Saturday, March 05, 2016

*****When The Fight To Turn The World Upside Down Was In Full Flower- With The Doors The Unknown Soldier In Mind

*****When The Fight To Turn The World Upside Down Was In Full Flower- With The Doors The Unknown Soldier In Mind

Wait until the war is over
And we're both a little older
The unknown soldier
Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Unborn living, living, dead
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And it's all over
For the unknown soldier
It's all over
For the unknown soldier

Hut, hut, hut ho hee up
Hut, hut, hut ho hee up
Hut, hut, hut ho hee up

Comp'nee, halt
Present, arms

Make a grave for the unknown soldier
Nestled in your hollow shoulder
The unknown soldier

Breakfast where the news is read
Television children fed
Bullet strikes the helmet's head

And, it's all over
The war is over
It's all over
War is over

Well, all over, baby
All over, baby
Oh, over, yeah
All over, baby
Ooh, ha, ha, all over
All over, baby
Oh, woah, yeah, all over
All over, heh

Add song meaning

Robbie Krieger;John Densmore;Jim Morrison;Ray Manzarek

From The Pen of Zack James

There was no seamless thread that wrapped the counter-cultural dominated 1960s up tightly, wrapped it up neatly in a pretty bow all set for posterity except for the media types who lived day by day in those merciful times for scraps to feed the teletype hot wires and by on-the-make politicians who to this day attempt to make capital making sport of what in the final analysis was a half-thought out desire to create the “newer world” that some old-time English poet was harping about. That seamless thread business had been distracting Frank Jackman’s attention of late now that a new generation of media-types are at hand who want to refight that social battle and the politicians are whipping   up the raw meat good old boys and girls and the staid as well to provide the troops for that new battle against some phantom in their heads. Despite all the rhetoric, despite all the books written disclaiming any responsibility by those who led the march, despite all those who have now “seen the light” and have hopped back into the fold in academia and the professions (in fact that march back to what everybody used to call bourgeois society started the day after the whole movement ebbed or the day they got their doctorates or professional degrees) there was some question even in Franks’ own mind about whether “the movement” for all its high gloss publicity and whirlwind effect dominated the play as much as he and his kindred had thought then or can lay claim to these forty plus years later.
Place plenty of weight on Frank’s observation, maybe not to take to the bank but to have some knowledge about the limits to what a whole generation in all its diversity can claim as its own mark on society and history. Place plenty of weight for the very simple reason that he went through the whole thing in almost all of its contradictions. Had been raised under the star of parents who slogged through the Great Depression although that was a close thing, a very close thing for some like Frank’s parents who were desperately poor. His poor besotted mother having to leave home and head west looking, looking for whatever there was out there before coming back home with three dollars in hand, and maybe her virtue how can you ask that question of your mother when you wouldn’t think to look at her when young, later too, that she was capable of sex, not the sex you had at your pleasure with some sweet Maryjane. His father out of the Southern winds, out of tar-roof shack of a cabin, half naked, down in the coal-rich hills and hollows of Appalachia, the poorest of the poor, leaving that desperate place to seek something, some small fame that always eluded him. They together, collectively, slogged through the war, World War II, his father through Pacific fight, the most savage kind, had his fill of that damn island hopping and his mother waiting, fretfully waiting for the other shoe to drop, to hear her man had laid his head down for his country in some salted coral reef or atoll whatever they were. Get this though, gladly, gladly would lay that head down and she if it came right down to it would survive knowing he had laid that precious head down. That was the salts they were made of, the stuff this country was able to produce even if it had very little hand in forming such faithful servants so no one would, no one could deny their simple patriotism, or doubt that they would pass that feeling on to their progeny.
Made that progeny respect their music too, their misty, moody I’ll see you tomorrow, until we meet again, I’ll get by, if I didn’t care music, music fought and won with great purpose. But Frank balked, balked young as he was, with as little understanding as he had, the minute he heard some serious rhythm back-beat absent from that sugary palp his parents wanted to lay on him and he would, young as he was, stand up in his three brother shared room (when they were not around of course for they older “dug” Patti Page and Rosemary Clooney, stuff like that) and dance some phantom dance based on that beat he kept hearing in his head, and wondered whether anybody else heard what he heard (of course later when it was show and tell time in the 1960s that beat would be the thing that glued those who were kindred together, funny they were legion). Caught the tail end of the “beat” thing that those older brothers dismissed out of hand as faggy, as guys “light on their feet” and gals who seemed black-hearted blank and neurotic. But that was prelude, that, what did somebody in some sociology class call it, the predicate.                      
As the 1960s caught Frank by his throat, caught him in its maw as he liked to call it to swishy-dishy literary effect he got “religion” in about six different ways. Got grabbed  when the folk minute held sway, when guys like Bob Dylan and Dave Von Ronk and gals like Joan Baez preached “protest” to the hinterlands, reaching down to places like Frank’s Carver, nothing but a working poor town dependent on the ups and downs of the cranberry business. At one time the town was the cranberry capital of the world or close to it. That up and down business depending too on whether people were working and could afford to throw in cranberry sauce with their turkeys come Thanksgiving and Christmas or would be reduced to the eternal fallback beans and franks. But see Carver was close enough, thirty or forty miles south of Boston to Beacon Hill and Harvard Square to be splashed by that new sound and new way of going on dates too, going to coffeehouses or if times were tough just hang around the Harvard Square’s Hayes-Bickford watching with fascination the drunks, hipsters, dipsters, grifters, winos, hoboes, maybe  an odd whore drinking a cup of joe after some John split on her, but also guys and gals perfecting their acts as folk-singers, poets, artists and writers.
Grabbed on the basis of that protest music to the civil rights movement down South, putting Frank at odds with parents, neighbors and his corner boys around Jack Slack’s bowling alleys. Grabbed too the dope, the hope and every girl he could get his hands on, or get this to tell you about the times since he was at best an okay looking guy, they could get their hands on him, on those bedroom blue eyes of his they called it more times than not, that came with the great summers of love from about 1965 on.
Here’s where the contradictions started get all mixed up with things he had no control over, which he was defenseless against. So grabbed too that draft notice from his friends and neighbors at the Carver Draft Board and wound up a dog soldier in Vietnam for his efforts. Wound up on cheap street for a while when he came back unable to deal with the “real” world for a while. That failure to relate to the “real” world cost him his marriage, a conventional marriage to a young woman with conventional white picket fence, a little lawn, kids, and dogs dreams which only had happened because he was afraid that he would not come back from “Nam in one piece, would never get to marriage for what it was worth. Grabbed the streets for a while before he met a woman, a Quaker woman, who saved him, for a while until he went west with some of his corner boys who had also been washed by the great push. Did the whole on the road hitchhike trip, dope, did communes, did zodiacs of love, did lots of things until the hammer came down and the tide ebbed around the middle of the 1970s. So yeah Frank was almost like a bell-weather, no, a poster child for all that ailed society then, and for what needed to be fixed.      
That decade or so from about 1964 to about 1974 Frank decided as he got trapped in old time thoughts and as he related to his old friend Jack Callahan one night at his apartment in Cambridge as they passed a “joint” between them (some things die hard, or don’t die) was nevertheless beginning to look like a watershed time not just for the first wave immediate post-World War II baby-boomers like him, Jack, Frankie Riley, the late Peter Markin, Sam Lowell and a lot of other guys he passed the corner boy night with (the ones like him born immediately after the war as the troops came home, came off the transports, and guys and gals were all hopped up to start families, figure out how to finance that first white picket fence house and use the GI bill to get a little bit ahead in the world, at least get ahead of their parents’ dead-end great depression woes) who came of social and political age then washed clean by the new dispensation but for the country as a whole. More so since those of the so-called generation of ’68, so called by some wag who decided that the bookends of the rage of the American Democratic Convention in Chicago that year and the defeat of the revolutionary possibilities in France in May of that year signaled the beginning of the ebb tide for the whole thing, for those who are still up for a fight against the military monster who is still with us are continuing to fight a rearguard action to keep what little is left of accomplishments and the spirit of those time alive.
Thinking back a bit to that time, Frank as the dope kicked in, a thousand things, or it seemed like a thousand things, some things new in the social, economic, political or cultural forest came popping up out of nowhere in many cases, came together in pretty rapid succession to draw down in flames the dread red scare Cold War freezes of their  childhoods (that time always absurdly symbolically topped off by the sight of elementary school kids, them , crouched under some rickety old desk arms over their heads some air-raid drill practice time as if, as the residents of Hiroshima and Nagasaki who are still alive from that time can attest to, that would do the slightest bit of good if the “big one,” the nuclear bombs hit.
Yeah, the Cold War time too when what did they know except to keep their obedient heads down under their desks or face down on the floor when the periodic air-raid shelter tests were performed at school to see if they were ready to face the bleak future if they survived some ill-meant commie atomic blast. (Personally Frank remembered telling somebody then that he would, having seen newsreel footage of the bomb tests at Bikini, just as soon take his  chances above desk, thank you, for all the good the other maneuver would do them.)
For a while anyway Frank and the angel-saints were able to beat back that Cold War mentality, that cold-hearted angst, and calculated playing with the good green world, the world even if they had no say, zero, in creating what went on. Not so strangely, although maybe that is why people drifted away in droves once the old bourgeois order reasserted itself and pulled down the hammer, none of those who were caught up in the whirl thought it would be for only a while or at least thought it would fade so fast just as they thought, young and healthy as they were, that they would live forever. But if you, anybody when you really think about the matter, took a step back you could trace things a little, could make your own “live free” categories of the events that chipped away the ice of those dark nights.

