Despite all the craziness in Washington at the moment,
today’s BLAST will focus on cultural events. Once
the dust clears a bit in this impeachment imbroglio,
The BLAST will offer comments and opinions.
In the Arts (Music)
While I am not a fan of opera, it is important to note the passing of Jessye Norman this week, a towering figure in that world and the music world in general. Following in the footsteps of Marian Anderson (1897-1993) and Leontyne Price (who is still with us at 92), Ms. Norman was prominent as an opera singer and recitalist for almost a half century. Like Anderson and Price(and Paul Robeson), she served notice that opera was not a whites-only domain (Anderson only performed operatically once, as she believed she didn’t have the acting background --- though she surely had the voice!). The importance of role models like these cannot be discounted, though they are often overlooked or considered anomalies by the “dominant” culture. That all three of these women became well-known in a nation that is not particularly attuned to opera speaks to their significance and, hopefully, becomes more “mainstream” as this century moves ahead.
On a totally different front, we also saw the passing of Ginger Baker this week, the renowned rock’n’roll drummer in Cream and Blind Faith, as well as Ginger Baker’s Air Force, and other musical groups over the years. That Baker made it to the age of 80 in itself seems miraculous. Back in the late Sixties, many of us believed the gaunt, clearly speeding drummer, would not make it to the Seventies, much less his seventies. Baker’s impact on the world of popular music was significant. When I arrived at college in the fall of 1967, rock music was ascendant --- Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band had just been released in June --- and it was during that fall that I was introduced to the British “supergroup” Cream, featuring Eric Clapton, Jack Bruce, and Ginger Baker. Many of us had heard about Clapton, the guitarist in John Mayall’s Bluesbreakers, who had inspired London graffiti proclaiming, “Clapton is God.” We quickly learned about Bruce and Baker, a couple of jazz/blues virtuosos on bass and drums, respectively. While Fresh Cream, their initial U.S. album was good, it wasn’t until Disraeli Gears and Wheels of Fire (the first platinum selling double album in history) that the group became household names to the “youth” of America in 1968-69. Shortly after that, of course, the band dissolved, largely due to Baker’s and Bruce’s inability to “agree artistically.” Baker then joined Clapton and superstar Steve Winwood (of Traffic fame) to create Blind Faith, a short-lived “supergroup.” After one album and one live tour, Blind Faith was over.
If you have a chance to see the documentary Beware of Mr. Baker, please watch it! Ginger Baker was a brilliant innovator, fusing jazz and African rhythms into rock and roll, the first to popularize using two bass drums in his kit. He was also legendary for his over-the-top excesses (more than obvious in Beware), leading most of us to believe we would be reading his obituary long before October 6, 2019. Either way, Baker was a comet who flashed across the sky for many of us in the late Sixties, leaving an indelible memory of a wildly flailing, yet always “on time,” percussionist, helping create some of the most memorable music of that era.
Who’s Watching This?
One of the blessings/curses of retirement is that you get an inordinate amount of time to Channel Surf. While watching endless re-runs of Law & Order (all three franchises) we are subjected to countless ads for the “reality” shows Temptation Island, Life After Lockup, and Love After Lockup. Temptation Island is an American reality television program broadcast on Fox and USA Network in which several couples agree to live with a group of singles of the opposite sex, in order to test the strength of their relationships. It's based on the Dutch TV-program Blind Vertrouwen (translated as Blind Faith” wiki – there’s your segue from Ginger Baker!). Life After Lockup and Love After Lockup are “reality/documentary” shows that follow inmates as they try to return to society (Life After) as well as their “romantic entanglements” (Love After) with people they have “connected” with on the “outside.” I will admit that I have only seen the teasers for these shows but those are enough for me to ask: “WHO is watching this?” My knee-jerk reaction, of course, is simplistic: Trump Voters. Another thought is: “The same people who are watching The Masked Singer!”
If anyone who reads The BLAST watches any of these shows, I would love to hear WHY? and what is there about any of them that would make you watch more than one episode!
Thanks for reading and I look forward to hearing from you.