Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Mind slush

When snowflakes gather into a grimy pile of slush,
flowers dry to fragile black ash,
and birth transitions into death
Is there purpose ?
Is awareness nothing but a point in time ?
Is cycle just a continuum of endings?
Is there an answer to the question of life ?
And is that answer participation ?
- Jerry Wendt 2008

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Cadillac Records

Cadillac Records
………is the story of two masters: McKinley Morganfield and the twined character named Leonard Chess; one from the Mississippi fields, the other from a Chicago scrap yard. Their hard beginnings from the late forties into the sixties brought together some of the best blues musicians and put them in a studio called 'Chess Records’.
Muddy Waters, Howlin Wolf, Lil Walter, Willie Dixon and more, all watching Chuck Berry play music like they’ve never heard before – leading to a brief portrayal of where all this were to lead when The Rolling Stones drove up to the door on Michigan Ave.
But where was Bo?

It was Bo Diddley that wrote, first performed and recorded “I’m a Man” for Checker Records (a wholly owned subsidiary of Chess Records) in 1955 under the name Elias McDaniel. I must, therefore, ask Willie Dixon to apologize on behalf of the screenwriter for his assertive substitution of Bo (the man who called himself “The Father of Rock and Roll”) and his square guitar.
Historically it is litely flawed but creative license is given to the flow of feeling – if not real events. (sort of the way I write). It’s about the music, isn’t it?

Where was Phil Chess – brother and co-owner of Chess Records (morphed into Leonard)?
Why would the screenwriter not mention - or devote a minute - to Muddy Waters and The Rolling Stones on stage, playing together in a historical, un-equaled set of blues and rock at the Checkerboard Lounge?
And how could they ignore the Maxwell’s street musicians that lined the sidewalk in front of 2120 South Michigan building hoping for a sideman’s job that day. Or those hoping Lil Walter would bring a minstrel from Halstead Street into the studio for a session of the creative blues music that became rock and roll.

Did it really? Or do you still believe that Bill Haley was first on the clock?

If you do, you must go see this movie – historical creative license and all – because they got it right. Young people who came to see Beyonce` were treated to a lesson about the roots of rock and roll (and saw her in a better performance than her last CD (or next).

I think some of the reality tidbits in the film more than make up for its creative license – like when Chuck Berry is listening to a radio and hears “Surfin USA” by the Beach Boys blaring out of one of Chicago’s payola stations. He says “Hey that’s my music” and becomes all upset about a guy named Brian Wilson stealing his tunes.
FACTOID – Chuck Berry’s name now appears as both composer and lyricist on that surf song – and gets all the royalties, too.

The scene that humbled me was the portrayal of all I’ve been trying to get at and say in my ‘hood story; that music of that era had something to do with enhancing race relations and seeing people as people. My rendering of self and that era used (and will use more) illustrations of those small elements – like the un-equal equals on the basketball court, etc.

But the writer and director of Cadillac Records ‘did it all’ in one 30 second scene. It was Chuck Berry (nicely played by Mos Def) on stage at the Chicago Theater. A chalk line and a police line, separating black and white teens, all crossing the line to intermingle and dance and share the joys of music with each other if even for one night – all to the strains of “Maybelline” (which came out of a country music song called “Ida Red”).
Thirty seconds of film depicting a ten year period of time and conveying exactly the right message – I’m very, very jealous.
And feel very, very good about having been there!