“Bird in L.A.,” now available on streaming, features Parker’s audacious artistry in a wide range of live settings.

By Richard Brody

May 26, 2023

Two years ago, a revelatory suite of Charlie Parker’s recordings, made between 1945 and 1952, was released as a two-CD set, titled “Bird in L.A.” Now this collection of concert and radio performances has dropped online (on Spotify and elsewhere) and has also been reissued on vinyl. Parker is the crucial hero of modern jazz, and, in his brief life (he died at thirty-four, in 1955), he was recorded copiously by record labels in the studio—and, more importantly, he was recorded fanatically in concert, privately. It’s a sign of his preëminence that he was constantly followed by bootlegging recordists; their activity, whatever its legality, has offered incomparable treasures to the history of music and expanded Parker’s legacy.

Most of Parker’s official recordings were made in studios on 78-r.p.m. records, which maxed out at around three minutes (in the usual ten-inch series) or five (in the premium twelve-inch recordings). His live recordings—whether at Birdland, in 1950, or Rockland Palace, in 1952, or the Open Door, in 1953—are, to my mind, the ones that show how far-reaching, audacious, and boundary-breakingly advanced his music was and remains.

So it is with “Bird in L.A.” (Parker’s nickname likely came from his reputation for eating chicken, which was called “yardbird” where he was from. The prime New York jazz venue Birdland opened in 1949, barely four years after Parker cut his first records as a leader—a hint of his importance.) The recordings feature Parker in a wide range of settings and playing with a wide variety of musicians. These contexts both inflect the music itself and reveal the idiosyncratic conditions under which some of the greatest musical minds of modern times produced their singular art.

The earliest session, from December 17, 1945, is from the most classic setting: a jazz club, Billy Berg’s, where Parker, an alto saxophonist, was performing as a nominal sideman in a band led by the trumpeter Dizzy Gillespie, his prime cohort in the creation of the style known as bebop. It was an advance as significant to jazz as Abstract Expressionism was to painting. (Indeed, the two innovations developed alongside each other, in New York, in the forties.) Bebop was marked by harmonic and rhythmic complexity, defiantly difficult speeds, a tone of vehemence and fierce concentration, and an uncompromising attitude. It was danceable—people indeed danced to it, but far more often listened to it in the manner of concert music. Bebop shifted the center of jazz gravity away from big bands to small groups that were led by soloists who improvised at length. Soloists pursued their highly individualized artistry wherever they could: in jam sessions, with pickup groups assembled for the purpose of a recording or a gig, or with those already on hand as the house band at a club where they were hired.

If the pianist Thelonious Monk was bebop’s prime theoretician and Gillespie its most popular performer, Parker was its central tragic hero: its most advanced and original artist and a singularly self-destructive one. It suffices to hear the very start of Parker’s first solo in the first track of “Bird in L.A.,” on the song “How High the Moon,” in which he bursts wildly out past the bouncy beat as if in a race for artistic life, to catch the essential spirit of his art—five musical seconds of explosive invention that exemplify an era. The next pair of tracks offer a reminder of the night-club context in which this and other stellar improvisations are created—a comedy dialogue in which the m.c., Slim Gaillard, praises the pianist Harry (the Hipster) Gibson as “groovy-rooney” and Gibson then sings a song of himself: “We call him Handsome Harry the Hipster, he’s the boy with all the chicks.” (This number and the comedic one that follows it, “Cement Mixer (Putty Putty),” remind me of the concert where Beethoven’s Violin Concerto premièred, followed by party-trick improvisations by the violinist who performed on a single string with the violin upside-down. )

According to the great bop trumpeter Howard McGhee, who is quoted in the liner notes, Gillespie “was a comical cat, and he got people laughing. Bird didn’t dig that when he was trying to play serious.” The rest of the first disk (including an appearance by the trumpeter Miles Davis, who was then just nineteen) presents the groups in more concentrated and focussed settings, though Gibson returns in an incongruous dialogue with the decidedly un-hip entertainer Rudy Vallee, who makes a racist joke. (Gibson was a strange character—a white New Yorker who, having made his name among Black musicians in Harlem as a precocious pianist, adopted Black jive talk as his shtick, and even claimed to have coined the very term “hipster.”)

