Showing posts with label 1963. Show all posts
Showing posts with label 1963. Show all posts

Monday, December 11, 2023

My Favorite Songs of 1963

60 Years of Music. 1963 is the year before the rock 'n' roll "British Invasion" and "Beatlemania" coming to America. However, The Beach Boys have already established their own Los Angeles beachhead and Bob Dylan emerges on the folk scene in New York City as both take the country by storm. We're at the dawn of the monster years of rock 'n' roll and my generation is ready for the ride, even if many of us are not quite old enough to know it yet. 

These are the years where artists and bands were often required by their record companies to put out two albums a year plus be on a regular schedule to produce hit singles for the Billboard charts. In 1963, The Beatles and Beach Boys each put out two albums and a series of singles that will influence a whole new generation of kids playing musical instruments. The musical output will be astonishing, enough so that for me making 60 years of music playlists in the months and years ahead will be child's play. 

So, strap on those metal roller skates and turn on the transistor radios as the boomer generation will take on the establishment and put the suits, haters, and bible thumpers on notice, let's get the counter-culture party started!

1963 in Music and World Events (from Wikipedia)

Notable Bands Formed in 1963
  • The Kinks
  • Manfred Mann
  • Bob Marley and the Wailers
  • The Spencer Davis Group
  • Neil Young & The Squires
  • The Yardbirds

Enjoy the 1963 Playlist my friends!

Monday, November 20, 2023

With the Beatles and JFK • November 22, 1963

Friday, November 22, 1963. I was an 8 year-old in third grade at Robert Bruce Elementary when our teacher told the class that our President, John F. Kennedy had been shot and killed. 

My searing memory of that day is that I had not cried like our teacher and many of my classmates. I remember getting home and immediately heading towards the bathroom. I closed and locked the door, put the toilet seat lid down and sat on it, bent over and put my hands to my face, and cried. 

I'm shedding a tear now as I write this, 60 years later as if it were yesterday. It is my first historical day as an American citizen and the anguish never goes away. Anyone who was old enough knows this day, in their heart and soul. We all share a similar story of where we were on the day Camelot died.

This past week, I watched National Geographic's three-part documentary,  JFK: One Day in America. It's also streaming on Disney+ and Hulu, so you can plan for this sobering sit down. I highly recommend this documentary on the 60th anniversary of that day that has been a yearly reminder to me since it happens to always be just before Thanksgiving. I don't remember Thanksgiving in 1963, but it was just six days later after the President had been killed. I'm sure the Thanksgiving prayer around the dinner table that year was a tearful hand-holding extended affair for most families.

Now as an 8 year-old I had no idea that another event happened on that same day, the release of The Beatles second album, With the Beatles. That in itself is not significant compared to the assassination of JFK, but just three months later, The Beatles would come to America on February 7, 1964. On February 9th, The Beatles played on the Ed Sullivan Show for the first time and gave a reeling nation a release of pure joy, and a spark to the healing process. 

The timing of these two juxtaposed events kicks off my experience of the 1960's. It makes me think of Pete Seeger's song taken from the Book of Ecclesiastes and made famous by The Byrds in 1965, Turn, Turn, Turn.

A time to be born, a time to die
A time to plant, a time to reap
A time to kill, a time to heal
A time to laugh, a time to weep

A time to kill, a time to heal. Assassination and Vietnam, baseball and rock 'n' roll. The Beatles had come to America and love was going to win over hate.

Enjoy the lad's second album, and their hit single, I Want to Hold Your Hand, released November 29, 1963, with the B-Side, I Saw Her Standing There.

Happy Thanksgiving my friends.

Monday, September 11, 2023

60 Years of Music • September, 1963 • Surfer Girl

I can feel it, the change from 1950's rock 'n' roll to 1960's rock 'n' roll. The Beach Boys are on to something big. All the other artists featured this week are mainly covering other's hits to make an album around their own hit single. 

Granted, Sam Cooke has the most mature material to go along with his soulful smooth singing voice. Martha and the Vandellas are climbing the pop charts, paving the way for The Supremes, and two songs from their 1963 album would be recorded into monster hits for Linda Ronstadt in the 1970's. And, The Ventures would continue to ride the wave of recording surf tunes and turning current pop hits into instrumental electric guitar gems. Yes, the electric guitar, it was now the main instrument in pop songs.  Goodbye horns, hello Mr. Fender, hello Mr. Gibson. 

