SISTER HARMONY (Yvonne Staples, R.I.P.)

Pops, Cleotha, Yvonne and Mavis Staples, circa early 70s

When Yvonne Staples replaced her brother Pervis in the Staple Singers in 1971, the family had been singing gospel for more than twenty years and trying to break into the mainstream (via folk at first, then soul) for nearly a decade.

Their signature strengths were long in place by then: Pops’ inimitable guitar licks, now stinging, new mellifluous; family harmony; Mavis’ astounding leads, an unmatched combination of honey and gravel.

They had even made epic records. Check out 1965’s Freedom Highway just for starters.

What they had not done was have hit records.

Coincidentally or not (they changed producers at the same time), exchanging Pervis’ harmony voice for Yvonne’s marked the exact moment the Staples headed for the sky and made the half-decade’s worth of soul and funk classics that made their legend. To my ear, a small but definite shift in energy and cohesion did occur. And, harmony, being what it is, I wouldn’t risk a do-over.

Not if it meant losing even a little bit of what the Staple Singers did in the years when they and Al Green were almost alone in keeping hard Southern soul near the center of America life, the moment we flew closest to the sun.

Not the first bit…

or the last….

…or anything in between.

Yvonne Staples passed away April 10.

I know where she is now. Where there’s no smiling faces, lying to the races.

See you when I get there.

WELL, THERE’S HONESTY…..AND THEN THERE’S REAL HONESTY (Great Quotations)

For whatever reason, having never seen too much about it in previous years, I found myself flooded with notices of John Wayne’s birthday yesterday.

Not that I ever mind being reminded mind you (try saying that three times fast with a John Wayne drawl!), but by far the most entertaining thing I read related to the great man’s birthday was this, from the set of Hellfighters (not one of his greatest to put it mildly).

When asked to comment on the film during production, actress Katharine Ross replied, “It’s the biggest piece of crap I’ve ever done!” Then the reporter asked Vera Miles to respond to Ross’s comment. She thought for a moment and said, “Well, it’s not the biggest piece of crap I’VE ever done!”

Vera will be 89 in August. I might just decide to celebrate her birthday.

(And, for the record, she and Wayne have one great scene in Hellfighters…and it’s as great as any scene in any movie. She was like that….As John Wayne knew better than anyone.)

TO THE LOSERS (Late Night Dedication)

In hopes that, whoever they are (Team Trump or Team Mueller), someone will be fitted for orange jump suits before the leaves turn…

And there’s no need to worry folks. We’ll still proceed straight to Tyranny (be it Mueller who triumphs) or Chaos….and then Tyranny (be it otherwise).

The prophet has foretold it…Not so much the Singer as the Guitar Player…

DIAMONDS IN THE SHADE (Jeff Healey Band Up)

“That’s What They Say”
Jeff Healey Band (1988)
Not released as a single
Recommended source: See the Light

When Jeff Healey came into the spotlight in the late eighties, he was the latest in a long line of white hot white blues guitarists–the hook being that, like a lot of first generation black bluesmen, he was blind.

What really marked him off, though, was his singing, a dry, meticulous baritone that made him one of the last great blue-eyed soulsters.

Though he had only one big hit (the great “Angel Eyes”), the voice said he might have done better in earlier times.

And, whatever the times, why the record company didn’t release “That’s What They Say” as a followup single from his debut album is one of those mysteries only a record company executive could answer.

Well, and maybe all those people who thought the new ballad style, embodied by Whitney Houston, had something to do with gospel or soul.

Album cut or no, “That’s What They Say” has only grown for me over the can’t-believe-it’s-been-three-decades since. Unlike “Angel Eyes,” stunning in its own right, Healey wrote it and, as a work of lyric imagination, it was on a level with the polio-stricken Doc Pomus writing “Save the Last Dance For Me.”

As a example of blues paranoia, it sounds like a creeping future we hoped would never arrive….but, inevitably, did.

Until I started researching this post, I didn’t know Healey had passed away in 2008. I think one reason I was a little shocked was because, in his best music,  recorded in an age that defined hype and bluster, he sounded like he had all the time in the world….

