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May 15, 2021

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https://m.facebook.com/SingingFolks/videos/250136892931257/

As with the Beatles, it’s difficult to conger original Dylan tunes on YouTube, but here’s a cover of “If Dogs Run Free”, a neglected deep cut from the New Morning album.

https://youtu.be/HDxhauyLf80

“My ears hear a syn-PHO.... ny ... two mules, trains..... and rain.”

SyMphony

Paul Simon’s thing was/is a species of high-toned, wistful, literary, melancholy. He created nostalgia in the moment. The early stuff.

Also sublime in its execution.

Music:

Kick those butts, ladies!

https://digbysblog.net/2021/05/you-go-grrrrllls/

Semi-automatic guitars.

So unfair.

Those ladies are slamming the "racist, sexist BOYYYY". But it's his father who's the real villain here. (Note that the boy said "my father says I should"; not like he has embraced it himself. Yet.)

I'm pretty sure my ancestors will get to experience the body of his work.

I was so much older then, I'm younger than that now...

For a while there the SJW vanguard had turned their backs on riot grrrl and Bikini Kill as being too white and too pretty and too sex positive. Good to see The Linda Lindas not giving a rat's ass and taking the lesson that they can make music about the things that matter to them.

Also heartening to see that right when guitars and rock were being written off as culturally irrelevant, women decided to embrace them both and suddenly we have an explosion of slamming new rock guitar music that is also kicking rock's sexism in the teeth.

this Florida non-deplatforming bill does not apply to a "company that owns and operates a theme park or entertainment complex"

GOP = goofy

Paul Simon is an underrated genius.

I have read comments that Zuckerberg & Co should just install single merry-go-rounds on their Florida properties in order to make use of that escape clause.
I propose: "Haunted Sugar Mountain" as the theme (putting a new meaning on saccharine horror).

I've known a few professional .usicians who struggled to hear how great their contemporaries were, or even different types of music. These weregifted musicians completely wrapped up in their creative vision.

Dylan and Paul Simon are both examples of translating the music of the world around them into their art. Using the best of what others did and respecting it.

I'm also a great admirer of Paul Simon, although I have to admit I don't see him as being in the same league as Dylan. But then, I don't really see anybody else in the field of popular music as being in that league. But Paul Simon, and Ray Davies (and no doubt others I'm not so familiar with): certainly wonderful songwriters.

Simon and Dylan are hard to compare. They're very different artists.

Simon is, I think, much more of an intentional craftsman. His musical vocabulary is much more sophisticated than Dylan's. His use of language seems, for lack of a better word, clever, when compared to Dylan. He's much more of an artisan.

Simon has at various points borrowed from a really wide range of musical traditions, but he uses that stuff is kind of a found object. He's curious, and has big ears and good taste, but I doubt he thinks of himself as being "in the tradition" of South African mbaqanga, or Andean flute music, or Brazilian afro-bloc. They're just cool sounds that appealed to him and that he wanted to use.

As a young man Dylan steeped himself in a range of traditional American musical styles. He absorbed all of that stuff like a sponge. Those traditions are his musical vocabulary, and he doesn't seem interested in expanding his horizons beyond them - which is not necessarily a bad thing. My guess is that he thinks of himself as being in those traditions and lineages - from Leadbelly and Charlie Patton and Woody and a cast of other similar players, to Bob.

Lyrically Dylan is kind of a shaman. He's a bard, looking to channel whatever his inner flow brings to consciousness. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but when it does it has real power, in ways that Simon's work rarely does, or at least does much less frequently.

All of this shows up in their approaches to performance and recording. Dylan is more or less famous for being unpredictable, constantly messing with things, changing his mind, changing set lists during live performance in favor of whatever tune from his catalog of hundreds of tunes seems, to him, to fit the moment. I'm sure he drives his bands nuts.

Really different guys. Impossible to say one is better or worse, it all depends on what you find meaningful or valuable in their art.

What I haven't seen called out in this thread is how really funny both guys frequently are.

[Paul Simon] created nostalgia in the moment.

That might explain why songs by Simon (and Garfunkle) stick with me in ways Dylan's songs don't. "Graceland" (practically the whole album); "America," "Sounds of Silence," and "The Boxer," in particular.

He writes from a deep knowledge of that body of work, and from his own kind of intuitive bardic mind and sensibility. Leadbelly and Rimbaud, cowboy songs and Appalachian hollers, roadhouse R&B and ancient murder ballads. It’s all in there.

***

Lyrically Dylan is kind of a shaman. He's a bard, looking to channel whatever his inner flow brings to consciousness. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't, but when it does it has real power, in ways that Simon's work rarely does, or at least does much less frequently.

