Kennedy Center Honors on TV June 6!

Dick, Minori, Joan, Garth, Debbie

Kennedy Center Honors 2020Usually, the Kennedy Center Honors take place in early December. They are then edited and broadcast between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. It’s one of our family traditions.

But because of COVID, the ceremonies were postponed, and I lost track of the event. My wife said she recorded CBS This Morning this past week because Dick Van Dyke was on. Even though I knew Dick was one of the honorees, since I didn’t watch the news segment, I didn’t make the connection.

It wasn’t until I saw this interview of DVD by Al Roker that I decided to see, “When is the KCH airing anyway?”

It’s June 6, 8 pm EDT on CBS! Per the New York Times: “The ceremony, usually held and televised in December, was moved to May, and split over several days. Then the organizers and producers began stitching together a mixture of recorded at-home tributes and in-person performances across the center…

“If the Kennedy Center Honors had to be stripped of much of its glamour this month to accommodate rapidly changing coronavirus health guidelines, the subdued ceremony offered a chance for the honorees to help usher in the reopening of the nation’s cultural institutions after a grueling year for the arts.”

The honorees

Debbie Allen: I first knew her from the TV musical-drama Fame (1982-1987). She played dance teacher Lydia Grant – great first name, that – and choreographed much of the program.

She produced more than half of the episodes for The Cosby Show spinoff A Different World (1988-1993).

Since 2011, I’ve watched her in her recurring role as Dr. Catherine Avery on Grey’s Anatomy, for which she is also an executive producer/director.

Joan Baez: Someone who was a HUGE part of my growing up, as I noted here when she turned 70. She was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in 2017. The website notes: “Joan Baez breathed new life into folk music in the 1960s, powering rock music’s turn toward social and political consciousness.

“Baez’s unwavering dedication to activism shows that volume isn’t the only way to be loud—and totally rock and roll.” As Joan said in December 2016: “As part of the folk music boom, which contributed to and influenced the rock revolution of the sixties, I am proud that some of the songs I sang made their way into the rock lexicon.”

Garth Brooks: He is a MASSIVELY successful artist, ostensibly country but with crossover appeal. He has nine albums that have sold over 10 million copies each. “According to the RIAA, he is the best-selling solo albums artist in the United States with 156 million domestic units sold, ahead of Elvis Presley, and is second only to the Beatles in total album sales overall.”

He was inducted into the Songwriters Hall of Fame in 2011, and the Country Music Hall of Fame the following year. Out of curiosity, I bought a box set of a half dozen of his studios; it was under $25. While I didn’t love them all, there were some solid songs I enjoyed.

Not a fiddle

Midori: Sometimes, there’s a KCH awardee I know much less well than the others. In this case, it’s this concert violinist. From her website: “Midori is a visionary artist, activist, and educator who explores and builds connections between music and the human experience and breaks with traditional boundaries which makes her one of the most outstanding violinists of our time.

“As a leading concert violinist for over 35 years, Midori regularly transfixes audiences around the world, bringing together graceful precision and intimate expression.”

Dick Van Dyke: Him I know about. I’ve written about his seminal TV show, which I own on DVD, so I know more than bupkis about the series.

I never saw Mary Poppins until late 2011.

He appeared in the late Carl Reiner’s documentary If You’re Not In the Obit, Eat Breakfast in 2019.

I had forgotten this about the early career of Walter Cronkite: he had a “tenure as a morning show newsreader having dialogues with a lion puppet and Dick Van Dyke.”

2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee fan vote

That first Steppenwolf album I listened to constantly

the_cars_-_the_essentialsFor the past couple years, you, the popular music fan, have been allowed to select up to five Nominees you think should be Inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame, from the admittedly flawed list of candidates. The aggregate vote get tallied as one vote, along with the experts.

Last year, I rooted for Chicago, Chaka Khan, Los Lobos, The Spinners and Yes. Chicago, which won the fan vote last year made it into the Hall, though popularity there did not assure induction. Los Lobos and the Spinners are not even on the ballot this year.

The 2017 Nominees are:

Bad Brains Continue reading “2017 Rock and Roll Hall of Fame nominee fan vote”

That Big Box of Vinyl

Tosy and Cosh is a blogger that I used to enjoy reading, before he went on sabbatical back in 2009. I just discovered that he is back writing. Somehow, though, I missed his brief return from March to May 2011, during which time he did this piece That Big Box of Vinyl. It was really depressing, because it was subtitled “music you remember your parents listening to.” It included songs such as Colour My World by Chicago, which was his mother and father’s wedding song; it was also the song of my high school prom. Talk about feeling old.

I’ve previously shared some of the singles in my father’s collection. So here are some albums.

Harry Belafonte, as noted, was a huge influence on my father’s time as a singer of folk songs. From this Belafonte discography, I discovered the albums Dad owned. The album links have 30-second clips of each song.