YOU KNOW WHEN WE’LL BE MAKING REAL PROGRESS?

Here’s a quote from an opinion piece provided by one of the major news outlets today (doesn’t matter which one…or even that it’s from today):

There is nothing more dangerous to the welfare of our republic than operatives from our three-letter agencies taking sides for ideological or personal reasons and then using the vast resources at their disposal to damage and delegitimize those they oppose.

We’ll be making progress when opinion makers at major mews outlets learn to cut that sentence off after “agencies.”

Meanwhile the Fun Fact of the Week:

I tried to tickle a few funny bones and chill a few spines by pointing out the savvy ways Donald Trump used (or, if you like, misused) the Rolling Stones’ “You Can’t Always Get What You Want” as his campaign rally theme (and I left off after the election, but he didn’t–he still does rallies and still closes with “You Can’t Always Get What You Want”–and it’s still hilarious and still chilling).

Now it comes out that the operation the FBI (with possible assistance from the CIA and/or the DNC and/or British and/or Russian Intelligence and/or Sir Mick Jagger) ran on the /Trump Campaign was called Crossfire Hurricane.

Of course it was.

And right wing radio used “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” for bumper music all day today.

Of course they did.

This makes it convenient for those of us trying to spot theme songs for the future but aren’t sure whether Team Trump (who seem to hold the high cards this week) or Team Mueller (who may still have an ace or two hidden up a Brooks’ Brothers sleeve) will emerge victorious before the leaves turn this fall.

At least now we know what the loser–who will now lose everything–will be singing:

I still say Mick and Keith will play Trump’s Second Inaugural. But the set list does keep changing…

MEANWHILE IN THE “PAST IS NOT PAST” DEPARTMENT (Segue of the Day: 5/21/18)

What with one of those full-blown Constitutional Crisis moments heading for us like a locomotive, sometimes I just like to cheer myself up by reminding myself that nothing really changes. Last night I headed for L.A., via YouTube…and look what I found, recommended just for me!

First this…

then this….

Seems about right.

WATCH OUT NOW…HISTORY IS ABOUT TO START COMIN’ AT YA’ FAST….

I don’t think I’ve ever tagged anything a must read on here, but this, from Glenn Greenwald,  comes pretty close. Turns out the Security State not only saw Donald Trump as the biggest threat to their hegemony since Jimmy Carter, and thereby resorted to operational tactics from the (long forgotten–by the media and the public at least) 1980 playbook–they even used some of the same people. If you don’t care to read the whole thing, the last paragraph will do.

It’s over folks. It matters not that Carter was a somewhat decent man and Trump a thoroughly indecent one. Nor that Carter was an Evangelical Democrat and Trump a Pagan Republican.

Because life’s just a Warren Zevon song now. Take your pick:

OKAY SO THIS IS NOT GOING THE DIRECTION I THOUGHT….BUT I’M STILL NOT CONVINCED I’M WRONG…

In my post of last week, I noted that the mainstream media had finally gotten on to an idea I’ve had for a year and some conservative bloggers have been bandying about for at least a few months: namely that the FBI had planted someone inside the Trump campaign no later than the Summer of 2016. Though Kim Strassel first broached the subject in the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times has now taken the lead and tossed up the name of Stefan Halper, an American academic based in London.

That’s not who I had in mind as a “plant” though, based on interviews she’s given this week, it’s evidently who Strassel (and others) had in mind.

I’m sure they’re not wrong about Halper’s role–he’ll have one hell of a lawsuit if they are–but his role is not that of either a spy or an informant. He seems to be a cutout–someone not in the Trump campaign who the FBI and/or CIA could rely on to brace those who were.

Those who were included (but may not be limited to) Carter Page and George Papadopolous, two men who have been in the news quite a lot.

The lengths to which the media (across the board) and the usually more insightful online bloggers have gone to insist none of these were actual “informants” (including the Times, which specifically misused the term to make it seem like Halper is such when their own reporting insists he’s only a handler–someone who, at most, might gather information from an informant) is curious.

