Politicians trying to sound like hep cats are always amusing. And as Anthony Blair Esq eventually found out, they usually end up looking like pillocks.
This is from today’s Times report on Hull winning City of Culture status for 2017:
“Yesterday’s announcement drew attention to the city’s long list of high achievers, although one of them reacted badly when named by David Cameron during Prime Minister’s Questions. Mr Cameron cited Hull’s ‘fantastic record’ in popular music. ‘I remember some years ago that great Hull Housemartins album London 0, Hull 4,’ he said.
“Paul Heaton, lead singer of the band, responded on Twitter: ‘When I took over my pub in Salford, the first people I banned were Cameron and Osborne. That ban still stands.’ He said that the Prime Minister ‘ruined my day’ and rebutted criticism that he had passed judgement without meeting Mr Cameron or the Chancellor. ‘You don’t need to smell s*** to know it stinks,’ he wrote
“Lord Prescott, the former Deputy Prime Minister who served as MP for Hull East for 30 years, responded jubilantly by referring to one of Mr Heaton’s songs. ‘It’s happy hour again!’ he said.”
Some readers may have been mystified as to why on Saturday, apparently for no particular reason, I posted a short piece on Billy Taylor’s composition ‘I Wish I Knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free).’
The reason was that today (Nov 12) is the 50th anniversary of the original recording of the tune by Billy Taylor’s Trio. My little post, complete with YouTube clips by Taylor and Nina Simone, was prepared in advance, all ready to go up today. Then I pressed the wrong button and posted it early.
So here, on the anniversary itself, is the original version from Taylor’s album Right Here, Right Now, released early in 1964, but recorded exactly 50 years ago today:
“I Wish I Knew How It Would Feel to Be Free” is a gospel/jazz song written by Billy Taylor and Dick Dallas, best known for the recording by Nina Simone in 1967 on her Silk & Soul album. Billy Taylor’s original version (as “I Wish I Knew”) was recorded November 12, 1963 and released on his Right Here, Right Now album (Capitol ST-2039) the following year. His 1967 instrumental take was later used as the theme music for The Film programme on BBC television.
Billy Taylor has explained: “I wrote this song, perhaps my best known composition, for my daughter Kim. This is one of the best renditions I’ve done, because it is very spiritual.”
Here’s the composer, Dr Taylor, in action:
And here’s the extraordinary Ms Simone, revisiting her famous interpretation of the tune:
I thought his Berlin too glamorously decadent for words, and Walk on the Wild Side had a real sweetness and warmth about people who most would have regarded as depraved deadbeats.
Stacey Kent greets the change of season…
…as does Zoot Sims, in a nice instrumental version apparently filmed in someone’s front room:
Sarah AB, over at That Place and also at Engage, has described the circumstances leading to the Malian singer-songwriter Salif Keita to cancelling an appearance in Jerusalem. We have argued many times here at Shiraz, that the BDS campaign to boycott and “delegitimise” Israel is counterproductive, of no real use to the Palestinian people and generally more about hatred of Israel than about solidarity with the Palestinian people.
I thought it would be useful to republish this statement from Salif Keita’s Facebook page:
Salif Keita forced to cancel Jerusalem Festival due to dangerous threats by BDS
August 22, 2013
Dear Sacred Music Festival, Hadassah Hospital, Salif Keita fans,
On behalf of Salif Keita and the Salif Keita Global Foundation, we would like to thank you for organizing a magnificent unifying music festival, and a visit of the albinism treatment center in Jerusalem. Unfortunately, Mr. Keita will not be able to attend either events because of the cancellation of his show at the Sacred Music Festival.
Although, the show was cancelled, Mr. Keita (and his foundation for albinism) would like to convey his most sincere apologies to all concerned, such as the concert organizers, the Albinism Treatment Center and especially all his wonderful and diverse fans in Israel. The reason for the cancellation is not one which was made by Mr. Keita, but by his agents who were bombarded with hundreds of threats, blackmail attempts, intimidation, social media harrassment and slander stating that Mr Keita was to perform in Israel, “not for peace, but for apartheid.”
