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Music

Bobbie Gentry’s classic ode to crazy love

Thursday, 14 February, 2019

Love is in the air. It’s Valentine’s Day, after all. But be careful. Love has been known to drive people crazy. Once upon a time, the love-crazed Billy Joe MacAllister threw something (a flower?) off the Tallahatchie Bridge in Leflore County, Mississippi — and then jumped in after it. So, ladies and gentlemen, let’s give a big hand to the beautiful Bobbie Gentry as she recounts her classic Ode to Billy Joe.

“A year has come ‘n’ gone since we heard the news ’bout Billy Joe
And Brother married Becky Thompson, they bought a store in Tupelo
There was a virus going ’round, Papa caught it and he died last spring
And now Mama doesn’t seem to wanna do much of anything
And me, I spend a lot of time pickin’ flowers up on Choctaw Ridge
And drop them into the muddy water off the Tallahatchie Bridge”


Gyða Valtýsdóttir

Friday, 8 February, 2019

The Icelandic cellist and singer Gyða Valtýsdóttir has developed her own musical identity. It combines elements of classical, folk and post-rock with avant-garde improvisations of works by Messiaen, George Crumb and Hildegard von Bingen.


Holocaust Remembrance Day

Sunday, 27 January, 2019

On 27 January each year, the world commemorates the genocide that resulted in the death of an estimated six million Jews, five million Slavs, three million ethnic Poles, 200,000 Romani, 250,000 mentally and physically disabled people and 9,000 homosexuals by Adolf Hitler’s Nazi regime and its collaborators.

“When Hitler started out, he took the Jews from their homes
Hitler started out, he took the Jews from their homes
That’s one thing Mr. Hitler you know you done wrong.

We’re gonna tear Hitler down
We’re gonna tear Hitler down
We’re gonna tear Hitler down someday.
We’re gonna bring him to the ground
We’re gonna bring him to the ground
We’re gonna bring him to the ground someday.

You ain’t no iron, you ain’t no solid rock
You ain’t no iron, you ain’t no solid rock
But we American people say ‘Mr. Hitler you is got to stop!'”

Huddie William Ledbetter (Leadbelly) was born on 20 January in 1888, in Louisiana. He was in and out of jail starting in his teens, for owning a gun, for killing a relative. John and Alan Lomax discovered him in prison in the early 1930s and they put some of his songs on tape. Freedom and fame followed. Born on a plantation, Leadbelly ended up touring the world and bringing blues music to a new generation.


Maggie Rogers: Light On

Monday, 21 January, 2019

In the depths of deep midwinter, light is needed more than ever. Step forward young Maggie Rogers, who grew up along the banks of the Miles River in Easton, Maryland, and began playing harp at age seven, focusing on the music of Holst and Vivaldi. The single “Light On” was released on 10 October last year and it can be found on her major-label debut album, Heard It In a Past Life, which hit the streams last Friday. Lights on!


The twelfth post of pre-Christmas 2018: December

Monday, 24 December, 2018

And thus ends our review of the year as posted by Rainy Day since 1 January this year. The last post in this pre-Christmas 2018 series dates from 10 December and it was titled, “Street Fighting Man in Paris, then and now.” The reason for picking this post are twofold: firstly, the mouvement des gilets jaunes, which has exposed the hollowness at the heart of Emmanuel Macron’s own “movement” and, secondly, the 50th anniversary of Street Fighting Man by the Rolling Stones. There is a synchronicity, as Jung would say.

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Fifty years ago, the Rolling Stones released their Beggars Banquet album. It contained what’s been called the group’s “most political song,” Street Fighting Man. Mick Jagger said that he found partial inspiration for the song in the violence among student rioters in Paris during the run up to the civil unrest of May 1968. Quote:

“It was a very strange time in France. But not only in France but also in America, because of the Vietnam War and these endless disruptions … I thought it was a very good thing at the time. There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France; de Gaulle went into this complete funk, as he had in the past, and he went and sort of locked himself in his house in the country. And so the government was almost inactive. And the French riot police were amazing.”

To mark the 50th anniversary of Street Fighting Man, the band have released a video of the song featuring the lyrics. Uncannily, this is again a strange time in France. Whether M. Macron will go into a complete funk and lock himself into his house in the country remains to be seen. Those French riot police are still amazing, though.

Tomorrow, here, something less disruptive: Christmas Day as seen through the eyes of a poet who was once six Christmases of age.


The third post of pre-Christmas 2018: March

Saturday, 15 December, 2018

The review of the year as echoed in Rainy Day posts continues with our 15 March reflection on the magisterial uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. “For he had gone alone into the island / And brought back the whole thing,” as his great friend, the poet Seamus Heany, wrote. And, indeed, Liam O’Flynn brought back the whole legacies of Leo Rowsome, Willie Clancy and Seamus Ennis for future generations of pipers. RIP.

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Fulsome are the tributes that have been published following the death yesterday of the uilleann piper Liam O’Flynn. And deservedly so, as he was unique. That mastery of an ancient tradition imbued him with the confidence to place his music before a restless, modern audience demanding progress but still wishing to retain some links with the past and the enthusiastic resonance — from Clonnmel to Copenhagen — ensured the success of the groundbreaking group Planxty.

