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Music

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story

Wednesday, 12 June, 2019

And it’s a story by Martin Scorsese that will be aired tonight on Netflix. According to the blurb, the film explores “the troubled spirit of America in 1975.” That was the same year, by the way, when Bruce Springsteen’s album Born to Run was released, Bill Gates and Paul Allen found Microsoft and Jaws set the standard for Hollywood blockbusters. It was creative, that “troubled” year.


Remembering Paddy Fahey

Saturday, 8 June, 2019

Just getting around now to paying tribute to the East Galway fiddle player and tune composer Paddy Fahey, who died aged 102 years on Friday, 31 May. Fahey didn’t give his compositions names, instead they are simply called “Paddy Fahey’s Jig No.1”, “Paddy Fahey’s Reel No.2”, “Paddy Fahey’s Hornpipe No.3” and so on. He never made a commercial recording, nor did he publish a book of his compositions, but Paddy Fahey’s music, with its beautiful yearning feel, lives on in the playing of Liz and Yvonne Kane.


Show of hands

Sunday, 26 May, 2019

Loves Me, Loves Me Not, Loves Me is a track from the album The Space Between by the pianist Chad Lawson. To get the sound he wanted, Lawson placed extra felt between the hammers and strings and then placed a microphone close to the hammers.


Israel’s Eurovision Song Contest won

Sunday, 19 May, 2019

The Netherlands’ Duncan Laurence won last night’s Eurovision Song Contest in Tel Aviv with his song Arcade, which topped the leader-board with 492 points in the public vote. Italy finished second with 465 points and Russia third with 369 points. Madonna also sang but most viewers regarded her performance as flat, musically and artistically. Iceland’s heavy metal act Hatari displayed Palestinian flags. Inevitably, this act of pubertal thickness was hailed and highlighted in the “popular” press.

Bob Dylan’s song Neighborhood Bully appeared on the album Infidels, which was released in October 1983. In the song, Dylan deployed sarcasm to defend Israel’s right to exist and the lyrics included references, some direct, some oblique, to history, near and far. The Six-Day War and Operation Opera, Israel’s bombing of the Osirak nuclear reactor near Baghdad in 1981 are in there, as is the enslavement of the Israelites by the Romans. The shadows of Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union loom as well.

Neighborhood Bully

Well, the neighborhood bully, he’s just one man
His enemies say he’s on their land
They got him outnumbered about a million to one
He got no place to escape to, no place to run
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully just lives to survive
He’s criticized and condemned for being alive
He’s not supposed to fight back, he’s supposed to have thick skin
He’s supposed to lay down and die when his door is kicked in
He’s the neighborhood bully

The neighborhood bully been driven out of every land
He’s wandered the earth an exiled man
Seen his family scattered, his people hounded and torn
He’s always on trial for just being born
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he knocked out a lynch mob, he was criticized
Old women condemned him, said he should apologize.
Then he destroyed a bomb factory, nobody was glad
The bombs were meant for him. He was supposed to feel bad
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, the chances are against it and the odds are slim
That he’ll live by the rules that the world makes for him
’Cause there’s a noose at his neck and a gun at his back
And a license to kill him is given out to every maniac
He’s the neighborhood bully

He got no allies to really speak of
What he gets he must pay for, he don’t get it out of love
He buys obsolete weapons and he won’t be denied
But no one sends flesh and blood to fight by his side
He’s the neighborhood bully

Well, he’s surrounded by pacifists who all want peace
They pray for it nightly that the bloodshed must cease
Now, they wouldn’t hurt a fly. To hurt one they would weep
They lay and they wait for this bully to fall asleep
He’s the neighborhood bully

Every empire that’s enslaved him is gone
Egypt and Rome, even the great Babylon
He’s made a garden of paradise in the desert sand
In bed with nobody, under no one’s command
He’s the neighborhood bully

Now his holiest books have been trampled upon
No contract he signed was worth what it was written on
He took the crumbs of the world and he turned it into wealth
Took sickness and disease and he turned it into health
He’s the neighborhood bully

What’s anybody indebted to him for?
Nothin’, they say. He just likes to cause war
Pride and prejudice and superstition indeed
They wait for this bully like a dog waits to feed
He’s the neighborhood bully

What has he done to wear so many scars?
Does he change the course of rivers? Does he pollute the moon and stars?
Neighborhood bully, standing on the hill
Running out the clock, time standing still
Neighborhood bully


Born on 5 May 1919: Séamus Ennis

Sunday, 5 May, 2019

It was Liam O’Flynn who summed up the music of his friend and mentor Séamus Ennis best: “His taste was impeccable. He never aimed to impress by showing off; restraint and elegance were the hallmarks of his piping.”


The Gloaming: Meáchan Rudaí

Friday, 8 March, 2019

Traditional Irish music mixed with jazz, chamber, minimalist and elements of classical is what The Gloaming does for a living. Their third studio album, which has just been released, was recorded at Reservoir Studios in New York City. The opening track is Meáchan Rudaí (The Weight of Things) and the lyrics are from an Irish language poem by the late Liam Ó Muirthile. The English translation is by Gabriel Rosenstock.

Mo mheáchan i do bhaclainn sa phictiúr dínn beirt i Fitzgerald’s Park, agus mise in aois a trí. Ár meáchan araon. Ár gcómheáchan. Meáchan do hata anuas ar do gháirí. Mo mheáchan is tú dom iompar ar feadh naoi mí. Meáchan suí agus luí agus éirí. Do mheáchan féin nár ardaíos riamh ó thalamh ach chun tú a chur i dtalamh. Do mheáchan beo. Do mheáchan marbh. Meáchan na bhfocal ag éirí is ag titim eadrainn mar a bheadh sciatháin scuaine ealaí. Trom-mheáchan urnaí. Cleitemheáchan daidh-didil-dí. Meáchanlár fáinne fí na gcuimhní.

The weight of me in your arms. A photo of the two of us in Fitzgerald’s Park. Three years of age I was. The weight of the pair of us. Our weight together. The weight of your hat shading your laughter. My weight as you bore me for nine months. The weight of sitting, getting up, lying down. Your weight that I never lifted from the ground – before burying you in the ground. Your living weight. Your dead weight. The weight of words rising and falling between us, the wingbeat of swans. The heavy weight of prayers. The feather weight of lilting. The middle weight of memory, ancient spiral.


Joni Mitchell sings California

Thursday, 7 March, 2019

The year was 1969, the date 7 June, and the occasion was the first season of The Johnny Cash show. His guests were the Louisiana fiddle player Doug Kershaw and the singers Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, who played the dulcimer and sang California.

“I met a redneck on a Grecian isle
Who did the goat dance very well
He gave me back my smile
But he kept my camera to sell
Oh the rogue, the red red rogue
He cooked good omelettes and stews
And I might have stayed on with him there
But my heart cried out for you, California
Oh California I’m coming home
Oh make me feel good rock’n roll band
I’m your biggest fan
California, I’m coming home.”


J. S. Ondara: Saying Goodbye

Tuesday, 26 February, 2019

He grew up in the slums of Nairobi and learned English from the songs of Bob Dylan, but he neither copies nor imitates. J. S.Ondara is a talented wordsmith — “My heart is never on time / Always a little behind” — and his androgynous voice is quite a contrast to the raspy tone of the 2016 Nobel Prize for Literature winner. Dylan “electrified” the music world in 1965 with his set at the Newport Folk Festival and J. S. Ondara will follow in the master’s steps there on 28 July. The gig is sold out already.


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.