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Posts Tagged ‘political mixtape’

Folk legend Odetta dead at 77

Sad news out of New York.  Here’s her low range…

And here’s her higher range…

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A lot of protest music has been written over the last eight years: some good, some not so much.  (Neil, you know I love you, but “let’s impeach the President for lying” is just lazy.)  Amidst this, the old standards have also been dragged out for a walk around the blockThe master himself recently endorsed Hopey, a surprising move for a man who disdains movement politics and once dismissed Phil Ochs as “a journalist, not a folk singer,”  (Speaking of Ochs, law students are advised to read his 1968 DNC testimony.  They ain’t makin’ witnesses like that any more.)

Hidden on the greatest album ever, Bob Dylan’s 1965 “Tombstone Blues” lacks the star power of his bigger stuff.  It’s a surrealist pastiche, aimlessly namedropping heroes and outlaws in a directionless, glancing swipe at authority.  It’s also, chewing on the lyrics, a forceful assault on the hucksters and hypocrites inhabiting the America we inherit.  And so, marginally drunk and annotated with apropos linkage (some sections more relevant than others,) Bob Dylan’s (long) Tombstone Blues:

“The sweet pretty things are in bed now of course
The city fathers they’re trying to endorse
The reincarnation of Paul Revere’s horse
But the town has no need to be nervous

The ghost of Belle Starr she hands down her wits
To Jezebel the nun she violently knits
A bald wig for Jack the Ripper who sits
At the head of the chamber of commerce

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for food
I’m in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues

The hysterical bride in the penny arcade
Screaming she moans, “I’ve just been made”
Then sends out for the doctor who pulls down the shade
Says, “My advice is to not let the boys in

Now the medicine man comes and he shuffles inside
He walks with a swagger and he says to the bride
“Stop all this weeping, swallow your pride
You will not die, it’s not poison”

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for food
I’m in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues

Well, John the Baptist after torturing a thief
Looks up at his hero the Commander-in-Chief
Saying, “Tell me great hero, but please make it brief
Is there a hole for me to get sick in?

The Commander-in-Chief answers him while chasing  a fly
Saying, “Death to all those who would whimper and cry
And dropping a barbell he points to the sky
Saying, “The sun’s not yellow, it’s chicken

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for food
I’m in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues

The king of the Philistines his soldiers to save
Puts jawbones on their tombstones and flatters their graves
Puts the pied pipers in prison and fattens the slaves
Then sends them out to the jungle

Gypsy Davey with a blowtorch he burns out their camps
With his faithful slave Pedro behind him he tramps
With a fantastic collection of stamps
To win friends and influence his uncle

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for food
I’m in trouble
With the tombstone blues

The geometry of innocent flesh on the bone
Causes Galileo’s math book to get thrown
At Delilah who’s sitting worthlessly alone
But the tears on her cheeks are from laughter

Now I wish I could give Brother Bill his great thrill
I would set him in chains at the top of the hill
Then send out for some pillars and Cecil B. DeMille
He could die happily ever after

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for food
I’m in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues

Where Ma Raney and Beethoven once unwrapped their bed roll
Tuba players now rehearse around the flagpole
And the National Bank at a profit sells road maps for the soul
To the old folks home and the college

Now I wish I could write you a melody so plain
That could hold you dear lady from going insane
That could ease you and cool you and cease the pain
Of your useless and pointless knowledge

Mama’s in the fact’ry
She ain’t got no shoes
Daddy’s in the alley
He’s lookin’ for food
I’m in the kitchen
With the tombstone blues.”

If you’ve never actually heard the song, it’s actually bouncy and fun and fantastic; it’s just a coincidence that it so neatly captures our Long National Nightmare 2.0:

And if that didn’t cheer you up, here’s what deserves to be the most overplayed song from now until January 20:

In this post alone you’ve got links for Bob Dylan, Neil Young, Sam Cooke, Bruce Springsteen, Phil Ochs, Kinky Friedman, and the Rolling Stones.  You know you wouldn’t get this from any other blog.

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“Somewhere in the universe, a gear in the machinery shifted.”

-Eldridge Cleaver on Rosa Parks

I haven’t Cleaver’s way with words, so I hope you’ll forgive my reducing history to one man’s personal narrative of 12 hours of chaos.  At best, this will fade into the millions of personal sketches that comprise the people’s history hiding behind any newspaper headline.

