“Trouble No More” Documents – and More – Dylan’s Gospel Tour

Still from Trouble No More: Dylan and his harmonica, via Sony Music Entertainment

By Anne Margaret Daniel

“Let him drink, and forget his poverty, and remember his misery no more.”  — Proverbs 31:7

“Some day baby / You ain’t gonna trouble poor me any more.” — Sleepy John Estes, Someday Baby Blues (1935), sung as Trouble No More by Muddy Waters, the Allman Brothers, and many more

Trouble No More: A Musical Film had its world premiere Monday night at the Walter Reade Theater in Lincoln Center as part of the 55th New York Film Festival.  Released this autumn in conjunction with the next installment of Bob Dylan’s The Bootleg Series (Vol. 13 / 1979-1981), from the time of his “Gospel Tour,” Trouble No More is neither documentary nor biopic. It’s not purely a concert film, though the newly rediscovered footage from Dylan’s concerts in Toronto and Buffalo, with the camera seemingly inches from his face, is tremendous. It’s not a contemporary commentary on the Gospel Tour, though, as you quickly realize, this element has been newly made, now a part of the art.

We start as any concert tour should start, in the rehearsal studio, warming up with an old gospel standard, “Jesus Met the Woman at the Well.”  Dylan is frowning in concentration, with huge fuzzy unmodulated hair and a wild gold sequined guitar strap.  Sequins will be much in evidence, as will big shoulder pads, when we come to the concert footage of the five female backup singers. It is, after all, the last gasp of the 1970s. Dylan, and the company ranged around him, end the song with huge smiles.

To read the entire No Depression article, click HERE.

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Punk legends X honored in Los Angeles

Photo by Los Angeles Department of Cultural Affairs

By Steve Beard

Members of the legendary punk rock band X were honored by the Los Angeles City Council in celebration of the group’s 40th anniversary and the Council officially declared Wednesday, October 10 as X Day in Los Angeles.

The band was launched in 1977 and began playing at The Masque, a Hollywood punk club. The four original bandmates – Exene Cervanka, John Doe, Billy Zoom, and DJ Bonebrake – were all in attendance for the recognition.

Heralded as a “groundbreaking, historic band” by Council member Mitch O’Farrell, X produced four critically-acclaimed and defining albums in the early 1980s: Los Angeles, Wild Gift, Under the Big Black Sun, and More Fun in the New World. O’Farrell characterized the albums as explorations of “aspects of dark love amidst the dark, Moorish backdrop of Los Angeles.”

In her remarks before the Council, Cervanka compared the fledgling days of punk rock to the silent movie era of the Roaring Twenties “when all the girls looked like Theda Bara and Clara Bow with their bobbed hair and their red lips and the guys were unpredictable Charlie Chaplin and Harold Lloyd figures and the crowds paid a nickel and sat in the dark and did not know if you were going to be terrified or cry or laugh.”

“Those movies – like the silent movie days – were gone in an instant,” Cervanka said. “It was a brief, shining and glorious moment. And today is our moment. Thank you very much.”

“We are all dreamers in this band. We just dreamed something up and it became real,” John Doe told the Council. “That’s something that could happen in Los Angeles and the West. You could just introduce yourself as John Doe and then after a while someone says, ‘Oh, hey, there’s John Doe.’ Or you can say, ‘What do you call yourselves?’ And we say ‘X,’ and they say ‘What?’ And you say it a second time: ‘We’re X.’ And in Los Angeles and the West, they will say, ‘Oh there’s X. They’re over there.’”

“We’ve been here for 40 years and we’ve given something to LA to put LA on the map for punk rock,” Doe observed. “And now it’s really rewarding to have LA give something back to us. It’s been a pleasure. Thanks for recognizing us.”

The irony of having politicians honoring punk rock legends was observed by Council member Paul Koretz. “When X was founded,” he said with smirking smile, “the most likely thing that you thought would be happening is that 40 years later you would be surrounded by a bunch of folks in suits at City Hall. But here you are.”

