AUGUST 31, 2019
Song of the Day: Brown Eyed Girl features the music and lyrics of Van Morrison, who took this song into the Billboard Top Ten in 1967. From the album "Blowin' Your Mind!", the song became a signature tune for Morrison. My all-time favorite of his remains his very jazzy "Moondance," which was recorded fifty years ago this month and was the title track to his album, released in January 1970 [YouTube link], though the single wasn't released until 1977! But this one is a classic rock staple, from the "original" Summer of Love. Today, the Rock and Roll Hall of Famer turns 74 years old. Check out the original album version and live in concert at the BBC Radio Theatre [YouTube links].
AUGUST 30, 2019
Song of the Day: Suite: Judy Blue Eyes, composed by Stephen Stills, appeared on the 1969 debut album of Crosby, Stills, and Nash (Neil Young performed with them at Woodstock, but only as part of their "Electric Set"). The song is literally constructed as a suite, but it is also a play on the phrase "Sweet Judy Blue Eyes," which refers to Stills's former girlfriend, singer/songwriter, Judy Collins. Check out the album version and their acoustic performance at Woodstock [YouTube links], both ending with that absolutely infectious "doo-doo-doo-da-doo" heard in the suite's coda.
AUGUST 29, 2019
Song of the Day: Don't Matter To Me is credited to numerous writers including Paul Anka, Aubrey "Drake" Graham, and Michael Jackson, who was born on this date in 1958. As I explained in my essay, "Michael Jackson: Man or Monster in the Mirror," published on Notablog on the tenth anniversary of MJ's death this past June, I believe that even if it could be proven that some artists engaged in destructive behavior during their lives, it need not erase our appreciation of the art they created. Ultimately, it's something that each person has to decide for themselves. But the case of Michael Jackson is particularly troublesome because there are so many contemporary artists who have openly acknowledged how deeply they were influenced by him. One of these artists, Drake, had been very vocal in his acknowledgment of MJ's influence on his music [MTV clip]---so much so that he asked the Jackson estate if he could include samples from a previously unreleased MJ song for his 2018 album, "Scorpion". Today's "Song of the Day" is that "collaboration"---a duet that drove the track into the Top Ten on Billboard's Hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop charts. It's not as if allegations of MJ's exploits with children were unknown prior to the release of the documentary, "Leaving Neverland"; but in the film's wake, Drake decided to remove this song from his setlist on his current world tour in support of his album. Jackson's lyrical contribution to the track is now all the more ironic: "All of a sudden you say you don't want me no more. All of a sudden you say that I closed the door. It don't matter to me. It don't matter to me what you say." Even MTV, on which MJ made a huge impact, has been pressured to strip his name from the Video Vanguard Award at its VMAs. Protests from his most recent accusers may have led MTV to drop his name during the presentation of the Award this past Monday. But this year's recipient, Missy Elliott, would have none of it---her epic performance and acceptance speech proudly paid tribute in both choreography and words to MJ [YouTube links]. She even thanked MJ's sister Janet for all her support through the years.
For reasons I explained in June, I continue to celebrate MJ's artistry. Deep down, I'm sure Drake still acknowledges Jackson's impact on his music. But if he fears a public backlash or feels that guilty about this particular song appearing on his album to the point that he won't even perform the "duet" publicly, maybe he ought to send all the proceeds he made off this Certified Gold Single to charities supporting victims of child abuse, as SNL's Pete Davidson [YouTube link] once bitingly suggested. Either way, I remain undaunted in highlighting Jackson's contributions, even if they are featured on present or future posthumously released singles. Check out this track's original music video, with its haunting MJ vocal chorus. And then check out the Zanderz dance remix [YouTube links].
AUGUST 26, 2019
. . . until I Have Walked a Mile in His Moccasins.