Two fucking years of this stuff boiled down to one day worth of drinking, voting, waiting, waiting, drinking, waiting, and drinking again.  We kicked off at Busboys and Poets, Andy Shallal’s Washington leftist landmark.  (I met Shallal when he guest-lectured on business and peacebuilding; he’s fantastic.)  Busboys is a good place to spot Dennis Kucinich and his amazon wife.  Unfortunately, the place was packed like sardines in a Chongqing bus, (line around the block,) and eventually we left for more breathable climes.

Second option was a dead little Ethiopian restaurant. There must’ve been four people in the place when our group showed up and promptly piled bottle after bottle of honey wine on top of the prior stuff.  By the time they called Ohio for Hopey, everyone was shitfaced.  At this point I started texting WIN! to 18 people at a time, even while it was still technically too early to call the election.

Once Virginia came around, the entirety of DC hit the street.  Here’s photographic evidence, and the videotape.  (Sadly, we lack footage of Mireille shrieking “I LIVE IN BLUE VIRGINIA!” for the next four hours.)  Open bottle laws went the way of the permenant Republican majority, and people were passing champagne bottles (and what I believe was heroin) along the street.  I don’t think I’ve ever hugged so many strangers.

A few thousand people marched in the rain to the White House, a sort of traveling Woodstock complete with SDS signs.  Chants of “Yes we can!” and “U-S-A!” rang out in Lafayette Park as a revelers welcomed their new patriotic hero with the funny name.  Amidst the crowd I see a familiar-looking woman, and amidst the vodka I approach her.  “Excuse me, but you look exactly like Joan Baez.”  The woman puts her hands on her face, smiles, and replies: “I wonder why?”  And then, piss-drunk at 3 AM on election night at the White House, Joan Baez hugs me.

Last night was spectacular. This morning, Washington ran out of newspapers.  DCist reports that the Washington Post printed special editions to distribute Wednesday evening.  I got home to Eastern Market around 6:30, and there was a line around the block outside the CVS.  I was carrying a paper I had bought on the way to work this morning, and three people asked me where I got it — two yelled out of car windows, one offering to buy it.  (If anyone has a copy of the New York Times, name your price.)

Undoubtedly, you all have your own stories.  It’s a rare day when an editorial cartoonist brings tears to your eyes:

Having just hugged Joan Baez, I called my mother.  It was 3 AM and I’d spoken to her earlier, but I figured it was worth waking her up again.  My mother is the most patriotic person I know.  Working for Gene McCarthy at 14, she organized a walkout of her Rockaway middle school to protest the Vietnam War.  A few years later she considered joining the Weathermen.

My mother is the most patriotic person I know.  Her parents had campaigned for communist New York City councilman Ben Davis up in Harlem, and her aunt (who used to feed me Ricola cough drops as a kid) is the subject of a 91-page, largely-redacted FBI file. My mother was raised by people who inhabited a unique social and political culture, one which simply ceased to exist with the decline of the old left and the dissipation of working-class Jewish neighborhoods in New York.  My grandparents, raised in this Yiddish socialism, still see America more as the place they are than as the place they are of.

Stuck between this passing world epitomized by my great-uncle’s charcoal drawings of Paul Robeson, and the often flaky, psychoanalytic approach of the early 70s left, my mother developed a strongly class-based political consciousness devoid of both the Yiddishkeit of her parents and the hippie ethos of her generation.  Without either, she clung to a certain cultural Americanism, maybe best described as either Woody Guthrie’s red-dirt radicalism or the likely politics of the love-child of Mark Twain and Emma Goldman.

My mother is the most patriotic person I know.  She told me that she’s tried her whole life to ensure that my sister and I grow up feeling like America is our country, rather than just our home, because it took her so long to come to that conclusion.  She doesn’t fly a flag on her house, and I’m not sure she could sing you the national anthem, but that was me leading the drum line cadences in the Veterans’ Day parade and that was my sister camped out at the revolutionary war reenactment at Ticonderoga.

My mother is not a central-casting patriot.  She disdains the accoutrements of country, is uncomfortable praising a government simply because she lives under it, and tends to exist in a perpetual state of dissent.  Sadly, these traits are often mistaken for (when not deliberately spun as) indicators of ambivalence towards the fundamental promise and potential that this country has offered four generations of my family.  My mother has simply been waiting:  Waiting for a politician to talk straight with her; waiting for a politician to inspire people rather than just scaring them; waiting for a politician to reach out to people who are used to being ignored; waiting for a politician to, as John Edwards once said so well, “be patriotic about something other than war.”

