Music postsSaturday December 09, 2017
'Man Shot, 1 West 72'
I should've posted this yesterday, on the ... which was it ... 37th anniversary. Almost as many years as he spent on Earth.
What an inspired way to write the column, telling of the lives of the cops who picked up the body and brought it Roosevelt Hospital in New York. Part of it is brutal reading: another body, but not another body, in the violent country he desperately wanted to live in, on the cusp of our most violent year. He didn't even get an ambulance? Just cops picking him up and carrying him into the backseat of their patrol car? And still alive. And still aware. “Are you John Lennon?” A nod and a groan. The intersection of these cops' lives with the man they brought in. And that brilliant last line that feels more relevant than ever:
And Jim Moran and Tony Palma, older now, cops in a world with no fun, stood in the emergency room as John Lennon, whose music they knew, whose music was known everywhere on earth, became another person who died after being shot with a gun on the streets of New York.
Rest in peace, John. Rest in peace, Jimmy Breslin, 52 when he wrote this, 88 when he died earlier this year.
Trump Protest Songs: Elvis Costello's 'Sunday's Best' (1979)
It's from 1979 but ain't exactly dated. It begins this way:
Times are tough for English babies
Send the army and the navy
Beat up strangers who talk funny
Take their greasy foreign money
And it ends this way:
Put them all in boots and khaki
Blame it all upon the darkies
Dear 'Dear Evan Hansen'
I first heard about the musical “Dear Evan Hansen” from my hairdresser Todd, who returned from a trip to NYC a few months ago raving about it above all other Broadway musicals he'd seen there—including, believe it or not, “Hamilton.” Then he began posting videos from the show on social media. Then “Dear Evan” won the Tony for best musical and for Ben Platt, its young lead.
Here's Platt singing “Waving Through a Window” on “Late Night”:
This is how it begins:
I've learned to slam on the brakes
Before I even turn the key
Before I make the mistakes
Before I lead with the worst of me
Give them no reason to stare
No slipping up if you slip away
So I got nothing to share
No, I got nothing to say
I totally identify. It feels like an update of Thoreau's “The mass of men lead lives of quiet desperation.” It reminds me of this line from a “Mad Men” episode a few years back that hit home:
“I have been watching my life. It's right there. I keep scratching at it, trying to get into it.”
It's a lesson most of us have to keep relearning, apparently.
Quote of the Day
“I come from a time when you spent time with records like they were books. So it was very much a journey with the music-maker. It remains that today. Trying to represent for that story as well as how it resonates with you, that's the unexplainable, because it's mysterious. A single musical note presents a lot of mystery.
”When you're left with words to try and get at that, it is kind of unexplainable, but you try. That's the fun of it. That's the inspiring part of it. I'm trying to explain, as much as I can, why this matters to me.
“That's with every piece, though, whether it's about music or not. You start out a column and you're trying to tell the reader, ”This matters to me, and I'm going to tell you why.“ That's just very basic. But with music you're diving into something that's pretty bottomless. It's explainable, but it could be a whole other explanation the next day.”
-- Jim Walsh, “Explaining the Unexplainable: With two new books out, Jim Walsh reflects on his career in journalism,” a Q&A with Dylan Thomas, in Southwest Journal. Check out Jim's memories of interviewing Prince in the 1990s.
A Cold and Broken Hallelujah: Leonard Cohen and the 2016 Election
Having one of the great songwriters of our time die within two days of the election of Donald J. Trump was like the rancid cherry on top of the shit sundae that is this awful, awful year. So SNL's decision last night to “cold open” with Kate McKinnon playing Hillary Clinton singing Leonard Cohen's “Hallelujah” was inspired. Particularly when she sang this verse:
I did my best, it wasn't much
I couldn't feel, so I tried to touch
I told the truth, I didn't come to fool ya
And even though it all went wrong
I‘ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah
I really love that third line as it relates to the election. I love the implication in it—that someone did come to fool us. And got away with it. And is still getting away with it.
A lot of Cohen had been bandied about on social media in the wake of his death and the aftermath of the 2016 election. How could it not? “Cohen’s songs are death-haunted,” David Remnick wrote in his great profile of Cohen in The New Yorker last month, and this week, even before Cohen's death, many of us felt death-haunted.
On Thursday, my friend Jamie (and later, separately, my friend Jim) posted these lyrics, nothing else, no other commentary, from Cohen's “Everybody Knows”:
Everybody knows that the dice are loaded
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed
Everybody knows the war is over
Everybody knows the good guys lost
Everybody knows the fight was fixed
The poor stay poor, the rich get rich
That's how it goes
Everybody knows that the boat is leaking
Everybody knows that the captain lied
Everybody got this broken feeling
Like their father or their dog just died
Everybody talking to their pockets
Everybody wants a box of chocolates
And a long-stem rose
To Jamie I wrote, “I see your ‘Everybody Knows’ and raise you ‘The Future’”—another great Cohen song that feels less resigned, more apocalyptic, which is how I'm feeling at that moment:
There‘ll be the breaking of the ancient western code
Your private life will suddenly explode
There’ll be phantoms, there‘ll be fires on the road
And the white man dancing
You’ll see your woman hanging upside down
Her features covered by her fallen gown
And all the lousy little poets coming 'round
Trying to sound like Charlie Manson
Yeah, and the white man dancing
At last, we know who the white man dancing is.