So says a plaque on my wall, by my desk, in my home office. In response to several Facebook threads documenting a recent visit to New York City by a dear friend of mine, Ryan Neugebauer, I received some feedback from other folks who were a bit upset that I had not done X, Y, or Z in the past with them but somehow had found a way to go on the Staten Island Ferry and see the fireworks in Coney Island with Ryan, while he was here in NYC. My response was restricted to Facebook, but I decided to post it on Notablog because as a secondary, unintended consequence, it seems to have resonated with lots of folks, especially those who deal with various disabilities and who are exhausted having to explain their constraints over and over again even to loved ones. Here is what I said on Facebook:
Folks, I'm really sorry I have to even post something like this as I don't like talking too much about my private life or its constraints, but it seems that quite a few friends have gotten upset because they saw that Lo and Behold, Chris Matthew Sciabarra was OUT OF THE HOUSE FOR ONE NIGHT and how dare I do such a thing when I've not been able to do X, Y, or Z, when asked by somebody else.
This post is not directed to any person in particular, but to the situation in general. Given the number of FB messages I've received and my inability to address every single one of them, I think this is better. For those of you who truly understand (and I know who you are... so don't even think of apologizing), no explanation is necessary. But for those who don't really know what I've gone through, even though I'm not inclined to justify one minute of my life, here it goes:
A dear friend of mine, Ryan Neugebauer, made his first trip to NYC, and on one of the nights of his visit, my sister was kind enough to drive over to Staten Island so we could take the ferry and see the skyline of NYC, and to get back in time to the see the fireworks in Coney Island. A very New York experience, indeed.
And I had a lot of fun.
But for somebody who has undergone 60+ surgeries and who talked about it extensively in a "Folks" interview (see here), it might seem odd, as I put it in my post with Ryan, that I was able to get out at all. I even remarked that "some nights they actually let me out."
I haven't been on the Staten Island Ferry since before 9/11---that's twenty years or more; I've been to about ten or so concerts or films in ten years. I am a Yankee fanatic who has yet to see the New Yankee Stadium, even though it's been open for ten years. I don't remember the last time I went to any of NYC's museums.
What it takes to get out of this apartment is nearly two days of starvation in order to ATTEMPT it, and a carefully laid-out plan that involves logistics with regard to accessibility to a restroom!
So please: Just celebrate with me for a few minutes the fact that I was able to get out one night and have a damn good time with a great friend. Anyone else who is a friend certainly knows that, unless I'm scheduled for a surgical procedure, the door is open. Which is why I have folks come through these parts to visit for a few hours at a time, AT MY HOME, which puts the least pressure on me, to have a good time with caring friends. You are no less loved because you didn't go on the Staten Island Ferry with me.
We all seem to carry crosses in life; everybody has their issues and problems. Cliches though these are, I truly can't and won't criticize my neighbor until I've walked a mile in their moccasins.
Though I'm being flattered in a way to be loved by so many, let me emphasize: Before you get all depressed that you didn't get to go on the Ferry with me, please take a look at my song of the day today: You Need to Calm Down. If you personalize the fact that I couldn't get out with any one of you on some other night, I can't do anything to help you out of your depression. Every day, every hour, changes contexts for me. And dialectical guy that I am, I have to evaluate every thing I do according to the constraints of the context of every day I live.
DO NOT FEEL SORRY FOR ME. I neither ask nor seek your pity or permission. I do the best that I can.
Having the stars align for one night of fun with one special friend is not a statement against any other special friend I have. And Lord knows I have a lot of folks here and elsewhere with whom I share very close bonds and who have been amazingly supportive, both spiritually and materially, over the years. For this, I am profoundly grateful.
But cut me some slack. Life is too short.
I added a postscript to the FB thread, because my post seems to have led in an uptick in shares on the "Folks" website of my interview from January 2018:
Thanks to everyone who has responded to this post and for all the support I received here and privately. I decided to post this comment on my own Notablog; apparently, just by including a link to the "Folks" interview here, in just four hours time, it has gone from 307 shares to 360 shares [and growing by the hour, apparently] at the Folks website. And though this post was not meant to be a public service announcement, I am happy that it may have resonated especially with those who have to deal with a disability and find special ways to cope with its constraints. Love to all...