So I called my mother at 3 in the morning last night to tell her that I just hugged Joan Baez in front of the White House a few hours after 64 million Americans handed a landslide victory to a half-Kenyan man, middle-named “Hussein,” raised by a single mother.  And to this my mother said the thing I’ll leave you with:

“I am amazed by your generation.”

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Gagner épique!

A comfortable four years removed from my last French class, I’m not even sure that translates right.  But consider it your cheap setup for election year zydeco:

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As we recently discussed, the Obama team has perfected the zeitgeist campaign.  Some of it is intentional, (the text messages, the basketball,) while the rest (the internet memes) just sorta happens.  Music is another important element of this.  Everyone knows Republicans make poor DJs, and Senator Obama has collected an impressive variety of musical endorsements.

Democrats always pwn music.  Even sad-sack John Kerry had future Senator Bruce Springsteen.  But, as the BBC’s Gavin Hewitt noted today, Springsteen, the Foo Fighters, and Bon Jovi were always the headliners; fans would literally come for the band and leave from the candidate.  Obama is the star, and his campaign has picked perfect music to augment his aura:

“Two songs, however, are used to define the campaign. One is the arrival anthem, that plays Barack Obama onto the stage. It is U2’s “City of Blinding Lights” – with its line “oh you look so beautiful tonight.”

It’s a stunning song, combining a real Phil Spector sound with a crowd-pleasing hook.  They also nailed it on Biden, bringing him out to Springsteen’s “The Rising.”  It may be a little too 9/11, but Springsteen acolyte (and legitimate Reverend) Jeffrey Symykywicz makes the case for why it works, and most importantly it just feels right.

Choosing campaign songs is not as easy as it looks.  Hillary’s people flubbed it with Celine freakin’ Dion, John Edwards’ schtick was Mellencampy, and poor McCain-Palin keeps getting sued.  So back to the other song Hewitt identified as central to the campaign:

“…after his speech, when he lifts the bottle of water to his lips, in comes the heavy beat and then Stevie Wonder’s scream in “Signed, Sealed, Delivered.”

It’s an awesome song from an all-time great American musician – it’s easy to forget that the man’s been on the charts since 1963.

In the key of Stevie, an African-American friend of mine said something worth closing with.  I had been talking about the cultural relevence of Bob Dylan to my family, the kind of people who raise their kids on Phil Ochs and Joan Baez, edited up a “liberation haggadah” for Passover, and distribute “Rise Up Singing” as a graduation gift.  We were driving somewhere discussing this when Stevie comes on his CD player.  My friend turns to me and goes: “What Bob Dylan means to your mother, that’s what Stevie Wonder means to black people.”

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Everyone gets their quarter of an hour:

“Move over, Sanjaya, and tell William Hung the news: Joe the Plumber is being pursued for a major record deal and could come out with a country album as early as Inauguration Day.”

Politico reports that Joe/Sam the not-plumber/tax evader has signed with a Nashville PR firm for “a shift out of the plumbing trade into stage and studio performances.”  It’s a big outfit:

“The Press Office, a PR firm based in Nashville, Tenn., represents an eclectic array of other clients including country stars John Anderson and the Gatlin Brothers, quirky folk singer Leon Redbone, NASCAR driver Chase Mattioli and animal repellent firm Liquid Fence. The Bobby Roberts Company reps several of the same acts, in addition to Juice Newton, Merle Haggard and Jon Secada.”

I know Leon Redbone.  Leon Redbone is a friend of mine.  And you, sir, are no Leon Redbone.

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Ban Ki-Moon raps

I know you all read OGhiphop.com, so you’ve probably seen this already.  But if you haven’t, well, the United Nations Association recently gave an award to Jay-Z.  Following Signor Carter, U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon dropped a rhyme of his own:

While I like to think he just freestyled that, it’s was more likely written by some exciting committee.  Full lyrics, in case you lost his flow along the way:

“Global Classrooms are a cinch
With the help of Merrill Lynch
When you put the org in Google
Partnerships go truly global
There is hope for Earth’s salvation
With the Cisneros Foundation
With Jay-Z there’s double strife
Life for children and water for life
Human health will get ahead
With the valiant work of (RED)
For the poor and doing good
Stays the job of Robin Hood
UN stays on the front burner
Thanks to our champ Ted Turner
And whole revolutions stem
From the work of UNIFEM
But tonight my special shout-out
Goes to one I can’t do without
We have travelled up and down
Frisco, Atlanta, Chicago town
Yes, the king of all the doers
Is my trusty friend Bill Luers
Bill, I cannot say goodbye
So take the floor and take a bow.
Ladies and Gentlemen, Ambassador Bill Luers”

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