These threats were made by a group named BDS, who also threatened to keep increasing an anti-Salif Keita campaign, which they had already started on social media, and to work diligently at ruining the reputation and career that Mr. Keita has worked 40 years to achieve not only professionally, but for human rights and albinism.
Of course, we do not agree with any of these tactics or false propaganda, but management’s concern is to protect the artist from being harmed personnally and professionally. Although, we love Israel and all his fans here, and the fantastic spirit of unity of the Sacred Music Festival, as well as the important work your hospital is doing for albinism, we did not agree with the scare tactics and bullying used by BDS; therefore management decided to act cautiously when faced with an extremist group, as we believe BDS to be.
In addition, Mr. Keita is not a politician who plays for governments, but a musician who performs for his fans who are of all faiths and origins in Jerusalem. It is unfortunate that artists like him are threatened by this group who falsely claim to defend human rights, when they should take their concerns to governments or ask for support of their cause in a lawful way, and not by endangering the freedom of expression of artists, or using harrassment and intimidation of artists who play for peace and for all people, in order to bring some kind of justice to the Palestinians they claim to represent.
Since Mr. Keita, during his stay and performance in Jerusalem, had planned to visit the Hadassah Hospital and albinism center, he had also planned to make a donation of certain goods to the hospital which he would still like to offer. The boxes are already in Jerusalem and were shipped for his planned visit to the hospital. The modest donation consists of about a couple of hundred new UV protected sunglasses, as well as UV protected clothing, swimgear and hats for patients with albinism.
Again, we thank you for your invitation to Jerusalem, and are deeply saddened and disappointed by the outcome of this planned performance and visit. We hope that you will receive this donation with the love it was intended to bring to the patients, as we determine a future time to be able to perform in Israel, and visit your important center for albinism and skin cancer treatment.
Salif Keita and Coumba Makalou
The Salif Keita Global Foundation INC
As we approach the fiftieth anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and that “I have a dream” speech by Martin Luther King, it seems right to bring you some of the music that sustained the civil rights movement in the sixties – and beyond.
This selection is by Nick Morrison of NPR, as are the brief comments:
I Wish I knew (How It Would Feel To Be Free) – Nina Simone
Of the many musicians who used their music to advance the cause of civil rights, Nina Simone was one of the most passionate, most outspoken and most gifted. Although many of her civil rights era songs had their origins earlier in the 20th century, this song was written in 1967 by noted jazz pianist and educator Dr Billy Taylor (along with Dick Dallas), and was recorded by Simone that same year. It quickly became one of the musical mainstays of the movement.
Selma March – Grant Green
The march for voting rights from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., took place in March 1965. Today, some people tend to forget that there were two failed attempts to make the journey earlier that month. The first march ended in bloodshed, while the second was met with a restraining order. That ruling was quickly overturned and, on March 21, Dr King began the historic four-day march. Five months later, President Lyndon Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act of 1965. This jubilant instrumental by jazz guitarist Grant Green seems to reflect the jubilation surrounding the Selma march’s completion. A 1965 recording, it also features Harold Vick (sax), Larry Young (organ), Ben Dixon (drums) and Candido Camero (congas).
We Shall Overcome – Larry Goldings
Many people, when asked to name a song that encapsulates the civil rights movement, will pick “We Shall Overcome.” It was, indeed, the movement’s theme song, sung by countless people all over the world. That’s how we often think of the song: large groups of people gathered together, singing it as they struggle against mighty odds. Pianist Larry Goldings, however, gives us a different view of this classic. Accompanied only by trumpeter (actually, he’s on cornet – JD) John Sneider, Goldings turns “We Shall Overcome” into a wistful, intimate and moving meditation.
This Little Light of Mine – Sam Cooke
Folklorist and activist Zilphia Horton did a wonderful thing when she introduced this children’s gospel song to the civil rights movement in the 1950s. Vocalist Sam Cooke did something equally wonderful, and much more amazing. He took this song that people were singing at sit-ins and marches and brought it into America’s toniest nightclubs, putting the music of The Movement in front of an audience that probably didn’t spend much time at sit-ins and marches. Cooke performed this joyful and uplifting version of “the Little Light Of Mine” in 1964 in New York’s Copacabana.
