Wednesday, February 6, 2013

I Really Like Jim Croce's Song From Django Unchained: Please Make Some Music Suggestions for This Ghetto Nerd Whose Folk Rock Music Game Ain't as Deep as It Should Be

This is my favorite scene from a Hollywood film in many, many years. Cloud Atlas is my favorite movie in many years--so I guess that counts as a series of scenes which then in turn constitutes a film. But, I digress.

February is Black History Month. Accordingly, I will be doing some obligatory posts on the meaning of this month in the Age of Obama. As I have gotten older, and finally came to fully embrace my identity as a ghetto nerd, I realized that my youthful obsessions with black authenticity robbed me of many great experiences.

Once more, this race business messes all of us up.

I was lucky to have a range of friends such as the oft-mentioned Bill the Lizard who exposed me to a diversity of music such as rock and punk.

Yet, I was shamed out of my love of Guns and Roses, Metallica, and Motley Crue by friends who kept saying that I was a "sell-out" because of such tastes. I liked hip-hop a great deal. I did not understand how I could defend my rock favorites in a Culture War atmosphere where race polarized pop cultural consumption in my small part of the world.

I laugh now. The visual must have been great: during the 1990s, a group of black ghetto nerds, all destined for college, government jobs, very conservative politically, and who routinely argued over the politics and aesthetics of Tribe, Digital Underground, OC, and Pharcyde, while driving in a used Toyota Camry, going from state to state in the Northeast in search of money and scholarships at random bowling tournaments were on the prowl. If you could find them, and you had enough cash, you too could hire the A-Team ghetto nerd auxiliary corp.

Dave Chappelle would have made a career, quite literally, of riffing on me and my friends. I would not exchange such experiences for any amount of money in the world.

Space is cheap on an Ipod. Don't get it twisted: I would not buy such a thing, I found said evil device, on the street, in the snow, and was subsequently able to unlock it.

I really like Jim Croce's song from Django Unchained. I have seen Django several times and the bonding sequence to "I've Got a Name" tears me up every time.

A question from a ghetto nerd with a very narrow musical upbringing: What other suggestions do you have for me regarding songs that I would like that are from Croce or done in a similar style? Can you make a brother a playlist?

As I evolve WARN forward--and I would like to thank those of you who emailed me with their thoughts on the new look and feel of the site--I am going to be doing more short posts where I share found news. Of course, I am going to continue with my long essays that put WARN on the radar. Posts such as this one, where I share a quick thought, or offer up a question, are going to be more frequent as well.

In all, we have such a range of readers, lurkers, and commenters here. I feel freed by the site redesign, and am going to continue to liberate myself from a certain chorus that was problematically limiting the topics I chose to engage. What we discuss here on WARN will reflect that new found openness.

Some of you may be asking yourself, "why does he share this in-house behind the scenes stuff? I just want to read interesting essays online from websites I like."

Well, I enjoy the meta-level game wherein a host or editor is transparent in their thinking about how a project moves forward, and the choices--made or not--in that direction. Ultimately, I am the person who loves listening to the director's commentary track on a movie. Process fascinates me. As such, I will continue thinking out loud.

I hope you continue to indulge me.


Shady Grady said...

Smackwater Jack by Carole King
Susan Jane by Eugene McDaniels
Lay Down (Candles in the Wind) by Melanie and The Hawkins Singers
I Want to see the Bright Lights tonight by Richard & Linda Thompson
Don't mess around with Jim by Jim Croce
New York's Not My Home by Jim Croce
The Beatles' Rocky Racoon as done by Richie Havens
Simple Man by Lynyrd Skyrnd
Helpless by Neil Young
Gasoline and Matches by Buddy and Julie Miller

I can't write lefthanded by Bill Withers.

Jessica said...

I wish I could just burn it and send it to you, as is, in this order. Like a mixed tape of old. Maybe a picture of a desertscape as the cover art. Most of these songs bring tears to my eyes; almost all have to do with identity in some way. Interesting, no? A theme.

Anyways, this was an easy mix to make, and an absolute pleasure. I hope you enjoy.

