Mark McDonough (mcdee) Thu 5 Aug 10 09:01
I've only got a couple of his CDs, but they've stayed in high rotation on my various players for years, especially "AKA Graffiti Man." Not a bad actor either.
Virtual Sea Monkey (karish) Thu 5 Aug 10 11:17
Country Joe's mother was active in Berkeley city politics. He wasn't. He expresses a hint of ambivalence on his Web site about not having taken a more active role in politics.
David Julian Gray (djg) Thu 5 Aug 10 12:31
I don't want to drift too much - but the real gist of the so-called "Long Tail theory" is what it means for retailers in a a digital distribution age - not what it might mean to marginal artists. Marginal artists stay marginal and shrug at their $27.92 royalty checks - selling the works of 25,000 marginal artists means real money to Amazon ... - selling the works
David Julian Gray (djg) Thu 5 Aug 10 12:48
Back to the subject, and the book - Song has a long and glorious history as an agent of social change - What is interesting about the USofA - and the discussion of Dick's book so far here has - I think naturally - focussed on this, is that we are a somewhat "mongrel" nation. The people of the the USofA have really struggled, and continue to with being a "nation" in the sense of "peoplehood" - The first chapter of _Talk' 'Bout..._ is "The Songs of Immigrants" and surveys both the songs of the immigrant, and the settled populations reactions to them. This certainly confronts this issue of the struggle for "peoplehood" There is also the subtext of this in the chapters on African American and Native American songs. I think this struggle is, in many ways, the central story of the people of the USofA - in as much as we are "a" people - Dick - there is a wonderful book on this subject called _A Sound of Strangers_ I believe it is out of print, but it is quite well done. I think if you knew it, you would have referenced it - for dick and others, it is at Google Books: http://books.google.com/books?id=qj8z5Y4i7RAC&printsec=frontcover&dq=sound+of+ strangers&hl=en&ei=ZN9aTOq9IMH48Aat8YjmAg&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum =1&ved=0CCgQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q&f=false
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Thu 5 Aug 10 15:18
Thanks for the up-date on Country Joe and his mother as a political figure. I think David J. has expressed quite cogently what the Long Tail theory REALLY means. However, the way it is presented by The Wire's editor, Chris Anderson, who originated it, the internet will open up this brave new world for obscure artists who can now compete on an even keel. As you explain, that isn't the reality of the situation. There's even a scholar who's studied it, and come up with that (not Anderson's) conclusion,in regard to record sales.) (Steve Marcone, Wm. Patterson U.) The book you're talking about is one of several by Nicholas Tawa. He is an excellent scholar, and it's too bad his books haven't been better distributed. There are also good books on 19th Century Labor songs by Philip Foner, and several university presses, particularly the U. of Illinois Press, have published books on miners' songs, railroad songs, and songs of the cotton mills. There's also a book on the IWW and its songs. The U. of Mississippi Press is strong on music titles as well. There's a real problem with university press books. They're published in small editions, aren't found in many bookstores,and in some cases the prices are high. Of course there's always the net, but it's not the same as quite the same as being in a bookstore. Because my book covers so much ground, and therefore doesn't cover too many things in great detail, I tried to list many of these books, which constituted a bunch of my references, in the bibliography.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Thu 5 Aug 10 15:19
Re Trudell: I particularly like his song Johnny Damas and Me. Not too many rockers can sing about money and fame without becoming parodies of themselves and their "problems."
Scott Underwood (esau) Thu 5 Aug 10 16:02
Dick, I just wanted to say I'm following along here and found the book a good resource. It was also a hit with my future father-in-law, a former labor organizer who knew Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger. In the earliest part of the book, I was amused to learn the history of a song little older than me that I hadn't given much thought to, though I had apparently memorized the whole thing: Johnny Horton's "The Battle of New Orleans" -- and it's still the *second* most well-known song inspired by the War of 1812.
Barry Warren Polley (barryp) Fri 6 Aug 10 00:36
A resource indeed. At first I was left a bit dizzy by the rapidity with which the discussion moved; I mean, six pages on the evolution and history of jazz? But there are quite a few nuggets along the way that link the music with specific historical events. I had never heard of Lawrence Gellert, and your inclusion of him in two separate parts of the book inspired me to learn more about him. So thank you for that, Dick. What inspired the book's structure?
