Bob Schwartz

Category: Music

ABBA Saves the Day

So when you’re near me, darling, can’t you hear me, S.O.S.
The love you gave me, nothing else can save me, S.O.S.

Yeah, yeah, some things are messed up. But then ABBA’s Take a Chance came on the playlist. Things are still not all right, but for four minutes, it seemed like it.

Propulsive, like listening to a sleek Swedish train gliding down the tracks. Just try not moving your hips, no matter how spastic you think you look. Like Nick Lowe said in an album title, this is “Pure Pop for Now People.”

ABBA is my prescription for the day.

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Why Isn’t Popular Music Helping Save Us Again?

It may seem an exaggeration to say that popular music ever saved us. It moved us individually, socially, culturally, it inspired us. But did it ever really change things, change our direction?

It helped. America and most of the world were adrift after World War II. The culture of the 1930s and 1940s ran head on into the reality of a just-ended massive global war, the Holocaust, the atomic bomb, etc. Nobody asked popular music to evolve into a new soundtrack. It’s just that the old one seemed out of place, out of time, out of tune, like the piano player at a silent film.

We know what happened next. Music for a new world grew and took over. And when times were most challenging—civil rights and Vietnam for just a couple of examples—music was an anthemic driver. The music didn’t make new people, but new people needed their music. Protest. Psychedelic. Punk. Hip hop. On and on.

Now that we find ourselves in really strange times again, I am listening for a new soundtrack, waiting for it to make its move. Haven’t heard it yet. We do need inspiration, we do need motivation, we do need saving. Ask anyone who lived through some of the dynamic decades what the music meant to change and to them. Where is that music now?

Roy Moore Blues: Good Morning Little Schoolgirl

Mississippi is on my mind, as it is always in my heart.

There is the controversy surrounding Trump’s visit to the wonderful new Mississippi Civil Rights Museum.

Then there is Alabama, the neighbor to the east, suffering through the unending untender political mercies of Roy Moore.

This led to my listening to the blues this morning, and the blues standard Good Morning Little Schoolgirl came on. As cosmically unbluesy as Roy Moore is, this is his song:

Good morning little schoolgirl
Good morning little schoolgirl
Can I come home
Can I come home with you
Tell your mama and your papa
I’m a little schoolboy too

Laura Nyro: Time and Love

Don’t let the devil fool you
Here comes a dove
Nothing cures like time and love

Sometime you’re going to want to catch up to the music of Laura Nyro, who, by the time she created her first three perfect albums between 1967 and 1969, was only 22. She created much more music, but died untimely in 1997, at 49.

There is a special place in my ears and heart for a number of women who write and sing, but in the special place in that place, in the holy of holies, is Laura. This morning, unsure of what would lift the unlifted and straighten the crooked, I played Time and Love, from the New York Tendaberry album.

So winter froze the river
And winter birds don’t sing
So winter makes you shiver
So time is gonna bring you spring

So he swears he’ll never marry
Says that cuddles are a curse
Just tell him plain
You’re on the next train
If love don’t get there first

Time and love
Everybody
Time and love
Nothing cures like
Time and love
Don’t let the devil fool you
Here comes a dove
Nothing cures like time and love

You been runnin’, you been ramblin’,
And you don’t know what to do
A holy golden wager says
That love will see you through

So Jesus was an angel
And mankind broke his wing
But Jesus gave his lifeline
So sacred bells could sing

Now a woman is a fighter
Gathered white or African
A woman
Is a woman is a woman inside
Has miracles for her man

Time and love
Everybody
Time and love
Nothing cures like
Time and love
Don’t let the devil fool you
Here comes a dove
Nothing cures like time and love

 

 

 

Rosanne Cash: Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A.

The wonderful and gifted musician Rosanne Cash, daughter of Johnny Cash, wrote an eloquent and stirring piece in the New York Times, Country Musicians, Stand Up to the N.R.A.  It is addressed to her fellow country artists. In part:

For the past few decades, the National Rifle Association has increasingly nurtured an alliance with country music artists and their fans. You can see it in “N.R.A. Country,” which promotes the artists who support the philosophical, if not economic, thrall of the N.R.A., with the pernicious tag line “Celebrate the Lifestyle.”

