I post a weekly diary of the historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I featured this past week in "Cheers & Jeers". For example .....
Don't look to television to save you from the crazee .....
OK, you've been warned - here is this week's
tomfoolery material that I posted.
ART NOTES - a survey of African-American art in an exhibit highlighting the Harlem Renaissance, Civil Rights Era, and Beyond is at the Smithsonian American Art Museum in Washington, D.C. through September.
END of an ERA - the conservative provocateur David Horowitz - who rode to fame by transforming himself from the Far Left into a Far Right firebrand (and someone you always saw on TV) ... now feels abandoned by his former allies on the right.
EACH YEAR the Polar Music Awards of Sweden honor both a popular as well as a classical musician. This year's honorees: Paul Simon .... and Yo-Yo Ma.
WEDNESDAY's CHILD is Tiger the Cat - an English kitteh who had to be extricated from being stuck in ... a two-inch gap between brick garage walls.
INCREDIBLE as it sounds, the brother of Nazi Germany's air force chief Hermann Göring actually helped Jews, prisoners and resistance movement figures during WW-II, with his famous name able to shield him from retaliation. But his name became a curse after the war, as he died in obscurity in 1966.
ART NOTES - a relatively new museum showcasing the paintings, drawings and prints of the Ab-Ex artist Clyfford Still in Denver, Colorado: is opening the second section of its inaugural exhibition through September 30th.
IN a PROFILE of Olivia Newton-John - the singer indicates that she didn't know for many years that her father worked for Britain's spy agency. "My father never spoke of his time in MI5. He wasn't allowed to, so his life was a mystery to us. He left us some tapes for after he died explaining his life, but I've not listened to them yet because it makes me feel too sad".
YOU MIGHT NOT EXPECT to see snowboards in San Pedro de Atacama in northern Chile - in the world’s driest desert. Yet sandboarding - akin to snowboarding in fresh powder without having to wear heavy winter gear - is very popular on dunes stretching nearly 400 feet.
HAIL and FAREWELL to the bassist Donald 'Duck' Dunn - part of Booker T & the MG's, who performed on "Green Onions", the "Blues Brothers" movie and with Neil Young as well as many other musicians - who has died at the age of 70.
THURSDAY's CHILD is Maloos the Cat - surviving a journey from Iran to San Francisco after being found covered in mud and gasoline in the streets of Tehran.
LAST MONTH when the strongman president of the African nation of Malawi died, his successor was the daughter of a musician in a police brass band. But now Malawi’s first female president Joyce Banda - and only the second in Africa after Liberia’s Ellen Johnson Sirleaf - has gotten off to a blazing start: firing the federal police chief (blamed for the deaths of 20 anti-government demonstrators) as well as the head of the state broadcasting company and has appointed a government that includes representatives of all the main opposition parties.
FILM NOTES - the very first film to win Best Picture at the Academy Awards - entitled Wings and also the only silent film to win Best Picture before "The Artist" - has been fully restored ahead of a limited release to the public.
HAIL and FAREWELL to Carroll Shelby - the designer of the Shelby Cobra and other sports cars, and one of the few prominent designers to work with all three major American car companies - who has died at the age of 89.
HOPES that after twenty-two years there may finally be a lead in the largest art theft in history: the half-billion in stolen masterworks from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum - where empty spaces on the walls remain (to this day) of the works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas and Manet.
BRAIN TEASER - try this week's Weekly World News Quiz from the BBC.
FRIDAY's CHILD is Flash the Cat - who is getting end-of-life care at a feline hospice in Michigan.
...... and finally, for a song of the week.................... there are some musicians whose musical style is hard to pin down, and others who have written songs for legions of musicians from different styles. Someone who combines both is John Hiatt whose songwriting was his main claim-to-fame for a while, but who has (over the past twenty years) established himself as a performer in his own right.
The Indianapolis native had a stressful early life - at age nine seeing his much-older brother commit suicide, his father dying two years later and helping to steal a Ford Thunderbird with friends (for which they were caught, yet not prosecuted). Music was his one outlet, with Elvis Presley, Bob Dylan and the Stones his heroes. He moved to Nashville at age eighteen in 1970 (when the city was changing rapidly) and while trying to break in as a performer had a day-job as songwriter for Tree Publishing.