Lift Every Voice And Sing – Hank Crawford and Jimmy McGriff
[No Youtube clip available, so click here]
In 1919, this song (by James and John Johnson) was adopted by the NAACP as “The Negro National Anthem.” Its resonance in the civil rights movement is indisputable and, like all of the songs in this brief overview, it remains an incredibly moving piece of music today. This soulful instrumental version by alto saxophonist Hank Crawford, with his long-time musical partner and organist Jimmy McGriff, is one of the best. Prepare to be taken to the river.
Mel Smith has just died.
He was great in sketch shows and also in the more straight role of Colin in Colin’s Sandwich.
Some videos of him and the Not the Nine O’Clock News gang doing their spoof songs.
Gob On you (Punk)
I Like Trucking
Country and Western
Mel Smith, who has died at the age of 60, had a perfect face for comedy. Hangdog and irritable, Smith’s often had the demeanour of a man who had just been trapped in a lift for 12 hours with an angry bluebottle. His gift for comedy is rightly recognised, but a look at his 40-year career reveals a more versatile talent.
The son of a bookie, Smith was born in Chiswick in 1952 and attended Latymer Upper School and Oxford University where he became president of OUDS. At the Oxford Playhouse, he directed a production of The Tempest which led to his being hired by the Royal Court as an assistant director.
This was the Royal Court of the mid-Seventies, a tremendously fertile period when playwrights such as David Edgar and Caryl Churchill broke through. However, Smith’s career stalled after an unhappy spell at the Young Vic and he decided to take over his dad’s betting shop. Then he got a call from John Lloyd.
Lloyd had created a satirical sketch show, Not the Nine O’Clock News, with a short-but-already-troubled history. It was 1979 and, in a year of a General Election, the BBC had pulled the pilot episode because they feared it took too overtly political. Lloyd decided to recast the show, and that was when Smith was asked to join.
Smith’s performances throughout the series’s four-year run are uniformally good. He played it beautifully straight as the Hush Puppy-wearing professor who has reared a rather urbane gorilla called Gerald. He was also the terribly polite customer who wanted to buy a “gramophone”, enduring the derision of Rowan Atkinson’s shop assistant with a stiff-upper-lip decency.
Although these were only three-minute sketches, Smith had the talent to completely immerse himself in the characters he played and make them memorable.
Of course, Not the Nine O’Clock News also starred Smith’s long-term collaborator Griff Rhys Jones. The pair formed the TV production company Talkback (which they eventually sold for £62million) and created Alas Smith and Jones, another successful BBC comedy show. It became famous for the pair’s wonderful quasi-philosophical face-to-face dialogues, which were filmed in profile.
But aside from these hit series, Smith should also be praised for the now largely forgotten Colin’s Sandwich. In this 1988 sitcom he played Colin Watkins, a British Rail clerical worker who dreamed of becoming the next Stephen King. The series was peppered with long monologues which Smith delivered brilliantly in the style of Tony Hancock.
However Smith’s comedy appearances were fewer and further between after this, and he concentrated largely on directing. Although the results were variable, he directed the underrated The Tall Guy (1988), which featured a brilliantly awful pastiche of West End musicals called Elephant, about the life of John Merrick. A decade later, he stepped in to direct Bean (based on Rowan Atkinson’s extraordinarily successful TV show) when the original director was fired.
The last 15 years of his life saw a marked reduction in his output. He had become addicted to painkillers and was hospitalised with stomach ulcers.
His last appearance was in Stephen Poliakoff’s Dancing on the Edge earlier this year. (By a curious coincidence, his first TV role was in Poliakoff’s Bloody Kids in 1979.) Smith played Schlesinger, a jobsworth hotel manager bristling with hostility towards Louis Lester’s black jazz band.
It was a neat, perfectly judged performance and an indication of how, had he lived, Smith might have developed into a successful character actor as well as a deceptively talented comedian.
The skies have, indeed, been blue, and the BBC has been playing snatches of Ella singing Irving Berlin’s great song, based upon a traditional Russian/Jewish lullaby
Great as Ella was, I personally rather prefer this version, by the neglected Maxine Sullivan: