Sunday, April 30, 2006

Music Roundtable

Jim: The Nation weighed in with "Songs of Protest" this week. C.I. noted the editorial in "And the War Drags On (Indymedia Roundup)" Thursday. Noting that it was a group process, writing the editorial, C.I. explained, in response to community member Miguel's critique, that, when we're writing here, group process means a lot of ideas being distilled down to each participant arguing over what they can live with and what they can't. From that, what's included is decided.
Miguel felt that Bright Eyes ("When A President Talks To God") should have been included and, certainly, we've included that song in our coverage here. But C.I. opened up the floor for suggestions from the community, directed to this site. I like to think of it as C.I.'s way of showing some of us, mainly me, the time reading e-mails can take and just how large a number of e-mails can come in. This is the week that Ty took off from answering the e-mails and we all picked up the slack. They came in and then some. We stopped counting the e-mails on this topic after the 500 mark was reached. There's no way on a good week that we could cover them all. But we can do a roundtable on music. Particitpating are The Third Estate Sunday Review's Dona, Jess, Ty, Ava and me. Jim; Rebecca of Sex and Politics and Screeds and Attitude; Betty of Thomas Friedman Is a Great Man; C.I. of The Common Ills and The Third Estate Sunday Review; Kat of Kat's Korner (of The Common Ills); Cedric of Cedric's Big Mix; Mike of Mikey Likes It!; Elaine of Like Maria Said Paz; Wally of The Daily Jot and Ruth of Ruth's Public Radio Report.

Dona: Before we go any futher, I want to make a comment. C.I. and Ava reviewed the sitcom The Loop in "TV: The Limp." With everyone helping out with the e-mails, it was noted that many casual readers still don't grasp that the TV reviews are written by two people, Ava and C.I. We eschew credit here whenever possible. We're not about bylines. Which is why, even after Ava and C.I. had taken over the TV beat themselves, it wasn't immediately noted. But it is noted now, for over a year now, in each "A note to our readers." They write the TV reviews. We stand by them, we support them. We have no problem taking slams with them but, when it's praise, the praise goes to them. Ava and C.I. write the TV reviews. This is the first feature we're working on and things tend to be forgotten as the night/morning runs on, so I want to get that out there before I forget. Back to music, Betty, kick us off because you had a point you wanted to make.

Betty: I do agree that it's a group process but, in terms of The Nation, I think a criticism, and one that comes through in the e-mails, is that the salute to Bob Dylan could have been cut to one sentence or left out altogether. That would have allowed more room to note something of the people making statements.

Cedric: And allowed the editorial to come off a lot less White.

Betty: Absolutely. That was my thought when I read it and I talked to Kat immediately because one of her all time favorites isn't mentioned.

Kat: Stevie Wonder. Who did have things during Vietnam. But when you're starting point is Bob Dylan, you're in trouble. When you leave out the blues and folk artists that long contributed to the history of social commentary, whether it's Billie Holiday's "Strange Fruit" or something by Pete Seeger or whomever, when Dylan's your starting point, you're always in trouble. C.I.?

C.I.: Kat's wondering how much I'll say for the record here. It's known that Dylan offers the excuse today that he wishes he could weigh in. He wishes it. But what about airplay or the venues controlled by Clear Channel or blah blah blah. Fucking blah. He's been all but named publicly for that position, usually the artist says "I won't say who" and maybe it's not clear to most readers, but they mean Dylan. Dylan has no excuse for having nothing to say on this illegal war. If I were John Dean, I'd say, "Bob, there's a cowardice on your legacy." So I do agree with the points Betty, Cedric and Kat have made so far, but another reality is that for anyone 'in the know,' that was troubling, the inclusion of Bob Dylan and the waxing on about him. It was acknowledging someone for contributions, someone who right now is under fire for his continued cowardice. So much under fire that there's . . .

Jim: Are you cutting it there?

C.I.: No, I'm choosing my words carefully. Or trying to. He's been asked if the religion of Iraqis is playing into his silence. That's led to some angry exchanges and I'll just leave it at that. But the point is, for some, it was offensive that the man who has removed himself from this dialogue, by his own choice, gets all those paragraphs of praise.

Kat: For things done years ago. Decades.

Ty: Janet Jackson sung it, "What Have You Done For Me Lately?"

Ava: Exactly. But Dylan's silence is a problem. Some of his friends have attempted to prod him publicly by mentioning his silence without naming him, as C.I. noted. That's huge talk in entertainment circles. My father phoned me Friday morning, he'd finished C.I.'s entry and went to read The Nation editiorial. That was his big problem with it. The Dylan waxing. He wanted to know how The Nation could be unaware of it and I replied that when the interviews appear, and they've been all over the place, with music artists talking about a person but not naming him, it may be clear to some people, but it's not clear to all.

Jim: Ava, could you talk a little more about that?

Ava: Sure. Unlike C.I., I don't know Dylan, or anyone in Dylan's circle, work or private. Nor am I using anything C.I. passed on to me. I'm going by the chatter in the entertainment circles. Whether it's a day where he's Jewish or he's Christian, his Old Testament attidue is always on display in his music.

Kat: More so in the last three decades.

Ava: True. There is serious concern of where he stands on the Iraq war and whether the silence has something to do with the Arab issue. The talk is, has been for some time, that's he's grown highly reactionary and when this illegal war came along and he had nothing to say, that was one thing raised. When idiots continued heaping praise on him for a bad book, hosting a radio program or celebrating a birthday -- apparently an earth shattering development -- in the entertainment industry, the talk has gone from "Where's Bob?" to rumors that his silence results from his own feelings towards a people and his own religious desire for the end of times he's grown so fond of singing of.

