The story in yesterday’s Star Tribune about Krista and James Botsford, the North Dakota couple who have refused to accept payment of $50,000 to allow the Sandpiper pipeline to pass through their land, had for us a David vs. Goliath feeling.

It also reminded us of the long battle in Minnesota over what was called the CU Project. This proposal to build high-voltage direct current power lines across several central Minnesota counties led to substantial protests from farmers. All were worried about future use of their land, its value, and the safety of the lines. Most of all, we wrote when first wrote about the events here on the Hymies blog, “middle-Minnesota residents felt their lives and land were being disrupted to serve urban populations.”

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“Pope County Blues” by Larry Long

The post went on: “Opposition to the CU Project led farmers to use ingenious guerrilla tactics – Construction sites were vandalized with tractors and farm tools. Trucks were used to block construction and their ignitions damaged. By 1978 incidents were increasingly serious – A crowd of a hundred or more farmers chased powerline crews from a worksite. Soon after, in the famous ‘Battle of Stearns County’ farmers sprayed state troopers with anhydrous ammonia. We are not making this up.

There were also nonviolent protests. Just a month later eight thousand people marched from Lowry to Glenwood in protest. Temperatures were below freezing. Regardless, the CU Project was ultimately completed nonetheless, using land owned by nearly 500 farmers, and the Coal Creek Station, which creates the power transmitted through the lines, is today the third largest producer of coal ash in the country. It is supplied by the Falkirk Mine in Underwood, North Dakota, one of the largest such operations in the country. It may be powering the computer on which you have just now listened to Larry Long’s song.

Other Minnesota folk singers wrote about the events (including Nancy Abrams, Dana Lyons and Charlie Broten) but Larry’s was the only recording we could find.

Whether someone will write a new song for the Botsfords fight against the Sandpiper pipeline seems unlikely to us — dramatic as they could be, court battles are hardly as exciting as protests. Like the Botsfords, who can trace the land’s legacy in their family back generations, we’re uncomfortable with the precedent set by the State of North Dakota using eminent domain law to force the family to comply.

Historically, these controversial provisions have been used to serve the public good, usually in the form of utilities. They seem increasingly to be used to further private interests, as in several cases here in the Twin Cities. Does it truly serves the public good for North Dakota Pipeline Co. to run $2.6 billion worth of line through three states to deliver Bakken fracking oil to Superior, Wisconsin? We have pretty simple lives here in the Longfellow neighborhood, and we’re glad to pay more for the little gas we use, the airplane tickets we rarely buy, and so on — especially if it means we’ll continue to live in a country with family farms.

This Saturday we are participating in the first ever MN Vintage Crawl. Participants in the self-guided crawl who sign up and wear a wrist-band may enjoy a 15% discount here at Hymie’s and other special deals at other businesses (the link above will take you to their website, which has a list of businesses). Everyone will be starting at Public Funtionary, a northeast Minneapolis art studio, but many of the sites will be here in our Longfellow neighborhood.

There’s an article from Red Current about the Vintage Crawl and its founders here.


 

Saturday evening we will be hosting She Rock, She Rock, an all-female punk rock jam session. From their website:

We offer a very safe, supportive environment for folks with little or no stage experience and for those who are veterans of the music scene. This is a performance opportunity for anyone. If you want to play with the band, have one of the songs (here) prepared. We’ll have a drum set, guitar amps, bass amp, keyboard and mics available for you to use. You can probably use one of our guitar or basses too- but bring your own if that’s your fancy. We also have room for two guest bands to play a small set in between the jam band sets.

You can check out some videos from past jam sessions on their Youtube channel here.

Anyone interested in performing should email Sam Stahlmann (sam@sherocksherock.com) to sign up prior to the jam. We’re asking a $5 suggested donation for this event — She Rock She Rock is a Minnesota based 501(c)3 non-profit organization.

The music starts at 7pm, and they’ve invited Bruised Violet to join them as a special guest.

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“Got No Apologies” (the She Rock, She Rock theme song) by Cadence and the Wolf

Muhammad Ali recorded his album of trash-talking poetry, I Am the Greatest, during the dramatic build-up to his bout with Sonny Liston for the heavyweight championship. On February 25, 1964 his against-the-odds prophecy came true when Liston spit out his mouthguard at the bell starting the seventh round (you can watch the entire fight here).

