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Morning Song – Take Me To The River

Sam Moore covering Al Green’s “Take Me To The River” at the 2014 Kennedy Center Honors? Check.

Mavis Staples dueting with him? Check.

An in-the-pocket rhythm section riding the groove? Check.

A tight, professional horn section not overplaying a single note? Check.

A mass choir (nice genuflection to the Rev. Al’s second career) to join in on the chorus? Check.

But it takes more than checking the boxes to satisfy this little blog’s First Rule Of Cover Songs.

And that’s why you’re going to want to stick around until they all take you (and every well-dressed luminary in the packed and glittering hall) to church (starting at about 1:55 and carrying right through to the end).

Won’t you cleanse my soul,
Put my feet on the ground



Morning Song – Stir It Up

Here’s Patti LaBelle bringing grandma’s wisdom wrapped up in a pretty package of slick 1980s’ dance-pop. The message here, ladies (sure, it’s a universal message, but “Stir It Up” is first and foremost a grandmother-granddaughter song), is that life is hard enough (bill collectors, crazy neighbors, air pollution) without “All those time bombs ticking in your head; So much pressure to keep holding on“.

Don’t be afraid to empty your head of all those societal rules about how a “good girl” is supposed to act. Stir it up, shake it up, and go for what (or who) you want. Listen to grandma, girl.

The Methods Of Nonviolent Protest & Persuasion

In The Methods Of Nonviolent Action Gene Sharp identifies 10 “subclasses” of methods of nonviolent protest and persuasion.  They are:

  1. Formal statements,
  2. Communications with a wider audience,
  3. Group representations,
  4. Symbolic public acts,
  5. Pressure on individuals
  6. Drama and music,
  7. Processions,
  8. Honoring the dead,
  9. Public assemblies, and
  10. Withdrawal and renunciation.

Together they comprise 54 of the 198 methods of nonviolent action Sharp catalogs in this book.

We’ll get into some detail about these methods in future posts, but right now I want to focus on some points Sharp makes about the uses to which these tactics may be put.

Whatever the action is, its use “may simply show that the actionists are against something…or for something“. (p. 117)

It may be intended “primarily to influence the opponent…or the act may be intended primarily to communicate with the public…or the act may be intended primarily to influence the grievance group.” (p. 118)

In other words, the methods of nonviolent protest and persuasion are many, varied, and may be directed towards a variety of targets with a wide range of intended results. Among the questions this poses for organizers and leaders are:

  • What are you trying to accomplish?
  • Who is your target audience?
  • In what way(s) do you want to influence them?
  • Are the tactics you’re using consistent with the goals you’re trying to achieve?


Morning Song – Instrumental

“Instrumental”: it is what it says it is.

Yes, among other things, Chuck Berry may have been the Bill Belichick of rock & roll.

It’s Monday morning, the first full week of spring in the Northern hemisphere.  What’s happening where you are?

Bobby Kennedy: The Making Of A Liberal Icon

Larry Tye’s new biography, Bobby Kennedy: The Making Of A Liberal Icon, takes over as the best single volume introduction to Robert F. Kennedy—crusading Congressional staffer, tough-as-nails campaign operative, Attorney General/minister-without-portfolio, Senator from New York, presidential hopeful, and last great hope to a generation of liberals, radicals and reformers who’d already lived through the bloody killings of his brother Jack, Malcolm X, and the Rev. Doctor Martin Luther King, Jr.

In 10 fast-paced, well-written chapters, Tye takes full advantage of the recent release of dozens of boxes of RFK’s papers, hundreds of his own interviews with Kennedy confidantes, enemies and family members, and the accumulation of a generation of scholarship to provide the reader with a thorough recounting of Kennedy’s public and private life, helping a new generation to understand how deeply the nation’s hopes, dreams, fears and destiny came—in the view of millions—to be wrapped up in the life and career of one politician, and how his assassination just may have irrevocably tilted the country off kilter, spinning out of control into a spiral of violence and racial division from which it has never fully recovered.

What’s most impressive is how Tye accomplishes all this without glossing over Kennedy’s faults and failings. Rather, by examining more deeply and critically Kennedy’s unyielding loyalty to the likes of Sen. Joseph McCarthy, his knee-jerk Cold War anti-communist adventurism that led to the Bay of Pigs fiasco, the Cuban missile crisis and the US war in Vietnam, his blind hatred of and prosecutorial zeal directed towards enemies like Jimmy Hoffa and Lyndon Johnson, his contemptuous disregard for and double standards towards women, his rich man’s obliviousness to his own privileges and consequent mistreatment of those around him, Tye is then able to show in high relief RFK’s deepening compassion, growing maturity, increasing humility and how they were leading him in the direction of becoming the one political leader who could, perhaps, have helped the US transcend and overcome its growing divisions.

Morning Song – Having You There

If God’s so good and all-powerful, then why is there evil in the world?

It’s a good question, but it’s not the theological question being answered by the Mississippi Mass Choir in “Having You There”.

Rather, the question being answered is something like—in a fallen world where good people are beset on all sides by hard times and evildoers, what difference does God make?

And the answer is, enough.

We have come to praise and magnify the Lord,
For all that He has done and for the victories we have won….
Having You there made the difference.

Morning Song – Sweet Little Sixteen

“They’re really rockin’ in Boston….”

But would they rock in Newport?

That was the question when Chuck Berry performed a short set at the 1958 Newport Jazz Festival, the summer after he’d had a hit singing:

“I have no kick against modern jazz,
Unless they try to play it too darn fast.”

It’s a minor miracle, and a testament to Berry’s considerable talents and charisma, that “rockin’” (or something very close to it) is exactly what he pretty much single-handedly accomplishes in the three minutes it took to perform “Sweet Little Sixteen”.