Tag Archives: The Rolling Stones

And With Freedom Comes Responsibility

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There are a great many options when it comes to spending (I prefer investing) our free time in today’s world.

We can take ridiculous “tests” that determine which Kardashian we would be, or which character in Silver Spoons we would be, or which nursery rhyme villain, Disney World ride, Lady Gaga outfit, extinct animal, Spielberg film, Shel Silverstein poem, Chinese Food menu item, etc…

We can crush Netflix original programs four episodes at a clip;

We can pore over, troll and contribute to various social media platforms;

We can have sex (alone or with others), pamper ourselves, shop, exercise, eat, travel, play sports or games, read, nap, Prancercise, meditate, go to the movies, do a crossword, enjoy time with friends or family, volunteer…

We have choices…lots of them. And for that, we are fortunate. God bless America.

I urge all of you to take an hour or so and read The Case for Reparations by Ta-Nehisi Coates, an intriguing and very well written piece recently featured in The Atlantic.

I have no idea how you will feel while and after reading the article. I read it a few weeks ago and still haven’t fully determined how I feel, what I think, and what, if anything, I should do now that I read it, given that it definitely affected me in profound ways.

A few of my personal takeaways:

Reading this piece made me feel ashamed and embarrassed to call myself an American in much the same way most of the W Bush presidency did (especially in the aftermath of Katrina – “Heck of a job, Brownie,” the invasion of Iraq and failure to find WMDs and his continual buffoonery that made him a global laughing stock) – and a great deal of the current Obama presidency is doing (Obamacare, the IRS scandal, his hypocrisy in solving the financial crisis – thank god we bailed out GM so they could continue to be so poorly run that their shoddily built cars have killed hundreds – and aren’t we all equally proud that our tax-dollar bailouts were used to bestow giant bonuses on Wall Street’s wolves just days after they fleeced us and the Federal Government out of billions. And don’t get me started on Obama’s consistently shameful treatment of Israel, arguably America’s most loyal and important ally, but alas that is for another article and another time.

My own black history education is shameful…and I know I am at least partly to blame for this. Worse still, I believe I received a top 1% education in our country, and still feel this is true, so I can’t imagine what is taught (and more importantly, what isn’t) in classrooms and curricula that unfortunately fall in the lower tiers of the American education system. I expect the world, and most importantly all Americans, to be educated on the Holocaust as I believe this will at least help to preclude something that awful from ever happing again…and I know there is a complete systemic failure right now in our country in making Holocaust education mandatory and in ensuring it is carried out professionally and effectively (watch this video if you don’t believe me). I similarly believe black history and race relations need to be taught at every level of education in our country. Ignorance nurtures racism…education combats ignorance.

Random thought: show me an important article on race that doesn’t feature an embarrassing nugget about a Philadelphia mayor…

Unfortunate thought: I am once again sickened by Donald Sterling, and he wasn’t even mentioned once in this article. (And Dan Snyder is no prize either).

History is littered with examples of man’s mind-bogglingly evil inhumanity towards his fellow man. Vonnegut built an incredible career upon that fact. Kubrick’s 2001 showcases man’s inhumanity as a core theme. Women (i.e., 50% of the world population) have been mistreated since the dawn of time, and unfortunately continue to suffer in many parts of the world. Same for homosexuals, mentally and physically challenged, vertically challenged, Native Americans and countless others. Bottom line, I am not sure reparations can ever fully repay everyone…or anyone, frankly, who has been egregiously wronged throughout history.