Brian Wilson is showing the world the new rock 'n' roll blueprint. He is writing and arranging all the songs on the Beach Boys albums, playing Fender bass in the band, and is their lead singer. How many future rock 'n' roll stars are listening to The Beach Boys and saying, "that's the ticket, that's my path too!"

Brian was often criticized later in the 1960's for his sophomoric lyrics layered within the band's sophisticated harmonies. Screw the critics, Brian was painted into the "surfer" "car" box by a number of people in the record business, notwithstanding his overbearing abusive father as their manager.

But if you listen to Surfer Girl this week in the playlist, you'll hear Brian busting out of that sandbox with songs like In My Room, The Surfer Moon, and Your Summer Dream. Speaking of In My Room, it's one of my top 100 favorite songs of all-time and in My 100 Songs playlist. Like many people, it's my favorite Beach Boys song. For the millions of people who love this song, Brian as the writer puts his listeners in the same cocooned space we have all felt as young people. The power and beauty of this song is timeless, touching countless new young listeners every generation. I never tire of In My Room, and imagine you're probably thinking the same.

Enjoy the playlist this week my friends.

Monday, August 28, 2023

60 Years of Music • March on Washington • August 28, 1963

March on Washington • August 28, 1963 • View from the Lincoln Memorial

It would be fatal for the nation to overlook the urgency of the moment. This sweltering summer of the Negro's legitimate discontent will not pass until there is an invigorating autumn of freedom and equality. 1963 is not an end, but a beginning. Those who hope that the Negro needed to blow off steam and will now be content will have a rude awakening if the nation returns to business as usual.
–Dr. Martin Luther King, I Have a Dream 

 Sixty years ago today, 250,000 Americans traveled to Washington D.C. for what would be called, the March On Washington for Jobs and Freedom. The purpose of the march was to advance the civil rights movement in America so that all men and women would have the same civil and economic rights under the law. The March followed the June 12, 1963 murder of Medgar Evers, a civil rights activist who was shot in Mississippi by a white supremacist and member of the Ku Klux Klan, Byron De La Beckwith. 

There were many speakers, artists and musicians who participated that day. My intent for writing this post today is three-fold: first, a few current thoughts of mine after watching Dr. King's, I Have a Dream speech this past week, second, to present Dr. King's full speech, and third, to highlight one of Bob Dylan's songs sung at the event, Only a Pawn in Their Game.

Dr. King's speech is one of the most famous in American history. It is framed beautifully in the context of the Emancipation Proclamation of 1863, where President Lincoln's decree freed 3.5 million African Americans from slavery. 

Dr. King said, 

But 100 years later, the Negro still is not free. 

One hundred years later, the life of the Negro is still sadly crippled by the manacles of segregation and the chains of discrimination. 

One hundred years later, the Negro lives on a lonely island of poverty in the midst of a vast ocean of material prosperity. 

One hundred years later the Negro is still languished in the corners of American society and finds himself in exile in his own land. And so we've come here today to dramatize a shameful condition.

My memory of August 28, 1963 is nonexistent. But, being an 8 year-old small town boy from that time, I can reflect and observe from of my own experiences, then and now. It would only be less than three months later, that John F. Kennedy would be assassinated on November 22, 1963. My memory of that day is still vivid and clear. For many children of that era, it would be a dawning, the pivotal moment when we were forced to face a bigger and scarier world out there. 

I'll start with Dr. King's line, "1963 is not an end, but a beginning."

It was a beginning. The beginning where everyone in America were truly going to be equal under the law, and equal in every way.  This new beginning was more than just an ideal, more than just a dream.

Prior to the early 60's, America had an original "deep state." The systemic deep state was an organized conspiracy passed on by wealthy white men who ruled the fifty States and the Federal Government under the "rule of law." Democracy is based on the rule of law, but for people of color, the law was living under the white man's thumb, in his world.

The March on Washington in fact, had an immediate impact on the laws of our land. The Civil Rights Act of 1964, and the Voting Act Right of 1965 were passed by Congress as direct results of the civil rights movement and the March on Washington. Later, The Civil Rights Act of 1968 containing, the Fair Housing Act was signed into law shortly after Dr. King's assassination. 

The OG deep state was about to be slowly turned, The times were indeed a-changin'. It didn't happen overnight, but as we moved forward as a nation in the second half of the 20th century and into this one, more underrepresented people began to have a voice, a job, and a vote with new laws not written by the OG's.

