Saturday, August 01, 2009

*What goes around, comes around when you ‘walk that line’- Johnny Cash and June Carter's Story -"Walk The Line"

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Johnny Cash performing "I Walk The Line".

DVD Review

Walk The Line, Reese Witherspoon, Joaquin Phoenix, 2005


I am reviewing this nicely done commercial effort to delve into parts of the lives of the legendary singers Johnny Cash and his (eventual) wife June Carter Cash (of the famous mountain music Carter Family bloodlines. Her mother was the incredible vocalist and guitarist Maybelle Carter) in reverse order. Although I saw the this film for the first time when it was released in theaters (and have viewed it several times on DVD) several years ago I am reviewing now after having just seen the real Johnny Cash and June Carter on one of the segments of Pete Seeger’s black and white television programs from the mid-1960s, “Rainbow Quest” where they appeared. And knocked me, and I think Pete, over with their renditions of Carter Family material and information about that clan.

Okay, here is the skinny. If you want to get the glamorous, sexy romance and a fetching June Carter (Reese Witherspoon), the heartache and longing of pain in the butt Johnny Cash and the eventual joining together of two great musical talents story then this is the place to start. But, if you want the reason why this film was made in the first place, the legendary musical talent, warts and all, then watch them go through their paces along with old Pete Seeger. Both are worth the time.

*In Pete Seeger’s House- The “World Music” Folklorist Presents Irish and Cajun Music

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip of Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers performing "I Will Never Play The Wild Rover No More" on Pete Seeger's "Rainbow Quest" series.

DVD Review

Rainbow Quest, Pete Seeger, Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, Mamou Cajun Band, Shanachie, 2005


In a year that has featured various 90th birthday celebrations it is very appropriate to review some of the 1960’s television work of Pete Seeger, one of the premier folk anthologists, singers, transmitters of the tradition and “keeper” of the folk flame. This DVD is a “must see” for anyone who is interested in the history of the folk revival of the 1960’s, the earnest, folksy style of Pete Seeger or the work of the also tradition-oriented Irish folk singers, the recently departed Tommy Makem and the Clancy Brothers, who did a great deal to bring the songs of the old country to the Irish Diaspora in America at a time when those of Irish descent of my generation were seriously looking at our roots. A stand out here is their version (there are many) of the old classic tale of love gone wrong, “Love is teasin’”.

Also included on this DVD is a performance by the legendary Cajun or, perhaps more properly Acadian band, the Mamou Cajun Band from down in the bayous. I have recently done a number of reviews of Cajun music and this group definitely ranks as one of the great traditional Cajun sounds from the back country. Pete certainly wears his “world music” hat in this segment.
To fill in the segment Pete also does a number of traditional tunes by himself and a nice version of “Last Night I Had The Strangest Dream”, a song, for those not familiar with the lyrics that is cry for world peace. Forty plus years later we are still, impatiently, waiting on that same goal.

This DVD contains some very interesting and, perhaps, rare television film footage from two of Pete Seeger shows, packaged in one DVD, entitled “Rainbow Quest” (the whole series consists of six DVDs). Each show is introduced (and ends, as well) by Pete singing his old classic “If I Had A Golden Threat” and then he proceeds to introduce, play guitar and banjo and sing along with the above-mentioned artists.

One final note: This is a piece of folk history. Pete Seeger is a folk legend. However, the production values here are a bit primitive and low budget. Moreover, for all his stature as a leading member of the folk pantheon Pete was far from the ideal host. His halting speaking style and almost bashful manner did not draw his guests out. Let’s just put it this way the production concept used then would embarrass a high school television production class today. But, Pete, thanks for the history lesson.

***In The Time Of The Second Mountain Music Revival- The Greenbriar Boys In Their Prime

Click on title to link to YouTube's film clip pf The Greenbriar Boys performing "Danville Girl" On Pete Seeger's "Rainbow Quest".

CD Review

The Greenbriar Boys: Best Of The Vanguard Years, The Greenbriar Boys, Joan Baez, 2 CD set, Vanguard Records, 2002


I have know about the group under review, The Greenbriar Boys, since at least the mid-1960s although at that time my folk interests did not center, as they are increasingly doing now, on the mountain music aspect of the genre. As the headline indicates this group formed part of the second mountain revival, the first being back in the 1920s and led by, most famously, the Carter Family, and third and somewhat current revival being led by, oh well, let’s say George Clooney in his “Oh, Brother Where Art Thou”. This second revival, as I am finding out by additional research was something of a “golden age” for the revitalizing of several musical careers of mountain musicians like Clarence Ashley, Buell Ezell and, my favorite, Roscoe Holcomb. The reason that I have noted that fact here is because one of the members of the Greenbriar Boys, Ralph Rinzler, was a key “talent-spotting” for the Newport Folk Festival. This was the event where many of these performers remake their marks
.
But enough of the anecdotal background. What got me focused on the boys now was a performance that they did on Pete Seeger’s black and white mid-1960s television show,” Rainbow Quest” that I have previously reviewed extensively in this space. Here is part of what I had to say about them there:

“Also included on this DVD is a performance by the legendary Greenbriar Boys, a group that combined urban folk aficionados and real mountain music men to take advantage of the early interest in the mountain music roots of a lot of what the 1960s folk scene was searching for, authenticity …..”

What I have omitted from this comment was one that related to the New Lost City Ramblers who formed the other episode in that two episode DVD format. There Pete really played with gusto along with the Ramblers, unless other performers where he was rather passive or saw in awe of a performer like Reverend Gary Davis. That same gusto was apparent in accompanying the Greenbriar Boys. And why not with virtuoso banjo, mandolin and fiddle players who excelled at instrumentals like “Sleepy-Eyed John”, or crooned away of “Different Drum” or got whimsical with the classic “Stewball”. A couple of nice efforts with vocals by Joan Baez are also included here. But, here is the “skinny”. When future mountain music revivalists start ambling back into the archives to find the “roots” one of their stops will be here.

“Different Drum” Lyrics

You and I travel to the beat of a different drum
Oh can't you tell by the way I run
Every time you make eyes at me
Wo-oh

You cry and moan and say it will work out
But honey child I've got my doubts
You can't see the forest for the trees

Oh don't get me wrong
It's not that I knock it
It's just that I am not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me

Yes, and I ain't saying you ain't pretty
All I'm saying is I'm not ready
For any person place or thing
To try and pull the reins in on me

So good-bye I'll be leaving
I see no sense in this crying and grieving
We'll both live a lot longer
If you live without me

Oh don't get me wrong
It's not that I knock it
It's just that I am not in the market
For a boy who wants to love only me

Yes, and I ain't saying you ain't pretty
All I'm saying is I'm not ready
For any person place or thing
To try and pull the reins in on me

So good-bye I'll be leaving
I see no sense in this crying and grieving
We'll both live a lot longer
If you live without me

Friday, July 31, 2009

*A Mixed Bag Musical Potpourri-Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock And Rockabilly-In Search Of Lost Rockabilly Time

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clop Of Warren Smith Doing "Rock 'N' Roll Ruby". Wow!

CD Review

In Search Of Lost Time

Lost Gold Rockabilly Collector’ Series, Original Historic Rockabilly Classics, various artists, Lost Gold Records, 1998


I have spent some time discussing the various rockabilly artists who did, or did not, make it in the 1950's out of Sam Phillips' Memphis-based Sun Records. I have reviewed at least one CD with a compilation that contained such one-shot hits as Sonny Burgess' "Red-Headed Women" and "Rock `n' Rock Ruby". I have also reviewed a very interesting PBS documentary on the 50th Anniversary of Sun Records that included the usual "talking head" commentary, although this time though including various artists who did not make the "bigs" for one reason or another. It is that last point that is relevant here.

I have also been spending a fair amount of ink in this space recently discussing those who didn't make it big in various genres like folk, the blues, early rock and now rockabilly. This compilation is a case study about why, out of all the talents who tried to become "kings of the hill" (and it was mainly, although not exclusively men), some did not make it. We have here the usual subjects for rockabilly songs of thwarted love, longing for love, the vagaries of love, two-timing women (and men, listen to the result, in "Black Cadillac"), cars, Saturday night dances and other things near and dear to the hearts of teenagers in the 1950's (and, with updating, now as well) that made up the lyrics of this genre. So that is not the problem.