The most important album for him had to have been My Lord What A Morning, from 1960. He performed most of the songs, especially Buked And Scorned. In fact, it was SO important that, just this year, I bought copies of it for the older of my sisters and for me. From Streets I Have Walked (1963), he got the arrangement of This Wicked Race. Dad also owned An Evening With Belafonte/Makeba (1965) and In My Quiet Room (1966).

I noted, a long while back, the importance of Pete Seeger’s “We Shall Overcome” album “recorded live at his historic Carnegie Hall Concert, June 8, 1963″. I found a four-song EP, featuring If You Miss Me at the Back of the Bus; Little Boxes; I Ain’t Scared of Your Jail; and We Shall Overcome. I also discovered a too-trimmed version of Tshotsholosa (Road Song). I own a version by Ladysmith Black Mambazo, and just this summer, I heard a performance by Peace Train, a South African pair of women, one white, one black, singing this tune.

Finally, Joan Baez, and specifically, the oddly-named Best of Joan Baez, from the early 1960s, was huge. Here’s So Soon in the Morning, with Bill Wood, which my father, sister and I used to perform together.

Joan Baez


This fall, I finished watching some program on the DVR, and the TV defaulted back to the PBS station. I wasn’t really paying attention, but, even with my back turned, I knew INSTANTLY that the speaking voice I was hearing was that of Joan Baez. It turned out to be a rebroadcast of Joan Baez: How Sweet the Sound, “American Masters explores fifty years of folk legend and human rights activist Joan Baez,” which originally aired in October of 2009.

There was an album in our household that was played quite often when I was growing up, the oddly-named The Best of Joan Baez from 1963, an edited version of Folksingers ‘Round Harvard Square from 1959. The original came out before her “official” first release, “Joan Baez” on Vanguard Records in 1960. The Best of album, in fact, was the template the Green Family Singers (my father, my sister and I) used when we sang So Soon In the Morning.

Watching the PBS show, I was reminded how some people now may not have known that when she hit the national spotlight, it was her fame and connections that helped popularize her boyfriend for a time, Bob Dylan. She performed several of his tunes over the years, including a whole album, originally released as 2 LPs, called Any Day Now, which I own.

But it wasn’t just her beautiful and distinctive soprano that made her iconic. She believed that music could be used as a tool for change in the areas of civil rights, nonviolence, and worker’s rights. She (and Dylan) performed at the March on Washington in August of 1963, just one of a string of events where she put her voice, and occasionally her body, on the line for issues of justice.

I remember in the mid-1970s when I was at the home of one of my professors. He was playing Joan’s then-new album Diamonds and Rust. I was half listening to A Simple Twist of Fate, a Dylan song, when, at about 2:19, she breaks into this wicked Dylan impression. I howled with laughter.

She performed at the Troy Music Hall in the fall of 2010. I didn’t get to go, as the show sold out quickly. But I hear it was a great performance. The only time I KNOW I saw her perform live was August 9, 1998 in Saratoga Springs, NY as part of the Newport Folk Festival along with Lyle Lovett, Bela Fleck and the Flecktones, Nanci Griffith, Marc Cohn, Lucinda Williams and others; THAT was for sure a great show.

Anyway, Joan is 70 today, and I thought I needed to acknowledge that. Here’s one of the relatively few songs she wrote, the title tune to the aforementioned Diamonds and Rust album.

“Action is the antidote to despair.” – Joan Baez

With God On Our Side


I’ve been watching God in America on PBS recently. I will grant that the criticism that it does not touch on non-Christian faiths as much as it ought is valid, but I still think the series has validity, and I’ve already recommended it to my church’s adult education coordinator. Maybe the series SHOULD be called “Christanity in America.”

That caveat aside, it is an interesting take on the conflicting views of faith in the country, never moreso than in the period right before and during the Civil War, when slavery was attacked and defended using the very same Bible. On the show, one abolitionist minister cites Exodus 21:16, “Anyone who kidnaps another and either sells him or still has him when he is caught must be put to death.” Meanwhile, a pro-slavery preacher quotes Leviticus 25:45, 46 – “You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can will them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life.” This fight split the Methodist, baptist and Presbyterian denominations for decades.

Meanwhile, the slaves themselves are attracted to the liberation theology of Moses leading his people to freedom, epitomized by Exodus 3: 7-8: “The LORD said, ‘I have indeed seen the misery of my people in Egypt. I have heard them crying out because of their slave drivers, and I am concerned about their suffering. So I have come down to rescue them from the hand of the Egyptians and to bring them up out of that land into a good and spacious land, a land flowing with milk and honey.”

Thing is that most of these people had a certainty that God supports their particular take on the word because they believe – at least the non-slaves – in the notion that the United States is uniquely blessed by God. Interesting, one person in this period was less certain about God’s will, and that was President Abraham Lincoln, a man with a good Old Testament name.

The parallels with modern-day America are clear. There are some who claim to have a direct line to the Almighty when it comes to what is required/desired/permitted/omitted. The rest of us, not so much, except that God couldn’t POSSIBLY have meant THAT, at least not any more.

Anyway, it reminded me of the Bob Dylan song With God On Our Side, performed here by Joan Baez.