David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 6 Aug 10 06:47
I'm coming to the discussion late. My email got lost in the ether so I never got your book. I've got 2 concerns about the discussion. I support what <ari> says about Jews. The ethnic group/religion/race question is so muddled from identity politics that Jews always get short shrift. We used to be colored (or at least non white), come from all over the place, and represent a spectrum of religious observance. I should add too, that Jews are an inherently musical people who quickly assimilate the music of the surrounding cultures and enhance it. For the sake of argument could we say that Jews are an ancient civilization that has survived in exile due to an uncanny devotion to written and oral texts? Second, is it true that you only give jazz 6 pages in your book? It that is true, then shame on you. How can you go light on a cultural force that has spearheaded and led American popular culture for so long? Jazz has been the force that led to the fusion of black culture with the dominant white cultures. It used to be that jazz reflected the pulse, ideas, attitudes, and social trends within black communities. Later that role was taken on by rhythm and blues and currently hip hop. If you track the changes in the music, you can fairly well track the societal changes. If your book is about revolution, I hope you talk about Louis Armstrong, Charlie Parker, and John Coltrane in those 6 pages.
Scott Underwood (esau) Fri 6 Aug 10 07:21
You know, before you come and "shame" an author, you probably should read the section in question and see how it fits in the context of the book. The lack of lyrical content makes jazz less interesting to analyze than, say, blues and rap, the sections on either side of it. If there's a complaint about the book, it's that every group and style is covered only briefly; considering that each is worthy of a whole book (or shelf of books), this seems a necessary constraint.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 6 Aug 10 07:56
Of course I should read the section in question which I plan to do. Fair enough. "The lack of lyrical content makes jazz less interesting to analyze than, say, blues and rap, the sections on either side of it." I still feel that my comments are relevant and I stand behind them. My complaint is the same here as <ari>'s complaint about Morris Rosenfeld. In an other time, in an other musical marketing world there was no difference between jazz, blues, rhythm and blues. At least from the musicians' perspective. In musical terms, what is leading? The lyrics, the rhythmic or harmonic concept, the arrangement? I'd say it depends on the time and place. People like Parker, Eddie Vinson, Earl Bostic, and Tiny Bradshaw came out of the Kansas City tradition and played it all. Just like the musicians on the TV series "Treme" play it all. Or the Nat Cole/Charles Brown/Tbone Walker continuum in LA. They are working in an oral tradition that happens to use a nonverbal musical vocabulary at base. That is what gets short shrift and that's what I'm reacting to. So is it "less interesting" to analyse? I don't agree. The lyrics are leading now but what inspires the lyrics? What is happening under the singing is a complex process of feedback. And since this is an expressive tradition, you can derive cultural meaning from it.
Scott Underwood (esau) Fri 6 Aug 10 08:13
As much as I like jazz, I don't see these musician-led evolutions as effecting social change, except among musicians. Elijah Wald's latest book puts jazz's musical changes in the context of influencing dance styles (as well as moving to a serious sit-down-and-listen art form), and also notes how economic pressures drove the change from big bands to small combos. But it just doesn't seem to me that the book we're discussing here needed to spend more time on jazz than it did.
David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 6 Aug 10 08:20
I disagree with you on the facts, but like I said before, more on the attitude. Thinking in musical marketing categories seems to be the problem.
Scott Underwood (esau) Fri 6 Aug 10 08:22
I'm quoting Wald too much these days, but somewhere he said, essentially, yeah, they're all marketing categories but they help us find things at the store.
Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 6 Aug 10 08:23
You are making me sorry I brought the issue up, David. It was intended as a parenthetical comment. It is very clear from the book, overall, that Dick has no problem acknowledging a variety of different cultures, Jewish among them. The book also focuses on a few major streams of political song, not every relevant stream--and at that, lots of things are covered very tersely - the chapter on african-american music, for instance, fails to mention Gil Scott-Heron, which is too bad. On the other hand, the chapter on the folk scare manages to briefly touch on the major issues, often with clear-headedness often lacking in such surveys (the nuanced description of the Almanac's influence at the time, for instance, or the Communist Party's ideological juggling). I'm not saying that nothing is missing, just that the book reads like an excellent summary/introduction to a number of facets of protest songs in American history, including frequent acknowledgement that not all protest was from the left. It took a while for the shoe to drop. At some point I realized that the book reminded me a lot of my old Folk Music Sourcebook (right title?) and yes, I had forgetten that Dick was one of the authors of that (seminal, to me) volume as well. Like that volume, this book is less an in-depth analysis of "protest music" than an introduction to the variety of music, its context, and its practitioners. It's like being handled the whole keyring.
Ari Davidow (ari) Fri 6 Aug 10 08:24
Oops, several slips--I was commenting on <dwilson>'s championing of my comments about Morris Rosenfeld--a slip, to be sure--but something very minor in terms of the book as it is and seems intended.