What struck me after listening to this compilation a couple of times was that although there were some outstanding riffs, some hot guitar playing, some lines of parts of songs that could have made it big the whole package were not there. Only a couple of songs grabbed and held my attention throughout. Nothing came up to the two classics mentioned in the first paragraph. A number of songs barely were to the left of traditional country and western numbers. I do not know how much of a role being in the right place at the right time, being merely imitative of greater artists, like Elvis and Carl Perkins, as is obviously the case with some performers here or of not being willing to risk all for glory played in all of this. However, just as with the Sun rockabilly artists who didn't make it, or who were one shot johnnies (or janies) or who just gave up the grind was tough. If you want to know about those who didn't get to the top of the rockabilly heap listen here. This is the search for lost time, indeed.

*A Mixed Bag Musical Potpourri-Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock And Rockabilly-Barrelhouse Mamas

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of "Tricks Aint Walking No More". Sorry, I Could Not Find A Barrelhouse Mama Version.

Barrelhouse Mamas, Indeed

Barrelhouse Mamas, various artists, Yazoo Records, 1999


I recently noted in reviewing a CD containing the work of legendary early acoustic blues guitarists that sometimes a review, especially a review of old time blues artists, is a very easy chore. That is certainly the case here with this CD highlighting most of the known names from the early hey days of the women blues singers, circa the 1920’s and 1930’s. I have spilled some ink here previously discussing the impact of the early women blues artists when they were the main game in town. I have also noted their use of double entendre to breech that forbidden explicit sexual lyrics barrier. I should mention here a good point from the always informative Yazoo liner notes that some of this may have been, and I say may have been because this area is pretty murky, references to prostitution. Certainly there is plenty of room for speculation on that front. Check out Lucille Bogan’s “Tricks Aint Walking No More” though.

A role call of honor here tells the tale. The above-mentioned Lucille Bogan on “Alley Boogie”, and who, by the way, is worthy of a separate review of her own. Mary Johnson on “Dawn Of Day Blues” and “Morning Sun Blues”. Lil Johnson on “Evil Man Blues”. Two- timing men, thwarted love, longing for love, busted, drunk and down and out. It is all there and it is not all pretty. And these women belted it out. I think I have made my point. Right?


"Memphis Minnie Tricks Ain't Walking No More lyrics"

Times has done got hard, work done got scarce
Stealing and robbing is taking place
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I'm going to grab somebody if I don't make me some dough

I'm going to do just like a blind man, stand and beg for change
Tell these tricking policemen change my second name
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I've got to make no money, I don't care where I go

I'm going to learn these walking tricks what it's all about
I'm going to get them in my house and ain't going to let them out
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I can't make no money, I don't care where I go

I got up this morning with the rising sun
Been walking all day and I haven't caught a one
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I can't make a dime, I don't care where I go

I got up this morning, feeling tough
I got to calling my tricks and it's rough, rough, rough
Because tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
Tricks ain't walking, tricks ain't walking no more
And I have to change my luck if I have to move next door

*A Mixed Bag Musical Potpourri-Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock And Rockabilly-Legends Of The Blues

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Roosevelt Sykes Doing "Gulfport Boogie".

Legends Of The Blues, Indeed

Legends Of The Blues: Volume Two, various artists, Sony Music, 1991


I recently noted in reviewing a CD containing the work of legendary early acoustic blues guitarists in this same series that sometimes a review, especially a review of old time blues artists, is a very easy chore. That is certainly the case here with this CD, another Columbia Legacy series production, highlighting most of the known names from the early days of the genre. I have spilled some ink here previously discussing the impact of the early acoustic blues artists on the post-World War II explosion of electric blues, most notably the Chicago blues sound. Well, here they are all together in one place guitarists, vocalists, harmonica players and pianists for the beginner and for the aficionado.

A role call of honor here tells the tale. The “Honeydripper” Roosevelt Sykes on the salacious “Henry Ford Blues” (if you can believe that). Guitarist extraordinaire Tampa Red on “Turpentine Blues”. Brownie McGhee on “Goodbye Now”. Harmonica man “Jazz” Gillum on “Is That A Monkey You Got?”. Lucille Bogan on “Bo-Easy Blues”. I think I have made my point. Right?

Tampa Red - Turpentine Blues lyrics

Turpentine's all right, provided that wages are good
Turpentine's all right, provided that wages are good
But I can make more money now, by somewhere choppin' hardwood

Turpentine business ain't like it used to be
Turpentine business ain't like it used to be
I can't make enough money now, to even get on a spree

I ain't gonna work no more, I tell you the reason why
I ain't gonna work no more, tell you the reason why
Because everybody wants to sell, and nobody wants to buy

You can work in the field, you can work at the sawmill too
You can work in the field, you can work at the sawmill too
But you can't make no money, at nothin' you try to do

So Lordy please tell me what we turpentine people are gonna do
Lordy please tell me what we turpentine people gonna do
We may work one week, but we got to lay off a month or two

Turpentine is like dice, to shoot you up on the loose
Turpentine is just like dice, to shoot you up on the loose
That's the reason why, I've got those turpentine blues

*A Mixed Bag Musical Potpourri-Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock And Rockabilly-Rock Around The Clock With Decca Records

Click On Title To Link To An Encore YouTube Film Clip Of The Shirelles Doing "Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow?". What Can I Say, This Is A Great Song Of Teen Longing And Love, Circa The 1950's.

Rock Around The Clock, Okay?

Rock Around The Clock; The Decca Rock ‘N’ Roll Collection, two disc set, various artists, MCA Records, 1994


Certain record labels are associated with various genres. Chess Records with that Chicago blues sound. Motown with "soul”. Vanguard with folk. Sun with early hard rock and rockabilly. And so on. From what I have been told and have read there is a thriving market in collecting specific record labels. Fine. What interests me here is the Decca label. In the fight to survive in the cutthroat and quirky music business various record production companies searched for talent that would sell. In the 1950’s in the early struggle to grab the rock ‘n’ roll market Decca was right up there with Sun and later RCA in the hunt to grab that market.

This collection, uneven as it is, represents the winners and losers from that fight. Not all compilations are born equal but at least classifying by record label let’s one discover what one company though was saleable at any given time. And some of the material here represents the classics of early rock as it came out of R&B, swing, country and western and the million other influences that swirled around at the time. So in one place you get Bill Halley, Louis Jordan, Patsy Cline, Buddy Holly, Jackie Wilson, the Shirelles and a host of other legitimate rock hall of famers, or at those who belong in some hall of fame. Then you get the likes of Red Foley, Bill Riley (doing “Is That All To The Ball”), Jimmy and Johnny (doing the entirely forgettable “Sweet Love On My Mind”). Give me a break, please! However, on balance this is a nice little slice of rock history for rock buffs and label collectors alike.


Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow Lyrics

Tonight you're mine completely,
You give your love so sweetly,
Tonight the light of love is in your eyes,
But will you love me tomorrow?

Is this a lasting treasure,
Or just a moment's pleasure,
Can I believe the magic of your sighs,
Will you still love me tomorrow?

Tonight with words unspoken,
You said that I'm the only one,
But will my heart be broken,
When the night (When the night)
Meets the morning sun.

I'd like to know that your love,
Is love I can be sure of,
So tell me now and I won't ask again,
Will you still love me tomorrow?
Will you still love me tomorrow?

*A Mixed Bag Musical Potpourri-Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock And Rockabilly-Guitar Shorty

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Guitar Shorty At Work.

The Guys Who Got Left Behind

The Best Of Guitar Shorty: The Long And Short Of It, Guitar Shorty, Shout Factory


I admit to being a little torn in this review. I have spent some time over the past year or so discussing various trends and performers in the blues genre. I have highlighted those like Muddy Waters, B.B. King, John Lee Hooker who have made the blues pantheon. I have also, more recently, tried to look at the secondary players and seek to find out why they didn’t made the A list. The case of Guitar Shorty fits that mold. This guy can play guitar, he can belt out a song and he has a passion for the blues. But, and this is a big but, his work seems derivative. I hear a lot of Muddy and B.B. here. Moreover, the lyrics to the songs that he has authored like “No Educated Woman”, “I’m The Clean Up Man” and “Hard Life” do not “speak” to me. That said, the song he smokes on “Hey, Joe”, the one that his "protege" Jimi Hendrix made famous, is the way he should probably have gone with his style. Hats off to a guy who got left behind on that one.


