Saturday, December 15, 2012

The Last Bey of the Series: "The only thing I knew how to do, is to keep on keeping on."

Two Girls in Front of Lady D's

c. 1976, printed by 1979

Dawoud Bey

This is the final photograph of the 8 days of Bey blog. I recommend the book, Dawoud Bey, Harlem USA as a gift to a friend, a relative, a lover or yourself.

The composition of this photograph is compelling, nostalgic, funny and sad. The poses of the girls juxtaposed show skepticism versus joy. There is real attitude in their knees and their bell bottom jeans.

The signage with its offers of ice cream, chicken and chips, frankfurters, chili brings me to the comfort food present.

There are 34 duotone illustrations in this book and the reproduction your screen only hints at the depth and character of the photographs.

The quote in the title is from Tangled up in Blue, written by Bob Dylan sometime around 1974. I am always somehow Tangled up in Blue.

Bey 7, From joyous transport to desponding woe.

A Woman Waiting in the Doorway, 1976 printed in 1979

Dawoud Bey, Harlem USA

When I began this series of posts, I wanted to celebrate a Chanuka gift, namely, Harlem USA. Peggy and I had seen this exhibit at the Art Institute. She bought me the book which includes twenty five photographs from Mr Bey's first exhibit at the Studio Museum in Harlem.

Within the span of a week, I learned of the death of a young woman, Elana Ernst Silverstein in our community. She was 29. On Friday, came the shocking news about the murders in Newtown, Connecticut.

George Frideric Handel wrote the music for  Judas Maccabeus, an oratorio, in 3 acts about events of 170-160 BCE that make up the spine of the Chanuka story. In act 2, the war against the Seleucid Empire has taken a turn for the worse. An Israelite woman sings and the chorus repeats:

"Ah! wretched, wretched Israel! fall'n, how low,
From joyous transport to desponding woe.

There are no answers to the human condition. Sometimes we experience so much joy that we are moved to tears. Other times, the tears are bitter and wrenching.

We wait in the doorway. Between joy and woe.  Angry. Suspicious. Hurt. Fearful. In shadows and in light.

Bey 6, Consolation, A Woman at Convent Avenue Baptist Church

1977, Printed 2010

This is the only photograph in the collection where there is no view of a face. It is a remarkable composition of the woman's hat dominating the frame in sharp focus. In the rest of the photograph the people, the pews, the altar become blurred  and ultimately unrecognizable.

It can be read as a statement of faith and constancy. Or dreamy mysticism. Looking ahead despite a lack of certainty.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Bey 5, I believe the Children are our future, Five Children

Five Children c. 1976, printed 1979

I love the interaction between the children and photographer. It is hard to see the two kids on left hand side of photo. The one of the far left has a sweet Afro and the one next to him has his face obscured by the boy in the middle. These kid in shadow are distant from the photographer in space and in relationship. They are observers of the photograph.

The three children in the sun are the stars of the photo. The boy on the left looks distrustful on the man with the camera. The girl in the middle in confident. The composition of the shadow across her face adds to the mystery of who she is and what she is thinking.

The boy on the right is my favorite. He's got this great tough guy pose and he is like 9 years old. Since I am so old, (61 at last count) that I lose track of ages.

It is the 7th day of Hannukah. I am taking a day off and it is 50 degrees in the middle of December. Global warming or great holiday weather?

Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Trombonist from the 369th Regiment Marching Band, 1977, printed 1979

Bey 4 .I really should have started this series on the first day of Hanukah. The marketing department let me down because they thought Hanukah it always right around Christmas.

Any, tonight is music night and Peggy and I worked on our exotic dulcimer/guitar rhythms. (As it were)

This man with a trombone seems very pleased about something. It think it's music. You know he's got some pipes because he's playing a trombone. I feel like he's been playing the trombone for many years. He enjoys wearing the uniform and performing. There is cool wall art or something over the man's right shoulder. It looks like a cup cake logo. In the Park Slope of the day. Over his left shoulder are Venetian blinds.

You know what Venetian blinds represent.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Bey 3, or am I losing count.