The musical impact of this fiery batch of nineteen-forties recordings is distinctive and memorable. It’s one that’s not unique in Parker’s mighty discography, but it provides a sharp-edged impression of the dominance of melody in his music. Much as his improvisations dazzle with their high-wire intricacies crafted on the fly, the ones on the first disk are distinguished by a near-constant lilt of singability. Of course, one would have to be as virtuosic a vocalist as Parker is an instrumentalist to put the notion to the practical test, but while listening, one is thrillingly tempted to try. Parker, like most jazz musicians of the time, worked wonders with tunes from the Great American Songbook, many of which offered harmonic sophistication that served as a strong springboard for bebop invention. But the beboppers also crafted their own compositions. Many of the songs on “Bird in L.A.” were written by Parker, Gillespie, and others in their circle. These tunes, such as “Ornithology,” “Dizzy Atmosphere,” “Shaw ’Nuff,” and “Billie’s Bounce,” are as original as the solos that they inspire—indeed, are essentially continuous with them. Listening to the disk of the earlier performances is a compendious and energizing object lesson in a new mode—a virtual redefinition—of lyricism with a modernistically propulsive force.

The second disk, recorded mostly on July 14, 1952, features Parker in an odder and more distracting situation, one for which he himself was largely responsible. He led a band (which included the eighteen-year-old altoist Frank Morgan) that played that day at an outdoor party at the home of the artist Jirayr Zorthian. (A bootleg of this gig emerged on CD in 2006, but the sound quality is atrocious; exacting audio work by Doug Benson went into extracting the music from the noise for the “Bird in L.A.” release.) In the liner notes, John Burton tells the story: Parker had gone skinny-dipping in Zorthian’s pool, which set a particular tone for the festivities. The album reveals that, before a performance of “Embraceable You,” Zorthian called out, “Take your pants off.” The bassist on the date, David Bailey, says that Parker got naked and then insisted that everyone else—including the band—strip, too.

Musically, the Zorthian recording, for all its many ear-catching moments, doesn’t quite reach the dramatic intensity or musical heights of the earlier ones. However, there is one track that’s unlike any other I’ve heard in the Parker canon, one that takes its inspiration from the party mood but derives from that hectic revelry something audacious and forward-looking. Even the track’s title, “March Noodling/Dixie,” suggests its daring strangeness. It’s so peculiar a creation that Burton, who was also the set’s producer, writes, “This item, which has little aesthetic merit, is included here for completeness.” The drummer, Larance Marable, sets a manically fast march beat and Parker plays snippets of “Dixie” and “Yankee Doodle,” along with other melodic fragments that are interspersed with brief and brilliant bursts of improvisation, before setting a swinging, ditty-like melody that the other horns join before giving way to scat sing-alongs. This extraordinary four-minute performance looks ahead to the political-theatrical works of the late fifties and sixties by Parker’s frequent associate Charles Mingus and even to the ecstatic quasi-Surrealism of the visionary saxophonist Albert Ayler in the mid sixties and beyond. It’s raucously sardonic, exuberantly ironic Black music, mocking the insults and the assumptions of white America with the irrepressible power of intellectual authority, personal style, and artistic freedom. ♦




The former techno-optimist has taken a decisive political left turn. He says it’s the only human option

THE MEDIA STUDIES building at Queens College is small and dark, with low ceilings and narrow corridors. It was built more than a century ago as a residential school for incorrigible boys, and a certain atmosphere of neglect remains. When I visit on a January weekday to see Douglas Rushkoff, who teaches here, he guides me around a stack of fallen ceiling tiles to his office in a back corner of the first floor. The Wi-Fi in the room is spotty, so he uses an Ethernet adapter to plug his laptop into the wall. The only evidence that we haven’t traveled back to the ’90s is that when it’s time for class, no students show up. Instead, Rushkoff opens his laptop and brings up a grid of faceless black boxes.