"Hey Joe" Lyrics

Hey Joe, where you goin' with that gun in your hand
Hey Joe, I said where you goin' with that gun in your hand

I'm going down to shoot my old lady
You know, I've caught her messin' around with another man
I'm going down to shoot my old lady
You know, I've caught her messin' around with another man
And that ain't too cool

Hey Joe, I've heard you shot your woman down,
shot her down, now
I said I've heard you shot your old lady down,
You shot her down to the ground

Yes I did, I shot her
You know, I caught her messin' round, messin' round town
Yes I did, I shot her
You know, I caught my old lady messin' around town
And I gave her the gun
I SHOT HER!

Hey Joe, alright
Shoot her one more time, baby

Hey Joe, said now
Where you gonna run to now?
Where you gonna run to?
Hey Joe, I said where you gonna run to now?
Where you, where you gonna go?
Well, dig it

I'm goin' way down south,
Way down to Mexico way
Alright!
I'm goin' way down south,
Way down where I can be free
Ain't no one gonna find me

Ain't no hangman gonna,
He ain't gonna put a rope around me
You better believe it right now
I gotta go now
Hey Joe, you better run on down
Good by everybody
Hey Joe, uhh
Run on down

*A Mixed Bag Musical Potpourri-Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock And Rockabilly-Great Blues Guitarists

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Lonnie Johnson Doing "Another Night To Cry".

Acoustic Blues Extravaganza

Great Blues Guitarists: String Dazzlers, various artists, Sony Music, 1991


Sometimes a review, especially a review of old time blues guitar artists, is a very easy chore. That is certainly the case here with this Columbia Legacy series production highlighting most of the known names from the early days of the genre. I have spilled some ink here previously discussing the impact of the early acoustic blues artists on the post-World War II explosion of electric blues, most notably the Chicago blues sound. Well, here they are all together in one place for the beginner and for the aficionado. The CD is weighted heavily toward the instrumental side to show virtuosity, although most of the performers here were well known for their vocals as well. A role call of honor here tells the tale. A young Lonnie Johnson, Blind Willie McTell, Blind Willie Johnson and his religiously oriented blues, the well-traveled Big Bill Broonzy, the legendary Blind Lemon Jefferson, Tampa Red, Joshua White at home in the “juke joint” as well as the New York cafĂ©, and so on. I think I have made my point. Right?

Jelly Roll Baker Lyrics

She said, 'Mr. Jellyroll Baker
Let me be your slave
When Gabriel blows his trumpet
Then I'll rise from my grave

For some-a your jellyro-oll
Yes, I love a good jellyroll'
It is good for the sick
Yes, and it's good for the old'

I was sentenced for murder
In the 1st degree
*The judge's wife called up and says
'Let that man go free'

He's a jellyroll baker
He's got the best jellyroll in town
He's the only man can bake jellyroll
With his damper down

Once in a hospital
Shot all full-a holes
The nurse left the man dyin'
An says he's got to get her jellyroll

His good old jell-e-e-y
She says, 'I love my good jellyroll'
She says, 'I ruther let him lose his life
Than to miss my good jellyroll'

Lady asked me who learnt me
How to bake good jellyroll?
I says, 'It's nobody, Miss
'It's just a gift from my soul'
To bake good jellyro-oll
Mmm-mmm, that good ol' jellyroll

She says, 'I love your jellyroll
It do's me good deep down in my soul
She says, 'Can I put in a order
For two weeks ahead?
I'd ruther have your jelly-roll
Than my home-cooked bread'

I love your jell-e-e-y
I love your good jellyroll
It's just like Maxwell House Coffee
It's good, deep down in my soul.


*(he was a brown eyed handsome man)

*A Mixed Bag Musical Potpourri-Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock And Rockabilly-Jimmie Rushing

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Jimmie Rushing Doing "Good Morning Blues". Wow.

Jimmy Rushes In

The Essential Jimmy Rushing, Jimmy Rushing, Vanguard Records, 1974


I admit to a very spotty interest in jazz over my life time and while I have always loved those 1940’s swing bands, like that of Benny Goodman, it was only with the celebration of the centennial of Duke Ellington’s birth in 1999 that I got a little more serious about this genre. Ken Burns’ “Jazz” series for PBS gave me another boost. Still and all there are huge gaps in my knowledge and appreciation of the classic jazz tradition. This is a little odd in that there is a certain convergence between jazz and my favorite musical genre, the blues. The artist under review here, Jimmy Rushing, exemplifies both those traditions. All I know is I like what I hear here.

And what is that? Well, how about a very comfortable version of the classic “See See Rider”. And of course one must pay attention to his work with Count Basie on “Boogie Woogie”, “Goin’ To Chicago” and “Take Me Back Baby” an association which formed the center of Rushing’s achievements musically. And how about a very nice finale with “If This Ain’t The Blues”. I also note that this album was produced by John Hammond, the master musicologist. I might add as well that Jimmy Rushing is the kind of artist that it takes a while to warm up to, and then you don’t want to turn him off. That, my friends, is a high compliment.

Going To Chicago Lyrics

You keep your New York Joys
I'm going to Illinois
Just as fast as I can

You New York women think
You'll make a fool of any man
Play all kinds of games
And you'll cheat if you can

Use love like a tool
Make a man a fool
What a beautiful motto

Got my money, that's it
How can you mind if I split

Going back where a woman
Really knows the way to treat a man
And people are friendly
Without no hidden plan

It's the best in the midwest
It's a real darn city full of
Good folks who come from home

And when I get back
I'll never roam far
From my little Chitown
Goodbye, farewell
I might see you later

Going to Chicago
Sorry but I can't take you
I come from Chitown
Going back to my town

Going to Chicago
Sorry but I can't take you
No use in crying
Tired of your lying

There ain't nothing in Chicago
That a monkey woman can do
I got to quit you
Can't make it with you

When you see me coming, baby
Raise your window high
Hide your window to the sky, yeah

When you see me coming, baby
Raise your window high
Catch me passing on the fly, yeah

But when you see me passing, baby
Hang your head and cry
search your soul and
Wonder why, yeah

Hurry, hurry down sunshine
And see what tomorrow brings
Tomorrow, tomorrow
Hurry, hurry, hurry down sunshine
And see what tomorrow brings
Tomorrow, tomorrow

Well, the sun went down
And tomorrow brought us rain
Tomorrow brought sorrow
Lyrics courtesy Top40db.

You're so mean and evil
You do things you ought not do
My, you're a mean one
first time I've seen one

You're so mean and evil
You do things you ought not do
You used to be cool
Now find a new fool

Got my brand of honey
But I won't have to
Put up with you

Hate you and your town
That's why I got
To put you down
Goodbye

*A Mixed Bag Musical Potpourri-Jazz, Blues, Gospel, Rock And Rockabilly-Dinah Washington

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Dinah Washington Doing "Stormy Weather".

Nothin’ Could Be Finah Than Dinah

Dinah Jams, Dinah Washington and various artists, Polygram Records, 1990


I admit to a very spotty interest in jazz over my life time and while I have always loved those 1940’s swing bands, like that of Benny Goodman, it was only with the celebration of the centennial of Duke Ellington’s birth in 1999 that I got a little more serious about this genre. Ken Burns’ “Jazz” series for PBS gave me another boost. Still and all there are huge gaps in my knowledge and appreciation of the classic jazz tradition. This is a little odd in that there is a certain convergence between jazz and my favorite musical genre, the blues. The artist under review here exemplifies both those traditions, although she was not known as a jazz singer, as such. All I know is I like what I hear here.

