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 .....
OK, you've been warned - here is this week's
tomfoolery material that I posted.
ART NOTES - in honor of Valentine's Day, the exhibition Sleeping Eros - known to the Romans as Cupid, and which features nearly fifty drawings, sculptures and jewels - is at the Metropolitan Museum of art in New York through June 23rd.
SPORTING NOTES - after several blown calls at the last World Cup tournament - including goals disallowed that should have counted, and vice-versa - the sport's governing body will use goal-line technology for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
AFTER AN ABSENCE of ten years, a revived passenger rail link between the two largest cities in Nigeria may herald some relief for that nation's old infrastructure.
WEDNESDAY's CHILD is Milo the Cat - an English kitteh who was found eight years after going missing ... due to his microchip.
FILM NOTES - the children's favorite Oliver Twist is to be 're-imagined' for the big screen - to follow pick-pocketing partners Oliver Twist and the Artful Dodger, some 20 years after their exploits in Charles Dickens' novel.
WITH THE ELECTION for the mayor of Bangkok, Thailand set for a few weeks from now: the difficulty for candidates is promising to make change ... when the job comes with little authority, money or flexibility from above.
ART NOTES - more than sixty paintings, prints, sculptures by the renowned pop artist in the exhibition Warhol Out West is at the Bellagio Gallery of Fine Art in Las Vegas, Nevada through October 27th.
ALTHOUGH at only 45 seconds it was way-too-short: a highlight of the recent Grammy Awards was the musical tribute to the late Dave Brubeck by Chick Corea, Kenny Garrett and bassist Stanley Clarke - who reveals that he once substituted for the Dave Brubeck Quartet's bassist at only age 18, and the experience "certainly had an impact on me, especially being so young and green."
THIS ESSAY WAS NOT ONLINE when I first noted it in this space - but do read this American Prospect essay Pre-K on the Range that explains how Oklahoma legislators - yes, in Oklahoma - passed one of the leading pre-K programs in the nation. It involved some luck, being in the right place at the right time ... and a little subterfuge from a Democratic legislator in particular .... and conservatives are not going to try and repeal it.
THURSDAY's CHILD says to trust a therapy center in Poland, who believe in therapy that involves letting a cat curl up on your lap.
BRAIN TEASER - try this Quiz of the Week's News from the BBC.
THE OTHER NIGHT yours truly hosted the Top Comments diary with a look at professional wrestling - yes, a guilty pleasure from my mis-spent youth.
HAIL and FAREWELL to the blues guitarist Morris Holt - better known as Magic Slim - who has died at the age of 75. There are not many remaining bluesmen from his generation, hence an extra note of wistfulness.
FOR ANYONE considering running for the House of Commons in the UK from the Conservative Party they must complete five tasks: public speaking, an interview, an in-tray test (in which candidates must complete a series of desk-based tasks), a group exercise and a written exam.
ON APRIL 30th there will be a celebration of International Jazz Day in Istanbul, Turkey (hosted by UNESCO Goodwill Ambassador and jazz pianist Herbie Hancock) to note a special connection between that nation and jazz. It began in the 30's-'40s when the two sons of Turkish Ambassador Mehmet Munir Ertegun - who went on to become Atlantic Records co-founder Ahmet Ertegun and his brother Neshui (who ran that label's jazz division) - invited jazz musicians to the ambassador's mansion for Sunday lunches followed by integrated jam sessions in an upstairs music parlor.
Hancock says he was particularly impressed by a story told to him by Turkey's current ambassador, Namik Tan, about how his predecessor responded whenever outraged Southern senators would complain that "a person of color was seen entering your house by the front door (which) is not a practice to be encouraged."FRIDAY's CHILD is the late Ernie the Cat - of whom a Tennessee man wrote a nice ode.
The ambassador would offer a terse one-sentence reply such as: "In my home, friends enter by the front door — however, we can arrange for you to enter from the back."
......and finally, for a song of the week ............... though my favorite blues figure is the bassist/bandleader/composer extraordinaire Willie Dixon, it was through Muddy Waters that Dixon's work shone: as Muddy Waters became the face of the Chicago blues. Before founding Motown, Berry Gordy owned a Detroit jazz record store and says he told customers, "I don't want to sell you Muddy Waters" before realizing (too late to save his store) that he had misread his customers, who wanted blues and soul.