This is the first course meeting of “Digital Economics: Crypto, NFTs and the Blockchain.” Rushkoff is a good sport about teaching on Zoom, though it’s a shame his class of mostly undergraduates can’t fully appreciate the 62-year-old media-studies-professor look that he’s absolutely nailed: black V-neck, cropped gray hair. He launches into an impassioned half-hour lecture in which he urges his students, only three of whom have their cameras on, to see through the social construction of money—he pulls out a dollar bill and waves it in front of the laptop screen, saying, “This is not money. This is a piece of paper that we use to represent money”—and to probe what he calls the “big question” of his life’s work: how power travels across media landscapes.

Outside of this Queens College classroom, Rushkoff is a widely cited theorist of the internet, known for his prolific and influential writings on culture and economics. He gets the occasional student who recognizes his work—“He’s a famous author,” one writes on Rate My Professor, “just do a Google search”—but most of them are busy people logging in to class from their phones, more interested in fulfilling their degree requirements than in the dense collage of Rushkoff’s book covers taped to the wall behind his desk.

That his class may not be his students’ first priority doesn’t bother Rushkoff much. He’s made a point of landing at City University of New York in Queens after a teaching stint at the far more expensive, prestige-mongering, private New York University. In a portion of his lecture, he hints at the trajectory his intellectual life has taken:

“I was pretty freaking excited in the ’90s about the possibilities for a new kind of peer-to-peer economy. What we would build that would be like a TOR network of economics, the great Napsterization of economics in a digital environment,” he tells his students. But more recently, he continues, he’s turned his attention to something else that this new digital economy has created: “It made a bunch of billionaires and a whole lot of really poor, unhappy people.”

This kind of rhetoric is part of a recent, decisive shift in direction for Rushkoff. For the past 30 years, across more than a dozen nonfiction books, innumerable articles, and various media projects about the state of society in the internet age, Rushkoff had always walked a tightrope between optimism and skepticism. He was one of the original enthusiasts of technology’s prosocial potential, charting a path through the digital landscape for those who shared his renegade, anti-government spirit. As Silicon Valley shed its cyberpunk soul and devolved into an incubator of corporate greed, he continued to advocate for his values from within. Until now. Last fall, with the publication of his latest book, Survival of the Richest: Escape Fantasies of the Tech Billionaires, Rushkoff all but officially renounced his membership in the guild of spokespeople for the digital revolution. So what happened?

Doug Rushkoff bathtub writer

It is, generally speaking, a difficult time to maintain a straight face as a diehard advocate of decentralization. A couple of months before I come to see Rushkoff, the cryptocurrency exchange FTX, run by a cabal of tasteless pyramid schemers blathering platitudes about art and community, collapsed, torching billions of dollars in the process. These internet capitalists proved to be worse guardians of the public interest than even the corporate robber barons of yore. (Some weeks after my visit, Silicon Valley Bank failed and nearly dragged the global financial system down along with it—a direct result of the Trump administration’s deregulation agenda.)

Confronted with such irrefutable evidence, Rushkoff isn’t just lying low or changing the subject the way perennial techno-optimists often do. His conversion is deeper. “I find, a lot of times, digital technologies are really good at exacerbating the problem while also camouflaging the problem,” he tells the black boxes that represent his students. “They make things worse while making it look like something’s actually changed.” Still, as he talks, I can occasionally catch a glimpse of Rushkoff reverting into his former persona: the inveterate Gen X techno-optimist, the man who can’t resist the untested promise of ever newer tools. Near the end of class, he starts instructing his students to not use ChatGPT to write their assignments, then halts abruptly, as if unable to go on. “Well, actually,” he says, reconsidering, “we’ll figure it out.”


Joan Baez is Still Doing Cool Stuff ~ The New Yorker



Since 1959—when she first appeared, at age eighteen, at the Newport Folk Festival, singing alongside the banjo player and guitarist Bob Gibson—Joan Baez has been electrifying eager crowds with her elegance and ferocity. Baez was central to both the folk revival and the civil-rights movement of the nineteen-sixties; her protest songs, delivered in a vivid, warbly soprano, felt both defiant and gently maternal. (Baez’s stunning 1963 performance of the century-old gospel song “We Shall Overcome,” at the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, remains one of the crucial musical artifacts of the era.)