As a Jew and a grandchild of Holocaust survivors, I kept waiting for the author to relate his argument to a situation in which reparations have been paid in the recent past. I know Germany paid reparations to Israel and to survivors of the Holocaust. I was glad to see the parallel drawn, but was also upset that important lessons, themes and facts regarding Germany’s reparations were omitted. While Germany and some other groups did pay approximately $7 billion in today’s dollars to Israel and direct survivors of the Shoah, Jewish and otherwise, the payments were quite small (a few hundred dollars a month)…let’s say 500,000 people were paid, that total would amount to $14,000 per person. Furthermore, families of those who died received little or nothing. And payments typically only endured for the lifespan of the survivor, so once my grandfather passed away, his payments ceased…same with my grandmother. But what of their children? What of their parents, brothers, sisters and children that perished? The reparations contemplated by Coates are quite different to those paid by Germany in that money would only be paid to descendants of victims (obviously there is no choice at this point). And Coates fails to explain who actually footed the bill Germany paid, how it was funded, how news of it was received in Germany, who received payments, who didn’t, and who was responsible for determining all of this. At least for me, some if not all of that information would have been interesting if not essential for a true thought-provoking comparison to be made.

Among the issues not discussed are the feelings of resentment many Germans felt when these payments were announced – particularly Germans who believed they were innocent and whose families did not participate in the horror show. Also not discussed is the rampant Anti-Semitism raging through Germany and the rest of Europe today…so perhaps the cathartic act of reparations helped quash some racism in the immediate sense (though I doubt that), but the deep-seeded fear, hatred and ignorance always lingered just below the surface and were just waiting for time to pass, memories to fade and hard times to fall in order to resurface. Sure, Germany is not the most blatantly anti-Semitic country in Europe right now…so whoop-dee-doo…I guess the nation deserves a prize for that…but as a Jew, would I dare to live there right now? Would I be comfortable walking alone anywhere in Germany wearing a yarmulke, or a visible Star of David?

That said, I believe it was a good thing that Germany did anything at all even though you could never put a price-tag on the horror of the experience endured nor on the lives and livelihoods lost. But I am not sure I can ever forgive Germany despite the act of contrition. The problem is, it could never be enough, and the powerful and unimaginable anti-Semitism that it took to allow the Holocaust to be perpetrated had been ingrained into the fabric of German and Eastern European life over hundreds of years. Paying money most Germans never authorized or actually supported in reparations did not extinguish that ignorance and hatred.

And then there is this…I am honestly not sure how I feel about the premise of paying reparations given my ancestors were not in America during the time of slavery. My suspicion is there are many people who would feel similarly. Furthermore, my grandparents were treated just as horrifically in Germany and Poland and Russia, if not more so, were left with nothing, and faced awful racism themselves, even in America.

But when the time came to start over, even with nothing, in America…let’s just say that I concede it was fortunate my grandparents were white. Being white is a blessing in many ways for most Jews. If Jews were blue, or green or any color other than white, I am not entirely sure there would be any Jews left on our planet. Hell, we flirted with extinction more than a few times even with our light skin. But being white allowed many Jews to blend in with non-Semitic whites in many parts of the Western world and rise to some modicum of wealth and status. And for American Jews, it can be argued that many direct and indirect benefits we experienced as a result of being lucky enough to have light skin came, at least in some part, from the same exploitation of black people Coates argues quite convincingly benefitted (and continue to benefit) all white people in America. So we reaped and continue to reap the benefits, even if we aren’t culpable for the gruesome and unconscionable acts that enabled the benefits to exist.

Given the above sentiment, I am reminded of the seminal moment in Soul Man, when Darth Vader asks Pony Boy what he learned from his experience as a “black” man, and CTH replied, “if I didn’t like it, I could always get out…” I heard JEJ saying, “you’ve learned a great deal more than I thought” quite a few times as I read the piece.

Other pop-culture references I recalled during and after reading the article:

Dazed and Confused teacher, Ms. Ginny Stroud, to her class after the bell rings: “Okay guys, one more thing, this summer when you’re being inundated with all this American bicentennial Fourth Of July brouhaha, don’t forget what you’re celebrating, and that’s the fact that a bunch of slave-owning, aristocratic, white males didn’t want to pay their taxes.”

The Wire, when Prez quoted the first few lines of The Rolling Stones’ Brown Sugar, and nobody had any idea what he was saying…the opening lyrics of that song are haunting.