If you've ever seen a songwriter's credit for McKinley Morganfield - well, that's the man who was born in Mississippi in 1913 and whose childhood fondness for playing in the mud (gradually) morphed into his later nickname. Inspired by fellow Magnolia State guitarists Robert Johnson and Son House, Waters developed a sound that was discovered by the Library of Congress musicologist Alan Lomax who recorded him in 1941 on what later became "I Can't Be Satisfied". Hearing the copy that Lomax sent to him gave him the courage to make the move to Chicago to make his fortune.
He became a regular South Side performer, with Big Bill Broonzy asking him to be the opening act for him. Eventually he began recording for Chess Records and by 1950 had become a local favorite. Chess subsequently allowed him to choose his own musicians (rather than record with in-house ones) and he began to assemble some of the best over the next few years.
With Walter Jacobs on harmonica, Otis Spann on piano and Jimmie Rogers on guitar, Muddy Waters helped establish the Chicago sound in the public's eye (along with another Mississippi native, Howlin' Wolf) in the 1950's. And the two of them also sang many songs that Willie Dixon wrote (such as "Hoochie Coochie Man"). Have a listen at this link to another Dixon song that Muddy popularized, You Need Love - and you understand why subsequent re-releases of Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" must now be half-credited to Willie Dixon.
Even excluding the Dixon-composed songs: if you are a rock fan, you've no doubt heard some of Muddy Waters' own tunes covered, which include: "Rolling & Tumbling" (Cream), "Trouble No More" (Allman Brothers), "I Can't Be Satisfied" (Rolling Stones), "Forty Days and Forty Nights" (Eric Burdon and the Animals), "Long Distance Call" (Butterfield Blues Band), "The Blues Had a Baby" (Johnny Winter) and a 1950 tune Rolling Stone which inspired a band, as well as a Dylan song, as well as a magazine ... all of which you may have heard of.
Muddy Waters' time in the spotlight (like many other musicians) faded after the British Invasion; many UK visitors to Chicago were stunned to see him working odd jobs in the mid-1960's at Chess Records. Waters was later championed by rock'n'rollers, eventually reviving his career in the 1970's. He performed on The Last Waltz by The Band in 1976.
One 1968 album Electric Mud was a controversial album that attempted to blend traditional blues with the psychedelia of the day that was panned universally by critics as a sell-out. But decades later, Chuck D of Public Enemy stated that many hip-hop artists were inspired by the album (unlike hearing traditional blues albums) and John Paul Jones of Led Zeppelin has cited this recording as the inspiration behind the song"Black Dog".
Muddy Waters died in April, 1983 at the age of 70. He was portrayed by Jeffrey Wright in the film Cadillac Records and his legacy is immense. Muddy Waters was inducted into the Halls of Fame for Blues (in 1980) as well as for Rock & Roll (in 1987) and earning six Grammy Awards (including Lifetime Achievement).
Rolling Stone listed him thrice in its honor lists: at #49 of its 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time, at #53 of its 100 Greatest Singers of All Time ... and for its ultimate 100 Greatest Artists of All Time list: Muddy Waters came in at #17.
While he has written many blues classics, I have to choose one that he did not write ... but made into a classic. Got My Mojo Working was written by a little-known blues musician named Preston Foster, and was first released by the Gospel singer Ann Cole in 1956.
In 1973, Robert Klein had a comedy album which included the song Middle Class Educated Blues and ended with, "I got my mojo working ..... what is a mojo, anyway?" It turned out that it was a good-luck charm ... and this song expressed disappointment that .... well, it wasn't working.
The tune has subsequently been performed by a plethora of musicians, including Conway Twitty, Manfred Mann, The Zombies, Carla Thomas, Canned Heat, Elvis Presley, B.B. King, Chuck Berry and Carl Perkins ...... but to me, Muddy Waters sang the definitive version. And below you can hear it.
Got my mojo working, but it just won't work on you
I wanna love you so bad till I don't know what to do
I'm going down to Louisiana to get me a mojo hand
I'm gonna have all you women right here at my command
I got a gypsy woman giving me advice
I got some red hot tips I got to keep on ice
Got my mojo working
Got my mojo working
Got my mojo working
But it ........ just won't work on you