Jim: C.I.?

C.I.: I've said my peace and I'm sure I'll hear about it.

Jim: Jess, you kept a tally of some of the names that our readers felt should have been included in The Nation editorial?

Jess: Yeah and each e-mail had several choices so there's no way to note everyone. I haven't checked the account since Friday, I don't think anyone has, but as of Friday afternoon, this was the top ten, in this order: Bright Eyes, Ben Harper, the Cowboy Junkies, John Fogerty, Patti Smith, Ani DiFranco, the Rolling Stones, System of the Down, Xiu Xiu and Michael Franti who would've ranked higher if everyone noting Spearhead had mentioned him in that as well.

Jim: That was reverse order? Starting with the most noted?

Jess: Correct. Bright Eyes was the most noted.

Jim: Thanks. Jump in at any point. Everyone. We did have some points we wanted to work through but let's make this really free form and tax Ava and C.I.'s note taking abilities. Ruth, I'm going to turn to you because we interviewed you about it [in May] last year and you addressed Bright Eyes and music.

Rebecca: And a lot more.

Jim: And a lot more. Now you lived through the sixties, you were were in college during that period. You either didn't do drugs or not enough to damage your memory.

Ruth: Jim, was laughing on that last line. I did smoke pot in the sixties, just to clear that up.

Jess: But did you inhale?

Ruth: Always. Dylan's a curious thing if you lived through the time. He was a part of a movement, briefly. And that probably that has a great deal to do with Joan Baez who was always active in all the movements. But there's the 'accident' and all the rumors that surrounded it.

Kat: The motorcycle accident he's rumored to have had in the sixties.

Ruth: Right. There's the electric phase. The country phase. All of this is during the sixties. My point is, there's this belief that Bob Dylan was fighting some fight throughout the sixties and that's really not true. In terms of social protest, he sat out most of the sixties. I'm not even talking about demonstrations, I'm speaking of musically. "Sell out" was a popular term for him on campus. So the nostalgia factor for him as a singer of protest songs, or whatever you want to call them, is based on a very brief time span in the sixties. By the end of the mid and late sixties, Dyaln wasn't around. Did anyone mention Jefferson Airplane in the e-mails?

Jess: I counted thirty-two that mentioned them [in contrast to Dylan's citation by The Nation].

Ruth: Well, see, they were part of the movement. They were weighing in. What bothered a number of people, in real time, was that Dylan was being rewarded not for what he did, but for what he stopped doing. He made a name with social protest songs, largely due to the fact that other people recorded them, and then he . . . made money. I can remember when "Hurricane" was treated as a return to Dylan of the past. We're talking something like ten years. For ten years, he was absent. And Treva was talking about this, want to jump in?

Treva: I'm fine listening.

Jim: We've got a number of people listening and they, like everyone else, are welcome to jump in. Ruth?

Ruth: I don't know how to say this politely, so I'll just say it. Phil Ochs, Joan Baez and others suffered for their activism career wise. Dylan dispensed with his minor personal activism and his activism in song and the establishment rewarded him.

Ty: If I'm understanding, and I didn't live through that time period obviously, you're saying the success, the legend can be seen as coming from stepping away.

Ruth: That is what I'm saying, yes. That's why he was tagged a sell out. New Morning and the other junk, it was laughed at and openly mocked. You might as well have been playing the Beach Boys. And the country phase was seen, right or wrong, as part of the racist response in this country to the advancements of African-Americans. Anything he did from the mid-to-late sixties, though it might have been lyrically more advanced, was basically seen as about as pertinent as "Wooly Bully" or "Louie Louie."

Rebecca: You're saying, that in some ways, he gamed the system?

Ruth: Right. He stepped away from the music everyone, today, acts like he was doing all along. That made him "safe" because protest was in the past. He'd "graduated" from that. There were all sort of theories and rumors, just like about the accident, that he'd sold out willingly and was being rewarded for stepping away from a social engagement. I mean, Barbra Streisand, and I'm not trying to insult her, I know she's one of Rebecca's favorite artists, but Barbra Streisand was doing more publicly with regards to ending the war than Dylan as the country was waking up in large numbers. I say "Barbra Streisand" not to insult her, but we're talking about a Broadway singer, then a movie actress and star, someone who really, at that time, was singing to my parents' generation, and she had more to offer than Dylan. Not in terms of songwriting, she wasn't a songwriter, but you knew where she stood. Not from some myopic, mysterious play of words given in an interview that the obsessed and fantatic rushed to interpret, but from what she actually stated. She was very clear. I use her because she really did, music wise, speak to my parent's generation even though she was of my generation. She found a way to connect with young people, her own generation, while Dylan was disconnected. I don't think he ever reconnected.

Treva: Talk about your husband.

Ruth: My late husband despised what he saw as Dylan's selling out. His band, he had a college band, had a song where they noted something about Phil Ochs is accounted for and listing others, all men, I think, but where is Dylan? That song always got cheers and applause.

Dona: And others? Talk about that some.

Ruth: Well while he was AWOL from reality, there were plenty of others. It's easy to point Joan Baez and Phil Ochs who do have legends and deserve them, but there were so many others. Janis Ian, Laura Nyro, Buffy Sainte-Marie, Melanie, Richie Havens, the Stones . . . And I want to add this, the Stones still rock out. I loved A Bigger Bang. Kat was saying "Ruth, you've got to listen to this!" when we were all in DC back in Septemeber and I was thinking, "Oh, it's been so many years since I listened to anything new by the Stones." And I really wasn't thinking I'd be impressed, but I was. I loved the ballads, and that may be an age thing, but I also loved the neocon song, "Sweet Neocon," and the one about Abu Ghraib, "Dangerous Beauty," it was just really great, for someone my age, to hear that the Stones could still be a part of the world around them.

