Bob Dylan – Freewheelin at 70

•May 21, 2011 • Leave a Comment

“master poet, caustic social critic and intrepid, guiding spirit of the counterculture generation”

Robert Allen Zimmerman aka Bob Dylan hits 70 on May 24th 2011. He has been recording for at least five decades , yet his music represents nearly a century of North American music as he brought his influences from blues and traditional music, along with his family background from Ukraine and Turkey. Even Welsh poetry had its influence as Bob’s name reminds us  (i.e. Dylan Thomas).

Much of his most celebrated work dates from the 1960s when he was an informal chronicler, and an apparently reluctant figurehead, of social unrest. Though he is well-known for revolutionizing perceptions of the limits of popular music in 1965 with the six-minute single “Like a Rolling Stone,”a number of his earlier songs such as “Blowin’ in the Wind” and “The Times They Are a-Changin’” became anthems for theUS civil rights and anti-war movements.

His early lyrics incorporated a variety of political, social and philosophical, as well as literary influences. They defied existing pop music conventions and appealed hugely to the then burgeoningcounterculture. Initially inspired by the songs of Woody GuthrieRobert JohnsonHank Williams, and the performance styles of Buddy Holly and Little Richard,Dylan has both amplified and personalized musical genres, exploring numerous distinct traditions in American song—from folk,blues and country to gospel, rock and roll, and rockabilly, to English, Scottish, and Irish folk music, embracing even jazz and swing.

In Mike Marqusee’s words: “Between late 1964 and the summer of 1966, Dylan created a body of work that remains unique. Drawing on folk, blues, country, R&B, rock’n’roll, gospel, British beat, symbolist, modernist and Beat poetry, surrealism and Dada, advertising jargon and social commentary, Fellini and Mad magazine, he forged a coherent and original artistic voice and vision. The beauty of these albums retains the power to shock and console.”

Even though many find his singing ‘unconventional’ he is unique and I am sure it does not bother him what people think of his singing -just like when he went electric at Manchester Free Trade Hall in 1966 . Here is the commentary by Andy Kershaw on the incident when Dylan was called ‘Judas’ just for relinquishing his acoustic guitar for one with pick ups.

In the autumn of 1978, I arrived at Leeds University, already over-qualified in Dylanology. Another Bobsessive, I soon discovered, was living close by in our Headingley student ghetto, and he supplemented his grant by dealing Dylan bootlegs. One night he sold me a copy of an album that, according to the crudely stamped label, was a recording of Bob Dylan and The Hawks (later The Band) at the Royal Albert Hall on their notorious UK tour in May 1966. It was on these dates that Bob first appeared in Britain with an electric band. (His tour the previous spring, immortalised in the film Don’t Look Back, was still solo Dylan, in protest mode, with just an acoustic guitar.)

Bob by Feinstein

The 1966 bootleg was not only of first-rate sound quality; it was also the most dramatic, confrontational concert I’d ever heard – and I was a regular at Clash gigs at the time. It remains, for me, the most exciting live album of all. Dylan, on that tour, split his audiences straight down the middle. Many were thrilled by his new psychedelic songs and the massive onslaught of The Hawks roaring through the biggest PA system that had, at that point, been assembled in the UK. It had flown in with the band from Los Angeles.

But many others in those staid, municipal concert halls were outraged and betrayed by their darling acoustic minstrel plugging into the mains. (It was, though no one realised it at the time, the birth of rock music as opposed to pop music). No matter that Dylan had released five electric singles – notably, “Like a Rolling Stone” – and one electric album in the previous 12 months: British audiences were still getting up to speed on his earlier records and they wanted back the Woody Guthrie protégé they’d seen in 1965.

This tension between artist and audience snapped in an almighty confrontation on the bootleg. Slow hand-clapping and jeering throughout Dylan’s electric half of the show – which was later properly identified as his concert at Manchester’s Free Trade Hall on 17 May 1966 and finally given official release by Columbia Records in 1998 – climaxes with one betrayed folkie letting fly with a long yell of “Judas!” It became the most famous heckle in rock’n’roll history.