Now eighty-two, and with twenty-five studio albums behind her, Baez has mostly retired from music, though she is still making poignant and unpredictable art. This spring, Baez released “Am I Pretty When I Fly?,” a collection of line drawings that she created by working upside down and sometimes with her nondominant hand. The results are abstract, quivery, weird, inscrutable, pure, and hilarious. In one piece from the book, a man dressed as an old-timey gumshoe, with elbow patches on his blazer and a Sherlock Holmes-style hat, holds a magnifying glass up to some spiders descending from a shelf. “Look Dierdra! Spidies!” In another, an older, bald head looks on as three young people of indeterminate gender embrace; one of the figures is smoking something. The caption? “Ohhhh shit.”

Baez has also continued her political advocacy. She was flying from Nashville to Newark recently when she encountered the Tennessee state representative Gloria Johnson and Johnson’s House colleague Justin Jones. Johnson and Jones, along with Representative Justin Pearson, became known as the Tennessee Three after leading protests advocating for gun reform, following the murder of three nine-year-olds and three adults at Nashville’s Covenant School. (Jones and Pearson were later expelled then reinstated; Johnson kept her appointment.) In the Newark terminal, while travellers scuttled past with their luggage, Jones and Baez held hands, and sang a few lines of “We Shall Overcome.” The performance, captured on a phone, is somehow both no-nonsense and wildly emotional. “When you get off the plane with the legendary Joan Baez you know it’s a movement of the spirit,” Jones said in a tweetposted later that day. Two days later, I sat down with Baez in her hotel room in New York City. She was dressed all in black, with a ruby-red manicure. Baez remains strikingly beautiful—as well as funny, frank, and generous. Our interview, which was continued over e-mail, has been condensed and edited.

Baez performing during the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963.nbsp

You had an extraordinary moment at the airport recently.

I was getting ready to board my plane. I heard [my editor, Joshua Bodwell] say, “Wow, Joan, I think that’s Justin Jones.” I was, like, “Justin!” And he said, “Blessings, Joan Baez.” I didn’t realize that he’d written a book on nonviolent resistance. He was soft-spoken. Shy. He was not comfortable doing that video. I obviously wasn’t, either, because it sounded like shit. But it was just extraordinary.

Your new book is a wonderful surprise.

It surprises me, too! [Laughs.]

My mother was a high-school art teacher, but I’m sad to say that I’m not someone who draws—

Anybody can do it. You can’t lose upside down. Just keep going. Because when you’re trying to make it “right”—that’s when it gets all stiff. Sometimes I think about what I’d like to draw, but other times, like now, I just start squiggling the pen around. [She begins drawing on a piece of paper.] You never know . . . I mean, I know those are eyes. And I know that if I draw a certain way, a chin is gonna disappear. But when I turn it right side up, it’s a surprise. The expression is a surprise; the word “ew” is a bird. There are drawings all over my house, on napkins and tablecloths and stationery.

The book has such a great dedication: “To everyone who has ever made me laugh.” Is there someone or something in your life that has reliably made you smile?

The first person who comes to mind is [the folk singer and painter] Bobby Neuwirth. When my sister Mimi and I lived in Belmont, outside of Boston, she was struggling through school. I was pretending I was going to college, which was just awful. We were unhappy all the time. We would call Bobby Neuwirth, and he would come up there and make us laugh. He was just totally reliable. It was refreshing and renewed our lives.

You’ve got a blurb from Lana Del Rey, who calls it “entertaining, moving, ridiculously funny, insightful, and mysterious.” “Mysterious” feels like the exact right word. Childhood is also mysterious; when we’re small, we have a well-developed sense of wonder that seems to wane as we age. How do you stay in touch with that weird, goofy part of yourself?

Unfortunately, it’s probably not something you can hold on to. But again, because I’m drawing upside down, I’m free. I don’t really know what’s happening. Sometimes I say, “Oh, that’s a boy, and that’s a tree.” But when you turn it around there’s wonder. I have a drawing of a boy out in the springtime. Last night, for the first time, I realized he’s standing in water, and his shoes are floating around in the air. I didn’t think that people would get these drawings as much as they have. A little boy with a dead cat, taking care of it. When I show that picture, I hear “aww”—the whole audience, because they feel something. And that, to me, is a gift. That’s a wonderful thing. I think maybe part of the answer to your question is that something gets squashed out of you.

A sketch of four people.
A sketch of a boy holding a cat.