It’s been known for months that Carter Page was not only a known FBI asset, but was specifically helping them in a case that involved a Russian while he was “Volunteering” to be part of the Trump Campaign.

It is likely, however, that Page, who was part of Trump’s campaign, was not an “informant” either.

An informant would be someone who was inserted into the campaign for the purpose of uncovering evidence of illegal (or at least unethical) behavior, and reporting back to a prearranged handler.

From the reporting so far available, Halper was not that sort of handler.

He was the sort who arranged to have meetings with low level Trump operatives for the specific purpose of making them appear dirty because why else would they be meeting with the likes of him, a known go-between for both the FBI and the CIA?

If you’re having a little trouble following along, you’re not alone.

In all the sound and fury that’s been building for a year while Team Mueller and Team Trump stalked each other, I still haven’t seen one person suggest the obvious–that Carter Page was placed in the Trump campaign (by the FBI, though possibly at the CIA’s suggestion) not to be a classic informant, but to follow orders and meet with enough sketchy characters (Mr. Halper included) that the FBI could use his presence to get a FISA warrant on somebody–if necessary, him.

Since Page was in fact who they got the warrant on (in October, 2016, after failing to produce enough evidence even for a Star Chamber filled with their own hand-picked judges in June), the only other possibility is that the FBI went looking for someone–anyone–they could produce on the spot as a surveillance subject that would satisfy the court they were on to something…and just happened to find one of their own assets conveniently positioned right where they needed him to be!

Even I don’t think the FBI is so incompetent they’d leave something like that to chance.

Either way, it’s a good thing Donald Trump’s not Hitler.

Because if this clown car was all that was standing between us and the next Hitler, we’d all be better off shooting ourselves in the head while guns are still legal.

As it is, whether anyone goes to jail in the next year-and-a-half will depend on what it always depends on.

But you’re my readers, and a great deal smarter than the average bear–so you already knew that….

OH, THAT’S WHAT SHE MEANT….(Found in the Connection: Rattling Loose End #135)

I have a transgender godchild. Found herself in Portland during the 2016 election. Moved away to a small town, elsewhere in the Pacific northwest.

I asked her mother why–I’d been under the impression godchild loved Portland.

Turned out godchild–raised libertarian and having once had the not-so-unique experience of having Bill Clinton lie to her face (when she was nine and a “he”) in the White House and on TV no less (the lie was sufficiently bald-faced even Diane Sawyer, a lifetime contender for Queen Bootlicker, was taken aback)–had gotten tired of fearing for her safety lest anyone in her particular Zone of Tolerance discover she was a Trump supporter.

Keeping her opinions to herself in public and all her social media accounts under the layers of assumed identies only tech whizzes like her can manage  didn’t make her feel secure enough.

I allowed as she might have had an exaggerated sense of the danger.

Then again, perhaps not.

We’re supposed to believe that the line between “mock” violence and actual atrocities is one all right-minded people recognize and are never tempted to cross. Heck, they’d never really do that to an actual human, would they? Get a sense of humor will ya’.

All you need to do to buy that is forget all of human history and all of human nature.

We’re workin’ on it….Like a blind man who’s lost his way…

POLITICS ON THE RADIO….OLDIES RADIO…UNLESS OF COURSE IT WAS ONLY IN MY MIND (Segue of the Day: 5/16/18)

There are no true oldies stations in my market anymore. The last one changed formats more than a decade ago. What’s left is the Hank format and a Classic Rock Formula which has been reshaped from hard-rock-all-the-time (white except for Jimi Hendrix) to a mix of hard rock (white….except for Jimi Hendrix), hard pop rock (all white), a little easy listening (ditto), plus, for the sake of diversity, “Superstition” and “Low Rider.”

It’s not exactly a true re-creation of how hit-oriented radio worked in the sixties and seventies, but it is an accurate reflection of these focus-grouped times.

