Social Distortion’s Mike Ness: 10 Best Country-Punk Covers

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“Around the house, my father liked country and my mother was more rock & roll,” Mike Ness tells Rolling Stone Country. “I remember a lot of Johnny Cash, the Dillards and Buck Owens. Country music was just always in the background and I absorbed all of it. Also, this was in the period of the folk revival, so we had that big Smithsonian box set [The Anthology of American Folk Music] where I distinctly remember hearing the Carter Family for the first time. Their tones and that style of music really resonated with me as a kid. Early on, I wanted Social D to be the Carter Family with electric guitars.”

Inspired by the Sex Pistols and punk’s no-rules approach, Ness channeled that unruly inclusivity to mix punk with the roots music he had grown up loving, seeing a distinct connection between the styles. “To me, the main shared characteristic between the two of them is that they’re both working-class genres that deal with working-class issues in an honest way,” says Ness, who recently produced the traditionally styled country singer Jade Jackson’s debut Gilded. “Whether it’s Billie Holiday or Howlin’ Wolf or Johnny Cash, they’re singing about real-life things and that’s what punk is – a dissatisfaction with the status quo and wanting to honestly sing about it.”

Click HERE for full article

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Bono on the Psalms

Bono discusses the Psalms with Professor David Taylor from Fuller Theological Seminary in five video spots. Click HERE.

Some of my fave quotes:

  • “All art is prophetic.” To clergy, “Look for the drawing in the sand.” To artists, “Draw in the sand.”
  • “I think there are trapped artists — and I’d like them to be untrapped.”
  • “What one difficult or troubling thing the Psalms have required of you?” Bono responds: “Honesty.” Nice discussion about the “alchemy of grace.”
  • “I became an artist through the portal of grief. It was a big hole, but luckily it was a big love.”
  • “It is art, rather than advertising, that the Creator of the universe is impressed by.”
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Summer of Love

By Steve Beard

As cultural mavens are more than aware, this is the 50th anniversary of the infamous Summer of Love when the hippie counterculture christened its fashions, ideals, art, and music. The pilgrimage of the Flower Children to Haight-Ashbury was an attempt to create a fleeting utopia, a chance to experiment with drugs, and an opportunity to dabble in “free love” – a co-ed sleepover without the parents.

When asked to reflect back on what he believed in the ’60s, satirist P.J. O’Rourke responded, “Everything. You name it and I believed it. I believed love was all you need… I believed drugs could make you a better person. I believed I could hitchhike to California with thirty-five cents and people would be glad to feed me… I believed the world was about to end. I believed the Age of Aquarius was about to happen… I managed to believe Gandhi and H. Rap Brown at the same time. With the exception of anything my parents said, I believed everything.”

This was also the summer when the Beatles unveiled Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band. With its psychedelic vibe, Indian influences, funky cover art, and wink-and-nod references to drug use, it was a fitting soundtrack for the scene. This was an era of provocative new thinking, troubling for some and liberating for others.

“In some ways the hippie generation appeared to be overturning generations of Christian morality and in other ways they were overturning a soulless secularism and arguing for truth, beauty, and justice,” Steve Turner, acclaimed British poet and author of Beatles ’66: The Revolutionary Year, recently told me. “Unpacking what happened is a difficult task. Anyone who says it was all bad is wrong. Anyone who says it was all good is wrong.”

From my perspective, I’m more than mildly intrigued by the Summer of Love because I’m a Cold War kid – raised as a punk rocker during the Reagan era on The Clash, Blondie, U2, The Ramones, and The Stray Cats. My generation had its own ideals but it was notably not expressed with saffron robes and sitar music. Despite being on a different side of the generational and cultural divide, I will always be a Beatles fan and have a soft spot in my heart for the ’60s. Despite their sometimes justifiable bad rap, the hippies may have ultimately been in search of spiritual transcendence.

“The rock ‘n’ roll bands are the philosopher-poets of the new religion,” wrote Timothy Leary, a 1960s cultural ringleader. “Their beat is the pulse of the future. The message from Liverpool is the Newest Testament, chanted by four Evangelists — saints John, Paul, George, and Ringo. Pure Vedanta, divine revelation, gentle, tender irony at the insanities of war and politics, sorrowful lament for the bourgeois loneliness, delicate hymns of glory to God.”