A Man in a Bowler Hat, 1976, printed by 1979.

This man does not have an easy face to read. He has the "Mona Lisa" smile. The man is dressed like a million bucks, white tie, and of course, the bowler hat. It looks like he is in front of his home. I can't tell if he is in a hurry to leave or he has just come back and wants to walk up the steps (or down, depending) as soon as this picture has been shot.
There are nuances in his eyes and eyebrows but this gentlemen could keep a secret. If you made a deal with him, he would live up to his end. And so should you.
It is the 6th night of Chanuka. The so called "meh" night of the holiday. So named by a very small and sometimes amusing column in the New York Times. We have been having a swell Chanuka. A big key for us are the candles and the presents. We do not discuss in detail the Maccabees            successes in war and peace. You can find a form of the tale on
I don't really know what happened during the Maccabean times. It is not Santa at the mall. 

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bey 2, McKinley the Shoemaker

This is the 2nd of the 12 days of Bey. Photographs by Dawoud Bey in his book Harlem, USA.

This man is at work. The clock is to the left of his head right above the calendar. This is a photo about time. A man has worked for many years, presumably as a shoemaker. He is not thrilled at the moment. Frown on his face, smoking a cigarette , sitting on a not very comfortable looking chair. This gentleman would like to be gone.

I love the Gordon's Gin crate. It adds to the scene of what looks like a bad day at work. That is just my opinion.

It is the 5th day of Hanukkah. The Maccabees...Are they role models today? Violent, religious Zealots. Times have changed. Zealots remain Zealots sometimes even to the same cause they began with.

Hanukkah is a fundamentally less cheerful folk tale than Christmas.

Am I  crazy or does the guy in the photo wear a yamulke?

Monday, December 10, 2012

12 Beys of Chrismas or 8 of Chanuka

1. For Chanuka (sic), Peggy bought me Dawoud Bey, Harlem, USA. This is a book of photographs taken by Mr. Bey in the 70s. Mr. Bey grew up in Queens but his family is from Harlem.

For the next 12 (or 8) days, I will post a photo from the book.

This one is on the cover.

It is called, " A boy in front of the Loew's 125th Street Movie Theater, 1976 printed in 1976.

This kid is cool. At ease and confident. The tile work on the box office reminds me of something. A belt. A poster. It is very evocative of that era of the 70s. The kid's shadow on the glass of the box office. It is very spiritual.
What is that book in his hand? Is it musical notes? Is the kid a musician?

I received this book on the 3rd night of Hanukah. Recently in the N. Y. Times, the 6th night of Hanukah, was on the "meh" list. Not hot, not not. Just meh." I  have no opinions on the nights of Hanukah. They are like 8 children. Who are your favorites?

Wednesday, February 29, 2012

The big finale: A Moody Blues Medley: See us on March 2

Special treat for this last blog post on the play list. I have provided a video of our ensemble's last rehearsal.

Not sure how we are going to find parking for the orchestra. Hope to see you all there through the smoke machine.

Monday, February 27, 2012

#8 I went to San Francisco but skipped the flowers

Our 8th song is Scott McKenzie's hit " "San Francisco (Be Sure to Wear Flowers in Your Hair)".

I missed most of the flower in your hair business because I wanted to smash imperialist capitalism. That didn't work out so well, I got married and moved to Chicago.

That worked out pretty well.

Here then is the original....

Sunday, February 26, 2012

#7 Happy seen on the Smother's Brothers

Happy Together replaced Penny Lane as the #1 Billboard hit in 1967.

The Turtles like many of our 60s ensemble faves continue to tour. They have a 2012 "Happy Together" tour, featuring Flo & Eddie, Mickey Dolenz, Gary Puckett, the Buckinghams, and the Grass Roots.

They will be at Waukegan's Genessee Theater on August 4. The tickets are currently between $52 and $72 but I'm guessing they'll be discounts closer to the event.

