I am crazy about American popular music. I admire the songwriters, the performers, the musicians, the producers, the historians and even (in the case of Norman Granz) the managers. In just the past year, for example, I have paid tribute to Ella Fitzgerald (and Granz), Bob Dylan, David Bromberg, Ann Hampton Callaway, Frank Sinatra, Johnny Hartman and John Coltrane, Mel Torme, Sarah Vaughan, Nancy LaMott, Philip Furia (for his books on American popular music), Emmylou Harris, Richie Havens, Elvis Presley, John Pizzarelli, Screamin’ Jay Hawkins, Nina Simone, Al Kooper, William Bell, John Lennon, and Boz Scaggs. And when I say “paid tribute to,” I mean written a fan’s notes in one of my Sunday Mornings Coming Down posts.
Anyone even slightly familiar with the series would know I was not entirely serious when I wrote yesterday that, for me, all American music comes from one band founded by Roger McGuinn called the Byrds. I thought my quotation of Hemingway’s extravagant praise of Huckleberry Finn might be enough to let careful readers know that I was writing in a Pickwickian sense and that this was simply my way of expressing intense appreciation. The Byrds led me to several streams of American popular music that mean a lot to me and helped me to hear the beauty in them. I am grateful.
Did Hemingway himself think that all American literature came from one book by Mark Twain? I doubt it. I don’t find any evidence of it in Hemingway’s stories and novels, or in Kenneth Lynn’s outstanding 1987 biography of Hemingway (titled Hemingway). Is it really necessary to point out that Hemingway was not to be taken literally, or that much great American literature shows no trace of Mark Twain? I hope not.
I confess that I hate being misunderstood and patronized. In the case of several commenters on my post yesterday, it was mostly my fault, as it usually is. The point of my post on John Jorgenson, let it be noted, was simply to share some music with which I thought most readers would be unfamiliar in the hope that they might enjoy it.