Saturday, September 30, 2017

America's greatest living

77 years ago this past Sunday, a special concert took place at the California Coliseum in San Francisco, CA. 

On Tuesday, 9-24-1940, America's top living composers and lyricists gathered together and entertained the audience in the City by the Bay.

*Albert Von Tilzer did his "Take Me Out to the Ball Game."

*L. Wolfe Gilbert performed his anthem, "Waiting for the Robert E. Lee."

*Jerome Kern played his own "Smoke Gets in Your Eyes" before guiding Tony Martin for "All the Things You Are."

*Carrie Jacobs Bond went to the piano to accompany singer Alan Linquist as he warbled her "A Perfect Day."

*George M. Cohan offered his "Over There," among other tunes in a medley of his big ones.

*And Irving Berlin wrapped up the festivities with his "God Bless America."

The whole thing was actually a two-part event put on by the American Society of Composers, Authors, and Publishers (that's right, good ol' ASCAP). The event's title: "Cavalcade of Music: Those Who Make America's Music." 

In what was billed as "the most notable assemblage of artists and composers ever gathered on one stage," thousands at the California Coliseum heard and saw over forty ASCAP members do their thing. 

During the first half of the event (the afternoon session), the crowd heard American classical music. The evening session- what turned out to be the payoff half- went to this country's contributions to popular music. 

That night, Berlin, Bond, Cohan, Gilbert, Kern, and Von Tilzer were joined by the likes of Harold Arlen, Harry Armstrong, Shelton Brooks, Hoagy Carmichael, Walter Donaldson, W.C. Handy, Billy Hill, Joe Howard, Ralph Rainiger, Sigmund Romberg, and Leo say nothing of the team of Bert Kalmar and Harry Ruby.  

Back on 7-9-2017, toward the end of the Ragtime to Riches Festival workshop about Bond, the 9-24-1940 festivities got a mention...and the question eventually came up:

"If they were going to put on a concert like this today, with America's greatest living composers, who would show up?" 

Well, first of all, HBO or MTV or Showtime would be most likely to televise the event. (The 1940 soiree wasn't on radio...and we're lucky to have a recording of the whole concert because ASCAP commissioned a San Fran firm, Photo and Sound, Inc., to put the entire shebang on twelve 16" two-sided discs, playable at 33-1/3 RPM at a time when consumers were eight years away from being able to buy records at that speed.) 

Second, the producers would probably have to rent out New York City's Radio City Music Hall, Los Angeles' Dolby Theater, or Cleveland's Rock and Roll Hall of Fame to hold the event. 

Third, you're darn right you'll be able to get on your computer or smartphone or device of some kind and stream the show live.

Of course, it'd be televised live and in prime time. (Bet you they'd need three hours.) 

They'd need three hours- at least that long- for the following tunesmiths:

*Burt Bacharach

*Neil Diamond

*Bob Dylan

*The twosome of Bernard Edwards and Nile Rodgers

*Sheldon Harnick

*Another duo- James "Jimmy Jam" Harris and Terry Lewis

*Jerry Herman

*The team of Brian Holland, Lamont Dozier, and Eddie Holland

*Rupert Holmes

*Billy Joel

*John Kander

*Carole King

*Robert Lopez (of "Frozen" fame)

*The duo of Barry Mann and Cynthia Weil

*Alan Menken

*Lin-Manuel Miranda

*Willie Nelson

*Dolly Parton

*William "Smokey" Robinson

*Steven Schwartz

*Neil Sedaka

*Marc Shaiman (he did the music to Broadway's "Hairspray")

*Paul Simon

*Valerie Simpson

*Stephen Sondheim

*Barrett Strong (Norman Whitfield's old songwriting partner)

*Diane Warren

*Jim Webb

*Frank Wildhorn (helped bring "Victor/Victoria" to Broadway)

*John Williams

*Stevie Wonder 

The bulk of this list was mined from the 2017 World Almanac and Book of Facts. 

