Born in the USA…two of a mind

President Barack Obama and Bruce Springsteen will release a joint book, Renegades: Born in the U.S.A., on October 26th globally via Higher Ground/Penguin Random House.

…”A collection of candid, intimate, and entertaining conversations,” which began in Spotify’s co-produced podcast of the same name. Published in an oversized, fully illustrated format, the book will also feature rare and exclusive photographs from the authors’ personal collections and never-before-seen archival material, including Springsteen’s handwritten lyrics and Obama’s annotated speeches.

“Over the years, what we’ve found is that we’ve got a shared sensibility,” Obama writes in the book’s opening pages. “About work, about family, and about America. In our own ways, Bruce and I have been on parallel journeys trying to understand this country that’s given us both so much. Trying to chronicle the stories of its people. Looking for a way to connect our own individual searches for meaning and truth and community with the larger story of America.”

Springsteen adds, in the book’s introduction: “There were serious conversations about the fate of the country, the fortune of its citizens, and the destructive, ugly, corrupt forces at play that would like to take it all down. This is a time of vigilance when who we are is being seriously tested. Hard conversations about who we are and who we want to become can perhaps serve as a small guiding map for some of our fellow citizens.”

They are what they say they are. “Renegades” compared to the average American stuck into the two-party carousel. Pretty much straight down the middle of any road I ever marched on.

I started a few years before either. It’s been 61 years since my first sit-in in a drugstore in Virginia. But, then I’m older than either of them, as well. My heart, my understanding of class and history stands to the Left of either. But, unlike some of those partaking of political struggle in this benighted land, it ain’t a sect or religion. It’s just what needs to be done to find justice for all.

We can march together.

How to use culture and music to protect the planet


Yo-Yo Ma plays a “Music in the Mangroves” concert to help scientists and community members drive home the importance of saving mangrove ecosystems

A child prodigy who performed for President John F. Kennedy at the age of seven, the cellist has since recorded more than 100 albums, received 18 Grammy Awards, and played for nine U.S. presidents. Yet at 65, Ma remains a self-deprecating, tireless, and purposefully optimistic human being who shares his music as a means of connecting with people and the world.

Ma believes that culture—which he defines broadly as the place where the arts, sciences, and society converge—can help assuage discord, strengthen community bonds, promote social justice, and protect the planet. In 2018 the cellist embarked on the Bach Project, an ambitious journey that uses culture as a bridge to connect with communities, launch conversations, and spotlight efforts that strive to do good.

The cello virtuoso has been playing Bach concerts on six continents. At every stop, he joins activities to support social justice and environmental causes…So far, Ma has been to 28 of the tour’s 36 destinations—places as far-flung as Mumbai, India; Mexico City, Mexico; Dakar, Senegal; and Christchurch, New Zealand. The anchor of the project is Bach’s six cello suites, which Ma plays from memory in concerts that last more than two hours, with no intermission. Performances are paired with Days of Action, where Ma helps raise awareness about issues of local and global importance during events with community leaders, citizens, artists, students, and activists. For example, in Chicago Ma confronted gun violence by joining a tree planting—using shovels that were made from donated weapons. In Korea the cellist visited an elementary school in the Demilitarised Zone with a traditional kitemaker, giving students, villagers, and teachers the opportunity to decorate kites with their aspirations for the future.

At every event and stop, Ma’s mission is the same: to listen, discover, and join with others to build a better future.

Everything I believe a true world-class musician should try to be.

Fast Car

I just spent the damndest Saturday night in years. After supper and a shower, I sat and watched over three hours of music videos.

Now, there ain’t much of anything in this century I found worth watching. I admit it must be around here, somewhere. Maybe next time I look, I’ll find something.

So, even though I went way, way back…this is one from later than my days of spending lots of time making music. And very, very good.

I’m a man…

Driving home from school, sunshiny spring afternoon, sun shining on a nation run by old white men fronting for money. I was president of a rock’n roll club called – believe it or not – The Rolling Stones. 1955. Time before some kids in England also named themselves after Otis Blackwell’s DADDY ROLLING STONE. Founding that club got me “on the bench” in the principal’s office every lunch period for a couple of weeks. “Why can’t you listen to music by white people?”

1955. And this came on the radio.

I had to pull over and park by the side of the road. Happy and sad, crying and hammering the steering wheel. Blues and bad, sex and resentment of racism all over this pitiful land.

Have mercy!

I had none to give…

Sad But True

Music has always been part of my life. I became a student of classical piano when I was 5 years old. When I was 13, I switched to jazz trombone. My piano instructor never spoke to me, again.

7 or 8 years later, I picked up on strings…finalizing taste; but, not style, with a 12-string guitar. And singing. I loved it…loved performing. By then, I already had stage presence from performances of poetry and jazz. My poetry and a band I drove nuts because the music I heard in my head behind my poetry was Monk. Thelonius, that is. The band I presented with most often liked Monk; but, never played his music, his style. One more reason I had to make my own music.

I enjoyed about 17 years, singing and playing. This is all in aid of explaining my devotion to music. That’s all. I stopped performing. Nothing especially interesting about that. My love of all (well, almost all) forms, styles, traditions in music never stopped.

Have to say, in general, I can relate, feel a kinship with being driven in a performance. Being wholly immersed in performing. This is a song I would have loved 20 or 30 years before it was written. Yes, singing and playing unaccompanied 12-string.

Just drinking in the park

Bruce Springsteen pleaded guilty Wednesday to charges he imbibed alcohol at New Jersey’s Sandy Hook National Recreation Area, despite knowing it was prohibited…

The plea came after federal prosecutors agreed to drop charges that Springsteen was operating a vehicle under the influence and driving recklessly, charges Assistant US Attorney Adam Baker said the government would not be able to prove.

“The evidence we reviewed indicates that after the defendant’s arrest, he submitted to a breath test at the ranger station, and his BAC reading was .02, which as the court is aware is well under the legal limit of .08,” Baker said.

…The prohibition on alcoholic drinks at Sandy Hook was two years old, and noting Springsteen’s otherwise clean criminal record, Judge Anthony Mautone sentenced The Boss to pay a $500 fine plus $40 in court fees.

Over-ambitious copper. Folks running the court had more sense.

Is this a brand worth buying?

With extremely rare exception, I watch Fox NOTHING! If they approached reasonable humanity, someday, in the political management of their content, I’d consider changing my attitude. Of course.

There is also no shortage of great sports programming, short fiction, long-form film-making, musical entertainment…you name it…to be found within the multiplicity of channels streaming from watchable sources available damned near everywhere. More than I can keep up with.

So, screw the pricks sucking up advertising dollar$ that benefit the current and future waves of fascist, racist, bigoted ideology that keeps the shit-end of human beings from being as poverty-stricken as their hearts and cruel minds.