When you first started drawing, you used your left hand instead of your right hand; now you’re drawing upside down. An armchair psychologist might suggest that you do this to give yourself the freedom to be bad at something.



His rich baritone and gift for melodies made him one of the most popular artists of the 1970s with songs like “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald” and “If You Could Read My Mind.”

Gordon Lightfoot strums an acoustic guitar.
Gordon Lightfoot in 2012.Credit…Chris Young/The Canadian Press

By William Grimes

Published May 1, 2023

Gordon Lightfoot, the Canadian folk singer whose rich, plaintive baritone and gift for melodic songwriting made him one of the most popular recording artists of the 1970s, died on Monday night in Toronto. He was 84. 

His death, at Sunnybrook Hospital, was confirmed by his publicist, Victoria Lord. No cause was given.

Mr. Lightfoot, a fast-rising star in Canada in the early 1960s, broke through to international success when his friends and fellow Canadians Ian and Sylvia Tyson recorded two of his songs, “Early Morning Rain” and “For Lovin’ Me.”

When Peter, Paul and Mary came out with their own versions, and Marty Robbins reached the top of the country charts with Mr. Lightfoot’s “Ribbon of Darkness,” Mr. Lightfoot’s reputation soared. Overnight, he joined the ranks of songwriters like Bob Dylan, Phil Ochs and Tom Paxton, all of whom influenced his style.

When folk music ebbed in popularity, overwhelmed by the British invasion, Mr. Lightfoot began writing ballads aimed at a broader audience. He scored one hit after another, beginning in 1970 with the heartfelt “If You Could Read My Mind,” inspired by the breakup of his first marriage.

In quick succession he recorded the hits “Sundown,” “Carefree Highway,” “Rainy Day People” and “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” which he wrote after reading a Newsweek article about the sinking of an iron-ore carrier in Lake Superior in 1975, with the loss of all 29 crew members.

For Canadians, Mr. Lightfoot was a national hero, a homegrown star who stayed home even after achieving spectacular success in the United States and who catered to his Canadian fans with cross-country tours. His ballads on Canadian themes, like “Canadian Railroad Trilogy,” pulsated with a love for the nation’s rivers and forests, which he explored on ambitious canoe trips far into the hinterlands.

His personal style, reticent and self-effacing — he avoided interviews and flinched when confronted with praise — also went down well. “Sometimes I wonder why I’m being called an icon, because I really don’t think of myself that way,” Mr. Lightfoot told The Globe and Mail in 2008. “I’m a professional musician, and I work with very professional people. It’s how we get through life.”

Gordon Lightfoot performs in 1973.
Performing in London in June 1973.Credit…Michael Putland/Getty Images

How ‘The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald’ Defied Top 40 Logic

May 2, 2023

Gordon Meredith Lightfoot Jr. was born on Nov. 17, 1938, in Orillia, Ontario, where his father managed a dry-cleaning plant. As a boy, he sang in a church choir, performed on local radio shows and shined in singing competitions. “Man, I did the whole bit: oratorio work, Kiwanis contests, operettas, barbershop quartets,” he told Time magazine in 1968.

He played piano, drums and guitar as a teenager, and while still in high school wrote his first song, a topical number about the Hula Hoop craze with a catchy last line: “I guess I’m just a slob and I’m gonna lose my job, ’cause I’m Hula-Hula-Hoopin’ all the time.”

After studying composition and orchestration at the Westlake College of Music in Los Angeles, he returned to Canada. For a time he was a member of the Singing Swinging Eight, a singing and dancing troupe on the television show “Country Hoedown,” but he soon became part of the Toronto folk scene, performing at the same coffee houses and clubs as Ian and Sylvia, Joni Mitchell, Neil Young and Leonard Cohen.

He formed a folk duo, the Two Tones, with a fellow “Hoedown” performer, Terry Whelan. The duo recorded a live album in 1962, “Two Tones at the Village Corner.” The next year, while traveling in Europe, he served as the host of “The Country and Western Show” on BBC television.

