My son, Andy, knows his music. Among many favorites there’s one which tops the list. He owns more than thirty of the Bob Dylan albums. Sometimes he is treated to hearing the singer/songwriter’s latest before its release. As a result I got lucky to be gifted to the one where Mr. Dylan pays tribute to the chestnut of traditional pop songs that have been connected with Frank Sinatra including my favorite, mournful yet playful, “Don’t Try to Change Me Now.” Last month there was a stunning announcement when Bob Dylan was the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature even though he was generally considered out of the running since his poetry happens to be sung. He changed the direction of American pop music precisely by bringing poetry to the lyrics. Without him the Beatles would have spent their career singing “yeh, yeh, yeh” (my mom insisted on “yes”). Mr. Dylan widely affected peace rallies mobilized to the strain of “Blowin’ in the Wind” and idealistic kids played “The Times Are a-Changin’”. As far back as the 1960s Dylan painted with words and music. Born Robert Allen Zimmerman in Duluth, Minn., in 1941, he was inspired when young by performers like Woody Guthrie and Hank Williams. In the mid- and late 1960s no-one had ever heard pop songs like “A Rolling Stone” with so many oracular tumbling words in them. He uses every literary device in his songs: character, narrative, style. His lyrics have been the subject of academic studies for decades. What’s the coolest class at Harvard? It’s Bob Dylan. A master songwriter, he deserves to be the first musician to win the Nobel Prize in Literature. My son, Andy, says “Well deserved.” I agree.
When you think about Amy Schumer, the stand-up comedian, actress, producer, and author of “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo” I’m sure you think I have nothing in common with her. Wrong! In researching details about the multi-talented gal I learned that Ms Schumer kept a journal until she was 21. Well, I too kept a diary (old-fashioned word for “journal”) until I was 21! Sorry, that’s it! Ms Schumer went from a stand-up comic to movie star thanks to her autobiographical film “Trainwreck.” In it she played a promiscuous magazine writer who falls for her interview subject. I enjoyed the movie. In her memoire, “The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo,” she cleverly addresses social issues through comedy. “I talk about life and sex and personal stories and stuff everybody can relate to and some can’t.” (I couldn’t but I did enjoy reading about it!) Amy Schumer’s comedy is sometimes blue, sketch comedy, insult comedy. But back to her journal (and my diary). The mind is a wonderful machine. It needs to be just refreshed and incidents can again be revived. Each day, whether it be the weather or of more important happenings, it does in time bring back vague memories worth remembering. So I would suggest to my readers that it is certainly worthwhile keeping a journal. Memory is elusive – capture it!
When I was invited to hear music on a barge I hesitated. In the dictionary a barge is a flat bottom boat used chiefly for the transport of goods on inland waterways. Where did music come in? Well, thanks to a brilliant woman named Olga Bloom I discovered that the lady gave up her musical career as a violinist and violist to create a floating concert hall. A devotee of classical music she set about converting an old 10 ft. long steel coffee barge into a concert hall and mortgaged her home to pay $10,000 for it. You can tell from that price that this happened in 1976. Ms Bloom managed to change a sinister spot on the Brooklyn waterfront into one of New York’s most intimate and prolific chamber music venues. It was exciting to enter along a gangway into a small chamber seating around 135. Both established and emerging musicians perform on the small stage with a dramatic backdrop of the East River and the twinkling of the lower Manhattan skyline. Bargemusic has frequent year-round performances of chamber music in an exciting intimate setting. There’s no back stage so I found it equally exciting that the musicians would eagerly mingle with the audience. So, if you lean toward chamber music and would like the unusual experience of enjoying it on a floating concert hall, you should know that there are year-round performances. Bargemusic presents more than 200 concerts annually. I was concerned that I might embarrass myself and get seasick. The startlingly beautiful venue erased my fears.
When it comes to television my first choice is Turner Classic Movies (TCM) because I can use it to diversify my mind. As a claimant on my consciousness it extends my horizon cinematically. Fine examples I’ve been able to view are two legendary movies (and here’s a hint for one): “You must remember this, a kiss is just a kiss, a sigh is just a sigh, the fundamental things apply as time goes by.” If you are not familiar with the film “Casablanca,” you must be very young or living in a well-insulated modern world – or perhaps Mars. Ha! Happily, as I was dial-twisting, I came across another film which thoroughly delighted me: the 1943 “Stormy Weather.” It pleased me not because of its story but because of its cast. In “Casablanca” there was that one song “As Time Goes By” that became Dooley Wilson’s signature song, and in “Stormy Weather” the title song was Lena Horne’s. In that film the lady looked and sounded beautiful singing her heart out. In addition I was treated to Bill “Bojangles” Robinson and the Nicholas Brothers tap dancing like no one before them ever did. That film also featured the frenetic Cab Calloway and his Cotton Club orchestra and Katherine Dunham’s dance group. Personally, the biggest treat was watching the irrepressible Fats Waller banging on the piano and singing one of my favorite songs, “Ain’t Misbehavin’.” Wow! So, thank you, Turner Classic Movies, for films like “Stormy Weather” and its frequently aired “Casablanca.” I will remember them and I can always play them “one mo’ time.”
You can email June Sturz at email@example.com