The day following the fight Ali’s association with the Nation of Islam became public, and he changed his name from Cassius Clay. Demand for his album increased exponentially, and a single of “I Am the Greatest” became a surprise hit. Columbia later let the album run out of print, possibly because of Ali’s controversial conviction of draft evasion. The champion refused to serve in Vietnam (“No Vietcong ever called me nigger”) and was sentenced to five years in prison and a $10,000 fine before his appeal was eventually overturned by a unanimous U.S. Supreme Court.

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He did not make another record until 1976, when he released the cult classic Ali and His Gang vs. Mr. Tooth Decay. On that album he was joined by Frank Sinatra and Howard Cosell.

Ali’s conviction was overturned because the draft board had not addressed whether or not he was qualified for conscientious objector status. Unfortunately, the legal process cost him his license to box during his prime years, nearly all his late twenties. He was an enormous role model during this time for black people, and in particular influenced civil rights leaders to express their own opposition to the Vietnam War, notably Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

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“I Am the Greatest”

Wilt Chamberlain’s professional career coincided with Ali’s. He joined the Philadelphia Warriors in 1959, after spending a year with the Harlem Globetrotters — setting an alarming eight NBA records in his first season alone, he was named the leagues Most Valuable Player and Rookie of the Year.

While he was undoubtedly one of the greatest basketball players of all time, Chamberlain considered retiring early in his career. He felt frustrated that he was often double- and triple-teamed, fouled and vilified. In an ill-advised 1965 Sports Illustrated interview, Chamberlain expressed disdain for the league as well as several coaches and fellow players, trash-talk worthy of “the greatest” himself.

thats easy to say wilt chamberlainChamberlain had a post-basketball entertainment career, even playing a villain in Conan the Barbarian, as well as recording this novelty single in 1960. His other legacy is a claim, in his 1991 autobiography, that he had sex with 20,000 different women, a boast even Muhammad Ali would describe as ridiculous.

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“That’s Easy to Say”

In 1971, Chamberlain and Ali were offered $5 million each for a fight to be held in the Houston Astrodome. Ali’s response is unknown, but Chamberlain refused after reportedly consulting with is father.

 

Remembering today those who served our country, especially those who did not return, giving their lives for our freedom.

Not all war stories have a happy ending like this 1971 song by Tony Joe White, and we are still a country at war. Yesterday at Fort Snelling there was a special memorial service for 343 veterans from the upper midwest who have died protecting us from Islamic terrorism.

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“Five Summers for Jimmy” by Tony Joe White

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“The Saga of Elvis Presley” by Betty Reilly

Probably, people have said its hard to read the headlines as long as there have been newspapers, but recently it seems like there’s just about nothing good to greet us on the porch every morning. Walking the dog isn’t any better: last week Minneapolis police chased an arm suspect on our street and lost his gun, forcing them to block off a section of the neighborhood. No one will answer our questions as to whether or not the gun was found, which is alarming given the incident earlier this month in which a fifteen-year old boy was killed by a gun he and his brother found in a park near their home in north Minneapolis.

This morning, before even unrolling the paper, we were in the mood to hear two songs, both of which feel relevant this morning even though they’re each thirty-five years old.

This first song was written by Ron Miller, an ex-Marine washing machine salesman who was discovered by Motown founder Barry Gordy in a Detroit piano bar. First recorded by Stevie Wonder in 1970, the song reflected the same feeling we have reading the daily paper or even trying to walk through our neighborhood. A recording of the song was the highlight of Ray Charles last album, Genius Loves Company, in 2005. He was joined on the song by Gladys Knight.

“Heaven Help Us All” was connected to Stevie Wonder’s first independent expression at Motown, Where I’m Coming From, an album which addressed current events in much the same way as Marvin Gaye’s What’s Going On. His songs, written with Syreeta Wright, were seen as pretentious and the production as excessive, pretty much the opposite of the perception of Gaye’s beloved classic. Disappointed, twenty-one year old Wonder re-negotiated his agreement with the label, and returned with the first in his series of great records.

The five albums (Music of My MindTalking Book, Innervisions, Fulfillingness’ First Finale and Songs in the Key of Life) are about as close to perfection as any pop star has been, in our opinion. Each deals with social issues such as race, poverty and politics with calm insight uncommon at the time.

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“Heaven Help Us All” by Stevie Wonder

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“Lord Pity Us All” by Wilson Pickett

The second song was written by Dr. John, who when composing is credited by his birth name, Mac Rebbenack. So far as we can tell “Lord Pity Us All” never appeared on one of Dr. John’s own albums, and made its debut in this recording by Wilson Pickett. His album Right On came out the same year as Stevie Wonder’s Where I’m Coming From, and was about as well-received by critics. We have always disagreed and enjoy its more gospel-leaning style to the slicker style of his seventies albums.