Of course, Leary was known for his hallucinogenic hyperbole while tripping on LSD. He is also the one who advocated, “Turn on, tune in, and drop out.” Nevertheless, his devotional verbiage was indicative of a Flower Power generation that perceived spiritual vibrancy in rock ’n’ roll, and viewed the church as flaccid and anemic. This was most inelegantly and bluntly stated by John Lennon: “We’re more popular than Jesus now; I don’t now which will go first – rock ‘n’ roll or Christianity.”

Those ended up being fighting words to the agitated and alarmed faithful. Instead of engaging the prickly comments or turning the other cheek, some American fans doused their Beatles albums in kerosene and scorched them. Others sent death threats in purple crayon while the Ku Klux Klan nailed Beatles albums to burning crosses.

In trying to clarify his position, Lennon said, “Originally I was pointing out the fact with reference to England – that we meant more to kids at that time than Jesus did.” Who could argue with that? In one of his previous books, The Gospel According to the Beatles, Turner underpins Lennon’s point: “Members of this generation could have quoted more Beatles lyrics than they could Hymns Ancient and Modern and would know more about John the Beatle than John the Baptist, more about Paul of Allerton than Paul of Tarsus.”

As the Beatles would soon discover, fame and fortune were often vacuous taskmasters. At a later time in Lennon’s life he addictively found himself watching popular television preachers in search of answers. It was reported that Lennon sent a fascinating letter to the Rev. Oral Roberts in 1972, regretting having said that the Beatles were more popular than Jesus and confessing that he took drugs because he feared reality. Additionally, he quoted the famous lyrics “money can’t buy me love” and sent a donation.

“It’s true. The point is this, I want happiness,” read the letter to Roberts. “I don’t want to keep on with drugs… Explain to me what Christianity can do for me. Is it phony? Can He love me? I want out of hell.”

In the midst of a thoughtful and lengthy response, Roberts wrote, “What I want to say … is that Jesus, the true reality, is not hard to face. He said, ‘Come unto me all ye that labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest … For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.’”

Despite the letters exchanged between the rock star and the TV preacher, Lennon’s restless journey eventually led him to embrace philosophies and beliefs that were all over the map.

“You could rattle human authority by growing your hair long, but you couldn’t conquer your inner demons in the same way,” observed Turner. “To ‘change your head,’ as John referred to it in [the song] ‘Revolution,’ required something much more radical.”

Few movements within American Christianity were more radical than the long haired, barefooted hippies getting high on Jesus, revolutionizing church music, tuning into verse-by-verse Bible study, enthusiastically sharing their faith, and being baptized by the thousands in the Pacific Ocean during the Jesus Movement after the Summer of Love.

Looking back 50 years, perhaps that was at least what some of the hippies were trying to discover during that season — something much more radical, a true reality, a change of heart, a touch from God. In hindsight, it’s not such a bad quest.

Steve Beard is the creator of Thunderstruck Media Syndicate.  

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Dissident artist Danilo Maldonado Machado on art and liberty in Cuba

Cuban dissident artist Danilo Maldonado Machado, known as “El Sexto,” was in Los Angeles recently for a show and a screening. (Kirk McKoy / Los Angeles Times)

At the tail end of 2014, Danilo Maldonado Machado, the graffiti artist known as “El Sexto,” was detained by the authorities as he made his way to a public park in Havana to stage a work of protest art. In his vehicle, he was carrying a pair of pigs that he had painted with the names of the Castro brothers — one “Raul,” the other “Fidel.” His plan was to release them and let members of the public catch them and take them home.

But the piece, titled “Rebelión en la granja” (after George Orwell’s “Animal Farm) never happened. Instead, Maldonado spent 10 months in jail. His case drew international headlines. As did a subsequent detention in which he publicly celebrated the death of Fidel Castro on a Havana street.

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What did being in prison teach you about Cuba?

It’s that the majority of people who are in jail, even though they wouldn’t consider themselves political prisoners, they are political prisoners. They are prisoners because they don’t work for the state — and that’s dangerous to the state. If you sell peanuts because you don’t want to work for the state’s miserable wage, you can end up in prison.

But [the Castros], they’ve never been held responsible for the crimes they have committed. On the contrary a lot of people think [Fidel] is cool. There are a lot of people in Latin America who think he is cool. But that’s not cool. Cool is Ghandi. Cool is Martin Luther King Jr.

