The House of the Rising Sun/Out There without a Prayer
Don't dare get caught out there without a prayer. Want to be anywhere where nowhere will always be. You know the deal: invisible. Not full of want, not in need, not hurt, hungry, suffering disease. Not staring & wearing that lost look, daring folks to spare thee a broken levee.
Don't dare get caught out there without a prayer. The wild breed is driving to Cleveland & I don't mean by car but the war at home, all star! Not death for the fallaheen, take him away, what a pity. Not paying the price for the Bill of Rights naked on all fours in Guantanamo City.
Don't dare get caught out there without a prayer when hustlers invent lies to occupy lands without mercy & when poets say so they get Baraked in Newark, New Jersey. Not searched on our own streets. Not what might mistake my misfortune for a chance to exploit me. Not my homeland security. Not a weapon. Not a first time ever, but never locked up a second.
A Rahsaan Roland Kirk Tribute
1/Serenade to a Cuckoo
At enfleshment's threshold no one need remind us how Osiris gets torn apart to be born again. So we're putting in a few appearances, swirling in the whirlwind, seeking out the rickety rattle of rock-scissors-stones, earthquake's shakedown to a trail underground.
When club lights dim our mistress of ceremonies begins & as she opens the curtain we see for certain the soul's got seven bodies so whatever's left of us makes a race for Luxor, a turn toward Mecca or the Other Shore, the grace of our original face we may no longer recall.
So we lit our last incense stick when we saw that shadow slip through a door in the garden wall, our votive candle's smoking wick carrying in its wake the smell of autumn leaves ablaze to remind us the circle's complete, even if we struggle with the coat's fur lining.
Though we can't forget the ones we've loved, how sun shafts slid through woods to fleck their flesh in leafy shadow, fire's consolation sings the truth we finally are: error burned up, scarecrow & a yellow moon, pretty soon the carnival on the edge of town; king harvest has surely come.
2/Clickety Clack, Won't Someone Bring the Spirit Back
Hey Rah: be what we got against tyranny, the return of the 5,000 pound man who blasts out-casted notes into see-through overcoats to better expose operations covert-that-hurt & send votes to mend our democratic vista, Mister Kurtz, like the flag Gadsden wove 200 & 2 score years ago whose snake said to King Georged greed-gorged depravity Don't tread on me, knucklehead.
Hey Rah: we are needin' multi-reed blowin' to better be showin' our emperor's new clothin' in a jester's gesture of circular-breathin': the proper goose cooked to the propaganda hooked on unknowing hordes booked knee-deep in the bored mediocre. Evil's what's got us thickening hell-realmed plots while love beams sweet shots to heaven's jackpot.
Hey Clickety clack, won't somebody bring the spirit back? Let's invest in Rah delight to heal the blight & arrest the dead & as for makin' little girls talk out of their heads, bumba-clot pop-schlock may sell the big lie but horns cry a burnin' proof from the Vibration Society Maggie is alive on a hot tin roof!
Hey Rah: we need horns, 'bones & lyres to sing truth to powerfully complex military-industrial liars. We need tunes like Theme for the Eulipions to bring the minions of artists & troubadours together for we're legion, & our ancestors are paradin' in the city of New Orleans, 'mericanest of exports in a world hypnotized in un-free.
Hey Rah: let's sharpen our Bright Moments ambered in waves of rank-'n'-file betrayed, hurricane-erased & FEMA delayed, strays out-sourced neglected, infected & defiant who say amidst AIDS, racial profiling Patriot Act: you can't sack free speech so get back up off of me, sneak attack!
Hey Rah: we need volunteered bravery, a round mound of light so unwavery it never goes gently into that good night, a Coney Island of our mind singin' a body electric's shout. From outer space to chthonic place, the craw in the maw & the hallowed whole of it all, a music we can't dismiss any more than we could our mothers or our inheritance. To whom the bell tolls, deem that the mission of lyrical tradition I'm wishin' for, musicians united in an uncommon re-birth of wonder. Hey Rah: don't go asunder---be a cry for nation time!
3/Lady's Blues/In Strange Fruit
Hey Lady's Blues when Rahsaan could be said to have seen you in splendorous spring tones, what's bum but a word the mouth casts out, spoken without the need of teeth or tongue. Bum: a slenderest hole in a human face only a bottle can reach.