Dylan is rattled, and for an awkward second the audience is stunned – until a yelp of solidarity with the heckler goes up. It is still a genuinely shocking moment. (Concert-goers in those days were routinely reverential. They still stood for the national anthem at the end). Dylan eventually composes himself and leers: “I don’t believe you. You’re a liar!” And then, off mic: “You fucking liar!” (some claim he said: “Play fucking loud!”) before he and the band kick into the most majestic, terrifying version of “Like a Rolling Stone”, their final number – a performance of Gothic immensity surely drawn from Dylan by his anger at that single shout.

Well, if you dont like his singing or his electric guitar playing you can at least wonder at the genius of his poetry..

As early as 1965 media critics were acknowledging Dylan’s status not only as a popular music star but as a poet of substantial literary merit. Dylan has generally treated his critics with derision, stating that they do not understand what he is trying to express. Dylan has always confounded reviewers by refusing to explain the meaning of his songs, however, insisting that they stand for themselves. Because many of his songs hold up well as poetry, separated from their music, they are natural choices for study by critics specializing in contemporary language arts, who compare them to the works of Walt Whitman, T. S. Eliot, and Allen Ginsberg. Ginsberg himself proclaimed Dylan to be among the greatest poets of the century. Dylan usually avoids discussion of his works as poems or talk of himself as anything but a performing songwriter: “Poets drown in lakes,” he told Paul Zollo in a 1991 interview. Zollo explains that Dylan “broke all the rules of songwriting without abandoning the craft and care that holds songs together.” Such well-crafted songs include “Mr. Tambourine Man” and “Just Like Tom Thumb’s Blues” which are examined for their visionary symbolism and imagery. “Like a Rolling Stone” is praised for its lyrical qualities and the emotional force of the repeated refrain, “How does it feel?” and its powerful expression of alienation. “Desolation Row” which portrays a dark, apocalyptic vision of the fate of human society, is another favorite of critics. Dylan’s work fell below his own classic standard during parts of the 1980s and 1990s. Not until Time Out of Mind did critics once again overwhelmingly praise Dylan’s lyrics as startlingly fresh compositions, equal to his most critically acclaimed songs from the 1960s and 1970s. Music writer Bill Flanagan was present at a party held in 1985 to honor Dylan’s accomplishments. When television reporters asked him to explain Dylan’s significance, he explained that Dylan refused to accept any limits on rock and roll and thus showed everyone else that the form could expand to include all sorts of ideas. Flanagan relates a conversation he had with musician Pete Townshend, who also attended the party. “He joked about the futility of trying to offer a concise explanation of Dylan’s significance. ‘They asked what effect Bob Dylan had on me,’ he said. ‘That’s like asking how I was influenced by being born.’” (ref:http://www.enotes.com/poetry-criticism/dylan-bob).

A taste of his poetry

It’s Alright, Ma (I’m Only Bleeding)

Darkness at the break of noon
Shadows even the silver spoon
The handmade blade, the child’s balloon
Eclipses both the sun and moon
To understand you know too soon
There is no sense in trying

Pointed threats, they bluff with scorn
Suicide remarks are torn
From the fool’s gold mouthpiece the hollow horn
Plays wasted words, proves to warn
That he not busy being born is busy dying

Temptation’s page flies out the door
You follow, find yourself at war
Watch waterfalls of pity roar
You feel to moan but unlike before
You discover that you’d just be one more
Person crying

So don’t fear if you hear
A foreign sound to your ear
It’s alright, Ma, I’m only sighing

As some warn victory, some downfall
Private reasons great or small
Can be seen in the eyes of those that call
To make all that should be killed to crawl
While others say don’t hate nothing at all
Except hatred

Disillusioned words like bullets bark
As human gods aim for their mark
Make everything from toy guns that spark
To flesh-colored Christs that glow in the dark
It’s easy to see without looking too far
That not much is really sacred

While preachers preach of evil fates
Teachers teach that knowledge waits
Can lead to hundred-dollar plates
Goodness hides behind its gates
But even the president of the United States
Sometimes must have to stand naked

An’ though the rules of the road have been lodged
It’s only people’s games that you got to dodge
And it’s alright, Ma, I can make it

Advertising signs they con
You into thinking you’re the one
That can do what’s never been done
That can win what’s never been won
Meantime life outside goes on
All around you

You lose yourself, you reappear
You suddenly find you got nothing to fear
Alone you stand with nobody near
When a trembling distant voice, unclear
Startles your sleeping ears to hear
That somebody thinks they really found you

