Wellstone World Music Day
Tuesday 21 October @ 15:54:50
When my pal/musical compatriot Jim Walsh sent out a mass e-mail a few months ago, asking anyone who had anything to do with the media to get involved with a project called Wellstone World Music Day (to be held annually on October 25th), I have to say I was a bit stumped at first.
QUOTE OF THE WEEK: “I think that even the most callous of us must feel that there is something timeless about this experience. That it might be true that we live it over and over again ... but we are part of eternity.”
SONG OF THE WEEK: “King Harvest (Has Surely Come)”
I mean, I loved the idea of a day set aside for a musical tribute to the late senator, and I could see bands, clubs, radio, and TV folks pitching in, providing entertainment, a hangout, live treats, etc.
But what was I supposed to do in print? I mean, I might rant loud enough in these here pages from time to time that you almost THINK you can hear me, but we all know you can’t really. Sure, I could pour out two thousand words on Paul and Sheila Wellstone and the rest of the folks who died too soon, too hard, too young on that chilly fall day last year—but so will a thousand other nincompoops in a thousand other newspapers. So what could I do from this here cracker barrel that just might end up contributing sonically to Wellstone World Music Day?
The answer to my dilemma was, of course, literally right under my nose all along. I mean, I’d sit around, night after night, sippin’ cold beers and makin’ mix tapes or CDs for buddies, acquaintances, and, let’s just get it out in the open—complete strangers—racking my brain as to what I’d write for Paul. Why not just do up a kickin’ mix for Mr. & Mrs. W.? I mean, I never got the chance to when they were here with us physically, and probably never woulda got the chance to hand one over to ‘em anyway. So how cool would it be to throw together a batch of songs from my heart to theirs now that they can just bend an ear around a cloud and give it a listen? Aye, there’s the ticket, then.
In putting this mix together, I tried to adhere to a few simple rules: No undue anger (that excludes righteous anger, of course), no kowtowing to special interests, no conspiracy theory tunes, and, above all, I wanted it to be a mix for Paul and Sheila, not the people they left behind. Of course, that went right out the window when I realized that Paul and Sheila, were they to dig any or all of the tunes on this mix, would IMMEDIATELY tell someone about it, or play it for them, or, most likely, just give ‘em the tape so they could pass along something they loved. So, although some of this oddball basket of aural goodies were things I specifically wanted Paul and Sheila to groove on, the whole schmear is really for everybody they ever touched, everybody who hurt when they were taken, and everybody who still needs to find and feel the light, the power, the love the couple radiated like the brightest stars towards the world around them.
Now, if you really want to, you can put the following mix together yourselves and hear what I’m playin’ for our lost friends on Wellstone World Music Day—or you can stroll by the corner of Fry and St. Anthony in St. Paul’s Midway sometime that afternoon and hear it blastin’ out my window. But before we delve into the mix, here’s a brief statement from the cat who came up with the whole idea—Mr. Jim Walsh:
“Someone said to me the other day that there is no such thing as a Paul Wellstone legacy, and that his popularity is merely due to the ‘cult of celebrity,’ whatever that is. I was hard-pressed to answer this guy, whom I actually respect a lot, but I was thinking about it at the Lucinda Williams show Saturday night at First Avenue, during ‘Drunken Angel.’ This is the answer I came up with: I just miss the guy. That’s a legacy, right? To miss someone like Via from Via’s Vintage Wear or Joel Johnson or Dave Ray or Johnny Cash or Katie O’Brien or anyone else who’s ‘on the other side,’ as Lucinda wailed? I know it’s not very ironic or deep or alt-weekly, but I just miss seeing his head bop around on TV and his passion and his little love tantrums and the hope he gave just by being around.”
Thanks, Jim! And if any of you wanna know where you might run into Jim, check out the official Wellstone World Music Day Web Site at http://www.wellstoneworldmusicday.com, where you’ll find listings of literally scores of local events, ranging from club shows to house parties, to people just standing on street corners, singing a capella. And now, without further ado, here’s my mix:
Gimme Some Truth(For Paul & Sheila)
1.) “Give Me Some Truth”—John Lennon. Yeah, it’s a little vitriolic, but I like to think it’s righteous anger. “I’m sick to death of hearin’ things from uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites/All I want is the truth now/Just give me some truth...”
2.) “Democracy”—Leonard Cohen. Strange how it always seems to be Canadians (Neil Young’s “Rockin’ In The Free World” comes to mind) who pinpoint what’s really wrong with America these days, ain’t it? “Democracy is comin’/To the U.S.A.” Uh-huh.
3.) “The One On The Right Is On The Left”—Johnny Cash. It’s cool to think Johnny might just be up there pickin’ this one out for Paul right now. Silly at first listen, it still is on the second listen, because it’s about how silly it is to let politics interfere with the best things in life—like folk music: “Well, the one on the right was on the left and the one in the middle was on the right and the one on left was in the middle and the guy in the rear...got drafted!”
4.) “Stand!”—Sly & The Family Stone. A more perfect song for what Paul and Sheila stood for—at least mirroring their personal and political beliefs—was probably never written. “Stand, at the end you’ll still be you/One that’s done all the things you set out to do...”
5.) “God Out West”—Link Wray. A late-period cut from Mr. Guitar, this number reflects the man’s spiritual growth (he became something of a country preacher) with joyous blasts of fuzzed-out axe amidst “glory, glory, hallelujahs.” Church in a box, as they say—blurring the lines of organized religion into one grand, exuberant ball of love, peace, and righteousness. Which is probably how it should be.
