SERENDIPITY, YES….BUT TO WHAT END? (What We Should Expect From Critics: Fifteenth Maxim)

Weird coincidence. In January, 2018, I posted what I believe is the longest, most in-depth appreciation of Brenda Lee (whose photo has been the banner for this blog since its inception in February of 2012) anywhere outside her autobiography. In February, 2018, Rolling Stone tried to catch up.

They fail, of course. In 1969, Rolling Stone had writers worthy of giving Brenda her due, but no interest. Now they have the interest, but no writers. This writer’s conclusion is that Brenda should be remembered because she once sold a lot of records and other famous people say nice things about her.

That’s it.

The two photographs above are included in the article and they say more about why Brenda Lee matters than the 4,000 words that accompany them. Unlike these photos, the accompanying words convey no heart, no guts, no insight, no trace of why anyone, including the writer, should care. They’re a perfect incorporation of modern media formula and they offer no reason whatsoever that we should take Brenda Lee any more seriously than does the anonymous horde from which the writer fails to distance himself.

My 4,000 words hardly did her justice either–4,000 words never could–but at least I tried. In the face of half-a-century of crit-illuminati indifference, I consider that better than nothing, which, except for these historic photographs (neither of which I had seen and each of which is nearly as great as my banner photo–they tell a bigger story side by side because, outside of Rock and Roll America, they don’t look like they could have come from the same world, let alone the same life), the Rolling Stone piece is not.

(FWIW: I’m also a better headline writer: There’s no crucible better, it seems, than the back room of the Chipola Junior College journalism building, circa 1979. Me and a kid named Rusty used to bang ’em out. He joined the Navy that summer and died after taking three in the chest a year later in a dispute following an Orlando traffic accident. Don’t worry brother. If we ever do get beat, it won’t be by Rolling Stone.)

All of which leads me to the Fifteenth Maxim: Do not bury what you came to praise and do not exemplify what you claim to dispute.

But, better than all that, you could just listen again:

10 thoughts on “SERENDIPITY, YES….BUT TO WHAT END? (What We Should Expect From Critics: Fifteenth Maxim)

  1. And listen again, I did. Brenda Lee was always a ‘breathe of fresh air’ to me. What a joy to hear this song! TCB as always, Johnny!

  2. NDJ

    I can’t imagine reading Rolling Stone for anything (ANYthing!) about rock & roll. Hard to believe I bought every issue from the first one on for years, and that their record reviewers were intelligent, insightful, articulate, and sometimes funny as all get out!

    Oh well and ho hum, those were the days …


    • I found this through a Twtter account I follow (I think it was David Cantwell, who’s great and would have been a great fit but, alas, it was by someone else I never heard of)….Anyway, I was excited initially. FINALLY!

      Then I read the article (starting with the terrible headline)…and was reminded all over again how far RS has fallen.

  3. PS: In interrupted listening to the complete Haydn quartets by Festetics String Quartet to listen instead to “Coming On Strong” and “Dum Dum.”

    And, of yes, I’m glad I did (“A dum dum, a diddle-lee dum”).

    And, no, I won’t get through them all in one sitting …

  4. I found your essay on Brenda Lee to be well written and enjoyable to read. I’m not the least bit surprised that Rolling Stone couldn’t get it right, because these days, they get most things wrong.

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