A question in your nerves is lit
Yet you know there is no answer fit
To satisfy, insure you not to quit
To keep it in your mind and not forget
That it is not he or she or them or it
That you belong to

Although the masters make the rules
For the wise men and the fools
I got nothing, Ma, to live up to

For them that must obey authority
That they do not respect in any degree
Who despise their jobs, their destinies
Speak jealously of them that are free
Cultivate their flowers to be
Nothing more than something they invest in

While some on principles baptized
To strict party platform ties
Social clubs in drag disguise
Outsiders they can freely criticize
Tell nothing except who to idolize
And then say God bless him

While one who sings with his tongue on fire
Gargles in the rat race choir
Bent out of shape from society’s pliers
Cares not to come up any higher
But rather get you down in the hole
That he’s in

But I mean no harm nor put fault
On anyone that lives in a vault
But it’s alright, Ma, if I can’t please him

Old lady judges watch people in pairs
Limited in sex, they dare
To push fake morals, insult and stare
While money doesn’t talk, it swears
Obscenity, who really cares
Propaganda, all is phony

While them that defend what they cannot see
With a killer’s pride, security
It blows the minds most bitterly
For them that think death’s honesty
Won’t fall upon them naturally
Life sometimes must get lonely

My eyes collide head-on with stuffed
Graveyards, false gods, I scuff
At pettiness which plays so rough
Walk upside-down inside handcuffs
Kick my legs to crash it off
Say okay, I have had enough, what else can you show me?

And if my thought-dreams could be seen
They’d probably put my head in a guillotine
But it’s alright, Ma, it’s life, and life only

Copyright © 1965 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1993 by Special Rider Music

and from ‘Freewheeling’

Masters Of War

Come you masters of war
You that build all the guns
You that build the death planes
You that build the big bombs
You that hide behind walls
You that hide behind desks
I just want you to know
I can see through your masks

You that never done nothin’
But build to destroy
You play with my world
Like it’s your little toy
You put a gun in my hand
And you hide from my eyes
And you turn and run farther
When the fast bullets fly

Like Judas of old
You lie and deceive
A world war can be won
You want me to believe
But I see through your eyes
And I see through your brain
Like I see through the water
That runs down my drain

You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud

You’ve thrown the worst fear
That can ever be hurled
Fear to bring children
Into the world
For threatening my baby
Unborn and unnamed
You ain’t worth the blood
That runs in your veins

How much do I know
To talk out of turn
You might say that I’m young
You might say I’m unlearned
But there’s one thing I know
Though I’m younger than you
Even Jesus would never
Forgive what you do

Let me ask you one question
Is your money that good
Will it buy you forgiveness
Do you think that it could
I think you will find
When your death takes its toll
All the money you made
Will never buy back your soul

And I hope that you die
And your death’ll come soon
I will follow your casket
In the pale afternoon
And I’ll watch while you’re lowered
Down to your deathbed
And I’ll stand o’er your grave
’Til I’m sure that you’re dead

Copyright © 1963 by Warner Bros. Inc.; renewed 1991 by Special Rider Music

And now for some recordings….

Early Dylan  -live at Newport

As any Dylan fan knows every time you see him live, his songs morph into new creations -sometime for the best and sometimes…but their his songs and he doesn’t stand still -his idea of the ‘never ending tour and musical journey.

And remembering Woodie Guthrie

Live in 1963 -Brandeis University

1964 -I dont believe you

1975 -Abandoned love

Bob Dylan at Live Aid

Live Aid -when the ship comes in

The last waltz – forever young medley

A very croaky Bob in 2010 -Blind Willie McTell

Dylan re-invents every song every night. The results range from transcendent to downright intolerable, sometimes within the same song, but they are never predictable.

and the artist as painter…..

Following Bob’s motorcycle accident in 1966 (some say he was in rehab -no serious motorbike crash just a psychological crash)

he was ‘taught’ to draw and ever since he was been working on his other arts -here are some examples of his paintings:

Cyanotypes – how blue can you get?