X was recently honored on August 16 by the Los Angeles Dodgers and John Doe’s memoir, “Under The Big Black Sun: A Personal History of L.A. Punk,” was nominated for a Grammy in the spoken word category for the audio version of the book. The Grammy Museum at LA Live will open an X exhibit titled X: 40 Years of Punk in Los Angeles on Friday, October 13.

Steve Beard is the founder of Thunderstruck Media.

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Bono’s eucharist in Bogotá

Via Twitter (Juan Carlos Iragorri).

According to news reports, Bono received communion at a local parish on the morning (October 8) after performing the Joshua Tree anniversary concert in El Campin Stadium in Bogotá, Columbia. According to those attending mass, Bono arrived without fanfare, sat quietly in the back of the sanctuary, prayed in silence, and received Communion.

The service was conducted at the chapel of The Gimnasio Moderno, a prestigious primary and secondary educational institution in Bogotá.

“Coolness might help in your negotiation with people through the world, maybe, but it is impossible to meet God with sunglasses on,” Bono said in a provocative 2005 book-length interview with Michka Assayas. “It is impossible to meet God without abandon, without exposing yourself, being raw.”

In regard to his faith, Bono told Jann Wenner of Rolling Stone: “If I could put it simply, I would say that I believe there’s a force of love and logic in the world, a force of love and logic behind the universe. And I believe in the poetic genius of a creator who would choose to express such unfathomable power as a child born in “straw poverty”; i.e., the story of Christ makes sense to me. … As an artist, I see the poetry of it. It’s so brilliant. That this scale of creation, and the unfathomable universe, should describe itself in such vulnerability, as a child. That is mind-blowing to me. I guess that would make me a Christian. Although I don’t use the label, because it is so very hard to live up to.”

The photo was taken by an unknown participant at the religious service.

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Tom Petty on greed and power

“Through these hypnotic eyes, we’re told we’re nothing if we don’t have a mansion and dress like a movie star,” Tom Petty says. “I’ve never seen so much jewelry advertised. It’s hard on a young person to not think that’s the game. When I was growing up, people didn’t expect to get a swimming pool.

“You can boil all the world’s problems down to one word: greed,” Petty says. “It’s not greed on the part of poor people. It’s these very wealthy people who make a lot of money and then live only to make more. The money starts to make them miserable because they’re worried about somebody getting it. Then the money’s not enough and they seek power. Very few people on this globe know how to responsibly handle power. It’s gone into the hands of really shaky people who don’t care who they hurt in their quest to have more money than they’ll ever need.”

To read Edna Gundersen’s entire article,  click HERE

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Jack White’s patron saints

Excerpt: “Jack Outside the Box” by Josh Eells, New York Times

White was brought up Catholic, and he still feels an affinity for the martyrs and saints. He likes their devotion, the purity of their sacrifice — especially St. Sebastian, the patron saint of endurance, and St. Rita, the patron saint of the impossible. He also admired Simeon Stylites, a Christian ascetic in fifth-century Syria who spent almost 40 years living atop a huge stone pillar, despite frequent entreaties to come down and not a few doubts about his motives.

White seemed to relate. “People were saying, ‘You’re just doing this for show, you’re not really devoted, you’re crazy, you’re self-indulgent,’ ” he said. “So he came down and stood on the ground and said: ‘I’m down here. Now what? Am I proving to you that this is not what it’s about?’ ” Then, White said, “he went right back up.”

White once said he has three dads: his biological father, God and Bob Dylan. Dylan was the first concert he ever saw — he says he had seat No. 666 — and he shares with his hero a love for manipulating and obscuring his own persona.

Some things we know. He was born John Anthony Gillis, the 10th of 10 children, and — in a rare instance of mythology dovetailing with reality — the seventh son. His father, Gorman, was a maintenance man at the archdiocese of Detroit; his mother, Teresa, was the cardinal’s secretary. They named him after John the Baptist.

