October 10, 2018

Song of the Day #1645

Song of the Day: Suffer features the words and music of Breyan Isaac and Charlie Puth, who recorded this song for his debut album, "Nine Track Mind." Check out the album version, the extended video single, and then check out how well Charlie tickles the ivories on some bluesy, jazzy live versions from Radio City Music Hall and the Live Nation-recorded stop in Saint Paul, Minnesota (at 1:00 exactly). I put this song up tonight in honor of the New York Yankee fans... who had to "suffer" the loss of their division series to the Boston Red Sox, who now move on to face the Houston Astros for the American League Pennant. All 100-game winning teams, but only the ones who win in these short series get to move toward a World Series ring. I'm not bitter. But "Go Houston!" And wait till next year!

October 02, 2018

Song of the Day #1644

Song of the Day: J'aime Paris au Mois de Mai ("I Love Paris in May") features the words and music of Pierre Roche and Charles Aznavour, who passed away yesterday, October 1, 2018, at the age of 94. Known as the "French Frank Sinatra," he was the writer (or co-writer) of over a thousand songs, sold over 180 million albums worldwide and appeared in over 80 films. This particular song was first recorded by Aznavour in 1956 [YouTube link], but it is also featured in a collection of Aznavour's hits, re-interpreted in a jazz setting, that he re-recorded in 1998 for the album "Jazznavour." Check out this wonderful duet with the incomparable jazz singer Diane Reeves [YouTube link]. RIP, Charles Aznavour.

September 29, 2018

NY Baseball: Yankees 100 and The Wright Stuff

The 2018 Major League Baseball Season is winding down, as Yankee fans poise for a one-game wild card playoff spot this coming Wednesday, October 5, 2018, when the Bronx will host the Oakland Athletics for a chance to advance in the postseason. But today, the New York Yankees set a couple of notable team and individual records. Off the bat of rookie Gleyber Torres came the 265th home run of the Yankee season, setting the all-time record for team home runs in a single season (previously held by the 1997 Seattle Mariners). Moreover, hitting in the ninth spot of the order, Gleyber gave the Yankees the distinction of being the only team in baseball history to post 20 or more home runs from every batting spot in the nine-man line-up. Giancarlo Stanton added another Yankee home run in the seventh inning, upping that team season record to 266 home runs---and getting his 100th RBI of the season. (I can't imagine how many home runs would have been recorded by this team if last year's Rookie of the Year Aaron Judge, who hit 52 home runs in 2017, were not on the disabled list for so long!) On top of all this, the Yankees scored their 100th victory of the season, second only to the American League Eastern Division-leading Boston Red Sox (currently holding at 107 wins, with one more regular season game to play). It's the first time in the storied history of both franchises that each of these teams has won 100 games or more in the same season. In fact, with the Houston Astros already having over 100 wins, we find one of those rare moments in MLB history with three teams from the same league having 100 wins or more advancing to the postseason.

Another record was broken today, by Rookie of the Year-candidate Miguel Andujar, who, with his 45th double of the season, broke the Yankees' franchise rookie doubles record set in 1936 by a guy named Joe DiMaggio.

With this 100th New York Yankees victory this afternoon, any genuine baseball fans worth their pinstripes can't help but look to Citi Field tonight, home of the Yanks' cross-town rivals, the New York Mets, who, despite a disappointing season, sport a pitcher who is, arguably, a National League Cy Young Candidate: the remarkable Jacob deGrom. Tonight, however, in Queens, the New York Mets' captain, David Wright, who has suffered many injuries throughout his career, including spinal stenosis, will be retiring from the game. Wright is a class act---and a seven-time All-Star, two-time Gold Glove Award winner, and two-time Silver Slugger Award winner. He holds the New York Mets' franchise records for most career RBIs, doubles, total bases, runs scored, sacrifice flies, times on base, extra base hits, and hits---to name a few. And in 2007, he became a member of the elite 30-30 club (hitting 30 home runs and stealing 34 bases). This Yankees fan tips his hat to the Mets captain and wishes him well.


P. S. [Added to Facebook, 30 September 2018, 11:02 AM]: It took HOURS for the Mets to finally win that one, but they did so in dramatic fashion in the bottom of the 13th inning, and that was followed by a really wonderful video tribute to David Wright, and a loving tribute to the fans from David himself [YouTube link to video tribute and Wright's address to the fans]. He will be missed, and you're right, cuz (Michael J Turzilli), he was and remains a class act! Also check out this YouTube synopsis of Wright's Night.

