• “Crossroads” by Clapton, Sheryl Crow, John Mayer, and Robert Randolph; I gotcha cultural appropriation right here

    Robert Johnson wrote and recorded “Crossroads” in the mid-1930s.

    Many, myself included, consider it the icon blues song, a cultural achievement of a high order, like the blues itself.

    Those acoustic songs were the platform on which Chicago’s electric blues were built in the 1950s and, a decade later, a fusion of blues and rock.

    What today’s best blues-rockers have done with it is amazing, original . . . and it has kept the genre alive, not as a relic but as a living, evolving musical form.

    Just listen to Sheryl and those great backup singers, carried forward on a wave of guitars and some mighty inventive percussion.

  • Riley B. King says, “Let the Good Times Roll”: A great, live performance

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    With North Korean missiles threatening, I’d say it’s time for some uptempo, rockin’ blues.

    I posted Joe Bonamassa’s version of Let the Good Times Roll exactly one year ago, as Tim Favero reminded me, and it’s time to go to that deep well again.

    So, here’s Riley B. King with Buddy Guy, Branford Marsalis, Kim Wilson, and Dr John.

    In case you don’t recognize Kim’s name, he was the front man for The Fabulous Thunderbirds (“Ain’t That Tuff Enough?” and “Wrap It Up”) and is one of the great blues harmonica players today (along with Charlie Musselwhite).

  • Crawling King Snake by John Lee Hooker

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    So it shouldn’t be a total loss, here’s John Lee Hooker at his best, singing about that amniote, ectothermic vertebrate.

    Mr. Hooker is from Vance and Clarksdale, near my hometown.

    That’s where he first saw king snakes and–I’m just guessing here–thought they might be an effective metaphor.


  • ZipDialog Roundup for Sunday, June 18

    Articles chosen with care. Comments welcomed. Linked articles in bold purple

     Florida Gov. Rick Scott (R) signs hotly-contested education bill (Orlando Sentinel)

    The major bill

    tackles everything from recess to teacher bonuses to testing. Backers called it “landmark” and “transformational” legislation, while critics said it will harm public schools and their most vulnerable students. . . . .

    The measure includes the “schools of hope” provision [House Speaker Richard] Corcoran championed, which will use state money to lure high-performing charter schools to neighborhoods where students in traditional schools have struggled academically.

    “These are kids who are being robbed of dignity and hope,” Corcoran said. “We want every single child to have an opportunity to get a world-class education.”

    The bill’s provisions related to charter schools — privately run public institutions — have prompted some of the biggest outcry, with many educators and school advocates urging Scott to veto the bill because they think it will reduce funding for traditional public schools.

    Comment: The bill was strongly opposed by teachers’ unions and other supporters of traditional public schools, strongly supported by proponents of charters and private schools.

     Carol Felsenthal has a thoughtful, succinct opinion piece at ZipDialog: Will Trump Ax Mueller?

    She thinks there is an excellent chance he will and that the political consequences will be very serious.

     Illinois state comptroller says she cannot pay the bills. State finances are in a “crisis mode” (Associate Press)

    [Comptroller Susana] Mendoza says a recent court order regarding money owed for Medicaid bills means mandated payments will eat up 100 percent of Illinois’ monthly revenue.

    There would be no money left for so-called “discretionary” spending – a category that in Illinois includes school buses, domestic violence shelters and some ambulance services. –Associated Press

    Comment: For years, the state spent lavishly on pensions for unionized state employees, who were so beloved by legislators that they actually wrote into the state constitution that pensions can never be reduced.

    On those rare occasions when the Democrats and Republicans agreed on budget cuts, they were struck down by the courts because they reduced future pension benefits, which violates the constitution.

    For years, the state has been deep blue, with House Majority Leader Mike Madigan (of Chicago) as the most powerful figure. Several years ago, a tough-minded Republican (Bruce Rauner) won the governorship, but he and Madigan have not been able to strike a deal. 

    Unlike Puerto Rico, Illinois and other US states cannot seek bankruptcy protection. But lots of city and state agencies can, and there is a real prospect that some will have to do so if the state cannot pay its share of their budget.

    You can easily imagine what the D’s and R’s say. “The other side is intransigent, and what we need to do is (a) raise taxes or (b) cut services.” You can guess who says A and who says B. (The one quirk is that not all Republicans favor being hard on unionized state employees. In some downstate districts, they are vote in large numbers, often for Republicans.)

     “Put down you make-up kit, m’am, and come out of the beauty shop with your hands up.”

    Idaho governor vetoed legislation to make it easier to work in cosmetology  (FEE, Foundation for Economic Education) Then, his wife called and asked her usual, unlicensed make-up artist to come and do some work. The make-up artist, Sherry Japhet, told her no.   

    Here’s what Ms. Japhet said on Facebook:

    Got a call to do [First Lady] Lori Otter’s makeup for a commercial on location and I said…

    “I would be more than happy to do it but her husband [Gov. Butch Otter, R] vetoed a bill to make it legal for me or any other makeup artist and stylist to do so. She will have to go to a salon or do it all herself.”

    She added in the Facebook post: “That felt so damn good.” –FEE

    Comment: Too many people need costly, time-consuming, irrelevant licenses.

    Bureaucracies love imposing them. That’s what they live to do. Professionals already in the field often favor them to prevent competition.

    So, who loses? Consumers lose, unless the licenses protect health and safety.

    Licenses for commercial truck drivers and food handlers are obviously necessary. But many others are unnecessary or are saddled with lots of unnecessary classroom hours. They raise costs and force people to go to unlicensed or blackmarket providers–or do without.

     The answer, my friend, is blowing in the . . . Spark Notes???  (Slate)

    Slate asks, “Did the singer-songwriter take portions of his Nobel lecture from SparkNotes?”

    Sounds like their lawyer went over that headline, doesn’t it? Anyway, they note the following:

    Across the 78 sentences in the lecture that Dylan spends describing Moby-Dick, even a cursory inspection reveals that more than a dozen of them appear to closely resemble lines from the SparkNotes site. And most of the key shared phrases in these passages (such as “Ahab’s lust for vengeance” in the above lines) do not appear in the novel Moby-Dick at all. –Slate

     Bodies of missing US sailors found in ship’s flooded compartment  (New York Times)

    The collision occurred in a  crowded shipping lane and the cause of the accident has not yet been determined.



  • All the Beatles’ songs ranked, best to worst

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    Vulture’s Bill Wyman did the rankings (here).

    I discovered them, thanks to my friend Shlomo Dror, and so can you.

    It’s hard to argue with their top 9, though you or I might put them in slightly different order.

    What’s so striking to me, even now, is that the words and tunes play through my mind as I say the names.

    1. A Day in the Life (Sgt. Pepper’s)
    2. Strawberry Fields Forever (single)
    3. Penny Lane (single)
    4. She Loves You (single)
    5. Please Please Me (single)
    6. Dear Prudence (The White Album)
    7. Here, There, and Everywhere (Revolver)
    8. Norwegian Wood (Rubber Soul)
    9. Eleanor Rigby (Revolver)

    They rank “Let It Be” and “Here Comes the Sun” at 15 and 16, “Hey Jude” at 20.

    Amazing songs further down the list like “Blackbird” (31), “While My Guitar Gently Weeps (32), “Yesterday” (39).

    And on and on. The last one on the list, #213, “Good Day Sunshine.”


    Thanks, Shlomo. What fun reading this article and remembering those songs.