Start in with the mid-1950s if you like, which is where Frank liked to start dating his own sense of the new breeze coming through although being a pre-teenager then he told Jack he would not have had sense enough to call it that, with the heat of the black struggle for some semblance of civil liberties down South in the fight for voter rights and the famous desegregation of buses in Montgomery and the painful desegregation of the schools in Little Rock (and some sense of greater  equality up North too as organizations like the NAACP and Urban League pushed an agenda for better education and housing). Also at that same time, and in gathering anecdotal evidence Frank had found that these too are a common lynchpin, the first break-out of music with the crowning of rock and roll as the wave of the future (black rhythm and blues, scat, rockabilly music all mixed up and all stirred up), and the “discovery” of teen alienation and angst exemplified by sullen movie star  James Dean, who lived fast, and died fast a metaphor that would work its way through youth culture over the next generation. (And throw in surly “wild one” movie star Marlon Brando in The Wild One and a brooding Montgomery Cliff in almost anything during those days, take The Misfits for one, to the mix of what they could relate to as icons of alienation and angst .)   
An odd-ball mix right there. Throw in, as well, although this was only at the end and only in very commercial form, the influence of the “beats,” the guys (and very few gals since that Jack Kerouac-Neal Cassady-William Burroughs-Allen Ginsberg mix was strictly a male bonding thing) who listened to the guys who blew the cool be-bop jazz and wrote up a storm based on that sound, declared a new sound, that you would hear around cafés even if you did not understand it unlike rock and roll, the guys who hitchhiked across the American landscape creating a wanderlust in all who had heard about their exploits, and, of course, the bingo bongo poetry that threw the old modernists like T.S. Eliot and Ezra Pound out with a bang.
Then start to throw in the struggles against the old authority in places like Frisco town where they practically ran the red-baiters in the HUAC out of town (what Frank, and some of his friends although not the Carver corner boys except Markin, would learn to call “bourgeois authority working hand in hand with the capitalists”), the old certitudes that had calmed their parents’ lives, made them reach out with both hands for the plenty in the “golden age of plenty.”
Of course the biggest event that opened the doors for liberals, radicals, hell, even thoughtful conservatives was the sweet breeze coming down the road from Boston with the election of Jack Kennedy. Ike, the harmless uncle, the kindly grandfather, was for parents Frank wanted guys who set the buzz going, let them think about getting some kicks out of life, that maybe with some thought they would survive, and if they didn’t at least we had the kicks.