As a songwriter, Mr. Lightfoot had advanced beyond the Hula Hoop, but not by a great deal. His work “didn’t have any kind of identity,” he told the authors of “The Encyclopedia of Folk, Country and Western Music,” published in 1969. When the Greenwich Village folk boom brought Mr. Dylan and other dynamic songwriters to the fore, he said, “I started to get a point of view, and that’s when I started to improve.”

In 1965, he appeared at the Newport Folk Festival and made his debut in the United States at Town Hall in New York. “Mr. Lightfoot has a rich, warm voice and a dexterous guitar technique,” Robert Shelton wrote in The New York Times. “With a little more attention to stage personality, he should become quite popular.”

A year later, after signing with Albert Grossman, the manager of Mr. Dylan and Peter, Paul and Mary, Mr. Lightfoot recorded his first solo album, “Lightfoot!” With performances of “Early Morning Rain,” “For Lovin’ Me,” “Ribbon of Darkness” and “I’m Not Sayin’,”a hit record in Canada in 1963, the album was warmly received by the critics.

Real commercial success came when he switched to Warner Brothers, initially recording for the company’s Reprise label. “By the time I changed over to Warner Brothers, round about 1970, I was reinventing myself,” he told the Georgia newspaper Savannah Connect in 2010. “Let’s say I was probably just advancing away from the folk era, and trying to find some direction whereby I might have some music that people would want to listen to.”

Gordon Lightfoot performs onstage in 2018.
Lightfoot with his 12-string guitar at the 2018 Stagecoach Festival in Indio, Calif.Credit…Frazer Harrison/Getty Images for Stagecoach

Mr. Lightfoot, accompanying himself on an acoustic 12-string guitar, in a voice that often trembled with emotion, gave spare, direct accounts of his material. He sang of loneliness, troubled relationships, the itch to roam and the majesty of the Canadian landscape. He was, as the Canadian writer Jack Batten put it, “journalist, poet, historian, humorist, short-story teller and folksy recollector of bygone days.”

His popularity as a recording artist began to wane in the 1980s, but he maintained a busy touring schedule. In 1999 Rhino Records released “Songbook,” a four-disc survey of his career.

Mr. Lightfoot, who lived in Toronto, is survived by his wife, Kim Hasse, six children — Fred, Ingrid, Miles, Meredith, Eric and Galen — and several grandchildren, according to Ms. Lord, his publicist. His first two marriages ended in divorce. His older sister, Beverley Eyers, died in 2017.

In 2002, just before going onstage in Orillia, Mr. Lightfoot collapsed when an aneurysm in his abdominal aorta ruptured and left him near death. After two years spent recovering, he recorded an album, “Harmony,” and in 2005 he resumed his live performances with the Better Late Than Never Tour.

“I want to be like Ralph Carter, Stompin’ Tom and Willie Nelson,” Mr. Lightfoot told the CBC in 2004. “Just do it for as long as humanly possible.”



Gordon Lightfoot, Canadian folk legend, dies at 84 ~ NPR

May 1, 2023

LISTEN· 3:43

Canadian folk-rock icon Gordon Lightfoot has died at the age of 84.

Lightfoot died at a Toronto hospital on Monday night of natural causes, according to his publicist. The singer-songwriter had long suffered from serious health problems that caused extensive hospitalization in 2002.

Lightfoot hailed from a tiny town in Ontario. He first made his name in Toronto’s coffeehouse scene. There, he impressed folk music stars Ian and Sylvia, who helped introduce him to the world outside Canada by recording some of his songs. Lightfoot himself found international fame in 1971, with a song called “If You Could Read My Mind.”

That song, says former Toronto Globe and Mail music critic Robert Everett Green, contains what would become some of Lightfoot’s favorite themes: loss, longing and nostalgia.

“It’s a song about inarticulateness,” Everett Green said. “But somehow, it really makes an amazing case. Here’s someone who really can’t say what he wants to say, yet by singing about that inability, he connects.”

Lightfoot’s voice was raspy and regretful, the perfect complement to his rugged hinterlands look. But the hearty facade hid a roiling personal life.

In a 1983 NPR interview, Lightfoot – one year sober at the time – discussed his struggle with alcoholism. “The people that were very close to me were beginning to question my credibility and my decision-making process,” he confessed, adding: “Now, the irony is that they still question my credibility and my decision-making process.”