Liam O’Flynn was charming and erudite, witty and cultured, polite and professional and, above all, human. Those fortunate enough to have known him know how much he’ll be missed. At this time, it’s appropriate to paraphrase C.S. Lewis in A Grief Observed: “His absence is like the sky, spread over everything.”

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Tomorrow, here, the fourth post of pre-Christmas 2018. One of our most fascinating April subjects was the notorious Silicon Valley scam artist, Elizabeth Holmes.


Street Fighting Man in Paris, then and now

Monday, 10 December, 2018

Fifty years ago, the Rolling Stones released their Beggars Banquet album. It contained what’s been called the group’s “most political song,” Street Fighting Man. Mick Jagger said that he found partial inspiration for the song in the violence among student rioters in Paris during the run up to the civil unrest of May 1968. Quote:

“It was a very strange time in France. But not only in France but also in America, because of the Vietnam War and these endless disruptions … I thought it was a very good thing at the time. There was all this violence going on. I mean, they almost toppled the government in France; de Gaulle went into this complete funk, as he had in the past, and he went and sort of locked himself in his house in the country. And so the government was almost inactive. And the French riot police were amazing.”

To mark the 50th anniversary of Street Fighting Man, the band have released a video of the song featuring the lyrics. Uncannily, this is again a strange time in France. Whether M. Macron will go into a complete funk and lock himself into his house in the country remains to be seen. Those French riot police are still amazing, though.


Jupiter Falling: We Get Fooled Again and Again

Tuesday, 4 December, 2018

Last year, the European elites warned the “deplorables” of France, les sans-culottes, and their better-off relations in la bourgeoisie, that if they didn’t vote for the elitist candidate, they would have to endure le deluge. So, they did and thus was M. Macron elected president. He said he wanted to rule as a ‘Jupiter’, above the political fray, but les gilets jaunes have brought him down to earth, sharply.

All of this was foreseen in 1971 by the political savant Roger Daltry, who doubled as a vocalist for The Who. Peering into the 21st century, and anticipating the handover of power from the hapless Hollande to the oleaginous Macron, Daltry said: “Meet the new boss / Same as the old boss.”

“There’s nothing in the street
Looks any different to me
And the slogans are replaced, by-the-bye
The parting on the left
Is now parting on the right
And the beards have all grown longer overnight”


Cecilia

Thursday, 22 November, 2018

One of the oldest musical institutions in the world is the Accademia Nazionale di Santa Cecilia in Rome. It was founded at the command of Pope Sixtus V in 1585, who invoked two saints: Gregory the Great, after whom Gregorian chant is named, and Saint Cecilia, the patron saint of music. Her feast day is celebrated in the Catholic, Anglican and Eastern Orthodox churches on 22 November. The story goes that Cecelia was a noble lady of Rome, who, with her husband Valerian, his brother Tiburtius and a Roman soldier named Maximus, suffered martyrdom in about 230 under the Emperor Severus Alexander. She was buried in the Catacomb of Callixtus, and her remains were later transferred to the Church of Santa Cecilia in Trastevere.

This portrait of Saint Ceclia is by Il Lucchese, Antonio Franchi (1638–1709). After training in Lucca with Domenico Ferrucci, he moved to Florence to work under Medici patronage. He also published a text on the occupation of painting titled, La Teorica della Pittura.

Saint Cecelia


Ye soft pipes, play on

Saturday, 17 November, 2018

“Heard melodies are sweet, but those unheard
Are sweeter; therefore, ye soft pipes, play on.” — John Keats

Water music


The Shamrock Shore before the backstop

Wednesday, 31 October, 2018

How the Irish border backstop became Brexit’s defining issue” was the title on yesterday’s Financial Times Brexit feature by Alex Barker and Arthur Beesley. It’s a vexed matter, the backstop, and it has the potential to do significant harm to all the actors in this drama. Brussels is playing with fire here as it ignores the fact that the UK has long supported open borders with the Republic of Ireland and it continued to allow travel to and from Ireland without a passport, even when IRA terrorists were bombing British cities and murdering shoppers and commuters, police and politicians.

Whether a new border, patrolled on land by French gendarmes or by the German navy in the sea, will be set up in or around the “Shamrock Shore” in case of a “no deal” Brexit remains to be seen, but the issue highlights the never-ending debate about the rights and wrongs in the historic relationship between the islands. The Acts of Union 1800 are a case in point. The loss of the Irish Parliament was greeted with dismay in Dublin and most subsequent disasters were blamed on that pivotal legislation.

All of this was aired in April 1976 when Paul Brady sang a wonderful, unaccompanied version of The Shamrock Shore ballad in the village of Clondra in Longford. The verses are filled with poignancy and what’s especially poignant is that the person seated to Paul Brady’s right in this clip is the magisterial piper Liam O’Flynn who died of cancer on 14 March this year. Our grief at his loss remains unabated.

“John Bull, he boasts, he laughs with scorn
And he says that Irishman is born
To be always discontented for at home we cannot agree
But we’ll banish discord from our land
And in harmony like brothers stand
To demand the rights of Ireland, let us all united be
And our parliament in College Green
For to assemble, it will be seen
And happy days in Erin’s Isle we soon will have once more
And dear old Ireland soon will be
A great and glorious country
And peace and blessings soon will smile all round the Shamrock Shore”