• Music,  Obituary

    RIP Chuck Berry

    Dead at 90. I never saw him perform live, but what would rock and roll have been without him and Little Richard? Could the Beatles and the Stones have even existed? Ninety percent of what came after Berry and Richard has been forgettable dross in comparison. Not just great musicianship and great songs, but some of the smartest lyrics ever. One of my many favorites:

  • Music,  Obituary

    RIP Merle Haggard

    Dead at 79. He is remembered for “Okie from Muskogee,” a reactionary song which I happen to like very much. He was an unashamed American patriot. But I’m especially fond of his part in “Pancho and Lefty” with Willie Nelson. And I appreciated his cover of Woody Guthrie’s angry, class-conscious “Jesus Christ”– where he left no doubt whose side he was on. Update: Stuart Elliot wrote at New Appeal to Reason: After his tremendous hit “Okie from Muskogee” which was released in September 1969, spent 4 weeks as Number One on the Top Country list, and named the Country Music Association Single (and album) of the Year in 1970, Merle…

  • antisemitism,  Music

    After Charlie

    London-based band The Sighs of Monsters has released a new track commemorating the slain Parisian Jews on Charlie Hebdo anniversary and is donating the proceeds to the

  • Music,  Obituary

    RIP Theodore Bikel

    Theodore Bikel, who died Tuesday at the age of 91 after a very full (and politically active) life, was known for many things, especially his numerous portrayals of Tevye in productions of “Fiddler on the Roof.” But I will always remember him as a continuously-heard voice from my childhood; the wonderful album of worldwide folk songs (several from Israel) he recorded with the Israeli singer Geula Gill was in constant rotation in my household for years. Even though only one of the songs was in English (“Oleana“), I also loved the songs I couldn’t make heads or tails of. (Mary Hopkin borrowed one of the melodies for her hit song…

  • Dress Down Friday,  Music

    “I may be old, but I got to see all the cool bands”

    I just saw a bumper sticker making that boast. Which got me thinking… I was never an inveterate concert-goer, even in my youth, but I did have the opportunity to see performances by: · Smokey Robinson and the Miracles · Muddy Waters · Howlin’ Wolf · The Band · Janis Joplin · Frank Zappa · Jefferson Airplane · Rod Stewart (during the brief period when he was cool). I also saw John Denver and Helen Reddy (in the same show). If you, like me, are of a certain age, which musical artists were you fortunate enough to see? If you’re younger, which ones are you sorry you missed? Update: I…

  • Class warfare,  Music,  Religion

    Two versions of Jesus

    On the subject of Jesus, there are two contradictory ways that people on the Left have looked at him. One, expressed by the British singer-songwriter Leon Rosselson in “Stand up for Judas,” portrays Jesus as a sell-out to the Romans, dividing the poor into believers and non-believers and preaching quiescence in the face of suffering and hunger. For mysterious reasons, the song turns Judas into the true hero. Another– the one I like– portrays Jesus as a friend of the poor who stood up to the rich and powerful and paid with his life. The lyrics to this song were written by Woody Gurthrie, with a melody borrowed from the…

  • Music,  Syria

    Pro-Assad rap

    In the cringe-inducing tradition of the Young Cons and Lowkey, here is Marcel Cartier— who, John Wight at Socialist Unity informs us, has relocated from New York City to London. You lucky Brits, you. Update: Oh, great. Mr. Cartier is an apologist for the regime in North Korea– after a carefully-controlled visit of a few days convinced him that conditions there are generally peachy.

  • History,  Music

    Sink the Bismarck

    It was on this date 73 years ago that the German battleship Bismarck, which three days earlier had sunk the British battlecruiser HMS Hood in the Battle of the Denmark Strait, was itself sunk in the Atlantic. Only three of the Hood’s crew of 1,418 survived, as did a little more than a hundred of the Bismarck’s 2,200-man crew. Bloody days. The late American country singer Johnny Horton recorded a song called “Sink the Bismarck” in connection with the release of a movie about the sinking in 1960. Here is a rather bizarre performance on Dick Clark’s Saturday night TV show. It recalls a time when it was possible to…

  • Music,  Syria

    Czech orchestra heard in pro-Assad propaganda

    Aymenn Jawad Al-Tamimi blogged last year about the pro-Hezbollah, pro-Assad Lebanese Christian singer Julia Boutros, whose martial song “Atlek Neranak” is routinely played on Syrian State TV and on pro-regime YouTube videos. You can hear it in this recruiting video for Women’s Battalion of the Syrian National Defense Forces: According to “SovereignSyria,” which posted the video: Syrian National Defence Forces & the Syrian Arab Army defend Syria against Rothschild’s Zionist Wahhabi mercenaries & Obama’s al-Qaeda thugs. Ah, yes. Those darned Zio-Wahhabis. The video features soldiers of the Women’s Battalion giving a historically-chilling salute. I have no idea if this is a traditional Syrian military salute or if the Syrian regime…

  • Music,  Stateside

    Texas town pays Ted Nugent not to appear

    The City of Longview, Texas, has paid rocker Ted Nugent $16,000 not to perform at a Fourth of July Festival. A city spokesman said the Motor City Madman was “not the right feel for this kind of community event.” The city had reached a verbal agreement with Nugent, scheduling the rocker as the headliner who would play inside the Maude Cobb Convention and Activity Center during the town’s Independence Day celebration. To break that agreement, the town paid Nugent half of his guaranteed performance fee of $32,000 from Maude Cobb’s annual budget. The move comes amid criticism of comments Nugent made about President Barack Obama in January 2014, calling him…