•March 21, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Looking at other posts on my blog you can see I like the Blues! So working on cyanotypes allows me to extend my interpretation of blues :) A it is her birthday this week, lets remember Anna Atkins, who was born 216 years ago and produced the first book to include ‘photographs’ which were in fact,cyanotypes. annaatkins algae2

Anna Atkins from her book  Photographs of British Algae: Cyanotype Impressions ( October 1843) 

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My first post on cyanotypes explored the range of possibilities for making and using cyanotypes; this post goes into more detail on making cyanotypes at home. fernblue1   The process, in its simplest form, is to mix two chemicals to produce a ‘sensitizer’ solution which is then coated on to paper -such as watercolour or cartridge paper. The image can be produced as a photogram -by putting objects onto the paper which will then mask parts of the paper and remain white while exposed areas will turn blue. The alternative is to make a digital negative (same size as the image that you want e.g. A4. What you need: A ‘sensitiser’ – for cyanotypes this is composed of two chemicals which can easily be bought online  and can be mixed at home. The two chemicals are Ammonium ferric citrate and Potassium ferricyanide ( also called  Potassium hexacyanidoferrate(II) ). Each chemical is mixed in water (ideally filtered ). mixing chemicals

Using a plastic pipette to mix small quantities of ‘sensitizer’. 

Once the sensitizer has been made (see below) paper, cloth and even wood can be coated to make it sensitive to UV light (the sun or other UV source such as UV tubes). What is helpful is that coating materials can be done under a household bulb (not a fluorescent tube) rather than a safe light. Dissolve the chemicals in water to make two separate solutions. Add Ammonium ferric citrate (25 grms) to 100 mls of  water into one container and Potassium ferricyanide (10 grms)  to 100 mls of  water in another. Stir with a plastic spoon until the chemicals dissolve. These two solutions when kept in brown bottles can last a few months. Of course , if you are unlikely to coat many sheets,then just halve the amounts noted above (which I normally do to keep the finished solution, i.e. the sensitiser, fresh.) Mix equal quantities of each solution together in a third container. Unused solutions can be stored separately in brown bottles away from light, but will not last very long once they have been mixed. Dispose of any unused chemicals in an  environmentally friendly way. Once you have coated the paper or other material ,  let it dry for  a few hours (although it is possible to use it straight away). To gain an image, the senistised material is left in the sun (or other UV source) for anything from a few minutes to half an hour depending on your position on the globe, the time of the year and the time of day. For example, in March at around 11.00 am at a latitude of 51 degrees N and 2 degrees W , exposure was between 8 and 12 minutes (see below). leafphotogram1

Photogram with leaves being exposed  in Spring sunshine for 10 minutes

    An image can also be  formed using a digital negative. eleneg1 An image was found,  adjusted in photoshop (can also use another program such as  GIMP  – www.gimp.org0.) ; and then inverted to produce a negative ( invert once you have adjusted contrast etc)  re-sized to fit an A4 sheet and printed on an acetate sheet ( overhead transparency sheet – £10 for 100 sheets approx.). If a digital negative is not used then objects, such as leaves or shells, can be used to  produce a photogram (as above with leaves). test strip ele It is a good idea to make a ‘test strip’ to understand the levels of UV at that particular time. Cover 3/4 of the image on first exposure , then uncover 1/4 every 3 minutes or so. Then you can calculate the best exposure time (12 mins was too much so 9 mins was chosen). ele exposed

Exposed image with digital negative (A4) at top left.

When the print has been exposed, process your print by rinsing it in cold water. The wash  removes any unexposed chemicals. The water will run yellow at first. washing cyan ele still   changeofcolour wash

Washing prints – water runs yellow at first.

Wash for at least 5 minutes, until all chemicals are removed and the water runs clear.   * Cotton cloth can be sensitised and processed in the same way as paper and is very effective.   cloth negexposed

Two negatives are placed on a piece of cotton cloth (A2 size approx.)

washing cyan cloth

After about 10 minutes exposure to Spring sunshine, the cloth is washed. Notice the yellow colour washing out.

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    * cloth washing clear

The water is becoming clear after 5 minutes of washing.

The blue colour is accentuated as it is oxidised. The final print/cloth can now be left somewhere to dry (lie flat or hung using pegs). Frame the result or make a cushion cover!

Toning cyanotypes.