To read entire interview, click HERE

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Jim Marshall, maker of rock-and-roll guitar amplifiers, dies at 88

To the parents of teenage wannabe bedroom rockers, Mr. Marshall’s amps were not welcome household company. But to those young players, Mr. Marshall was the Lord of Loud, the man who gave rock its gritty, beautifully distorted, cacophonous sound.

The big, black boxes resembled refrigerators, and when arranged in formation, they emitted a wall of sound.

Many of the most popular guitarists in history used Marshall amps, including Pete Townshend of The Who, Ritchie Blackmore of Deep Purple, Tom Morello of Rage Against the Machine, Slash of Guns N’ Roses and Kurt Cobain of Nirvana.

Marshall amps became such staples of the rock world that they became fodder for comedians, memorably in Rob Reiner’s 1984 satirical documentary “This is Spinal Tap.” In one scene, the fictional band’s clueless lead guitarist, Nigel Tufnel (played by Christopher Guest), explains that he uses special Marshall amps that “go to 11” as opposed to ordinary amps that only have a top volume setting of 10.

“Does that mean it’s louder?” asks the fake documentary director Marty DiBergi (played by Reiner).

“Well, it’s one louder, isn’t it?” Tufnel replies.

To read the entire story about Jim Marshall, click HERE

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Methodism in Cuba: Spirit-filled and overflowing

By Steve Beard

Within a Caribbean culture marked by Cold War skullduggery, economic scarcity, and vindictive secularism, the Methodist Church in Cuba stands out as a beacon of spiritual freedom, miraculous signs and wonders, unexpected blessings, and salsa infused worship. Not only has vibrant Christianity survived some of the darkest decades of Cuba’s history, it is a thriving testimony to the profound hope found at the roots of the faith.

“Young people in Latin America have spent a long time learning a language that is different than the language of God,” said the Rev. Guillermo Leon Mighthy, illustrating the prevailing way of thinking in Cuba. 

“By the age of 18, they have heard more than 80,000 times these five phrases: (1) ‘I don’t know,’ (2) ‘There isn’t any,’ (3) ‘I don’t have any,’ (4) ‘I can’t,’ and (5) ‘It’s not easy.’ Five negative phrases; nothing positive,” said Leon. “This is not the language of the Bible.” 

Leon is the 41-year-old lead pastor of the Central Havana Methodist Church in one of the grittiest neighborhoods in the Cuban capital. As a former professional soccer player and past leader of Methodist youth in Cuba, Leon has a spiritual counterattack for each of these phrases. 

“First, the Bible never says that we don’t know. We know who we are, we know what we have, and we know the One who is with us. Second, yes there is; in God there is hope. In God there is healing. In God there is blessing,” said Leon, who is also the district superintendent of Havana. 

“Third, yes we have. God says he is our shepherd and we will lack nothing. God says that whatever we lack we will receive in riches in his glory,” he continues. “Fourth, yes, we can do it. The apostle Paul says in Philippians that we can do all things in Christ who strengthens us. Lastly, with Christ it is easy, because Christ helps us. Nothing is impossible with God.” 

The falling of the fire

Hope and anticipation are common themes in Leon’s preaching, along with spiritual warfare, victory, overcoming, healing, and blessing. These are also the repeated themes in the Cuban Methodist pulpits and the narrative of testimonies delivered during services. The spiritual dynamic behind the growth of Cuban Methodism is the “movement of the Holy Spirit,” said Pastor Aylen Font Marrero, a 29-year-old staff member of the Methodist Cathedral of Holguín, 450 miles east of Havana. 

According to the latest information provided by the Methodist Church of Cuba, there are 410 churches and 927 missions (churches in formation). With approximately 46,500 members, there are about twice that number involved in the ministry of the denomination in different ways.

Although the personalities and styles of each congregation may differ, Font believes that Cuban Methodists are unified in “seeking God, the movement of the Holy Spirit, the falling of the fire and anticipating the glory of God to descend.” The primary focus of each congregation is “the love of God for the people of God. This is what we want to really see and experience and see grow,” she said.

The embers of this revival fire have been stoked since the 1970s, reports the Rev. Dr. Rini Hernandez, district superintendent in the Florida Annual Conference. Desperate times called for desperate measures. Methodists all over Cuba were participating in all night prayer vigils, reports Hernandez. The outgrowth of their prayers were miraculous signs and wonders, including speaking in tongues, physical healing, deliverance from spiritual oppression, and being physically overwhelmed by the power and presence of God in their meetings. 