To read Jason Eells’s full New York Times article, click HERE

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On the anniversary of Jimi Hendrix’s death

RIP Jimi Hendrix, who died in London on September 18, 1970. A year before his death, Dick Cavett asked Hendrix if music had meaning.

Jimi Hendrix: Oh, yeah, definitely, it’s getting to be more spiritual than anything now. Pretty soon I believe that they’re gonna … have to rely on music to … get some kind of peace of mind, or satisfaction – direction, actually – more so than politics, because like politics is really … a big fat ego scene – the art of words which mean nothing. Therefore, you have to rely on a more earthier substance, like music or the arts, theatre, you know, acting, painting, whatever.

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Lady Gaga praying rosary; explaining ailment

From Lady Gaga’s Instagram account: I have always been honest about my physical and mental health struggles. Searching for years to get to the bottom of them. It is complicated and difficult to explain, and we are trying to figure it out. As I get stronger and when I feel ready, I will tell my story in more depth, and plan to take this on strongly so I can not only raise awareness, but expand research for others who suffer as I do, so I can help make a difference. I use the word “suffer” not for pity, or attention, and have been disappointed to see people online suggest that I’m being dramatic, making this up, or playing the victim to get out of touring. If you knew me, you would know this couldn’t be further from the truth. I’m a fighter. I use the word suffer not only because trauma and chronic pain have changed my life, but because they are keeping me from living a normal life. They are also keeping me from what I love the most in the world: performing for my fans. I am looking forward to touring again soon, but I have to be with my doctors right now so I can be strong and perform for you all for the next 60 years or more. I love you so much.

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How a private meeting with Billy Graham changed actor Steve McQueen’s life

“Steve McQueen: American Icon” is a documentary feature film about the Hollywood actor’s spiritual journey, which included a meeting late in his life with evangelist Billy Graham.

By Tim Funk

Actor Steve McQueen, who personified cool during his nearly two decades as a Hollywood superstar, retreated from the glamor and excesses of the movie scene late in his short life and embraced Christianity. When he died at age 50, McQueen was clutching a Bible – one given to him by Billy Graham.

In fact, it was Graham’s personal Bible, the one he preached from at crusades. The Charlotte-born evangelist had handed it to the actor, then gravely ill with cancer, during a private meeting Nov. 3, 1980 – just four days before McQueen died after surgery in Mexico.

Nearly 37 years later, the story of Steve McQueen’s faith journey is finally about to be told on the big screen – the medium that made him internationally famous as the action hero in hits such as “Bullitt” and “The Great Escape.” …

Viewers are told that McQueen took along the Graham Bible – with a prayerful note from the evangelist on an inside page – when he traveled to Juarez, Mexico, for the operation to remove a tumor.

The actor died of a heart attack shortly afterward, on Nov. 7, 1980. And when Grady Ragsdale, the manager of McQueen’s ranch in California, went to retrieve the body, he pulled the sheet back and found that McQueen had died clutching the Bible to his chest. …

In an 1980 interview with the Asheville Citizen not long after McQueen’s death, Graham called his meeting with the actor “one of the most heartwarming stories of my ministry. I think it illustrates how lonely most well-known people are, how guarded they must live and how they really are searching for something. Steve McQueen found what he was searching for.”…

Steve McQueen became a movie star in the 1960s, establishing his image as the King of Cool in the roles of the motorcycle-riding POW in “The Great Escape” and the Ford Mustang-driving police detective in “Bullitt.” Other McQueen hits in that decade and in the 1970s included: “The Magnificent Seven,” “The Cincinnati Kid,” “The Sand Pebbles,” “The Thomas Crown Affair,” “Towering Inferno,” “The Reivers,” “Le Mans,” “The Getaway” and “Junior Bonner.”