It's my opinion that in both these comments, russell gets somewhere close to the essence of Dylan. My only slight disagreement (when russell says "His use of language seems, for lack of a better word, clever, when compared to Dylan." - although I do recognise what he means) is that (according to academics who recognise all the references etc) Dylan is apparently hugely well-read, in many traditions, and I do think the power of his best lyrics (and I may think there are more of those than russell) conveys the extraordinary depth of that hinterland. I am in no position to comment about his musical talent, I can only go on the lyrics and their interraction with the sound of the songs. After my comment above about which "league" various songwriters might be in, I pondered Leonard Cohen. I believe a very few of his songs approach a similar level of significance, but "few" is the operative word. And he himself recognised the difference between them, and I think recognised the strange bardic communication with Dylan's unconscious that russell refers to. In my opinion, too, despite agreeing with Marty about Dylan's love songs etc, Cohen's best songs seem to me to be more personal in a way, whereas Dylan's carry the unmistakeable aura (to me anyway) of something more universal, derived I guess from the underlying mythos (I hope I am using this term correctly) of the collective unconscious.

(p.s. And russell is right, Dylan can be funny/corny etc. There was a whole piece in the NYT about that. And come to think of it, Cohen was good on graveyard humour too...)

CaseyL: I also love all those Paul Simon songs, and know the feeling you speak about. I actually think Graceland is pretty close to a masterpiece, with its wonderful synthesis of lyrics and African music and voices.

'significance' is in the eye of the beholder.

with Dylan, i start at the beginning and stop at Blonde On Blonde. everything in that span is truly great.

but nothing BoB grabs me at all - sometimes it's even off-putting. (covers have redeemed a lot of the later stuff, to me)

i find Simon to be much more relatable and human than Dylan. Dylan's like a very clever alien to me. maybe it's just that Simon is more ear-friendly.

musically, i think Simon is in a different league than Dylan. Dylan sticks close to Americana - folk or folk+rock. Simon (like Joni Mitchell) is always up for trying something new.

of course i didn't grow up with Dylan, so that's probably part of the issue. Simon is closer to my era.

...nothing past BoB...

but nothing past BoB grabs me at all - sometimes it's even off-putting.

Including Blood on the Tracks. Gosh. Eye of the beholder indeed.

Dylan is apparently hugely well-read, in many traditions

I'm sure that is so. I'm struggling a bit to articulate the differences I see between these two guys.

If I had to guess, my guess would be that Dylan is more widely read than Simon. Perhaps by quite a bit.

In Dylan's case, it seems like he absorbs and internalizes all of that stuff, with a goal of letting it speak through him. His approach seems, again for lack of a better word, more intuitive, where Simon's seems more intentional and deliberate.

Simon seems, to me, more of a technician - more of a skilled artisan. Dylan seems to stand more in the role of bard (it seems to me). I can imagine Dylan in some other lifetime inhaling the vapors at Pythia, or eating the sacred mushrooms, and then speaking forth ecstatic visions. I can't imagine Simon doing that.

And when I say that Dylan has a more intuitive approach and less of a craftsmanlike one, I hope that isn't misconstrued to mean that I think he has less dedication to his art, or less of a work ethic than Simon. Both guys are, in my view, masters, and have paid the dues to be masters.

They just seem to have really different approaches to what they do. They both work in the general domain of popular music, but they each seem to practice a different art.

I should add that I have great respect for both of them, but I listen to Simon a lot more than I do to Dylan. The work of Dylan's that really grabs me is the Bringing It All Back Home - Highway 61 - Blonde On Blonde trio, and then Blood On The Tracks. In contrast, all of Simon's work is interesting to me, and I listen to it a lot.

But Dylan - and Cohen too, for that matter - go to some deep and dark places, powerful places. Chthonic places. PJ Harvey gets into that world, too, from a somewhat different perspective. Patti Smith, same. Simon touches on some of that stuff, but those guys kind of live there.

russell, as someone who is (very obviously) an immoderate admirer of much of Bob Dylan's work, I will only say that in my opinion you get very close to a real sense of what Bob Dylan is, and does.

Including Blood on the Tracks.

yep.

Tangled Up In Blue is good... if long.

You're Gonna Make Me Lonesome When You Go is a good song, but like most songs past BoB, it's one i only came to appreciate from covers.

and, just for the record... sure, i blithely dissed 31 (!) of his studio records. but those first seven records are enough to earn him all the accolades.

So I switched to the computer.

I agree with almost everything written here, except that Simon is a better musician than Dylan.

When I think about great songwriters I think of them in two ways. Those that share the emotion flowing through them in a way that makes me feel like I understand exactly what they mean, even if it only means that to me. There are very few of those that last beyond an album or a few songs.

Dylan, Kristofferson, Simon, Guy Clark, John Prine, Jackson Browne, Willie Nelson. Bruce Springsteen in spurts over the years. They write poetry that is set to music in a way that makes it accessible to me. I think lots of other people do that in a way that is accessible to others. And lots of people can do it for a song.

