Happy 70th Birthday, Bob Dylan

Bob Dylan turns 70 today.   I’ve been listening to his tunes lately, and they are as good as ever, if not better.  So, my fellow Baby Boomers, now that Dylan is 70, will you now admit that you aren’t young any more?

Notice I am not using a headline that alludes to “Forever Young.”  That’s about the only Dylan song that I find annoying, since it assumes that being young is better than being old, a notion I dispute.  (Do you fellow aging baby boomers now agree?)

 

American Idol finale

I have been sparing you this year my interest in American Idol, the popular talent show that causes the American public to exercise aesthetic judgments.  But now we are at the finale.  The last two standing are Scotty McCreary and Laure Alaina, 17 and 16 years old respectively.  They are both country singers, interestingly enough, and refreshingly free of attitude and vulgarity.   This season is being hailed as one of the best ever in terms of talent.  Simon Cowell is not on anymore, so the criticisms have been kinder and gentler, to put it mildly.  The replacements for Cowell and Paula Abdul, Steve Tyler and Jennifer Lopez, have been surprisingly likable.  They compete tonight, with the winner being announced on Wednesday.

I think some of you must follow the show, despite the snide remarks I have endured in previous years (“Dr. Veith!  You are the highbrow culture critic!  How can you watch this dreck?”), so I address only you fellow-travelers:  What do you think of the show this season?  What were the highlights?  Has justice been done?  Who deserves to win?

American Idol this time around

Yes, I’m following American Idol again, despite the way some of you have been giving me a hard time about this particular guilty pleasure.  Last night the 13 finalists were selected.  I would just like to note that I picked every one of the male performers and voted for four of them.  The one female contestant that I was pulling for, Naima Adedapo from Milwaukee, did not get enough votes from the public, but the judges put her back in as a “wild card.”  My favorite and the one I’m predicting to win is Jacob Lusk.  As Steven Tyler said, we need his kind of singing again, a strong, jazzy, standards-kind-of-voice.  Naima is much the same way.   These are adult voices.  It’s time adults made music for adults, as opposed to kids making music for kids, or kids making music for adults.

A feature of “Hollywood Week” was a plump baby-faced 15 year old with an angelic voice getting thrown out of a group by, in effect, some mean cool kids.  The mean ones were all voted off, except for country-singer-with-a-deep-voice Scotty, who tearfully repented.

Also, I will say that the new judging team of Tyler, Jennifer Lopez, and veteran Randy Jackson has, to my surprise, done a good job.  I had assumed the dark lord Simon Cowell would be missed, but the more positive panel has worked well.

This new crop of finalists is very strong, surely one of the best.

With twist, `American Idol’ down to 13 contestants.

So if any of the rest of you are following the show, I would welcome your assessments and your predictions.  (If you aren’t and if your comment would just be something on the order of “why would anyone watch this show?” you can keep that to yourself.)

Adult culture

Picking up from the music posts last weekend. . . .

Country music draws from the world of adults:  marriage, family, work, church, but also alcoholism, adultery, divorce.  (Country music is not intrinsically more wholesome, though.  It is very frank about sex–premarital, extramarital, but also marital–and is full of bad examples.)

The other popular musical genres–indeed, virtually all of pop culture, including television and the movies–draws from the world of young people:  dating, singleness, play, undefined spirituality, drugs, premarital sex, romantic love, fantasy.  (Notice that on television, virtually everyone even in ostensibly realistic dramas–NCIS, Law & Order, Bones, etc.–is single.)

It was not always this way.  The blues draws on the adult world.  Folk music.  Jazz.  Standards.  The American Songbook.  Classical music back when it was contemporary was made by adults for adults.

It is surely one of the oddest of our current cultural dysfunctions that our popular art and entertainment are largely made for young people.  To be sure, adults own the studios, run the industry, and make most of the money.  But the content and the target audience are largely oriented to adolescent children and single people in their lower 20′s.

One might say that this is just economics, that the entertainment biz caters to whoever will spend money on the product.  But adults, who have far more disposable income than those just starting out, do buy music and other kinds of entertainment.  But they  buy either what the young people are listening to or watching, or the music, styles, and artists they enjoyed when they were adolescents!

Whatever happened to adult culture?

Special music edition

I’ve gotten out of touch when it comes to new and recent music.  What are some good songs, albums, and artists?  Describe them, saying what’s so good about them.  I’m curious about all genres.   Special gratitude would go for songs that would be listenable to someone who is not  young.

“The greatest Lutheran bar band, ever”

That would be the Jayhawks!   I had no idea that Mark Olson was a Lutheran.   I heard them in concert years ago.   Thanks to Larry Wilson for alerting me to this fact.  From the Mockingbird Blog:

I once heard The Jayhawks described as the “greatest Lutheran bar band ever,” and though I’m still not exactly sure what that means, I know I like it. It’s certainly better than the “alt-country pioneers” label they normally get saddled with. Or worse, heirs of Gram Parsons’ “cosmic American music” legacy. (Which is not a knock on Gram in any way, just on the flaky non-genre he coined). My own description would be: jangly God-haunted Midwestern country-folk with fuzz guitars and harmonies that redefine the words “sandpaper-and-honey.” But even that doesn’t cover the oddly circular progression they’ve undergone, from breezy singer-songwriters to arty and somewhat angsty recordmakers, and back again. Regardless of how they’re categorized, The Jayhawks are an American treasure, responsible for at least four brilliant albums, two of which feature co-founder/-lead singer Mark Olson (Hollywood Town Hall and Tomorrow The Green Grass), two of which don’t (Sound of Lies and Rainy Day Music are exclusively Gary Louris-led affairs). The fact that they’ve got a connection to Lutheranism is just a bonus. . . .

Anyway, back to the “Lutheran” part. Mark Olson’s faith has always informed the fractured poetry of his songs – an image here, a phrase there – never obscured by fear or paraded with insecurity. I’m thinking of the uncontrived religious undertones of “Waiting for the Sun” or “Real Light,” how they cleverly changed the title of “Martin Luther” to “Martin’s Song,” or how they covered Sister Rosetta Tharpe’s “Up Above My Head” on an early b-side. So when Olson wrote and recorded a straight-ahead gospel tune on his solo record December’s Child (!), “Still We Have A Friend In You,” it may not have been a big shock, but it was certainly a pleasant surprise (he had almost gone there with the excellent “Someone There To Talk With” on his previous album). It helps that it’s such a great song, too – totally authentic, uplifting and singable, with not even a whiff of cheapness. In other words, it’s top-tier white gospel (which is not meant as a backhanded compliment) and a bit of a modern classic. Olson explained himself in the press release for the record with characteristic humility and understatement: “That’s a gospel song in the sense of when you’re younger, you go away from God. It talks about what it takes to get you back into the walk with God. A lot of times you don’t go back until you’re just down.” Turns out it was a dry run for his next record, arguably his best, the divorce-themed The Salvation Blues. Garrison Keillor, eat your heart out.

via Mockingbird (Go to the link for lyrics and a sample.)

Does any one know any more about this?

Of course, my favorite Lutheran Church Missouri-Synod bar band has to be anyone playing with Lyle Lovett.  (Does anyone have any more Lyle Lovett sightings at local churches?  I’ve heard a few, including one where he explained to his band members why they couldn’t take Communion.)

Does anyone know any other Lutheran bar bands, or any other interesting and seemingly unlikely Christian affiliations?


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