Happy 75th Birthday Neil Young!

Neil Young Never Rusts

Ever prolific, the Canadian-born troubadour has reached a venerable milestone as he turns 75 years of age.

Neil Young has performed in pop culture’s spotlight of fame since his singular, contra tenor vocals rose out of the folk-rock scene of the psychedelic ‘60s. A maverick among recording and concert artists, he has just as often performed outside of that proverbial spotlight, since he cares nothing forto the whims of public popularity or the critics who’ve blow hot and cold across his career, even as his legions of fans, both casual and hardcore, remain receptive and appreciative.

Whatever has inspired or driven this reclusive man to make public music, he has done so on his own terms, year after year, moving like a chameleon through the decades, at times absorbing current musical trends and letting them influence his artistic explorations, while returning again and again to the bedrock style of folkie acoustic music and turgid electric rock n roll that remains truly unlike any other artist. The possible exceptions are those who have emulated the rough edges and raw emotional effect of Young’s writing, playing, and singing, but are never able to come near his inimitable panache.

As far as I am concerned, no single composition encapsulates what it is to be Neil Young as Natural Beauty. A social ballad, more than political, it pleads for the preservation what little of pristine nature remains in the world, mixed with the artist’s feelings about the short-sighted results of modern consumerism. Natural Beauty is Neil Young at his most pure and unadorned, an artist who creates art in the spontaneity of the moment and who would likely be unleashing the same art into the world whether anyone showed up to listen or no. And here below is a very good performance of that song.

A melancholy mood is set from first notes, with music that is as languid and haunting as can be heard from an acoustic guitar, wafting and echoing, at times immense, as the tentative peal of his harmonica rises up, like the lonely call of some wild bird. So very Neil – unhurried, simple in construction yet as pregnant and poignant as the swollen, ancient river he will soon be singing about .

Then come the lyrics. Gruff and at times as cryptic as a Pinter play, his imperfect poetry glows with the power of the emotional depths surging below the surface, conveying much more than the words do when read at face value, as they float along the meandering current of his guitar, with the verses set out like musical bridges between the soul-wrenching laments wailing from his mouth harp, which seem to express what words cannot.

There was another performance of this song from around the same time period, recorded in Ireland, and put on the internet by someone who disabled the ability to embed it elsewhere. And now it seems to have been removed and is no longer available. A pity. But this one above, recorded for some television program or other, is still a good one. For me, this song gets me right in the heart strings every time I hear it, no matter the specific performance. Far from being a hit, or even well-known, I put it on the very short list at the top of his many worthy and worthwhile compositions.

Like Dylan’s original version of Visions of Johanna, I can only imagine what it must have been like to have been present in the room and heard Neil Young performing a previously unknown song and have Natural Beauty unfold in all its ragged glory.

Far from slowing down, the septuagenarian singer-songwriter has released three albums in less than a year, including his 40th LP album of original material, Homegrown, (June 2020, but recorded in 1974-75), and most recently, September’s solo EP entitled, The Times, featuring performances streamed from his home during the COVID-19 isolation, and November’s Return to Greendale, a live album recorded in 2003. And in June of 2019, he released his 39th LP of new original material, Colorado, recorded that summer with his time rock band, Crazy Horse, that now includes longtime sideman Nils Lofgren standing guitarist Frank “Poncho” Sampedro, who retired in 2014.

And speaking of Sampedro and Crazy Horse, here I begin a slew of Neil Young Videos that remain close to my heart.

Powderfinger, when it was brand new:

Powderfinger from Live Rust

Unfortunately the version from Live Rust is only available on Facebook.

Here is a more obscure tune, but awesome Neil Young and Crazy Horse.

Ramada Inn:

Lookout for My Love, from MTV Unplugged:

Featuring Nils Lofgren: guitar,  Ben Keith: Dobro,  Spooner Oldham: keyboards, Tim Drummond: bass, Oscar Butterworth: drums,  Astrid Young & Nicolette Larson: backing vocals

Transformer Man:

That he certainly is.

Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young – 1970

Various Excerpts from the film Time Fades Away

 

The Loner -1970

Appropriately enough, solo

Walk Like a Giant – 2012

Speaking of IMMENSE!

More videos in the article about Neil’s acoustic guitars at One Man’s Guitar (coming soon.)

 

 

A New Day, a New President

A guitarist pen pal in Germany wrote to offer congratulations to me and America

And he asked how I was doing. My reply finally put into words how I felt.

For four years, I and those like me have been sickened to our soul that the America we always wanted to believe existed could have elected that odious villainous criminal. And it looked as if it were to happen AGAIN.

But in the end, American citizens came out in record numbers to reject Trumpism as a political movement in the USA.

Now, not everyone who voted for Trump is an awful human being. Many would vote Republican no matter who was on the ticket. Even here in my progressive area there were many who voted for Trump, because they are wealthy and care for little more than their tax bill.

That is not the same thing as Trumpism.

Then again, maybe it is. Donald Trump doesn’t “love America” and he isn’t a born again Christian. Like all great con men, he tells people what they want to hear.

Actually, Donald Trump only loves Donald Trump, and cares only about himself.

His charisma and message is all about selfishness. And he legitimized the selfishness of not just the rich who vote for anyone who will cut their taxes, but the selfishness of the smallest, meanest bigots and anyone longing to have their selfishness validated by no one less than the President of the frickin’ United States.

But we were shown there were far more people who wanted Trump’s America than we ever allowed ourselves to believe. And that heartbreak was reinforced when 60 million voted for him this time too.

And yet, as a result of Trump’s ascendancy, so many of the worst of us have been exposed for what they are, so that white supremacists are being ejected from the military and the police, etc. for the first time ever. There are silver linings in this.

Genuine fascism was smoldering at his rallies and was reflected in the cold eyes of his primary advisors. His reckless disregard for the reality of the Virus and his disregard for common decency and the strong man rhetoric inciting his followers to armed violence were endangering the very fabric of our society.

And America – enough of America – came forth to say Trump did not deserve and would not be tolerated in a second term in office. It is our turn to be emboldened, and we are now aware of the serious threats to our democracy residing withing our democracy.

Many who typically vote Republican joined us to vote for Biden. That says a great deal.

As for today, I was not prepared for the outpouring of emotion. From me or from anyone else. There were more people filling the large park near me than had ever been in my 32 years in Brooklyn – not even half that number had gathered there.

And I was told Central Park was “like Woodstock.” And then told it is happening across America. And then I realized it was happening the world over. Church bells were being rung across Europe and elsewhere at the news.

Faith has been restored in me about the better angels of America’s nature. Time will tell if it will be enough.

Trumpism is defeated in an official sense. Its horrid realities are still roaming at large. I remain grateful that I live on an island off the coast of America.

Mississippi Votes to Secede from Rebel Flag

5 a.m. – the Mississippi Clarion-Ledger Reports a Rare Sunday Vote to Remove Confederate Symbol from State Flag

“Here he is, Boss. Deader than hell but won’t let go.” – Cool Hand Luke

The only Civil War military fatality directly related to me was a Mississippian volunteer in a Confederate regiment who died of disease in a Federal prison camp in Missouri.

I have no idea where his sympathies lay in terms of Slavery and such like, since so few Southerners owned slaves, and because many who supported or fought for the Confederacy felt their patriotic duty was to their state, not the confederation of independent states it belonged to under the Stars and Stripes.

After all, prior to the War it was grammatically correct to say, “the United States of America are …,” not “the United States of America is…”.

That being said, many people today do not know or understand that at no time did every southerner condone or support Slavery or the rebellion started because of it.

Every state that joined the Confederacy but one had whole regiments of volunteers that organized and marched away to fight for President Lincoln and the Union he was elected to lead, against the secessionists who forced those states to take up arms against the USA’s legal, constitutional government.

The exception being Georgia, although hundreds of white Georgians served in the Federal Armed Forces none the less.

Some of those states had entire areas under the control of loyalist Americans, who at times engaged in guerilla activities including lethal combat against the rebels in power.