And for the record, there are a ton of photos on Facebook of my night out with Ryan, but here are two pics of us on the Staten Island Ferry---one on the way to Manhattan, the other on the way back to Staten Island:
Ed. (10 September 2019): My FB post resulted in an uptick of "shares" on the site of "Folks", "an online magazine dedicated to telling the stories of remarkable people who refuse to be defined by their health issues." Shares increased from 307 on the day of this post to 456 today. I'm delighted that more "folks" had a chance to read the Robert Lerose-penned profile of me on that site---and if it helped or enlightened anyone, I'm very grateful.
Song of the Day: You Need to Calm Down features the words and music of Joel Little and Taylor Swift, who released this as the second single off her new album, "Lover." Swift ties Ariana Grande with ten nominations each for tonight's MTV Video Music Awards. The truly bold video single [YouTube link] to this infectious song has more cameos than one can count and its message of tolerance (which extends even to her long-time feud with Katy Perry!) has led to over 100 million views on YouTube alone. Check out Swift's live "Prime Day" performance of the song as well [YouTube link]. And check out the Video Music Awards tonight! Missy Elliot will be the recipient of the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. In three days, we'll be marking the 61st anniversary of MJ's birth with a new song that has an interesting history.
AUGUST 24, 2019
Song of the Day: White Rabbit, words and music by Grace Slick, was featured on the 1967 Jefferson Airplane album, "Surrealistic Pillow." The Top Ten song was actually first performed by Slick when she was with the Great Society, a San Francisco band. Check out that first recording, with its long instrumental introduction [YouTube link] (from "Live at the Matrix") and then the Jefferson Airplane version [YouTube link]. Jefferson Airplane appeared at Woodstock on Sunday morning, 17 August 1969, and this was the penultimate song in their set [YouTube link].
AUGUST 20, 2019
Just a note for those who are wondering:
I know I'm spending a lot of time with my Summer Music Festival this summer---with all these fiftieth anniversary celebrations (from the moon landing to Woodstock)---but that's only because after publishing The Dialectics of Liberty (with my co-editors, Roger Bissell and Ed Younkins) in June 2019, and the July 2019 issue of The Journal of Ayn Rand Studies and handing in the December 2019 issue of JARS, and assigning about two dozen book reviews to commemorate the forthcoming twentieth anniversary of the journal... I thought it was time for a little Notablog 'vacation'.
Have no fear. I'll be back in full swing once the Summer Festival is over---posting stuff on politics, an exciting debut of long-lost digitized Rothbard lectures, and our forthcoming Authors-Meet-Readers moderated discussion of The Dialectics of Liberty. They'll be enough postings on non-music subjects to both excite and annoy many of you! ;)
And on 9/11, I will be adding one more entry to my annual "WTC Remembrance" series, which began in 2001. Stay tuned...
Thanks to those who have inquired about my current activities.
Song of the Day: Bad Guy, words and music by Finneas O'Connell and his sister, Billie Eilish (O'Connell), appears on Eilish's macabre #1 debut album "When We All Fall Asleep, Where Do We Go?" It sat at #2 for nine nonconsecutive weeks (a Billboard chart record!) before unseating "Old Town Road," which broke all records on the Hot 100 for its 19 weeks atop that chart. The single got a much-needed shot of adrenaline when Justin Bieber joined Eilish in a remix (Bieber did much the same for "Despacito"). With its infectious hook and beat, it's a quirky song (with an even more quirky video [YouTube links]). Also check out the remix video with Justin Bieber, and dance remixes by Trap Nation and Sasha Vector. Duh.
AUGUST 18, 2019
Song of the Day: Spinning Wheel was written by the Canadian lead vocalist David Clayton-Thomas of that quintessential jazz-rock hybrid band, Blood, Sweat, & Tears. The song's studio version peaked at #2 in 1969 [YouTube link]; it was from the group's eponymous album "Blood, Sweat, & Tears," which won the 1970 Grammy Award for Album of the Year. They stretched out in their performance of the song at the Woodstock Festival [YouTube link] in the wee hours of this very day, fifty years ago.
