Tag Archives: Joni Mitchell

Friday finds

Times Square 1940Here’s a cache of absolutely gorgeous black and white photos of New York, circa 1940.

Joni Mitchell on Raymond Carver and Alice Munro. Apropos of which, look who just won the Man Booker Prize.

One movie, four frames. Have at it, film buffs.

There are three strands to Lincoln’s thinking about race. (1) There is opposition to slavery, which could (but need not) free him from racism. (2) There is the belief that blacks are inferior to whites in intelligence and “civilization.” (3) There is the belief that blacks must be kept apart from whites, so far as that is legally and logistically possible, which is usually but not necessarily a racist position (some blacks held it). These three points of view jostled along together through Lincoln’s life, sometimes tugging against each other, sometimes reinforcing each other.”

A sad resolution to the Craig Arnold story.

Elizabeth Wurtzel is enough to give no-talent narcissists a bad name.

The Republicans have been getting their freak on in a big way since a bachmann-comic-coverdark-skinned guy took possession of the White House, and it’s only getting worse now that a Hispanic woman appears bound for the Supreme Court. But even in this Bedlam, Michele Bachmann stands out as a legislator who can really bring the crazy. Now the clever people at Dump Bachmann have found the perfect way to chronicle the wacky winger’s career — a comic book. Click here for a preview.

Everyone’s gone to the movies — and Steely Dan’s picking the program. The first summer movie I actually want to see is hitting the cineplexes. And are you ready for the first Kung Fu vampire flick?

Liberals aren’t coming to take O’Rourke’s precious cars. Barack Obama, in a transparently last-minute insertion as O’Rourke’s straw-filled bogeyman, isn’t really going to mandate that new cars run on wheatgrass sprouts. Recreational access to anything Americans want to drive all the hell over—streambeds, mountains, meadows, national monuments, too-slow bunnies—isn’t under threat. It’s O’Rourke’s long-established shtick to champion fun, in all its messy impropriety, as a synonymous stand-in for freedom. But to stand at the tail end of a disastrous SUV boom, with three gas-guzzlers in his driveway and a lifetime of professional coddling by the automotive industry under his ever-expanding belt and complain that the government begrudges us our cars is just dumb.”

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Blue Monday (Pork Pie Hat edition)

By a curious twist of fate,  saxophonist Lester Young is probably better known for inspiring a classic  tune, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat,” than for his own music. And the composer of the tune, Charles Mingus, is probably better known for this tribute to Young than for any of his other, more personal works. Such are the workings of fame and fate.

lester-youngOn the other hand, “Goodbye Pork Pie Hat” — named for Young’s favorite type of chapeau, as seen at left  — is simply one of the greatest tunes in the jazz catalogue, with a melody strong enough to resist the most determined hard bop deconstruction.  The plainest versions available from Mingus himself are on Mingus Ah Um and Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus Mingus, but I couldn’t find any clips. So we turn to  master bassist Dave Holland, up top, chosen because his bare-bones version (a highlight of his 1993 disc One’s All) lets the spare beauty of the melody speak for itself.   

The mournful Mingus tune has enticed a surprising varity of rock musicians who keep a foot in the jazz world. Jeff Beck, for example:

John McLaughlin, another jazz-rock fusion flashmeister, is also fond of the song:

Joni Mitchell met Mingus in the mid-Seventies, when he contacted her about collaborating on an adaptation of some of T.S. Eliot’s poetry.  poetry. The meeting produced Mingus, released in 1979, one of the more curious items in Mitchell’s catalogue. Here she performs the song with guitarist Pat Metheny:

When Charlie speaks of Lester
You know someone great has gone
The sweetest swinging music man
Had a Porkie Pig hat on
A bright star
In a dark age
When the bandstands had a thousand ways
Of refusing a black man admission
Black musician
In those days they put him in an
Underdog position
Cellars and
chitlins’

When Lester took him a wife
Arm and arm went black and white
And some saw red
And drove them from their hotel bed
Love is never easy
It’s short of the hope we have for happiness
Bright and sweet
Love is never easy street!
Now we are black and white
Embracing out in the lunatic New York night
It’s very unlikely we’ll be driven out of town
Or be hung in a tree
That’s unlikely!

Tonight these crowds
Are happy and loud
Children are up dancing in the streets
In the sticky middle of the night
Summer serenade
Of taxi horns and fun arcades
Where right or wrong
Under neon
Every feeling goes on!
For you and me
The sidewalk is a history book
And a circus
Dangerous clowns
Balancing dreadful and wonderful perceptions
They have been handed
Day by day
Generations on down

We came up from the subway
On the music midnight makes
To Charlie’s bass and Lester’s saxophone
In taxi horns and brakes
Now Charlie’s down in Mexico
With the healers
So the sidewalk leads us with music
To two little dancers
Dancing outside a black bar
There’s a sign up on the awning
It says “
Pork Pie Hat Bar”
And there’s black babies dancing
Tonight

And for a taste of Lester Young himself, here’s a clip from the old Jazz Party TV show I blogged about last week:

And finally, here’s Mingus himself leading a portion of a  1975 performance:

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Birthday of a prairie girl

Joni Mitchell turned 65 today. Time for some listening.

This song, “Marcie,” is one of the finest and spookiest moments from her 1968 debut album. Song to a Seagull.

Here she is performing “Coyote” from her album Hejira, one of the great underappreciated records of the 1970s. The clip is from The Last Waltz.

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