Then there are the songwriters that can craft a song. Give them a topic or a concept and they can write a rhyme and put a melody to it that is really great. The guys that can do that time after time for 50 years are incredible but they aren't the same, Dean Dillon comes to mind.

The ability to write that poetry over the course of a lifetime and continue to share how you feel and see the world today in a way that is lyrically and musically meaningful is an impossible task if it is not just a part of you.

the last person I will mention is Stevie Wonder, who is the most underrated songwriter that I put in the first bucket.

I don't really think that my list would match anyone else's list because the whole concept is so personal.

except that Simon is a better musician than Dylan.

to clarify - IMO Simon's musical vocabulary is more sophisticated than Dylan's.

"better musician" is a different question, and I don't think I'd make that claim. It all depends on the understanding of what makes music "good". And that's hard to answer without talking about what music is for.

At that point, we're well above my pay grade.

:)

One more thing, Kesha's performance of It Ain't Me, Babe at the 2016 Billboard Music Awards redefined that song, and made it one of my favorite Dylan songs of all time. I still play it from Youtube pretty regularly.

https://www.bing.com/videos/search?q=kesha+it+aintme+babe&docid=607992297775326269&mid=5D781FA47E22556593595D781FA47E2255659359&view=detail&FORM=VIRE

So. Many. Dudes.

Glad that Patti Smith got a nod, at least. I blame the tie. ;)

And P J Harvey, nous

Simon seems, to me, more of a technician - more of a skilled artisan. Dylan seems to stand more in the role of bard (it seems to me)....

And of course Simon produced a pretty good parody of Dylan.
I doubt the thought of doing the same would even occur to Bob ?

My daughter and I talk about this, her list has a lot more women. But then, I sing mostly dude songs at karaoke and she sings mostly women's songs. I

and Joni!

hey, Dylan and Smith together. not the best quality recording, but you can get the gist.

didn't know the tune before this. have added it to my list of Dylan favorites.

also, the Nobel performance of Smith singing Hard Rain.

By the way, for UK commenters and lurkers, if you think that I am unaware how many of my Dylan comments could go straight into Pseuds Corner, you are much mistaken!

also, the Nobel performance of Smith singing Hard Rain.

Smith's essay about that performance, "How Does It Feel" is the first reading I assign for my music themed writing class.

nous, thank you for that New Yorker piece, which I read at the time and have since forgotten. What a perfect choice A Hard Rain's Gonna Fall was: one of the most mysterious and most prescient of his greatest works.

clearly this is not a day on which I'm gonna get much done...

Patti Smith.

I think I saw this Letterman show. She came over and sat on the big couch, and in about three minutes she had taken over Letterman's desk and he was on the couch being interviewed by her. She just has a weird mesmerizing charisma.

My wife's late stepfather went to high school with Patti Smith. Unfortunately, no stories to relate beyond that.

clearly this is not a day on which I'm gonna get much done...

Yep, me too. Just watched her performance at the Nobel ceremony - so moving in so many ways (including the beautiful black woman in a red evening gown in the audience starting to cry and desperately trying to save her eye makeup).

cleek, I swear I'm not going to torment you with any more, but: Blind Willie McTell??!!
Surely....

Blind Willie McTell

an outtake from an 80s record that showed up on a rarities compilation in the 90s? i, um, never made it that far into his catalog. :)

i have everything before and a couple after BoB. and i have sampled a bit more from the 70s. then i have a couple later ones: World Gone Wrong and Tempest. feels like i have the lay of the land so to speak, and i know where my happy valley is.

No no no - a track incomprehensibly left off an album (in which I also had no interest), and since regarded as certain proof that he is (or was at that time) the worst judge of his own material. It has a fair claim to be one of his truly great songs, and I have got out of bed and gone downstairs (because I cannot post links on my phone) in order to send you this, and beg you to listen to it. It's 5.53 long, and builds and builds. You may say my promises are trash, but after this, whatever your opinion, I will torment you no more:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_uf5gi3E_rQ

Wow, really interesting stuff. Two things
Simon has at various points borrowed from a really wide range of musical traditions, but he uses that stuff is kind of a found object.

I remember reading something that had some history about Simon's Graceland and the process of going to South Africa. A lot of the points come thru the wikipedia article
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graceland_(album)

but from what I read, I was struck by Simon's, depending on how you look at it, cluelessness or narrow focus, about the situation there. I need to find that article again, cause it may illuminate recent events.

So. Many. Dudes.