“We did not know it was Pentecostal,” Hernandez told Good News. “We were just asking God to fill us with the Holy Spirit.” Along with the outpouring of supernatural occurrences, these Methodists experienced a holy boldness that has characterized their singular focus on sharing their faith. “We lost all fear of repercussions and committed ourselves to share the good news of Jesus Christ with the Cuban people, one life at a time,” he recently wrote in an article for the Florida Annual Conference. “The Holy Spirit’s fire spread out to the local churches, youth camps, and almost every event in the life of the church.”

Heart-warming experience

In an interview with Bishop Ricardo Pereira in conjunction with my first visit to Cuba more than 16 years ago, he told of his special experience with the Holy Spirit on October 18, 1984, many years before he became bishop. “At that time I had two young men in my church —14 and 16 years old. They had read about John Wesley and his ‘heart-warming’ experience,” Pereira said. 

“That night, at 8 o’clock they knelt down in the church and said to me, ‘Pastor we are not going to get up from here until we have the same experience that John Wesley had.’” Pereira told them that they were confused. “I don’t think it works that way. I have been told that not everyone receives the same experience.” Nevertheless, these boys were going to pursue a blessing from God. Pereira said that he grabbed one of the boys, but he said, “Pastor I will not get up from here.” 

Pereira was angry. “I slammed the door and went home and started watching television,” he admits. “But something was stirring in my heart, telling me, ‘Pastor you are not doing right. How can you allow your members to pray by themselves? Why don’t you go and keep watch with them?’” 

He walked back to the sanctuary and said to them, “See, you have not received anything.” The boys continued asking God to give them the power to evangelize. At 11 o’clock he told them, “It is very late. Why don’t you begin again tomorrow?” 

“No pastor,” they said, “we are not going to get up from here until we receive the touch of the Spirit.” At 12:04, Pereira reports that the boys had an “explosion of light in their faces and great joy in their heart.” After their experience, Pereira said: “I was so afraid that I knelt next to them and said, ‘Okay, I won’t get up until He fills me up, too.’ I wept and asked God to forgive me. And I said, ‘Lord I want you, too. I have been preaching the gospel, doing the best I could, but if this joy is real, if you can give that explosion in the hearts of my two members, you can give it to me, too.’

“At 3:00 a.m. we were all like mad people, speaking in tongues. I woke up my wife so that I could tell her that I too had this joy in my heart.”

Renewed Methodism

Although both share in an experiential and supernaturalist faith, Pentecostal denominations such as the Assemblies of God believe that speaking in tongues is the “initial evidence” of receiving the baptism of the Holy Spirit. That is not a doctrinal distinctive for Methodists. Nevertheless, Methodist services in Cuba are unapologetically charismatic. The framework for theology and ministry within Cuban Methodism was not imported from other denominations, but is an organic expression of their own unique divine encounter. 

The Cuban experience mirrors the religious trend of its neighbors. In the latest study of 18 Latin American and Caribbean countries and one U.S. territory (Puerto Rico), Pew Research found that two-thirds of Protestants (65 percent) identified as Pentecostal Christians either through denominational affiliation or personal self-identity. 

Sociologists pair Pentecostals and charismatics into the category of “renewalists” when studying international religious trends. As the fastest growing spiritual movement, renewalists account for one-fourth of all global Christians with upwards of 500 million adherents. According to the World Christian Database of the Center for the Study of Global Christianity, Brazil has the highest number of renewalists, followed by the United States, China, Nigeria, India, and the Philippines. 

As Professor Philip Jenkins points out in his ground-breaking work, The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity, believers outside the United States take the Bible very seriously. “For Christians of the Southern Hemisphere, and not only for Pentecostals, the apostolic world as described in the New Testament is not just a historical account of the ancient Levant [sections of the Middle East], but an ever-present reality open to any modern believer, and that includes the whole culture of signs and wonders. Passages that seem mildly embarrassing for a Western audience read completely differently, and relevantly, in the new churches of Africa or Latin America.”

At the outset of the Cuban revolution, the late Fidel Castro used to define the boundaries of cultural engagement to the intellectuals and artists: “Inside the revolution, everything. Against the revolution, nothing.” Within revival, the Methodist Church has transfixed and transformed – redeemed, perhaps – that kind of singular focus to a pinpoint: Cuba for Christ. 