When you have explored the miriad of cyanotypes in all their subtle shades of blue, why not tone them brown? The process is another adventure in exploration. Some will say bleach first then tone, others say tone then bleach, others may say bleach, tone and then bleach again. Plenty to experiment with! The easiest and cheapest bleach is sodium carbonate (washing soda -not caustic soda!) – 1 teaspoon in a litre of water will do it. The cheapest toner is tea (black tea not green) – put 5 or 6 teabags in warm water (if you are a tea lover -make your cups of tea and leave the part used bags in a jar for a day). So, one method -bleach your cyanotype for 15-30 seconds. Now soak your print in the tea (should be dark brown) for about 15 minutes – can be more or less depending on the strength of your toner and the range of shades you want in your finished print. Dry and enjoy the toned print. toning 1 bl and br

The tea toned example (on right) with its blue ‘original’ (on left) before bleaching and toning.

Subtler shades of brown can be achieved with less toning and weaker solutions.

  Keep a notebook handy so that while experimenting you can decide on the optimal conditions for the tones that you desire. More to come on this one. Any questions?

Hubble – the last 25 years

•March 3, 2015 • Leave a Comment

hubble 25

 

Forget men walking on the moon, the real news has come from Hubble.

If we did not have the cold war ,provoking US man agains Soviet man, we may have been able to focus on unmanned space exploration and spent the funds more effectively, in terms of  creating real and new knowledge.

Anyway lets celebrate 25 years of Hubble and marvel at the images that have taken us to the edge of the universe(s).

Planck_CMBfirst stars

images of the first stars and galaxies

 

and if you want to understand how they are discovering distant galaxies -watch this:

 

 

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pillars of creation

Hubble launches its 25th anniversary celebration with new look at iconic “Pillars of Creation” image of the Eagle Nebula. The famous image was first released in 1995. This more-detailed depiction, captured by an instrument installed on the telescope in 2009, includes streamers of gas floating away from the columns and a jet-like feature that may have been ejected from a newborn star.

25thHubble

 

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debris disk around starsHubble

Dust disk around a star.

 

 

Jupiter is in the news at present

jupiter jan 2015

 

 

 

jupiter moons

Jupiter’s moons in full view

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spiral galaxy

 

At first glance, galaxy NGC 7714 resembles a partial golden ring. This unusual structure is a river of Sun-like stars that has been pulled deep into space by the gravitational tug of a bypassing galaxy (not visible in this Hubble Space Telescope photo). Though the universe is full of such colliding galaxies that are distorted in a gravitational taffy-pull, NGC 7714 is particularly striking for the seeming fluidity of the stars along a vast arc. The near-collision between the galaxies happened at least 100 million years ago.

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/04

 

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orion nebula

 

A stunning image of the Orion Nebula

 

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And what about this breath taking composite image of the Andromeda Galaxy

andromeda galaxy large

 

 

The largest #Hubble image ever assembled, this sweeping view of a portion of the Andromeda galaxy is the sharpest large composite image ever taken of our galactic next-door neighbor. Though the galaxy is over 2 million light-years away, the Hubble telescope is powerful enough to resolve individual stars. And, there are lots of stars in this image — over 100 million, with some of them in thousands of star clusters seen embedded in the disk.

http://hubblesite.org/newscenter/archive/releases/2015/02/

 

hubblemania

Hubble Mania -a new competition from the Hubble site:

Thirty-two Hubble images. One champion. Who will win it all? Your votes will decide. In celebration of Hubble’s 25th anniversary, we’re pitting some of Hubble’s best images against each other in a single-elimination bracket. Your votes will determine the victors for each round. Download and fill out the bracket to predict which image you think will win each head-to-head matchup, and which will make it all the way through to the championship. Then come back and vote each week, starting on March 4 at 9 a.m. EST.

Some of the ‘competitors’

hubble saturn hubblenebula hubble mars hubble jupiter

 

 

1bea5923ca404c6316949113d1b50639 1bf632e9aa26a97f0d0e854ff3cb002a
1fc0e719986c2b1d237931224e7db7ba 3c4089b5151b273ee80a9937ea752110 04a883771af3e473c097b077bc7987f6 5bf311201f34e43a84a9ba84352693e5

 

 

Access the Hubble site and drift into space – it will make you feel humble!

Kaleidoscope

•February 10, 2015 • Leave a Comment

Ray Harris:

Always a joy to see a new collection of stunning images – makes you reflect on the whole of humanity reblogged on Photography and Music
photomuserh.wordpress.com

Originally posted on Steve McCurry's Blog:

AFGHN-10227Afghanistan

The world is your kaleidoscope, and the varying combinations of colors
which at every succeeding moment are the exquisitely adjusted
pictures of your ever-moving thoughts.
– James Allen

AFGHN-12232Afghanistan

Why do two colors, put one next to the other, sing?
Can one really explain this? No.
– Pablo Picasso

TIBET-10184Tibet

INDIA-11004India

The purest and most thoughtful minds
are those which love color the most.

