Speaking of Music
I. The iPod. I read the news the other day, oh, boy. Apple is discontinuing the legendary iPod – probably because the company created such a useful, durable machine that it is no longer profitable.
The iPod made it possible to store up 1,000 individual songs in a “pocket-size rectangle with a white face and polished steel frame weighed 6.5 ounces,” as the NYT wrote – with the operator able to file them in categories or playlists -- every person a DJ.
I will never forget when my kids gave me one, more than 20 years ago, and gave me some lessons until I got the knack of downloading from an Apple computer -- entire CDs.
I still remember New York’s valuable and eclectic John Schaefer on FM radio, playing an entire CD, “Casa,” songs by Antonio Carlos Jobim, played by pianist and arranger Ryuichi Sakamoto, cellist Jacques Morelenbaum and singer Paula Morelenbaum, three talents uniting in Portuguese and English. I had it downloaded within days.
My “collection” ranges from Yo-Yo Ma’s vibrant “Silk Road Journey” to the gentle classical trio of “Butterworth, Parry, Bridge,” from the signature opener music from “The Sopranos” to Nina Simone singing “Ne Me Quitte Pas.”
I have not added to the collection in a decade for two reasons – (a) I am totally out of current music, to (b) I don’t have much access to the Apple laptop that could catalogue an entire CD in a few minutes.
Best discovery: I was never a fan of the “Bee Gees” until I discovered that my go-to album for a brisk two-mile walk on the soft track at the high school is the soundtrack from “Saturday Night Fever” – an old guy thinking he’s John Travolta strutting under the El in Brooklyn or in the Saturday night disco.
The article in the NYT about the end of the iPod did not mention repairs/upgrades. I don’t trust companies so I will have to be gentle with the iPod…and all those songs.
II. Vinyl Lives! The other day WQXR played the classic version of “Peter and the Wolf” with kindly old Uncle Lennie (Bernstein, that is) narrating the Prokofiev score. My wife said, we used to have a “record” of it…50 years ago or so. I riffled around in my closet and found a couple of cardboard boxes filled with old records, including “Peter and the Wolf,” and put it on the Fisher turntable (circa 1975 – with Amazon still supplying a needle every decade or two.
My exploration of the Vinyl hoard led to two records that dated me back to the summer of 1982, the Barcelona regional of the World Cup. My journalist friend Alex Martinez Roig invited me out to dinner in a suburb of Barcelona – and introduced me to the music of Joan Manuel Serrat – a baritone philosopher/critic – and later Alex gave me an album.
That same week, I was alone on my birthday, and there were no games, so I bought a ticket to an open-air concert in a Barcelona park, by Maria del Mar Bonet, a Majorcan folk singer. She and her band gave a great show, and on the way out I asked a couple to recommend their favorite album of hers, and the next day I dropped into El Corte Inglés and bought it and schlepped it home in my luggage.
Since rummaging through my vinyl, I have played these two thoughtful Catalan artists, and through the magic of a Fisher turntable, I feel it is summer in Barcelona, and I am turning 43.
But in fact, it is 2022, and Serrat’s brief against the madness is as current as, well, of course, Russia invading Ukraine. (English translation here:)
III. Memories of Kate and Anna. The Thursday Times informed me that Martha Wainwright has written a memoir. Good grief, is she really 46? But the part that really got me was the NYT’s casual mention that Martha’s mother, Kate McGarrigle, “made 10 albums as part of a duo with her sister Anna before her death in 2010.”
Sacré bleu. That’s like saying the New York Knicks had a pretty decent team back in the early 1970s with people you might have heard of, named Frazier and Reed and Bradley and DeBusschere.
I’m sorry, but Anna and Kate McGarrigle (and sometimes their more homebound sister Jane) were “The McGarrigles,” a haunting sassy mixture of Irish and Quebecoise – who wrote bilingual songs about love and sex and politics and long sisterly walks in the snow.
