Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Hope In Every Season

The year has gone, its ashes cold and blown away
A year of desperation, a year when all men cried
A year of tribulation, a year when no one tried
To hear the voices of the young men just outside the door
Crying for the stolen childhood vanished in some war
Tired and poor and hungry they ask this and nothing more today
Let every season of next year bring hope our way
As winter snowfalls fly, and spring brings clear pure rain
And summer's bright blue sky, leads into fall again
Let us hold our hands together let us start tonight
Let us work to heal the wounds, let's work to make things right
Build a world where children can grow tall and strong and never fight
Let every season bring us hope and love and light.

Claude Chaney, Margery Hauser, Marilyn Boccadoro
(c) 1984, 2006 Electra-City Music

Monday, December 25, 2006

James Brown (1933 - 2006)

James Brown, the "Godfather of Soul" has died at the age of 73 from pneumonia. Brown is among a select group of entertainers ( like Marvin Gaye, Fats Domino, Aretha Franklin, Dionne Warwick, Stevie Wonder, Ray Charles, Elton John, The Beatles, The Rolling Stones, The Temptations, The Supremes, Elvis Presley, and Madonna) who can lay claim to having 30 or more hits during the Rock era. Brown revitalized his career in 1987 with the song "Living In America" from one of the Rocky sequels. Brown's unforgettable dance numbers "Papa's Got A Brand New Bag", "I Feel Good (I Got You)","Cold Sweat" "There Was A Time", "Licking Stick", "Soul Power", "Hot Pants (She's got to use what she got to get what she wants)" are all legendary but Brown also had a sensitive side which was seen on hits like "It's A Man's, Man's, Man's, Man's World" "I Cry" and "Please, Please, Please". In his lifetime Brown did have problems with the law regarding car theft (in his youth) and drug use, but what I will always remember James Brown for was his appeal for calm during the Harlem riots of 1964. Brown went out among the people and spoke to his fans, disregarding his own personal safety during a riot. A few years later he recorded the song "Say It Loud I'm Black And I'm Proud" , which became an anthem. Like Ray Charles, Brown came from very humble beginnings. He did buck dancing for troops stationed in Georgia. He danced for the nickels and dimes that they threw at his feet. It is ironic that in the same year 2006 we lost "Soul Brother #1" and "Soul Brother #2 (Wilson Pickett). Cch’s all-time James Brown favorites:

1.There Was A Time
2.Papa’s Got A Brand New Bag
3.It’s A Man’s, Man’s Man’s Man’s Man’s Man’s World
4.Living In America
5.Say It Loud, I'm Black and I'm Proud
6.I Got You (I Feel Good)
7.I Cried
8.Cold Sweat
9.Get On The Goodfoot (Part One)
10. Out Of Sight

Friday, December 22, 2006

Mike Evans (1949-2006)

Actor/Writer Michael Jonas Evans succumbed to throat cancer today at the age of 57. Mike immortalized the role of Lionel (the son of Louise and George Jefferson) on the immensely popular CBS series "The Jeffersons" a spinoff from "All In The Family". Mike Evans was also co-creator and principal writer of long running TV show "Good Times", which starred Esther Rolle and Jimmie (J.J) Walker. Because of Evans' commitment to "Good Times" he had to leave his role of Lionel in order to be a creative force for "Good Times".

Ahmet Ertegun (1923 -2006)