With that in mind, who would you add to this list? Which of these songwriters would you like to remove from the list?

What if you wanted to internationalize the list...and bring in living legends like Benny Andersson (of ABBA fame), Paul Anka, Bjork, Eric Clapton, Mick Jagger, Elton John, Andrew Lloyd Webber, Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Bernie Taupin, Keith Richards, Rod Temperton, and Bjorn Ulvaeus (also of ABBA), just to name a few? 

Could a special featuring America's greatest currently-living composers even hit today's TV screens? 

Let me know what you think. 

I'm Jim Boston...thanks for reading this blog!


Tuesday, September 26, 2017

Donald, have you ever read the Constitution in your life?

"Wouldn't you love to see one of these NFL owners, when somebody disrespects our flag, to say, 'Get that son of a b***h off the field right now. Out! He's fired. He's fired!'" 

-Donald Trump at a recent special-election rally in Alabama 

With Puerto Rico in a gigantic mess because of Hurricane Maria, among other huge issues, the head of the American people finds it more important to denigrate National Football League players who've taken a knee during the singing/playing of "The Star-Spangled Banner" to protest bigotry, racism, and police brutality right here on these shores.

Vintage Trump.


Trump was in the Heart of Dixie on 9-23-2017 to help Luther Strange, the Republican who inherited- and is trying to keep- the US Senate seat that Jeff Sessions gave up to become this country's attorney general (or top shyster, now that Sessions has the top spot in the Justice Department). 

All the former host of NBC's The Apprentice did was unleash the biggest day of protest in NFL history. 

19 of the league's 32 squads participated in protests of some kind or another; in total, 200 players took a knee or sat down during what the late George Carlin called the world's only national anthem that mentions rockets and bombs.

And three entire teams- including the Pittsburgh Steelers- wouldn't even come out of the locker room for our national tune.  

This time, some team owners (one of them was Washington's Daniel Snyder) joined those protesting players in solidarity. 

Now if one- just one- of those team magnates would just sign the man who brought taking a knee during Francis Scott Key's claim to fame to football...

Right now, a lot of those teams are off to terrible starts on the gridiron. Week 3 of the 2017 NFL campaign is in the books, and the Cincinnati Bengals, Cleveland Browns, New York Giants (a playoff team last season), San Francisco 49ers, and Los Angeles Chargers [yep...they moved back to Tinseltown (their 1960 home as one of eight original American Football League teams) after spending the 1961-2016 period in San Diego] are still winless. 

Seven more- the New York Jets, Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts, Chicago Bears, New Orleans Saints, Arizona Cardinals, and Seattle Seahawks (another 2016 playoff squad)- are 1-2-0 right now.

Maybe one of them could use a Colin Kaepernick...even as a second-stringer or third-stringer, if not as a starter.

All the former University of Nevada star was doing, starting with the NFL's 2016 preseason, was calling attention to racism and police brutality here in these fifty states.

He wasn't disrespecting the national anthem or the flag the song praises.

And the Constitution's First Amendment guarantees Kaepernick and America's other 321 million citizens the same right to take a knee, sit down, sprawl on the floor, etc., etc. to protest injustice.

Check this out:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech (emphasis mine), or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." 

If you've got a copy of the 2017 World Almanac and Book of Facts, crack open Page 511. You'll find the above paragraph. 

Maybe that'd be something Trump can somehow get up the courage to do. 

Oh, by the way, football isn't the only sport where players at any level you can name are taking knees in protest.

This past weekend, Bruce Maxwell of baseball's Oakland A's became that sport's first player to protest by kneeling during "The Star-Spangled Banner." 

If Trump and other Republicans found out about Maxwell's feat, how would they react?

How about you? 

If kneeling while someone sings his or her heart out prior to the beginning of a sports event doesn't cut it for you, what's a better way to protest injustice from sea to shining sea (and then some)?