Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Aretha Franklin — the Queen of Soul, as Steely Dan reminded the “sweet young thing” in “Hey Nineteen” — turned 75 yesterday. The metaphor of royal lineage is not entirely amiss in her case. Her father, the Reverend C.L. Franklin, was the renowned Detroit preacher whose New Bethel Baptist Church provided the original venue for Aretha and her sisters, Erma and Carolyn. She became a child star as a gospel »

Spring can really hang you up the most

Featured image In the interest of anger management therapy on a day that calls for it, I’m taking the liberty of reposting this tribute to a great song with an unusual story behind it: There are a few torch songs that lament the coming of Spring. This time of year, if you’re tuned to one of the right stations, you may well find yourself listening to Ella Fitzgerald’s memorable rendition of “Spring »

Al Jarreau, RIP

Featured image I am so sad to observe the passing of the singer Al Jarrreau today in Los Angeles at the age of 76. Matt Schudel does a good job of paying tribute to Al in the Washington Post obituary . Margalit Fox provides a more ambivalent take in the New York Times obituary. I want to add a local note on Al’s death. Al was a native of Milwaukee. Once he »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Friday was a big day for me. I had looked forward to Trump’s inauguration, for sure, but what really made it special was the notification that singer Suzy Bogguss had started following me on Twitter. I’m not sure why. It can’t be politics. Maybe she’s just following me back, but I started following her a couple of years ago. I’d like to think there’s something to it. A guy can »

Those Inscrutable Russians

Featured image As previously observed here and elsewhere, it makes no sense to think that Vladimir Putin actually favored Donald Trump over Hillary Clinton on the merits of policy. More likely Putin’s goons were merely celebrating—even as most Never Trumpers did—the schadenfreudtastic spectacle of Hillary losing, and the chaotic potential it might augur. Perhaps Putin thinks that an inexperienced American president is preferable to Clinton, but that seems a risk. On the »

Thoughts from the ammo line

Featured image Ammo Grrrll invites someone to NAME THAT HORSE! She writes Every Tuesday night, Mr. AG and I play poker with a group of other gun nuts. (Def of gun nut according to leftists: someone who owns a gun. Owning more than one gun elevates that gun owner from “nut” to full certifiable lunatic. Also having more than 10 rounds of ammo.) Poker night includes the tradition of a light meal, »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image “Children, Go Where I Send Thee” is a traditional African-American spiritual with a Christmas theme. It’s a song that has been covered by an impressive range of artists in a wide variety of styles. Peter, Paul and Mary have covered it. Johnny Cash has covered it. Ricky Skaggs has covered it. REO Speedwagon has covered it. I first heard it performed by the great, now disbanded Minnesota bluegrass group Stoney »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Frank Loesser prospered writing songs for the movies, for the war and for Broadway. As John Bush writes in his Allmusic profile of Loesser, “it appears that Frank Loesser had several careers packed into his one life.” Loesser wrote “Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition” in April 1942. It was only the second song for which he had written both the words and the music; the first had preceded »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Chris Hillman was a teenage bluegrass star on the Los Angeles music scene in the early ’60s. When Roger (then Jim) McGuinn asked him if he could play bass for the band he was forming, he said yes and then taught himself how. Moving from mandolin to bass, he become one of the founding members of the Byrds together with McGuinn, David Crosby and Gene Clark. The Byrds brought McGuinn’s »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image They say deaths come in three, and the death of Mose Allison on November 15 at the age of 89 might be offered as evidence to prove the point. Mose’s death closely followed the deaths of Leonard Cohen on November 7 and Leon Russell on November 13. I want to seize the occasion to draw attention to his work. Allison pursued a long and almost unbelievably productive career as a »

A song for you

Featured image I am sorry to report that Leon Russell died today in Nashville at the age of 74. He was an incredibly accomplished pianist, songwriter and performer in the world of popular music. As a member of the Wrecking Crew he played behind just about everybody. He famously recruited and led the band that accompanied Joe Cocker on the raucous Mad Dogs and Englishmen tour of 1970. He followed up with »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image Leonard Cohen died this past week at the age of 82. Cohen was a man of many parts, having worked as a poet, novelist, singer and songwriter. Larry Rohter’s New York Times obituary is here. Ruth Wisse’s memorable 1995 Commentary essay/memoir “My life without Leonard Cohen” draws an engaging portrait of the artist as a young man. In 2013 Sylvie Simmons gave Cohen’s life the full-scale biographical treatment. Cohen worked »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image I have passed on many opportunities to see Joan Baez perform, but I rethought my position when she came through Minneapolis last month. We bought tickets to see her in concert before a sold-out crowd at the State Theater and the tickets were priced such that we didn’t have to draw on a line of credit to do it. Baez turned 75 earlier this past January. Who knows where the »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image With the arrival of Halloween tomorrow, it may be an opportune moment for a diverting change of pace. If you listen to the right radio stations at this time of the year, you will hear a few songs associated with the holiday. Probably foremost among them is “I Put a Spell on You” by Screamin’ Jay Hawkins. Here is the improbable backstory offered by Bill Diehl at AllMusic: “Hawkins originally »

The improbable Bobby Vee

Featured image I found myself standing next to Bobby Vee in the audience watching the Fabulous Flippers — Midwest favorites — perform in the Pavilion at the Minnesota State Fair in 1968. I was at the fair with my close friend Scott Sansby, drummer extraordinaire, who was there performing with one of the many local Twin Cities bands he anchored in high school. I told Bobby that my parents had lived down »

Saturday Afternoon Coming Down

Featured image Scott was very kind this morning to draw attention to my Weekly Standard article “Crisis of the Conservative House Divided.” I would have done so myself, but I was on the road all day yesterday on a completely frivolous and speculative venture: I drove up to Modesto, the location where American Graffiti was filmed set, to meet up with my two best pals from high school (we call ourselves “The »

Sunday morning coming down

Featured image If the Nobel Prize for Literature is to recognize literary merit, I regret that Philip Roth has not received the award. He has deserved it for a long time. In the course of a long career John Updike distinguished himself in every literary form without ever winning the recognition of the award. His disappointment was refracted through satire in one of his lesser stories about Henry Bech, his fictional alter »