One of the true giants of the production of modern music has passed away. Ahmet Ertegun, president of Atlantic Records died because of an injury during a Rolling Stones benefit. Ertegun had a strong love for American Rhythm and Blues music. His label, formed in 1947 (with Herb Abramson) became the leading producer of R&B with a stable of superstars that included Ray Charles, Ruth Brown, Big Joe Turner, Aretha Franklin, Wilson Pickett and Roberta Flack. In the 4os, so-called race records seldom found their way on mainstream radio. Ahmet Ertegun played a major role in changing that simply by recording irresistable music that made the listener feel good. Atlantic in the early years was a good example of people of different religions and ethnicities working together for the common good. Ahmet and his brother Nesuhi were Muslims, their partner Jerry Wexler and principal composers Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller were Jewish. The major artists in the early years were African-American. Nesuhi Ertegun, Ahmet's older brother had a great love for jazz. It is because of Nesuhi that the public got a chance to hear John Coltrane, Ornette Coleman, Rasaan Roland Kirk, The Modern Jazz Quartet and Eddie Harris. Fellow Turk Arif Mardin made major contributions as an arranger for many artists on the label, including the highly acclaimed "Young Rascals". In the 60s Atlantic distributed the Memphis based Stax Records bringing forth a new cadre of R&B superstars which included The Staple Singers, Otis Redding, Carla Thomas, Rufus Thomas, Johnnie Taylor, Eddie Floyd and composer, soon to be performer Isaac Hayes. Atlantic Records and Motown Records cornered the R&B market and even more notably the pop market in the 60s and 70s. These two independent record companies both had distinct sounds but you could easily distinguish the Motown artist from the Atlantic artist. The late Billy Eckstine was among the few to work with both companies. After the British invasion the music changed and although R&B continued to be popular the market did change being more attracted to English rock bands. Artists like the Shirelles, who had two #1 songs and 11 top forty hits disappeared from the charts never to return again. Ertegun had to change with the times in order to survive. Atlantic signed hard rock acts like Led Zeppelin, Cream, Yes along with such blockbuster attractions as The Rolling Stones, Genesis, Phil Collins and Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young (who Ertegun convinced to join CSN). People like Ahmet Ertegun, Berry Gordy and Herb Alpert will always be remembered for starting very high quality independent music companies on a shoe-string budget. This type of rags-to-riches story in impossible to achieve in today's market because of the mega-mergers that have left us with basically five or six record companies. Until the time of his death Armet Ertegun at 83 years of age was still the leader of Atlantic Records eventhough he was forced to accept a distribution deal with Time-Warner over the objections of his partner Jerry Wexler. Ahmet Ertegun rest in peace and thank you for a job well done.

Peter Boyle (1935-2006)

Emmy award winning actor Peter Boyle passed away earlier this week. Boyle was a very versatile actor who gained fame playing extremely diverse characters from the bigot in "Joe" to the tap dancing monster in "Young Frankenstein" to the grouchy father of Raymond in "Everybody Loves Raymond" Boyle survived a stroke and a previous heart attack (which took place on the set of "Everybody Loves Raymond"). John Lennon was the best man at Boyle's wedding.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

2006: The Year In Review (Film)

I didn't go to the movies very much in 2006. I am certain that there were several outstanding movies made, but most of them I did not see. Two movies that I consider the most memorable were "Sideways" in which Paul Giamatti was justly nominated for an Academy Award in his role as a 8th grade teacher who accompanies a friend on a series of extended bachelor parties prior to a wedding. The bloody "Flags Of Our Fathers", the Clint Eastwood film about the soldiers who raised the flag on Iwo Jima was also a standout. This was about a justified war as opposed to the ones in Viet Nam and Iraq. The viewer was given insight to the agony of a true American hero, Ira Hayes, who died practically penniless after outstanding service to his country.

Augusto Pinochet dies at 91

One of the world's most notorious dictators, Augusto Pinochet expired today at the age of 91. Mr. Pinochet gained infamy as being one of the most brutal dictators of modern times. This site has a tradition of honoring the deceased , who in life excelled in a specific area or one who did outstanding service to others. This is the first time where I acknowledge the passing of an individual who has done neither. Yet I feel that it is important to note the passing of such a nefarious person because there will be those who will deny that he was responsible for the deaths of over 3,000 people. For United States citizens this is the equivalent of the deaths of the 9/11 victims. Salvador Allende Gossens was elected president by the Chilean people. Allende promised to nationalize Chilean copper. US operatives, specifically those with connections to multi-national copper organized this infamous coup d'etat in which people were herded into sports stadiums and massacred. It was painfully obvious that the United States played a vital role in Allende's death and Pinochet's reign of terror from 1973 to 1990. It rings hallow when you hear US politicians go on and on about freedom and democracy when most of them were very quiet when massacres were taking place in Chile, Argentina and other countries of South and Central America. The School of The Americas (now called the World Center for Hemispheric Cooperation, or something similar) trained people to kill their own people for blood money and US corporate interests. It is a shame that these massacres were committed in our name and that people, like Henry Kissinger (who allegedly also was part of this massacre) are considered heroes by US media when in reality they are criminals. There are people who have witnessed world reknown guitarist Victor Jara have both of his hands cut off in front of Pinochet's laughing soldiers who asked him to play now. This type of unbridled savagery also took place in the Congo, Argentina, Nicaragua and more recently in Iraq, all done in our name. I am convinced that most US citizens deplore this savage conduct. It is my hope that US citizens contact their elected officials and let them know that murder is not a value of The United States of America. I have a genuine concern for Hugo Chavez of Venezuela, who like Allende has the full support of his people but unless US citizens stand up to multi-national corporations and right wing elements within the US government Chavez could suffer the same fate as Allende.