September 25, 2018

Dance and The Revolution: Emma, Chubby, and Dick

On Facebook, in introducing the last song ("Let's Twist Again") in my "Summer Dance Party," I said:

I just know some of you cringe at the frivolity of my "Song of the Day" entries, but as Rosa Luxemburg once said: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of your revolution." And so our Summer Dance Party ends with the same artist who kicked it off: Chubby Checker. The Autumnal Equinox arrives at 9:54pm ET, at which point you'll want to "Twist Again... like we did last summer"

Well, I made a mistake folks. Of course, that statement about dance and the revolution is derived from Emma Goldman, as my friends and colleagues, Susan Love Brown and Joel Schlosberg pointed out in the thread. In fact, Joel pointed to an essay by Alix Kates Shulman, "Dances with Feminists" (published initially in Women's Review of Books 9, no. 3, December 1991), published online on The Emma Goldman Papers, which casts doubt that Goldman ever uttered those words in precisely that fashion.

Switching gears, and also as part of that thread, another friend of mine, Kurt Keefner, raised the point that Chubby Checker ripped off the original Hank Ballard version of "The Twist," and of course, one can see the similarity in the recordings (and I mentioned the Ballard version in my first Summer Dance Party entry). But I pointed out that cover versions are rich in the history of music:

This happens quite a bit sometimes. And sometimes you can get two megahits from the same song: "Light My Fire" (The Doors; Jose Feliciano); "MacArthur Park" (Richard Harris!!!, Donna Summer); "I Saw Her [Him] Standing There" (The Beatles; Tiffany); "You Keep Me Hangin' On" (The Supremes; Vanilla Fudge; Kim Wilde; Reba McEntire); "You Can't Hurry Love" (The Supremes; Phil Collins); "Walk This Way" (Aerosmith; Run-D.M.C.); "I Heard it Through the Grapevine" (Gladys Knight and the Pips; Marvin Gaye); "For Once in My Life" (Stevie Wonder; Tony Bennett); "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" (Tammi Terrell and Marvin Gaye; Diana Ross; Inner Life); "Twist and Shout" (the Isley Brothers; the Beatles)---and the list goes on and on and on. And let's not forget how many early R&B hits were remade by a guy named Elvis Presley who took them to another chart level entirely.

But I brought the discussion back to "The Twist", which set off a worldwide dance revolution of its own, and the force behind its revolutionary impact on pop music, Dick Clark:

You can definitely compare the two [versions of "The Twist"] and see the similarities; why one gets the hit and the other doesn't is difficult to measure. Ballard's version went to #28 on the Hot 100. But Checker's version set off a dance craze that went worldwide. In fact, his version is the only single in the history of the Billboard charts to reach #1 on the Hot 100 in two different "Hit Parade" runs: once in 1960 and again in 1962, riding the crest of Twist-mania. Billboard magazine credits it as the biggest hit of the decade. But here's the best explanation of why Ballard's version didn't become the hit that Checker's version became. Yeah, Checker's version had that driving sax and those rolling drums, but ultimately, it went to the top because of a guy named Dick Clark. From Wikipedia:
The [Ballard version of the] song became popular on a Baltimore television dance show hosted by local DJ Buddy Dean; Dean recommended the song to Dick Clark, host of the national "American Bandstand." When the song proved popular with his audience, Clark attempted to book Ballard to perform on the show. Ballard was unavailable, and Clark searched for a local artist to record the song. He settled on Checker, whose voice was very similar to Ballard's. Checker's version featured Buddy Savitt on sax and Ellis Tollin on drums, with backing vocals by the Dreamlovers. Exposure for the song on "American Bandstand" and on "The Dick Clark Saturday Night Show" helped propel the song to the top of the American charts.
And this was only one example of the power of Dick Clark and "American Bandstand" and its impact on pop music culture.
P.S. - I bet Ballard was kicking himself in the head for a while for not having made himself available on that day!

So, I hope I've straightened out some things here; either way, ever the dialectician, as far as I am concerned, there will be no political revolution dedicated to liberty unless it preserves and extends the cultural revolution that the dance embodies. So, yep, whether it was Emma Goldman who ever said it, or Rosa Luxemburg, or some entrepreneurial T-shirt-making rabble-rouser, I can say with confidence: "If I can't dance, I don't want to be a part of anybody's revolution"---including the libertarian one I favor!