High voltage worship

Even non-church going observers would recognize something combustible and dynamic taking place in a Cuban worship service. This is not the place to be if one has been lulled into expecting a predictable 55-minute morning service with two Victorian-era hymns, a children’s sermonette, a choral anthem, a homily, and tidy benediction. 

“We worship God with so much passion,” said Pastor Adria Nuñez Ortiz, “we give him praise with all we have in our hearts. We have so much love for God because we understand that he has done so much for us. Everything we do for him is nothing in comparison to what he has done for us.” Nuñez is associate pastor of Central Havana Methodist Church and married to Pastor Leon. She is also a songwriter, musician, and leader of their high-energy choir. 

The worship time is unmistakably Caribbean. “As in biblical times, Cuban Methodists praise the name of the Lord and dance with all kinds of instruments and shouts of joy,” Bishop Pereira told me not long ago. There is a jacked-up salsa beat with a sliver of hip-hop and drums, congas, guitars, bass, trumpets, and trombones. If you solely associate Cuban music with Buena Vista Social Club, there is a brand new galaxy of sound in the church. The worship is frenetic, physical, ecstatic, electrifying, and emotional. 

With a smile, one pastor told me that the “jumping does not draw the Holy Spirit, but jumping is the response when the Holy Spirit falls.” 

For Nuñez, the pogoing up and down in worship is a simple expression of joy. “We rejoice every time we think about what God has done for us,” she said. “Specifically in our context of central Havana, many people were drug addicts, idol worshippers, prostitutes and God took them out of that way and saved them. The Bible says that the one who is forgiven much, loves much. And when somebody pays a huge debt for you, then expressions of joy and happiness come out of your heart and that’s what’s happening in Cuba.”

New day in Cuba

Needless to say, many things have changed in Cuba since my first visit in 2000. Netflix is streaming (for those with credit cards); the online home rental business Airbnb is now available to foreigners, the black market emporiums are hiding in plain sight, and the Rolling Stones played last year before 500,000 in Havana in a free concert a few days after President Barack Obama’s controversial visit. With the average Cuban making less than $20 a month, there still isn’t expendable income for luxuries such as high-dollar rock concert tickets. 

Cell phones are omnipresent (a vibrant black market), but the internet is spotty and frustratingly slow. Private enterprises are still in infancy stages, as one might expect in one of the last remaining Communist countries. There is, understandably, a strand of “forbidden island” allure for Americans to explore Cuba as more avenues open for tourism. Many visitors simply hit the Ernest Hemingway hot spots, buy cigars, rum, and a Che Guevara t-shirt, cruise around in a 1952 pink Cadillac convertible taxi cab, and then drink mojitos on the pristine beaches. 

For Professor David Watson, however, the experience is all about plunging his students into the eye of a revivalistic tornado. “A lot of our seminary students have never experienced what spiritual renewal looks like, and when they come here they get to be a part of a very powerful Spirit-filled revival,” said Watson, the academic dean at United Theological Seminary. Watson has brought students to Cuba from the Dayton, Ohio, seminary for the last three years. 

“One of the ideas behind our seminary’s emphasis on church renewal is that all renewal – individual, local church, or church universal – is the work of the Holy Spirit. That is certainly the case in the Cuban Methodist revival,” he observed. “We want our students to be exposed to and learn about what it looks like when God shows up in a powerful way in the life of a congregation or denomination.”

Amanda Moseng is one of those seminary students, soon-to-be a provisional elder in the West Ohio Annual Conference. Her trip to Cuba was sparked by a divine healing she experienced at a Holy Spirit conference hosted by United Seminary. While in Cuba, Moseng tirelessly prayed for healing and blessing for those who came forward at the end of each of the services. Not raised as a charismatic, the Cuban scenario was new, but she adapted with deftness and enthusiasm. 

Moseng’s own healing encounter is the catalyst behind her faith to confidently pray for “healing in people and to open myself to let the Holy Spirit work in whatever way the Holy Spirit wants to manifest,” she said. Prior to her trip to Havana, she had never prayed for healing for someone else. She now has a “boldness of faith that only God grants, that only comes from the Spirit.” Moseng also had the unique opportunity to preach in the Central Havana church on “holy boldness” to an attentive congregation. “I’m just so humbled that God would choose me to do those things, that God would use me for that. I will be eternally grateful for what I’ve experienced here,” she said. “I’ve been transformed in ways I could never have imagined and I will leave here with a sense of boldness and faith that’s greater than I’ve ever had.”

