Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Looks like this member of the NOLA blogpocheh inadvertently set the background for the recent Bordeaux Street bust of Chinese nationals passing military secrets to their home country. China's been busy, indeed. And, for those folks who "wish he'd gotten away with it", well, Klaus Fuchs was a nice guy, too.

And I second E - Lolis Eric Elie definitely came to the public housing hijinks table waaay too late. His last few columns seem to be making up for lost time on many fronts, actually. To look at it another way, they might be a nifty device to keep these issues in the public eye - which would necessitate checking out further columns of Elie's to see if he'll follow through. I'm not holding my breath, however - if things get really bad and he sharpens his criticism to a fine point, his writing may end up buried in the Saturday editions. Which can only mean one thing: before you go out on Saturday night, read that day's paper for the real news. It could well give you more reason to drink (not that anybody in this town needs a reason...).

Oh, and mazel tov to Terrance Simien and Terence Blanchard on their Grammy wins! Blanchard's A Tale of God's Will is an excellent album - his "Wading Through" is haunting melody with a hint of "It Ain't Necessarily So" wafting over a musical re-creation of flood waters that need to be overcome in order to ensure survival. That's the one that sticks in my head the most.

The one that I've been trying to wrap my head around, however, is the case of Amy Winehouse. She won five awards, tying Lauryn Hill's numbers from ten years ago. For a few moments there, she was absolutely speechless on getting Record of the Year for "Rehab", then she regained her composure, thanked her record company, her publishers, her musical collaborators, her parents (hugging her mum at her side) and dedicated it to her husband (her "Blake incarcerated") and to London. You gotta love the spunk and the attitude, not to mention the working-class London accent. I do hope she is happy and healthy, because she is one of these folks who is fully conscious and respectful of jazz history: "She was totally knocked back that Tony Bennett was calling her name and she kept calling to her dad because they're both huge fans of the crooners of that age."

And hey, if you don't believe me, check her "Moody's Mood For Love". She made a classic her own.

Great ability...and some good songwriting
..with a touch of a punk attitude...

...can make for some good stuff.

Trouble is, she's living the life she writes of in her songs much, much too hard (and people wonder about her beehive...). Amy, madame, we'd all love to tell Ron Jeremy to "f--- off", but nobody really needs excessive amounts of drugs or alcohol in their system to do so.

The biggest problem with sad souls such as Winehouse, is, once again, this idea that the only way to be "authentic" in writing and performing tough is to live even tougher. And women have the hardest time trying to balance themselves on that fiber-optic-thin tightrope. In some ways, it's just as hard as it was forty years ago (!) because the media scrutiny has made it impossible for celebrities to develop outside of the public eye unless they remove themselves nearly completely from the scene as Lauryn Hill did shortly after winning her Grammys. But there's another element to all this that hasn't gone away (and is also why it blows my mind that it happened forty years ago and is still happening), and Linda Ronstadt commented on this recently:
I felt that I was artificially encouraged to kind of cop a really tough attitude, you know, because rock 'n' roll is kind of tough and it was a, quite an identity crisis that women had. You know there was Janis Joplin...she was really funky and she wore a see-through blouse and she was actually quite literate and (a) quite shy and lovely person, but you know she had to be really a red hot mama, drinking...Southern Comfort and being drunk and kind of slobbering or whatever it was you were supposed to be doing.
Who else could you put in this group of women performers? Lucinda Williams comes to mind. On the country and western side of things, Jeannie C. Reilly had a lot of talent and really wanted to be the next Loretta Lynn, but the success of "Harper Valley PTA" railroaded her into a cleaned-up version of rock rebellion and had her in a miniskirt for the rest of her performing days. Less talented but hyped-all-out-of-proportion celebs let themselves be pushed around by this nearly insurmountable force at work in popular music and its ever-present adjacent media engine.

What I really want is for somebody like Marshall Chapman who has been through hell and back as a singer/songwriter (a woman told to slow down by Jerry Lee Lewis, of all people... ) to tell this London girl she doesn't need to pull a "Leaving Loachapoka" and go "ninety miles an hour with her hair on fire". Really, she doesn't.

She just needs find another way to be who she is without being a holy terror to herself. Because, God bless her, she is quite capable of giving as good (and as bad) as she gets. Amy, what you've got ain't so bad. Don't give it away so easily and horribly.


saintseester said...

I know - I love her voice, but she is going to run herself into the grave. Does great musical talent spawn addictive behavior?

Leigh C. said...

Does great musical talent + strong connections to the machines that make it multi-platinum = exacerbation of addictive behavior? She started getting into the drugs and the drink well before she got a recording contract. God bless her family for worrying about her and sticking with her, 'cause I'm sure it's hard.

The thing that kills me is that she still has some connections to family and what they've given her beyond her parents' support. She's dedicated her albums to her uncles and her grandmother, and she has a real love for the jazz she was raised on that her family passed down to her. So much to live for, there. I wish she would.