Hey Lady Day Tell It in Spring Tones, what's homeless victim but a double trochee to separate them that got from them that not while keeping expanding catastrophes at bay. Homeless: an off rime to Om, Jesus. Victim: a cross-hair to bear in someone else's system.
Hey Billie in Strange Fruit & Holiday Inn Flown, what's rat but antenna nose, running feet whose offspring squeeze through holes humans make as the city they've built begins to decay. Rat: a fink; or raton: what's left when a species starts to eat its own.
Hey Billie in gardenia, grown to moan sick & alone In my solitude you taunt me with memories that never die while an April sky still unsure sings a tentative beguine's verdure: the blues is a patch of weathered wing bones scat-rattlin' the hum-wonder of Lady Day spring tones.
Waitin' on a Train/Conjurin' Jimmie Rodgers
Come in, Singin' Brakeman, I conjure Jimmie Rodgers through orange radio cylinders in the stillness. I invoke the roustabout rapscallion who'd play with just about anyone, jaunty hobo, rune codger, artful dodger---with Carter Family on one tune, Louis Armstrong the next.
Come on through, blue yodel crooner, "T Is for Texas" so make the Akashic Record to de-complex us sooner: I summon the original hipster with cool eyes for hard times, street wise & country born. I dunno what the dead have told ya, but I'm still playin' "Waitin' for a Train" on the old Victrola. If the blues ain't nothin' but a good man feelin' ill, you'll pardon me for bein' crass still, but would you kick Nashville in the ass for we've had our fill of phony trash & hair-do disasters so let's get back to real roots music & leave the demographics to the hustlers & the fascists.
It's you who's begettin' a million musicians electin' to be forgettin' star-maker machinery 'cause all they wanna do is act naturally. It's you who still makes us swoon to tunes we hum along to in lonely depots for the dispossessed, the shared cigarette lit in the backseats of our ridin' machines, your yodel's spooky reach into the hearts of love everywhere at play that keeps you livin' in us a hundred-plus years young today.
Evil Ways/Ain't It a Shame It Got Misnamed
Call up the ghost of Chano Pozo, baby, let's go oijua board boatin' in an ocean where all time's simultaneously unfoldin' what's technically impossible from a Congo Square conguero or a gypsy named Django whose missing fingers pluck miraculous chord-riffs even the full-fisted can't follow, wonderful unplayable notes the mind-heart we hold in common wants to swallow with the delighted bass weight of a disbelieving eyebrow.
Ain't it a shame it got misnamed Evil Ways, maybe, when muses give us medicine to soothe & slip through keys to always play the changes, slay me Afro-Cuban groovin' to school wild stepchild rock of ages, engage me with tales of two tones meetin' & matin', mi rubia, let's not be waitin' 'til we're bled to a hospital bed to greet it in grunts 'cause the vamp plays on across our own funeral parade: life-death, heaven-&-hell are but doors in a hallway music made so don't dismiss the bliss in your own funk or we'll miss the glory of Storyville, Willie Bobo, & the mojo's manna from Santana.
Better check your bark for rabies, baby, 'cause revolution is the dancin' of the brain waves, so chill me a cold brew & thrill me with bongos for Mongo y un timbales por este mensaje: blossoms & blooms teem from mausoleums & tombs when Persephone dances the night away in a flowered dress just to unchain those live Evil Ways.
Ol' Devil Moon
It's that old devil moon, scat's gold-level tune, smackin' back a mac's cold bevelled rune extra wide. Soon to be told not to intrude on nude devil's food moonbeams float with the tide, what's a free ride when the sine wave's the shot & the end's scripted in before we begin, the quest to become outwon by the joy just to be, worse plots happen at sea when we run madness down to meet the moon's dark twin & we're at it again, where you open we are: glow worms wink in a jar, & be better by far than a nova gettin' over like a range rover or would you rather be a star?