Glad that Patti Smith got a nod, at least. I blame the tie. ;)

I recently started shooting the basketball (it is rainy season here, so my new regime of exercise will not be derailed) with a colleague of mine who has fewer years but several inches on me. However, he lived in rural Canada and went to a small church based elementary and secondary school, which had a tiny student body. Consequently, he never came up against any real competition, being the tallest kid in the class and all. So nous' observation has me wonder about other women who might have been discussed alongside Simon and Dylan, but didn't have the chance to compete, which is not simply access but also the luxury of being challenged and pushed into doing something more.

As I mentioned to nous, russell also brought up P J Harvey, so Patti Smith and Joni Mitchell were not the only two women mentioned.

On Paul Simon and Graceland, there was a very interesting documentary about it, which (among much other interesting musical info) had various people, including Harry Belafonte, discussing Simon's breaking of the boycott, and Thabo Mbeki's son explaining (painstakingly and gently) to Simon why it had been a big deal, but Simon really seemed blind to pretty much everything but artistic considerations (and, to some extent, how it had benefitted the relevant SA musicians). I found that fascinating.

Not a Dylan fan in the way some of you are, and too busy to be really following along, but I went to listen to GftNC's 6:17 link to Blind Willie McTell and YouTube popped up a version of Dylan doing it with Mark Knopfler that I thought was good:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YaoiyLYdTVo

The interesting comparisons for me from that particular time is comparing Simon's worldbeat jonez to Peter Gabriel's. Both went in search of musical discovery, but Gabriel's engagement went deeper than just expanding his musical toolbox. Gabriel curated venues for world artists and did a ton of work for human rights.

Janie, I'd never heard that version before. Thanks!

I love Mark Knofpler....in my scattered way. ;-)

Maybe it was the documentary that GftNC mentioned (I think she mentioned it here earlier, so if I didn't thank you then, thank you now!) that had that,

https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2112868/

Under African Skies and it is on Amazon Prime.

thanks for the tip, lj

I think it’s fair to say that Simon was more or less oblivious to and / or uninterested in the politics in South Africa when he made Graceland. He thought the music was hip and wanted to play.

IMO it’s hard to say if Simon’s collaboration with SA musicians helped, hindered, or had any effect at all on the racial and political situation there. I don’t know if, net/net, it was a good, bad, or indifferent thing for the rights of black people there for him to collaborate with them.

It’s a thing people have strong feelings about, with good reason. It’s not clear to me that focusing on Simon’s work with SA musicians is the right battle to fight. To the degree that we can put the political stuff to the side and just listen, it’s a great recording. The mature work of a master. It will have a life of its own, beyond the context in which it was created.

Without in any way wanting to take away from the work of Peter Gabriel, I’d say that Simon most definitely has given an international platform to the folks he has collaborated with, and with the traditions they come from. That has not been a bad thing, for them or anyone.

Peter Gabriel is also underrated.

on the subject of 70s/80s western musicians taking inspiration from Africa... most of the Talking Heads "Remain In Light" album is Fela Kuti (Nigerian hypno-funk) as interpreted Byrne and Eno.

Meant to say earlier that I loved GftNC's Dylan quote about the ghost that picked him to write the song.

To the limited extent that I've tried to write fiction, I find that a related thing that people say about that is true, too. Sometimes a character just comes along and says, "I'm in this story." And you have to put them in.

It's one of the more compelling (to me) bits of evidence that we are nowhere near as much in control of our choices as we think.

In this case, "we" meaning everyone.

Simon going to South Africa caused a big dust-up at the time. But realistically, it was long past the time when the apartheid rulers of SA could use something like that to improve their international standing. It would have, at minimum, taken a general decision by musicians elsewhere to go -- and likely even that wouldn't have changed the course of events.

Not that I don't think he deserved to negative reaction he got. He did. Just that I think we were well past the time when a lone symbolic gesture, even if intentional, would have made a difference.

Did the musicians he worked with on that trip have any agency?

About Fela...
https://twitter.com/Femiakuti/status/1392478838454632454
"Apparently there’s another vote only members can take part in, and that’s what counts. So they kind of wasted our precious time, the positive side #Fela was trending and many who never heard of him got to hear his music and his story ."

Did the musicians he worked with on that trip have any agency?

In general I think the musical community in SA welcomed Simon. The musicians involved in recordings in SA were paid NYC triple scale - at the time about $200/hour - and some were given writing credits, which probably made some of them wealthy.

Participation in Graceland gave many of them international visibility and very successful performing careers.

I'm not mentioning any of this to defend Simon, there are definitely legitimate objections to his engagement in South Africa. His intentions were not bad - he just thought the music was great - but his apparent lack of interest in the political dimensions and implications was arguably naive.

But in terms of how the musicians involved were treated, it was pretty much all upside.

most of the Talking Heads "Remain In Light" album is Fela Kuti (Nigerian hypno-funk) as interpreted Byrne and Eno.

And African-American funk - notably James Brown - was a significant influence on Fela.

I'll also take this opportunity to recommend Anjelique Kidjo's re-recording of "Remain In Light". It freaking rocks.