AUGUST 17, 2019
Song of the Day: Green River, words and music by John Fogerty, was the title track to the third studio album of Creedence Clearwater Revival. The song was a Certified Gold Single that peaked at #2 on the Billboard Hot 100. Check out the single version [YouTube link] and the live version [YouTube link] of the song, which the group performed on this very day fifty years ago at Woodstock (it was the second song in their set, which lasted from 12:30 a.m. to 1:20 a.m.). The song has been heard in several films through the years, including "The Post" (2017), in which it is used anachronistically---since it plays over a scene in 1966 Vietnam, three years before this single was released! One film that it was not heard in was "Easy Rider," which debuted on 14 July 1969 (during the same month that our song of the day was also released). This is therefore the Golden Anniversary Summer of a landmark "counterculture" film, which starred Peter Fonda, who, died at the age of 79 yesterday (16 August 2019). Fonda considered himself a part of the counterculture of the 1960s and was "Born to Be Wild" [YouTube link], indeed. It was all the more ironic then that, in 1999, he would receive a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor for a Miniseries (for the Showtime movie version of Barbara Branden's book, "The Passion of Ayn Rand"), playing Frank O'Connor, opposite Helen Mirren, who assumed the role of his wife, Ayn Rand, and who would go on to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Television Movie.
AUGUST 16, 2019
Song of the Day: Lady Madonna, credited to John Lennon and Paul McCartney, was a Top Five hit in 1968. The Beatles may have been going through some troubles, which led to their inevitable breakup in 1970, but their music lived on in the voices of several Woodstock performers. Richie Havens, who opened up the Woodstock festival on 15 August 1969, performed a few Beatles covers in his marathon set, such as "With a Little Help from My Friends" (and he needed a little help with the lyrics!) and a medley of "Strawberry Fields Forever and Hey Jude" [YouTube links]. This Beatles song was also a part of his repertoire, but not performed live at Woodstock. I feature it today nonetheless because it gives us a chance to say Happy Birthday to a different Lady Madonna, who, was born on this date 61 years ago---a full eleven years before the festival took place. Madonna would go on to rock the charts of the 1980s and beyond, along with such artists as Prince, George Michael, Michael Jackson, and Whitney Houston, all of whom are now gone. But Madonna is still kickin' in 2019, scoring her ninth #1 album on the Billboard Hot 200, "Madame X," which debuted at #1 in 58 countries on iTunes in the last week of June. But getting back to this year's Summer Music theme, check out a rendition of our song of the day by the guy who kicked off the Woodstock festival, Richie Havens [YouTube link] (though the highlight of his set was, undoubtedly, the improvised "Freedom" [YouTube link], based on the Negro spiritual, "Motherless Child"). The Brooklyn-born Havens died in April 2013, and his ashes were later scattered on August 18th of that year, across the Woodstock site, that 600-acre dairy farm in Bethel, New York, to coincide with the festival's anniversary. Finally, let's not forget the original rendition of this classic song by the Beatles [YouTube link].
AUGUST 15, 2019
Song of the Day: Pinball Wizard, words and music by Pete Townshend, was featured on "Tommy," the rock opera recorded by The Who in 1969. Check out the original album version [YouTube link]. Today marks the first of four days coinciding with the Golden Anniversary of the Woodstock Festival. I will be focusing primarily on some of the songs and artists who appeared at that festival (with one quasi-exception tomorrow). But our Woodstock tribute will continue until the end of the Summer (in September). Since I will be posting entries over these next four days, which coincide with the dates of the original festival, I think we should note a few things about Woodstock itself---given the bad press it received with its legendary rampant drug use and "free love" in the mud on open display.
This festival took place on Max Yasgur's 600-acre farm in Bethel, New York. Having received $75,000 for the use of his private land for the very public festival, Yasgur, who was a pro-Vietnam War conservative, was also deeply committed to the American principle of free expression. He addressed the crowd that had come to his property and openly celebrated the "kids" in attendance at the event [YouTube link]. He observed correctly that this was one of the largest gatherings of youth "ever assembled in one place"---one marked by no violence, despite some very real "inconveniences" (like severe rainstorms and shortages of both food and toilets). Even the local community rose to the occasion; the largely conservative, rural town residents, who would not have ordinarily sat down with anyone from the "hippie" generation, gladly donated food, water, and other resources to aid the young people who were overwhelmed by the sheer size and unpredictable scope of the event and its hardships. Even the Medical Corps of the armed forces flew in supplies---to monumental applause from the hundreds of thousands of people who were there.
