In Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton, “Right Hand Man” tells the story of how Alexander Hamilton came to be George Washington’s chief assistant for improving the operations of the ragtag Continental Army.
Joan Osborne’s “Right Hand Man” is performing an entirely different kind of operation.
I’ve been on the floor lookin’ for a chair;
I’ve been on a chair lookin’ for a couch;
And I’ve been on a couch lookin’ for a bed…
Lookin’ for a bed,
Lookin’ for my, my…my right hand…my right hand man.
A longtime reader writes:
“If you’re ever looking for a morning song from Hamilton, I’ve got to say ‘Right Hand Man’ is one of my favorites in terms of musical mixing and brilliant storytelling.”
And not just any musical mixing. Exhilaratingly wild and crazy musical mixing that bumps Gilbert & Sullivan references (“Now I’m the model of a modern major general, the venerated Virginian veteran whose men are all, lining up to put me on a pedestal”) up against Jay-Z and Busta Rhymes, Sondheim with Flavor Flav and the Bomb Squad.
I’ll rise above my
your information, ‘til
we rise to the occasion
of our new nation.
I guess we’re all going to have to reckon with the unlikely-in-the-extreme possibility of an Irish-Catholic vice-president who not only sings in a gospel choir (shout out to St. Elizabeth’s Church in Richmond VA) but—according to a 2012 Washington Post article—solos on “Taste & See” (written by James E. Moore, Jr. who grew up just down the road from Richmond, in the little town of La Crosse, VA).
The age of miracles is not yet past.
“There is no greater sound on earth, than Joe Temperley on a horn.”
That statement by Lincoln Center Jazz Orchestra bandleader Wynton Marsalis is surprising for a couple of reasons: 1) Temperley played baritone saxophone, not the most elegant of instruments. 2) There aren’t many jazz greats who’ve come out of Cowdenbeath and Lochgelly.
But it’s not just Marsalis’ opinion. Bandleaders as great and varied as Tommy Sampson, Humphrey Lyttleton, Woody Herman, Buddy Rich, Clark Terry, Joe Henderson and Thad Jones loved Temperley’s velvety tone, smooth improvisational skill, and ability to anchor a reeds section.
Despite decades as a New York City jazzman (he died there earlier this year), Temperley never lost touch with his Scottish roots. From the 1991 album Nightingale, here’s his sweet and haunting solo rendition of Robert Burns’ “My Love Is Like A Red, Red Rose”.
There’s an austere and hard-won beauty to much of Annie Lennox’s work, none more so than “A Thousand Beautiful Things”, the lead track on her 2003 album Bare.
I don’t know if it was the prospect of turning 50, her recent divorce, the trans-Atlantic Anglo-American descent into madness that was the launching of the Iraq War, or something else, but Lennox imbues “A Thousand Beautiful Things” with a fragile-yet-steely sense of having stared into the depths of despair and come out on the other side, tempered like steel that’s stronger for having gone through the fire.
And even though it’s hard to see,
The glass is full and not half empty;
(a thousand beautiful things)
Light me up like the sun….
Over 40 years later and I still have no explanation for how a soul/funk group like the Average White Band could come out of a place like Dundee, Scotland. (No criticism of Dundee intended or implied, but even today “funky” is not the first—or second, or third—adjective that comes to mind when describing the city’s music scene.)
Let alone how they topped the US singles chart with a sax-heavy instrumental like “Pick Up The Pieces”.
Music is so cool.
“Black Horse and the Cherry Tree” is inspired by old blues, Nashville psycho hillbillies & hazy memories. It tells the story of finding yourself lost on your path, and a choice has to be made. It’s about gambling, fate, listening to your heart, and having the strength to fight the darkness that’s always willing to carry you off.
Couldn’t have said it better myself.
KT Tunstall also wrote “Black Horse And The Cherry Tree”, and used this exhilarating* one-woman band performance of it on Later…with Jools Holland back in 2005 to catapult her career to new heights.
*And unexpected. She was filling in for Nas, who had cancelled on 24 hours notice.