Deep in Mississippi, Jones County was so dangerous to the Confederate militia and their sympathizers that ultimately it was avoided entirely, having to be gone around rather than through. It became known as the “Kingdom of Jones.”

Today, there is a major difference between someone having pride in being a Southerner, or the citizen of a particular state, or having nostalgic affection or sympathy toward southern traditions and ancestry vs. someone who supports or reveres the Confederacy, whose leaders made perfectly clear the CSA was conceived in the fallacy of White Supremacy and dedicated to preserve the heinous institution of Slavery as long as possible.

Or, for that matter, having solemn respect for the marshal gallantry of those that Ulysses Grant described as having “…fought so long and valiantly, and had suffered so much for a cause, though that cause was, I believe, one of the worst for which a people ever fought, and one for which there was the least excuse.”

There remains nothing incongruous in holding such opinions and beliefs about venerable Southern traditions while also supporting the complete debunking and expungement of the racist mythos surrounding the “Lost Cause” fantasies, which have been as sadly tenacious as that deceased snapping turtle, deader than hell but won’t let go.

The main symbol of that movement was the Northern Virginia battle flag of crossed blue bars with white stars set against a red field, which was later incorporated into the second official flag of the Confederacy. It has often been claimed by the misguided to represent nothing more than being a non-conformist, independent, hell-raising “rebel,” rather than as the banner of those ignorant adherents to the asinine belief in “White Supremacy,” which it certainly was. And which it has remained to this day as the sullied symbol of the most horrific traits and institutions to ever exist in our national character and its history. And which is finally getting its due as Mississippi becomes the last state to remove it from its flag.

Not a great day in American history, but surely a reverent and momentous one.

COVID-19 Verified Infections – Monday Map

Confirmed COVID-19 Cases

A tip of a deadly iceberg, as confirmed cases are certainly but a small fraction of actual infections

COVID-19 map May 8 onemanz.com

Amidst the bizarre and frightening collective denial of millions of Americans, misled by their President, and bamboozled by their own ignorant hubris – and their almost unbelievable selfishness – the United States is poised for a disaster unprecedented in American history.

The rest of the world looks on in horror as what was once the leading nation of the world willfully exposes countless citizens to unspeakable suffering and death in the name of greed and stupidity. And in doing so, the USA is becoming the greatest threat to the people of all other nations in the world today.

Far more tragic than the ravaging pandemic is what it has revealed about the American people. Not all to be sure, but far too many for Americans to ever again claim that theirs is the greatest nation in the world, or even the best country, or even the right to claim we as a people possess the least common decency and good will called for by any of the major religions in the world today.

Remember this day!

Pancho Villa and others at the very first Fiesta de la tarro vacía

Rare photo recently discovered

Sinko de Mayo

A contemplative Villa (left) and a glum Zapata (2nd from right) face an uncertain future

In Mexico during the time of the Revolution, mayonnaise was a national obsession. More of the condiment was consumed there than any other one place on earth, with Hong Kong a distant second.

In fact, leaders on both sides of the conflict were crazy for the stuff. But it was Pancho Villa and Emiliano Zapata circa 1910, who spread the spread among the common people, as it were, so that its popularity soared.

In those days, England was the mayonnaise capital of the world, with Cross & Blackwell’s, and Hellmann’s as the most popular brands, and the largest shipment of all time, some tens of thousands of jars, set out from Southampton by steamship on April 10, 1912, bound for Vera Cruz, by way of Cherbourg, New York, Charleston, and Havana.

But as history showed, the vessel was none other than the ill-fated H.M.S. Titanic, which struck an iceberg and sank on April 15th.

When news arrived in Mexico twenty days later, the war-torn people were devastated. Their anguish was so great that a truce was declared between the Federales and the rebel factions, for one day of mourning. And thus was held the very first Fiesta de la tarro vacía (Feast of the Empty Jar.)

(photo: Museos de México)

feast2

It has been observed ever since, on this very day, now known colloquially as Sinko de Mayo.

Thank you, I’m here all week …

 

Too Tired to Go to Bed?

Ah yes.