But in terms of how the musicians involved were treated, it was pretty much all upside.

I was more thinking of the question of who made what choices. Not to let Simon off the hook, but the SA musicians made a choice to do the project as well.

Kidjo's Remain In Light:

Cross-Eyed And Painless
The Great Curve
Born Under Punches

you might have to move yourself.

I was more thinking of the question of who made what choices. Not to let Simon off the hook, but the SA musicians made a choice to do the project as well.

Who made the choice to invite Simon to come? (For that matter, was he invited, or did he just hear about it and decide to go all on his own?) If it was the musicians themselves, that's one thing. If it was, for example, the SA government, that's a different one.

i've seen some of Kidjo's takes. and yes, fantastic stuff.

even Phish can't help but make those songs sizzle.

https://youtu.be/negQCMxYlz8?t=393

(i gently kid. i'm not a Phish fan)

Without in any way wanting to take away from the work of Peter Gabriel, I’d say that Simon most definitely has given an international platform to the folks he has collaborated with, and with the traditions they come from. That has not been a bad thing, for them or anyone.

I don't mean to imply that Simon treated the SA musicians he worked with unfairly or unethically. I brought up the comparison with Gabriel because Gabriel had curated and been the major tentpole in WOMAD and did all of the Amnesty International work. So it's not just that Gabriel has given a boost to N'Dour and Katché and the others who have been his collaborators. He's tried to build structures that give those and other world artists more access to Western eyes and ears and systems of distribution.

He's also, I believe, been more sensitive and fair with his use of field recordings and traditional music than Eno and Byrne. Again, not impugning them for their groundbreaking work that I think did have a positive influence, I'm just saying that I think Gabriel has been much more thoughtful and forthright in his approach to the power imbalances and the legacy of colonialism. He's been sensitive to his own privilege and has worked against it, often to his own financial detriment.

Who made the choice to invite Simon to come?

my understanding is that Simon heard a tape of some township mbaqanga music and liked it, so he reached out to the musicians.

I brought up the comparison with Gabriel

no worries nous.

Gabriel created and championed an institution that gives musicians from all around the world visibility and a platform for getting heard.

Simon... made a record. A really good record, but a record.

I have no problem saying that Gabriel's efforts are of greater scope and are likely much more consequential.

One more and I'll shut up for a while.

For folks who enjoy the music on Graceland and want to hear more stuff like it, I can recommend Singing In An Open Space, an anthology of all kinds of South African music from the 60's through the 80's. Basically, the sounds that inspired Simon. It's available from all the usual places.

It's good listening and a lot of fun.

Simon honors whatever music he covers and/or appropriates ... or even "steals". It's good up and down and all around for everyone because of his unique musical sensibilities:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sXHsARkfDbw

Neither Bach nor the Swan Silvertones are diminished here, rather they are transmuted into fresh beauty:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFt0cP-klQI

Go to the six minute mark where Simon talks about writing the song.

Here are the Silvertones:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oKv4l-DabTw

Bach again here. In 'Blackbird', which Paul explains somewhere I can't find at the moment, that he and George used to play this Bach piece on guitars, more or less, to impress the birds at parties.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=I2HzvlNVav4

Ah, but here's Paul telling the story:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MNshwcwUQwM

Don't tell anyone, because it's a "secret", ha ha, but George Harrison stole plenty from Chet Atkins, among others, on those early Beatles song solos.

Atkins obviously, in rebuttal, hated the Beatles and never played any of their stuff:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h9bajxt02h8

If not for Graceland with Simon as the conduit, would we even be talking about South African music?

We SHOULD have been all along, of course, justifiably all along, but Simon tapped us on the shoulder, as David Byrne does, and said: "Hey, have you heard these sounds? Pretty cool."

I'm for reparations all along the line, but we're told we can't do that:

Fred and Ginger:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fNKRm6H-qOU

If not for Graceland with Simon as the conduit, would we even be talking about South African music?

We SHOULD have been all along, of course, justifiably all along, but Simon tapped us on the shoulder, as David Byrne does, and said: "Hey, have you heard these sounds? Pretty cool."

Well, there was also Savuka. Johnny Clegg and company were getting a lot of play on college radio (back when such a thing still mattered). And in jazz you had the influence of Hugh Masakela and you had Miles Davis in his Amandala era phase.