Finding wealth in Cuba

For the last 28 years, the Rev. Jaime Nolla has made a yearly pilgrimage to Cuba. “When you see people who either walk for miles, travel on the back of a platform truck, or travel in an overloaded, very old bus, standing because of the lack of space, to get to a crowded church anticipating to experience the presence of God, your heart is moved in ways you cannot describe with words,” said Nolla, a retired United Methodist pastor and former district superintendent in the Wisconsin Annual Conference. 

Nolla was one of the clergypersons standing in the front of the 500 men and women jammed into the sanctuary of the Vedado Methodist Church in downtown Havana waiting to be anointed with oil. The bustling and energetic congregation worships in a striking art deco church with loud praise music spilling out from the open doors and windows near the University of Havana. The expectancy and desire was palpable as those in seemingly never ending lines waited patiently in an attitude of prayer for this blessing.

Nolla’s numerous visits over such a lengthy period of time have afforded him opportunities to see innumerable Methodist congregations across the length of the island (more than 700 miles long).

“Many of these people come dressed with the one or two outfits they own because of the poverty on the island. However, none of the obstacles that would stop people from coming to church in the United States are big enough to stop them from coming to church,” he told Good News. “We are thankful to God for the commitment and dedication second to none that we have seen and experienced.”

“When you live in a place where there is extreme poverty, the response of the people is to find wealth in other ways,” observed the Rev. Rebekah Clapp, one of my travel mates and translators in Havana. “For Cubans, that spiritual wealth has become a response to that.” Clapp earned her M.Div. at United Theological Seminary after living in Nicaragua, and is currently working on her Ph.D. in intercultural studies at Asbury Theological Seminary. 

“Because of the reality of spiritual forces that they interact with, Christians respond with language of victory, language of overcoming,” she continued. “They have victory in their lives in Christ over and against spiritual forces, over and against the powers of the idolatrous religions, over and against the work of the devil, and also over and against the socioeconomic and political reality in which they live. They can respond to it by saying, ‘I have life in Christ, I have power in the Holy Spirit, and I have victory.’ That gives them hope, that gives them purpose.” 

It may also go a long way in explaining how the Methodist Church has been a sustained oasis in the spiritual desert of Cuba’s soul for the last 50 years.

Steve Beard is the creator of Thunderstruck Media Syndicate. This article first appeared in the March/April 2017 issue of Good News. 

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Bob Dylan on the launch of rock and roll

Rock and roll was indeed an extension of what was going on – the big swinging bands – Ray Noble, Will Bradley, Glenn Miller, I listened to that music before I heard Elvis Presley. But rock and roll was high energy, explosive and cut down. It was skeleton music, came out of the darkness and rode in on the atom bomb and the artists were star headed like mystical Gods. Rhythm and blues, country and western, bluegrass and gospel were always there – but it was compartmentalized – it was great but it wasn’t dangerous. Rock and roll was a dangerous weapon, chrome plated, it exploded like the speed of light, it reflected the times, especially the presence of the atomic bomb which had preceded it by several years. Back then people feared the end of time. The big showdown between capitalism and communism was on the horizon. Rock and roll made you oblivious to the fear, busted down the barriers that race and religion, ideologies put up. We lived under a death cloud; the air was radioactive. There was no tomorrow, any day it could all be over, life was cheap. That was the feeling at the time and I’m not exaggerating. Doo-wop was the counterpart to rock and roll. Songs like “In the Still of the Night,” “Earth Angel,” “Thousand Miles Away,” those songs balanced things out, they were heartfelt and melancholy for a world that didn’t seem to have a heart. The doo-wop groups might have been an extension, too, of the Ink Spots and gospel music, but it didn’t matter; that was brand new too. Groups like the Five Satins and the Meadowlarks seemed to be singing from some imaginary street corner down the block. Jerry Lee Lewis came in like a streaking comet from some far away galaxy. Rock and roll was atomic powered, all zoom and doom. It didn’t seem like an extension of anything but it probably was.

To read entire interview, click HERE

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Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny on St. Patrick’s Day

The ties that bind our two countries are deep and historic. And Ireland and the United States have a unique relationship that goes back to the earliest days of the original 14 colonies.  Irish foreign military officers assisted George Washington to win that war of independence.  Indeed, they’ve fought in every war for America since then.  And this very house was designed by James Hoban from Kilkenny, modeled in part after the Leinster House in Dublin, where the Irish parliament has met on our own independence since 1922.