Rebecca: And that's why I wish Jane Fonda would go on a speaking tour. I've talked to Ruth about this and there's an attitude among some of her friends of, "Oh well, I did my thing in the sixties."

Ruth: There is. That's very sad. Not Treva, Treva's always doing her thing. But among some, there is . . . a lack of urgency.

Rebecca: So when the Rolling Stones, a group many generations can claim, weigh in, it does make some people think. I understood the desire not to tour for fear that it would distract due to the attacks, but I also think it's true that a Fonda can reach a lot of people that won't be reached by others.

Ruth: And that was true during Vietnam. I mean, I can remember a cousin who had no opinion on the war until a character on All My Children was protesting it.

C.I.: Just to clear something up, I think we're all aware of it but so that readers are, Fonda is publicly against the war. This isn't a new thing and she's made statements about it for some time. It's also true that she spoke out against it, and did a speaking tour against it, before the illegal invasion.

Rebecca: I had forgotten that. I'm glad you noted it. And I give her plenty of credit for speaking out. I wish everyone would. But I do feel like she could reach people [on a speaking tour]. I spent an afternoon at Ruth's last month meeting the women in her neighborhood. And they spoke of their own involvement, in many forms, in protesting the war in Vietnam. But, like Ruth said, they don't seem to have a sense of urgency with regards to this war. They're opposed to it, and credit Ruth with making them think about it, but there's a disconnect for many of them. They're great women. But there's a connection that's not getting made. Ruth's worked on and will continue to do so and the women are as well. But there's this lack of urgency.

Ruth: An "I did my bit earlier."

Rebecca: Right. And Ruth engages them and they're open to that. Praise for Ruth and for them. But not every woman of that generation has a Ruth in their life, you know?

Mike: And, unless Tracey wants to jump in? She's shaking her head "no."

Jim: Ruth's granddaughter Tracey.

Mike: Well, she and Wally and me have talked about that moment when Bright Eyes did "When A President Talks To God" on The Tonight Show and that was just big with everyone around us at the time. It was really shocking, to be honest.

Tracey: Electric.

Wally: Yeah. It just electrified you when you saw it. And you didn't have to see it on TV. I missed it. Everyone was talking about it and I end up seeing it on the computer and even there, and knowing it was a big moment, it was just . . . powerful. I know Bright Eyes got slammed from the All Puff No Politics crowd, but I don't think that moment was ever going to be for them. It wasn't aimed at the we-know-about-the-war-and-we-have-nothing-to-say crowd. It was aimed at people my age and it was a home run.

Cedric: One of those moments that connects and wakes you up. Like, equally powerful, Kayne West making that statement about the Bully Boy. And with both, I think, you heard of it. People couldn't stop talking about it, and you heard of it and went online to find it. Wally's right, it wasn't aimed at the "War Got Your Tongue?" crowd. It was aimed at people who could be moved by a powerful moment, by seeing someone speaking so straightforward, in song or spoken, and just hearing the conviction in that moment.

Kat: Yeah, the All Puff No Politics crowd wants to scan a lyric sheet and divorce the moment, in Bright Eyes' case, from the music and the performance. In West's case, they want to play the, "Well that could have been said better." By who? By you who've said nothing? By you who waste your own voice? I really don't think singing the praises of Moronic Mars or giving shout outs to The New Republican is going to change the world, but I'm not sure they're interested in changing anything. They wanted to come down on Kayne West for his word choice. His voice, his word choice. You got something to say, say it. But this tut-tut of Conor [Oberst, Bright Eyes] should have done it this way or Kayne should have done it that way coming from an apathetic crowd is just disgusting.

Jim: Elaine, do you have anything to add to that?

Elaine: Well, I agree with Kat, the voices of condemnation come down hard despite the fact that they've made no contributions to anything at all. I also think Ruth, and others, had a good point regarding Dylan that I'd never thought of, honestly. "Success" is a popular narrative in this country, defined by this country's terms. There is a message sent when the voice universally hailed for speaking out doesn't speak out. When it's someone that stopped speaking out years ago. I mean, I don't consider "Hurricane" to be a contribution. That may be due to the fact that during the same period he was also praising a mobster.

Kat: Which Nat Hentoff was one of the few writers to point out in real time.

Elaine: But really, what is the message? I mean, for the editorial The Nation ran, they're setting up the point of music and action. I understand that. I think it went on way too long [about Dylan] and disagree with Dylan as entry point. But there's a larger message, that Ruth pointed out, wherein, Dylan's dubbed socially committed and held up as an example. The message is that it is a phase and then you move on. Intentional or not, that's the message. A Joan Baez, who has dedicated her life to social justice, is marginalized but Dylan, who dabbled in it briefly, is seen as a "success." That does send a message of rewards coming from silence, recognition comes from moving on. I'd love to discuss this with Treva and Ruth because I didn't live through that period and I find it very interesting, and something I'd honestly never thought of, but Dylan, who has done very little, is the face on the poster.

Mike: Which is like lost history, if you think about it. Who gets remembered, who gets forgotten?

Wally: The whole point of Howard Zinn's life work.

Elaine: And I'm not slamming The Nation for following that pattern. I doubt it had occurred to them anymore than it did to me until now. They used the poster, the easily recognizable to set up an editorial.

Betty: Well, I'll note that since they mention Bruce Springsteen's new CD, We Shall Overcome: The Seeger Session, it's a bit hard to grasp why Dylan, not Seeger, is their starting point. It's staring them right in the face that Dylan's not the starting point. Maybe they're not thinking of Billie or other blues singers, maybe Woody Guthrie's someone that they blanked on as they were writing, but when you write QUOTE: "Bruce Springsteen has recorded a rollicking tribute to protest songs by the country's most famous folk singer in a new album, The Seeger Sessions: We Shall Overcome." END QUOTE to be Peter Hart about it.

Ruth: I love the CounterSpin look at recent news.

Wally: Ruth got benched.

Ruth: I did.

C.I.: I 'benched' Ruth. I told her she had family, she had Treva, and we were all participating in the protest, so no Saturday report. It was after midnight Friday night, actually Saturday morning, and she was going to stay up and do a report and I told her to get some sleep instead.

Ty: But you got, what, two hours of sleep? You, Rebecca, Wally and Mike all posted. Mike fell asleep in the middle of his post.

Mike: I added a thank you to that because C.I. tagged it for me and published it for me. I was wiped out and thought I'd rest a second but ended up falling out.

Wally: Fall Out Boy!

Mike: I used that!

Wally: I got to read it. But Betty's right, Pete Seeger's staring them right in the face. Besides Kayne, where was rap? I've always got friends playing mixes that are blistering to Bully Boy.

Cedric: Yeah, the choices were kind of obvious. Maybe that's all the group could agree to, but they were.

Jess: It was pointed out in one e-mail that Moby and Michael Stipe were not the only headliners. Rufus Wainwright was a headliner and Marcia was very offended that he was missed, that the Indigo Girls were overlooked, that no mention was made of George Michael and others. She felt that, intentionally or not, the choice was "hetero-based."

Ty: That's a good point. And Janis Ian is openly gay, right?

Kat: Yes.

Ty: So where were they on the list? They mentioned Pink. I got the idea that they'd never heard Pink's song which, by the way, says right on the back of the CD case: "Featuring the Indigo Girls" for "Dear Mr. President." George Michael's "Shoot The Dog" was out there when most people were being silent.

Mike: I'd agree with that and back Wally up on the rap issue.

Cedric: At the very least, they could have mentioned the Beastie Boy's "World Gone Mad." But I didn't get the impression they knew mix tapes. If Neil Young hadn't done a download, I'm not even sure they'd be familiar with that.

Jess: By the way, lots of replies noted that, "No, C.I., there is not an option to post a comment" on the editorial. George Michael was noted by 47 people and Janis Ian by 16. I counted 92 mentioning Rufus.

Ava: Well, I think it's implied that they hadn't heard Pink's song since they say something like, "Now word comes that Pink . . ." Could no one in the office run out and grab the CD so they could actually listen to the song before noting it? But Jess, I'm curious about other names on the list. I know that if everyone just wrote one name, it would still be too many to list. Even with just one pick from everyone who wrote in, we're talking five hundred names. But we've done the top ten and you've been great about noting it when someone mentions a name that was mentioned in an e-mail. But could you give us a feel of some other names that popped up, either once or dozens of times?

Jess: Sure. I'll pick some names at random and fly around the list. Billy Bragg, Dar Williams, Steve Earle, Greg Brown, Sonia -- the only name I don't know, sorry, Public Enemy, Nas, Wyclef Jean, Anais Mitchell, Azeem, the Peace Not War complilation was noted, Bruce Cockburn, Willie Nelson, Dolly Parton, Sleater-Kinney, Stephan Smith, John Mellencamp . . . By the way, hovering outside the top ten slightly was an album, not just a song, Natalie Merchant's The House Carpenter's Daughter which e-mail after e-mail pointed out was not dissimilar from Springsteen's latest but seemed to have gotten too little attention.

Kat: That's a great album. Merchant's got a mixture of folk songs -- old and new. It's really worth checking out.

Ava: Right. And a thing C.I. and I were talking about was how the choices meant something to everyone that wrote in so we wanted to move beyond just the ten that had the most votes.

C.I.: And I'm going to plug someone who e-mailed this site and The Common Ills. I haven't had a chance to check it out yet, and the way things are going, won't for some time. But Tom Chelston, who was at the original Camp Casey, has songs online that you can download. I'll give a "WMV" link for "Veteran" and an MP3 link for "BushWhacked." [Note: No, we aren't. We'll provide the WMV for it. The MP3 link has three times screwed over this feature and removed words from the it while making every word in the post a link.] Independent music, like independent media, should be noted and supported. The Nation wasn't necessarily disinterested in them, a feeling in some e-mails, so much as, my opinion, they were noting some of the more well known names who'd taken a stand and, the implication, others who were sitting it out. I have no idea what "WMV" is. Anyone?

Wally: It's Windows Media Video. Like using the Windows Media player.

Mike: So are we going to end it without going there? Without noting the one's sitting it out?

Jim: Hell no. Dona, has everyone had a chance to speak?

Dona: I believe so but I know Cedric wanted to make some points about Pink and Betty did as well.

Jim: Okay.

Cedric: Kat's working on a review of the Pink CD, I'm Not Dead. It's popular with the community and it's worth checking out. Kat had a question and played the first track for me over the phone last week before I had a chance to get it. Pink's got a name check to 50 cent and Kat thought she remembered something about 50. What he did was slam Kayne West and defend Bully Boy. Whether that's why she used him for a name check, Pink, or not, I don't know. But it's very likely that she sneers a name check for that reason.

Betty: I love that line. "What happened to the dream of a girl president? She's dancing in the video next to 50 cent." That's from "Stupid Girls." I'm wondering how Kat's going to review it with the language?