My disappointment with Simon lies not in his decision to make the album, but just in his apparent lack of reflection to consider how his decision to chase the art and ignore the politics of that was something that he could do only because he had the privilege to ignore the politics. I don't think he was bad, or harmful, it's just a striking lack of introspection from someone who is known for his introspective lyrics. I find that blind spot disappointing, especially when he has been invited to think more deeply about it several times by people who want to have that bigger discussion.

his apparent lack of reflection to consider how his decision to chase the art and ignore the politics of that was something that he could do only because he had the privilege to ignore the politics

Simon said:

What was unusual about Graceland is that it was on the surface apolitical, but what it represented was the essence of the anti-apartheid in that it was a collaboration between blacks and whites to make music that people everywhere enjoyed. It was completely the opposite from what the apartheid regime said, which is that one group of people were inferior. Here, there were no inferiors or superiors, just an acknowledgement of everybody's work as a musician. It was a powerful statement.

Yes, and then there is the angle with Graceland that Elvis wasn’t shown below the waist on TV back in the day because conservatives thought there was something black going on down there.

Perhaps one day, when we stop (never) funding and boycott Netanyahu’s utterly fascist stealing of Palestinian homes, Paul Simon will come out of retirement and put together a joint band of Jewish Israel liberals on percussion and Palestinian guitar players and do a pop up gig in front of the Knesset with an innocent face for the cause of music.

Paul Simon had his eye on the ball. Ronald Reagan, the racist, couldn’t dance to it with his eye on the Confederacy to build the despicable vote-stealing piece of crap called the Republican Party of this parlous, pre-violent moment.

Perhaps one day, when we stop (never) funding and boycott Netanyahu’s utterly fascist stealing of Palestinian homes, Paul Simon will come out of retirement and put together a joint band of Jewish Israel liberals on percussion and Palestinian guitar players and do a pop up gig in front of the Knesset with an innocent face for the cause of music.

Orphaned Land has been doing the musical equivalent for a while (minus Simon plus metal). Saw them open for Opeth. Good show and a good band. Don't know many others who are doing their mix of metal and Arabic folk.

https://youtu.be/Bds3FALcR7M

Following my habit of taking observations and running with them to places unforeseen, going off of nous' comment (and he shouldn't be responsible for my observation I should add) is one of the things I've learned getting older is that everyone, your heroes especially, are going to do something you aren't happy with. Nous (and I) are disappointed with Paul Simon. Unaware? Self-centered? Naive? Though the music video for you can call me Al seems to be a jab at people who complained about what he did, in that Chevy Chase ends up lip synching the vocals and Simon pretends to play various instruments.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uq-gYOrU8bA

I always imagine that Bruce Springsteen not giving Chris Christie the time of day brings Cristie up short, but that's just my imagination and he probably can't figure out why the Boss thinks he's a jerk.

I have no idea why artists shouldn't work with artists from countries that have a bad government and / or human rights record - unless what they are doing is explicitly lending support to such regimes.

There seems to be a prevailing assumption that people living in these countries are supposed to put their lives on hold until their government falls or there is a major political sea change. But that can take decades, lifetimes or never happen at all.


Meanwhile the privileged can emigrate, while the majority is stuck suffering under various forms of sanctions. That's not only cruel and unjust, but also hypocritical since "our" human rights record is far from stellar.

There seems to be a prevailing assumption that people living in these countries are supposed to put their lives on hold until their government falls or there is a major political sea change. But that can take decades, lifetimes or never happen at all.

Yes -- I couldn't figure out quite how to articulate this as clearly. It's obviously not the same thing, or on the same scale, but I'm a gay person living in a state against which boycotts were once threatened over a campaign to explicitly write "gay people don't have X rights" into the law. I sat here wondering what isolating us even further was likely to accomplish.

I have no idea why artists shouldn't work with artists from countries that have a bad government and / or human rights record - unless what they are doing is explicitly lending support to such regimes.

Well, apartheid was an outlier case in many ways
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Artists_United_Against_Apartheid

Also, the section about the controversy surrounding Graceland discusses other points.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Graceland_(album)

Not saying that it's wrong to question these things, but the situation in South Africa seemed to be more complicated than simply 'artists working with other artists'

I sat here wondering what isolating us even further was likely to accomplish.

But that's true of every boycott. Georgia has serious subsidies to encourage movie companies to film there. Those companies threatened to take their business elsewhere, after Georgia started looking at a flood of voter suppression laws.

Such a boycott would have directly hurt mostly a bunch of workers who were probably Democratic voters. (And, I suspect, likely the ones who were looking at having their votes suppressed by those laws, too.) But threatening a boycott was the way to get Georgia politicians attention, and make them familiar with the concept of unintended consequences.

Similarly with companies in a bunch of states threatening to take their new facilities elsewhere. A lot of "keep government out of private business" politicians turn out to be really big on, essentially, bribing businesses to come to their state. Finding out those businesses care about more than just their raw bottom line, or maybe just think good human rights are good for business, can be a wake-up call.

Essentially, a boycott is the 2x4 up side the head. Even if, in the short term, it also hurts the "wrong" people.

I should perhaps note that, in most cases of proposed boycotts, I think the harms outweigh the hoped-for benefits**. But in some few cases, especially when they are widespread enough (as was the case with South Africa), they can be the best way to get the job done.

