, It’s All Right, which simply must be heard to be believed. Not there. I foiund, though, the Jersey Boys doing Queen Jane Approximately
I was listening to one of the few podcasts I follow regularly, Coverville; highly recommended, BTW. Anyway, there is sometimes a segment at the end called Musically Challenged, in which a listener provides a quiz for Coverville host Brian Ibbott, and usually for Brian’s wife Tina. Lo and behold, the quiz for episode 574 was provided by Tosy and Cosh. Tosy was the one who turned me onto Coverville.
The other is a two-part 60 Minutes report narrated by Lesley Stahl. In Part 1 she “reports on flaws in eyewitness testimony that are at the heart of the DNA exonerations of falsely convicted people like Ronald Cotton, who has now forgiven his accuser, Jennifer Thompson.” In Part 2, she “explores the task of an eyewitness to choose a criminal out of line up through memory. Jennifer Thompson falsely selected Ronald Cotton as her rapist.” Thompson and Cotton are now friends, and have co-written a book, Picking Cotton. *** Dom Deluise as role model for Mark Evanier, of a sort. ROG
I’ve seen Pete Seeger sing about 32 times. This is no exaggeration; it may be an undercount. He would appear at various antiwar and anti-nuke campaigns in the mid-Hudson Valley of New York State. One of the first times I saw him was at a George McGovern rally in New Paltz, my college town, in 1972. Once, I went on the Clearwater, where he performed.
When a number of people protested the Springboks, the South African rugby team, playing in Albany, Pete was there singing in the rain. The one time I actually saw Pete in concert was April 4, 1982 at Page Hall in the downtown SUNY Albany campus.
But his impact on my life long preceded seeing him perform. My father owned his “We Shall Overcome” album; it was as pivotal in my appreciation of music as any Beatles or other pop album; my review of the expanded CD release is here My father was a singer of folk songs, performing regionally in the Binghamton, NY area, and he often sang songs that Pete, or friends of his such as Woody Guthrie, had popularized. And I saw him perform “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on the Smothers Brothers show in 1968, which helped crystallize my opposition to the Vietnam war.
I think Pete’s taken some unfair criticism. About Dylan going electric, Pete is quoted as saying, “There are reports of me being anti-him going electric at the ’65 Newport Folk festival, but that’s wrong. I was the MC that night. He was singing ‘Maggie’s Farm’ and you couldn’t understand a word because the mic was distorting his voice. I ran to the mixing desk and said, ‘Fix the sound, it’s terrible!’ The guy said ‘No, that’s how they want it.’ And I did say that if I had an axe I’d cut the cable! But I wanted to hear the words. I didn’t mind him going electric.”
And the late Phil Ochs castigated him, unfairly, in this couplet from Love Me, I’m a Liberal: “I go to all the Pete Seeger concerts He sure gets me singing those songs.”
There was this concert last Sunday at the Lincoln Memorial. The program was on HBO, but it was to made free to anyone with basic cable. From what I’ve read, a number of cable companies didn’t get the word to unscramble HBO, though that was the intent. I know my cable was asking for a PIN number (yes, I know “PIN number” is redundant); Time Warner told me it is the “universal default” number, 0000, and it was.
In any case, the We Are One concert is on the HBO website for free. It runs just under two hours, and starts with Bishop Gene Robinson’s invocation, which was reportedly excised from the broadcast; Robinson is openly gay. From time to time, I had a buffering problem, so I decided to see if I could find at least the pop music performances on YouTube, and I did. The ones from, I think, Groban/Headley on are from one person and are pretty good quality. The earlier videos are of various folks and quality; at least one jittery video was obviously taken by someone actually at the show, not dependent on a TV feed.
Master Sergeant Caleb B. Green III The Star-Spangled Banner
Denzel Washington Homage to the leaders given Monuments or Memorials
Bruce Springsteen “The Rising” by Bruce Springsteen. The choir is very effective. LINK
Laura Linney and Martin Luther King III: F.D.R and John F. Kennedy
Jack Black and Rosario Dawson Tribute to Theodore Roosevelt
Garth Brooks “American Pie” by Don McLean/”Shout” (Isley Brothers)/”We Shall Be Free” (Garth Brooks). The new Commander-in-Chief knows at least some of the lyrics to American Pie. LINK
Ashley Judd and Forest Whitaker Referencing John F. Kennedy and William Faulkner
Usher, Stevie Wonder and Shakira “Higher Ground” by Stevie Wonder. A number of people suggested that Shakira was the worst performer of the day. One YouTube person wondered who that guy was playing keyboards was – it was Stevie. LINK
Samuel L. Jackson Referencing Abraham Lincoln, Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King Jr.
U2 “Pride (in the Name of Love)” and “City of Blinding Lights” by U2. Pride, especially in that setting, was particularly moving. City, I read recently, is reportedly on Obama’s iPod. LINK
Barack Obama Speech: Voices Calling for Change
Pete Seeger and Bruce Springsteen “This Land is your Land” by Woody Guthrie. Pete’s voice is shot (though his grandson Tao’s is strong), but it was very moving to hear those verses one doesn’t usually hear:
“In the squares of the city – By the shadow of the steeple By the relief office – I saw my people As they stood there hungry, I stood there wonderin If this land’s still made for you and me.”
“There was a big high wall there – that tried to stop me; Sign was painted – it said private property; But on the other side – it didn’t say nothing; That side was made for you and me.”
“Nobody living can ever stop me, As I go walking – that freedom highway; Nobody living can ever make me turn back This land was made for you and me.” LINK
Beyonce “America the Beautiful”. A suitable ending. LINK
I just discovered that two things that happened when I was 4 1/2, external to my immediate surroundings, but with long-lasting effect on me, both took place within a two-week span.
September 25, 1957: Nine black students safely entered Central High School in Little Rock, Arkansas, after President Eisenhower sent in federal troops to deal with a mob that interfered with a federal court order for the school to integrate. At the beginning of the school year, Arkansas Governor Orval Faubus had ordered the state’s National Guard to stop any black students from entering the school, a decision that was countermanded by the federal judge in the case. The story is well told in a son made popular by Pete Seeger, and performed for a time by my father, State of Arkansas; the third verse I especially remembered without assistance: “Three hundred National Guard were there Dressed up to fight a war.”
Even at that age, I knew that race mattered. I was also vaguely aware that the federal government was doing an extraordinary thing that was not universally popular. This led me to believe in the innate goodness of the federal government, a notion that has been dashed time and time again in the intervening years.
October 4, 1957: Sputnik was launched, beginning the space race, which was seen, in part, as an extension of the arms race.
As writer John Noble Wilford put it: “Sputnik changed everything – history, geopolitics, the scientific world.” Certainly, the headway made by the “Commie Ruskies” colored my entire time in school. It fueled competitiveness to learn, but also exacerbated a Cold War paranoia that we’d all die by some entity, unseen until it was too late. I used to do these “Duck and Cover” exercises:
My wife was listening to the “duck and cover” drill that I played, and it was scary to her. I’ve complained that current politicians like to deal in fear mongering, but on reflection, I grew up learning to be afraid of the Commies. It may be that the “counter culture” of the late 1960s was as much a reaction to that paranoia of the 1950s and early 1960s as it was to the promotion of civil rights and opposition to the Viet Nam war.
These two events, one of civil rights and the other a specter of war, taking place before I was in kindergarten, had a huge, and continuing effect on me that I hadn’t fully appreciated until now.