– John Ruskin

TIBET-10002Tibet

NIGER-10004Niger

Our days are a kaleidoscope.
Every instant a change takes place in the contents.

New harmonies, new contrasts, new combinations of every sort…
The most familiar people stand each moment in some
new relation to each other, to their work, to surrounding objects.
 – Harry Ward Beecher

Phokhara, Nepal, 1984, NEPAL-10009Portraits_bookPORTRAITS_bookNepal

USA-10027NFUnited States

All colors are the friends of their neighbors and the lovers of their opposites.
– Marc Chagall

Liya KebedeLiya Kebede, Brazil

ETHIOPIA-10227Ethiopia

UNITED_KINGDOM-10053NF4Lemn Sissay, United Kingdom

There’s a time for everyone…

View original 98 more words

The Blues in Britain – the 60’s ‘invasion’

•December 28, 2014 • Leave a Comment

The Blues in Britain – the 60’s ‘invasion’

 

bluesfest63-66

 

Yes we had blues players move across to the U.S. but the greatest influence on our budding blues artists was from the stars of the  60’s American Blues Festivals (1962-1969).

Just look at the start of this clip with the dramatic entrance from Sonny Boy Williamson – then followed by the great Muddy Waters.

 

 

Great photography too!

sonny-boy-williamson-ii-03

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Lets see some other artists on tours between 1962-1966

Enjoy Sonny Terry ‘hootin’ in this clip

 

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But there are so many gems here:

 

 

(note Sony Boy Williamson at around 20 minutes -check the two colour suit and the great improvisation)

Rev.Gary Davis – Harlem Street Singer

•October 2, 2014 • Leave a Comment

I have just been listening to Paul Jones interviewing Woody Mann about his documentary film project on Blues guitarist Reverend Gary Davis.

Davis-Poster_800-203x300

An often copied song – Samson and Delilah

As stated in the film he was a great influence on a number of musicians such as Pete Seeger, Bob Weir, Jerry Garcia, Jorma Kaukonen, David Bromberg, Bob Dylan and countless others.

This is a take from the Dead:

Others were influenced –  such as Eric Bibb and Ralph McTell

Here’s Gary on I heard the Angels singing:

and Eric Bibb’s version:

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revgary1

Hesitation Blues from The Rev Gary Davis

and a  good rag time version of Hesitation Blues from Ralph McTell

and a version by Janis Joplin –

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In another blog I looked at the versions of Candyman

12stgary

Here is a reminder of Rev Gary’s version…

and if you want to know how to play it -just listen to Stefan Grossman who is a great fan of Gary Davis:

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and a rare piece of video footage of The Rev Gary playing the famous “Death have no mercy’

and a less rare clip but soulful acoustic version by  Hot Tuna:

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revgary1lp revgary2lp revgary3lp revgary4lp revgary5lp

Memories of Rev Gary Davis by Stefan Grossman

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Some nice ragtime on this one:

 

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and finally The Rev Gary Davis performance – June 1967.

St.James Infirmary …. another history of the blues

•March 10, 2014 • Leave a Comment

St.James Infirmary   …. another history of the blues

Listen  to this first ….. from Louis Armstrong

louis

St.James Infirmary

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and now from Blind Willie McTell

blind willie mctell

Dying crapshooters’ blues

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As a quiz question…..could there be any connection with Henry VIII?

145-Henry-VIII-s

Well yes and no….

The links are described in Wikipedia:

“St. James Infirmary Blues” is based on an 18th-century traditional English folk song called “The Unfortunate Rake” (also known as “The Unfortunate Lad” or “The Young Man Cut Down in His Prime”), about a soldier who uses his money on prostitutes, and then dies of a venereal disease.

The title is said to derive from St. James Hospital in London, a religious foundation for treatment of leprosy. There is some difficulty in this, since it closed in 1532 when Henry VIII acquired the land to build St. James Palace.Another possibility is the Infirmary section of the St James Workhouse, which the St James Parish opened in 1725 on Poland Street, Piccadilly, and which continued well into the nineteenth century. This St James Infirmary was contemporaneous with the advent of the song.

