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Martin Luther King Day is perhaps one of the better excuses for James Brown that our holiday-scarce American year provides, and so I’ll give you a live performance of “I Don’t Want Nobody to Give Me Nothing (Open Up the Door, I’ll Get It Myself)”. I suppose even seasoned soul aficionados may have somehow missed the excellent recent book The Hardest Working Man: How James Brown Saved the Soul of America, where Boston Globe writer James Sullivan recounts the chain of events around JB’s legendary Boston Garden concert shortly following MLK’s 1968 assassination. There were no riots in Boston that year, and it might be overselling to credit Brown solely for that; but many of America’s visionary Black artists of the 60s spoke out, in one way or another, against the frustration-fueled violence that leveled formerly vibrant communities in places like Detroit and Newark (cf. Sly Stone’s There’s a Riot Goin’ On, for one). In an era where “white folks focused on dogs and yoga” are driving African-Americans out of the inner city to former “sundown towns” in the suburbs, Brown’s message of self-empowerment and equality is perhaps as relevant for the larger American community as it ever has been. Plus, of course, he’s the greatest American musician of all time. So here you are.
If Ray Manzarek has just died at 74, that would have made him a sprightly 40 when he produced and played organ on X’s Los Angeles thirty-odd years ago. Remarkable.
A useful album a decade ago:
Minutemen, “History Lesson Part II”, live
From We Jam Econo
Menahan Street Band “Make the Road by Walking”
Sly and the Family Stone “Runnin’ Away”
The Fall “Life Just Bounces” 1995
The Fall “Open the Boxoctosis” 2003
Before Woodstock, there was Monterey:
Jimi Hendrix “Wild Thing” 1967
Another year, another stop on the crazy train. I seemed to have figured out how my college years went off track, without yet grasping how to deal with all the people I’ve alienated in the ten years since I graduated. Manic riffs that sustained me for months seem irreparably delusional — this is probably well and good, as it’s the kind of thinking that centered me before I became insane.
My “Dark Lady” was an ordinary middle-aged professional, with a European timeshare and a ‘boyfriend’; my fevered manifestos (much worse than here, if you’re curious) distributed to uninterested colleagues of same contain little susceptible of redemption. There’s something to stop worrying about and something to give up, and not much else than that.
I guess this is what sanity, or ‘stability’ amounts to: precious little to call one’s own, the stresses and strains of modern society raining down on an immature thirtysomething with a slender curriculum vitae. And yet it’s so much better than thinking a vast, sinister conspiracy had taken exceptional notice of a young radical and aimed to spend years thwarting him in the most recondite fashion. Thusly, I’d like to encourage mentally ill readers (surely a large enough component of the readership) to stay in treatment: after a long time, the world may start to look like — what you really think it is like. Eventually, it is anybody’s guess, after all.
Also, Pere Ubu’s “Navvy”, as good as anything as a manifesto concerning disabled rights.
Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings “Inspiration Information”
(Shuggie Otis cover)
Hole “Over the Edge”