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Beauty All Around Me – Bowfront Houses On A Sunny Afteroon


Morning Song – Jelly Bread

I’m gonna guess that “Jelly Bread” got its name because Booker T & The MGs had already released “Mo’ Onions” as a followup to “Green Onions”…and none of the other onions worked as titles (“White Onions”…not for an integrated soul band; “Yellow Onions”…implies cowardice; “Red Onions”…implies communists)*.

Just further evidence that it doesn’t matter what you call it: a great groove is a great groove.

*If you’ve got another theory, leave it in the comments.

Morning Song – While The Blood Runs Warm

Earlier this month, Aretha Franklin announced she’ll be retiring later this year, after recording one last album. If so, it will mark the end of a 61 year recording career that began at New Bethel Baptist Church in Detroit when she was 14 years old.

For all the breadth, depth and changes of Aretha’s talents and career, what’s startling about a song like “While The Blood Runs Warm” is how fully formed she was from the beginning—not just her unparalleled voice and uncanny ability to control time and space with her piano playing, but also her preternatural ability to take a song (in this case, one written by the great Depression-era bluesman, Josh White) and make it wholly her own.

You had better get religion, you better try and serve the Lord,
While the blood is running warm in your veins….

O God Of Players

ogodofplayersThere’s an airport bookstore bestselling paperback to be written about the the first dynasty in American women’s college basketball, the “Mighty Macs” of Immaculate College.

O God Of Players is not that book.

Author Julie Byrne has other ambitions. Among them are: locating those championship teams (1972-74) within the decades-long tradition of basketball excellence at Immaculata, exploring the interplay of gender, class, race, religion and competitive athletics, and perhaps most of all, capturing the sense of sheer pleasure created and experienced by mid-20th century Philadelphia Catholic young women as they entered into, carried forward, and reshaped what was at the time arguably the finest basketball culture for women in the world…and in doing so, reshaped their own sense of identity and possibility.

In mid-20th century Philadelphia, Catholic girls could play basketball; and Catholic girls could play basketball. Byrne writes:

They played basketball, they told me, because it felt good to run and jump, shoot and sweat. It made them happy to be part of the team, a select group of girls. It was fun to get on a team bus and go somewhere. It gave their prayers meaning and intensity. It thrilled them to play for raucous fans. And it was fun to win.

Remembering their playing days years later, former Immaculata team members told me stories about close games and hard practices, team masses and bus antics, losing streaks and national championships. And as they remembered stories of Immaculata basketball, they told other stories in between their words. About Catholic girls in Philadelphia. About mothers and fathers, nuns and priests who cheered them on. And about a local church whose favorite sport gave them hours and hours of their sweetest pleasure. (p. xiv)

Basketball is “a cheap, urban sport, requiring minimal gear and space“. (p. 17) In Philadelphia, Cardinal Dennis Dougherty‘s passion for single-sex Catholic education meant that not only virtually every parish in the archdiocese had a school; they had two schools, one for boys and one for girls. “Whatever the pros and cons of this separate-but-equal policy, it meant that most Philadelphia Catholic all-girls’ schools fielded basketball squads long before their coeducational counterparts“. (p. 17)

Archdiocesan Superintendent of Schools (and sometimes Immaculata faculty member) Msgr. John Bonnerset an unquestioned tone of support for boys’ and girls’ varsity play” (p. 18), in part because he believed¬†“athletics were self-evidently part of…Catholic education“. (p. 20)

Sr. Mary of Lourdes McDevitt, a Philadelphia high school basketball star in the 1930s, an Immaculata alumna and Immaculate Heart of Mary (IHM) sister, and Immaculata president from 1955-72, exemplified the support for women’s basketball not only at Immaculata but throughout the schools, colleges and parishes throughout the archdiocese that may have been ruled by priests, but were run by nuns.

Immaculata coaches like Jen Shillingford and Cathy Rush built a powerhouse basketball program locally, and then—when the Association for Intercollegiate Athletics for Women (AIAW) was formed in 1971–nationally…and modeled positive ecumenical relationships for their Catholic players, many of whom had never before interacted with a Protestant.

Byrne romanticizes exactly nothing about the Mighty Macs’ accomplishments (and failings) and their roles on the court and in their society. In every respect—including their attitudes and experiences with respect to race, gender, class, sexuality and faith—they were women of their (changing) times. However, as she concludes, “They might never have consciously or broadly questioned the path of traditional Catholic womanhood laid out before them But they found in basketball a strategy, a lever, a loosening of limits, tangible in their very bodies, as they practiced, played, prayed, and delighted in basketball, day after day.” (p. 211)

Morning Song – You Don’t Say

Oh, but she does.

Melba Liston isn’t just the lead soloist on “You Don’t Say”. She’s also the composer, arranger and bandleader on this swinging cut from her one and only solo album.


Morning Song – Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That

Robert Randolph and the Family Band with a little “getting ready for the weekend” music…and there “Ain’t Nothing Wrong With That” either.

East coast or west coast (it don’t matter),
Down south or up north (it don’t matter),
Hollywood or in the hood (it don’t matter,)
Either way, it’s all good (it don’t matter),

Block party, frat party (it don’t matter),
Backyard or boulevard (it don’t matter),
Red, yellow, black or white (it don’t matter),
We all getting down tonight; and there….

Morning Song – X-Temporaneous Boogie

Camille Howard was one of the great, underrated, female (but I repeat myself) pianists of the mid-20th century. Here’s her “X-Temporaneous Boogie”. You’ll want to listen all the way (just 2 minutes) to the end for the musical equivalent of a “perfect dismount” in gymnastics.