My point about this talented tribe: beyond the talent of Kate’s former husband, Loudon Wainwright III, their son Rufus Wainwright, and their daughter Martha Wainwright (and never, ever, forget their talented Brooklyn-born band member, and philosophy professor, Chaim Tannenbaum) there were “The McGarrigles,” mostly Anna and Kate.
The Times article by Emily Gould makes Anna and Kate sound like footnotes to the present, but they were wonderful, and many, many thousands of us still miss them, badly.
* * *
I could recommend dozens of their songs, but for these purposes, I go with Kate pounding the piano and singing her dear heart out on “Stella By Artois," (ignore the youtube mis-spelling) about a love affair that lasted just about as long as their band’s trip “from France clear through to Galway.” I dare you not to shed a tear.
5/12/2022 08:09:17 pm
5/13/2022 04:32:28 pm
Randy, sometimes you gotta clear stuff out. (One of my more hypocritical comments -- you should see the stuff I have stashed away.)
5/12/2022 08:13:25 pm
Thanks, George. Nothing touches the soul like music, but don't get me started about religion - music, that is. I don't have a smart device, but I have an ever evolving playlist. As one involved in estate planning, I have made sure to leave the list for my children so that, when I can no longer manage for myself, they can keep me on track. Miles, Beatles, Branford & Wynton, Grateful Dead, Cannonball, Jimmy Cobb . . . .
5/13/2022 04:39:28 pm
Andy: It is true, Mets fans are rabid. I have not been on mass transit in since early Feb of 2020-- and I miss the LIRR, the subways and the under-rated buses....Good to be safe, give your mom a break.
5/12/2022 09:40:59 pm
Dear George: Celia and I get all songs from our iPods and downloaded them into our iPhones. She is like you. The playlist of her iPod is the same as when she got it. My playlist changed so much. Anyway, your playlist is very cool.
5/13/2022 04:44:06 pm
Dear Altenir: my playlist is only as good as the advice I get from friends like you and Celia. You have helped enlighten me about all that great Brazilian music Muito obrigado. G
5/13/2022 08:07:14 am
My greatest "iPod moment": On a dreary day in Venice, walking along the Grand Canal listening to the Modern Jazz Quartet's "No Sun in Venice." Amazing that this device used to be the coolest thing and now its most enthusiastic users are we seniors. Take care (of yourself and your precious iPod).
5/13/2022 04:49:57 pm
Roy: What karma! Next, you'll tell me you had Mel Torme singing "Foggy Day in London Town" -- in London Town,
5/13/2022 04:27:05 pm
Joyce and I went to Montreal on our honeymoon in early November 1983. It was our first ever visit there, and we were staying at the wonderful Chateau Versailles. Looking in the paper during our stay, I saw a notice for a free Canadian Veteran's Day afternoon event at a Unitarian church with (in small letters) "music by Kate and Anna McGarrigle and Family." As the church was straight down Rue Sherbrooke from the hotel, and being great fans of theirs since the '70s, we had to go. And there we saw the McGarrigles - with all four sisters, assorted husbands, Tannenbaum, etc. in tow - performing songs of war and conflict from the balcony in between heated discussions about nationalism, patriotic duty, and pacifism. The next summer, after years of reviewing their albums and concerts, I finally got to meet and talk to them at an Everly Brothers show in the city, and when I mentioned the church event, Kate almost fell over. She said it was easily the strangest show they ever were a part of. From then on, every time I encountered them, they always remembered.
5/13/2022 04:58:48 pm
NB: Billy Altman is a writer with a specialty in music, and also teaches humanities in college, and advises museums dedicated to music. Plus, we sometimes meet in a luncheon group and I like sitting near him so I can divert from baseball to music gossip, like Billy's classic glimpse of the McGarrigle entourage. Their appearances were often impromptu -- the sisters liked to bicker, or pretend to bicker. In between, they made beautiful music. Thanks, Billy
5/13/2022 06:05:23 pm
Love this, George! I still have a few shelves of vinyl. There's no better way to listen to the classic Miles or Blue Note records. But glad you downloaded the Sopranos theme because the whole song is worth it. Not much popular music is going to name check Mingus and Rahsaan Roland Kirk.