The Summer of '69---which we have been commemorating in this year's installment of our Summer Music Festival---is a study in contrasts (Ayn Rand herself saw it as a battle between "Apollo" and "Dionysus"). But it is also a study in convergence. In July 1969, two human beings walked on the surface of the moon for the first time, while in August 1969, nearly half-a-million human beings embraced the music and message of a festival, featuring more than 30 artists and/or bands, embracing 'cosmic' peace (I'm sure some of the participants thought they were walking on the moon themselves, at various times over that four-day period!). Whatever one's attitudes toward the views of that era, of its culture or its "counterculture", this remarkable convergence of events demonstrated what was possible when people reached across a "generation gap." At Woodstock, the "counterculture" [pdf to one of my encyclopedia entries]---many of them left-wingers who were not particularly enamored by the institution of private property---nevertheless assembled on private land to very publicly voice not just their disenchantment with the Vietnam War and the draft, but to nonviolently celebrate "peace" and "love" through the music of their day, at the end of one of the most turbulent, violent decades in American history. In the summer of 1969 alone, there were thousands of military and civilian casualties in Southeast Asia, not to mention ongoing unrest and violence at home, including a sensational murder spree in early August committed by the Manson cult that led to the horrific deaths of five people in Los Angeles (including actress Sharon Tate, who was eight-and-a-half months pregnant). And yet, for all its "countercultural" hoopla, only two people died at Woodstock (one from a drug overdose; another from a tractor accident). It's as if a Wizard had simply waved a wand to show, in a single unforgettable summer, what was possible---in the stars and on earth---when people of different ages, backgrounds, views, and perspectives could claim to have "come in peace for all mankind."
And so we kick off the height of our Woodstock Summer with a song of Wizardry. It was featured about half-way through The Who's set at the festival [YouTube link], in the wee hours of 17 August 1969, followed by what has become known as the "Abbie Hoffman incident" [YouTube link] (one of the few disruptions during any musical set, not counting delays due to pouring rain!). Of course, for those of us who saw the 1975 film version of "Tommy," it's not possible to forget Elton John's performance of this song [YouTube link] or its re-imagining in this year's Elton biopic "Rocketman" [YouTube link]. But wizards work magic, and in that summer, fifty years ago, there was pure magic on display in so many significant ways.
AUGUST 10, 2019
Song of the Day: I'm Going Home features the words and music of the late rock guitarist Alvin Lee of Ten Years After. Lee had always marvelled at the fast fret work of the jazz guitarists he emulated, including Django Reinhardt, Barney Kessel, John McLaughlin, and Joe Pass. At Woodstock, he provides us with a truly adrenaline-fueled guitar solo, incorporating snippets of "Blue Suede Shoes," "Whole Lotta Shakin' Goin' On," and John Lee Hooker's "Boom Boom." Check out the version from their album "Undead" and the rockin' live performance at Woodstock [YouTube links].
AUGUST 09, 2019
Song of the Day: Higher Love features the words and music of Will Jennings and Steve Winwood, who took this song from his album "Back in the High Life" to #1 on the Billboard Hot 100 in August of 1986. The female vocals on the single were provided by Chaka Khan, who also appeared in the music video [YouTube link]. Tomorrow, we get back to our Woodstock Edition of the Summer Music Festival, but today, we mark the date, 56 years ago, when Whitney Houston was born. It turns out that despite having left a remarkable discography to posterity, Whitney actually recorded this song in 1990 (produced by Narada Michael Walden) for her third studio album, "I'm Your Baby Tonight" (and what a great song that was [YouTube link]!), but it appeared only on the album's Japanese release. So her current single is the first posthumously released recording to hit the Hot 100 since her untimely death in 2012. Check out Whitney's live performance of the song and the Kygo-produced remix released last month as well as the slammin' Stormby Club Mix [YouTube links]. The song is already a Top 5 Dance Club Track, peaking at #2 as well on the Hot Dance / Electronic Songs Chart.
