A good Saturday night song.
This amusing piece by Charles Davis on how he went to capitalist summer camp and became a communist reminded me of this old Yglesias approval of a pretty cheap shot at Pete Seeger’s communism seventy years ago. Yglesias’ major complaint with his summer camp was that he was forced to sing terrible folk songs, including many by Pete Seeger, and thus learned to hate him for it.*
There’s a whole historical literature on red diaper baby summer camps and how 20th century radicals attempted to inculcate their children into their value systems through these camps. I don’t know if there’s a similar literature on conservative camps. If not, someone should look into this. But I have to wonder how effective these camps are? How many commie kids turned into capitalists and how many Randian kids learned to hold human values as an adult? Not sure how you could quantify something like this, but it’s an interesting question. I’ve often wondered if the only way to give any children I might have in the future the values I cherish is to raise them to be cold-hearted capitalists.
* Although I recognize that I am ideologically wrong about this, I wholeheartedly share Matt’s disdain for sing-alongs. I was once at the Highlander Center in Tennessee, where Guy and Candi Carawan were still the resident folksingers. This was probably 1999 or 2000. Guy Carawan is the individual who taught the old spiritual “We Shall Overcome” to the SNCC students in 1960, making it the anthem of the civil rights movement. Despite recognizing that I was in the presence of greatness, I really didn’t want to sing along. Neither did most other people under the age of 30. Disdain of pure raw emotion is an unfortunate byproduct of the Ironic Age. Contemporary writers about the IWW like Nels Anderson noted the power that common song had to unite the poor. We’ve lost that. Part of that is the greater diversity of musical styles in the 21st century–even if there were anthems to sing along to, what could we agree on? But an equal or greater part is dislike of the style.
I have a Johnny Cash picture, but it’s no good. Same thing with Merle Haggard. But at the time that I was shooting I wasn’t looking for the stars. Dolly Parton hadn’t yet gone out on her own yet when I shot her. I was looking mostly for the world of country music—the people.
My hero was E. P. Thompson. He was a terrific historian and a very good writer. I even went to study with him one semester in England. His kind of bottom-up philosophy of history was what I was following, and I was doing so very consciously. When I started taking these pictures, I was pretty sure about what I knew when it came to history but not very secure about what I knew about photography. So I looked at people like Brassaï and Weegie or Diane Arbus and August Sander, and they seemed to fit what E. P. Thompson was talking about, and that’s exactly what I set out to do.
The life of a musician is one of high-risk, if for no other reason that they are on the road all the time. Mexican-American singer Jenni Rivera is the latest to die far too young.
Doc Severinsen does King Crimson’s “In the Court of the Crimson King.” From 1970.
We’ve seen a lot of coverage of lockouts lately because professional sports league owners have used the tactic to try and wring major concessions out of unions. But it is an increasingly common phenomenon around the nation. Emboldened bosses see the end of their hated unions in sight and are capitalizing. This includes in classical music, as orchestra bosses around the nation are locking out their musicians in order to squeeze more money from them and concentrate resources at the top, where The Gospel of Wealth says they belong.
The great saxophonist David S. Ware has passed at the age of 62. I knew he had been sick for a long time. He received a kidney transplant 2 years ago, donated by a fan, which goes to show the devotion of the followers of this titanic artist. I had hoped this would mean many more years for a man at the peak of his artistic powers, but alas, no. However, those additional two years of life meant some more great music. RIP.
Some re-enactors have formed camp bands to play music that soldiers enjoyed hearing around battlefield campfires. The most popular tunes included songs from the minstrel stage.
Groups such as the 2nd South Carolina String Band pride themselves on their accurate impressions — right down to the exaggerated black dialect of songs with inescapably racist overtones.
Unfortunately, the AP story is short and underdeveloped. However, here’s an interview with the 2nd South Carolina String Band, an interview which jaw-droppingly openly discussed the performance of minstrel songs without a single mention of the racism of the time.