It's that tides moon the earth, tears roll down like mirth, mad cleaves to decay, draws on its way to the sea everything unrestrained, who can say loss is gain, ebb & flow shine within, don't ya know, bend the bow, ring a ding, Sing Sing Sing's one sing more than what roars Other Shore as in tweedle-dee, seŇor's name on the door, meets tweedle-dumb, a dime-droppin' drum from up the Hudson, as in badda-bing, as in Ossining, or would you rather be bling bling?
What Does Not Change Is the Will to Chains
I/ God Is Alive, Magic Is A (Variable) Foot
Times are tough, baby
& the hustle is really on
Prices are high now, darlin'
& all the good jobs are gone.
---H.E. Owens, "The Hustle Is On"
as sung by Johnny Nicholas & The Texas All Stars
Music was magic. From the get. From the word go.
Earliest memories of being alive are inextricable from the sound of ubiquitous radio waves washing our humble home in eternal summer: a golden Doris Day singing "Que Sera Sera," 1955, "whatever will be," the song, "will be," a schlocky re-make from a hit 20 years before, pulled from the Hitchcock film in which she now starred with Jimmy Stewart, The Man Who Knew Too Much, itself a schlocky re-take of the original thriller Hitch directed 20 years before with Peter Lorre.
"The future," Doris sighed (and might have meant the past), "is not ours to see," but it would fit the general pattern, "que sera, sera," of what pop-schlock music would be along our lifeline: on the one hand, Chronos (the Titan) eating his children and so birthing time, some incessant Hit Parade demographically driven cash addiction, "stoking the star-maker machinery behind the popular song," from dumb shit dead show tunes, re-treaded mish-mash, fake glamour trash and putzy cornball Tin Pan Alley re-hash; and on the other: The Great Mother Memory whose nine daughters with Zeus (the Olympian who destroyed the rule of the Titans) produced The Muses, which inspired everything epic and eloquent and grandly classical in American sound that made us take heed our soul, what a thing of wonder, this yearning within us that would have us playing Kind of Blue and Abraxas, Glassworks and Trane's Transition, John Wesley Harding and Allman Brothers Live at the Fillmore over and over and over again on albums the hi-fi automatically repeated. What a world would open, from elegant Edward Ellington and gay Billy Strayhorn to black Louis Armstrong playing alongside white Jimmie Rodgers on his "Waitin' on a Train/Blue Yodel #9," which later Jerry Garcia would record the day before he died for the Singin' Brakeman's centennial that Bob Dylan put out on Rhino Records.
Barred-in-playpen, cuffed-to-curfew, put to bed to Pat Ballard's "Mr. Sandman" and waking to Pat Boone crooning "Love Letters in the Sand," life seemed to early eyes and ears a sickly breeze, barely a bossa nova and then only Edie and Steve, but the jig was up a couple years later, listening quietly in church basement to kid-Irish tenors from the parish singing "Danny Boy" and me crying from longing and so ashamed of my tears. Later, on a Sunday morning six o'clock TV with family asleep, I would weep some more but now without fear as a ballerina sat at her rainy window remembering her love and Ravell (Daphnis et Chloe?) or Debussey (Afternoon of a Faun?) or FaurČ (Pavane) played beautifully in the background, and I knew music was the closest thing to heaven going.
It had power.
Power that made the authority of the Church a big sad joke.
Great music deranges the senses, whispers our invisible union with the cosmos and each other---underneath all the appearances to the contrary. Music seams a truer, realer life. As for me-and-the-Father-are-One, the world seemed afraid to express love and unity, especially if either included sex or blacks, so everyone pulled the wool deeper over their eyes, that was life in the 1950's. Sounds were put in containers called "race" music, but it was so good it reached into every home by radio tube and record player and broke the container, and that was when the harbinger of the change-to-come first slouched toward Bethlehem.
Later the diocese caved in and allowed us the Folk Mass where these crew-cut Ivy League wanna be's strummed chords to "Kumbayah" (my Lord!), and when we didn't go, they got vindictive and actually hired professionals to play the music backwards and hold classes for our parents so it could tell them which rock bands advocated the use of drugs, but that was the 1960's. The Church, certainly the oldest con game on the planet, would learn only too late the wisdom of a Herbert Marcuse, that last year's revolutionary bastion is this season's must-wear fashion.