As I was a-walking down by St. James Hospital,

I was a-walking down by there one day.

What should I spy but one of my comrades

All wrapped up in a flannel though warm was the day.

—”The Unfortunate Rake” (trad.)

The St James workhouse..

Westminster2workhouse


Variations typically feature a narrator telling the story of a young man “cut down in his prime” (occasionally, a young woman “cut down in her prime”) as a result of morally questionable behavior. For example, when the song moved to America, gambling and alcohol became common causes of the youth’s death. There are numerous versions of the song throughout the English-speaking world. It evolved into other American standards such as “The Streets of Laredo”.

The song “Dyin’ Crapshooter’s Blues” has been described as a descendant of “The Unfortunate Rake”, and thus a ‘direct relative’ of “St James Infirmary Blues”. Blind Willie McTell recorded a version for Alan Lomax in 1940, and claimed to have begun writing the song around 1929. However, the song was first recorded as “Gambler’s Blues” in 1927 by Fess Williams and his Royal Flush Orchestra.

The tune of the earlier versions of the song, including the “Bard of Armagh” and the “Unfortunate Rake”, is in a major key and is similar to that of the “Streets of Laredo”. The jazz version, as played by Louis Armstrong, is in a minor key and appears to have been influenced by the chord structures prevalent in Latin American music, particularly the Tango.

Like most such folksongs, there is much variation in the lyrics from one version to another. This is the first stanza as sung by Louis Armstrong:

I went down to St. James Infirmary,

Saw my baby there,

Stretched out on a long white table,

So cold, so sweet, so fair.

Let her go, let her go, God bless her,

Wherever she may be,

She can look this wide world over,

But she’ll never find a sweet man like me.

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Lets listen to another jazz version by Cab Calloway (with a bit of cartoon humour) :

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Compare with trombonist Jack Teagarden’s soulful version:

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A great ‘traditional’ version from Snooks Eaglin from Folkways records 1959:

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Lets listen to a few more versions and see how the song has evolved:

First Bobby Bland:

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one of my favourites – from Van the Man -really brings the sense of drama and mix of jazz and blues versions -Live in Montreaux 2003

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And getting back to the roots -an acoustic version from  Arlo Guthrie:

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A good version from guitar maestro Eric Clapton along with band leader Doctor John

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and a gritty version from Joe Cocker and Leon Russell:

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and back to the roots with an acoustic version from Dave Van Ronk – remember the other title – ” Gambler’s blues”

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a soulful/psychedelic rendition form Eric Burden and the Animals:

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I think you realise now how a ‘traditional ‘ song can inspire so many musicians -over centuries!

Some more recent adaptations:

And a great live jazz version from Trombone Shorty and Orleans Avenue

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Vive la France-  Camélia Jordana in 2011

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and what about Jools Holland -and guess who ….  Tom Jones!

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and the White stripes

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2013 – from the Hot Sardines….a very jazzy touch again

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and a more traditional piano version from Hugh Laurie:

In Paris? Pres de Centre Pompidou? Try Henri Cartier – Bresson!

•February 11, 2014 • Leave a Comment

In Paris? Pres de Centre Pompidou? Try Henri Cartier – Bresson!

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EXHIBITION HENRI CARTIER-BRESSON
CENTRE POMPIDOU / FEBRUARY 12th – JUNE 9th 2014
GALLERY 2, LEVEL 6

Exhibition

For the first time in Europe, the Centre Pompidou is devoting a completely new retrospective to the work of Henri Cartier-Bresson, through more than five hundred photographs, drawings, paintings, films and documents.

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This exhibition, both chronological and thematic, proposes a genuine reinterpretation of Henri Cartier-Bresson’s work, by Clément Chéroux, curator at the photography department of the Centre Pompidou. The public are invited to journey through over seventy years of work of the man known as “the eye of the century”.

 

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Publication

To complete this retrospective on one of the key figure in modernity, a major book showing the totality of the exhibition, has been published by the Centre Pompidou (€49,90).

 

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Application

From February 9th 2014, the Centre Pompidou proposes a rich artistic and documentary application for tablets, produced in partnership with the Fondation Henri Cartier-Bresson, Magnum Photos and Le Monde.fr.

An application for tablet, available under iOS and Android
French and English
Price: €4,49

 

 A video =the decisive moment

 
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