September 22, 2018

Song of the Day #1643

Song of the Day: Let's Twist Again, words and music by Kal Mann and Dave Appell, recorded by Chubby Checker, would go on to win a Grammy for Best Rock and Roll Recording. This 1961 track brings our Third Annual Summer Dance Party to a conclusion. We've come full circle: We started with Checker and we conclude with Checker. As the opening lyric says: "Let's Twist Again, like we did last summer." And so we will . . . next summer! The Autumnal Equinox arrives at 9:54 p.m. ET, so listen to this original 1961 hit [YouTube link]---and go out dancing!

September 21, 2018

Song of the Day #1642

Song of the Day: Rock Around the Clock, words and music by Max C. Freedman and James E. Myers, was not the first rock and roll record, but it became an anthem for the rebellious young generation of the mid-1950s. The best known recording of it, by Bill Haley and His Comets, would rocket to #1 on Billboard-tracked sales and radio airplay, as well as #3 on top-selling R&B singles. Check out the original rockin' single [YouTube link].

September 20, 2018

Hayek: Rejecting "Reason with a Capital R"

There was an interesting thread started by my friend Ryan Neugebauer on his own Facebook page, to which I contributed, which I reproduce here, as it points to some of the themes that will be central to the forthcoming collection, The Dialectics of Liberty: Exploring the Context of Human Freedom, which I'm co-editing with Roger E. Bissell and Edward W. Younkins. Ryan gave me permission to cut and paste our little chat:

Ryan Neugebauer: I find Hayekian arguments against "Constructivist Rationalism" to be some of the most radical out there. It puts the nail in the coffin to utopian takes of all kinds (including anarchistic ones). And it goes well with critiques of those who want to continue to increase the scope of the state system in planning aspects of our lives.
Chris Sciabarra: The worst misunderstanding of Hayek is that he was somehow a critic of reason. He was a critic of "Reason with a capital 'R'" as he put it; and it was this conception of Reason that was the premise of "constructivist" rationalism, a reason that was totally un-anchored to reality, acting as if it could literally 'construct' social systems anew, without any relationship to the conditions that exist---what my friend Troy Camplin has aptly called a "tabula rasa" view of social change, as if we could simply wipe the slate clean and start anew. This is a thoroughly utopian way of looking at social change, and one that is, for lack of a better word, completely non-dialectical. I focus on this theme in my own book, Marx, Hayek, and Utopia (shameless plug)---and its important similarities to the arguments of Marx against the utopian socialists. It was on this basis that Hayek rejected the term "conservative" (even though he drew from the conservative "evolutionary" views of Burke and the classical liberal views of the Scottish Enlightenment) and embraced being "radical" (going to the root) as essential to social analysis. So, you're right, my friend, Ryan Neugebauer, it is indeed among the "most radical" of arguments---in fact, it is essential to any radical, dialectical conception of social change.
Ryan: There are so many uncomfortable discussions to be had based around all of this. Two key ones: 1. What we want hasn't existed in human history; though constituent parts have in various ways through history. 2. Many things we do like today were brought about by means that we oppose. I like to think that humans have had to do a lot of experimenting/trial & error throughout history in various contexts to figure out what works best at achieving the things desired. So, despite us not starting out from such tabula rasa, we have a much greater understanding of what produces good ends and what leads to tyranny and oppression. Therefore, we should be continually bettering our understanding of how these various things come about, while coming up with ways to, evolutionarily, move us in the direction we want to go. Just as humans had to biologically evolve, we have had to intellectually & ethically evolve.
Chris: Exactly, and that's the messy world we live in. "Thought experiments" are nice, but are basically ahistorical. Accepting that some things we do like had a sordid past is just as legitimate as rejecting some things we don't like that may have had a fairly innocuous past. I agree also that humans have engaged in a lot of "trial and error" since the beginning of time. (I've often looked at tree-bearing fruit and said to myself, "I wonder how many human beings ate of this tree and dropped dead before they found the tree whose fruit didn't make them sick!) But there is something that I learned from my mentor, Bertell Ollman, a lesson he teaches in books such as Dialectical Investigations: the virtue of studying history backwards. That is, we start from the conditions that exist, and we go backwards, step by step, to see how we got to where we are. This helps us to understand the conditions that led to the system that has evolved, but it also helps us to identify the potential conditions within that system that might propel it forwards toward the kinds of social changes that we seek. It also doesn't put us in the position of constantly "judging" the past based on current conditions, because mores do, in fact, change, sometimes over generations. So even though a whole generation of slave owners may have been among the Founders, that does not mean that the ideals they embraced were any less valid as guiding principles by which to project forward the many potential "future" courses history might take. As the Marxists are fond of saying, human beings are as much the producers of history as they are its products. We forget our "embeddedness" in that larger social and historical context at our own peril.