Kat: Tricky. But I am working on a review. Talk about your favorite song, Betty.

Betty: The song with her father. I really love that. It's not listed on the tracks and it's a bonus song that comes after "Conversations With My 13 Year Old Self." It's called "I Have Seen Rain" and her father wrote it about Vietnam years ago and they recorded it together. I really love it.

Wally: Me too. There's a lot on the CD but that's the one that stood out to me right away after "Dear Mr. President."

Cedric: I wanted to ask, if you bought the CD, did you buy the CD or the dual disc?

Nina: CD!

Jim: That's Mike's girlfriend, Nina.

Nina: Mike got it for me and he was saying, "Do you want the dual disc, it has a video?" Mike was buying and that was nice of him, very nice of him. I was caught between pay days. Both versions were on sale and the dual disc was only a dollar more but I've got college, I've got work, I've got a relationship, I don't have time to stare at a TV screen or monitor.

Jim: Anybody get the dual disc? Doesn't look like it.

Cedric: I'm just not a fan of the format. I've got several CD players and there's no way to put a dual disc in any of them without getting fingerprints on it. Also, if I'm busy with something, I'll pop a disc out and toss in another one real quick. I'll put the label side face down on a table and you can't do that with dual disc. C.I.?

C.I.: Me? Because I had the hardest time getting Bruce Springsteen's previous one to play? I kept putting in the DVD side. Look, when I get home, I'm tired. If I'm listening to music, I don't want to have squint at a CD and figure out if the tiny writing says "This side up" or not. I've got the CD but I made a point to get it on CD and not dual disc. I really don't listen to the dual discs as much as I would, that includes Springsteen's latest and his previous one and would include Carly Simon's Moonlight Serenade but I keep that in one CD player, if it were just disc format. They need to come up with a better system for noting which side is which. People with better eyes can probably spot it better than I can currently but we don't live ina 20/20 world.

Cedric: I love the harmonizing on [Pink's] "I Have Seen The Rain." I love the CD and was wondering if I made a mistake in getting the CD format and not the dual disc? Seems like the latest craze is something a lot of people have a problem with.

Jim: I'd prefer two individual discs. I think one side's going to get trashed or scratched up. And I've got 20/20 vision but I've had to squint and hold them up to my face with some dual discs as well.

Dona: And before we get to the final topic, jumping in, Elaine actually had a point she'd noted. We asked that everyone come up with at least one point and write it down so we could be sure everyone participating got to make their point.

Elaine: That's my fault, not Dona's. There's been several times when I could have interjected it and didn't. Partly due to wanting to listen but also wanting to choose my words carefully. We saw at Saturday's rally that the peace movement was alive and strong. But the problem with the editorial in The Nation, where everyone presumably had to be able to live with who was listed in the editorial, is that it's a narrow scope. For the movement to work, we need as many voices as possible, speaking in their own voices. Not in one voice. One voice won't reach everyone. The person who appeals most to me may offer nothing to anyone else. Jane Fonda going on a speaking tour could reach people, Natalie Merchant doing the same could, Angela Davis, go down the list. Because we're not all the same. We're not all focused on the same issues or up to speed on the same level. Everyone involved, as participants or organizers, did a wonderful job on Saturday. But one goal for the future might be to mix it up a little.

Wally: Elaine's speaking very slowly and choosing her words very carefully. It's like a C.I. moment! But I know where she's headed. We heard that on Saturday from several people -- about who's allowed on the stage and who isn't. Right?

Elaine: Right. And please grab this because I feel like my speaking speed slowed to the point of non-motion.

Wally: Some people expressed a feeling for a greater mix. What did that one guy call it?

Elaine: First principles.

Wally: Yeah. It was like here's the bumper sticker, honk. And for some people, they wanted to go to another level. And there was a concern that if we're just honking at the same sticker, future protests may reach out to fewer people?

Rebecca: I was with a different group. We were spread out, but I did hear that from one woman. So there were that feeling on the part of some. I agree with Elaine that it's a worthy goal and it's the thing that can expand the movement. The woman felt that it was a little too-ready for prime time and could have used a little more than that. The concern, on the other side, is that you put up a voice and the media runs with it as "Look at those crazed protesters!" I understand that, p.r. background here, so I understand it. But it's also true that people who travel to NYC or to DC for protests may start to feel, "I heard it all last time." Especially with people traveling a distance, there should be something that makes them feel they were inspired. I would've loved to have spoken to the guy who used the "first principles" term. I didn't, but I think he was getting at, the rally covered the basics. That always needs to be done because each rally, each march brings new people into the movement. But we could bring others in with more variety and, for those who've been attending, if a sameness sinks in, you're really asking a lot of someone who's thinking, "I was in DC in Septemeber, I was in NYC in April, why should I go to Chicago in August?" or where ever. The immigration rallies have been more diverse in terms of points of view, for instance. But it is a balancing act and I do understand what I'm guessing is the organizers' point of view.

Elaine: Which is a fear of being marginalized by the mainstream -- can that happen anymore than it already has? -- and a fear of losing momentum. The peace movement's done a wonderful job and I won't slag them. But the issue is one that needs some more thought because Wally, Jayson and I kept hearing that from the people we were near. Jayson, Ruth's grandson who is listening and could jump in. But is shaking his head "no."

Jim: I'm glad Dona caught that the point hadn't been made. It's worth thinking about. I think we've covered a hundred things in this roundtable. Ava and C.I.'s fingers are probably about to fall off from taking notes. Before we get to the last topic, Ruth, do you have any thoughts on that? Or Treva? You both took part in protests in the sixties and seventies.