Fast forward to 2015, and the Trump slogan of "Make America Great Again" (MAGA). The slogan is a  code, a calling for, "Enough is enough," time to turn the clock and power balance backwards before the 1960's. The key word of this calling is, "Great." It can be substituted for: unapologetic, conservative, tough, isolationist, white, powerful, industrial, nationalistic, uncompromising. How about you pick a word here ________. 

When it comes to race, the 2020's is not black and white, it's a great deal more complicated. Today, there are a number of people of color involved in the MAGA movement. The majority of white Americans are not racists. 

I love the concept of compassionate conservatism. I love the two party system. Check out conservative commentator Charlie Sykes, I love the guy! He and many other conservatives see Trump for what he is, a narcissistic racist lazy gluttonous grifter. Sadly, their voices have been snuffed out within the new and devolving Republican mind-set. Self-righteous minds and angry hearts that have thrown away traditional conservative principles- limited government, free markets, individual liberty, respect and civility.

Trump and his pawns actually killed the old Republican party in pretty quick fashion. I actually miss it. He released a pandora's box of hate and discord that the majority of Americans were kind of getting a manageable lid on from our past history. Today, many Republicans are called RINO's (Republicans in name only). Yes, Trump even stole the name of the Grand Old Party. I miss the Howard Baker's. I miss the John McCain's. America needs the Adam Kinzinger's in congress, people who could communicate ideas, reach across the aisle, problem-solve. 

Back in 1963 it was all about race, common black people trying to get a fair shake in a society and system of justice where the blindfolded lady was heavily tipping the scale, not even close to a balance.

In 2023, the great experiment of Democracy sees the blindfolded lady of justice with a little more balanced scale these days. She's come a long way baby!

But, that does not sit well with the ol' OG powerbrokers . If justice and the balance of power are becoming more fair and accessible to all people, maybe it's time to unleash the MAGA pawns, to turn America on its head. Hey, what a wonderful new dirty trick from the likes of Roger Stone, "let's turn up to down and down to up." 

Trump's mantra ever since he came down the escalator is to pathologically lie about everything in manner that is the exact opposite of reality. Back in 1963, the boys on my block wouldn't hang with such a liar. We would have called him a "pussy, " smacked him on the side of the head, and told him, "Get outta here."

So Trumpy Dumpty speaks from his wall, and the MAGA faithful below follow, "Let's make truth nonsensical," where somehow MAGA's are now magically... oppressed!

On a walk this past Saturday, I was thinking about Trump and his cult followers as dinosaurs. People somehow suddenly hit by a new 21st century establishment meteor that's destroying their town's, their way of life, their very existence. So, I came up with an acronym for Trump and his doomsday flock, DINO's - Demigods In Nonsensical Oppression.

Sixty years later, the new upside-down liberal, "Deep State" is suddenly a transformed bunch of career government law enforcement employees conspiring against MAGA, because their cult leader has now 91(and counting) criminal charges in 4 indictments against him. So sad, from wealthy Swamp Thing powerbroker to victim.

The U.S. Department of Justice, traditionally made-up of many conservatives and former military personnel, are miraculously now a cabal of socialists? Didn't Senator Joe McCarthy already play that game way back in the 1950's where the government and Hollywood were secretly being run by a bunch of communists?

The radical right now say the "rule of law" is somehow inexplicably working against them. In 2023, Republican Presidential candidates in their lock-step jabberwocky, talk about the "Weaponization of the Department of Justice" as if they were now the oppressed people not getting a piece of the American pie. 

By God, what would Dr. King think about that? Yes, let's all revisit Dr. King's experience with the FBI.

Dr. King would probably LOL, and point out that that all eight of the Directors of the FBI have all been white and Republican, with the current Director, Christopher Wray appointed by President Trump himself in 2017. 

Whose conspiring against who? In 2023, the Federal Government still pretty much looks like a bunch of white men from 1963... still running the show. 

Oh that's right, I forgot, they're now all zombie elites trying to steal our children's minds in college and take away our country. We just might have to start a new civil war...


Who attacked the Capital on January 6, 2020 to try to overturn an American Presidential election? 

Does anybody remember The Weather Underground or Weathermen? The 1969 radical left must be turning over in its collective grave with such an unprecedented event to unseat Democracy. "Man... those little do nothing Antifa punks ain't got nothing on the Proud Boys!"

Wouldn't you just love to hear Dr. King speak to us in 2023. He'd cut right through the MAGA bullshit, "But a 160 years later..."

And maybe this 60 years later, in a blessed turn of events in time, he might also find some old gray-haired hippies, still listening to Dylan, now saying, "Hey man... America, love it or leave it!"