Here is a clip from the Smother's Brother with an appropriately absurd intro by Tom Smothers.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

#6 Turn,Turn, Turn by noted song writing team Kohelet/Seeger

Pete Seeger has a long history of collaboration with the likes of Woody Guthrie, Leadbelly, the Weavers and Ecclesiastes/Kohelet (Hebrew Name) who was son of David, King in Jerusalem about 3,000 years ago. Although a toddler at the time, Seeger picked up the major themes of Ecclesiastes and also invented the banjo.

The tune Turn, Turn, Turn (to Everything There is a Season) became a hit for the Byrds in 1965. Roger McGuinn's sunglasses were also prophesied in the New Testament.

For now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face: now I know in part; but then shall I know even as also I am known.
1 Corinthians 12:12

I dig this live version. And David Crosby is super cute with that cape thing.

Friday, February 24, 2012

#5 The Letter....Box Tops Style

The Box Tops version of The Letter was an international sensation.

Retaining the #1 position for a total of four weeks, "The Letter" was ranked as the #1 hit of 1967. The track also gave the Box Tops an international hit charting in Australia (#4 for six weeks), Austria (#9), Belgium (Flemish region) (#2), Chile (#1), Denmark (#7), France (#2), Germany (#5), Greece (#2 foreign release), Ireland (#11), Israel (#1), Malaysia (#4), New Zealand (#4), the Netherlands (#3), Norway (#1), Poland (#1), South Africa (#4), Spain (#9) and Sweden (#2). The Box Tops also reached #5 in the UK, besting a cover by the Mindbenders which reached #42.

The uncredited star of the Letter.

A solo....

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Why does everyone know it's Windy?

Ruthann Friedman  was born in the Bronx in 1944. Here is what she said about this song.
In 1967, thanks to his (Van Dyke Parks) kindness, I was living in a spare room in David Crosby's home in Beverly Glenn Canyon. It was while living there that I wrote the song Windy. The Association recorded it and my life changed forever. The success of that simple tune gave me the freedom to do whatever I wanted.
Ruthann back in the day

Here is the Association back in the day.

At Ravinia, 1967....The harmony-not so easy- when it's live.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

#3 on the set list: Whiter Shade of Pale

Whiter Shade of Pale has been covered over 1,000 times. Here is a cover by J. S. Bach, a European Dude.

(skip the ads)

This is the original. It's groovy. By Procul Harum

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Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Song # 2 Incense and Peppermints

For the March 2 gig, our second song will be "Incense and Peppermints." To my surprise and yours, The Strawberry Alarm Clock, endures. According to my extensive research (on their web site) their last gig was on Jan. 23, 2011: The Actors Gang Theater in Culver City, Calif.

The song is a dark, reflection on the times, that being the mid to late 60s.

Good sense, innocence, cripplin'  mankind.

Beatniks and politics, nothing is new
A yardstick for lunatics, one point of view

And of course, 

Who cares what games we choose?
Little to win, but nothin' to lose.
Incense and peppermints
Incense and peppermints
Sha la la
Sha la la
Sha la la
Sha la la
Sha la la
Sha la la
 Sha La La!

Enjoy the original...

Monday, February 20, 2012

Set List for 60's Ensemble: March 2: 7:00: #1

After spirited debate, the set list for the debut of Old Town School's 60's ensemble has been well, assembled. The gig is set for March 2: 7:00 at the Hidden Cove, 5336 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago.

The ensemble is led by Steve Levitt who has been associated with the Old Town School since the late middle ages and can remember everything. The ensemble features Steve along with another 5 guitarist, a bass and a violin.

I will be playing guitar and singing but I'm not sure what part. 

Our first song (as of now) will be a "A Little Bit of Soul".

The only big hit for The Music Explosion, the tune reached #2 in 1967.

As it turns out a "little bit of soul" has a very Oprah like resonance.

The last verse.....
And when you're in a mess and you feel like cryin'
Just remember this little song of mine
And as you go through life tryin' to reach your goal
Just remember what I said about a little bit o'soul

Who knew...

And now enjoy, The Ramones covering "A Little Bit of Soul" because youtube blocked the Music Explosion.