Ruth: You know, I want to toss this to C.I. I heard a story about something earlier this week.

C.I.: Are you talking about the conversation I told you about?

Ruth: Yes.

C.I.: Okay. A lazy ass, I won't say "friend," bothered me on the phone. Ruth, I've forgotten the conversation so give me a moment or jog my memory.

Ruth: You'd stated something about the immigration protests.

C.I.: Right, thank you. Okay, so it's a call from out of the blue from someone who attends no anti-war, peace rallies. Someone who does nothing but sit on their ass and complain. I was commenting about the diversity at the rallies, with people speaking in so many voices and from their own personal experiences. To which L.A., "Lazy Ass," replied, "I know what you mean! I can't believe we're focusing on this issue!" That wasn't what I meant and I corrected that. But LA's feelings were that the immigration protests were drowning out the peace movement, of which LA is not a part of. That's not the case and people need to get over that. This, the immigration rights movement, isn't this top-down movement. It's a case of something very important that effects so many on a very personal level. The driving force is a different thing. It's not a threat to the peace movement. If there's a fault with the peace movement, it's the inability to connect more people on a personal level. But it's not a competition. I think what L.A. and anyone else feeling that way fails to grasp is the factors that distance the war, factors that the peace movement is working to overcome, which are less in place with immigrant rights. On the most basic level, broadcast media, in English, can distance people from the war, and does. It can try that with the immigration issue. But it's less successful there because you just have to look around and there's your friend it effects, or your family member or you. The media can't lie on this issue and get away with it. There's no need for a fact check online or anywhere else because you have your own eyes and your own experiences. It's an immediate rejection of the mainstream's portrayal of "the Senate proposal is good." No, it's not. It may be good for big money, but it's not good for the people. Those attempting to use the mainstream airwaves to sell this crap to the public forgot that this isn't the unions that they've demonized forever, or some government program or government agency that they've long attacked. This is very real and very immediate. And very personal. Add in that the mainstream media has long ignored immigrant concerns and issues so there's no "base" they can build on. You watch whatever chatty fool say, "This is the good proposal" into a mike and you know they're lying. It took how many months for the public to face up to the fact that both the Bully Boy and the media lied to them [about the war]? It didn't take that stretch of time with regards to immigration because, though the media rendered that portion of the population invisible, it is a fabric of life in the United States. There are connections between immigration and the war -- Camilo Mejia has done an amazing job giving voice to the connections -- but this issue [immigration] wasn't a 'wait and see' one. A lot of people could, and did, sit out before the invasion and in the early months of it. "What if I speak out and it goes wonderful?" Or, "What if WMD is found!" Or planted. What if? You can't play what if when lives are at stake and it was immediately clear that we were talking about lives, even if the mainstream wasn't, when this scape goating of immigrants started up. For the people taking part in those protests, it is very real and very immediate.

Dona: So what does that mean for the peace movement?

C.I.: Well, I'm not sure that's the right question. I understand what you're getting at but I don't want anyone reading that question and misunderstanding it as these protests that are going on are something that gets done and "Now we focus!" I know you're not saying that, but I want to be clear on that because I know a lot of people giving their everything to the immigration issue and I don't want to do or say, or not say, anything that devalues their incredible contributions, work and heart. In terms of any movement, when people speak out, it leads to more speaking out. That's why you have clampdowns and compromises. Which is really the only choices that governmental powers have [other than addressing the concerns]. They think they can ignore, and try to, but that's rarely the case. So -- and this is why it's important for musicians to speak out to make sure everyone's not saying, "I thought this was a musical roundtable!" -- any time people come together to fight for a cause, it helps other causes. The civil rights movement helped sparked a number of movements. The questioning and speaking out in recent past and more distant past, impacted the peace movement today as surely as it did, and does, the immigrantion protests. At the protests, to compare and contrast with the peace movement, you're hearing stories that are spoken of with the same sort of intensity that Cindy Sheehan speaks. And, like her voice before Camp Casey, these are voices and stories that the media hasn't given voice to. Take the nonsense about the Mexican flag. Talk to students and they'll tell you, "So what?" As they should. Why wouldn't they bring a Mexican flag or any other flag to a rally on immigration? There hasn't been a lot of second guessing from the movement itself. Now people outside of it, including that hideous man who was on Democracy Now! trashing them for using the flag, second guess it. But it got attention. That wasn't the goal, the goal was to honor heritage. And though some on the fringes and some outside clucked over the flag, the ones involved that I know, have no second thoughts and no, "We better ban flags!" attitude. There is very much a sense of ownership of the movement. Not singular ownership, but a group ownership. And the support that is given to one another participating is amazing. That's because it is a personal issue, and I'm speaking of what's going on in California, I can't say that it's the same elsewhere. I'd hope it would be but I don't know that. It's very personal and very real. The challenge for the peace movement, and Naomi Klein has pointed this out for over two years now, is to bring the war home. You say that and some freak out. When she was debating the issue of protest on Democracy Now!, Toad freaked out and went to Chicago '68 immediately. That's not what she's talking about and people would do well to lose the Nervous Nelly quality. She's speaking of a very hard task, which is demonstrating that it's not "over there" and it's not something that only effects some people. I wish I'd heard the people that Elaine, Wally and Jayson spoke with or the one that Rebecca did because I'm not sure this is what they were getting at. The movement is successful and growing each day. But for it to really drive the message home, the connections need to be made, the war, like the troops, needs to be brought home. That's not a cry for violence. That's saying we need to connect what the media and the government don't: what goes on "there" is here. This is effecting everyone. Not just Iraqis, not just troops, not just the families of troops. That connection is still not being made. And until it is, the numbers will continue to grow but not to the size that is needed. By the way, I've gone on way too long, but screw it. I had an e-mail from a woman who felt that no one was noting the children of the fallen. She's one and it's her issue. We have noted it at The Common Ills before and we will work it in as soon as I can again. But that's her issue and she was very straightforward about it so I want to toss that out now since I don't know when I'll be able to get to it. Each death in Iraq of a parent, Iraqi, British, American, what have you, does impact. And for children, and Cedric and Wally lost their fathers at young ages so they could speak to this better than I can, it's a different level of impact. It's awful when anyone loses someone they love but to lose someone when you're still getting to know them or before you are able to is a disaster, I can't think of a better word, sorry, that isn't always noted. I'm not minimizing the effects on a parent or a spouse, or a friend or lifetime partner or anyone. But with children, there's an added level.