Coates’ piece accomplished exactly what the author set out to do, in my opinion. He frustrated me. He made me feel guilt. But most importantly, he made me think. This is an important topic, and if nothing else, my hope is that the education requirements and curriculum for black history and race relations education are expanded as a result of this article.

Anyway, I hope you all have a wonderful and safe holiday weekend. I am interested in hearing/reading your thoughts on Coates’ piece. Feel free to comment below.

Best regards,

 

IDROS

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This Is 50…And Counting…Happy Golden Anniversary To Mick, Keef And The Rolling Stones

From Rolling Stone Magazine

From Rolling Stone Magazine

Lezbeonest. I don’t care what it is (or who, for that matter). Doing it (or him or her) for 50 years…in a row…is worthy of significant celebration. It is a rare feat, celebrating a 50th anniversary of any kind. And the half century the Rolling Stones have endured and bestowed upon us is no exception. In fact, it borders on incredible…the stuff of myth. I mean, the band had to overcome the incarceration of its two primary songwriters (in 1967, Mick and Keith were jailed for drug possession and shortly thereafter were released on bail), the “firing” and subsequent death (by drowning but due to drug abuse) of a founding member and close friend (Brian Jones), the resignation of another band mate and talented guitarist (Mick Taylor), the ubiquitous shadow of the Beatles the Stones were relegated to live in (the band was basically labeled the “evil” or dark yang to the Beatles light, angelic yin and were viewed as ruffians parents should never let their daughters date, a characterization these well-schooled middle class musicians took a few years to fully embrace), the unfortunate and horrifying experience that was Altamont (where unruly, drunk and drugged up Hell’s Angels provided “security” (read: incited a riot) while a fan was murdered by throngs of out of control concert-goers and the band feared for their own lives), a self exile to the South of France for financial reasons (mostly exorbitant back taxes owed), a massive heroin problem that enveloped some members of the band (notably Keith) as well as many important crew members, and finally, the imprisonment in Canada of Keith for heroin possession (he faced a lifetime sentence, but was released upon a vow to go straight)…and that was all in the first 15 years of the band’s existence. The subsequent 35 years were similarly rife with highs and lows, the worst of it stemming from a tumultuous and deteriorating relationship between Richards and Jagger, the de facto leaders of the band.

And yet here they are, fifty years later…mostly intact, and somehow still churning out the best soundtrack you are likely ever to hear at a Golden Anniversary party (not that there’s anything wrong with a one-man band’s rendition of In The Mood, The Way We Were, Unforgettable, I’ve Got The World On A String or any of Frank Sinatra’s great love ballads). So in anticipation of the American leg of the Stones 50 & Counting mini-tour, which will culminate with a Pay Per View-streamed performance on Saturday, December 15 at the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey, I felt it was high time to give the original bad boys of rock and roll their due. Having already dedicated a post to that other mega-success story of a band from England, the timing couldn’t be better to roll out the red carpet, and fittingly paint it black, for the only other band in history besides the Beatles that arguably deserves its own wing in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame.

Sure, scoff all you want. Insert a joke or two here under your breath regarding said wing that evokes images of a nursing home…the wing should be in Florida; its snack bar should offer an early bird special; hope there’s round the clock medical staff on call. Blah, blah, blah. If you could throw down on stage like the Stones at any age, you would, and you know it.

While I agree that the Stones are old (arguing this fact would be as foolish as arguing that water is not wet), the band’s two stalwarts, both nearly 70 years of age, continue to defy the odds. Mick, who inspired a song regarding his moves, has the energy of a man fifty years his junior, and the waistline of an anorexic supermodel. And Keith…what can I say? What can anyone say really? He is a medical marvel that continues to mystify… with blatant disregard for logic and the laws of science.  (To get a taste, I do recommend his autobiography, Life, if you haven’t yet read it.) So perhaps it isn’t such a conundrum that these relics continue to bring it while on stage.