But even way back then, sitting in the back seat sussing out the sounds from the car radio, the battle could be heard in how our tastes might be approached: middle-of-the-road, deaf-dumb and blind-bland buckshot that took no chances, okey-dokey sentiment from "I'm a Yankee Doodle Dandy" to pious Kate Smith and riot-mouthed Ethel Merman or Hollywood's own drug-ruined Judy Garland stoned and over the rainbow. An old story, we would come to find, the same appropriation that took the jizz out of jazz when it went upriver from New Orleans to Chicago to become predictable, profitable Paul Whiteman for the dance hall.
Not a churnin' urn of burnin' funk, ya'll.
It was a cosmic showdown worthy of Dostoyevski's Grand Inquisitor bit: Slick-n-Sick Show Biz versus Real Roots Grit, whether that meant Bill Monroe or inimitable Doc Watson, fiddle and jug band, Anglo-Saxon sea chanty via Tennessee streams or Sun House scratchin' out hardscrabble blues with Bukka White, the skeleton of the real America hidden in the work songs, union halls and prison plain clothes in the closet, every day life scary as hell---like what Alan Lomax got from Robert Johnson: something existential---or so weird like MC5 "Kicking Out the Jams" while their manager, White Panther poet John Sinclair, would get a joint planted on him by the narcs and by then the game had gotten rough, with no room to back down or re-arrange the mosaic. Tin soldiers way before any Nixon comin'.
The battle lines weren't gettin' drawn; they were pre-existing.
The real struggle was about Fascism and the fear of a) being free; b) a black planet (as Public Enemy would decry); c) the pelvis (Elvis asked us), and until the British invasion, it looked liked the Nazis had won the Second World War. Millions of conspicuously consuming boomers became a captive audience to the politics of the Top 40 Play Lists which ruled what got on-the-air. If the record company didn't pay, the dj didn't play. How else could someone as square as Dick Clark make it without bellying up to the payola? He still came out sleezy clean when the dimes dropped and the feds popped real-deal Alan Freed while that shaygetz Murray the K submarine race-watched in Brooklyn, his brown nose dying from trying to become the Fifth Beatle and "ride the gravy train, boy," Cousin Brucie sugar-coating the AM dial with bubblegum junk and my joy lollypop. (Didn't make my heart go giddy-yap.)
But on the other hand and only a few years later: FM radio, hail Atlantis, and an entire album side coming through the rye with no commercial interruption and Allison Steel, The Night Bird on WNEW, playing a line right out of Yeats: "White bird in a golden cage / On a winter's day in the rain" by a band called It's a Beautiful Day, they with violins, Spanish guitars, polyrhythmic beat and swirling harmonies more akin to the music of the spheres than Lawrence Welk ever bubbled up.
Rock was the red-haired stepchild of jazz, so it was no wonder that when genres met and mated after hours, the history of abuse American musicians had gone through began to get better known, from McCarthy-dated blacklists of Pete Seeger and the Weavers to the cabaret-card dilemmas of Lady Day and Monk, Jim Crow all over Kenton and Goodman and Basie and Billy E to Miles Davis getting roughed up and arrested for helping a white woman get in a cab on the very street Bird made famous. No matter one's outlook, it looked like our own musicians were being played for schnooks, no hospital for Bessie Smith nor copyright for John Lee Hooker nor Ledbelly parole, Prez in Stockholm and Bud in Paris and Chuck Berry behind bars, Bob Wills and the juncture of jazz and hillbilly washed away, all these American Van Goghs and Artauds getting suicided by society. ‘Round midnight.
Musicians aren't Marxists or accountants, and a take-over of the means of production and distribution never materialized. Even the Beatles, bigger ‘n Jesus, couldn't get the worm out of Apple. But if Creedence could run their own label by ‘71, or guys like Geffen or the Arteguns showed that performer-control of the product worked, it was all begun in earnest 20 years before with big names crossing genres like Bernstein's What Is Jazz? and Duke's Black, Brown and Beige Suite which would meet up on Beat Street with Kerouac's On the Road, Brubeck's Take Five, Lord Buckley and Lenny Bruce and obscenity trial victories for Barney Rosset's Grove.