And he had some early success: with a recording contract and songs covered by country performers (such as Conway Twitty and Tracy Nelson) - but in addition Three Dog Night had a hit with Sure as I’m Sitting Here in 1974. His own performing began to shift from country-rock towards the new wave sound of Elvis Costello and Graham Parker during the late 1970’s, but he lost his recording contract as well as his songwriting gig, anyway.
Signed by MCA in 1979, he had some notable success in the Netherlands (to this day, he cites that nation for sustaining him during the lean times) and slowly began to make critics lists (albeit without large record sales). He released Riding With the King - the title track of which Eric Clapton and B.B. King made famous over two decades later - and Roseanne Cash had hits with “It Hasn’t Happened Yet” and “The Way We Make a Broken Heart”. Yet his personal life started going downhill, due to a bout with alcoholism as well as his second wife committing suicide in 1985 (so difficult for someone who had already lost a brother that way) and he took time off for rehabilitation, a new marriage and a chance to regroup on the A&M label.
His 1986 album Bring the Family (with Ry Cooder on guitar, Nick Lowe on bass and Jim Keltner on drums) reflected a more roots music sound. And Have a Little Faith in Me became a hit for others (such as Joe Cocker, Mandy Moore and Delbert McClinton). The album garnered his best reviews to-date and sales began to climb.
It was not until his next album Slow Turning (produced by Glyn Johns) that he had his breakthrough; “Tennessee Plates” later appeared in the film “Thelma and Louise”. John Hiatt then became a touring success for the first time. On Bonnie Raitt’s own breakthrough 1989 album “Nick of Time”, she featured a spirited version of Hiatt’s “Thing Called Love”.
In 1992, Hiatt reunited with Cooder, Keltner and Lowe as a supergroup under the name Little Village (after a a Sonny Boy Williamson song) but lasted only one album before it broke up.
He returned with his own band and has recorded a number of successful albums since, with “Perfectly Good Guitar” and "Walk On" among his best sellers. In 2000 he was named Songwriter/Artist of the year at the Nashville Music Awards and has had eleven Grammy nominations (although has yet to win one). In 2008, Hiatt was inducted into the Nashville Songwriters Hall of Fame and was honored by the Americana Music Association with a Lifetime Achievement in Songwriting Award.
His most recent album Dirty Jeans and Mudslide Hymns was released just this past August, with songs such as Damn this Town as well as When New York Had Her Heart Broken - (as you might imagine, about 9-11) - as its strong points.
The list of performers who have performed John Hiatt songs is not only long but amazingly diverse; reflecting his own sound and cross-category appeal. In addition to the artists already mentioned, here are some more: Bob Dylan, Linda Ronstadt, Paula Abdul, Jimmy Buffett, Iggy Pop, Buddy Guy, Emmylou Harris, Jewel, Joan Baez, Aaron Neville, Bon Jovi, Earl Thomas Conley, Flaco Jimenez, Ronnie Milsap, Jeff Healey, Chaka Khan and Keith Urban. Something tells me that (partial) list ... is not yet finished.
John Hiatt begins a European tour in June before opening a US tour in Annapolis, Maryland on August 14th .. and which includes a show in Bloomington, Indiana on August 20th .... celebrating his 60th birthday near his place of birth.
My favorite song of his was the title track of Slow Turning (fair-use extract below) which was his highest-selling single (reaching #8 in 1987) and featured original Eagles member Bernie Leadon on banjo. He even managed to slip in the name of one of his early heroes (from the Rolling Stones) at the same time. And below you can listen to it.
Now I'm in my car
I've turned the radio down
And I'm yelling at the kids in the back
'cause they're banging like Charlie Watts
You think you've come so far
In this one-horse-town
Then she's laughing that crazy laugh
'cause you haven't left the parking lot
Time is short and here's the damn thing about it:
You're gonna die, gonna die for sure
You can learn to life with love or without it
But there ain't no cure
It's been a slow turning
From the inside out
A slow turning
But you come about
But you learn to sway
A slow turning
Not fade away