Monday, December 04, 2006

2006: The Year In Review (Sports)

The 2006 Major League Baseball All-Star game was simply amazing. The AL continues to dominate the NL by lopsided laughers to breath taking squeakers. The 2006 contest was definitely the latter. With two outs in the ninth inning I thought the game was over. I turned off the television and went to bed. When I woke the next morning I was surprised to see that the American League won it again.
The 2006 Playoffs and World Series were also exciting to watch even though the teams that I rooted for lost. Congratulations must go out to Tony LaRussa, who proved once again he knew how to get the best from his players, especially those on the bench. On several occasions Taguchi came through with the big hit, in one game it was a pinch-hit home run. Series MVP David Eckstein exploded in the World Series after a tepid start in the playoffs. Going into the playoffs The Saint Louis Cardinals seemed to be the weakest of the six contenders. Albert Pujols got off to a rather slow start but he came out of the slump to help make the Cardinals the '06 victors. Yadir Molina was just a 216 hitter during the regular season, but was one of the stars in both the playoffs and the World Series. The New York Mets were favored but losing three top starters and a relief ace put them in hole. Pedro Martinez, Orlando Hernandez and Steve Trachsel(after being hit with a pitch in a playoff game) were unavailable for the World Series. Relief specialist Duaner Sanchez was in a car accident, making his participation impossible. Yet injuries are part of the game. We can't take anything away from the Cardinals well deserved victory. I must say that I am surprised that Willie Randolph was not given the manager of the year award. Randolph in two years took made a last place team into a contender. Once again not to take anything away from Joe Girardi but his team finished below .500 and Girardi was fired.
In basketball Pat O'Riley returned to the winners circle by leading The Miami Heat to their very first NBA Championship. The injured Shaquille O'Neal must really be savoring this one after a few near misses in Los Angeles.
In football The New York Jets and The New York Giants seem to be going in opposite directions. The Giants losing two back to back heartbreakers find themselves behind their old nemesis The Dallas Cowboys, while the New York Jets (as of Dec. 3, 2006) are ahead of their division at 7-5 with four games left. The Bears, The Colts and The Chargers look really good but we won't know who will be the champ until 2007. All in all 2006 was an exciting year in sports.

Sunday, December 03, 2006

2006: The Year In Review (Music)

In 2006 I didn't get a chance to listen to music radio as often as I did in previous years. Most of my leisure time was spent listening to Pacifica Radio and
Air America radio. But when I did listen to music radio and sparingly watched videos I was once again impressed with John Legend, who is a major talent whose best years are still ahead of him. "Please Baby Don't", a collaboration with Sergio Mendes, from the "Timeless" CD was one of the standouts of '06. Mendes once again has re-invented himself. The "Timeless" CD does contain stellar performances by India.Arie,
Stevie Wonder, Gracinha Leporace and the aformentioned John Legend, but most of the CD is Brazilian classics redone in hip-hop. Such classics like Joao Donato's "The Frog" and Gilberto Gil's "Berimbeau" just don't sound right in Hip-Hop. I have been a big fan of Sergio Mendes since the 60's. I have 17 Sergio Mendes albums/CDs and eventhough I may not be too enthusiastic about "Timeless" I am thrilled to see him in the spotlight again.
George Benson's "Softly As In A Morning Sunrise" was in my opinion his best effort since the "Collaboration" CD with Earl Klugh. This song received considerable airplay on Jazz outlets all over the country. But the song I have chosen as "Song Of The Year" has to be Neil Young's "Let's Impeach The President" I was amazed at how many justifications for impeachment he presented in just one song. Young reunited with Crosby, Stills & Nash and toured the US to huge audiences in major cities. Because the corporate media avidly supports Bush there was little to no mention of the tour. I was also impressed with British newcomer Corinne Bailey Rae, whose unique vocal style is remeniscent of another era. She will be heard and seen in bigger venues in 2007 and beyond. That's the way I saw 2006 musically.