Lonelier Than This - Steve Earle
If I Needed You - Van Zandt, Townes
Melissa - Allman Brothers Band
Don't Go To Strangers - Cale, J.J.
John Walker's Blues - Steve Earle
Red Dirt Girl - Harris, Emmylou
Moonshiner - Uncle Tupelo
Pancho & Lefty - Van Zandt, Townes
Sidewalks Of The City - Williams, Lucinda
After Midnight - Cale, J.J.
Amelia - Mitchell, Joni
Sam Stone - Prine, John
For the Sake of the Song - Van Zandt, Townes
Whiskey Bottle - Uncle Tupelo
Jesus The Missing Years - Prine, John

Bill the Lizard said...

Jim Croce was an amazing singer / songwriter. Gone far too soon.

If you like "I've Got A Name", a song that cuts me up too, I recommend:

"The Boxer" - Simon and Garfunkel (1969)
"New York Mining Disaster 1941" - Bee Gees (1967)
"Shilo" - Neil Diamond (1970)
"If I Were a Carpenter" - Bobby Darin (1966)
"Diamond Girl" - Seals and Crofts (1973)
"W*O*L*D" - Harry Chapin (1976 live version)
"A Horse with No Name" - America (1971)
"The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald" - Gordon Lightfoot (1976)
"Abilene" - Damien Jurado (2003)

This is a good start.

chauncey devega said...

thanks, you mention him and like the devil he appears :)

chauncey devega said...

what a good start. i have not heard of any of those songs. something fresh.

chauncey devega said...

shady grady you always surprise a brother. thanks.

Insipid47 said...

Well, there are some awesome black folk singers out there. Here is Tracy Chapman singing perhaps her most famous song, Fast Car:

Or if you want some more old-timey black folk singers here's Richie Havens bringing it at Woodstock-

According to legend he made up the song, Freedom, on the spot. I find it hard to believe though. Either way, i feel sorry for all the guys that had to follow that act.

35 years later Richie Proves that he can still bring it with his amazing rendition of Dylan's Tombstone Blues:

And the Lady didn't just Sing the Blues, she also sang the Folk. Here is Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit:

It's amazing how people think that political songs started in the 1960s- that song came out in the 1930s! Still, i think the greatest civil rights and political song ever. Also the bravest.

Instrumentally, this isn't Folk, but Louis Armstong's lyrics to "Black and Blue" are pure folk and another early protest song regarding race:

Or you can just go ahead and like Bob Dylan. And if anyone gives you any shit about it, you can just show what Martin Luther King listened to before he gave his I have a dream speech:

Dr. King didn't segregate his musical tastes, i'm not sure why you should.

chauncey devega said...

Didn't know that about Brother King. Interesting question though, are black/brown youth of a certain age and generation facing(ed) pressures of authenticity that white kids didn't? Or do all young people face those pressures and they are just different depending on one's social milieu?

CNu said...

Nothing to do with Croce, but probably off your radar generationally;

War Black Man's Burdon Paint It Black Medley

Grateful Dead American Beauty

Three Dog Night (in general)

Steve Fair said...

From one ghetto nerd to another, I've always dug Bob Dylan (Girl from the North Country, The Times they are a Changin) and Simon and Garfunkel (The Boxer, Scarborough Fair).

Insipid47 said...

As a 48 year old white man, it would be highly presumptuous for me to attempt to speak for the black experience.

But speaking for myself, your attitude and those of your friends, is alien to me. Why would you be ashamed for liking music? Why would anyone try and shame you for it?

I happen to have a black sister-in-law (i'm not even sure if this is germane to the story- normally when i tell that story i don't include the fact. But your attitude seems kind of similar to hers and so you might take something away from it that i don't knowing her skin color).. About 15 years ago she was visiting us for Passover. I was in the kitchen humming, what i believe to be the finest piece of music ever made, Beethoven's 9th Symphony (Ode to Joy). If you don't know it here's a shortened version:

Of all Beethoven's Symphonies that one is most frequently made into TV commercials because you can basically take any two syllables and put it on top of the chorus of that song and make a jingle out of it. At the time the Movie Channel Starz was doing that trick with the word Movies being sung over and over again.

My sister and Law heard me humming that song and said "Oh, i LOVE that Starz commercial!"

I said "That's not a commercial, that's Beethoven".

I swear, in the very next breath she said "I HATE Beethoven!"

So, when it was a stupid jingle writer that wrote the song it was AWESOME but when it was Ludwig Von Beethoven, it SUCKED.

While i never really considered my Sister-in Laws race when telling the story, i suppose there is a certain sadness in her denying herself Beethoven- particularly Ode To Joy as it can be said that it is the first Civil Rights song. The lyrics that caused Hitler to ban Beethoven in Nazi Germany translated roughly as follows:

"Joy, bright spark of divinity,Daughter of Elysium, Fire-inspired we tread Thy sanctuary.Thy magic power re-unites All that custom has divided, All men become brothers, Under the sway of thy gentle wings."

Obviously, Heir Hitler could not abide any music that speaks of universal brotherhood. But you would think that a black person would kind of dig that message.

But as the song goes on to state:

Whoever has created An abiding friendship, Or has won A true and loving wife, All who can call at least one soul theirs, Join our song of praise; But those who cannot must creep tearfully Away from our circle.

I for one am happy to be part of Beethoven's circle of brotherhood and feel bad for those who deny their selves the wonderful experience of his amazing music based on societal pressures.

Bill the Lizard said...

I try. :)

Bill the Lizard said...

"The Boxer" is definitely one of the few songs that can choke me up...

"In the clearing stands a boxer / and a fighter by his trade / and he carries the reminders / of ev'ry glove that laid him down / and cut him till he cried out / in his anger and his shame / "I am leaving, I am leaving." / but the fighter still remains"

Geez, talk about laying it out there. Life beating you down...

"Duncan" by Paul Simon is another one.

AdrianLesher said...

Pancho and Lefty, Emmylou Harris (I like it better than the original by Townes van Zandt mentioned above)

John Prine, Sam Stone, Sweet Revenge, Come Back to Us Barbara Lewis Hare Krishna Beauregard, Bruised Orange etc.

Nina Simone's interpretations of Bob Dylan

Solomon Burke, btw, did a great cover of Dylan's Maggie's Farm

Nick Drake - Pink Moon, Hazy Janey

Robin Trower _ Television

Joni Mitchell's jazz/folk sensibility is amazing..Big Yellow Taxi, Last Time I Saw Richard, etc.

Cassandra Wilson also mixes jazz and folk (check out her versions of Last Train to Clarksville, Time After Time, Lay, Lady Lay, Death Letter)

Lizz Wright does a great version of Neil Young's Old Man

Van Morrison Astral Weeks (Album...worth listening to the whole thing)

Ruthie Foster Up Above My Head

AdrianLesher said...

Incidentally, it was Pete Seeger who introduced MLK to "We Shall Overcome,"

Shady Grady said...

All people face those pressures. The famous critic Lester Bangs spoke of going to mostly white parties in the seventies and trying to turn people on to Otis Redding or Wilson Pickett. The response he got was "We don't want to listen to that n****** disco s***!!"

People face pressure to stick to their own. But I do think for whatever reason (segregation/power) blacks have slightly higher expectations and expressions of authenticity.

Steve Fair said...

Amen. Paul Simon was a very underrated lyricist. Also we should check the old acoustic blues shouters like Robert Johnson and Big Willie Dixon. "I was tried for murder/in the first degree/The judge's wife said let the man go free." Back Door Man Willie Dixon

Bill the Lizard said...

Btw, you said:

"Yet, I was shamed out of my love of Guns and Roses, Metallica, and Motley Crue by friends who kept saying that I was a "sell-out" because of such tastes. I liked hip-hop a great deal. I did not understand how I could defend my rock favorites in a Culture War atmosphere where race polarized pop cultural consumption in my small part of the world."

(As you already know) the music culture war is an artificial construct, created to divide people so they can be better marketed to by the huge record companies.

Rock and Hip Hop are closer siblings than some may think - their parents are the Blues and Folk.

Just ask The Lizard King (Jim Morrison):

And if it wasn't for your tutelage, I would have completely missed out on Jay-Z, Wu Tang and The Roots. Game Theory is an amazing album.

Bill the Lizard said...

Johnson and Dixon are definitely kings among men. Cream basically lifted their entire catalog.

Always loved Slim Harpo's style as well.

Steve Fair said...

Insipid47 said...

Good catch on Nina Simone. Her Ballad of Hollis Brown is one of my favorite Dylan Covers:

Steve Fair said...

That's right.

chauncey devega said...

Lots to listen to tonight! thanks.

chauncey devega said...

I do love me some WAR. Saw them live twice. Real performers. You and Nina? Color me surprised.

CNu said...

Are you old enough to have seen the real WAR, or did you see that ensemble of busters performing as WAR?

As for Nina, you would never have imagined me playing the bassoon in a university symphony orchestra at the age of 13 either..., but I did.

chauncey devega said...

unfortunately the "new" group with 1 or 2 originals with the supplements :(

the bassoon and that reed is hard to work. you must have practiced alot.

Shady Grady said...

The real group performs as The Low Rider Band, I thought (Howard Scott, Lee Oskar, BB Dickerson, Harold Brown).

chauncey devega said...

We learn something new again today...

Steve Fair said...

This takes me back to Catholic school days.

Steve Fair said...

chixie1023 said...

Excellent comment. Thanks for sharing Black folk artists as well.

ChuckieJesus said...

Fictional Eyes here. I would love to make a mixtape, but nobody plays tapes anymore. I'd call it "White Songs for Black People". Thing is, you could go about a million different directions with that.

I got into punk and new wave and stuff like that early. Got shamed for it, but you get away with a smidgen more of that shit if you're some bougie talking high yella kid.

I'm gonna make you a "tape" Chauncey. Let me sit on it.

chauncey devega said...

Me intrigued! How kind. How have you been?

ChuckieJesus said...

Doing good. Disqus is weird, but I was already here. :)

Fred Ceely said...

I'm with Shady. I took a good deal of flack for boosting James Brown, Stax-Volt-Enterprise in general, Specialty and N.O. pop music, and WWRL (The "Weekend Spooktacular!"). I definitely wasn't particularly enlightened at the time, but I knew what I liked.

Fred Ceely said...

Good list, Bill, and no offense, but "If I Were a Carpenter" by Tim Hardin is, I think, the good one. Anybody who wants a good cry in general could start with Tim, maybe start with "Reason to Believe."

chauncey devega said...

Really, what did folks say about your love of JB?

chauncey devega said...

Mass culture always wins no?

Fred Ceely said...

It was all racially based, but covert. I remember getting into it with friends who were exclusively into the white end of rock n' roll. They couldn't respond to my musical defense of James, James in particular because his was the blackest art form of anybody on my short list above. James had the best band around, and the stuff was deep. They were looking for "moon-spoon-June," Brill Building pop music with a decent beat. They totally rejected my accusations of race-based prejudice against the R&B guys, because, of course, they didn't think of themselves as racists.

I also had friends that swam deeper than me in black music. Newyorican music too. Honestly, at the time it depended on what contraband products you were shopping for, you know, shopping for the weekend.

Insipid47 said...

Well, the 9th symphony will the Starz commercial has come and gone, but the 9th Symphony lives on. It still inspires too. Just look at the above flash-mob video.

elciervo said...

Hi, Chauncey, I'm a long-time lurker, first-time poster here. I second all the Bob Dylan and Simon & Garfunkel suggestions above - although missing, notably, in my opinion are Dylan's "Stuck Inside of Mobile with the Memphis Blues Again," "Sad Eyed Lady of the Lowlands," "Shelter from the Storm," and "4th Time Around," as well as Simon & Garfunkel's "Sounds of Silence," "America" (a song which makes me cry every one of the 1 million + times I've heard it), and "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard." I would also suggest the following: 1. The Grateful Dead album "American Beauty" (which contains the best Dead song ever, "Box of Rain"); 2. The Grateful Dead album "Workingman's Dead"; 3. The songs "Brown-Eyed Women" ( and "Jack Straw" ( from the Grateful Dead's "Europe '72" album; 4. Andrew Bird's album "The Mysterious Production of Eggs," 5. Wilco's song, "You and I" ( Billy Bragg & Wilco's version of "Way Over Yonder in the Minor Key" ('s of course so much more in terms of great American folk music, but these were the first ones I thought of immediately when I read this post, as they are my personal all-time favorites. I included the links to the versions of the songs that I like, the other songs and albums should be easy to find. I hope you like them, too!

chauncey devega said...

I will check those out. Thanks for unlurking!

Jessica said...

Did you find what you were looking for?

John Lewis said...

box number 10 jim croce,hey tomorrow jim croce.hard time loosing man jim croce..hey bud Im a 45 year old white guy who loves snoop and Ice cube ice T and the NWA!! HOPE YOU ENJOY THE CROCE SONGS!!