AUGUST 08, 2019
Song of the Day: If I Can't Have You features the words and music of Teddy Geiger, Scott Harris, Nate Mercereau, and Shawn Mendes, who turns 21 today! Check out the video single and several remixes by Galoski, MT SOUL, and the Bass Brothers. And Happy Birthday, young man!
AUGUST 04, 2019
On August 4, 1929, Jones Beach State Park was officially opened, in a ceremony held by then-New York Governor Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Today, Jones Beach marks the 90th anniversary of its opening by lowering its parking fee from $10.00 to 50 cents, a price reflective of yesteryear! Which means if you want to get on the beach, you better leave from now: Make your way down the Wantagh State Parkway in Nassau County, and get on line!
I used to go there as a kid with my sister and my cousins Sandy and Michael, anytime I visited my Aunt Joan and Uncle Al, who lived in Bellmore, Long Island. Memories... of hot sand, huge waves, and family fun in the sun!
AUGUST 03, 2019
Song of the Day: The Oscar ("Maybe September"), music by Percy Faith, lyrics by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, was featured in the 1966 movie, with an all-star cast, including Tony Bennett, who made his film debut and sang its theme song. The song appears on two of Tony's albums: "The Movie Song Album" and the second of two albums he did with the jazz piano legend Bill Evans, "Together Again". Check out the original version and the Evans collaboration [YouTube links]. And Happy 93rd Birthday to Tony!
AUGUST 02, 2019
Song of the Day: Going Up the Country, words and music by Canned Heat, was a remake of sorts of the 1928 "Bull Doze Blues" [YouTube link] by blues musician Henry Thomas. Their version of this song was recorded for their third album, "Living the Blues" and became an international hit. Check out the single version and the Woodstock festival version of this rollicking blues-rock romp [YouTube links].
AUGUST 01, 2019
I have learned that author Erika Holzer has passed away. She was a dear friend for many years, from whom I learned much.
Erika and I developed a warm, personable relationship back in 2004, as she worked on a wonderful essay, "Passing the Torch," which was published in the first of two Journal of Ayn Rand Studies symposia marking the Rand Centenary. That particular issue was devoted to Rand's literary and cultural impact---and Erika's essay served as a springboard to her 2005 book that traced her "mentor-protege relationship with the author of Atlas Shrugged": Ayn Rand: My Fiction-Writing Teacher (the book was reviewed by Kirsti Minsaas in the Fall 2006 JARS).
Erika's literary contributions were discussed at length in the pages of JARS by writers such as Jeff Riggenbach, whose essay, "Ayn Rand's Influence on American Popular Fiction" appeared in the same issue as Erika's "Passing the Torch" and Robert Powell, whose essay, "Taking Pieces of Rand with Them: Ayn Rand's Literary Influence," appeared in the December 2012 issue of JARS.
Erika's body of work included some very fine thrillers, Freedom Bridge: A Cold War Thriller (which is actually a revised version of Double Crossing) and Eye for an Eye, which was made into a suspenseful 1996 film, directed by John Schlesinger, starring Sally Field, Kiefer Sutherland and Ed Harris. She also co-wrote two nonfiction books with her husband Henry (Hank) Mark Holzer.
Significantly, in the late 1960s, Erika and Hank had tracked down the original negative of the 1942 Italian film adaptation of Rand's first novel, We the Living, starring Alida Valli and Rossano Brazzi. Under Rand's initial guidance, Erika was immensely helpful to director Duncan Scott, in the re-editing and restoration of the film, which was released in 1986, with English subtitles.
I would be remiss if I didn't mention that Erika Holzer was among the most empathetic of human beings I've ever known, greatly supportive of me through some of my most difficult periods grappling with a life-long illness. I loved her and I will miss her very much.
My deepest condolences to her husband Hank, her family, and friends. Her literary work and her pro bono work as a lawyer on behalf of human rights cases stand as her ultimate legacy.