We’ve just returned from a wonderful camping trip with the kids on the St. Croix River. Our several trips around this summer remind us that Minnesota is a truly blessed and beautiful place.
With Minneapolis schools starting tomorrow, we’re likely to find ourselves back into the regular programing season here on the Hymie’s blog. Tomorrow’s post will likely feature something about school.
When our oldest was born, Minnesota was the only state which did not require a minimum number of school days per year, and even now at 165 we trail most other states in this category. We’re glad to have more time for our kids to have adventures like hiking and canoeing on the St. Croix, although we feel fortunate that our neighborhood school seems to focus on the quality of their education and not just its quantity.
Anyway, we’ve had our vacation. Back to work, and is there ever a lot to do around here. There are so many wonderful things to be found in those magical grooves, not the least of which is the voice of God himself (click this link, sinner, if you wish to find the shocking Truth of Truths). Today’s testament, cleverly disguised by misspelling his name, reminds us that on the seventh day he rested.
Recent events in North Carolina are a mere skirmish compared to what happened on January 18, 1958. On that evening a Klan rally was welcomed by more than five hundred Lumbee men, members of a state-recognized tribe. The cross burning was interrupted and the Klansmen scattered — their ‘grand dragon’ James W. “Catfish” Cole abandoning his wife in his flee for safety.
Two of the Lumbee men, one a World War II veteran, appeared in the following week’s Life magazine proudly displaying a Klan banner. The events were celebrated in song by Malvina Reynolds, later appearing on a great album called Malvina Reynolds Sings the Truth. A copy this which was here in the record shop until yesterday, but before we could record “Battle of Maxton Field” someone purchased it. Fortunately for the purpose of this post the song was also sung by Pete Seeger on his album Gazette so there’s a recording we can share with you today.
A sweet sounding, sardonically biting satire of the Ku Klux Klan from 1966 has an unsettling relevance today. “Your Friendly, Liberal Neighborhood Ku Klux Klan” by the Chad Mitchell Trio lampooned the Klan’s effort to present itself as anything other than a terrorist organization in the 1960s. You may recognize one of the voices in this recording: it’s John Denver early in his career.
Satisfying as satire can be, the Klan caused terror in many parts of the country in the early 60s. After the murder of civil rights activist Viola Luizzo, who left behind five children at home in Detroit when she went to participate in the Selma to Montgomery Marches, President Lyndon Johnson addressed the nation with clear language after he made history as the first President since Ulysses S. Grant to prosecute members of the KKK. Addressing the nation he called the organization “hooded society of bigots,” and “terrorists.”
We’ll leave today’s post with a song more fitting to the terror the Klan has brought to this country for far too long. Richie Havens recorded “The Klan” on his second album, Something Else Again. It was first written by Alan and David Arkin. We think of Alan Arkin as the merciless criminal in Wait Until Dark or the retirement home evictee from Little Miss Sunshine, but before he was an actor Arkin was a folk singer with the revival group The Tarriers. Havens performs the song with his characteristic fervor, effectively captures some of the fear caused by this terrorist organization.
The new Brian Just LP is without a doubt one of our favorite records of 2017, although it hasn’t actually been released yet. He has released a couple videos to tease fans in advance of the release show at the Turf Club in just a couple weeks (details here). We have been fortunate enough to have a copy of this future classic burning up the needle on our turntable for a month now, and we still can’t pick a favorite song.
The new single out on Bandcamp couldn’t have arrived on a better day. Here’s a song to enjoy while you’re watching the eclipse beginning shortly, for those readers here in Minneapolis. Brian tells us all sales of the single on Bandcamp will go to the Climate Reality Project.
There is a book inside this LP commemorating the golden anniversary of the Panama Canal, which was in 1964. The forty-eight mile waterway opened for passage on August 15, 1914 (we’re a couple days late to celebrate its birthday) after a decade of construction. It is commonly considered one of the largest engineering projects ever undertaken.
According to the book, the project involved the excavation of more than 276 million cubic yards of earth, and an investment by the US Government of a half a billion dollars. If you are thinking that this seems like a bargain compared to the proposed wall along our southern border, which has been estimated at costing anywhere from twenty to seventy-five billion, do not forget to adjust for inflation. Even after this, a $14 billion Panama Canal would be a far wiser investment than the proposed wall, and still a deal compared to the Chinese canal project currently underway in Nicaragua.