And what is that? Well, how about a very salacious “Lover Come Back To Me”, a heartfelt turn on the Johnny Mercer tune “Come Rain Or Come Shine”, a seemingly created for her style Cole Porter classic “ I’ve Got You Under My Skin” and a knock out “You Go To My Head”. Hell, even if you don’t a thing about jazz you know Dinah has got that “thing”.

I've Got You Under My Skin Lyrics

Ive got you under my skin
Ive got you deep in the heart of me
So deep in my heart, that youre really a part of me
Ive got you under my skin

Ive tried so not to give in
Ive said to myself this affair never will go so well
But why should I try to resist, when baby will I know than well
That Ive got you under my skin

Id sacrifice anything come what might
For the sake of having you near
In spite of a warning voice that comes in the night
And repeats, repeats in my ear

Dont you know you fool, you never can win
Use your mentality, wake up to reality
But each time I do, just the thought of you
Makes me stop before I begin
cause Ive got you under my skin

*From The Pages Of “Workers Vanguard”-Lessons of the 1934 Minneapolis Strikes

Markin comment:

As almost always these historical articles and polemics are purposefully helpful to clarify the issues in the struggle against world imperialism, particularly the “monster” here in America.


Workers Vanguard No. 940
31 July 2009

Lessons of the 1934 Minneapolis Strikes

Seventy-Fifth Anniversary


The worsening condition of the working class, and the waning strength of the unions, is not the first such crisis faced by the American labor movement. In the early years of the Great Depression, the ranks of the unemployed soared while membership in the AFL craft unions had fallen precipitously. With the partial revival of industry in 1933, workers regained confidence in their ability to fight. A great strike wave erupted, concentrated in the unorganized mass production industries, only to end in a series of bitter defeats. The efforts of the workers were frustrated by the pro-capitalist AFL leaders on the one hand and by brutal government repression on the other.

The breakthrough came in 1934, 75 years ago, when three citywide strikes led by avowed socialists shook America and paved the way for the great class battles in 1936-37 that built the CIO. In Toledo, Ohio, supporters of radical labor organizer A.J. Muste’s American Workers Party were in the forefront of the Auto-Lite strike. On the West Coast, dock workers and seamen, led by Communist Party (CP) supporters and other militants, fought pitched battles with the police in a three-month-long strike that included a four-day general strike in San Francisco. And in Minneapolis, Trotskyist union militants, supporters of the Communist League of America (CLA), organized and led mass strikes in the spring and summer that won union recognition for the Teamsters. Workers seeking to revitalize the labor movement today would do well to learn the lessons of these great struggles of the past.

In Minneapolis, the effective participation of a revolutionary Marxist group in actual strike organization and direction was demonstrated. Every detail of the strikes was meticulously organized in advance, proceeding from the standpoint of class war. No reliance was placed in any government agent or agencies, including Floyd B. Olson, the Farmer-Labor Party governor, and the National Labor Board of Democratic president Franklin D. Roosevelt. Above all, workers were prepared for the inevitable confrontations with the capitalist state.

For many years, Minneapolis had been a notoriously open shop town ruled by the Citizens Alliance, an organization of anti-union employers. An initial blow was delivered to the bosses in February 1934, when workers paralyzed the coal yards for three days and won union recognition for Teamsters Local 574. The organizers were a group of Trotskyists and their sympathizers who happened to work in the yards: the Dunne brothers (Vincent, Grant and Miles), Carl Skoglund and Farrell Dobbs.

Unlike the craft-minded bureaucrats of the AFL who aspired to build isolated job-holding trusts as a dues base and little more, the Dunne brothers and Skoglund set out to organize every truck driver and every “inside” warehouse worker industry-wide in Minneapolis. On 15 May 1934, after the bosses refused to negotiate with the growing local of 5,000 members, Local 574 went on strike. Only one of the existing union officers at the time, local president Bill Brown, actively supported the strike, which was organized and led through an elected Organizing Committee.

The Citizens Alliance had not anticipated the Trotskyists’ class-struggle tactics. “Flying squads” of pickets, later widely adopted in the great CIO strikes of the late ’30s, were sent rolling about town to intercept scabs. All trucking in the city was halted except union-permitted urgent services. The entire working-class population of the area was called on to support the strike. The unemployed organization, where CLA members had long been active, aligned itself with the union, and a Women’s Auxiliary went into action. On May 20, 35,000 building trades workers initiated a sympathy strike, and even the conservative Central Labor Union felt obliged to vote its support. Other workers, many unorganized, stayed off their jobs and joined the pickets.

The strike was decided on May 22 when a mass mobilization of the union and its supporters sent fleeing virtually the entire city police force, as well as its 2,200 “special deputies,” in what became known as “The Battle of Deputies Run.” With the defeat of this attempt by the bosses’ thugs to run scabs through pickets at the City Market, the companies quickly settled the strike, recognizing the union.

But the bosses would continue to stall and ignore the union, provoking another strike in July, which lasted for five weeks. The employers were given aid in their anti-union crusade by Teamsters president Daniel Tobin, a reactionary craft unionist and Roosevelt supporter who red-baited the strike leadership. Meanwhile, the CLA sent its leaders James P. Cannon and Max Shachtman to Minneapolis to help produce a daily strike newspaper, The Organizer, to combat the lies of the bourgeois press.

On “Bloody Friday,” July 20, the cops lured picket trucks into an ambush and opened fire on the strikers, killing two and wounding 67, most of them shot in the back. Within 20 minutes of the massacre, the National Guard rolled into the area. Four days later, some 40,000 union supporters marched in the funeral for Henry Ness, Local 574’s first martyr. In response, the cops promptly arrested Cannon and Shachtman as part of an orchestrated red scare, and Governor Olson declared martial law. In a pre-dawn raid, the National Guard seized the strike headquarters and arrested strike leaders, including Bill Brown and Vincent and Miles Dunne.

These actions by the “friend of labor” governor exposed Olson’s capitalist loyalties for the workers to see. The Teamsters defied Olson’s troops and maintained mobile picketing while organizing protests against the arrests, including another 40,000-strong demo. The union members and leaders were released within a few days. Meanwhile, Local 574 successfully navigated the artifices and tricks practiced by federal mediators, agents of the class enemy, in negotiations. After a war of attrition, on August 22 the bosses gave in to the union’s main demands, including union membership for “inside” workers. Minneapolis became a solid union town.

Sparked by the tremendous gains won in the 1934 strikes, workers in the basic industries were soon flocking to union organizing meetings. With the AFL craft unions refusing to organize the unskilled, workers joined mass industrial unions, frequently under radical leadership. These unions later formed the Congress of Industrial Organizations (CIO) after breaking away from the ossified AFL.

Despite repeated attempts by the ruling class to split and defeat the militant Teamsters, the Trotskyists remained leading union organizers, helping to build the Teamsters into a powerful, national industrial union. Even James Hoffa, who was sent back to Minneapolis in 1941 as Tobin’s hatchet man against the Trotskyist union leaders, acknowledged that he had earlier learned effective union organizing from the Trotskyists. Having worked under Dobbs, Hoffa said, “I was studying at the knees of a master.” It was not until the early 1940s, during World War II, that the Trotskyists were driven out of the union leadership when Roosevelt, spurred on by Tobin and the Stalinist CP, jailed 18 Trotskyist and Minneapolis Teamster leaders under the Smith Act for their opposition to U.S. imperialism in the war.

The Trotskyists’ success in Minneapolis in 1934 vindicated their general policy of calling on revolutionists to enter the mainstream of the labor movement, as against the ultraleft dogma of building separate “red unions,” voiced by the CP during its 1928-34 “Third Period.” It also pointed to the crucial role of leadership in any class battle. In a 1942 lecture that he gave on Minneapolis, available in The History of American Trotskyism (1944), Cannon observed:

“In Minneapolis we saw the native militancy of the workers fused with a politically conscious leadership. Minneapolis showed how great can be the role of such leadership. It gave great promise for the party founded on correct political principles and fused and united with the mass of American workers. In that combination one can see the power that will conquer the whole world.”

We reprint below two articles from the Militant, the newspaper of the CLA. The first, “Learn from Minneapolis!” (26 May 1934), was written by Cannon after the May strike. The second, “The Strike Triumphant” (25 August 1934), was published at the conclusion of the July-August strike.

