Back during the Clinton administration, I had the pleasure of working for a supervisor who once blandly let me know that she hated men, but not me. Naturally this rankled a bit, and while commiserating with another man on the team (one of the funniest men I ever worked with), he related this story:
Some years ago he worked selling office supplies to corporations. He partnered with a woman who happened to be the junior salesman of the two. When doing cold calling, if the purchasing manager was a woman and they determined that she was a man-hater type, he would contrive to ‘accidentally’ spill his sample case on the floor. His female partner would then bark out something like “You clumsy oaf! Go to the car and get a new sample case!” Appearing suitably humiliated, he would gather up his stuff and rush out of the office.
By the time he apologetically returned from the car with a new sample case, his female partner would be closing the sale…
The first time I heard this on the car radio, it really put a hook in me. I did some reading and found that when Johnny Cash was near the end of his life, producer Rick Ruben set him up with a microphone in a living room sort of setting and recorded Cash, later adding minimal accompaniment. This traditional song from the Southern United States is a reflection on Judgement Day as described in the biblical Apocalypse of John, where the righteous, or saved, physically rise up from their graves in response to the angel Gabriel blowing his trumpet.
A close listen will reveal that Led Zeppelin, as they were wont to do, used the idea and some of the lyric as the basis for their anthem “In My Time of Dying”–which also put a hook in me the first time I heard Zeppelin play it at the Met Center in 1975.
I think one of Cash’s strengths as a singer was an honesty in his delivery, and that honesty powers this performance.
When Jewel was dumped by the young man who took his coat off and stood in the rain, she doubtless felt it was a horrible low point in her life. She couldn’t have known how that poignant moment, later immortalized in song, would transform her life into stardom–when at the age of 21, she entered a studio and recorded one of the finest Torch Songs of all time, Foolish Games.
Growing up in Alaska in a house without indoor plumbing, and later impoverished and living in a van while she travelled around earning money with street performances, she certainly paid her dues by the time she recorded her multi-platinum 1995 debut album Pieces of You. Foolish Games was released from it as a single in 1997, reached #2 on the charts, and remained on the charts for what was at the time a record 65 weeks.
Back in the day, I spent a non-trivial amount of time discussing the theory of pop music, with the late recording engineer/producer Steve Gurskey, and his view was that the singer and the song were the two most important elements in a great song–and this is a perfect exemplar of Steve’s view. Close miked for intimacy, with a spartan arrangement that highlights Jewel’s voice, the result is spellbinding. While youtube provides many nice live performances, I feel the studio version is the masterpiece and will feature that.
I have already spoken of an acquaintance who’s combat weapon in vietnam was a sawed off shotgun. Now I would like to turn my attention to a couple of men who served in the Pacific Theatre during World War II.
Some years ago, I discovered that my next door neighbor was a World War II vet. I spoke to him about this and learned that he had been awarded a medal for bravery in combat while under fire on the beach of an island in the Pacific. With his assent, I brought my young sons to his house and explained to my sons what he had done and what an honor it was to meet such a man. I asked him to show them his medal, and he brought it out.
In an excess of modesty he remarked that he was simply too scared to retreat under withering Japanese fire. I thanked him and his fellow soldiers for their courageous service, and he responded that they were young, and scared, and he paused. I finished his sentence: “And you changed the world.”
On another occasion I learned that one of my Masonic Brothers had served as a sonar operator on a battleship–his job was to wear headphones and listen to microphones deployed in the water under the ship. He related that one night he thought he heard a Japanese Submarine. He raised the alarm and evasive measures were taken including dropping depth charges.
He noted that after the war was over, an examination of Japanese military records revealed that they had indeed sunk a Japanese submarine that night. I wonder how many American lives were saved because he did his job well. I have always been struck by the kind of life and death responsibilities combat places on teenagers and men in the their early 20s, and how they rise to the challenge.
As always, I am in awe and gratitude to those who have served in combat and paid the price of our freedom. I feel it is incumbent on me to influence our politicians to avoid unnecessary war and reduce the number of our children who must pay the price for said freedom.
The Golden Age of joyful pop music and soaring harmonies was the 1960s, and its hard to surpass this flight of fancy by Spanky and Our Gang, charting in 1967. Probably one of the last fluffy tidbits before ‘meaningful’ music, heavy metal, and psychedelic rock took over.