Usually, I just listen to the gasbags on talk radio who at least keep me up with the news. (And represent the last, best hope Never Trumpers have of taking their nemesis down, even if they don’t know it and would never admit it if they did. Believe me, when you’re in the Byzantine spot Robert Mueller’s in, a place where so many corrupt riddles are wrapped inside so many diseased enigmas your own best hope of staying out of jail is the pubic’s inability to keep up, you couldn’t hope for better than to have Sean Hannity and Mark Levin representing the other side).

But, now and again, when the gasbags either overwhelm me or go to commercial once too often, I still pull up the Classic Hits station in my car.

I had missed a promo-promised Go-Go’s/Queen segue earlier in the day, but now I hit the button just as this one started…and, once it starts, I never change the station…

Strange thing, though. This time, all I could think about while the song was playing (and I was shouting every word–have I ever mentioned that I harmonize with Christine McVie and Lindsey Buckingham like a long lost sibling who shared a mother with one and a father with the other?…Or that I can’t be the first person to have considered the possibility that everyone can do this?)–was how, when the 1992 Bill Clinton campaign adopted “Don’t Stop” as the theme song and wanted Fleetwood Mac to re-unite and play it for some big occasion (the Convention? Election Night? the Inaugural?…the memory hazes, but, for my purposes here, it only matters that they said yes), Buckingham at first refused.

He gave in only when Stevie Nicks called him up and said If you take this away from me, I’ll never speak to you again.)

Whatever harm he may have done to her elsewhere (I wrote about some of it here), on that occasion Lindsey was right.

Never trust a politician.

He might have shown great taste picking your song, but there’s always a chance he’ll end up sustaining and encouraging a status quo (you know,might even be granted permission by his own voters to complete the Reagan Revolution, which they had professed to despise only a moment before, when Stevie and every other good liberal was proving how serious they were by saying things like “I’ll never speak to you again!”–remember?) that will lock up black people at rates old Jim Crow (whose natural born child he was) never dreamed of and make everybody who fought for him twist themselves into pretzels telling themselves how it was alright because he did it, never mind it would have been worse than slavery if the other side merely settled for talking about doing the same.

Don’t mind me. I get peculiar thoughts some times.

Because while all that was running through my head (without my thrush-like throat fluffing a note) I also started wondering if Oo-o-o-hh, don’t you look back might be a sentiment tantamount to civilizational suicide. Didn’t somebody say something once about those who don’t learn from the past being doomed to, etc., etc., etc.?

And wouldn’t not learning from the past you never look back to just about define Bill Clinton’s life and legacy? (Be sure you read Thomas Frank’s blind-squirrel-finds-a-nut article at the link, especially if you’ve forgotten, or never admitted, how much damage Clinton did to liberalism, damage that is likely to remain irreparable…..And, like I said, don’t mind me.)

Boy was I depressed.

Not even remembering how the ghost version of “Don’t Stop” had long since forced me to ponder whether Christine McVie having just possibly conceived the song as pure irony should be one of my heart-of-the-universe questions–how, with the slightest shift of timbre, she transformed don’t look back from the proverbial fear that something might be gaining on you to an anthem worthy of an American presidential campaign, where never a discouraging word must be heard–allowed me to shake the feeling the whole world has been had all over again every time this song plays on the radio and one of us sings along in perfect harmony without missing a note or a nuance.

Then the radio went straight into this…

…which was so much about nothing (a Curfew Riot–which sounds like the title of a Monty Python skit) it ended up being about everything. Including now.

Paranoia strikes deep….

And even though it had been too long since I heard it (and though nothing could ever match the impact of singing it, in perfect harmony–with five kids who weren’t conversant with English, or even born, when it was released–under the eaves of the library at Kent State in 1998) for me to get every note, or even every word, right, I thought…well this radio still speaks in mysterious ways some times, its wonders to perform.

After that, Tom Petty reminding me I don’t have the live like a refugee, usually the highlight of any paranoiac’s day, felt as comfortable as an old shoe.

Then “Do Ya Think I’m Sexy” came on and I remembered how talk radio came to be an option in the first place.

Because the Empire planned it that way….That’s how.

Now go back to bed and leave me alone you damned ol’ Politics.