* * *

“Learn From Minneapolis!”

(Militant, 26 May 1934)

Today the whole country looks to Minneapolis. Great things are happening there which reflect the influence of a strange new force in the labor movement, an influence widening and extending like a spiral wave. Out of the strike of the transport workers of Minneapolis a new voice speaks and a new method proclaims its challenge.

It was seen first in the strike of the Coal Yard Drivers, which electrified the labor movement of the city a few months ago and firmly established the union after a brief, stormy battle of unprecedented militancy and efficiency. Now we see the same union moving out of this narrow groove and embracing truck drivers in other lines.

Behind this, as was the case with the Coal Drivers, there are months of hard, patient and systematic routine work of organization. Everything is prepared. Then an ultimatum to the bosses. A swift, sudden blow. A mass picket line that sweeps everything before it. The building trades come out in sympathy. The combined forces, riding with a mighty wave of moral support from the whole laboring population of the city, take the offensive and drive all the bosses’ thugs and hirelings to cover in a memorable battle at the City Market.

The whole country listens to the echoes of the struggle. The exploiters hear them with fear and trepidation. Weaving the net around the automobile workers, with the aid of treacherous labor leaders, they ask themselves in alarm: “If this spirit spreads what will our schemes avail us?”

And the workers in basic industry, vaguely sensing the power of their numbers and strategic position, can hardly help asking themselves: “If we should go the Minneapolis way could anything or anybody stop us?” The striking transport workers are a mighty power in Minneapolis today. But that is only a small fraction of the power of their example for the cheated and betrayed workers in the big industries of the country.

The Message of Minneapolis

The message of Minneapolis is of first rate importance to the American working class. A careful examination of the method from all sides ought to be put as point one on the agenda of the labor movement, especially of its most advanced section. A study of this epic struggle, in its various aspects, can be an aid to their application in other fields, and, by that, a rapid change of the position of the American workers.

There is nothing new, of course, in a fight between strikers and police and gunmen. Every strike of any consequence tells the old, familiar story of the hounding, beating and killing of strikers by the hired thugs of the exploiters, in and out of uniform. What is out of the ordinary in Minneapolis, what is more important in this respect, is that while the Minneapolis strike began with violent assaults on the strikers it didn’t end there.

In pitched battles last Saturday and again on Monday, the strikers fought back and held their own. And on Tuesday they took the offensive, with devastating results. “Business men” volunteering to put the workers in their place and college boys out for a lark—as special deputies—to say nothing of the uniformed cops—handed over their badges and fled in terror before the mass fury of the aroused workers. And many of them carried away unwelcome souvenirs of the engagement. Here was a demonstration that the American workers are willing and able to fight in their own interests. Nothing is more important than this, for, in the last analysis, everything depends on it.

Here was a stern warning to the bosses and their hirelings, and not only those of Minneapolis. Transfer the example and the spirit of the Minneapolis strikers to the steel and automobile workers, for example, with their mass numbers and power. Let the rulers of America tremble at the prospect. They will see it! That is what the message of Minneapolis means first of all.

Mass Action

A second feature of the fight at the City Market which deserves special attention is the fact that it was not the ordinary encounter between individual strikers and individual scabs or thugs. On the contrary—take note—the whole union went into action on the picket line in mass formation; thousands of other union men went with them; they took along the necessary means to protect themselves against the murderous thugs, as they had every right to do. This was an example of mass action which points the way for the future victorious struggles of the American workers.

It is not a strike of the men alone, but of the women also. The Minneapolis Drivers’ Union proceeds on the theory that the women have a vital interest in the struggle, no less than the men, and draws them into action through a special organization. The policy, employed so effectively by the Progressive Miners [a 1932 splinter from the United Mine Workers], is bringing rich results also in Minneapolis. To involve the women in the labor struggle is to double the strength of the workers and to infuse it with a spirit and solidarity it could not otherwise have. This applies not only to a single union and a single strike; it holds good for every phase of the struggle up to its revolutionary conclusion. The grand spectacle of labor solidarity in Minneapolis is what it is because it includes also the solidarity of the working class women.

The Sympathetic Strike

The strike of the transport workers took an enormous leap forward and underwent a transformation when the building-trades unions declared a sympathy strike last Monday. In this action one of the most progressive and significant features of the entire movement is to be seen. When unions begin to call strikes not for immediate gains of their own but for the sake of solidarity with their struggling brothers in other trades, and when this spirit and attitude becomes general and taken for granted as the proper thing, then the paralyzing divisions in the trade union movement will be near an end and trade unionism will begin to mean unity.

The union of the truck drivers and the building trades workers is an inspiring sight. It represents a dynamic idea of incalculable power. Let the example spread, let the idea take hold in other cities and other trades, let the idea of sympathy strike action be combined with militancy and the mass method of the Minneapolis fighters—and American labor will be a head taller and immeasurably stronger.

Those who characterize the A.F. of L. unions as “company unions” and want to build new unions at any price will derive very little consolation from the Minneapolis strike. We have always maintained that the form of a labor organization, while important, is not decisive. Minneapolis provides another confirmation, and a most convincing one, of this conception. Here is the most militant and, in many respects, the most progressively directed labor struggle that has been seen for a long time. Nevertheless it is all conducted within the framework of the A.F. of L.

The Drivers’ Union is a local of one of the most conservative A.F. of L. Internationals, the Teamsters; the building trades, out in sympathy with the drivers, are all A.F. of L. unions; and the Central Labor Union, backing the drivers’ strike and the possible organizing medium of a general strike, is a subordinate unit of the A.F. of L. The local unions of the A.F. of L. provide a wide field for the work of revolutionary militants if they know how to work intelligently. This is especially true when, as in the Minneapolis example, the militants actually initiate the organization and take a leading part in developing it at every stage.

The Bolshevik Militants

Further development of the union, and perhaps even of the present strike, on the path of militancy may bring the local leadership into conflict with the reactionary bureaucracy of the International and also with conservative forces in the Central Labor Union. This will be all the less apt to take the local leaders of the militant union by surprise, since most of them have already gone through the school of that experience. In spite of that, they did not turn their backs on the trade unions and seek to set up new ones artificially.

Even when it came to organizing a large group of workers hitherto outside the labor movement, they selected an A.F. of L. union as the medium. The results of the Minneapolis experience provide some highly important lessons on this tactical question. The miserable role of the Stalinists in the present situation, and their complete isolation from the great mass struggle, is the logical outcome of their policies in general and their trade union policy in particular.

The General Drivers’ Union, as must be the case with every genuine mass organization, has a broad and representative leadership, freely selected by democratic methods. Among the leaders of the union are a number of Bolshevik militants who never concealed or denied their opinions and never changed them at anybody’s order, whether the order came from [AFL head William] Green or from Stalin.

The presence of this nucleus in the mass movement is a feature of the exceptional situation in Minneapolis which, in a sense, affects and colors all the other aspects of it. The most important of all prerequisites for the development of a militant labor movement is the leaven of principled communists. When they enter the labor movement and apply their ideas intelligently they are invincible. The labor movement grows as a result of this fusion and their influence grows with it. In this question, also, Minneapolis is showing the way.

* * *

“The Strike Triumphant”

(Militant, 25 August 1934)

The stirring news of the victory of the Minneapolis strike will give heart and hope to every class conscious and union conscious worker in the United States. It comes as a beacon light on the dark sea of defeats that have engulfed the labor unions in the second strike movement under the NRA [National Industrial Recovery Act of 1933]. The thrilling outcome of the battle will give confidence to the doubting worker that labor need not lose and capitalism can be defeated. It will strengthen the conviction in the minds of every revolutionist that the policies of consistent class struggle are the only method of crowning the struggles of the working class with success.

But the working class has little time to rejoice. Bigger and fiercer battles are ahead. It must forge its weapons and prepare. Let the workers learn and assimilate the lessons of Minneapolis and they will have gained an invaluable addition to the arsenal of class weapons against capital. And Minneapolis is rich in lessons, so rich that if but a part of them are digested the proletariat will take a huge stride forward.