To read Tim Funk’s Charlotte Observer full article, click HERE.

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The Man Came Around: Remembering Johnny Cash

Art by Zela Lobb http://zelalobb.com

In memory of Johnny Cash who died on this date in 2003, this is the obituary that I wrote for National Review after his death.

By Steve Beard

“We’ve seen the secret things revealed by God/ And we heard what the angels had to say/ Should you go first, or if you follow me/ Will you meet me in Heaven someday?”

Johnny Cash wrote those lyrics many years ago for his wife, June Carter. The song is entitled “Meet Me In Heaven” and it testifies to the irreplaceable bond of love, trust, and devotion that was shared by the couple throughout their 35-year marriage.

On Friday, September 12, Johnny Cash died at age 71 of complications from his longstanding bout with diabetes. Nearly four months after the passing of his beloved wife June Carter, the legendary Man In Black discovered the answer to his lyrical question.

It is strangely fitting that his last album, “The Man Comes Around,” will epitomize his legacy. It deftly embodied the gritty and brooding sound that marked his remarkable career.

Although Cash justifiably received numerous accolades for his rendition of Trent Reznor’s song “Hurt” and its accompanying video, the title track of the album has been widely heralded as one of Cash’s greatest songs.

“The Man Comes Around” is about the Day of Reckoning and the notion that there will be an accounting for the way in which we live on earth. It is described by Cash collaborator Marty Stuart as “the most strangely marvelous, wonderful, gothic, mysterious, Christian thing that only God and Johnny Cash could create together” – perhaps the finest tribute that can be paid to a songwriter.

“Everybody won’t be treated the same,” Cash wrote, “There’ll be a golden ladder reaching down when the Man comes around.” The swinging ladder from above never was an unfamiliar sight to Cash — dodging death numerous times from drug-related addictions earlier in his career to health-related maladies in his later years.

If American music had a Mount Rushmore, Cash’s distinctive profile would be prominently chiseled into the rock. He is most widely known for hits such as “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Ring of Fire,” and “I Walk the Line,” selling more than 50 million records throughout his career. He is the only person to be inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame, Country Music Hall of Fame, and the Songwriters Hall of Fame. His audiences have included presidents, prisoners, and everyone in between.

Throughout his illustrative life, Cash wrote books, hosted a popular television show, starred in and produced movies, and recorded 1,500 songs that can be found on 500 albums. His appeal is recognized by everyone from rappers to roughneck steel workers because of his charismatic magnetism that has spanned five decades of popular culture.

“Locust and honey…not since John the Baptist has there been a voice like that crying in the wilderness,” is how U2′s Bono described him. “The most male voice in Christendom. Every man knows he is a sissy compared to Johnny Cash.”

His songwriting orbited around the universal human condition of sin and redemption, murder and grace, darkness and light. His recent three-album collection is titled “Love God Murder.” What you see is what you get with Cash. There was never a manufactured feeling to his art. When he sang, you could almost taste the hillbilly moonshine, smell the gunpowder of a smoking revolver, and feel the drops of blood off the thorny crown of a crucified Christ.

In 1968, he recorded his now famous album “Johnny Cash At Folsom Prison” and produced “Live At San Quentin” the following year. The prison albums were some of his most expressive and impressive work. “I was in the prison band in San Quentin when I first saw Johnny Cash,” remembered country singer Merle Haggard. “I was impressed with his ability to take five thousand convicts and steal the show away from a bunch of strippers. That’s pretty hard to do.”

“My biggest selling albums have always been the prison albums,” Cash once told Rolling Stone. “I think there’s a little bit of criminal in all of us. Everybody’s done something they don’t want anybody to know about. Maybe that’s where it comes from.” Cash had a special affinity for the outlaws and down-and-outers. He recalled the inspiring moment when an inmate at the Tennessee State Prison told him, “I believe I can make it another five years. I know somebody out there cares, cares enough to come in here and sing for us.”