Many of Lightfoot’s songs about Canadian wildlife, streets and weather doubled as cultural elegies — like his 1976 hit “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald,” a dramatic retelling of a real-life maritime disaster.

“As he’s singing it, you’re getting the strong sense that not only is one ship going down, but a whole way of life is disappearing,” says Everett Green. “It’s something kind of dusty and genuine and isolated, and it’s gone.”

Lightfoot never displayed the range or inventiveness of such contemporaries as Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell, but some fans found the consistency of his wistful ballads reassuring. Everett Green says Lightfoot’s best songs, such as the often-covered “Early Morning Rain,” described a fading world.

“You can’t jump a jet plane like you can a freight train,” says Everett Green, quoting the song’s chorus. “The freights crossing the prairie, with that great lonely moaning-whistle sound, have been obliterated by jet travel and the shrinking of spaces and the invasion of the hinterland that formerly was one of Canada’s strengths.”

Gordon Lightfoot wrote more than 400 songs about what he loved — and what he missed.


Civil rights tourism may protect Mississippi history ~ NPR

With pandemic restrictions lifted, tourists are returning to Mississippi’s famous blues trail. Civil rights leaders say many are hungry for more context around the origins of the blues.

~~~ LISTEN ~~~


The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is
The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is

The caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within
Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain

Oh Juanita, oh Juanita, oh Juanita, I call your name
Oh, the snow will be a blinding sight to see as it lies on yonder hillside 

The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is
The lock upon my garden gate’s a snail, that’s what it is
Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within
Caterpillar sheds his skin to find a butterfly within

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is

First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is
First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is
First there is a mountain


Moïse and Alida Viator began performing with the Eh, La Bas, a band that plays the New Orleans Creole has a great version of the song … 