With hardly an exception practically all of the major problems of strike strategy were telescoped in the battle of 574. Lack of space does not permit us to deal with all of them, but to mention them in part: maintaining a picket line to cope with scabs, feeding five thousand strikers and their families, providing relief to the more destitute of the workers, holding high the morale of the strikers for the long weeks of the struggle, answering the lies, the calumnies and the slanders of the boss press and radio, conducting negotiations with the employers and federal arbitrators, gaining the support of workers in other unions, combating the police and the city officials.

These are the customary problems faced by the workers when they rebel for better conditions. But the Minneapolis strike was complicated with other and far more perplexing matters. From the very word go, the strike was faced with a vehement “red” scare of the bosses, kept alive for its entire duration. This was joined in by the International President of the Teamsters, Tobin, who declared the strike illegal at the very outset. Then, to make confusion worse confounded, a farmer-labor governor, having the confidence of the overwhelming majority of the workers, dealt some deadly blows at the strike while pretending friendship. A backward rank-and-file, fighting mad, but steeped in all the prejudices that the bosses had inculcated into them for years, finishes the picture.

Any other leadership than the one in Minneapolis would have foundered on the rocks of this stupendous problem. This is not because of the personal qualities or the integrity of the men, although that contributed heavily, but rather because the tactics they pursued were Marxian from beginning to end. They were thoroughly fused with the workers in the ranks. They carried on their work in the trade union not with the purpose of some sensational stunt. Building on organization, leading it to victory and helping the workers learn from their own experiences in the class struggle—that was their aim.

Previous issues of the Militant have commented on the military-efficient organization of the strike apparatus. But it does not hurt to repeat some of them, for it was on this very thing that success was founded. To enumerate: the picket line on wheels ready to move at a moment’s notice, in contact at every step with strike headquarters—the commissary serving five thousand strikers daily on the solid assumption that an army travels on its belly—the Ladies Auxiliary giving the women a direct interest in the struggle, making them an encouragement and an aid instead of a drag on the strikers—the mobilization of the unemployed for support—and finally the daily strike bulletin, which we can safely say is one of the greatest contributions to strike strategy in recent times. Here was a paper that inspired the strikers, answered the lies of the boss press day in, day out, fanned their flagging enthusiasm, warned them of traps set by the bosses and arbitrators, showed the class lines of the struggle and performed a thousand and one other services. This was the unshakeable foundation of the strike.

Yet all of this would have been wrecked by the “red” scare had the union leaders not been prepared to meet it. In Frisco the cry of “Communist” tore a deep hole into the strike front. In Minneapolis it was a complete dud. The leaders faced the issue squarely. They did not rush into print denying the accusations. Nor did they shout their opinions to the wide world. They explained to the men that this was part of a plot of the bosses to evade the issues, sow confusion and division in the ranks and thus smash the strike. The results are known. The red-scare fell on deaf ears.

Quite as important, if not more so, was the role of Governor Olson. With a cunning play of demagogy and harmless attacks on the employers he established himself as the “friend” of the strikers. So much so, that when he called the troops onto the streets and declared martial law, opinion was general among the drivers that it was done in their interest. Pickets began to rely on Olson’s soldiers. Knowing the class nature of the state, the leaders saw how fatal such an attitude would be for the strike. They were quick to act. The Organizer, at the risk of incurring the displeasure of the union men, pointed out the real purpose of the troops—to break the strike. But they did not confine themselves to denunciation. Only experience would teach the strikers. A test of the right of picketing was decided upon. And then… by raiding the strike headquarters, imprisoning the leaders and the best pickets, Olson taught the strikers more about Olson than all the editorials in the world could have done. A different opinion of the Governor of Minnesota and the purpose of the state now pervades not a few members of 574.

The unions saw to it that the struggle against Olson be further pushed by exerting the severest pressure on Olson’s men, the conservative leaders of the Central Labor Union. The biggest barrier to Olson’s game was the support of the drivers by the entire Minneapolis labor movement. By adroit and skillful tactics the leaders of 574 forced the heads of the C.L.U. to give their assistance to the drivers and not to condemn them. When the union called upon the officials to declare a general strike in answer to the raid on the headquarters, they resisted but they were on the carpet. They brought pressure to bear on Olson and he released the strike leaders and restored the hall. While the officials of the C.L.U. and the Minnesota State Federation of Labor were successful in preventing a general strike, their answer was a living demonstration to the workers of Minneapolis of the stuff these “leaders” are made. A general strike is not an end in itself. It is a means to an end. And the conservatives at the head of the Minneapolis labor movement deprived 574 of this powerful means. The rank and file will draw the proper conclusions!

In the gratifying conclusion of the battle there lie the features that distinguish the Minneapolis strike from all others in recent times. For the first time in years militants, indigenous to the industry, have entered an A.F. of L. union; converted it from a craft to an industrial union; built it up patiently and quietly; prepared carefully and struck at the proper moment; combined organization with militancy and political wisdom, and emerged from a five week’s strike against insuperable odds with victory in their laps. And on top of all this, what is almost unprecedented in such strikes—not only is the union intact but the leadership is still in the hands of the genuine militants.

The example of the Minneapolis leadership will be an inspiration everywhere!

It can and will be repeated!

Thursday, July 30, 2009

*As We Gear Up Our Opposition To Obama's Afghan War A Song To Lift Our Spirits- Stepphenwolf's "The Monster"

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Steppenhwolf Performing "Monster". Ah, Those Were The Days.

This is a repost of an entry dated:

Thursday, March 19, 2009

*As We Gear Up Our Opposition To Obama's Afghan War A Song To Lift Our Spirits- Stepphenwolf's "The Monster"
Guest Commentary/Lyrics by John Kay and others


Every once in a while I NEED to listen to that song just to keep balance in the uphill struggle we have to deal with in fighting against the monster of American imperialism in all its various disguises. Here is the chorus that kind of says it all:

Chorus

America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster

Hell, there is not much more that I need to say, the lyrics tell it all. Obama- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of U.S./Allied Troops From Afghanistan!-Markin



Words and music by John Kay, Jerry Edmonton, Nick St. Nicholas and Larry Byrom

(Monster)

Once the religious, the hunted and weary
Chasing the promise of freedom and hope
Came to this country to build a new vision
Far from the reaches of kingdom and pope
Like good Christians, some would burn the witches
Later some got slaves to gather riches

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

And once the ties with the crown had been broken
Westward in saddle and wagon it went
And 'til the railroad linked ocean to ocean
Many the lives which had come to an end
While we bullied, stole and bought our a homeland
We began the slaughter of the red man

But still from near and far to seek America
They came by thousands to court the wild
And she just patiently smiled and bore a child
To be their spirit and guiding light

The blue and grey they stomped it
They kicked it just like a dog
And when the war over
They stuffed it just like a hog

And though the past has it's share of injustice
Kind was the spirit in many a way
But it's protectors and friends have been sleeping
Now it's a monster and will not obey

(Suicide)

The spirit was freedom and justice
And it's keepers seem generous and kind
It's leaders were supposed to serve the country
But now they won't pay it no mind
'Cause the people grew fat and got lazy
And now their vote is a meaningless joke
They babble about law and order
But it's all just an echo of what they've been told
Yeah, there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watchin'

Our cities have turned into jungles
And corruption is stranglin' the land
The police force is watching the people
And the people just can't understand
We don't know how to mind our own business
'Cause the whole worlds got to be just like us
Now we are fighting a war over there
No matter who's the winner
We can't pay the cost
'Cause there's a monster on the loose
It's got our heads into a noose
And it just sits there watching

(America)

America where are you now?
Don't you care about your sons and daughters?
Don't you know we need you now
We can't fight alone against the monster

© Copyright MCA Music (BMI)
All rights for the USA controlled and administered by
MCA Corporation of America, INC

--Used with permission--

*Once Again- Immediate Uncondtional Withdrawal From Afghanistan Mr. Obama

Click On Title To Link To United For Justice With Peace (UJP) Poster Of Obama And His Afghan War Policy. Now I Have Made Clear, Very Clear I Hope My Differences With UJP and Other Coalitions That Want To Treat These People Who Run The American Imperial State As Fellow Rational Human Beings But This Poster Kind Of Says It All (For Now)About The Need To Oppose Obama "The Charma's" War Policy.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

*Nothing But The Truth, Maybe -The Film Version

Click On Title To Link To Trailer For Film "Nothing But The Truth".