Of course, Cash spent his fair share of time behind bars for incidents surrounding his alcohol and drug use — mostly overnights in holding cells. He turned to drugs as his career began to take off in 1958. At first, he looked upon them as a divine favor from above. He once told Larry King, “I honestly thought it was a blessing — a gift from God.” But it did not take him long to realize that he was deceiving himself and that the drugs were trinkets of the Devil, luring him deeper into retreat mode from unresolved issues in his life.

“Drugs were an escape for me, a crutch — a substitute for what I now feel. I was looking for a spiritual high to put myself above my problems,” he recalled, “and I guess I was running from a lot of things. I was running from family, I was running from God, and from everything I knew I should be doing but wasn’t.”

Throughout this entire time, he never stopped singing gospel songs. He was stoned on amphetamines while he sang “Were You There When They Crucified My Lord,” one of his most beloved songs. “I used to sing all those gospel songs, but I really never felt them,” he recalls. “And maybe I was a little bit ashamed of myself at the time because of the hypocrisy of it all: there I was, singing the praises of the Lord and singing about the beauty and the peace you can find in Him — and I was stoned.” He was in a drug-addled hell but these old gospel songs were etched deeply in his DNA. “They were the first songs I ever heard — and I know this sounds corny, but they’re the songs my mother sang to me.”

Cash’s freedom from long-term drug addiction came through of the power of prayer and the stern hand of his wife who walked by his side through the dark night of the soul. Looking back on the difficult years, Cash says that the drugs “devastated me physically and emotionally — and spiritually. That last one hurt so much: to put myself in such a low state that I couldn’t communicate with God. There’s no lonelier place to be. I was separated from God, and I wasn’t even trying to call on Him. I knew that there was no line of communication. But He came back. And I came back.”

Back in the 1970s when he became more serious about his faith, Cash says it was Billy Graham who advised him to “keep singing ‘Folsom Prison Blues’ and ‘A Boy Named Sue,’ and all those other outlaw songs if that’s what people wanted to hear – and then, when it came time to do a gospel song, give it everything I had. Put my heart and soul into all my music, in fact; never compromise; take no prisoners.” Cash subsequently sang in the sold-out honky-tonks of the world and the jam-packed arenas of the Billy Graham crusades — never allowing himself to be too easily pigeonholed by the holy or the heathens.

Johnny Cash was an irreplaceable American original who will be remembered as a cross between Jesse James and Moses – an enigmatic man in black, with a heart of gold, and a voice that could raise the dead. Now that the Man has come around for him, one imagines he’s met his June in Heaven.

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Cuba took a direct hit from Hurricane Irma — and may have spared Florida from worse damage

Cubans recover belongings in Havana after the passage of Hurricane Irma. (Yamil Lage / AFP/Getty Images)

Hurricane Irma killed at least 10 people during the 72 hours that it battered Cuba, damaging nearly every region of the island nation and leaving parts of Havana’s picturesque historic district still underwater Monday, authorities said.

Its collision with Cuba and other Caribbean islands sapped some of its energy, possibly saving Florida from worse damage. By the time Irma made landfall on Marco Island, on the Florida peninsula, its winds had dropped from 185 mph to 130 mph. While still a massive storm — it was about 400 miles wide — Irma ended up causing less than the catastrophic damage that many had feared.

Cuba, however, was not so lucky.

The storm first hit there at 9 p.m. Friday, slamming the island’s northern coast and becoming the first Category 5 hurricane to make landfall in Cuba in more than 80 years. Irma did not leave the country until Sunday afternoon.

Given the storm’s immense girth, few parts of the island were spared. Even Havana, hundreds of miles from where the hurricane first struck, suffered severe flooding and wind damage, with waves up to 30 feet lashing the seaside boardwalk known as the Malecon.

Read Kate Linthicum’s entire Los Angeles Times piece HERE.

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