** And, quite often, the probable actual benefits are substantially less than the hoped-for ones.

Paul Simon did more for expanding the reach of South African musicians than any boycott ever could.

if the goal is to make the world a better place, Simon's action come out on top.

Was out of radio contact all day yesterday, and today won't be much better, so (with no research, FWIW) this is my take on Graceland, the SA boycott etc.

1. I believe it is widely accepted that the BDS movement was the last straw for apartheid, and almost certainly was the factor which finally brought it down after all the years of protests.

2. It was probably the D part of BDS which did the most good, but the ANC (which was not at that time the corrupt, discredited organisation it is today) was widely accepted by opponents of apartheid as the government in exile, and they said the boycott (which had been observed for years and decades by protesters in the case of SA goods) was an important tool in the fight, so on the whole opponents of apartheid listened and observed the boycott (although some internal critics made the point that poor blacks were the most likely to suffer), and if my memory is accurate, most black opinion in SA supported the boycott.

3. The boycott, as a whole, probably did contribute to the demoralisation of SA whites, in terms of making them realise how (morally) isolated they were from the rest of the world. It is likely that the sports boycott (in sports-mad SA) had the greatest effect in this regard, but the ANC's position was that the boycott had to be wide, and actually this made sense in a tactical (and psychological) sense.

4. Paul Simon's statement, as quoted by cleek @ 05.52 ignores the actual political context of the controversy, and is a pretty self-serving justification (although fairly superficially convincing on the face of it). If you didn't know from his music and his lyrics that he must be a smart guy, his whole reaction (as fleshed out in the documentary, but the statement illustrates it as well) makes him look ignorant and/or wilfully blind. Simon's narrowly focussed emphasis on the music and nothing but the music was a notable exception. Most morally respectable artists (and even ones who weren't, but were self-interested) in all fields observed the boycott, and the ones who didn't were named and shamed. That's how boycotts work.

5. Paul Simon did more for expanding the reach of South African musicians than any boycott ever could. This is very true, but was not the point of the boycott, which was to bring down apartheid and enfranchise 80% of the SA population.

6. I think Graceland is a masterpiece, I'm glad it exists.

lest anyone forget, the GOP is a death cult:

[Ohio] House Bill 248, introduced last month by Rep. Jennifer Gross (R-West Chester), would allow anyone to decline any vaccine with a simple verbal declaration based on “reasons of conscience.”

The bill would let people off the hook for vaccine requirements set by virtually any entity. The bill lists them, naming: individuals, businesses (like day cares), corporations, trusts, business trusts, estates, associations, partnerships, cities, counties, townships, municipal corporations, school districts, health districts, a city’s health board, any public official, public offices, or any state agency (defined as any institution or organization that receives any support from the state).

If any of the above entities even tries to institute a vaccine requirement, it would be required under HB 248 to notify people that they are able to decline. The entities are not allowed to disclose who has declined. And they “shall not discriminate against, deny service or access to, segregate, require a facial covering or other vaccination status label for, or otherwise penalize an individual financially or socially for declining a vaccination.”

This is very true, but was not the point of the boycott, which was to bring down apartheid and enfranchise 80% of the SA population.

i'm sure i'm not the only person in America whose eyes were opened by Graceland, and not by the boycott. an average teenage kid American kid in the mid-80s had nothing at all going on that would be affected by a boycott of SA: literally nothing. that "Sun City" song was out in 85, but it didn't really catch on with my cohort. it was shouty and preachy and we'd already just had a most of a year full of political musicians with Band Aid, then Live Aid.

Gabriel's 1980 "Biko" was great, but even now it's still fairly obscure. ("So" didn't come out until 86, a few months before Graceland, so Gabriel wasn't yet a superstar)

Graceland though was an eye opener. and it opened eyes by being a great album, one which didn't try to shout its way into the politics like the strident "Sun City", but which simply let these musicians do their thing and invited people to learn about the them and their situation.

there's more than one way to do these things.

Alternatively, it felt like (to me) lLittle Steven and the TLAs were talking about politics. And Simon said “and these are some of the people who are being persecuted “ his record broadened the discussion beyond nightly-news foreign political coverage.

The approaches complimented each other. They weren’t in opposition.

Italics?

Sun City's biggest problem was that it really didn't have much going for it musically, yet it had to be 348 minutes long to fit in all of the cameos. It was an impressive logistical feat with scattershot musical results.

Graceland undoubtedly raised some young consciousness. I saw a lot of that on my campus at the time. I can't say how much practical effect that consciousness raising had on South Africa, but it probably did convince a lot of people to pay more attention to international politics and human rights. Activism was the zeitgeist of the moment. Some of it may even have outlived that moment in time.