That event opened up a new psyche, that it was okay to question authority, whatever the limitations and shortness of the Camelot times with the struggles against some hoary things like segregation, the death penalty, nuclear proliferation, the unevenness of social life which would get propelled later in the decade with fight for women’s liberation, gay liberation, and the fight against the draft, the damn war in Vietnam that drove a nail into the heart of Frank’s generation. A river of ideas, and a river of tears, have been, and can be, shed over that damn war, what it did to young people, those who fought, maybe especially those who fought as Frank got older and heard more stories about the guys who like him didn’t make it back to the “real” world after “Nam, didn’t have a sweet mother Quaker lady like Frank to save them, those guys you see downtown in front of the VA hospitals, and those who refused to, that lingers on behind the scenes even today.
There were more things, things like the “Pill” (and Frank would always kid Jack who was pretty shy talking about sex despite the fact that he and Chrissie, his high school sweetheart, had had four kids when he asked what pill if you need to know what pill and its purpose where have you been) that opened up a whole can of worms about what everyone was incessantly curious about and hormonally interested in doing something about, sex, sex beyond the missionary position of timeless legends, something very different if the dramatic increase in sales of the Kama Sutra meant anything, a newer sensibility in music with the arrival of the protest folk songs for a new generation which pushed the struggle and the organizing forward.
Cultural things too like the experimenting with about seven different kinds of dope previously the hidden preserve of “cool cat” blacks and white hipsters (stuff that they only knew negatively about, about staying away from, thru reefer madness propaganda, thru the banning of some drugs that were previously legal like sweet sister cocaine and taunt Nelson Algren hard life down at the base of society in films like The Man With The Golden Arm), the outbreak of name changes with everybody seemingly trying to reinvent themselves in name (Frank’s moniker at one time was Be-Bop Benny draw what you will out of that the idea being like among some hipster blacks, although with less reason, they wanted to get rid of their  slave names)  fashion (the old college plaid look fading in the face of World War II army surplus, feverish colors, and consciously mismatched outfits and affectation (“cool, man, cool” and “right on’ said it all). More social experiments gathering in the “nation” through rock concerts, now acid-etched, new living arrangements with the arrival of the urban and rural communes (including sleeping on more than one floor in more than one church or mission when on the road, or later on the bum). They all, if not all widespread, and not all successful as new lifestyles all got a fair workout during this period as well.     

Plenty of Frank’s kindred in retrospective would weigh the various combinations of events differently in figuring out how the uprising started just as plenty of them had their specific dates for when the tide began to ebb, when the mean-spirited and authoritarian began their successful counter-offensive that they still lived with for not taking the omens more seriously. (Frank’s ebb tide, as he had  described to Frankie Riley one time, was the events around May Day 1971 when they seriously tried, or thought they were seriously trying, to shut down the government in D.C. if it would no shut down the war and got nothing but billy-clubs, tear gas, beatings and mass arrests for their efforts. After those days Frank, and others, figured out the other side was more serious about preserving the old order than they were about creating the new and that they had better rethink how to slay the monster they were up against and act accordingly.)