By the early 60's it seemed the Old Guard was losing control. A new Aurora began to spread tentative rosy tentacles. Goodbye to tin-eared A & R creeps like Mitch Miller who had strangled Bird with insipid strings and hello to hep cats like Quincy Jones, fresh outta Hamp's band, callin' the shots. By the late 60's, goddam, but the Chambers Brothers told it, time had come today!
The Moody Blues, a nowhere pop group one-hit-wonder, had gone into the studio with the London Symphony Orchestra and out came the amazing Days of Future Passed which we listened to endlessly in Mike Depraida's psychedelic dungeon in old Whitestone along with Pink Floyd's intergalactic Umaguma. The Airplane, a shaky commune of uncertain talents, got the good nod from jazz critic Ralph J. Gleason, so RCA got out of the way and out came the sublime Surrealistic Pillow. Hendrix finally shook off those shaggy-haired knuckleheads and delivered Electric LadyLand.
The "liberation of genres" were not just intra-musical but inter-cultural, with mad props to underground lit. The Dead ran with Kesey and Cassady! Steely Dan got their name from Burroughs. The Last Poets shouted, "Wake up, niggah, ‘fore we all disappear," and got a record deal and a tour! So did The Fugs and the Velvet and the Blues Project. And that's just the bands. There would be (ugh!) no end to this new beginning of an Anything Goes venue called the singer/songwriter.
Gil-Scott Heron told us the revolution would not be televised, so we stopped watching Caspar Milquetoast Ozzie-n- Harriet and dug instead our stereos which told us even Rickie Nelson was now, in the words of Byron's own Jim Morrison (whose band borrowed Aldous Huxley's phrase about perception), "breaking on through to the other side!" We sat around high school religion class interpreting lyrics!
Even enigmatic Miles, who rode a middlebrow through the Eisenhower yawn years, stretching jazz out with Gil Evans on Birth of the Cool and Porgy and Bess and Sketches of Spain and who now had all these young bucks in his band, took his cue from Jimi and Sgt. Pepper's and Sly Stone, for the Prince of Darkness must have grown tired of those crush-lovely, modally arranged ballad blossoms and released Bitches Brew---which mixed in everyone and everything so electrically (which became a code word for LSD): Stockhausen, India, Africa, atonal, reverb, tape loops, weird feedback, funk and futuristic ensemble while still resembling a 40's jam session at Small's---and would knock us out and usher in a great Weather Report, a Return to Forever.
Was it revolutionary? More than we ever knew! Charles Lloyd blew a rock and jazz fusion with Keith Jarrett in the band, Tull enlarged progressive blues with virtuoso flute, Joan Baez put out Any Day Now, a country album of favorite Dylan, and he, proving to be more an encyclopedia of song than a poet laureate, sang an off-key duet with Johnny Cash and it was now no longer hillbilly, bluegrass or boplicity, just music. Santana gave us ears to hear not just Tito Puente anew or brought us Baba Olatunji but recalled Dizzy in the day touring the world with Chano Pozo, made us remember the cool couples in the neighborhood who danced the mambo over at Roseland with Killer Joe Pyro.
Listen how it goes, mulatto: God is not Judeo-Christian but Afro-Cuban.
Willie Nelson left right-wing Nashville and started a whole new thing with old friends outlawed around Austin. Audiences returned for Duke, Sun Ra, Ornette. Even Pops had a hit again with "Hello Dolly." The Band played tubas and calliopes and old medicine show music, George Harrison worked traditional ragas into Beatle tunes, even Sonny and Cher seemed hip. And if ya think just the boomers had been duped by pop schlock category restriction, listen to Herbie Hancock's Gershwin's World for the earlier story of the same ol' circle jerk.
