Rapt attention

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

Bob Shane

One of the things that bothers me about our hominid culture is how fast things get dispatched and put in the dustbin of history. They get relegated when past their supposed cultural due date. Hip is so transitory... I guess it has to be or we all would still be humming along to the songs of Stephen Foster. By the way, he wrote this one in 1860.

Grant me a second. Take folk music. Bands like the Kingston Trio, Chad Mitchell Trio and Peter, Paul and Mary were extremely talented, with superb harmonies and beautiful playing. Enormously popular. Yet I have heard (and argued) with musicologists who consider them "ersatz folk" because they did not have the supposed verite and authenticity of the black performers of the day, people like Odetta and Josh White.

I suppose that there is some reverse racism and classicism involved, how can white, middle class kids interpret the music of Leadbelly and Woody in an authentic way? I guess it is an early case of cultural appropriation. How dare they!

But they did interpret the music and they did it in a gorgeous and respectful way. I wonder why the white Weavers were largely spared the critical lash, perhaps it was their ideological bent, which was pretty ultra left wing.

In any case, the music from this period was wonderful but play it today at your peril. Try it, stick a Kingston Trio album on at a party and you will be quickly dismissed and figured as an out of touch "square."

Of course what happened to the music of this period also happened to countless movements beforehand, Glenn Miller comes to mind. The Dorsey, Shaw, Miller big band sound was monstrously large during World War II but somehow fell right off the table. Like Dixieland, Shag, Barber shop and countless other musical styles.

I am a specialist in lost cultural causes and trends and try to listen to them with an unvarnished ear. I know that there is a huge amount of material still waiting to be unwrapped and discovered. It just requires a little bit of detachment.

I wonder why the Beatles and Stones were not dismissed in the same way for interpreting black music, Pat Boone certainly was, mostly justifiably. But hell, maybe I need to listen to him and suspend the filter, maybe there is something there I will dig too?

For an example, listen to the original rendition of Anna that Arthur Alexander put out in 1962.

The Beatles version was great too but not in any way a slavish imitation. Not conspicuous. They seemed to have been spared the rod as did the Stones riffs on Chuck Berry, Muddy and Lightning Hopkins.

The Kingston Trio and PPM were not so fortunate. Shame really. Have to listen to the stuff in the car when no one else is listening. They could play their asses off. If a whole bunch of people are listening to something, there is a good chance it is pretty good.

Bob Shane, a founding member of the Kingston Trio has passed. I salute him and his music. Bob was actually a sometime Blast reader. Do you remember a few years ago when I posted pictures of my Handel marijuana shade? Bob had one too and wrote me a letter. Or maybe he called me.

A relative wanted it and he wanted to know what it was worth? Not that he ever wanted to sell it. We corresponded a bit. My shade broke but I found a new one. He left a great legacy, I hope that folks will give it another listen with open ears one day. Thank you, Bob.


Liz said...

Other than dad's opera you were pretty well raised in PPM and Kingston trip and other music in that genre. I think I bought you your first rock album.

People who were worried about appropriation tended to listen to the stones and the Animals instead of the beatles. They were said to be more faithful to their roots.

Blue Heron said...

Mom being so into the civil rights movement, it was a natural. I guess my failure is thinking that other people experienced similar childhoods, most probably didn't. How you feeling?

Liz said...

I am healing extremely well. Only occasional painkillers,and those only at night. Nothing like the pain and weakness involved in either knee or the heel/Achilles tendon replacement. Doctors agree that the arthritis and bursitis are almost certainly hereditary. Sometimes I wonder how mom dealt with the pain. I remember one operation she had for bursitis in her shoulder