That wholesome public relations veneer masks something deeply sinister and profoundly destructive. There is no other way to say this: The N.R.A. funds domestic terrorism…

A shadow government exists in the world of gun sales, and the people who write gun regulations are the very people who profit from gun sales. The N.R.A. would like to keep it that way.

The stakes are too high to not disavow collusion with the N.R.A. Pull apart the threads of patriotism and lax gun laws that it has so subtly and maliciously intertwined. They are not the same.

I know you’ll be bullied for speaking out. This is how they operate. Not everyone will like you for taking a stand. Let it roll off your back. Some people may burn your records or ask for refunds for tickets to your concerts. Whatever. Find the strength of moral conviction, even if it comes with a price tag, which it will. Don’t let them bully you into silence. That’s where their power lies — in the silence of rational voices and in the apathy of those who can speak truth to power.

In case you don’t visit the NRA Country site, here are the citizens of NRA Country that Rosanne Cash is talking to.

Safely Listening to the Eclipse

 

Safely Listening to the Eclipse

How does the sun sound
Obscured by the moon
Invisible imperceptible waves
That permanently
Blind your mind

Note: Despite mind blindness, don’t be afraid to listen to the eclipse. Put on your earphones and listen to the only eclipse song that matters.

All that you touch
And all that you see
All that you taste
All you feel
And all that you love
And all that you hate
All you distrust
All you save
And all that you give
And all that you deal
And all that you buy
Beg, borrow or steal
And all you create
And all you destroy
And all that you do
And all that you say
And all that you eat
And everyone you meet
And all that you slight
And everyone you fight
And all that is now
And all that is gone
And all that’s to come
And everything under the sun is in tune
But the sun is eclipsed by the moon

Eclipse, Dark Side of the Moon, Pink Floyd

 

Belated Record Store Day Post

When I saw that a number of readers have been viewing my Record Store Day posts from years past, I realized that I had missed this year’s celebration (April 22).

So here’s a message: If you think that the diminishing presence of record stores, and their cultural sisters book stores, is not a problem for civilization and society, you are wrong. That is not nostalgia; it is the truth. The world is a better place with lots of music lovers hanging out together in record stores and lots of book lovers hanging out together in book stores. If you are a music lover or a book lover, and you have never hung out with your kindred live in a lively non-virtual space, you are missing something. Seize the experience.

Spring: Max Richter Recomposes Vivaldi

Recomposed by Max Richter – Vivaldi – The Four Seasons, Spring

“British composer Max Richter takes Antonio Vivaldi’s masterpiece “The Four Seasons” for Recomposed into the present and makes it accessible in new ways to a new audience. At the same time, he treats the original version and its history with respect, which means that also experienced listeners of classical music can enjoy “Vivaldi Recomposed”.”

Listen. (Listen also Summer and the other Four Seasons.)

My Birds

My Birds

I started the digital birds singing
Just as the real ones arrived out the window
Mine were louder
And under my control
The wild ones served no one
Least of all me
And would stop and go
At any time
Anyway I silenced mine
To be with
The real singers of spring

Arcade Fire: I Give You Power, I Can Take It Away

The Clash used to call themselves “The only band that matters,” based on their political and social stances.

Arcade Fire has never been overly political, or overly self-promoting, just great. Their latest single, released in January, doesn’t make them the only band that matters, but it does confirm that they are a band that matters, and it is a track that matters.

If the band had just added Mavis Staples to the track, that might have been enough. But what she and Win Butler sing for us is an anthem pointed right at the heart of today. A reminder, an aspiration, a truth you can listen to and move to and shout and follow, when you’re feeling discouraged.

I Give You Power

I give you power, over me
I give you power, but now I gotta be free
I give you power, but now I say
I give you power, I can take it away
I can take it away
Watch me