5/15/2022 10:06:32 am
Mingus is or would be 100, and there's been a lot of attention; I could not attend the Jazz at Lincoln Center gig, and so I watched the livestream, which is no longer available. I hope you can find a trace of it somewhere His fusion of social commentary with challenging but generally listenable jazz brought it to a different level. I am still learning
5/15/2022 04:11:37 pm
Josh: Rahsaan Roland Kirk. Oh, yeah. Derby Day, 1965. My good friend Vic Ziegel and I were in Cincinnati and drove down to Louisville for the Derby because our papers (NY Post and Newsday) did not have Sunday papers. We drove back to Cincinnati near midnight -- picked up the Mets score on the radio --and we stopped in a coffee place off Fountain Square and Vic -- who knew all this stuff -- spotted Kirk, and went over to say hello to the great blind musician (whom he did not know.) . "Roland, Roland, the Mets won tonight," Vic said To which Kirk replied, "I can tell, man --- 'cause you so happy." He got that right. His line was a staple, over the years. GV
5/16/2022 12:10:33 pm
I love that Vic knew who Kirk was in 1965 and that the thing he most wanted to tell him when he saw him was the Mets score!
5/13/2022 06:22:46 pm
I remember the iPod, Walkman and other music carrying devices from the period my kids once called the “ancient days”.
5/13/2022 06:49:26 pm
As part of downsizing from a home in the suburbs, I reduced our record collection of folk music and a few classical albums to one box. My intent to transfer them to CD's.
5/15/2022 04:15:21 pm
Alan, I am a classic hoarder that way. I may have duplicates -- vinyl or cassette or CD -- but I can't toss them. Sometimes I put some old stuff in a bag for a giveaway....in the hope somebody will want them, GV
Edwin W. Martin Jr
5/13/2022 11:16:35 pm
Never had an Ipod.
5/15/2022 04:20:25 pm
Old guys -- it's guys -- had mothers who tossed their stuff. I had a notebook full of autographs from Saturday afternoons at the old MSG, many duplicates from Colleen Hutchins Vandeweghe, because what NYC kid wouldn't want to get near such a sweet, pretty Miss America, married to the hustling Knick-MD?
5/16/2022 01:59:10 pm
Oy! The Vanderweighe, seniors, belonged to the Rockville Golf Club, as did my parents, after Peggy and I flew the coop. Ernie was a good golfer, not surprising, He and Coleen were the “All American Couple,” she Miss America, he All-American at Colgate pre Knicks.
5/14/2022 10:02:33 am
George, one of my good friends died earlier this year, and I wrote a tribute to him. Below is an excerpt.
5/15/2022 04:26:17 pm
Lonnie, you have great friends from your KC circle, including No., 43.
5/16/2022 12:31:16 pm
Although this thread is mostly about music, I thought that the book “Low Life: Lures and Snares of Old New York” by Luc Sante might be of interest.
5/25/2022 08:46:35 am
TO ALL: I am having trouble with the site. It may be that Weebly does not exist anymore, or that it does not give service. I will try to investigate. Best, GV
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“I don’t think people understand how Covid affects older Americans,” Mr. Caretti said with frustration. “In 2020, there was this all-in-this-together vibe, and it’s been annihilated. People just need to care about other people, man. That’s my soapbox.”
---Vic Caretti, 47, whose father recently died of Covid at 85.
---From an article by Paula Span, who covers old age for the NYT, which currently has 2646 comments, the majority criticizing the American public – and public officials – for acting as if the pandemic is “over.”
Classic wishful thinking, at a lethal level.