Then Frank passed Jack a photograph that he had taken from a calendar put out by the New England Folk Song Society that his wife, Sarah, who worked to put the item out to raise funds for folk music preservation (see above) that acted as another catalyst for this his short screed, and which pictorially encapsulated a lot of what went then, a lot about “which side were you on” when the deal went down. This photograph Frank pointed out to Jack was almost impossible to imagine without some combination of that hell broth anti-war, anti-establishment, pro-“newer world” mix stirred up in the 1960s.
Three self-assured women (the “girls” of photograph a telltale sign of what society, even hip, progressive society thought about women in those slightly pre-women’s liberation time but they would learn the difference) comfortable with the loose and individualistic fashion statements of the day from floppy hats to granny dresses to bare legs, bare legs, Jesus, that alone would have shocked their girdled, silk stocking mothers, especially if those bare legs included wearing a mini-skirt (and mother dread thoughts about whether daughter knew about the pill, and heaven forbid if she was sexually active, a subject not for polite society, not for mother-daughter conversation, then she damn better well know, or else).
They are also uncomfortable about the damn Vietnam war, no, outraged is a better way to put the matter, that was eating up boyfriends, brothers, just friends, guys they knew in college or on the street who were facing heavy decisions about the draft, Canada exile, prison or succumbing to the worst choice, Frank’s choice if you could call his induction a choice what else could he have done gone to Canada, no,  military induction, at a heavy rate and they unlike their mothers who came through World War II waiting patiently and patriotically for their military heroes to come home, come home in one piece, have a very different sense of the heroic. A sense of the heroic going back to ancient times, Greek times anyway, when one group of women like their stay-at-home-waiting-for-the-other-shoe-to-drop World War II mothers demanded that their men come home carried on their shields if they had to rather than speak of defeat. Others, the ones that count here, refusing their potential soldier boys any favors, read sexual favors, okay, if they went off to war, providing a distant echo, a foundation to make their request stand on some authority, for these three women pictured there.
Frank wondered how many guys would confess to the lure of that enticement if they had refused induction. His own wife, quickly married at the time was if anything more gung-ho about stopping the red menace than his parents. Frank did not refuse induction for a whole bunch of reasons but then he did not have any girlfriends like that sweet mother Quaker woman later, who made that demand, his girl- friends early on, and not just his wife if anyway were as likely to want him to come back carried on a shield as those warrior-proud ancient Greek women. Too bad. But Frank said to Jack as Jack got up ready to head home to Hingham and Chrissie that he liked to think that today they could expect more women to be like the sisters above. Yeah, more, many more of the latter, please as Frank and his comrades in Veterans for Peace continue to struggle against the night-takers in the nightmare world of endless war.                     

*****Out Of The Hills And Hollows- With The Bluegrass Band The Lally Brothers In Mind

*****Out Of The Hills And Hollows- With The Bluegrass Band The Lally Brothers In Mind  

From The Pen Of Frank Jackman 

You know sometimes what goes around comes around as the old-time expression had it. Take for example Sam Lowell’s youthful interest in folk music back in the early 1960s when it crashed out of exotic haunts like Harvard Square, Ann Arbor, Old Town Chi Town and North Beach/Berkeley out in Frisco Bay Area Town and ran into a lot of kids, a lot of kids like Sam, who were looking for something different, something that they were not sure of but that smelled, tasted, felt, looked like difference from a kind of one-size-fits-all vanilla existence. Oh sure, every generation in their youth since the days when you could draw a distinction between youth and adulthood and have it count has tried to march to its own symbolic beat but this was different, this involved a big mix of things all jumbled together, political, social, economic, cultural, the whole bag of societal distinctions which would not be settled until the end of the decade, maybe the first part of the next. But what Sam was interested then down there in Carver about thirty miles south of Boston was the music, his interest in the other trends did not come until later, much later long after the whole thing had ebbed. 

The way Sam told it one night at his bi-weekly book club where the topic selected for that meeting had been the musical influences, if any, that defined one’s tastes and he had volunteered to speak since he had just read a book, The Mountain View, about the central place of mountain music, for lack of a better term, in the American songbook was that he had been looking for roots as a kid. Musical roots which were a very big concern for a part of his generation, a generation that was looking for roots, for rootedness not just in music but in literature, art, and even in the family tree. Their parents’ generation no matter how long it had been since the first family immigration wave was in the red scare Cold War post-World War II period very consciously ignoring every trace of roots in order to be fully vanilla Americanized. So his generation had to pick up the pieces not only of that very shaky family tree but everything else that had been downplayed during that period.

Since Sam had tired of the lazy hazy rock and roll that was being produced and which the local rock radio stations were force- feeding him and others like him looking to break out through their beloved transistor radios he started looking elsewhere on the tiny dial for something different. That transistor radio for those not in the know was “heaven sent” for a whole generation of kids in the 1950s who could care less, who hated the music that was being piped into the family living room big ass floor model radio which their parents grew up with since it was small, portable and could be held to the ear and the world could go by without bothering you while you were in thrall to the music. That was the start. But like a lot of young people, as he would find out later when he would meet kindred in Harvard Square, the Village, Ann Arbor, Berkeley he had been looking for that something different at just that moment when something called folk music, roots music, actually was being played on select stations for short periods of time each week.

Sam’s lucky station had been a small station, an AM station, from Providence in Rhode Island which he would find out later had put the program on Monday nights from eight to eleven at the request of Brown and URI students who had picked up the folk music bug on trips to the Village (Monday a dead music night in advertising circles then, maybe now too, thus fine for talk shows, community service programs and odd-ball stuff like roots music.) That is where he first heard the likes of Bob Dylan, Joan Baez, Tom Paxton, Dave Von Ronk, a guy named Tom Rush from Harvard whom he would hear in person many times over the years, and another guy, Eric Von Schmidt whom he would meet later in one of the Harvard Square coffeehouses that were proliferating to feed the demand to hear folk music, well, cheaply alone or on a date. Basically as he related to his listeners for a couple of bucks at most admission, the price of a cup of coffee to keep in front of you and thus your place, maybe a pastry if alone and just double that up for a date except share the pasty you had your date deal all set for the evening hearing performers perfecting their acts before hitting the A-list clubs).

He listened to it all, liked some of it, other stuff, the more protest stuff he could take or leave depending on the performer but what drew his attention, strangely then was when somebody on radio or on stage performed mountain music, you know, the music of the hills and hollows that came out of Appalachia mainly down among the dust and weeds. Things like Bury Me Under The Weeping Willow, Gold Watch and Chain, Fair and Tender Ladies, Pretty Saro, and lots of instrumentals by guys like Buell Kazee, Hobart Smith, The Muddy River Boys, and some bluegrass bands as well that had now escaped his memory.