6.) “New World Order”—Curtis Mayfield. It’s no surprise that one of Curtis’ final projects produced this dreamy, spiritual ode, considering how socially conscious the man always was. This nugget of hope would produce goosebumps on just about any human being this side of Rush Limbaugh: “It’s a brand new day/A new world order/A change of mind for the human race...” The final sound is the forceful cry of a newborn baby—dig that.
7.) “New World Coming”—Nina Simone. A Mann/Weil composition from an album of covers Nina did, this one kicks off with the throaty singer crooning over mellow keys: “There’s a new world comin’ in peace, comin’ in joy...,” then literally BLOWS UP in the middle, the band finding that beautiful center, Nina preaching like she’s on a stump somewhere in backwoods Georgia, and yes, brothers, and sisters, your soul is flying right up there with hers, and Paul’s, and Sheila’s...
8.) “And When I Die”—Laura Nyro. Ninety percent of the world knows this as a Blood, Sweat, & Tears song, but there’s really nothing quite like hearing it sung by its author, and knowing that she’s finally found the answer to the questions she posed here. And now Paul and the gang know, as well. Like they say, it ain’t the dead who are in mourning, it’s only those they leave behind.
9.) “I Know There’s An Answer”—Brian Wilson (Live). Pretty self-explanatory, but hearing Brian sing it live on his recent Pet Sounds tour takes it to a whole new level. Tasty.
10.) “Can’t Find My Way Home”—Blind Faith. I thought this one might represent, to Paul, anyway, the homeless, the immigrants, the uninsured, the mentally ill, the elderly, and all the rest of the outsiders and political pariahs Paul championed so tirelessly. Even the band’s name brings to mind how doggedly the man pursued his goals. A classic.
11.) “Comes A Time”—Neil Young. Another Canadian spoutin’ the truth, man. This one just crawls up your spine and burrows into your brain: “This old world keeps spinnin’ round/It’s a wonder tall trees ain’t layin’ down/There comes a time...” That time is now, I’m sure Paul would agree. Get it? Good.
12.) “To Sir, With Love”—Lulu. I know, I know. It’s a love song from a movie soundtrack, it’s cool, but what does it have to do with Paul and Sheila? Well, I thought this one would speak loudly for all the Wellstone volunteers who also selflessly gave of their time, love, and lives to further the cause—and still are. This one’s for you folks.
1.) “Higher Ground”—Stevie Wonder. Like I have to explain this one. Go, little Stevie, go.
2.) “People Have The Power”—Patti Smith. Ditto, except to say that I think Paul & Sheila woulda dug a powerful female voice jumpin’ in here an’ tearin’ things up a bit.
3.) “Look Over Yonder”—Jimi Hendrix. OK., so maybe Paul wouldn’ta been blastin’ this one on the bus as he cruised up north for a meeting on prescription drug policies with the AARP of Duluth, but this classic fight between good and evil over Jimi’s fiery axe is a perfect battle cry for the future.
4.) “I’ll Rise”—Ben Harper. This one goes out to all the oppressed individuals and groups that Paul stood up for, here in America and abroad, people who are, like ourselves, better for his having been here.
5.) “City Of Light”—Mike Scott. The founder of The Waterboys released this shimmering cut in the mid-’90s, an inspiration, simple as that.
6.) “Rock Of Gibraltar”—Nick Cave. I felt that I had to throw at least one honest, from the heart love song on this mix, because Paul & Sheila were one of the most dedicated, romantic, sweet couples I’ve ever seen together, and though they may have never heard this song while they were here, I’m sure they’ll dance cheek to cheek to it today.
7.) “Redemption Song”—Bob Marley (Live). We all know this song by now, I’m sure, and the title is self-explanatory. But Bob doing it live in Pittsburgh on his last tour in 1980 is something else. As close to the singing of the angels as we’ll get down here.
8.) “Shooting Star”—Bob Dylan. It was pretty tough to pick just one Dylan song for this mix, I’m pretty sure Paul was a big fan, and I know my readers are particularly knowledgeable about the Bob-ster, but I finally settled on this one after a pal gave me a shout about it. Maybe, if we look really hard tonight, we’ll see a couple shooting stars above all the music and love...
9.) “That’s How Strong My Love Is”—Otis Redding. I couldn’t think of a better follow-up to Dylan, and one that says so much in a deceptively simple love song. I think Paul would’ve appreciated this one, and grooved on every word of it.
10.) “Keep Pushing Love”—Reverend Al Green. From his criminally underrated 1995 album, Your Heart’s In Good Hands, this is another inspirational piece of advice I think Paul woulda dug.
11.) “When I’m Gone”—The Carter Family. “...you’re gonna miss me...” More church in a box? You bet. But the fact is, we do. Classic country heartbreak.
12.) “Windfall”—Son Volt (live, acoustic). This version is from good ole REV 105, when Jay and the boys were fresh and chompin’ at the bit, and it shows. “May the wind take your troubles away/May the wind take your troubles away/Both feet on the floor, two hands on the wheel...” Amen.
13.) “Super Tuesday”—Vic Chesnutt. I didn’t think Paul & Sheila would be very happy if I didn’t remind everybody to VOTE, VOTE, VOTE!! Word! Thanks, Vic.
14.) “Oh Babe, What Would You Say?”—Hurricane Smith. A fitting farewell song, methinks, filled with both nostalgia and the promise of an exciting, if terrifying, future. Thanks for the inspiration, Paul & Sheila. Crank it up!
That’s it for me this week. Tune in next time for more rants, raves, music news, and reviews. Until then—make yer own damn news.
If you have local music news/gigs/events that you’d like to see listed in this column, or you have additional Wellstone World Music Day info you’d like to share, send replies to: TMygunn777@aol.com.