The other thing you may be wondering after all this is whether we ever listened to the record, or if this was all an excuse to propose a pan-American Canal. Yes, and the record features the delightful music of Lucho Azcarraga. The Panamanian keyboardist was a child prodigy born two years before the canal opened. Throughout his long career, he enjoyed popularity in the United States beginning with the boom in latin dance groups in the 1930s. Azcarraga passed away in 1996.
Here is a medley of three popular Panamanian songs from this album, arranged by Azcarraga.
Recently, after moving a large collection to the record shop, we discovered one of the boxes contained not albums but a variety of books. Many of them were jazz biographies, and one — Duke Ellington’s 1976 memoir, Music is my Mistress — has proven to be an especially enjoyable read.
One of the most remarkable things is its appendix which lists all of the songs he composed during his career in their copyright order — from “Blind Man’s Bluff” in 1923 to the four-part Togo Brava suite written in 1973 it takes nearly thirty pages to list them all!
Here is a song from early in his career (1929 according to this book) which was re-recorded many times over the years. It is on this RCA/Victor compilation of the 1927-9 band, which features several Ellington Orchestra alumni who worked for Duke for decades — one could hardly imagine the Orchestra without Johnny Hodges or Harry Carney for instance.
Our favorite era of Ellington’s enduring Orchestra is the 1940-2 incarnation known by fans as the “Blanton/Webster Band.” We posted about bassist Jimmy Blanton not long ago (here). One could spend a lifetime collecting only Duke Ellington record, and always have plenty of great jazz to listen to — his music changes so much from decade to decade based on the distinct personalities that make up the Orchestra, and it would take a post longer than this to list all the favorites of jazz listeners.
From his autobiography, Ellington describes the process of fluctuation as members come and go:
The cats who come into the band are probably unique in the aural realm. When someone falls out of the band — temporarily or permanently — it naturally becomes a matter of “Whom shall we get?” or “Whom van we get?” It is not just a matter of replacing the cat who left, because we are concerned with a highly personalized kind of music. It is written to suit the character of an instrumentalist, the man who has the responsibility of playing it, and is almost impossible to match his character identically. Also, if the new man is sufficiently interesting tonally, why insist upon his copying or matching his predecessor’s style.
In other words, if we are completely satisfied with the horse and buggy, who invent an automobile or airplane? In the first place, when a man is needed, I personally scarcely even know which way to look for a replacement. I haven’t the slightest idea whether the grass next door is greener or leaner. So someone suggests so-and-so, and we send for so-and-so, and get him. We play together a day or two, and then I inquire whether or not the new cat likes what we are doing, having already watched his reaction in the band. If he likes it, he is invited to stay.
Everybody agrees he’s a nice guy until one day, sooner than expected, one of his other selves breaks through, or one of his more eccentric sides show. Then I confess, or one of the other cats in the band hollars, loudly, “Duke, you never miss!”
Our new man has come home to the home of homies. He manifests his acceptance of the honor bestowed upon him, and settles down to the prospect of welcoming the next new so-and-so.
The Dead Kennedys released “Nazi Punks Fuck Off” in 1981. The single came with an armband that featured a crossed-out swastika. It was written as a response to the appearance of neo-nazism and white supremacy in the punk rock culture in both the US and the UK.
Yesterday, after the shocking events in Charlottesville, Virginia, the band posted the anti-swastika image on their Facebook page to the delight of tens of thousands.
We never before thought we would find something likable about Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, but his remarks yesterday were exactly what this country needed to hear, and what needs to be repeated.
“I have a message to all the white supremacists and the Nazis who came into Charlottesville today. Our message is plain and simple. Go home,” said McAuliffe yesterday evening. “You are not wanted in this great commonwealth.” He went on to say, “There is no place for you here. There is no place for you in America.”
We also think it is worth noting the words of Robert E. Lee, as it was Charlottesville’s planned removal of a statue of the Confederate General which precipitated yesterday’s tragic events. Invited to a reunion at Gettysburg in 1869, Lee politely declined, writing in part,
I think it wiser moreover not to keep open the sores of war, but to follow the examples of those nations who endeavored to obliterate the marks of civil strife and to commit to oblivion the feelings it engendered.
The statue was commissioned in 1917, nearly a half century after Lee passed away. It seems unlikely he would have approved of its creation in the first place and even more likely that, a hundred years later, he would have supported a plan to remove the statue.