It’s fitting that we gather here each year to celebrate St. Patrick and his legacy.  He, too, of course, was an immigrant.  And though he is, of course, the patron saint of Ireland, for many people around the globe, he is also a symbol of, indeed, the patron of immigrants.

Here in America, your great country, 35 million people claim Irish heritage, and the Irish have contributed to the economic, social, political and cultural life of this great country over the last 200 years.  Ireland came to America because, deprived of liberty, deprived of opportunity, of safety, of even food itself, the Irish believed, four decades before Lady Liberty lifted her lamp, we were the “wretched refuse on the teeming shore.”  We believed in the shelter of America, and the compassion of America, and the opportunity of America.  We came, and we became Americans.

We lived the words of John F. Kennedy long before we heard them:  We asked not what America could do for us, but what we could do for America.  And we still do.  We want to give, and not to take.  We know the Irish have built the bridges and the roads, protected the public as firefighters and police officers.  We’ve cared for the sick in hospitals, entertained as poets, as singers and writers, as politicians, as judges and legislators.  And as entrepreneurs, they provided hundreds of thousands of jobs for Americans, including most recently, in exciting technology companies.

 

***

To Irish-Americans coast to coast, I say, these days especially, we hold you in our hearts.  And tonight, I thank you again for your warm hospitality.

Mr. President, Mr. Vice President, may I wish you and your lovely families every good wish and blessing on this very special day.  Indeed, I’m reminded in many ways of the dream of another American President — which Ireland will work with you for — when he spoke the words and said, “My dream is of a place and a time where America will once again be seen as the last, best hope of Earth.”  Spoken by Abraham Lincoln.

Mr. President, Ireland will help you build on that foundation to achieve the ultimate dream.  Thank you, sir.  And God bless you.

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Chicago Ice Cream Maker Found Her Destiny in Paris

The Wall Street Journal published a beautifully memorable eulogy of Jolyn Robichaux this week. At the age of 88, she died a month ago of non-Hodgkin lymphoma in Lewisville, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. (Link is unavailable.)

Robichaux grew up in the Depression, took over her family’s ice cream business upon the death of her husband in 1971, and then – upon selling the successful enterprise in 1992 – finally realized her dream by living in Paris and managing gospel concerts.

She grew up in Cairo, Illinois, as the daughter of a dentist. Her father’s customers, “both black and white, often paid him with hams, other food or homemade root beer rather than cash. He also owned a hamburger stand and a movie theater,” writes James Hagerty. “Her mother, the former Margaret Love, ran a beauty shop called the Vanity Box.” Continue reading

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Jack White’s Infinite Imagination

By Alec Wilkinson, The New Yorker

Anything that captures Jack White’s imagination can occupy him. He reads scripts in the hope of directing a movie—he said he was disappointed at losing the opportunity to direct one about a Detroit drug dealer and F.B.I. informant called White Boy Rick. He contributes designs for baseball bats to a company in Texas called Warstic, in which he owns a share. At least eight players in the major leagues use Warstics. White also collects esoterica. He owns Leadbelly’s New York City arrest record, James Brown’s Georgia driver’s license from the nineteen-eighties, and Elvis Presley’s first record, a demo that he made in 1953, when he was eighteen. White bought it for three hundred thousand dollars at an auction, and loaned it to the Country Music Hall of Fame, where for a while it was on display. He had it transferred to acetate beforehand and Third Man Records released it in a limited edition. He collects old photo booths and recording booths, and he has a number of pieces of taxidermy, including two hyenas, two gazelles, a kudu, an elk, an elephant head, and a zebra head, as well as a young giraffe that he keeps in his office in Nashville.

The rarest and most valuable thing White owns is an issue of Action Comics No. 1, from June, 1938, which includes the first appearance of Superman, an occasion that White regards as “an important moment in literary history.” On the cover, Superman holds a car above his head and is smashing it into a rock. A copy sold on eBay in 2014 for $3,207,852, the highest price ever paid for a comic book. White bought his copy a few years ago, for less than half that. He keeps it in a filing cabinet in a temperature-controlled vault in Nashville. He took it out to show me. “If I’m going to invest in something, it has to have meaning to me, something that has historical value and can be passed on,” he said. “If I buy Elvis’s first record, and we are able to digitize it and release it, and people can own it, or I can preserve this comic book, it is cooler than buying some Ferrari or investing in British Petroleum.”

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