~~~ LISTEN ~~~

There Is a Mountain” is a song and single written and performed by British singer-songwriter Donovan,[1] released in 1967. 

~~~ LISTEN ~~~

The lyrics refer to a Buddhist saying originally formulated by Qingyuan Weixin, later translated by D.T. Suzuki in his Essays in Zen Buddhism, one of the first books to popularize Buddhism in Europe and the US. Qingyuan writes

Before I had studied Chan (Zen) for thirty years, I saw mountains as mountains, and rivers as rivers. When I arrived at a more intimate knowledge, I came to the point where I saw that mountains are not mountains, and rivers are not rivers. But now that I have got its very substance I am at rest. For it’s just that I see mountains once again as mountains, and rivers once again as rivers.[2]


This is an old zen statement about the experience of enlightenment


A rather famous Zen koan states ‘First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is’, referring to the spiritual path.  The unenlightened mind sees a mountain.  The Enlightened mind sees the mountain (and all things for that matter) as no-mountain (no-thing, devoid of a fixed self), a ripple on the ocean of sunyata that underlies Reality.  But to be able to communicate with and help living

~ ~ ~

I don’t know what everyone is so puzzled about. He’s singing about plate tectonics and erosion. It couldn’t be more obvious


When this song was new I was about 12 years old, and I was proud that I was able to decipher “for the snow would be a blinding sight to see as it lies on yonder hillside”

~~ ~~

I would sing this song to my grandmother. Since I didn’t know the lyrics I would sing it, saying, Abuelita! instead, of saying, “Ohh juanita! I call your name”. “There are blind things, look upon my garden…”First there is mountain, than theres is no mountain, than there is”


In his aptly named song “There is a Mountain”, Donovan professes that “first there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.” He refers to the Buddhist philosophy that states “Before enlightenment, a mountain is a mountain. During enlightenment, a mountain is not a mountain. After enlightenment, a mountain is a mountain.”


Here’s a weird comment: Was in Reno two weeks ago playing blackjack at The Peppermill. This song came on the muzak out of nowhere and the female dealer and I were the only ones who knew it. We both started to bop our heads and swaying a little. It was a silly moment of Zen.


A rather famous Zen koan states ‘First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is’, referring to the spiritual path.  The unenlightened mind sees a mountain.  The Enlightened mind sees the mountain (and all things for that matter) as no-mountain (no-thing, devoid of a fixed self), a ripple on the ocean of sunyata that underlies Reality.  But to be able to communicate with and help living beings transcend their suffering, that Enlightened Being also chooses to see the mountain as we do, as a mountain.  


watched a documentary about Ram Dass last night called Becoming Nobody. I think Ram Dass and Donovan could have had some pretty cool conversations back in the day about self, soul, birth, life, death and our journey. Teach peace, love, compassion and kindness. Practice loving awareness. Thank you for this great song Donovan!


The fundamentals of geology are summed up here: “First there is a mountain, then there is no mountain, then there is.”



April 15, 2023

Betto Arcos headshot

Betto Arcos

As the sun goes down in Baja’s Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico’s wine country, members of the Los Angeles band La Santa Cecilia, their close friends and a few special guests gather around a bonfire. The band is playing and singing Mexican rancheras, some ballads and boleros or love songs. Lead singer La Marisoul says many of the songs on their new album are part of their personal history, growing up in downtown LA, surrounded by Mexican musicians who taught them how to sing and play. 

“I didn’t really learn this music from recordings; I learned it from live musicians playing on the street,” she says. “Some of these songs are songs we’d love to interpret from way back, before La Santa Cecilia, when we were Marisol y Los Hermanos Carlos, singing on the weekends at Placita, singing at weddings, at quinceañeras and things like that.”

This is the band’s quinceañera, a festive and joyous celebration of their 15 years together, playing the music they love. The band wanted to do a live recording in a country estate in Baja California for the celebration. Under the music, you can hear the sound of crickets, birds and a light breeze. The vibe here at the Finca Altozano can best be described as a bohemian night filled with music, conversation and some imbibing. Hence the album’s title, Cuatro Copas, Bohemia en la Finca Altozano – Four Drinks, Bohemia at the Altozano Estate.


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Guitarist and accordionist Pepe Carlos says the album includes songs from their families. 

“Songs that were inherited by our parents while they were listening to at home,” he says. “Songs like ‘Pescadores de Ensenada’ de Los Cadetes de Linares. We were listening to all this music at home. So, I think it’s also a bridge between our parents, our roots musically.” 

As a band, La Santa Cecilia has been an ideal vehicle for them to experiment with all kinds of American and Latin music. They’ve played everything from rock to cumbia, pop tunes and ballads. And they’ve recorded albums in English, Spanish and Spanglish. La Marisoul says there’s nothing like singing songs with friends around the fire.

La Santa Cecilia: Tiny Desk Concert

“I love being on the stage, I love being on tour, I love being on the road, I love playing festivals, like Vive Latinoand all that stuff,” she says. “But there’s just something about getting together with your friends and just singing music and just enjoying music in its simplest form, you know, with the guitar, con un Mezcalito, and sin mas, no?” 

This album opens a window into the band’s personal lives. It’s a glimpse of how the group thrives and creates community, says percussionist Miguel Ramírez. “And it’s so cool to be able to just be like, ‘this is who we are, this is how we live, this is what we do for fun, this is what we do for enjoyment,’ and we hope that you get to be a part of it through this record.”


The band invited a few guest singers to join them in the recording for this special anniversary celebration. One of the guests was Patricio Hidalgo, a “Son Jarocho” artist from Mexico’s Gulf state of Veracruz. The Grammy-winning musician says he’s impressed by the band’s natural ability to play and record music at the “spur of the moment.”

“It’s astonishing how the band can be so laid back and play so relaxed,” he says. “Everything you will hear in this recording was done right here, live. There was no such thing as reaching an agreement, previous rehearsal or music arrangement.”

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Bass player Alex Bendaña says this album is a testament to the band’s resilience, being together as a family, and making music for 15 years. “I think it’s very rare for bands to start off in LA and end up with an amazing career,” he says. “Every year was a different experience of evolution in the band or our individual person. We were always growing together.”

La Santa Cecilia recently performed in front of thousands of adoring fans at Mexico City’s Vive Latino, the country’s biggest music festival. Speaking emotionally and tearing up, singer La Marisoul says that after 15 years of trying to connect to audiences in Mexico with their music, they’re finally getting it. “Feeling that love and feeling that appreciation, and that connection with our brothers and sisters with our motherland, con México, that makes me feel very proud, very grateful, to be able to live this moment and share our story with people, now.”