DVD Review

Nothing But The Truth, starring Kate Bakendale, 2009

In the normal course of my work in this space I don’t generally review current commercial films, except when they provide some kind of political or social comment that is in line with my aims. Or I have an ax to grind. The latter turns out to be the case here. The plot of this film revolves around a First Amendment freedom of the press question of a high profile, Type-A newspaper women protecting a source at least that is the way it unfolds, although it is done in a somewhat ham-handed and obviously benignly liberal way.

On the face of it, a film about the praiseworthy efforts of a doggedly determined print reporter bound, seemingly beyond reason, to protect her source of knowledge about why the President of the United States called in a patently erroneous retaliatory strike on Venezuela (you can see where the problem is already, I assume) seem to be tailor –made for praise from this reviewer. Except everything is wrong here. That includes everything, from the source the reporter is protecting to her refusal to divulge her source under very trying circumstances, to say the least, (I won’t give that source up here either. I am not tattle-tale and moreover that revelation provided the only real twist in this whole sorry plot line.) to the nasty twist and turns of the federal special prosecutor who is trying to nail her in the interest of “national security”.

Don’t get me wrong, or at only get me wrong a little. We better fight tooth and nail to maintain a free press and other forms of expression against governmental interference. But one must pick and choose one’s battles. Off of this plot line and off the moral dilemmas the reporter willingly placed herself in there is certainly a question about her political acumen, to say nothing of her common sense.

But the real issue here, aside from the liberal bend of putting up the good fight to maintain the free press that drives the film, is that the vaunted “forth estate”, of late, has been pretty sorry in real life when it comes to opposing the American government’s propaganda lines. A medium that was asleep at the wheel, in many cases willingly so, during the lead up to the Bush portion of the Iraq War, and for a long time after, is hardly worthy, as the people associated with this production seem to think, of positive treatment, even when one could admire the tenacity if not the common sense of the reporter in this drama. While we desperately need to protect free expression this film did not add much to our real life knowledge about how to defend it. Certainly not the way it played out in this film, that is for sure.

***The American Songbook Pantheon- The Music Of Irving Berlin.

Click On Title To Link To An Irving Berlin Lyrics Website.

CD Review

Irving Berlin: A Hundred Years, Irving Berlin compositions as performed by various artists, Columbia Record Company, 1988


I have been running through the legends of folk music, the blues, rock and assorted other genres over the past period. Not intentionally, at least I do not think that this was my intention at the start, I have reviewed a number of musicians, composers and recording artists who have been influential in the preservation of American roots music. You know, names like Pete Seeger, The Lomaxes, Bob Dylan, Woody Guthrie, Willie Dixon, Sam Phillips and, probably, a dozen more who have sung, recorded produced or preserved parts of what is termed “the American Songbook”. These names, however, are hardly all-inclusive, as this review will try to make clear. The American Songbook is a “big tent” operation that extends back to the times of Stephan Foster in the 19th century, if not before, and is brought up to date by the likes of Mr. Seeger and Mr. Dylan. Along the way, including a significant part of the 20th century, Irving Berlin did more than his fair share of helping to fill that book.

We could go on and on about who should be or not be, beyond the names mentioned above, included in the American Songbook pantheon. However, there is no question, whether you tastes run to Tin Pin Alley tunes or not that Irving Berlin is up on that first level. This little compilation by Columbia Records put out some years ago both honors him on his 100th birthday and can serve as a primer for those unfamiliar with Mr. Berlin’s work. Although if you have been the least bit conscious, or are very, very young, you already ‘know’ many of these songs, if not their author.

A Berlin biography is beyond the scope of this little review but needless to say this son of immigrants caught at least a portion of what America meant to both immigrant and native alike at a time when assimilation into American society, its manners and mores was a more pressing issue than today. Berlin’s hey days were in the 1930’s and 1940’s and he is forever tied in memory to such Great Depression/World War II Broadway music as “Putting On The Ritz”, “Cheek To Cheek”, “How Deep Is The Ocean”, “’I've Got My Love To Keep Me Warm” and a slew of other classics included here. And done by the likes of Fred Astaire, Judy Garland, Billie Holiday, Etherl Merman, Ethel Waters and a host of others, all famous in their time for singing whatever Mr. Berlin put before them, gladly. This is the music your parents or grandparents hummed back in the days. On this compilation it seems that Columbia has gone out of its way, way out of its way to get the best renditions by the most definitive artists to present these tunes.

Irving Berlin is also, whether the fact is well-known now or not, closely associated with popular American patriotic songs like “God Bless America”. He is also associated with novelty songs like “White Christmas”, “Easter Parade”, “Alexander’s Ragtime Band” and “Let’s Have Another Cup Of Coffee”. Now some of this is not to my taste and, perhaps, not to yours. Some of the patriotic stuff is way overblown. And a few tunes have not aged well. Those are separate, more political questions, that can be more properly addressed elsewhere. But hear me out. The next time some asks Irving who? Or I don’t know his work? Just start humming “White Christmas”, or the like. Berlin may not be my top candidate for Number One composer in the American Songbook but he belongs in the select company of that pantheon.

*Be Still My Heart The New Federal Minimum Wage Has Gone Into Effect-For A Living Wage For All!

Click On Title To Link To NPR Story On The Recent Increase In The Federal Minimum Wage Rate Including A Compelling Story About One Woman's Struggle To Keep Herself And Family Above Water At That Rate.


Commentary

Do the math (approximately). 7x40=280x50=14,000 plus. Nothing more needs to be said about this absurdly inadequate minimum wage increase. We need to fight fora living wage for all. Better yet isn't it about time to get rid of this increasingly disparate capitalist system. As the story details- no mother should have to worry feeding and clothing their kids. And no kid should have to feel bad about not having enough to eat and something nice to wear. In the end that is what our struggle for socialism is all about.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

*U.S. Troops Back On Patrol In Iraq On The Low- Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All Allied Troops From Iraq- Loudly

Click On Title To Link To BBC Story About The Situation With The So-called "Incredibly Shrinking U.S. Troop Presence" In Iraq. Miracle Or Myth? Let Me Just Say We Had Better Start Getting Our Grandchildren Ready To Face The Music In Iraq When Their Time Comes. John McCain and Before Him One George W. Bush Said It Would Take A Generation Or More To Stabilize The Situation In Iraq. They May Have Not Been Far Off The Mark. But Just To Be On The Safe Side- Obama-Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S./Allied Troops From Iraq!

Monday, July 27, 2009

*"The Blues Is Dues" Story, Again-Down The Backroads Of The Blues

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip Of Charlie Patton Doing "Shake It And Break It".

DVD REVIEW

The Blues Is Dues Story, Again

The Blues Story, 2003

I have written by now seemingly countless reviews of old time acoustic and electric blues artists, male and female alike. I have "toured" the Delta, the Texas Panhandle, the streets of small town Southern cities, Memphis and the "Mecca", Chicago, to give my take on the blues story. I have "been" on the plantation Saturday night, the "juke joints", the blues clubs, Chicago's Maxwell Street and on any street corner where a blues artist could set up shop. My thumbs are sore from giving thumbs up and down to the various blue artists that I have known about since my teenage years a long time ago. All of the above is by way of saying if you want to do some one- stop shopping for what the blues was, is and will be this is your destination. A better primer, especially for the novice complete with some great blues riffs, done in a couple of hours would be hard to find.

All the traditional blues "hot spots" like Memphis and Chicago are given due time. All the blues greats get at least a passing nod from Charley Patton and Robert Johnson in the old days to Howlin' Wolf, Muddy Waters and B.B. King in the modern age. In fact that is what is most impressive about this production. The producers have seemingly gathered, at the time of production, every still living blues artist who could still hold an instrument and speak a few words to talk about their work and those that they knew who "taught" them the blues. Why is this important? The likes of Ruth Brown, Honeyboy Williams, Gatesmouth Moore, Gatesmouth Brown, Buddy Guy and a host of others showcased here are the transmission belt from the older tradition of Charley Patton, Son House, Blind Blake, Ma Rainey and the others who created the sounds of the blues. Ruth Brown said it best- the young (and here I think she was including me-thanks Ms. Brown) don't need to learn the blues; they need to learn about the blues. Yes, ma'am. So to answer one of the questions posed in and by the documentary; will the blues ever die? Never.