Those special moments, when you feel extra tired extra early and can’t even find the wherewithal to watch TV, or even want to get up to head to bed.

But you manage to get up and shuffle down to the kitchen to wash out your water glass, and all those other odds and ends that you haven’t washed yet, and then wipe down the counters, and brush your teeth and wash your face, and floss, put down some dry cat food and fresh water, and take off your slippers and get undressed and find you are now wide awake and nowhere near being able to fall asleep.

Sigh.

Don Shula 1930 – 2020

Remembering the exceptional American, and Ohioan, who was Don Shula

I rooted against his Miami Dolphins every single game, but boy where they great!

Don Shula died today at the age of 90.

As a little boy, I saw things very much in a all or nothing way. And I was stung by Coach Shula leaving the Baltimore Colts, the first sports team I connected with – probably because of the pretty cowgirls in their entourage. But also because their kamikaze rabid dog linebacker Mike Curtis. I didn’t realize (consciously) that they were the longtime rival of my dad’s Cleveland Browns, but he never said a discouraging word against it.

Shula jumping to the AFL was another snub, even if they were merging with the NFL. And he had the bad manners to move to a team in the same division as my Colts, and take the lowly Dolphins to the playoffs in his first season. At least my Colts won the Super Bowl that year – finally!

But  worst of all, he beat my Colts 21-0 in the AFC Championship in his second season on the way to losing the Super Bowl, preventing a rematch between the defending champion Colts and the eventual champion Cowboys. But then he went on to win the next two Super Bowls, including that “Perfect Season,” where I rooted against them every game they played.

But I always had tremendous respect for his Dolphins, and admiration for their rhino fullback Larry Czonka and the rest of those glory teams.

He was a tough S.o.G., some say a veritable alligator as a coach. And I always loved this story, recounted in his obituary at NFL.com.

“After the 1969 season, Shula moved to Miami, where he was given a 10 percent stake in ownership of the team (he later sold it). His first team made the playoffs. His second made it to the Super Bowl. His third and fourth teams won championships and established themselves as South Florida legends, complete with a famous story about the time former Dolphin Manny Fernandez captured an alligator from the Everglades and put it in Shula’s shower after practice. When Shula ran into the locker room, fullback Larry Csonka informed him that players had taken a vote — with Shula prevailing by just one — to decide whether to tape the alligator’s mouth shut.”

He was drafted by the Browns in 1951 as a Defensive Halfback, but spent most of his seven seasons with the Colts, who in 1963, made him the youngest coach in NFL history, at that time.

And the rest is very much history indeed. R.I.P. Coach Shula. It was a great 90 years.

 

Free Shakespeare from Canada

Shakespeare from the Stafford Festival on Line

Free during the long social distancing season

Did William Shakespeare really write the masterpiece King Lear while under quarantine during the plague year 1606? Yes, along with other great plays like Macbeth and Antony and Cleopatra. Starting the previous year people were expected to remain in their London homes except when genuine need forced them to seek food for medicine. Sound familiar? Just like now, it helped save countless lives.

The Shakespeare Festival of Stratford, Ontario is offering free viewings of twelve films beginning with King Lear. It started on April 23, but I only know learned of this. So here is the schedule

“Each will debut with a 7:00 p.m. viewing party and will be available free-of-charge for three weeks afterwards on the Stratford Festival website.”

https://www.stratfordfestival.ca/

Coriolanus debuts today! Lear remains available through May 14.

stratford festival free shakespeare onemanz.com COVID-19 soical distancing

The films have received four Canadian Screen Awards and 16 nominations, including Best Performing Arts Program for King Lear.

The schedule is as follows:

King Lear: April 23 to May 14

Coriolanus: April 30 to May 21

Macbeth: May 7 to 28

The Tempest: May 14 to June 4

Timon of Athens: May 21 to June 11

Love’s Labour’s Lost: May 28 to June 18

Hamlet: June 4 to 25

King John: June 11 to July 2

Pericles: June 18 to July 9

Antony and Cleopatra: June 25 to July 16

Romeo and Juliet: July 2 to 23

The Taming of the Shrew: July 9 to 30

 

More Information Here