Wilson Pickett’s style was established during his early career as a member of the Violinaires, a gospel quartet with which he toured for four years before his first secular success with the Falcons (“I Found a Love,” which launched his solo career in a re-recording). Many of his albums had tunes like “Lord Pity Us All,” and his interpretations of hits like “Hey Jude” were very similar to the music he likely sang with the Violinaires.

“Lord Pity Us All” is an unique example of Rebennack’s lyrical style, which is sometimes lost in the surreal, psychedelic-infused gumbo of his classic voodoo style. It may reflect his New Orleans years of addiction and crime, and also owes a certain artistic debt to Allen Toussaint. And some days it’s just how we feel.

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We have a love/hate relationship with the Moog Synthesizer, simply meaning we sometimes love its sound and sometimes hate it. There’s no denying the extent to which it changed popular music after its introduction in the 1960s. There’s an extraordinary documentary about its inventor, Dr. Robert Moog, which you are likely to enjoy if you enjoy popular music. We’re gonna put it here in case you have the time to watch it — or the guy in the next office can’t hear that you’re watching TV on your computer.

One of the Moog’s most enthusiastic proponents was keyboardist Richard Hayman, who recorded frequently for ABC’s Command series. The liner notes to his 1969 album Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine were especially optimistic for the future role of the Moog Synthesizer in popular music:

Moog — The very name of the instrument conjures up all sorts of mental visions of new, strange, wonderful musical sounds — Ah! but “Beware the ides of Moog” — for here is an instrument capable of so many diverse sounds and combinations of sounds it staggers the imagination of anyone — musician, arranger, or just plain listener. An embarrassment of riches so to speak — for with such an extremely varied musical palette at his disposal the arranger is most likely to fall into the common trap of writing too much.

No other instrument known today is capable of producing so many diversified sounds that can be so completely wild and yet so completely controlled. It can wail like a banshee or be soft and mellow like a muted cello. It produces a bass line so clear and devoid of confusing muddying overtones that the result can range from pleasant subtleness to absolutely terrifying power.

The Moog Synthesizer is not, as some people think, an instrument to take the place of all other instruments any more than the electric organ supplants the piano. But when used with other conventional instruments the Moog increases the range of tonal combinations and musical sounds (and unmusical sounds) in the conventional by a huge percentage. Consequently the coming years must see an ever increasing use of this extremely versatile and unusual instrument. We have finally left behind the days when “electronic music” meant only a few strange bleeps and bloops and unearthly wails; now we have learned to integrate the Synthesizer with the orchestra as an instrument capable of holding its own as a true musical factor.

genuine electric latin love machineHayman, not to be confused with the more jazz-oriented popular pianist Dick Hyman even though they both made Moog albums, may speak with authority on the subject of musical arrangement: that was his job at the Boston Pops for decades, and his work is heard on possibly countless albums. His entertaining electronic albums express a warm, wide-eyed welcome to innovations like the Moog Synthesizer, even though his work was primarily in very traditional forms. Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine is popular with DJs because it’s bizarre arrangements of songs like “The Peanut Vendor” and “Hare Krishna” (from the musical Hair) are ripe with vibrant breaks for sampling.

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“The Peanut Vendor” by Richard Hayman

The enormous success of Wendy Carlos’ Switched On Bach LP in 1968 inspired so many imitators it would take a serious collector to track them all down. Moog arrangements of everything from Bacharach to Hank Williams were featured for entire albums, and many more like Genuine Electric Latin Love Machine rehashed familiar hits like “The Girl from Ipanema” or “Gentle on my Mind.” Few of these records are actually any good, leading over time to a popular disinterest in the instrument.

Additional models — especially the smaller, easier-to-use MiniMoog — sustained the instrument’s popularity for a period into the 80s, but it seems the primary appearance of the Moog Synthesizer today is in the form of samples. This album was sampled by the Unibroz in 1998 (“Sippy Cup”) as well as by Fantastic Plastic Machine the same year. Other Moog samples appear prominently in tracks by Jay-Z, Snoop Dogg, J Dilla, Busta Rhymes, Black Milk, Quasimoto, Beck and others. Ironically, many are taken from covers of popular tunes like the Beatles’ “Eleanor Rigby” or classical works like Claude Debussy’s Claire De Lune, making the actual origin of the musical inspiration difficult to trace. We suppose this is the way of the modern world.

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