Here's the chronological score: for every "Purple People Eatin' Yellow Polka Dot Bikini" in the 50's, every Vic Damone Sinatra-clone and Frankie Valle stand-in puked up on the pube charts, every talentless Fabian and couldn't-hold-a-note teen idol hair-do disaster, every cleaned-up-for-whitey, chitlin-circuit oreo girl group like the Supremes, every Kingston Trio rip-off of Woody and the Cisco Kid, every falsetto imitation of Roy Orbison or No Other Than Brother Ray Charles or Dead Elvis sound-alike and a live Perry Como mellow tone to de-fang the bite of love, every dim-witted "Eve of Destruction" copycat of deep dark and scary-assed Dylan and constant Beatles parody from Hermann's Hermits to the Monkees, (what fear of human intimacy drove these promoters of endless tripe and merciless hype to sell records with lip-synch jive---and if ya think that's over and done, take a look at Art Garfunkel's uncle, Lou Pearlman, making millions on teenybopper show-stoppers like ‘n Sync, itself a carbon copy of his own Backstreet Boys, which was a market-sampled replica of the original, New Kids on the Block) but nevertheless, for every Johnny Come Lately con perped on the virgin ear of America, there's been a Johnny Winter, Johnny Rivers, Johnny Copeland, Johnny Hodges, Johnny Angel, Johnny B. Goode Tonight, John Prine and John Klemmer and John Phillips, Sloop John B Johnny Appleseed original.
A Marvin Gaye, a JJ Cale, a Steveie Wonder, Ry Cooder, an Arlo Guthrie long-play of "Alice's Restaurant Massacre," a David Amram combining French horn with jazz orchestra, a band like Cream or Traffic! Ravi and Yehudi triple-billing with Jean-Pierre Rampal. Dial M for Muddy Waters mojo risin' a Joni Mitchell mixing it up with a Mingus, a Moondog, a Melanie, a Mothers of Invention, a Hugh Masakela grazin' in the grass, a Bob Marley who sang it truest in "Redemption Song," a Gerry Mulligan or a Moses Allison, a Curtis Mayfield or a Miriam Makeba kicking ass.
Look at a monster like Van Morrison whose own career illustrates how talent overcame the machine: he from Them and AM's "Brown Eyed Girl," stepped off with Moondance to call his own shots entire, from Astral Weeks and Tupelo Honey, and later Poetic Champions Compose which didn't just say it all but opened the mystic rose wider in Avalon Sunset and Enlightenment and Hymns to the Silence, then to gigs with The Chieftains, and once Georgie Fame ran his band it only got better; go to Live from San Francisco for the best concert ever recorded or the more intimate show at Ronnie Scott's, How Long Has This Been Goin' On.
Where do ya put a Pat Metheny? Or a Buffy Saint-Marie singing Leonard Cohen's ultimate communion to a new way of walking, "God Is Alive, Magic Is Afoot," for magic loves the hungry. It was William Carlos William's variable American foot in which the Canadian novelist, like a host of his contemporaries, wrote. A phrase like "long-hair music" blurred in ambiguity and the wall between pop and classic, highbrow and low, lit crit and street wit crumbled.
And once out of its container, the music has not gone back in. Ice-Nine.
II/ Walk Right in, Sit Right down, Daddy Let Your Mind Roll on
Can I take it to the bridge?
---James Brown, "Superbad"
The Rooftop Singers asked: Do you wanna lose your mind?
Like the Greek ecstasies: ya gotta lose to find it.
We took the A train. And that express was dancing. The squares said that without the man leading the woman there was no romance in our jigaboo free-style, that even the jitterbug "the colored" did back in their day had class. But what I found, underneath the Twist and the Cool Jerk, lurked a universe of Fosse-esque possibilities. I could isolate shoulder or hip and not only mirror my partner's Watusi but dip into what the couple next to us was doin', the Frug and the Monkey.
In short, goodbye Astaire-Rodgers duet perfection, hello tribal connection.
Instead of human over nature, male over female, life over death, white over black, U.S. military over everything that moved, the thousand-petalled lotus crown chakra over the anal sphincter, heaven over hell, bully god over weak sinner, salvation over destruction, the circle said: all 28 phases are crucial to understanding the moon's mystery. James Brown asked if he could take it to the bridge, but it was he who led us all over to the other shore.
Papa got a brand new bag.
What a wild ride. It was only a few years away that ex-ballerina-Martha-Graham-stricken girlfriend and I would study Sufi dancing as taught by a student of Sufi Sam, a/k/a Murshid Samuel Lewis, he a nice Jewish boy who went third world native in whole hog style-lay, living first with Hindu yogis and then the secretive Turks. Learning the dances, with their turns and Arabic phrases, was like reading Charles Olson's essay on Projective verse. Everything connected, inseparable with the breath. It was akin to composition-in-the-field, a way to wholeness revealed. It all counted, as long as one stopped counting; for the word maya, or illusion, derived etymologically from the Indo-Euro root to measure.