This is where it all got jumbled up for him Sam said since he was strictly a city boy, made private fun of the farm boys, the cranberry boggers, who then made up a significant part of his high school and had no interest in stuff like the Grand Ole Opry and that kind of thing, none. Still he always wondered about the source, about why he felt some kinship with the music of the Saturday night red barn, probably broken down, certainly in need of paint, and thus available for the dance complete with the full complement of guitars, fiddles, bass, mandolin and full complement of Jimmy Joe’s just made white lightening, playing plainsong for the folk down in the wind-swept hills and hollows.                                 
As Sam warmed up to his subject he told his audience two things that might help explain his interest when he started to delve into the reasons why fifty years later the sound of that finely-tuned fiddle still beckons him home. The first was that when he had begun his freshman year at Boston University he befriended a guy, Everett Lally, the first day of orientation since he seemed to be a little uncomfortable with what was going on. See Everett was from a small town outside of Wheeling, West Virginia and this Boston trip was only the second time, the first time being when he came up for an interview, he had been to a city larger than Wheeling. So they became friends, not close, not roommate type friends, but they had some shared classes and lived in the same dorm on Bay State Road.

One night they had been studying together for an Western History exam and Everett asked Sam whether he knew anything about bluegrass music, about mountain music (Sam’s term for it Everett was Bill Monroe-like committed to calling it bluegrass). Sam said sure, and ran off the litany of his experiences at Harvard Square, the Village, listening on the radio. Everett, still a little shy, asked if Sam had ever heard of the Lally Brothers and of course Sam said yes, that he had heard them on the radio playing the Orange Blossom Express, Rocky Mountain Shakedown as well as their classic instrumentation version of The Hills of Home.  Everett perked up and admitted that he was one of the Lally Brothers, the mandolin player.

Sam was flabbergasted. After he got over his shock Everett told him that his brothers were coming up to play at the New England Bluegrass Festival to be held at Brandeis on the first weekend of October. Everett invited Sam as his guest. He accepted and when the event occurred he was not disappointed as the Lally Brothers brought the house down. For the rest of that school year Sam and Everett on occasion hung out together in Harvard Square and other haunts where folk music was played since Everett was interested in hearing other kinds of songs in the genre. After freshman year Everett did not return to BU, said his brothers needed him on the road while people were paying to hear their stuff and that he could finish school later when things died down and they lost touch, but Sam always considered that experience especially having access to Everett’s huge mountain music record collection as the lynchpin to his interest.             

Of course once the word got out that Everett Lally was in a bluegrass group, played great mando, could play a fair fiddle and the guitar the Freshman girls at BU drew a bee-line for him, some of them anyway. BU, which later in the decade would be one of the hotbeds of the anti-war movement locally and nationally but then was home to all kinds of different trends just like at campuses around the country, was filled with girls (guys too but for my purposes her the girls are what counts) from New York City, from Manhattan, from Long Island who knew a few things about folk music from forays into the Village. Once they heard Everett was a “mountain man,” or had been at Brandeis and had seen him with his brothers, they were very interested in adding this exotic plant to their collections. Everett, who really was pretty shy although he was as interested in girls as the rest of the guys at school were, told Sam that he was uncomfortable around these New York women because they really did treat him like he was from another world, and he felt that he wasn’t. Felt he was just a guy. But for a while whenever they hung out together girls would be around. Needless to say as a friend of Everett’s when there were two interested girls Sam got the overflow. Not bad, not bad at all.        

But there is something deeper at play in the Sam mountain music story as he also told the gathering that night. It was in his genes, his DNA he said. This was something that he had only found out a few years before. On his father’s side, his grandfather, Homer, whom he had never met since after his wife, Sam’s grandmother, Sara died he had left his family, all grown in any case, without leaving a forwarding address, had actually been born and lived his childhood down in Prestonsburg, Kentucky, down near the fabled Hazard of song and labor legend before moving to the North after World War I. Here is the funny part though when his father and mother Laura were young after World War II and at wits end about where his grandfather might be they travelled down to Prestonsburg in search of him. While they stayed there for a few months looking Sam had been conceived although they left after getting no results on their search, money was getting low, and there were no father jobs around so he had been born in the South Shore Hospital in Massachusetts. So yes, that mountain music just did not happen one fine night but was etched in his body, the whirlwind sounds on Saturday night down amount the hills and hollows with that sad fiddle playing one last waltz to end the evening.                  

Keeping The Blues/Folk Lamp Burning- Les Sampou's "Lonesomeville"

Click On Title To Link To YouTube's Film Clip On Les Sampou.

CD Review

Lonesomeville, Les Sampou, Flying Fish CD, Rounder Records, 1996

The substance of this review was originally used in the review of Les Sampou’s “Borrowed And Blue” album. I have revised that review and most of the points made apply to the other three CD’s reviewed in this space as well.

The name Les Sampou most recently came up in this space, in passing, as part of a review of blues/folk stylist/ songwriter Rory Block’s work. I made the point there that Rory (and Les, Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur and precious few others) were performing a great service by keeping the female blue singer tradition alive (and, for that matter, male-witness the songs covered by all four). Along the way doing the same for the more amorphous contemporary folk tradition with their own fair share of masterful songwriting efforts. Since I placed Les Sampou in such august company it was, thus, only a matter of time before I got around to giving her a few kudos of her own. The following paragraph from the Rory Block review can serve here for Les as well:

“But more than that, thanks for this great album of country blues classics some famous, some a little obscure and known only to serious aficionados but all well worth placing in the album with the quirky little Rory Block treatment that makes many of the songs her own. Oh, did I also mention her virtuoso strong guitar playing. Well, that too. I have gone on and on elsewhere in this space about the old time women blues singers, mostly black, like Bessie Smith, Victoria Spivey and Ida Cox. I have also spilled some ink on more modern, mainly white, women blues singers like Bonnie Raitt, Maria Muldaur and a local talent here in Boston, Les Sampou, and their admirable (and necessary) efforts to carry on this proud tradition. Rory belongs right up there with these women.”