David Julian Gray (djg) Fri 6 Aug 10 08:43
Ari brings up a very important point for understanding Dick's book - and that it is not intended as a detailed analysis of "protest music". While there are some interesting forays into analysis within the chapters of the book - the book is a broad SURVEY - with numerous helpful pointers and references to other resources including musical examples themselves and other works of analysis. The subtitle of the book is "Music and Social Change in America" There is a chapter on "Protest Songs" - but that is not the overall focus of the book. "Social Change" comes from many angles and not "protest" - hence I think the almost six pages which fall under the heading "Jazz" are appropriate in context ... In a history of jazz, dedicating about 17% of the narrative to "Musical Collectives" like Chicago's AACM would be widely over-representative - but this is not a history of jazz, and that focus, in context, is on point. That said - I do think a bit more space to jazz, particularly early jazz would be waranted. In terms of "social change" - jazz was a huge factor in setting up the social landscape of 20th Century USA - in helping fuel the "Civil Rights Movement" and in the emergence of adolescent subculture.
David Julian Gray (djg) Fri 6 Aug 10 08:49
Something else has struck me in re-reading the chapter on African American music (prompted by this recent discussion) - There are two sections, blues and Rap, where Dick does a lyrical analysis coming up with certain categorizations - For Blues: Romance; Poor Me; Boasting; Hoodoo (superstition); Politics; Sex; Rambling; Humor; School; Mother; Violence For Rap: Boasting; Politics; Violence; Misogyny; Party Music; Romance Beyond a subjective analysis - I know you've spent time in academia - Do these categorizations come from academic conventions? From anthropology/ethomusicology and how subjective are they? thanks -
David Wilson (dlwilson) Fri 6 Aug 10 09:49
Thanks for bringing the discussion into context for me. It makes sense then that the book is a survey. I've lived through a number of "revolutions" in the 60's, listened to the music, lived the music, only to see it co-opted into television commercials in the 2000s. The protest music that has the most meaning for me is connected to living traditions in the form of surviving witnesses--Jewish socialists and Paterson silk strikers.
Gail Williams (gail) Fri 6 Aug 10 15:31
By the way -- just after Ari mentioned the Folk Song Sourcebook I got interested and went over to http://www.dickweissman.com/ Very cool! Fun bio, samples of songs, all kinds of goodies. Check it out.
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Fri 6 Aug 10 19:24
Fot David Julian Gray, Where i got the categories from was by looking at the lyrics and attempting to place them in some order. Of course many songs bounce from one category to another, like a rap song about sex, that includes references to drugs, the police, poverty, and so forth. It's an imperfect world! By the way, from my own point of view I didn't include three sorts of songs at all. 1) Songs from the men's movement- in other words male homosexual songs as opposed to women's songs. There obviously is quite a few gay men's choruses.(there are also plenty of gay women's choruses, but that's not the point here.) 2) Christian songs that wish to provoke changes that are quite different than the ones we have been discussing. Many liberal-radical types think that the only songs in the Christian movement are ones that repeat the key words, Love, God and Jesus incessantly. In fact a;though that is indeed what many soft-rock formula Christian rock stations play, there are a number of thoughtful Christian writers like Charlie Peacock and Pedro the Lion whose lyrics might be a surprise to most of the contributors to this discussion 3) Green songs- songs that advocate for the environmental movement. So why didn't I include these? Because one book can't do everything!
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Fri 6 Aug 10 23:00
> 1) Songs from the men's movement- in other words male homosexual > songs as opposed to women's songs. Wait... what? The men's movement, as usually referred to, pertains to things like fathers' rights, mens' liberation, etc. and is not a gay-centered movement at all. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Men%27s_movement
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sat 7 Aug 10 06:53
OK. I am not referring to father's rights, nor am I talking about drum circles. And gay covers men and women, and in the book I do cover songs by and about gay women. So the word gay doesn't quite work here. "Male homosexuals" seems a bit clumsy. Hey, Michael. Can you come up with a better term? I'd be happy to refer to it.
Michael C. Berch (mcb) Sat 7 Aug 10 12:33
Well, what *do* you mean? Gay mens' choirs, or Bronski Beat, or what?
Dick Weissman (musicmusic) Sat 7 Aug 10 14:55
What do I mean? I mean songs or music that represent gay men in the same sense that the Olivia Records folks represented women's issues. So it isn't just gay men performing, in or out of the closet, but what their songs said.
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