And let’s end the year with this amazing clip of Eleanor Powell tap dancing. What she does, just from a percussion point of view, is incredible. I recently interviewed tap dancer Rusty Frank, a tap dance historian and preservationist, and a tap dancer herself, who maintains that it was the tap dancers who moved popular music forward with their taps. The innovative percussive rhythm steps of the tap dancers were picked up by the drummers, pianists and guitar players of the bands who in turn shaped the new ideas in music. Watch and listen to what Eleanor Powell does with this George Gershwin song from Lady Be Good. It’s a long way from “Tea for Two.”
I keep a file on my computer labeled “Quotations,” which consists of various clippings I’ve picked up along the way. Every once in a long while I like to re-read them, so here’s the latest installment.
As you get older the positive association of receiving socks as a gift steadily increases. It goes from cruel insult to thoughtful token to thing you are genuinely excited about—Murtaza M. Hussain
“Don’t think about making art, just get it done. Let everyone else decide if it’s good or bad, whether they love it or hate it. While they are deciding, make even more art.”—Andy Warhol
“Call it democracy, or call it democratic socialism, but there must be a better distribution of wealth within this country for all God’s children.”–Martin Luther King
Marine Biologist: “Save the whales!” No one: “All marine life matters!” —Random Twitter Feed
When you can’t create, you can work.—Henry Miller
“A really efficient totalitarian state would be one in which the all-powerful executive of political bosses and their army of managers control a population of slaves who do not have to be coerced, because they love their servitude.”―Aldous Huxley, Brave New World
“While there is a lower class, I am in it, while there is a criminal element, I am of it, and while there is a soul in prison, I am not free.”—Eugene Debs
‘It’s not about hope. You don’t do what you do because you hope things will get better. It’s about getting up every morning and asking yourself what’s the right thing to do and doing it.”—Allen Ginsberg
“The problem is not that the world is too full of fools; it’s that lightning is improperly distributed.”—Mark Twain
“It’s difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it.” — Upton Sinclair
“The definition of a gentleman is someone who knows how to play the bagpipes but doesn’t.”—Anonymous
Hofstadter’s Law: “The time and effort required to complete a project are always more than you expect, even when you take into account Hofstadter’s Law.”
Two items in the email today. First, word from my brother that the house we grew up in was torn down this week. It was accompanied by photos of the gaping nothing. As my brother wrote, “It was almost impossible to drive by without turning our heads to see the good old house that held so many memories. While it was no longer in our possession, the fact that the house still stood standing in the same place with its same exterior always felt reassuring and never felt like it was gone.”
The second thing that showed up in the inbox was Shakespeare’s Sonnet 30. Somehow this second message made it easier to deal with the first.
When to the sessions of sweet silent thought I summon up remembrance of things past, I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought, And with old woes new wail my dear time’s waste:
Then can I drown an eye, unus’d to flow, For precious friends hid in death’s dateless night, And weep afresh love’s long since cancell’d woe, And moan th’ expense of many a vanish’d sight;
Then can I grieve at grievances foregone, And heavily from woe to woe tell o’er The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan, Which I new pay as if not paid before.
But if the while I think on thee, dear friend, All losses are restor’d, and sorrows end.
Monday morning, Carson McKee makes with the crooning, and Josh Turner futzes with his guitar, performing one of my favorite Christmas songs.
And here’s some cheery news. It seems the original lyrics to the song were much darker, but Judy Garland who sung it originally in Meet Me in St. Louis, asked that the lyrics to the song be made more upbeat. Songwriters Hugh Martin and Ralph Blane changed the lyrics to the more upbeat ones heard today.
But for fun, here are the old nasty lyrics. I like them better:
Have yourself a merry little Christmas. It may be your last. Next year we may all be living in the past. Have yourself a merry little Christmas. Pop that champagne cork. Next year we may all be living in New York. No good times like the olden days. Happy golden days of yore. Faithful friends who were dear to us. Will be near to us no more. But at least we all will be together. If the Lord allows. From now on, we’ll have to muddle through somehow. So have yourself a merry little Christmas now.
Nellie McKay stops the music to talk to her audience in a way you probably have not seen before. This was the first in-person concert she had done since the advent of the pandemic. It was an outdoor concert in a small field in a small town in Ohio. If you watch the video of the whole concert (see the link below), you realize that some have walked out, but by the end of the concert she wins the crowd back over again.
In 1968, the winners of the Olympics 200 meter sprint, Tommie Smith and John Carlos, stunned the world when they stood on the winners’ stand and as the Star Spangled Banner played, they raised their black-gloved fists in an image that was destined to be remembered around the world and through time. Now Glenn Kaino, a noted artist, and Afshin Shahidi, a noted cinematographer and photographer, have documented the meaning and enduring repercussions of that moment in a new documentary about Tommie Smith called With Drawn Arms. I was happy to have spoken with the two co-directors of the film.
Click on the triangle or link above to hear my conversation with Glenn Kaino and Afshin Shahidi as broadcast today on WBAI NY and Pacifica affiliates across the nation.
I’ve previously posted video of Sammy Davis Jr. as a child dancing. Here he is, later in his career. The opening clip as part of the Will Mastin Trio sure convinces me that breakdancing isn’t anything new. Later in the video, Sammy can be seen tapping with some of the other tap dancing greats.
I was led to Montreal-based singer/songwriter activist Louise Dessertine by poet Steve Bloom who had sent me a YouTube video of her singing her extraordinary song, “Put Your Red Dress On.” I was able to contact her and we had a lovely Zoom talk. You can listen to our conversation as well as some of her wonderful songs by listening to the radio segment I put together, which was broadcast today on the Arts Express radio program on WBAI FM NYC and Pacifica radio affiliates across the country.