As For “Lonesome” here is the ‘skinny’:

I will make the same point I made in reviewing the “Les Sampou” album because that same spirit pervades this effort. There are a lot of way to be “in” the contemporary folk scene. One way is to write some topical songs of love, longings for love, maybe, a little politics thrown in and maybe some snappy thing about the vacuity of modern life. Yes, that is the easy stuff and Les can, if the occasion calls for it, summon up some very powerful lyrics to make those points. Witness “Holy Land ” and “Home Again”. But, something more is going on here. This is a woman who has been through the emotional wringer, and survived. Listen up.

*****Then and Now-A Pamphlet On The American Labor Struggles Of The 1930s

*****Then and Now-A Pamphlet On The American Labor Struggles Of The 1930s

Workers Vanguard No. 1072
7 August 2015
New Spartacist Pamphlet
Newly available for purchase is our publication Then and Now, which explains how class-struggle leadership made a key difference in three citywide strikes in 1934. We reprint below the pamphlet’s introduction describing its contents.
The “Then and Now” article in this pamphlet addresses the crucial political lessons of the 1934 strikes by Minneapolis truckers, maritime workers on the West Coast and Toledo auto parts workers. Waged amidst the all-sided destitution of the Great Depression, these strikes, like others that year, confronted the strikebreaking forces of the capitalist state. A key difference was that these strikes won. What made this outcome possible is that their leaders were, at the time, committed to a program of class struggle. Unlike other trade-union leaders of that day—and today—they did not buy into the notion that the workers had interests in common with the employers, their political parties or their state. Instead, these strikes were fought by mobilizing the mass strength and solidarity of the workers in opposition to the forces of the capitalist class enemy.
The review of Bryan Palmer’s book Revolutionary Teamsters provides a more in-depth study of the Minneapolis truckers’ strikes, which were led by the Trotskyists of the Communist League of America (CLA). Here they confronted the Farmer-Labor Party (FLP) governor of Minnesota, Floyd Olson, who commanded the allegiance of many workers with his often radical-sounding, friend-of-the-little-guy rhetoric. The FLP postured as a “third party” alternative to both the Democrats and Republicans, but it was no less a capitalist party.
This is effectively addressed in the 1930 article “The Minnesota F.L.P.” by Vincent Dunne, who went on to become a central leader of the truckers’ strikes. As Dunne makes clear, the two-class Farmer-Labor Party was based on the subordination of the workers’ struggles to farmers and other petty-bourgeois forces “whose political outlook is bounded by the illusion that it is possible to achieve security under the capitalist order.” After an on-again, off-again alliance with the Democratic Party, the FLP finally merged with the Democrats in 1944.
Dunne and other CLA leaders of the Minneapolis strikes had been armed for battle against farmer-labor populism by Russian revolutionary leader Leon Trotsky, who in the early 1920s had intervened to pull the young American communist movement back from giving political support to the capitalist “third party” candidacy of Robert La Follette, a maverick Republican Senator from Wisconsin. The excerpts from Trotsky’s introduction to his book, The First Five Years of the Communist International, summarize his opposition to this opportunist course which, if pursued, would have politically liquidated the fledgling Communist party.
Today, what remains of the gains that were won through the momentous class battles of the past continues to be ravaged in a one-sided class war enabled by trade-union misleaders, who have long forsaken the very means through which the unions were founded. The working class, the poor, black people, immigrants and countless others at the bottom of this society have paid the price in busted unions, broken lives and all-sided misery.
To be sure, it is not easy for the workers to win in the face of the forces arrayed against them. Many strikes, even very militant ones, will lose. But as was demonstrated in the three 1934 strikes addressed in this pamphlet, when important working-class battles are won it can dramatically alter the situation. These victories inspired a huge labor upsurge later in the 1930s that built the mass industrial unions in this country.
Hard-fought strikes can provide an important school of battle for the workers in which they learn the power of their collective strength and organization and begin to understand the class nature not only of the capitalist system but of the government, laws and political parties that defend its rule. But while able to strike important blows against the conditions of the workers’ exploitation, trade-union struggle on its own cannot end that exploitation. To win that war there must be a struggle for working-class power under the leadership of a revolutionary party that can arm the workers with the understanding and consciousness of their class interests in the fight to emancipate labor and all of the oppressed from the bondage of capitalist exploitation.
Spartacist League/U.S.

Box 1377 GPO, New York, NY 10116, USA

Frank Jackman comment on the labor Struggles of the 1930s:

Everybody, everybody who has been around for the last generation or two and has been breathing knows that the rich have gotten richer exponentially in the one-sided class war that they have so far successfully been pursuing here in America (and internationally as well). We really do not need to have the hard fact of class thrown in our faces one more time by the dwindling band of brave pro-working class leftists who must be legitimately perplexed by the lack of push-back, lack of basic trade union consciousness that animated those of a couple of generations ago to at least fight back and win a few precious gains. Or to have those of the think tank crowd of craven sociologists and make-shift policy wonks who are always slightly behind whatever the current reality is and well behind on what the hell to do about it if they would dream of lowering themselves to such considerations tell us of their recent discovery that the working classes (and the vaunted middle too) are getting screwed to put in working class language. What we really do need to have is some kind of guidance about how to fight back, how to get some room to breathe and figure out a strategy to win some class battles, small, large, hell, any size if for no other reason than to get the capitalists, mostly finance capitalists these days to back off a bit in that relentless drive to push everybody else to the bottom.

So it is very good, and very necessary, that this informative and thought-provoking pamphlet, Then and Now, goes back to the 1930s, the last serious prolonged struggle by the American working class as a class. Goes back and discusses those three very important class battles of 1934 –Minneapolis, Toledo and San Francisco all led centrally by “reds,” by those who had some sense that they were joining  in episodes of the class struggle and were willing to take their lumps on that basis. It probably would have seemed crazy to those militants that over 75 years later that their battles would be touted as the last great struggles of the class and that their grandchildren and great-grandchildren would be looking over their exploits with a certain admiration (and maybe puzzlement too since they have not seem such uppity-ness, ever). It speaks volumes that today’s leadership of the organized working class in the trade unions is clueless, worse, consciously works to keep everybody under their thumbs clueless about the battles that gave them their jobs. But that should not stop the rest of us from picking up some pointers. Read this one-and act.  





People's BudgetTell Congress a Message: Vote for the People's Budget in March!

Each year, the Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) offers an alternative budget resolution to the “austerity” budgets supported by the House Majority and Speaker Ryan. The People's Budget offers a solid blueprint to:

  • Invest more than $1 trillion in housing, education, transportation, clean energy and safe water to create millions of jobs
  • Prevent cuts, restore social spending and reduce poverty by half in 10 years
  • Increase educational opportunities, provide Pre-K and debt-free college for all
  • Increase, not cut, Social Security and health care
  • Close corporate tax loopholes, tax Wall Street speculation and raise taxes on the top 2%
  • Redirect wasteful Pentagon spending and direct to peoples needs, ending Pentagon pork and the overseas contingency "slush fund" 

Send your message to Congress here.


Who Said It: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton

[just in case you're still in the whoo-whoo-i'm-free-i-can-vote camp, or of the lesser-of-two evils mindset]
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump: One is a former Secretary of State whose husband was a two-term Democratic president, and the other is a Republican billionaire real estate magnate who basically wants to ban an entire religion from the US. On paper, they’re polar opposites. But when looking at their past statements, would their administrations really differ that much?
Now that the early state primaries and caucuses are wrapping up, it’s important to know where the party front-runners stand on major issues like welfare and poverty, war and national security, immigration, and the economy. At the end of the list, a guide to who said what has been included.
Ready? Let’s play.
1. “Now that we’ve said these people are no longer deadbeats—they’re actually out there being productive—how do we keep them there?”
2. “I’ve advocated tying the welfare payment to certain behavior about being a good parent. You couldn’t get your welfare check if your child wasn’t immunized. You couldn’t get your welfare check if you didn’t participate in a parenting program. You couldn’t get your check if you didn’t show up for student-teacher conferences.”
3. “I want the Iranians to know that if I’m the president, we will attack Iran… In the next 10 years, during which they might foolishly consider launching an attack on Israel, we would be able to totally obliterate them.”
4. “Every nation has to either be with us, or against us. Those who harbor terrorists, or who finance them, are going to pay a price.”
5. “We should have never been in Iraq. We have destabilized the Middle East.”
6. “I’m supporting an effort to increase the end strength of the Army, increase the size of the military… It is expensive, but I don’t think we have any alternatives.”
7. “I am, you know, adamantly against illegal immigrants… People have to stop employing illegal immigrants.”
8. “Our people are our greatest asset. We must take care of our own. We must have universal healthcare.”
9. “Health emergencies can’t wait for us to have some theoretical debate about some better idea that will never, ever come to pass.”
10. “We need more police, we need more and tougher prison sentences for repeat offenders.”
not 100% sure? >  who Said It: Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton

A View From The Left-On Israel's Netanyahu

"Politics is the entertainment division of the military-industrial complex." ~Frank Zappa
  • posted Sunday 21 February 2016
The 56-year-old director made the comments just hours before being presented the Panorama Audience Award
 [another soft-zionist? It's all the Netanyahu gang? Really? Awful as it is, what about the populace's overwhelming support for Israeli's attacks on Gaza & the West Bank? ]

Director Udi Aloni attends the 'Junction 48' press conference at the Berlin Film Festival Getty Images
Israeli director Udi Aloni, who won the top audience at Berlin Film Festival on Saturday, has labelled the Israeli government "fascist" and urged Germany to cease its military support of the Jewish state.
At a Q&A session about his award-winning film Junction 48, hours before being presented with the Panorama Audience Award for best fiction film, Mr Aloni said Germany supported the "fascist regime of Israel", according to a report by Channel 10 News.
The 56-year-old called Israel a "democracy of white people" and criticised German chancellor Angela Merkel's support for Israel, saying: "Merkel does not mention the occupation and sells submarines to Netanyahu to continue such things."
But Mr Aloni later clarified to Channel 10 that his comments "were directed against the Israeli government and not against the country, which I love".
"In contrast to the prime minister who spreads hatred, my movie spreads love and co-existence," he said.
Mr Aloni expressed support and admiration for Tamer Nafar, the Palestinian rapper on whose life his film is based, and who has also previously claimed Israel is a terrorist country.
He said: "What makes Tamer such an amazing man is that he actually grew up in Lod, and from the beginning he sang about the fact that Israel is the real terrorist."
According to the report, Junction 48 received financial support from Israel's culture ministry. Miri Regev, the hard-right Israeli minister of culture, said in response that Israel should not fund films that slander it.
Ms Regev said the statements were "clear proof that artists who subvert the state, defame it and hurt its legitimacy should not be funded by the taxpayer".
"A sane country should not assist slanderers and denouncers who malign it, immediately after drinking from its coffers," she said.
Last year, more than 3,000 artists, including some of the country's most prominent actors and directors, signed a petition against Ms Regev's policies.