The sum of what I had been until then, like any divided colonial we boycotted in Angola or killed in Vietnam at the time, was the measure of my own fears. I was against my body, afraid of sex tenderness, animal joy, human incarnation, thinking with my skin. The path to the de-colonizing of my own mind was dancing.
It was the revolution of the brain waves, an invitation across the nation.
Soon after the Woodstock Festival---which didn't fool us; they opened the gates only after the promoters signed their movie deal; what moved us to tears was not Abbie Hoffman getting thrown off the stage but these old Jewish couples (on the side of the road offering us matzohs raided from their cupboards so we wouldn't starve) standing next to these riot-ready cops and Daily News headlines of lies!---we got more and more into dancing.
And like we found with rock's rich family tree in jazz and roots music, dance was an old story, and likewise, one with a moral about apartheid to tell. And like we had done with Ravi Shankar, inviting him to tea after his concert and he came with Alla Rakha, Vijra Vitra showed us that dance, too, is ancient and sacred and combines the best of both Indias: the light-skinned Arayan with the dark-skinned Dravidian. So of course Shiva Nataraj, Lord of the Dance, is blue!
By then we were listening to Vikram Singh, formerly the bass player of The Animals, who played harmonium and sang in call-and-answer with the audience the poetry of Kabir, Arjun Dev and Mirabai. It was mystics like these men and women who took the authority of Sanskrit out of the hands of the priest caste, for not a single ceremony of Indian life could be celebrated without payola to these Brahmins who ran the meter and mumbled the Vedas, but these poets of the Adi Granth sang of their union in godhead in every-day dialects and hybrid tongues.
Tear down the wall, Ms. Slick? Go ride the music?
It looked an awful lot like Whitman forsaking British meter to make long-lined poems in the American grain. Reminded me of Allen Ginsberg playing Dylan and the Beatles for Ezra Pound ("fighting in the captain's tower") in Rapallo, telling the silenced old anti-Semite how The Cantos lived on in these electronic troubadours.
III/ Look What They've Done to My Song, Ma
Got high john in my pocketIf the "purpose" of art is to help us become more human---to open rather than close, to care rather than to harm, to forgive rather than begrudge, to connect rather than put down, to deepen our conversation with our own dream life, to enrich the exchange, to feel color and contour more brilliantly rather than less---then let's admit constructions like mass movement, counter culture or world citizenship to be contradictions in terms. None of that was ever gonna happen. The minute Martin saw the struggle was international and objected to war in Southeast Asia, he took the bullet. Ditto for Malcolm once he found out what the haaj was really all about.
Got mud on my shoes
Walked all the way from Ilay-Ifay
Gonna spread the news
& in this quiet place I own
Worlds are born
---Cassandra Wilson, "Run the VooDoo Down"
You don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows.
The gift is hand to hand, word of mouth.
Like Rilke says: do not be bewildered by surfaces; in depth all becomes law.
Consider that the President of the United States is a straight-up puppet to the petroleum racket and its multi-national-auto-industrial-military-kill ‘plex. From the first day of his reign, the New York Times has reported on his criminal activity, but not a single American has sought to impeach him. He opens his mouth, thumbs his nose and the stock market drops! Does he deny the Bill of Rights because his ignorance is only outdone by his arrogance? He got into power by running the same end run as Enron, same con as Worldcom. Ask Dick Cheney.
Talk about means of production and distribution, the Times is one of the only independently financed publications left in the country. If the American public doesn't choose to admit how deep in the doo-doo W be, then any expectations about the power of art ought to remain on hold. Besides, politics and culture have always had a doomsday ratio: the more repressive the former, the more impact of the latter. American poets will never fill stadiums like Neruda or Mayakovsky. Read Bound for Glory, Beneath the Underdog, Really the Blues. It's all there between the lines.
Likewise, why I love music or play it over and over for hours makes little logical sense. Unless you are happy with the answer the "astral guides" gave Yeats when he asked them why they had appeared and talked to him through the medium of his new wife: to give you metaphors for your poetry, Charming Billy!