So in honor of the centuries of combined rock experience that is the Rolling Stones, I felt a list was in order. Lists are great because they demand thought, from both the writer and reader(s). There is always room for debate, particularly in a good, well-reasoned list, but generally the conversation is lively and worthwhile. And that is why we’re here, right?  At least it’s why I’m here. Tapping on the keys like Thelonius Monk in the wee hours of the morning, eyes bloodshot, head pounding, but thoughts racing…ahh. And the Stones are incredibly list-worthy. Exile on Main Street could be its own list. So could Let It Bleed. So in the spirit, of Rob Gordon from High Fidelity, from whom music-themed lists seemed to flow like cheap beer at a frat party, we begin.

My top ten Stones tunes of all time (at least for today):

10) I had a hell of a time choosing among Miss You, Emotional Rescue and Salt Of The Earth, but for the sake of a clean list, I am going with Emotional Rescue. Perhaps my list would be different on any other day. I dig the disco influence. And the tune is catchy as hell. This is not your typical Stones song, but that doesn’t make it a bad song.

9) Sweet Virginia. Raw, gritty and heartfelt. This will not be the lone gem from Exile to crack my top ten, but a great tune in its own right.

8) As Tears Go By. An oldie but goodie. Penned by the Jagger/Richards dynamic duo, this classic was first recorded and released by Marianne Faithful in 1964, and then by the Stones a year later. Just a beautiful song, emotional and powerful despite the restraint that was a trademark of that era. I would put this tune up against almost any from the mid-60s, and it holds up well, even today.

7) Loving Cup. Just give me little drink. Please.

6) Shine A Light. Wow. Just Wow. Maybe this one should be higher on the list (probably), but the bottom line is, it needs to be on the list. Such a powerful message. Marty Scorsese named his 2008 Stones documentary after this tune, and we all know what Marty thinks of the Stones.

5) Gimme Shelter. That creaky floorboard percussion effect is eerie as hell. And speaking of Marty Scorsese, we all must thank him for recognizing the genius in the Stones in this tune, and for marrying its theme to your own particular genius (Scorsese used this song in 3 of his films…thus far). Violence and war is everywhere; not just on the battlefield, but on the mean streets of every city across the world.

4) You Can’t Always Get What You Want. Can’t help but think of The Big Chill opening here, but the message is clear and pure, and the melody is perfection personified. Interestingly, it seems Brett Morgen, the director of the most recent Stones documentary, Crossfire Hurricane, drew inspiration from Lawrence Kasdan as he used this song during his own post-death funeral procession music to honor Brian Jones’ passing.

3) Sympathy For The Devil. Perfection in capturing and breathing life into a theme by overlaying incredible lyrics on transcendent music. Timeless.

2) Waiting On A Friend. Profound emotional ballad capturing man’s need for companionship after his wild oats have been sown.

1) Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’? Here’s the thing…I love music. And even before this tune kicked off the great mini-mix on my iPod shuffle that ushered in the greatest day of my life, it would have topped this list. The meaning behind the song is murky, like the drug-addled paranoia some of the lyrics evoke. But if your ears could smile, this song could have that effect on them, from start to finish. The jam toward the end of that track is so incredible it has moved me to tears on numerous occasions. Everything was clicking there, from Keys’ blistering sax solo to Richards’ guitar. And then Mick Taylor steals the show with a completely improvised virtuoso performance lasting nearly 4 minutes to end the song. There are hints and influences of numerous other great musicians and musical genres intertwined in the rich, mellifluous orgy of musical delights. To quote Richards, “the band’s music was influenced by everyone from Mozart to Marley.” That is clearly evident in this song alone, a virtual microcosm of the Rolling Stones vast and impressive oeuvre. And make no mistake, Charlie gets the last “word,” which is quite fitting for a tune titled “Can’t You Hear Me Knockin’?”

So that’s my list. Hope nobody was offended by my selections. I would love to hear some of yours, so feel free to share below.

As always, thanks for reading.

Happy holidays,

IDROS

Oh, and for another blogger’s take on the same subject matter, feel free to click here.

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