Having survived the past 25 years without ever having written the words "we," "are," "the," and "world" in that sequence in a sentence, I am bringing up the oppressively overhyped Haiti-earthquake version of that anthem of superstar piety only because it connects to some of the issues I've started to discuss here over the past few weeks. There is not much to say that's worth saying about the recent video, which brings Quincy Jones together with a digitally generated avatar of Michael Jackson and a surgically generated facsimile of Lionel Richie.
I'd like to stay on the subject of music and Civil Rights for one more post. The ongoing talk about Joan Baez's performance of "We Shall Overcome" at the White House has reminded me how readily we embrace the idea of music as an instrument of political change when, often, music is more a reflection of changes in the political realm—an effect, rather than a cause. Not that songs have no power to influence the way people think or feel; to say that would be to deny the very value of music as a form of art.
There was hardly time to shake the image of a gnomish Pete Townshend whirling his game old right arm around on the Super Bowl stage when another batch of tottery Boomer music stars showed up on YouTube, this time in clips from the fifth concert in the Obamas' White House Music Series.
Of all the complaints hurled since Super Bowl Sunday at Pete Townshend and Roger Daltry for calling themselves The Who, doing a scary-uncle karaoke act to the music of their youth, and walking away with a hefty contribution to their overdue retirements, the one that baffles me most is the charge that they didn't belong there, that they are too old and irrelevant to deserve the most coveted slot on the most popular entertainment show in America.
Click here to discover what will be inside our newest feature, “The Famous Door.” Since I've taken the name for this new feature from a storied old jazz club, I thought I should start the series with a video that features a person who not only played in the place but who also named one of his signature pieces "52nd Street Theme"--Thelonious Monk. This clip of a different tune of his, "Blue Monk," is an excerpt from a 1950s TV series called "The Seven Lively Arts," which devoted an episode to jazz.
I know I'm not the only music listener to find himself doing an awful lot of listening electronically. I scout for new artists to hear online and download a great deal of music to play at my leisure, and I spend more time on YouTube than I will ever admit. I'm still going out--most nights, in fact, to hear concerts, nightclub acts, and other shows of all sorts--and I'll continue to write about what I encounter in live performances in the pages of TNR.
The Beatles: Rock Band Guitar Hero When smug old children of the 1970s such as my friends and I get together, we play a game. We talk about the bands we loved when we were kids; we trade grumbles about the fact that music no longer seems to dominate youth culture, as we nostalgically recall the role that rock had in our past; and we try to guess what happened. I call this a game and not a discussion, because really it is diverting silliness that boils down to a competition to reach an agreed-upon goal--that is, to prove our generation’s superiority to our successors.
Yes We Can” “You and I” “Let’s Put a Woman in Charge” Among the things that happened in early February, when Barack Obama’s campaign for the Democratic nomination seemed suddenly to kick into a higher gear, was the emergence, through YouTube, of a new music video called “Yes We Can,” a mash-up of moments from the speech Obama gave after the New Hampshire primary, set to music by Will.i.am of the Black Eyed Peas.