Roger Waters: Musicians Afraid to Speak Out Against Israel

"My industry has been particularly recalcitrant in even raising a voice [against Israel]. There's me and Elvis Costello, Brian Eno, Manic Street Preachers, one or two others, but there's nobody in the United States where I live. I've talked to a lot of them, and they are scared s---less.

"If they say something in public they will no longer have a career. They will be destroyed. I'm hoping to encourage some of them to stop being frightened and to stand up and be counted, because we need them. We need them desperately in this conversation in the same way we needed musicians to join protesters over Vietnam."

The Last of the Lincolns: Delmer Berg Dies at age 100-Presente!-Viva La Quince Brigada

Those Who Fought In Spain In The International Brigades Are Kindred Spirits 

¡Hasta siempre compañero Del!  
Yanks in the Dimitrov Battery: standing Sam Slipyan, Conlon Nancarrow, Ed Lending, Charles Simpson (?), Delmer Berg, Norman Schmidt, kneeling two Spanish Chauffers.


From The Abraham Lincoln Brigade-The Last of the Lincolns: Delmer Berg Dies at age 100-Presente!

Memorial service in honor of Del and other volunteers: date to be announced.
View this email in your browser

The Last of the Lincolns: Delmer Berg Dies at age 100

Photo by Phil Schermeister, 
courtesy of Friends & Neighbors
Magazine,Sonora, CA.
Delmer Berg (December 20, 1915 - February 28, 2016), the last known surviving veteran of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade, died peacefully in his California home today. He was 100 years old. Though hard of hearing in his old age, Del was voluble and forthcoming about his experiences in the Spanish Civil War and beyond, recently authoring a piece for the NY Times Magazine and interviewing with El Diario and El País.
We honor Del for his lifetime of activism and his dedication to ALBA-VALB. His death marks the silent turning of a historic page.

Del was born in 1915 outside of Los Angeles – “Where Disneyland is now,” he said wryly in a 2013 video interview with ALBA – to a family of poor farm workers. Seeking better economic opportunities, the Bergs moved to Oregon. But, as the country foundered in the Great Depression, teenage Del dropped out of high school to assist his father. Del’s political consciousness was forged in these early years:

“Being poor, being a farmer, I automatically felt part of the downturn,” he said in a 2014 interview with Friends and Neighbors Magazine. “You don’t need to go to school to learn what’s going on; just sit out on the farm and look around.”

Del found his way out of agricultural labor with a stint in the 76th Field Artillery in the Presidio of Monterey but
Del Berg at his home in California. Photo Nelson G.
 soon bought his discharge for $120 in 1937: he saw the threat of the rise of fascism in Europe and wanted to travel to Spain. A billboard advertising the “Friends of the Abraham Lincoln Brigade” brought Del into the fold of stateside organizing for Spain. After “licking 10,000 stamps,” in the winter of 1938, Del was on a ship to France and would make the trek across the Pyrenees, following in the footsteps of so many volunteers before him.

While in Spain, Del served in a field artillery and anti-aircraft artillery battery, ultimately laying communication lines from the Republican headquarters to the front during the momentous Battle of the Ebro River. The photo below shows him in the illustrious company of brigadistas Sam Slipyan, Conlon Nancarrow, Ed Lending, Charles Simpson, and Norman Schmidt. His next and final post in the city of Valencia was quiet until his unit’s lodgings in a monastery were bombed by a fascist airplane aiming for a railway station.

Despite the shrapnel in his liver, a personal reminder of the bite of fascism, Del’s life after Spain was an active one. While many Lincoln Brigade vets were prevented from serving in WWII, Del was drafted into the Army. He feared discrimination because of his political affiliations but instead was surprisingly given his choice of outfit by his recruiter. He was called to appear before the House Un-American Activities Committee during the postwar era but “they could never find me to serve a summons,” he gleefully told Nadya Williams in 2012.

Del’s political commitments were various: the Young Communist League, United Farm Workers, his local NAACP (he proudly recalls being at one time the Vice President of the Modesto chapter which had no other white members), the Mexican American Political Association, the anti-Viet Nam War movement, the Democratic Club, the Congress of California Seniors, and peace and justice committees. In his final years, Del lived comfortably in his self-built home in the Sierra Nevada foothills.

When the vets would muse about who would be last to survive, perhaps none wagered it would be Del. He revealed his secret to longevity in 2014: “I think staying politically active keeps me alive... It fills my life. I never slowed down – I’m right in the middle of things yet.”

Del was predeceased by his wife June Berg. 
ALBA will host a memorial for Del and the Lincoln Brigade in New York. Date to be announced. 
¡Hasta siempre compañero Del!
Yanks in the Dimitrov Battery: standing Sam Slipyan, Conlon Nancarrow, Ed Lending, Charles Simpson (?), Delmer Berg, Norman Schmidt, kneeling two Spanish Chauffers.

Your contributions help keep the memory of the Lincoln Brigade alive.