A Mighty Wind
February 19, 2007
Would American music have undergone a radical transformation in the middle of the last century, as it did, without Eric von Schmidt? No doubt and no matter. We all know how popular music changed during the first decades of the postwar era: It grew more informal,rougher and earthier, shifting from an aesthetic of burnishedprofessionalism to one of unschooled authenticity.
Ye Olde Rocker
January 29, 2007
Songs From the Labyrinth - Sting (Deutsche Grammophon) Rock and rollers, as they age, sometimes find themselves outgrowing a music they cannot outlive. Rock, a style invented for teenagers—or, more precisely, one adapted from an older style made originally for adults, the blues—endures as a bluntly, rudely cogent expression of adolescent anxiety, rage, and sexual fantasy. Long live rock and roll! The beat of the drums, loud and bold!
The Blogging of American Pop
September 06, 2004
Johnny Mercer, one of the master artisans of pre-rock popular music, was driving with some friends to the Newport Jazz Festival one summer in the early 1960s when a Chuck Berry song came on the radio. Mercer listened closely and grinned, as one of his car mates, the film-maker Jean Bach, recalls. Soon he was singing along, beaming. Mercer leaned his face into the rushing air and slapped out the beat of the song on the side of the car that Bach's husband had rented for the weekend--a big red convertible, ideally suited to the moment.
Where Has "Where Have All the Flowers Gone?" Gone
June 28, 2004
What if they had an anti-war movement and nobody came? For three nights at the end of April, a few politically conscious punk-rock bands from around the country passed through New York on a tour called Plea for Peace. Punk has included an element of political consciousness since the Clash strummed about the Troubles in the late 1970s, although in peacetime the good service of punks was to plead for anarchy.
The Body Eclectic
February 09, 2004
DAVE DOUGLAS: STRANGE LIBERATION (RCA) If this paragraph were a piece of music by Dave Douglas, it would make a summing-up statement here at the beginning, then proceed in reverse motion until it ended with an introduction of its main theme. Or it would start with a core idea and build through accretion, amassing in layers instead of progressing conventionally in any direction. Phrases would be planned exactingly to sound spontaneous, and improvised parts would take off on subtle compositional elements such as timbre. The vernacular and the formal would conjoin. You would recognize the musical
The Air Around Tom Paine
April 24, 1995
Thomas Paine: Collected Writings edited by Eric Foner (The Library of America, 906 pp., $35) Thomas Paine: Apostle of Freedom by Jack Fruchtman Jr. (Four Walls Eight Windows, 557 pp., $30) Thomas Paine: A Political Life by John Keane (Little, Brown, 644 pp., $27.95) I. Every twenty-ninth of January, Thomas Paine's admirers assemble at his old farm in New Rochelle, New York, to celebrate his birthday and to lay a wreath on his monument.
You Had To Be There
August 28, 1989
Going to Woodstock was interesting. Getting out of there was ecstasy. Four of us set out on the morning of Friday. August 16. 1969--me, fresh out of the Navy; my college friend Phil; and our girlfriends, Karen and Mary. We had spent Thursday night at my sister's farm in Rockland County, not too far from where the festival was to be held. She and her husband wanted to come with us, but they had a small child and decided to stay home. They waved goodbye to us from their porch as we pulled out in Phil's beat-up Volkswagen bug. We knew we were in for an adventure of some sort. Why did we go?
Lives Of The Saints
October 31, 1988
Understanding the Beatles and Beatlemania.
In Strange Company
April 21, 1982
Has Niebuhr-mania gone too far?
August 20, 1977
In writing not a few studies of literary history, I haven't said much about the new generation of the 1960s. There is a reason for the oversight. I like to write about situations that I have known at first hand, whereas from 1963 to 1973, the years when the Love Generation flowered and faded, I was a detached observer, a deaf man gardening in the country and writing about books.