Lenten music Friday: Leonard Bernstein's Mass

leonard.bernsteinIt started with an e-mail I sent to Dustbury about some guy complaining that a piece of sacred music that sounds like the theme of My Little Pony; Dustbury wrote about this. He then replied to me, “I imagine he also didn’t like Leonard Bernstein’s 1971 Mass Continue reading Lenten music Friday: Leonard Bernstein's Mass

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Smokey Robinson is 75

SmokeyUsually, when a musical artist reached the age of 70, I would indicate my favorite songs that they recorded. For some reason, though, five years ago, I listed some of my favorite songs WRITTEN by Smokey Robinson. And his legendary songwriting, and producing, IS worthy of note, and absolutely VITAL to the success of Motown Records.

A bit of Motown trivia: I Heard It Through the Grapevine, written by Norman Whitfield and Barrett Strong, was first recorded by Smokey Robinson & the Miracles [LISTEN], but Berry Gordy rejected it, and Marvin Gaye’s version as well. He allowed Gladys Knight and the Pips to release it, and they had a #2 hit. Then, the other versions were released, with Marvin having a massive hit.

I haven’t heard it yet, but the artist released a new album, “Smokey & Friends” on August 19, 2014 on Verve Records, a duets collection “with Contemporary and Classic Artists such as Elton John, James Taylor, Mary J. Blige, Aloe Blacc, Jessie J, Miguel, CeeLo, Ledisi and more. It was his highest-charting album in 33 years.

The “problem” with putting together this list Continue reading Smokey Robinson is 75

I'll take the cheap applause

applause2Mark Evanier pointed to what is likely Woody Allen’s first-ever podcast interview. (Likely because Woody has no idea what a podcast is, he noted.) I listened to it – it’s 35 minutes long – and I got one takeaway.

The interviewer asked him how he felt about that instant applause that established comedians get when doing stand-up. They don’t have to do anything except walk on stage; sometimes just having the name announced. Isn’t this just cheap applause? Continue reading I'll take the cheap applause

10 movies that have influenced me

beingthereThere’s some online game in which you name ten films that heavily influenced your way of thinking, or world view, or whatever. They need not be GOOD films or your FAVORITE films. If I picked Annie Hall, which may be my favorite, it would be selected, as I noted before, because of my hatred of going into a movie after it starts, just like Alvy Singer (Woody Allen). But let me look elsewhere.

Being There (1979) – Can a guy uttering stuff he’s heard on TV be embraced as a wise and profound leader? Seemed ridiculous at the time, save for televangelists, but now reality-show “celebrities” often drive the national dialogue (see: Jersey Shore, Duck Dynasty, The Real Housewives of Topeka, et al.)
Continue reading 10 movies that have influenced me

E is for Eleanor Roosevelt

EleanorRooseveltI watched the excellent The Roosevelts: An Intimate History, Ken Burns’s seven-part series on PBS this past fall and became even more impressed with Eleanor Roosevelt than I had been before. She was the niece of Theodore Roosevelt, the daughter of his brother Elliot.

She married her fifth cousin Franklin Roosevelt on St. Patrick’s Day 1905 in New York City, “given away” by her uncle Teddy, who was by then President.

In spite of Franklin’s marital betrayal, which wounded Eleanor greatly, they were a dynamic political couple. She could sometimes say or do things that he, a more pragmatic state legislator, governor and eventually President, could not.

In the summer of 2013, my family visited Val-Kill, her place on the Hudson River not far from the home in Hyde Park that was her mother-in-law’s and where she seldom felt comfortable and welcomed. There is a kiosk there where one could read her My Day columns, which she wrote from 1936 to 1962, the year that she passed away.

After FDR died in 1945, she was appointed by President Truman to be a delegate to the group that would create the United Nations. She became a primary author of The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly on 10 December 1948.

Check out these Eleanor-centered clips from Ken Burns’ The Roosevelts:
ER Is Born & Elliot Dies
ER and the Red Cross
Her First Step into Politics
ER vs. Sara Delano Roosevelt
ER on Troubled World
ER’s South Pacific Visit
ER Leaves White House