The leading lights of New Orleans culture keep leaving us. This time it was Dave Bartholomew who died at the age of 100. He was best known for his collaboration with Fats Domino as his arranger, co-writer, producer, and band leader. Bartholomew was a formidable trumpeter in his own right. He was also one of the contenders for the title of father of rock and roll. If nothing else, he was present at the creation.
In her tribute to Bartholomew the fabulous New Orleans music writer Alison Fensterstock wrote about some of his solo recordings including this week’s theme song:
But the sides he did record for himself in the ’50s were masterful and diverse, from the clattering Caribbean rhythms of “Shrimp and Gumbo” to the goofy novelty “My Ding-A-Ling” (which Chuck Berry unearthed for a 1972 hit) to the singular grinding blues “The Monkey Speaks His Mind,” a strange fable that questions whether humans, with all their sin, are truly superior among the primates, and which showcases his bellowing, stentorian baritone.
This week’s theme song is best understood as a parable of the civil rights movement. Did that make Dave Bartholomew rock’s own George Orwell? Beats the hell outta me.
The Monkey Speaks His Mind was written and recorded by Dave Bartholomew in 1957. It’s been recorded by a variety of artists. We have three versions for your listening pleasure:
It’s time to stop monkeying around and brachiate to the break. There will be a banana for everyone willing to take the plunge.
Elvis Costello name checked Dave Batholomew on his 2004 album The Delivery Man. It’s a song involving some monkeyshines:
Since Dave Bartholomew was a Word War II veteran, we begin our second act with a story about politics, the war, and Brokaw’s greatest generation; not all of whom were that great.
How World War II Almost Broke American Politics: There are many encrusted myths about the “Good War.” Foremost among them is the notion that everyone got along, pulled together, and put their selfish agendas on hold. But even sincere patriotism doesn’t repeal the laws of human nature as Joshua Zeitz points out in a swell piece in Politico Magazine.
The myth is that America’s political disagreements disappeared on the “date which will live in infamy.” Instead they were papered over and erupted from time-to-time during the war. Our British allies did not hold a general election during the war whereas Republican Tom Dewey mounted a substantial challenge to FDR, losing the popular vote by only 3.6 million votes. Dewey was an excellent candidate in 1944, running as a prosecutor instead of the stiff who lost to Truman 4 years later. Kamala Harris’ people should study Dewey’s 1944 approach: it worked for her on Thursday night.
We’ll continue living in the past after this brief musical interlude:
I should apologize for the obvious song choice but I won’t. It’s my party and I’ll be obvious if I want to…
One of the most thought provoking pieces of the week came from one of America’s greatest novelists. I’ll let the Failing NYT image thingamabob serve as the section title:
John Irving wrote The Cider House Rules as a rejoinder to the absolutists of the anti-choice movement. He’s back at it in this NYT op-ed piece, which brings some historical perspective to this contentious debate. I particularly enjoyed this passage about the aforementioned book:
One job of a society with a social conscience is to rescue its citizens who are trapped, who are painted into a corner. I see my job as a fiction writer with a social conscience as the opposite. As a storyteller, I look for worst-case scenarios; my job is to trap my characters. I began “The Cider House Rules,” my sixth novel, in the early 1980s. I purposely wrote a historical novel, beginning in the 1920s, when abortion was illegal, unsafe and (for the most part) unavailable. Maine was one of the first states to make abortion illegal; I put the orphanage I called St. Cloud’s in Maine. I purposely painted my protagonist, Homer Wells, into a corner. Homer is an orphan; his several adoptions don’t work out. Homer keeps coming back to the orphanage — St. Cloud’s is his only home. Dr. Larch, the orphanage physician (and abortionist), teaches Homer to be a doctor. In Dr. Larch’s opinion, Homer has near-perfect obstetrical and gynecological procedure. But Homer doesn’t want to perform abortions. He’s an orphan; his mother let him live.
Homer has no argument with Dr. Larch’s decision to give women what they want, but Homer has a personal reason (and a good one) not to perform abortions. Here’s the corner Homer is painted into: How can Homer not feel obligated to help women, when women can’t get help from anyone else? If women have no choice, how can doctors have a choice? Homer will leave St. Cloud’s; he refuses to perform abortions. What he will encounter, in the world outside the orphanage, is a woman who can’t get help from anyone else. The death of Dr. Larch will bring Homer back to the orphanage — this time, to be the physician (and the abortionist) at St. Cloud’s. In a no-choice world, Homer is trapped.
I think Irving hit a homer with that novel, its film adaptation, and this op-ed piece. Today seems to be a day of obvious analogies. What can I say? It’s fucking hot. My brain looks like the cover of Best of Brahms.
Let’s lighten things up and re-set the Wayback Machine to 1974, which was when estranged Beatles John Lennon and Paul McCartney had a fleeting musical encounter.
Brief Encounter: This segment has nothing to do with the great David Lean film other than the fact that both Trevor Howard and John Lennon were Englishmen with prominent proboscis in profile.
Now where was I was? 1947 or 1974? Living in the past can be confusing. I really should consult with Mister Peabody…
In 1974, Lennon and McCartney were engaged in the sort of bitter feud that often attends a falling-out between close friends. We’ve all been there and it’s never pretty.
Lennon was producing Harry Nilsson’s album Pussy Cats . Paul and Linda McCartney dropped by the studio and jammed with John and assorted rock luminaries. Nothing came of it but it resulted in a cease fire in the hostilities as well as this bootleg:
David Gambacorta has the Beatley details at Longreads.com:
The article’s title alludes to the vicious opening line of Lennon’s musical takedown of Macca, How Do You Sleep?
That nasty bit of doggerel was arguably in response to a Macca tune from Ram, which came out 5 months earlier:
Let’s end our second act with a Beatles tune that served as the graduation theme song for my San Mateo High School class:
We begin our third act with our favorite stolen feature.
Separated At Birth: This week’s combination is noted contemporary weirdo, Charlie Sheen, and notable historical weirdo, John Brown.
In a word: WINNING.
I would be remiss in moving on without posting this:
Saturday GIF Horse: We’re still monkeying around with this GIF of Tarzan’s pal Cheetah’s close encounter with bubblegum.
I wonder if it was the cardboard bubblegum found in baseball card packs? If so, I hope Cheetah got a Lefty Grove, Carl Hubbell, Mel Ott, or Joe Dimaggio card in the deal.
Weekly Vintage Music Video: Enough with the monkey shit. It’s time to bring a little class to this outing, Cole family style.
Natalie was called Cookie by her family. It’s doubtful that the nickname was inspired by this great line from Sweet Smell Of Success:
Let’s shut things down with some more music.
Saturday Classic: This 1961 release by Dave Bartholomew bore the imprimatur of Fats Domino but it sounds as much like Billy May’s swinging big band as rock and roll. That’s a compliment and I’m sure Dave would have taken it as such.
That’s it for this week. The last word goes to Antoine Fats Domino and his partner in crime, Dave Bartholomew. If there’s an afterlife, these guys are jamming with Dr. John right now.