Jim: We took a little break because C.I. started tearing up and then others did as well. Wally wanted to add something.

Wally: I lost my dad in a car accident. That was bad enough and I don't pretend to know what that woman went through or is going through. But, for me, it's always the not knowing. What would Dad have thought of me and stuff like that? Would he be pleased with this or that? It might have been off topic, but I'm glad C.I. brought it up.

Elaine: I'll add that my work is basically closure. Whether it's the loss of someone or a trauma, I'm helping people deal with closure. It's a difficult thing when you're dealing with the loss of a parent and I always explain to a patient that I lost both parents and there are days when it's just something that hurts a little less and you have to chalk those up as "wins." I don't know that I've ever had "closure" as we understand it with regards to my parents' death. What Wally was talking about . . . Say I got married and lost a spouse. I would have those kind of questions. But I'd have known the man as an adult. I'd have some ideas of him. When you're dealing with a loss of someone that you're depending upon, or mainly depending upon, the memories of others to bring him or her to life, it's a tricky thing.

Jim: Okay, unless someone else has something to add, we're going to wind down by noting the last topic.

Ava: I think we should go out on Elaine. I know we won't, but that's my opinion.

Jim: Noted, but it's a musical roundtable, not --

Dona: Do not say, "Not Oprah" or I won't speak to you at all for the rest of the day.

Jim: But it's a musical roundtable. And we had one more issue. You can't talk about those weighing in without noting those that haven't. And one thing in the e-mails for weeks, months, has been a question for C.I. Rebecca, you or Mike want to set it up?

Rebecca: I'll do it since I can match you for ice in the veins. Sheryl Crow put out a useless CD. C.I. noted that. Sheryl Crow has since been diagnosed with cancer. A number of e-mails come here on that.

Ty: Probably at least one each week.

Rebecca: So, since we're discussing music, it was thought we should address that.

C.I.: Which really means me address it and I haven't at The Common Ills but this is one of those examples of where you go with what you can live with when you're working as a group. Crow wasn't diagnosed when I wrote about her CD. If she had been? I probably would've ignored the CD. Do I regret the criticism? No. It's a useless CD. For a woman who knew better and kept talking the peace talk, it was an embarrassing CD. As I noted, the world didn't need to hear about a relationship that was due to break up. One more week on that breakup, by the way, and I would've won the pool. I have sympathy for her diagnosis, I wish her the best health wise, but I do not regret calling out crap. That's what it was. That's what the interviews were: "I was washing out his bicycle shorts while I was on the phone with Don Henley and I realized how much my life had changed" or whatever nonsense she was spouting. Life's short, believe me, I know. That's why you don't waste it. When I was in a similar health situation, it was very difficult. I'm sure it is for her now and my heart goes out to her on that. But in terms of her work, the world didn't need it. Don't talk to the peace talk in private and then play Goddes of the Hearth Unaffected by the World. Why a grown woman who is supposed to be seen as an independent figure wanted to make an album and sell it off "signifcant other of" I have no idea? But it was useless and it sits on the shelves in large copies despite many stores dropping the price down to $9.99. The career was in a difficult spot. Women are only allowed so much. A man, a Dylan, can go on and on for years. A woman's not allowed the same luxury. It's "Get on the stage, now get off. If you disappear for a few years, we may embrace you again." She was reaching the age that the label was already nervous -- that's why they put out the best of when you'd just had a live album masquerading as a best of not that long prior. The thing to do would have been not to go "soft" in an attempt to prolong the decline but to go "strong." The decline was going to happen anyway. Make some noise. Make it your last stand and you'd have people saying for years, "Man, that Sheryl Crow laid it on the line. She really took Bully Boy to task and they crucified her for it." That's not what would have happened. The decline was coming. The pop world's not known for tolerating women and less so for tolerating women they're already familiar with as they age. But that would have been the conventional wisdom and she could have toured on that and had a legacy from it. Convictions are meaningless if you don't act on them. It was a bad album. It didn't sell. The cancer news may have factored into that because there's a tendancy for people to run from cancer. Carly Simon noted that beautifully in "Scar."
I don't regret what I wrote. Had the diagnosis come before I wrote what I wrote, I probably would have just ignored the album and the fact that it pissed off so many of us who were led to believe, while it was being recorded, that it would actually say something. But, to steal from Kat, it is what it is. When adults shirk their responsibilities, they need to be called on it. She shirked her's.

Jim: I expected it would be a smaller response and one spoken very slowly.

C.I.: There's no reason for that. I was shocked by the news [of the cancer] and the questions that have popped up in e-mails are ones I've asked myself.

Kat: To take it from one person, wait. I want to note that I could've said very similar things to what C.I. said. C.I. passed the CD on to me and it wasn't impressive.

