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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 .....

FATHER-SON? - veteran TV host Alex Trebek (circa 1963) and film star Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("Lincoln", "Dark Knight Rises").

   

OK, you've been warned - here is this week's tomfoolery material that I posted.

ART NOTES - Images from the Cassini-Huygens mission are on display at the New Jersey State Museum in Trenton through June 9th.

FIFTY YEARS AGO the post-war reconciliation between France and Germany was enshrined in a treaty, but many believe that the song Goettingen - performed by a French singer named Barbara, whose death in 1997 sparked an outpouring of grief - did even more to heal relations between the two countries, as future German chancellor Gerhard Schroeder later said he felt upon hearing her as a young man.

TUESDAY's CHILD is Polly the Cat - an English kitteh who survived an estimated 1,700 journey in a train's undercarriage ... and is now recuperating before returning to her family.

MUSIC NOTES - the nation of Qatar has spent billions bringing the world (university branches, think tanks, etc.) to this tiny gulf kingdom, and the latest import is ..... a jazz club, an example of Western 'soft power'.  

FILM NOTES - "Little Miss Sunshine" actor Paul Dano is to play Beach Boy star Brian Wilson in a forthcoming biopic.

OLDER-YOUNGER SISTERS? author/film director Lily Tomlin and TV/film actor Mindy Sterling ("iCarly", "Austin Powers").

   

SCIENCE NOTES - researchers have long suspected that the gap between men and women in life expectancy would eventually decrease as a result of more women entering dangerous professions and military careers .... but it has decreased more specifically due to men quitting smoking.

WHILE I AGREE that a Democrat should have been nominated as Secretary of Defense: given that someone else was, I am becoming more comfortable with Chuck Hagel (as Charlie Pierce has been quite supportive). And seeing this short OpEd essay from Max Cleland - who deserved better than being slandered by the likes of Saxby Chambliss) is another sign.

ART NOTES - botanical prints and photographs by Bertha Jaques are on display at the Cedar Rapids, Iowa Museum of Art through May 12th.

NORTH of the BORDER our friend Stephen Harper’s government has grown used to passing legislation without amendment over the objections of the opposition ...... but has run into more difficulty with the Assembly of First Nations - who believe Harper has disregarded an 1867 treaty (with Canada's native peoples) through his actions.

WEDNESDAY's CHILD is Blacky the Cat - a New Zealand kitteh who survived being hit by a car, and a fundraising campaign has provided him with his own wheelchair.

WITH THE MENTALITY that existed in Pretoria until 1993, and the Jim Crow south of the early 1960’s: the Sicilian city of Trapani seems to have discovered apartheid .... as members of its city council - citing "frequent complaints of the indigenous" in having to share buses with immigrants (traveling to asylum centers) - are proposing bus service exclusively for immigrants.

BRAIN TEASER - try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC.

THURSDAY's CHILD is Earnhardt the Cat - a Michigan kitteh rescued by a firefighter from a burning building.

THIS PAST THURSDAY yours truly hosted the Top Comments diary, which looked at the life of the late Peter Norman - who was not an interloper in one of the 20th Century's most iconic photos (that of Tommie Smith and John Carlos displaying the Black Power salute at the 1968 Olympics) ....... but, in reality, was a (subtle) supporter of their cause ... and how his family fought to win a (posthumous) apology in the Australian Parliament for the way he was treated by his countrymen ... and finally succeeded.

FATHER-SON? - two figures on the right: Missouri senator Roy Blunt and Fox contributor Greg Gutfeld.

   

END of an ERA - the body of the slain Australian outlaw Ned Kelly - more than 130 years after he was hanged - has been laid to rest near his mother, after his remains were identified in a mass grave three years ago.

IN A REFERENDUM voters in Austria have voted (by a 3-2 margin) to retain their conscription (draft) system - now, one of the few European nations to have a draft (having been done away with by France in 1996 and Germany in 2011)

FRIDAY's CHILD is Fletcher the Cat - an English kitteh whose first time out in the snow video has gone viral.

...... and finally, for a song of the week .........................................the first major soul singer to emerge in the 1970's was Al Green and while his career has had its ups-and-downs financially, he's never stopped singing the past forty years - it's only a question of what his audience is. Among the various phases of his career (including the ministry) Al Green always enjoyed being before people, and with a voice (from sweet to falsetto) that stays with you, long afterwards.

The Forrest City, Arkansas native began as part of a family Gospel Act known as the Green Brothers, who toured the South before relocating to Grand Rapids, Michigan in the 1950's. Alas, his father fired Al from the group at age 16 after catching his son listening to ..... Jackie Wilson - yes, really. He formed his own band (eventually known as the Soul Mates) who actually reached #5 on the R&B charts with "Back Up Train" in 1968 yet who fell upon hard times and eventually split-up.

