It’s late Monday, the Blog post is scheduled to be up on Monday and here I am, just coming to this page, fairly brain dead like I’ve felt the last few days, gruel for a brain, with no focus for this piece. I’ve been highlighting musical groups and individual musicians from my childhood and slightly after-that-past, so I’ll come up with tunes from my two most favorite women singers in a moment. But first, I was struck by something I read in Jack Kerouac‘s “Desolation Angels” this morning, so I’m going to quote a couple of paragraphs here. This was written in 1964.
“But the ‘ferment’ in the Middle East we could all see was not as simple as our passports indicated, where officials (1957) had forbidden us to visit Israel for instance, which had made Irwin mad and for good reasons judging from the fact that the Arabs didn’t care if he was Jewish or whichever as long as he came on cool the way he always does anyway. That ‘international hepness’ I mentioned.
“One look at the officials in the American Consulate where we went for dreary paper routines was enough to make you realize what was wrong with American diplomacy throughout the Fellaheen world — stiff officious squares with contempt even for their own Americans who happened not to wear neckties, as tho a necktie or whatever it stands for meant anything to the hungry Berbers who came into Tangiers every Saturday morning on meek asses, like Christ, carrying baskets of pitiful fruit or dates, and returned at dusk in silhouetted parades along the hill by the railroad track. The railroad track where bare-footed prophets still walked and taught the Koran to children along the way. Why didn’t the American consul ever walk into the urchin hall where Mohammed Maye sat smoking? or squat in behind empty buildings with old Arabs who talked with their hands? or any thing? Instead it’s all private limousines, hotel restaurants, parties in the suburbs, an endless phoney rejection in the name of ‘democracy’ of all that’s pith and moment of every land.”
Boom chuckalucka!! There it is, written as only Kerouac could, btw the reference to “Irwin” a pseudonym for Allen Ginsberg. The arrogance that is so prevalent – so THERE for anyone noticing. Randy Newman sang that “they all hate us anyhow”, www.youtube.com/watch?v=oTfGn5yx5o0 and Jack right there laid it out for all to see why. Holier than thou. How much trouble has the planet been caused by a “holier than thou” attitude? Think about it, how different would things be, for all of us — the whole granite planet — with just a little more decency, a little more respect, a little more trying to walk a mile in someone else’s shoes, a little more kindness and tenderness and compassion.. Maybe it’s too late now, maybe we, us all of, have pushed and bullied each other so long that “dropping” the big one is inevitable. I think that sometimes. But I hope not.
Which brings me to my first female singer, my all-time favorite singer (any gender) ever — Laura Nyro. Since I plan an entire post on her not far down the road, I’ll just say here that long ago she was encouraging us all to “save the children”. www.youtube.com/watch?v=E21KH_YOk7Y “We can build a dream with love.” That’s what she said, and sang with all the soul and strength and courage and noticing and writing and living that made her unique and so important. Ask all the groups who recorded her songs for hits. Ask her fans, like my friend David Parr in San Francisco. We both were privileged to see Laura perform at Boston’s Music Hall way back in 1970. Just Laura, a piano, and a rose. Here’s Laura covering a King/Goffin song, her soul so alive here, best version of this song ever: “Up On the Roof” www.youtube.com/watch?v=JTNjX7l7-go
The other day I went to get something in the closet in the bedroom and when I was leaving the room my wife Susan asked me to close the closet door, which I’d left ajar. When I asked her why, she said this — Monsters. How cool is that? And understandable, in a genetically imprinted way. Monsters in the closet. Monsters under the bed. Monsters just outside the front door in the fog. My wife is a bright and hip and sharp woman of middle age, and she still knows that there just might be monsters in the closet. Just another in an endless list of reasons to love her. What’s in your closet?
Which makes me think about my own childhood and Godzilla and Mothra and, later, Jaws and the Alien. And that somehow, for some reason, there is something more comforting with these movie/book/make believe monsters than the real ones roaming the streets and banks and government halls. Which makes me dream about better times and dreaming dreams and, voila, Cass Elliot. Dreaming: www.youtube.com/watch?v=fz4ne-9UUjQ She’s maybe my second favorite female singer, with the Mamas and Papas and on her own. Here’s another from Cass, who like so many, left us way too soon. “Make Your Own Kind of Music” www.youtube.com/watch?v=R2LyY5DVJhQ And this wordy thing with her bandmates: “Words of Love” www.youtube.com/watch?v=qIY0eu-AGdU
And to think. I thought I didn’t have a thought.
We can build a dream with love
Words of Love
Save the planet.