Indeed!!

Song of the Day #1641

Song of the Day: At the Hop, words and music by Artie Singer, John Medora, and David White, was originally called "Do the Bop," but when Dick Clark heard it, he suggested a title change, and after it premiered on his "American Bandstand," this 1957 recording by Danny and the Juniors would go on to #1 on the Hot 100 and the R&B Best Sellers list, and #3 on the Country chart. This huge rock and roll / doo-wop hit opens up the final weekend of our Summer Dance Party, where we will go back to the era that started this year's annual dance tribute. Check out the original single version as well as one of its many covers in later years, including a rendition by Sha Na Na heard at the 1969 Woodstock Festival [YouTube link] and that of Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, who perform it on the soundtrack (as "Herby and the Heartbeats") to the 1973 George Lucas film, "American Graffiti" [YouTube film clip].

September 19, 2018

Song of the Day #1640

Song of the Day: Summertime Magic, words and music by Donald Glover and Ludwig Goransson, was recorded by Childish Gambino (actual name: Donald Glover) for his 2018 EP "Summer Pack." Check out this slow summer jam, along with several remixes by FalconDap, Raspo, and P.A.F.F. [YouTube links].

September 18, 2018

Song of the Day #1639

Song of the Day: Stranger in My House, words and music by Shep Crawford and Shae Jones, was recorded by Tamia, who took the song to the top of the Billboard Hot Dance Club Song chart in 2001. The song was featured on the artist's second studio album, "A Nu Day" and became a Top Ten hit on both the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B/Hip Hop Singles charts. Check out the original ballad album version, and then its titanic transformation into a dance classic with remixes by Thunderpuss, Maurice, and Hex Hector [YouTube links].

September 17, 2018

Song of the Day #1638

Song of the Day: Surviving: A Family in Crisis ("Main Theme") [YouTube link], composed by the late, great James Horner, is heard sparingly over the opening credits and in variations throughout this painful, heartbreaking 1985 television movie on teenage suicide [YouTube link to film]. The film, which was later released in edited form on VHS as "Tragedy" (it remains unreleased on DVD), features a stellar cast that included Ellen Burstyn, Marsha Mason, Paul Sorvino, and a young River Phoenix. It centers on the tragic dual suicide of teenage characters, played by Zach Galligan and Molly Ringwald. Horner's score provides the perfect backdrop for this haunting film, which was originally shown on ABC. Tonight, television honors its best at the 70th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards on the NBC network.

September 16, 2018

Song of the Day #1637

Song of the Day: Levels features the words and music of a host of writers, including the songwriting team known as The Monsters and the Strangerz. The 2015 song appears only on "Nick Jonas X2," the reissue of his second eponymous album, "Nick Jonas" (2014). With this song hitting #1 on the Hot Dance Club Chart, today's birthday boy Jonas actually matched Madonna in career #1 dance tracks the year this was released (2015) due in part to remixes by Alex Ghenea, Steven Redant, and Jump Smokers [YouTube links]. Check out the original funk-laden video single as well.

September 15, 2018

Song of the Day #1636

Song of the Day: Too Late, words and music by Bob Carter and Junior Giscombe, is featured on Junior's first album, "Ji", which spawned the 1982 mega-hit, "Mama Used to Say." Both of these songs were Top 10 R&B hits. This artist was one of the first British R&B singers from the U.K. to climb the U.S. charts. Check out the original 12" extended mix [YouTube links].

September 14, 2018

Song of the Day #1635

Song of the Day: My, My, My features the words and music of James Alan Ghaleb, Oscar Gorres, Brett McLaughlin, and Troye Sivan, on whose 2018 album "Bloom" this #1 Hot Dance Club song appears. Check out the single video version, and live performances on SNL, "The Ellen DeGeneres Show", and "Live with Kelly and Ryan" on September 5th. Then check out a series of dance remixes: the Throttle Remix, Hot Chip Remix, U-Go Boy Remix, and the Cliak Remix. We're taking this year's Annual Summer Dance Party right through the last day of summer, so stay tuned for the next eight days!

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