It was forty years ago (while on tour) that Al Green's big break came: meeting Hi Records VP Willie Mitchell who saw the potential in Green and not only signed him (as a solo artist) but also became his producer (weaving together horn and string arrangements fluidly).

Al Green's 1970 debut album Green is Blues sold modestly but garnered him notice, preparing everyone for the smash follow-up Al Green Gets Next To You with the single .. Tired of Being Alone becoming his first hit.

In 1972 his career was in full throttle, with his 1972 single Let's Stay Together reaching #1 on the charts. He went on to more success with "I'm Still in Love with You", "Love and Happiness" and "Call Me (Come Back Home)". Then came the tune Take Me to the River - ranked by Rolling Stone as #117 on its 500 Greatest Songs list, and it spawned a popular cover by the Talking Heads five years later.

In late 1974, the first of two events that led him into the ministry occurred: a former girlfriend broke into his home, pouring boiling grits on him (causing second-degree burns) before she committed suicide with Green's gun. He interpreted this as a sign-from-heaven and purchased a Memphis church, becoming an ordained pastor of the Full Gospel Tabernacle in Memphis.

Despite this, he continued to record R&B in the late 70's - but his sound was overtaken by the disco boom, with a major drop in sales. After injuring himself on-stage in 1979, Green saw this as the final sign-from-heaven and after a decade of hits, parted ways with Mitchell and devoted himself in the 1980's to his ministry and Gospel (although he did appear in 1982 with Patti Labelle in the play Your Arms Too Short to Box with God on Broadway.

Although he recorded secular songs on occasion ("Put a Little Love in your Heart" with Annie Lennox for the 1988 Bill Murray album "Scrooged") it was not until his 1994 "Funny How Time Slips Away" duet with Lyle Lovett - Green's 9th Grammy-winner - that he began to record more popular music.

In 2000 he released his autobiography Take Me to the River and recorded some modest-selling Gospel and R&B recordings.        

This past decade saw a revival of his R&B career. Bruce Lundvall - a one-time president of Columbia Records - became the head of the venerable jazz label Blue Note (celebrating its 70th anniversary this year) and jazz is still their mainstay. But with his background, Lundvall wanted other high quality acts (in different genres) on his label, so he added Norah Jones, Anita Baker and Al Green, among others.

Joining forces in 2003 with Willie Mitchell for the first time (on a secular album) in decades, Al Green went back to his roots and created an old-fashioned soul album - yet with all new material and not simply a nostalgia trip - in I Can't Stop that brought his music to a new audience as well as making his old fans happy. I recall one DownBeat reviewer writing, "It's amazing to hear old-time music sound so fresh".

He has followed this up with 2005's Everything's OK and had his greatest album success in 35 years in 2008 with Lay it Down - featuring duets with John Legend and Corrine Bailey Rae - that reached #9 on the album charts.

Turing age 67 this coming April, if Al Green's career ended tomorrow: it would have reached legendary status long ago with induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995, the Gospel Music Hall of Fame in 2004, plus Halls of Fame in Michigan, his home state of Arkansas plus the city of Memphis ... wherever he goes, it seems like home. And he was named as #66 on Rolling Stone's 100 Greatest Artists of All Time this past decade.

The Reverend Al Green preaches/sings for all to hear at his church in Memphis today - his services are also popular with tourists from here and abroad, though reviewers note that the church building is hot in summer, and that you'll see/hear true Pentecostal goings-on (speaking in tongues, an occasional diatribe against gays, and the services can last a long time).

But he still tours with his secular music, and had to decline an invitation to sing at President Obama's second inauguration due to a scheduling conflict. He hopes to make up that opportunity, and is worth traveling to see when he does tour.

   

Of all of his songs, it is a ballad from his 2003 "I Can't Stop" comeback album, entitled Not Tonight that is my favorite ... and below you can hear it.

You've been there from day one
You've been there since my life's begun
I don't know just how to explain
How I feel about you

And I'd never go and leave you
(That's one thing about me)
I'll never go and deceive you
I'd never go and bring you
And then turn and go away from you

Take my advice
Don't you never, never
Think about it twice
All my life, all my life

Don't get on that train
And don't get on that plane
Baby, not tonight
Baby, not tonight
'Cause I'm in love with you
And I swear, you know it's true
Baby, not tonight

Originally posted to DKOMA on Sun Jan 27, 2013 at 08:30 AM PST.

Also republished by Shamrock American Kossacks.

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