Even 50 years after the fact, it’s hard to figure out what exactly the mass hysteria that greeted the British Invasion of 1964 was all about.
A song like “Glad All Over” by the Dave Clark 5 (the first British band to tour the US) offers some clues: there’s the big beat on the drums, the heavy echo on the voices, the interplay between the lead vocal and the harmonized backing voices, and perhaps most importantly, a group of guys who seem genuinely happy, nay enthusiastic and appreciative, about the attentions of young women.
Because it can’t be the turtlenecks. (Can it?)
The latest Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index poll showing the percentage of Americans without health insurance at its lowest rate in over five years is being greeted among left-of-center bloggers with due caution…in part because of the inexplicable spike in the uninsured rate to 18.0% found by Gallup in the 3rd quarter of 2013.
Fine. Let’s take out the 3Q 2013 numbers entirely. In that case Gallup shows a decline of 1.2% from 17.1%—larger than any decline over any amount of time over the past five years. Furthermore, Gallup’s numbers for 1Q 2014 (quite reasonably) don’t include March. March happens to be the final month of the open enrollment period for the ACA-created exchanges…which means Gallup’s second and third quarter numbers are likely to show a continued decline in the percentage of Americans without health insurance.
Republicans have lots of reasons for optimism about the 2014 elections, but the “failure of Obamacare” isn’t one of them.
P.S. What does this mean in real numbers? According to the invaluable Charles Gaba, it means that as of last night somewhere between 10.7 and 13.1 million Americans have gotten health insurance coverage through the ACA.
By beating crosstown rivals, the Ottawa Gee-Gees, 79-67 in yesterday’s championship game, the Carleton Ravens won their 4th consecutive men’s basketball CIS title, and their 10th in the last 12 years. That means there are high school graduates all across Canada who have no living memory of a period longer than 24 months during which the Ravens didn’t rule the roost.
It’s not just Canadian basketball either. The Ravens regularly hold their own with, and often enough defeat, top-level NCAA Division I teams from the United States.
Despite their record, the Ravens struggle* to gain recognition for a streak that—on the North American continent—has only been equaled by John Wooden’s UCLA Bruins of the 1960s and 70s. And, as one American observer noted, “They’re kind of treated like a combination of Duke and Kentucky by the rest of the country.”
Regardless, it’s an impressive accomplishment…even if they don’t wear skates.
*One example: on the website for their hometown newspaper today, the Ravens’ victory was the 5th-listed basketball story…right behind a Minnesota state representative’s tweet. (The tweeting of American state representatives apparently being more newsworthy in the mind of Ottawa’s newspaper editors.)
Over the weekend the reference library of the Music Department here at MassCommons World Headquarters received an extraordinary gift: a 1960 hardcover first edition of Alan Lomax’ The Folk Songs Of North America. If the folk revival of the early 1960s had a Bible, this was it. Gorgeously illustrated by Michael Leonard, with a short, informative essay from Lomax for each of its 317 songs, with multiple appendices and a guide by Peggy Seeger on how to play guitar and banjo, The Folk Songs Of North America aimed at nothing less than the preservation and passing on of three centuries of folk culture.
And it’s the book that helps explain how it came to pass that rock star Bruce Springsteen ended up in Dublin, Ireland in November of 2006 leading a hootenanny with an audience that knew every word of a song created a century ago (or more) by anonymous Negro stevedores in Georgia.
Lomax had first visited the Georgia Sea Islands with Zora Neale Hurston in 1935, and made a field recording of “Pay Me” in the 1940s. From Lomax (and from ethnographer Lydia Parrish) it’s a short, direct route to Pete Seeger (Peggy was his sister, and the Weavers performed the song at their famed 1955 Carnegie Hall concert) to Springsteen (whose interest in folk music was sparked in the late 1970s by his manger, Jon Landau).
What Lomax wrote about “Pay Me” in 1960 still rings true (despite its partially archaic language) today: “These young huskies of the docks said directly and openly what they thought, and their song has proved enormously appealing to young people all across America.“
For Christians the archetypal story of “confronting your demons” comes from the 1st chapter of Mark’s gospel: “The Spirit immediately drove him out into the wilderness, and he remained there for forty days, tempted by Satan.“ (Mk. 1:12-13)
The tone of Mark’s writing is blunt, direct and urgent. In Mark, the confrontation between the divine and the satanic erupts repeatedly and violently throughout Jesus’ short public life. And it’s that sense of urgency and confrontation that’s captured in the old Negro spiritual, “Satan We’re Gonna Tear Your Kingdom Down”.
The Lee Family Singers may be in a modern television station, but you can hear in their voices and see on their faces the origins of the song in back-country whitewashed wooden churches, built by tiny congregations too poor for a piano. Hands clapping, feet stomping, voices ringing out in defiance against the satanic forces that threaten them from all sides.
In addition to being the title cut for a Thad Jones-Mel Lewis Orchestra’s 1969 album, “Central Park North” is Thad Jones’ ode to Harlem. Not the 2014 Harlem of $2 million condos, but the Harlem of the 1960s that was—despite segregation, discrimination and the turmoil of that era’s urban rebellions—home to one of the largest, most prosperous and most creative community of African descendants in this hemisphere.
And “Central Park North” expresses the full range of life on that gorgeous street with the Orchestra’s characteristic mix of lyricism and avant-garde hard bop. It’s practically a full suite of songs in one—from the full-on opening attack, to Jones’ meditative, airy flugelhorn solo, to Snooky Young’s slinky muted trumpet strutting over first the rhythm section, then the full band, to Jerome Richardson’s delightful soprano sax skittering above an expanded percussion section (more cowbell! courtesy of Jones himself). The full orchestra jumps back in, swinging as powerfully as the tempo is slow, before Lewis takes a drum solo, slowly picking up speed (and instruments) until everyone’s back for a rousing, swinging, exhilarating finale.
If, by the end of “Central Park North”, you don’t want to take a walk down that street, then you may not be cut out for city life at all.
Finding the dividing line between rock ‘n’ roll and the musical forms it evolved from is, in the end, a fool’s errand. Elvis Presley’s 1954 cover of Roy Brown’s 1947 jump blues hit, “Good Rockin’ Tonight” is a good example.
Somewhere in those seven years something (or, more accurately, many things) have changed—in the music, in the arrangements, in the culture. From Elvis on forward, for better and for worse, there’s this new thing called rock ‘n’ roll.