Jim: This was while we were in DC. I remember that.

Kat: Right. It wasn't released yet. In fact, C.I. wrote about it the day before it was released. That's an embarrassing album. It was a shock to listen to. You're talking about someone the industry had rooted for and she turns out this nonsense. There are things that aren't being said, by the way, and I'll follow C.I.'s lead on that, but the album was embarrasing for a number of reasons and just listening to it would be enough to note that. There are a lot of people who are putting out albums and have nothing to say.

Mike: I don't think you get a pass when you're failing to speak out. She's rubbing elbows with Kid Rock and try to act like she's non-political. Then she puts out that garbage. C.I. might not have called her on it, but I would have. The whole strategy was like, "I'm not Natalie Maines, love me!"

Rebecca: What did the guys think of the hair?

Wally: That long hair? I thought she looked sexy when she was doing The Globe Sessions and had it short. But on the last album it just looked like a dead wig. If it was supposed to make her look younger, it didn't. I'd go look at CDs and there'd be people dogging the hair.

Betty: I heard that too and laughed. Maybe I'm supposed to feel guilty now? I don't. But yeah, there was talk of, "How young does she think she is?" She was playing girly-girl.

C.I.: To move the topic away from just her, it is shameful that so many would rather be silent. It hasn't hurt the people who have spoken out. The Dixie Chicks, as The Nation noted, haven't backed down. You can't. The world's in too much danger and you're either a part of the world or you aren't. That's sad for anyone that wants to record press releases about their love lives, whether they're Brintey Spears or whomever, but it's even worse when you're dealing with a mature artist. I'm tossing to Ruth because it's late and she had a few points she wanted to make on this.

Ruth: It can't be one person and it can't be one voice. That's music, that's a demonstration, that's everything. In the sixties, it wasn't just Dylan and, in fact, by the time most of the action was starting on the war, it wasn't Dylan at all. But there were people making contributions, as we called them back then, and they were noted. Joan Baez went to visit students occupying a college building. I don't remember where now --

C.I.: Berkeley, Sproul Hall.

Ruth: Thank you. But there I was on the east coast and it was news. It was news when the Jefferson Airplane or the Doors or the Beatles or Janis weighed in. When we were in DC there was a man at the protest who talked about how you couldn't escape the war becuase you'd turn on the TV and there it was. [Click here, Ruth's referring to Ivan, who is the 74th voice noted.] That wasn't just the evening news. That was in music performances, in interviews. That kept it alive and kept people focused. You weren't reading a newspaper, saying, "Oh look, the war," putting it down and forgetting it. And a lot of us didn't read the newspapers, let me be honest. The counter-culture was something you'd get exposed to, maybe because of music, and suddenly a whole new world opened. There's a thing that you put up here when you work on your editorials and C.I. does it as well at The Common Ills which is basically: "There's a war on, you may not know that because the mainstream acts like it isn't."
And that's so true today. The news is santized and no one wants to show the actual effects of war on the mainstream media. I was buying The New York Times in 2003 one morning and the front page had this photo of violence. A woman a little younger than I am checked me out and said, "They shouldn't put that on the front page." I asked her way and she said, "I don't need to see it." Well why not? It was like Barbara Bush, the elder, and her comment about her "beautiful mind" didn't need to be bothered with the physical costs of war. Whether you support the war or not, all of us here don't support the war, it is a reality and it shouldn't be denied. If you're a supporter of the war, look at a photo like that and say, "That's what this war costs." If you're an opponent, look at the the photo and say the same thing. But don't deny what's happening. I'm really encouraged by the number of people who are speaking out but the number needs to be so much higher and, until it is, the war drags on. Like Donovan sang. Whether you're talking The Temptations or Marvin Gaye, when people started singing about the world around them, not only did it have an impact, but it also lead to some outstanding music. If only for the legacy aspect, you'd think more would be participating. When Kat threw down the gauntlet in December of 2004 with Green Day v. the Disney Kids, I read that and was just nodding and saying, "Yes!" even though I didn't know who she was talking about. Jayson and Tracey had to explain it to me. But in the sixties, and early seventies, it was very clear where someone stood on the war. You knew who was on your side and who wasn't. We need that today, the kids need it today. They need to see their music artists speaking out. Not everyone is a songwriter. That's fine. You can speak out in interviews. "The world's on fire" was referring to the turmoil in this country, from the Mamas and the Papas "Safe In My Garden," and that may be the only song of their's I can think of that they made a statement in but you knew they were against the war. They spoke out in interviews. You'd talk about it with your friends and it was one more thing keeping the war in daily conversations. More importantly, you'd read it and think, "Yes, they feel like I do." They were people, living in the same world you were. I don't claim to know a great deal about music today but from where I sit, there are a lot of corporations and not a lot of people. I'm not talking about labels here, I'm talking about people who record and have a lot of businesses going on. Mini-moguls. That may be why the music sometimes seems so cynical and clinical. But if you're not connecting with the world around you, you're not making art. We called those sorts of singers and groups "plastic" and "whitebread" and worse in my day.

Jim: And on that powerful note, we'll end the roundtable. The longest one we've ever done and the first one with our own audience.

[C.I. Note added late Sunday evening. As noted above, a link to a MP3 repeatedly messed up the post -- three times. Fixing it and the mistakes from it may have caused some errors. I've clarified some of them in brackets and also added some links. If a statement by anyone other than me bothers you, contact the person to be sure it's an accurate representation. I left my notes in NYC and made corrections and bracketed additions based on memory so someone may have been short changed. That wasn't the intention. I'm sure I've missed typos but I was correcting for clarity. ]
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