I do miss that optimism.

lest anyone forget, the GOP is a death cult:

Well, the rabid opposition to any kind of gun control was also a bit of a clue.

Taking a hard turn on the conversation, this.

Senator Murkowski made a rather impassioned speech in favor of the special Jan 6 Commission. Unfortunately, only 5 other Republicans joined her. So McConnell's filibuster held.

But it occurs to me to wonder. If Senator Manchin can't bring himself to limit the filibuster enough to pass this, perhaps Murkowski (and/or Romney) could provide the votes to pass the rule change (which only requires a majority) necessary.

On the "death cult" front, the Washington Post finds that infection rates for covid-19 remain as high as ever among the unvaccinated population. If demographic trends weren't enough, they're killing off their strongest supporters.

Senator Murkowski made a rather impassioned speech in favor of the special Jan 6 Commission

Alternatively, one could view it as more dog and pony as those counting the votes knew they would prevail, so Lisa got cut a little slack.

The idea that any GOP Senator would cross the line on this ONE vote is, um, a fantasy. To be truly effective it would have to be an all or nothing move to caucus with the opposition (a la Jeffords). However, as the ideological chasm as between the parties grows, this seems more and more a relic of a long gone distant past.

I have just discovered that the Hay Literary Festival (which is entirely online this year) is available to overseas people - which I didn't know before. All events are free, if you miss any they are available afterwards, and amazing authors from all over the world (fiction and non) like Margaret Atwood or Daniel Kahneman are interviewed and talk about their books, lives etc. This is the whole programme, on which you can register for any of the events you are interested in. Although it goes on until June 6th, it seemed to me that letting anybody interested know about this before a three day weekend made sense.

https://www.hayfestival.com/m-163-hay-festival-2021.aspx?skinid=1&currencysetting=GBP&localesetting=en-GB&resetfilters=true

(That link looks weirdly UK-centric, but there were plenty of people online from the US, Canada etc, so I know it's possible.) This may help:

https://www.hayfestival.com/how-to-register-for-digital-events

e.g. For those interested in this sort of thing (i.e. not me), Noam Chomsky talking to Gary Younge on June 3rd at 7pm on Consequences of Capitalism

The idea that any GOP Senator would cross the line on this ONE vote is, um, a fantasy.

You may have missed the fact that several of them did so. Not exactly a fantasy.

You may have missed the fact that several of them did so. Not exactly a fantasy.

I think what bobbyp was saying is that the dissenters were given permission to dissent because McConnell knew that the Dems didn't have enough to override a filibuster. So the dissenters can appeal to the moderates in their districts and give the impression of diversity of opinion for the party without endangering the party's goal of sweeping this under the rug by midterms.

It's a pressure release valve, not a sign of actual pressure that might threaten the party.

wj,
If the outcome could have been determined by a simple majority vote, Murkowski and the others most likely would not have voted the way they did, "heavy hearts" and "deep misgivings" notwithstanding.

I could be mistaken but I have a bit more trust in Murkowski than in Collins. But imo Romney's vote has more to do with his dislike of Trump personally.

Murkowski is in the happy position of having been already primaried (by a tea party type) a few years back. So she ran in the general election as an independent. And won. Makes her a lot less fearful of the Trump cultists than others.

Yes, that's the main reason. Iirc she won after being kept off the ballots (by ruling party shenanigans) as a write-in candidate even against sneaky attempts* to have voters spell her name wrong (with a 'y' at the end) and with newly introduced rules that would invalidate any ballots with any spelling error.
That does not make her a liberal (cf. Liz Cheney) but potentially less prone to blindly follow the lead of the guys who stabbed her in the back.

*as in deliberately misspelling her name in campaign materials aimed at her

This is a public service announcement for the benefit of anybody who doesn’t discount everything Anne Applebaum says because they disagree with her past or present foreign policy opinions, and/or for any Atlantic readers.

A couple of hours ago I watched her give the Christopher Hitchens memorial lecture at the Hay Festival. The title was Twilight of Democracy – Disinformation, Polarization and the Digital Future. Despite a couple of freezing glitches (which I hope would be ironed out in the catch-up version on the Hay site), I thought this a very interesting talk. I imagine some of it is covered by her book, which is called Twilight of Democracy: The Seductive Lure of Authoritarianism, but actually it was the stuff about the digital future that I really wanted to point anybody interested towards, because it follows on from so much of what we talk about here on post-truth bubbles etc.

Obviously, to ObWi regulars who are majorly informed about the online world, a lot of the stuff about how it was envisaged when it started is old news. But when she gets on to the subject of the current oligopolies (as she calls them), and how their ill-effects might begin to be mitigated, I thought it got really interesting and actually constructive. She gives some really good examples of experiments in Taiwan and elsewhere, and I thought it worth highlighting for anybody interested, who doesn’t already know everything she talks about.

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