Dr. Martin Luther King's speech, I Have A Dream. 
Note -  The 17 minute 29 seconds time period here. I know you're busy, but please come back after you read my thing about Bob Dylan and listen to the whole speech. Bet you never heard the whole speech? Well, today is that day?

Bobby Dylan in 1963. 
He's becoming a big star. The folk world loves him, I would grow up to love him too. 

So, Medgar Evers gets shot and killed in June of 1963, and shortly after, Dylan writes and records, Only a Pawn in Their Gameabout the murder.

The lyrics attribute blame for the killing and other racial violence to the rich white politicians and authorities who manipulated poor whites into directing their anger and hatred at black people. The song suggests that Evers's killer does not deserve to be remembered by name in the annals of history, unlike the man he murdered ("They lowered him down as a king"), because he was "only a pawn in their game." Wikipedia

I personally came upon the song sometime in the 70's in college (where Ron DeSantis says my mind got corrupted). However, it really didn't register with me until sometime after 2015, when I started writing Monday Monday Music™ blog posts. 

Anyway, through the wonders of YouTube and AI, the song kept coming up in my YouTube feed as I was just having my own personal renaissance with Bob Dylan's music. Like many of Dylan's songs, people just can't believe that a young man in his early 20's could write the songs that he did. Well, this song is one of those songs.

The song's a history lesson. At the time and at the March on Washington it wasn't what you would call, "a hit." Sixty years later, I think it's one of most important songs ever written about America.

Again, take a few moments to read the lyrics here and listen to the song. For me, it's one of those enlightening moments when the past and present are a revolving circle. Don't be the weakest chess piece.

Only a Pawn in Their Game
by Bob Dylan

A bullet from the back of a bush
Took Medgar Evers' blood
A finger fired the trigger to his name
A handle hid out in the dark
A hand set the spark
Two eyes took the aim
Behind a man's brain
But he can't be blamed
He's only a pawn in their game

A South politician preaches to the poor white man
"You got more than the blacks, don't complain
You're better than them, you been born with white skin, " they explain
And the Negro's name
Is used, it is plain
For the politician's gain
As he rises to fame
And the poor white remains
On the caboose of the train
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game

The deputy sheriffs, the soldiers, the governors get paid
And the marshals and cops get the same
But the poor white man's used in the hands of them all like a tool
He's taught in his school
From the start by the rule
That the laws are with him
To protect his white skin
To keep up his hate
So he never thinks straight
'Bout the shape that he's in
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game

From the poverty shacks, he looks from the cracks to the tracks
And the hoofbeats pound in his brain
And he's taught how to walk in a pack
Shoot in the back
With his fist in a clinch
To hang and to lynch
To hide 'neath the hood
To kill with no pain
Like a dog on a chain
He ain't got no name
But it ain't him to blame
He's only a pawn in their game

Today, Medgar Evers was buried from the bullet he caught
They lowered him down as a king
But when the shadowy sun sets on the one
That fired the gun
He'll see by his grave
On the stone that remains
Carved next to his name
His epitaph plain
Only a pawn in their game

Here is the live broadcast of the song on the March on Washington, August 28, 1963. 
However, I'm going to follow this by showing a previous live recording of the song performed by Mr. Dylan on July 26, 1963 at the Newport Folk Festival. It's stunning a performance, and the very definition of singer-songwriter.

Bob Dylan, Newport Folk Festival, July 26, 1963

An almost last note - This actually is my second run at Only a Pawn in Their Game, I guess you can tell this song's had an impact on me. Back in 2017, I took a similar approach with Mr. Trump while he was still President. Won't he ever go away? Here's that post-  A-Changin' History Lesson: Only a Pawn in Their Game

And finally a last note - Trump's mug shot last week. You can so tell he practiced and practiced for that look. Now the god's honest truth. When I first saw the picture passed around the universe, forever, I thought back to when I was first married, the first time. What?

My wife Pam and I lived in an older house where the garages were entered from the back alley. Our garage had a steep roof line. Well one night, a big rat from the alley was walking the top roof line, made a misstep and rolled straight down the roof and landed in one of our empty old metal trash cans, bang! That night, he made quite a racket. I feared that something had fallen in and was hoping it would be dead the next morning when I went to investigate. 

When I looked down into the dark bottom of the can, there was this mean old fat rat looking back up at me. That look is the exact look that Donald J. Trump wanted to show the world. For me, it just reminded me of that ol' cornered rat.