"Shake It And Break It" by Charlie Patton

You can shake it, you can break it,
you can hang it on the wall
Throw it out the window, catch it 'fore it roll
You can shake it, you can break it,
you can hang it on the wall
...it out the window, catch it 'fore it falls
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
Everybody have a jelly roll like mine, I lives in town
I, ain't got no brown, I, an' I want it now
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
You can snatch it, you can grab it, you can break it,
you can twist it, any way that I love to get it
I, had my right mind since I, I blowed this town
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
Jus' shake it, you can break it,
you can hang it on the wall
.. it out the window, catch it 'fore it falls
You can break it, you can hang it on the wall
...it out the window, catch it 'fore it...
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
I ain't got nobody here but me and myself
I, stay blue all the time, aw, when the sun goes down
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
You can shake it, you can break it,
you can hang it on the wall
... it out the window, catch it 'fore it fall
You can break it, you can hang it on the wall
...it out the window, catch...
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
You can snatch it, you can grab it,
you can break it, you can twist it,
any way that I love to get it
I, had my right mind, I, be worried sometime
'Bout a jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
Just shake it, you can break it,
you can hang it on the wall
... it out the window, catch it 'fore it falls
You can break it, you can hang it on the wall
...it out the window, catch it 'fore it falls
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
I know I been to town, I, I walked around
I, start leavin' town, I, I fool around
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
Just shake it, you can break it,
you can hang it on the wall
... it out the window, catch it 'fore it falls
You can break it, you can hang it on the wall
...it out the window, catch it 'fore it...
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it fall
Jus' shake it, you can break it,
you can hang it on the wall
... it out the window, catch it 'fore it...
My jelly, my roll, sweet mama, don't let it...

Sunday, July 26, 2009

*Defend The Cuban Revolution- Hands Off The Myers!

Click on title to link to "Workers Vanguard" article about the Myers, who have been charged with aiding the Cuba revolution (from our perspective, the actual legal charges that the couple are confronted with by the U.S. government, as usual, read differently). I echo the sentiments of the article- Hands Off The Myers!-Defend The Cuban Five!-More on this as the case unfolds.

*Musings On The Struggle Against Imperialist War- On The Question Of How To Call For The Defeat Of U.S. Imperialism Today

Click On Title To Link To V.I. Lenin's late 1914 Article "The Position And Tasks Of The Socialist International" For A "First Draft" Of Leninism On The Question Of Opposition To Imperialist War In The Throes Of The Opening Salvos Of World War I. This Entry Is Merely A First Look At What Should Be An On-Going Appraisal Of His Work On Revolutionary Defeatism.

Markin Commentary

The following is a response to the blogger Trotskyist’s comments (posted immediately below) on another entry on July 17, 2009, "Once Again, The Slogan Is...", and reflects, perhaps, better than the unwieldy headline of this entry some thoughts in what should be an on-going struggle to find a way to effectively battle the Obama Iraq/Afghan war policies.


******

2 Comments:

Trotskyist said...
Markin: What is the difference between your slogan now and "Out Now" from the reformist SWP during the Vietnam war (or the anti-war popular front today)?

Didn't Lenin insist that revolutionaries must call for the defeat of their own imperialist ruling class in a war?

8:30 AM
Renegade Eye said...
Revolutionary defeatism was a slogan, for a particular audience, at a particular time. It was not a principle. In addition Trotsky opposed that slogan.


Regards


*********

Trotskyist in his comment posted above from the July 17, 2009 entry mentioned above is actually right, in a formal sense. There is no qualitative difference between the Socialist Workers Party’s (SWP) slogan (and that of others, many others during that time) “Out Now” raised in the 1960s during various phases of the Vietnam War and my formulation now of “Immediate Unconditional Withdrawal Of All U.S. /Allied Troops From Iraq’ (or, for that matter, Afghanistan).

Nevertheless that old SWP slogan was a supportable one, if barely, as an anti-imperialist slogan. When, toward the middle of that war every even mildly leftist (and some not so leftist) bourgeois politician on the make was calling for some variation of that very slogan it was hard to differentiate the SWP’s position. However, the SWP’s (and those same bourgeois politicians on the make) equally prevalent social-patriotic slogan “Bring The Boys Home” (and its variants) on the other hand was not supportable at all. Except for my slightly more algebraic formulation on withdrawal from Iraq then what makes me any more than another run-of-the mill reformist of the SWP ilk posing as a revolutionary? The not inconsiderable one of context.

The SWP raised their slogan, in fair weather or foul, all throughout their anti-war work as they pursued the main chance-staying chummy with bourgeois politicians and suburban housewives (okay, and househusbands too). They raised it in 1965 when it was just barely acceptable to the anti-communist liberal/ labor left that dominated the early anti-war struggle. They raised in 1969 when many of us were calling for “Victory To The NLF (National Liberation Front Of South Vietnam)” in the aftermath of Tet 1968 and they raised it in 1975 as the helicopters were lifting the remnants off the Americans personal off the United States Embassy in Ho Chi Minh City (then Saigon) with the advances of the DNV/NLF forces entering the city.

I believe that today , as an anti-imperialist militant standing in opposition to the escalating Obama-driven American military presence in Afghanistan (and previously during the height of the long and continuing American presence in Iraq that was the focus of Trotskyist’s comment), my slogan represents ONE of the tasks that we have to fight around. In an America that has thus far, except a few malcontents on the left-wing of the Democratic Party and those few, too few, of us to the left of that organization, significantly backed off from the anti-war opposition that drove the initial period of opposition to the Bush portion of the Iraq War this slogan creates an axis to struggle around. A little class struggle in America around this issue (and for that matter any issue given the current economic circumstances) would go a long way toward breaking through on this problem of the Obama “honeymoon”.

As for the question of revolutionary defeatism, an important concept to those who stand in the Leninist anti-war tradition, let me make my position clear. Since somewhere about the middle of the Vietnam War I have, on more occasions that I care to count, called for the defeat of the American imperialist in whatever military adventure they were up to at the moment. That is my policy in regard to the American military presence in the world under any and all foreseeable circumstances while this country remains in the hands of the imperialists.

In practice, in Iraq and Afghanistan, that has meant calling for, in the best Leninist tradition, the military defense of the Taliban regime in Afghanistan and Hussein’s regime in Iraq when confronted with the American onslaught. Naturally this precluded any political support to those wretched regimes. Thus, an additional slogan is the call for the Iraqi and Afghan peoples to overthrow those regimes (while we are committed to do likewise with our own). I have raised those points many times in this space, including a call to form soldiers and sailors committees in the U.S. military in order to end the Iraq war. What I do not believe is appropriate for today (meaning in the short term) is to make that policy the center of our anti-war work. In practice today such an approach would mean something like raising a slogan of “Military Victory To The Taliban”, or some such thing. To state the proposition that starkly tells the tale. Sometimes in politics, especially left-wing politics, one finds oneself between a rock and a hard place. That, my friends, is the case here.

That situation is also where things today are different from Vietnam where we did have a side, the DRV/NLF forces, we wanted to see win. There were some forces I did want to see win in Afghanistan- the Soviet Union and their Afghan governmental allies before 1989. Of course then many Western leftists were screaming their version of “Out Now”, anti-Soviet-style. But a review of that fight is for another time. This is hardly the last word on this issue but I’ll be damned if I will take a back seat to anyone on my adult life time of opposition to American imperialism just because today I want to line up forces behind a variation of the “out now” axis of opposition to imperialist war.

Note: I slightly disagree with Renegade on the weight of the policy of revolutionary defeatism. It is not merely a question of its being a tactic but is rather an important strand in the anti-imperialist struggle especially here in the heartland of world imperialism, although the practical application now may take a variety of forms.